Runaway Girl (Girl, #2) by Tessa Bailey

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1.) Getaway Girl ★★★★

“This is it. This is the kiss I’ll think about for decades to come, maybe longer. I can feel it ruining me with every mash of his lips against mine…”

After me and my friends completely fell in love with Tessa Bailey’s dirty talk, we devoured Getaway Girl in a day and we knew we had to finish off this duology together. These stories are about the aftermath of what happens when a wedding gets called off. In Getaway Girl, we follow the would have been groom, but in Runaway Girl we follow the girl who left him at the altar and fled to start a brand new life in Florida.

Naomi – A woman who has had her life predetermined for her for as long as she can remember. From finishing schools, to the pageant scene, Naomi hasn’t ever been able to do what she wants, only what is expected from her. That is, until she runs away from her wedding at the start of Getaway Girl.

Jason – A man who is trying his best to take care of his little sister, after his parents bailed on them both because of grief. He is also a Special Forces diver, trying to live with his own PTSD from the military.

Birdie – The girl getting coached by Naomi to enter the pageant scene, while also dealing and living with the loss of her sister, and also the star of Halfway Girl! Also, she is diabetic, and I really loved seeing that rep in this story.

And these three characters are intertwined when Birdie needs someone to help her win a pageant and get some closure after losing her twin, who really wanted to win a pageant, and she thinks that she needs the help of Naomi to do! So, this story is all about Naomi’s two months in Florida, and everything that unfolds while the events of Getaway Girl were also taking place.

I just really loved Naomi and I loved seeing her want to live her life for herself and not her family or society’s expectations. I loved watching her come into her own power, with her sex life and her everyday life. And I also really loved how there was no shaming of pageants or making her feel lesser because of her looks or things that brought her joy. I was so scared that it was going to be a storyline, but it wasn’t, it was just accepted and embraced, and I loved it completely.

And if you have been on this wild journey with me and my friends, you will know that we are all literally obsessed with Tessa Bailey’s sex scenes, and Runaway Girl is no different, they are truly unparalleled. They are very dirty and very explicit, so use caution because I know that isn’t for everyone, and that’s valid. But if you do want to venture into something a little steamier, than I can’t recommend Tessa, and everything she’s written, any stronger.

“Understand I want to drink it out of your belly button. Want to warm it on that perfect skin, sip it into my mouth, then let it drip out all over your pussy.”

Overall, I really enjoyed this one, and Tessa Bailey is the queen of dirty talk, without question, but I just didn’t love the end of this one. It’s a trope that a lot of readers don’t like, and I think many people who read my reviews won’t like it either, so use caution! I also didn’t love Jason completely, even if I did love his mouth, just because I’m not the biggest fan of military men, because my dad is a Marine, but we aren’t going to go there and even think about that right now. But I truly did loved the majority of this book, and I can’t wait to read everything by Tessa Bailey.

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Content and Trigger Warnings: talk of loss of a loved one, grief depiction, PTSD depiction, and depression.

Buddy read with Paloma, Chelsea, Jane, & Madalyn! ❤

I read this for SummerAThon! ❤

Getaway Girl (Girl, #1) by Tessa Bailey

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“When I woke up this morning, I didn’t plan on crashing a wedding…”

Hello, my name is Melanie and I am officially obsessed with Tessa Bailey, her characters, and her writing. Me and my friends all recently fell head over heels in love with Fix Her Up , so we knew that we had to continue on and read something else by her! And Getaway Girl was the perfect next pick!

Addison – Left town five years ago and hasn’t looked back, but recently has because of the passing of her grandmother, who also left her home and business to Addison. She is trying to figure out what to do next, but thought it would be okay to sneak into her estranged cousin’s wedding.

Elijah – Has a very powerful family, served three tours overseas with the army, and is soon going to take his fathers place as Mayor. He is rich, and powerful, and ungodly attractive, but that doesn’t mean anything when he is stood up at the altar on this wedding day.

Obviously, Elijah is very much in the spotlight because of his family and his upcoming election, but he escapes the disaster of a wedding in Addison’s car, while she promises him that he can lay low in her not very ordinary apartment. (Friend, you all have no idea how appealing it is to me to picture Addison living in a constantly wintery/Christmas wonderland. I loved this aspect of the book so very much, and I honestly would totally decorate my home for an all year holiday, too.) And both of them truly strike up such a beautiful friendship, that I was swooning instantly. This is like the best friends to lovers in the world.

But we get to see Addison, who is hiding from her family’s past, and Elijah, who is willing to do anything to not put Addison in the spotlight after she saved him that embarrassing day, while they come together and figure out if they want to stay best friends or become something more. All while also trying to figure out if the woman that ran away on her wedding day will ever come back into town, especially if she figures out that her ex-fiancé is maybe being naughty with her cousin who is banished from the family.

“This is what it’s like to have a man obsessed with you. Do you like it?”

Okay, let’s talk about the sex in this book. In Fix Her Up , the male love interest is the dirty talker, while the girl was innocent but very reciprocative, but in Getaway Girl, Addison truly gives Elijah a run for his money. Her mouth is so beautifully filthy, and the things that she did with it will truly keep me up at night in the best way possible. This author is truly not afraid to go there, and me and my dirty friends very much appreciate it. From the one-liners, the one-pagers, the entire book, it was all so sexy and I truly think Tessa Bailey is just on another tier in the romance genre right now.

“You own this city now, Mr. Mayor. Right now, that includes what’s under my dress.”

Yet, it was also so damn romantic. And I loved seeing both of these characters carve out the future that they truly want, instead of letting their pasts control them. And I honestly think I could read ten more books starring these two, and I wouldn’t get bored or be completely satisfied.

The only thing that I’ve come to realize with Tessa Bailey is that she writes very abrupt endings. I think going forward this is something that I’m just going to prepare myself for, but this ending in particular felt so quick and I was left feeling not 100% satisfied. Even though I still completely recommend this story with 100% of my heart.

Overall, I really loved this book. From the characters, to the setting, to the atmosphere, to the mind-explosive sex scenes, it was so damn good. Again, I just recommend you all to pick up something by Tessa Bailey if you’re looking for some sexy reading in your life. Also, me and my friends have no chill and we already read Runaway Girl, which is book two in this duology!

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Content and Trigger Warnings: talk of loss of a loved one, talk of infidelity in the past (not the main characters), and abandonment.

Buddy read with Paloma, Chelsea, Jane, & Madalyn! ❤

The Major’s Welcome Home by Tessa Bailey

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“I’m welcoming you home, Major”

It breaks my heart to say this, but this was easily my least favorite Tessa Bailey story so far! I will say that I don’t really like military love interests, or love interests that are as possessive as the one in this story, and I especially don’t like it when they like to be called daddy. Full disclosure and all that; my dad is a Marine and I just can’t, friends, I just can’t. So, I think many people will enjoy this story more than I did, but I really need to just stop trying to make military romances work for me.

Beck – Army Major Mastermind, who is currently dealing with the loss of a friend, and is finally back on US soil after many years away, and plans to stay back home.

Kenna – Daughter of a Lieutenant General, who has put the fear of God into any Army soldier who would touch his daughter, but he has asked her to pick up Beck from the airport. And after she makes some gross jokes about how he probably likes videogames; she realizes that he’s a total hottie and she would be honored to make him a sandwich and maybe welcome him home any way he would like.

You all see where this is going. Beck doesn’t realize who Kenna’s family is right away, but once he does, he is already head over heels for her. And he hasn’t thought of the woman who wrote him a dear john letter a year ago, who he thought he would spend the rest of his life with. Oh, also, Beck is a virgin and has never done anything sexual with anyone before.

I will say that I did like that the guy in this story was a virgin, and I really liked it at the start when he would desperately beg for any contact, but I didn’t love the sex scenes in this book. Now, this might be again because of what I said in the first paragraph with military guys, and daddy kinks, but I also just thought that Beck was too possessive. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good possessive lover, but he was too much, even for my submissive ass. Also, he is very southern and, if you’ve watched a certain booktube video of mine, I don’t really like cow-people/farmers/southern gentlemen/whatever love interests either, and Beck is very much that.

Plus, the sex locations and positions in this were kind of questionable, too. Again, you do whatever is safe and makes you feel good, but her just like going to town while he was walking around the gym? Baby, what are you doing? And right after messing around in a pool? Girl, no. And did you all clean up the gym/therapy equipment after you were humping away? Probably not. Yikes. Also, his first time on an armchair? I don’t know, and I’m not here to ever sex shame, but some questionable choices were made, that’s all I’m saying. Especially when so many other of Tessa’s books have 11/10 sex scenes (and positions and locations) in them!

But we get to see both characters realize that things that happened to them in the past were not their fault, and that they are both deserving of happiness. Sometimes life can just be cruel, whether that means shitty parents, or shitty heartbreak over losing someone you love. And I really did like the dynamic of him being the innocent one, while she was a “bad girl” at the start of this book.

Overall, this one just didn’t work for me. Basically, I would 100% smash Kenna, and 100% pass on Beck, so it left me in a weird reading headspace. Especially when this story started to really take a stereotypical alpha male “omg, I must give you my seed and have all the babies” turn. Again, it makes me sad, because I love Tessa Bailey’s other stuff so much! But this one just really missed the mark for me in so many different ways.

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Content and Trigger Warnings: talk of loss of a loved one, talk of war themes, use of the slur g*psy, talk of heart attacks, and abandonment.

Buddy read with Paloma, Chelsea, Jane, Joce, Emily, & Madalyn! ❤

I read this for SummerAThon! ❤

Fix Her Up (Hot and Hammered #1) by Tessa Bailey

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“Dammit, Georgie. You had to be exactly what I need, didn’t you?”

Best romance of 2019? Probably. Holy shit, friends, Fix Her Up blew me and every expectation I had out of the water. I will say, don’t let the *cute* cover fool you, this book has many explicit sex scenes, but it was some of the best sex, and best dirty talk, I’ve ever read in my entire life. BRB, buying everything Tessa Bailey has ever written.

But this is a story about two people who grew up in the same small town together. But when one comes back five years later, they both realize that maybe they can build a happier future with help from the other one.

Georgette Castle – 23, An actual clown for children’s birthday parties, and the baby of her family, and they always let her know it by never taking her seriously, no matter what she does.

Travis Ford – 28, Newly retired professional baseball player, because of an injury. But now he is very much struggling to be more than just a baseball player, especially after moving back to his hometown.

Both Georgie and Travis want to be taken more seriously, and they want to be more than the expectations that are already placed upon them. So they strike up a friendship agreement, that starts off with a few meals, some cleaning, and a fireplace, but eventually becomes a full on fake-dating element so they can change what people think of them. Travis wants desperately to look more wholesome to the press so that he can get a job he wants, and Georgie wants people to see her as more than a innocent comic-relief.

And obviously sex has to be completely off-limits, especially since Georgie is a virgin. Which is something that they both start to find difficult, yet Travis starts to realize that he might not want to be a steppingstone for Georgie. Meanwhile, Georgie knows that she wants things in life that Travis doesn’t want to give her. And, Lord, the angst is real, but it’s perfect, and I was living my best life watching these two also figure out how to deal with their attraction.

Also, another reason this book means a lot to me is because of the story as to why I picked it up. Basically, me and three of my best friends have a group chat that we constantly talk in throughout the day, and Chelsea set that group chat on fire describing the first sexual encounter in this book. So immediately, me, and Jane, and Madalyn all went and bought the audiobook. And we all listened together, updating swooning constantly, at our very different workplaces, and I will remember and cherish that experience forever. Fuck, my friends are the best, truly.

Overall, this book was just perfect in my eyes, and I completely expect it to make my best of 2019 list come December. The dirty talk was 11/10, the actual sex scenes were 11/10, and this was maybe the best fake dating setting I’ve ever read in my life. I am now obsessed with Tessa Bailey, and I feel so blessed that I am able to read her entire backlist now.

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Content and trigger warnings for abandonment and an emotionally abusive parent.

Buddy read with Chelsea, Jane, & Madalyn! ❤

 

Arranged by R.K. Lilley

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“He hated me on principle, and he fascinated me in spite of myself.”

If you’ve been reading my reviews for a few years, you’d know that I am utter and complete R.K. Lilley trash. Not only is my favorite sex scene of all-time in Bad Things, but R.K. Lilley proves again and again that she truly is out here writing all the sexiest of scenes in the romance genre. And even though I didn’t love Arranged completely, the sex scenes in this were so fucking hot that I feel like I need a glass of water just writing this review. Seriously, if you’re looking for steam, look no further, and I still think that this was such an enthralling enemies to lovers, age gap, standalone romance that was a treat to read.

Noura – A very young up-and-coming model, who just sold her virginity and promise of marriage to a man she doesn’t know, but for a whole lot of money.

Calder/Banks – The soon-to-be groom, regardless of how he feels about the situation his family has placed him in.

I mean, with a promise like this, you all know what you’re getting into and you know it’s going to be messy in the best way possible. Noura is so sweet and kind, but is pushed to her limits trying to further her career while also playing the part of the perfect wife to a husband who lets her know constantly that he doesn’t want to be in this marriage. Yet, their sexual tension and compatibility are off the charts with each other, so it puts them in a very unique situation that both of them are afraid to approach.

Okay, this paragraph is going to have a spoiler in it, so read at your own risk! As always, I list my content and trigger warnings at the end of this review, but I feel like I need to talk about one of those triggers in a section all of its own; cheating. There is off page cheating that comes out at the very end of this story, and if you’ve read other reviews for this title on Goodreads, then you will know that a lot of people in the romance community are very upset about it, and that’s valid. For me, the cheating wasn’t unbearable because it was off page and because the other character doesn’t easily forgive the adultery. Also, I read and review a lot of new adult romance differently than other kinds of literature, since I’m really reading it to just escape and suspend my disbelief. Like, this is a story about a girl selling her virginity and marrying a guy she doesn’t know; I think cheating is a little believable in a story like this? But, again, everyone’s feelings are valid, but these are just my feelings on the controversy surrounding this book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this, and I will continue to read everything that R.K. Lilley writes. I truly hope whatever she does write next will be set in Vegas like so many of her other books, but she set up so many characters in this NYC world to eventually have their own books written about them. But if you’re looking for something a little over the top, but with some of the best written sex scenes 2019 has to offer, then I completely recommend you pick this one up.

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Content and Trigger Warnings: underage drinking, a lot of very triggering talk of eating disorders and restricted eating that were personally very triggering to me, talk of statutory rape of a side character, a lot of very controlling “alpha male” behavior that I know will be too much for many readers, talk of past loss of a loved one, mention of past cancer of a loved one, assault, cheating, and violence.

Buddy read with Paloma! ❤

Enthralled (The Enslaved Duet #1) by Giana Darling

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“…A parting of night as if Hades himself was breaching the veil from the underworld.”

Friends, first off, this is a very dark and very taboo story. There are so many content and trigger warnings for abuse, sexual assault, and more, that I wrote at the bottom of this review, so please use caution and make sure you are in the right headspace if this looks like something you’d want to pick up. But if you liked The Debt series back in the day, you’ll probably like this dark and twisted tale, too.

Cosima – On her eighteenth birthday she decides to sell herself to pay off her father’s debt. The arrangement is supposed to be only for five years, and then she is free to go or start up a new contract with the man who she is going to make a deal with.

Alexander – A British royal, who is about to become Cosima’s master, and who has calculated this deal (and his secret plan) for a while, because of something in his past that he is hiding.

“Sometimes we are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes we are born to bad people and live a bad life. There doesn’t always have to be a reason for misfortune, Cosima.”

Again, this is a dark BDSM romance that will probably have many of you screaming “Stockholm Syndrome” at me, and that’s valid. But I’m going to be honest with you, I was in Hawaii, with sunburnt feet (damn you water-shoes from Hell) and I just wanted to read something that was going to be sexy, out of my comfort zone, and that I could finish in a day, and this completely checked that list.

I really did enjoy this one, and I thought the consensual sex was very sexy, even if this did have a lot of very triggering content along the way. Obviously, there is a huge power imbalance, and Alexander does so many questionable things throughout the entire novel, but I never wanted to stop reading this one. And I cannot wait to see what Giana Darling does next, and where she will take this duology when Enamoured releases. Because the end of this book? Holy shit, what even?

Overall, this is one of those books you read and review based off enjoyment and maybe not the literary merit, if that makes any sense. I feel like I always read and review my erotic romances differently than other books, and this is very much the case for Enthralled! But if you’re looking for an extreme sub/Dom dynamic, with an age gap romance, and also with major enemies to lovers vibes, then I think you should give this a try. Just, please make sure you are in the mood for something extremely dark, and you’re able to suspend your disbelief.

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Content and Trigger Warnings: human trafficking, slavery, talk of eating disorders, talk of loss of a loved one, loss of a child, forced body modifications (piercings), abuse, sexual assault, a lot of abuse, and torture. This is a very dark book, so please use caution and make sure you are in the right headspace.

If I’m Being Honest by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

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ARC provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review.

“If I was going to commit to someone, I wanted him to be worth the worry, worth the part of me I was going to give him.”

Wow, this truly read like a gift from above. Like, I’m actually bitter than I didn’t have a YA contemporary story like this when I was in high school; because this was perfection. The Taming of the Shrew/10 Things I Hate About You loose retelling, starring a popular mean girl and a nerdy gamer boy, where they go to The Rocky Horror Picture Show together? I mean, it’s everything I’ve ever wanted in my adult life, too. I truly think this will be the best YA contemporary romance I’ve read all year, and these authors are now in a tier all on their own.

Cameron – A senior in high school who wants nothing more than to go to UPenn and to get a summer internship to work with her dad and finally have him be proud of her.

Andrew – Black, and has been friends with Cameron for a really long time, and they are running partners with each other.

Paige – A girl who goes to Cameron’s school, who for sure marches (and dances) to the beat of her own drum.

Brendan – Paige’s brother, who has kept to himself and his video games ever since Cameron called him a really horrible nickname that everyone at their school uses now.

And basically, Cameron is one of the most popular girls in school, and that nickname stuck because her word is law. She and her friend group are known for being rather ruthless, but Cameron is especially known for being completely unattainable and also a complete bitch. Yet, she has finally decided to make a move on Andrew, since she has been secretly crushing on him for over a year. But Cameron completely snaps at a girl who is foiling her moment of telling (and showing) Andre how much she likes him. After that, he can’t really see her the same way, so she vows to be nicer and prove to him that she can change her heartless ways. Yet sometimes, the person we need forgiveness from the most is ourselves.

But when starting the journey to become a nicer person, Cameron quickly realizes that the girl she was mean to is not going to make it easy for her, and she isn’t going to let her forget about the nickname she gave to her brother all those years ago. And friends, Brendan is my new favorite character in all YA literature.

But this is a book all about second chances and how it is never too late to be the person you want to be; just make sure you are becoming the person you truly want to be. And we definitely see Cameron learn this the hard way; from the having to take care of her mom, to the pressure and neglect her father shows her, to everyone in school thinking she’s a heartless bitch, while she is hiding everything that is going on in her life behind the scenes. I loved seeing Cameron’s journey, even if it was a bumpy road, and I just loved Cameron as a main character so damn much.

“The heart of every doubt and insecurity that’s ever weighed me down—that between the only two parents I have, nobody’s ever wanted me.”

Okay other random fangirl things that I adored: What do I talk about in all my reviews? My brother is my best friend in this entire world, and I love reading about strong sibling relationships, so Paige and Brendan really made me happy, especially since Paige constantly tries to be slick, but she truly was her brother’s wingman through and through, and that is so damn relatable. I also really liked how Cameron was older than Brendan. I feel like we never see stories where the girl is in grade higher than the guy, and I was here for it. The LA setting was so realistically and magnificently done. And lastly, I loved seeing all the imperfect family relationships. Cameron, Paige, and Brendan all have such different expectations on them; and all of them suck. I think this is just rep that isn’t really seen that much, especially in YA books, and I really appreciated how real it felt and the importance it played in the story.

“Katherine’s not the villain of the play. It’s the people trying to change her”

Overall, if you couldn’t tell, I just adored this. I immediately want to run to the store or my library and pick up their debut, Always Never Yours, because this book truly blew me and my expectations out of the water. And I fell so in love with these complex and realistic characters. Plus, you all know that I am always going to go completely heart-eyes over a video game playing soft boy, always. Oh, and unrelated, and this doesn’t impact my review whatsoever, but the authors are engaged to one another in real life, and that honestly makes me want to melt into a puddle of goo while finishing writing this review, because talk about partner goals.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Trigger and content warnings for side characters cheating, talk of cheating in the past, and emotional and verbally abusive parenting.

Buddy read with Kayla! ❤

 

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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ARC provided by Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.

“That’s the point of luck: it happens when and where it happens.”

This is my favorite Christina Lauren book since Roomies! I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too in love with Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating or My Favorite Half-Night Stand, but this felt like the famous duo was back and resecured that special place in my swoon-worthy romance heart. This was so funny, this was so heartwarming, and since I’m leaving in a few weeks for Hawaii, the setting was pretty perfect for me, too! This is a hate to love, enemies to lovers, fake dating romance that features two characters who are forced to be around each other because their siblings are marrying each other.

Olive Torres – Biracial (white and Mexican), twin of the bride, has been unlucky her entire life.

Ethan Thomas – Brother of the groom, and Olive’s archnemesis.

“I want to say something sassy, but the only coherent thought that comes to mind is how insulting it is that eyelashes like his were wasted on Satan’s Errand Boy, so I just give a perfunctory nod and turn down the hall.”

And these two had a very rocky, and very confusing, first meeting. But they are trying their best to put their differences aside for this wedding, even if they are antagonizing each other every single chance they get. But the wedding takes an unexpected turn when everyone gets sick from the seafood buffet that was served, except for Olive and Ethan, since neither of them ate from it.

Their siblings insist that they take their Hawaii honeymoon, instead of letting the trip go to waste! And they both decide to, because once they get to Maui, they won’t have to see each other except for sleeping. That is, until Olive’s boss and Ethan’s ex fiancé happen to be at the same resort, and they are forced to play the part of happy newlyweds, because Olive doesn’t want to get caught using their sibling’s honeymoon by the resort and be forced to pay for it out of their own pocket, and Ethan doesn’t want his ex to see him single. And honestly? It was just the perfect fake dating setup, let’s be real.

“The problem with lying about relationships is that humans are fickle, fickle creatures.”

And I truly believe the banter in this book is the best that these authors have ever crafted. It’s smart, witty, and truly hilarious. I also just loved Olive and Ethan as characters so much, and I easily shipped them together; maybe harder than any Christina Lauren characters. The setting was perfect, the plot was genius, and this was just an overall really easy book to escape into and love.

But I am very curious to see how plus-sized reviewers are going to feel about the representation in this book. This is not my lane, so please know that while reading this paragraph, but this book puts a huge emphasis on how Olive thinks Ethan fat-shamed and body-shamed her. She constantly talks about her body, her curves, her stress baking and eating, and how things look on her body, and even tears clothing that’s too small for her, while always kind of comparing herself to her thin twin sister. Like, I was 100% sure Olive was plus-sized through the entire start of this book, but then, once they arrive in Hawaii, it seems like the only big and curvy thing about her is her breasts, which are obviously perfect! And then, at the end of this book it starts feeling like she and her thin sister are identical in bodies, too, and she also gets compared to Selena Gomez. Like, I just didn’t understand. It was like they wanted to have a plus-sized main character, but they didn’t want to actually go there or hire any beta readers. Like, again, this isn’t my lane, and I’m obviously not saying that thin people can’t have body dysmorphia or just have unhealthy relationships with food and their bodies, but the way this read personally felt bad to me. I just honestly think this book could be really triggering because of the emphasis it has on Oliva’s relationship with food and her inner monologue about her thoughts about her body, while also painting a very hazy picture of her actual body.

Also, there is a very small conversation between Olive’s family members questioning if a family member is queer, and… it was really badly done. “Because lesbians use those strap-on things” and apparently have short haircuts. And I completely understand it was supposed to be funny because older generations “don’t get it” or whatever, but it wasn’t cute; it was offensive and poorly done. And the mom saying she wishes she was born a lesbian, like… gag me with any spoon you can find. Like, it was so minuscule, and I have no idea why it was even part of the book or why editors thought it was a good thing to keep included, but it just made me side eye and put a bad taste in my mouth.

Okay, I know those last two paragraphs seem bad, and they are, I’m not making light of them whatsoever! But I will say that if you took those two elements out, this is a really good book. Like, the best I’ve read from Christina Lauren in years. It was laugh out loud funny, it was romantic and swoon worthy, and I really shipped this enemies to lovers dynamic. I never wanted to leave Olive, Ethan, or Hawaii, and I think this is just going to be the ultimate beach read of 2019.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for talk of cheating (not the main characters), A LOT of talk about food and bodies that I think could be potentially triggering, and the brief but questionable conversation about sexuality that I mentioned above.

The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient, #2) by Helen Hoang

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ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.

“It felt too big. At the same time, it didn’t feel like enough.”

The Bride Test is the most anticipated sophomore novel from Helen Hoang, AKA: the goddess who we do not deserve and who gifted us The Kiss Quotient! And this book is following a couple of characters who we originally met in that debut! I didn’t love this installment as much as I did The Kiss Quotient, but I still think that this book is a treasure and that Helen Hoang is a gift to the world.

And like The Kiss Quotient, this is an ownvoices novel, Helen is Vietnamese and is Autistic. And one of my favorite things about this book is seeing the difference of Stella, from The Kiss Quotient, and the main character of this book’s Autism. I think people just like to group marginalized people together and act like their experiences are all the same, and this author does such a wonderful job at truly showing the Autism spectrum and how vast it truly is. This book has a completely different Autistic main character, because everyone’s experiences are different, and I truly loved it more than I have words to express in this review.

Khai Vietnamese, Autistic, Michael’s cousin from The Kiss Quotient, living in California, and completely happy being on his own, especially after losing someone very close to him when he was younger. Even though that loss has made him think that he is incapable of love.

Esme – Biracial (Vietnamese and white), living in Vietnam as a cleaning woman, when Khai’s mom travels there to try to see if she can find a woman who would be compatible with her son. And Esme accepts because she is a single mom, living in poverty with her own mother and grandmother, and she thinks this is an opportunity to give them and herself a better life. Khai’s mother promises her a summer in California, where she can see if she can make Khai fall in love with her and marry her, but if not, she will return back to her family.

But with this set up, the power imbalance always is at the forefront. I always was questioning Esme and her feelings, because she has so much at stake. Also, Esme doesn’t tell Khai about her daughter for far too long, and that also felt extremely bad to me. And it’s always hard for me to root for a romance that is founded on a power imbalance and then also have it harboring such a big secret, especially after the two individuals are choosing to have sex. Now, I will say that the author does such an amazing job at putting consent at the forefront of this story constantly, yet I still could never find my footing on this shaking ground. And because of this, I can’t give this more than four stars.

I will say that, besides always putting consent at the forefront, this story has a lot of other amazing elements. Like, just seeing Esme in a foreign country, doing whatever it takes to make a better life for her loved ones, and seeing her getting the education of her dreams, I am soft and so happy. My favorite part of this book was easily the acknowledgements, where Helen really shares about her personal life and her mother’s personal experience being an immigrant and coming to American in search of a better life. I shed so many tears at how beautiful and powerful these final words were, and it truly was the cherry on an already amazing ice cream sundae.

Also, much like The Kiss Quotient, the family in this book is everything. Quan plays such a major roll in this story, and honestly was the shining light for me. And I am counting the days until we get his book next!

But this is a story about loss and love, yet also healing and becoming the person you want to be, no matter the circumstances. We get to see both Khai and Esme dealing with their own traumas, and healing separately, but we also get to see them building something really beautiful together; a future where they can be accepted and happy. And seeing them realize they were worthy of that love and acceptance all along? So damn beautiful.

“My heart works in a different way, but it’s yours.”

Overall, I just love being in Helen Hoang’s world. From the important elements and themes, to the beautiful diversity and inclusion, to some of the steamiest and most romantic scenes ever, these books are just really easy to fall in love with. I hope she never stops writing, and I hope Berkley signs her for five more books after these five, because she is a gift to the world.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for depiction of grief, talk of loss of a loved one, abandonment, and some talk of one’s body/body issues that I think could potentially be a little triggering,

Buddy read with Kathy from Kathy Trithardt & Julianna at Paper Blots! ❤

 

When Summer Ends by Jessica Pennington

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ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

“Why did we have to meet the summer before I move away?”

When Summer Ends is a really cute read that is going to be absolutely perfect for summer this year. This is a tale about two people learning who they are, and who they want to be, while also supporting one another, and maybe even falling for each other, too! But they also have to decide if this is just going to be a summer fling, because both of their lives are going to change drastically in three months! This was heartwarming and truly smile-inducing, and I think is really going to make an amazing beach read during the warmer temperatures!

Aiden – Starting pitcher for the varsity baseball team, but his true passion is drawing. He has felt an immense amount of pressure to live up to everyone else’s baseball expectations, but after a playing accident, instead of spending the summer away at baseball camp, he is going to be working at this dad’s company, River Depot. Which becomes extremely popular with tourists ever summer.

Olivia – Lives with her aunt, who just received an amazing job opportunity in Arizona, which means this could very well be the last summer in Michigan for her. Her estranged mother agrees to stay with her, while she tries to enjoy the summer working at none other than River Depot with Aiden.

And these two young adults quickly realize that they need to make the best out of these next three months of summer, because once it is over their senior years of high school will change everything.

My only real complaints are that the problems in this book really never felt like problems. They for sure felt like the set up of problems, but things always seemed to resolve quickly, and I never really felt scared about what was going to happen. And this is totally fine and valid, just not something that I completely enjoy reading. Also (and this kind of goes with what I just said), I just really didn’t love the storyline with Olivia’s mother, which was for sure such a big part of this story.

I will also say that I thought there was going to be hearing and visual disability rep in this book, which there was, but it was only temporary visual and hearing disabilities. So, I also felt a little down about that, but I didn’t have it impact my rating or anything like that. But please be warned if you are going into this also looking forward to reading about that representation.

But I loved the main characters, I loved seeing them rely on one another, I loved seeing them grow as people singularly, but also grow together, and I loved every scene with the two of them! I especially loved the Michigan setting, because there are few things more beautiful that Michigan’s lakes in the summer time, and it really made me feel like I was back home. Overall, I do recommend this one! And I can’t wait to pick up the author’s debut, Love Songs & Other Lies, very soon!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Trigger and Content Warning for abandonment, neglect, and underage drinking.

Buddy Read with Felicia, Mir, & TBR & Beyond! ❤

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!