Welcome to Romances of the Month! This is a monthly blog that offers a round-up of a couple of romance books that I've read for the month, and where I will also share my reviews of each book!
Lovebug Erin Mallon
My name is Mabel, the girl who "wouldn't hurt a fly." Of course I wouldn't. I'm an entomologist for goodness' sake. I work in a nature center. Bugs are my jam. It's the humans in my life who are starting to get me down. I'm used to them calling me sweet and innocent. I can even handle them calling me naive. But when they lie and keep secrets from me? That's when my proverbial pincers want to come out. Trouble is, I'm not a girl who fights back. Not until a handsome groundskeeper with a dirty mouth and secrets of his own shows up and lights all sorts of fires in me. In the bug world, the female is always the fiercest. The praying mantis doesn't worry about being a "good girl." Nope, she follows her instincts no matter how crass or crude they may seem to others. Turns out I could learn a thing or two from her. I'm not looking to tear anyone's head off necessarily, but after decades of being "nice"? It's high time for me to return to nature and unleash my wild side.
I picked Lovebug mainly for the interesting illustrated cover. I mean, it was definitely a unique and memorable design. The two grasshoppers were also slightly cute, quirky, and twisted. The synopsis sounded interesting; however, I found myself struggling getting through this book. I kept putting the book down as I had a hard time focusing on the story. I also couldn't connect with the characters either. At first I thought Mabel was an interesting character that was sweet and quirky. I also liked that she worked in science and was an entomologist; I enjoyed the various bug facts she would share. However, Mabel was also a real people-pleaser and would let so many people just walk all over her, which was very frustrating to see. Mabel definitely needed to learn to stand up for herself, and I was glad that she was able to go through this journey of self-discovery to help find her confidence and voice, but boy, did it take a long time for her to get there. Additionally, Mabel was super awkward as well, which I normally wouldn't mind, but Mabel's awkwardness was definitely over-the-top. Mabel's awkwardness got annoying real fast because it was just constantly happening as all her encounters had her saying or doing something really embarrassing. I kept shaking my head and cringing at Mabel throughout the book. I thought that Wally was a pretty great hero, he embraced Mabel's uniqueness and really pushed her out of her comfort zone. Although I did wish for some chapters from Wally's POV since the story was told strictly from Mabel's POV, which, as I mentioned earlier, got annoying after a while. Together, Mabel and Wally had some cute banter between them, and because it's Mabel, there were some painful awkwardness as well. There was a plot twist with her parents at the end, and while something about them was hinted at early on, I felt that the reveal and drama was a bit random and unnecessary. In the end, Lovebug was unfortunately not the book for me as I didn't care for the characters or romance.
My Rating: 🌟🌟
The Ex Talk Rachel Lynn Solomon
Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can't imagine working anywhere else. But lately it's been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who's fresh off a journalism master's program and convinced he knows everything about public radio. When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it's this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it's not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts. As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.
There was a big hype around The Ex Talk and after reading the synopsis, I couldn't wait to read it. I really liked the premise and the unique spin on the fake dating trope, with it being a fake breakup instead. Although I ended up thinking that the story and romance was just fine. Shay and Dominic were good characters, and I loved the Jewish and Korean-American representations of the main characters, respectively. I also enjoyed learning about how Shay and Dominic got into their chosen careers and how they ended up at the radio station. Being able to go behind-the-scenes to learn the ins and outs of a public radio station and the process of running a radio show/podcast was one of the highlights of the book for me. "The Ex Talk" podcast that Shay and Dominic host was lots of fun as the two were great together and had clear chemistry and banter. I also thought the show transcripts and social media feeds throughout the book were a nice added touch. However, while the podcast was fun, I couldn't fully get behind Shay and Dominic because of their big lie. Normally, the fake dating trope doesn't bother me, but both Shay and Dominic considered themselves to be serious journalists, so the fact that they agreed to go along with the scheme goes against their journalistic integrity. They weren't just lying to a few people, but to the public who listened to them and the public radio station as a reliable source for the truth! Also, in terms of the enemies-to-lovers premise, I actually wouldn't consider Shay and Dominic as rivals since the real issue was due to the sexist work culture at the radio station perpetrated by their boss. Additionally, the ending when the truth about Shay and Dominic's lie was revealed, how it came out, and the reason behind it didn't really make sense. On a more positive note, my favorite part of the book was Shay's rescue dog, Steve. The dog was truly adorable. Overall, The Ex Talk was just an okay book for me. While this book wasn't really for me, I think other romance readers would still enjoy the book.
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟
Written in the Stars Alexandria Bellefleur
Darcy Lowell is desperate to stop her well-meaning brother from playing matchmaker ever again. Love--and the inevitable heartbreak--is the last thing she wants. So she fibs and says her latest set up was a success. Darcy doesn't expect her lie to bite her in the ass. Elle Jones, one of the astrologers behind the popular Twitter account, Oh My Stars, dreams of finding her soul mate. But she knows it is most assuredly not Darcy... a no-nonsense stick-in-the-mud, who is way too analytical, punctual, and skeptical for someone as free-spirited as Elle. When Darcy's brother--and Elle's new business partner--expresses how happy he is that they hit it off, Elle is baffled. Was Darcy on the same date' Because... awkward. When Darcy begs Elle to play along, she agrees to pretend they're dating to save face. But with a few conditions: Darcy must help Elle navigate her own overbearing family during the holidays and their arrangement expires on New Year's Eve. The last thing they expect is to develop real feelings during a fake relationship. But maybe opposites can attract when true love is written in the stars.
I was a little worried about Written in the Stars when I started it because the opening chapter with Elle and Darcy's blind date was rough and painful to read. The date was a complete disaster as Elle was so awkward that I was rolling my eyes at her over-the-top clumsiness. After having just read a book that featured super awkward character, I wasn't looking forward to another one. Luckily, after that rough initial first chapter, the fake dating plotline started and that's when the story got really fun and interesting. I was glad that the book featured both Elle and Darcy's POVs so that we were able to really get to know them. I thought both characters were wonderfully written. Elle was so warm, enthusiastic, and a bit awkward at times; however, her awkwardness wasn't overplayed, so Elle was able to come off as adorable rather than annoying. I also liked how astrology was incorporated into the story a bit. While I was like Darcy and not really into astrology, I did enjoy reading the astrology listicles Elle made. With Darcy, she was a serious, no-nonsense person, but I also loved the surprise that she was a big secret soap opera fan and wrote soap opera fanfic as well. Mixing Elle’s quirkiness with Darcy’s seriousness ended up making their fake/real romance work as I loved how they balanced each other out. I also loved how they had each other's back and supported one another. And while Elle and Darcy were total opposites, their attraction to each other was instant and real. Their love scenes were well-written and steamy. Something I appreciated about Written in the Stars was that Elle and Darcy's relationship was shown simply as a romance and that their sexuality wasn't a big issue or concern. While I enjoyed the book for the most part, some issues did brother me. Both Elle and Darcy had problems with their parents not understanding their work or not appreciating them enough, and while the issues were finally addressed, I felt that they weren't fully resolved, and so I would have liked some closure. I also thought the big fight between Elle and Darcy near the end was not necessary and that Elle overreacted to what she overheard from Darcy. And while I love a big romantic gesture scene, I felt that the ending was a bit rushed. Overall, I did enjoy Written in the Stars for the most part, and I would recommend the book to readers looking for a quick fun, cute romance book to read. Also, it looks like Darcy's brother, Brendon, will get his own next, so I'm looking forward to reading it.
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟
Never Tell Selena Montgomery
Criminal psychologist Dr. Erin Abbott wants nothing more than to live a quiet life. That means no danger, no intrigue-and absolutely no romance. But when Erin suspects a serial killer is roaming New Orleans, her investigation throws her straight into the arms of the only man who can help her. Journalist Gabriel Moss is hot to find his next huge story-and he knows Erin is on to something big. From the moment they meet, Gabriel senses that Erin is hiding something. One thing is certain: Erin's boxy suits and sensible shoes hide a delicate beauty waiting to emerge ... and Gabriel is just the man to reveal the woman inside. As they join forces to find the killer, Gabriel slowly seduces Erin with his soft kisses. But Erin knows their love can never be. For she is hiding a terrible secret-and if Gabriel reveals the truth, Erin's life will be shattered forever ...
So Selena Montgomery is the pen name of politician and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams. Ever since I learned that Abrams had previously written romance books I have been wanting to check them out. Luckily, the library had a couple of her ebooks and so I picked up Never Tell. The premise sounded interesting, and I was curious about Abrams' writing. I ended up really liking Never Tell and thought it was an enjoyable read. Both the main characters, Erin and Gabriel, were well-written and very likable. I loved that Erin was such a smart character, and I liked being able to see her understand how the killer thinks and work through the clues and connections the killer left. With Gabriel, I was instantly smitten with him. Gabriel was such a charming character, and I fell completely under his spell. I have to give Erin some major props for resisting Gabriel as long as she did. Due to her past, Erin was very hesitant and would use her boxy clothes to hide from others, but I loved that Gabriel was attracted to her from the start and saw through her disguise. Gabriel really fell hard and fast for Erin and I really appreciated that while he was a flirt with Erin, he also respected her boundaries. The romance was a slow burn, but it was wonderful to see how Erin and Gabriel's relationship progressed as Erin slowly started to trust Gabriel and allow him in, and how Gabriel got Erin to get out of her shell. The murder mystery element of the book definitely kept me at the edge of my seat wondering who the killer was and who the killer was going to go after next. There were a few chapters that were from the victims' POVs that were very intense and really heightened the danger. My one complaint about Never Tell was that it was slightly dated with the use of technology. The book came out in the early 2000s, so it threw me off a bit when they would mention using a disc on a computer. Other than that, overall Never Tell was a great read and I would recommend readers checkout this romantic suspense book.
Trigger Warning: abuse, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, gaslighting, violence, violence against women
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Comment down below if you have read any of these books and let me know your thoughts on them. Also, share with me some of your romance book recommendations!