Traipsing Through the Tropes: Work for It by Talia Hibbert

We continue with Enemies to Lovers with a discussion of Work for It by Talia Hibbert, who I consider to be the writer of my heart. Her stuff resonates with me on a deep level so there was a lot of pressure for my husband to like it. Let’s see how he felt!


Me: So, what are your first thoughts about Work for It?

Him: HORNY.

Me: Elaborate, please

Him: Tortured. Emotionally stunted, yet curiously vulnerable
Look – I mostly read literary fiction and contemporary science fiction. Both of those genres are notorious for terrible sex scenes, though there are a few who do it well.
Marlon James & NK Jemisin write lively sex stuff. Their characters have agency and strong libidos.
But Olu and Griff are just horned up all the time.

Me: But they don’t even hold hands until 50% in!

Him: Which – not to sound like a prude – took some getting used to.

Me: It was a slow burn, I tell you!

Him: But they talk about it all the time.
The book opens with Olu going cruising at a club for some dick.

Me: It’s a coping mechanism. 

Him: But when he gets the guy back to the room, he doesn’t want it any more – even though the guy is naked in his bed.

Me: He’s depressed!

Him: Of course it is – but he still thinks about it.
And the first time they meet in the village pub, they talk for about 10-15 minutes before Olu wants to go to the alley.

Me: I thought it was fewer minutes than that. 

Him: All of that to say, yes – it is a coping mechanism for Olu, but Griff talks about it lots, too.

Me: Prudey pruderson. 

Him: That’s me! Prudey Pruderson.
HOWEVER
Talia Hibbert is a fantastic writer.

Me: Tell me more…

Him: She has a gift for authentic inner dialogue that most “literary” authors only dream of possessing.
Her descriptions of the scenery are VERY tactile.

Me: Yes. This was her first book in first person POV. She nailed it. 

Him: YOU ARE THERE.
This was her first time writing first person POV?

Me: Yes. 

Him: You couldn’t tell!

Me: She usually does third person limited omniscient with head jumping. 
Or does that make it fully omniscient? If you get both perspectives just never at the same time?

Him: Fascinating. I’m used to head-jumping from Star Trek.
I’d say it’s limited.

Me: What did you think of Olu?

Him: Class A jerkface.
Type One Alpha Asshole.

Me: But is that the real him?

Him: I mean – probably not to that degree, but still a bit.

Me: Fair enough. 

Him: A lot of it is probably tough guy persona from having to navigate upper-class British school waters as someone who doesn’t belong there under the traditional class system.
Olu has lots of defense mechanisms.
Including the “Keynes” moniker he deploys.

Me: And his depression. What did you think of the mental health rep?

Adam: Very authentic, from my experience.

Me: His inner monologue is so damn real. 

Him: Most definitely.

Me: Now, what did you think of Griff?
Don’t talk shit about my tiny giant bb Griff. I will fight you. 

Him: Griff was much more down-to-earth and relatable than Olu.
I think a lot of that had to do with how his mom raised him, how she left him, and how tight his friendship with Rebecca was.

Me: Sure. 

Him: Neither of them let Griff totally hide from a world that didn’t want to accept him.

Me: And neither does Olu!

Him: Indeed! I think Griff gets that.
That’s eventually what forges their connection – they don’t let the other give up on themselves.

Me: So true. 
What Hogwarts House is he? (Olu is obvi — Slytherin). 

Him: Griff is Hufflepuff.
He’s Sprout’s not-so-secret protege.

Me: Good call. 
The plants. 

Him: The plants. The willingness to serve others at the expense of his own interests.
So he’s an Enneagram 2?

Me: And Olu is so 4 it hurts. 

Him: Griff is totally a 2.
I don’t think Olu is full 4, but he has some 4 traits.

Me: Interesting. 

Him: What do YOU like most about the book?
You’ve read it three times AND have it as an audiobook.

Me: Most? The beautiful, clever, hilarious turns of phrase. 
I love Olu’s progression. 

Him: Hibbert is such a wonderful writer!
Clever and witty without going over-the-top.
Those turns of phrase serve a purpose.

Me: From depressed grumpy loner asshole to on-the-road-to-less-depressed, grumpy, partnered jerkface who loves someone. Well, two someone’s. He already loved his sister. 
One of my faves: My brain tries to tell me I’m an idiot. I tell it we don’t think things like that anymore, and it it’s not going to be a positive part of the team, it can piss off. 
I’ve started telling myself that. 

Him: I like that! That’s a very tactical and pointed mantra that’s not all hippie-dippie.

Me: But the weaknesses swear that Griff isn’t like everyone else, that we’re something entirely different together, something precious,  never-before-seen under this sun. Something perfectly us. 

Him: I liked Olu’s story, but I preferred Griff’s progression – from melancholic loner footstool with only one close friend in the world to someone who’s found the love of his life and stands up for himself.
“Something Perfectly Us”

Me: Fair enough. Griff is so solid. He’s there for Olu without being demanding. 

Him: Sounds like the name of the book you need to write.

Me: He would say “You will never exhaust me” to Olu. 

Him: He’s not demanding, except when he puts his foot in his mouth by prying too much and trying to get some sort of forward motion from Olu.
Griff would TOTALLY say “You will never exhaust me” to Olu.

Me: I want an epilogue story of them with kids so bad. 

Him: That would be fun.
It was just an excellent read filled with superb characters who were complex, layered, and realistic.

Me: I guess I identified with Olu. Not just because of the depression. But mostly. 
It was just so well done. 
And the discussion of pills. Perfect. 

Him: And I identified with Griff. Putting his head down, sacrificing himself for others, stumbling when he doesn’t know how to navigate his feelings.

Me: Yes. I’m glad I picked this one for you. 

Him: And I’m glad you picked it for me. I really enjoyed it.

Me: Good. Even if there were a lot of sexy times?

Him: The sexy times didn’t bother me or scare me away.
It was just more intense and more …
shall we say “descriptive” than I’m used to.

Me: Yessss…Another thing I love about Talia Hibbert.
She uses the c-word when writing about vagina sexy times. Which is still very taboo to me, even if I don’t want it to be. 

Him: **Note to self**

Me: I love her descriptive sexy times. Not specifically that she says cunt. 

Him: I was more interested in how she described the intimacy and romantic nature of the afterglow.
They both loved just being together more than they probably thought.
Sure, the fucking would be good, but their internal thoughts about the post-coital bliss made me happy.

Me: “I want to fall asleep on top of him like he’s a mattress”

Him: Which brings to a running thought in the back of my head throughout the book:
HOW BIG IS GRIFF?
I’m almost positive she says Olu is 6’2″ or so at some point. Olu is not a small man.
But Griff must literally be a giant.
Olu calls him “My Giant” at some point.

Me: Yep. He’s a big motherfucker. 
And burly. Dad bod. I had issue with the cover model. 
Not enough  meat on them bones. 

Him: Was the cover model Griff?

Me: I think so? White guy. 

Him: Yeah. No.

Me: Beard. 
Olu doesn’t have a beard. 

Him: That cover model is in NO WAY anything like Hibbert describes.
His muscles are too well-formed, and he’s not bear-ish enough.

Me: Yep. 
Ok, so final thoughts?

Him: Good story. Good characters. GREAT inner voices.

Me: Cool. 

Him: Just an all-around excellent read.
You know how to pick ’em!

Review: American Sweethearts

The covers on this series are fire!

I received an ARC of American Sweethearts by Adriana Herrera from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Adriana Herrera’s American Dreamers series was in my top reads of last year. I loved the stories of these immigrants finding their Happily Ever Afters. I was thrilled to get an ARC of this book. Unfortunately the arrival of the ARC coincided with the beginning of the pandemic and my brain shut down so it took me a while to be able to finish this story. But it was through no fault of the book itself.

This is a second-chance love story between Juan Pablo and Priscilla, who were on and off from their teen years. They story picks up where they are completely broken up and have been distant from each other for a long time. They meet up again at a friend’s wedding (the hero of the second book in the series, Milo), and sparks fly. More than sparks though. Priscilla can tell Juan Pablo has changed. Come to find out he’s had a lot of therapy and has been consciously working on making himself a better man — for himself and for Priscilla. He is not ready to give up on them, but he never pushes her. He’s done that in the past and everything blew up. This time, he lets her come to him and is just a supportive friend and lover. There’s a fantastic scene where he takes care of her while she’s having cramps.

Priscilla is a great character. She’s a cop who has a side hustle teaching sex classes to minorities, particularly immigrants, and she has a blog and podcast. She teaches sex-ed through a social justice lens. She’s increasingly unhappy in her day job. Juan Pablo thinks she could make it a full-time career out of it, but he doesn’t push her, much. The recovering fundamentalist in me had trouble understanding sex-ed as social justice, but I think I get it. I want to get it.

Through the book, there’s no manufactured drama or angst. It’s just two grown-ass people learning to communicate and make each other a priority while also taking care of themselves. That’s what I love about Herrera’s books. They are grown-ass people, having grown-ass relationships and sexy times together.

I give this book 4 Stars, and I highly recommend that you read it. It’s one that I can tell will grow on me with future re-reads so I might bump it up to 4.5. If you haven’t read the rest of the series, start with American Dreamer. It’s my favorite of the bunch.

Traipsing Through the Tropes: A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare

Welcome to the first in a new monthly series here at HEA or GTFO: Traipsing through the Tropes, where I get my husband to read a romance novel and we discuss it via Google Chat. We’ll pick one trope and read several books from different subgenres and then go on to the next trope. We will be discussing the book in detail so spoilers abound. You’ll probably enjoy these posts more if you’ve already read the book we’re talking about. The idea was to kick things off with the One Bed trope, my personal favorite, but you’ll see where we ended up in the discussion.

We’re kicking things off with A Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare. It’s the first novel in her Spindle Cove series. They’re standalones, but we do discuss other couples in the series so fair warning if you’d rather be surprised.

With that said, and one last reminder that spoilers abound, let’s go!

Adam: Good evening!

Here we are. “A Week to be Wicked.”

I truly enjoyed – once I got into it.

The first time I attempted reading this one – about a year ago – I remember being thrown off my the nomenclature.

Jennifer: At what point would you say you got into it?

What nomenclature threw you off?

Adam: Really got into it? After the stuff with the brigands.

The overuse of “rake” and other such terms.

I was like, “Did people really go around calling people notorious / infamous rakes to their faces?”

Jennifer: I think it would be like calling someone a player. Or maybe a jerk. 

A jerk player

Adam: I get that. In theory.

But then, I realized it was something akin to the “technobabble” used in science fiction – especially Star Trek.

As in, this is the lingua franca of the genre.

It’s the ebb and flow of the actual style of writing / reading / creation.

Jennifer: You do have to get into the rhythm to enjoy romance. 

heh. 

Adam: Exactly!

As in, this is the part I have to take at face value if I want to appreciate the deeper story.

Rhythm joke!

First innuendo!

Jennifer: So what did you think of the characters?

Adam: Minerva was a top-notch heroine.

Jennifer: What do you think of Colin?

Adam: He was obviously written to be a jerk with a heart of gold.

Which I assume to be a common trope.

Giving him a tortured sort of backstory was nice.

Jennifer: Very common. Or jerk to everyone but the heroine. 

The only thing that keeps me from hating him is the list of M names he made. 

Adam: THE M LIST.

That was a genius revelation 3/4 through the book.

Truly a chef’s kiss detail by the author.

Jennifer: Yep. Oh, I realized on a reread, it’s not a true one bed trope romance. 

Adam: Why do you say that?

Jennifer: They negotiate sleeping together before the journey starts. One bed is usually a surprise, something they’re forced into by circumstance. 

Adam: There were a few times they had to share one bed.

Ah. Well then. I guess that’s a technicality.

But kind of a key one. 

You’re the expert.

Jennifer: What makes one bed so delicious is the forced proximity aspect. 

Adam: We could start with “Enemies into Lovers.”

Jennifer: Yes, this is definitely that. 

Adam: I found her love of science believable. She’s not a Mary Sue. She just loves geology.

Jennifer: Yeah, Minerva rocks. hahahaha

Adam: Tessa Dare is an excellent writer.

Jennifer: She is. Her stuff is always imaginative and funny. 

Adam: I was pleasantly surprised at the level of humor that runs rampant through the book.

And by surprised, I mean, “The romance novels my Mom read when I was in high school always looked laborious, cookie-cutter, and completely over the top.”

Dare imbues her characters with HEAPS of life, agency, and personality.

Jennifer: I always like her heroes even if they are a type I would usually dislike. 

Yep. It’s more than angst and doing it. 

But the doing it is integral to the progression of the story. 

Adam: Exactly. “Angst & Doin’ It” – the name of your podcast.

Jennifer: I don’t do angst. I like fluff. 

Adam: The doin’ it was VERY integral to the progression of the story.

Jennifer: You’ve read lots of literary doing it in your many travels, but what did you think of this type of writing of the doing it?

Adam: I was just thinking about that, and it’s mostly boring or faux-edgy.

Jennifer: replace literary with “literary”

Adam: This doin’ it was hot.

As in, straight white dudes can’t write sex scenes for shit.

Jennifer: That’s what I was about to ask. 

How it compares

Adam: I mean, there’s very little comparison.

This was well-written, creative, erotic, purposeful, and integral to the story.

Jennifer: Yep. The centering of women’s pleasure, the female gaze. 

Most sex in literary fiction is dry, rough, very dude-centric, and lacking creativity. Lacking vitality too. And nowhere near what sex is like in real life. Not that all romance novels are near what sex is like in real life either….

Adam: Most definitely.

This was wet in every positive sense of that word.

I really enjoyed this read. The only scene I didn’t like was getting captured by the brigands.

Jennifer: What didn’t you like about it?

Adam: I get that their conversation while walking with Francine AFTER she frees him is important, but the whole thing felt like just one MORE obstacle.

It didn’t really add much, IMHO.

Jennifer: I don’t know. I think her saving him was important. 

I think that’s why Dare didn’t waste a lot of time seeing him being captive. 

Adam: I’ll grant you that. The scene itself didn’t take up much of the book. She didn’t bother herself with overwroght descriptions of him being tortured.

It just happened, and the next morning/day, Minerva appears with Francine and saves him.

Jennifer: I don’t think they’re apart overnight. 

I think he gets captured early in the day and she rescues him at like 3pm. 

Several hours later. 

Adam:  I can see that. Obviously the timeline blurred in my head a bit.

What did you think about everything that happened in the Sex Castle BEFORE the smokin’ hot sex?

Jennifer: I thought it was hilarious. And a good setup for the Duke as a hero later in the series. 

Minerva as Melissande was great. 

Adam: Agreed. It took me a few pages to see where Dare was going, but that was probably me being unfamiliar with the genre.

Jennifer: Here’s a question. What side characters do you think get their own book(s)?

Adam: The obvious guess is Kate Taylor, since she gets her own little POV vignettes.

Jennifer: Can you guess her hero?

Adam: Again, I assume it’s the crusty Corporal Thorne.

Jennifer: Good job!

Adam: Thanks!

Jennifer: Does the guaranteed HEA detract from your reading experience at all? Like removing suspense or something?

Adam: Not at all! It was very akin to reading a Star Trek novel. I know my space friends will mostly be all A-OK by the end, but a good writer will make the trials and tribulations come alive EVEN if you know the end.

Jennifer: Oh…I have a good space alien enemies to lovers we can read.

Adam: And that’s exactly what Dare does so expertly. Just because I know Colin and Min get together in the end doesn’t mean I know exactly HOW it will happen.

Part of me wanted to see Dare make even more hay with Colin’s money (or lack thereof or lack of access to it) hanging over his head, but that’s a minor quibble.

Jennifer: Interesting. I don’t think I would have liked that. 

The first book actually talked about that more. Colin whining about not being able to leave Spindle Cove because of his money. 

Adam: I get that. It would have introduced a level of detail about his finances that could have bogged things down.

Jennifer: These are standalone but they really do build on each other. 

Adam: Him whining about it is all we really need.

Because obviously enough people know about it if Minerva can bribe him with 500 guineas.

Jennifer: I don’t think he ever cared about the 500 guineas. 

And I’m too lazy to google. Is a guinea more than a pound?

Adam: IDK. I thought about googling it while reading, but I just assumed that it WAS more than a pound.

That’s the impression the novel gives us, and that’s the hallmark of a good writer.

Dare didn’t feel it necessary to launch into a few pages of exposition about currency in Regency Era England.

Jennifer: It’s one pound and five pence. 

Adam: So – just a little MORE than a regular pound?

That system makes no sense.

Jennifer: yes. 

It’s ridiculous. This is why JK Rowling came up with her insane exchange rate. 

They do weird stuff with money in England. 

Adam: **Insert comment about creating a single global currency here**

Jennifer: And on that note…any other comments?

I think we’re wrapping it up. 

Adam: No comments at this time other than I really enjoyed the read, and I’d like to read more in the future.

The scales have been removed from my eyes.

Jennifer: More Tessa Dare or more romance or both?

Adam: Both – as long as they write as well as Tessa Dare.

I just wonder if I will prefer historical, contemporary, or fantasy/science fiction.

Jennifer: She’s hard to match for wit. 

Adam: If this novel is any indication, I’d probably enjoy everything Dare writes.

Jennifer: I could see the fantasy/science fiction annoying you for being too far from the tropes for that genre. 

Adam: As in, being too far from traditional sci/fi tropes?

Jennifer: Yes. 

tropes/conventions/whatever

Adam: That’s a fair assessment. You have a good idea of the science fiction I read – not even considering Star Trek.

This has been fun!

I look forward to doing it again next month!

Review – Candy Hearts

I received an e-ARC of Candy Hearts by Erin McLellan in exchange for an honest review.

I read the first book in this series, Stocking Stuffers, and loved it so I was super excited for the chance to review this book. I have been in a bit of a reading slump and haven’t been able to handle more than quick novellas. This hot, sexy novella was just what I needed.

This is the story of Benji, the young mechanic with a love for lingerie, and William, the older workaholic who is finally ready for a real relationship. They meet at a Valentine’s getaway weekend Benji’s sister invited him to and sparks fly. They decide to be secret, fake valentines for the weekend so they can have some fun sexytimes and move on. The more William learns about Benji, the more he wishes they were real valentines. Benji lets William in and shows him a side of himself that he always felt like he had to hide from lovers, but he’s afraid of getting hurt again. There’s a misunderstanding. There’s a disastrous date. There’s talking and working it out and discovering real feelings.

Erin McLellan is becoming an auto-buy author for me because her books are hot, hot, hot. This series heavily features the use of sex toys, and it’s so fun and playful. I laughed out loud several times while reading this.

I give this book Five Super Steamy Stars and I can’t wait for the next book in the series. I think it’s coming this summer.

My 2019 Favorites

This was a good year for reading. I read more than 250 books (includes novellas) this year. And I read some amazing stuff. Here’s my top 15 in alphabetical order with blurbs and customized superlatives.

  1. A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde – A trans man and nonbinary billionaire fall in love. Superlative: Most Self Acceptance
  2. American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera – Workaholic Food Truck Owner and emotionally guarded librarian overcome their issues to be together. Superlative: Main Characters I Want to Be Best Friends With
  3. Band Sinister by KJ Charles – Gentle country guy sweetly seduced by citified atheist with excellent friend group, meanwhile his sister recuperates and falls in love with her doctor. Superlative: Best Primary and Secondary Romances
  4. Bond by Piper Scott and Virginia Kelly – Second in a bananapants crazy series about dragon shifters and mpreg egg laying. Superlative: Best Food-Based Nicknames
  5. Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean – All hail the Year of Hattie! And give me more Whit! Superlative: Most Admirable Heroine
  6. Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert – Prickly heroine living with chronic pain attacks her “get a life” list with the help of a hot ginger painter. Superlative: Best Heartbreaking Scene
  7. Heat Stroke by Tessa Bailey – Opposites attract when two lifeguards get it on and fall in love. Superlative: Best Gentle Giant Juice Maker
  8. Love Around the Corner by Sally Malcolm – Enemies IRL but a budding romance online figure out how to find love that lasts offline. Superlative: Best Internet Romance that Breaks Your Heart
  9. Man vs. Durian by Jackie Lau – In a year of amazing heroes, Peter might be my favorite. Fake boyfriend becomes super real. Superlative: Most Thoughtful and Eager to Please Hero
  10. Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon – Surgeon needs nanny. Sexy ginger biker comes to the rescue. Mutual attraction becomes more, and he’s also very good at the sex. Superlative: Hottest Ginger Biker Nanny
  11. Small Change by Roan Parrish – Tattoo artist and sandwich chef fall for each other. Also includes pickletinis. Superlative: Best Flirting with Sandwiches
  12. Teach Me by Olivia Dade – Over 40, plus size teacher is gently wooed by the single dad, also over-40 teacher who gets assigned her favorite class to teach. Superlative: Best Pursuit of Heroine
  13. Want Me by Neve Wilder – College housemates get it on until they fall in love. Superlative: Best Use of Sex for Plot Advancement
  14. Work For It by Talia Hibbert – Probably my favorite book of the year. I’ve already read it three times and then some. Olu and Griff are the sweetest. Superlative: Best Book with Grumpy, Sarcastic bb’s Falling in Love
  15. Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon – Marriage of convenience becomes real between bisexual teacher heroine and plus size chef hero. Superlative: Made Me Blush the Most

October Reading List

Now that I’m in grad school, while also still working full-time and parenting a busy four-year-old, I don’t have time to do the weekly round up of what I’ve been reading. I’m also not reading 7+ books a week. But I am still soaking up stories with happily ever afters so here’s what I read last month.

  • Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon – I reviewed this one and I still love it. I’ll probably reread it soon. Big ginger hero. Say no more.
  • Writing Her In by Holley Trent – I heard a lot about this book before I read it, and I enjoyed it.
  • A Match Made for Thanksgiving by Jackie Lau – Another nice people having hot sexy times book and a holiday novella. I loved the heroine in this one.
  • Let’s Get Textual by Teagan Hunter – This was a great wrong number gone right story with lots of fun texting. The hero was total book boyfriend material.
  • American Love Story by Adrianna Herrera – I was anxiously anticipating this book and it did not disappoint! I love this series. Gonna have to track down copies for my keeper shelf.
  • Happily Ever Afterlives by Olivia Waite – This was a bananapants crazy “historical”novella duo where the love interests are demons. So fun.
  • One Bed for Christmas by Jackie Lau – Super cute holiday novella with a giant t-rex costume and one bed. Do you need any other reason to one-click?
  • Stuck with You by Jay Northcote – Another one-bed, snowed-in holiday romance. I hate snow in real life but I love a good forced proximity in romance.
  • Lovers by Fiona Cole – I thought this one was going to be about a throuple but the m/m had the HEA. Apparently the girl gets her HEA in another book in the series. It was a little too cheating-adjacent for me.
  • Billionaire Unloved: Jett by J. S. Scott – I read this but I can’t really remember much about it at this point. The heroine was a ginger. I remember that.
  • Best Friend Baby Daddy by B. B. Hamel – Alpha hero quickie. Secret baby. Meh.
  • Doctor Baby Daddy by B. B. Hamel – Another alpha hero quickie. Better than the best friend one. Still nothing special.
  • The Babysitter by Jack Harbon – Quick, steamy read.
  • Rocket Science by K.M. Neuhold – Cute book with a shy, nerdy dude and best friend’s brother.
  • I Look at You and Smile by Janine Caroline – Good book, some suspense, awesome hero.
  • By the Hour by Roni Loren – Great, sexy enemies to lovers.
  • Where We Left Off by Roan Parrish – I love Roan Parrish, but this one just didn’t do it for me. Leo is so awesome and Will is such a douche. Will did not deserve him and the HFN wasn’t satisfying.
  • For Her Own Good by Tamsen Parker – Heroine has severe depression and hero was her former child psychiatrist, 15 years later. Big age gap. A little too much kink for me.
  • Safe Harbor by H. J. Welch – Cute gay/bi-for-you story

Wow, I read more than I thought I did. But a lot of these were novellas.

Review – Work for It

I received an e-ARC of this book from the author. This is an honest review.

OMG, can a book review just be one big sigh of happiness? This book was so good. I’m going to struggle to explain how good this book was. It’s the story of Olu and Griff. Olu is struggling with depression after a forced outing and Griff is the outcast of his small town. Olu goes to the small town for the elderflower harvest and meets Griff. They meet and become fast enemies. But they keep crossing paths because Griff runs the elderflower farm. There is hate-staring and pining and wishing. Olu apologizes for being a jerk when they met, and they start to become friends. Then they hold hands. Sparks!!!! It’s a slow burn, especially for this author, and it fits the story perfectly. I was dying for these two to get together already. To just freaking kiss! And then they did! And I died.

This story is told in alternating first person POV, and it suited the story perfectly. They both had unique voices. And there were moments that were so funny. They both have sarcastic inner monologues that made me laugh. I wanted to highlight something on every page. Both men fought their feelings so hard. But they fell hard too. And the HEA was so sweet.

Now for some of my favorite things about this book. One, I loved the description of Griff. Olu thinks he’s ugly at first but then sees his beauty. He’s described as huge, a bear of a man, and he has a soft belly. I am all for softer heroes in romance. Give me a dadbod any day of the week. Cuddles for days is what I’m saying.

Second, the mental health rep was spot-on. Olu has depression and Talia (I can call her by her first name because we’re totes bff’s in my imagination) writes him in the perfect tone. She captures how depression isn’t just stealing your good moods and your capacity for feeling, it steals a part of you. It changes your you-ness. And fills you with fear that no one will accept you as you are, that you don’t deserve acceptance, that you’re just a burden on everyone. Olu had those fears. Griff had experience with being there for someone in this situation, as his mom also had depression. He accepts Olu as he is and just wants to be there for him, especially when he’s feeling less than himself.

Griff is steady and true and I loved him. I didn’t really understand why he was such an outcast. I guess being a huge, scary looking dude with a scandalous mom is enough to make you the weird one in a small town. Everyone except his best friend treats him like he’s stupid, but he’s not. He’s amazing. Do not come for Griff. I will fight you.

I give this book all the stars, 5 giant, twinkling heart eye emoji stars. I already want to read it again. I want it in print and audio. I want it painted on the walls of my house.

Basically, what I’m saying is, go buy this book right now.

Review: Man vs. Durian

How adorable is this cover?
I love it.

I received an e-ARC of this book from the author for an honest review.

This book is one of my favorites of the year. It’s the third in a series that I haven’t read, and I loved the side characters. I will definitely be reading the first two books.

Valerie had a bad year. Her boyfriend cheated on her and she had to quit her job due to sexual harassment. She’s working at her best friend’s Ice Cream shop where she meets Peter. Peter is a landscaper who hates durian. Valerie spills durian ice cream all over Peter, and it was an excellent meet cute. Peter asks Valerie out and she turns him down but asks him to be her fake boyfriend. Then they both catch real feelings.

I had so many favorite things about this book: 1. The excellent communication. 2. Peter’s appreciation of Valerie — supporting her without pushing. 3. All the food! And finally, Valerie can only orgasm with certain stimulation, and she is NOT “fixed” by Peter’s magical man parts! He has to learn how to please her and what works for her, and he is a VERY eager student.

I give this book five heart-eye emoji stars! My highest rating. haha. I loved this book and I already can’t wait to read it again. Jackie Lau has such a great voice and awesome characters. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

Reading this Week – August 18

I’m a couple of weeks behind so this will be a long list.

  • Trashed by Mia Hopkins – m/f, contemporary. See my full review of this one here.
  • The Weight of It All by N.R. Walker – m/m, friends to lovers. This was a great story that included a hero with a less-than-perfect body. There is a lot of discussion of exercise and weight loss, but it was from a healthy perspective. No fat shaming. It was a really sweet story. I loved the characters.
  • Team A.L.P.H.A. Books 1-4 by Susi Hawke – m/m, mpreg, wolf shifters, fated mates – These are light, goofy stories that I tore through in no time. I don’t know why I enjoy male pregnancy books so much, but I do.
  • Facing West by Lucy Lennox – m/m, enemies to lovers. This was the first in the Forever Wilde series about a family made up of mostly gay guys, and I liked it. These books were good. Enjoyable, quick reads. Nothing earth-shattering.
  • The DILF by London Hale – m/f, age gap, best friend’s father. Meh. This was a book. Mostly just a lot of doin’ it.
  • Felix and the Prince by Lucy Lennox – m/m, royalty. Another Forever Wilde novel. Enjoyable. I’m glad it was on KU.
  • Wilde Fire by Lucy Lennox – m/m, second chance. This Forever Wilde novel was super sweet and had a little mystery.
  • Hudson’s Luck by Lucy Lennox – m/m. Another Forever Wilde. Guess what? That one brother you thought was straight, nope. Totes bi. Falls for a cute femme ginger.
  • Flirt by Lucy Lennox – m/m, age gap. Forever Wilde novella featuring the young bakery guy and the salt-and-pepper fire chief.
  • His Saint by Lucy Lennox – m/m. Most unusual pairing of the Forever Wilde series. Ex Navy SEAL with small antiquities dealer. There was a mystery in this one too.
  • Wilde Love by Lucy Lennox – m/m, friends to lovers. The story of the grandfathers of the rest of the Wilde boys. Includes a section during the Vietnam War and the death of a wife. It’s a really touching love story too.
  • King Me by Lucy Lennox – m/m, enemies to lovers. Final Forever Wilde novel to date. Good stuff, but Dirk Falcon is a terrible name.
  • Scales and a Tail by Stormy Glen – m/m, mpreg, dragon, bunny, paranormal. This book was funny and fun. A quick read. Another excellent addition to my dragon collection. And there’s good grovel here too.
  • Spells and Bananas by Joyee Flynn – m/m, witch, spider monkey, mpreg. Funny book in this midnight matings series.
  • Hot Ride by Lucy Lennox – m/m, age gap, virgin hero. Cute story about two dancers who fall for each other.
  • Fire and Ash by Gabrielle Evans – m/m, phoenix, fae. Another goofy midnight matings book.
  • Grounding Griffin by Lucy Lennox – m/m – Another family series by this author. Good stuff.
  • Jumping Jude by Lucy Lennox – m/m, workplace. Sweet story of country music star and his bodyguard. I liked the bodyguard character a lot.
  • IRL: In Real Life by Lucy Lennox and Molly Maddox – m/m, enemies to lovers, secret. Funny, cute story from dick pic to true love. I really enjoyed this one.

Flash Review – Trashed

I received an e-ARC of Trashed by Mia Hopkins from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

This was the second book in The Eastside Brewery series. I have enjoyed both books. This was about the middle brother, Eddie, and how he makes a life for himself after prison, and of course, the woman he falls in love with along the way. Eddie was a great character. I don’t always like first-person Hero point of view books, but I liked his voice.

Carmen was an awesome heroine — a badass chef who sees the good in Eddie. I wanted more of her and more conversations between the two of them. There was a side story about Eddie finding out what happened to his father, who supposedly died while Eddie was in prison. It was necessary to Eddie’s story, but I really wanted more of him and Carmen.

It’s cool to read about characters who aren’t your typical romance novel main characters. Of course, they’re still above average attractiveness, but they’re not rich or privileged. Eddie struggles. Carmen struggles. They help each other.

I give this book four stars. It was so well-written. The blurb at the end from the third book in the series has me on pins and needles waiting for it. It sounds amazing. I highly recommend this entire series. It’s sexy as hell and shows a side of life not often found in romance.