Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Review: How to Be a Wallflower by Eloisa James

How to Be a Wallflower by Eloisa James
Series: Would-Be Wallflowers, Book 1
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Historical Romance 
How to Be a Wallflower cover
ISBN: 9780063139527
Release Date: March 29, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Eloisa James Reading Order

Miss Cleopatra Lewis is about to be launched in society by her aristocratic grandfather. But since she has no intention of marrying, she visits a costume emporium specifically to order unflattering dresses guaranteed to put off any prospective suitors.

Powerful and charismatic Jacob Astor Addison is in London, acquiring businesses to add to his theatrical holdings in America—as well as buying an emerald for a young lady back in Boston. He’s furious when a she-devil masquerading as an English lady steals Quimby’s Costume Emporium from under his nose.

Jake strikes a devil’s bargain, offering to design her “wallflower wardrobe” and giving Cleo the chance to design his. Cleo can’t resist the fun of clothing the rough-hewn American in feathers and flowers. And somehow in the middle of their lively competition, Jake becomes her closest friend.

It isn’t until Cleo becomes the toast of all society that Jake realizes she’s stolen his fiercely guarded heart. But unlike the noblemen at her feet, he doesn’t belong in her refined and cultured world.

Caught between the demands of honor and desire, Jake would give up everything to be with the woman he loves—if she’ll have him!

How to Be a Wallflower is completely charming. It’s bright, fun, fast-paced, and sweet with a nice dash of spice. In Jake and Cleo’s romance, author Eloisa James has kicked off her Would-Be Wallflowers series with a love story that will leave you smiling.

Cleo Lewis has spent her life following her mother and the broken hearts left in her wake. Cleo is a sharp, smart businesswoman who is more interested in growing her company, Lewis Commodes, than she is in marrying. In London for the Season to bond with her grandfather, Cleo is determined to make herself into a wallflower. She visits a costume emporium, intent on ordering unflattering dresses, but manages to not only invest a new business but thwart a brash American as well! Jake Addison is furious at having lost a business deal, but that anger is quickly replaced by his fascination with Cleo. It’s not long before his course has shifted and his new aim is to win the heart of the woman who is his match in every way.

Cleo and Jake are too cute for words. Cleo is unconventional and no-nonsense, which I liked. Jake is her perfect match; a blunt businessman who appreciates Cleo’s mind as much as he does the rest of her. Jake made me smile with how quickly he fell head-over-heels for Cleo. I loved that he didn’t question it, wasn’t bothered by the depth of his affection, and was willing to do what it took to win Cleo over without ever pressuring her. I’ll leave it to readers to discover how he does, but the interesting sartorial choices, the breakfasts and brandies…all of it was a joy. Their romance sparkles, the banter between them made me grin, and I loved how straightforward they were about their desires. I liked that James made them friends as well as lovers, and it was impossible not to be delighted by them as a couple.

How to Be a Wallflower is the first book in a new series but fans of James’s My American Duchess will love revisiting the heroine of that book as Merry is Jake’s best friend (though reading Merry’s book is not a prerequisite to fully enjoy this one). James also introduces new potential protagonists in this book that have me incredibly eager to read more Would-Be Wallflowers stories. Jake and Cleo’s romance is bright, honest, sensual, and sweet – the perfect escape read.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Review: So This Is Ever After by F.T. Lukens

So This Is Ever After by F.T. Lukens
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: Male/Male Young Adult Fantasy Romance 
So This Is Ever After cover
ISBN: 9781534496866
Release Date: March 29, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Arek hadn’t thought much about what would happen after he completed the prophecy that said he was destined to save the Kingdom of Ere from its evil ruler. So now that he’s finally managed to (somewhat clumsily) behead the evil king (turns out magical swords yanked from bogs don’t come pre-sharpened), he and his rag-tag group of quest companions are at a bit of a loss for what to do next.

As a temporary safeguard, Arek’s best friend and mage, Matt, convinces him to assume the throne until the true heir can be rescued from her tower. Except that she’s dead. Now Arek is stuck as king, a role that comes with a magical catch: choose a spouse by your eighteenth birthday, or wither away into nothing.

With his eighteenth birthday only three months away, and only Matt in on the secret, Arek embarks on a desperate bid to find a spouse to save his life—starting with his quest companions. But his attempts at wooing his friends go painfully and hilariously wrong…until he discovers that love might have been in front of him all along.

So This Is Ever After is the most fun book I’ve read in a long time. It’s Dungeons & Dragons meets Merlin but with the most kind, beautiful (but sometimes clueless) teenagers as heroes. Author F.T. Lukens hooked me from page one and I devoured the book in one sitting. It’s a fast-paced, original, funny tale with a whole lot of heart.

What happens after you defeat the big bad? Well, that’s where our story begins. Arek and his band of adventurers defeat the Vile One in a fight scene that goes hilariously wrong (magical swords evidently don’t come pre-sharpened). After that, Arek is crowned interim king so that no one can claim the throne while they rescue the real heir to the throne. Except it turns out she’s dead…which means Arek is now king permanently. Going from peasant to prophesied hero to king in less than a year is more than enough to throw off the seventeen-year-old, but then he finds out that he has to soul bond with someone before he turns eighteen or he’ll die. Great. Arek has three months to find a soul mate, but the person he loves, his best friend and mage, Matt, doesn’t feel the same way…or does he?

Arek has a good heart, but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect. He has his blind spots but does his best nonetheless. After taking the throne, he does his very best to take care of everyone around him. His fellow adventurers, the bard Bethany, the rogue Lila, the knight Rion, and the warrior Sionna, are all well-crafted, endearing characters in their own right. Each has a distinct personality and they fit together as a made family like a dream. They never expected to become leaders, but they rise to the challenge, each using their own strengths to bring a scarred kingdom back to life. I loved their interactions with one another. Arek trying to secretly woo each of them was a comedy of errors, but I loved that it deepened the bonds between them and made them all more open with one another. And then there’s Matt. Matt is Arek’s best friend and the love of his life. Arek dreams of confessing his love to Matt but believes that his mage doesn’t feel the same. Of course, Lukens makes it clear from the start that these two are meant to be, but the course of true love never does run smooth. This is a best friends-to-lovers tale that earns the happily ever after.

So This Is Ever After is a gem. It’s sweet and funny and earnest; just thinking about the book makes me smile. The fantasy kingdom of Ere and its inhabitants were delightful, but it’s the core six characters that really make the book sing. And of course, the romance that made me smile and sigh. I adored this book from beginning to end and I cannot wait to read more of F.T. Lukens’s work!

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Review: Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot

Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Sadie on a Plate cover
ISBN: 9780593335710
Release Date: March 15, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Sadie is a rising star in the trendy Seattle restaurant scene. Her dream is to create unique, modern, and mouthwatering takes on traditional Jewish recipes. But after a public breakup with her boss, a famous chef, she is sure her career is over—until she lands a coveted spot on the next season of her favorite TV show, Chef Supreme.

On the plane to New York, Sadie has sizzling chemistry with her seatmate, Luke, but tells him that she won't be able to contact him for the next six weeks. They prolong their time together with a spontaneous, magical dinner before parting ways. Or so she thinks. When she turns up to set the next day, she makes a shocking discovery about who Luke is…

If Sadie wants to save her career by winning Chef Supreme, she’s going to have to ignore the simmering heat between Luke and her. But how long can she do that before the pot boils over?

Forbidden romance in the food world takes second place to delicious dishes in Sadie on a Plate. Amanda Elliot takes readers on a journey through food in this delightful story as our titular heroine comes into her own by putting her heart and soul on a plate.

Sadie’s career has nearly tanked thanks to her jerk of an ex-boss when she lands a spot on the famous TV show, Chef Supreme. Sadie dreams of having her own restaurant where she can show that Jewish food is more than latkes and lox. Her creative, modern spins inspired primarily by Ashkenazi Jewish food were fantastic to read about. The care and attention Elliot gave to showing more Jewish cooking than is usually depicted in the media (and how and why Sadie’s creations differed from kosher cooking) made my heart sing. Elliot’s descriptions made even a die-hard vegetarian like myself salivate over Sadie’s plates (yes, even the chicken feet). The Chef Supreme competition is sure to delight any foodie and I absolutely loved getting to know Sadie’s fellow competitors (especially Kaitlyn, Kel, and Nia).

Sadie’s biggest obstacle is herself; she battles against negative self-talk but comes into her own over the course of the story. Sadie is messy, in a relatable way, and her imperfections make her as appealing as her stellar talent in the kitchen. She’s quirky, honest, and real; I enjoyed watching her find her confidence personally and professionally. She makes mistakes a lot, but she never gives up even when she wants to, which I respected.

A meet-cute on a plane with a fellow chef turns out to be not-so-cute when Sadie finds out her sexy seatmate is the newest Chef Supreme judge. Luke is an endearing hero, one I wish we could have seen more of (though his absence makes sense in the context of the story). To call this a romance is a bit of a stretch, though Luke and Sadie do get a happily ever after. The romance is in the background as Sadie and Luke can’t really interact too much else they’d ruin the integrity of the competition (and likely their careers). I would have loved to have gotten Luke’s point of view. He’s weighed down by the demands and expectations of his famous chef father who wants Luke to follow in his footsteps, cooking fancy French food with prices that make it largely inaccessible to the public. Luke would much rather be cooking his spin on the Korean food his halmoni made. The way Luke (and really, almost all the chefs except for Vanilla Joe) talk about their food light up the book. When someone is passionate about a subject it comes through and draws you in.

Since Sadie on a Plate is told in the first person and is really about Sadie’s journey, Luke and the love story take a back seat which may or may not bother you depending on reader preference. Even if I wish I could have gotten Luke’s point of view, I still really enjoyed Sadie on a Plate overall. Elliot made the competition as thrilling – perhaps even more so – than any you would see on Food Network. I loved Sadie and her fellow competitors, the romance with Luke made me smile, and the dishes that were served up could have leapt right off the page.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.