Review of ‘Second Chances’ by A.E. Radley.

Alice Spencer is an elementary school teacher that just moved to the small coastal town of Fairlight, England for a change of pace. Her work in the city left her yearning for smaller class sizes and an opportunity to make a difference in her students’ lives. Hannah Hall was born and raised in Fairlight and, despite having had a difficult childhood, never left the small town. Now she is a struggling single mother to daughter Rosie, who is a gifted child and about to start school for the first time.

The story showcases Hannah’s relationship with Rosie. Their interactions are, in my opinion, the highlight of the book. The banter between mother and daughter is adorable and well written. The same can be said between Hannah and Alice to a lesser extent. I do wish there were more insightful moments between the leads to cement their bond instead of Rosie being ever present as a catalyst for the relationship. That said, perhaps this is the most accurate way to portray a single mother relationship where the child must be present and should be the priority for both adults. That topic was well handled and depicted. Unfortunately that left fewer opportunities to develop the romance and the lack of sex scenes might disappoint some readers.

Hannah’s character is flawed but her struggles and reactions are genuine and credible. The character is always attempting to overcome her previous experiences and the feelings they evoke in order to keep Rosie from suffering the same fate. Hence, this is also a book about Hannah and the Fairlight community’s relationship. Can Alice be the person that helps Hannah finally let go of her tumultuous past?

The chapters have individual titles pertinent to their content. This was a charming detail and I found myself looking forward to reading them. Instead of acting as a spoiler, it gave me a sense of anticipation of things to come. The book cover is also well designed and visually appealing. I loved the pencil turned tree, the colors and the use of different fonts.

Overall, a good read with a cool kid and a sweet new family. 4 stars

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Review of ‘A recipe for love’ by Lucy J. Madison.

Danika Russo is a newly retired 55 year old who is going through a life crisis after having taken care of her terminally ill partner and father. As she loves cooking, she decides to enroll in an Italian cooking class. There she meets gorgeous classmate Finn Gerard who is 15 years younger. Their attraction is undeniable but Finn hides a secret and doesn’t want to commit to Danika. Will they have their happily ever after?

The main character in this book is Italian cuisine. The author’s maternal family is Italian and she remembers how important is cooking for them, how they show love through food. All over this novel, there are lots of food descriptions and metaphors and an appendix with some of the author’s own recipes. I suggest not reading it when you are hungry!

‘A recipe for love’ is written in third person solely from Danika’s point of view which is ideal as it keeps Finn’s mysterious behaviour a secret. It’s good to see that Ms. Madison wrote in Danika an older, slightly overweight and flawed character. Danika suffers from low self esteem, insecurity and negative body image. At the beginning, she reflects a lot about her past and lost opportunities which can be tedious and depressing but, throughout the book, it’s good to see her transformation. However, the gravity of the plot never shifts completely until the very end. Natalie, Danika’s best friend, is a great secondary character who brings a bit of much needed levity to the story.

The reader doesn’t get to know Finn except for her being younger and beautiful. Even though there is insta-attraction and insta-love, the mains remain separated most of the book. Their chemistry feels a bit off, possibly because the narrative distance is quite remote in the romance parts where the author uses more tell than show, specially in the sex scenes which sometimes are mentioned as an afterthought. I dropped my rating for this reason along with a few minor typos.

Overall, this is an ok age-gap romance that deals with serious issues such as terminal illness and the meaning of life, all surrounded by the sensuality of food. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘I’m gonna make you love me’ by Tracey Richardson.

Claire Melbourne is a newspaper editor who lost a big story to a mistake by young intern Ellie Kirkland. After firing her for the error, they meet by chance and realise that they have some things in common, like the love for Motown music and Claire’s 1965 Mustang. Their budding relationship will have them both questioning their values and life choices. Will they have a chance together?

This book is not only a romance and an exploration of human relationships, but also a tribute to Motown music. The novel and every chapter are titled after a well known song of that era. In the author’s note, Ms. Richardson says that she grew up listening to this music and it’s part of her identity. I’m not a fan of Motown myself but I agree when the author says that this genre make people dance even to songs about heartbreak. It is such an upbeat music style. The tribute to that era is completed with a great inanimate secondary character: a 1965 red convertible Mustang.

Like a typical age-gap romance, Ms. Richardson has her older character pondering on the wisdom of getting involved with someone 16 years younger but, ‘I’m gonna make you love me’ goes beyond this. Both main characters have mother complex, low self-esteem and insecurity issues that make them well-rounded and interesting. The author slowly builds their relationship from their initial antagonism to a sizzling chemistry. Their intimate scenes are well written and Claire’s body image issues makes them even more realistic.

The secondary characters are multi-layered, specially Claire’s best friend Jackson and Ellie’s twin sister Erin. The twins are the daughters of a lesbian couple with high expectations and the reader gets invested in their search for their own identity and independent life choices. It’s good to see a lesbian couple that is not idealised in the plot; Ellie’s mothers are as flawed as they come. The fact that all the names in the family start with ‘E’ is a bit confusing and both mothers are hard to tell apart, at least at the beginning. Two very cute dogs complete the mixed cast.

The story is gripping to read not only regarding the characters’ personal struggles, but also thanks to the secondary plot that gives a glimpse into the world of investigative reporting, the role of the media and journalism ethic dilemmas. I’d say that beyond the music references, there is a bit of the author’s own experience in this book. Like Claire, Ms. Richardson was a newspaper editor and the reader can appreciate the pieces of her own professional and personal wisdom which makes the story all the more entertaining.

Overall, a very good age-gap romance that explores life choices and family relationships with a side story of investigative journalism. 4.5 stars.

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

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