Review of ‘Full English’ by Rachel Spangler.

Emma Volant is an American best-selling author that, after a nasty divorce, decides to leave the US for a small town in North Eastern England. Full of insecurities and low self esteem, she slowly starts to interact with people in the village, specially Brogan McKay, the pub’s bartender and job multitasker. As Emma and Brogan’s friendship grows so does their mutual attraction, but, Emma needs time to heal and Brogan thinks Emma is out of her league. Will they have a happily ever after?

According to the author, this book was conceived after Ms. Spangler and her family spent 9 months living in the north east of England. In her notes, the author described the challenges of writing a book set in England with American and English main characters. As a reader based in Northern Ireland, I appreciate her efforts to explain her spelling choices and pronunciation guidelines for the otherwise perplexing Irish names. I’ve heard so many times people butchering my sons’ Irish names that her endeavour is appreciated.

This book is as much a romance as a crash course in British culture. The author goes beyond highlighting the obvious differences in spellings and regional words and opens up a world of different types of food, habits and social conventions. I found that Ms. Spangler researched the issue well and I found her descriptions of the landscape, the weather and social classes’ issues very realistic. As a foreigner in the UK, I concur with Emma’s problems while driving on the left side and her newfound love for scones and clotted cream!

Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters, I found the book slow in developing the romance mainly because there are a good number of secondary characters and a whole set of cultural differences that needed to be introduced. Some readers who aren’t interested in the clash of cultures or life in small towns might find the pace of the romance too slow. However, once the romance part of the story starts developing, their personal issues and their conflict is realistic and credible.

Having said that, while in most of the book both characters voiced their feelings so well, the later stages of their conflict felt a bit forced. The secondary characters are well rounded, even considering that there were lots of them. While I recognise the ubiquitous gossip of small towns, I’m not convinced that the meddling in the mains’ love life is characteristic of British or Irish families. The McKays might be an exception but, in my experience, I find that both British and Irish people, while they love their gossip, they tend not to voice or meddle with other people’s affairs. That’s my only criticism in the depiction of British and Irish cultures as I found that the rest was spot-on.

Overall, a very good story about American and British culture clash with a moving romance at the side. 4.5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Hearts of Emerald Bay’ by D.G. Barnes.

Romance author Dana Lawson goes for a relaxing summer holiday to a small seaside town in Nova Scotia, where she meets local bar owner Mac Mackenzie. Their attraction is undeniable but what started as a summer fling soon develops into something more meaningful as both women face different challenges. Will they have their happily ever after?

‘Hearts of Emerald Bay’ is an entertaining romance by debut author D.G. Barnes. Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters, the story is sometimes light and funny and others take a more serious and angsty tone. I think the author managed this balance well.┬áMr. Barnes builds Dana and Mac’s chemistry skillfully and their intimate scenes are hot and realistic. The secondary characters are well rounded, specially Mac’s niece Ellie and Dana’s best friend Jennie. The different subplots keep the story moving forward while dealing with difficult issues such as homophobia and bereavement.

This is the first lesfic book I read by a male author (I’ve never read anything by Erik Schubach). I have to say that Mr. Barnes’s depiction of a lesbian relationship is well-written and realistic, including the intimate scenes. There’s even a reference to Melissa Brayden’s ‘Soho loft’ series. Even though there are a few typos and the main conflict seemed a bit forced by out of character miscommunication, I found the work of this author very promising and will definitely read his next book.

Overall, an entertaining romance with a good balance of chemistry, angst and playfulness. 4 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Welcome to Ruby’s’ by KC Luck.

Allie Dawson and her friends love spending their leisure time in Ruby’s, a lesbian bar in Portland. One evening, Allie meets Vivian Wade, a gorgeous and enigmatic brunette. Their attraction is undeniable but there are a few complications: Vivian is going through a bitter divorce and is Ruby’s new owner. Will these issues get in the way of their happily ever after?

‘Welcome to Ruby’s’ is a sweet slow-burn romance with a slight age gap. Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters, the author highlights their differences but builds up a solid chemistry from the beginning, first by physical attraction and from there by their emotional connection. Vivian is brunette, in her early 40s, she is a successful business woman and lives in LA. Allie is blonde, in her late 20s, is struggling at her job and lives in Portland. Despite their differences, Ms. Luck gets the proverbial ‘opposites attract’ spot on.

The main plot is well written and the story is believable though the conflict could have been resolved with better communication. I would have given it a higher rating if it wasn’t for a few mistakes and typos. Additionally, there are a few secondary characters in Allie’s groups of friends with intertwined stories that aren’t completely developed in this book. This and the fact that the ending is a bit abrupt, makes me think (and hope) that maybe Ms. Luck is planning to write a sequel with some of the characters in mind.

Overall, a sweet and entertaining age gap romance where opposites attract. 4 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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