Review of ‘Taking chances’ by Erin McKenzie.

Valerie Cruz spent most of her childhood in foster care and now she is a children’s librarian who likes to keep to herself avoiding any serious relationships. After becoming a foster parent herself, she meets case worker Paige Wellington. Their attraction is undeniable but a conflict with Valerie’s foster children and her conviction to stay away from relationships make it hard for Valerie and Paige to have a future together.

This is as much a romance as a story about foster care. As a foster parent herself, the author knows the inner works of the system and it shows in the story. It gives a very good insight on fostering from the different points of view of the social workers, the fostering parents and the children.

The characters, adults and children alike, are well rounded, credible, and their actions are justified by their past. The children seem authentic considering their ages and their traumatic experiences. Connie, Paige’s boss, is a funny but savvy character that brings a bit of lightness to the plot. The dialogues are natural sounding and the balance between telling and showing is good.

The plot seems divided into two parts, the first half deals mainly with the fostering system and the second one focuses more on the romance. Some readers might not like that the romance takes so long to develop and then rushes slightly to the end. Other than that, this novel was interesting and entertaining to read.

Overall, a good romance with a deep insight on the US child fostering system. 4 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Paper love’ by Jae.

This is a slow-burn romance between Susanne Wolff, a business consultant, and her uncle’s stationary shop employee Anja Lamm. When Susanne is urged to try to save ‘Paper love’, a small shop located in Freiburg, her relationship with Anja gets off to a rocky start. Can they learn to trust each other to keep away ‘Paper love’ from bankruptcy? Will their budding friendship develop into something more?

This love story has the unexpected setting in a stationary store within the also unexpectedly beautiful background of Jae’s home city of Freiburg (Germany). I have to admit that I knew nothing about this place so I googled it and discovered a hidden gem. You should do it too. Kudos to the author to put this incredibly charming city on the lesfic map. Her depiction of Freiburg in the narrative is evocative and flows naturally like the water in the city’s typical small canals known locally as Bächle. It’s a refreshing change from the usual lesfic scenery.

There are apparent contraditions in this novel. Susanne Wolff (German for wolf) embodies the succesful city executive focused on her career while Anja Lamm (lamb) is idealist, laidback and provincial. Digital and paper worlds war against each other as the two women try to find a way to rescue ‘Paper love’ from commercial disaster. Eventually they find that their common ground doesn’t need to disregard one but to complement each other. Slowly, as their relationship progresses, Anja discovers the importance of business planning and online marketing while Susanne (and most of us readers) discovers the sexy side of stationary. There are no big dramas or angst, the story flows with the simplicity of two very different people getting to know each other and fueling their attraction in that contrast. Even the characters’ sexuality is diverse, as one is a lesbian and the other bisexual. In that regard, Jae gives a good insight on biophia and prejudices against bisexuals without forcing the issue to the reader.

The secondary characters are well rounded, specially Susanne’s ‘womb mate’, Anja’s best friend and Muesli, a cute little kitten. Jae as always delivers a well written, entertaining and original story.

Overall, a feel good slow-burn romance set in a charming city. 4.5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Love at first write’ by Jae.

This is a compilation of four short romances with authors as main characters. In this book Jae shows her versatility in writing very different stories proficiently.

In ‘The romance bet’ journalist Abby James finds romantic novels predictable and easy to write, until romance author Tamara Brennan challenges her to write one. Abby soon finds that the outcome of the bet isn’t as important as she first thought.
With a cute romance as a setting, Jae gives us a masterclass on the technical difficulties ofpp0 the writing process and the absence of a magic formula to create a romance.

In ‘Sex sells’ lesfic mystery writer Mara McKinney is thrown out of her comfort zone by her editor who asks her to add romance and sex in her stories. Soon the exchange goes beyond the writing process into more personal matters.
Jae shows her skills in writing dialogues in this witty and romantic story.

‘The snow liger’ is a sequel of ‘Second nature’ a paranormal romance in which Jorie, a human author, and Griffin, a liger shifter research a love scene for Jorie’s new book.
This story reads ok as a stand alone and, for those who have read the original book, it’s an opportunity to catch up with the main characters.

In ‘Blind date at the Booklover’s Lair’ never a blind date gone wrong feels so right for recluse author Tricia.
Jae plays with the common stereotype of writers as introverts and their difficulties to connect with the real world.

Overall, a well-written variety of short romantic stories. Jae gives us an instrospective view into the writers’ world with intelligence, wit and a healthy dose of self-deprecation. An entertaining read. 4 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Life pushes you along’ by Emma Sterner-Radley.

This is the debut novella by Emma Sterner-Radley. The premise of the book is that if people are stuck in their personal situations, “life pushes you along” in many different ways: it can be by chance, by self determination or by someone else’s help. The latter is what happens to Zoe, a 26 year old bookstore employee who feels dissatisfied with her job and lack of love life. With a little help from her best friend, her brother and Rebecca, a sexy job hunter she’s secretly attracted to, Zoe tries to change her life.
While it is positive that the book departs from the ubiquitous lesfic romance by presenting a mixed race relationship between two women with an age gap of 14 years, it falls short in delivering realistic situations and there is a good amount of telling but not showing.
The book is written mostly from Zoe’s point of view with a few chapters of her best friend’s and a couple of Rebecca’s. The author clarifies the pov in each chapter title which I don’t think it’s necessary. Some parts of the dialogues (specially Rebecca’s lines) seem to belong more to written speech and sound a bit unnatural or too long. Additionally, the relationship seems to evolve too fast in the last few chapters (with some degree of “insta love”) compared to the slow pace at the beginning of the book.
Overall, an ok summer read. 2.5 stars rounded to 3.
ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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