The angsty road to Madison.

Review of ‘The road to Madison’ by Elle Spencer.

This is a second chance story with angst. But, aren’t all second chance stories ‘angsty’?

Madison Prescott is the only heir to a multimillion dollar company and estate. Raised by her conservative father, her path in life has been predetermined by her last name. This is derailed by Madison’s relationship with the maid’s daughter, Ana Perez when they were both kids. Now in their 30s, 15 yrs after Madison proposed then abandoned Ana, her father died. Can Madison pursue the love of her life once again, or are the wounds she created too deep for Ana’s heart to overcome?Read More »

‘The road to Madison’ is a bit bumpy.

As a teenager, Madison Prescott, the sole heir to her family‚Äôs banking empire, falls in love with Ana Perez, the maid’s daughter. Madison’s father doesn’t approve of their relationship and, through threats and lies, he forces Madison to break up with Ana. Fifteen years later, when her father dies, Madison is determined to make amends but Ana feels betrayed and hurt. It seems that time doesn’t heal all wounds, or does it?

This is the third book by Elle Spencer whose writing career started with the acclaimed bestseller ‘Casting Lacey’. I find her books on the angsty side and this one was no exception. ‘The road to Madison’ is, in my opinion, her weakest novel and, by far, the most dramatic. I know that many readers like a good amount of drama in their lesfic romances and might disagree with this review but I think that this story is borderline with melodramatic.

The novel is told by multiple points of view, which is not necessarily a problem, but in this case, it seems that some characters only have a voice to urge the mains to get together. As a consequence, some secondary characters sound too unrealistic and excessively honourable. Of course, there is nothing wrong with ethical characters, but their widespread presence in this story makes their voices sound very similar.

As the story takes place in two time periods, now and fifteen years ago, there are a few flashbacks intertwined with the present. I felt that they were a lost opportunity to showcase the strong bond and love between the characters that justified such amount of heartbreak and angst. In my opinion, Ms. Spencer fails in building up their chemistry at the start of their relationship. ‘At seventeen’ by Gerri Hill, while not perfect, is a prime example on how to describe the intimacy between teenagers, a long-lasting love that makes it worth fighting for in adulthood, despite the dispute that separates them. In ‘The road to Madison’, however, pain and conflict outplay love and chemistry, which sometimes made me wonder if their relationship was really worth fighting for.

Overall, an ok romance with a great amount of drama and angst. 3 stars.

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

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Review of ‘You’re my kind’ by Clare Lydon.

Justine Thomas and Maddie Kind were a couple at university until Maddie left without saying goodbye. Ten years later, they are reunited at a friend’s funeral and Maddie wants to make amends for her past behaviour. Justine is not very keen to let Maddie back into her life but both have changed and this new Maddie is kinder, caring and still gorgeous. Will Justine keep her distance or will she give their relationship another try?

‘You’re my kind’ is a second chance romance that starts with a funeral. As anti-climatic that it might sound, the author makes it work more as a celebration of life than sorrow for an irreparable loss. Lydon is a master of lesfic rom-com with a British feel. Only that this time, she combines her usual witty, funny and sarcastic dialogues and situations with a savvy reflexion about life and death. As the author presents a piece of her philosophy of life, the story will make the reader cry, laugh and keep faith in humanity.

The novel is written in first person from the point of view of Justine, which helps to give an air of mystery to Maddie and her puzzling actions of the past. Despite that narrative distance, both characters are realistic and well-rounded and their chemistry is sizzling. Ms. Lydon knows how to write a good sex scene and this was no exception, both scenes reveal deep intimacy. Plus that first kiss was worth the whole read by itself. Hot, hot hot!

The secondary characters, mostly a group of friends, are also multilayered and altogether set the tone for compelling emotions around life, love and death. But, in my opinion, the absolute showstopper is ‘Cake Heaven’, the cake business featuring all kind of sweet delicacies. Warning: if you have a sweet tooth you might be tempted to run for some cake!

Overall, a great second-chance romance with a British feel and savvy insight about the most important things in life. 5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Undiscovered affinity’ by Jane Hardee.

Olivia Reynolds is a manager at an athletic wear company dedicated exclusively to her job. She likes no-strings relationships and to be always in control. Cardic Lawson is a cultural anthropology professor dedicated to the study of polygamy and a firm disbeliever in committed relationships. After a chance encounter and acknowledging their mutual attraction, they decide to engage in a casual relationship. But as things start to get heated and their relationship develops, will they recognise their own changing feelings? Will Olivia be able to let go of her need to control everything?

This novel deals with different interesting issues such as commitment, polygamy vs. monogamy and body image. The author dedicated this book to all plus-size ladies and includes one of them as a lead. Kudos to Ms. Hardee for writing a plus-size character comfortable in her own skin and for discussing the neglectful attitude of the fashion industry towards large clothing sizes. It’s also very interesting the way the story connects Cardic’s anthropological research subject (polygamy vs monogamy) and the main romantic plot.

Having said that, there are some issues in the execution of the story. It was hard for me to see the development of the mains’ chemistry from the no-strings sex to a more meaningful lovemaking. The author sets the tone very well for a detached relationship but, in my opinion, fails to develop it into a romance in a believable way. Maybe it’s because the balance between telling and showing is a bit off and it’s hard to see the characters’ changes through their behaviour rather than from what the author tells us. Despite this, ‘Undiscovered affinity’ is a good read that might appeal the fans of no-strings to romance stories.

Overall, a good romance that deals with commitment, monogamy and losing control. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Cracking love’ by Emily King.

Pharmacist Janet Webber relocates to California for a new job. With the stress and travelling demands of her position, she has little hope of finding a partner. But when she meets walnut farmer Gail Lawrence things start to improve. Gail shows her the farming produce and Janet discovers the potential to start her own business. As their relationship develops, Gail is reluctant to trust Janet as she had her heart broken before. Will they have a happily ever after?

This is a well written debut book. The author herself is a pharmacist and has worked in farming in California so it seems that she drew a bit on her own experience to build these characters. I think that the mains needed a bit more polishing to make them completely well rounded but it’s a good effort anyway.

Having said that, in my opinion the author described with excessive detail certain activities like line dancing and cooking, while other more relevant parts of the plot didn’t get that much detail. However, the characters’ chemistry is good and the intimate scenes were well written and realistic.

Overall, a good debut novel for fans of line dancing and/or cooking. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Driven’ by Suzanne Falter.

This is book one of Ms. Falter’s ‘Oaktown Girls’ series following a group of lesbian friends in the San Francisco Bay area. There is a sequel coming out in March 2019, but this novel can be read as a standalone. It follows the story of Lizzy, co-owner of ‘Driven’, a garage for women, and Kate, an Irish immigrant working for its threatening competitor. When Lizzy and Kate meet by chance, there is instant attraction but Kate’s secrets get in the way of a meaningful relationship. Will they have a chance at love?

‘Driven’ is an entertaining butch-femme romance written from the point of view of both mains, Kate’s evil boss Mindy and Tenika, Lizzy’s business partner. The setting of East Bay is a character in itself, a lively backdrop to the story. It’s no wonder that the author lives in that area as her affection for the place comes across to the reader.

Both main characters are well rounded, specially Kate. As an Irish resident sometimes I find Irish characters unrealistic but the author was spot-on in her depiction of the strawberry blonde Kate. Her inner dialogues are funny and self-deprecating providing levity to the plot. The characters’ chemistry is good though the intimate scenes were fade to black which I think it’s a missed opportunity to bring it to higher levels. Maybe this will be rectified in the next installments of the series but for now this is a promising start.

Overall, an entertaining butch-femme romance, a very good beginning of the series. 4 stars.

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

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