Review of ‘Sweat Equity’ by Monica McCallan.

‘Sweat Equity’ by Monica McCallan is the first book in the ‘LadyLuck Startups Romance’ series. Seems the series will revolve around three Stanford graduate friends and co-founders of a lesbian dating app company. Brennan, Carter and Avery share two apartments in Brennan’s house in San Francisco. This book is Avery’s story.

Avery Simmons is the person in charge of the technical end of the startup company. Her life is in shambles after she discovered her girlfriend of three years cheated on her. This brings Avery to Brennan’s empty second apartment awaiting a new roommate. Enter Charlie Grant, Brennan’s old boarding school friend who is trying to start a new chapter in her life. She is attempting to leave personal tragedy, overbearing parents and a promising but unfulfilling career in New York City in order to try a more meaningful one as a personal trainer. The new roommate arrangement starts with some rocky moments until there’s a truce between the two characters as Avery asks Charlie to guide her in her journey to physical fitness.

Avery’s character is the youngest of the group and she is treated as such by her friends and family. This is something she tries to overcome throughout the book and plays a role in explaining her moods. However, the character does have some redeeming qualities and grows on the reader as the story progresses. Charlie, on the other hand, is more even-keeled and mature throughout the majority of the book but later falls into uncharacteristically immoral behavior which seems a bit forced. There is this constant pull and push and flip flopping of who was doing the right, mature thing in this book that was frustrating to read. The author moves the relationship forward through thoughtful, meaningful moments only to negate them with the characters’ next action.

The company setup and secondary characters were enjoyable and will no doubt serve well in the future installments of this series. The three friends’ banter is on point, entertaining and in my opinion the highlight of the book.

This book is available for purchase through Amazon or free through Kindle Unlimited.

Overall an okay read with a slow and at times frustrating romance. 3.5 stars.

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Review of ‘Lovebirds’ by Lisa Moreau.

Emily Wellington is the owner of a bird magazine who urgently needs a breakthrough article to keep it afloat. When she travels to Ojai, California to search for an elusive flock of Madagascar lovebirds, she wasn’t counting on crossing paths with gorgeous but infuriating pole dancer Sydney Cooper. As they get to know each other, their attraction is undeniable but Emily is engaged and Sidney is not interested in getting involved with anyone. Will they have their happily ever after?

This is a light, funny and entertaining read based on an original idea with the beautiful setting of Ojai valley in California. As she did in ‘The butterfly whisperer’, Ms. Moreau describes nature skillfully. I particularly loved her use of birds’ metaphors throughout the book. The dialogues are funny and witty, the main characters are lovable and their chemistry is spot on.

‘Lovebirds’ is mainly a romance with a bit of adventure at the side. I should warn romance fans that this book deals with infidelity, though it is mild. Additionally, some situations felt a bit forced and unrealistic but they suit the lightness of the plot. In order to enjoy this book, I suggest not to take it too seriously.

Overall, an ok read if you are a nature lover and you aren’t too bothered by mild infidelity. 3.5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘The shape of you’ by Georgia Beers.

This is not a typical lesfic romance and it won’t please everyone because it deals with infidelity which is a no-go zone for many romance readers. However, talking about infidelity and lesfic, author Clare Ashton said that lesfic genre could quickly come still if authors try to please the crowd all the time (LesDoBooks podcast interview, August 2018). I totally agree with her. Kudos to Georgia Beers for writing a novel that won’t necesarily be popular with her fans. So, consider yourself warned that if infidelity is a pet peeve for you as it is a mayor part of this book’s plot.

After an awful and embarrasing heartbreak, Spencer Thomson leaves the driving seat of her life and is happy to have others make decisions for her. When her fiancée enrolls her in a fitness class because her body is “too soft and curvy”, Spencer goes along and attends the “Be your best bride” class. Personal trainer Rebecca McCall isn’t happy having to cover for a colleague on this class as she considers that her job isn’t to make her clients skinny but healthy. She particularly dislikes Spencer who admits that she’s attending only because her fiancée signed her up. Soon their initial antagonism transforms into attraction but Spencer is engaged and an involvement is definitely not acceptable for Rebecca. Or is it?

This is a character driven novel and Ms. Beers is unapologetic about highlighting the mains’ flaws. Spencer makes a very frustrating character: she procrastinates, she allows others to make decisions for her and she’s passive-aggressive when facing conflict. At the same time, she’s compassionate, cheerful and loving. As a reader you just cannot dislike her but, at the same time, you want to shake her up from her lethargy. Rebecca (and the reader) know that she has to make her life changing decisions by herself and see her through this process. Ms. Beers has achieved this cleverly.

My issue with this book isn’t infidelity. This is part of life and I’m happy that the author doesn’t sugarcoat, judge or try to justify it. It’s just a consequence of the main characters’ actions and how lost Spencer is. That’s were the conflict lies and the good thing about this book is that, even though this is a romance, there is no obvious or formulaic end. Infidelity is effective for this plot. However, my issue is how tension is crafted. For me, it doesn’t ebb and flow in the right places. At the beginning, the tension builds painstakingly slow in multiple, almost cloned scenes in the gym. Then the story finally takes off only to almost lose the tension completely near the end. In those sweet moments when the urgency of the tension unfolds is when this book earned my 4 stars. It’s a pity that it didn’t quite get to pack the punch near the end.

The secondary characters are multilayered and support the characters’ journey effectively maybe with the exception of the fiancée who seemed too flat. Zoe, Rebecca’s friend, makes a great secondary character, I hope Beers write a book with her as a main.

Overall, a good departure of the typical lesfic romance. Recommended unless you hate infidelity in romances. 4 stars.

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

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