Review of ‘Bring Holly home’ by A.E. Radley.

Fashion magazine editor Victoria Hastings discovers while staying in Paris that her former assistant Holly Carter, who allegedly abandoned the job, is in hospital with amnesia. Victoria is adamant to bring Holly back home and help her recover but, in the process, both women will undergo a journey of mutual discovery of their feelings.

This is another novel based on the Devil wears Prada trope which normally features an age gap relationship and an ice queen against a more lively character. The peculiarity of this novel is that Holly suffers from amnesia which brings additional conflicts to the plot.

The novel is written in third person from the point of view of three characters: the leads Victoria and Holly and Victoria’s friend Gideon. While the main characters are well-rounded, I didn’t feel their chemistry until the very end maybe because the reader is told about the characters’ feelings more than shown by their actions. The secondary characters are a bit stereotyped and Victoria’s children sometimes act too mature for their ages.

All in all, the story is entertaining with some funny and humorous moments and a good twist at the end. Depite some situations feel a bit far-fetched, it’s a good read if you don’t take things too seriously.

Overall, an entertaining read based on the Devil wears Prada trope. 3.5 stars.

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Review of ‘Breaking character’ by Lee Winter.

When famous British actress Elizabeth Thornton shares the set with American former child prodigy Summer Hayes, a series of random accidents made the press portray them as girlfriends. The mistake escalates when a French director offers the pair a career changing role assuming that they can act on set the intimacy they share as a couple. How hard could it be to fake a relationship for a while?

Lee Winter knows how to write a story about older ice queens and inexperienced younger women who idolise them. For instance, icy political correspondent Catherine Ayers and entertainment journalist Lauren King in ‘The red files’; or ruthless assassin Natalya Tsvetnenko and her naive target Alison Ryan in ‘Requiem for immortals’; or media mogul boss Elena Bartell and crime reporter Maddie Grey in ‘The brutal truth’. In ‘Breaking character’, Ms. Winter explores a fake relationship of the celebrity variety between two actresses playing as a couple and how their relationship evolves as they share more than their professional lives.

This book is great on character building, from the mains and the secondary to the ‘real’ and the ‘fictional’. Winter does a great job at portraying each one. Some you’ll love, others you’ll despise, but every single one of them have their defined nuances. So much so that the reader is able to witness the transition from actress to film character, how they cope with the emotional strain of acting and how they bare themselves literally and metaphorically. The same happens with secondary characters. For example, each one of Elizabeth’s friends represent a different type of Hollywood celebrity: the self-centrered, the womaniser, the introvert, the eccentric genius, etc.

‘Breaking character’ gives a good insight about an actress’ profession: how they expose their feelings and bodies, how they get typecast by their looks or age, how high is the price of fame and how competitive and cut-throat Hollywood could be. The romance is very slow-burn but, in my opinion, it feels a bit rushed at the end. However, this is an entertaining and engaging read that won’t disappoint Lee Winter’s fans.

Overall, a very good read using the fake relationship, celebrity romance trope. Critical, entertaining and absorbing. 4.5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Language of love’ edited by Astrid Ohletz and Lee Winter.

‘Language of love. A flirty, festive anthology’ is a collection of eleven lesfic short stories with the common theme of holiday season traditions around the world. Ylva is a very international and multicultural publishing company and this is reflected in this compilation. The mains characters in these stories includes an ice-queen, a shy lesbian, an allegedly straight woman, young and mature. It is also surprising the mixture of genres like romance, mystery, drama, crime and young adult.

I have to say that normally it’s hard to keep a high level of writing quality in a book with so many authors and different types of stories but this one achieved remarkable results. Of course, that doesn’t mean that every story will please everyone but they will surely enrich your knowledge of holiday festivities. Here I review my favourite ones.

‘The friend’ by Lee Winter. Great story about conflicting family dynamics focusing on an Australian Christmas summer celebration inspired by English traditions.

‘Deck the halls with bullets and holly’ by Alex K. Thorne is a quirky story about a rookie hired assassin and her attractive target. This story is set in South Africa and features an interracial couple.

‘Mask’ by Sheryn Munir is a fantastic coming-out story between two best friends secretly in love with each other with the background of Christmas celebrations in India. It deals with difficult issues such as Alzheimer’s disease and being a lesbian in the present and past.

‘Orphans’ Christmas’ by Cheyenne Blue is a superb story about an Irish family of immigrants in Australia, trying to keep traditions alive, while dealing with bereavement. A great personal bonus for me is to see an authentic portrayal of Irish characters, so often mentioned in lesfic but rarely described accurately.

‘And the bells are ringing out’ by Lola Keeley is an excellent interracial love story set in Edinburgh for Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) celebrations from the perspective of a Senegalese woman living in London.

‘Paula gets a pony ranch’ by Patricia Penn is a very original, funny, sarcastic and irreverent Christmas tale set in Germany about a no-nonsense business woman who inherits a pony ranch.

‘Four Chanukahs and a Bat Mitzvah’ by Cindy Rizzo is a great story about Jewish traditional celebrations of Hanukkah in the context of a coming of age story and two young women going through different life stages and finding love.

‘It’s in the pudding’ by Emma Weimann is a great romantic story with the unusual setting of a dentist practice along with a German tradition of hiding an almond in the pudding and granting a wish to whom discovers it.

Overall, a fantastic compilation of holiday season lesfic stories, great to get you in the mood for celebration. 4.5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Casting Lacey’ by Elle Spencer.

Quinn Kincaid is a famous actress at the top of her game but also extremely private. When she decides to come out as gay, her publicist suggests that she hires a fake girlfriend as a publicity stunt. Who better than Lacey Matthews, a sexy former soap opera star who got fired for coming out as gay?

This is a very good debut novel that combines the fake girlfriend trope with celebrity lifestyle. The main characters are two famous actresses in their 30s; Quinn is a typical ice queen and Lacey a bit of a rebel but both definitely diva material.

The characters are well portrayed and have off the charts chemistry. The story is full of humour, wit and saucy dialogues but also has angst and drama. I think that the book is at its best in the humorous parts which are really well written. For me, the drama and angst scenes were sometimes forced as a plot device rather than a result of the natural flow of the story.

Overall, ‘Casting Lacey’ is an entertaining and enjoyable read. Highly recommended if you are into the fake relationship trope and don’t mind a side of angst. 4 stars.

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Review of ‘Irregular heartbeat’ by Chris Zett.

Diana Petrell is a former rock star who left nine years of music and fame behind to resume her career as an emergency medicine doctor. Her residency supervisor is Dr. Emily Barnes, an aloof and hard working attending who is distrustful of her skills. Just when Emily starts letting her guard down and letting the former musician in, Diana’s past threatens to destroy everything that they’ve both fought for. This is a solid medical romance novel by debut author Chris Zett.She uses her own experience in the medical field to create a realistic hospital environment without overwhelming readers with medical terms or procedures, making it entertaining and credible. I particularly liked her clever use of medical metaphors:
“… the warmth of the contact coursed through her system like an anxiolytic and strengthened her resolve.” (Chapter 19)

Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters, we get into their headspaces enough to understand their actions. Emily is a stereotypical ice queen but soon the readers discover her vulnerable side, which makes her more real and appealing. Diana is also a well rounded character as we can empathise with her need of secrecy. Together they have great chemistry that grows with each page. All the secondary characters, no matter how small their parts in the plot, are credible and have a distinctive voice which makes the story more realistic. The plot is tightly woven as are the subplots that enrich the story and contribute to the reading enjoyment.

Overall, a realistic and entertaining medical romance and a promising debut novel. 4.5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘In fashion’ by Jody Klaire.

Darcy McGregor is a fashion stylist who hosts a successful UK television programme called ‘Style Surgeon’ featuring women in need of restyling. Kate Bonvilston is a security guard with little sense of style and a broken heart. When her mother volunteers Kate to feature in the show, Darcy finds in Kate not only a challenging fashion makeover but someone who can get dangerously close to her heart.

This book features the popular romance trope of an ice-queen, in this case in the fashion world, possibly inspired by Devil wears Prada. Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters Darcy and Kate, the story is set in Wales and London. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I have to admit that her writing style was for me sometimes hard to follow, I was confused reading some of the dialogues and her sense of humour didn’t appeal to me. The use of social media hashtags which is quite central in the book (for example, #embracedesigner), will probably make this book outdated in a few years time.

Darcy is the epitome of an ice queen, a very closeted lesbian with a young daughter and a lot of baggage. Kate is unfashionable but lovable, relaxed and loyal to her family. They say that opposites attract and it should be true for Kate and Darcy but I couldn’t feel their chemistry or empathise with their feelings, specially Darcy’s choices regarding her sexuality. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into the story, some parts felt close to a melodrama and, for me, it was almost a ‘did not finish’.

Overall, an ok read if you are into ice-queens in the fashion world with a bit of melodrama at the side. 3 stars.

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