Review of ‘London, actually’ by Clare Lydon.

Event planner Cleo Nightingale is 39 and recovering from a divorce two years ago. Her only rule for dating again is to avoid younger women. Becca Cramer is 23, exactly what Cleo doesn’t need. But she’s also gorgeous, mature and hard working, a combination difficult to resist. Will they have their happily ever after?

Clare Lydon’s novels are the epitome of lesbian rom-coms, full of romance, hot chemistry and feel good moments. Her books are funny, witty and quintessentially British, but not overwhelmingly so. The plots are tightly woven, the characters are well rounded and the dialogues are humorous and engaging. ‘London, actually’ is no exception. As is often the case with Ms. Lydon’s books, the readers just have to sit comfortably and enjoy the read.

This is book five in the ‘London Romance’ series and can be read as a standalone novel. ‘London, actually’ is an age gap romance with the stunning setting of London which the author describes beautifully. Even the weather is realistic. Both characters are very well portrayed and convincing. Becca seems quite mature for her age but, as the youngest of five siblings, is a credible trait. On the other hand, 39 year old Cleo comes with a baggage, though her resistance to younger women is justified. Their chemistry together is hot from the beginning and increases several notches as the story moves forward. Some of the scenes of Cleo and Becca together are incredibly cinematographic in the descriptions and, at the same time, intimate and evocative. My favorite is the scene at the Boston hotel bar drinking vodka-martinis with blue cheese olives. It will stay in my memory for a long time.

The secondary characters bring the whole story to life, specially Cleo’s best friend, and very pregnant, Heidi and Tracey, Becca’s pansexual flatmate. I wonder if Ms. Lydon is planning a story with them as leads (or maybe it’s my wishful thinking). Some of the couples from the previous books in the series appear in this one but there aren’t any major spoilers so there’s no need to read the series chronologically.

Overall, an entertaining, funny, hot and feel-good romance. Clare Lydon at her best. 5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Love like this’ by Melissa Brayden.

‘Love like this’ is the final book on the ‘Seven shores’ series that follows four friends living in the same condo in Venice Beach, California. This novel is the story of Hadley Cooper, an assistant manager of a boutique in Rodeo drive. When she meets fashion designer Spencer Adair sparkles fly between them. But Hadley’s ideas about love and commitment are very different from Spencer’s. Will they have a future together?

This is definitely my favourite of the series as the four friends’ stories wrap up and the readers get to know about their future in detail. All the best traits of Brayden’s books are present here: great dialogues, banter, humour, a well laid plot, multidimensional characters and, last but not least, a good old romance. The chemistry between Hadley and Spencer is extremely well done. As usual, the author manages the attraction and the sexual tension magnificently. Kudos to Ms. Brayden to introduce an interracial couple (only her second after Sarah and Emory from ‘Heart block’) which needs to happen more often in lesfic.

In the acknowledgements the author hints that this book might be different from what readers expected and, boy, is she right. We thought we had Hadley sussed out from the previous books but in this one we are up for a big surprise. It’s not that Hadley is out of character, it’s just that we see her from a more intimate perspective and the results are incredibly hot. I don’t want to be more specific to spoil anything but let me say that Ms. Brayden manages to blow our minds big time with this one.

The level of angst and drama is quite low compared to other books in the series but suits the story perfectly. This is mainly a feel good romance, upbeat and positive to suit Hadley’s personality and to finish the series on a high.

Overall, a feel-good, entertaining and sizzling hot romance. A great end to the series. 5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘Lost for words’ by Andrea Bramhall.

Sasha Adams is a massage therapist living with her cancer survivor mother. She’s content with her life but she wishes to become a screenwriter. Her life changes radically when her mother and best friend enter one of her works in a writing competition and she wins it. Suddenly she gets a script-writing contract and a love interest in Jac Kensington, her new boss. Jac is a self-made businesswoman with abandonment issues and a predilection to never grow up. But when she meets Sasha, her world turns upside down and both women have to decide if they want to keep their old ways or take a chance at love and face together come what may.

It’s hard to describe this novel. The cover and its rom-com labelling might suggest a lightness that’s only half truth. As the blurb states, ‘a bittersweet rom-com’ is a better description, bittersweet being the operative word. Additionally, it’s a romance in a broader sense of the word. There’s not only romanic involvement but also maternal love (or lack thereof), friendship and unrequited love. You can truly say that love is in the air.

This novel is anything but ‘Lost for words’. It shows the author’s deep convictions and deals with issues such as abandoment, illness, aging and death. Ms. Bramhall pulls no punches, she’s not afraid to tackle such difficult issues. The story is sometimes hilarious, sometimes sad. It will make you laugh and whenever you least expect, it’ll punch you in the guts. It’s no coincidence that the winning script referred in the book is ‘Nightingale’, a self reference to possibly Bramhall’s most woeful novel. However, this is a more optimistic story, like it should be in a book about love. My only criticism is that at some points the book stretched too much and less words could have been more.

The characters are well written and realistic. It’s refreshing to see leads in their late forties, early fifties. Jac, also known as ‘Pan Pan’ for her similarities with Peter Pan, is an incredibly complex character who very slowly opens up to reveal her real issues behind her carefree attitude. Sasha’s unselfish personality and maturity is the perfect balance to Jac. Together they have great chemistry. The supporting cast is rich in layers, specially Sasha’s mum, Fleur. She’s a character that could have been written by Robin Alexander, with her quirky lifestyle and hilarious behaviour. She brings much of the lightness of the book.

Overall, a very good bittersweet book about love with endearing characters. Worth a read. 4.5 stars.

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

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