Review of ‘Second Chances’ by A.E. Radley.

Alice Spencer is an elementary school teacher that just moved to the small coastal town of Fairlight, England for a change of pace. Her work in the city left her yearning for smaller class sizes and an opportunity to make a difference in her students’ lives. Hannah Hall was born and raised in Fairlight and, despite having had a difficult childhood, never left the small town. Now she is a struggling single mother to daughter Rosie, who is a gifted child and about to start school for the first time.

The story showcases Hannah’s relationship with Rosie. Their interactions are, in my opinion, the highlight of the book. The banter between mother and daughter is adorable and well written. The same can be said between Hannah and Alice to a lesser extent. I do wish there were more insightful moments between the leads to cement their bond instead of Rosie being ever present as a catalyst for the relationship. That said, perhaps this is the most accurate way to portray a single mother relationship where the child must be present and should be the priority for both adults. That topic was well handled and depicted. Unfortunately that left fewer opportunities to develop the romance and the lack of sex scenes might disappoint some readers.

Hannah’s character is flawed but her struggles and reactions are genuine and credible. The character is always attempting to overcome her previous experiences and the feelings they evoke in order to keep Rosie from suffering the same fate. Hence, this is also a book about Hannah and the Fairlight community’s relationship. Can Alice be the person that helps Hannah finally let go of her tumultuous past?

The chapters have individual titles pertinent to their content. This was a charming detail and I found myself looking forward to reading them. Instead of acting as a spoiler, it gave me a sense of anticipation of things to come. The book cover is also well designed and visually appealing. I loved the pencil turned tree, the colors and the use of different fonts.

Overall, a good read with a cool kid and a sweet new family. 4 stars

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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 ‘Hooked on you’ by Jenn Matthews.

School teacher Anna finds herself stressed and bored so she decides to take on crochet classes with Ollie, an army veteran and the owner of the craft shop ‘Darn that yarn’. As Ollie teaches Anna how to crochet, both women soon become friends and slowly discover their mutual attraction. But a jealous ex-boyfriend, their wary offspring and a good dose of self-doubt get in their way to love. Will they have a happily ever after?

This is a debut novel by British author Jenn Matthews featuring main characters in their 50s, both divorced, one a lesbian and the other allegedly straight. As the reader can tell by the cover and the title, crochet is at the center of this story and it’s the facilitator of the relationship between the leads. You don’t need to love crochet to read this book (I personally don’t) but an interest in arts and crafts would be beneficial.

As an avid crocheter herself, Ms. Matthews knows what she’s talking about and the novel is filled with descriptions of techniques and materials for the craft. Personally, I think that the book goes into too many details (crochet or otherwise) that could have been removed to make the pace of the story slightly faster. Having said that, the slow-burn romance suits this type of story and I was pleased to see that the author took her time to develop the mains relationship and the subplots.

The crochet classes environment works well to present the good number of secondary characters and to build the leads relationship. I liked how the author gave hints of their attraction through their body language and the natural sounding dialogues. The author is very cinematographic in her descriptions, she makes it easy for the reader to create a mental picture of the scenes. All the characters, mains or secondary, feel multi-layered and authentic, including Anna’s autistic son. The sex scene is well written in addition to an excellent self-pleasuring scene. One of the best that I’ve read in non-erotica lesfic.

Through and through, this novel has a distinct British feel not only in the use of the language but also in many British references such as the use of tea as a conversation enabler or alcohol as a social lubricant. This helps to establish the tone and setting of the novel, providing authenticity and a credibility to the story.

Overall, a very good slow-burn romance between a couple in their 50s with the unusual setting of a crochet class and an authentic British feel. 4 stars.

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

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