Review of ‘Emily’s art and soul’ by Joy Argento.

Emily Sanders is facing a few challenges in life. She’s recently divorced from her husband, her mum passed away and she has to take care of her 23 year old Down syndrome sister. But the biggest challenge of all comes in the shape of her new co-worker, Andi Marino who is beautiful, caring and a lesbian. Andi not only becomes her best friend but makes Emily wonder about her own sexuality.

Despite the seriousness of certain issues touched by this novel such as bereavement, Down syndrome and coming out at 35, this is a positive and humorous story. Ms. Argento sets this light tone through the leads’ dialogues which are funny, full of banter and innuendo. Even Emily’s interior monologues
while examining her sexuality are amusing. Her explorations into the lesbian world provides a peculiar but, at the same time, familiar point of view. There are a few hilarious moments like the speed dating incident or the golf scene which are done really well.

Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters, the leads are well rounded and credible. As a ‘friends to lovers’ romance the author skillfully transforms their budding friendship to an increasing intimacy. Mindy, Emily’s Down syndrome sister, is a great secondary character, very realistic in her traits and interactions with other people. Her fresh outlook on life and her ‘best friend’ declarations help to keep the upbeat tone.

I think the author draw a lot of her life experience in this book (her brother has Down syndrome, it’s set in the area where she lives and, like Emily, she is an artist specialised in oil paintings) which makes the story sound really authentic. My only issue with this book is that the light tone set throughout the novel is lost temporarily in a forced conflict between the main characters. Even though the conflict seems realistic it sticks out like a sore thumb. Luckily this is a short interruption of what otherwise is a very entertaining read.

Overall, a light and humorous story of the ‘friends to lovers’ trope along with a late coming out. 4 stars.

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

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Review of ‘A wish upon a star’ by Jeannie Levig.

Leslie Raymond returns to her hometown in LA after a bad relationship that left her wary of straight women with children. Erica Cooper has a 7 year old girl with special needs and has learnt to stay independent and not to rely on anyone else. Not even her new next door neighbour Leslie who is so good to her daughter. It doesn’t hurt that Leslie is caring and gorgeous too. Will the stars align for them?

This is another fantastic book by Ms. Levig. It is not only a romance but also a story about maternal love, friendship and loyalty. Kudos to the author for featuring an older couple both in their early fifties but so full of life. Alongside them, there is Siena, Erica’s daughter who has ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’. She is portrayed with incredible authenticity as both a child and a person with special needs. It seems that the author did her research well not only in Siena’s personality but also in her relationship with others.

They say that children and dogs steal a show and this is no exception. Side by side with the trio is Gus, a stray dog rescued by Leslie who is the epitome of the (wo)man’s best friend. I’m more of a cat person but Gus’s loyalty and bond with the mains really won my heart. Without him, the story would have lost some of its most inspiring and moving moments.

The romance is slow burn and the mains’ chemistry builds up exquisitely. These are women with some baggage but nothing feels contrived or forced. The dialogues are natural sounding and all the characters, main or secondary, human or otherwise, are well rounded and credible. Every single part of the story flows seamlessly and the setting is perfect. This has been a joy to read.

Overall, a fantastic romance with very credible characters and a believable story. 5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘One way or another’ by A.L. Brooks.

This is book four in the ‘Window Shopping Collection’ series penned by different authors under the common romantic theme of two characters meeting while shopping. In this book, corporate lawyer Sarah Connolly meets primary school teacher Bethany Keane while they are browsing a sex shop. Sarah is a womaniser who keeps her sexual liaisons casual while Bethany is looking for a serious relationship. They are attracted to each other but they couldn’t be more different. Will they find a common ground?

This is a slow burn romance with a surprising side (not described in the blurb) of very light BDSM. Both main characters are very different from each other and the author does a good job in presenting them with all their layers and traits. Eventually the reader discovers the reasons for their actions which aren’t contrived or forced into the story.

The characters’ chemistry is good though, in my opinion, the indecisions in their relationship didn’t act as a build up but rather as a cool down. That’s where my rating of this book drops. However, once the intimate scenes unfold (quite late in the book), they are well done and have an interesting twist. Kudos to the author to raise the issue of safe sex that is normally avoided in lesbian romance or erotica but I’m not sure if it works well every time.

The secondary characters are well rounded and help define the main characters stories better, specially Sarah’s friend Jonathan and Bethany’s mother. The setting of London as the background of the plot is a secondary character in itself and makes the story more realistic and authentic.

Overall, a sweet slow-burn romance with a side of light BDSM. 3.5 stars.

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

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