December 2020 Mini Reviews: Contemporary Edition

I always try to write reviews within 1-3 days right after finishing the book, but winter break brain has gotten to me – I’m not necessarily feeling guilty about this because I minimized as much time as possible on my laptop over the holidays and ate up as many books as possible. Between blogging in chunks this month and reading so, so much, I have plenty of mini reviews ready to go, including today’s reviews focused on contemporary romance and adult contemporary.

I know I usually include only 3 books in my mini review round-ups, but I decided to go with 5 of my recent reads from December since some of my reviews are on the shorter side (with the exception of one where I ranted a bit longer than I first thought while drafting the review, oops).

Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I’ve been doing my best to keep up with as many new contemporary romances as possible in 2020, which led me to pick up Jane Igharo’s debut novel, Ties That Tether. Its cover immediately caught my attention one day while scrolling through bookstagram and I was equally intrigued by its synopsis. The novel follows Azere, a twenty-five year old Nigerian Canadian woman who has always been pressured by her family to only marry a Nigerian man. Azere’s mom is always setting her up on dates with Nigerian men, and feels even more pressured after promising her father before he died that she would marry a Nigerian man. Things get complicated for Azere when she meets Rafael, who is everything Azere wants in a guy…except he’s white. Things get even MORE complicated for Azere and Rafael when their one night stand turns into something a lot more complicated than they could have imagined.

Although it has some classic contemporary romance lightness and humor, Ties That Tether is definitely one of the more serious contemporary romances I’ve read for its discussions surrounding race, ethnicity, and culture. I haven’t read a contemporary romance that deals with a conflict like the pressure Azere feels from her family to marry a man from her culture. The book goes beyond who Azere should marry, as Azere has felt she has never been able to embrace both of her cultures as a Nigerian AND Canadian woman. 

What I ultimately wasn’t didn’t like about Ties That Tether was the romance. I was never really super in love with Rafael, and I didn’t think the few chapters from his perspective were necessary. Although they added some mystery, I think his big reveals would’ve still be impactful strictly coming from Azere’s perspective. I really thought at one point that Azere was perhaps going to realize that Rafael wasn’t the guy for her. I never really felt any deep chemistry between them, which could’ve resulted from the fact that they both have something to hide. I wish Azere would have been honest with him earlier about how her family feels about who she should marry. I also wasn’t super in love with the love triangle, as Azere’s mom keeps pressuring her to date a guy from her past… and he keeps just randomly showing up??

I enjoyed the book mostly for Azere’s personal growth and as much as she killed me for her stubborness, seeing how Azere and mom would resolve their conflict. I know a few readers have been mixed on revealing this spoiler, so I’ll stay vague, but there’s an added layer to Azere and Rafael’s relationship that I personally haven’t read too much in contemporary romances. An addition to their relationship (trying to be as non-spoilery as possible) puts so much pressure on their progress and causes more anger from Azere’s mom. Although Ties That Tether isn’t my new favorite contemporary romance, I enjoyed it because the novel tackles a few themes and plot elements I personally haven’t encountered  too much in other contemporary romances.

A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jenny Holiday’s A Princess for Christmas is the perfect holiday book for readers who love Hallmark Christmas movies or even some of Netflix’s cheesy Christmas movies. The book’s synopsis is literally a play on what’d you expect in one of those films, and the book does have a few references to Hallmark movies. Leo, a cab driver living in NYC doing his best to make ends meet and raise his little sister, gives an unexpected cab ride to the princess of Eldovia, Marie. Marie is in the city on royal business, but soon finds herself trying to spend any free opportunity with Leo and his sister, Gabby, until she decides to invite them back to Eldovia for the holidays. 

A Princess for Christmas was the quintessential, fluffy holiday read I was craving. Is it the best book I ever read? Not exactly. But was it better than most cheesy Christmas movies I could’ve watched instead? Absolutely! A Princess for Christmas was just so atmospheric. Like my recent Dash & Lily watch on Netflix, it made me so nostalgic for holiday-time NYC, like the scene where Leo and Marie goes ice skating in what I believe was Rockefeller Center. The Eldovia setting was also the holiday away of many of your dreams (picture any royal town in a Hallmark or Netflix movie), with Leo and Gabby staying in Marie’s palace in the snow. I knew A Princess for Christmas was a romance, but due to its fluffiness, I didn’t expect the romance scenes to be that STEAMY. Overall, A Princess for Christmas was the cute & festive holiday read that you may be crave during winter. Read More »

Favorite Books of 2020: Contemporary Romance Edition

I hope everyone has been enjoying time off over the holiday season. I mentioned last week in my favorite adult fiction and non-fiction books of 2020 post that I should’ve had a review posted on this past Saturday … but I’ll be totally honest & admit that I unexpectedly took a laptop break from Tuesday into Sunday afternoon. I’ve been off from school and work for the past 2 weeks, but it wasn’t until Christmas Eve Eve (yes, it’s absolutely a thing) that I really minimized my time on my laptop and ended up not turning it back on for nearly five days. If you’re someone like me who has been glued to her laptop screen between school and work this year, I highly recommend taking a break from the screen this week. I also completely admit I got distracted by a few books AND Bridgerton on Netflix! 

Anyway, today I’ll be sharing my final favorites post of 2020 with my favorite contemporary romances of the year! I shared my favorite young adult books of 2020 last Wednesday. I decided to save my contemporary romance favorites for my final favorites wrap up because contemporary romance was my absolute favorite genre in 2020. So many of the books below had the perfect blend of fluff and distraction I craved, while also often having depth and really unique premises. Out of my three favorites post this year, I had the most difficult time narrowing down my favorite contemporary romances between absolute favs and honorable mentions. 

Favorite Contemporary Romances of 2020 

Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein

If there was only one book on this list I could put in every reader’s hands, it would be Hannah Orenstein’s Head Over Heels. Following a former elite gymnast who’s tasked with coaching an Olympic hopeful, this book was so strong as a contemporary itself because of its plot, setting, and character dynamics, but was so enriched because of the relationship between the female and male leads. Head Over Heels 110% solidified Hannah Orenstein as one of my all-time favorite authors. 

You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle 

I chose one book as my ultimate #1 favorite in my 2020 YA favorites list, but my favorite romance of the year is seriously a toss up between Head Over Heels and Sarah Hogle’s debut, You Deserve Each Other.  I often say that some of my contemporary romances have funny moments, but You Deserve Each Other is seriously the funniest and most sarcastic contemporary romance I’ve ever read. If only one book could have the ‘rom-com’ label, it’s this one. You Deserve Each Other follows two fiancés on the brink of separation – something I haven’t read in a book before- and I absolutely loved following this dynamic. 

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Emily Henry’s Beach Read rightfully took the contemporary romance world by storm this summer and honestly throughout 2020! This summer romance between two writers might become my new annual kick off to summer reading & beach reading season. 

The Honey Don’t List by Christina Lauren 

I’ve mentioned before on the blog that while Christina Lauren’s newer releases tend to get mixed reviews (especially from early CLo fans), but I’ve been such a fan of their newer books, including The Honey Don’t List. This Fixer Upper inspired romance following a fictional home renovation show’s two personal assistants totally met its synopsis – how can I a bookworm not love a book about a book tour?? – and introduced me to my new favorite CLo protagonist. Read More »

2021 Most Anticipated Releases: Contemporary Romance Edition

Contemporary romance took over my reading in 2020. I still have to analyze my 2020 reading stats and see if I did indeed read more romance than YA this year, but I feel like I was reaching for romance over other genres this year. This trend might stick around for me in 2021, given how many contemporary romances I’m anticipating in 2021! The main reason why I decided to split my anticipated releases into individuals posts for young adult and and romance this year because there are THAT many contemporary romances I’m waiting for in the new year. 

I am considering making an anticipated releases post for adult fiction as well – I began drafting the post, but I only have two books on it so far while crossing my fingers we’ll get Leigh Bardugo’s second Alex Stern book and potentially Sarah J. Maas’ second Crescent City novel (or The World of Throne of Glass finally). 

Most Anticipated Contemporary Romances

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon | Release Date: January 26

Rachel Lynn Solomon’s The Ex Talk is for sure among my MOST anticipated books on this list (if, not my #1 most anticipated read). I absolutely love her YA books and I’m so excited to read her take on my other favorite genre. The book follows two exes who start a new public radio show, where together they give relationship advice. Add it on Goodreads 

Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon | RD: February 2 

2021 is seriously the year for my YA favorite authors to enter the adult romance game, including Lily Menon (known in the YA world as, you know, SANDHYA MENON) with Make Up Break Up. The book follows rival app developers, Annika and Hudson, as the compete in a major investment pitch contest. Add it on Goodreads

Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle | RD: April 6

Sarah Hogle’s debut, You Deserve Each Other, is one of my absolute favorite books of 2020 and made her one of my new auto-read authors. Twice Shy follows a woman who unexpectedly inherits a stately old manor from a great aunt, only to discover that the place needs some serious work and she has to share the place with the grumpy groundskeeper. Add it on Goodreads

The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan | RD: April 6

I finally read Rosie Danan’s The Roommate last week. Although it definitely met the hype for me and I loved it’s unique premise (adult entertainment), I wasn’t super in love. However, the hype once again sent me to check out Rosie Danan’s upcoming release, The Intimacy Experiment, and I’m super intrigued by the synopsis. The book follows one of the female main characters from The Roommate, Naomi, as she teams up with one of LA’s most eligible bachelors (who also happens to be a rabbi) on a sex education seminar. Add it on Goodreads Read More »

Contemporary Romance Mini Reviews: November 2020 Edition

I’ve read some literary fiction and YA books in between, but the fall has once again been all about contemporary romance for me. Two of the books below are wedding-centric, while the third is a much anticipated sequel in one of my favorite contemporary romance series. 

Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu

My Rating: 4.25/5 Stars 

My currently adult contemporary and contemporary romance mood met my love for books featuring weddings recently with Diksha Basu’s Destination Wedding. Tina’s family and her best friend are spending a week in India for her cousin’s wedding. I wouldn’t say there’s a central conflict or plot to the book, but the novel explores so much about Tina and co.’s relationships with other people and to India. Despite its fascinating and sometimes luxurious setting, Destination Wedding is more of a quiet read, focused on character development and self-discovery. I know this might not be every reader’s cup of tea, but I personally really enjoyed it!

You may know that I’ve been super wary of any Crazy Rich Asians comparisons lately because the past few books that I’ve read with the CRA comparison just haven’t held up. Destination Wedding is by far the first book I would recommend to anyone looking to have those Crazy Rich Asians feels once again. Destination Wedding obviously takes place in a different culture, and I admit that is slightly less glamorous than CRA, but the book provides a look at poverty in India. The writing style between the two were so similar, between the satire and comedy (there were so many funny moments and funny one-lines from Tina’s dad, Mr. Das), and the third person perspective. The sections of each chapter are usually dedicated to one character, but will pull away for a brief paragraph or two about a side character there. 

I don’t think I necessarily had a favorite character, but there were never any chapters that I wanted to rush through because I didn’t like the character of focus. I feel like I did want more from Tina and her romantic’s endeavors, but I loved being able to explore her relationship with her heritage and her parents. I also feel like the novel gave such an inside look at India – the book mostly takes place in New Dehli. There was so much I never knew about the culture and traditions there, and honestly, the poverty and pollution.  If you’re someone who craves character-driven books and doesn’t mind a more literary fiction-type reader, I definitely recommend checking Destination Wedding out.  Read More »

Top Five Wednesday: Romance Books I Should Read 

Today’s Top Five Wednesday topic is called “Reader Canon,” where we are prompted to talked about books that everyone in our bookish community has read. We can take this topic in any direction we’d like, whether that’’s by talking about five books we consider to be must reads, books we want to read, or books we just haven’t read. I’m going to take the second direction and talk about some contemporary romances I want to pick up.. eventually! I always tend to have books in the back of my mind or on my TBR that I know I should read. When I’m in the mood for that said genre or book, I usually just go to the library and pick it up that day! 

 

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang – I feel guilty calling myself a contemporary romance reader when I haven’t read one of the most popular contemporary romance reads, The Kiss Quotient. This is a case of the hype keeping me away, but I know I’ll likely pick it up one day at the library. 

The Happily Ever After (The Friend Zone #2) by Abby Jimenez – The Happily Ever After completely took over my Instagram and blog feeds this spring. I know The Happily Ever After is the companion novel/second book to The Friend Zone, and while I believe there’s spoilers for the first book, so many people have said that you don’t need to read the first book to absolutely fall in love with this one. Read More »

TWO 2020 FAVORITES, ONE MISS: Contemporary Romance Mini Reviews

It’s one of my reading missions in life to also have a contemporary romance book ready to read! If you’re absolutely loving all the amazing contemporary romances that have come out in 2020, I have another two 2020 releases for you to read… and a 2019 much-loved release to maybe avoid….

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

On a beautiful day in August, I decided I wanted a fluffy book that would occupy my full attention while floating around the pool, which led me to pick up Mia Sosa’s The Worst Best Man. I’ll read nearly any book that has something to do with weddings. This contemporary romance follows Lina, a wedding planner who was left at the altar three years ago when her fiancé’s best man, Max, convinced Andrew to not get married the night before the wedding. Three years later, Lina is up for a wedding planning position at a luxury hotel in Washington D.C. and is forced to work with Max to prepare marketing materials for her final presentation. Although Lina finally gets the opportunity for some payback, her and Max begin to connect in ways both of them would have never expected.

The Worst Best Man is seriously one of my favorite contemporary romances of 2020! I instantly fell into this story and Lina and Max’s attraction. I thought it had the perfect balance between romance & relationship development, the setting, and the personal challenges each character faces. As I’ve said before, Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings are among my favorite reality TV shows, so I loved getting the inside look at wedding planning. I thought Lina’s job and all the details were so well-developed. As someone who has experience in marketing, it was also really fun to learn about Max’s job as a marketing executive and seeing him and Lina collaborate on their pitch. We also spend a lot of time with each character’s family, as Lina comes from a close-knit family led by women and is planning her favorite cousin’s wedding, while Max and Andrew are going head to head for the hotel pitch. 

This book  hit a home run when it come to one of my favorite tropes, enemies-to-lovers. Lina and Max seriously had no feelings or attraction for each other at the start and even as their feelings begin to build, Lina is still getting revenge on Max for helping ruin her big day. I loved their antics and their more emotional scenes, romance scenes of course included. Read More »

Contemporary Romance TBR

Since about mid-2019, adult contemporary romance has been the genre I’ve been craving the most. I absolutely fly through most books in this genre, yet I find myself unsuccessfully attempting to take my time reading them because I want to enjoy them as long as possible. Everyone knows I love binge-reading series, but I’ve been trying not to binge-read the books in the series so I know I always have a book to look forward to.

Since I’ve been practically adding more contemporary romances to my TBR whenever I’m scrolling through Goodreads, today I’ll be sharing which adult & new adult contemporary romances I plan on reading (hopefully soon). I’ve divided this TBR by released books and 2020 releases still to come.

Well Met by Jen DeLuca – I’ve decided that on my next bookstore trip (or whenever I get a Barnes & Noble coupon) I’ll be buying Jen DeLuca. I’ve heard so many great things about this ren-faire inspired romance from many contemporary-loving bloggers. There will be also be two more books set in the Well Met world, Well Played (September 29) and Well Matched (2021).

Not the Girl You Marry by Andie J. Christopher – Not the Girl You Marry has received some mixed reviews, but I read its synopsis while strolling through the romance section in the bookstore and still added it to my TBR. I haven’t read a book set in the city in a while, and I love how the female protagonist, Hannah, is an event planner.

Roomies by Christina Lauren – I could probably dedicate a whole TBR to Christina Lauren books (actually, that’s not a bad future post idea…). Roomies received a ton of love and attention when it first came out in 2017, and I think it’s time for me to see what the hype is about.

Heidi’s Guide to Four Letter Words by Tara Sivec & Andi Arndt – What the main character does in Heidi’s Guide to Four Letter Words honestly sounds like something I would do. After being fired from her job as a kindergarten teacher, Heidi starts a podcast reading the steamy scenes from romance novels and finds way more success than she could have imagined.Read More »