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The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon
Here’s the thing about Farrah Rochon—she can take any romance trope and make it meaningful, believable and fun. Like a modern-day Jane Austen, Ms. Rochon is a gifted author so able to weave in so many threads into her novels. In THE DATING PLAYBOOK, the second in the runaway hit from The Boyfriend Project series, we have the delicious “let’s pretend we’re dating” trope, one of my favorites. Taylor, the scene-stealer from THE BOYFRIEND PROJECT, is a personal trainer struggling to make ends meet. She can’t help suffer from financial insecurity and a bit of an imposter syndrome—her two closest friends are brilliant, financially sound and seem set on their paths in life. Taylor, on the other hand, has had a more relatable life experience thus far…she had to put college on hold, started her own business and is living paycheck to paycheck and slowly going under, all while her family watches in disapproval. It’s such a normal person situation, and Ms. Rochon handles it beautifully without ever making Taylor seem like a victim.
Enter Jamar Dixon, a young NFL star dealing with an injury. Handling his own insecurities about his future, Jamar has been nurturing a bit of a crush on Taylor, thanks to the hilarious viral video from THE BOYFRIEND PROJECT. But Taylor needs his business more than a boyfriend, no matter how strong the chemistry is between them.
Friendship, pride in oneself, the heavy weight of expectations and a delightful, immensely satisfying love story all intertwine to make the perfect romance from the brilliant Farrah Rochon.
Written with an easy grace and vivid style, this story follows Toni Bennett (pun intended), an indie rock singer and guitarist. With
abandonment issues thanks to a careless mother and nearly nonexistent father, Toni is careful in both her career and her personal life, facing the innate sexism of the rock music industry and maintaining a careful distance even with her friends. When she has the chance to audition with The Lillies, a hot new all-female band, she gives it a try. Ms. Axelrod weaves in a love story between Toni and Sebastian, her first love, also a musician, with the kind of angsty conflict I love. I was fascinated with the music scene, something I know nothing about, but which was brought to bright life in this engaging, vivid page-turner.
Queen Move by Kennedy Ryan
Is there another author who can make your heart pound like Kennedy Ryan? I don’t think so. With a mellifluous voice and high-stakes plot (and high heat, nearly poetic loves scenes), Queen Move is the story of Kimba, a strong, ambitious woman and the man she’s always loved, Ezra. Childhood friends to lovers, this book is beautifully written, bold and important. Kennedy is a force to be reckoned with. If you want an emotional powerhouse of a novel, this book is for you.
Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr
In this stand-alone novel, two sisters find themselves at a crossroads. For years, Addie has taken care of her parents with the guilty blessing of her much older sister, Justine. Now that their parents have passed, Addie’s new life is harder than she thought it would be. Years of caretaking have kept her out of the workforce, her graduate degree unfinished. Justine, meanwhile, comes face to face with her husband’s infidelity. She moves her two daughters back to Half Moon Bay, a beautiful coastal town in California. As with all her books, Robyn Carr makes the town come alive. Each sister is different and vibrant—and decent. It was so refreshing to read a book about good-hearted people making their way in a new reality. Uplifting and fresh, the kind of book that leaves you with a warm feeling in your heart.
Dance Away With Me by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Quite possibly SEP’s best book ever, and I say that as her devoted fan. But wow. She gives us the grouchy alpha male she excels at writing—Ian, a rich kid turned graffiti artist with demons aplenty, and Tess, a widow still reeling from her husband’s unexpected death. The two are linked during a traumatic delivery of a baby; Tess is a midwife. The small Tennessee mountain town is perfectly drawn with a rich cast of completely developed secondary characters. Honestly, this book was perfect as far as I was concerned—a gorgeous blend of drama, personal issues, sizzling chemistry and luscious setting. A perfect ten.
Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson
This is so much more than a romance—it’s the story of an unusual family made up of four foster brothers, all eventually adopted by one remarkable woman, brought together by her sudden death. It’s the story of community and belonging and being seen, finding your voice and making your mark. Kerry Fuller, who worked in Mama Joy’s knitting shop, has long harbored a crush on one of the Strong Brothers—Jesse, the one brother who wants to keep his mother’s shop open. A gorgeous, heartfelt friends-to-lovers story wrapped up in a neighborhood where everyone knows your business.
The Kingmaker by Kennedy Ryan
Kennedy is a rare talent, combining beautiful, lush writing with difficult, real-life issues. In this book, Lennix, a Yavapai-Apache environmental
activist, encounters Maxim, a man born to privilege and wealth, expected to take over his father’s empire. Over the years, they encounter each other again and again, and their relationship deepens. Ms. Ryan’s ability to write a powerful novel intertwined with an incredible love story is unrivaled. (This is part one of a two-book series; the second is The Rebel King).
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
I can’t say enough about the work of Farrah Rochon, and this book was her best yet. Three women find out they’re all dating the same guy. A video of their confrontation with him goes viral, and the insta-fame and unwanted attention causes Samiah to reexamine her life. Farrah is one of the best contemporary romance authors out there—period. Wry humor, intelligence and relatable characters make her books a must-read.
A Reflection of Shadows by Anne Renwick
Steampunk fans will love Anne’s books: medical mystery/romance set in Victorian England with all the creatures and contraptions steampunk brings. This book in particular was wicked fun…a friends to lovers story involving a Queen’s agent and a cat burglar and the experimentation of bringing someone back to life. In real life, the author has a Ph.D. in microbiology, so the medical aspects of all her books are both intelligently detailed and accessible.
Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
A book that perfectly walks the tightrope between women’s fiction and romance…likeable characters, beautiful setting and an interesting conundrum—when a woman plans to leave her seemingly wonderful husband, only to have him die that very day, how does she move forward? Loved every word.
Intercepted by Alexa Martin
This book was so funny that I was making a scene on the airplane, laughing out loud. It felt so fresh and truly contemporary, with the heroine hashtagging her life, her overprotective and completely loveable daddy and a hero who brings some challenges to the relationship…it’s not easy dating Mr. Perfect. The pace never flagged, and the humor was razor-sharp. Romantic comedy at its very best.
Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev
Since her debut a few years ago, Sonali Dev's lyrical prose and gift for getting into the reader’s soul have made her a stand-out talent. Recipe for Persuasion is a brilliant homage to Jane Austen’s "Persuasion" of young love separated by family strife. In it, Ashna Raje, a grieving daughter, takes over her late father’s restaurant. It’s not a success, despite her best efforts. Enter a Food Network competition, which pairs a chef with a cooking-challenged celebrity. Ashna’s shock is that Rico Silva, the world’s best soccer (sorry…football) player is her partner on the show. Their secret love during high school and wrenching breakup has haunted them both. The brilliant pairing of the fun show with the depth of emotion makes this an absolute powerhouse.
Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
Sonali is one of the best fiction authors today, period. Her hypnotically beautiful prose, the richness of the world she creates, the depth of emotion make her books crown jewels in women’s fiction. This book does proper homage to Jane Austen. Read it in one sitting, then read it again.
Too Sweet to Be Good by K.M. Jackson
Small towns are a favorite of mine, and K.M. Jackson understands them…the gossip, the cliques, the awkward feeling of not quite belonging while having everyone know your business. Filled with deeply emotional, eloquent writing and relatable characters, this book is pitch-perfect.