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Off-Campus Series: The Deal and The Mistake by Elle Kennedy

I’ve read a few of Elle Kennedy’s super steamy romances before so I was really looking forward to her new adult series. One of my favorite discoveries last year was Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Years books, which had hockey players as MCs and an Ivy League college setting. I was hoping that the Off-Campus series would be just as good as that. And it was! Both The Deal and The Mistake were so much fun to read. Elle Kennedy writes so fast (or I’m just really behind on reviews) because the sequel has been out for a while now and it’s taken me this long to write a review for The Deal. I have been recommending these books to friends both online and in real life though. Several of them have gotten back to me to say that they thoroughly enjoyed these books.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The DealShe’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy…

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice… even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.

…and it’s going to be oh so good.

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn’t going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

The Deal is a lighthearted and fun novel to read which also manages to tackle a number of serious issues for the characters. Even though they’re young, both Hannah and Garrett have gone through horrible experiences but what I liked about them was they didn’t let those experiences define them. I liked how thoughtful Elle Kennedy was in handling the traumatic experiences of her characters, balancing all of those with humor. The book was funny because of the banter between the characters, not just the romantic development between the hero and heroine but also how they interacted with their friends. With how different their college interests are, Hannah and Garrett don’t even make sense as friends, let alone a couple, but the process of their getting to know each other felt very natural. Hannah wouldn’t have attended hockey games if she didn’t know Garrett, in the same way that Garrett wouldn’t have been interested in his school’s musical production if Hannah wasn’t involved in it. Hannah didn’t even want anything to do with Garrett, at the start of the book. It was hilarious how he tried to convince her to help him out. He was cocky and arrogant but not in an annoying way. As they spend more time together, they realize that there’s more to the other person than the usual stereotypes. Their transition from (reluctant) tutor and tutee to friends to more than friends felt realistic. And I thought it was nice how their circles of friends also started overlapping because of them. The Deal is really my kind of new adult romance. I wanted to read the sequel as soon as I finished it and I’m glad I didn’t have to wait too long for it to be released.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
The Mistake by Elle KennedyHe’s a player in more ways than one…

College junior John Logan can get any girl he wants. For this hockey star, life is a parade of parties and hook-ups, but behind his killer grins and easygoing charm, he hides growing despair about the dead-end road he’ll be forced to walk after graduation. A sexy encounter with freshman Grace Ivers is just the distraction he needs, but when a thoughtless mistake pushes her away, Logan plans to spend his final year proving to her that he’s worth a second chance.

Now he’s going to need to up his game…

After a less than stellar freshman year, Grace is back at Briar University, older, wiser, and so over the arrogant hockey player she nearly handed her V-card to. She’s not a charity case, and she’s not the quiet butterfly she was when they first hooked up. If Logan expects her to roll over and beg like all his other puck bunnies, he can think again. He wants her back? He’ll have to work for it. This time around, she’ll be the one in the driver’s seat…and she plans on driving him wild.

I read The Mistake as soon as I got my grubby hands on it, meaning when I was very generously given a review copy. I feel like I need to apologize that it took me so long to review this title but most of the time, real life gets in the way of reading and blogging. In The Deal, Logan seemed like a typical playboy jock. But he has his own reasons for enjoying his college years as much as he can. He has a lot to deal with because of his family. I liked how intensely loyal Logan is to those he loves but it was also frustrating how that got in the way of pursuing his dreams. He has never been in a serious relationship, nor has he wanted one, until he sees how things are between Hannah with Garrett. I was wondering why he was acting so weird in the first book and his situation becomes much clearer in this sequel. I really liked Logan as a character and I think he’s a great guy. However, I didn’t like Grace as much. I don’t know why but I just got the feeling that she didn’t have that much personality. In spite of not liking Grace as much as I wanted, I still enjoyed reading The Mistake as a whole because Elle Kennedy writes great romance. I liked how the relationship developed in this one and that there wasn’t any unnecessary drama. Some new adult titles lay the drama on thick but that wasn’t the case in this one. The Mistake was an enjoyable read but I think The Deal is a stronger installment in the series. One thing that The Mistake had which The Deal didn’t was more explanations regarding drafts for pro hockey players. For someone like me who knows next to nothing about hockey, it was interesting to read more about the process.

Looking forward to the next book in this series! I’ve seen Elle Kennedy mention that it will be about Dean.


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Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

I think if you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Laura Florand’s writing. I discovered the first two books in her Amour et Chocolat series in March 2013 and I’ve been devouring her books since then. Last year, I even organized a blog event called Amour et Florand to celebrate her books. Once Upon a Rose is one of my highly anticipated releases for 2015 especially since I loved A Rose in Winter, a novella that introduced me to the Rosier family. I loved reading about the Rosiers and their home in Grasse so when Laura offered a review copy of Once Upon a Rose, I jumped at the chance to read it as soon as I can. This happened a few months ago and I just haven’t been able to work on a review for it until now. I’m so behind on reviews!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Once Upon a RoseShe stole his roses.

Fleeing the spotlight, burnt out rock star Layla—“Belle”—Dubois seeks refuge in the south of France. That old, half-forgotten heritage in a valley of roses seems like a good place to soothe a wounded heart. She certainly doesn’t expect the most dangerous threat to her heart to pounce on her as soon as she sets foot on the land.

He wants them back.

Matt didn’t mean to growl at her quite that loudly. But—his roses! She can’t have his roses. Even if she does have all those curls and green eyes and, and, and…what was he growling about again?

Or maybe he just wants her.

When an enemy invades his valley and threatens his home, heart, and livelihood, Matthieu Rosier really knows only one way to defend himself.

It might involve kissing.

While I was in the middle of Once Upon a Rose, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to read it slowly so I can savor the words or to gulp it all down in one go because it was just so good. Laura Florand is amazing at making the scenes leapt out of the page. So much so that you feel like you’ve traveled to Paris or Grasse just by reading her books. I’m always delighted by books that have such a strong sense of place because they let me travel just by reading. I also love how she focuses on the senses – with tastes and textures in her Amour et Chocolat series, and with scents and sounds in Once Upon a Rose. With Matt as the heir apparent for the Rosier perfume business, he knows everything there is to know about the fragrance industry. Layla, a musician struggling with creative burnout, finds solace in the Rosier valley when she unexpectedly inherits a house there. I enjoyed reading about the sweet and tentative romance that blossomed between Matt and Layla, from their hilarious first meeting until the beautiful ending of the book. I loved how careful they are of each other, showing a wariness that developed from past romantic mistakes. Matt is a big marshmallow who tries to hide his soft side by being all growly and grumpy but Layla was able to see through him right away. A snippet that I loved:

“You always do that,” he murmured. “It’s as if you take everything I know, wrap it up in wonder, and hand it back to me like this bright, shiny new present. It’s like my whole life is Christmas when you’re looking at it.”

I loved how present Matt’s cousins are in this story. It’s so much fun to see them tease and annoy the hell out of each other but at the end of the day, they’re always there whenever one of them needs help. I also thought it was endearing how vulnerable Matt is when it comes to his family – how he tries to hide his weaknesses to let them see that he’s a strong leader. And yet his cousins are actually aware of what he’s really like. I just think it’s great that the Rosier guys were involved in Matt and Layla’s romance. While Layla’s family isn’t as big as Matt’s, she does have a strong connection with her mom. It’s always nice when the romance isn’t the sole focus of a book (even if it is a romance novel). It’s much more realistic to see the relationships that MCs have with their families or friends instead of having one person as their entire world. I also really liked the contrast between Matt’s rootedness in the valley vs. Layla’s life as a traveling musician. Matt knows that his rightful place is at the stronghold of their family’s business while Layla has never had a permanent home of her own. It was interesting to see how their different experiences shaped who they are now. Once Upon a Rose is a strong start to the La Vie en Roses series and I can’t wait to read the next book featuring a Rosier hero. It would be so much fun to dive back into this Provencal world filled with the sweet scent of roses. I know this wouldn’t come as a surprise but I’m happy to announce that Once Upon a Rose is now firmly placed in my best of 2015 shelf.

My Instagram shot of my copy: Once Upon a Rose

Other reviews:
By Singing Light
From Cover to Cover
Girl Meets Books
Smexy Books


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Dare Island Series by Virginia Kantra

Virginia Kantra’s Dare Island series was one of my favorite discoveries last year. I got the recommendation for this series from one of my favorite contemporary romance authors: Laura Florand. I’ve also seen positive reviews about the Dare Island books from my friend Brandy and that has just made me more curious. I love romances that don’t just focus on the couple but also highlights the important people in their lives. The Fletcher family is a very close-knit family. Growing up as Marine brats, the Fletcher siblings knew they had to support each other – they even had a motto: “back to back to back”. I liked how the stories in the series are so different from each other because of the distinct personalities of the characters. I had a lot of fun reading about the Fletchers and the cozy island where they’ve made their home. I’ve never been to the Outer Banks of North Carolina but it seems like a lovely place based on the descriptions in the books. I like the small town vibe of the island, with everyone sticking their noses into everyone else’s business but people are also willing to help out when the need arises.

Carolina HomeCarolina Home
I grabbed a copy of Carolina Home back when it was a Kindle deal. I was just waiting for the right mood to strike before I dived into it. I was in a contemporary romance kind of mood one night last December so I decided to start reading Carolina Home over dinner. It was very easy to get into and I was immediately absorbed. I read it on my commute back to the flat and stayed up late to finish reading the whole thing. I basically gave up sleep and read the book in one sitting because it’s such an enjoyable read. Matt is firmly settled in Dare Island, taking care of his teenage son and helping out his aging parents. Allison has never really put down roots but she fell in love with the island and wants to see if there’s a chance for her to become a part of this place. Aside from that, Matt grew up in a very supportive, close-knit family while Allison feels the need to keep a distance from her controlling parents. I like the contrast between Matt and Allison and how well they fit together in spite of their differences.

Carolina GirlCarolina Girl
Another great romance set in Dare Island! I loved seeing more of the Fletcher family in this one. I was a bit frustrated with Meg for being so blind about her boyfriend Derek’s faults, how she made up excuses about him and how she kept insisting that they have a good relationship. But overall, that’s just a minor quibble. I liked how driven Meg is, from getting an undergrad degree in Harvard to an MBA in Columbia to climbing up the ranks in the corporate ladder. Meg and Sam have so much history between them even if they haven’t seen each other in years. I really enjoyed seeing them reconnect with each other and also with the island community after being away for so long. It was interesting to read about how they’re both trying to figure out what they should be doing with their lives, career wise. I found their romance sweet and satisfying. By this point, the Dare Island series has hooked me and I happily succumbed to hours of pleasurable reading.

Carolina ManCarolina Man
I have liked the brief glimpses that I’ve seen of both Luke and Kate in the earlier books and I was more than happy to find out how their romance unfolds. Luke’s life suddenly changes when he gains custody of ten-year-old Taylor, a daughter he had no idea about until his high school girlfriend passes away. With family being a strong theme in the Dare Island series, it was no surprise that Luke and Kate’s story is intertwined with Taylor’s. I love how Taylor instantly becomes Luke’s number one priority the moment he finds out about her. I also liked how Kate develops a relationship not just with Luke but also with Taylor. All three – Luke, Kate and Taylor – have been through difficult situations and I wanted things to work out for them. What I appreciated about this book was that even if the characters have carried heavy burdens, the story never gets too dark. There’s a nice balance of grief and sorrow vs. hope and happiness. I think that applies to the other books in the series too.

Carolina BluesCaroline Blues
Caroline Blues is the first book in the series where the main characters aren’t part of the Fletcher family. It’s still set in the same town and both Jack and Lauren know the family well so we still see a lot of them in this installment. Jack and Lauren are new to the island – with Jack just settling in as Chief of Police and Lauren taking a much-needed break to restart her writing. I liked seeing Dare Island from their points of view, which is different from how locals see it. Their romance is a bit tentative, with both of them trying to keep things casual at the start but eventually developing deeper feelings for each other. Similar to the earlier books in the series, Caroline Blues is a heartwarming romance about two flawed characters set in cozy Dare Island.

I gobbled up the whole series in one weekend, that’s how much I enjoyed reading Virginia Kantra’s writing. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, Carolina Dreaming, which will be released sometime this year. Recommended for fans of contemporary romance set in small towns, similar to books by Liza Palmer (especially Nowhere But Home) and Sarah Addison Allen.


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Ivy League Series by Diana Peterfreund

Secret Society Girl and seal

Photo taken using Instagram.

I hereby confess, Diana Peterfreund’s Ivy League series is not for me. It pains me to make this confession since this is a new adult series that has been highly recommended by several friends. I wanted to love it as much as they seemed to, but unfortunately, I just couldn’t relate to all the secret society drama. I felt that all the Rose and Grave issues were petty and I wanted the characters to focus on more important things. As a result, I wasn’t invested in the characters as much as I would have liked. When I was reading the first book, I thought Amy’s voice was funny and I was also curious about her love interest but those weren’t enough to sustain my interest. I read the first three books in the series and skimmed the last one just to find out what happened in the end. Even though I didn’t fall in love with the series, I’m glad I finally gave it a try since I’ve been curious about it for a while now. We can’t all like the same books so I would still recommend this to fans of books with a college setting or readers who find secret societies intriguing. Personally, I enjoyed Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Series a lot more.

Reading order for the Ivy League series by Diana Peterfreund:
Secret Society Girl
Under the Rose
Rites of Spring Break
Tap and Gown


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The Ivy Years by Sarina Bowen

I was chatting with my good friend Angie about books recently and she mentioned that the Ivy Years by Sarina Bowen is pretty good. Here’s the tweet where she recommends them:

Since this series has Angie’s stamp of approval, further evidenced by her glowing review of The Year We Hid Away, I read the books as soon as I could.

recommended by Angie

An image created by fellow YAcker Laura

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve tried ice skating (obviously it’s not common in sunny Manila or Singapore) and what I know of hockey is basically what I’ve seen on the Mighty Ducks movies when I was young. But I think it’s a fun sport, even if I’m not familiar with it, so that’s one aspect of the series that I enjoyed reading about. Another thing that I really liked was the fictional Ivy League college setting of the book. I loved my college years and it makes me happy to read about characters who are at that stage in their lives. So far, the only books that have a college setting that have made a positive impact on me are Easy by Tamarra Webber and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Now I can add Sarina Bowen’s books to that (short) list.

The Year We Fell Down and tea

The Year We Fell Down and TWG’s Grand Wedding tea

The Year We Fell Down

I started The Year We Fell Down late one night and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to get into the story. I stayed up late and was able to read a good chunk of it, but had to eventually go to bed and get some sleep because I had work the next day. For a novel that has a main character who was recently in an accident, The Year We Fell Down didn’t have as much angst as I was expecting. I really liked Corey and sympathized with the situation she found herself in – to suddenly have lost the function of her legs is brutal for someone who has always wanted a career in sports. I feel like she handles her issues well in spite of all the difficult adjustments that she has to make in her life. At first, she mostly interacts with her roommate Dana and their neighbor Hartley, but eventually she starts exploring her options and expanding her circle. I really enjoyed reading about how she takes charge of her life. I liked the slow burn romance between Corey and Hartley and how it started with the two of them hanging out as friends. Hartley is a great guy but he has his own problems to deal with and I felt that it took a while for him to work through them. He was being quite dense for a while there. I also felt like the build-up of their relationship was much better than the final few chapters of the book. It’s still an enjoyable read overall but I think the other books in the series are stronger than this installment.

The Year We Hid Away

The Year We Hid Away

Oh boy! Bridger and Scarlet sure have some pretty serious problems in their lives and none of it is their fault. Both are caught in difficult situations because of their parents. Bridger and Scarlet are just doing the best that they can and taking things one day at a time. Bridger doesn’t even have room in his life for a relationship and he doesn’t plan to get involved with Scarlet but they just click and become friends anyway. It’s a very realistic college development: how they hang out during lunch, walk to classes together and study together. It’s funny that these two are both hockey players but they don’t even bond over the game because they both have their reasons for not joining the varsity team this season. That’s one thing that I wish we got to see more of, it would have been nice if they got to spend some time together on the ice. I’m glad we got to see more of Bridger than how he was shown in the first book, basically a player who parties hard. There’s really so much more to him than that and it’s amazing how he copes with everything that’s going on with his life. I really liked Scarlet and could understand her need to move away from her parents and get a fresh start in college. Bridger and Scarlet are pretty similar in the sense that they felt like they had to deal with their problems on their own, so I liked seeing them rely on each other as their relationship developed. I was hoping to see more of Hartley and Corey in this installment but Bridger was actively distancing himself from his friends because he didn’t want to burden them with his problems. But that’s a minor issue that I had with the book and I was fully absorbed from start to finish. I was happy with how things worked out towards the end.

Blonde Date and granola

Blonde Date and breakfast (granola with almond milk)

Blonde Date

Blonde Date is different from the rest of the books in the series because it’s a novella that occurs in between books 2 and 3 and has nothing to do with hockey. If you read The Year We Hid Away, you already know how Blonde Date will end. I enjoyed this quick read because it features secondary characters from the second book. Andy was such a nice guy and was a huge help to Bridger so I liked seeing him in the limelight. He really deserved to get a date with a girl he’s been crushing on. It was also nice to see that there was Katie had more depth than was initially depicted in the earlier book. Short and sweet, Blonde Date was a fun read that had its funny moments (e.g. Andy’s internal monologue).

The Understatement of the Year and green tea brioche

The Understatement of the Year and green tea brioche

The Understatement of the Year
Rikker and Graham! Oh my goodness, these two boys have such a bittersweet romance. So much history between the two of them. And then so much tension when they meet again a few years after they’ve parted ways. I wanted to hug these two and tell them that everything will be all right. I love that Sarina Bowen chose to do something different by bringing in an M/M romance in a series that has earlier M/F novels. I found it fascinating to read two different perspectives in this novel: Rikker who is openly gay vs. Graham who has hidden deep inside the closet. It’s funny that the situations they find themselves in are so different and yet they’re both so isolated and lonely. Rikker struggles with being accepted and recognized as a part of the hockey team and also has to deal with being a transfer student. Graham can’t even figure out whether he’s straight or gay and therefore, can’t really be true to himself, his friends or his family. He tries to numb himself with as much alcohol as he can take the moment Rikker enters the scene because he has no idea what to do. To be honest, there were moments when Graham was being frustratingly difficult but I forgive him because he has reasons for being like that and he really is sweet and loyal in his own way. I was a little nervous while reading their story because I really wanted things to work out for them. They’ve already had enough heartbreak in their lives and they deserve to have some happiness. I liked that the story didn’t just revolve around these two guys but also involved their teammates (Hartley was a steady presence in this one), their friends and their family. I loved Graham’s mom, Rikker’s grandma, their mutual friend Bella and even Rikker’s ex Skippy. It was a pleasure reading about Rikker and Graham and their story stayed with me days after I finished the book. A solid installment in a series that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.

___________

These books are companion novels and can stand well enough on their own. Some characters overlap but I don’t think one book spoils any of the others. If anything, I wanted the books to be more closely tied together – to see all of the characters hang out and be good friends to each other because they all deserve to have trustworthy friends who will stand up for them. I feel like Sarina Bowen has a knack for writing about characters in messy situations, with more serious problems on top of the usual ones that a regular college student would have. I always root for her characters and I’m more than satisfied with how their problems are resolved. The Ivy Years is a really good series and I’ve been recommending it left and right, definitely one of my favorite discoveries this year. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, I heard it’s going to be about Bella, who was a pretty important character in The Understatement of the Year. Good to know she’ll be getting her own story!


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The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand

Apparently I’ve had a draft of a review for The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand sitting in my dashboard for the past few months. I dusted it off and tweaked it just in time for Amour et Florand this weekend. It’s always a pleasure to read a book by one of your favorite authors. The Chocolate Temptation is part of the Amour et Chocolat series and the books can be read out of order because they stand well enough on their own. However, the characters in The Chocolate Temptation were earlier featured in The Chocolate Heart so I think it would be a good idea to read the latter first. I was intrigued by Patrick in The Chocolate Heart so I’m delighted that he got his own book.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The Chocolate TemptationShe hated him.
Patrick Chevalier. The charming, laid-back, golden second-in-command of the Paris pastry kitchen where Sarah worked as intern, who made everything she failed at seem so easy, and who could have every woman he winked at falling for him without even trying. She hated him, but she’d risked too much for this dream to give up on it and walk out just so he wouldn’t break her heart.

But he didn’t hate her.
Sarah Lin. Patrick’s serious, dark-haired American intern, who looked at him as if she could see right through him and wasn’t so impressed with what she saw. As her boss, he knew he should leave her alone. The same way he knew better than to risk his heart and gamble on love.

But he was never good at not going after what – or who – he wanted.

He could make magic out of sugar. But could he mold hate into love?

Out of all the Amour et Chocolat novels, The Chocolate Temptation stands out because one of the main characters is a female pastry chef. I know how male-dominated the industry is since I have a cousin abroad who works in that field, so it’s pretty interesting to get a better idea of what things are like from Sarah’s point of view. I think Sarah is a great character. I love how brave she is in terms of changing career paths. She’s an intelligent person, with an engineering degree from Caltech. She could have been living comfortably in the States while working as an engineer and yet she chooses to throw that away to pursue a culinary career. I admire her guts and her passion for what she feels is the right path for her. Patrick is also very passionate about being a pastry chef. He was once a foster child but he has risen to the top of the culinary ladder and is now one of the best pastry chefs in Paris. I liked Patrick’s easygoing nature and how he’s constantly being likened to a beach bum/surfer guy. What a contrast to the demanding and hectic workplace that they thrive in. He also has a terrific sense of humor, which he uses to relieve the pressure that everyone feels in their work environment. I also loved the dynamics between his relationship with Luc, especially after getting Luc’s POV from The Chocolate Heart.

Sarah thinks of herself as the lowly intern and she obviously looks up to Patrick as her mentor. Being attracted to each other, without knowing what the other person is feeling, gives their relationship tension that stretches out over the months of Sarah’s internship. They both feel that liking the other person is inappropriate – since Patrick is essentially one of Sarah’s bosses – and yet they can’t help feeling that way. I loved this bit of comparison of their romance to their creations:

“This thing between them was like this beautiful fairytale of a dessert constructed out of work and caution and risk and whimsy. Leaping and twirling, full of color and taste, a wrong breath could break it. And yet night after night, in the kitchens, they made such fragile magics and waiters got that fragility all the way to the tables they were meant for.”

Such a beautiful way of describing what began as a tentative romance that slowly developed into something deeper. Given how passionate they are about their work, it’s not surprising how strong their feelings are for each other. I’m not usually a fan of workplace romance but Laura Florand handles it so well. I had such a lovely time reading about Sarah and Patrick – from how they started getting to know each other outside the workplace to how much they’re willing to sacrifice to make the other person happy. At this point, I feel like I’m a broken record because I keep recommending Laura Florand’s books. But that’s only because they’re SO GOOD. Go forth and read them.


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It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

I love Julie James‘ books. They’re just so much fun to read with all the banter between the male and female leads. It’s so comforting to curl up with one of her books because they read like a favorite chick flick. Something that fills you up with good vibes. I had known about It Happened One Wedding months before it came out and I read it as soon as I could get my hands on a copy. I was supposed to do some things one Friday night but I just couldn’t stop reading so I gave in and stayed up late to finish the book.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

It Happened One WeddingSHE KNOWS BETTER THAN TO SAY “I DO”

After a humiliating end to her engagement, investment banker Sidney Sinclair is done with commitment-phobic men. But when her sister winds up engaged after a whirlwind courtship, she’s thrown in to close contact with exactly the kind of sexy playboy she wants to avoid — the gorgeous best man. She’s stuck with him, for better or worse, until her sister walks down the aisle, but that doesn’t mean she has to give in to his smooth advances, no matter how tempting they are…

BUT HE MAKES IT HARD TO SAY “I DON’T”

Special Agent Vaughn Roberts always gets his man on the job and his woman in bed. So Sidney’s refusal to fall for his charms only makes him more determined to win over the cool and confident redhead. Only what starts out as a battle of wills ends up as a serious play for her heart. Because the one woman who refuses to be caught may be the only one Vaughn can’t live without…

Julie James’ contemporary romance novels are consistently funny. Several scenes had me smiling or laughing while I was reading them. Sidney and Vaughn verbally spar while they keep denying that they’re attracted to each other. Aside from their banter, I also enjoyed how their friends – Sidney’s best friend Trish and Vaughn’s best friends Cade and Huxley – tease them and give them a hard time. Here’s a snippet that I really liked:

“What was that?” Trish demanded to know, in a hushed tone.

Sidney tried to play innocent. “What was what?”

“That look between you and Vaughn,” Trish said. “I can’t decide if you two should box a few rounds or go screw each other brainless in the pantry.”

“My god, Trish – his mother is standing right over there.”

“In that case, I’d strongly suggest locking the pantry door should you choose option B.”

I think it’s great that the focus of the story isn’t just on Sidney and Vaughn but also on how they interact with their family and friends. I’ve noticed that this is something that’s also present in her other novels. I really liked that the plot revolved around the wedding, where both Sidney and Vaughn played major roles as maid-of-honor and best man. I think weddings are fun so I like reading stories about them. If there’s one minor thing that I can complain about Julie James’ books, it’s that all of her heroes and heroines might seem a bit too perfect – amazingly good-looking with really successful careers. But that’s not a big issue for me since the characters in her stories are fully fleshed out, complete with insecurities and problems so I feel like that balances the scale. In It Happened One Wedding, Sidney feels pressured to find Mr. Right because she’s worried that her biological clock is ticking. I also feel like Julie James does her research when it comes to providing background information on her characters’ occupations. While I’ve never worked in investment banking or private equity firms (or the FBI, for that matter), I’m familiar with some aspects of Sidney’s job and the descriptions felt realistic. I felt a bit lost after reading It Happened One Wedding because I enjoyed it so much. I couldn’t decide what to read next because frankly, I just wanted another Julie James novel. Can’t wait for the next one to come out next year! It will be interesting to see who the lead for that will be.

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