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Artistic License by Elle Pierson

Act Like It by Lucy Parker surprised me with how good it was. I even included Lainie and Richard in my recent list of favorite literary couples. I immediately wanted to read more books written by the author but saw that she only had one title that was out. Then I followed her on Twitter and discovered that she self-published another book under a different name: Artistic License by Elle Pierson. To make things even better, the Kindle edition was available for free for a few days. Of course, I grabbed a copy and read it as soon as I could (also because I was gently nudged by my friend Angie).

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Artistic LicenseWhen of the world’s prestigious art collections comes to the resort town of Queenstown, New Zealand, shy art student Sophy James is immediately drawn to the pieces on display – and to the massive, silent, sexy presence keeping watch over them. She’s completely fascinated and attracted by the striking planes and angles of his unusual face, and can’t resist sneaking out her pencil when he’s not looking.

Security consultant Mick Hollister is used to women looking at his ugly mug – but not with the genuine pleasure he sees in the face of the girl with the charcoal-smudged fingers and terrible skills at covert surveillance. A security breach brings the two into fast and furious collision, and an unlikely friendship begins to blossom. And an even more unlikely – and very reluctant – love.

Introvert Sophy is content with her independence and solitude. She’s never looked for a long-term relationship, and isn’t sure she wants one now. Mick, apparently born with a face that not even a mother could love, has given up all hope of having one.

They have nothing in common. They shouldn’t even like each other. And they can’t stay away from one another.

Going by how Act Like It sucked me in, I knew I should start reading Artistic License on a weekend or I would lose a lot of sleep. I was right. I read most of the book on a Saturday and ignored everything else that I had to do (as usual, I was supposed to do some chores). I couldn’t put it down once I got in the swing of things. It was just too much fun to read about Sophy and Mick. I liked the unusual circumstances of their meeting, and how that incident brought them together. While there’s initial attraction, both of them weren’t looking for a relationship so they started off as unlikely friends. Unlikely because at first glance, it seems that they don’t have much in common. In spite of their differences, they soon realize that they’re able to read and understand each other very well. Sophy is an introvert and is painfully shy. She rarely opens up to strangers, only her family and friends truly see her bright and vibrant personality. She’s happy in her solitude and she immerses herself in her art. For some reason, she instinctively trusts Mick from the moment they meet and she quickly lets her guard down around him. Mick has a tough exterior, matched by his looks, but is really such a sweet guy. He’s had some nasty experiences in the past and definitely deserves all the friends that he could get. He needs people to back him up and stand up for him, and Sophy becomes on of those people in just a short amount of time.

I think the transition from strangers to friends to lovers felt very natural in Artistic License. Even as friends, both Sophy and Mick were wary of each other. They’re both observant types, and they were careful around the other person. I thought Sophy’s introvert nature was a huge factor in this. Also, Mick has his own reasons for not getting too close to someone else. I also think it gave their romance an unusual flavor. While I have always been classified as an extrovert, there are times when I think I’m an introverted extrovert. I could relate to Sophy needing her alone time, and trying to reconcile the idea of opening herself up enough to let another person into her life. She’s worried of what she has to give up in order to be in a relationship, even if she does want to be with that person. It is a pretty big step for anyone, especially for someone who recharges by being by herself. Mick is the perfect gentlemen in the sense that he gives Sophy all the space that she needs. I really liked that there wasn’t any unnecessary drama between them. They were honest with each other and there were no mind games. All the conflict were from external factors. There’s a dash of mystery and suspense in this story, but the focus is definitely the development of Sophy and Mick’s relationship. I really liked how the secondary characters played a part in the love story, like Mick’s best friend Sean had some fun scenes and Sophy’s mom also gave some great advice.

I also enjoyed reading about the Queenstown setting of the book. It’s a refreshing choice of setting, not the more common US or UK locations in romances. I’ve never been to New Zealand but now I want to visit it because of the descriptions in Artistic License. Seems like a great place for a vacation. The author shared this picture of the setting on Twitter:

No matter what name she writes under, I will definitely be watching out for this author’s next book. I hope one will be released sooner rather than later!


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Act Like It by Lucy Parker

Act Like It by Lucy Parker is a gem of a contemporary romance novel that I discovered when my friend Angie mentioned that it’s a good one. I found the premise intriguing and I settled down to read this book on a Saturday afternoon. Good thing I started it on a weekend because it kept me absorbed until I finished the whole book. I ignored chores and errands that I had to do because I just couldn’t stop reading.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Act Like ItThis just in: romance takes center stage as West End theatre’s Richard Troy steps out with none other than castmate Elaine Graham

Richard Troy used to be the hottest actor in London, but the only thing firing up lately is his temper. We all love to love a bad boy, but Richard’s antics have made him Enemy Number One, breaking the hearts of fans across the city.

Have the tides turned? Has English rose Lainie Graham made him into a new man?

Sources say the mismatched pair has been spotted at multiple events, arm in arm and hip to hip. From fits of jealousy to longing looks and heated whispers, onlookers are stunned by this blooming romance.

Could the rumors be right? Could this unlikely romance be the real thing? Or are these gifted stage actors playing us all?

I’m a fan of certain tropes in romance if they’re done well, and Act Like It has two of them which I really enjoyed: a pretend relationship and a brooding, arrogant, Darcy-esque male lead. Castmates Lainie and Richard are persuaded to have a fauxmance in order to boost the publicity of the play they’re in. While Lainie admires Richard’s acting abilities, she thinks he’s rude, full of himself and makes things difficult for everyone when he doesn’t get his way. And Richard doesn’t really know Lainie beyond what he sees of her during their rehearsals and performances. Like he doesn’t really think it’s worth his time to get to know her. Understandably, both of them were very, very reluctant to start a fake relationship and it was funny how awkward they were with each other at the start. Even though they’re both actors, they weren’t able to magically portray a happy couple right away. But they soon got the hang of things and for a pretend couple, they remained surprisingly honest and true to each other. There really wasn’t a lot of faking involved between these two… just a slow process of getting to know the other person and realizing that maybe they’ve been too quick to make judgments. I really liked the dialogue in this one, from snarky insults to more affectionate teasing to meaningful conversations. It really was a lot of fun seeing them interact.

As with all romance books that I truly enjoy, Act Like It is a story of two flawed characters. Both of them recognize the imperfections of the other person and yet they’re willing to accept them. Lainie was easy to like, she has a big heart and is generally a kind person. Also smart and sassy. But like I said, she’s not shown as a perfect person. It’s actually her past mistakes that come back to pester her and Richard more than once in the course of the story. She’s also very much a product of her large and loving family, and I really enjoyed seeing her relatives involved in her life. Richard is a little more difficult to root for but what really worked in this book was that it had his point of view as well. I wasn’t kept in the dark as to the thoughts running in his head. Like how it becomes obvious that he doesn’t really go out of his way to be mean to people, it’s just that he doesn’t have the patience to be nice. I believe this is the first time I’ve read a romance with a West End setting and I really enjoyed it. I felt that the author made the British theater scene come alive. I love watching musicals and it was entertaining to see the behind the scenes aspect of it. A sample of snippets that I liked:

“Occupational hazard: too much time spent amongst artificial sets, slight loss of grip on reality.”

____________

“She knew from experience that spending hours every day pretending to be someone else could become a habit difficult to break. She could go off duty, so to speak, and find herself performing the role of Lainie Graham, which could seem as artificial as any character she inhabited onstage.”

Act Like It was a pleasant surprise. It’s one of those romances that gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling, a very cozy kind of read. I wouldn’t mind rereading this again, if I ever find myself in the mood for it. I will be anxiously waiting for Lucy Parker’s next novel.


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Sleeping with Her Enemy by Jenny Holiday

I read Saving the CEO but wasn’t that impressed with it, so I wasn’t planning to read Sleeping with Her Enemy. But then I saw my good friend Brandy’s review and I decided to give it a try. It’s easy to give in when the book’s price is just USD 0.99! I’m glad I picked it up. I liked this a lot better than the first book (I’ve mostly forgotten what happened in that one).

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Sleeping with Her EnemyAmy Morrison is supposed to be at her wedding. But when her husband-to-be jilts her at the altar, a distraught Amy runs to the only place she feels safe — her office. Besides, everyone who works on her floor is at her wedding… except him. Dax Harris. Playboy, executive, and Amy’s official office enemy.

While he and Amy don’t see eye-to-eye on the best of days, Dax can’t help but feel badly when he sees Amy mid-meltdown. Next thing he knows, he’s gotten her good and drunk, and they’re making out like two teenagers. And since neither of them want anything serious, why shouldn’t they be frenemies-with-benefits? Because there is no possible way they could ever fall for each other…

The book summary makes it seem like the two MCs jumped into bed right after the girl was left at the altar but that’s not what really happened… sure, there was a lot of attraction between the two of them but they didn’t act on it until much later. They transitioned from office enemies to frenemies to friends. I really enjoyed their banter and several of the scenes made me grin. Also, I really liked that both of the MC’s families played a part in the story. I always enjoy seeing the involvement of friends and family in the couple’s lives, because that makes the romance even more realistic. Dax’s family is the best, I enjoyed all of the scenes that had his mom, dad and sister in it. While Amy’s family wasn’t as great, I’m glad they still got some page time because her relationship with them has been a big influence on her life.

I also liked the book’s setting (Toronto) and I even Googled some of the places mentioned in the book. The descriptions for Dax’s quaint and cozy house were lovely, and I thought it was pretty sweet that Amy was able to find refuge there. And yay for unnecessary drama. I think that was one of the main reasons why I enjoyed this book as much as I did. Recommended for contemporary romance fans! I’ll be interested in trying out Jenny Holiday’s other books.


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Mini Review: Soppy by Philippa Rice

Soppy by Philippa RicePosting a short review of this one because even though I enjoyed reading it, I don’t think there’s a lot that I can say about the book.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

True love isn’t always about the big romantic gestures.

Sometimes it’s about sympathizing with someone whose tea has gone cold or reading together and sharing a quilt. When two people move in together, it soon becomes apparent that the little things mean an awful lot. The throwaway moments in life become meaningful when you spend them in the company of someone you love.

SOPPY is Philippa Rice’s collection of comics and illustrations based on real-life moments with her boyfriend. From grocery shopping to silly arguments and snuggling in front of the television, SOPPY captures the universal experience of sharing a life together, and celebrates the beauty of finding romance all around us.

I’ve seen some of Philippa Rice’s illustrations online but didn’t realize that she had a book until a few weeks ago. I couldn’t resist grabbing a copy when I saw it at the bookstore. Soppy was such an adorable read. It’s not really a graphic novel but a collection of illustrations of mostly ordinary (but also very sweet) moments in a couple’s life. Some pages have dialogue while some are just artwork. Of course, my favorites are the scenes that show the couple reading together! I thought the whole book was pretty cute and I’ll probably end up browsing through it from time to time. I really liked the red, black and white color scheme used in the artwork because it goes well with the lovey dovey theme of the book.

Soppy by Philippa Rice - reading

#RelationshipGoals


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What You Wanted by Mina V. Esguerra

What You WantedAndrea and Damon first meet in the short story Wedding Night Stand, and their story continues in What You Wanted. This title is the latest in Mina V. Esguerra’s Chic Manila collection, which has romance books featuring female twenty-something professionals in Metro Manila. Not too long ago, I was also a female twenty-something working in an office in Manila so these books are fun for me to read because I can relate to them. They feel realistic, like the stories can happen to someone I know. Which was why I dove into What You Wanted sooner rather than later. I also like how Mina keeps partnering with Filipino fashion bloggers for her book covers. What You Wanted’s cover was designed by Tania Arpa, featuring fashion blogger Rhea Bue. Note to self: start posting OOTD shots so I can potentially be featured on a book cover.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

It’s the classic one-night stand: Beach wedding, bridesmaid, groom’s friend. When Andrea and Damon meet, sparks fly, and they give in to the attraction. Sounds simple, but Andrea’s still getting over someone, and Damon thought he’d be hooking up with another person that night. It could still be simple, really, if they chalk it up to a weekend tryst and move on.

But one night becomes lunch the week after, and then dinner the next weekend…and before they know it, Andrea and Damon are still together, dealing with the feelings they know they might still have for other people. How hard can it be to get exactly what you want? How do you even know what it is?

I enjoyed Andrea and Damon’s story of how they met and got together in Wedding Night Stand. I thought it was cute how they danced around their flirtation. What You Wanted is a continuation of their story and because they already got to spend a weekend together, the two of them are much more comfortable around each other. And I really liked that about them, how their sort-of-relationship felt really cozy. I liked both Andrea and Damon’s personalities and I thought they were great together. Andrea has a bit of wild side and seems like a fun person to hang out with. She likes doing spontaneous things like suddenly going off to a secluded beach hours away from the city by herself. She also tended to be flighty when it comes to relationships and the one time she was ready to become serious with someone, she got hurt pretty badly. Damon is the type of guy that seems like he has everything going for him – handsome, smart, polished and financially well-off. And yet the girl he’s been interested in for the past two years keeps dragging him along. For two people who haven’t had a stellar record in the relationship department, Andrea and Damon sure handled things well between the two of them. But maybe it’s because they tried to keep things casual – heck, it was supposed to be just a one night stand. That just kept being extended.

Like I said, I really liked how cozy Andrea and Damon were together. From how willing they were to meet the other person’s friends and family, to how Andrea kept sleeping over, to how they had their meals together, to how they kept meeting around their office area… it just felt like they were meant to be together because it seemed effortless and drama-free (when it’s just the two of them). The drama only happens when other people come into the picture. It made me root for them as a couple, and I wanted them to get over their hang ups and just be together. Overall, What You Wanted probably isn’t my favorite Mina V. Esguerra romance because while I liked Andrea and feel like I could be friends with someone like her, I couldn’t relate to her in the sense that I can’t see even a sliver of myself in her. I probably have more in common with her older sister Julie, who is more steady and acts a bit like an old maid (“manang”). Damon, however, might be one of my favorite Mina V. Esguerra heroes. He’s not perfect but even his imperfections seem appealing. Plus he loves to eat good food! Always a plus in my book.

The author’s Chic Manila books can be read as standalones but the latter books have cameos from the characters in earlier books. In What You Wanted, Damon and Andrea meet at a wedding where he’s a co-worker of the groom and she’s the sister of the bride. That was the wedding of Anton and Julie from That Kind of Guy. Damon also lives in the same condo as Ethan and Moira from Welcome to Envy Park. I think these little overlaps make it a little bit more fun to read the books because it makes the reader feel like all the characters are connected somehow. What You Wanted was an interesting addition to this collection and I’m looking forward to reading more romances set in Manila.

My reviews of the rest of the Chic Manila titles:
Wedding Night Stand Welcome to Envy Park That Kind of Guy Love Your Frenemies 2 No Strings Attached My Imaginary Ex Fairy Tale Fail 2


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Freebie Alert: Wedding Night Stand by Mina V. Esguerra

Wedding Night Stand by Mina V. Esguerra is free on Amazon now until the 17th. It’s the prequel to Mina’s upcoming Chic Manila book, What You Wanted. While this short story is a freebie, I thought it would be the perfect time to write an equally short review for it.:)

Wedding Night StandHere’s the summary from Goodreads:

A wedding, a moody bridesmaid, a man in pursuit – of someone else.

Andrea Crisostomo is no longer your Ms. Right Now, thank you very much. She’s had enough of guys who like her “free spirit” but then break up with her before things get serious. One guy in particular screwed her over so much that she now hates weddings, but she has to suck it up to attend her sister Julie’s big day.

Damon Esquibel enjoys the slow and steady chase, and it looks like his two-year pursuit of Geraldine is about to pay off. He’s at his friend Anton’s destination wedding only because of her. But then he meets the sister of the bride, who doesn’t seem to want to be there, and it’s enough to question his plans for the evening – and the rest of the weekend.

As the title and the premise suggests, Wedding Night Stand is set during a wedding a few hours away from Manila. The happy couple who tied the knot? Julie and Anton from That Kind of Guy, another book from the author’s Chic Manila series. I think it’s pretty cute how these books are loosely connected. They’re standalones but it feels like a treat whenever I see cameos of previous MCs. Also, it feels realistic because even though Metro Manila has a population of almost 12 million (according to Wikipedia), it still feels like such a small world sometimes.

I started reading Wedding Night Stand past midnight last Sunday. You might be wondering why I would start a book that late when I would have to wake up early the next day for work. That’s because I was in denial that the weekend is over. Anyway, this was the perfect choice because I was able to finish it in one go. And I didn’t have to give up that much sleeping time for it. It’s short, flirty, and steamy with just the right amount of sexual tension for two attractive individuals who happened to be assigned seats next to each other. Can I just say that Damon’s a really hot guy? Kulang na lang ng kanin. There’s also a tiny bit of sweetness in there, when the two characters side with each other after learning about the other person’s story. I picked this up, knowing that Damon and Andrea’s romance would be continued in another book. But I think it can stand well enough on its own. So grab it while it’s free!


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Loveless. Childless. Clueless. by Miren B. Flores

Loveless Childless CluelessI first found out about Loveless. Childless. Clueless. by Miren B. Flores from Filipino romance authors Mina V. Esguerra and Chris Mariano. I saw them posting about it on social media and that made me curious. Both the cover and the premise looked interesting so I decided to try a Kindle sample. I bought a copy after finishing the sample because I liked it well enough to continue.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
Standing amidst the wreckage of a fifteen-year relationship, Anna finds herself single, unmarried, childless and, at the rickety age of thirty-five, trying desperately to pick up the pieces.

There’s a lot of crying and punching, a trip or two, and a list of things to do and be to get her self back. There’s the heady scent of a (possible) spankin’ new man sparring with the memory of the boy who first captured her heart — and may have stomped all over it.

But what would she know? After all, here she is — loveless, childless, and totally, utterly clueless.

At first glance, I had a feeling I would be able to relate to this title because I am loveless, childless and clueless too (although I’m a few years younger than Anna). But more than anything, Loveless. Childless. Clueless. is a breakup book and it’s about Anna trying to pick up the pieces of her life after her fifteen-year relationship ends. It reminded me a little bit of another Filipino chick lit title Breakup Dairies by Maya O. Calica, but this book has a much more serious tone because of the age and maturity of the characters. It was easy enough to like Anna. I could understand why she chose to end such a long relationship, she could see that she and Miggy were stuck in a rut and they could see no way out of it because both of them weren’t willing to change. That kind of breakup is probably even harder to endure, because it’s not like they fell out of love. The relationship just became too much work, on top of everything else they have to face in their lives.

I thought Anna handled the moving on process well. Sure, there was some drama but it never felt like it was too much. There’s the usual crying and drinking wine and meeting up with friends. But she didn’t just wallow in her own misery. I liked how proactive she was in going after the things that she wanted to do, the things that she felt she missed out on while she was busy trying to keep her relationship afloat. It felt like she was going on mini adventures while trying to find herself. I was rooting for Anna and I wanted her to have, if not a happy ending, at least some closure. I just have a minor quibble with how she kept waffling near the end. I know how confusing her situation must be but I just wanted her to make a decision and stick with it, not go back and forth questioning whether she’s right or wrong. Anyway, there were more things to like than dislike in Loveless. Childless. Clueless. and I enjoyed the book overall. I think the writing is pretty solid and consistent, always a good thing in an indie debut novel. Non-spoilery snippets that I particularly liked, plus some pictures that I took that I think go well with the quotes:

We talk about how Paris is a city built for both lovers and loners; about how it can be both familiar and new, how she can feel like home but never get old. We talk about the museums and the gardens, the bridges and the streets, and wonder how every corner can be so darn pretty.Lomo - Montmartre

The sea is for me. I make this declaration silently, standing chest-deep in the water, staring at that point where the horizon meets the sea. I close my eyes and revel in my favorite natural sound in the world – the waves. It’s a hypnotic rhythm, a soothing rhythm, the sweetest, I’m-so-glad-I’m-alive rhythm.ScorpioLomo

A woman after my own heart! Paris was the first city in Europe that I ever visited and I will always have fond memories of it. And I can relate to how Anna describes the sea and the waves, how they soothe her and manage to give her perspective. I don’t know if that’s something that’s common to most Filipinos, having experienced the ocean and beaches throughout our lives. Like I mentioned earlier, Loveless. Childless. Clueless. has some pretty solid writing and it will be interesting to see what Miren B. Flores will write next. It makes me happy whenever I find another Filipino author to follow.

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