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Better At Weddings Than You Blog Tour: Food Inspiration

Mina V. Esguerra is a prolific Filipino romance author and the founder of #romanceclass, a community of Filipino romance authors who publish books independently. I have featured her books and her writing countless times here on my blog, and I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for her latest release: Better At Weddings Than You. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I need to work on a review to share more of my thoughts about it. Aside from romance books, one thing that Mina and I share is our love of food! I noticed that Better At Weddings Than You had references to some restaurants and certain dishes, and I thought it would be a great topic for a guest post. I hope this guest post will make you curious enough to read the book when it comes out, and also to try the food mentioned here! 🙂

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Food Inspiration: As featured in Better At Weddings Than You
by Mina V. Esguerra

My books are not about food, but they may as well be. I write contemporary romance but I also love food… and I keep talking about it. Especially when I’m writing anything set in the Philippines. With Better At Weddings Than You, the premise that the main characters Daphne and Aaron worked in the wedding industry formed the “menu” for this book. Here’s a selection and the real-life counterparts!

  • Christmas Eve dinner (Real thing: Spiral Restaurant at Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel)

My favorite part. Picking out desserts! One whole day sa treadmill.

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Daphne and Aaron meet over Christmas Eve dinner at a fancy hotel restaurant by the Manila Bay, and if you’re familiar with the area it’s an easy guess that it might actually be Spiral Restaurant at the Sofitel. If you know me at all, then you’d be sure — I adore the large restaurant, the seafood, salads, meats, and the cheese room.

  • Tea shop meeting (Real things: Rustic Mornings and TWG)

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So the tea shop I describe in an early chapter of the book doesn’t actually exist (that I know of) but it’s based on the many small restaurants popping up in the city. It would have a look similar to Rustic Mornings by Isabelo in Marikina, but with a tea list that would remind you of a page from the menu of TWG. Just a page, because TWG of Singapore’s full menu would be too much for a quaint neighborhood tea place!

  • Caterer Food Tasting scene (Real thing: K by Cunanan)

How do you choose your caterer for your wedding? You taste their food. While planning my own wedding I (seriously) sampled the menus of three caterers, and one of the visits kind of went like the scene in my book. K by Cunanan is one caterer you’d encounter in the industry, and they did our wedding. We loved the food and their reception venue styling.

  • Chicharon salad (Real thing: Chef Sharwin Tee’s Tempura Bacon Salad)

In one scene, Daphne gets to reveal something about herself and I get to describe a decadent salad. Everything I said about the salad is directly from a food memory – of eating my friend Sharwin’s Tempura Bacon Salad at his restaurant. I replaced the bacon with chicharon though. If you can make this salad happen, let me know! I think it works well with a fruit vinaigrette, by the way.

Believe it or not, I had to edit this list so I don’t go on and on. Thank you, Chachic, for giving me the space on your blog! Better At Weddings Than You comes out April 15 and its Amazon link is here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XKS8Y1T

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Book Description:
Daphne Cardenas is the best wedding planner around, and everyone knows it. That’s why her friend Greg hired her as an emergency replacement one month before his wedding—because he fears his fiancée Helen is falling for the guy they first hired for the job.

Aaron Trinidad is new to the wedding industry but years of conference planning and loads of charm make him good at it. Really good at it. Planning the wedding of his friend Helen should be easy, and it is. To be unceremoniously fired isn’t good for his new career, but the chance to learn from the best might be the silver lining.

Aaron and Daphne have chemistry, but there’s history with Helen that at least one other person considers a threat. Who’s the planner who can fix this impending disaster?

(Part of the Chic Manila series, but can be read as a standalone.)

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National Book Store’s #ReadOutLoudChallenge

National Book Store, the most popular bookstore in the Philippines, is hosting a #ReadOutLoudChallenge. They are inviting every reader to post a video on Facebook or Instagram, reading a few lines from their favorite books, using the mentioned hashtag. For every 75 videos posted, they will help build one public school library. The goal is to reach 75,000 videos. This is a pretty big deal since I’ve talked about how public libraries aren’t very common (nor are they well-supplied) so anything that would help promote reading in the country is a good thing. Anyone can join! Just make sure your post is visible to the public. If you do decide to join, please feel free to send me a link. 🙂

National Book Store ReadOutLoudChallenge

My entry is posted on Instagram and linked below. For those of you who are wondering how my name is pronounced or what my voice sounds like, you can check out my video. Good thing I have a friend who knows her way around shooting and editing videos because I wouldn’t have been able to do come up with something this professional looking otherwise. We did it in one take though, so it’s not super polished. It’s probably obvious that I’m sitting in my desk at work, with my mini lomo wall as the background. As always, it feels a little weird seeing myself on video. 😛

@nbsalert's #ReadOutLoudChallenge accepted! I was challenge by @fantaghiro23 to participate - for every 75 videos posted, National Bookstore will help set up a library in a public school, and the goal is to reach 7,500 videos!📚📖 I've mentioned more than once that the Philippines doesn't have good public libraries, so any initiative that helps give children access to books is awesome. I read from one of my favorite @minavesguerra books, Learning to Fall, which has a book blogger heroine.💖 I challenge everyone to do this because more videos means more libraries! But I specifically challenge @dementedchris @alexalovesbooks @bookthingo. . . Special thanks to multimedia expert @karen_mrsg for shooting this video! 🙌 . . . #NationalBookstore #readoutloud #reading #bookblogger #booknerd #bibliophile #IGbooks #bookstagram #bookworm #instabooks #romance #romanceclass #LearningtoFall #MinaVEsguerra

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I know I keep apologizing for not being more active on WordPress lately, but there’s just so much going on in real life that I can’t keep up! Happy to report that I’m still plugged into the book blogosphere through Twitter, Litsy (username: Chachic), and Instagram because I have all of those on my smartphone. Click here, here, here, here, and here, to see some samples of my posts on Litsy, where you’ll be able to see that I’ve learned to utilize scrapbook embellishments in my books pics. So even if I’m not on WordPress a lot, I hope I still get to see all of you in all those other channels. 🙂


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Favorite Literary Couples VII

I’m aliiiiiive! Some of you might be wondering why I haven’t been posting lately but real life has been taking up most of my time, and honestly whenever I have some free time, all I want to do is read (or take a nap). I have been on Litsy A LOT (username: Chachic) because that’s easier to update on my phone than WordPress. But I wouldn’t want to miss this yearly post! I’m here to present a list that has become one of my blog traditions. Every year on Valentine’s Day, I post a list of fictional couples I’ve loved from books that I’ve read in the previous year. You can check out posts from years past through these links: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016. Whoa, how awesome is it that this is the eighth edition of this post? I’m so glad I’ve been able to keep it up.

I will be inserting some of my bookstagrams below, and the captions are automatically displayed… some of them aren’t applicable anymore (e.g. I posted a pic before I read the book) so please feel free to ignore them.

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Lily and Luc from Pretty Face by Lucy Parker – I’m cheating a bit with this one because it hasn’t been released yet but I’m grateful I was approved for an early copy. Lucy Parker was in my list last year so I knew I would enjoy her latest romance, and I wasn’t disappointed. I loved how she was able to portray such a strong connection between Lily and Luc in spite of their age gap and the obstacles in their way. They just understood each other, they have the kind of relationship that you’d want for yourself. It was just so much fun reading about them. The West End setting was another aspect that I enjoyed, and of course I loved that Lily is a reader as shown by this passage:

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Malorie and Tristan from A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand – All of the books in Laura’s La vie en Roses have been a delight to read and A Crown of Bitter Orange is no exception. Aside from the strong sense of place, Laura just makes scents and textures leap off the page. Malorie and Tristan were both secretly infatuated with each other while growing up and it was funny that they both had no idea. I liked the contrast between their personalities, their work/passion and the way they think… and also how well they knew each other even though they’re so different. They admired each other not because they don’t recognize the other person’s flaws, but because they could see past those to what makes them the person they are. I’m not sure I’m making any sense here but they really just saw each other clearly. As always, I enjoyed the Rosier family dynamics and absolutely can’t wait for the next installment in this series.

A new Laura Florand is always something to be happy about. She's one of my favorite romance authors. I've loved all of the other titles in her La vie en Roses series set in Grasse, France, featuring a family in the perfume business. I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy this one too. I couldn't resist taking a pic of A Crown of Bitter Orange with this bottle of orange blossom EDT (I bought the cologne version). Maybe I should have done this for Once Upon a Rose and A Wish Upon Jasmine too? 📖🌹 FYI, Once Upon a Rose is on sale for just 0.99usd now. Such a good bargain! . . . #LauraFlorand #ACrownofBitterOrange #LavieenRoses #romance #bookblogger #reviewcopy #bookstagram #instabooks #bibliophile #IGreads #IGbooks #booksPH #Litsy #ChristineLhuillierParfumerie #fragrance #perfume

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Iris and Gio from Iris After the Incident by Mina V. Esguerra – Filipino romance (#romanceclass) at its finest! I have been reading and actively promoting Mina’s books ever since I discovered her writing way back in 2010. I think it’s amazing how she’s been exploring and growing in her writing. I think this one has such a unique and intriguing premise, with a plot that I thought was a brave choice for a Philippine setting. Iris and Gio both have painful experiences that have shaped and scarred them, and I felt that their romance and their issues were handled thoughtfully. I’m purposefully being vague because I don’t want to share any spoilers!

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Lila and Kell from A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – These books are awesome and the romance(s) are not the central part of the story but of course, I enjoyed reading about them! I loved Lila and Kell’s interactions right from start, from trying to one-up each other to slowly realizing that maybeee what they feel for the other person goes beyond friendship (or unwilling partnership?). Some of the best scenes in the books were the ones where they were together (even better when Rhy and Alucard were also there). I’m so glad the third book will be out soon because I need to know what happens next! These two seriously deserve all the happiness they can get so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for them.

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Jess and Mitch from Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar – I’m basically just going to quote my own review: “I seriously could not get enough of Jess and Mitch! I loved all of their interactions, and I kept waiting for scenes that had the two of them together. I’m normally not a fan of drama in a romance but everything that Jess and Mitch went through felt necessary. They needed to experience all of it to grow and develop both individually and as a couple. I wouldn’t call their romance slow burn because sparks fly the moment they meet and they do act on it, but the depth in their relationship is earned the hard way. Also, I thought it was really cute that their family and friends were invested in their relationship.”

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Runners-up for the past year are:
Jess and Blake from Good Boy by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
Daniel and Rex from In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish
Cat and Griffin from A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
Martise and Silhara from Master of Crows by Grace Draven
Catherine and Andrew from Ruined by Sarah Vaughn and Sarah Searle in the Fresh Romance graphic novel anthology (is there any news about the next volume??)

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I feel like I read a lot of romance and even the fantasy novels I’m usually into have some sort of love story in them, but when the time comes for me to round up my list like this, I keep thinking I WANT MORE. 😀 What about you, who are your favorite fictional couples from books that you’ve read within the previous year? Are you planning to do anything special for Valentine’s Day? It’s going to be a regular work day for me but I’m hoping I’ll have time to read a good romance after work. 🙂 Also hoping I won’t be too sleepy in the office because I stayed up late to work on this post. Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! ❤


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Holiday Book Haul

I think I may be allergic to the office. I went back to work on Tuesday and then I got a fever and a sore throat that evening. I kept going to the office and just slept as early as I can at night but I lost my voice yesterday evening so today, I gave in and went to the doctor to get a medical certificate so I could take the rest of the day off to rest.

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While I was able to take a nap this afternoon, I wasn’t able to get any reading done. In fact, I should be getting ready for bed now but I wanted to squeeze in a quick post about my book haul during the holiday season. The order is kind of a mess but these were the books I acquired:

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Last Friday's brunch meet up with Filipino readers and authors: Celina, Chris, Mina, Honey and Kim

Brunch meet up with Filipino readers and authors: Celina, Chris, Mina, Honey and Kim

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Some other books I bought/downloaded for free, but were only posted on Litsy and not Instagram so I can’t embed them here:
Dark Horse by Michelle Diener
The Future Chosen by Mina V. Esguerra
Big Rock by Lauren Blakely
The Art of Deception by Stephanie Burgis
Alex + Ada Volume 3 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

I was also very excited to receive these review copies of my anticipated books:

Not my usual bookstagram, I initially posted this on Litsy then Ilona Andrews herself shared retweeted my tweet about this so I thought might as well share it here: I'm a small time blogger so I rarely get approved for review copies. It was such a surprise when I got approved for an advanced copy of White Hot! It was like receiving a Christmas present. Devoured it, loved it, got a book hangover. I didn't want to leave the world so I went back and reread Burn for Me (again). One of my favorite reads in 2017, full review closer to the release date.💖📖 . . . #WhiteHot #IlonaAndrews #HiddenLegacy #BurnForMe #AvonBooks #romance #urbanfantasy #bookhangover #bookblogger #reviewcopy #bookstagram #instabooks #bibliophile #IGreads #IGbooks #Litsy

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A new Laura Florand is always something to be happy about. She's one of my favorite romance authors. I've loved all of the other titles in her La vie en Roses series set in Grasse, France, featuring a family in the perfume business. I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy this one too. I couldn't resist taking a pic of A Crown of Bitter Orange with this bottle of orange blossom EDT (I bought the cologne version). Maybe I should have done this for Once Upon a Rose and A Wish Upon Jasmine too? 📖🌹 FYI, Once Upon a Rose is on sale for just 0.99usd now. Such a good bargain! . . . #LauraFlorand #ACrownofBitterOrange #LavieenRoses #romance #bookblogger #reviewcopy #bookstagram #instabooks #bibliophile #IGreads #IGbooks #booksPH #Litsy #ChristineLhuillierParfumerie #fragrance #perfume

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When I woke up this morning, I saw the notification that @berkleyromance approved my NetGalley request for Julie James' latest novel. Thank you!!📖🎉 One of my most anticipated titles in 2017 because she writes the best romantic banter.💖 I'm always surprised (in a good way) whenever I'm approved for a review copy because as an international reader/blogger, my default expectation is to be rejected.😂 @fantaghiro23, we were just talking about this book yesterday! . . . #JulieJames #TheThingAboutLove #BerkleyRomance #romance #bookblogger #reviewcopy #bookstagram #instabooks #bibliophile #IGreads #IGbooks #booksPH #Litsy #NetGalley #Kindle #bookandlunch #CafeBreton #cafehopping #foodstagram #Manilafoodie #foodieManila

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I feel like this moment of my book blogging experience should be highlighted because I have review copies by my favorite authors: Ilona Andrews, Andrea K. Host, Julie James, Laura Florand and Lucy Parker! 🙂 I’ve already read White Hot and In Arcadia (short review on Litsy) but I’m having a difficult time choosing which one to prioritize among the remaining three. Now I just need Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner and The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein and I’ll be all set. 😀

I was also able to pass on some of the physical books that I have in my Manila bookshelf to friends when we had a get together. I really feel bad that my books have just been sitting neglected on my shelf and they’re aging fast because of heat and humidity. I feel better that they’re now with people who would potentially enjoy reading them. I think I’ve culled like half of my bookshelf back home, I’ve mostly kept signed books and the ones that I plan to reread.

I hope this post wasn’t too confusing with its mix of Instagram and Litsy links. As you can see, I’ve tried to be active on other social media sites but I know it’s also a good idea to consolidate all of those posts here on WordPress. I’m off to rest! What about you, have you received or bought any books recently? 🙂


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Cover Reveal: Iris After the Incident by Mina V. Esguerra

Iris After the Incident is the latest book in Mina V. Esguerra’s Chic Manila series, and will be released on August 5. These are books set in the Philippines that have some overlaps (e.g. cameos of characters) but each can be read on its own. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, then you know that I’m a strong supporter of Mina’s books. My reviews of her Chic Manila books can be found here, and all my other posts about her books can be found here. The cover for Iris After the Incident was just released today! Cover design by Tania Arpa, photography by Pach R. Urrea and features one of the shots from #romanceclasscovers. I think it’s awesome how Mina keeps trying to properly represent her characters through her book covers. She has partnered with Filipino fashion bloggers for some of her other covers, and the photo for Iris After the Incident was from a shoot specifically intended for Asian/Filipino book covers. How cool is that? I really like the simple and clean design of this cover, and it seems like the photo matches the book description well. The cover makes Iris look like she’s at a turning point in her life. I still need to read the book to find out if the cover is a good fit for the story… looking forward to it!

Iris After the Incident

Which moment has defined your life so far?

Whether she likes it or not, Iris’s life has been divided into two: Before the Incident, and After the Incident. Something very private was made very public, and since then life has been about recovering from being shamed, discovering her true friends, and struggling to find a new normal.

Two years into this new life and she finally connects with a guy again. He lives in the apartment down the hall, he’s hot, and he doesn’t look at her that way. He doesn’t know what happened. But he also won’t give her his name, not right away—which has to mean he’s got something to hide too.

Iris wants to start over. Should she do that with the only person who will understand, or is this the same idiotic decision that got her in trouble in the first place?

Social media sites for Mina:
Website
Twitter
Instagram
Facebook
#romanceclass


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#romanceclass Meet Up at Books and Borders

According to the group’s website, #romanceclass are Filipinos who read and write romance and publish them independently. I know a few of the members through my blog and I’ve been jealous of all the meet-ups and activities that they’ve been having on a regular basis. Which was why I was thrilled to find out that there was going to be a meet up during the time I’m on vacation in Manila. We met last May 21 at the Books and Borders branch in Tomas Morato. A book cafe is the perfect location for a meet up with romance readers and authors. Here’s a picture of the cafe from my previous visit:

Book and Borders - tables

Book and Borders - couch

We talked about books, of course. From romance to everything else that we’ve read or we’re planning to read. We talked about the type of romances and type of heroes we like. And we also talked about the most random things, just anything that we could think of. We also passed around books and swag that we wanted to pass on to fellow readers. Being based in Singapore, I don’t get to attend bookish meet ups like this as often as I would want to, so I was somewhat starved for that kind of conversation. I think it goes without saying that I had a great time! Here’s a group picture from Kat of Book Thingo:

romanceclass meet up - May 2016

From left to right: Agay, Chris, Kim, Anna, Kat, Mina, Jothee, Tina, Ron and me. We all look like we’re having fun, right? My haul included signed books, a magazine, bookmarks, postcards, shortbread and Philippine MANGOES! Thank you for the goodies, friends. 🙂

#romanceclass - May 2016 haul

I also just wanted to share the awesomeness that is the back cover of Choco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera, which includes a quote from my review of the book:

Choco Chip Hips - back copy

Too bad it’s a limited indie edition and there probably wouldn’t be more copies of it. I bought three to give to my friends! 😀


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Favorite Literary Couples VII

A few days ago, I posted a list of some of my favorite couples from non-romance books. Today, I’m back to present a list that has become one of my blog traditions. Every year on Valentine’s Day, I post a list of fictional couples I’ve loved from books that I’ve read in the previous year. You can check out posts from years past through these links: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. I’m a bit surprised that this is the seventh version of this list, it doesn’t feel like I’ve been blogging that long! Well, that’s a good thing, right? That means it still hasn’t gotten old for me and I’m having fun. 😀


Image from We Heart It

Steph and Grayson from Learning to Fall by Mina V. Esguerra – Filipino romance represent! How can I not love #TeamStayson? Book blogger heroine who’s also an artist but is clueless about what she wants to do with her life, of course I can totally relate to her. Add in a hot rugby player as her hero and I’m one happy reader. This has also been one of my favorite titles to give as a gift to blogging buddies because 1) it’s written by a Filipino author and 2) it has a book blogger (on hiatus) MC.

Lainie and Richard from Act Like It by Lucy Parker – 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. Plus it has a theater setting and I’m a big fan of musicals. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one, and I couldn’t wait to see what Lucy Parker would write next.

Jess and Damien from A Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand – I am huge Laura Florand fangirl and I love her La vie en Roses series a tiny bit more than her Amour et Chocolat books. I don’t know how Laura does it but she achieves the perfect balance between strength and vulnerability in her characters. I love how Jess and Damien present a tough persona to the rest of the world, but they let their guard down around each other. As always, I also loved the Provence setting of the book and hints of a fairy tale within the story.

Agnieszka and Sarkan from Uprooted by Naomi Novik – I was blown away by the amazing storytelling in Uprooted and it reminded me of some of my favorite authors like Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier and Diana Wynne Jones. I really enjoyed the development of Agnieszka and Sarkan’s relationship. Sarkan started as a reluctant mentor, and through their various adventures together, he gradually respects and admires Agnieszka. I’m delighted to have discovered another fictional couple in a non-romance book to love. I need to find more of those!

Petey and Finn from Bone Gap by Laura Ruby – Bone Gap was one of my favorite reads last year and while I haven’t written a review for it, I would enthusiastically recommend it to any fantasy or fairy tale retelling fan. I don’t think I’ve read anything like it. Laura Ruby’s writing is definitely unique. I loved the slow burn romance between two complex characters, Petey and Finn, who deserved all the love that they could get.

Runners-up for the past year are:
Skylar and Josh from I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios
Hannah and Garrett from The Deal by Elle Kennedy
Ellie and Knox from Sacked by Jen Frederick
Amy and Dax from Sleeping with Her Enemy by Jenny Holiday
The couple featured in Soppy by Philippa Rice

Who are your favorite fictional couples from books that you’ve read within the previous year? Did you do anything special this Valentine’s weekend? I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, it was just a usual Sunday for me but I did grab some nice chocolates as a treat. And I’ve been reading romance novels. 🙂 Happy Hearts Day, everyone!