Monday, July 20, 2020

Isn't It Romantic?

Not Like the Movies

Kerry Winfrey
Series: Waiting for Tom Hanks, #2
Age/Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Berkley Jove
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
What happens when your life is a rom-com...but you don't even believe in true love?

Chloe Sanderson is an optimist, and not because her life is easy. As the sole caregiver for her father, who has early onset Alzheimer's, she's pretty much responsible for everything. She has no time—or interest—in getting swept up in some dazzling romance. Not like her best friend Annie, who literally wrote a rom-com that's about to premiere in theaters across America...and happens to be inspired by Chloe and Nick Velez, Chloe's cute but no-nonsense boss.

As the buzz for the movie grows, Chloe reads one too many listicles about why Nick is the perfect man, and now she can't see him as anything but Reason #2: The Scruffy-Bearded Hunk Who's Always There When You Need Him. But unlike the romance Annie has written for them, Chloe isn't so sure her own story will end in a Happily Ever After.
After her mother abandoned her, when she was a child, Chloe became the family caretaker, and also learned to rely on no one, but herself. Now, sagging under the weight of all her responsibilities, Chloe had accepted that there was no room for love or romance, yet in a strange twist of fate, her life served as the inspiration for a Hollywood rom-com which featured a happily-ever-after. With the movie premiere approaching, Chloe began to see her boss in a new light, but would she be able to combat her fears, and let love in? 

I am having so much fun reading this series. I am a rom-com lover to my core, and I adore the way Winfrey incorporates all the classic elements of the genre while also acknowledging the obvious nods to these things. I had a great time collecting all the references, and thought Winfrey did a fantastic job building them into the story. Some highlights include a lights-out-kiss, an only-one-bed night, and even a grand gesture. 

Rom-com quirks abounded, but I also found myself charmed by the wonderful and hilarious cast of characters. Reunions are always wonderful, and I loved catching up with some old "friends", but I also adored all the new additions to this world.  The D&D gang make some appearances, as do Annie and Drew, but I was also treated to Chloe's father and brother, her brother's boyfriend, and of course Chloe and Nick. 

Nick was my kind of romance hero. He came off as grumpy, and who doesn't love a grumpy hero? But he was actually quite private and kept a lot to himself. That was why his bond with Chloe was so special. Their daily yacht rock battles always made me smile, and the connection and attraction that existed between them was undeniable. Though Nick seemed gruff, he didn't hide his affection for Chloe. He was always there when she needed him and would say the loveliest and swooniest things to her. He wanted to be there to support her and encourage her. He wanted to be her partner in everything. It was those things, and many others, which made him the owner of my heart. 

Nick was gem, and I did get frustrated with Chloe as she attempted to work through her baggage. I have little patience, and part of me wanted to reach through the page and shake that woman.  There was also a part of me who understood that Chloe was protecting herself. Her mother, a person in her life, who was supposed to love and take care of her unconditionally, ABANDONED her. I couldn't fault Chloe for fearing that it could happen again. Yes, I was frustrated, but since I knew it would all work out in the end, I gave her the time she needed, and I cannot argue with the results. 

I picked up this book hoping to laugh, smile, and swoon, and all those things happened many, many times. It provided me with a perfect escape, and I hope there are more stories to tell in this world. 

I am going to leave you here with a little Yacht Rock. It was a song I hadn't heard in years, but found myself singing on an endless loop after reading this book. 

RomeAntically Challenged

Marina Adair
Series: When in Rome, #1
Age/Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Kensington Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Growing up the lone Asian in a community of WASPs, Annie has always felt out of place. Her solution? Start a family of her own. Not easy when every man she’s dated, including her ex-fiancĂ©, finds “his person” right after breaking up with Annie. Even worse than canceling the wedding eight weeks beforehand? Learning the “other woman” plans to walk down the aisle wearing her wedding gown. New plan—find a fresh, man-free start. Too bad her exit strategy unexpectedly lands her working at a hospital in Rome, Rhode Island, rather than Rome, Italy, and sharing a cabin with a big, brooding, and annoyingly hot male roommate.

Home on medical leave after covering a literally explosive story in China, investigative photojournalist Emmitt embarks on his most important assignment—cementing his place in his daughter’s life. Three men and a baby might work in the movies, but with a stepdad and devoted uncle competing for Paisley’s attention, Emmitt has lost his place at the family table. Then there’s the adorably sexy squatter in his cabin, who poses another problem, one he’d very much like to solve up close and personal. But he can’t win—Annie has sworn off men, Paisley’s gone boy crazy, and Emmitt’s estranged father reappears with a secret that changes everything.

Annie and Emmitt are about to discover love comes in many forms, and sometimes the best families are the ones we make.
Annie fled to Rome in order to put some distance between her and her former fiancee. With her track record being what it was, she had sworn off men. But when the homeowner of her rental, Emmitt, unexpectedly returned, she found herself wanting to make an exception to her no-men rule.

The synopsis for this book compares it to 27 Dresses and Three Men and a Baby, and I had no problem finding those threads in the story, but it was the focus on what-makes-a-family and feeling as if you belong that really stole my heart.

Annie was nursing a bit of a broken heart, and let me tell you, each additional detail made my heart break, more and more. She was always the woman the men dated just before they found their "soulmate", and it was easy to see why she started seeing herself as the problem. She was also dealing with a lifetime of feeling as though she never belonged. She had been adopted as an infant by white parents, and though she knew she was loved, she was always aware of her "otherness" and never quite felt like she fit in anywhere. Her time in Rome was not only filled with romance, but also with a lot of soul searching and trying to figure herself out. I loved seeing her connect with the local Vietnamese community, but I especially liked seeing her connect with Emmitt.

Emmitt was also felt a bit on the outside, and was struggling with finding his place within his family. You see, his family situation was a bit unique. He shared his daughter with two other men, thus the Three Men and a Baby parallel. Emmitt was the fun dad and was often absent due to traveling for his job. The other two were the always-home-dads, who took care of the day-to-day things. Though the arrangement had worked in the past,  Emmitt now found himself wanting more. He wanted to be a bigger part of his daughter's life, and he wanted to be seen as someone who could be more than the part-time fun guy. There was a lot more to Emmitt than I gathered from my initial impression and I really grew to love him as he worked to change the perception his family held of him.

It was a rocky start between Emmitt and Annie, when he just showed up unexpectedly. With both of them refusing to vacate the house, they were thrust into one of those forced proximity situations. This produced a LOT of fun antics and laughs, while also resulting in some fantastic tension between Emmitt and Annie. The verbal sparring was so enjoyable, and it filled my heart with joy as that sparring turned to flirting and then to more. It was wonderful watching these two find a place to belong, and I loved that they belonged there together.

This book was a delight! It had the perfect combination of warmth, humor, charm, drama, and heat. I loved the what-makes-a-family angle, and am hoping the other two dads get their own HEAs too.

**ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

Do you have a favorite "Yacht Rock" song?
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