Monday, April 29, 2024

In a Nutshell Reviews

One Last Shot
 by Betty Cayouette
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on May 7, 2024
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

A debut romance about a supermodel and a photographer with a past marriage pact who meet again ten years later on a photoshoot in Cinque Terre, Italy.

From the moment Emerson and Theo met as teenagers, they were inseparable. But just when they finally expressed their feelings to one another, they were torn apart.

Now, supermodel Emerson is nearing her twenty-eighth birthday, and she’s tired of looking for love in all the wrong places. When the calendar reminder for the marriage pact she and Theo made as teens goes off on her phone, she realizes this is it―her chance to rekindle the only romance that ever really made sense. Emerson convinces her grumpy agent to book her as the face of the fashion campaign that Theo, now a fashion photographer, is shooting. The good the campaign is being shot in ridiculously romantic Cinque Terre, Italy. The bad news? Theo might not be as happy to see her as she'd hoped.

The two embark on a four-day campaign that tests not only their feelings, but their ability to keep their hands off one another. But as roadblock after roadblock keeps them apart, Emerson starts to will this photoshoot be the key to getting one last shot at love, or will it be a final goodbye?

Back when they were eighteen, Emerson and Theo made a pact - if they were still unattached by their 28th birthday, they would marry each other. Fast forward ten years, and Emerson gets a notification reminding her of the pact. Is it a sign? Maybe, but regardless, Emerson is determined to take this one last shot at reconciling with Theo and maybe making him her happily ever after.

This was a twofer for me - friends-to-lovers getting their second chance at love. That's my catnip and it was done so well.  Cayouette used flashbacks to show us Emerson and Theo's past. I got to watch them meet, build a strong friendship, and fall in love. It was precious! They shared so many firsts together, but I HATED that they also experienced first heartbreak at each other's hands.

The idea of this pact, this last shot, and Emerson forcing their worlds to collide was just too exciting for me. I eagerly awaiting their reunion, and it took every ounce of patience as I waited for them to stop friend-zoning each other. It was almost like history repeating itself, but there were some outside forces involved in trying to keep this reunion from happening. And there was also a matter of Emerson coming clean about what drove her to leave and break Theo's heart the first time. With the whole truth on the table, it was now up to them to decide how to move forward together.

Aside from the romance, I got to spend time in Italy. The location sounded breathtaking, and I had the opportunity to learn quite a bit about the life of a model and photoshoots. It was interesting. I also adored the supporting characters. Emerson's circle was small, but it was comprised of high quality people. I loved how supportive they were, and Theo had this amazing family. His brother did not get a ton of page time, but it was memorable.

Overall, this was a beautiful and touching tale of love and healing. This second chance romance had me fully invested and engaged, and its culmination made my heart soar.

Mistakes We Never Made
 by Hannah Brown
Published by Forever on May 7, 2024
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

An epic coastal road-trip gives two lifelong rivals a second chance at love in this debut novel from The Bachelorette star and New York Times bestselling author Hannah Brown.

Two former debate team champions who almost fell in love years ago are now stuck together on one wild wedding weekend. When bridesmaid Emma first sees groomsman Finn, she's reminded of all the mistakes she almost made with him—the date, the party, the kiss, that one night on the rooftop in New York. Each ended in heartbreak, and she would have been happy never to see Finn again.

But when the bride runs away, and both Emma and Finn are tasked with bringing her home in time to walk down the aisle, they end up on a whirlwind road trip down memory lane... and might just fall in love along the way.

Perfect for fans of Emily Henry, MISTAKES WE NEVER MADE reminds us it’s never too late to risk falling in love, because being true to your heart is never a mistake.

After many years of "mistakes", Emma finds herself reunited with her longtime rival, Finn for a mutual friend's wedding. When the bride disappears, Emma and Finn embark on a search for her which results in them finding so much more.

I am a sucker for a roadtrip book, and this one was tons of fun. It seemed that wherever Finn and Emma went, shenanigans ensued. But the real beauty of this roadtrip was the time it gave Emma and Finn to reconnect with each other.

In flashbacks, we learn about Emma's mistakes as they relate to Finn. For over a decade, these two had events which seemed like the beginning of something, but there were always roadblocks that kept this relationship from getting off the ground. Emma blamed herself for continuing to take chances on Finn, but I have to be honest, I was rooting for this time to be the right time.

Emma and Finn had chemistry galore, and I adored their verbal sparring. But most of all, they shared a lot of history. Maybe there were "mistakes", but their relationship was rooted in a solid friendship. And who could argue with the universe? It really seemed like they were meant to be with the way they moved in and out of each other's lives over the years. If this relationship was doomed, they wouldn't continue to be in each other's orbits, right?

A roadtrip was a great way to force proximity and make Emma and Finn confront their history, but it was also somewhere for Emma to work through her past. Finn proved, time and time again, how well he knew Emma by calling her on her baggage and the ways she coped with it. Those moments were important and pushed Emma to reflect on things that were controlling her life and holding her back. I cannot say that Emma was pleased as punch to be embarking on this personal journey, but I was proud she followed through and could not argue with the end result.

I loved the couple, the focus on friendship, and the roadtrip among other things, but I had a little pet peeve. There were a few side plots, two specifically, that were sort of not tied up that frustrated me a bit. I understand these were not the central focus of the story as they pertained to a side character, but it was stuff that was mentioned over and over again. I would have liked to have resolution or the full story related to these things.

Overall, it was easy for me to root for this couple as they searched for the runaway bride and found their HEA along the way.


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  1. I love the marriage pacts romances and road trip romances, so these both sound really good!

    1. I had a great time with both, and thought the marriage pact was a fun way to get the ball rolling in One Last Shot.

  2. OK Sam now I am rooting for the first book not only because I love Italy and the idea of a pact but because I love the name of the author! Cayouette ! It's so original (and I am probably so odd).

    1. I loved that book. I read that the author works in the fashion industry, and you can tell. She does a great job helping the reader understand the intricacies of the industry. Cayouett looks French, is it?

  3. Emerson and Theo's relationship sounds so interesting, and I'd love to see his side of it!

    1. There is nothing I love more than a kiss-and-make-up story. This was a great one. I enjoyed learning about their past while cheering for them in the present.

  4. Two debut authors, two second chance romance stories. I love a forced proximity trope and this one sounds fun. Great reviews, Sam. I want to read them both.

    1. Thank you, Carla! Both were fun. I am a big sucker for second chance/friends to lovers, so these were good picks for me. I hope you get a chance to check them out.