Monday, June 10, 2024

Isn't It Romantic? - Five Star Edition

One Last Summer
 by Kate Spencer
Published by Forever on June 11, 2024
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

From the cohost of the award-winning Forever35 podcast comes a dreamy, laugh-out-loud summer romance that asks: What do you do when the life you've planned isn't what you've dreamed?

Clara Millen’s life is spiraling out of control: her dream job is a nightmare, she’s resoundingly single, and it’s been years since she’s taken some time off. Thankfully, the last problem she can fix—this year she’ll join her friends on their annual summer vacation to their beloved childhood sleepover camp for a much-needed escape.

But when Clara arrives at Pine Lake Camp, she faces yet another unwelcome change: the owners are retiring and selling the property. The news turns her plans for revelry into a night of reminiscing . . . and prompts a surprise heart-to-heart between Clara and Mack, her old camp nemesis and constant competitor, who's still just as annoying (and annoyingly handsome).

Soon the campfires aren't all that's throwing off sparks. And when one wildly passionate night turns into two (then too many to count!), Clara begins to wonder if she and Mack could have a future together. But when Clara's boss finally offers her everything she's worked so hard for, Clara will need to decide if the life she's always wanted is the life that makes her feel truly alive

After being forced to take a "mini sabbatical" from her job, Clara sought refuge at Pine Lake Camp where she reunited with her summer camp friends. Upon arriving, she discovers that the camp has been sold. Armed with a letter from her 15-year-old self and a checklist, Clara is determined to make this the best last summer.

I ended this book with tears running down my cheeks because I was so overcome with joy for Clara and her friends. There was so much to love about this story, and I will start with one of the biggest draws for me.

When I was kid, I dreamed of going to camp, but alas, it was not in the budget. It was frolicking in the fire hydrant for me. But my curiosity and adoration of camp life is still strong, and this book did a wonderful job helping me experience camp life. Spencer did a beautiful job bringing me to New Hampshire and pulling me into this idyllic setting. I could see the cabins and the swings. I could smell the lake and the campfire smoke, and it all spoke to my camp-loving heart. 

The experience was made even better with a heaping helping of nostalgia that came via the "campers" recollections of summers past and the ways they tapped into those memories in the present. Reading about the relay and capture the flag was a lot of fun. There's a certain freedom about being an adult in a traditionally kid setting and partaking in those activities from your past. It really brought a smile to my face.

As did the friendship between these six campers that has endured for over 20 years. They were still friends who could pick up where they left off regardless of the last time they saw each other. I love that! It also seemed that some romantic relationships withstood the test of time.

Clara and Mack seemed like competitors, but mostly, they had just been pining for each other for decades. Over the years since camp ended for them, there was always something still burning between them that emerged every time their paths crossed. I am glad that 15-year-old Clara's letters inspired grown-up Clara to finally make her move and declare her feelings for Mack.

But that letter would also serve as the push Clara needed to make other much needed changes in her life. Following the end of an eight year relationship, Clara had thrown herself into her work. She thought this was what she wanted, but she ended up burnt out. It was a blessing in disguise because it gave her the time to go back to camp where she had the space to examine her life and figure out what really mattered to her. I love that, too!

It brings me great joy to see people find their happy, and I found Clara's journey to be one that made me proud of her and put a smile on my face. By the time the epilogue came around, my heart was bursting at the seems, and thus, the happy tears flowed. Overall, this was a story filled with humor and heart, and a fantastic way to spend that One Last Summer.

The Rom-Commers
 by Katherine Center
Published by St. Martin's Press on June 11, 2024
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

She’s rewriting his love story. But can she rewrite her own?

Emma Wheeler desperately longs to be a screenwriter. She’s spent her life studying, obsessing over, and writing romantic comedies―good ones! That win contests! But she’s also been the sole caretaker for her kind-hearted dad, who needs full-time care. Now, when she gets a chance to re-write a script for famous screenwriter Charlie Yates―The Charlie Yates! Her personal writing god!―it’s a break too big to pass up.

Emma’s younger sister steps in for caretaking duties, and Emma moves to L.A. for six weeks for the writing gig of a lifetime. But what is it they say? Don’t meet your heroes? Charlie Yates doesn’t want to write with anyone―much less “a failed, nobody screenwriter.” Worse, the romantic comedy he’s written is so terrible it might actually bring on the apocalypse. Plus! He doesn’t even care about the script―it’s just a means to get a different one green-lit. Oh, and he thinks love is an emotional Ponzi scheme.

But Emma’s not going down without a fight. She will stand up for herself, and for rom-coms, and for love itself. She will convince him that love stories matter―even if she has to kiss him senseless to do it. But . . . what if that kiss is accidentally amazing? What if real life turns out to be so much . . . more real than fiction? What if the love story they’re writing breaks all Emma’s rules―and comes true?

Emma had dreams of being a screenwriter. For years she was eking out a living thanks to her ex-boyfriend's kindness of sending work her way, and now he brought her an opportunity that could be a game changer - the chance to help one of her favorite writers fix his rom-com screenplay. The biggest problem with the script is the writer, Charlie, who believes love is a scam. Will Emma be able to sell him on the power of love and save this screenplay?

As I age, the list of things I have doubts about grows longer and longer, but one thing I never doubt is how much a Katherine Center book will delight me. As soon I as began reading, a smile formed on the face and stayed there for almost the entirety of the book.

I embraced Emma from the very beginning. It pained me that she abandoned her dreams following a family tragedy. She spent a decade supporting her sister and caring for her father, and now that her sister was finished with college, it was her turn to make her dreams a reality. I was so excited for Emma and really pulling for her to find great success with her writing project. Needless to say, there were bumps in the road. One large bump being Charlie.

There non-meet-cute was straight out of a rom-com, the result of a meddling agent. But as expected, it took a turn towards a working relationship and a friendship of sorts. During this time, there were so many sweet and tender moments shared between these two. Charlie was a quiet hero whose actions did the speaking for him. These gestures were on a smaller scale but managed to make my heart pitter pat. I just adored watching their relationship grow and seeing some kindness and care shown to Emma.

As with all her books, Center married the heavy and light beautifully producing a story that was emotional and packed with humor and cheer. I loved every character I met, cried for the good and tough things that happened to them, and was left in an elated state in the end. AND a special gift to me was an appearance by Jack from The Bodyguard. Special thanks for this as Easter eggs tickle me pink.

Overall, another incredible, touching, and heartwarming tale from Center!


Did you go to summer camp?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. Hooray for two 5-star reads! And the appearance of a previous character in the Center book... bonus points for that. Those little appearances and nods to prior books delight me.

    1. It's always a thrill. I have missed them in the past and only learned from reading other reviews. But this time, I recognized the name drop. He actually had a bit of page time which was nice.

  2. I haven't read Center in awhile, but I do like the sound of this one. Emma sounds very deserving of good things coming her way!

    1. I am such a big fan of her books. They are feel-good books for me.