Thursday, June 27, 2024

Isn't It Romantic?

Finding Mr. Write
 by Kelly Armstrong
Published by Forever on June 25, 2024
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

#1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong delivers a fun romantic comedy about a woman writing under a male pseudonym and the man she hires to play the role in public.

Daphne McFadden already knows that as a female author, the cards are stacked against her. Now she knows just how much. Because her sudden whim to pose as an “outdoorsy hunk of masculinity” male author for her new book just resulted in the unthinkable: a bidding war, a huge book deal, and the kind of fame every author dreams of. Now she’s in big trouble. Because she needs to convince the world that Zane Remington actually exists . . . but how?

By hiring an actor, of course.

Only Chris Stanton is not an actor—not officially. He’s used to balancing the books, not pretending he wrote one. Still, he’s mostly certain he can pose as some overly macho bro-author. But when the media descend on Daphne’s gorgeous remote home in the Yukon, it’s not enough for Chris to just be the face of Zane Remington—he’ll have to become him. All while hilariously balancing the terrifying dangers of the wilderness, a massive femme fandom, and a serious crush on Daphne. But as the hype circus gets more out of control, it’s just a matter of time before someone discovers their little write lie . . .

After having her manuscript rejected again and again, Daphne decided to submit it under a male pen name, and suddenly there was a bidding war and book deal. Needing a man to pose as Zane Remington, she hires Chris who initially rubs her the wrong way but grows on her as he sheds his alter ego. Will Daphne be able to open her heart to love again?

I had such a great time reading this book! I found the premise to be brilliant while not shying away from taking some shots at the publishing industry. There was some commentary woven into this tale as well as lots of other interesting bookish bits, but it was the characters and their romance that had me hooked.

Chris was such a fun character. He was trying to rebuild his life following the demise of his accounting business. Down on his luck, he was grateful for the job and wanted to be the best Zane Remington he could be. His alter ego was nothing like him, and it was "real" Chris who won me over. With his beefcake looks and his golden retriever heart, Chris was the perfect hero for Daphne. She needed someone to soften her edges while appreciating her strength. But don't worry, Mr. Perfect did make some mistakes. The beauty was that he learned and attempted to fix those mistakes.

Daphne was an architect who opted into off-grid living following her mother's death. In isolation, she was able to write the zombie romance of her heart. She knew her way around the great outdoors and reveled in the demanding beauty of the Yukon. After being abandoned in her time of need by her last romantic partner, Daphne was not too quick to tie herself to another. I think she was smart to take it slow and make him earn her heart.

Can we talk about the setting? The beginning of the book was set in the Yukon and the descriptions were breathtaking. Though I am not sure how I would fare in the winter, I could definitely appreciate the woodsy goodness most other times of the year. Armstrong used the setting well, too. There were some humorous and fun events that took place while they were at Daphne's home which I really enjoyed.

This book had me hooked from the first line (wait until you read it!), and I was quickly invested in seeing Daphne succeed in the publishing industry by any means necessary as well as seeing her get her HEA. This book was funny, swoony, and simply a great time.

Rules for Second Chances
 by Maggie North
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on June 25, 2024
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Liz Lewis has tried everything to be what people want, but she’s always been labeled different in the boisterous world of wilderness expeditions. Her marriage to popular adventure guide Tobin Renner-Lewis is a sinkhole of toxic positivity where she’s the only one saying no.

When she gets mistaken for a server at her own thirtieth birthday party, Liz vows to stop playing a minor character in her own life. The (incredibly well-researched and scientific) plan? A crash course in confidence . . . via an improv comedy class. The catch? She’s terrible at it, and the only person willing to practice with her is a certain extroverted wilderness guide who seems dead set on saving their marriage.

But as Liz and Tobin get closer again, she’s forced to confront all the reasons they didn’t work the first time, along with her growing suspicion that her social awkwardness might mean something deeper. Liz must learn improv’s most important lesson—“Yes, and”—or she’ll have to choose between the love she always wanted and the dreams that got away.

Brimming with heart and heat, Rules for Second Chances explores the hardest relationship question of all: can true love happen twice . . . with the same person?

Liz struggled socially while her husband, Tobin, shined. Tired of living in his shadow, Liz leaves her her husband in an attempt to find her confidence and her voice though Tobin isn't going down without a fight.

I have an interesting relationship with this book. I liked it though I felt it was light on the romance side and more about Liz's quest to find herself. I understood Liz's need to figure things out and reach for that corporate prize, but I still didn't understand her need to do it without Tobin in the picture. And that is where I struggled a bit. This book was single POV which makes sense as a choice given that it seemed much more like Liz's personal journey than a story about Liz and Tobin, but oh how I wanted inside his head. That probably would have amped up the romance side of it for me.

I would consider this a marriage in crisis book, and I loved the way Tobin was ready and willing to do anything to save the marriage. It was Liz who was ready to walk away, who was resistant to try. But she was a willing participant when they began employing an improv based relationship book to help them dig deeper. This was definitely something unique for couple's therapy and resulted in some rom-com moments as well as some sweet and tender times of connection.

Improv was also a means for Liz to build her confidence in preparation for her big pitch. She was very quiet and had difficulties with social situations, but she was putting herself out there. I appreciated that part of her personal journey and loved how these classes brought her into a community where she developed the true friendships she always desired. Liz was embracing "yes, and" and it was paying off as new relationships were made and others grew stronger.

I think many will relate to Liz's desire to be "seen", and I know I related to how not everyone was accepting of Liz's true self. She felt the pressure to fit the mold when she just wanted to be herself. Along the way, I met Liz's niece who was on the spectrum and eventually led Liz to realizing she could be, too. It's interesting to have an adult autism diagnosis in a book. It seems many think it's important for children, but it was something that helped Liz really understand herself. It was that missing puzzle piece that helped complete the picture and gave her clarity.

Great characters, humor, and some special "moment" kept my interest during the bulk of the book, but those last few chapters were the best. Everything came together in a way I adored. I was left smiling with my heart full of joy.


Would you go off-grid?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. Daphne and Chris sound so precious, although it's a bit sad that Daphne has to pretend she's a man just to get her manuscript looked at!

    1. Chris is the precious one. Daphne has that great boss energy. I loved them together. But yeah, sad but true about publishing. I think it's still something within certain genres.

  2. "Love's whimsy dances through every word here, embracing the heart with gentle allure."

  3. I'll be reading Finding Mr. Write soon. I love Kelley Armstrong's writing, and I'm excited to see how she does with romance. I do love her descriptions of the Yukon!

    1. You can tell she is well acquainted with the Yukon and her adoration/admiration of the region shows.

  4. First to answer your question, NO, I would not go off grid. I have actually been to the Yukon, but not in the wilderness. I like the sound of both of these. Too many people marry young and lose themselves in their coupledom. I can feel for Liz, but not sure if I want to read about it.

    1. I wouldn't go off grid either. The adjustment from living in Brooklyn to the NJ suburbs was hard enough for me. The second book did offer an interesting issue which the author explored beautifully.

  5. Finding Mr Write seems so good. That's also unfair to have to write under a male pen name to get some recognition.