Monday, December 18, 2023

Isn't It Romantic? - The 5-Star Edition

Last Call at the Local
 by Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Published by Berkley on January 2, 2023
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Opposites attract when a free-spirited American singer-songwriter with ADHD teams up with a charming Irishman to revitalize his family's pub in the next heartfelt romance from the author of Luck and Last Resorts.

Raine Hart is used to the challenges of living with ADHD. It’s why she ditched her life in Boston to busk around Europe as a traveling musician. No boss. No schedule. No one to disappoint but herself. But when a careless mistake in Ireland leaves her unable to perform, she sees no other option but to give up her nomadic life.

Since inheriting the Local, Jack Dunne has wanted to make the pub his own. But the baggage of running a family business and the intrusive thoughts that stem from his OCD make changing things a challenge.

Over a pint with handsome, tattooed Jack, Raine accidentally insults him and the pub. Instead of taking offense, Jack, impressed by her vision of what the pub could be, offers her a job bringing it to life.

But when Raine and Jack develop feelings for one another their opposite lifestyles won’t accommodate, it becomes clear the pub isn’t the only thing that needs reinventing. As the end of their business collaboration draws near, they’ll have to find a way past the limits they’ve placed on themselves or let go of a love that could last a lifetime.

Down on her luck, Raine wandered into The Local to try and formulate a plan. While speaking with the resident pub cat, she met the charming Jack who offered her a temporary job to help her get back on her feet. Who knew that a temporary position could result in something permanent in their hearts.

Will I ever tire of the Love, Lists & Fancy Ships world? The answer is NO! Once again, Ruiz crafted a story that made me laugh and tugged at my heartstrings. She always does such an incredible job with these slightly broken characters who never fail to embed themselves in my heart.

Raine may have given the appearance of a free spirit, but she was running from the pressure of her family. Trying to fit in with a group of doctors was not easy for Raine. Her family saw her as a mess, impulsive, and essentially, a disappointment. Then she met Jack, someone who loved those parts of her and how they contributed to the whole of who Raine was. That loving her as-is was one of the most precious parts of their romance.

Like Ollie from the previous book, his brother Jack bore the mental scars of their father. One result of this past trauma was the emergence of Jack's OCD. Jack had been struggling with intrusive thoughts and other symptoms of OCD for several years. Some of this story was about Jack working to take back the parts of his life he had lost to his illness. It was an uphill battle, and I appreciated Jack's journey. But, as Jack had loved Raine as-is, she also loved Jack as-is. That unconditional support they had for each other was a beautiful thing.

There was quite a bit about not trying to change the other person in this tale. Raine was a wanderer who embraced a nomadic lifestyle while Jack needed the security of routine and roots. I loved that they did not set out to change themselves or sacrifice parts of themselves to make this work, but rather, they worked together to find a way for them to have it all. Their love and unflinching support had my heart bursting, and I just couldn't help but want the sun, the moon, and the stars for these two.

Jack and Raine was obviously amazing, but this story was made even better by the presence of some fabulous supporting characters. Obviously, I was overjoyed to spend more time with Ollie and Nina. This story started five years after the last book, and it was a pleasure to see how things were going for Nina and Ollie. But the real scene stealer was Sebastian, aka the pub cat. As with most pets, he stole the show, and I have zero complaints about that.

Overall, it was a special treat to be part of Jack and Raine's story. I loved rooting for them while they made their personal journeys, and I welcomed all the warmth and joy of their friendship and romance. Fingers crossed that Ruiz brings us back to the Love, Lists & Fancy Ships world soon!

Recipe for a Charmed Life
 by Rachel Linden
Published by Berkley on January 9, 2023
Age/Genres: Adult, Enchanted Realism, Romance

After a day of unrivaled disappointments, a promising young chef finds every bite of food suddenly tastes bitter. To save her career, she travels to the Pacific Northwest to reconnect with her estranged mom, and discovers a family legacy she never suspected in this delicious novel from the bestselling author of The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie.

American chef Georgia May Jackson has one goal—to run her own restaurant in Paris. After a grueling decade working in Parisian kitchens, she is on the cusp of success. But in one disastrous night, Georgia loses her sous-chef position, her French boyfriend, and her sense of taste! Renowned for her refined palate and daring use of bold flavors to create remarkable dishes, Georgia is devastated to discover her culinary gift has simply...vanished.

When she receives a surprising invitation from her estranged mother, Georgia flees to a small island near Seattle hoping the visit will help her regain her spark in the kitchen. There she tentatively reconnects with her mom, a free-spirited hippie eager to make up for her past mistakes. But there’s something about the enigmatic island Georgia just can’t piece together. Good luck charms keep appearing in the oddest places. Her neighbor is a puzzlingly antagonist (and annoyingly handsome) oyster farmer. And her mom keeps hinting at a mysterious family legacy.

With the clock ticking and time running out to win her dream job in Paris, Georgia begins to unravel some astonishing secrets that make her wonder if the true recipe for a charmed life might look—and taste—very different than she ever imagined.

Georgia's whole world had been turned upside-down. In one fell swoop, she lost her job, her boyfriend, and her sense of taste and may have been losing her life-long dream, as well. In an attempt to recover her "spark", she accepted an invitation from her estranged mother. Georgia immediately sensed the magic of San Juan Island and hoped that she could capture some of that magic for herself.

Faith, hope, love, and luck - the recipe for a charmed life.

Rachel Linden did it again! She gifted me with a book that filled me with warmth and joy. I will start with something I have seen popping up in many reviews. This book includes more romance than The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie, but I had no issues with that. I loved this pairing, and I had my reasons for wanted to see this union succeed. 

First and foremost, I adored Georgia. She had spent a great deal of her life fighting for her dream. I appreciated her drive and tenacity, but I was furious that her boyfriend betrayed and embarrassed her. I felt she deserved to be properly loved and admired, and Cole was the right man for the job. I thought they were fantastic together, and I loved that they were able to lend support to one another as they healed from past wounds.

Another important relationship in this story was between Georgia and her mother. Her mother had left Georgia when she was a child and was never heard from again. Until now. Here was where family secrets were unearthed. They were not that shocking, but still, it was sad how many years Georgia and her mother were kept apart. I really rooted for these two to reconnect and build a bridge to each other. I knew it would not be instantaneous, but I had high hopes for them.

As with her last book, Linden wove some magic into the story. The magic of the Stevens women was fascinating, and I enjoyed learning about it. It seemed that Georgia had two gifts. One was her technicolor taste and the other was something you should learn about when you read this book. I will say it was a wonderful gift. 

After all her life's disasters, everything she ate tasted bitter. Not a great thing for a chef. I delighted in all the times Georgia queried WWJD? (What would Julia do?). Though the cooking icon did have some advice for her, Georgia still had to dig deep inside herself for some solutions. It was such a pleasure seeing her recover the other "tastes" since as she reclaimed them, she also reclaimed parts of herself.

Overall, I adored this book of family, forgiveness, and love. The touches of magic and romance elevated an already wonderful tale which left me brimming with happiness and joy.


Favorite recipe to make?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. Glad you loved these books! I haven't read anything by those authors yet, but clearly I'm missing out. Adding to my TBR.

    1. This is only my second book from Linden but my 4th from Ruiz. I keep going back for more. I hope you get to give them a try.

  2. Great reviews, Sam! I had Last Call at the Local on my radar and your review has convinced me that I should pick it up asap. Your review is the first I'd heard about Recipe for a Charmed Life but it also sounds awesome and like a foodie's dream to read about! 😂 Just thinking about it kinda makes me hungry... Will be adding it to my TBR immediately!

    1. Both Linden's books have so much food! She really knows how to write about it too.

  3. I feel so much for Jack and Raine and how they've been hurt by their families. Glad they find each other!

    1. That's something I really enjoy in books, where two people find each other and can heal together. Such a beautiful thing

  4. After reading your reviews these certainly sound like 5 star reads.

  5. Both seem amazing reads with warm feelings Sam!

  6. Both of those are new to me. They sound good.

  7. Oh, didn't know Jack was Ollie's brother and that the story was related to Love, Lists and Fancy Ships! As a cat lover I'm totally looking forward to meeting Sebastian now! I might have to download that Rachel Linden now.

    1. Yeah, this is 5-years after the last book, so Ollie and Nina was really settled. It was great to see them again. I liked both Linden's books. Very heartwarming and lots of food. I can't wait to hear what you think of either (both?) books

  8. I don't think I've ever heard of Ruiz but I do like the sound of Last Call at the Local. Two people who accept one another as-is is always a bonus and something I love.

    1. This is my third book from her and all have been wonderful!