Monday, January 8, 2024

Isn't It Romantic?

Take Two, Birdie Maxwell
 by Allison Winn Scotch
Published by Berkley on March 5, 2024
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Hollywood’s biggest rom-com star tries to recover from her damaged reputation by staging her own rom-com and following a lead on a lost love.

Birdie Maxwell thought she’d gotten everything she wanted out of life: fame, adoration, and an A-list Hollywood career. But after an on-set feud goes viral, she leaves L.A. for the one place no one would think to find her: her hometown. There, she’s startled to stumble upon a love letter from a former boyfriend asking for a second chance--but there’s just one problem: the letter was unsigned and she’s not sure which ex sent it. Still, a public reunion with an ex-boyfriend could turn the wave of public opinion back in her favor. Life imitating art. What could go wrong? 

Elliot O’Brien, star reporter, knows life isn’t an actual rom-com. Case in point: He’s spent two decades suppressing his long-simmering feelings for his twin sister’s best friend, Birdie. But with his journalism career cratering and Birdie back in their hometown at the same time he is, he realizes chronicling her search for her long-ago ex may be his opportunity to right some wrongs.

As they hit the road in an ancient RV, Birdie and Elliot retrace her romantic history for clues as to who wrote the letter and come face to face with their own romantic missteps, all while grappling with whether happy endings are found only on the big screen--or whether their own happily-ever-after could be closer than they both ever imagined.

After an on-set outburst, the public had soured on American's sweetheart. Looking to lie low, Birdie fled to her childhood home where she found an anonymous love letter from one of her exes. Who could it be? Birdie didn't know, but she thought her search for the second-chance-ex would help rehab her image. She reluctantly enlisted her life-long crush, Elliot, to help her uncover the author of the letter. Birdie's search forced her to face her past and take a long long her her romantic history while considering her possible future.

This was quite a roller coaster ride, but one that I would gladly ride again. We have seen parts of this story before. Hollywood star falls out of favor with the public and must act to save their career, but then Scotch threw in a second chance romance and a personal journey that gave the story the type of depth I seek.

Birdie had been enjoying the limelight for many years. She rose from doing daytime soaps to being the It-Girl of rom-coms. As she thought about the idea for finding the author of the love letter, she kept writing the Hollywood endings she knows so well. But when things didn't pan out in that movie magic way, Birdie had to take a hard look at herself and her past relationships. The rom-com moments were melded so well with Birdie's introspection. Her honesty with herself was sometimes brutal, but I was proud of her, every step along the way, and I was rooting for her the whole time.

One thing I could not help but want, was a union between Elliot and Birdie. Birdie's love for Elliot went way back. In fact, he was her first love, even if it was unrequited. There were moments in their history where something could have happened, but for "reasons", their romance never took off. I loved this aspect of the story because I am total trash for friends-to-lovers and second chance romance. I simply could not resist fate waving its hand. The universe brought these two back into each other's orbits for a good reason, and it would pain me to see them squander this opportunity.

The book was packed with lots of rom-com fun. A road trip, only one bed, and other beloved tropes were employed and produced lots of hilarious and laugh out loud moments. Along the way, I saw less and less of the Hollywood veneer, and more and more of Birdie Maxwell. There were some surprises and a fantastic ending that had the happy tears flowing as well.

Overall: I was delighted to take this personal and physical journey with Birdie. I was fully engrossed and invested from the very beginning to the very end and reveled in seeing Birdie rediscover herself along the way.

Principles of (E)motion
 by Sara Read
Published by Graydon House on January 9, 2024
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction

A brilliant mind needs a strong heart.

Mathematical genius Dr. Meg Brightwood has just completed her life’s work—a proof of a problem so impenetrable it’s nicknamed the Impossible Theorem.

Reclusive and burdened by anxiety, Meg has long since been dismissed by academia. Now everyone wants to get their hands on what she alone possesses—especially her own mathematician father.

Having grown up a prodigy in a field plagued by sexism and plagiarism, Meg opts for a public presentation so there will be no doubt of her authorship. But a panic attack obliterates her plans. In defeat, she goes home and locks away the one and only manuscript of her proof.

Then chance sends her the unlikeliest of Isaac Wells—carpenter, high school dropout, in trouble with the law. And the one love of Meg’s life. Fifteen years ago, they did little more than hold hands. Now, they find a tenuous space where they can love and be loved for who they are—not who the world expects them to be.

But when Meg goes to retrieve the Impossible Theorem, she finds it missing. Her fight for the achievement of the century will test the limits of her brilliance and the endurance of two vulnerable hearts.

Fifteen years ago, Meg escaped academia and took refuge in her grandmother's home. Many of those years were spent as a caregiver. Following her grandmother's death, Meg was unmoored, trying to figure out what was next. When a spark of inspiration hit, she reignited her quest to solve the unsolvable Frieholdt’s conjecture which thrust her back into the world she fled. With her work missing, Meg was now in for a fight for both her deserved acclaim and her heart.

Full disclosure, I was the student who wanted to jump up and clap when my professors finished derivations in my physics and chemistry classes. I was drawn to this book because it featured a woman in STEM. Meg's struggles sounded all too familiar. Not being taken seriously because she was pretty, others taking the credit for her work, being labeled a hysterical/emotional female. But, man, when she talked about math, I could feel her love and passion. I found myself lost in it, as she waxed poetic about mathematics.

I really adored Meg, and though she could be seen as having great privilege due to her father's wealth, she never had the basics that children need - love. She was a math prodigy, and her father's love and approval came with a price. It was conditional on her performance, and when she didn't perform to his expectations, there was no love. He robbed her of her childhood and autonomy, and now he was attempting to steal her life's work. Needless to say, there was no love lost between me and dad.

Though Meg had support via her cousin Lizzie, it meant so much to me when she reconnected with Isaac. He was someone from her past who she shared a special connection with, and it was wonderful to see that whatever joined them had never weakened. With Isaac, Meg found that unconditional love that had eluded her for her whole life. He saw her at her worst and still loved her which helped Meg love herself. Her self love and acceptance gave her the strength to push forward in a life that had been in a sort of stasis for so long with her fear and anxiety holding her in place. Meg made some bold moves, and I was really proud of her. Watching her progress from the beginning of the story to the end was very rewarding.

In my mind, this was Meg's story. It wasn't a romance, but there was a strong romantic element which I think many will enjoy. Very opposites attract with some serious roadblocks to overcome. I admired their passion and the way they encouraged each other. Meg and Isaac both had so much baggage, but they were willing to share the load. Their love story was a definite highlight for me.

Overall, I found Meg's journey to be engaging and inspiring. I was so invested in seeing Meg succeed, and loved cheering her on as she made progress towards her personal goals and learned to love, accept and trust herself.


Do you like math?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. Well I can't decide what book I'd prefer reading Sam!

    1. Birdie is the lighter of the two, but if you want to rage against men and society, the second book would do

  2. Sound great.. glad you like them both so much.

  3. Both of these sound great! I have a feeling that I would really like Meg in Principles of (E)motion!

  4. Take Two, Birdie Maxwell sounds like such a good book and I really want to check it out. I've seen this kind of premise before of someone helping in revisiting and dating exes but it still sounds like a good premise. Principles of (E)motion sounds good although a little heavier as Meg sounds like she's had a time of it from the conditional love from her father and her journey through academia (we all know how that would be a woman in STEM) so it will deal with a lot of her emotions and struggles but I think it sounds interesting.

    I'm adding both books to my maybe buy list and we'll see if I'm interested them still in them in a few weeks (my new test when it comes to my TBR).

    1. (E)motion was the heavier of the two, but Birdie still had quite a bit of heft as she grappled with the demands of Hollywood and her past.