Anonymous Sex edited by Hillary Jordan; Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Anonymous Sex edited by Hillary Jordan; Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Anonymous Sex. Scribner, 2022. 368 pp. ISBN 9781982177522. $18.00


This is sort of the literary equivalent of a zipless fuck–instead of an anonymous stranger having their way with you, a group of literary authors share dirty stories, leaving the reader to only guess at who wrote which lascivious tale. It’s both intriguing and a little bit of a cop-out.

As a collection, the stories are well-written, but not necessarily any better than one of Susie Bright’s best erotica anthologies, because by definition, erotica has to be sensuous, sensual, and with exquisitely rendered sensory detail. There are perhaps more stories that end on a poignant note, and the collection is more literary, with characters that discuss Rilke and modern art. Stories are prefaced by poetry, peppered with allusions, and seasoned with phrases in foreign languages (“Post coitum omne animalium triste est“). The stories cover first times, online hookup sex, group sex, prison sex, hate sex, infrequent married sex.

In “History Lesson,” a historian has a Same Time Next Year BSDM affair with a colleague at the annual conference they both attend. In “Find Me,” a historical tale of an arranged marriage between a widow and a rancher; on her way to meet her new husband to be, Eloise is seduced by a train-robbing stranger in a bear coat on the train. There is a hot retelling of Rapunzel, a horny middle-aged teacher grappling with the sexual life of her teeenaged daughter, In one rather meta tale, the narrator opens with wondering if the other included authors will recognize her story, implying she’s been involved with one of them–in another, the characters discuss how no one writes about real sex, sometimes boring and awkward and mundane and disappointing–but they will.

There are (unintentional?) motifs as well: planes and trains feature in several tales, as does clockwatching during sex. Rapunzel comes up twice, Shakespeare multiple times. While multicultural and set all over the world, no stories focus on trans, plus-size, disabled, or neurodiverse characters, though there is an elderly gentleman reminiscing (which I would not define as elder sex). Still, this is a nice addition for a personal or library collection.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #AnonymousSex from #NetGalley.

Right Girl, Wrong Side by Ginny Baird

Right Girl, Wrong Side by Ginny Baird

Baird, Ginny. Right Girl, Wrong Side. Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2023. 352 pp. ISBN 9781728256559 $16.99

A high school grudge over a school election carries through decades in this Romeo and Juliet styled story. Evita Machado (not McCoy) and Ryan Hatfield were sort of friends in high school as lab partners, but the feud between their mothers meant there was no chance of pursuing a relationship. A vacation rental gone awry results in a double-booking and the two families are forced into proximity on their Nantucket vacation. A serious of petty, selfish and possessive actions from the elders in both families result in ratcheting up of tensions; the kids just want to all get along, and Ryan thinks Evita is still pretty cute.

While the relationship building is charming and the cultural details wonderful, the cringey behavior of the parents made this a tough read for me to get through.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #RightGirlWrongSide from #NetGalley.

Wish Lists and Road Trips by Lauren H. Mae

Wish Lists and Road Trips by Lauren H. Mae

Mae, Lauren H. Wish Lists and Road Trips. Headline Eternal, 2023.352 pp. ISBN 9781035401673. $17.99


When two strangers miss getting back on their cruise ship, they agree to travel together to get back to the States. Neither seems to be in a good place to embark on a new relationship: beautician Brit has recently called off her wedding (the cruise was to be her honeymoon) to a man who works with his dad in the family business, while real estate developer Nick is fulfilling his deceased brother’s charge to scatter his ashes on a number of adventures. On their journey, they encounter multiple setbacks that hint they may not make it to their final destination in time for Brit to purchase the auctioned property that will launch her business and new, independent life; Nick is determined to help her get there on time.

Road trips tell you a lot about a person, from the snacks they select to the music they choose to how they deal with travel snafus. The plot works wonderfully to reveal character. Watching Nick and Brit get vulnerable was heartfelt, but sometimes he was written a little too overprotectively, diminishing her agency.

Pair with Seat Mate by Cara Bastone when you’re looking for good road trip books that delve into relationships, obligation and career goals as well as romance.

I received a free advance readers review copy of #WishListsAndRoadTrips from #NetGalley.

Love at First Psych by Cara Bastone

Love at First Psych by Cara Bastone

Bastone, Cara. Love at First Psych. Audible Audio, 2023. 4 hours and 35 minutes.


Non-traditional students Robbie and Marigold seem to be very different – he’s gregarious, silly and outgoing, while Marigold is more introverted and serious. When they are paired together for a project for their Psychology of Love course, they need to interview at least five people about their first meetings, to determine if love at first sight is a real thing. Meanwhile, there is still some awkwardness in the air from an incident from last semester that the listener is not yet privy to and that Marigold definitely does not want to discuss.

This audible exclusive, full-cast audio presentation is an absolute delight. The premise of having to record interviews lends itself well to the audiobook format. The nuanced voice acting and sound effects work together perfectly to convey the characters, plot and setting. I want to recognize Bastone’s skill at creating believable dialogue and warm, real characters with great backstories and rich vocabularies.

I discovered this author through an Audible ad, and went on to listen to Seat Mate, which was equally wonderful, but had more exposition/monologue.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren


Now a classic enemies-to-lovers romance, The Unhoneymooners was alluded to in at least two other books I read recently, so I bought my own copy and re-read it, and it’s still a gem.

Olive is the unlucky foil to her perfect, lucky sister Ami–until Ami’s wedding day, when Olive’s shellfish allergy prevents her from getting food poisoning at the amazing seafood reception catered for free due to one of many contests Ami won to put on her wedding free.

Unluckily, the only OTHER person who avoids food poisoning is the Ethan, the best man and brother of the groom who is against bacteria-ridden buffets on principle. Luckily, Ami and Dane insist Olive and Ethan take the Hawaiian honeymoon so the trip doesn’t go to waste. Since Ami and Olive are twins and Ethan and Dane are brothers, it’s a believable lie. When Olive and Ethan run into Ethan’s ex and Olive’s soon-to-be boss at the honeymoon resort, they need to up their game and truly fake that they are newlyweds. Tension, hilarity and bonding ensue; bickering turns to banter turns to flirting; a sensual couples massage and #Just!One!Bed! eventually lead to the inevitable. Upon returning home, more secrets are revealed, including that Ami and Dante’s relationship is not all it seems, and the fledgling relationship seems doomed.

I like that the heroine is awkward and curvy, and I found the premise funny and the plotting solid. The single perspective narrative worked very well, and the writing is detailed and steamy.

Hello Stranger by Katherine Center

Hello Stranger by Katherine Center

Center, Katherine. Hello Stranger. St. Martin’s Press, 2023. 320 pp. ISBN 9781250283788. $29

An artist looks her facial recognition ability after a potentially life-threatening tumor is removed–just as she’s getting ready to create a portrait for an art contest in which she’s a finalist. Sadie is very anxious about her future, the contest, and her health–and her ability to recognize her canine companion!–but post-surgery, her inability to identify people she knows becomes an opportunity for her friends to come up with creative ways to be recognized. During her physical healing, her evil stepsister messes with her but it’s a chance for her stepmother to support her in ways she couldn’t when was a teenager; and an opportunity to get to know the hot new veterinarian and the cute but fratty guy in her building.

Center’s novel is a great read for fans of Lisa Genova, blending medicine, psychology, family dynamics and light romance with a well-paced, not overly dramatic story, replete with humor and pathos.

I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #HelloStranger from #NetGalley.

Gilded Butterfly by Leslie O’Sullivan

Gilded Butterfly by Leslie O’Sullivan

O’Sullivan, Leslie. Gilded Butterfly. Rockin’ Fairy Tales #2. City Owl Press, 2022. pp. ISBN 9781648982125. $4.99


Musician Chorda is already a pop superstar. She’s the fan favorite on Kickin’ It With Midas, the the reality television series that follows the trials and tribulations of her influencer sisters and their rock star dad. Showrunner Adair is secretly in love with her and their friendship turns to romance after Chorda is exiled for her unscripted response on the show–it turns out Chorda isn’t sure she wants to win the coveted Golden Guitar.

Gilded Butterfly takes off at nearly breakneck speed with details about plot, setting, and character coming so fast it’s difficult to keep it all straight. The author comes off as trying too hard or not having a good editor; there are so many allusions it’s sensory overload. The vocabulary was repetitive — “shitiot” was only clever the first time, not three times in twenty pages.

Told uniquely from a guy’s perspective, this plot loosely follows Shakespeare’s King Lear with a little bit of King Midas’s Golden Touch thrown in. The title comes from a famous quote “and laugh / At gilded butterflies.”  They are laughing at people who think that value can be created by just wrapping something in an outer layer to give it the appearance of something valuable, but end up destroying the beauty that it had in the first place. The reality television show construct, the magical reality and witchcraftiness, and the themes of wealth and privilege, image, and integrity support the quote.

Second in a series, I didn’t feel I was missing something in my unfamiliarity with the previous book.

I received a free review copy of #GildedButterfly.

Icebreaker by Hannah Grace

Icebreaker by Hannah Grace

Grace. Hannah. Icebreaker. Atria, 2023. 448 pp. ISBN 9781668026038. $17.99


When a prank goes wrong and puts one rink out of commission, the hockey team and figure skaters at Maple Hills College in LA need to share the remaining rink, and skater Anastasia Allen gets into a complicated relationship with hockey captain Nate Hawkins. Fremenies that become lovers, neither 21-year-old has been in a committed relationship in college, although Stas has a friend with benefits and is also in a committed professional relationship with her dysfunctional skating partner, Aaron.

When Aaron is beat up–and blames it on the hockey team–Nate takes the blame, and although at first it results in a rift with him and Stas, Nate proves himself to be a stand-up guy and eventually becomes her figure-skating partner when Aaron is put of commission a second time; throwing Stas and Nate together is the last thing Aaron wants, and his manipulation has an undesired effect for him–they pretty much move in together and their domesticity is sweetly detailed. It’s also an opportunity to address Stat’s disordered eating around her skating partner’s controlling and unhealthy diet plan for her.

Most novels don’t open with the protagonists sleeping with other people, but it serves to set a scene for how right these two are for one another. Chapters alternate point of view between Stas and Nate as Stas tries to resist Nate’s charm, but cannot. There is some drama–it’s definitely a new adult book, with bad choices and living in the moment and detailing the college scene, but it’s elevated by strongly portrayed, diverse, distinct supporting characters. The complicated relationships each has with their parents adds depth: Stas is adopted, has Olympic dreams, has been in therapy half her life, is on scholarship, and worries about her parents pinning their hopes and dreams on her; Nate doesn’t want to go into his family’s ski resort business, is in a leadership position as the captain of the hockey team, and is used to taking care of people. The characters are young and real and flawed, and they grow in their relationship in very healthy ways. The abusiveness of Stas’s partner Aaron is painted as complex, but it’s pretty obvious to the reader that his volatile personality is inappropriate for any type of relationship.

The writing is fast and emotional, the banter is fun and flirty, and the sexy scenes are athletic and spicy with a lot of dirty talk. I couldn’t quite believe or relate to 21 year olds thinking about knocking up their partner or getting married, but they come after months of dating, the protagonists question these thoughts (and how rapidly they are falling in love with one another).

Unorthodox Love by Heidi Shertok

Unorthodox Love by Heidi Shertok

Shertok, Heidi. Unorthodox Love. Alcove Press, 2023. ISBN 9781639103768. $17.99


Our heroine Penina comes from a community of modern Orthodox Jews, where marriage at a young age and having lots of children is highly prized. As an infertile woman, finding a marriage match has not come easily to her, and a traditional shadchan is heroically making a last ditch effort into finding a mate for Penina. Meanwhile, she spends her days volunteering in a local hospital’s NICU, working her jewelry shop job, maintaining her social media presence as a frum fashionista, and going on hotel lobby dates with unsuitable men. When her boss goes out on medical leave and his attractive (secular) son takes over the jewelry store, sparks fly, but handsome Sam annoys the heck out of her,and somehow, their bodies keep colliding in ways that are against the strict rules around unmarried, unrelated male and female proximity. Penina’s sister is in danger of losing her home due to her husband;s failed businesses, and Penina becomes determined not just to marry, but to marry wealthy; when Sam learns she’s become engaged and will settle for a marriage in name only, he has some opinions.

This is a wonderfully authentic portrayal of navigating a complex culture. So many details ring true, from festival observances to the love and obligations of family politics to the Israeli-accented English of Penina’s sister. Shertok tells Penina’s story with a lot of humor and honesty and never devolves to deprecation. The writing is descriptive (the clothing descriptions are amazing!) and evocative, and characters and situations relatable whatever your religious or cultural affiliations.

I received an advance reader’s copy of #UnorthodoxLove from #NetGalley.

Happy Birthday to Meeee…


I recently joined a Romance Reader’s group on Facebook and someone posted they bought themselves (or were gifted?) a book for each year for their recent birthday, prompting a LOT of readers to post their ages and the number of books they anticipate for their next birthday. I don’t have a lot of spare dollars to spend, and doubted my family would buy into this idea even if I helpfully provided a curated and prioritized list of what I’d like to add to my collection… but I did somehow manage to acquire a staggering number of items in celebration of my 48th birthday, thanks to advance reader’s editions, the Library’s book sale, Book Outlet, Thrift Books, Better World Books, Target, and Little Free Libraries around town.

Want to gift a book to me? I have a registry on and my local affiliate is the Book Rack in Arlington MA.

Here’s the rundown:

  1. 48 Clues Into the Disappearance of My Sister by Joyce Carol Oates
  2. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  3. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  4. The Bodyguard by Katherine Center
  5. Book Lovers by Emily Henry
  6. The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick
  7. Egg: A Dozen Ovatures by Lizzie Stark
  8. Eight Perfect Nights by Lia Louis
  9. Everything, Everything by Nicola June
  10. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
  11. Float Plan by Trish Doller
  12. The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
  13. The Garden of Ruth by Eva Etzioni-Halevy
  14. The Girl With Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts
  15. Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert
  16. Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey
  17. Icebreaker by Hannah Grace
  18. In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren
  19. In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
  20. Inside the Titanic: A Giant Cutaway Book by Hugh Brewster, illus. by Ken Marschall
  21. It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey
  22. Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens
  23. Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram
  24. Little Moments of Love by Catana Chetwynd
  25. The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
  26. Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood
  27. Malkah’s Notebook: A Journey Into the Mystical Aleph-Bet by Mira Z. Almiras
  28. Maine by Courtney Sullivan
  29. The Marriage Game by Sara Desai
  30. My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
  31. One Night on the Island by Josie Silver
  32. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  33. Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot
  34. Say Yes to the Duke by Eloisa James
  35. Secretly Yours by Tessa Bailey
  36. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  37. The Shortest Distance Between Love and Hate by Sandy Hall
  38. The Singles Table by Sara Desai
  39. Starring Sally J. Freidman as Herself by Judy Blume
  40. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
  41. The Suite Spot by Trish Doller
  42. A Taxonomy of Love by Rachel Allen
  43. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  44. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zavin
  45. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
  46. What I Thought Was True by Huntley Fitzpatrick
  47. What Is My Plant Telling Me?: An Illustrated Guide to Houseplants and How to Keep Them Alive by Emily L. Hay Hinsdale
  48. You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld