Wibberley, Emily and Austin Siegemund-Broka. Do I Know You? Berkley, 2023. 352 pp. ISBN 9780593201954 $17.00
Is it a second chance romance when the couple is question is already married and still together? After five years, Graham is withdrawing and vibrant Eliza, an audiobook narrator, isn’t sure why. When his parents gift them a second honeymoon getaway at a romantic resort that is also hosting a dating seminar the same weekend, Eliza books her own room to get a little space. Assumed single and introduced to one another at the bar by another well-meaning stranger, the two decide to take on a little role-playing in the hopes of rekindling their romance.
My initial thought was that there might be some sexy pretend-to-go-home with a stranger games, but authors Wibberley and Siegemund-Broka do not take the easy way out in this angsty tale of longing. Told in alternating points of view, we learn of Eliza and Graham’s insecurities, hurts and baggage as they fake date, reconcile and try to heal their marriage. The writing is deep and introspective and the resolution satisfying, but I didn’t like it as much as The Roughest Draft, which knocked the narrative, plot, pacing, sexual tension and characterizations out of the park.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #DoIKnowYou from #NetGalley.
Usen, Amanda. One Night Stand After Another. 210 pp. Independently Published, 2022. ISBN 979-8843334680$13.99
Plot what plot? I am not adverse to sexy stories, bring them on! But this one straddling the line between romance and erotica. In this second chance romance, crocheter Clara has a run in with a high school flame at another ex’s wedding, and Zane makes it his mission to help her launch her business in between his own restaurant dealings. The road trip plot helped further the story. I cringed at how hard Zane had to work to gain Clara’s attention and affection and the over the top gifting of yarn and meals and hotels reminded me too much of my first relationship and accusations of attempts to buy my affection (it worked, but it’s an immature and not necessarily sustainable and very superficial way to relate to one another).
I did not find a strong enough story between the blow by blow by blowjob details. This novel opens with a dirty fantasy… and the fantasies are more detailed and better-written than the actual sex between the characters, which is an interesting choice/commentary on reality of relationships. I love books about love, sex and food, and the crochet as wearable art is unique. This one should have done it for me, but just didn’t. Independently published, and it shows.
I received a free reader’s advance review copy of #OneNightStandAfterAnother from #NetGalley.
Ballard, Falon. Just My Type. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2023. 368 pp. ISBN 978-0593419939 $17.00
Serial monogamist and relationship columnist Lana Parker was expecting a proposal when her boyfriend of four years tells her it’s just not working, and even though she agrees, she’s still low-key devastated, exacerbated by an out-of-the-blue text from Seth Carson, The One That Got Away (and Broke Her Heart) when their high school relationship ended abruptly. The morning after she drowns her break up sorrows in alcohol with her bestie May, she gets an alert on her phone about a mandatory on-site work meeting, and drags her hungover ass in… only to learn her ex is joining their team as part of a publishing merger. Her boss smells the unfinished business vibes between Seth and Lana, and sets up a competition between them: Seth, the player, has to embark on a long term relationship and NOT have sex, while and Lana, the afraid to be alone heroine, has to remain single and have a one-night stand (a challenge she issues for herself). They must detail their experiences in weekly columns, tallying likes and comments weekly, and then the public will vote for a fan favorite to get a promotion to their own serious journalism column.
Pop culture and LA references abound, and Lana is a self-professed sci-fi geek who dreams of moving to an entertainment features column instead of giving dating advice. She’s a great friend and a decent writer but too easily manipulated, and her behavior towards Seth is not completely unwarranted, but I have trouble with women that are too mean and too immature and too inconsistent, and she occasionally veers into pretty unattractive behavior to someone she supposedly is still in love with. On the other hand, I loved the fake date setups and their boss trying to throw them together, but didn’t love that it was for hits and sales, rather than for its own merit and their happiness. The therapy sessions, group chat (Get a Room!) with the other journalists, and the great chapter headings that excerpt former and new columns are a nice touch.
I received a free advance reader’s review copy of #JustMyType from #NetGalley.
Morrissey, Bridget. A Thousand Miles. Berkley, 2022. ISBN 978-0593201176 368 pp. $15.99
Lots of drama fills this road trip tale about estranged lovers who made a promise ten years ago to retrace their epic travels from Illinois to to a decade after the first trip. Ben unexpectedly calls in this favor when his beloved Gam dies and her house needs clearing out. With some degree of shock–perhaps because of how quickly they fall into their old, familiar banter–Dee agrees to make the journey, since her hiatus lines up with teacher Ben’s summer break. Plus, there’s the matter of the Time Capsule they buried in Ben’s grandmother’s backyard…
Told in alternating voices, the narrative included occasional text exchanges and podcast scripts. The road trip includes obligatory planning the route (and side trips) in a greasy spoon, choosing snacks, and road trip games, including the License Plate game and the classic Truth or Dare that gives the characters space to unload some baggage and relive old memorials, while the ceremonial “recreating the previous road trip” activities they pursue, like bowling, allow them to get closer physically and emotionally.
Morrissey uses classic tropes to her advantage: there’s Hurt/Comfort when Dee gets ill, Forced Proximity in shared hotel rooms, and Only One Bed. After a few kisses and more than 500 miles, brash Dee finally gets up the nerve to ask what went wrong between them, and they resolve their relationship.
Now a podcaster, Ben is often referenced as Name Redacted on her podcast, Did I Forget to Tell You? The wondering why they haven’t talked in ten years while Dee still rewatches the old YouTube videos they made together in high school is an intriguing pull through an otherwise straightforward nostalgic plot. This is a must-read for fans of second-chance romance, and anyone who sometimes lives in their heads, wondering about The One That Got Away.
I received an advance reader’s review copy of #AThousandMiles via #NetGalley.