Review: Elle Maxwell’s Us, Again

I want to begin by thanking the author, Elle Maxwell, for providing me an ARC in exchange for an honest review. When I saw the cover and read the synopsis, I couldn’t wait to read it, and I feel so fortunate to have been able to read an ARC edition.


Synopsis
One look at Graham Wyatt, the former love of Mackenzie’s life, and she almost forgets that for the last five years she’s vowed off love indefinitely. Five years ago, Graham broke both Mackenzie’s heart and her spirit, but she’s successfully built herself back up again. Although, Graham’s past is dark and complicated, his heart is still set on Mackenzie even after all this time. With the baggage that comes with past heartbreak, this second chance at love is more complicated than either Graham or Mackenzie realize.


Us, Again is for fans of:

  • second-chance romance
  • suspenseful elements in romance
  • books with complex, flawed, and deeply human characters
  • romance with an independent and strong heroine who continually advocates for her best interests

Spoiler Free Review
What I liked
:
Oh gosh there was so much to love in Us, Again. Y’all we’re going to have to break it down a bit. First, the writing to form the character’s personalities was impeccable. These characters were deeply flawed and deeply human. They had fears, desires, and hopes. And I’m not just talking about the two main characters (who are just…amazing) but also about the cast of secondary characters who not only held their own but surpassed my expectations.

Mackenzie’s character was my favorite though due to her originality and independence. I have never seen a character in the romance genre like her. She loved and cared for Graham so deeply, but more than that, she cared and loved herself. The message that Mackenzie sends to adult women is so important. There is a special scene between her and her mom where they discuss deal breakers in relationships and it almost broke me. I wanted to repeat this advice to my younger self.

The plot was also great. I would characterize this as suspenseful second-chance romance. There are great suspenseful scenes in Us, Again and especially so once it ramps up toward the end. However, my favorite aspect of the plot was the relationship between Mackenzie and Graham. Us, Again tackles important, fundamental issues and roadblocks that occur in every day relationships. It doesn’t sugarcoat what it means to love someone. It shows the gritty, dark underbelly of love — the place where it’s vulnerable and scary. Us, Again doesn’t shy away from the soul shattering aspects of love and it’s all the better for it.

Overall, I’m so happy and fortunate that I was able to read this book and go on this journey with the characters. There is a spinoff coming on one of the secondary characters and you can believe I will be lining up to read it! Us, Again gets a 5/5 from me.

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Ratings:
My overall: 5/5
Steam: 4/5
Romance: 5/5
Friendship: 5/5

Goodreads: 4.76/5


Get More Info: sign up for the author’s newsletter; connect with the author on Instagram; find Us, Again on Amazon

Us, Again is Elle Maxwell’s debut adult romance. It publishes on November 11, 2019, and is available for pre-order here.


About the author: Us, Again is author Elle Maxwell’s debut novel.

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. The author was kind enough to provide me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Cover Reveal: RS Grey’s His Royal Highness

HRHEbooksCoverY’all, the cover reveal for RS Grey’s upcoming release, His Royal Highness, is here! I absolutely love the colors in the cover for this one. I had no idea what to expect, but I love the dual blue and pink tones.

His Royal Highness is a romantic comedy, and the synopsis sounds amazing. It publishes on November 14th and I seriously cannot wait. Seriously. Cannot. Wait. If you’re interested in reading more from this author in the meantime, I have a review on Make Me Bad and Coldhearted Boss. I also have a RS Grey author highlight where I talk about all my favorite RS Grey reads.

Check out the synopsis for His Royal Highness below!

I’ve spent eight years wishing I’d fall out of love with Derek Knightley. Blowing out birthday candles, chasing after shooting stars, making it rain spare change into mall fountains—every time it’s the same wish: forget about Derek.

But the day he walks back into my life, I realize there are two things time has yet to soften: my feelings for him and his chiseled jawline.

It’s infuriating that my heart still races when he walks into a room. I refuse to fall prey to old unrequited love, so I decide the less I’m around him, the better. Avoidance is key.

Unfortunately, Derek isn’t going to make it easy. As a teenager, I would have crawled on my hands and knees to attract his attention. Now I can’t seem to escape it.

I’m not sure why he’s bothering. He’s not just out of my league—he’s out of my tax bracket. As the sole heir to the Knightley Company, he’s as close to American royalty as you can get. As for me, I’m just a part-time princess at Knightley’s flagship magical theme park.

I spend my days playing make-believe, but Derek has no use for fairytales. His unwavering confidence makes it clear he thinks I’ll surrender in the end.

He’s just biding his time.
Making me sweat.

His Royal Highness always gets what he wants.
And he wants me.

Teaser1HRH

Review: Helen Hoang’s The Bride Test

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“How did you change your life when you were trapped like this?
Her history didn’t define her. Her origins didn’t define her.
At least, they shouldn’t. She could be more, if she had a chance.”

Synopsis
Khai Diep is a total catch. He excels at his job, and is a devoted friend, brother, and son. Hence the reason why his mom can’t wait to marry him off. Khai, however, has a different view on love and marriage. Because Khai processes his emotions differently, he worries he can’t feel emotions like grief or love “correctly.” But his mom is tired of waiting, so she takes matters into her own hands. She returns from a visit to Vietnam with Esme Tran who she believes to be Khai’s perfect bride. Esme knows a trip to America could help herself and her family in more ways than one. But seducing Khai proves harder than she initially thought. As she starts to fall for Khai for real, she’s determined to show him that there are many different ways to love.


The Kiss Quotient is for fans of:

  • You enjoy the mail-order bride trope/arranged marriage trope
  • You love slow-burn romance
  • You appreciate books that have inclusive characters with diverse backgrounds
  • You want to read an OWN Voices author’s work

Spoiler Free Review
What I liked:
I want to start with what I loved. I love that Helen Hoang writes inclusive characters with diverse backgrounds. Kai is on the autism spectrum (ASD), and Esme is a Vietnamese citizen who travels to the United States. These characters have vastly different backgrounds, and I appreciated learning more about their perspectives and experiences. I can’t begin to describe how amazing it is to have more representation in books and especially in romance (my favorite genre). Knowing people can find themselves and see themselves in characters is so crucial.

Also, autism spectrum disorder has a special place in my heart. My family (and myself) are all huge advocates for autism spectrum disorder awareness in honor of my cousin, Tucker, who is amazing, intelligent, caring and also happens to be on the autism spectrum. He is the youngest child to be diagnosed in the state of West Virginia (where I’m originally from). If you want to learn more about autism spectrum disorder – I suggest starting here.

Another aspect I loved was Esme’s characterization. She is a strong, independent woman and you can’t help but root for her from the very beginning. She has such a genuine heart, and her motives are so pure as she only has the best interest for her family in mind.

I also enjoyed the slow-burn build up and the sexy scenes. I think it is very clear that the author is an extremely talented writer. Slow-burn is my absolute favorite, so it didn’t bother me that it took awhile before the characters’ romance started to build. I feel like for me this makes the romance more realistic. I feel like slow-burn happens much more often than insta-love in real life.

The last thing I want to talk about is the writing. This book is full of the most beautiful, eloquent writing. I could fill this entire post with quotes that I love from this book. I really just can’t stress the pure talent seen in The Bride Test.

What I didn’t like:
Now onto what I didn’t love. I did not love that Esme didn’t seem to take a huge interest in learning or asking questions about autism spectrum disorder. After learning that Kai was on the autism spectrum, she kind of just went “ok.” Even though she was sensitive to this and had great communication on what Kai’s comfort level was, I wish she would have explicitly inquired about it further. For me this just fell a little flat. I think this also would have been a great opportunity to educate readers even more about autism spectrum disorder through Esme’s learning experience.

However, my biggest issue with the story was the “secret,” and that it wasn’t revealed until the very, very end of the book. I’m talking like the last 5-10%. This was revealed too late for me. As a result, I felt like Kai and Esme were considering a commitment with one another without even knowing each other. The secret was such a huge part of Esme’s life, and I didn’t like that it played virtually no role in Kai and Esme’s relationship until the very, very end. Perhaps I would feel differently if the reveal came earlier or more came after the reveal. It just did not cut it for me.

As a result, the romance just fell flat. I didn’t feel like there was a particularly strong friendship foundation between the two. I didn’t feel like they really knew who each other were as people because there were so many secrets or things left unsaid between them for long periods of time. I don’t want to say more because this is spoiler-free!

Overall, I’m still so happy I read The Bride Test. It’s a cute new adult contemporary with some sexy scenes for sure. There is amazing representation and diversity here, and that’s definitely something to celebrate. I thought the characters were well written, and the writing was strong. The romance just lacked a bit for me, and that’s ultimately why it fell a bit flat. I’m giving this one a 3.5/5.

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Ratings:
My overall: 3.5/5
Steam: 3.5/5
Romance: 3.5/5
Friendship: 2.5/5
Representation: 5/5

Goodreads: 4.17/5


Get More Information:
The Bride Test is Helen Hoang’s newest release and is a companion novel to The Kiss Quotient. It’s available to purchase now.

Links: visit Helen Hoang’s website; connect with the author on Facebook; connect with the author on Instagram; find The Bride Test on Amazon; find The Kiss Quotient on Amazon


About the Author: Helen Hoang is that shy person who never talks. Until she does. And the worst things fly out of her mouth. She read her first romance novel in eighth grade and has been addicted ever since. In 2016, she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in line with what was previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Her journey inspired THE KISS QUOTIENT. She currently lives in San Diego, California with her husband, two kids, and pet fish.


This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links.

Review: Elle Kennedy’s The Play

Hi Y’all! Happy October. Today I’m reviewing Elle Kennedy’s newest release, The Play. It is the third and final book in the Briar U series. To read more of my thoughts on the series, check out my author highlight on Elle Kennedy here. While The Play can be read as a standalone, it does follow a group of characters. I’d suggest starting with the first book, The Chase.

“Because I’ve done nothing but love that girl with all my heart.
And because I love her, I have faith in her.”

Synopsis and Content Warnings

Determined to solely focus on hockey after last season’s disastrous ending, team captain Hunter makes a celibacy vow. After last season, he’s through with distractions. Although, as soon as Hunter gets paired up with Demi for a yearlong project, he realizes this vow may be harder to keep than he thought. Demi is intelligent, driven, sarcastic, and right up Hunter’s alley. So when she makes a play for him, his resolve is tested in more ways than one.

CW: attempted suicide


The Play is for fans of:

  • sports romances, hockey in particular
  • characters who are college-aged/collegiate settings
  • romance with comedic elements

Review
What I liked:
I just love living in the universe that Elle Kennedy has created. The collegiate atmosphere, college campus, hockey teams, and cast of characters are what make this series (and this book) great. I love her writing style and think she has such a talent for creating unique character voices.

Hunter was one of my favorite characters to read about in her series. He felt like such a different take on an alpha-type hero. There weren’t silly miscommunication issues that drove the plot. He was honest and upfront about what he wanted and his intentions. It was so (!!) refreshing. The miscommunication-style plots usually have me yelling at the book in pure frustration. There was none of that here. Also, it’s worth noting that a celibate hero is certainly a divergence from the norm in romance.

What I didn’t like: (warning: very, very MINOR potential spoilers)
I normally wouldn’t categorize this as a spoiler because you find this out at the very beginning, but I know everyone has different definitions on what a spoiler is. Demi is in a relationship (not with the main hero) at the beginning of the book. This lasts until about the 40% mark. I did not like this. I just personally don’t enjoy OW/OM plot points in my romances. I know for some this is no big deal, but for me I kept wanting to rush through it so we could see more interactions between the couple. This always brings a romance down a bit for me. (Again, personal preference! You may not mind this at all.)

I also didn’t love that Demi peer pressured Hunter into breaking his celibacy vow. While Hunter did give his consent and the official ok, I still thought it was super lame that Demi basically continuously asked him after he said no and didn’t support him in this. He only wanted to wait a few months so I really didn’t understand the rush here. It just made it feel super juvenile.

Something that also bothered me is the tag line for this book, “She’s the Player He Didn’t See Coming.” It is inaccurate. Demi has only had one boyfriend in her life before she meets the hero and they had been dating for eight years. I truly don’t understand where the tagline came from, and I believe it’s very misleading. This really isn’t an issue with the book itself and it didn’t affect my rating. I just wanted to throw this out there just in case you read the tagline and get intrigued because it’s just not true.

I also included a content warning of attempted suicide. I didn’t love this plot point and it felt like it just missed the mark for me. It felt like it came out of left field and it was hard to connect to this character because they are barely mentioned and the interactions with them are so, so minimal. It felt more like a plot point for Demi to solidify her career options than to examine the effects of mental illness.

Overall, I still enjoyed the book. I think one of the reasons I felt more critical in my review is because I love Elle Kennedy and nearly all of her books are 4 or 5 stars for me. I have read eleven of her books, so I know I have high expectations when it comes to her writing. This is easily my least favorite Elle Kennedy book. However, I still love her writing and if you’d like to check out the other eleven books I love from her, check out my author highlight post. The Play gets a 3/5 from me.

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Ratings:
My overall: 3/5
Steam: 3/5
Romance: 3/5
Friendship: 3.5/5

Goodreads: 4.16/5


Get More Information:
The Play is new adult contemporary, and it was published on October 7, 2019. It’s available to purchase here.

links: Visit Elle Kennedy’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Twitter; find The Chase on Amazon; find The Risk on Amazon; find The Play on Amazon


About Elle Kennedy:
A New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a B.A. in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager.

Elle writes romantic suspense and erotic contemporary romance for various publishers. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting!

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links.

 

Author Highlight: Elle Kennedy

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A series I started here on the blog is “Author Highlights.” It’s a whole post where I gush about my favorite authors. This week it’s Elle Kennedy, one of my favorite romance authors.

Elle Kennedy is a NY Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She writes romantic suspense, and contemporary adult romance. I have read eleven Elle Kennedy books, and I’m slowly making my way through her entire collection. EK books are not new here on whim&witty. I’ve written a review on The Risk and talked about Elle Kennedy books on my mashup romance genre post. To celebrate the most recent release, The Play, I’m here to tell you about my experience reading EK books!


Off-Campus series
The Off-Campus series holds a special place in my heart because these were some of the first new-adult romance books that I read. I’m so happy it was because this series got me hooked on the genre. While each book is a standalone, they follow the same character group so I’d still suggest reading from the beginning.

This series consists of The Deal, The Mistake, The Score, and The Goal. This series takes place on a college campus and each of the heroes play hockey. Y’all know I love a good sports romance and hockey is my favorite. The Deal is my favorite by far because I love Hannah, the main character. She’s sassy, outspoken, and career-driven. Sign me up!

Truly though, The Deal, The Mistake, and The Score are all 5/5 books for me. EK has such a unique voice and the way she captures characters in their early twenties is so realistic! Another thing I love about this series is the complex family dynamics included in each book. It helps give each romance depth.

The Goal is my only 3/5 rating for this series and this is mainly because it includes a trope that is one of my least favorites. (If you want spoiled click my books tab > browse by trope). Take this with a grain of salt though, because you may totally love this one if this trope is one you’re into. Clearly this one is an outlier for me!

I would recommend starting here if you haven’t read EK before.


Briar U series
The Briar U series is a spin-off of the Off-Campus series. It takes place on the same campus and the hero characters are similarly on the hockey team. Again, each can be read as a standalone, but it follows the same group so I’d still suggest starting at the beginning.

This series consists of The Chase, The Risk, and The Play. The Risk is my favorite book out of this series. The main character, Brenna, was so funny to read through. She’s totally badass and takes on feminist issues in a male-dominated career/workplace. The Risk also features two of my favorite tropes enemies-to-lovers and fake relationship. Read my whole review here (it’s a 5/5.)

I gave The Chase a 4/5. While I really enjoyed this story, I got a little annoyed with the hero going back and forth. I still highly recommend it though!

The Play is the most recent release and I gave it a 3.5/5. I just felt a little disconnected from this book. I’m hoping to post a full review soon and when I do, I’ll link back here. There is a bit of OM/OW in the beginning before our two characters get together and this always brings the romance down a bit for me. Again, this is just a personal choice for me and it may be right up your alley.

I still recommend starting with Off-Campus, but definitely check out Briar U to get to know the new characters and see glimpses of how the old characters turned out!


Him series
The Him series is a collaboration between Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen. This is a M/M romance and also features two college hockey players. (Can you see a theme? I love hockey.) This consists of two books: Him and Us. This is a second chance romance and it really explores the complex dynamics of how a friendship can translate to a romance and it’s a sweet first-time m/m romance. EK and Sarina Bowen are magic together. Him was a 5/5 for me and Us was a 4/5.

If you like sports romance and m/m, this series is a must!


WAGs series
The WAGs series is a spin-off from the Him series and is co-authored again by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen. (WAGs = wives and girlfriends). This series has two books: Good Boy and Stay. This series also follows hockey players, but this time they’re professional players so the characters are a bit older. Stay is my favorite in the series because I just love our main characters, Hailey and Matt. The angst and buildup between the two is *chefs kiss.* Stay is a 5/5 for me.

I rated Good Boy a 4/5. I really enjoyed this one and it has such great humor. Wedding planning drives the plot and it makes for hilarious content. This one isn’t a full 5/5 just because I couldn’t deeply connect with the characters (I typically need some big emotional scenes for this to happen.) I still highly recommend it, especially if you’re in the market for sports romance with a lot of humor!

Ok y’all that’s all I’ve got for my second “Author Highlight.” I’m already planning my next few highlights, but in the meantime check out some of Elle Kennedy’s books.


Get More Info: visit Elle Kennedy’s website; get more information on the Off Campus series; get more information on the Briar U series; get more information on the Him series; get more information on the WAGs series.

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. All books mentioned were purchased by me.

Review: Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland’s Park Avenue Player

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“It’s okay to smile in the midst of darkness.”

Synopsis
To say Elodie and Hollis got off on the wrong foot is an understatement. After the two get into a fender bender, they realize Elodie was on her way to interview for a caretaker position for Hollis’ young niece. Although initially rejected, Elodie ends up with the job and her relationship with young, Hailey quickly builds. Of course, the sexual tension between Hollis and Elodie quickly builds as well. But, the two soon realize that life has a way of complicating things and their pasts are a lot more complicated than they think.


Park Avenue Player is for fans of:

  • slow burn romance and the nanny/caretaker trope
  • romances with emotional plotlines
  • dual-POVs

Spoiler Free Review
What I liked:
I truly didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but I loved it. I connected instantly with Elodie and rooted for her from beginning to end. I love how strong willed, dedicated, and loyal she was. She served as a patient, empathetic role model for Hailey, and it made me love her even more.

Hollis was also a great lead to read about. He was dynamic, and I loved how he grew into a great father figure for Hailey.

Of course, I also loved the couple themselves. They didn’t have the typical miscommunication-driven plot issues, which was so refreshing. Instead the couple felt real and their struggles and their conflicts were understandable. Their relationship was also slow-build which y’all know is my favorite. There was also some seriously sexy buildup between Elodie and Hollis that had me yelling at them in my head to just get together already.

Fair warning, though, this book was emotional and heart wrenching. For me, it wasn’t as emotional as Hate Notes (another book by this author-duo), but it definitely still pulled at all my heart strings. Ultimately, this book was about hope. It’s a beautiful story and it’s definitely recommended by me.

What I didn’t like:
The only thing I didn’t love about this book was the alternating time lines. There are some sections that take place in the past to explain a character’s backstory. While it was 100% necessary to understand the story and connect with the character, I just have a personal preference for linear stories. I’m always rushing back to the present sections to see what happens next. Again, this is a personal preference and not really an issue with the story.

Overall, I really loved this one and it gets a 4.5/5 from me.

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Ratings:
My overall: 5/5
Steam: 4/5
Romance: 4/5
Friendship: 5/5

Goodreads: 4.54/5


Get More Information:
Park Avenue Player is new adult contemporary, and it was published on September 23, 2019. It’s available to purchase here. As of 9/23/19 it is available on Kindle Unlimited.

Links: connect with Penelope Ward on Instagram; connect with Vi Keeland on Instagram; visit Penelope Ward’s website; visit Vi Keeland’s website


About Penelope Ward: Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance.

She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism.

About Vi Keeland: Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author.  With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over one hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-six languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.


This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links.

Review: Riley Sager’s The Last Time I Lied

TheLastTimeILied

“Everything is a game, Em. Whether you know it or not.
Which means that sometimes a lie is more than just a lie.
Sometimes it’s the only way to win.”

Synopsis
Camp Nightingale is a summer sleepaway camp for the prestigious elite. At least, it is until three girls go missing, leaving their thirteen-year-old bunkmate, Emma, behind. Fifteen years later, Emma is still haunted and decides to return to Camp Nightingale to uncover the truth about that summer. Yet, she quickly realizes the truth may be harder to unearth than she thinks, especially when its buried underneath some lies of her own.


The Last Time I Lied is for fans of:

  • slow burn suspense novels
  • books that alternate between past and present timelines
  • sleepaway camp settings

Spoiler Free Review
What I liked:
Honestly, I kind of loved everything about The Last Time I Lied. The plot of missing girls at a sleepaway camp drew me in from the very beginning. There’s just something about camp settings that screams suspense to me. Add in Emma, an unreliable narrator, and a group of untrustworthy characters and everyone became a suspect.

I enjoyed the alternating time lines and found both the past and present interesting and eerie. Both timelines were compelling and provided clues to truth about the girls’ disappearance.

There are so many twists and turns in this one that I was kept on the edge of my seat from the beginning until the very, very end. I had many theories, yet I was still so far off from the reveal(s) at the end.

 I loved The Last Time I Lied. 5/5 stars from me. I continue to be impressed by Riley Sager.

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Ratings:
My overall: 5/5
Suspense: 5/5
Character Development: 3.5/5
Ending: 5/5

Goodreads: 4.06/5


Get More Information:
The Last Time I Lied is a thriller, and it was published on July 3, 2019. It’s available to purchase here.

Links: connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Twitter; read my review of another Riley Sager book, Final Girls


About the Author: Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer. Now a full-time writer, Riley is the author of FINAL GIRLS, an international bestseller that has been published in 25 languages, and the New York Times bestseller THE LAST TIME I LIED. His latest book, LOCK EVERY DOOR, will be published in July. A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.


This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links.