Book Review – ‘One Last Stop’ by Casey McQuiston

TITLE: One Last Stop
AUTHOR: Casey McQuiston
GENRE: LGBT/Romance/Contemporary/Sci-fi
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 432 pages (paperback)
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Pan Macmillan AU on June 8th, 2021
RRP: $26.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue comes a new romantic comedy that will stop readers in their tracks…

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time. 

If you need a book recommendation for Pride Month, look no further! ONE LAST STOP is the sapphic rom-com of my dreams and I need everyone to experience this magic with me!

The bizarre premise of a time-displaced lesbian stuck on a train for decades wouldn’t normally fit in a contemporary setting, yet I bought it without hesitation because of how grounded the characters are, despite their fantastical circumstances. Jane’s subway limbo is a fascinating mystery running throughout the book, creating tension as the reader yearns for her and August to find their happy ending, but can’t visualize how that may be possible. I won’t spoil it for you, but it’s beautiful and feels completely earned and YES, damn it, I shed tears. 

For a rom-com, the story is unexpectedly deep and emotional, and while our star-crossed lovers are the main focus, I appreciate how the importance of family and friendships is highlighted too. We meet August as a steadfast loner, then witness her barriers being eroded by her ‘aggressively friendly’ roommates even as she falls for Jane. Her world feels more real and lived-in with the care shown by the author in fleshing out numerous side characters and developing their complex social dynamics.

This book is a love letter to the queer community, from celebrating its vibrant culture to fierce moments of solidarity as characters band together to somber scenes delving into tragedies in queer history that many have forgotten. Jane’s character being entrenched in the 70s offers a unique perspective on these events and it ties into August’s life in an unexpected and rewarding way. 

Check this out for the swoonworthy sapphic romance and utterly perfect found family, hysterical banter and entertaining inner monologue, plus a nuanced exploration of queer identity and community. 10/10, whole-heartedly recommend.

Disclaimer: physical copy provided free from the publisher for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

ARC Review – ‘Written in the Stars’ by Alexandria Bellefleur

TITLE: Written in the Stars
AUTHOR: Alexandria Bellefleur
GENRE: Contemporary Romance, LGBT+
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 384 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: by Harper Collins on November 10th, 2020
RRP: $35.99 AUD (paperback)

Blurb from Goodreads:

After a disastrous blind date, Darcy Lowell is desperate to stop her well-meaning brother from playing matchmaker ever again. Love—and the inevitable heartbreak—is the last thing she wants. So she fibs and says her latest set up was a success. Darcy doesn’t expect her lie to bite her in the ass.

Elle Jones, one of the astrologers behind the popular Twitter account, Oh My Stars, dreams of finding her soul mate. But she knows it is most assuredly not Darcy… a no-nonsense stick-in-the-mud, who is way too analytical, punctual, and skeptical for someone as free-spirited as Elle. When Darcy’s brother—and Elle’s new business partner—expresses how happy he is that they hit it off, Elle is baffled. Was Darcy on the same date? Because… awkward.

When Darcy begs Elle to play along, she agrees to pretend they’re dating to save face. But with a few conditions: Darcy must help Elle navigate her own overbearing family over the holidays and their arrangement expires on New Year’s Eve. The last thing they expect is to develop real feelings during a fake relationship.

But maybe opposites can attract when true love is written in the stars?

Written In The Stars is a fun and frothy queer rom-com with a nod to Pride & Prejudice. Rather than taking the form of a straight-forward retelling, the main pairing in this book is instead just loosely inspired by Darcy and Elizabeth and the disaster that is their first meeting, which is a fun choice as it means that the story isn’t as predictable as expected.

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ARC Review – ‘Something To Talk About’ by Meryl Wilsner

TITLE: Something To Talk About
AUTHOR: Meryl Wilsner
GENRE: Contemporary Romance, LGBT+
WORD/PAGE COUNT: 384 pages
PUBLICATION DETAILS: Penguin Random House on May 26th, 2020

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A showrunner and her assistant give the world something to talk about when they accidentally fuel a ridiculous rumor in this debut romance.

Hollywood powerhouse Jo is photographed making her assistant Emma laugh on the red carpet, and just like that, the tabloids declare them a couple. The so-called scandal couldn’t come at a worse time—threatening Emma’s promotion and Jo’s new movie.

As the gossip spreads, it starts to affect all areas of their lives. Paparazzi are following them outside the office, coworkers are treating them differently, and a “source” is feeding information to the media. But their only comment is “no comment”.

With the launch of Jo’s film project fast approaching, the two women begin to spend even more time together, getting along famously. Emma seems to have a sixth sense for knowing what Jo needs. And Jo, known for being aloof and outwardly cold, opens up to Emma in a way neither of them expects. They begin to realize the rumor might not be so off base after all…but is acting on the spark between them worth fanning the gossip flames?

Honestly, I requested this because I have a passion for Devil Wears Prada femslash fanfic and I’m weak for an ice queen boss who thaws out over her hyper-competent and irresistibly charming assistant (The Proposal is my fave rom-com because of this exact trope). Something To Talk About isn’t quite what I expected, however, as Jo isn’t the dragon boss lady that I assumed from the description of her in the blurb as aloof and cold. Far from being disappointed, however, this book met my long-held and rarely satisfied desire to see more female mentor/protege dynamics in fiction.

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ARC Review – ‘Jane In Love’ by Rachel Givney

Title: Jane In Love
Author: Rachel Givney
Genre: Romance, Historical
Word/Page Count: 416 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Penguin Australia on February 4th, 2020
RRP: $32.99 AUD (paperback)

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Blurb from Goodreads:

‘If Jane Austen had the choice between the heart and the pen, what do you think she would do?’

At age twenty-eight, Jane Austen should be seeking a suitable husband, but all she wants to do is write. She is forced to take extreme measures in her quest to find true love – which lands her in the most extraordinary of circumstances.

Magically, she finds herself in modern-day England, where horseless steel carriages line the streets and people wear very little clothing. She forms a new best friend in fading film star Sofia Wentworth, and a genuine love interest in Sofia’s brother Fred, who has the audacity to be handsome, clever and kind-hearted.

She is also delighted to discover that she is now a famous writer, a published author of six novels and beloved around the globe. But as Jane’s romance with Fred blossoms, her presence in the literary world starts to waver. She must find a way to stop herself disappearing from history before it’s too late.

A modern-day reimagining of the life of one of the world’s most celebrated writers, this wonderfully witty romantic comedy offers a new side to Jane’s story, which sees her having to choose between true love in the present and her career as a writer in the past.

Whether you’re a Jane Austen fan or have yet to pick up a book of hers, ‘Jane In Love’ is sure to delight and amuse. I’ve never read a Jane Austen book in my life, but I loved reading this reimagining about Jane!

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Book Review – ‘If I Never Met You’ by Mhairi McFarlane

Title: If I Never Met You
Author: Mhairi McFarlane
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction
Word/Page Count: 416 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by Harper Collins Australia on January 6th, 2020
RRP: $24.99 AUD (paperback)

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Internationally bestselling author Mhairi McFarlane returns with another heartful romantic comedy perfect for fans of Josie Silver, Sophie Kinsella, or Sally Thorne.

If faking love is this easy… how do you know when it’s real?

When her partner of over a decade suddenly ends things, Laurie is left reeling—not only because they work at the same law firm and she has to see him every day. Her once perfect life is in shambles and the thought of dating again in the age of Tinder is nothing short of horrifying. When news of her ex’s pregnant girlfriend hits the office grapevine, taking the humiliation lying down is not an option. Then a chance encounter in a broken-down elevator with the office playboy opens up a new possibility.

Jamie Carter doesn’t believe in love, but he needs a respectable, steady girlfriend to impress their bosses. Laurie wants a hot new man to give the rumor mill something else to talk about. It’s the perfect proposition: a fauxmance played out on social media, with strategically staged photographs and a specific end date in mind. With the plan hatched, Laurie and Jamie begin to flaunt their new couple status, to the astonishment—and jealousy—of their friends and colleagues. But there’s a fine line between pretending to be in love and actually falling for your charming, handsome fake boyfriend…

It’s been ages since I’ve read a good romance and this book was absolutely delightful! I’m a sucker for the fake dating trope, and it was elevated to a whole new level here with irresistibly charming characters, wonderful friendships between both the main couple as well as the heroine and other ladies, plus a fantastic balance between heartfelt emotion and fun witty banter. I found myself close to tears at a few points and then grinning widely the next moment, the writing got me so invested in these people’s lives and loves!

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Book Review – ‘Nightchaser’ by Amanda Bouchet

Title: Nightchaser
Author: Amanda Bouchet
Genre: Romance, Science Fiction
Published by: Hachette Australia on 2nd January, 2019
Word/Page Count: 416 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Tess Bailey: the galaxy’s Most Wanted.
Captain Tess Bailey is in deep trouble. She and her crew are on the run, pursued by a tyrant who’ll take them dead or alive. Tess’s best hope is a tall, dark, and much-too-appealing stranger, Shade Ganavan, who says he can help her. But his motivations are far from clear…

Shade Ganavan: arrogance, charm…and that special something that makes you want to kick him.
With the dreaded Dark Watch closing in, what Tess and Shade don’t know about each other might get them killed…unless they can set aside their differences and learn to trust each other before it’s too late.

This was a delightful easy read that I breezed through over a few nights – as a sci-fi romance, it thrilled me with the world-building and made me invest in the relationship between Tess and Shade! It is definitely important to note that there is a heavy romantic element to the storyline, so if that doesn’t sound appealing, then this may not be for you. But if you like some sexual tension and flirty banter mixed in with space battles and intergalactic banditry, I’m happy to recommend this! 🙂

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Book Review – ‘Lord of Secrets’ by Erica Ridley

Title: Lord of Secrets
Author: Erica Ridley
Genre:  Historical Romance
Date of Publication: 15th June, 2018
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Heath Grenville is the problem-solver for London’s elite. Unmask the devious cretin skewering the ton with audacious caricatures? With pleasure. His success should keep the powerful happy. But when his work leads him to a young lady outside his class, surely he won’t do anything so scandalous as to fall in love

By day, Miss Eleanora Winfield is a proper, unremarkable paid companion. By night, Nora’s skillful hands sketch the infamous penny caricatures rocking high society. Nora desperately needs the money…and her anonymity. But how can she keep them both, when she’s fallen for the one man whose livelihood and reputation requires him to expose her?

The reviews on Goodreads are very positive, so this is a case of ‘it’s not the book, it’s me’. Although I liked Nora and Heath, I didn’t engage emotionally with their developing romance and the supporting cast of characters were fine, but nothing to write home about.

I will note that this story has a couple that take the time to get to know each other personally instead of falling in insta-lust, which is something I really have to commend the author for because I always want more of that! The couple’s devotion to their respective family members was lovely and I enjoyed Heath’s interactions with his sisters and Nora’s with Lady Roundtree, but it’s not a great sign that I felt more interest in the family dynamics than I did in their romance.  There wasn’t much chemistry between them at the start, and while I liked them as friends, I didn’t feel it was believable that they felt this consuming passion for each other that would explain why they HAD to torment themselves with visions of the future they supposedly couldn’t have.

The main problem was that the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of their wildly varying social classes with Nora being a commoner and Heath being a titled lord expected to marry well kept being repeated ad nauseum. I started bookmarking every time the whole ‘I want him/her, but we’re not meant to beee‘ refrain came up, but then stopped because it was in EVERY. SINGLE. CHAPTER. We get it! This isn’t difficult to grasp! There was a marked lack of angst or dramatic tension, so it was as though the author had to keep falling back on this one obstacle to keep the story going and it had me gritting my teeth just wishing the characters would forget each other and move on already.

If you’re in the mood for a low-stakes fluffy romance, this will suit you well. Again, I seem to be the lone critical voice as the majority of reviews are filled with glowing praise, so this is a book that seems to work for most readers. Alas, it just wasn’t for me!

Personal Rating: 3 out of 5 kitties approve this book.

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Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed a digital copy free from WebMotion via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

ARC Review – ‘Giving Up The Boss’ by Victoria Davies

Title: Giving Up The Boss
Author: Victoria Davies
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Date of Publication: 9th July, 2018
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Executive assistant Lori has finally said those three little words to her boss, Jackson Sinclair, that have haunted her for months–– Goodbye, I quit.  Yep. That happened. Then she sort of ran over him. It was an accident. No. Really. It was. Now he can’t remember anything––and it’s up to her to keep his billion-dollar corporation running until he gets his memory back.

Billionaire Jackson Sinclair wakes up in a hospital to a life he can’t remember. The only person who feels familiar is Lori. The more he learns about his past, though, the more it disturbs him. He was kind of cold, and he can’t imagine why the lovely Lori put up with him. And she is lovely, as in, he can’t stop thinking about her. But he has a company to save, and there’s no time for that sort thing. Especially when it seems like his assistant is hiding something from him.

As his condition shows no signs of healing, Lori can’t help wonder what’s best, telling the truth about his accident and losing the man of her dreams or keeping quiet and living the best lie of her life.

I read the author’s previous book ‘Right Billionaire, Wrong Wedding‘ in one sitting overnight and had to request ‘Giving Up The Boss‘ when I saw it on Netgalley in the hopes that lightning would strike twice – and indeed it did! I blame Victoria Davies for making me stay up two nights in a row to finish her books, but I can’t complain, it was a wonderful way to spend a rainy gloomy weekend!

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ARC Review – ‘Kiss of the Spindle’ by Nancy Campbell Allen

Title: Kiss of the Spindle
Author: Nancy Campbell Allen
Genre:  Steampunk, Fantasy, Romance
Date of Publication: 3rd July, 2018
Page Count: 360 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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A steampunk Sleeping Beauty story from the author of Beauty and the Clockwork Beast.

Doctor Isla Cooper is cursed. Literally. Each night, at the stroke of midnight she falls into a death-like sleep from which she cannot be awakened for six hours. To make it worse, the curse has an expiration date—after a year, it becomes permanent. And the year is almost up.

In a desperate attempt to find Malette—the witch who cursed her—Isla blackmails her way onto Daniel Pickett’s private airship bound for the Caribbean, only to discover she’s traveling with three illegal shapeshifters and the despicable Nigel Crowe, a government official determined to hunt down and exterminate every shapeshifter in England. Isla and Daniel must work together to keep the identities of the shapeshifters hidden while coming to terms with their own hidden secrets, and their blossoming attraction to each other.

Filled with suspense, intrigue, and plenty of romance, Kiss of the Spindle is steampunk Sleeping Beauty story. It is a race against the clock as Isla and Daniel try to hunt down the elusive Malette before Isla’s death-like sleep becomes permanent.

I haven’t read the first book in this series and that in no way affected my enjoyment of Kiss of the Spindle. It features the brother of the protagonist from Beauty and the Clockwork Beast, but I found it easy enough to pick this up without the benefit of prior introduction. However now that I’ve read and adored this book so much, I’m definitely going to have to pick the other one up! ❤

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Review – ‘The Queen of Ieflaria’ by Effie Calvin

Title: The Queen of Ieflaria
Author: Effie Calvin
Genre:  Fantasy, LGBT, Romance
Date of Publication: 19th February, 2018
Page Count: 182 pages (paperback)
Synopsis: (from Goodreads)

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Princess Esofi of Rhodia and Crown Prince Albion of Ieflaria have been betrothed since they were children but have never met. At age seventeen, Esofi’s journey to Ieflaria is not for the wedding she always expected but instead to offer condolences on the death of her would-be husband.

But Ieflaria is desperately in need of help from Rhodia for their dragon problem, so Esofi is offered a new betrothal to Prince Albion’s younger sister, the new Crown Princess Adale. But Adale has no plans of taking the throne, leaving Esofi with more to battle than fire-breathing beasts.

This had a rough start and I put it aside for a long while because I wasn’t feeling it, but the allure of a f/f pairing in a fantasy setting was too much to give up on that easily, so I came back determined to continue with this and ended up really enjoying it! I’m so glad I persevered because The Queen of Ieflaria has such a good-natured humor and charm to it with an endearing ship, and I would’ve been sadly missing out.

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