Romance Review Roundup: Vol. 4

The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn (Rokesbys #2)

Publisher: Avon on May 30, 2017

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

With her brother Thomas injured on the battlefront in the Colonies, orphaned Cecilia Harcourt has two unbearable choices: move in with a maiden aunt or marry a scheming cousin.

If you’ve been reading my review roundups for a while, then you probably know that if there’s one thing I despise in romance, it’s angst. So imagine my surprise when I found myself loving the low-key angst in THE GIRL WITH THE MAKE-BELIEVE HUSBAND!

The plotline – Cecelia tricks Edward into believing they’re married so she can find her missing brother – practically guarantees angst, but Quinn does an excellent job tempering it so it doesn’t take over the whole story. There are still tons of cute, flirty moments between Cecelia and Edward and I was definitely swooning. Even with Cecelia’s deception, I didn’t judge her too harshly since the pair had practically fallen in love already through their letters. I love it when a fictional couple falls in love through letter writing!

Unlike most of Quinn’s other books, THE GIRL WITH THE MAKE-BELIEVE HUSBAND isn’t set in England but rather in America. Normally I love a good setting shake-up, but I confess that I missed the strict social etiquette and familiar locales that normally feature so prominently in Quinn’s work. However, I don’t think that Cecelia’s deception would’ve been possible in England so I understand why the change in scenery was necessary.

Cecelia and Edward’s relationship is very romantic and their romance is considerably more steamy than Quinn’s usual fair, so if you’ve found that missing from her work in the past you’ll love this one!

Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie

Publisher: Mira on January 1, 1994

Source: Library

High school physics teacher Lucy Savage is finally getting rid of Bradley–and his hideous green recliner.

Whenever I’m in the mood for something zany, screwball, and lough out loud funny, I reach for a Jennifer Crusie novel. Her romances are a guaranteed good time, and although I don’t think GETTING RID OF BRADLEY is her best work, it was a fun read.

Lucy Savage is recently free of her ex-husband Bradley, with his judgmental attitude, his cold demeanor, and his ugly green recliner. With her three rambunctious dogs in tow, Lucy sets off to become the confident, independent woman she’s always wanted to be. But every time she turns around, Bradley’s name comes up. Detective Zack Warren seems to think that Lucy – and the charming house she got in the divorce – is the key to cracking a case connected to Bradley. What follows is a series of events involving mistaken identity, Floridian mobsters, 24-hour protection details that turn steamy, and two people who’re determined not to fall in love finding themselves in the thick of it.

While I enjoyed this story overall, the beginning of GETTING RID OF BRADLEY was too slow for my liking and Zack came across as a jerk. Thankfully he pulled his head out of his ass and realized how smart and funky Lucy was before I got overly annoyed with him. Lucy is the star of the show: she’s a dog-loving, logical, stubborn woman who says what she thinks, and she made this book for me. Recommended for people looking for a funny, if somewhat over-the-top read.

Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson

Publisher: Entangled Teen on June 6, 2017

Source: Publisher

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a digital review copy. No compensation was provided for this review, and all opinions are my own.

Per her 537 rules, Harper Campbell keeps her life tidy—academically and socially.

Four words, y’all: YA boarding school romance. In case you’re still (somehow) on the fence, this also features flawed yet likeable characters, enemies to lovers, and a prank war.

Harper Campbell doesn’t have any friends at her elite boarding school, aside from her twin brother Cole; this is partly because of her type A personality and social anxiety, both of which are perfectly exhibited in her 537 Rules to living life. The Rules have helped her stay on track academically and morally, and Harper clings to them with all her might. But when arrogant, trouble-making new kid Sterling Lane shows up and Cole starts getting into hot water with the school’s administration, Harper can’t help but draw a connection between the two. To take down Sterling and protect Cole, Harper’s going to break more than a few of her own Rules.

The second Harper and Sterling lock swords (and eyes), it was so on. Their chemistry is unbelievable, even when they’re convinced that they loathe each other. You couldn’t find two people who seem more dissimilar: Harper’s tightly wound and über responsible while Sterling is a lazy, spoiled party boy. But underneath it all, these two are different sides of the same coin and their romance is inevitable. Yet a relationship with Sterling would fly in the face of Harper’s sanctified Rules, so what’s a girl to do?

This is a YA romance that peels back the layers of seemingly unlikable characters to show their vulnerabilities without ever changing who they are fundamentally. Highly recommended!

Have you read any of these romance novels? What’s your favourite romantic trope – do you go in for enemies to lovers like I do? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Ohhh Quinn! I want it

  • Sam Kozbial

    I read Sterling Lane, and overall, really liked it. I just could have done without Cole’s storyline. I wanted more of the pranks, and the friends working together.
    Sam @ WLABB

    • Yeah, I agree: the Cole storyline did feel sort of shoved in there. I think it would’ve worked better as an ARC that was more closely tied to the school rather than something totally separate.

  • Just thinking about Cecilia and Thomas has my heart aching. I’m thrilled that you loved it as much as I did. I despise angst in romances too unless I’m specifically looking for it, but it was done well here. It didn’t feel contrived or over-the-top, which is why it worked for me. I’ll be re-reading this one soon, because swoons! I agree, it was definitely steamier than her usual books, which is a good thing since I’m always complaining about her books not being steamy enough haha!

    I need to read more Crusie! Lucy sounds like a fun girl. I already love her from your review. It’s too bad about the slow start and Zack being a jerk at first. Is there anything more unattractive than a jerky love interest? UGH!

    I just finished reading Sterling Lane, and it was awesome. I loved the chemistry between the two as well. And the hate-to-love was done really well! The banter! EEP! So glad you liked it!

    • I’m so glad you hyped it up for me Nick, because I absolutely loved Cecelia and Thomas’ story. Even with the angst! It felt totally believable, and I also completely understood how Cecelia’s lies spun out of control in a bad situation. Yes! This one was *definitely* steamier than Quinn’s usual, not that you’ll hear me complain. I’m excited to see what she comes up with next!

      Jennifer Crusie’s books are so much fun! Kaja from Of Dragons and Hearts compared her books to the Stephanie Plum series, which I think is pretty accurate: they’re a bit OTT and crazy, but that’s their appeal. THANK YOU! End jerky love interests.

      Hooray! I absolutely loved it too. The chemistry, the banter, the PRANK WAR. I’m still not over it. Gotta keep an eye on Ingrid Paulson from here on out, clearly! 😀

  • Karen

    Yay! Low angst lovers unite! lol

    Lucy from the second book sounds pretty awesome.

    For What It’s Worth

    • Low Angst Lovers should totally be a romance reading group, haha. Lucy was a ton of fun, and her dogs were great too!

      • Karen

        OMG yes! This needs to be a thing! lol

  • I haven’t read much romance, but that last one with the boarding school sounds cool! I’m a total sucker for boarding school stories, especially if it’s some kind of combat/magical school.

    • Boarding school settings are totally catnip for me, whether they’re romances or otherwise. Magic school is a classic!

  • Saw a review of the first book and have wanted to read it since. I haven’t read a historical romance in a while so I might try that one for sure.

    • Oooh, I definitely recommend The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband if you’re looking to get back into historical romance. It was very swoon-worthy!

  • Bookworm Brandee

    I haven’t read any of these authors, Danya! I’ll make sure to add them into my queue sooner than later, especially Quinn and Paulson. I do really like the sound of Lucy from Crusie’s book though. I admire (and aspire to) being a woman who speaks her mind. 😉 Great romance roundup!

    • You haven’t read any Julia Quinn?! You’re in for a real treat, Brandee. Her books always leave a smile on my face, and I was very impressed by Paulson too. Lucy is such a fun heroine! She handles adversity with humour and grace, and she certainly speaks her mind. Thanks, Brandee!

  • I really loved Because of Miss Bridgerton so I’m super anxious for my library hold to come in for The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband!! So glad to see you enjoyed it. 🙂

    • Honestly, I preferred Because of Miss Bridgerton to The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband (I like the quiet studious heroes like George more than confident, slick types like Thomas) but they’re both really strong. I’m excited to hear what you think of it!

  • Lynn Williams

    I haven’t read any of these but I have recently added the Glamour Glass series and bought book No1 – which I’m really looking forward to.
    Lynn 😀

    • Ooooh, I’m excited to hear your take on Shades of Milk and Honey! I’m listening to the third book on audio right now and I really like it so far. 🙂

  • The Julia Quinn book sounds amazing and must go in my brain toot sweet! I’m really intrigued by the idea of an American setting! I am also a little attracted to Why I Loathe… but it’s contemporary. I do love a boarding school though, so maybe that would help counteract?? I think I want to read it, contemporariness be damned.

    • You can always count on Julia Quinn to deliver a great romance read! She pulled off the American setting quite well, I think, but I do tend to prefer a UK setting. Why I Loathe Sterling Lane is sooooo much fun! Based on your enjoyment of Anna and the French Kiss, I think you’d really like this one. The banter is sooo good!

  • I’ve just finished Julia Quinn’s newest book and I really loved it. I mean, I did kind of miss the UK setting as I don’t tend to be a big fan of the US setting in historical romance but it kind of worked for me in this one. I totally expected to dislike the whole lying business, though. I am a big fan of characters using their words and it would solve a lot of romance drama (although, make for much shorter books) but I actually got how Cecelia got herself into the mess of having a fake husband in the first place and kept lying about it. I think it only worked as she wasn’t mean about it and did feel guilty and because Edward was just so damned honourable and good. I kind of wish we got to see more of their letters and them falling in love but it was really sweet how they both were crushing on one another before they even met.

    Getting Rid of Bradley isn’t my favourite of Crusie’s books but it was pretty fun. I think it’s the dogs that got me in that one. I really loved the dogs. I love a good book pet and Crusie does them the best.

    And YA boarding school romance, you say? How have I not seen this before? It sounds awesome! But why is it so expensive for Kindle? I will wait patiently for the price to come down and I will totally read this it sounds like so much fun! I do love me a good enemy to lovers now and again.

    • Hooray! I almost always prefer a UK setting in romance too, the only exception I can think of is An Extraordinary Union. I thought Quinn did a really good job with the setting though, and she pulled off the lying business too. The fact that Cecelia is such a genuinely good and warm person kept me from judging her too harshly, along with the extreme circumstances. The fact that she was already mostly in love with Edward made it more palatable too, since they were totally crushing on each other in their letters (as you said!).

      Oh yeah, the dogs from Getting Rid of Bradley were the stars of the show…along with Lucy, of course. The pets and the heroine were great, but I gotta say that Zack was pretty underwhelming. Clearly I need to try out some other pet books of Crusie’s!

      Why I Loathe Sterling Lane is *such* a great read, I think you’d absolutely love it. Complex protagonists, great writing, strong banter, and major swoon-factor for a YA book. Plus it’s sex positive, which I think is awesome. I’m guessing it’s super expensive because it just came out, but I’m not sure! Definitely keep an eye on the price though and snag it when it goes down, because it’s worth a read for sure.

      • I still need to read An Extraordinary Union, thank for reminding me! I agree, Quinn did a really fab job with this book. I think it is a rare author who can make me enjoy a setting I wouldn’t normally be a fan of.

        Pets in books are always the star of the show. Always! But definitely give Crusie’s other books a chance. The puppy in Charlie All Night is a favourite Crusie pet of mine.

  • I love Jennifer Crusie and although Bradley was a fun book, it’s not one of my favorites either. Have you read Welcome to Temptation or Manhunting? Manhunting is so fun!

    • Jennifer Crusie is a fairly new to me author – I’ve actually only read Bradley and Agnes and the Hitman (loved Agnes). Definitely going to check out Manhunting and Welcome to Temptation now. Thanks for the recs Nereyda! 🙂

  • Skipping over the first two – the third one sounds interesting! I love YA boarding school romances. 😀 I may check it out!

    By the way, The Sea King by C.L. Wilson is on Edelweiss! I downloaded that book so quickly, yo. O_O I might read it tonight!

    Have a wonderful weekend, Danya. =)

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    • Boarding school settings are sooo underrated, in my opinion. I feel like they were really big for a while there but then they fell out of vogue. More boarding school YA, please!

      OMG I HEARD! Can you even believe that I still haven’t read The Winter King yet? I’m so ashamed. Gotta get on it ASAP so I can join in with all the upcoming The Sea King love!

      Thank you Alyssa, I hope you enjoy your holiday! 🙂

  • Glad you enjoyed the new Quinn book! I thought it was really cute and liked their relationship too!
    Oh man it’s been ages since I’ve read Cruise! I can’t even remember if I’ve read this onr but Lucy sounds awesome!
    Why I Loathe Sterling Lane is new to me but sounds right up my ally! I love the hate-to-love romance! Great reviews!

    • I really enjoyed The Girl With the Make-Believe Husband too, but I’ve gotta admit…I preferred Billie and George’s story in the first book. 🙈

      Jennifer Crusie is a relatively new-to-me author, but I’m really loving her stuff so far. I’ve gotta try more of her work soon!

      YASSS, hate to love is the queen of all romance tropes for me. Plus boarding school! Who doesn’t love a great boarding school setting, right?