Just Like Heaven (Smythe-Smith, #1) – Julia Quinn

Source: Goodreads

Honoria Smythe-Smith has five siblings and 32 first cousins. The loud and lovingly chaotic family warms her heart. She even loves the annual musicale, which is painful for anyone without a tin ear but which they continue to put on because… well, most of them have a tin ear or two.
Marcus Holyrood is the only child of an only child, and grew up with exactly one friend. A single friend, it turns out, is all you need, so long as that friend is Daniel Smythe-Smith. Their friendship takes a turn when Daniel asks Marcus to keep an eye on his youngest sister as Daniel himself is casually fleeing the country, just to make sure she doesn’t marry an idiot. Which should be fine because Honoria is basically Marcus’ little sister too, right?


I loved the inherent closeness the characters had, and the awkwardness that takes over when they start realizing they don’t love each other in a sibling or friendly way. This book has some of the most amusing lines I’ve ever read, simply because of how they attempt to conform to societal standards but can’t quite seem to let go of their childhood attachments. If you’ve read Quinn’s Bridgerton series, you’ll realize this takes place in the midst of Romancing Mister Bridgerton, but there are no spoilers, so you can definitely read this one before, during, or after.


HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – Just Like Heaven *(This Review)*
Book 2 – A Night Like This
Book 3 – The Sum of All Kisses
Book 4 – The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy

Also by this author:
The Bridgertons:: (Coming to Netflix in 2020)
Book 1 – The Duke and I
Book 2 – The Viscount Who Loved Me
Book 3 – An Offer from a Gentleman
Book 4 – Romancing Mister Bridgerton
Book 5 – To Sir Phillip, With Love
Book 6 – When He Was Wicked
Book 7 – It’s in His Kiss
Book 8 – On The Way to the Wedding

Well Met (Well Met, #1) – Jen DeLuca

Source: Goodreads

Emily has just been ousted from a relationship to which she had given her all. Moving in with her sister and niece is just what she needs to find her footing again. The only flaw in her plan is the local renaissance faire. Her niece desperately wants to be a cast member, and minors must have an adult accompanying them to join. With Emily’s sister recovering from a car accident, that leaves Emily to join the cast.
Resigned to the loss of her summer weekends, Emily is determined to enjoy the sights and sounds of men in kilts, and armor, and of course pirates decked out in leather.


I have been craving a ren faire-themed romance ever since I found All’s Faire in Love in 2012, and Well Met checked all the boxes with heart and enthusiasm and without being over-the-top silly or irreverent. Everything about it was delightful, but most especially the moment when Emily smells a shitty relationship on the horizon and runs the heck away from it. Healthy relationships 2020, am I right, or am I right?


HHC Rating: 5 Stars

Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – Well Met *(This Review)*
Book 2 – Well Played (2020)
Book 3 – Well Matched (2021)

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

Source: Goodreads

Bilbo Baggins is a typical hobbit. He likes tea and smoking his pipe in front of his fireplace and has no intention of going on an adventure.
Gandalf the wizard has other plans.
So it comes to pass that 13 dwarves barge into Bilbo’s home, eat all of his food, insult his abilities as a burglar (of which he has none, anyway), and then leave for an adventure without him.


While the story itself was intriguing, the overly parental way in which Gandalf basically dragged everyone where they needed to be and the subsequent whining that went along with it from the other 14 adventurers was eye-rolling levels of exhausting.
I loved the world-building, especially Tolkien’s descriptions of of forests. I just can’t help but feel that there would’ve been less whining if at least one of the party had been a woman. There were exactly zero female characters excepting the odd villager, and it definitely affected the plot.


****Also **Spoiler** but I very much did not like that the whole book was about how the dwarves were going to kill Smaug and take back their mountain and then Smaug was ultimately killed by a white male chosen-one type character who we really didn’t need. ****


I am glad I didn’t read this as a kid because I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed it due to the sheer amount of telling > showing, and again, the whining. If you’re going on an adventure of your own volition, you have forfeited the right to complain about how terrible, boring, and hungry the trip is. Suck it up, buttercup. Overall this one was meh for me, but I think a lot of that was due to the fact of it being written in much the same style as Peter Pan, which I also did not really enjoy. Here’s hoping The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Silmarillion go much better for me.


HHC Rating: 3 Stars.

Virgin River (Virgin River, #1) – Robyn Carr

Source: Goodreads

Mel needs a new start, away from her haunted existence in Los Angeles. The quiet mountain town of Virgin River with a lone, elderly, family practitioner and a rent-free cabin seems like the perfect fit.
But the doctor was never informed of Mel’s arrival and claims he has no use for a nurse practitioner and midwife, the cabin is unlivable, and the ridiculously good looking bartender seems overly interested in her business. Is this really what Mel needs, or is her sister Joey right, and LA is where she belongs?

This small town military romance is more than meets the eye. It kicks off Carr’s signature series, the history of a community with romance in its veins. Mel and Jack become the foundation upon which every healthy relationship in the series is built on, and the wit, humor, and deeply emotional stories the characters portray all reach for a bar decidedly set by Mel and Jack.
The decadent scenery only adds to the magic of the little town, which is rebuilt book by book, right alongside the couples who find themselves in Virgin River.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars


Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – Virgin River *(This Review)*
Book 2 – Shelter Mountain
Book 3 – Whispering Rock
Book 4 – A Virgin River Christmas
Book 5 – Second Chance Pass
Book 6 – Temptation Ridge
Book 7 – Paradise Valley
Book 7.5 – Under The Christmas Tree
Book 8 – Forbidden Falls
Book 9 – Angel’s Peak
Book 10 – Moonlight Road
Book 10.1 – Sheltering Hearts
Book 10.5 – Happy New Year Virgin River
Book 11 – Promise Canyon
Book 12 – Wild Man Creek
Book 13 – Harvest Moon
Book 14 – Bring Me Home For Christmas
Book 15 – Hidden Summit
Book 16 – Redwood Bend
Book 17 – Sunrise Point
Book 18 – My Kind of Christmas

Almost Jamie (Jet City Kilt, #1) – Gina Robinson

Source: Goodreads

This *serial* series was designed specifically for those of us struggling through the Outlander drought.

Blair and Austin are unwitting doppelgängers for the actors who play “Jamie Sinclair” and “Elinor” on the hit highlander time travel TV show “Jamie”.
This first installment introduces our heroes and the circumstances of their meeting.
Presumably, the second installment will explain the hoops they have to jump through, and the third and fourth installments will show them facing those challenges and finding HEA. Whatever. I’m hooked. Cheesy and decently written with witty dialogue. Give it to meee.

The character development is great not just for the main characters, but across the secondary characters as well, and she did a wonderful job with all of the settings, really rounding it all out. Very interested to see where everything goes!

Outlander returns next month on Starz !! And this book is available FREE right now on applebooks. The other 3 books are ~$4.99 each.


HHC Rating: 5 Stars


Other reviews in this series:
Book 1 – Almost Jamie *(This Review)*
Book 2 – Almost Elinor
Book 3 – Simply Blair
Book 4 – Simply Austin

Related to:
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

One Night for Love (The Bedwyn Saga 0.5) – Mary Balogh

Source: Goodreads

Mary Balogh is one of those writers whose works all take place in the same universe—which only makes One Night for Love even more nuanced and interesting!
Our hero (Neville Wyatt) and heroine (Lily Doyle) meet not in the gilded ballrooms of London, but on the war torn fields of Portugal. They are married for a day before both are shot during an ambush.

18 months later, Neville has returned to England to take up his late father’s earldom and, believing Lily long dead, prepares to marry another. Into the middle of the wedding walks a girl in a faded blue dress and an army cloak: Lily. Alive.

What follows is a story of love that spans across continents, classes, vows, and self-discoveries to arrive at the place of trust, honesty, communication, and passion that romance readers colloquially refer to as true love and happily-ever-after.



I really enjoyed re-reading this book because I can now see how important every piece of the story truly is. Neville’s sister Gwendolyn, for example, is the same Gwen who kicks off Balogh’s Survivors Club Series, and One Night For Love sets up Lauren’s story for A Summer To Remember, which in turn sets the wheels rolling for both the Slightly Series (The Bedwyn Clan) and the Simply Series! The Baloghverse is truly a fascinating place.


HHC Rating: 5 Stars


Other Reviews in this Series & By This Author:
The Bedwyns/ “Slightlys”::
Book 0.5 – One Night for Love *(This Review)*
Book 0.75 – A Summer To Remember
Book 1 – Slightly Married
Book 2 – Slightly Wicked
Book 3 – Slightly Scandalous
Book 4 – Slightly Tempted
Book 5 – Slightly Sinful
Book 6 – Slightly Dangerous
Book 6.5 – Once Upon A Dream
The “Simplys”::
Book 1 – Simply Unforgettable
Book 2 – Simply Love
Book 3 – Simply Magic
Book 4 – Simply Perfect
The Huxtables::
Book 1 – First Comes Love
Book 2 – Then Comes Seduction
Book 3 – At Last Comes Love
Book 4 – Seducing And Angel
Book 5 – A Secret Affair
The Survivors’ Club::
Book 1 – The Proposal
Book 1.5 – The Suitor
Book 2 – The Arrangement
Book 3 – The Escape
Book 4 – Only Enchanting
Book 5 – Only A Promise
Book 6 – Only A Kiss
Book 7 – Only Beloved
The Westcotts::
Book 1 – Someone to Love
Book 2 – Someone To Hold
Book 3 – Someone to Wed
Book 4 – Someone to Care
Book 5 – Someone to Trust
Book 6 – Someone to Honor
Book 7 – Someone to Remember
Book 8 – Someone to Romance (2020)
Book 9 – TK – Harry


The Ten Thousand Doors of January – Alix E. Harrow

Source: Goodreads

January Scaller has spent the majority of her life within the grounds of Locke House, her only glimpses of the outside world contained within cars, trains, and ships at the side of Mr. Locke on a rare field trip. Raised in her father’s absence to be good and obedient, intelligent and quiet, January has tried her best to fit the mold laid out before her. However, even Mr. Locke’s company cannot completely erase her obvious heritage, on full display in the shade of her skin and the unruliness of her hair. Nor can all of Mr. Locke’s nurturing completely block out her inherent nature – to wander, run wild, and dream as if her life depended upon it.

January’s journey is told in alternating chapters between her life and the stories she reads in a mysterious book, The Ten Thousand Doors. While eventually this story-weaving pays off, it does mean that the first 125 pages were all character introduction and world building, which was interesting intellectually, but not gripping. I actually flipped ahead to see if it got more interesting a couple times, despite many friends telling me the book was really great. There is a marked difference between the first 125 pages and the following 235 pages. Once the story gets going it moves well and everything weaves together beautifully. If I hadn’t flipped ahead, I definitely would’ve been at least a little surprised by the twists the story took, and even after I knew they were coming, they still made me tear up. Ultimately, that’s what pushed me to a higher rating. If I hadn’t gotten so bogged down in the beginning of the book, this would easily have been a five star read. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right head space when I started it – it was the middle of finals, after all – but by the end I was firmly invested in January’s journey and the 10,000 doors.

Shout out to my friend Taylor for lending me her copy, and also for making this her staff pick at our bookstore! I hope many, many readers get the chance to visit January and reignite their imaginations.


HHC Rating: 4 Stars

Notes:
*Off-page animal cruelty, but the animal is ultimately fine*
**This book gets shelved all the time in the YA section, but per the author, is intended for adults.**

The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts (Lonely Hearts Bookshop, #1) – Annie Darling

Source: Goodreads

Posy Morland has always lived above Bookends Bookshop. She and her brother lived here before her parents passed away, and she came back from college to help raise her brother after they were gone. Their home is thrown into jeopardy when Posy’s landlady and boss, Lavinia, dies, leaving the bookshop to Posy and the rest of the property to her odious grandson, Sebastian. The two new owners go head-to-head over their beloved bookshop, desperate to keep it alive but at odds about the best way to do so.


I so wanted this book to be spectacular. The bookshop setting, the stellar love/hate chemistry between Posy and Sebastian was there, everything was there, but one thing was missing. Glaringly obvious to me as I neared the end of the story was the fact that we never got to know Sebastian at all. We almost never got chapters from his point of view, and when we did they focused on his actions and never delved into his thoughts or emotions. Because of this, Sebastian’s feelings felt as though they came out of the clear blue sky. The ending felt very rushed, like the author had hit word count and everything after that was just to wrap everything up. The best romances, in my opinion, allow you to get to now both your heroine and your hero, and not getting Sebastian’s view point really hurt the ending of this one. Overall it was cheerful and cute and an enjoyable read, but the ending really dented my feelings about it.

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars.

Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen

Source: Goodreads

Catherine Morland is the second of four children of a small town vicar, and after befriending the wealthy and childless Mr. and Mrs. Allen, is invited to go to Bath with them for a few months. While there she makes the acquaintance of the Tilneys and the Thorpes, wherein her adventures in polite society begin.

A few of my classmates and I have decided to create a Jane Austen Book Club, and we’re reading them in the order they were written, so we’ve begun with Northanger Abbey. This novel is often touted as being a gothic novel making fun of gothic novels, and while Catherine is certainly obsessed with the genre, but having never read any true gothic novels, I can’t say that I see the humor in any of it.

To be perfectly honest, I hated almost every. single. character.
Nearly everyone is completely self-absorbed and focused solely on the possibility of their own personal happiness. The never ending prattle of these characters would be exhausting if let loose upon society. Austen herself breaks the fourth wall to talk to the reader constantly, explaining why she did some such thing or left something else out, and I really think getting rid of all the fourth wall breaks would make the story at least 15% more interesting.

It feels as though John Thorpe’s entire reason for existence is to be a bigger wierdo than Henry Tilney, thus making Henry look good by comparison. Tilney even admits at the end that he only ever gave Catherine the time of day because she seemed to be into him, and he didn’t have anything else going at the time. And Catherine was only into him because she only had two options and John is John.

I’m pretty sure everyone I know has met at least one Isabella Thorpe in the course of their life. She gaslights everyone, is petty, jealous, and a compulsive liar. She thinks she’s a big fish in a small pond, even though she’s not an interesting human at all, and keeps jumping from relationship to relationship because the grass is always greener on the other side. She’s exhausting, and not a person you’d ever want as a friend, but when you have no friends, she’s an easy one to keep. The worst part is that her younger sisters are perfectly nice humans and are going to get treated like trashy, tiny versions of her for the majority of their lives just because she and John are awful people.

Captain Tilney was interested in Catherine in a creepy way. Not letting them tour the house or garden without him? I’m just going to come on out and say loudly that this makes him sound like he’s eyeing up Catherine for himself. Every time he talks about Henry’s home, he makes sure to mention something he built with his own two hands. He’s very obvious about the house needing a lady’s touch, embarrassing everyone. An not letting anyone into Lady Tilney’s rooms is just strange.

The things I did enjoy about the book were the parts where Catherine was off in her own imagination. Her walk with Henry and Eleanor, the tour of the house, the story Henry tells her on the way to Northanger, and her first night there. I loved how those papers played out at the very end, and I think the novel would have actually been better and more well rounded if the story were told from Eleanor’s POV. Could you imagine having a friend come to visit who believes that your house is haunted and that your mother was murdered most foul? Having a gullible friend like Catherine would be fairly entertaining. All these bits and pieces of delight were not enough to outweigh the mostly awful characters and the fourth wall breaking, however, and I was very happy to be done with it.

HHC Rating: 2 Stars.

Other reviews in the Jane Austen Book Club:
Sense & Sensibility (August Book)
Pride & Prejudice (September Book)
Mansfield Park (October Book)
Emma (November Book)
Persuasion (December Book)

Waiting for Tom Hanks – Kerry Winfrey

Source: Goodreads

Annie grew up obsessed with rom-coms. After her dad passed, she and her mom watched them religiously, and she went to school for screen writing to write her own – featuring Tom Hanks of course. But after school she came back to Ohio, where she has lived with her uncle since her mom’s passing, and she can’t seem to move on with her life. She’s waiting for her Tom Hanks, her perfect match, but she’s not out there looking for him. Instead she’s sitting in her best friend’s coffee shop working remotely doing freelance article writing for everything from cold sore creams to gardening rakes.

Everything changes when a famous romantic-comedy director announces he’s shooting his new movie in Annie’s hometown. Annie’s best friend insists it’s fate, and it truly seems it could be when she finds a sudden connection to the director and ends up working on set. But instead of learning the ropes in the hopes of creating her own movie someday, Annie finds herself the unwitting heroine in her own Tom-Hanks-esque love story.


I rarely pick up books that have just been published, because I am always too busy working my way through a massive backlist TBR. Waiting for Tom Hanks kept popping up on my radar, though, and I finally decided that I just had to read it. Cut to visiting 3-5 different indie bookstores before finally finding it at Target by accident. The million-and-one references to rom-coms, Nora Ephron, and Tom Hanks are delightful, so long as you are just as obsessed with rom-coms as Annie and actually get all of the references, because there are many. Annie’s uncle also runs a weekly Dungeons & Dragons game, which I absolutely love with a singular purity, and honestly Uncle Don is just so pure over all. He is easily my favorite.

Annie as a character was slightly annoying because she couldn’t see what was going on, but that’s how rom-coms go, aren’t they? There was hardly any diversity of any shape or form (which is also mostly on par for rom-coms, though it’s a huge problem of the genre), and the ending was definitely rushed – I could have used another 25-50 pages for better pacing, please! Also, there were almost no physical descriptions in the entire book – so maybe there’s a lot more diversity than we think? That’s probably a pipe dream, but oh well. Overall it was a very cute book that I will be passing along to many friends.

HHC Rating: 4.5 Stars.

Other Reviews in this series:
Book 2 – Not Like The Movies (Book available in 2020)