The Hating Game – Sally Thorne

Source: Goodreads

Lucy has been the assistant to the Editor-in-Chief of Gamin Publishing, and Joshua the assistant to the Editor-in-Chief of Bexley Books since before the merger. Now their bosses have adjoining offices, and Lucy and Joshua have desks in one shared space. Which would be fine if they weren’t complete opposites. Where Lucy is quirky and cheerful, Joshua is meticulous and cold. Everyone at Bexley and Gamin loves Lucy and fears Joshua.
They are bitter enemies. Nemeses. Then, their bosses announce a new position opening, and Lucy and Joshua are both in the running. As the competition heats up, so do new tensions, and Lucy discovers that maybe, she doesn’t hate Josh. Maybe it’s all just another game they play: The Hating Game.

This story stood out to me mainly because it’s only told from Lucy’s point of view, unlike most romances which alternate between hero and heroine. It worked well. I didn’t particularly enjoy the sheer amount of objectification that Lucy did of Joshua once things got going, but it did end up serving a purpose. I can’t tell you a lot about it without spoiling some of the jokes, but I will say that the paintball incident was probably my favorite.
This quirky rom-com hit all the right buttons and was the perfect antidote to the reading slump I was in. I especially loved Lucy and Josh’s relationship because of how they supported each other when things, as they inevitable do in romance novels, go sideways.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars.

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)

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

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.

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)

Fix Her Up (Hot and Hammered, #1) – Tessa Bailey

Source: Goodreads

Georgie Castle has always been invisible. As the pesky little sister left out of the family business, she’s found her own way in life, using her business degree to launch a small company doing children’s birthday parties. Only, the business is so small that it’s just her. Dressed up as a clown. But no matter how good she is at her job, it definitely doesn’t make her family take her anymore seriously than they ever have.

Travis Ford is back in town after a shoulder injury ended his shining baseball career prematurely. He’s drowning his sorrows in beer and take out until someone breaks into his apartment and starts throwing food at him. Literally. But is he really going to let his best friend’s kid sister tell him how to live his life? Heck no. What could Georgie know about life? She’s just a kid. The pesky little sister of his best friend, who came to all his games growing up and spied on him from a tree in her back yard.

As Travis begins to build a new life, he becomes increasingly aware of a few things.
1) Someone started a betting pool to see who the baseball playboy will date first.
2) His washed up fame has left him high and dry… and lonely.
And 3) Georgie is so not the kid he remembers from his school days.
Too bad she’s busy building her own life, determined to make her family take her seriously, and is treating him like the big brother he’s always been to her.

This book was exactly the distraction I needed, though had I known the title of the series I probably would have been better prepared. It started off super cute and then became quite, quite steamy, actually. I’ve since shoved it at multiple friends who are also enjoying themselves. We’ve been texting about it and it mainly ends up being heart emojis because we all love Georgie and Travis just so much. Not safe to read aloud at work, and also probably inappropriate for anyone under 18.

I will say that the whole ‘little sister’ trope is a bit overused, and Travis calling her “baby girl” and referring to her as his little sister all the time does make everything a little, well, awkward. Add in that Georgie is a literal birthday clown and Travis is obsessed with her being a virgin, and you have the ultimate awkward scene. But it still managed to somehow be cute. When it comes to contemporary romance, there’s always a lot of objectification, and Georgie and Travis both participate in this quite a lot, but it doesn’t overwhelm the story. This was a light, quick read, with some very steamy (and somewhat awkward, I’ll be honest. It’s very step-by-step rather than overall-emotion) scenes. I’ve never read any of Bailey’s books before, so I’ll have to check out a few more before I can say for sure that this is her normal style, but it was a fun summer beach read!

HHC Rating: 3.5 Stars.

Other books in this series:
Book 2 – Love Her or Lose Her (Expected Publication 2020)



Ghosted – Rosie Walsh

Source: Goodreads

Sarah Mackey visits England every June in memoriam of the car crash she and her sister we involved in as teenagers. This year, as she wanders the hills alone, she meets a man named Eddie, and they have eight blissful days together before he leaves for a long-planned vacation and Sarah goes to London to visit friends. They promise to stay in touch. They’ve fallen in love, after all.
And then Eddie never calls. He doesn’t post online, he doesn’t show up for his futbol matches, and he seems to have vanished off the face of the earth entirely. But Sarah can’t help feeling that something is not quite right, and her search for Eddie is just the beginning thread in the unraveling of life as she knows it.


After hearing about this book on the No Thanks We’re Booked Podcast, I found out my roommate had gotten it from Book of the Month Club, so I swiped it. The first 150 pages were pretty slow, and I worried I just wasn’t into the book. BUT THEN. Page 151 blew my socks off. And everything was the best kind of twisty and complicated and mysterious after that. I didn’t see anything coming, and I was late to more than a few appointments I had last week because I just couldn’t put it down. I can’t even tell you any of the rest of the characters’ names because I would undoubtedly spoil something, but trust me: this is a good one.

HHC Rating: 4 Stars.

The Lido – Libby Page

Source: Goodreads

Kate Matthews has lived in Brixton, London, for a year and knows no one. She’s a writer for the local paper, and she loves interviewing people, but she’s yet to be assigned anything she can sink her teeth into.
Rosemary Peterson has lived in Brixton all her life. She’s seen the neighborhood change as wars, love, and businesses came and went, and every day she swims at the lido (an outdoor pool), where some of her dearest memories were made.
Kate and Rosemary’s worlds collide the day it is announced that the lido will close. Kate has been assigned to write about the closure and it’s effect on the town, and she starts her story by interviewing Rosemary. A single meeting changes both of their lives, and the two women come to realize they will do everything within their power to keep the lido from closing.

I picked up this book by accident. My friend Hannah and I went to the movie theater to see Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, and they were handing them out for free at the ticket counter. Why, I may never know. Hannah and I went home and devoured the book. It was heartfelt, deep, and shockingly real. Rosemary deals with the loss of her husband, and Kate deals with crippling anxiety. They both find their focus and community by swimming at the lido, and it’s threatened closure sets their lives in downward spirals. The two women find meaning in their mutual friendship and build new lives in a town they thought was falling apart around them.
I still can’t believe Page is a debut author. Her writing speaks of years of experience, and the way she gets into characters’s heads is enchanting. I had trouble putting this book down and nearly started it over again when I finished, it was that good. I for one can’t wait to see what Page writes next.
Stay tuned for a live video discussion between Hannah, myself, and our friend Hallee once she finishes reading it. We’ll talk plot, writing style, and marketing strategies.

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Watch Hollow – Gregory Funaro

Source: Goodreads

Lucy and Oliver Tinker live with their father at his clock repair shop, scraping by selling antiques ever since their mother passed away. When the rich Mr. Quigley walks in at closing one day and offers Mr. Tinker a fortune to fix a giant clock at his home in Rhode Island, they can’t say no. Blackford house is situated in the middle of nowhere, falling apart at the seams and without electricity. The forest around the house is barren and quiet despite it being the height of summer, but Lucy is determined to make Blackford house home. Then the wooden animal statues she finds around the house start talking, and Oliver meets a mysterious boy who lives in the dark woods. Before long the Tinkers are drawn into a centuries old war between light and dark, and the fate of Blackford house hangs in the balance.

I received an ARC of Watch Hollow from the author in exchange for an honest review, but this is something I would have eventually picked up anyway. The characters are lovable and yet complex for a middle-grade book, and I love how the world itself is alive. The plot moved well and I was quickly swept up in the Tinker’s adventures. Funaro plans a sequel, making this a duology, and The Maze of Shadows is sure to be just as good when it comes out next year.

My favorite part of this book was definitely the clock animals. The whole idea of light and dark being incarnate in them, balancing the powers and powering the clock and providing electricity for the house, not to mention the naming conventions – Torsten Six, Fennish Seven, Tempest Crow – Everything about them is just fantastic. My second favorite part was obviously the shadowood vs. sunstone debate, and the ash-acorns. At ~250 pages, this book was the perfect length to get wrapped up in. I would have loved to read this as a child, and it’s still great as an adult! I will definitely be picking up the sequel next year.

Available from January 12th wherever books are sold!

HHC Rating: 5 Stars.

Other reviews in this series:
The Maze of Shadows (Available 2020)