A Heart to Trust – A.L. Brooks

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
I enjoyed this, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Brooks previous release – Dare to Love. It’s a well written book – but it just didn’t excite me.

The production company Jenny is working for is bought out by another larger production company, putting Jenny’s job at risk, especially as her boss and mentor is already leaving the company. Jenny discovers that there are four people up for three roles, and their new boss has decided to make it into a competition. Jenny really needs the job so as much as she hates the idea, she has to roll with it.

One of the people she’s up against is Olivia, who in Jenny’s eyes is a stuck-up rich Brit. Olivia has a complicated situation, she’s married, but not for love. Her husband is Broderick, one of her closest friends, who is ace and aro, and their marriage is one of convenience to allow him to succeed in his dream career. This situation, plus a bad workplace experience makes Olivia very closed off.

The workplace scenario works in that you get to see Jenny and Olivia interacting regularly and meet the other key players in both of their battles to stay employed. The frostiness between the pair in the work environment makes sense with Jenny not trusting people and Olivia having something to hide, and the slow realisation that they found each other attractive plays really well.

I had problems with Jenny being written as a character that has difficulties trusting due to her family situation, but her then trusting a colleague straight away and not picking up on underlying manipulation. The manipulation storyline adds tension to the narrative and the relationship between Jenny and Olivia.

I have high standards for secondary characters in books, and this one does meet them. The workplace characters make the workplace parts of the book where we spend the most time interesting. Broderick and his family, plus Jenny’s best friends and ex-boss Adrienne are all well written and add real depth to both the MCs and the narrative. I’m intrigued by Brooks’ book on Adrienne and her partner – The Long Shot – and will be checking this one out soon.

Romance wise the two MCs don’t get together until around the 70% mark and they take it slow at the beginning too, definitely making this a slow burn romance. Once they’re together the book feels rushed as they cram in six months in the rest of the book and the epilogue, it also feels a little insta love, but I guess as it’s so slow burn this is kind of understandable.

All in all I would recommend this to romance lovers, as others may feel differently about this than me, as for me my rating is mainly due to a lack of the thing that would make this a real page turner for me.

I received an e-ARC directly from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Secret Ingredient – K.D. Fisher

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
This is a solid 3 1/2 star book for me.

Beth and Adah come from very different backgrounds, nearly everything about them appears to be the opposite of each other, except for their love of cooking – although they both believe that the others philosophy on cooking is different to themselves.

Beth appears to be a fly by night, disorganised character, yet she runs a successful family business that is gaining a reputation on the east coast. Adah is a complicated character due to her background and the majority of her cheffing experience is working at high end restaurants. Both characters shine when they are together. Adah grounds Beth, whereas Beth gives Adah the opportunity to open up and want more.

I enjoyed all of the additional characters in the book, especially Adah’s son Pete and her best friend Jay. Fisher managed to make it so that both MCs were supported by great additional characters who helped to add to the depth of the story and each character.

I loved the amount of representation throughout the book, be it gay, bisexual, genderqueer or a butch single mother and really appreciated Fisher’s style of writing. I will definitely want to read more of Fisher’s work. The writing relating to both the food and the places the story is set work really well – giving you enough information to paint the picture in your head.

There is something missing from the narrative that means the book isn’t elevated into the four star world for me – but I would definitely recommend this to fans of opposites attract romance and another other wlw romance fans.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Maiden Leap – C.M. Harris

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
3.5 stars. Harris has written a really good book – but I’ll be honest, until just over the halfway point I was ready to give up and call this a DNF – then everything clicked and I wanted to know where it was going to lead.

The book alternates through three points of view – which is one of the things I found difficult about reading it at first. Kate is the main character, with the other points of view coming from her daughter Samantha and her ex (and now choir teacher to Samantha) Lucy. One of these POVs is written in the form of blog posts and comments.

The other reason I struggled is the difficult topics that get covered, homophobia and conversion therapy being the main two. There’s a major thread about marriage equality and politics too.

It’s an interesting exploration of relationships, feelings about the past, small town life and revenge. There’s also an interesting twist I didn’t see until just before it happened – which wasn’t necessarily unique or refreshing – but did keep the book readable until the end.

I would recommend this – I’d just advise taking into account it isn’t a quick read and you may find the first half a bit heavy.

I received an e-ARC via BookSirens in exchange for an honest review.

Canopy – Liz Faraim

Rating: 4 out of 5.
This one is a hard one to review – I couldn’t put it down, I read it one setting. It’s very well written, especially for a debut author. The subject matter is dealt with sensitively. It’s just over a four star book for me. Yet it’s hard for me to say I enjoyed it. It’s a tough read and perhaps that’s it for me, I appreciated rather than enjoyed, but it didn’t take anything away from the book – I’m fact I’m eagerly awaiting the next instalment.

Viv is ex-army, studying at College and making a living bar tendering. Whilst she’s not completely estranged from her family she is very much a loner – her friendship with another vet Jared being her anchor in a storm. She struggles with PTSD.

She meets Angela, a cop, a vet from the Navy and they begin a complicated relationship, with elements of polyamory.

Viv stumbles on something criminal that brings a lot of issues into her life and shakes things up in ways she’d never have expected.

The topics of abuse from the past, relationship ethics, PTSD, intermittent violence, sex trafficking and some homophobia all mean this isn’t a light read, yet there is something about the way Viv is written that just keeps you reading, wanting to know where this is going to go.

The romance between Viv and Ang isn’t the headline for this book. Viv’s life in general, her friendships and her making her way through life are very much front and centre.

Despite the somewhat darker tone of the book and therefore my review, I’d encourage you to give this a go – just don’t expect an easy light hearted read, or a neatly tied up ending.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Other Women – Erin Zak

Rating: 5 out of 5.
I’d seen a lot of reviews about this before I had the opportunity to actually read it, so whilst I was sceptical about the subject matter, I thought there was a good chance I’d enjoy it – but I actually loved it. This is my first Zak book and I just couldn’t put it down.

Cecily is a higher flyer, groomed to be a future CEO, married to her childhood sweetheart and having an affair. She’s unhappy with her life and is at heart essentially looking for herself amongst all the different aspects of her life.

Francesca is a Las Vegas casino bartender. Having fallen for someone who broke her heart in a cruel manner she’s now looking for a way to heal in all the wrong places.

Cecily and Francesca meet when Cecily goes to Vegas on a business trip. What follows is instant attraction, openness and a respectfulness that’s a bit hard to describe. I loved these two characters together. The push pull tension of the attraction but their hurt hearts – it made for a great storyline.

The angst is actually great on this occasion. Their realisation of a shared past was hard to read and only made me root for them more. How they deal with getting back together and moving on also felt like a really good narrative to me.

I liked that the storyline depicted both Cecily and Francesca as having very successful careers but that they weren’t happy in their personal lives. Too often society leads people to believe that happiness is money – so I liked that this was explored thoroughly through both lenses.

I enjoyed the alternating point of view between the two MCs, but I especially liked that it wasn’t necessarily alternating chapters, or even whole chapters before the POV changed. It mixed up a formula that’s often seen and I found this refreshing.

I also really enjoyed both MCs relationships with their families, be it Cecily’s with her husband and sister, or Francesca with her close friends and her family. With some aspects of pitfalls of Vegas life woven in it was a really well rounded story and I think I’ll actually be putting this on my read again pile.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.