Always Believe – Aimée

Rating: 3 out of 5.
After a bumpy start – mainly caused by my own feelings about organised religion, I found this to be better than I had anticipated from the initial chapters. My initial misgivings were due to the fact I either didn’t read the blurb properly, or I hadn’t anticipated so much discussion about God, but either way, the more I got into the story, the more I was able to just think about the characters and their feelings.

Greyson was an officer and doctor in the British army for a long time, before deciding to take a step away from the forces and follow her calling by becoming a vicar.

We first meet Angela at the funeral of her daughter. She’s the headteacher of a local school, and is reluctant to have anything to do with the church.

This is another one for me that’s difficult to review without giving too much away. I was uncomfortable with the discussions of the church, but I was also uncomfortable with the way that Greyson’s feelings about herself caused her to be deceptive to everyone else in her life in one way or another.

The book deals with a lot of really difficult topics, and for the most part I thought Aimée did that well, providing different viewpoints, and a book that I think is quite different from the usual fare, but this just wasn’t for me.

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

You Again – Aurora Rey

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
I’ve only read one Rey book previously, but I really enjoyed it and was looking forward to the opportunity to read You Again. There were some aspects of this I really loved, especially Rey’s style of writing, but the conflict didn’t sit well with me, so I’m not giving it as high a rating as I thought I was going to be until for most of the book.

Sutton is returning to her home town after spending the last decade away, leaving for college and only returning the once. Her Dad is having knee replacement surgery and she’s convinced him to let her help, despite the fact she knows she’s going to have to see her ex.

Kate, the aforementioned ex, still lives in their hometown, with her daughter Harper and works in the family business.

I actually really liked both Sutton and Kate, and could even understand why Kate’s family were so against Sutton, if you take familial protectiveness into account.

Harper is a great kid character. She’s well written and has a really sparky personality. Many of the conversations she is involved in had me smiling. Kate’s brother Bryce is also worth a mention, as not only is Bryce a great character, but it was nice to have a trans man be included and have a genuine real place in the storyline, rather than it be tokenism.

It’s hard to review this one without giving away any spoilers as so much of this second chance romance is dependent on the how and why of why they broke up in the first place.

In general terms my issue with the conflict centres around the ownership of the issue, more than the issue itself. Much of the blame seems to be placed on one character, and I felt it should have been shared more equally, both the first time, and the time depicted in the last quarter of the book.

I really like Rey’s style of writing, and this certainly hasn’t changed my mind on that front. I’ll definitely be looking forward to her next book.

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

Knit, Purl, a Baby and a Girl – Hettie Bell

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
3.5 stars. This is a solid debut from Bell.

Poppy has just found she’s pregnant. Her circumstances tell her she isn’t ready for this to be a part of her life, so she visits her local Planned Parenthood. It’s here she meets Rhiannon, an interesting woman who helps her find her way to and from the clinic through the protestors. Poppy doesn’t think she’ll ever see her again until she decides to join her local knitting group.

Bell has written this in first-person point of view, so we spend the book in Poppy’s thoughts. The writing comes across as light-hearted, with a determination and humour in the prose, however, the narrative actually deals with some pretty complex topics, and for the most part, does this well.

The narrative is mainly about the romance, and it was here I really wanted the opportunity to get more of Rhiannon’s thoughts to understand the decisions she was making. I really liked the idea of her as a character, but as we only see her from Poppy’s point of view, I found it hard to connect with her.

However, at the same time, I enjoyed getting to read Poppy’s thoughts on her pregnancy, her family, and her life in general. I thought Bell did a good job of bringing all of the secondary characters together, both in the family situations and with the knitting group. I felt I could really picture them all, which is impressive for a book with a large number of secondary characters.

Like most debut books it has its bumps, but they soon even out. There were some moments I didn’t like personally, and I did nearly put this down after the sex scene, but I think they were more a question of personal taste, and suspect others would read this and not feel the same way.

Whilst the topics are relatively common in sapphic fiction, I thought Bell did a good job of keeping it fresh and I’m looking forward to seeing what Bell does next.

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

The Secret Poet – Georgia Beers

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I’m still working my way through Beers back catalogue, but I’m beginning to learn that you can’t go wrong with a Beers romance, especially when you’re looking for a feel-good, easy, enjoyable read. The Secret Poet is no exception to this.

Morgan works for her brother, Perry, at his medical practice. In her spare time she likes to read and write poetry. She’s happy working with Perry, and enjoys her day to day life with her two cats – Ross and Rachel. Zoe is a pharmaceutical rep, she’s new to the area, and when she goes to visit Perry’s clinic meets Morgan.

A significant chunk of the book revolves around Perry falling for Zoe and trying to get her to date him. Her effectively guilt trips Morgan into helping, and despite the fact she’s also developing a big crush on Zoe offers to help him out because she loves her brother.

The book is all told in the first person from Morgan’s point of view and I enjoyed being in Morgan’s head. Beers has found a great balance between the low level angst of Morgan’s lack of confidence and her humour, which makes it okay that we don’t experience Zoe’s point of view in the same way.

Both characters are really likeable and they are easy to imagine together. Their flirting is really well written and their connection seems genuine. Their chemistry is also pretty great. Even when they have a moment and don’t talk for a while, they aren’t mean and they’re open to communication and acceptance on both sides of the relationship.

It’s a shame that so many of the feelings of both characters revolved around Perry for so long, but at the same time, it makes it effective as a narrative, so I can completely see why it was this way.

I don’t love this as much as I did Hopeless Romantic or 16 Steps to Forever, but I would still highly recommend this to all romance fans, especially when you need a pick me up.

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

You Know I’d Never – Kara Lowndes

Rating: 3 out of 5.
This is another similar book to quite a few I’ve read recently – a interesting premise and full of promise, but it doesn’t quite put all the parts together to connect for me.

Janey has been stuck in Clitheroe all her life. She has a job in the local grocery store, is firmly stuck in the closet and lost the only love of her life when she made the choice to stay in their small town when her girlfriend went on tour with her band.

Elise, the aforementioned ex-girlfriend has been absent for years but is now returning to town for some benefit concerts and appears to want to do everything she can to reconnect with Janey.

It will probably sound a little silly to say this, especially as an English person, but this novella is very English in it’s attitude. I’d like to think this version of homophobia doesn’t ring true anymore but it’s still pretty common, especially in small towns and from my own personal experiences, it felt quite authentic in that regard. The descriptions of things are also very fitting for an English setting and almost had a feel of nostalgia to them for me personally.

The writing holds up pretty well but the novella length doesn’t give this story the full chance to grown in my opinion and I think I’d have liked it more with a full length and the chance to see them fall in love at the beginning. I’d be interested in more of this kind of work from Lowndes though.

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