Against the Grain – Bryce Oakley

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
This is the first novella in a three part novella series written by different authors.

I’m a big Oakley fan and I did enjoy this quick and easy to read novella, but I think because it’s a novella it didn’t include some of the things I’ve come to love about Oakley’s writing.

I enjoyed the premise and the characters were interesting – I definitely appreciated that the story wasn’t one I’d encountered before and it did have some of Oakley’s trademark humour – I laughed so much in the first chapter I cried.

Due to it’s status as the first of the series I may find my opinion changes when I get the opportunity to read the others and I would definitely recommend romance fans giving this a go for a nice, easy, humourous read.

Northern Vows – Lise Gold

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I’m a big fan of Lise Gold and this one didn’t disappoint. This book brings together all of the featured characters from the Compass series for the wedding of Hannah and Kristine.

I loved that Gold chose to close this series by taking us back to the beginning – to Norway – where Northern Lights is set. The wedding setting is great in reintroducing us to all of the friends. I loved Hannah and Kristine’s story in the first two books of the series so getting to read the next part of their journey was great.

I liked that Gold didn’t feel the need to provide grand sweeping changes for all of the characters in the book. Two of the couples experience big changes in their lives to give them HEAs, but others stay in their stable lives, happy together, which makes the other changes work better in my opinion. It was great to return to Madison and Ally and how Madison’s relationship with Theo as her step-son has progressed. Kate and Felicia have always made me laugh with their headstrong ways and I loved the humour they provided to this story.

Some of the secondary characters get some closure, old friends making up, brothers changing, so it isn’t all about the romance. To me one of the things I love most about Gold is how she writes about the little things, and the fact that she manages to write about a group of friends staying at a resort for a week and it not be repetitive is fantastic. There is a little bit of a new romance included in the storyline for Daisy, which is sweet, mirroring some of the original book and closes the loop somewhat on this series.

I wouldn’t recommend reading this out of order. You could – it’s still a great story by itself, but you’d miss the richness that knowing these characters already provides to the narrative. Therefore I’d highly recommend starting this series if you haven’t already – Northern Lights is set at Christmas – so it’s the perfect time!

Something Far Away and Happy – Bryce Oakley

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
I’m a big fan of Oakley’s so I’m really glad I managed to finally carve out the time to read this new one. It was exactly what I needed and comes in at a solid 4.5 stars. The story starts with an epilogue where we meet Remi and Julia at college in Colorado. Their relationship is passionate and they have the belief they’re going to be together forever. Disaster strikes and their relationship is over just as quickly as it began.

We cut to ten years later, Remi is now an executive for an airline and Julia an interior designer. They’re again thrown together unexpectedly, giving them the opportunity to re-evaluate everything they thought they knew.

I loved the premise of this book. I was sceptical at first when it started with an epilogue if I’m honest, but it sets the scene really well and you start with presumptions of how you’re going to feel about the MCs that are then challenged along the way.

The intrigue that cuts through the story is done well. It sits there in the background for quite a while, making you want answers, and then provides interesting twists at just the right moments in the narrative.

The romance between Julia and Remi is believable – and whilst this does go a little bit from lovers to enemies and then instant lovers again, you can understand why. Once they move back into lovers territory the communication between them is strong and I like how they are written so as to not be making the same mistakes of the past all over again.

I enjoyed the secondary characters in the storyline and it would be nice if some of these were revisited in future instalments if this was to be made into a series. The most important secondary character for me was Stormy the dog and I enjoyed the way she was woven into the narrative.

I also really liked that this was another book I’ve read recently that didn’t throw in a major relationship blow up at about the 80% mark. The angst and intrigue in this storyline is provided by others and it focusses on how Remi and Julia deal with this as a couple rather than breaking them up again.

I’d definitely recommend this as a nice read for any romance fans – it’s currently available on KU.

In the Black – Luci Dreamer

Rating: 4 out of 5.
This was a really good KU read that I would happily have paid for. I read it all in one sitting.

For a romance book, the characters don’t actually spend much of the book in a relationship – it doesn’t matter though – the feelings and chemistry between the two MCs speak for themselves. I spent most of the book rooting for them to get back together and enjoyed it so much more for the fact they don’t just rush straight back into things. The book acknowledges the past and its associated feelings, whilst somehow managing not to dwell too much.

I really enjoyed the firefighter aspects of the book – you could genuinely feel Mitch’s experiences and the camaraderie between the crew. The secondary characters were funny and interesting, helping to provide perspective on the MCs and how they’ve come to be where they are.

The HEA felt right and I’m really looking forward to the promised epilogue.

Fireflies – Lise Gold

Rating: 5 out of 5.
I didn’t realise how much I needed a book like this in my life, until I was reading it. I completely misunderstood it was going to be about, not knowing anything about the airline industry, but that didn’t matter, I was hooked from the start. I love Gold’s writing and this book stands out because of it.

The storyline felt genuine and honest, I loved both of the MCs and I found myself rooting for everything to work out. Their families were interesting and not just thrown in there to pad out the story – they had valid parts to play.

This will definitely be added to my re-read list – I almost want to go ahead and re-read it now.