Who’d Have Thought – G Benson

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Benson is rapidly becoming my favourite author. I love that when I pick up one of her books I’m going to get an extremely well written book, with a narrative that explores all the different aspects of being queer and falling for someone. This one is my favourite read of Benson’s so far, but I suspect I’ll probably end up saying that about each one I read!

Hayden is an ER nurse. She works long hours but is struggling to make ends meet. Sam is a neurosurgeon at the same hospital. She has a reputation as a typical surgeon with no bedside manner. Hayden spends a lot of her time bemoaning Sam – Dr. Thomson – to her best friend and fellow ER nurse, Luce.

When Hayden discovers she’s yet again broke before the end of the month, she finds her responding to an advert looking for someone to enter into a fake marriage for a year. It amuses her to find that the advert has been placed by none other than Sam. She really needs the money, but can she be with Sam for the required year.

The period where they negotiate the “dating”, telling friends and getting married is amusing, stopping it from becoming perfunctory as they navigate each other whilst trying not to offend or cause one of the other to walk away, each for their own reasons.

I loved getting to experience Hayden and Sam really falling for each other as they got to know each other. I enjoyed how Benson used the new realities of their life together, such as them living together, and Frank the cat loving Sam to show each other their real selves, and therefore see past their arrangement.

For me, underneath all of the romance, was a real exploration of what marriage really is. We all have our different reasons for getting married, or not as the case may be, and I really enjoyed this exploration of the reasons why it was necessary for Hayden and Sam to enter into their fake marriage, what it meant to both of them and how it changed into something else. The external reinforcements, whether positive or negative, from those around them also served to support this.

As always you get the opportunity to spend time with a range of queer characters, and I loved both Jon, Sam’s brother and Luce, Hayden’s best friend. The discussion of Luce being non-binary and how it impacts their decisions to enter into relationships and their acceptance by others was dealt with really well.

I don’t want to give away any spoiler, but I’m always amazed at how much Benson manages to pack into a book, without losing power from any of the stories and the two secondary storylines in this book are heartbreaking. The way Hayden and Sam deal with them together really cements their relationship and gives you as the reader the opportunity to see different aspects of their characters.

I would highly recommend you read this one if you haven’t already. All romance fans will love this one. Word of warning, it’s on the long side, but is very hard to put down – I kept sneaking five minutes here and there when I supposed to be working!

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

Flinging It – G. Benson

Rating: 5 out of 5.
This is a beautifully written book about a divisive topic – infidelity. Benson approaches the topic from a character-driven point of view, giving us the opportunity to get inside the main character’s thoughts and feelings, giving us the ability to understand even if we might not necessarily agree were we to encounter the same situation in real life.

Both Frazer and Cora are heads of department at a hospital in Perth, Australia. Frazer heads up the midwifery department and has been fighting to introduce a new programme for high-risk patients, to improve their lives in the lead up to the birth of their babies and put them in good stead afterwards as people. As you’d expect that comes with budgetary fights and it’s suggested that she gets Cora’s support for the project as she’s head of the social work department.

Frazer buries herself in her work. She’s had a bad break-up and isn’t looking for anything serious despite her friend’s attempts at convincing her otherwise. Cora is married and is in the process of discovering she’s in an emotionally abusive marriage. As they begin to work together they discover they have an attraction to each other that neither was expecting, especially Cora who has never been attracted to a woman before. The affair is complicated by the fact that Cora is married to Frazer’s boss.

Neither are proud of their relationship, but recognise the power it has over them. Whilst I didn’t always agree with how they went about things, I was so absorbed in the writing and pacing of the book I was drawn to keep turning the page to find out what happened next.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I really appreciated how once they are found out their affair changed and forced both of them to look at life differently. I also appreciated that those that found out didn’t only provide judgement, they provided support and friendship too.

I liked the ending for the two of them. It felt authentic and focussed on themselves first, which I think must be harder to express and write successfully.

I love how Benson always includes a veritable array of characters who identify as LGBTQ+ as side characters in the narrative and this book is no different in that regard. Frazer’s friendship group and their insistence on setting her up provided some much-needed light-heartedness at times. I also really enjoyed the scenes with Frazer’s sister, especially when she has her own big reveal.

I felt that Benson’s depiction of one of the high-risk patients, Jack, a pregnant trans man, was done in a sensitive, engaging way that would encourage lots of people to think differently about someone facing this situation (or to think about it for the first time perhaps).

I’d definitely encourage romance fans and fans of character-driven books to give this a try.

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

The Last Time We Met – Maggie Brown and Leni Hanson

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
This is sort of a second chance romance, I’m not sure you can call it a full-on second chance when the characters don’t really get together the first time they meet, but they do have some history so I’ll classify it that way for ease.

Merritt is the daughter of a US senator. She works for Doctors Without Borders in the trauma team, visiting some of the worst tragedies to provide emergency medical care.

Austen is an Australian rock star. She has a reputation for bedding whomever she wants whenever she wants.

The two first meet when Merritt is in College. They meet when Merritt goes to a signing for Austen and Merritt is one of those that catches Austen’s eye. They have a nice night together but for reasons I won’t get into it, it doesn’t go any further than that. This forms a brief flashback in the book, but it’s the only one, so those that aren’t flashback fans don’t need to worry.

The two meet again in Australia. Austen has returned home for a vacation, but not before she performs an important show for some diplomats. Merritt has decided to vacation in Australia after a particularly difficult spell at work, as her parents are in Australia for her fathers work.

I liked how the authors approached the two meeting again and especially liked how they interwove both MCs friends and acquaintances into this part of the book. The side characters are interesting and provide a little bit of will they, won’t they intrigue, as well as allowing us to get to know the MCs better away from each other. It also serves to help build up chemistry between the two again – something we don’t always see in second chance romances.

I liked the Doctors Without Borders aspects to the storyline. I liked that Merritt was open about how her assignments had made her feel and that she dealt with them in a communicative manner.

There’s a couple of twists in the last quarter of the book that I actually really enjoyed.

I can’t comment as to how the authors styles have combined as this is my first time reading either author, but I wasn’t able to identify any clashing styles or weird jumps on the page, so I’d say they were successful.

All in all this was an interesting read that I think wlw romance fans will enjoy.

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

One More Chance – Ali Vali

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
I have mixed feelings about this book. It’s over a 3.5 star but not quite a four. It’s really hard to say you enjoyed something with such serious and difficult topics as domestic violence and homophobia. So I think it’s more appropriate to say I appreciated the writing.

The MCs are Harry and Desi – childhood lovers who met in third grade but due to life circumstances we no longer able to be together after high school. Harry becomes a well respected orthopaedic surgeon and happens to be in the ER the day Desi is brought into the ER after her husband makes an attempt on her life – throwing them together again in ways neither had hoped or expected.

I liked both MCs. Desi was written well to illustrate the feelings people in this situation feel (I have no experience in this situation, so I can only presume sensitivity readers were used to ensure this was accurate). Harry is definitely a character written in the ‘hero’ mould.

Once they are thrown back together a relationship does come around quickly which I struggled with slightly but could also understand. I’ve previously enjoyed books where characters have got back together after break-ups but I have tended to prefer ones where that’s a slower burn so this was a bit different for me.

I liked the secondary characters around the MCs – and even the horrible secondary characters had a purpose to the storyline. The inclusion of Serena, Rachel, Mona and Tony ensures that we see the MCs from different points of view and ensures that we get the opportunities to move away from the violence where possible.

The book comes with many warnings from my point of view, it definitely will not be for everybody, but it is definitely a well written book and from that point of view I can recommend it. I would be interested in a second part of the story.

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