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.

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.

The Adventurers – Bryce Oakley

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Bryce Oakley is fast becoming one of the authors I enjoy reading the most. This had me laughing out loud many times and I really enjoyed all the one-liners and banter in this book, from all of the characters.

I thought the realities of Joey’s breakup were written really well, and I loved how the characters first came together as friends. It’s also always a bonus when you have interesting and cute animals written in. I also really appreciated the gender neutral secondary character of Taylor.

The only thing missing from this to make it a five-star book for me was I need more backstory about Kendall. Joey’s story felt fleshed out and whilst we learned things about Kendall I felt I was missing some things about her prior relationships that would cause her to be the way she is. If I’m honest I also wanted a bit more time with the two of them after they went from friends to lovers, most of the being together part of the book was angsty and that was a shame.

The Kaleidoscope Album Box Set – Bryce Oakley

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I read all of the Kaleidoscope series (so far) in about 36 hours and thought it was probably easier to review as a series rather than individual books, however I have rated them individually:

Undone – 5 stars
Bewilder – 4 stars
Midnight – 5 stars
Bloom – 4 stars

All of the books in the series are written from an alternating point of view between the two MCs in that particular book. I thought this worked really well and gives the opportunity to get to know the thoughts and feelings of the characters quickly.

Each of the books had moments that genuinely had me laughing out loud and the banter between the bandmates, and their extended group of partners and friends really made the series for me. As is typical each book contains some angst, but in general each story is centred around the getting together of the MCs.

Billie and Vero’s story in Undone got me hooked. It served as a really good introduction to The Shrikes, whilst still managing to keep the book focussed on the main relationship. I enjoyed the do they like each other or hate each other, will they/won’t they, push pull throughout the book. The introduction of the ex-girlfriend felt a little old, but it did serve to deepen the understanding of Vero.

Domino and Sabrina are pulled together to clean Domino’s messy house. It’s an interesting concept as from the way you meet Domino in Undone you wouldn’t think these characters could work together. I enjoyed their story but Bewilder didn’t grab me in quite the same way as Undone, which I thought was a shame as I really like Domino. However, both characters popping up in subsequent books helped me see the relationship a bit more and I’ve grown to enjoy this pairing.

Zoey serves as the odd one out in the band in many different ways and the story of her falling for Pia stands out for me. A toaster situation is nearly always a good read for me, I enjoy a well written book that explores new found sexuality, so I’m probably a little biased, but the opening scenes of Midnight are the standout scenes in the series. The MCs are well suited for each other and by this point the group dynamics play really well.

I loved that Meg fell for Collins. I enjoyed how both characters were written – Meg as the ‘glue’ to the band, passionate but often in the background. The hardness of Collins when you are first introduced to her in the series versus the softness that Meg brings out in her is really well done and makes Collins one of my favourite characters. I also really liked how the passion both have for their work is written about.

The sex scenes in all four books are generally short but steamy. I also really appreciated the world building that goes on throughout the series, tying each storyline together nicely and ensuring that in each book you got a glimpse of all of the featured characters.

All in all the series won’t necessarily give you something shiny and new, but it’s full of well-written strong diverse women, funny banter and good storylines. If you’re looking for easy, relatively quick reads this series will do you right.