Spellbound – Ophelia Silk

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I really enjoyed this one. It’s not my usual thing, I rarely read fiction that involves magic and the like, nor am I historical fiction fan, but I found myself attracted to the potential storyline here and I’m really glad to say I liked it a lot.

Jane lives a relatively normal life for a farm girl, seemingly destined to marry, expected to do the things her parents want and tell her to do. We meet her at the local market, where the weather takes a turn for the worse, causing Jane to make a fateful decision.

Adelaide lives in the woods on the outskirts of Jane’s town. Born there, she’s known as the witch that scares the townsfolk. She’s guarded, protective of her lifestyle and the forest. The last thing she needs is Jane stumbling onto her patch.

I loved the blend of gentle magic and a historic tone that didn’t lean too hard into any particular historical period, or discussion of the times. The combination of the two meant I could really enjoy this, despite not normally being a fan of either genre. I was able to be taken along by the story, which moves a good pace, despite it only taking place for the most part in a time period spanning approximately a month.

I liked both Jane and Adelaide’s growth in the narrative. I appreciated them both coming to terms with their feelings, both through their exploring their own attempts at communicating with each other, and the corresponding romantic thoughts about each other. I also welcomed the fact that they didn’t magically become perfect at talking to each other, and that the conflict and communication meshed well together.

Towards the ending of the story there are some aspects I really enjoyed about the story and the inclusion of those that are different from the townsfolk. I enjoyed the sense of community and both Jane and Adelaide finding the things they had been searching for.

The magical aspects of the storyline made sense to me and were written in a way that I could enjoy and picture. It added to a kind of heartwarming sense that I got from the whole book.

I would definitely recommend this to others, and will be keeping an eye out for future Silk works.

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

A Dog Named Bella – Bel Blackwood

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
This was a sweet, slow-burn romance, set in New Zealand.

Amy is a tech reporter, sent to New Zealand to land a big scoop, and with it a big promotion. Morgan is the reclusive tech billionaire Amy is supposed to interview. She disappeared from the tech world after a big conference announcing her resignation, never to be seen again by most of the world.

Morgan is pitched as a bit of an ice queen, and her interactions with the local community definitely come across this way. I liked how she doesn’t automatically open up to the stranger in her life and how Amy has to fight for the article she’s supposed to write. Amy matches up well to Morgan, and the little insights we get into her life make her situation and decisions more believable.

There’s some intrigue and behind the scenes scheming that plays out to give real reason for why Amy has been given the interview, that keeps things interesting.

I liked the ending as it doesn’t fall into saviour type tropes, whilst still giving a satisfying happy ending, both personally and professionally for them both.

As the book is named after one of the canine characters, they definitely deserve a mention as Morgan’s pack of dogs provide some good ways of moving the story along and opportunities for both characters to open up.

This was a nice way to pass a few hours and I think romance fans looking for a romance with some elements of slow burn and conflict will enjoy this one.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

Love Forged – Nicole Pyland

Rating: 5 out of 5.
If you read my reviews regularly you’ll know I’m a big Pyland fan, and to be honest I had thought the Sports series couldn’t be beaten, and then Love Forged was released. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I’ve actually read a friends to lovers romance, so I can’t speak completely to it’s originality but it felt fresh and authentic to me.

Tate and Flynn are best friends. They grew up together, have done almost everything together in their lives, and are now embarking on their next journey together – med school. Unexpectedly Tate receives a letter out of the blue, that turns both of their lives upside down.

I don’t read the blurbs on Pyland books, I just look forward to them when they’re released, so this narrative came as a complete surprise to me. The title doesn’t give away much (though now I’ve read it, the title is perfect), and I definitely wasn’t expecting such a warm, thoughtful book. It was a pleasure to settle in for a few hours and get lost in this blossoming friends to lovers romance.

Whilst at its heart it’s a friends to lovers romance, it also deals with grief, loss, family and the characters finding themselves. Best of all for me, there was no crazy conflict between the two. Other than some initial communication breakdowns that felt very authentic in the world of trying to tell your best friend that you’re gay, the conflict in this purely relates to outside sources and provides a great narrative to show the couple growing together.

i’m deliberately keeping this review shorter than normal. I don’t want to give away anything else that happens and want people to be able to enjoy for themselves. If you haven’t read Pyland before, I would highly recommend starting here. If you have, you should definitely enjoy this one too.

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

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.

A Big Straight Wedding – Sienna Waters

Rating: 5 out of 5.
This might be my favourite Waters book so far. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the storyline from the blurb, but I trusted that it Waters would get it right and I’m happy to say she did. I haven’t read a book in one sitting for weeks – a relatively normal occurrence for me – but I couldn’t put this down today.

Nic lives with her best friend George. They’re both gay, don’t have a lot of money and spend the majority of their time either partying or working to make ends meet. When Nic finds out that George’s wealthy family actually has a trust fund set aside for him – on the condition that he marries a woman, she suggests a marriage of convenience for the two of them so he can get the money she feels should be rightfully his.

When it comes time to choose a wedding planner – they meet Klara, owner of a small but growing wedding planning business, who is surprised to be asked to bid for such a large society wedding, but desperately needs the work to keep her business afloat.

The problem for all of them is that the attraction between Nic and Klara is unmistakable. They all have something to lose in this arrangement and I love how Waters uses this to create the tension and some laughs throughout the book.

All of the best friends are fun, including George. They all have a reason to be there and their characterisations ring true in how they fit with Klara and Nic. Their side stories whilst brief are also nice to read. I liked both Nic and Klara as characters and the opposites attract element worked really well.

The book is well paced, especially as it’s for the most part only a month long. Somehow Waters manages to keep the urgency of the need for the wedding, whilst conveying that the burgeoning relationship isn’t moving along screamingly fast.

I especially liked that the ending and the epilogue didn’t suddenly change who the characters are, the narrative stays true to how the characters would have behaved and has a really good ending because of it. I’d love some kind of follow up to see where they all are in a few years.

I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.