The Runaway Duchess by Joanna Lowell

Apparently I only gave this 3 stars, but I am remembering it more fondly than that. Perhaps it was a 3.5 star type book.

The duchess in question has been raised in society but due to financial ruin and scandal is being married off to a revolting old man (as happens.) After the wedding she sees an opportunity in a mistaken identity at a train station and goes off with a nice man allowing him to continue to believe she is a famous botanist with whom he has had a lengthy correspondence. Off they go on a plant hunting expedition with her trying to keep up the ruse. I found the entire plant hunter/nurseries of England aspect absolutely fascinating. That was actually probably more interesting to me than their romance and steamy sex on the English moors.

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune

I was excited to read this and it got a lot of buzz, but honestly I didn’t  love it. I gave it a weak three stars on Goodreads (that’s as opposed to a strong 3 stars, which might indicate more like a 3.5. This book was more like a 2.75)

A successful magazine editor (of course) returns to a quaint little lake town that she used to summer at. She hasn’t been back since some big split with the love of her life, who was the boy next door in this little town. Chapters alternate between the summers they were teens, becoming best friends, and eventually a couple, and now when they are two adults trying to maybe bridge their mysterious rift.

I liked the teen chapters better because I felt annoyed by her as an adult. Also, I loved the descriptions of summers at the lake. But then I was grossed out that the explicit sex scenes were when they were teens. Ew.  I also thought their rift that caused them to be apart for so many years was extremely predictable and annoying.

Donut Trap by Julie Tieu

Wanted to enjoy this as a nice light rom com, and you’d better believe that comparison to Kim’s Convenience attracted me. Unlike Kim’s Convenience I found the parental characters unlikable and awful, the main character annoying, the romance dull, and I was just irritated by everyone. The conflicts and ups and downs were also slight and I was remarkably uninvested in whether or not these two dated.

One Night on the Island by Josie Silver

I was excited to read this and did enjoy it, but not quite as much as I thought I would. The set up is great-a remote island off of Ireland, a charming tiny village that welcomes our about to be 30 yrs old heroine, and hot American guy for the meet cute. Chloe is on an extended trip there for some soul searching and also marrying herself, a concept she makes fun of but is committed to for the magazine articles she’s writing. I did like reading about the island and the characters and the friendships and the romance was good, too. However, it got to be a bit too much. So much gushing praise for each other, I just wanted to say give me a break and stop talking about it. No one swoons that much. My husband is the love of my life and I don’t even talk about him the way she talks about this guy she just met.

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan

I loved Ryan’s other books so much, so I was really excited to see she had a new one. And many thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy!
Although this wasn’t my favorite one of her books so far, it was still good. In fact, really good. I found all the information about clothing designing, the fashion industry during the war, and the wedding dress exchanges so interesting. It’s an aspect of WWII that I really hadn’t encountered in any of the historical fiction I’ve read. As for the stories of each of the main characters, they were romantic and feel good. This was really a story of transformation as each of the three main characters really undergoes a personal crisis (brought on by the war) that helps her find her true self, what she wants out of life, and how to reconcile that with her past. In all of Ryan’s books she truly shows how the ordinary British citizen found the extraordinary in themselves as they did their part for the war.
The one thing I didn’t love about this, compared to her others, was that I found the historical details and information a bit clunky. Too much information delivered through dialogue in a way that seemed very unnatural and only existed to educate the reader.

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

Hmm..I see I gave this 4 stars when I read it. But looking back now and thinking how little stayed with me I think, “really? Seems more like 3.5 or 3.” But I’ll give my past self the benefit of the doubt. I liked the premise of this new tech company finding matches based on your dna and single mom statistician wunderkind Jess getting an absolutely perfect pairing the tech company guy. Of course they’ve met before and NOT hit it off.  Reliable Christina Lauren romance with some unique additions to the story format.

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

It’s well past Christmas but this only just came in for me at the library and I had nothing else to read, so… And you know what? It was still delightful to read about Christmassy things and it’s still winter and snowy, so that’s nice. This book was completely ridiculous and predictable and I loved it.

Identical twin sisters, both incredible bakers, one on a tv show when in their hometown at their family’s much loved bakery. The town, Starlight Peak, might as well be Stars Hollow. I mean, town square with gazebo and twinkly lights and everyone knows each other and it’s so small that their bakery just gives every family a free loaf of their special holiday bread on Christmas Eve? Unrealistically charming. After a head injury the twins swap places and of course both find a wake up call to the life she wants, as well as love.

Perfect light holiday fare. And added bonus if you enjoy food or baking or food tv shows, because there are many details of the delicious foods they all bake. Very enjoyable.

Blame It On the Mistletoe by Beth Garrod

Things I loved about this book:

it opens with Holly reading a letter she wrote to herself at the end of Christmas the previous year. As an avid 5 year diary keeper and writer of letters to my future self (end of school year, to beginning of next year) I think this is a SPLENDID idea and can’t believe I don’t already do this. I love this idea of starting the holiday season by reading a letter from the previous year. (I have occasionally left myself notes in the decorations.)

the descriptions of adorable British Christmas

Things I didn’t love about this book:

Sometimes it was actually hard to keep track of the characters. The point of view switches back and forth between the Brit in America and the American in England. It really shouldn’t have been that complicated to keep them straight, but somehow it was. Does that mean the characters weren’t different enough?

The American brother’s “secret” was not very believable. Basically all the family stuff seemed dumb.

OK, I suppose there were a lot in this book that was fairly silly, or just too shallow in terms of its place in the story. So, not the best. BUT I did really enjoy the holiday spirit and it’s not like it was a taxing read. I also found the idea of a teenager trying to have thousands of followers on IG and have her account be a thing just kind of nauseating. But the jolly holiday spirit triumphs and the playlist at the back is fun.

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

This was totally delightful-like a Hallmark Christmas movie. In fact, I’d bet it’s already being turned into a movie. If you like snowy cabins and Christmas traditions and a little romance this book is for you. Best of all, it has a time loop (Groundhog Day) premise. I found out about this from an IG friend who said she liked it a lot, but wished there were more of the repeated days and I agree with that.

Maelyn’s family has spent every Christmas at an idyllic cabin in Utah with her parents’ college friends. This tight group has grown up together and though they are family Maelyn has long had a crush on one of the sons. Now they are in their 20s. This Christmas ends terribly-she hooks up with the brother of the guy she really likes and she finds out the cabin is being sold. She desperately wishes for things to change and poof! she wakes up at the start of the trip.

Pour yourself some hot chocolate and stir it up with a candy cane and get cozy on the couch with this nice easy holiday read.

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey

Read: Late September 2021

Absolutely Charming. Vintage toy store + woman who is single after a hilariously terrible relationship + a really quirky smart kid + an absolutely kind man who all he wants to do is make puppets that help children like a 2020 Mr. Rogers. (“To invite the comparison would be disrespectful” he says of someone suggesting he dress like Fred for Halloween.) It sounds silly, but I just really loved that the main characters were just genuinely NICE people. Drama/conflict really came from outside sources and even that was mild. A delightful romance as comforting as Mr. Fred Rogers himself.