Romance reads reviewed

Reviews: Lauren O’Connor-May

The Wake-Up Call

Beth O’Leary

Quercus

Another hotel needs saving, two employees disguise their secret attraction with a veneer of hate until their shared attempt to save their workplace brings their simmering chemistry to romantic fruition.

I’m sure you’ve seen this story before but, despite the well-worn trope, I enjoyed this book because the dialogue was clever and the characters hilarious. The only thing that would have made it better was a more interesting twist.

This trope around, the romantic leads are Izzy, a spunky English woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, and Lucas, a cynical Brazilian stoic who can’t understand why Izzy likes everyone but him.

The Forest Manor Hotel, where they work, is not recovering after the lockdown, so the pair, under the instruction of its owner, start selling off its movable parts.

While sorting through the lost and found room, Izzy finds engagement rings and she begs the owner to let her trace their brides.

When one such trace meets with surprising financial success, the owner turns the quest into a competition between Izzy and Lucas and it is not long before their angry, competitive sparrings spark romantic flames.

A Lady’s Guide to Scandal

Sophie Irwin

HarperCollins

Romance novels usually have a certain predictability about them, so every time Sophie Irwin started a tangent, I would think smugly, “Oh, I see where this is going”, only to be pleasantly surprised.

There is nothing not to enjoy about this witty and engaging book. It starts out with strong hints of Persuasion but Irwin had more Austeny things up her sleeve. As the story progressed, the recognisable Austenesque characters warped until the story was undeniably Irwin.

The novel tells the story of Eliza, a widowed 27-year-old who, 10 years prior, had relinquished the love of her life and to marry his elderly uncle instead – out of duty to her mother’s wishes.

Now, a suddenly wealthy Eliza is once again confronted with the bitter, jilted man when he inherits her late husband’s title and estate. Eliza’s portion is hers to keep on condition that she doesn’t sully the family name.

This seems simple until Eliza starts relishing her newfound wealth and freedom in Bath, where her attempts to avoid scandal are unexpectedly hampered by the arrival of a roguish, handsome poet who has taken a strange interest in her. When the former love of her life shows up too, jealousies prompt the two men to compete for her attention in a most scandalous way.

The Long Game

Elena Armas

Simon and Schuster

Armas has been churning out romances since her smash success with the Spanish Love Deception in 2021 (we’re still waiting for that movie by the way, if anyone is listening).

Since everyone in the Spanish Love Deception universe is successfully matched up, this third offering introduces us to new characters; Adalyn Reyes and Cameron Caldani.

Adalyn is the disgraced heir to a sporting empire who has been banished to a remote town to manage a junior girls’ soccer team. Cameron, a suspiciously retired soccer star, is also hiding out in the town to coach the same team.

They meet, they hate, they clash, they fall for each other, and eventually become each other’s redemption.

The difference this time around is the stop-start slapstick moments that drive the plot but made the story feel jerky.

This book is not as charming as Armas’s first offerings. There were not enough periphery storylines and the narrative was sometimes just several successive chapters of the couple dancing around each other, always out of reach, ending on a cliffhanger, which caused the novel to drag.

Thank You For Sharing

Rachel Runya Katz

Hera Books

This story was an engaging read, once it eventually got going but in the beginning, the author seemed to sacrifice the pacing to tick all the necessary politically correct boxes.

This novel is about a pair of mixed-race, mixed-religious enemies to lovers.

Liyah Cohen-Jackson and Daniel Rosenberg had a summer fling at a Jewish summer camp in their teens, but it turned sour. Fifteen years later, they meet again but this meeting doesn’t go any better than the first.

When they are reunited for a third time during a shared work project, some of the aches of the past are soothed and their chemistry quickly builds but Liyah is commitment-phobic, due to past trauma, and runs away from her growing feelings for Daniel.

This book tackles some serious topics while keeping a clever balance of humour and fun.

Wildfire

Hannah Grace

Simon and Schuster

This second sports romance from Hannah Grace continues the stories of the characters we meet in her debut success, Icebreaker, and it is that cast of characters, including the new ones introduced, that is the biggest charm of Grace’s books.

The love story takes centre stage as always but it is the dialogue and periphery relationships that keep the momentum moving and the story fresh.

This time it is mysterious hockey goalie Russ who meets his dreamgirl. Shy Russ encounters wild-child Aurora at a university party and despite their chemistry, her relationship phobia makes her flee.

They find each other again at a summer camp, where they are both counsellors. Despite their draw to each other, the camp has a strict no staff romance policy, so Russ, who desperately needs the job, does his best to stay away from the rebellious Aurora.

This follow-up lacked the depth of its predecessor but was nevertheless a fun read.