Review | Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood

underadancingstarTitleUnder a Dancing Star (2019)
Author: Laura Wood
Publisher: Scholastic
Read: 1st – 3rd July 2019
Genre: young-adult; historical fiction; romance; retelling
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

“In grey 1930s England, Bea has grown up kicking against conventions. There are so many rules. She must marry. She can’t choose. She must keep the family estate safe. But when Bea goes to spend summer in Italy, a dazzling new world opens up. There are moonlit nights, and beautiful vistas – and Ben. A cocky young artist who just happens to be infuriatingly handsome too. One night, under the stars, their friends set them a challenge. It’s a duel of kisses. The rules: sparks must fly. Dreams must come true. Neither party may fall in love. A long hot summer of kisses and mischief unfolds. But storm clouds are gathering across Europe. Is their perfect summer ending? Or is this just the start?” (Synopsis from publisher)

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Review | The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

flatshareTitleThe Flatshare (2019)
Author: Beth O’Leary
Publisher: Quercus Books
Read: 30th April – 21st May 2019
Genre: contemporary; romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“Tiffy and Leon share a flat. Tiffy and Leon share a bed. Tiffy and Leon have never met… Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time. But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…” (Synopsis from publisher)

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Review | Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

redwhiteandroyalblueTitleRed, White & Royal Blue (2019)
Author: Casey McQuiston
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: 14th May 2019
Read: 19th – 20th April
Genre: LGBTQIA; romance; contemporary
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse. Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic. (Synopsis from publisher)

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Review | Roomies by Christina Lauren

Title: Roomies (2018)
Author: Christina Lauren
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group- Piatkus
Read: 14th – 22nd July 2018
Genre: contemporary; romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

“Monday night. Wednesday morning. Friday lunchtime. Holland Bakker plans her journeys to work around the times the handsome Irish musician, Calvin McLoughlin, plays his guitar in the 50th Street subway station. Lacking the nerve to actually talk to the gorgeous stranger, Holland is destined to admire him from a distance. Then a near-tragedy causes her busker to come to her rescue, only to disappear when the police start asking questions. Keen to repay Calvin, Holland gets him an audition with her uncle, Broadway’s hottest musical director. When he aces the tryout, Calvin’s luck seems to have turned – until his reason for disappearing earlier becomes clear: he doesn’t have a visa. Impulsively, Holland offers to wed the Irishman to keep him in New York, still keeping her infatuation secret. Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway, while their relationship evolves from awkward roommates to besotted lovers. Yet surrounded by theatre and actors, what will it take for Holland and Calvin to realise that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?” (Synopsis from the publisher)

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Review | Carol by Patricia Highsmith

carolTitle: Carol/The Price of Salt (1952)
Author: Patricia Highsmith
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Read: 21st – 24th February 2018
Genre: romance; LGBTQ
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

“Therese is just an ordinary sales assistant working in a New York department store when a beautiful, alluring woman in her thirties walks up to her counter. Standing there, Therese is wholly unprepared for the first shock of love. Therese is an awkward nineteen-year-old with a job she hates and a boyfriend she doesn’t love; Carol is a sophisticated, bored suburban housewife in the throes of a divorce and a custody battle for her only daughter. As Therese becomes irresistibly drawn into Carol’s world, she soon realises how much they both stand to lose… 

First published pseudonymously in 1952 as The Price of Salt, Carol is a hauntingly atmospheric love story set against the backdrop of fifties’ New York.”
(Synopsis from the publisher)

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Review | Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

sofiakhanTitleSofia Khan Is Not Obliged (2015)
Author: Ayisha Malik
Read:  22nd-29th May 2016
Genre: fiction; contemporary; romance
Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

Ayisha Malik’s Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged is marketed generally as a Muslim Bridget Jones, and it’s not a bad descriptor, if a little reductive. Personally though, I found Sofia much more relatable than dear old Bridget – and, believe me, I adore Ms Jones – but maybe that’s due to Sofia’s penchant for one too many chocolate Hobnobs (something I myself am partial to) despite my/our better judgement.

“I tried! I did! But what normal human being would ask another human
being to live with a cohort of mother, father, brother and sister-in-law with two children, complete with a sister and brother-in-law and three children next door,
and a hole-in-the-wall joining the two houses?
(Just writing that sentence about so many people confused me; imagine living with them.)

Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged is the diary of the eponymous Sofia Khan, a 30-year old Londoner who works in publishing and just happens to also be a practicing Muslim who wears a hijab – something which a man on the Tube takes exception to, rather loudly, earning Sofia’s brilliant comeback “Oi, terrorists don’t wear vintage shoes, you ignorant wanker!” Such a comeback displays the tone and wit of Sofia Khan but also illustrates how unafraid Ayisha Malik is of discussing the prejudices that many Muslims face, even in twenty-first century London. After regaling her publishing colleagues with a story of how her would-be fiancé expects her to move in with him, his parents, and the literal hole in the wall of their home, Sofia inadvertently becomes the spokesperson for the Muslim dating scene in London, and begins writing a book on the subject, amidst her crazy household, constant questions of when she’s getting married, and a gruff, bemused Irish neighbour.

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