February spotlight: Valentine’s Day!

In honor of this day of romance, and obviously based on my generally high regard for the romance genre, I started doing a little thinking about Valentine’s Day and the meaning behind the cultural significance of the day. There’s a various amount of history behind the day, both involving the original romantic history we are all familiar with and also many other types of events that have happened since.

St. Valentine’s Day has been around since approximately 500 AD. The day has Catholic origins, and Saint Valentine is still considered a saint in the Catholic church to this day. He is the patron saint of lovers, epileptics and beekeepers. Supposedly, he went against the Roman emperor and married couples that were in love. He was condemned and beaten to death and beheaded (which seems like overkill to me). There are a number of theories as to why he was marrying people in secret, seemingly romance is the first thing that comes to mind, but why was it done in secret in the first place? Well, during this time period the emperor Claudius had banned marriages in Rome to try and recruit more soldiers for his numerous wars. People in love don’t want to be kept apart though and so Valentine risked his life to continue to unite people in love.

Due to the original history of the day, with it’s obviously romantic if somewhat gruesome beginnings, it started being commercialized as a romantic celebration in the 19th century. Prior to that, many authors capitalized on the romanticism of the day, including both Chaucer and Shakespeare, but it was really the production of massive amounts of Valentine’s Day cards that pushed this day into becoming what it is today. Hallmark began mass-producing Valentine’s Day cards in 1913 and today there are 190 million Valentine’s Day cards sent each year – not even including those exchanged by kids in school. In the U.S. alone, in 2017 there was a whopping $18.2 Million spent on celebrating this holiday. Some think of this day as Singles Awareness Day just because of how much of a spotlight there is on couples and romantic love. And while many are celebrating in couples, there are so many kinds of love to celebrate that the commercialized aspect of it has expanded to celebration of love within friendship and family also.

One of the more common symbols used on Valentine’s Day cards and decorations is cupid, a familiar cherub with wings and a bow and arrow. Cupid is a figure from classical mythology – he’s the son of the love goddess Venus and war god Mars. He is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection, which makes it odd to me that he is often depicted as a baby.

Fun fact too – Valentine’s Day is the most common wedding anniversary in the Philippines! There are many people who share an anniversary date, as this highly romantic holiday is so commonly picked for wedding day celebrations.

I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day this year, whether you were celebrating with a significant other, with other loved ones, or just celebrating love for your self! If anyone has any fun facts or stories about Valentine’s Day, please feel free to share!

2021 Book #14 – Love at First by Kate Clayborn

Title: Love at First
Author: Kate Clayborn
Date finished: 2/20/21
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication Date: February 23, 2021
Pages in book: 298
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A sparkling and tender novel from the acclaimed author of Love Lettering, full of bickering neighbors, surprise reunions, and the mysterious power of love that fans of Christina Lauren, Sarah Hogle, and Emily Henry will adore.
 
Sixteen years ago, a teenaged Will Sterling saw—or rather, heard—the girl of his dreams. Standing beneath an apartment building balcony, he shared a perfect moment with a lovely, warm-voiced stranger. It’s a memory that’s never faded, though he’s put so much of his past behind him. Now an unexpected inheritance has brought Will back to that same address, where he plans to offload his new property and get back to his regular life as an overworked doctor. Instead, he encounters a woman, two balconies above, who’s uncannily familiar . . .
 
No matter how surprised Nora Clarke is by her reaction to handsome, curious Will, or the whispered pre-dawn conversations they share, she won’t let his plans ruin her quirky, close-knit building. Bound by her loyalty to her adored grandmother, she sets out to foil his efforts with a little light sabotage. But beneath the surface of their feud is an undeniable connection. A balcony, a star-crossed couple, a fateful meeting—maybe it’s the kind of story that can’t work out in the end. Or maybe, it’s the perfect second chance . . .

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I’ve come to really enjoy this author’s books lately. They are always so full of the emotional and over the top romance that really is one of the reasons I’m drawn to romance novels in the first place. Readers will be swept up by the emotions in this story too – as both Will and Nora have their own emotional baggage to deal with outside of the struggle that is falling in love. Some parts of the overall premise in this book didn’t work for me on a personal level just because of where I am in life. Nora is having trouble letting go of the way things were and making any changes at all to her apartment complex or getting rid of anything from her grandmother’s apartment that was left to her. And I’m at a point where I’m trying so hard to shed things and downsize what we need to hold onto that the idea of Nora’s struggle didn’t make logical sense to me. This was a personal thing though and honestly shouldn’t take away from anyone else’s enjoyment of the book. It was very well written and was so very romantic. Lots of tension leading up to Will and Nora finally admitting they have feelings for each other. And lots of quirky / funny side characters that really made the book so charming and enjoyable! I did really like this book and I’d definitely recommend it!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #12 – Hit Me With Your Best Scot by Suzanne Enoch

Title: Hit Me With Your Best Scot
Author: Suzanne Enoch
Date finished: 2/11/21
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: February 9, 2021
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Wild Wicked Highlanders series #3
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Coll MacTaggert, Viscount Glendarril, is a big, brawny Highlander who doesn’t like being told what to do—not even by his exasperated English mother who is determined to see her eldest son wedded and bedded. However, when he comes to the rescue of an irresistibly beautiful woman, Coll discovers that he may have found his perfect match…

The challenge isn’t that Persephone Jones is famous, wealthy, independent, and smarter than anyone he knows. The problem is that she isn’t interested in marrying any man—especially not a hot-headed Scot—even if he is the only man who seems to understand who she really is even when she’s not sure herself. When Coll learns that Persephone is actually a lady-in-hiding and someone is willing to kill her for what she stands to inherit…Well, Coll has never been one to turn down a fight. When hearts are involved, nothing comes between a Highlander and his lady.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I’ve read the other books in this series so far and I was really interested to see how the series would conclude. Coll’s character through the beginning of the series was the most stubborn and I couldn’t imagine what kind of lady he would find that would really suit him. An actress was the perfect fit though and I loved the Persephone matched him so well. That being said (**spoiler alert**) I did wish that she was only an actress and not also a lady in disguise. I know that may have been less than historically accurate but I think it would’ve been a better fit for Coll’s character and his obstinance. And honestly after seeing the struggle that Anthony and his actress went through on the Bridgerton show, it would’ve been nice to see an actress win one. But still the story was still nice and I enjoyed the romance of it. The family aspect of it was still a little bit of a struggle for me (as it was in the previous books) since I don’t love what the mother did, leaving her sons and taking the daughter with her and then also forcing them all to play her games later in life. I know we learn in this book that she had written letters but still you don’t wait 17 years for your kid to respond to a letter – you go and see your kids. I struggled with that piece a bit. Overall the book was still really good though – I enjoyed Coll very much as a character and his devotion to Persephone. I didn’t love that he immediately started calling her Temperance as soon as he found out her secret. I felt like it would’ve been nicer to have him keep calling her Persie. It was still a really good story and a cute romance.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #7 – Highland Treasure by Lynsay Sands

Title: Highland Treasure
Author: Lynsay Sands
Date finished: 1/15/21
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: January 26, 2021
Pages in book: 366
Stand alone or series: #9 in the Highland Brides series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A Buchanan brother finds a love to treasure in this scintillating historical romance from New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands…

After escaping from the English soldiers who attacked her home and imprisoned her in a dungeon, Lady Elysande de Valance is grateful for the rugged Scots who are escorting her to safety in the Highlands. Even with danger dogging their every step, she hadn’t expected to welcome the strong comforting embrace of their leader, Rory Buchanan. They say he’s a healer, but she finds the heat of his touch does so much more…

Let his brothers get married—Rory is too busy tending to the sick to be bothered with wooing a bride. But when he is tasked with accompanying a family friend’s “treasure” to the Highlands, he is surprised to learn the treasure is a beautiful woman on the run—and even more surprised to discover bruises hidden by her veil. Rory makes it his mission to tend to her injuries and protect her, but the thought of losing her makes him realize that perhaps it is his heart that is most in need of healing…

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

This book really kicked off with an intense start. Intensely tragic obviously but it also really captivates the reader right from the beginning and really makes the reader want to see how Elysande is able to survive this. There was a lot of set up involved in her story though and it almost took some away from the romance because we don’t even get to the romantic side of things until like half way the book. Which is interesting because the development of the story started out really strong for me in the first half but then it got a little slow for me and somewhat repetitive. I think it was just that there was so much detail included that it started to feel slow at some points just with the amount of details. Overall though it was a good book. I didn’t want to put it down as I was really intrigued by the plot – just not the romance plot.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #5 – Shipped by Angie Hockman

Title: Shipped
Author: Angie Hockman
Date finished: 1/7/21
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: January 19, 2021
Pages in book: 335
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The Unhoneymooners meets The Hating Game in this witty, clever, and swoonworthy novel following a workaholic marketing manager who is forced to go on a cruise with her arch-nemesis when they’re up for the same promotion.

Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.

The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.

Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands…together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.

With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?

Perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne, Shipped is a fresh and engaging rom-com that celebrates the power of second chances and the magic of new beginnings.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

This book was described as The Unhoneymooners meets The Hating Game and, not only did that description really interest me because I enjoyed both of those books, but I think that was a really apt description for this book. The description of the travels of the cruise ship and the sites and scenery that Graeme and Henley were able to experience were very transporting. I felt like I was experiencing all of those things myself. I really like the enemy coworkers to lovers trope and this one was pretty good. Henley sounded whiny to me in some parts, but overall I liked her and Graeme’s story and how their relationship was developed. The focus on teamwork in the story was also a really endearing one – it was great to see the supportive crew that Henley was surrounded by. Some pieces of the story were a little slow for me but overall I really enjoyed this story and would definitely recommend it.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #95 – The Princess and the Rogue by Kate Bateman

Title: The Princess and the Rogue
Author: Kate Bateman
Date finished: 12/22/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: December 29, 2020
Pages in book: 334
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Bow Street Bachelors series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley / Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley / the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A princess in disguise is forced to live with a rogue in order to protect her from danger in this fun, sexy regency romance from Kate Bateman.

In The Princess and the Rogue, Bow Street agent Sebastien Wolff, Earl of Mowbray, doesn’t believe in love—until a passionate kiss with a beautiful stranger in a brothel forces him to reconsider. When the mysterious woman is linked to an intrigue involving a missing Russian princess, however, Seb realizes her air of innocence was too good to be true.

Princess Anastasia Denisova has been hiding in London as plain ‘Anna Brown’. With a dangerous traitor hot on her trail, her best option is to accept Wolff’s offer of protection—and accommodation—at his gambling hell. But living in such close quarters, and aiding Wolff in his Bow Street cases, fans the flames of their mutual attraction. If Anya’s true identity is revealed, does their romance stand a chance? Could a princess ever marry a rogue?

My rating:  4.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I don’t think I’ve read anything by this author before but I’m going to have to start! I loved this book. I was captivated right from the very beginning and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen. The characters in the book were great too – Sebastian was brooding and an excellent hero but Anya really stole the show for me. Her strength of will, her compassion, and her overall character were just so wonderful. I loved reading her story and her journey as a runaway princess. I especially loved how there were Russian fairytales interwoven into this story, it was a great addition to the overall book. I really enjoyed readying this and I would definitely recommend it!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #94 – Truth, Lies and Second Dates by MaryJanice Davidson

Title: Truth, Lies and Second Dates
Author: MaryJanice Davidson
Date finished: 12/20/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: December 15, 2020
Pages in book: 288
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Danger, Sweetheart series 
Where I got the book from: NetGalley / Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley / the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Captain Ava Capp has been flying from her past for a decade. She’d much rather leave it, and her home state, behind forever. But when she finds herself back in Minnesota, against her better judgment, everything goes sideways in a way she never expected it to.

M.E. Dr. Tom Baker has never forgotten Ava and the cold case she ran away from. When she shows up unexpectedly in town, in spite of himself, sparks fly. Which is terrible because he can’t stop his growing attraction to her. Can these two Type-A’s let their guards down and work together to put Ava’s tragic past behind her for good? And keep their hands off each other at the same time?

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have historically always really enjoyed Davidson’s books (with a few exceptions) – they’re snarky and sassy and hilarious. I really enjoyed this book, the characters were all so funny. I especially loved Hannah, and having her be a genius level IQ made her precociousness make a lot more sense for a six year old. Ava and Tom were adorable together and I loved their banter. Their chemistry was good but I wouldn’t say it lit the page on fire or anything. Tom’s character was so endearing and interesting – I always love a romance hero who’s on the spectrum and takes everything literally. Honestly all of the characters in this book were very entertaining. There was a lot going on in the book but, as noted in the author’s note, this was kind of done on purpose to make this a trope filled, romance reader’s fun read. I definitely enjoyed it and I’d recommend it!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #89 – When a Rogue Meets His Match by Elizabeth Hoyt

Title: When a Rogue Meets His Match
Author: Elizabeth Hoyt
Date finished: 11/27/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: December 1, 2020
Pages in book: 360
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Greycourt series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley / Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley / the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Return to New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Hoyt’s signature drama and intrigue, where two enemies will discover if their marriage of convenience can survive — ’til death do they part.

Ambitious, sly, and lethally intelligent, Gideon Hawthorne has spent his life clawing his way up from the gutter. For the last ten years, he’s acted as the Duke of Windemere’s fixer, performing the duke’s dirty work without question. Now Gideon’s ready to quit the duke’s service and work solely for himself. But Windermere tempts Gideon with an irresistible offer: one last task for Messalina Greycourt’s hand in marriage.

Witty, vivacious Messalina Greycourt has her pick of suitors, so when her uncle demands Messalina marry Mr. Hawthorne, she is appalled. But Gideon offers her a devil’s bargain of his own: protection and freedom in exchange for a true marriage. Messalina feigns agreement and plots to escape their deal. Only the more time she spends with Gideon, the more her fierce, loyal husband arouses her affections. But will Gideon’s final deed for Windemere destroy the love growing between them?

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have always enjoyed an Elizabeth Hoyt novel – I’ve read many of her Maiden Lane series. I had read the first book in the Maiden Lane series back in 2018, Not the Duke’s Darling, and enjoyed it. With this book, I liked the first half of the book better than I liked the second half. Messalina became a bit of a frustrating character for me – I found her to be somewhat cruel towards Gideon by the end. Gideon was a classic Hoyt loveable villain and I think he deserved more of a chance than he got from Messalina at certain points. She didn’t even seem to give him a chance to explain and then gave him the cold shoulder for two weeks and then subsequently tried to leave him. I know these were necessary pieces of the plot but I just got frustrated with the process and I thought it was a little selfish of her. Other than that I liked the book, it was interesting and definitely entertaining. The last half of the book just fell a little flat for me, otherwise I would’ve scored a little higher. I’d still recommend it since I enjoyed it!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #87 – A Royal Disaster by Jennifer Bonds

Title: A Royal Disaster
Author: Jennifer Bonds
Date finished: 11/24/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Entangled
Publication Date: November 30, 2020
Pages in book: 255
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Elena Murphy is doing just fine—if you don’t count her struggling art studio, her ex-boyfriend suing her, and accidentally tossing purple paint onto a man who just happened to be in the wrong place at the very worst time. And not just any man, but freaking royalty. The World’s Most Eligible Bachelor, to be exact, with the paparazzi catching the whole embarrassing incident on camera.

Could her life be any more of a dumpster fire?

Yes it could. Now she’s getting dragged online and her clients are disappearing faster than free drinks at happy hour. And just when she thinks things can’t possibly get worse…His Royal Hotness decides the best way to fix this mess is to make her the envy of New York—by pretending to date.

Because what’s worse than a prince treating her like his very own Cinderella, including dreamy nights at the theater and a nearly X-rated pottery date? Reminding herself it’s all fake.

My rating:  3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

This book sounded pretty interesting – I haven’t read anything by this author in the past but I thought I’d give this book a try! The story was a lot of what I’d expect from a romance about a royal prince. There were some pieces of it that definitely seemed clichéd to me, but overall it was enjoyable. And I think when you’re picking up a romance about royalty, you expect there to be certain fundamental pieces included in the plot line. Lena was an interesting character but I didn’t love that the ending of the story resulted in her spending so much time apart from the thing she spent the whole rest of the book working so hard for (her art studio). I wouldn’t say that the book was overly thrilling or exciting but it was a solid romantic story.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #84 – A Season of You by Emma Douglas

Title: A Season of You
Author: Emma Douglas
Date finished: 11/15/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Pages in book: 298
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Cloud Bay series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In A Season of You by Emma Douglas, it’s Christmastime in the quaint island town of Cloud Bay, where love is always in season…

Will Fraser has believed in love at first sight since the day he first laid eyes on Mina Harper five years ago. There was only one problem: She was happily married. Then, when Mina’s husband was killed by a drunk driver, Will figured she’d want nothing to do with a guy who owns a whiskey distillery. So he’s kept his feelings locked away, knowing that not even a Christmas miracle would be enough to melt Mina’s heart. . .

Mina believes her days of true love are behind her. Since losing her husband she’s kept to herself, content to do her own painting and stay out of the limelight that comes with her famous family. But when, after a freak accident, Will comes to her rescue, Mina can’t quite get him out of her mind. As curiosity turns into a fling during Cloud Bay’s first Christmas Festival, she finds it harder to convince herself that her feelings for Will are just mistletoe-inspired. Could Mina be ready to lay the past to rest and finally admit that what she really wants for Christmas—and forever—is Will?

My rating:  3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I really loved the cover on this book – I should’ve realized it was centered around Christmas but I didn’t til I was already into the book. It was a great book to start getting me into the festive spirit with the holidays coming up! The Christmas contests that they participated in were super fun sounding. The characters in this book were good, Mina was a little self-destructive for me and Will definitely set himself up for failure with putting a time limit on the relationship, but they had a sweet enough romance. I think one of my favorite parts of the book was when Angie got her just desserts and got in trouble with her Dad because she was being a big big butt head. The book overall was sweet if a little cheesy for me. There was a good build up of tension but I had trouble getting into the story. I did love the Christmas festivities piece of it though! Good seasonal read.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page