Why I read it: I received a review copy via the author. The published version has an epilogue but the main story was first released as a free serial for newsletter subscribers (of which I am one).
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) year after his divorce, Daniel Stroman has decided that he’s too young to die—or fuse permanently with his couch. But when he downloads the dating app “Let’s Connect” and starts dating, his success/fail ratio isn’t encouraging until he gets a connection request from Robin.
Everything about Robin’s profile is different, from the bright little bird he’s using as an avatar to the long and thoughtful answers he’s written for the standard questions. He’s witty, funny, and easy to talk to. Robin could be his perfect match. But Robin is holding something back.
Then again, so is Dan—beginning with the seven-year crush he’s carried for his best friend, Trevor. Sadly, except for one brief moment, they’ve never been single at the same time.
Or have they?
What worked for me (and what didn’t): Let’s Connect is structured as a serial with each chapter being one “date”. Chapter one is therefore “First Date” and so on until the end of the novella. It’s intentionally episodic and works well that way.
My theory about what was going on was not quite right and it turns out that was a very good thing but I won’t go into more here because spoilers.
Monthly Mini Review
Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor, narrated by Zara Ramm – B+ This is the first book in the time-travel series The Chronicles of St. Mary’s. They don’t call it time travel though. They investigate “major historical events in contemporary time”. (It’s totally time travel). Exactly how it all works is conveniently brushed away which I liked as no doubt I’d not understand it anyway (apart from that it’s fiction). The main character is Madeleine “Max” Maxwell and the stories are told from her first person perspective.
There is a romance thread running through it and it ends happily but the book is not romance per se. It’s firmly in the SFF camp. I had heard it was humorous and it is – but I hadn’t been expecting some of the serious topics covered and so CW for sexual violence, death and pregnancy loss. The romance is very gentle and a slow burn but I was quite satisfied by it.
Monthly Mini Review
The Risk by Elle Kennedy, narrated by Teddy Hamilton & Virginia Rose – B+ I bought this on a Whispersync special a while ago. Teddy Hamilton is one of my favourite male narrators and I’ve had some good experience with Virginia Rose before as well and $2.19 was a bargain I could not resist. Book 2 in Elle Kennedy’s Briar U series, which is in itself a spin-off of the Off Campus series set around the same college hockey team, The Risk tells the story of Brenna Jensen, the coach’s daughter and her secret relationship with star Harvard forward Jake Connelly. Jake and Brenna have smoking hot chemistry but it takes a while before they do more than smolder at each other – Briar and Harvard are deadly rivals on the ice and Brenna taking up with him is tantamount to treason. However, their chemistry cannot be denied, particularly when Jake may be able to help Brenna in her quest for an internship at Hockeynet, a cable TV channel devoted to all things hockey. Brenna is studying journalism (she wants to focus on sports) and is up against all sorts of misogyny in getting a chance. Jake agrees to help her out – one fake date in exchange for a real one and off we go.
The romance is great, very satisfying and very hot. I liked both Jake and Brenna. I especially loved how sex-positive they were with each other.
Monthly Mini Review
Dream Maker by Kristen Ashley, narrated by Susannah Jones – B It’s a lot like the Rock Chick books. I liked it. Sure, there’s some gender essentialism and alpha he-man nonsense but it is a bit toned down from the earlier books and I was able to mostly overlook it. Mag even recycles! There were some things that didn’t make a lot of sense; for example, Evan is a stripper who makes pretty good tips and she dances for 8 hours a shift at Smithy’s – so her repeated references to being unfit confused me. Similarly, I was surprised that she didn’t know who Daisy was given that Daisy hangs out with the Smithy’s girls (or, at least, she did).
Of course there is a lot of over the top ridonkulousness but that’s exactly what I expected and what I wanted. Mag (aka Danny) was all in for Evan from the beginning and that is catnip for me.
Monthly Mini Review
Always Be My Banshee by Molly Harper, narrated by Amanda Ronconi & Jonathan Davis – B+ The overarching plotline of the Mystic Bayou rift is finally resolved in this book – but never fear – there are potential new storylines opened up too so (hopefully) there will be more books to come. Because there is such a strong through-story though, even though each book has a new couple and a HEA, I’d still recommend starting at the beginning with How To Date Your Dragon to get the most out of this book. I’ve loved all of them so I see this is a feature not a bug. Plus, the books are available on Audible Escape, so subscribers don’t have to pay anything extra to listen.
Brendan O’Connor, a banshee from Ireland, has come to Mystic Bayou, along with Cordelia Canton, a “touch-know” psychic, on special assignment from the League to investigate the mysterious box revealed in the previous book. Technically, Brendan is dead (or something similar at least) so he is able to touch the box without any ill effect. Cordelia has been avoiding touch from people for her entire life – she’s overwhelmed by emotions and memories when she does touch someone or something unexpected and it is with delight that she finds she can touch Brendan and only receive “white noise”. That is not why they get together. I was very happy it was made quite clear in the book that while there were things that made it easier for them to be together, what actually drew them to one another was a more emotional connection.
Why I read it: One from my own TBL
Content Warning: Some depiction of prostitution for financial reasons.
What it’s about: (from Goodreads) When crusading lawyer Vikram Pandey sets out in search of a missing youth, his investigations take him to Holywell Street, London’s most notorious address. He expects to find a disgraceful array of sordid bookshops. He doesn’t expect one of them to be run by the long-lost friend whose disappearance and presumed death he’s been mourning for thirteen years.
Gil Lawless became a Holywell Street bookseller for his own reasons, and he’s damned if he’s going to apologise or listen to moralising from anyone. Not even Vikram; not even if the once-beloved boy has grown into a man who makes his mouth water.
Now the upright lawyer and the illicit bookseller need to work together to track down the missing youth. And on the way, they may even learn if there’s more than just memory and old affection binding them together…
What worked for me (and what didn’t): It’s often easier for a novella-length story to give me a believable HEA when the main characters already know each other. In this second chance romance (is it second chance when the first chance was when they were only 15 or 16? – let’s go with it anyway, shall we?), Vikram and Gil both went to boarding school together. As the only boys of colour in their form, they shared a common bond which quickly grew into a devoted friendship, with some, er, teenage boy benefits. Vikram is the scion of a wealthy and privileged Indian family, Gil is the illegitimate son of a wealthy man and a Black housemaid. Gil was fortunate in that he was acknowledged by his father, who housed him and paid for his education. Vikram is a straight up and down type guy, Gil tends to gravitate to the gray areas and is more “street smart” (my term); the latter used to help Vikram not be constantly beaten up at school (the white students not being happy with the idea that Vikram was at least their equal).
When Gil was 16, his father died and his half-brother Matthew booted him out with only ten pounds. He was forced to leave the school so suddenly, he wasn’t even able to tell Vikram. For the following 13 years, Vikram mourned his friend; after looking for him as best he could, he believed Gil to be dead.