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Desire and the Deep Blue Sea by Olivia Dade

Illustrated cartoon type cover featuring a couple on a beach with a boom microphone above them. She is a fat brunette in a one piece swimsuit and he is a lean man in glasses wearing yellow swim trunks and a green tee Why I read it:  I pre-ordered this one as soon as it was up and recently carved out time to actually read it.

Content Advisory: Anxiety

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  They’re pretending. Until they aren’t.

Thomas McKinney has never wanted a woman the way he wants Callie Adesso. Since she started working alongside him at the Colonial Marysburg Research Library, he’s spent his desk shifts fumbling pencils, tripping over his own feet, and struggling to remember both the Dewey Decimal System and the existence of her inconvenient boyfriend. Now, however, Callie is suddenly single–and in need of a last-minute faux-boyfriend for an episode of HATV’s Island Match. Thomas is more than happy to play the part…and in the process, convince Callie that a week together isn’t nearly long enough.

Callie has never found a man as irritating as she finds Thomas. He may be brilliant, kind, and frustratingly handsome, but the absent-minded librarian also makes every workday an anxiety-inducing exercise in stress. Even seven days in paradise by his side won’t change her opinion of him. Really. No matter how attentive he is. And gentle. And sexy.

One plane ride later, the two of them are spending long, hot days under the sun and on display, pretending to be in love for a television show. This may be a vacation, but it’s also an act–as well as Thomas’s last chance to persuade the woman of his dreams to include him in hers. And soon, the island heat isn’t the only thing steaming up HATV’s cameras…

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Thomas McKinney was such a delightful hero. It was something of a surprise actually because initially I only had Callie’s description of him and he was certainly making life very difficult for her at work. It all came from a place of good intentions and being lovestruck and it could also have easily turned into way-not-okay stalker territory. Callie has only been at the library for six months. She struck up a friendship quickly with Thomas but became frustrated with him because he’s very bad at multi-tasking and tended to get caught up in whatever question he was asking for a patron and taking ages to do it. This left Callie doing most of the actual work and not getting many of the interesting questions to answer. Callie has been trying to work with other librarians for the past few months but for some reason she is always on shift with Thomas. This has meant she has had little chance to build relationships with anyone else and has been very isolating for her. So, initially, Thomas comes across as a bit of a jerk.

Teach Me by Olivia Dade

cartoon cover of a scowling/smirking fat white woman in a black dress and a slim white man in a grey cardigan and a blue tie against an aqua background with the tagline "even ice queens can melt"Why I read it:  I have enjoyed the author’s earlier books. Spoiler alert: this one is her best yet.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Their lesson plans didn’t include love. But that’s about to change…

When Martin Krause arrives at Rose Owens’s high school, she’s determined to remain chilly with her new colleague. Unfriendly? Maybe. Understandable? Yes, since a loathsome administrator gave Rose’s beloved world history classes to Martin, knowing it would hurt her.

But keeping her distance from a man as warm and kind as Martin will prove challenging, even for a stubborn, guarded ice queen. Especially when she begins to see him for what he truly is: a man who’s never been taught his own value. Martin could use a good teacher–and luckily, Rose is the best.

Rose has her own lessons–about trust, about vulnerability, about her past–to learn. And over the course of a single school year, the two of them will find out just how hot it can get when an ice queen melts.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I’m going to try not to gush but it’s going to be difficult. From the first page, I settled in to happily enjoying Teach Me. The characterisations are rich and layered, the messaging is strong without being preachy, the inclusivity is just there without it having to be a thing, an analog to the real world we live in.

As a hero-centric reader, I fell almost immediately for Martin who is a gorgeous cinnamon roll of a hero with his own vulnerabilities and pain points. He is ever and always respectful of Rose, of her desires and wishes and needs, of women in general in fact.

Not a single word from her mouth was objectionable. Not a single word from her mouth was personal, either. She didn’t ask him about himself. She didn’t tell him about herself. She didn’t smile. She didn’t do anything but give him necessary, job-related information.

And that was absolutely, unequivocally her choice. She didn’t owe him, a near-stranger, smiles or warmth or personal information or interest.

He’d told his daughter Bea the same thing many, many times over the years. Being a woman didn’t obligate her to make men—or anyone—comfortable in her presence. People who said otherwise could contemplate their terrible life choices while she shoved their arrogant presumption somewhere exceedingly painful.

Rose’s chilliness didn’t offend him. Not at all.

It did worry him, though.

Driven to Distraction by Olivia Dade

Asian woman with long dark hair and a sandy-haired bearded man in a blue t-shirt in a library, looking at a book togetherWhy I read it:  I received a review copy from the author via NetGalley

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  IF THE BOOKMOBILE’S ROCKING . . .

Constance Chen is not the demure kind of librarian. Sure, her high-horsepower ride is Big Bertha the Bookmobile, but Con swears a blue streak, does her own home improvement, and wears steel-toed boots. She has a tight circle of friends, a demanding, beloved sprawl of a Chinese-American family, and a strict hookups-only policy when it comes to men. Her life is just how she wants it. Except for one maddeningly sexy footnote.

Sam Wolcott, her friend’s baby brother and the library’s IT star, has been throwing sparks with Con since he moved to town. To everybody else, he’s a thoughtful, sensitive sweetheart. To Con, he’s a cantankerous pedant, because if they don’t fight nonstop their clothes will spontaneously combust. Sam needs a commitment Con won’t—can’t—give. And neither of them will chance their hard-won bonds for pure lust.

Too bad Con and Sam have a whole week in a very tiny, very private space to sustain their dumb arguments. Alone. What happens in the Bookmobile might take their resistance right out of circulation . . .

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  This book was a lovely surprise. Constance Chen (aka “Con”) is the type of heroine I don’t see a lot in the romance genre. She’s a tough, no-nonsense woman, who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go and get it. She is blunt, prickly, a little brash and not looking for a relationship. She’s also a devoted sister and daughter and friend. Her close friendship with Penny, one of the other librarians in Niceville has her hesitating to act on her attraction to Sam Wolcott. And Sam has similar concerns. He has only just reconnected with his half-sister (they had different fathers) and she is the only family (apart from an extremely absent and disinterested mother) he has. He won’t do anything to risk that. He fears that if he starts anything with Con and it goes south, Penny will choose Con over him and then he’ll be alone. And that – being alone, is his greatest fear.

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