Review: “It Happened in Nashville” Duology by Sarah Adams

Let’s review! A “duology”, by definition, is a pair of related novels, plays, or movies. In author Sarah Adams’ “It Happened in Nashville” duology, two romcom novels are connected by a brother and sister — setup for some hilarious moments and fun tropes.

About the Books

The Off-Limits Rule

I have found rock bottom. It’s here, moving in with my older brother because I’m too broke to afford to live on my own. But that’s okay because we’ve always been close and I think I’m going to have fun living with him again.

That is until I meet Cooper…

Turns out, my brother has very strong opinions on the idea of me dating his best friend and is dead set against it. According to him, Cooper is everything I should stay away from: flirtatious, adventurous, non-committal, and freaking hot. (I added that last part because I feel like you need the whole picture.) My brother is right, though. I should stay away from Cooper James and his pretty blue eyes. He’s the opposite of what I need right now.

Nah—Who am I kidding? I’m going for him.

The Temporary Roomie

What happens when you have to play nice with your greatest enemy? Revenge.

Drew Marshall may have let me move into his spare bedroom while my house is being renovated, but don’t think for one second his kindness comes without strings. Big, ugly, fake relationship strings.

That’s okay, though, Dr. Andrew. I’ll agree to your terms, move into your house, and act like your girlfriend when the big day comes; but I also plan to make your life miserable—make you pay for what you did to me.

I may not be good at forgiving or forgetting, but I’m excellent at getting even.

The Off Limits Rule on Goodreads | The Temporary Roomie on Goodreads

My Thoughts

The Off Limits Rule
Hilarious in so many ways, this story affords its leads with time for friendship and romance. The chemistry between them is fantastic, as is the banter. I loved the “off limits” element of their relationship (her brother Drew realllly doesn’t want them to be together for reasons, but he doesn’t know the whole story) because it allowed for that bro-friendship to deepen. It also caused the couple’s (somewhat) restrained moments to be sweet and, on Cooper’s part, show his genuine tenderness for Lucy and empower her and enlighten insecurities.

So. Many. LOL moments! Froot loops, Italian accents, ladders and moonlight swims, grumpy brothers, Tahiti and grocery shopping! I feel like Sarah skillfully portrays Lucy as an extremely relatable heroine: her mom-ness, insecurities, fears, heart for Levi (the most darling little boy), and the way she learns to relax and feel wanted again. This book left me smiling over all the feels!


The Temporary Roomie
This is romantic comedy enemies-to-lovers at it’s best! While it combines more tropes (sister’s bff, pregnant mom romance, etc), at its heart is a rivalry that’s as hilarious as it is important to the growth and heart of the story. Instead of meaningless motives for the animosity, the reader gradually sees how the defenses are a shield for hurt and heartache for the heroine. And, for the hero, they are a release in a way that was surprising and complex.

Oh, and did I mention how FUNNY it is?! I LOLed over their sarcastic banter and rivalry over the snowman mug, especially. While it stands alone, I think it’s best enjoyed as part of the duology because the 2 main couples feature actively in both stories (and oh how it’s fun to catch up with Lucy and Cooper in this book!).

And y’all, the romance in this one made me realize I may have A Thing for medical professional heroes (maybe it’s the setup for another way they can care for & obsess over the heroines?!), because when Drew goes all professional pulse checker a few times in this one I melted.

Content note: a few *very* mild expletives throughout each, some innuendo (PG13ish), and both romances are closed door.

Top Ten Tuesday: A Tour of the British Isles in Fiction

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is “Favorite Book Settings”. I could go SO MANY directions with this topic, because setting is a very important part of story to me. A well written, immersive setting is like an armchair adventure to a place (or time) the reader has never been. I’ve decided to keep my choices to the UK and Ireland, or the British Isles as those islands are collectively known.

A Tour of the British Isles in Fiction

Scotland

Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano | Contemporary adventure and love story (with a chef!), and an exploration of the Isle of Skye. My Review

Beauty Among Ruins by J’nell Ciesielski | An estate in the idyllic Scottish Lowlands is the setting for this WWI mystery and romance. My Review

A Bound Heart by Laura Frantz | This heart-deep story begins on the Isle of Kerrera, an island in the Scottish Hebrides, during the 18th century. My Review

England

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan | Historical romance that explores the architecture of the city — and of a relationship — in post-WWII London. My Review

The Winter Companion by Mimi Matthews | Historical romance set on the coast and rambling moors of Devonshire, complete with a Dartmoor pony. My Review

Just the Way You Are by Pepper Basham | A witty romance unfolds between an Appalachian single mom and an English actor, with a healthy dose of humor and a family mystery, too. My Review

The Brontë Plot by Katherine Reay | A contemporary story of self-discovery sees the heroine, Lucy, travel to England and the Brontë’s ancestral town of Haworth — with plentiful literary references! My Review

Wales

A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White | A little suspense and beautiful music combine in this WWI-era romance set mostly in Wales. My Review

Ireland

Star Rising by Janet Ferguson | This contemporary romance finds the characters in an unlikely pairing while on a tour of Ireland. Beautiful sights and comical mishaps combine with depth in this adventurous story.

As Death Draws Near by Anna Lee Huber | This enthralling historical tale finds newlywed investigators trekking from England to Dublin to solve a mystery. My Review

Did you share a TTT post this week? What is your favorite setting? Have you read any of these books?

Review: “Very Sincerely Yours” by Kerry Winfrey

Today I’m sharing a review of Very Sincerely Yours, a romcom by author Kerry Winfrey.

Review

A charming and heartwarming new romantic comedy by the author of Waiting for Tom Hanks, Kerry Winfrey.

Teddy Phillips never thought she’d still be spending every day surrounded by toys at almost thirty years old. But working at a vintage toy store is pretty much all she has going on in her life after being unceremoniously dumped by her longtime boyfriend. The one joy that she’s kept is her not-so-guilty pleasure: Everett’s Place, a local children’s show hosted by Everett St. James, a man whom Teddy finds very soothing . . . and, okay, cute.

Teddy finds the courage to write to him, feeling slightly like one of the children who write to him on his show. He always gives sound advice and seems like he has everything figured out–and he pretty much does: Everett has a great support system, wonderful friends, and his dream job. But there’s still that persistent feeling in the back of his mind that something’s missing.

When a woman named Theodora starts writing to Everett, he is drawn to her honesty and vulnerability. They continue writing to each other, all the while living their lives without meeting. When their worlds collide, however, they must both let go of their fears and figure out what they truly want–and if the future they want includes each other.

Goodreads | Amazon

About the Book

Very Sincerely Yours is a really cute romcom with a pop culture feel that explores how life doesn’t always turn out like you expect.

I loved the You’ve Got Mail feeling of much of this story, with an email-friendship at the heart, and even a reference to a lovely fall day. But Teddy and Everett have their own unique challenges to a romance, adding a good bit of realism to the comedy while exploring the dangers of being a workaholic and the misguided way some people try to earn others’ affection. At its heart, it’s a delicate reminder of how dreams don’t have an expiration date.

The hero’s character pays clear homage to Jim Henson and Mr. Rogers, yet he comes off as original and very endearing. The way Everett portrays the importance of understanding and relating to children is one of his best qualities (because who doesn’t love a guy that’s genuinely good with kids?!). His little sister is my FAV with her no-nonsense demeanor! Teddy’s roommates, too, add to the great supporting cast with their personalities.

“When it’s really love, you don’t have to lose yourself. Falling in love should make you more yourself.”- best unexpected advice from Sophia, Teddy’s sister.

Content note: some mild to strong expletives throughout, sensuality, and closed-door romance scenes.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Plot Twist” by Bethany Turner

Fans of romcoms (of the book or film variety) will want to take note: Plot Twist by Bethany Turner is not to be missed! Read on for more about the novel and my thoughts on this cute story.

About the Book

An aspiring screenwriter has a chance encounter with an actor who could be the man of her dreams. Over the next ten years, she’ll write the story . . . but will he end up being the star?

February 4, 2003, promises to be a typical day for Olivia Ross—a greeting card writer whose passion project is a screenplay of her own. But after she and a handsome actor have a magical meet-cute in a coffee shop, they make a spontaneous pact: in ten years, after they’ve found the success they’re just sure they’re going to achieve, they’ll return to the coffeehouse to partner up and make a film together. The only problem? Olivia neglected to get the stranger’s name. But she doesn’t forget his face—or the date.

For the next ten years, every February 4 is marked with coincidences and ironies for Olivia. As men come and go and return to her life, she continues to write, but still wonders about the guy from the coffee shop—the nameless actor she’s almost certain has turned out to be Hamish MacDougal, now a famous A-lister and Hollywood leading man.

But a lot can happen in ten years, and while waiting for the curtain to rise on her fate, the true story of Olivia’s life is being written—and if she’s not careful, she’ll completely miss the real-life romantic comedy playing out right before her eyes.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

Bethany Turner’s romcoms are always fresh and brimming with pop culture. Plot Twist offers the same zest and smart plotting, but with celebrity references amped up thanks to the the LA setting and culture. This story is especially unique with its timeline and take on romance yet full of beloved tropes and one of the BEST roommate relationships I’ve come across in a while. And the hero, y’all. He’s unexpected and lovable and quite the surprise!

Plot Twist and Films
These movies all have a connection to Plot Twist 😉

I absolutely laughed and highlighted my way through this novel. The celebrity name dropping and movie references make my heart happy, particularly as a movie buff. Its setting and cast of characters are a natural springboard for Hollywood happenings. And the way the actor Hamish MacDougal resembles real-life actor Gerard Butler is uncanny 😉 and hilarious.

Plot Twist is simultaneously a unique romcom and a story that harkens back to classic and beloved romcom tropes through its wry moments of spontaneity and over the top IRONY. It has, to name a few, meet cute(s) (yes, plural), a bachelorette auction, celebrity sightings, a Hallmark-like greeting card company, dreaded exes showing up at the most inopportune times, and a bff relationship to envy.

The timeline works for the story, checking in with Olivia and friends every February 4th for ten years, and is in favor of the character development. While it could feel abrupt, Turner takes her time with each “day” and builds complexity by catching up events of the past year and showing another crazy day in Olivia’s life. Olivia learns to how to be comfortable in her own skin. along the way, and she learns to appreciate the heroes in her life who come and go — and one hero, in particular, who is there for her all along.

My very favorite part of this story is the BFF relationship Olivia has with her roommate, Fiona. Fiona is pivotal to the plot in many ways. While the romance and zany comedy are a huge part of the story, my takeaway is that a relationship like Olivia and Fiona’s is as important in life as a HEA (happily ever after).

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: My 10 Most Recent Reads

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is “My Ten Most Recent Reads”. I’m sharing 3 I’m reading now, plus the last 7 books I finished. I consider myself a slow-to-moderate reader, so my list stretches back to books I read in March.

My 10 Most Recent Reads

Currently Reading

Let It Be Me by Becky Wade | Contemporary romance meets a little family drama. I’m LOVING the depth to these characters!

Is It Any Wonder by Courtney Walsh | I’m currently enjoying the audio version of Cody and Lou’s second-chance-romance story set in idyllic Nantucket. It makes me want to plan a trip!

The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber | I’m rereading this one for a Facebook book group hosted by the author and I’m rediscovering why I love this well-written series. My Review on Goodreads

Latest Reads

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey | Modern romcom meets a little bit of Mr. Rogers and a romance born of a pen pals relationship. Look for my review soon on the blog.

A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver | WWII-era London with a safecracking heroine and a properly loyal Army Major ferreting out spies. My Review

Hope Between the Pages by Pepper Basham | This charming, bookish love story connects generations of heroines in the present and WWI era with a little mystery spanning Appalachian and English settings. My Review

Dearest Josephine by Caroline George | This smart epistolary YA novel has a completely unique storytelling approach, making one of the characters a part of the story itself. My Review

The Indebted Earl by Erica Vetsch | Regency-era romance with a found family + a little marriage of convenience trope, this one wraps up a great series yet reads as a standalone. My Review

Love at First by Kate Clayborn | This general market romance will give you ALL THE FEELS with its beloved-and-quirky characters, a bespectacled hero, and an enemies-to-lovers trope. My Review on Goodreads

Before Time Runs Out by Amy Matayo | If you like time travel-meets-Dickensian London stories with a little adventure and romance, this story is for you! My Review

Did you share a TTT post this week? Have you read any of these books?

Top Ten Tuesday: 11 Colorful Book Covers ~ A Rainbow from my TBR

It’s another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl!

Top Ten Tuesday at The Green Mockingbird

Today’s topic is “colorful book covers”. I’ve decided to showcase a stack from my TBR that has a rainbow of colors on the spines.

I know which of these I want to read soon. Are any of these on your shelf? Which one(s) should I move to the top of my to-be-read stack? (titles linked to Goodreads)

11 Colorful Book Covers ~ A Rainbow from my TBR

stack of 11 books with a rainbow of spines

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano | historical romance

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert | contemporary foodie fiction +romance

Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson | historical Regency romance with hints of North & South

The Key to Love by Betsy St. Amant | contemporary romance with a bakery

Love and Other Mistakes by Jessica Kate | contemporary romcom

Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton | historical fiction

Chateau of Echoes by Siri L. Mitchell | dual-timeline romance, maybe some intrigue, and family secrets

Panning for Love by Meg Cross Wenig | romcom with a wild west reenactment

The Theory of Happily Ever After by Kristin Billerbeck | inspirational romcom & women’s fiction

London Tides and Under Scottish Stars by Carla Laureano | contemporary romance in the UK

What did you share for TTT? Have you read any of these books?

Book & Film Pairings, edition 4

Welcome to another post where I pair books and films with similar themes or content! Today’s post is all about romantic comedies that happen to share a church-centric setting of some kind.

All three are self aware of their churchy humor (if you know, you know). And, they all balance humor, romance, and a serious side. Having spent time myself on a worship team, various committees, children’s choir leadership, etc., I definitely related to the humor and situations in these stories! Maybe you will, too. 😉

Off-Script & Over-Caffeinated by Kaley and Rhonda Rea

This lighthearted romcom has the planning of a children’s community theater play as a backdrop to much of the characters’ interactions. The cat-owning beta hero and the grouchy barista are my favorite characters. In addition to some hilarious dragon-building and dress shopping situations, it intentionally spoofs Hallmark movies and tropes throughout.

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac

The comedy in this story is all about clumsiness, fish-out-of-water situations (American girl in Australia!), and the trickiness of working in a megachurch (that’s sarcasm). The emotional journey of healing its romantic leads traverse, though, is most impactful and impressive. It’s a fav!

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone (2016)

It has been a while since I watched this movie, but I love the cast and remember thinking the story was fun and enlightening. I’m pairing it with the books for its comedy and play-planning story content, as well as the unexpected romance and deeper lessons its characters learn. While its hero “pretends” to fit in to the church culture while fulfilling a community service sentence, he learns what true service and faith looks like in action. AND he falls for the pastor’s daughter along the way.

Best Books of 2020

Welcome to my annual “best-of” celebration!

I set a Goodreads reading goal at 100 books! I got close to making it happen at 86 books — and I’m happy with the high number I achieved. With all the bad news and unexpectedness of 2020, I have found books and the online bookish community to be a bright, positive spot in many ways. I hope you have, too.

I’ve included 20 books, 2-3 per genre, in my BEST list this year! If you’d like to see all of the books I read and read more extensive reviews, check out my 2020 Goodreads year in books or browse my blog archives.

THE (self-imposed) RULES: because sometimes I need to keep things brief, I’m choosing to share 3 things that describe each of these stories along with a link to Goodreads and my blog review (if applicable). At the end, I’ll be sharing popular posts on the blog this year.

All titles are inspirational fiction unless noted with *.

Best Books of 2020

Novellas

Fair as a Star by Mimi Matthews* | Review

Sweet romance. Compassion. Hope.

A Pressing Engagement by Anna Lee Huber*

Long-awaited event. Earl Gray the cat. Charismatic criminals.

Christmas in Three Quarter Time by Rachel McMillan | Review

Belonging. Vulnerability. Vienna & the Tyrolean countryside.

Split Time

Set the Stars Alight by Amanda Dykes | Review

LIGHT. Longing. Hope.

Echoes Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright | Review

Puzzling mystery. Devotion. Collin O’Shaughnessy.

Whose Waves These Are by Amanda Dykes | Review

Sacrifice. Beauty in the commonplace and extraordinary. Poignant.

Contemporary

The Solid Grounds Coffee Co. by Carla Laureano | Review

Honesty. Complexity. Friendship.

Now and Then and Always by Melissa Tagg | Review

Winsome. Humorous. Faith.

The Fifth Avenue Story Society by Rachel Hauck | Review

Redemption. Relationships. Enchanting concept.

Romantic Comedy

The Cul-de-Sac War by Melissa Ferguson | Review

Frenemies-to-romance. Farm animals. Rivalry.

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish by Bethany Turner | Review

Wit. FOOD. Healing.

Close to You by Kara Isaac

Adventure. Unexpected love. Hobbits.

Thriller & Suspense

The Wind Will Howl by Sibella Giorello

Immersive setting. Classic-feel mystery. Smart.

Soul Raging by Ronie Kendig | Review

Twists. Revelations. Banter.

Chasing the White Lion by James R. Hannibal | Review

High-tech action. Suspense. Purpose.

Historical

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan | Review

Reconciliation. Friendship. Selflessness.

An Uncommon Woman by Laura Frantz

Lyrical prose. Strength on the frontier. Riveting romance.

Gentleman Jim by Mimi Matthews*

Daring adventure. Truth. Swoony romance.

Nonfiction

Special mention to a couple of nonfiction titles I enjoyed: Dream, Plan, and Go by Rachel McMillan, an inspirational travel memoir and guide; Everything Beautiful In Its Time by Jenna Bush Hager, a family-centric memoir of love and grief.

Popular #OnTheBlog in 2020

Most popular posts:

Most popular new book reviews:

That’s it for 2020! Happy new year to you all. As always, thank you for being a blog reader and part of this bookish community.

What are your favorite books you read this year? Do we share any favorites? Did you post a list of favorites on your blog or social media? I’d love for you to share in the comments!

Audiobook Review: “The Cul-de-Sac War” by Melissa Ferguson

Melissa Ferguson’s sophomore novel, The Cul-de-Sac War, is as cute and intriguing as its name implies. It’s a contemporary romcom I highly recommend for fans of the genre!

About the Book

All’s fair in love and prank wars.

Bree Leake doesn’t want to be tied down. She’s had more jobs than she can count, and she plans to move as soon as the curtains fall on her less-than-minor stage role at The Barter—the oldest live performance theater in the US. But just when it’s time to move on again, Bree’s parents make her an offer: hold steady for a full year, and they will give her the one thing she’s always wanted—her grandmother’s house. Her dreams are coming true . . . until life at the theater throws her some curve balls.

And then there’s Chip McBride—her handsome and infuriating next-door neighbor.

Chip just might be the only person whose stubborn streak can match Bree’s. She would move heaven and earth to have him off her cul-de-sac and out of her life, but according to the bargain she’s struck, she can’t move out of her house and away from the man who’s making her life miserable. So begins Bree’s obsessive new mission: to drive Chip out of the neighborhood—and fast.

Bree isn’t the only one who’s a tad competitive, and Chip is more than willing to fight fire with fire. But as their pranks escalate, the line between love and hate starts to blur—and their heated rivalry threatens to take a hilarious, heartwarming, and romantic new turn.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The Cul-de-Sac War is truly a LAUGH OUT LOUD romcom! I listened to the audiobook and loved every second. I love the pranks and antics of Chip and Bree, their delightful frenemies-to-enemies-to-romance journey, and the little bits of realistic heart-truths in this story. Most of all, I loved the way I couldn’t predict what crazy thing would happen next or how much I would be surprised by the way it comes together. I especially like how it’s centered on two people who have no idea that each is the answer to the friendship and encouragement they are seeking.

So many aspects of this novel line up to result in such perfection. A short list:

  • the cast of supporting characters: Bree’s off-the-grid obsessed roommate, her matchmaking obsessed parents, and Chip’s pretentious family, just to name a few.
  • relatable humor: Subarus. Duct tape and home remodeling.
  • quaint-but-still-real-life setting: just go Google The Barter!
  • random farm animals: I’ll leave this comment a mystery until you read it for yourself 😉
  • a dog named Russell: so prolific, he deserves his own category. His Slim Jim obsession is award-worthy.
  • finding purpose in life: a major theme here!
  • a surprising, heart-tugging story thread with Bree’s family — and the way Chip relates

Thank you to the publisher for the review copy. This is my honest review.

Review: “Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish” by Bethany Turner

If you haven’t read a Bethany Turner story yet, you’re in for a TREAT! Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish, her latest standalone novel, features the world of celebrity chefs, glamour, and alllll the yummy food.

Hadley Beckett's Next Dish
About the Book

Celebrity chef Maxwell Cavanaugh is known for many things: his multiple Michelin stars, his top-rated Culinary Channel show To the Max, and most of all his horrible temper. Hadley Beckett, host of the Culinary Channel’s other top-rated show, At Home with Hadley, is beloved for her Southern charm and for making her viewers feel like family.

When Max experiences a very public temper tantrum, he’s sent packing to get his life in order. When he returns, career in shambles, his only chance to get back on TV and in the public’s good graces is to work alongside Hadley.

As these polar-opposite celeb chefs begin to peel away the layers of public persona and reputation, they will not only discover the key ingredients for getting along, but also learn the secret recipe for unexpected forgiveness . . . and maybe even love. In the meantime, hide the knives.

Fan-favorite Bethany Turner serves up a heaping helping of humor and romance with this thoroughly modern story centered on cooking, enemies, and second chances.

Goodreads | Amazon

Review

The conflict in Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish is fantastic. From the initial riveting prologue and story setup, I was anxious to see how Hadley would go from despising Max to liking him – let alone actually finding a friendship and romance with him. But trust Bethany Turner to take all these “seemingly” unrelated ingredients and deliver a “dish” that’s as fun as it is memorable. Filled with all the pop culture (and foodie!) references I’ve come to love in Bethany’s voice, this story is an enemies-to-lovers romance at its finest.

I LOVE MAX. And Hadley, of course 😉

Only Bethany Turner could transform a hero in such a dynamic way. Max has met his match with Hadley, and it’s a thrill to see them pitted against one another — and their grudging friendship turn into sparks of the romantic kind. Aside from the hilarious romcom genius of this story, a strong thread of second chances and healing interweaves the culinary world of Max and Hadley. Facades, public image, and honesty are all dealt with in fresh ways.

The cliMAX (see what I did there?) of the story is unexpected in the most refreshing way! The momentum never stops, and the resolution is played out surprisingly when I would have expected a literary trope or a predictable direction. To reveal just how it stands out and plays on a bit of teamwork would reveal too much, so trust me when I say it is perfection!

I enjoyed all the FOOD, culinary and food-celeb references, and the banter of this novel. The quick wit of Hadley and Max, layered and complicated by their relationship, combine to make this a thoroughly entertaining novel with dimension and plenty of flavor! One of my favorite tiny things about this story was Hadley’s penchant for silently reciting “kitchen ABCs” when she is upset: Apples. Beef stroganoff. Cumin. Dicer.

Now I’m off to cook something, because all the kitchen talk in the novel has made me hungry 😉

Thanks to the publisher, Revell, for the review copy. This is my honest review.