Romance Mini-Reviews: The Charm Offensive + The Missed Connection

Note: these reviews were originally posted on my Goodreads in June and July 2022 (oldest first)

The Charm Offensive
Publisher: Atria Books
Pub Date: 07 September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 stars)

📖 SYNOPSIS

In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.

Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to open up to the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Anxiety, panic attacks, mental illness (chronic depression), homophobia, OCD, racial micro aggressions

Dev and Charlie absolutely charmed me! 🥹 They have an almost instant connection that slowly develops into a heartwarming romance. My heart hurt for Charlie as he struggled to believe that he deserved love because all his life people have treated him as “less- than” due to his OCD and anxiety. I loved watching him slowly learn to not be apologetic for being who he is. Dev is a hopeless romantic who is scared to accept love out of fear of being abandoned or rejected. He puts on a “Fun Dev” persona pretending everything is fine despite suffering from chronic depression. Not only did I love the diversity and LGBTQIA+ representation in this book, but I thought the mental health, OCD and anxiety rep was also really well addressed and handled sensitively.

Their romance was incredibly soft and sweet with super swoontastic moments that had me reading with heart-eyes. 😍 There’s a forbidden romance element which really upped the stakes and increased the tension. I appreciated that they did what they needed to do for themselves first to have a healthy relationship. As much as I enjoyed this though, I admit that I expected to love it much more than I did. There were moments when I felt disconnected from the characters and romance. It was enjoyable enough but when I had to put it down, I also didn’t feel compelled to pick it back up again immediately! Still, I did enjoy this a lot and I would definitely love to read parts of it again because they made my heart very happy!

The Missed Connection (Airport Novellas #2)
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 21 June 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 stars)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Two strangers share a romantic night together only to discover months later they’re professional rivals in this grumpy meets sunshine romance novella from the acclaimed author of How To Fail at Flirting.

Gia loves her job as a professor, even when it means dealing with an elusive rival academic who’s made it his mission to criticize her work. When she meets him for the first time, she’s shocked to learn they’ve met before. Months earlier, they shared a perfect New Year’s Eve together in an airport during a weather delay.

After months of working together, Felix still can’t believe the person whose research he’s been challenging is the same captivating woman he kissed that night. The two couldn’t be more different. Gia is bubbly, friendly, and extroverted and drives ordered, serious Felix nuts.

Now the two have been assigned to embark on a five-school tour for work. Gia and Felix can’t imagine a travel partner they’d enjoy less until they feel the sparks fly over their shared armrests, security mishaps, and a shared hotel room. They’ll need to decide if they can manage their professional tension, or risk missing the connection of a lifetime.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Workplace misogyny, sexism

This wasn’t anything particularly special but it was exactly what I wanted when I went in search of a fast in-between read this morning. This was my first Denise Williams book so I didn’t have any expectations going in but I’m happy to say that I enjoyed her writing and characters!

Gia and Felix are your typical grumpy-sunshine trope in a work-nemesis-to-lovers romance situation. Their meet-cute on NYE at the airport is like what those romantic dreams are made of only for those fantasies to crumble to dust a few months down the line when they meet again and realise they’re enemies in the professional field in real life. These two have a clear attraction to each other that I really enjoyed seeing grow as they spend more time together. Felix is a pretty closed book and I felt the win alongside Gia every time her sunshine personality managed to elicit even the smallest of grins from him. Despite their opposite personalities they clicked so well and I loved how Gia encouraged Felix to be more relaxed and open, and I loved the way he grounded her. They were so accepting of each other and it was really sweet!

I’d have loved to read more about them but even with this being a novella, I still really enjoyed seeing how they evolve and grow together. This also served big on that happy ending. Was it a little cheesy? Heck yes but it was so perfectly Gia but I loved that it was Felix who came up with the idea for her 😂 They’re so cute!

Have you read either of these contemporary romances or are they on your TBR? If you did, what did you think of them?

ARC Review: In a Jam by Kate Canterbary

✨ HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY TO IN A JAM! ✨

Hi friends, I’m so excited to share my review for In a Jam by Kate Canterbary today! When I learned that I was approved for an ARC of In a Jam I literally squealed because I am a big fan of Canterbary’s romances and I’m so happy to say that this one didn’t disappoint!

Special thanks to the author for providing a digital ARC via Grey’s Promo in exchange for an honest review!

In a Jam
Pub Date:
20 September 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 stars)

📖 SYNOPSIS

When Shay Zucconi’s step-grandmother died, she left Shay a tulip farm—under two conditions.

First, Shay has to move home to the small town of Friendship, Rhode Island. Second—and most problematic since her fiancé just called off the wedding—Shay must be married within one year.

Marriage is the last thing in the world Shay wants but she’ll do anything to save the only real home she’s ever known.

Noah Barden loved Shay Zucconi back in high school. Not that he ever told her. He was too shy, too awkward, too painfully uncool to ask out the beautiful, popular girl.

A lifetime later, Noah is a single dad to his niece and has his hands full running the family business. That old crush is the farthest thing from his mind.

Until Shay returns to their hometown.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

absentee parent(s), brief mention of parent death, brief mention of parent chronic illness, mention of incarceration, mention of temporary foster care placement, reference to teenage teasing/bullying (not detailed, not explicit), brief incidence of fat-shaming, living with a neurodivergent child

📚 BUY A COPY
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Book Review: The Belle and the Beard by Kate Canterbary

Goodreads: The Belle and the Beard (The Santillian Triplets #3)
Publisher: Vesper Press
Published: 23 April 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Jasper-Anne Cleary’s guide to salvaging your life when you find yourself publicly humiliated, out of work, and unemployable at 35—not to mention newly single:

1. Run away. Seriously, there’s no shame in disappearing. Go to that rustic old cottage your aunt left you. Look out for the colony of bats and the leaky roof. Oh, and the barrel-chested neighbor with shoulders like the broad side of a barn. Definitely look out for him.
2. Stop wallowing and stay busy. It doesn’t matter whether you know how to bake or fix things around the house. Do it anyway. Dust off your southern hospitality and feed that burly, bearded neighbor some pecan pie.
3. Meet new people. Chat up the grumpy man-bear, pretend to be his girlfriend when his mother puts you two on the spot, agree to go as his date to a big family party. Don’t worry—it’s only temporary.
4. Cry it out. Screwing up your life entitles you to wine, broody-moody music, and uninterrupted sobbing.
5. Get over it all by getting under someone. Count on your fake boyfriend to deliver some very real action between the sheets.
6. Move on. The disappearing act, the cottage, the faux beau—none of it can last forever.

Linden Santillian’s guide to surviving the invasion when a hell-in-heels campaign strategist moves in next door:

1. Do not engage. There is no good reason you should chop her wood, haul her boxes, or pick her apples.
2. Do not accept gifts, especially not the homemade ones. Disconnect the doorbell, toss your phone over a bridge, hide in the basement if you must, but do not eat her pie.
3. Do not introduce her to your friends and family. They’ll favor her over you and never let you forget it.
4. Do not intervene when she’s crying on the back porch. Ignore every desire to fix the entire world for her. By no means should you take her into your arms and memorize her peach-sweet curves.
5. Do not take her to bed, even if it’s just to get her out of your system.
6. Do not, under any circumstances, fall in love with her.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Sexism, slut-shaming recounted, alcohol consumption, drug use mentioned, pregnancy & childbirth mentioned, grief & loss depiction, recounted death of an aunt and death of a father from suicide recounted

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Blog Tour Review: The Decoy Girlfriend by Lillie Vale

Hello, friends! It’s my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for The Decoy Girlfriend by Lilli Vale and I’m excited to share my thoughts and favourite quotes with you today!

Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Click here or on the banner above to check out the rest of the fantastic bloggers on tour!

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Mini Book Review: Falling for the Enemy by Katie Golding

Goodreads: Falling for the Enemy (Malibu Millionaire #2)
Published: 17 May 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

Sometimes, the perfect guy…
Is the one you hate the most.

Jasper Brooks has everything—with his smooth-talking ways and devilish good looks, he’s signed some of the hottest bands of the moment. If only he could get the wrong-number woman he’s been texting for months to reveal herself.

Blake Harris absolutely hates Jasper with every fiber of her being. Avoiding her professional rival is next to impossible in the Malibu music scene, and when a new band puts them head-to-head, their pent-up frustration explodes in a raw session of hate sex. A mistake they keep repeating.

With feelings spinning out of control, Blake bolts back to the mystery man in her phone, determined to finally meet Mr. Perfect. Not realizing that all along, she’s been secretly falling for the enemy…

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Book Review: Beauty and the Baller by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Goodreads: Beauty and the Baller (Strangers in Love #1)
Published: 29 March 2022
Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

Gorgeous, talented, and brilliant, NFL quarterback Ronan Smith has the world in his hands. But after losing his career and his fiancée in a car accident, he falls into a pit of grief and bad choices. When a mysterious girl shows up to his party, he feels drawn to her and makes her his…for one night.

Former beauty queen Nova Morgan is on a mission. Scantily clad as a princess from a galaxy far, far away, she sneaks into a high-profile party to capture the attention of her favorite quarterback. But her hopes crash after an awful one-night stand.

Fast-forward two years. Broke and desperate, Nova returns home to Blue Belle, Texas, where, by a cosmic twist of fate, her broody neighbor is none other than Ronan, the shiny new football coach everyone adores. But he has no idea who she is.

The booster club keeps shoving women at Ronan to keep him in town. His solution? He proposes fake dating to Nova. But things heat up for real under these Friday-night lights when he realizes she’s the one who slipped away.

Has this jaded beauty found her forever baller, or will his past keep them apart? 

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Book Review: Blind Pass by Teagan Hunter

Goodreads: Blind Pass (Carolina Comets #2)
Published: 27 January 2022
Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay there.

I would know. I’m coming home with a brand-new ring on my finger.
My wife? Ryan Bell.
We’re polar opposites.
She’s sunshine and happiness.
I’m grumpy and scarred—literally.

We could get it annulled and no one would be the wiser.
Only problem? We posted about it online, and it’s already making headlines.
I can’t afford to get that kind of attention and tank my career, and Ryan needs my help too.

We make a plan: stay married for one year, play our roles, and divorce amicably at the end. No harm, no foul.
Besides, there’s no way the beauty is going to fall for the beast…

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Book Review: The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by Elizabeth O’Roark

Goodreads: The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (Devil #2)
Published: 20 January 2022
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

When Drew Wilson’s ex-boyfriend Joel “Six” Bailey asks her to go on his family trip to Hawaii with him just as her life is falling apart, she decides it’s the perfect time to give him another chance.

The hitch? The Bailey family includes Six’s rude older brother, Joshua—a hot-nerd doctor who has hated Drew since the moment they met and once suggested she’d steal the family silver.

Drew is determined to win the Baileys over and give this thing with Six a fair shot…but Joshua is making that difficult. Not simply because he is in her way at every turn, but because—as one tropical adventure leads to the next—she’s beginning to wonder if obnoxious, odious Joshua might be the brother she actually belongs with.

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ARC Review: Take the Lead by Jaqueline Snowe

Special thanks to Jaqueline Snowe for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Take the Lead (Central State #3)
Published: 28 June 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Falling for my fake girlfriend was never part of the plan…
Daniella Laughlin might seem put together in her dance gear and captainship, but on the inside, she’s figuring out who she is without her mom’s beauty pageant influence. Constantly being critiqued and set up by her mom, she dreads going home for the holidays.

Enter her best friend’s older brother, hockey captain Gabriel Van Helsing. Dani and Gabe have been friends for two decades, and sure, she’s harbored a secret crush on him forever, but she never acted on it because his sister would’ve killed her. Gabe’s a player, on and off the ice, and the longest relationship he’s had is with his hockey stick. He offers to drive her home for Thanksgiving break and proposes the most bonkers idea—they should fake date until New Year’s to get her mom to leave her alone.

Gabe might wear the C on the ice, but he’s always been passive. Here for a good time, never rocking the boat. But after his latest hookup wouldn’t take a hint, he uses Daniella’s predicament for the perfect solution: if he was unavailable, people would leave him alone.

Things begin easily with their friendship, but with every touch and fake kiss, Daniella can’t hide her feelings anymore. And for Gabe, who sets deadlines for every fling he’s ever had, he struggles to fight for what he wants. When their timeline is up, Daniella’s insecurities clash with Gabe’s inability to commit. For two people terrified to take a chance, they must risk their decade-long friendship for a shot at love.

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