Accidentally In Love Series // by Cindi Madsen

  • Falling for Her Fiance (2013)
  • Act Like You Love Me (2013)
  • An Officer & a Rebel (2014)
  • Resisting the Hero (2014)

Madsen has been on my radar for a while, but for some reason I hadn’t gotten around to any of her books before. I’m always a sucker for a fake relationship trope, so this series seemed like a fun place to start.

In the first book, Dani and Wes have been best friends since college and decide to be fake-engaged for a variety of reasons. There was all of the fun that usually surrounds this type of scheme, and the main characters were overall super likable. My biggest issue was that both of them had had serious relationships with other people in the past, but part of the reason that those relationships didn’t work out was because the exes didn’t like the close friendship between Dani and Wes, both of whom acted like that was super ridiculous since they were “just friends.” And just… (a) if my husband had a female friend that he’d known longer than me and that he spent hours talking to on the phone every week, I would not be comfortable with it, so I don’t feel like that’s an absurd thing to raise objections in a relationship and (b) the exes were right! Deep down Wes and Dani really were in love, but they never acknowledge that, instead acting like the exes were just soooo clingy and jealous! It really got on my nerves whenever they would bring it up. But for all that, the overall story was honestly good fun and an easy 3.5* read.

In Act Like You Love Me, Brynn used to be the awkward “ugly” girl in high school, so when her crush not only moves back into town, but ends up being the director for the community play she’s in, she’s quite nervous about what he’ll think of her – except Sawyer doesn’t even recognize her! Instead, he mistakenly assumes that she’s a spoiled actress here for some R&R – and Brynn lets him think it. Even though this was overall relaxing fluff, I’m never a huge fan of a story where lying is the central drama. There were multiple times when a simple conversation could have cleared up some big misunderstandings, and it just doesn’t happen when it should. 3* because I wanted to shake both these characters several times. PS, asking someone to move in with you is not a romantic ending.

An Officer and a Rebel is actually a novella, so this was an even faster read than the main books. It’s Christmastime and Kelsey is driving to Kentucky to visit her mother, but decides to take a side detour to the town where she lived in high school. Unfortunately, a snowstorm makes the roads treacherous, and she slides into a ditch, only to be rescued by her ex-boyfriend’s starchy older brother, Nate. Because of the bad weather, Nate takes Kelsey home and they end up snowed in together. Nate’s always had a thing for Kelsey but doesn’t want to make a move on his brother’s ex – plus, he’s a police officer and Kelsey has always been a bit… free-spirited. This was a fast read and pretty fun even if there wasn’t a lot of depth.

The final book in the series was pretty much in line with the others. Faith’s father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty when she was growing up. Her brother is a police officer now and has recently joined the SWAT team, meaning he’ll be in even more potentially dangerous situations. Faith lays the blame for his decision at the feet of her brother’s best friend/fellow officer Connor, and is pretty salty whenever he’s around. Even when sparks fly between them, she’s determined to resist them because she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with a cop. Like the others, fun and fluffy and ultimately pretty forgettable.

Overall, I enjoyed this series enough to check out some more of Madsen’s books, but I don’t really see myself returning to these again and again. They were fun as one-off reads, all in the 3.5* zone, but didn’t really hit me as instant classics.

January Minireviews – Part 1

Sometimes I don’t feel like writing a full review for whatever reason, either because life is busy and I don’t have time, or because a book didn’t stir me enough.  Sometimes, it’s because a book was so good that I just don’t have anything to say beyond that I loved it!  Frequently, I’m just wayyy behind on reviews and am trying to catch up.  For whatever reason, these are books that only have a few paragraphs of thoughts from me.

Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer – 4*

//published 1932//

Heyer didn’t tend to write sequels/connected books, so I was bit surprised when I read These Old Shades and then discovered that there was actually a sequel. Devil’s Cub is set a generation later – focusing on the son of the main couple from Shades. You don’t necessarily have to read Shades first, but it did add a level of fun, knowing more about the various characters. This wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but it was good, fluffy, Heyer fun with plenty of snappy dialogue, likable characters, and slightly-absurd adventures.

The Flip Side by James Bailey – 3.5*

//published 2020//

Most romcoms are written by women, and focus on the woman as the main character, but I genuinely appreciated Bailey’s story, which focuses on a guy, and puts that guy in the situation that so many female characters start with. Josh has arranged an incredibly romantic date with his girlfriend with the intention of proposing. Except not only does she turn him down – she confesses that she’s been cheating on him and no longer “feels the magic.” Within the first chapter, Josh is single, jobless, and back to living with his parents in the suburbs. As he looks at his life, he feels completely overwhelmed by all the choices he has to make, and all the choices he has made to get where he is – he feels like a failure and can’t see a way forward. And so, he decides to stop making decisions. Instead, he starts flipping a coin and letting fate decide what happens next. And as one might expect – shenanigans ensue.

There was a lot to enjoy about this story. There are fun and slightly-ridiculous scenarios, mostly likable characters, and a little bit of thoughtfulness about life choices and where they take us. On the other hand, a lot of the pacing felt stuttered, a few of the characters were extremely underdeveloped, and there’s this whole weird thing where Josh gets a ride with a taxi driver named Jesus, which leads to this whole conversation/scenario that felt kind of sacrilegious to me.

At the end of the day – an entertaining and overall enjoyable, but it isn’t one I see myself reading again and again.

The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer – 4.5*

//published 2004// Also, the cards are for another Litsy challenge haha //

These are the sequels to Sorcery and Cecelia, which I reread in December. Like the first book, they are fun and happy epistolary novels. In The Grand Tour, the two couples from Cecelia have just gotten married and are off on a joint honeymoon around the Continent, where they run into another magical mystery. The Mislaid Magician takes place about ten years later – both families now have several children, adding to the fun. This one is extra entertaining as there are letters between the husbands as well.

All in all, these are just such fun books with enjoyable characters and a very fun world-building concept – highly recommended.

Eyewitness Guides: Brazil4*

//published 2020//

Another challenge on Litsy this year is #FoodandLit – there’s a country each month, and participants try to read some books set in that country or written by authors from it, and we also share recipes, although I’m not particularly good at that aspect haha Because I’m really trying to keep my challenges focused on reading books already on my TBR, my goal is to read two books for each country – one nonfiction, most likely a travel guide of some sort – and one fiction, mostly based on what’s available at the library! These Eyewitness guides are great fun – super colorful, full of photographs and maps, and I learned all sorts of things about Brazil, which is actually a HUGE country. It was also fun to read this one before I read my fiction choice (next review) since I had a much better grasp on the geography of the country by the time I got to Ways to Disappear, in which the characters hop around the country quite a bit.

A fun way to armchair travel, especially to countries I’ll probably never visit in person.

Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey – 3.5*

//published 2016//

This was a weird book that I would never have picked up if it wasn’t for the #FoodandLit challenge. The story is about Emma, who works as a translator. Her main focus for several years has been translating novels by a Brazilian author named Beatriz Yagoda. The story opens with Beatriz climbing up a tree with a suitcase – and that’s the last anyone sees of her. Emma, in snowy Pittsburgh, receives an email that she thinks is from someone connected to Beatriz’s publishing house, and spontaneously decides to go to Brazil to see if she can help locate Beatriz, a decision that makes Emma’s live-in boyfriend/almost fiance quite annoyed. In Brazil, everything is as opposite to Pittsburgh as it can be. It turns out that the email was actually from a mafia-like guy to whom Beatriz owes thousands of dollars in gambling debts. The story wanders through Brazil as Emma and Beatriz’s adult children try to find the missing author all while dodging the increasingly intense threats of the loan shark. The entire book has an almost dream-like quality to it, with an emphasis on the hot, sticky weather (in contrast to wintry Pittsburgh). Emma has an affair with Beatriz’s son, struggling with feeling conflicted about the marriage proposal she knows is coming from her boyfriend back home. Beatriz’s daughter, Beatriz’s opposite in almost every way, is frustrated that Emma is there at all, much less than Emma thinks she knows so much more about Beatriz than anyone else. The whole novel meanders around – it feels like, with the whole loan-shark-deadline-if-you-miss-it-we’re-going-to-kill-you thing, that there should be more of a sense of urgency, but there just isn’t. The ending is odd, but not necessarily out of character for the rest. A book I’m not exactly glad I read, but also not mad that I did, either. It was a fairly quick read, which helped, because I’m not sure how long I could have put up with the complete bizarreness of the whole thing.

The Broken Earth Trilogy // by N.K. Jemison

Oh man, I was SO CLOSE to actually being caught up on book reviews and stuff… and then somehow the entire end of January just disappeared!!! So here I am in February, writing up some January reviews!

  • The Fifth Season
  • The Obelisk Gate
  • The Stone Sky

I’ve had this series on my TBR for quite some time, so when Jemison came up as January’s #AuthoraMonth on Litsy, I decided it was time to finally read them. While the world-building was excellent and the concept quite good, this story was also relentlessly depressing, which made it a difficult read for me. There is also one view of the narrative that’s told in second person – it was annoying to start with and only got more annoying as the story progressed. Even when I found out who was talking and why – I was still aggravated because not only was it second person, it was second person present tense, which literally made ZERO sense within the context of the tale. Finally, the conclusion of the story really depends on the motivations and actions of one character who I felt was entirely too young for that scenario to make sense – and even if she was older, I still wouldn’t have really believed that she was willing to destroy the world because of this one certain situation, which meant that the entire third book/conclusion to the story arc left me feeling a little so-so about the entire series.

I was going to say some more about these books (mostly complain about the second person thing), but now it’s been a month since I read them and a lot of my stronger feelings have faded haha In the end – interesting but so depressing that I’m not really planning to read any more of Jemison’s books. I also felt like there was a strongly polemic undertone about racism that at times felt a little like I was getting clunked in the head with it, and that wore on me after a while.

All in all, I don’t exactly recommend this trilogy, but if it sounds intriguing to you, it’s worth giving it a try. In retrospect, the story telling really must have been pretty strong for me to stick out even though all that second person nonsense, but that really did drive me absolutely crazy.