Mini-Reviews: Cheat, Counterfeit, Betrayal

Sarah Adams, The Cheat Sheet

Bree and Nathan have been close friends since high school, and they’ve maintained that friendship even though Bree is now a dance teacher struggling to pay rent, while Nathan is a professional football player. In fact, they’re madly in love with each other, but they’re each convinced the other sees them only as a friend. Then one night, Bree drunkenly reveals her feelings to a reporter, so they agree to a “fake” relationship for the publicity while trying to conceal their very real feelings. I like the friends-to-lovers trope in theory, but this book is classic example of why it doesn’t often work for me in practice. Bree and Nathan have been crazy about each other for years, yet they’ve never been honest with each other about how they feel. I just don’t buy that neither of them ever made a move! I would have liked it more if, say, Nathan really didn’t see Bree as a romantic option at first, but something happened to change his perspective. That said, this book is a cute, fun, not too racy read, and I did enjoy Nathan’s interactions with his friends on the football team, so I’d recommend this one for friends-to-lovers fans.

Louise Allen, The Duke’s Counterfeit Wife

Nicholas Terrell, the duke of Severton, and Sarah Parrish, the daughter of a disgraced shipping company owner, are traveling aboard the same passenger boat when they realize that its captain is up to no good. When the captain threatens to kill them, Nicholas reveals his ducal identity and claims that Sarah is his wife, persuading the captain to hold them for ransom instead. While Nick and Sarah endure their shared captivity and plot their escape, they also fall in love, but their very different social standings impede their romance. I quite enjoyed this historical romance; it’s not too long (less than 300 pages in my e-book version) and has an adventurous plot along with the romance. Nick is my kind of buttoned-up, scowly duke, and he’s well matched in the practical and intelligent Sarah. Based on the reviews I’ve seen, it looks like Allen’s books are hit or miss, but I’d certainly consider trying more by her!

Lauren Willig, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily

Penelope Staines has been packed off to India with her husband, Freddy, after their hasty and scandalous marriage. Freddy is to be a special envoy to the court of Hyderabad, which Penelope soon learns is a hotbed of intrigue. Meanwhile, Captain Alex Reid is trying to keep a lid on that intrigue, especially when he learns that a French spy might be undermining the uneasy alliance between Indians and British. As he and Penelope unwillingly team up to unmask the spy, they also fight a mutual attraction, knowing that Penelope’s marriage precludes a relationship between them. This is another enjoyable installment of the Pink Carnation series. Willig was smart to change up the setting and remind readers that the Britain-France conflict had global ramifications. I also really liked Alex, though Penelope’s self-destructive tendencies grated on me a bit. It was hard for me to root for their romance, too, given that it involved marital infidelity. Overall, a good read but not one of my favorites in the series.

Mini-Reviews: Safe, Hero, Willoughby

Ashley Weaver, Playing It Safe

As bombs fall on London in the autumn of 1940, Ellie McDonnell is summoned to the port city of Sunderland by her handler, Major Ramsey. She doesn’t know the details of her mission, but things get complicated fast when a man dies right in front of her the day she arrives. She and Ramsey both suspect the man has been murdered, possibly because of shady spy activities. As Ellie befriends the dead man’s social circle, she uncovers many secrets and endangers her life in the process. I’m continuing to enjoy this series, mainly for the likable main characters and WW2 setting. I wasn’t as compelled by the mystery — the murderer’s identity seems to come out of nowhere — but there are some good suspenseful scenes. I also liked the developments in Ellie’s relationship with Ramsey. This book just came out, but I’m already impatient for the next one!

Robin McKinley, The Hero and the Crown

Aerin has always felt like an outsider who doesn’t belong. She’s the daughter of the king’s second wife, a reputed witch who supposedly died of disappointment that Aerin wasn’t a boy. She doesn’t have the magical Gift that’s shared by all people of royal blood. Most of her cousins despise her, and she’d rather ride her father’s old warhorse or practice swordplay than be a courtier. But when dragons and demon-magic from the North threaten her kingdom, Aerin discovers she has a crucial role to play. This is a book of my heart; I loved it as a child and am delighted to discover it’s just as good as I remember. Aerin is surprisingly relatable for someone who slays dragons, and Robin McKinley’s writing is pure magic. I’m really happy I revisited this one!

Claudia Gray, The Late Mrs. Willoughby

***Warning: SPOILERS for Sense and Sensibility***

Jonathan Darcy has been invited to Allenham, the estate his old schoolmate John Willoughby has just inherited. Willoughby was a bully during their school days, so Jonathan isn’t particularly excited about the visit — until he meets Juliet Tilney again, who’s staying nearby with her friend Marianne Brandon. He and Juliet are both eager to renew their acquaintance, but things take a dark turn when Willoughby’s wife is murdered. Could Willoughby or Marianne be the culprit? I don’t usually love Austen pastiches, but so far this series has impressed me with its fidelity to Austen’s characters even as it places them within a murder mystery. I was able to identify the murderer pretty early on, but I still enjoyed the plot, and I liked the development of Jonathan and Juliet’s relationship. To get the most out of this book, you definitely have to be familiar with both The Murder of Mr. Wickham and Sense and Sensibility, but if you liked book #1 of the series, you’ll enjoy this one too.

Mini-Reviews: Necessary, Rome, Unknown

Hannah March, A Necessary Evil

In this fifth and final book of the series, Robert Fairfax trades London for Bath, where he’s tutoring a group of pleasant yet unteachable girls. He also becomes acquainted with Colonel James Delabole and his family, which consists of a wife and daughter, as well as a long-lost daughter from his first marriage, with whom Delabole is trying to reconcile. Tensions are high, so when Delabole is murdered, Robert has more than enough suspects to investigate. As with the other books in this series, this one is well-written, with a complex plot, interesting characters, and an evocative setting. However, I don’t think the author planned this to be a series finale, as there’s no resolution to Robert’s personal life. He seems to end in a worse place than he began, which I found disappointing. I do still recommend the series for those who enjoy historical mysteries, but I wish Robert could have found a little happiness in the end.

Sarah Adams, When in Rome

Pop star Amelia Rose is feeling burned out, so she decides to pull an Audrey Hepburn and go on a Roman holiday — to Rome, Kentucky, that is. But when her car breaks down, she’s forced to rely on the surly yet attractive Noah Walker for help. As they get to know each other, they have a hard time fighting their mutual attraction, but Noah’s life is in Rome and Amelia can’t stay forever, so how could they make a relationship work? This is a sweet contemporary romance that I enjoyed, though I sometimes felt the characters blew hot and cold for no reason. It paints an idyllic picture of life in a small town, which makes the book a fun escape even if it’s not particularly realistic. The author just came out with a novel featuring Noah’s younger sister, and I do plan to read it if I can get it from the library.

Georgette Heyer, The Unknown Ajax

When Lord Darracott’s son and heir dies unexpectedly, Darracott shocks his family by announcing that the new heir is a grandson he’s never met, who grew up in Yorkshire and whose mother was a commoner. When the heir, Hugo, arrives at the estate, the family expects an ignorant yokel, so Hugo plays along — but it’s not long before some members of the family, including his cousin Anthea, recognize his intelligence and true worth. I love Georgette Heyer, but I’d only read this novel once, so I was interested to remind myself why it’s not one of my favorites. I think the answer is that the romance, while appealing, takes a backseat to family drama and a smuggling plot. I wanted more of Hugo and Anthea interacting and fewer conversations about the pros and cons of “free trading.” So for me, this is not one of Heyer’s best.

Mini-Reviews: Ivy, Psalm, Lady

Lauren Willig, Ivy and Intrigue

This story (or short novella?) in the Pink Carnation series revisits Richard and Amy from the first book. They’ve now been married several months and are enjoying life together in the English countryside, but they both sometimes miss their active spying days in France. Espionage finds them again, however, just as Richard’s first love re-enters his life. Can Richard and Amy learn to recognize and communicate their true desires, all while thwarting yet more Bonapartist shenanigans? This is a cute but unnecessary interlude in the series…it’s nice to see a bit more of Richard and Amy (as well as Miles and Henrietta), but the plot is negligible and there’s no character development to speak of. It’s a decent, quick little read, but definitely not necessary even for fans of the series.

Becky Chambers, A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Sibling Dex, a monk who serves the god of small comforts, suddenly decides to change their life, abandoning the city to travel among rural villages as an itinerant tea monk. But eventually even this makes them restless, and they travel into the wilderness, where they meet a robot named Mosscap. This shocks Dex, since robots retreated to uninhabited portions of the planet after they gained sentience, and they haven’t interacted with humans since. This charming short novel has very low stakes, but it’s quite poignant and philosophical if you’re into that kind of thing. I liked the relationship between Dex and Mosscap, especially their conversation about humans’ desire for purpose. If the premise intrigues you, I think you’ll like this one.

Cecilia Grant, A Lady Awakened

Martha Russell is a recent widow, and she’ll be forced to leave her late husband’s estate when his brother, the heir, takes possession. But the heir is a terrible person who raped two maids, so Martha is determined to prevent him from inheriting somehow. The only option is for her to give birth to an heir herself, which is impossible . . . but if she can convince her neighbor, Theo Mirkwood, to have sex with her until she conceives, she can pass off the baby as a legitimate heir. She has no intention of enjoying their illicit relationship, but the lighthearted, charming Theo is determined to change her mind.

Admittedly, this plot is completely nonsensical, but I didn’t mind because the book is so good! Martha is dismissive, detached, and cold, which makes her a challenging but very interesting heroine. It’s wonderful to watch her grow throughout the book as Theo helps her become less guarded. Meanwhile, Theo also improves as Martha teaches him how to manage his estate. There are a lot of sex scenes in the book, which I’m normally not a fan of, but in this case they wonderfully reveal the progress of the romance. The early scenes are awkward and deeply unsexy, which is so counterintuitive for a genre that tends to idealize sexual relationships. I highly recommend this one to fans of historical romance, especially if you’re interested in a twist on the usual formula.

Mini-Reviews: Lonely, Poison, Romancing

Lucy Gilmore, The Lonely Hearts Book Club

Librarian Sloane Parker seems to have a pretty good life — a job she loves, a successful fiancé — but she’s really just been going through the motions ever since her sister’s tragic death. The highlight of her day is when curmudgeonly old Arthur McLachlan visits the library to argue with her about books. So when a few days go by without Arthur showing up, Sloane is concerned enough to check on him — and even more alarmed when he actually seems happy to see her. She knows Arthur needs support and companionship, so she starts a book club with a few friends and neighbors. Little does she know that every member, not just Arthur, will benefit from the book club, and maybe herself most of all. I liked this one; it’s sentimental, but the lively and humorous writing style kept it from being too saccharine for me. I also liked getting each book club member’s POV; it made them all vivid and distinct characters. I would have liked a bit more closure for some storylines, particularly the romance (which is really just hinted at). But overall, I enjoyed this one and am interested in trying more by Lucy Gilmore.

Bridget Zinn, Poison

Potions expert Kyra is on the run after attempting to assassinate Princess Ariana, her former best friend. Her reasons for this betrayal become clear as the novel progresses. Meanwhile, as she tries to evade the kingdom’s pursuing soldiers, she encounters several strange individuals, including a master criminal, a wicked witch, a handsome but exasperating adventurer, and a very unusual pig. Eventually, Kyra teams up with a few crucial allies to save the kingdom and make some important decisions about her future. This is an enjoyable light fantasy novel that skews toward the younger end of the YA spectrum. The plot is very episodic, and the characters are likable but not particularly complex. The book reminds me somewhat of Ella Enchanted — not as good, but if you liked that book, I think you’ll enjoy this one too.

Julia Quinn, Romancing Mister Bridgerton

Penelope Featherington has been in love with Colin Bridgerton for years, but she knows he’ll never return her affections: She’s always been a wallflower and is now a spinster at age 28, whereas Colin is one of London’s most popular and charming bachelors. But Colin has just returned to England after a long trip abroad, and he’s starting to see Penelope in a whole new light. Their fledgling romance is threatened, however, by the secrets they’re keeping from each other, which may cause a huge society scandal. I’m a fan (with caveats) of the Bridgerton TV series, and season 3 is supposed to focus on Penelope and Colin, so I wanted to read their story before the season drops. Unfortunately, this book didn’t particularly work for me, mostly because I found Colin so frustrating. He constantly pouts and sulks and throws temper tantrums, and in the end I just wanted Penelope to get over her infatuation and find someone better! Overall, this one was disappointing, especially after I enjoyed The Viscount Who Loved Me so much.

Mini-Reviews: London, Fortune, Death

Sarra Manning, London, with Love

This contemporary novel follows Jen Richards from her awkward adolescence in 1986 to her middle age in 2021. When she was 16, she was an insecure kid who strongly identified with Sylvia Plath, and she was desperately in love with her brooding, pretentious best friend, Nick. As the years go by, she and Nick pass in and out of each other’s lives, but they can never completely ignore the strong connection between them. I don’t think this is a bad book, but it ultimately wasn’t for me. While I sympathized and related to adolescent Jen, I found her less likable as she got older and (theoretically) more mature. I also didn’t think her relationship with Nick was healthy, so I was never really rooting for the romance. I think this book might really resonate with people who grew up in London during this specific time — but since I’ve barely even been to London (though would love to go back!), I don’t have that nostalgia. Overall, it’s a decent read, but I just don’t think I’m the ideal audience for it.

Kristin Vayden, Fortune Favors the Duke

Six months ago, Quin’s older brother died tragically and unexpectedly, making Quin the new duke of Wesley. Now a grieving Quin must grapple with his new responsibilities, when all he really wants to do is continue his career as a Cambridge professor. Meanwhile, the late duke’s fiancée, Lady Catherine Greatheart, is grieving too, but she’s accepted that it’s time to move on. As Quin and Catherine support one another in their shared loss, they develop romantic feelings but are unsure whether they ought to pursue a relationship. This was another disappointing Regency romance. The premise — man falls for his dead brother’s fiancée — had so much potential, but it’s barely explored. Quin and Catherine fall for each other pretty quickly, with minimal guilt, and the book’s main conflict turns out to involve an external villain. Where was the guilt, the uncertainty, the struggle against (arguably) inappropriate feelings? In my opinion, exploring that conflict would have been way more interesting than the random troublemaker’s shenanigans. Further, the writing style was awkward and inauthentic, and I didn’t even believe in the central romance. I’m glad I got the e-book for free, but I wouldn’t recommend it even at that price.

Hannah March, Death Be My Theme

After a serious illness, Robert Fairfax is convalescing in the rural outskirts of London when he encounters another mystery: Curmudgeonly Gabriel Chilcott falls to his death down a flight of stairs with an expression of horrified shock on his face. The incident appears to be a tragic accident, but then why did Chilcott’s much younger wife lie about the man seen leaving her bedroom? When a local servant is murdered shortly afterwards, Robert investigates and uncovers a particularly cold-blooded killer. This might be my favorite book of the series yet! The mystery plot is very well done, and I also liked the development of Robert’s ill-fated romance with the married Cordelia. There’s even a cameo appearance by the Mozart family, and a mistake in one of 8-year-old Wolfgang’s compositions proves to be a vital clue. I’m hoping the next (and, alas, final) book will give a satisfying ending to the series!

Mini-Reviews: Wrong, Hardcastle, Season

Lynn Painter, Mr. Wrong Number

Olivia Marshall is perpetually unlucky, and when her latest mishap results in her apartment burning down, she’s forced to move in with her brother Jack and his best friend, Colin. Liv and Colin have never gotten along, but now that they’re living together, they start to see each other in a new light. Meanwhile, a text to Liv from an unknown number sparks an anonymous flirtation, but what will happen when she learns Mr. Wrong Number’s true identity? I enjoyed this cute rom-com, mostly for Liv’s funny and self-deprecating voice. The romance moves from enemies to sex to feelings a bit too rapidly, and I also wanted more exploration of Liv’s conflict with her family (they perceive and treat her as an immature screwup). That said, I enjoy Painter’s writing style and look forward to reading the sequel, which will feature Jack as the hero.

Stuart Turton, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

This genre-bender begins on the grounds of Blackheath, an English country estate, where the narrator wakes up in a forest with no idea how he got there and no memory of his own identity. The next day, he wakes up in a different body altogether, and eventually he pieces together the truth: He’s supposed to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle, and he’ll keep reliving the same day (in a different host each time) until he can identify the murderer. Along the way, he discovers both allies and enemies and eventually learns the true nature of Blackheath. This is a clever take on the classic country house mystery, with a plot that becomes ever more intricate as the narrator’s choices in later days affect what happened on earlier days. The murder plot hangs together, but the resolution to the bigger question of what’s happening at Blackheath and why is not completely satisfying. Also, the book is long, and while seeing events from multiple perspectives is interesting, it does bloat the narrative. Overall, I’m glad I read this one, and I think it’s a well-done experiment, but it didn’t totally work for me.

Jane Dunn, The Marriage Season

Sisters Sybella and Lucie are headed to London for the Season so that Lucie can potentially make a match. Sybella, a widow with a young son, has no intention of remarrying; she’s too busy managing her country estate and keeping her son out of trouble. But of course, both women meet several potential suitors and must discern who’s a hero, who’s a rake, and who’s just a friend. I bought this e-book when it was on sale, partly because of the appealing cover and partly because I’d heard it was a well-written steamless romance. Steamless, yes; well-written, sadly no. I found the style clunky and unrealistic for the time period (Sybella at one point has an “existential crisis”), and the romances were unconvincing. My search for non-steamy historical romances continues, but unfortunately this one was a dud.

Mini-Reviews: Setup, Greywaren, Spring

Lizzy Dent, The Setup

Thirty-something Mara is feeling adrift; she doesn’t trust her own instincts but relies on astrology and fortune-telling for guidance. So when a palm reader tells her she’s about to meet Mr. Right — and she immediately meets Josef, a handsome cellist — she’s ecstatic. She arranges to meet him again at the end of the summer and promptly embarks on a self-improvement project to prepare for his arrival. But as she begins to grow and change, she questions whether Josef is really her destiny. This is a cute summery read with a satisfying romance. I found Mara frustrating at times, with her over-reliance on astrology and her tendency to push people away. But I also thought her indecisiveness and confusion about her life were relatable. So I did like the book overall and would consider reading more by this author.

Maggie Stiefvater, Greywaren

This conclusion to the Dreamer trilogy deals with the aftermath of Hennessy shutting down the ley line at the end of book #2. Now the dreamers are incapacitated, and their dreams are doomed to sleep unless they can be kept awake with sweetmetals. Jordan is working hard to acquire or create one, while Declan desperately tries to hold his family together. Hennessy is self-destructing, as usual, until Carmen and Liliana lend a hand. Also, the apocalypse that’s supposed to be caused by the dreamers is about to happen. I sort of lost interest in this trilogy but still wanted to finish it, and I’m glad I did. This installment does a good job of wrapping things up, explaining the various mysteries, and giving good closure for the main characters. Declan is still my favorite, but I was happy to get more of Adam Parrish in this one. I doubt I’ll ever reread this series, but I am somewhat interested in revisiting the Raven Cycle now!

Anne Gracie, The Spring Bride

Jane Chance is excited for her first London Season, and she’s determined to make a prudent marriage. Though her parents loved each other, they lived in poverty and, when they died, left Jane and her sister Abby with nothing. Jane doesn’t ever want to feel destitute or unprotected again, so she is looking for a wealthy and titled husband. But when she meets roguish “gypsy” Zachary Black, she can’t help her attraction. Zach is immediately smitten with her as well, but secrets from his past may keep them apart. I’m continuing to enjoy this series: Jane and Zach are both likable characters, and their romance is sweet (and not too steamy). But they fall in love a little too quickly for my taste, and there was just nothing particularly unique or memorable about the story. It’s a solid, pleasant read, but I don’t plan to keep it.

Mini-Reviews: Emerald, Everyone, Temporary

Lauren Willig, The Deception of the Emerald Ring

Geoffrey Pinchingdale-Snipe, a spy working with the Pink Carnation, has been in love with the beautiful Mary Alsworthy for years. But when he accidentally compromises her younger sister, Letty, the two are forced into a hasty marriage, after which Geoff immediately leaves for Dublin on Carnation business. An upset Letty pursues him, hoping to convince him that she didn’t intend to trap him into marriage, but she soon gets pulled into the Pink Carnation’s mission as well. Now Geoff and Letty have to deal with an Irish rebellion and continued threats from the Black Tulip — not to mention their own growing feelings for each other. I don’t remember this being one of my favorite installments of the series, but this time around I felt there was a noticeable improvement in both Willig’s writing style and the plausibility of the plot. Geoff is more believable as a spy than either Richard or Miles, and the story—while still light and fun—feels a bit more grounded in reality than the previous books. Looking forward to book four even more now!

Benjamin Stevenson, Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone

Ernie Cunningham is approaching his family reunion at an Australian ski resort with some trepidation. The reunion is meant to welcome back his brother Michael, who’s about to be released from prison — but it’s Ernie’s testimony that put him there. At the resort, things go from bad to worse when a murdered body is found on the slopes, and Michael is the prime suspect. Ernie feels compelled to investigate, partly to clear Michael’s name and partly because, as the book’s title indicates, everyone in his family has killed someone. This novel lets you know right away that it’s going to play with the conventions of Golden Age mysteries: Ronald Knox’s “commandments” are reproduced at the beginning of the book, and Ernie promises he’s going to be a reliable narrator. So this is a bit of a meta mystery, and part of the game is also figuring out whom all the Cunninghams have killed and why. Stripped of these gimmicks, the central mystery isn’t all that unique (and actually quite reminiscent of a certain Agatha Christie novel), but it’s still a good read that I’d recommend if the premise interests you.

Mary Balogh, The Temporary Wife and A Promise of Spring

In The Temporary Wife, Anthony Earheart marries the prim and plain-seeming Charity Duncan solely to anger the father he despises. After a few weeks of visiting his family to rub his marriage in his father’s face, he plans to set up a separate establishment for Charity, which she needs to support her impoverished siblings. Visiting his family reopens old wounds, but it also may bring healing and even love. In A Promise of Spring, Grace Howard is left destitute when her brother dies. She is rescued by a gallant proposal from the lively, charming, 10-years-younger Peregrine Lampman, but secrets from her past threaten their marriage. I’m a Balogh fan and enjoyed both of these novels, though The Temporary Wife is the standout. I loved Anthony’s slow transformation from anger and emotional repression to vulnerability. I’m glad I picked up this volume and will definitely be keeping it on my shelves!

Mini-Reviews: Matchmaker, Georgie, Secrets

Stella Gibbons, The Matchmaker

This slice-of-life novel centers around Alda Lucie-Brown, who has moved with her three daughters to a small cottage in Sussex after their London home was bombed in World War II. Now the war is over, but Alda’s husband is still stationed in Germany, so she’s feeling somewhat isolated in the country. Her solution is to meet the neighbors and try her hand at a little matchmaking, but naturally things don’t go as planned. This is a calm, pleasant read where not much happens, but the characters are nuanced and interesting enough to carry the book. I loved the setting of postwar England; I’ve read plenty of WWII novels, but not many set in the aftermath. So it was fascinating to read about, for example, the Italian POWs still compelled to work on English land. Gibbons reveals some of the prejudices of her time but is also pretty generous in her character depictions. The book isn’t as comedic as Cold Comfort Farm (though it has flashes of gentle humor), but I’d recommend it to fans of books from this era.

Kate Clayborn, Georgie, All Along

Georgie Mulcahy is at a loose end after being laid off. She’s temporarily moved back to her small hometown in Virginia, where she’ll help out her pregnant best friend Bel and try to figure out what to do with her life. She doesn’t expect to feel a connection with Levi Fanning, the town troublemaker and black sheep of the illustrious Fanning family. Levi has been keeping his head down and his nose clean for years, but he’s still living with a bad reputation and with the anger and guilt of his past. As Georgie and Levi grow closer, they both have to confront the mental and emotional obstacles holding them back. I really love Kate Clayborn’s writing, and this latest book doesn’t disappoint. I especially loved getting inside Levi’s head and seeing how he and Georgie interpreted the same events differently. The book deals with some heavier themes than the cover art and publisher’s blurb would suggest, but it’s still an uplifting read with a fair amount of humor. Highly recommended for fans of contemporary romance!

Alyssa Everett, Lord of Secrets

When Rosalie Whitwell’s father suddenly dies during a transatlantic voyage, she finds herself with few options for her future. That is, until one of her fellow travelers, the cold and reclusive David Linney, marquess of Deal, proposes marriage. Despite his reserved manner, Rosalie perceives a softer side to David, so she happily accepts and is prepared to fall in love with her handsome new husband. David is strongly attracted to Rosalie but refuses to consummate the marriage, which frustrates and confuses her. When he finally reveals his secrets, will he lose Rosalie’s love? This book didn’t work as well for me as Ruined by Rumor, but I think it’s entirely due to the subject matter. David’s secrets are quite dark, and certain flashback scenes were very difficult to read. (No spoilers here, but if you google the book, you’ll be able to find relevant content warnings.) Further, once he confesses everything to Rosalie, the happy ending comes way too soon and feels unrealistic. I still enjoy this author’s writing style and will continue to read more of her work, but this one isn’t destined to be a favorite.