Genre: Women's Fiction

Review: The Key to Happily Ever After by Tif Marcelo

Posted April 18, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: The Key to Happily Ever After by Tif MarceloReviewer: Rowena
The Key to Happily Ever After by Tif Marcelo
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Gallery Books
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 320
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
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four-stars

A charming romantic comedy about three sisters who are struggling to keep the family wedding planning business afloat—all the while trying to write their own happily-ever-afters in the process.

All’s fair in love and business.

The de la Rosa family and their wedding planning business have been creating happily ever afters in the Washington, DC area for years, making even the most difficult bride’s day a fairytale. But when their parents announce their retirement, the sisters—Marisol, Janelyn, and Pearl—are determined to take over the business themselves.

But the sisters quickly discover that the wedding business isn’t all rings and roses. There are brides whose moods can change at the drop of a hat; grooms who want to control every part of the process; and couples who argue until their big day. As emotions run high, the de la Rosa sisters quickly realize one thing: even when disaster strikes—whether it’s a wardrobe malfunction or a snowmageddon in the middle of a spring wedding—they’ll always have each other.

Perfect for fans of the witty and engaging novels of Amy E. Reichert and Susan Mallery, The Key to Happily Ever After is a fresh romantic comedy that celebrates the crucial and profound power of sisterhood.

I’m a sucker for family drama’s and though I thought this book would be a lot lighter than the book actually was, it was still an enjoyable reading adventure. This book follows the de la Rosa sisters, Mari, Jane, and Pearl as they take on the running of the family wedding planning business. The story focuses on the dynamics between the sisters, and we also get a small love story for each of them. There’s a lot going on with this and I thought Marcelo did a nice job of weaving all of the little side stuff into the bigger story being told. Between the family business in crisis and the romances, there’s a lot of things to focus on without the book as a whole being crammed.

Mari is the oldest and she’s the controlling sister. The one that sets rules and bosses everyone around. Jane is the middle sister who is the peacemaker and then there’s the creative artist, Pearl. Pearl is the youngest sister who nobody trusts to get the job done. They’re all going through their own personal struggles and I was really invested in their lives. I wanted to know everything and fix everything for all of them. I thought Marcelo did a really great job of fleshing out each character because they were all super different but they were also flawed and just real, and raw. They each took turns getting on my nerves but I felt for each sister, how I feel for my own sisters. I loved each of them and wanted them to find their happy endings.

There’s loads of drama but there’s also humor and a whole lot of charm mixed in for good measure. I’m glad that I read this book and I will definitely be reading more from Tif Marcelo. I think I enjoyed this book a lot more than I enjoyed the contemporary romances that I read by her last year. She’s got great stuff and I’m adding the rest of her books to my TBR pile. I definitely recommend this book if you’re in the mood for family drama, bridezillas, and love. This one packs in all of that.

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Buddy Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Posted April 11, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Buddy Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel CleetonReviewer: Ames & Rowena
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Publisher: Penguin, Berkley
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Format: eBook, Print
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Genres: Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 394
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 A-Z Reading Challenge, Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
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four-stars

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana takes us on an emotional journey to Cuba, in both the past and the present as our main characters, Marisol Ferrera and Elisa Perez, battle through emotions, secrets and the hardships of war, all while falling in love with men that came with their own complications.

Rowena: This was really angsty and while I did end up enjoying it (I even cried), it was a bit slow to start. What did you think, Ames?

Ames: I have to agree. It took me a good while to get into it. Part of it was that in an odd switch I wanted to read this book in print, not in e-format. It’s usually the other way around. So I finally made my way to the bookstore and then I couldn’t finish this book fast enough!

And the angst wasn’t emotional angst. It was -oh my god we’re in the middle of a revolution and we could die- kind of angst. Which I was totally into. I can admit that I don’t know a heck of a lot about Cuba but this book did a really good job of making what happened, relevant and thought-provoking as well as providing a dangerous background for our main character’s grandmother.

Rowena: Yes, the romance took a back seat to all of the angst from everything else that was going on. Once I got the hang of both timelines, all of the characters, and what was going on, I zipped right through this book. My heart hurt and then it soared for both Elisa and what she lived through, how hard her life was even though on the surface, her life looked pretty fluffy, it was anything but and for Marisol, too. When she gets to Cuba, she’s expecting to hear stories of her beloved grandmother through people who once loved her and confided in her but she found so much more than that and I was so here for all of it.

I really liked the way that Cleeton wove this tale. She brought everything going on in Cuba to the front of a very compelling story and I really enjoyed it.

Who was your favorite character?

Ames: Elisa was definitely my favorite character. My heart definitely hurt for what she went through. But I liked how we learned about her story through Marisol’s eyes. I agree with you, I like the way Cleeton wove these two stories together. I liked Pablo more as an old man than when he was younger. His experience and his heartbreak was what made me cry. I really wonder how Elisa and his life would have worked out if Elisa knew the truth. This was a bittersweet book. And I promptly pre-ordered Beatriz book once I was done. LOL.

Rowena: Same. I connected with Elisa’s story and her struggles with every single thing that she went through. From her struggles with loving a man who was fighting on the opposite side of the side her father supported to the way that her family had to creep out of the country to survive and everything that she felt with toward her brother and not being able to know for sure that he was safe and all of that.

I felt the same way about older Pablo. He missed out on so much and my heart for him and just everything. His love for Elisa was true and it was strong and it lasted his entire life even though he moved on. It was so heartbreaking. I’m super glad that I read this one and will definitely be reading more from Cleeton, she’s got magic hands weaving the good stories. I need more of that in my life.

Are you going to read When We Left Cuba? I’m already reading it and so far, it’s just as fantastic as this one was. I give this one 4.25 out of 5 stars, what about you?

Ames: I am planning on reading When We Left Cuba. I needed to read something light and fluffy after Marisol and Elisa’s story though so I’m glad I have a bit of a wait until it’s released. I know I’m going to want to read it in paperback. LOL

I’m giving Next Year in Havana 4.25 out of 5 as well. Despite a bit of a slow beginning it’s definitely an engrossing story and it hits you in the feels. I highly recommend!

Final Grades

Ames: 4.25 out of 5
Rowena: 4.25 out of 5

Related Books

Next Year in Havana
When We Left Cuba

four-stars


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Review: When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Posted April 9, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: When We Left Cuba by Chanel CleetonReviewer: Rowena
When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
Publisher: Penguin, Berkley
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Women's Fiction
Pages: 368
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars

In 1960s Florida, a young Cuban exile will risk her life--and heart--to take back her country in this exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.

Beautiful. Daring. Deadly.

The Cuban Revolution took everything from sugar heiress Beatriz Perez--her family, her people, her country. Recruited by the CIA to infiltrate Fidel Castro's inner circle and pulled into the dangerous world of espionage, Beatriz is consumed by her quest for revenge and her desire to reclaim the life she lost.

As the Cold War swells like a hurricane over the shores of the Florida Strait, Beatriz is caught between the clash of Cuban American politics and the perils of a forbidden affair with a powerful man driven by ambitions of his own. When the ever-changing tides of history threaten everything she has fought for, she must make a choice between her past and future--but the wrong move could cost Beatriz everything--not just the island she loves, but also the man who has stolen her heart...

Chanel Cleeton strikes again with another emotionally driven story that hit me in every single feel in my body. After finishing Next Year in Havana, I looked forward to jumping into this book because I was mighty interested in getting Marisol’s Great-Aunt’s story. Beatriz Perez was the real deal in the first book and she is just as intense and amazing in her book…maybe even more so because we got her front and center with every single page.

Beatriz really stands out in this book. She makes this entire story work. She’s bold, she’s beautiful and she makes no apologies for who and what she does. She was also brave as hell. She knew what she stood for and even though she fell in love with a man who complicated the hell out of her beliefs, and her life, she didn’t apologize for her love for him either. I admired the hell out of her because she was fierce in her beliefs and her loyalties.

This story takes place when the relationship between the US and Cuba was not good and it shows us how complicated living during this time was and I just really enjoyed the drama, the passion and the romance between Beatriz and her boo thang. It wasn’t an easy read. There are things that happen that I wasn’t too comfortable with but because Chanel Cleeton wrote these things in (see content warning above) a way that I couldn’t help but understand, I didn’t mind it too much. There were times when my heart hurt for everything that Beatriz went through and there were times that I about swooned over how passionate Nick and Beatriz’s romance was. There was also times when I cheered for Beatriz because the bitch likes to get shit done. She’s probably my favorite character in both this book and Next Year in Havana and I’m SO glad that I read it.

Do I recommend this book? You bet your ass I do. Go forth and read this one, you won’t regret it. I promise.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

Related Books

Next Year in Havana
When We Left Cuba

four-stars


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Guest Review: Forgetting Ophelia by Julie C. Gardner

Posted March 28, 2019 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Forgetting Ophelia by Julie C. GardnerReviewer: Tracy
Forgetting Ophelia by Julie C. Gardner
Series: Friendship & Secrets #2
Publisher: Velvet Morning Press
Publication Date: October 1, 2018
Format: eBook
Source: Author
Point-of-View: First
Genres: Women's Fiction
Pages: 292
Add It: Goodreads
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two-stars

Ever-hopeful Lia thinks she’ll be with handsome, brooding Jake forever. Until one day he completely blindsides her and makes her question everything she knows… Lia Townsend is expecting a ring and a trip to Hawaii for her fifth wedding anniversary. Instead, her husband, Jake, walks out on her. Out of the blue. Devastated, Lia vows to win back Jake and the perfect life they shared.

Because it was perfect, wasn’t it?

But as Lia searches for the truth behind Jake’s departure, the cracks in the shiny varnish begin to show. And once she uncovers his secret, all that she once knew and believed in crumbles.

Lia’s eccentric mother, her best friend, and two vastly different men each pull her in new directions, and Lia attempts to push past the pain and start anew.

But Jake isn’t gone for good. When an accident rocks the lives of their best friends, Lia and Jake are thrown together. Will Lia choose to salvage her old life with the man who broke her heart – or was everything they shared an illusion?

Lia (shortened version of Ophelia) is out with her husband, Jake, for their 5th wedding anniversary. She’s excited because he’s promised her a trip – kind of a honeymoon – and a wedding ring, two things that they skipped when they got married in lieu of buying a house.  Totally understandable.  Unfortunately what Lia gets is Jake telling her how much he loves her and then telling her that he’s leaving her.  WTF?  Lia is shocked and hurt and can’t understand why this is happening.  Jake gives Lia absolutely no idea as to the reasons and takes his bags (that were already packed and stashed under their bed) and leaves.

Lia manages to get through the days and is happy to go to her BFF’s house for Easter and be with friends. When she calls said BFF, Maren, and tells her she’ll be there, Maren hesitates.  You see, Maren’s husband is Jake’s BFF and Jake is going to be there for Easter as well.  Yippee! He says he wants to explain to them why he left Lia.  Too bad he wouldn’t tell Lia! When Jake shows up he introduces Josie.  Lia is hearing this from the backyard and enters the house to confront him as she’s shocked that he has another woman already.  He apparently doesn’t have another woman, he has a daughter. Excuse me?  The man who never wanted children has a daughter?  He says that he just found out about her a couple of months prior and he needed to focus all of his attention on Josie.  When Lia asks why he couldn’t have told her about the child he tells her it’s because she never wanted kids.  What? No, Jake never wanted kids and Lia agreed with him.  He didn’t want kids so badly that he had gone out and secretly gotten a vasectomy.  Nice guy, right?  Not.

So now Lia is alone and trying to figure her shit out, but things just start going badly.  It’s supposed to be Lia discovering who she is (because Jake told her that he didn’t know who she was anymore – she just did things to please him and she wasn’t really happy), and what she wants in life.

I know I’m in the minority when I say this, but frankly this book kind of sucked.  Jake was a complete and total ass. The things he said to Lia were horrifying in their selfishness (both present and past things he’d said) and she didn’t realize she was getting played?  Girl, here’s some money – go buy yourself a clue.  How did she put up with him for five years?  I have no idea.  At one point I wanted to throat punch him and kick him in the balls at the same time, he pissed me off so badly.

This all doesn’t say too much for the heroine of the book.  I believe that the story was supposed to be about Lia finding herself, but she never really did.  Sure, she moved along when shit happened (like her house burning down) but find herself? No.  She changed jobs to try to make herself happy but I never saw the growth, never saw the pivotal moment when she said to herself, “Oh, shit!  I get it now!” None of that.

By the end of the book Lia is trying to move on with her life and it even insinuated that she might start a relationship with one of the two men who appear in the story.  I saw failure down the line.  I saw Lia doing the same thing she did with Jake and losing herself.  I think 6 months of flopping around and not knowing your own mind doesn’t make you ready to start a new relationship.  In fact, Mandie decided that if the author had done an epilogue it would have been better.  Show us Lia a couple of years later and happy in her life.  Then the guy shows up and they can start anew. That would have been a more believable time to think she’d start a relationship. This would have been a better ending, but it wouldn’t have made the book any better.

This is a book about growing and becoming who you want to be.  Unfortunately the heroine never actually did that.  She stayed stagnant and just moved to a new location.  I can’t say that I recommend this book as I actually didn’t like it very much at all.  I did give it 2 stars, but I think I upped it by a star because I finished it, IDK.

Rating: 2 out of 5

two-stars


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Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly Harper

Posted December 27, 2018 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Sweet Tea and Sympathy by Molly HarperReviewer: Holly
Sweet Tea and Sympathy (Southern Eclectic, #1) by Molly Harper
Narrator: Amanda Ronconi
Series: Southern Eclectic #1
Also in this series: Gimme Some Sugar (Southern Eclectic, #3)
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: November 21, 2017
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Third
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 307
Length: 9 hours and 27 minutes
Add It: Goodreads
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Beloved author Molly Harper launches a brand-new contemporary romance series, Southern Eclectic, with this story of a big-city party planner who finds true love in a small Georgia town.

Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town's most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?

Margo Cary is at the top of her game as the premier party planner to the elite of Chicago. She’s about to make partner and buy her first condo. She’s sacrificed a lot for this job, and to be where she’s at professionally, so to see it all go up in smoke in a single day? She can’t even process. When an aunt from her father’s side she didn’t even know existed calls and offers her a job with the family business in Georgia, she doesn’t want to say yes. But her empty bank account and almost-homeless situation forces her to take it, at least temporarily. The McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop (known as the Bait and Bury to the locals), has been in the family for generations. Margo never thought she’d end up in some backwater Georgia town, but there’s a certain charm to her redneck family. Things look up when she meets the local principal, Kyle. But Margo knows she isn’t meant to stay in Georgia, and Kyle isn’t planning to leave.

This started a bit slow for me, but I really fell into it around the 1/4 mark. It was such a silly, fun contemporary I couldn’t help but love it. Margot and her wacky family really got to me. The romance is very light. I was glad this was more of a HFN ending than an HEA, because I didn’t feel like we got enough between the two. The town and Margot’s family are the true draw here. There were some hilarious moments while Margo was getting to know her cousins Duffy, Frankie and Marianne. Their antics together had me cracking up and reminded me somewhat of my own cousins. All the aunts and uncles were fun, and I liked seeing Margo navigate a relationship with her father.

Though it started slow, I can’t deny I quickly fell into the story. Like Margo, I really came to love all the wacky inhabitants of Lake Sackett.

3.75 out of 5

Southern Eclectic

four-stars


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