‘Something Wilder’ by Christina Lauren

‘Just because thoughts are loud or constant doesn’t mean they’re right.’ – Christina Lauren, Something Wilder

Something Wilder by Christina Lauren is the newest novel by authors Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. This novel is full of laughter, romance, wilderness, and the hunt for treasure.

Lily Wilder grew up in the shadow of her father Duke Wilder. Duke was a notorious treasure hunter which sadly made him an absentee father. Lily’s mother left when she was young, leaving her to grow up with her father and her uncle on Wilder Ranch, a property owned by her uncle. After her uncle passed away, her father took control of the ranch, something he detested. He repeatedly left the ranch to go exploring with Lily to handle the day-to-day running of the ranch. Duke’s constant explorations left little money, so running the ranch was what Lily had to do to make money to survive. She grew to detest the treasure hunts that pulled her dad away.

Now that she’s older, Lily uses Duke’s hand-drawn maps to lead tourists on fake treasure hunts through the red rock canyons of Utah. Lily would love nothing more than to stop doing these tourist trips, but sadly they are the main way she makes money. She only makes enough money to pay the bills, but nowhere near enough to buy back Wilder Ranch which her father sold years ago. The summer Duke sold Wilder Ranch was also the summer that the man she loved left her and never contacted her again. He broke her, something that Lily swears she will never let happen again.

Imagine Lily’s surprise when her lost love shows up for a treasure hunt with a group of his friends. Her emotions run ragged. Once Leo Grady gets over his shock of seeing Lily in person again, he decides that he is ready to leave the past behind and reconnect with Lily. She however is only interested in keeping their relationship professional – it’s her business after all to make sure they all stay safe on the trip.

Not long into their hunt, disaster strikes, leaving the group scrambling to figure out what to do next. The biggest question: is the legend of the hidden treasure that Duke spent his life searching for actually true? In order to find the truth, Lily and Leo must work through their past. They must decide how much of themselves they are willing to risk.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Romance Reads: Bellinger Sisters series by Tessa Bailey

“What she thought was living life to the fullest had actually been living life for other people to watch. To gawk at. She wouldn’t lie to herself and pretend one month had completely cured her of her deeply rooted yen for attention. For praise. For what she’d once interpreted as love. Now though? She is participating in her life. Not just posing and pretending. The world was so much bigger than her, and she was really seeing it now. She was really looking.”
― Tessa Bailey, It Happened One Summer

It Happened One Summer is the first book in the Bellinger Sisters series. This title was also my first read by Tessa Bailey, an author that I’ve seen pop up on TikTok and other social media sites a lot more recently. This novel also reminded me a lot of the television show Schitt’s Creek as I was reading it. Let’s get into the first book!

Piper Bellinger is a Hollywood ‘It Girl’, well at least she was until she threw a spectacularly outrageous and out-of-control rooftop party that left the influential wild child cut off from her wealthy family and sent to a small Pacific Northwest town. Piper’s stepfather has decided that it’s time for Piper to learn some responsibility. He sends both Piper and her sister to Washington to run their late father’s dive bar.

Piper is shocked that her stepfather would even consider sending her away, let alone cutting her off. With her sister’s support, the two arrive in Westport to hopefully make the next three months fly by so they can head back to LA. As soon as Piper steps foot outside her late father’s bar, she meets Brendan, a big, burly, bearded sea captain who has nothing nice to say to her. He doesn’t think that Piper will last a night in Westport, especially when she sees the state of the apartment where the two women will be staying. Fed up with everyone, men especially, expecting little from her, Piper is determined to show the town of Westport that she’s more than just a pretty face. After all, this is her late father’s town and he is a legend. She has big shoes to fill.

As soon as Piper decides to show up Brendan, she of course starts running into him everywhere (mostly due to Westport being such a small town – but let’s be honest the two have an undeniable chemistry). Piper is bubbly, while Brendan is gruff and set in his ways. Although the two couldn’t be more opposite, there’s a simmering tension and attraction between the two. Piper does not want anything to do with Brendan, especially since she plans to head back to LA as soon as possible. The more time she spends reconnecting to her Westport past and getting to know the area, the more Piper starts to wonder if she really wants to go back home where no one really knows her. Where does her heart want to be?

This book is also available in the following formats:

Bellinger Sisters series:

  1. It Happened One Summer (2021)
  2. Hook, Line, and Sinker (2022)

‘The Ex Hex’ by Erin Sterling

“Never mix vodka and witchcraft.”
― Erin Sterling, The Ex Hex

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling is the story of a scorned lover who demands revenge, albeit while drunk and in a way that she didn’t think would actually come to fruition. Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones was a young witch nursing a freshly broken heart. She tried to heal it the best way she (and her cousin) knew how: a bubble bath, vodka, sad music, and a curse on her horrible ex-boyfriend. Vivi and her cousin knew they shouldn’t mix vodka and witchcraft, but her broken heart wanted vengeance. After all, they cast their curse using an orchard hayride scented candle – that’s an utterly ridiculous candle to curse someone with, so the two thought nothing of it and moved on. At best, they thought he would have a couple minor inconveniences and that’s it, no grievous bodily harm or anything.

Flash forward nine years and Rhys Penhallow, the breaker of Vivi’s heart, is on his way back to Graves Glen, Georgia. Rhys is one of the descendants of the town’s ancestors. His presence is necessary to recharge the town’s ley lines and to put in an obligatory appearance at the annual fall festival. The minute Rhys is within the town’s limits though, disaster strikes. As soon as he recovers from one issue, another one happens. It soon becomes apparent to Vivi and Rhys that her long ago hex isn’t quite as harmless as she thought it would be.

After a particularly disastrous incident, the two realize that Graves Glen is under attack. The magic has begun to rebel and the supposedly harmless ex hex may lay at the root of all of their problems. Vivi and Rhys must work together to find a way to save the town and to counteract and/or destroy the ex hex before everything they know and love is destroyed.

This book is also available in the following format:

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

“I still have a lot to figure out, but the one thing I know is, wherever you are, that’s where I belong. I’ll never belong anywhere like I belong with you.”
― Emily Henry, People We Meet on Vacation

The above quote sums up People We Meet on Vacation pretty perfectly. Alex and Poppy do not seem like they would fit together. Poppy is a traveling wild child who gets anxious if she is in one place for too long. Alex would much rather stay at home in his khakis reading a book. The two met by chance at college, but each wrote the other off as a nobody. Thrown together later in a car share home one summer, the two form a best friend bond that has only grown over time.

While Alex and Poppy may live apart for most of the year – she in New York and he back home in Ohio, they revel in their summer trips. For over a decade, the two have taken one week of vacation together every summer to various destinations all over the globe. They have had disastrous vacations all the way to magnificent ones. Two years ago, something happened on their summer vacation that has driven a wedge between the two. They haven’t spoken to each other since.

Poppy has been having a rough time dealing with Alex being out of her life. She feels like she’s stuck in a rut. When her friend asks her when she last felt happy, Poppy realizes that it was when she was with Alex. She wants that back! Poppy has decided that she has to get Alex to take a vacation with her so that she can make their relationship right again. Alex agrees, so she has one week to fix everything that’s wrong between them. That task proves to be way harder than she imagined, given the massive secret lurking between the two.

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are one of my favorite psychological thriller/mystery writing duos. They have written four novels together that I have adored (one specifically called The Wife Between Us whose twist is so unexpected that I couldn’t blog about it without giving away the whole plot)! Their latest novel, The Golden Couple, is a psychological thriller that had me on the edge of my seat.

The Golden Couple tells the story of Avery Chambers and her new clients, Marissa and Matthew Bishop. Avery is a therapist turned counselor, who lost her therapist license due to controversial methods. Now she has been featured in articles as an unorthodox counselor who only sees her clients for ten sessions. She has had amazing successes helping people with a variety of issues. If she can’t fix you using her ten session method, Avery will not take you on as a client.

Marissa and Matthew Bishop are wealthy and seem to have it all. Living in the suburbs of Washington DC, the couple have been married for years with a young son. Beneath the seeming perfection of their life, their relationship is full of work issues and a lack of intimacy. Their lives shift when Marissa is unfaithful. Desperate to save her marriage, Marissa reaches out to Avery to help her repair the damage done.

As soon as the three meet for the first time, Avery is intrigued. The couple glide into her office as if they haven’t a care in the world, but when Marissa reveals her infidelity, their carefully crafted veneer starts to crack. The relationship between the three becomes even more convoluted when Avery realizes that the Bishops are hiding more secrets than just Marissa’s infidelity. It quickly becomes apparent that saving their marriage is the least of their problems.

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson

The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson is a young adult novel described as a mix between Veronica Mars and Agatha Christie. I agree! This book is rumored to be the first in a new series and honestly, I hope that is true.

Alice Ogilve is having a rough go of it. Last summer, her boyfriend Steve dumped her. After that, she disappeared for five days. Alice eventually showed back up, but where she went and what happened to her during those five days is a mystery, mostly because Alice refuses to talk about it. To add insult to injury, Steve started dating one of Alice’s best friends, Brooke, last summer. Well Brooke is now Alice’s EX-best friend. Alice’s ex-friends aren’t talking to her, the entire Castle Cove community is upset, and Alice is marched into her home on house arrest and can’t leave due to her actions.

Flash forward to the present: Brooke is missing. She’s vanished and people are saying that she’s doing the same thing that Alice did last summer, only Alice knows Brooke would NEVER just disappear. There must be a sinister reason behind her sudden disappearance.

Enter Iris Adams, Alice’s tutor. She would love to disappear like Alice did, except she would take her mom with her and escape Castle Cove forever. Unlike Alice though, Iris doesn’t have the money or the means to disappear. When Brooke’s grandmother comes into town offering a large reward for any information about Brooke’s whereabouts, Iris decides to figure out the truth about what happened to Brooke. Iris and Alice begin investigating on their own, fueled by the police’s belief that Steve is the culprit. The two have doubts, so they set out to discover who is really responsible.

In order to get justice, and to secure the reward money, they must figure out who is behind Brooke’s disappearance. Alice has a secret weapon: she spent her house arrest reading the complete works of Agatha Christie, so she has the master to help her solve this mystery. The more the two dig, the more they realize that Castle Cove is full of secrets, but the amount of danger the two have put themselves in is worse than they could imagine.

Talk Bookish to Me by Kate Bromley

“You never have to forget him, you just have to release the pieces that hurt. Love is the part of him you get to keep.”
― Kate Bromley, Talk Bookish to Me

Talk Bookish to Me is Kate Bromley’s debut romance novel that is hilarious, yet also sexy. It’s also a book within a book: one of the main characters is an author and excerpts of the current book she is writing are sprinkled throughout. This emotional second-chance love story has a premise that, while I have read something similar before, I felt was unique in its presentation.

Kara Sullivan is a romance author stuck in a rut. Her current book deadline is fast approaching, but she hasn’t written a single word. To add to her stress, Kara’s best friend is getting married in a week and Kara is in the wedding! While at the pre-wedding party, Kara is shocked and infuriated to see her first love, Ryan Thompson, walking in. It turns out Ryan is a childhood friend of the groom and is also one of the groomsmen. His abrupt arrival is the jolt that Kara’s creative writing processs needs. As soon as the two break apart for the night, Kara begins working on her steamy historical romance and is surprised to see that she has actually written workable material.

Kara admits to herself that being around Ryan may be the only way that she will actually finish her book on time (and pay her bills)! Ryan is her unexpected muse and Kara decides to throw herself directly in his path. Even though she needs Ryan to finish her book, Kara isn’t sure if she can stand to be in his presence, given their troubled, murky past. The two push each others’ buttons, but their rekindled romance may be the saving grace she needs in all aspects of her life.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Ali Hazelwood’s debut novel The Love Hypothesis is the start to a new contemporary romance series. Hazelwood’s books all center around women in STEM and academia, which represents her life. Hazelwood is originally from Italy, then lived in Japan and Germany, and after that she moved to the US to pursue a PhD in neuroscience. She is now a professor (and author).

Olive Smith is a third-year PhD candidate at Stanford. She’s not a fan of romantic relationships – they just aren’t her thing. Science has always been there for her, so lasting romance doesn’t interest her. Slight problem though: she did have a boyfriend for a while that it turns out her best friend has a major crush on. In order to finally convince her best friend that she really doesn’t care if she dates Olive’s ex-boyfriend, Olive needs to get a new boyfriend stat. A ‘real’ boyfriend isn’t in the cards, so Olive does the next best thing: she panics and kisses the first man she sees.

Utter disaster. Well, the kiss wasn’t that bad, but the man she kissed – a whole other story. She planted her lips on Adam Carlsen, a young professor who is known throughout her department to be utterly rude and condescending, especially to the students in his labs. Forced to explain why she forced herself upon him, Olive is stunned when Dr. Carlsen agrees to keep up the pretense and be her fake boyfriend. Rumors swirl around campus, putting Adam and Olive into very awkward positions with other faculty, students, and friends.

The more they get to know each other, the more Olive thinks that this experiment may not be a bad idea. Especially when they are thrown together at a big conference and in addition to the surprise of his six-pack abs, Adam proves to be incredibly supportive when Olive’s life starts to crumble. There are bigger things at play than just biology: Olive may have to deal with the feelings that are starting to creep into their relationship.

The second book in this series, Love on the Brain, is set to be published in August 2022.

This book is also available in the following format:

Love Hypothesis series

  1. The Love Hypothesis
  2. Love on the Brain (will be published in August 2022)

 

Romance Reads: Kiss Quotient series by Helen Hoang

Helen Hoang is a New York Times bestselling author of the Kiss Quotient series: The Kiss Quotient, The Bride Test, and The Heart Principle. While these books are considered a series, they are loosely connected and do not require you to read the previous books in order to understand the later books. These books are also steamy romance reads. Helen has been obsessed with romance books since eighth grade. She currently lives in San Diego with her family.

What drew me to Helen Hoang’s novels is her relationship with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In 2016, Helen was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, specifically what was previously known as Asperger’s syndrome. In each of her books, at least one of the main characters is diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Helen’s knowledge of this disorder is clearly present when she writes each of those characters and how they interact with the world.

The Kiss Quotient is the first book in this series. Stella Lane loves math. She believes that math is the only thing that makes the universe make sense. In her job, Stella comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases. Her job gives her more money than she knows what to do with, but unfortunately doesn’t help her at all in the dating department. You see, Stella has Asperger’s syndrome. She doesn’t necessarily want to date, but recognizes that she needs practice. She is wealthy and successful, but one-on-one interactions with people are awkward for her.

Wanting to get more practice, Stella decides to hire a professional, escort Michael Phan. She wants Michael to teach her how to be a good girlfriend and comes up with a detailed lesson plan of what she wants to learn. Michael has mounting bills and a hard rule that he doesn’t take repeat customers. When Stella presents him with an unconventional proposal, he decides that he can’t turn her down. What starts as a no-nonsense partnership starts changing when they fall into a pattern. Michael and Stella spend more time together, learning more about each other as they work through Stella’s list. Stella starts to grow on Michael, while Stella learns that love isn’t something that can be quantified.

These titles are also available in large print, as OverDrive eBooks, and as OverDrive eAudiobooks. Visit our catalog to find those other formats!

Kiss Quotient Series

  1. The Kiss Quotient (2018)
  2. The Bride Test (2019)
  3. The Heart Principle (2021)

Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley gives an honest take on the wedding planning process with her graphic novel, Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride. As a bride to be myself, I was intrigued to see how Knisley described the year leading up to her wedding. Planning a wedding can feel stressful, exciting, nerve racking, and sometimes impossible to do. Knisley uses her graphic novel skills to lay it all out for all of those who may be entering the whirlwind of wedding planning.

Knisley begins her novel with some background of how she and her husband, John met and ended  up engaged. They met while Knisley was completing art school and as their relationship developed, they realized they wanted different things in life. After being apart for a few years with meeting each other in between, John randomly popped the question and Knisley said yes.

Throughout her memoir, Knisley goes into detail about her wedding planning process. She emphasizes to the reader that a traditional wedding isn’t for everybody (and if you like traditional, that’s okay!) For example, Knisley’s mother lives in a rural area and built a barn for their ceremony and reception. Knisley also created her own decorations and table settings to express her creative side. She did the traditional things like shopping for the perfect dress with her friends and family, arguing with her mother about the type of music for the reception, and staying up late to finish guest lists with her fiancé. Alongside Knisley illustrations, she added photographs from her year of wedding planning.

At the end of the day, Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride lets the reader into her own private world of wedding planning. It made me feel a little less anxious about my own planning endeavors.

This was my first graphic novel by Knisley. I enjoyed her honest and confessional writing style. Her other graphic novels follow this style as well. Here are a few we own at the library worth taking a look at: Relish, Kid Gloves, and Displacement.