Romance Reads: Part of Your World series by Abby Jimenez

“Grace costs you nothing”
― Abby Jimenez, Part of Your World

Let me be completely honest here: the reason why I checked out this book is because the title had me singing ‘Part of Your World’ from ‘The Little Mermaid’ movie. One of the main characters also has red hair, so…. it was pretty much a given that I would read this book.

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez is a modern fairy tale, a bit of a reverse Cinderella story. (Bonus: it’s dual points-of-view, so you get to see the story unfold from both main characters’ perspectives, which is a major plus for me in romance novels!) If you like books by Casey McQuiston or Emily Henry, you should like this title (or really anything else by Abby Jimenez). Some content warnings as provided by the author: Emotional abuse by side character, on page gaslighting by side character, and on page physical abuse of a secondary character. Main character is an emergency room doctor – there are brief mentions of fatal accidents of minors, though we don’t see these on the page. Let’s talk about the book!

Alexis Montgomery has grown up knowing exactly what her life will be like. Her parents are extremely wealthy and expect Alexis to carry on the prestigious family legacy of world-renowned surgeons who have been working at the same hospital for 125 years. Alexis is tired though. She’s tired of disappointing her father by being seen as ‘only’ an emergency room doctor in his eyes, even though she does immediate good in her job. Alexis doesn’t want to live up to her family’s dreams anymore, but she doesn’t really have a choice.

On her way from a family funeral, Alexis finds herself stranded outside a small-town. She meets Daniel Grant, a small-town carpenter with his own family legacy. Daniel’s family has lived in the same small town for over 100 years, filling the town’s needs with their giving hearts. He may not have gone to college, but he is perfectly content with his future. When Daniel meets Alexis though, he starts to question what he thought he wanted. After that first night, the two start to spend as much time together as they possibly can. Their lives couldn’t possibly be more different; they are, in fact, worlds apart. From the beginning though, the two feel an instant connection. Living in their happy bubble is not feasible in the long term. It’s only a matter of time before word of their relationship gets out. The fallout of that could destroy everything they have created together.

“Love follows you. It goes where you go. It doesn’t know about social divides or distance or common sense. It doesn’t even stop when the person you love dies. It does what it wants.”
― Abby Jimenez, Part of Your World

This book is also available in the following formats:

Part of Your World series

  1. Part of Your World (2022)
  2. Yours Truly (2023)

The Setup by Lizzy Dent

‘There are two men in my life. But this is not a love triangle.’ – Lizzy Dent, The Setup

The Setup by Lizzy Dent is a romance novel with an interesting twist: the main character, Mara, relies on her horoscope to help guide her in all of her decisions. Mara’s life goals all revolve around her horoscope, but fate, and other people, have other plans for her.

Mara Williams works as a bookkeeper for a crumbling beachside pool club in the English seaside town of Broadgate. Desperate for an escape, Mara and her best friend plan a vacation away. When her best friend backs out at the last minute, Mara decides to go anyway. After a chance meeting with a very pregnant fortune teller, Mara soon finds herself impersonating said fortune teller when Josef, a gorgeous Austrian cellist, walks into the shop for a reading. Convinced that Josef is the one, Mara tells him that his destiny will be in a pub in Broadgate on the last Friday of August. Oh, and her name is Mara.

After coming back home to Broadgate, Mara starts a new project: Project Mara. She has three months to turn herself into the gorgeously stylish and confident woman she has always wanted to be. After all, Josef is her destiny, as proven by her horoscopes. The more she works woards that goal however, the more the universe intervenes. The pool club where Mara works is under threat, so she and her colleagues must work together to save it. Mara’s new flatmate Ash also volunteers to help. He turns out to be funny, kind, and incredibly sexy. Mara starts to doubt whether or not Josef is ‘the one’, but feels as if she must stick to her plan and go to meet Josef at the end of August. The closer she gest to her deadline, the more confused she gets. Will Mara be able to recognize her destiny?

Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan

“Of course there should be an HEA. I’m so sick of this question. It’s a Romance! That’s the deal we make with our readers. It’s misogyny, plain and simple. You don’t see anyone telling Mystery readers they’re silly and unserious for wanting to know by the end of the book who the murderer was. Fuck off.
–June French in Cosmopolitan”
― Julia Whelan, Thank You for Listening

Julia Whelan is one of my favorite audiobook narrators with over 450 audiobook narrations under her belt (she’s probably much closer to 500 by the time of this posting). She is also an author! In 2018, Whelan debuted My Oxford Year and then followed up with Thank You for Listening in August 2022. Her latest book, Thank You for Listening, caught my interest as soon as I read the premise: an audiobook narrator has a one-night stand in Vegas with a stranger and then embarks upon recording a romance novel by a late author who picked her specifically for the project.

Sewanee Chester never thought she would end up being an audiobook narrator, but after a disastrous accident ended her career as an actress, she somehow found herself narrating. Sewanee found satisfaction working in a sound booth. This job also allows her time to care for her grandmother who is ailing. When her boss falls ill, Sewanee flies to Las Vegas to fill in for him at a book convention where she meets a charming stranger and spends a dizzying night with him.

Once back home, Sewanee learns that a late beloved romance novelist wanted her to perform her last book alongside another audiobook narrator, Brock McNight, considered the industry’s hottest voice. He is also incredibly secretive – no one knows who Brock McNight really is. While Sewanee doesn’t necessarily believe in what romance novels are selling, she owes her audiobook career to her initial success as an audiobook narrator. After much debate, Sewanee decides to take on this project.

The more Sewanee and Brock work on the book, the closer they become. Granted they are hiding behind anonymity as both are operating under their pseudonyms. They make a real connection. The longer they work together, Sewanee finds herself dreaming and hoping again. Reality crashes down yet again when secrets are revealed, leaving Sewanee and Brock left standing unsure in their truths. The two must take their own journeys of acceptance as they work together.

Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson

Turns out that reading nothing but true crime isn’t exactly conducive to modern dating — and one woman is going to have to learn how to give love a chance when she’s used to suspecting the worst. – Alicia Thompson, press for Love in the Time of Serial Killers

Love in the Time of Serial Killers is Alicia Thompson’s first novel, published in August 2022. As soon as I saw the press description of this book as well as the tag line, ‘Can true love survive her true crime obsession?’, this immediately became a must-read. Bonus: it’s a romance, so I knew there were going to be some steamy bits. Let’s get into it!

Phoebe Walsh has been obsessed with true crime since as long as she can remember. As a PhD candidate, Phoebe even managed to finagle the English Department into letting her analyze true crime as a genre for her dissertation. Said dissertation is taking her longer than she thought to finish it though, especially now that she has to head to Florida to deal with some family issues. After the death of her father months ago, Phoebe and her younger brother now need to clean out their childhood home. The bulk of the task falls to Phoebe and she’s none too pleased. In addition to having to clean out the house and deal with her precocious younger brother, Phoebe’s complicated emotions regarding her father surge to the surface. She hasn’t had a relationship with her father in years. Being left to clean out his house may be more than she can deal with.

Writing her dissertation isn’t proving to be as much relief as she thought it would be. Thinking about serial killers has fully infiltrated her life so much so that when she first meets her new neighbor, Sam Dennings, she immediately thinks he is a serial killer. Phoebe believes that Sam’s actions at night are suspicious, so he must be up to something. As their relationship progresses, Phoebe realizes that Sam may be something much worse than a serial killer – he might be a nice guy who is willing to take care of her precious vulnerable heart.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

If you, like me, wept cleansing tears after reading Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune, or felt healed playing indie game Coffee Talk, you’ll probably want to try Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. This is an understated tale of magical realism featuring a small and endearing cast of characters, a wry touch of humor, and a deep well of empathetic human insight.

In the interconnected stories of this book, several people with regrets come to the hidden café where (reportedly) you can travel in time. They learn from the café’s quirky staff that it’s true, although there are some rules:

1- you can only travel to the café, nowhere else.

2- no matter what you do in the past, the present will not change.

3- there’s only one seat where you can travel back.

4- you cannot leave the seat while traveling in time or you’ll snap back to the present.

5- you’ll travel back as your cup of coffee is poured, and the effect will only last until the coffee gets cold.

6- you have to drink the whole cup of coffee, or risk becoming a ghost, stuck forever.

For me, this book did take a second to acclimate to; it’s fairly evident by the syntax that it’s been translated from Japanese. There are also different cultural norms to get used to in the characters’ behavior. However, the stories are relatable, and the elements of difference only serve to accentuate that. Readers are likely to come out of this book feeling they’ve glimpsed something essential and real about human existence — and maybe processed some feelings of their own along the way.

If you’ve heard the hype but weren’t sure if it’s worth it (spoilers: it is!), or if you like translated books, quirky characters on emotional journeys, and cool cafés, you should definitely try this book.

‘Twice in a Blue Moon’ by Christina Lauren

“For the first time in my life I get it: home isn’t always a space; it can be a person.”
― Christina Lauren, Twice in a Blue Moon

Twice in a Blue Moon is a standalone novel by Christina Lauren. Christina Lauren is actually two authors: Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. Their books written as Christina Lauren have become my comfort reads when I’m not sure what I want to read. I know that I will enjoy what they have written and my latest read from them didn’t disappoint.

Tate Jones never expected to fall in love on a two week vacation with her grandma in London, but in walked Sam Brandis and his grandpa Luther. Sam was her first love and her first heartbreak. Over those two weeks, Sam and Tate fell head over heels in love. They stayed up late in the garden sharing their hopes, dreams, and secrets. Tate had a life-shattering secret that she had never told anyone, but she decided to share it with Sam. Tate is the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars. She disappeared from the scene years ago, along with her mom, and there has been massive speculation for years about what happened to them both. Sam was the very frst person that she had revealed her identity to. Her trust in him soon proves to be have been a massive mistake when the life she has lived comfortably in for a decade is destroyed in front of her eyes.

Flash forward fourteen years. Tate is now an up-and-coming actress who has been handed the movie script of her dreams. If done correctly, this movie could be her big break. This movie is also the first time that Tate and her father will be acting together. Her nerves are through the roof as their relationship is not as idyllic as it is portrayed to the public. When Tate sets foot on set, the last person she expects to see is her first love, yet there Sam is, looming over everyone, but still as confident and charming as he was all those years ago. Tate feels a pull towards him, even though she has anger for him since he betrayed her. The forced proximity of being on set thrusts the two together many times. Tate’s feelings for Sam become muddled. She must decide if what he did back then could every be justified and if she is willing to move past what he did to her.

This book is also available in the following formats:

‘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: