4.5 stars

Friends to lovers! Second chance romance! Homecoming story! Small town charm! I was pretty much destined to love this, and I DID.

God, this was just the sweetest romance. There is so much that I loved about it. First and foremost, the romance itself: Morgan and Rachel are so incredibly cute together. What I always look for in a romance is a sense that the characters need to be together; like if I’m not rooting for them, then what even is the point of reading the romance to begin with? And listen, I was rooting for Morgan and Rachel so hard!!!! You really get a feel for how much history they have–I loved the little tidbits we got of their time together as kids and teens–and that history translates so well into the dynamic that they come to have as adults. They care for each other so deeply, and you see it in every one of their scenes, in the big moments and in the small ones–and Kae is especially good at writing those small moments, too, the little things and details that, to me, speak so much louder than the big, punchy moments often do.

Aside from the romance, there are also so many other things that impressed me about this novel. For one, the narrative voice is pitch perfect. I feel like when it comes to narrative voice, a lot of the contemporary romances I’ve read try really hard to be quirky and funny in a way that ends up being offputting rather than charming. You feel like they’re trying really hard because they are trying really hard. I never felt like that was the case here, though. Morgan’s narrative voice was just right all the way through: fun in a way that gives the narrative levity without it feeling forced or cringey.

Another thing that stood out to me about In the Event of Love is how it manages to effectively develop a sense of community with memorable side characters and plots. The story is set in a small, tight-knit town in the winter, and Kae does such a great job at bringing to life the charming ~vibes~ of this town. It’s a setting I normally don’t gravitate towards–I was never a Cozy Winter kind of person–but it just worked so well here. Plus you’ve got a host of other side characters that get their chance to shine–namely Morgan’s friends, Ben and Adam (I can’t wait for their book!!!!), and her dad–without detracting from or overpowering the main romantic plotline.

I don’t know what else to say–I just loved this a whole lot. It flows well, it’s well paced and well written, and it’s a debut to boot, which makes it that much more impressive. You can really tell just how much time and care has gone into this book, and that translates into such an endearing and moving reading experience. It’s one thing for a book to make me cry because it’s sad, but for a book to make me cry because it’s happy?? That’s when I know I have a new favourite on my hands.

Thanks so much to Kensington Books for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!

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As soon as I heard that this was inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion I was on board. Alas, this turned out to be just an okay read for me.

On paper, The Hellion and the Hero has all the right ingredients for a great angsty read: it’s a second chance romance, the hero and the heroine met and fell for each other many years prior, and the book begins with them meeting again to investigate some threats that the female lead, Georgiana, has been receiving. Even beyond that, the fact that this is inspired by Persuasion–THE angsty second chance romance that started it all–tells you all that you need to know.

And yet, I just didn’t feel like that angst was there. The Hellion and the Hero played out like a pretty run-of-the-mill romance; I didn’t dislike anything about it per se, but I also wanted it to evoke more from me. As a romance, it just wasn’t emotional enough. I wanted more from the characters: more drama, more development, more conflict. I love second chance romances so much exactly because they make such great setups for angsty, well-developed relationships–and that’s why I was kind of disappointed by this one, in the end. It had all the parts of a really solid romance, but they just didn’t come together in the story’s execution.

All of this makes me sound quite critical of The Hellion and the Hero, but in all honesty I didn’t dislike this book; it’s certainly not bad in any way. At this point, I would mention some examples of things from the book that I enjoyed–thing is, The Hellion and the Hero just wasn’t memorable enough for me to able to do that. There weren’t any particular scenes or lines from it that really stood out to me. What I will say about it, then, is that it’s a quick read, great if you want a historical romance set in a more unconventional time period (early 1900s London, but also Monte Carlo).

Altogether, I can’t help but come away from The Hellion and the Hero feeling disappointed because I know that Emily Sullivan can write angst. I adored A Rogue to Remember, the first book in this series, precisely because it was so deliciously angsty. That being said, I’m definitely going to continue to read anything that Emily Sullivan releases in the future; her writing is really promising, and I’m hoping that I’m able to read another book of hers that makes me feel as much as A Rogue to Remember did.

Thanks so much to Forever for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!

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The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy tries to do a lot of things–to be romantic, to be poignant, to be funny–and it’s not that it fails at those things, exactly, but that it doesn’t quite succeed at them, either.

On paper, The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy is a novel that should’ve been–and that I very much expected to be–an instant favourite. But the execution really let me down here. It attempts a lot, but the writing just doesn’t sustain or hold up all the things it’s attempting. First, the romance: again, on paper all the elements were there, but in practice they didn’t come together–which is a shame, because it really was poised to be such a great romance. For one, there’s the fact that it’s based on You’ve Got Mail, which is one of my all time favourite movies. For another, it’s also such a great setup in general: the enemies-to-lovers, epistolary-romance, dramatic-irony of it all. For me, though, it didn’t quite work. I didn’t really get why the characters hated each other–the novel does eventually tell us why, but its explanation felt flimsy and not very believable given that these characters have disliked each other for 4 whole years–and then when they did stop hating each other, it felt way too abrupt and not organic enough of a development. The novel spends a lot of time in the beginning setting up the characters’ letters to each other, and the letters were nice, but nothing about them really struck me as especially moving or special either. The word I keep reaching for is generic: the letters were nice, sure, but they just never surprised or moved me in any way. (That the romance is inspired by/retells You’ve Got Mail doesn’t do the novel any favours because You’ve Got Mail does it all–the setup, the characters, the dialogue, the conflict, the resolution–so much better.) (Then again it is one of my all time favourite movies, so a lot to live up to there, I guess.)

What I felt about the romance–that it was lackluster, that it was more than a bit disappointing–I pretty much felt about the rest of the novel. The worldbuilding was fine, the plot was fine, but neither elicited anything in particular from me, and they both felt a bit cobbled together in their execution. Had I been more invested in the romance, I wouldn’t have minded the weak worldbuilding or plot–I can forgive a novel a lot if I feel drawn to its characters and/or their relationships–but because I wasn’t, those weaker elements stood out to me all the more.

I think what it comes down to for me is that this novel was really missing a strong sense of narrative voice. (Or maybe that its narrative voice just wasn’t to my taste.) Frankly, I don’t care about the plot or worldbuilding stuff all that much–or at least, I only care about it up to a point. What I’m really here for is the characters, and I just didn’t feel like these characters were that distinct or impressionable. I could tell what The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy was trying to do as a novel, but at the same time I could also tell that what it was trying to do wasn’t working for me. I can see this novel working for a lot of readers–and again, it wasn’t a complete write-off for me–but as a whole it just lacked that strong sense of personality that’s at the forefront of the kind of books that I tend to love.

Thanks so much to Orbit for providing me with an e-ARC of this via NetGalley!

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