This lovely YA/NA anthology holds five m/m romance stories about the lives and loves of young men trying to find out how to be true to themselves. The stories were all very different, some funny, some more heartfelt, but they were all such sweet and well-written tales about coming out and letting your best friend or neighbor long time crush know how you really feel.
In David by M. Tasia we get to meet David at his last day of high school, when his longtime boyfriend dumps him out of the blue. Depressed, he takes on a job remodeling a remote lake house for the summer. While slowly getting over the depression, David realizes that the person he misses the most isn’t actually his ex boyfriend, but his best friend, Jacob. So when Jacob pays him a surprise visit, David must carefully navigate his new feelings while trying to find out how Jacob feels about him without risking their friendship. This was such a sweet and heartwarming story about realizing that the thing you’ve wanted the most has been right under your nose the whole time, and how to risk it all for a chance of true love and happiness.
No Bunny Like You by Susan Mac Nicol was a funny and witty story, but it didn’t get me as invested in the characters as the others did. Colin has been checking his hot neighbor Dashiell out, spying on him dancing shirtless in his room, but has never worked up the nerve to talk to him. Not until Colin was assigned as the neighborhood Easter bunny and fell into the water while swooning over Dashiell and almost drowned. Only to be saved by the very reason for falling into the water… There were some parts of this story that didn’t really sit well with me, like the spying thing that came a bit too close to creepy stalking and the insta-love part. But those things set apart, it was an entertaining story with some really hilarious moments.
In Homecoming by Emily Mims, newcomer Clay is immediately drawn to his acting class mate Justin and can’t believe his luck when he’s gay and interested in him too. But complicated family dynamics put pressure on them both about keeping their feelings secret and obstructs their plans to go to homecoming together. This was one of my favorite stories, but I had some issues at first with the way Justin put pressure on Clay to come out. Forcing some one to come out is never okay, even if the reason for it is that you want the person to be proud of himself and for you to shout out to the world how much you love him. But the ending more than well made up for that, so all in all it was a sweet, heartwarming and hopeful story.
Hold The Line by Kitty Bardot was such a beautiful story about being loved for who you are, and for not underestimating the love and support from your friends. Terry is the defensive lineman, devoting his life on the field to protecting his best friend Chris, and his life outside it to hiding his secret crush on him. But when push comes to more than a shove, Chris gives Terry the greatest gift of all. My absolute favorite story of them all!
Shake Me Down by Elle Wright was a cute opposites-attract tale when the attraction between nerdy genius Zach is reciprocated by the new cool player Everett, who might not be as experienced as he likes everyone to believe… The romance felt a bit too fast and unrealistic to be as gripping as it could have been, but I’m always a fan of opposites-attract stories and the nerd getting the hot guy, so it was nevertheless a highly enjoyable read.
This was a very solid collection with stories that were all highly entertaining, yet all very different, and all with added depths or twists and with a wonderful flow. The only minor complaints I have are that the stories didn’t really feel like YA ones in the way they were written, they were more stories about young persons but for an older audience, and that the romances were a bit too instalove because of the short format.
But all in all, I truly enjoyed this anthology and the honest and heartwarming way it showed the challenges that, sadly, are still a reality for so many persons. All stories dealt with different aspects of the challenge to come out, but in a hopeful way that left you feeling warm at heart, and with characters to root for. Highly recommended!
Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read this lovely book! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
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Susan Mac Nicol
This is an awkward, heartwarming, moving and authentic YA coming-of-age story of a teenage boy with Tourette’s Syndrome dealing with girls, kissing, first love and all its confusions. I really appreciated the neurodivergent perspective and the insights to the frustrations and problems with anxiety and uncontrollable tics. It was such a raw and honest portrait of a shy and socially awkward, yet strong and brave, teenager trying to figure out life and love, even though the means to an end were a bit unconventional.
The story follows Stephen Luckie, who’s always been feeling different and awkward and who’s been bullied for most parts of his life due to his tics caused by Tourette’s Syndrome. But at a party his best friend forces him to go to, a spinning-the-bottle game makes him get kissed by a girl for the first time. Much to his surprise, he finds that while kissing his body goes still and there are no awkward tics at all. His friend therefore comes up with the brilliant plan to treat this as an experiment and get Stephen to kiss as many girls as he can to prove the theory that he is tic-free when kissing someone. But the experiment soon gets out of hand, and Stephen ends up with two girls interested in him for real, and having to question what kind of person he is to take advantage of others for his own gain without respect for their feelings.
I really enjoyed the different concept of the story, and the insights to what life is like for a teenager with Tourette’s Syndrome. But I have to admit that I didn’t always understand or agree with the choices Stephen made or how he reacted. There were so many times I blushed and squealed at all the embarrassing things he did. The selfish and immature way he acted in some situations also made him a little less likable as a main character unfortunately. There were so many times I wanted to say the words that Stephen’s dad told him:
“It’s about time you grow up and take responsibility for your actions, Stephen. You have to quit using your Tourette’s as a crutch.”
But on the other hand, I’m so glad that Heather Truett allowed Stephen to completely be himself that way, not shying away from his flaws and less likable traits, and letting him go through real-life problems with anxiety, lack of confidence, bad judgment and heart-break. I just wished that Stephen would have behaved a little more honorable and been a more likable character, and that I had felt more invested in the love story. I think there would have needed some more chemistry and that Stephen’s love interest would have been a more multidimensional character to root for. Unfortunately, all the other characters besides Stephen were stereotypes and one-dimensional with little character development.
But all in all, Kiss and Repeat was a great insight into the life of a neurodivergent teenager, with a fun and different plot and a fresh take with a male protagonist in a YA romance.
Thank you Xpresso Book Tours and NetGalley for the ARC and blog tour invitation for this wonderful book! All opinions are my own and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
3.5 adorkable stars rounding up to 4.
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This was such an addictive, angsty and swooning second-chance, forbidden love m/m romance! I loved the diversity, the family bonds, the thrilling finance world setting and the heart-warming childhood friends-to-lovers plot, but most of all the message about finding out what you really need and want in your life and being brave enough to risk losing it all for love and happiness.
Danny Ip is the big shot private equity investor, a true investor shark, who’s worked his way up from his poor childhood to the absolute top of the Canadian finance world. He didn’t do it all on his own though, but had help along the way from his childhood best friend Wei Lok’s supportive family. For long he’d truly enjoyed being married to his work with its thrills and the luxury that came with the big money, but lately he’s started to feel burned out and has begun to slip. To not lose his position he needs to pull himself together and close the new deal, the acquisition of WesTec from the infamous Cyrus West.
Tobin Lok is the younger brother of Danny’s best friend Wei and has been almost like a younger brother to Danny himself. Tobin’s feelings for Danny have never been of the brotherly kind though, and at Wei’s bachelor party seven years ago his dreams about Danny became real in a drunken hook-up. The happiness was short though, as Danny left during the night full of guilt and did his best to avoid Tobin ever since. Until they suddenly meet at WesTec, both working with the company but on different sides, and the forbidden attraction is back with a burning intensity.
This book had so many things I love like second chances, forbidden love, strong family bonds and wonderful friends. I also really loved the diversity both in regard to the LGBTQIA+ representation and the Asian characters. There was also the right amount of angst and a burning attraction, and some truly amazing character developments, as well as really interesting insights to the private equity world. I rooted so much for both Danny and Tobin from the start. Their love was so obvious and strong, and I so wanted them to get the happiness they deserved that at times I almost wanted to scream at them both to just be brave and take a chance on each other, and not let the respect for Wei and his parents stop them.
The only minor objection I have to their romance was how the book took a jump from a sweet romance to being quite explicit sexually, but that’s just my personal reaction and I can certainly understand how other readers might appreciate these hot scenes more. I also had some issue with the subplot with Cyrus West and how he was such an one-dimensional villain (it would have been enough that he was a homophobic jerk, the extra stuff with his bad divorce and the trafficking/minor sex parts felt a bit too much). It didn’t sit very well with me how the main characters found out about Cyrus West being a sexual predator and never acted on it. It made me feel a little less for them that they just shrugged it off and never thought about reporting it to the police or anything. And then there was the issue with how the love story started and the ‘almost-being-brothers-growing-up’-aspect. It’s always a fine balance with this trope, especially since there was a quite substantial age gape between Tobin and Danny, but all along the story Hudson Lin did a wonderful job keeping this balance. I’m very happy that Tobin was 19 at their first hook-up, so that there were never any uncomfortable underage issues.
All in all, Hard Sell, was such an addictive, emotional and highly enjoyable story about second chances and overcoming barriers for a chance to find love and happiness. I can’t wait to continue the Jade Harbour Capital series with Ray’s story in the next book!
Thank you to Carina Adores and NetGalley for the ARC and blog tour invitation for this wonderful book! All opinions are my own and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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Happy Book Birthday to It Goes Like This by Miel Moreland! This heartfelt, second chance queer pop band story and its characters have completely captured my heart! I wish there was a playlist for this book, I’m such a fan of a band that doesn’t even exist... It Goes Like This is a wholesome, tender and emotional story about love and friendship, heartbreak and life changing crises, music and creativity, and big dreams versus the small things in life that truly matters.
The story follows the four former members of a queer girl band - Eva, Celeste, Gina and Steph – one and a half year after ‘Moonlight Overthrow’ was disbanded. But it was not just the band that ended, also the secret relationship between Eva and Celeste was ruined by the messy breakup. All four of them went their separate ways – Celeste as a Grammy-awarded solo artis, Gina as a superstar actress, Eva as a songwriter and college student and Steph returning to her hometown to become their true nonbinary self away from the spotlights and the boundaries set by being in a ‘girl’ band – and haven’t spoken since their last band performance. But when a huge storm hits their old hometown, they decide to reunite the band for a charity concert for the victims and awkwardly meet up again.
The story is told from the four members alternating POVs and in two parallel tracks, jumping between present and past to reveal how the band was formed, how Eva and Celeste fell in love and how everything eventually fell apart. I really loved this way of slowly revealing the backstory, the developments of the different relationships and the problems and misunderstandings leading to the break-up. I especially appreciated how the story showed Steph’s transition in such a nuanced and authentic way.
Miel Moreland’s writing style was incredible and with a wonderful flow and pacing. It pulled me in from the very first moment, making me root for the characters and intrigued me to find out why the band broke up and the backstory of each character. I really enjoyed the way Miel Moreland used Twitter and Tumblr posts to show the intersection between real life and fandom and how things get misinterpreted and can spin out of control in the blink of an eye.
The story was so inclusive and empowering with its amazing queer diversity. Eva and Celeste were lesbians, Gina bi and Steph was pan and non-binary, and they were all open and proud about who they were. They were all such three dimensional and authentic characters and there was so much chemistry between them as a band. I rooted so for all four of them, and hoped with all my heart that they would get back to being friends again and for Eva and Celeste to be even more than that…
All in all, this was a wonderful, inclusive, heartfelt and addictive story about finding your path in life and about second chances, friendship that survives anything and found families. I absolutely adored the amazing array of queer characters who all felt authentic and real, the unique story and the music references (is it possible to be in fandom for a fictional band that doesn’t exist?) and know that I will remember this book ‘til the moon crashes into the sea’. I recommend this queer masterpiece with all my heart!
Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours and NetGalley for the ARC and blog tour invitation for this fabulous book! All opinions are my own and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
5 brilliant stars
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I absolutely adored this book! Kate In Wating is a sweet, tender and emotional story about friendship, crushes and high school musicals. I binge-read this cutie, so smitten by the wonderful characters and fun and charming story.
The story follows best friends Kate and Anderson, who do just about everything together; drive to school, audition for the school musicals, even crush on the same guys... But they’d never let anything get between them. At least not until Matt, their mutual summer crush, suddenly starts in their school and stars the musical. The problem is that the crush turns into something much more, for both of them, and that it might end up destroying Kate and Andy’s apparently not-so-indestructible-anymore friendship.
This book is one of Becky Albertalli’s absolute best! It’s up on my top together with Simon vs. It was so cute and fun, and I loved the musical theatre references and all the representation, but most of all the wonderful, fleshed out characters. I loved that the main focus was on the friendship between Kate and Anderson, and not on the romance. I also loved the wonderful group of friends, and the sibling relationship between Kate and her brother Ryan.
I do have two minor complaints though. The first one is the repetitive use of the word, and the perfunctory labeling of characters, as ‘fuckboys’. I don’t mind the word as such, but the excessive use of the word was quite annoying, and it’s not like Becky Albertalli to put labels on people simply based on who they hang out with, so I was quite disappointed by that aspect of the book. My second complaint was that Matt felt a bit flat and one-dimensional as the object for both Kate’s and Anderson’s crushes. He was really sweet, but his character wasn’t explored enough for us readers to really get to know him.
But those minor complaints set aside, this book was such a delightful and entertaining YA rom com with so many other amazing characters to root for! Anderson was such a sweetheart who immediately stole my heart, and Kate was so relatable in her doubts and anxiety and felt so fleshed out and authentic in the way she alternated between being selfish and jealous and being supportive and wanting to put Anderson’s happiness before her own. And her bantering with Noah was so sweet and hilarious! Honestly, I just wanted her to see Noah instead of Matt the whole time… Next to Kate and Anderson he was my favorite character!
All in all, this was such a delightful, sweet, adorkable and wonderful YA story about first love, friendship and stage fright. It was full of humor, witty conversations, hilarious situations and relatable characters with so many flaws, over-the-top feelings and vulnerability, showing the problems to navigate through high school while being true to who you are. Highly recommended!
4.5 dazzling stars rounding up to 5
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I love Beth Bolden’s adorable, sweet and heartwarming m/m foodie romances, and this third book in the Food Truck Warriors series did not disappoint. Not at all. I binge-read this sweet, frenemies to lovers, second chance romance in just a few hours - that’s how addictive it was!
The Food Truck Warriors series follows a group of gay food truck owners in LA, but each book can be read as a standalone as they focus on different characters and their relationships each time. However, I really do love the way Beth Bolden keeps giving us glimpses of the characters from her previous books and how she’s created her own universe by weaving her stories and characters together without making the story plot less understandable if you’d jump straight into this one as your first read. This time, the story followed the two characters we’ve met as the two combatants in the previous books (if you have read the previous books you are probably already familiar with their meet ball incident…), Gabriel Moretti and Sean Cooper.
Two years ago, Gabriel and Sean both named their food trucks the exact same name – On A Roll – and since neither of them wanted to give in and change the name, they ended up as enemies, constantly fighting. But is it really only the disagreement about a name that keeps pulling them towards each other? Don’t they both enjoy the fighting and bickering a little too much… couldn’t it be that for them fighting is actually flirting, and what they really crave is each other? When they are faced with an ultimatum to change the name and try to settle it over a couple of drinks, their buried chemistry is sudden out in the open and much more becomes at stake than just a food truck name.
I absolutely loved the frenemies to lovers trope, it was so well executed, and their fighting/bantering turning into smoking hot attraction was so fun and addictive! I also really appreciated the background stories that Beth Bolden slowly revealed, explaining the tragedy behind Sean’s reason for his food truck name, and Gabriel’s need to distance himself and find his own path away from his family heritage. The way Sean didn’t think he deserved love again was so heartbreaking, as was the way Gabriel let himself be completely honest and vulnerable. He really wore his heart on his sleeve and put himself out there for Sean when he learned about the tragedy, even though Sean tried to keep his protective walls up.
Compared to the previous two books in the series, the story was perhaps a little bit thinner and without the major emotional rollercoasters and suspense. But all in all, On A Roll was a heartwarming and charming, sweet and romantic, and very sexy, story about second chances and being brave enough to reveal your most vulnerable self for a chance of true love and happiness.
Thank you to Gay Book Promotions for the ARC and blog tour invitation! All opinions are my own and I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.
4.5 adorable stars rounding up to 5.
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A lifelong Pacific Northwester, Beth Bolden has just recently moved to North Carolina with her supportive husband. Beth still believes in Keeping Portland Weird, and intends to be just as weird in Raleigh.
Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. She’s published twenty-three novels and seven novellas.
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Red, White & Royal Blue swept me away the first time I read it in 2019. I called it a
“a queer, political/royal romcom masterpiece” and a book that had it all and was “a swooning gay romance, with great dialogue, enemies-turning-to-lovers, old traditions that need to be challenged, wonderful siblings and sassy friends,” and that it was “a hilarious, witty, tender, thoughtful and devastatingly heartfelt story that dealt with difficult topics in a both honest and fun way, and a story that gives you hope for a better world,” and that I loved it with all my heart! So, how do I feel after rereading it? Well, I didn’t think i was possible, but I’m even more in love with it! This amazing book with it’s lovable and relatable characters and their vulnerability, and the positivity, and the larger than life love affair, truly is a masterpiece! A future classics!
I don’t think I need to talk too much about the story, it’s so well-known by now, but in brief: Americas First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry of Wales have had a beef since they med at the Olympics when Alex was eighteen and Henry ignored him.
The characters are so loveable. Not just Alex and Prince Henry, but I also love Alex’s parents and his sister Julia and friend Nora (“The White House Trio”) and Henry’s sister Bea and the White House staff. Casey McQuiston does such an amazing job in making them feel real and making you love them. And there were so many wonderful scenes and twists and dialogues. The writing is so good and fun! Easy banter, sassy retorts, just everything you could possibly wish for.
Still, there are so many emotions in this book. So much love and vulnerability, friendship, angst, and the hardship and struggle of finding out who you are and stay true to that or remaining closeted. In fact, Alex doesn’t even realize that he is bi until he falls for Henry.
You can read my full swooning review from my first read here: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
But this time around I also watched the beautiful fanart created by Venessa Kelley while reading the book.
If you haven’t yet read this book, please don’t continue to watch the art below as it might contain spoilers!
She truly made the story come even more to life, and absolutely nailed all characters and scenes. Don’t you agree when looking at the pictures below? Starting with the hilarious cake disaster that forced Alex and Henry together for a fake friend scheme... And then two of my favorite scenes, which are the first kiss and the red room scene with Alex showing Henry that he’s into him too, followed by the polo scene (“Oh my God, what are you doing? I can’t even look at you.”).
The lake scene is one of the most heart-wrenching ones, with Alex about to give Henry his heart, but Henry getting scared and closing his, then ghosting Alex. So emotional, almost more the second time around.
And of course, the last piece of art showing of the happy ending. “They take about a hundred portraits just sitting next on the bench next to each other and smiling.” I can’t look at it without getting this huge smile all over my face! I’m so happy that they dared to give their hearts away and got to change history and find true love and happiness!
My biggest wish now is that this book is turned into a movie or Netflix series ASAP! Otherwise, I might need to reread it again...
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This was such a fun, witty and addictive reimagination of American history into an alternative world where General George Washington was crowned after the Revolutionary War, and there’d been an American royal family ever since. It didn’t use the plotline as such to really add something new to the political discussion, but it was a highly enjoyable, feisty and entertaining soap opera with so much drama that I was completely hooked from the very first page!
The story follows the three royal siblings Crown Princess Beatrice and the younger twins Princess Samantha and Prince Jefferson, as well as their closest friends Nina and Jefferson’s ex girlfriend Daphne, and was told through their alternating POVs. There wasn’t that much of a plot to be honest, but more than enough drama nevertheless, with love triangles, secret relationships, scheming, jealousy and confusion, to keep up the suspense. I really enjoyed the different personalities of the characters (except one) and to get all of their individual stories. My favorite was definitely Beatrice and her struggles with everyone’s expectations and being forced into a life by birth, not by choice, and how she was raised to always put America’s best before her own.
“From now on, you are two people at once: Beatrice the girl, and Beatrice, heir to the Crown. When they want different things, the Crown must win. Always.”
I really appreciated how the not-so-glamorous sides to being royal were showed, and the discussions on gender inequality and sexism within monarchies. I think the story would have benefited from one less POV, to be able to go a bit deeper into the other three character’s stories, and if both Samantha’s and Beatrice’s romances could have been given some more building-up time. As it was now, we were suddenly told that they were in love, but didn’t really get to experience the awakening of the feelings. Especially in Samantha’s case it felt very unrealistic that one kiss would make her head over heels in love and certain that ‘he’ (keeping it vague to not risk any spoilers) was the big love of her life. I would have liked some more early interactions between them to make the romance believable.
But overall, this was a fun, fast-paced, highly enjoyable and completely addictive story that reminded me a lot of Gossip Girl in the way it was told. It’s not a book that will stay on your mind for long, but it was certainly good entertainment for the moment, and I can’t wait to continue this series!
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This was such a wonderful and gripping story about a family tragedy and how to pick up the pieces to start a new life, about family bonds and sibling love, about grief, breakdowns and hope.
The story follows the two siblings Tony and Lucy as they lose their parents in a car crash. Tony is a champion diver attending college, and Lucy is his younger sister who still lives at home and only seems to care about music and her band. Not having been close before, they are now forced to overcome past conflicts and rely on each other to shape a new future together. But as if losing their parents and having to move in together in a small college flat wasn’t enough, they both struggle with secrets haunting them. Tony is doing everything he can to hide his crush on his best friend Jake, and Lucy pretends to not remember the accident to not have to reveal a secret that might make her lose the only person she has left who loves her. When not even music can give her comfort and ease anymore, she picks up drinking and partying as her life becomes a downward spiral.
I immediately rooted for Tony and the way he put his life on hold to step up as a guardian for his younger sister. And the emotional and angsty relationship with Jake was so sweet and swoon-worthy! I have to admit that I struggled to feel truly connected with Lucy though. She wasn’t as likeable as Tony and came across as quite selfish the way she treated her friends. But at the same time, I felt so much for her enormous struggles with guilt and grief, and the feeling of being left alone in the whole world. And there was also some amazing character development that made me warm to her in the end.
All in all, this was a truly heart-wrenching and gripping story about grief, survival, teenage confusion, love and friendship that got me completely hooked. I binged it all in one night, that’s how addictive it was!
Thank you to the author Kate Larkindale for providing me with an ebook copy! All opinions are my own and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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This was such an addictive, intense, fast-paced and highly enjoyable read with so much more going on below the surface than I first expected! The story was like a mix of Gossip Girl, The Cruel Prince (without the fairy setting) and Paper Princess, and the characters were amazing, complex and relatable and with so many flaws, secrets and hidden sorrows and problems behind their glamourous appearances that you couldn’t help rooting for them all!
The story follows two of the students at the elite college Arthur Academy - new scholarship girl Hendrix and school king Paxton - and is told from their different POVs. Hendrix has survived a childhood full of abuse and daily beatings by her father and is now ready to finally start building a life for herself. Paxton on the other hand is part of the Arthur Elite and on the surface has everything you could ever want - wealth, friends, girls swooning over him - but is loathing his life as his father’s pawn and the threats his father makes against his mother if Paxton does not do exactly what his father wants.
At a quick glance, this might seem like an ordinary high school bully romance, but just as Paxton keeps saying to Hendrix about his life, “not everything is as it seems”, and this book very cleverly evolved into so much more. It was such a swooning slow-burn bad-rich-boy-good-poor-girl-can’t-help-falling-for-each-other story - almost a Romeo and Juliet kind of romance - and with characters that completely stole my heart. I really loved the alternating POVs and how it made it possible to get a glimpse into each of Hendrix’s and Paxton’s heads and really understand what they were thinking and how they were affected by each other. No matter how cliché it might be, I do have a soft spot for missunderstood bad boys with hidden good hearts, so after a rough start Paxton really won me over... There were also so many other wonderful and complex characters that I rooted for, like Hendrix’s new friend Luce, and Paxton’s best friend Austin, who were both so loyal and supportive. I loved getting to know more about their backgrounds and secrets and struggles.
All in all, this was an addictive, fast-paced and highly entertaining story with a swoon-worthy romance, unexpected twists and turns, wonderful friendships and complex characters to love and hate, and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series to find out what happens next!
Thank you to Xpresso Book Tours for the ARC and blog tour invitation for this fabulous book! All opinions are my own and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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