Review: Made in Manhattan by Lauren Layne

Made in Manhattan by Lauren Layne
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: January 18th 2022
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Central Park Pact comes a reverse My Fair Lady for the modern era about a pampered and privileged Manhattan socialite who must teach an unpolished and denim-loving nobody from the Louisiana Bayou how to fit in with the upper crust of New York City. Perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne.

Violet Townsend has always been a people pleaser. Raised in the privileged world of Upper East Side Manhattan, she always says the right things, wears the right clothes, and never rocks the boat. Violet would do anything for the people closest to her, especially her beloved grandmother. So when she asks Violet to teach the newly-discovered grandson of her friend how to fit in with New York City’s elite, Violet immediately agrees. Her goal? To get Cain Stone ready to take his place as heir to his family company…but to say he’s not exactly an eager student is an understatement.

Born and raised in rural Louisiana and now making his own way in New Orleans, Cain Stone is only playing along for the paycheck at the end. He has no use for the grandmother he didn’t know existed and no patience for the uppity Violet’s attempts to turn him into a suit-wearing, museum-attending gentleman.

But somewhere amidst antagonistic dinner parties and tortured tux fittings, Cain and Violet come to a begrudging understanding—and the uptight Violet realizes she’s not the only one doing the teaching. As she and Cain begin to find mutual respect for one another (and maybe even something more), Violet learns that blindly following society’s rules doesn’t lead to happiness…and that sometimes the best things in life come from the most unexpected places.

I’m a big Lauren Layne fan so when I heard she was releasing a reverse retelling of My Fair Lady, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. Was it everything I was hoping for? …Not quite. It wasn’t a bad read, but I did struggle with our main characters. I liked the idea of this romance, and just wish I could’ve loved it more!

Violet has been asked by her surrogate grandmother to do a makeover for her newly discovered, long-lost grandson. (Violet and Cain are NOT related, lol.) This seems almost an impossible task for the NYC socialite, especially when Cain is very reluctant to go along with any of her suggestions. But he needs to transform himself, to learn how to fit in with the Park Avenue elite, in time to become the new CEO of his family’s company.

Violet and Cain were a bit hard to like for me. She’s snobby and stuck-up, and he’s just plain rude to her all the time. But I liked that they embodied “opposites attract” and they did have some cute banter together. Thankfully, Violet does go through some character growth and I enjoyed her by the end of the book. It was Cain I couldn’t stand and I truly didn’t see why Violet liked him so much.

Still, it’s a quick and easy read, and good if you’re in the light-hearted mood, which Lauren Layne can deliver on. I just had higher expectations for this and it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.


lacey


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Review: The Wedding Game by Meghan Quinn

The Wedding Game by Meghan Quinn
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: March 1st 2021
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

USA Today bestselling author Meghan Quinn’s latest bauble is the charming story of a crafting queen battling a jaded divorce lawyer on a wedding reality show.

Luna Rossi is a veritable crafting genius—she can bedazzle and bead so hard her Etsy site is one of the hottest in the world. So it’s only natural that Luna would convince her brother and his husband-to-be to compete on The Wedding Game, a “do-it-yourself” TV show, for the title of Top DIY Wedding Expert.

As a jaded divorce lawyer, Alec Baxter scoffs at weddings and romance. But when his recently engaged brother begs him to participate in The Wedding Game, Alec grudgingly picks up a glue gun and prepares for some family bonding.

Both fierce competitors, Luna and Alec clash on national TV as harsh words and glitter fly with abandon. But as they bicker over color swatches and mood boards, they find themselves fighting something else: their growing mutual attraction. While Luna is torn between family loyalty and her own feelings, Alec wonders if he might have been wrong about love and marriage all along…

I love romances that center around TV show competitions, but I’ve never read one about a DIY wedding competition! The Wedding Game is a fun, quirky rom-com from Meghan Quinn, featuring a DIY expert and a jaded divorce lawyer who compete to create the ultimate dream wedding for their brothers.

Luna loves her brother Cohen and wants the best for him and his fiancé. So when she see the chance to enter a competition to win a penthouse and dream wedding, she signs them up. With her DIY skills as the owner of a famous Etsy store, she’s sure to win. Alec is a hot-shot lawyer with a strained relationship with his younger brother Thad. Thad used to idolize Alec growing up, since Alec was the only one in their family to take care of him. But now, after leaving Thad to pursue his career and never checking back in, Alec feels guilty and wants a chance to mend their broken relationship. When newly engaged and soon-to-be father Thad asks Alec to join him on The Wedding Game, he can’t say no.

Luna and Alec’s romance is so much fun. It’s a great enemies-to-lovers romance with plenty of banter and bickering, especially while they’re on set and fighting for the number one spot. I enjoyed the slow progression of their romance, and there was some good added drama with trying to keep their new relationship a secret from the TV crew and their brothers. Cohen, Thad, and their respective fiancé(e)s were also really entertaining! They brought so much humor and heart to the story. I didn’t mind at all that they almost stole the spotlight from Luna and Alec’s romance.

The Wedding Game is a great read if you want a light-hearted romance with strong family ties. It’s got a great cast of characters, some silly humor, and a whole TV show competition. Right now I’m really hoping we get a book for Luna and Alec’s best friends!


lacey


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Audiobook Review: The Stand-In by Lily Chu

The Stand-In by Lily Chu
Audiobook Publication Date: June 15th 2021
Length: 10 hours and 55 minutes
Narrated by: Phillipa Soo
Links: Audible • Goodreads
Source: I received an audiobook from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

How to upend your life:

  • Get fired by gross, handsy boss
  • Fail to do laundry (again)
  • Be mistaken for famous Chinese actress
  • Fall head-first into glitzy new world

Gracie Reed is doing just fine. Sure, she was fired by her overly “friendly” boss, and yes, she still hasn’t gotten her mother into the nursing home of their dreams, but she’s healthy, she’s (somewhat) happy, and she’s (mostly) holding it all together.

But when a mysterious SUV pulls up beside her, revealing Chinese cinema’s golden couple Wei Fangli and Sam Yao, Gracie’s world is turned on its head. The famous actress has a proposition: Due to their uncanny resemblance, Fangli wants Gracie to be her stand-in. The catch? Gracie will have to be escorted by Sam, the most attractive – and infuriating – man Gracie’s ever met.

If it means getting the money she needs for her mother, Gracie’s in. Soon Gracie moves into a world of luxury she never knew existed. But resisting Sam, and playing the role of an elegant movie star, proves more difficult than she ever imagined – especially when she learns the real reason Fangli so desperately needs her help. In the end, all the lists in the world won’t be able to help Gracie keep up this elaborate ruse without losing herself…and her heart.

I enjoyed The Stand-In so much! I loved the fun concept of standing in for a celebrity because you’re a lookalike. The audio is narrated so well – Phillipa Soo does an incredible job bringing not just Gracie, but also Sam and Fangli to life. And look at that beautiful cover! If you love romances set in the movie star world with all the glitz and glam (as well as the not-so-glamorous side), I highly recommend you try this audio.

Gracie Reed is our Chinese-Canadian heroine who looks so much like famous Chinese actress Wei Fangli that she’s offered the chance of a lifetime by Fangli to take the movie star’s place temporarily. In exchange for money that will help put Gracie’s mother in a nursing home, Gracie will pretend to be Fangli, go to fancy events, and accompany Fangli’s friend and supposed boyfriend, Sam Yao, who also just happens to be the sexiest man alive. How can a girl say no to all of that?

This story was so much fun! I loved watching Gracie learn how to enter and be a part of this world of wealth and fame. The developing friendship between Gracie and Fangli was lovely to read. As she gets more comfortable in her new role, Gracie also learns that Fangli’s life isn’t as perfect and fancy as she thinks. There are great discussions about anxiety and depression between them.

The romance between Sam and Gracie is definitely a highlight. They are prickly with each other right from the start. Sam is quite judgmental and arrogant but Gracie is quick to knock him off his pedestal. I adored the banter between them and their slow burn enemies-to-lovers romance. Though I will admit that towards the end of the book Gracie asks Sam to do something that made me totally side-eye her.

The Stand-In is an entertaining and surprisingly down-to-earth read. All of the characters have their own flaws but that makes them all the more endearing and relatable. It’s a great audio to pick up!


lacey


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Review: Anne of Manhattan by Brina Starler

Anne of Manhattan by Brina Starler
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: June 1st 2021
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

L. M. Montgomery’s classic tale, Anne of Green Gables, gets a romantic, charming, and hilarious modern adaptation, set in New York City.

After an idyllic girlhood in Avonlea, Long Island, Anne has packed up her trunk, said goodbye to her foster parents, Marilla and Matthew, and moved to the isle of Manhattan for grad school. Together with her best friend, Diana Barry, she’s ready to take on the world and find her voice as a writer.

When her long-time archrival Gilbert Blythe shows up at Redmond College for their final year, Anne gets the shock of her life. Gil has been in California for the last five years—since he kissed her during a beach bonfire, and she ghosted him. Now the handsome brunette is flashing his dimples at her like he hasn’t a care in the world and she isn’t buying it.

Paired with the same professor for their thesis, the two former competitors come to a grudging peace that turns into something so much deeper…and sexier than either intended. But when Gil seemingly betrays her to get ahead, Anne realizes she was right all along—she should never have trusted Gilbert Blythe.

While Gil must prove to Anne that they’re meant to be together, she must come to terms with her old fears if she wants a happily-ever-after with the boy she’s always (secretly) loved.

I love reading modern retellings of classics, so when I saw this debut of Brina Starler’s would be an Anne of Green Gables retelling, I knew I had to read it! I had just finished watching the first season of Anne with an E, so I was all about Anne, Gilbert, and their families. Anne of Manhattan turned out to be a charming, sweet romance that I adored!

Anne and Gilbert are from Avonlea, Long Island, New York, and they have been rivals since they first met. Well, it was rivalry on Anne’s side and an unrequited crush on Gil’s side. But Gil being Gil, his crush lead him to pull at her pigtails, so to speak, to get any kind of attention from Anne, even the negative kind. They end their senior year of high school with a kiss but she misinterprets something he says and thinks this is another prank of his. Anne ghosts Gil until he leaves for California for college, and they never speak to each other again… until they reunite for their final year of grad school and are forced to partner together for a thesis project.

If you’ve read Anne of Green Gables or watched any of its adaptations, you’ll see some very familiar faces in Diana, Marilla, Matthew, Rachel, and more. Brina Starler brings all these characters to life in modern day New York. The romance between Gil and Anne is lovely – I especially loved that we get inside both their heads with dual POV. Gil is an absolute goner for Anne and has been since the beginning, but I appreciate that he realizes his teasing of Anne might not have been the best way to show his affection. Anne has her own issues to deal with when it comes to trust, after growing up in an orphanage and then being taken in by Marilla and Matthew. I was afraid the romance would be overshadowed in this book, but thankfully it is the highlight of this book! We get to see Gil pining and working his way into Anne’s heart, and it’s sooo adorable.

If you love Anne of Green Gables and want a sweet, sexy, modern retelling, I highly recommend this one. It’s got a great enemies-to-lovers romance and I loved the setting of New York!


lacey


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Review: Lessons in Sin by Pam Godwin

Lessons in Sin by Pam Godwin
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: June 29th 2021
Links: EbookPaperback • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

There’s no absolution for the things I’ve done.

But I found a way to control my impulses.

I became a priest.

As Father Magnus Falke, I suppress my cravings. As the headteacher of a Catholic boarding school, I’m never tempted by a student.

Until Tinsley Constantine.

The bratty princess challenges my rules and awakens my dark nature. With each punishment I lash upon her, I want more. In my classroom, private rectory, and bent over my altar, I want all of her.

One touch risks everything I stand for. My faith. My redemption. And even my life.

As if that could stop me. I need her pain, and her heart, and she needs my lessons in sin.

“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. This is my first confession.” His breath left him. “I tried to seduce a priest.”

Well, Pam Godwin certainly delivered with this taboo, forbidden priest romance! Between a teacher/student (who is 18) with a HUGE age gap. It’s not too dark for a Pam Godwin book, but again, there’s taboo and plenty of kink. I adored our main characters, who are at each other’s throats from the moment that they meet. If you love Sierra Simone’s Priest or Tiffany Reisz’s The Original Sinners (both of which I do) and you’re looking for another priest to fall in love with, Father Magnus will be perfect for you.

Tinsley Constantine is the youngest of her insanely powerful, wealthy family. When this heiress is caught giving a BJ to a Burger King employee, her mother sends her off to an all-girls Catholic boarding school to reform her naughty ways. Her new teacher/disciplinarian is Father Magnus Falke, who is as cold and cruel as he is gorgeous, even at 40. Tinsley knows the best way to get herself kicked out of school is to make her teacher’s life hell, but unfortunately for her, Magnus knows how to give it right back.

Tinsley is such an awesome heroine! I loved her strength and sassy, unfiltered mouth. Even though she tries to show Magnus her worst, he sees her intelligence and compassion underneath, which draws him in. Tinsley is insanely attracted to Magnus, but it’s during their one on one sessions that she slowly starts to fall for him. I loved the progression of their romance, from hating each other and constantly arguing to having genuine, thoughtful conversations which then turn into something steamy and forbidden. Pam Godwin truly makes you believe in their love and romance despite the many, many obstacles between them.

This was happening. Not because I’d planned it. But because it was destined. We were inevitable. I hadn’t been called to be a priest. I’d been called to be hers.

The ending was perfection!! So much angst and heartache, but just as much love and romance too. My heart was swooning. Magnus might be an asshole, but he’s one who loves with all of his heart. I had the best time reading Lessons in Sin – it was exactly what I wanted from Pam Godwin!

Also! Apparently the entire Constantine family is getting their books (some already have) but they’re being written by different authors. I’m really looking forward to K. Webster’s, who wrote about Winston, the oldest!


lacey


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