Book Review: The Boyfriend Swap.

cover118284-mediumI haven’t read a slow burn for a while (they have either been all or, in thankfully rare cases, nothing) but it took some time for The Boyfriend Swap, by Meredith Schorr, to warm up for me – although when it did, it caught fire.

I’m not sure whether it was the characters I struggled with at first or the premise that you could swap boyfriends like they were Lego trading cards but, as I learned more about them and the reasons behind what they were up to, I got more into it.

In the end it turned out to be a fun and enjoyable read – and well worth settling into.

Here’s the blurb:

Is Christmas really the most wonderful time of the year? New Yorkers Robyn Lane and Sidney Bellows aren’t so sure.

Robyn has always dated struggling creative types. For once, her parents would love her to bring someone with health insurance and a 401(k) to their Chrismukkah celebration. Her actor boyfriend doesn’t qualify. While across town, Sidney’s professional life already belongs to her parents. She’s an attorney at her father’s law firm and she works tirelessly to keep her love life private. If she brings her lawyer boyfriend to their annual Christmas extravaganza, her parents will have the wedding planned by New Year’s Eve.

A mutual friend playfully suggests they trade boyfriends for the holidays. The women share a laugh, but after copious amounts of wine, decide The Boyfriend Swap could be the perfect solution. This way, Robyn can show off her stable attorney boyfriend and Sidney’s high-society family will take no interest in her flaky actor beau.

It’s a brilliant plan—in theory. In practice—not so much. When Will turns out to be the boy-next-door Robyn crushed on hard throughout her teenage years, and Sidney’s family fawns all over Perry like he’s an Oscar-winner rather than a D-list wannabe, one thing is certain: The Boyfriend Swap might just change their lives forever.

A plot like this is bound to need some explaining – and maybe that’s why it takes time to properly get going. I think that’s fair enough.

I especially enjoyed the way the relationship between Robyn and Will develops and learning more about their history. Her family is also a delight.

Their story is like a little boat sailing along on a gentle breeze whereas Sidney and Perry’s side of things is more like a speedboat on choppy water.

I really liked the way they balanced each other out.

There are some funny moments, on both sides, and the story keeps you guessing about how things will turn out until the very end.

All in all this was a great tale and I’m happy to give it four stars.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £2.29.

My rating: Four stars.

 

Thank you to Henery Press (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for an honest opinion.

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Book Review: How To Be Happy.

cover123755-mediumA book where you know at least one person dies doesn’t sound like it’s going to be uplifting but if I had to use one word to describe How To Be Happy, by Eva Woods, it would be that.

There’s something about this story that really appealed to me. I know it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea – it covers difficult, sensitive topics (and could even be a trigger for some) – but it made me laugh and cry (and not just sad tears).

I felt completely absorbed by the mix of characters and their unfolding story.

The somewhat gallows humour is refreshing and the take on life, love, death and what it means to be happy genuinely made me think.

You need to read the blurb to get what I mean:

It’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference.

Annie has been sad for so long that she’s forgotten how to be any other way. She’s trudging miserably through every day, sheer determination keeping her going. Until she meets Polly.

Polly is everything that Annie is not. She’s colourful, joyful, happy. And Polly is also facing the greatest challenge of her life: how to die well.

Polly has one hundred days to help Annie find happiness. Annie’s convinced it’s impossible, but so is saying no to Polly. And on an unforgettable journey, Annie begins to realise that maybe, just maybe, there’s still colour to be found in the world.

But then it becomes clear that Polly’s about to need her new friend more than ever…and Annie will have to decide once and for all whether letting others in is a risk worth taking.

While Annie is (understandably, once you get into the story) living in shades of grey, Polly is running around in a rainbow. While it initially looks like Polly is bringing colour back into Annie’s world, it becomes clear that Annie has a part to play in helping Polly deal with her situation too.

They are unlikely friends but each has something the other needs and seeing how they grow and change is inspiring.

All of the characters have their own issues and it’s so well written I got really caught up in their lives.

It makes for heart breaking reading at times – and not just to do with Polly – but it’s also entertaining and funny. I couldn’t help but think how good it would be as a film.

How To Be Happy is an important reminder that we never know what tomorrow might bring (although if it brings you this book, I hope it also comes with tissues).

Format: Kindle.

Price: £1.99.

My rating: Five stars.

With thanks to Little, Brown Book Group (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Christmas At Hope Cottage.

ChristmasathopecottageIf Lily Graham ever fancies a break from writing contemporary fiction (and I hope she doesn’t) I think she’d make a brilliant food writer – as highlighted in her latest book, Christmas At Hope Cottage.

I guess when your main character does it for a living you also need to know your stuff but it’s more than just dropping the odd technical term in, she makes food seem magical.

That’s just one of the things I enjoyed about this book, which I found very hard to put down.

Here’s the blurb:

When thirty-year-old food writer Emma Halloway gets dumped then knocked off her bike, she’s broken in more ways than one, and returns to her family’s cosy cottage in the Yorkshire Dales. Emma hasn’t been back in some time, running from her crazy relatives and her childhood sweetheart, Jack Allen.

Emma’s grandmother is determined to bake her back to health and happiness, as the Halloways have done for generations. Surrounded by old friends and warm cinnamon buns, Emma starts to believe in her family’s special talents for healing again. But then in walks Jack with his sparkling hazel eyes, stirring up the family feud between them.

As the twinkly lights are strung between the streetlamps, Emma remembers just why she fell for Jack in the first place… and why a Halloway should never date an Allen.

The infuriating new lodger, Sandro, doesn’t believe anyone should have to choose between love and family. With a little bit of Christmas magic, can Emma and Jack find a way to be together, or will Emma find herself heartbroken once more?

Poor Emma, it never rains but it pours. I don’t want to give anything away but she has more than just broken bones to contend with. I did find keeping up with where she was in the healing process a little confusing at times – although I was quickly distracted from pondering her injuries by her wonderfully eccentric family. They don’t live an easy life but it is a purposeful one, full of love and laughter.

The story switches between past and present with ease and you get a real sense of why Emma is the way she is. There are some darker moments in this book but it’s all the better for them.

Lily very cleverly steers you in different directions and just when you think you know how you want things to play out, she inserts a little doubt here and there and you change your mind. Thankfully, in the end, it all works out just as it should (or at least just as I felt it should).

Format: Kindle.

Price: £1.99.

My rating: Four stars.

With thanks to Bookouture for the ARC (via NetGalley) in return for an honest review.