Summerland Movie Review

Sometimes, life can throw changes our way. We may not initially like that change, but we may end up surprised by the results.

Summerland (2020) is a BPD that takes place on the coast of England during World War II. Alice (played by Gemma Arterton as a younger woman and Penelope Wilton as the older Alice decades later) is a prickly writer who lives alone. She does not care for company and is seen as an oddity by her neighbors.

As the war rages on, children are being evacuated from the cities to the country. Frank (Lucas Bond) is a young boy who needs a temporary home. Begrudgingly, Alice takes him in. As they start to grow on one another, we flash back to Alice’s past and her relationship with Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

It’s a really sweet story about love, acceptance, and opening your heart to someone whom you never expected to. The casting is top-notch and the film is entirely watchable. It is also a reminder that love is love is love, regardless of gender or sexual identity.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Trailer For Mr. Malcolm’s List is Out

There is something about a BPD (British Period Drama) that is sometimes what we need at a specific moment. It is not just the narrative itself, it is the ability for us to be taken out of our daily lives for a short time.

The trailer for the new film, Mr. Malcolm’s List, was released last week. Based on the book by Suzanne Allain, the epymonous Mr. Jeremy Malcolm, (Sope Dirisu) is the most wanted bachelor of the season. Every eligible young lady and her matchmaking mama have set their cap at him.

In response, he has created a list of qualities that his future wife must-have. They seem so impossible that no woman would ever fit the bill. Enter Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto). She checks off all of the boxes and then some. But she has a secret that could derail this marriage before he can pop the question.

I am very excited about this film. I loved the book, which owes a great deal to Jane Austen, and I loved the short film that was released a few years ago.

I can only hope that the full-length feature lives up to its promise and the book it is based on.

Mr. Malcolm’s List will be in theaters starting on July 1st, 2022.

Hot and Bothered Podcast Review

The thing about a book like Pride and Prejudice is that with every reading, there is something new to discover.

The new season of the podcast Hot and Bothered is about Pride and Prejudice. Specifically, the romantic aspect of the narrative. Subtitled Live from Pemberley, hosts Vanessa Zoltan and Lauren Sandler dive into Jane Austen‘s most famous novel in bites of two chapters per episode. Reading from the text and interviewing experts whose work is related to the novel, they explore how the wider world of the time contributed to the book as a whole.

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A friend recommended this podcast and I am so glad she did. Both Zoltan and Sandler nerd out in a way that I would expect them to, but not so much that it alienates those who have not memorized every tiny detail of the story. I laughed, I learned, and best of all, I smiled.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

New episodes of Hot and Bothered are released every other Friday on various platforms.

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy: A Reluctant Royals Novella Book Review

Love lost and found ( a la Jane Austen‘s Persuasion), is a common narrative within the romance genre.

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy: A Reluctant Royals Novella, by Alyssa Cole, is a novella within the world of the Reluctant Royals series. While on a brief and very needed vacation, Likotsi had the good fortune to meet Fabiola, the potential love of her life via a dating app. But it ended before it could really begin.

A few months later, they meet up randomly on a stalled subway train car in New York City. Fabiola asks for just a few minutes of Likotsi’s time, to explain why she walked away. Needing an answer, Likotski agrees. That opens the door to getting to know one another once more and a second chance for love.

I really liked this book. The narrative was well-written and intriguing. I loved that the main characters are LGBTQ. It added new flavors to the story while keeping up the hallmarks of the romance novel that fans expect. I just would have loved it if the author would have expanded into a full novel instead of a shorter novella. There was so much potential that was there, but not used as it could have been.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy: A Reluctant Royals Novella is available wherever books are sold.

A Prince on Paper Book Review

Love sometimes comes when we least expect it. It also comes from the one person who we do not see coming.

A Prince on Paper, by Alyssa Cole, is the third book in the Reluctant Royals series. Published in 2019, it follows the love story of Nya Jerami and Johan von Braustein. After a family scandal, Nya left home for New York City. Returning for a wedding, she discovers that she is not the only passenger on the plane. Johan, whose stepfather is the King of Liechtienbourg does not exactly have the cleanest of reputations. Johan’s best friend is the groom and Nya’s cousin is the bride. Their first meeting does not go well.

In order to protect his country and his younger half-brother’s future as King, Johan fake proposes to Nya. She accepts, knowing that it is nothing more than a ruse. But as they spend time together, the engagement becomes real, as do their feelings. The question is, are they bold enough to reveal what is in their heart or will they walk away?

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On a scale of 1-10, the hotness factor is a six, whereas the previous books in the series were a nine or ten. However, Cole’s writing is so easy to read that it made that number not seem so bad. I appreciated that both Nya and Johan came with emotional baggage, which made their relationship seem real and fraught with enough complications that I needed to read on.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

A Prince on Paper is available wherever books are sold.

P.S. I love that Johan is a redhead. It’s about time that redheaded men got some love.

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The Ex Talk Book Review

The hate-to-love narrative within the romance genre is a delicious one for both the writer(s) and the audience. It has the potential to set the story on fire and bring the audience along for a roller coaster of a ride.

Rachel Lynn Solomon‘s novel, The Ex Talk, was published in early 2021. Shay Goldstein has spent the last ten years climbing up the career ladder at her local NPR station in Portland, Oregon. Dominic Yun is fresh out of grad school and throwing his degree around as if it were a frisbee. Their initial relationship is as compatible as oil and water.

When the station manager announces layoffs due to a downturn in revenue, Shay comes up with an idea to save the station and everyone’s jobs. Her boss quickly gives the go-ahead. The new program is called The Ex Talk. Two people who are no longer together will give advice about life and love. Instead of choosing two real-life exes, Shay and Dominic pretend that they were once a couple. In spite of their mutual dislike, they agree to the deception.

The podcast soon becomes a hit. As Shay and Dominic go along with the story, they start to understand and fall for one another. But there is a growing suspicion that it is nothing more than an act. When the other shoe falls, where will Shay and Dominic land?

I loved this book. It is cute, charming, and gets the heart fluttering. Solomon’s writing is easy to read and quickly engrosses the reader. I found myself swept away on a tidal wave of a story that was is absolutely one of the best romance novels I’ve read in a long time.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Ex Talk is available wherever books are sold.

On a Night Like This Book Review

Change does not happen when we wish it to happen. Change happens when we make it happen.

The romance novel, On a Night Like This, by Lindsey Kelk, was published last month. Fran Cooper knows that she wants to change her life. She also knows that she needs a job. Her relationship with her fiance has become almost too comfortable. When she is offered a short-term position to work for a major celebrity as a personal assistant, Fran jumps at the chance.

Juliette is a superstar and a diva with a capital D. The long list of rules and the exacting schedule that Fran has to keep up with would make the average person’s head explode. Juliette is supposed to perform at the Crystal Ball, a once-a-year event in which only 1% of the 1% receive an invitation.

The job that is supposed to be just that changes when she meets Evan. Over the course of the evening, they connect but promise to keep certain details to themselves. There is, however, one catch. Evan is on the guest list, Fran is not. What they have could end after that night. But, given the right circumstances, it has the potential to last much longer than either anticipated.

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I liked this book. It has a Cinderella-esque, fairy tale feeling that is just enough without overwhelming the narrative. I respected understood Fran’s practicality and professionalism under circumstances that would drive most people insane. Evan has a lovely Prince Charming quality about him that is still grounded in reality.

Unlike other heroines in similar novels, this story is not about Fran finding love. That narrative is secondary. It’s about understanding that wishing for something and doing what we need to do to make it happen are two different things entirely. There is no fairy godmother who is able to turn a pumpkin into a coach. Taking her fate into her own hands, it is the decision to make the figurative jump into the unknown that opens the door to new possibilities.

My only complaint is that it took a little too long for Fran and Evan to meet. But when they did, the chemistry was instant. It’s the reason I hung on until the final page.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

One True Loves Book Review

We are often told that we can only have one true love. But what happens when fate throws us a curveball and we have more than one?

One True Loves, by Taylor Jenkins Reid, was published in 2016. Just a year after her wedding to her high school sweetheart, Jesse, Emma has it all. A job that she loves, opportunities that take her far from the New England town that she grew up in, and a husband that is her world. Then she gets the news that no one ever wants to hear: Jesse is killed in a helicopter accident.

Needing to move on from her loss, Emma returns to her hometown and eventually starts dating again. Three years later, Emma is engaged to Sam and has settled in her new life. When her husband is found alive, Emma must make a choice. She could either continue with Jesse where they left off or start a new chapter with Sam.

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This book is really good. The author takes the love triangle, which is one of the cornerstone narratives within the romance genre, and elevates it. Emma is more than the woman who has to choose between two men. Her choice is a major life decision. I would not blame her if she went back to her husband. It is a very tempting thought, especially when our spouses/romantic partners are lost in a dramatic and violent manner. But, there is also a recognition that three years has passed. No one stays the same forever, we do change over time, regardless of whether we recognize it or not.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

One Last Stop Book Review

When we get on to the train or the bus to get to wherever we are going to, we don’t expect to find love. But sometimes, it finds us when we least expect it.

Casey McQuiston‘s new book, One Last Stop, was published in June. New Orleans native August has just moved to New York City to be alone. She rents a room in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Flatbush and lives with a motley crew of roommates. When August is not home, can either be found working at a local pancake restaurant or attending classes at Brooklyn College.

Her life changes when she meets 1970’s rocker chick Jane on the train. What starts a crush turns into something more. The problem is that Jane cannot leave the subway car. She has been stuck on the subway since the 1970’s. The only way to free Jane is for August to open up and not be afraid of looking back at her past.

To say that I was disappointed in this book is an understatement. I loved her first book. By themselves, the individual elements of this novel are fine. I loved the chemistry between August and Jane. The author perfectly captures the kinetic and sometimes less than glamorous reality that comes with living in NYC. The supernatural twist adds another level that is sometimes missing in the modern romance genre, regardless of the gender and/or sexuality of the lead characters.

The problem is that it is hard to read. It drags on to the point where I nearly put it down several times without finishing it. I did eventually get to the end, but not without feeling like I had pushed on a ten pound weight off my shoulders.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

The Cook of Castamar Review

Cross-class romantic relationships are one of the basic narratives with the romance genre. The key for success is for the narrative to stand out from the pack.

The Cook of Castamar premiered recently on Netflix. Based on the book of the same name by Fernando Muñez, it is the story of unlikely love. In the early 18th century, Diego de Castamar, Duke of Castamar (Roberto Enriquez) is a widowed aristocrat who lost his pregnant wife when her horse threw her over. Spending nearly two years grieving her unexpected death, he is brought back to life by the exquisite meals of his new cook, who he starts to fall for. Clara Belmonte (Michelle Jenner) has a talent for creating food that memories are made of. She is also agoraphobic and still reeling from her father’s execution. It is an attraction that neither saw coming.

The concept this series was impossible to ignore. I loved the idea of court intrigue, sex used as a tool to gain or maintain power, and a blossoming love that is not exactly welcomed. I also appreciated that the extra narrative layer created by the female lead’s mental illness. It is rarely seen in this genre. Unfortunately, it did not live up to it’s promise. I was waiting for a Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester spark which never materialized. After watching a few episodes, I gave up. The slow burn was too slow for me.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

The Cook of Castamar is available for streaming on Netflix.

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