Ava Wilder

Review: How to Fake it in Hollywood by Ava Wilder


Title: How to Fake It in Hollywood
Author: Ava Wilder
Publication Date: 14 June 2022
Genres: Celebrity romance, fake dating, addiction

Author's links: Website / Twitter 

My rating: 5 Stars


Grey Brooks is on a mission to keep her career afloat now that the end of her long-running teen soap has her (unsuccessfully) pounding the pavement again. With a life-changing role on the line, she's finally desperate enough to agree to her publicist's scheme... faking a love affair with a disgraced Hollywood heartthrob who needs the publicity, but for very different reasons.

Ethan Atkins just wants to be left alone. Between his high-profile divorce, his struggles with drinking, and his grief over the death of his longtime creative partner and best friend, he's slowly let himself fade into the background. But if he ever wants to produce the last movie he and his partner wrote together, Ethan needs to clean up his reputation and step back into the spotlight. A gossip-inducing affair with a gorgeous actress might be just the ticket, even if it's the last thing he wants to do.

Though their juicy public relationship is less than perfect behind the scenes, it doesn't take long before Grey and Ethan's sizzling chemistry starts to feel like more than just an act. But after decades in a ruthless industry that requires bulletproof emotional armor to survive, are they too used to faking it to open themselves up to the real thing?


I read this on the recommendation of a friend whose taste in romance I trust and I was not disappointed. This is exactly the kind of contemporary romance I love - character focused, angsty, serious, I would say even dark at times, with a touch of humour and the promise of love and happiness in the end.

Celebrity romances are not something I naturally gravitate too. Too often they just are too cutesy, glammed up versions of real life, exploring rich people's problems and I am not very interested in reading those stories.

This one was about rich people and their problems but was also deeply human and made it super relatable for me. Yes, we get actors (Ethan is highly successful Oscar-winner, every girl's dream man in a downward spiral of addiction and depression, Grey - child/teen actress in her 20s still trying to make it big) in a fake relationship for publicity purposes but it's from here that things start getting interesting.

They inevitably fall for each other and discover there is more to the other person than their public persona. But with Ethan things are much darker than anyone wants to admit, not even Grey.

The second half of the story explores in depth their messy emotions while trying to have a real relationship. I loved both Grey and Ethan, we see things from her perspective most of the time, but I also fell for Ethan. I felt deeply about for both of them - his fear of messing things up, his conviction he is not good enough, her desire to be enough, to be seen and loved.

Ethan read very much a sad man romance hero but he felt real to me at the same time with his anxiety and depression and grief and desperate desire to be good enough for Grey, his ex wife and children and failing again and again. His spiral into addition and depression is very raw and hit me right in the feels. this is not one of those love cures all romances. they MCs need to admit their issues to themselves and to want to get better and until get the professional help they need.

There were wonderful moments of tenderness in their relationship but also a lot of volatile emotions and him acting out. His issues with addiction were handled sensitively in my opinion.

I appreciate how real Grey and Ethan's journey towards a healthy, happy relationship felt. There were no easy solutions, each making a gesture to the other one, finding a new path that works for them both.

Another element that stood out to me was their rich background, a story with lots of texture - friends, agents, publicists. I felt really immersed in their world. We get glimpses both of the bright and dark sides of celebrity life - the loss of any privacy but also fame that makes lots of dreams possible (from financial, professional point of view).

I absolutely loved this book, such a great debut and I am excited to read more books by this author.

CW; addition, depression, alcoholism, grief, strained family relations, revenge porn (of sorts)

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Ashley Herring Blake

Review: Astrid Parker Doesn't Fail by Ashley Herring Blake


Title: Astrid Parker Doesn't Care (Bright Falls #2)
Author: Ashley Herring Blake
Publication Date: 22 Nov2022
Genres: Small town f/f romance

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Instagram

My rating: 4 Stars


For Astrid Parker, failure is unacceptable. Ever since she broke up with her fiancé a year ago, she's been focused on her career--her friends might say she's obsessed, but she knows she's just driven. When Pru Everwood asks her to be the designer for the Everwood Inn's renovation, which will be featured on a popular HGTV show, Innside America, Astrid is thrilled. Not only will the project distract her from her failed engagement and help her struggling business, but her perpetually displeased mother might finally give her a nod of approval.

However, Astrid never planned on Jordan Everwood, Pru's granddaughter and the lead carpenter for the renovation, who despises every modern design decision Astrid makes. Jordan is determined to preserve the history of her family's inn, particularly as the rest of her life is in shambles. When that determination turns into some light sabotage to ruffle Astrid's perfect little feathers, the showrunners ask them to play up the tension. But somewhere along the way, their dislike for each other evolves into something quite different, and Astrid must decide what success truly means. Is she going to pursue the life that she's expected to lead or the one that she wants?


This was lovely and fun and very, very queer.

This is a story of self-discovery and growing into your own self and coming out as queer later in life. As someone who is not queer myself, I don't feel knowledgeable enough to discuss how this was presented in the story. From an outsider's perspective, I liked seeing Ashley's journey and felt convinced in her happiness in the end of the book.

This is an opposites attract kind of kind of romance where a buttoned up, closed-off heroine meets am open and self-confident heroine. Both of them are in difficult stages in their lives, trying to hide the fact they are basically falling apart from everyone. For Astrid this means being perfect in everything - the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, the most successful designer. For Jordan it means not sharing her dreams and hopes and fears with her closest people anymore and finding a new direction in life.

Just like in book 1, I felt the characterisation was really good - both Jordan and Astrid stand out as real people to me.

I liked how well-rounded the whole story and how in synch all the different elements in it were - there is lots of humour and funny dialogue, great sexual tension, supporting friends (Astrid's) and family (Jordan's).

Astrid's relationship with her mother is especially fraught. They do reach some reconciliation but there is no magic cure - it takes time and effort on both sides.

I have mixed feelings re Jordan's ex-wife. I can't help but feel she is a terrible person. She did try to help Jordan but at the same time she was completely ignoring Jordan's wishes/boundaries, speaking and acting over her on numerous issue. Her actions were the nudge Jordan needed in her career but I just can't let go of all the hurt she caused her before.

Finally there is a bit I don't feel very competent to comment on but feel it should be mentions and it's about the language regarding gender and attraction used in this book. I felt there were one too many instances of "women and non-binary people". It is most often used by Jordan to describe the people she is attracted to but sometimes it read like equating non-binary people with women and I am not a fan of that. I could be reading things wrong but a couple of instances really stood out to me. I would recommend checking reviews by queer, especially non-binary and trans, readers for their take on these instances.

Iris' book is next and there was a whole plotline with her that I found unnecessary and superfluous to this book but still I am very much looking forward to her finding her own HEA/HFN.

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Alexis Hall

Review: Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble by Alexis Hall


Title: Paris Daillencourt is about to Crumble 
(Winner Bakes all #2)
Author: Alexis Hall
Genre/Themes: queer romance, reality TV baking competition
Release Date: 1 Nov 2022

Author's links: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

My rating: 5 Stars


Paris Daillencourt is a recipe for disaster. Despite his passion for baking, his cat, and his classics degree, constant self-doubt and second-guessing have left him a curdled, directionless mess. So when his roommate enters him in Bake Expectations, the nation’s favourite baking show, Paris is sure he’ll be the first one sent home.

But not only does he win week one’s challenge—he meets fellow contestant Tariq Hassan. Sure, he’s the competition, but he’s also cute and kind, with more confidence than Paris could ever hope to have. Still, neither his growing romance with Tariq nor his own impressive bakes can keep Paris’s fear of failure from spoiling his happiness. And when the show’s vicious fanbase confirms his worst anxieties, Paris’s confidence is torn apart quicker than tear-and-share bread.

But if Paris can find the strength to face his past, his future, and the chorus of hecklers that live in his brain, he’ll realize it’s the sweet things in life that he really deserves.


This is a brilliant NA queer romance and two young men coming into their own and learning to love each other in the process.

This book is very much on the vein of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake - contemporary queer romance, a bit darker even, with serious focus on character growth.

The story is told from Paris who has undiagnosed and untreated anxiety for most of the book. It doesn't make for a light reading, there are some very dark moments. I found many of Paris' experiences relatable in some aspect that made me pause and put the book aside. At the same time I desperately wanted Paris to get better, to be happy and loved, so I rushed back to the book to see how this will happen because I trusted fully the author that Paris will get there in the end. 

The parental neglect which is furthest from my experience hit me the hardest. Paris texting his parents made me cry and I am never forgiving anyone for treating their child like that and I am super happy Paris didn't either.

Both Paris and Tariq are in their 20s and act like it - with all the dreams and confusion and mistakes of youth. I appreciate the focus on kindness and the realistic presentation of mental illness throughout the story.

I loved Paris while also realising how exhausting he could be. I could see how he wanted to be a decent human being but his fears and anxiety made annoying and self-centered, hurting the people that cared about him. I think he was (mis)guided by his belief that he is unlovable, he is too much and there is nothing that can be done about it. It was honestly painful to read.

But then there was Tariq who was all light and brightness and glitter and carried the promise of fun, the possibility of love.

As the story goes on we see that things are not quite perfect in Tariq's life either. There are/were issues in his family but there is also honesty and communication and working together through the hard stuff. Something that was completely missing from Paris' life.

I liked how Alexis Hall explored the issues of power and privilege - Paris is a white, rich, cis queer man yet when we first meet him he is absolutely vulnerable, devastatingly lonely and unable to maintain healthy relationships (lovers, friends, competitors on the reality baking show).

Tariq, on the other hand, is like a ray of sunshine - easy going and friendly and loving Paris. He is a gay Muslim Indian, middle class, really quite underprivileged and vulnerable in the eyes of society but atthe some time he is moving through life with self-confidence and poise.

They try a relationship but it couldn't really happen until Paris got the medical help he needed. Tariq also had a lot to learn about himself and what being in a relationship meant. It was a process of growth for both of them and loved seeing it. .

As usual, loved the author's sense of humour that lightened an otherwise heavy story. And as usual it all made me emotional and made me cry. And as usual the supporting characters were great, Tariq's family (no shying away from the problems there as well), Paris' roommate and basically only friend, the baking show - colourful backdrop to Paris and Tariq's journey towards their true selves and the couple they get to be in the end.

This review has become more personal than my usual reviews but very often Alexis Hall's books speak to me on a deep personal level and make me emotional which in turns makes my reviews of his books emotional messes of incoherent praise and sharing personal experiences.

As I have often said about his stories - they are not easy, glossed over romances, rather they show some harsh truths but are ultimately hopeful and that is what I like best about them - the promise of happiness, the potential for everyone to love and be loved.

CW: anxiety (undiagnosed and untreated for most of the book), panic attack, homophobia, islamophobia, going viral on SM, cyberbullying 

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Charlie Adhara

Review: Pack of Lies by Charlie Adhara


Title: Pack of Lies (Monster Hunt)
Author: Charlie Adhara
Genre / Themes: Shifters /Murder mystery
Release date: 31 Aug 2022

Author's links: Website / Twitter/ Goodreads

My rating: 5 Stars


Werewolf meets human. Werewolf snubs human. Werewolf loves human?

Julien Doran arrived in sleepy Maudit Falls, North Carolina, with a heart full of hurt and a head full of questions. The key to his brother's mysterious last days might be found in this tiny town, and now Julien's amateur investigation is starting to unearth things the locals would rather keep buried.

Perhaps most especially the strange, magnetic manager of a deserted retreat that's nearly as odd as its staff.

Eli Smith is a lot of things: thief, werewolf, glamour-puss, liar. And now the manager of a haven for rebel pack runaways. He’s spent years cultivating a persona to disguise his origins, but for the first time ever he’s been entrusted with a real responsibility—and he plans to take that seriously.

Even if the handsome tourist who claims to be in town for some R & R is clearly on a hunt for all things paranormal. And hasn't taken his brooding gaze off Eli since he's arrived.

When an old skeleton and a fresh corpse turn a grief errand into a murder investigation, the unlikely Eli is the only person Julien can turn to. Trust is hard to come by in a town known for its monsters, but so is time…


This is the start of a spin-off series from the Big bad Wolf series which I absolutely love. I have to say this is pretty strong start and I am intrigued by the MCs and looking forward to reading more about them. I get the feelings we will be following the same couple in multiple books again (Cooper and Park have the loveliest cameo btw).

The tone and whole setting is very similar to the previous series, a sort of seamless continuation though it stands well on its own.

The story has a bit of a bit of country house intrigue but with werewolves and monsters. We have already met Eli in the previous book but we get to discover completely new sides of him. The other MC, Julien was rather intriguing as well - an older bi man with two divorces behind and a flagging movie career mourning the loss of his brother. Strong focus on complicated family relations and grief. He is anxious and lost and full of doubts and questions. I liked that he was confident in his bisexuality yet shy and flustered, with no real experience being with men. I think the dynamics in their intimacy - the exploration, the abundant communication, the power play - it was all exquisitely done.

We learned a bit about Eli's past though not much and we see the scars both he and Lucien carry. Eli doesn't show much of himself, he is outwardly confident, provocative but always wearing a mask, never opening himself to the world (and not just because he is werewolf in a world where humans are not aware of werewolves existing).

A particular aspect of the story and the relationship that I enjoyed a lot was this dance of trust and betrayal, of keeping secrets and sharing things you haven't shared with anyone else. We see two grown men being vulnerable, open, caring but also a little sacred, somewhat apprehensive, secretive because life has taught them to rely on themselves, Eli specifically.

As for the suspense plot, it was fast-paced, engaging, kept e guessing till the very end. Interesting, full-fledged side characters both good and bad ones.

The monster hunting which was at the heart of the story with some people genuinely believing in it, others using it for their own agenda, it was an on-point commentary of human/wolves in the world of the books but also on who is the monster and who is the hunter in real life. It was well done and I liked it a lot.

Overall, this is a promising start of new m/m PNR suspense series and I am excited for the upcoming books.

CW: loss of a family member, grief, violence, murders, serious injuries, anxiety

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Emily Sullivan

Review: The Hellion and the Hero by Emily Sullivan


Title: The Hellion and the Hero
(League of Scoundrels #3)
Author: Emily Sullivan
Date of publication: 23 Aug 2022
Genre: Historical romance

Author's links:

My rating: 3 stars


Society darling Lady Georgiana Arlington spent years crafting her image as the ideal wife, but since her husband’s unexpected death, she has lived mostly for herself while making desperately needed improvements to the businesses she inherited­­––and gaining a mysterious enemy in the process. With few people she can trust, Georgiana must rely on Captain Henry Harris, a former fortune-hunter turned private investigator who once claimed to love the woman beneath her carefully polished veneer. Time and experience have left a heavy mark on the dashing young officer she used to know, but she finds herself even more drawn to the dark and complicated man he has become.

When Captain Harris left London eight years ago, he was heartbroken and nearly penniless. Now he has returned as a decorated naval hero with everything he could ever want. Everything except Lady Georgiana… As a careless young woman, she once shredded his heart when she married another man. But now she is as alluring as ever, with a newfound tenacity he can’t help but admire. And the more he uncovers, the more nothing is as it seems, especially the woman he once swore to hate forever.


Another great installment in a fun historical romance series though it was not my favourite.

This is a second chance romance where the conflict was based on a misunderstanding almost until the very end. It did create some great angst but also was frustrating at times. The lack of communication and making assumption about the feelings of the other went on for too long and I wanted to shake the MCs and tell to talk to each other already.

I realise it is not that simple and being open and honest about one's feelings can be super hard. On top of that hero is broody and silent and heroine is too proud and independent. Still, love finds a way eventually.

There is a minor suspense plot serving to bring the MCs together. And highly enjoyable siblings and meddling friends. It was all cosy and nice but somehow lacking tension and enough conflict for me.

I want to make special note of the grumpy hero who sincerely admired the heroine for her professional success and risk-taking in her business endeavors. He found his true calling in the end as well and I was very happy for him.

Overall, the story had a a kind of airy, breezy quality, everything resolving quickly, things getting perfect for everyone.

It's a nice, solid romance with a bit of adventure (Monte Carlo and casinos), a bit of suspense, a lot of chemistry and secrets. I went expecting more drama and tension but if you are looking for a more low-key, happy-making historical romance that covers a broader slice of society than just the Ton, this would be perfect for you.

Content notes: disabled hero (knee injury), some violence, abduction and attempted murder

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