Review: A Girl Like Her, by @TaliaHibbert

Title: A Girl Like Her (Ravenswood #1)
Author: Talia Hibbert
Rating: 3/5 stars

“She’s the town pariah. He doesn’t give a damn.

In Ruth Kabbah’s world, comic books are king, silence is golden, and human contact is a pesky distraction. She doesn’t like people, which works out just fine, because the people in this small town don’t like her. The exception to that rule? Evan Miller, her way-too-charming next-door neighbour…

Ex-military man Evan is all tattooed muscle on the outside—and a big, cuddly teddy bear beneath. He’s used to coaxing prickly people from their shells, but he’s never met a woman quite like Ruth. Blunt, sarcastic, and secretly sad, she’s his exact opposite. She’s also his deepest desire.

Soon, Evan’s steady patience and smouldering smiles are melting Ruth’s reserve. But when small-town gossip from her past begins to poison her future, she’s forced to make a choice. Should she trust Evan completely? Or is her heart safest alone?

Please be aware: this book contains mentions of intimate partner violence that could trigger certain audiences.” (description from Goodreads)

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Anyone who’s read my reviews before probably knows that I’m a sucker for small-town romance. But I’ve never read a small-town romance set outside of the United States. A Girl Like Her is a first for me for that, as it’s set in England. It’s also my first Talia Hibbert book, mainly because I’ve been slacking. It won’t be my last Hibbert book though. I want to continue reading this series.

What was great about this book was the diverse representation Hibbert wrote into it. The heroine, Ruth, is a woman of color who has autism. The town thinks she’s weird, she keeps to herself, and the hero doesn’t care. He’s new to town and is falling for Ruth. But is autism in your face, over-mentioned, and drilled into the reader’s head? No. Ruth is Ruth and she’s just like any other heroine. I always enjoy books where the author will write underrepresented characters, but not make a big deal about it. That’s how I feel it should be because there are many types of people out there and everyone has a story.

As for the small-town setting in England, that left me wanting a little more. While it didn’t need to be the focus in this particular book, I felt that it was lacking a little bit of the normal feel of a small-town setting. The town itself isn’t really explored until the last quarter of the book, even when the townspeople are cause for conflict throughout. It’s more in the background. That’s part of why I know I’ll be reading the other books in this series. 1) To see more of the characters introduced here, and 2) to explore this town more. It wasn’t a bad start to it, but I crave more.

This was a good book to check out. And a good start to a series. If the buzz around Hibbert is anything to go by, I don’t think I’ll be disappointed moving forward.

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If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, you can find it on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Talia Hibbert is a Black British author who lives in a bedroom full of books. Supposedly, there is a world beyond that room, but she has yet to drum up enough interest to investigate.

She writes steamy, diverse romance because she believes that people ofmarginalised identities need honest and positive representation. She also rambles intermittently about the romance genre over at Frolic Media. Her interests include makeup, junk food, and unnecessary sarcasm.

Talia self-publishes via Nixon House and is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan at Handspun Literary.

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Review: The Lemon Sisters, by @JillShalvis

Title: The Lemon Sisters (Wildstone #3)
Author: Jill Shalvis
Rating: 4/5 stars

The New York Times bestselling author of Rainy Day Friends and Lost and Found Sisters returns to Wildstone, California…

Brooke Lemon has always led the life she wanted, wild adventures—and mistakes—included, something her perfect sister, Mindy, never understood. So when Mindy shows up on Brooke’s doorstep in the throes of a break-down with her three little kids in tow, Brooke’s shocked.

Wanting to make amends, Brooke agrees to trade places, taking the kids back to Wildstone for a few days so Mindy can pick up the pieces and put herself back together. What Brooke doesn’t admit is she’s just as broken . . . Also how does one go home after seven years away? It doesn’t take long for Brooke to come face-to-face with her past, in the form of one tall, dark, sexy mistake. But Garrett’s no longer interested. Only his words don’t match his actions, leaving Brooke feeling things she’d shoved deep.

Soon the sisters begin to wonder: Are they lemons in life? In love? All they know is that neither seems to be able to run far enough to outpace her demons. And when secrets surface, they’ll have to learn that sometimes the one person who can help you the most is the one you never thought to ask.” (description from Goodreads)

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This third novel in Jill Shalvis’ Wildstone series came…and went in just a few days. Yea, I blew through it without realizing that I should have savored it. Now I don’t have any new Shalvis books to read until the next Heartbreaker Bay books in the fall.

As with the other Wildstone books, sisterhood (in one way or another) and discovering what that really means is a driving theme for the characters. In a sense The Lemon Sisters is also a story with three different second chance storylines. In the romance genre that Shalvis often writes within, second chance romances are common (and one of my favorite tropes). In this novel, the author steps it up a notch. The readers gets a second chance at sisterhood, marriage, and a rekindling of an old but unrealized love. It’s three well-written, compelling journeys for the “price-of-one”.

Whether you’re looking for well written characters getting their life back together, marriage back together, or just a book about family, this Wildstone book might be just what you’re looking for.

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If you’d like a copy of this book, you can find it on:

Amazon | B&N | KoboiBooks

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About the Author:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s sexy contemporary and award-winning books wherever romances are sold and click on the blog button above for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

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Double-Review: A Duke by Default and Can’t Escape Love, by @AlyssaColeLit

Title: A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals #2)
Author: Alyssa Cole
Rating: 5/5 stars

“Award-winning author Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series continues with a woman on a quest to be the heroine of her own story and the duke in shining armor she rescues along the way

New York City socialite and perpetual hot mess Portia Hobbs is tired of disappointing her family, friends, and—most importantly—herself. An apprenticeship with a struggling swordmaker in Scotland is a chance to use her expertise and discover what she’s capable of. Turns out she excels at aggravating her gruff silver fox boss…when she’s not having inappropriate fantasies about his sexy Scottish burr.

Tavish McKenzie doesn’t need a rich, spoiled American telling him how to run his armory…even if she is infuriatingly good at it. Tav tries to rebuff his apprentice, and his attraction to her, but when Portia accidentally discovers that he’s the secret son of a duke, rough-around-the-edges Tav becomes her newest makeover project.

Forging metal into weapons and armor is one thing, but when desire burns out of control and the media spotlight gets too hot to bear, can a commoner turned duke and his posh apprentice find lasting love?” (description from Goodreads)

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In my continued attempts to read more diverse romances I bought a copy of the (at that time) new Alyssa Cole novel, A Duke by Default. With “Duke” in the title, I wasn’t jumping at it right away, but I’d heard great things. I haven’t been big into historical novels, where dukes are normally found. Even though this was contemporary, I was still hesitant. Luckily, I pushed that aside and realized I shouldn’t have held off on starting the book.

As the series title, Reluctant Royals, suggests: This duke doesn’t want to be a duke. He likes making his swords and grumping around. For me, this alone, helped ease me into the high society niceties and formalities that normally annoy me. They weren’t really in this book to begin with due to how the story plays out. I really enjoyed that this duke was a normal person who gives in for the right reasons.

I also thought the slow burning desire between Portia and Tav was expertly carried out. There was great payoff in the end. Another thing that I think made this book great for me was that even if the romance wasn’t anywhere in the book and only friendships and character growth was included, this would still be one of my favorite books. There are so many strengths to Cole’s writing of character, setting, and plot that it’s almost like a bonus that there’s romance in here. The book made me want to continue “living” in this armory in Scotland, seeing how Tav’s newly appointed title helped change things for the better. And also to see Portia continue to grow into the person she wasn’t sure she could become. No all romance books leave me caring as much about the couple as their own people by the end.

Did this book blow me away? Yes. Did it make me go buy the rest of the novels and novellas while reading it? Of course.
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If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, you can find it on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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Title: Can’t Escape Love (Reluctant Royals #2.5)
Author: Alyssa Cole
Rating: 4/5 stars

“Regina Hobbs is nerdy by nature, businesswoman by nurture. She’s finally taking her pop culture-centered media enterprise, Girls with Glasses, to the next level, but the stress is forcing her to face a familiar supervillain: insomnia. The only thing that helps her sleep when things get this bad is the deep, soothing voice of puzzle-obsessed live streamer Gustave Nguyen. The problem? His archive has been deleted.

Gus has been tasked with creating an escape room themed around a romance anime…except he knows nothing about romance or anime. Then mega-nerd and anime expert Reggie comes calling, and they make a trade: his voice for her knowledge. But when their online friendship has IRL chemistry, will they be able to escape love?” (description from Goodreads)

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Novellas are kind of my thing. My “catnip” as some tend to say in the book world. That’s why it should be no surprise that I read this one from Alyssa Cole after reading A Duke by Default.

In this book, we get to read more about Reggie, Portia’s (from A Duke by Default) twin sister. While it felt like Reggie was more of the “perfect” sister in their parent’s eyes from Portia’s POV, we can see that’s not exactly the case. They’re still trying to control her life, but in different ways.

One of the fun things about this novellas is the fandom and “geeky” references throughout. I also felt that having Gus be mostly ignorant of the references and Reggie teaching him about all things pop-culture was fun to read. Despite both characters being very set in their ways and control over their lives, seeing this relationship form was a must-read experience.

Lastly, while this can be read as a standalone, I would suggest reading it either after or at least just before A Duke by Default. I feel that my reading of A Duke by Default was greatly enhanced with the addition of this novella. Seeing both sides of these twins’ relationship helps shape each one individually in my eyes.

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If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, you can find it on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Alyssa Cole is an award-winning author of historical, contemporary, and sci-fi romance. Her Civil War-set espionage romance An Extraordinary Union was the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award’s Best Book of 2017 and the American Library Association’s RUSA Best Romance for 2018, and A Princess in Theory was one of the New York Times’ 100 Notable Books of 2018. She’s contributed to publications including Bustle, Shondaland, The Toast, Vulture, RT Book Reviews, and Heroes and Heartbreakers, and her books have received critical acclaim from The New York Times, Library Journal, BuzzFeed, Kirkus, Booklist, Jezebel, Vulture, Book Riot, Entertainment Weekly, and various other outlets. When she’s not working, she can usually be found watching anime or wrangling her pets.

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Review: The Summer of Sunshine and Margot, by @SusanMallery

Title: The Summer of Sunshine and Margot
Author: Susan Mallery
Rating: 5/5 stars

“The Baxter sisters come from a long line of women with disastrous luck in love. But this summer, Sunshine and Margot will turn disasters into destiny…

As an etiquette coach, Margot teaches her clients to fit in. But she’s never faced a client like Bianca, an aging movie star who gained fame—and notoriety—through a campaign of shock and awe. Schooling Bianca on the fine art of behaving like a proper diplomat’s wife requires intensive lessons, forcing Margot to move into the monastery turned mansion owned by the actress’s intensely private son. Like his incredible home, Alec’s stony exterior hides secret depths Margot would love to explore. But will he trust her enough to let her in?

Sunshine has always been the good-time sister, abandoning jobs to chase after guys who used her, then threw her away. No more. She refuses to be “that girl” again. This time, she’ll finish college, dedicate herself to her job as a nanny, and she 100 percent will not screw up her life again by falling for the wrong guy. Especially not the tempting single dad who also happens to be her boss.

Master storyteller Susan Mallery weaves threads of family drama, humor, romance and a wish-you-were-there setting into one of the most satisfying books of the year!” (description from Goodreads)

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The Summer of Sunshine and Margot was a first for me. I’ve read/listened to most of Mallery’s titles after they’ve been released. Weeks to months after. I have so many of hers to still get to that the new releases get bought, but not devoured right away. Well, for this brand new book I didn’t let myself wait. I pre-ordered the audiobook and downloaded it as soon as it was available. Two days later I had finished it and new what all the hype around it was while the hype is still going on. It’s a great feeling.

I’ve yet to be disappointed with a book from Susan Mallery. I’ve enjoyed some more than others, but they’re all great. That hasn’t changed with Sunshine and Margot’s book. These twins are great characters to read about. While Mallery writes many books revolving around sisters (and close friend relationships), she’s yet to over do it. As seen in this book, the way the relationship works between these sisters differs greatly from other ones I’ve read so far. It’s still a fresh theme.

I also enjoyed all the side characters. There weren’t really any that was pushed in the background or underdeveloped. I especially liked Alec and seeing his changes overtime. Another cool thing was Alec’s house, an old Spanish monastery. It may be partly because I recently finished reading Northanger Abbey, but some of the scenes added a bit of a Gothic atmosphere to this book. Just a hint and that was fun.

It’s a good thing I have a pile of Mallery’s backlist titles to read now that I sped through this one. I’m left wanting to read more and more now, and a new book doesn’t release until later this year.

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If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, you can find it on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

With more than 25 million books sold worldwide, #1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery is known for creating characters who feel as real as the folks next door, and for putting them into emotional, often funny situations readers recognize from their own lives. Susan’s books have made Booklist’s Top 10 Romances list in four out of five consecutive years. RT Book Reviews says, “When it comes to heartfelt contemporary romance, Mallery is in a class by herself.” With her popular, ongoing Fool’s Gold series, Susan has reached new heights on the bestsellers lists and has won the hearts of countless new fans.

Susan grew up in southern California, moved so many times that her friends stopped writing her address in pen, and now has settled in Seattle with her husband and the most delightfully spoiled little dog who ever lived.

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Review: Daisy Jones and The Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Title: Daisy Jones & The Six
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Rating: 3/5 stars

“Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice..” (description from Goodreads)

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I’m glad I listened to this book instead of read it. I don’t think the format would work for me on the page, but it did in audio. With that said, I enjoyed the book to a point, but wasn’t blown away by it like many others were. I feel the author did an amazing job creating the characters and the entire history of a band. But it just seemed like I was listening to a “behind the music” type documentary. Predictable seems like a strong word with a negative connotation. I think “nothing surprised me or strayed from the obvious” may fit a bit more. Again, it seemed like it was a real-life documentary of a band from that era. Not an insult at all since it can’t be easy to create that from thin air, while at the same time, I’ve experienced it all before with real-life bands.

What this book has accomplished is that it makes me want to read more from the author. If she can write a book like this, I’m really interested to see what she can create with other storylines and characters.

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You can buy this book from:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Taylor Jenkins Reid is the author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoOne True LovesMaybe in Another LifeAfter I Do, and Forever, Interrupted. Her novels have been Indie Next Picks, chosen by Book of the Month, and featured in People, US Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, Good Morning America, and more. Her newest novel, Daisy Jones and the Six, is a New York Times bestseller. She lives in Los Angeles.

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Review: American Dreamer, by @ladrianaherrera

Title: American Dreamer (Dreamers #1)
Author: Adriana Herrera
Rating: 5/5 stars

“No one ever said big dreams come easy

For Nesto Vasquez, moving his Afro-Caribbean food truck from New York City to the wilds of Upstate New York is a huge gamble. If it works? He’ll be a big fish in a little pond. If it doesn’t? He’ll have to give up the hustle and return to the day job he hates. He’s got six months to make it happen—the last thing he needs is a distraction.

Jude Fuller is proud of the life he’s built on the banks of Cayuga Lake. He has a job he loves and good friends. It’s safe. It’s quiet. And it’s damn lonely. Until he tries Ithaca’s most-talked-about new lunch spot and works up the courage to flirt with the handsome owner. Soon he can’t get enough—of Nesto’s food orof Nesto. For the first time in his life, Jude can finally taste the kind of happiness that’s always been just out of reach.

An opportunity too good to pass up could mean a way to stay together and an incredible future for them both…if Nesto can remember happiness isn’t always measured by business success. And if Jude can overcome his past and trust his man will never let him down.

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise : all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

This book is approximately 94,000 words” (description from Goodreads)

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American Dreamer was my return to New York. And no, not the part in the beginning that takes place in The Bronx. No, this book returned me to Upstate New York, even if it was in Central NY a few hours west of where I grew up. That’s just one of the things that grabbed me with this book, the setting. Setting description wasn’t a huge part of the book, but there was a still an atmosphere of familiarity  throughout.

It also helped that Herrera can write characters that you can’t help but want to befriend. Nesto, along with his friends and family, made me want to join in with them, eat their food, and help out when things got hard. And they’re fictional characters. But I still wanted to jump in and help out. And Jude was amazing too. A small-town librarian who just wants to make sure kids had access to books. Who can’t get behind that? (This small-town library worker definitely felt for this character and his struggles to get a project off the ground.)

While there definitely wasn’t an easy romance between the characters, I also felt that the level of angst was just right. Meaning there really wasn’t any. After reading through the whole thing and understanding where the characters came from in their respective pasts, I think that other authors may have taken these details and focused on them more. Made the book darker than necessary. But Herrera put just the right amount of it all in there to build her characters and drive the tensions.

And now I’m going to go back to the food for a second. Where can I find a food truck like Nesto’s OuNYe? I was craving the food from the descriptions the entire time I was reading. So remember, don’t go into this one hungry. Not that it’ll matter. I think anyone would find room in their stomach to get hungry no matter what.

I devoured this book in a day, barely hitting pause on my audiobook app once. I could not put this down. There are major struggles with bigots and the things life generally throws at us. But also great food, great characters, and two characters who need something right to happen to them. It’s all in here and I can’t recommend this book enough.

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You can find this book on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Adriana was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last 15 years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings.

When she’s not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a social worker in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

She’s one of the co-creators of the Queer Romance PoC Collective and serves as the VP of Programs for the Romance Writers of America New York City Chapter.

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Review: The Bride Test, by @HHoangWrites

Title: The Bride Test (The Kiss Quotient #2)
Author: Helen Hoang
Rating: 5/5 stars

“From the critically acclaimed author of The Kiss Quotient comes a romantic novel about love that crosses international borders and all boundaries of the heart…

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions — like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better— that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working… but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.” (description from Goodreads)

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“The Bride Test is the next book in this series and I’m going to devour it when it’s released. I’m expecting great things from Hoang after reading The Kiss Quotient.” That’s a direct quote from my review of Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient. Did I devour The Bride Test? Yes, I think listening to the audio over two days (for me) could be considered devouring. What it worth it? Very much so! As I heard from some other readers, I feel that this book was even better than The Kiss Quotient. Not that either book is worse than the other, but I think the bar was raised even higher with this one.

What this book was able to do for me was to actually keep me thinking “will there really be an HEA when this one’s done?” The Romance genre, by definition, needs an HEA. There’s a framework that most books follow and a reader “knows” mostly when things will start wrapping up and all that. Hoang really had me worrying with this one. Even if the HEA didn’t happen, I feel that I was going to be satisfied with the book as a whole. The characters are some of my favorites in recent memory. Esme is one for not being a push-over, despite being a stranger in a new country and building herself up with little help from others. She made sure she had contingencies no matter what happened. And Khai for growing as a person, understanding himself better, and finding happiness he didn’t even think he needed.

This is the first time I’ve read a book where a main character, especially from the 1st person POV, is autistic. Was it drilled into my head that this was the case? Was this a book written just to have an autistic character? No and No. Khai is a well-written character who happens to be the way he is because that’s who he is. Some of the secondary characters (family members, to be more specific) don’t understand him or seem to try realizing he’s not an asshole. But then there’s Quan who is such a caring brother and reminded me that not everyone in the family dismisses Khai’s “differences” as him being stubborn or uncaring. 

And that leads me to what I would love to see next. Quan’s story. I don’t always “need” a certain character to have a book next, but I think a book for Quan would be a really great one to read, especially if we see more of the couple’s from The Bride Test and The Kiss Quotient in them. I enjoyed the cameos from book one in this book but miss them already.
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You can buy this book from:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Helen Hoang is that shy person who never talks. Until she does. And the worst things fly out of her mouth. She read her first romance novel in eighth grade and has been addicted ever since.

In 2016, she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in line with what was previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Her journey inspired THE KISS QUOTIENT.

She currently lives in San Diego, California with her husband, two kids, and pet fish.

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