ARC Review: When We’re Thirty

Goodreads Blurb:

Two friends. One pact. The performance of their lives.

Hannah Abbott is stuck in a dead-end relationship and at a job she loves but that barely pays the bills. The four walls of her tiny New York City apartment have never seemed so small. She’s barely toasted her thirtieth birthday when her old college friend Will knocks on her door with an unexpected proposal.

Will Thorne never forgot the marriage pact he made with Hannah, but he also never imagined he’d be the one to initiate it. One ex-fiancée and an almost-career-ending mistake later, however, he finds himself outside Hannah’s door, on bended knee, to collect on their graduation-night pinky promise.

With both of their futures at stake, Hannah and Will take a leap of faith.

Now, all they have to do is convince their friends and family that they’re madly in love. As long as they follow the list of rules they’ve drafted, everything should go smoothly. Except Will has never been good with rules, and Hannah can’t stop overthinking the sleeping arrangements. Turning thirty has never been so promising.

My Thoughts:

Summary: Cute Romance, which could’ve been better.

Things I liked:

  • Characters such as Riley, Charlaine, & Kate.
  • The plot: “If we aren’t married by ___ age, then let’s get hitched!”
  • Sweet romance

Things that could’ve been better:

  • Better writing. The author tried to pan the book out, but certain high points turned anticlimactic because of the delivery. It just fell flat and was very frustrating. SPOILER! SPOILER! [Like the reveal of JT or their first time confessing their love to each other.]
  • Fights between Will and Hannah seemed so unnecessary most of the time even if it was used as a catalyst to advance the story further. I found it hard to digest SPOILER! SPOILER! [ how they just got back together with each other no matter what?]
  • The jumps between scenes. Important scenes just vanished, and certain rambles were in place instead.
  • Unnecessary spotlight on Madison and Jo. Their characters never seemed steady and always changing.
  • I had to push through the first half of the book, if it weren’t an ARC, I would’ve probably DNF’ed.

Overall, it’s a decent book for a debut. If you enjoy family angst intertwined with romance, this might be the one for you.

My Rating: It’s a 2.75/5.

Content Notices: Emotionally abusive ex.

Audience:  Adult

Pages: 295, Kindle Edition

Meet the Author:

“I’m a working writer and mom. By day I work in corporate marketing communications and at night I spend quality time with my husband and daughter.

I love to write love stories and stories that focus on the intricacies of relationships–whether they be romantic, familial or friendship. My stories focus on the quiet, inner workings of women and how everything in their lives leads them to exactly where they are, whether they like it or not.

In 2019, When We’re Thirty (under the title First Comes Marriage) won the Contemporary Romance Writers Stiletto Award for Unpublished Women’s Fiction, and earned finalist positions in the NJRWA Put Your Heart in a Book Contest and the NorthWest Houston RWA LoneStar Contest.”

I received a complimentary advance review copy, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

ARC Review: Mango, Mambo, and Murder (A Caribbean Kitchen Mystery, #1)

Goodreads Blurb:

Cuban-American cooking show star Miriam Quinones-Smith becomes a seasoned sleuth in Raquel Reyes’s Caribbean Kitchen Mystery debut, a savory treat for fans of Joanne Fluke and Jenn McKinlay.

Food anthropologist Miriam Quinones-Smith’s move from New York to Coral Shores, Miami, is traumatic enough without having to deal with her son’s toddler tantrums and her husband’s midlife crisis. Her best friend, Alma, adds some spice back into Miriam’s life when she offers her a job as an on-air cooking expert on a Spanish-language morning TV show. But when the newly minted star attends a Women’s Club luncheon, a socialite sitting at her table suddenly falls face-first into the chicken salad, never to nibble again.

When a second woman dies soon after, suspicions coalesce around a controversial Cuban herbalist, Dr. Fuentes–especially after the morning show’s host collapses while interviewing him. But then, Detective Pullman learns that the socialite’s death resulted from a drug overdose–and an anonymous tip fingers Alma as the pusher.

Pullman persuades Miriam to ply her culinary know-how and her understanding of Coral Shores’s Caribbean culture to help find the killer and clear Alma’s name. While her hubby dallies with his ex-girlfriend, Juliet, Miriam quizzes her neighbors for answers and researches all manner of herbs.

As the ingredients to the deadly scheme begin blending together, Miriam is on the verge of learning how and why the women died. But her snooping may turn out to be a recipe for her own murder.

My Thoughts:

“Holding onto a grudge is like holding onto an anchor and jumping into the sea.”

Now that an inspiring quote has made an appearance, let’s begin!

What I liked/loved:

  • Characters! I feel like authors don’t get enough credit for creating NEGATIVE characters./ antagonists. There were a few of those in this book that made my blood boil. (Which translates to Raquel doing a fantastic job in bringing them to life!) Since I have mentioned the antagonist, I cannot take the spotlight away from the MC.
    Miriam. She was a likable character and her affection for her family and best friend seemed genuine. I admired her self-control when experiencing racism.
    Manny. What a delight!!! Are toddlers really like that? (My guess is going to be no, haha.)
    Robert. Being in an interracial marriage, it was admirable how he welcomed her culture and they worked together. I was rooting for them throughout!
    So many amazing characters, I wonder how book 2 would go about it!
  • Writing style. Despite being around 300+ pages, I was able to finish the book within a day. Written in the first person past tense, the author was able to capture my attention with her engaging plotline and dialogues. I cannot stress how much I LOVED being introduced to the Caribbean culture. It’s so beautiful. The food, history, and family structure.
  • Bilingual aspects. Mainly written in English, it included a few Spanish dialogues and words. It made it feel more authentic even when there were a few instances where I found myself trying to translate the words, haha.
  • Recipes at the end? Hell yes! That was such an added bonus! I am very keen on the papaya smoothie.

What could’ve been better?

  • Miriam and Detective Frank Pullman’s relationship. It lacked authenticity once she had turned into an informant.
  • I was hoping someone else was the “killer” though there was a good amount of information and research involved to create a good distraction. While it was expected, sort of, I wasn’t bored reading through Miriam’s thought process or the events that occurred in her life.

It took about three minutes of turning the water off and on, flushing the toilet and opening and closing the hall bathroom door to stir Manny.

Okay, not necessarily an issue, my personal opinion on here. Why was she doing this? Her husband was an environmentalist! And I thought she was too. When these lines popped up, I WAS SHOCKED! Why Miriam, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?!

Overall, I loved the book! Can’t wait to read more from the author!

Meet the author!

Raquel V. Reyes writes stories with Latina characters. Her Cuban-American heritage, Miami, and the Caribbean feature prominently in her work. Raquel is a co-chair for SleuthFest. Her short story “A Star Goes Dark” is in the 15th Malice Domestic anthology.

ARC Review: Opposites Attract: Butch/Femme Romances

Goodreads Blurb:

Sometimes opposites really do attract. Fall in love with these butch/femme romance novellas.

In An Epiphany in Flannel by Meghan O’Brien, small-town waitress Maisie Davis resolves the mystery of her sexuality after an unexpected encounter with a handsome stranger seated in the corner booth of Moe’s Fine Diner. Aiden Crane opens Maisie’s mind and body to exciting new possibilities—but can she find the courage to follow her heart?

In Follow Her Lead by Aurora Rey, venture capitalist Jude Benoit is named Majesty of Artemis, New Orleans’s premier lesbian Mardi Gras parade and ball, and enlists the expertise of private dance instructor Gabriella Viard to save her from making a fool of herself. Jude can follow the steps, but what happens when Gabby challenges her to lead with her heart?

In Just as You Are by Angie Williams, Dylan Fleming is a confident and capable woman in every way except the stereotypical ways her ex-girlfriend thought she should be. When her insecurities get the better of her and she fumbles on a date with beautiful auto mechanic Carrie Grice, Dylan has to let go of the past. Can she accept that she is loved just as she is?

My Thoughts:

I was really excited to read this Anthology! And here are my thoughts. It consisted of three different short stories by different authors, each carried a different tone, style, and plot. (Naturally.)

“Follow Her Lead” was the first one to make an appearance. While the idea behind it was awesome, I felt like the story lacked some grit. The dance lessons and scenes were great. I loved Gabby’s character and how she handled herself but Jude was just all over the place. She seemed too one-sided for my taste. 2.5/5 I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I would’ve liked and had a hard time getting through it.

“Just As You Are,” was probably my favorite from the series. It gets a high of 3.5/5. The characters resembled real-life issues that one might experience. Meeting online, trying to make a good impression, things blowing out of proportion! Yeah, all too relatable to the audience especially since Dylan had some previous damage to get through and work on herself. Carrie was amazing, breaking gender roles, left and right!

“An Epiphany in Flannel” was the final one. I really wanted to name it the showstopper but some parts of it just made me cringe… a little. I understand Maisie had conservative parents but the dialogues seemed forced and unnatural. Aiden was sweet and amazing but the ending blew my mind! What a crazy thing to do. Felt a little hallmark-ey but I enjoyed it nonetheless. 3/5

So, this gives me an overall rating of 3/5.

My Rating: It’s a 3/5.

Content Notices: Anxiety, homophobia, emotionally abusive ex.

Audience: 18+

Pages: 266, Kindle Edition

I received a complimentary advance review copy, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

Meet the Authors!

Born in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, Meghan O’Brien relocated to Northern California in 2005. As a transplant, she enjoys the moderate weather and gorgeous scenery of the Bay Area. Meghan lives with her wife, their son, three cats, three dogs, two snakes and several tarantulas. Yes, it can be just as chaotic as it sounds.

Meghan’s day job is as a software developer, but her real passion is writing. From her humble beginnings creating numerous “books” out of construction paper and crayons as soon as she learned to write, to her several published novels and various anthology contributions, writing is what makes her feel most complete.

Aurora Rey is a college dean by day and award-winning lesbian romance author the rest of the time, except when she’s cooking, baking, riding the tractor, or pining for goats. She grew up in a small town in south Louisiana, daydreaming about New England. She keeps a special place in her heart for the South, especially the food and the ways women are raised to be strong, even if they’re taught not to show it. After a brief dalliance with biochemistry, she completed both a B.A. and an M.A. in English.

She is the author of the Cape End Romance series and several standalone contemporary lesbian romance novels and novellas. She is has been a finalist for the Lambda Literary, RITA®, and Golden Crown Literary Society awards, but loves reader feedback the most. She lives in Ithaca, New York with her dog and whatever wildlife has taken up residence in the pond.

Thank you for stopping by. You time spent on this blog means a lot more than I can express. Before you leave, read this!

“You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on
your way.”

Dr. Seuss

Soapbox Rant: Why it’s not bad to be selfish?

Happy Thursday, beautiful people.

Gosh, I missed saying that. For those of you who are confused why I did? Well, up until February, I used to post on Instagram every Thursday. Eventually, I was too overwhelmed to continue that ritual. I tell myself everyday that I will get back on, and start posting again, but honestly, I still can’t muster the courage. It’s hard being on social media. Those who do manage to post, reply, share, save, and engage with the community, I am so impressed. You must be a superhero! Okay, enough side tracking. Before I start my blog post, I am going to plead my ignorance, this entire post is my own opinion based on my observation and culture. If our opinions don’t meet, please be kind enough to enlighten me. I am more than happy to broaden my horizons. Let’s get started!

Be Selfish!

I know, I know. We’re all taught be to selfless and giving. Be nice and compromise. But how much giving can a person be? I am Indian. I am a woman. It is frowned upon when we try to be selfish. And honestly, I am tired of nurturing the guilt when I am trying to do something for myself.

You’re probably like but Keira, don’t you think you’re being a LITTLE dramatic today? Well, maybe I am. Maybe I am not. (Thank the Lord that I am not famous, so I am not scared of being #cancelled. )

Okay, okay. Let’s go with the definition of selfish, right? That’s the only way to go about it.

According to Oxford dictionary: (of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for other people; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

Okay, that’s a heavy definition. I feel like it’s screaming at me already.

Calm down, Mr. Pointy Finger.

When I think of being selfish, I usually am thinking to ” concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure,” and this harbors a lot of guilt and shame within me. It probably has to do with my culture.

“Spread love and happiness. CoMpRoMiSe!!!!!”

Does anything really realize how exhausting it is to continuously let things go?

If you’re sitting there wondering why I am making such a huge deal of this. Well, think of this for me, please.

Has an instance ever occurred where your mom sacrificed something for you? It could be something as minute as giving you the last piece of her bread or lying that she wasn’t hungry? Yeah. She was lying, she was probably hungry and realllly wanted that piece of bread or cake. And, yes, you probably didn’t think twice before eating it. And 99% of the time, you didn’t even acknowledge all the things she’s done for you over the course of years where you should’ve said thanks just to make everything a little better and bearable for her. I am not saying that you’re not superb human being. You probably are. But, an individual can only go able for so long without feeling respected and cared for.

So yes, damn with you. Your mom should definitely indulge in that piece of bread without the fear of being labeled as a selfish mother.

I am sure some thumb warriors are ready to point out, “but what about fathers? They sacrifice too!” And of course they do! They’ve worked to the bone, and their time away from their family is another form of sacrifice too. AGAIN, I am not saying mother’s can’t work. Gosh, there’s no winning with you guys, is there? That isn’t what I was talking about. It was just an example I was giving out.

What I am trying to say is that it’s easy for people to label you as being selfish or self involved for doing something gravely just for yourself. Do what makes you happy and if people are quick to label you with a nasty word, well, wear it as a badge. (But don’t steal your roommate’s food and then blame it on me! Hello, Keira didn’t teach you to steal food!)

Think of it as your own Scarlett Letter A. Ahhh, now we’re feeling scandalous eh?

I know I have been trying, thinking about myself over others, is difficult but I will take it one step at a time. I hope you do too. For your sanity and mental health’s sake. You can’t be expected to look after other’s while you’re breaking apart. Be kind, but to yourself first.

Phew, that was a hard piece to right. Did you guys feel it too? I would appreciate if you could tell me your thoughts on it. Did you like it? Dislike it? Came around, let’s have a conversation. I am always happy to brew a cuppa! Sending my love and best wishes your way. Stay safe and get vaccinated!

ARC Review: House of Agnes

Goodreads Blurb:

A lesbian romance filled with intrigue and sizzling sexual tension as enemies discover that the other side of hatred…is desire.

Agnes Noble is private, mysterious, and untouchable. She rules House of Agnes, the most exclusive escort agency on the East Coast, with a diamond fist. Crossing her is a mistake no one makes twice.

Investigative reporter Lola Osbourne is not afraid. She’s gunning for the House and its so-called queen. She’ll make sure no other innocent gets dragged into Agnes’s alluring web, to be used and discarded the way Lola’s sister was.

But her plan to get close to the elusive madam shatters the moment her eyes meet the Queen’s. One look and everything’s different. More complicated. Dangerous.

Now, Lola’s not just fighting to topple a queen from her throne, she’s also scrambling to escape their explosive collision with her suddenly vulnerable heart intact

My Thoughts:

I’ll start with what I liked/admired:

  • STRONG FEMALE MAIN LEADS! Yes! I love reading books like that. It’s so inspirational to me. I suppose that’s when I am motivated to pick up a dumbbell and try to get some gains like Whit or Jamika! If not, I could just work on my scowls, I suppose that would do too!
  • Ms. Zedde’s writing style. It was… poetry and prose and every beautiful thing that one can think of when describing superb imagery and style. Do you want an example?! Don’t worry, I got it covered.

Sudden anxiety fizzed in her chest, like an untimely burp waiting to burst free.

What? I read that (of course there were a lot of examples throughout the book but this stood out more.) and was like, y’know. She’s so damn right. It’s obvious yet creates a beautiful picture to capture me into Lola’s world and experiencing the thundering of her heart.

  • Not abusing sex. It’s refreshing. I know the story’s setting does stir every conversation in that direction, but I loved how the author was able to create a balance.
  • Gretchen. I don’t have to say anything more. That little girl was adorable.
  • I admired the author for using her book as a medium to get the message of BLM across.

Like everyone else in America, Lola saw the videos of cops killing unarmed Black people and other ethnic folks in the streets, in their cars, in police stations, on social media, and she hated the system that allowed things like that to happen almost every day with no consequences for the killers.

  • Finally, the cover. It’s beautiful.

What could’ve been better?

  • The chemistry between Lola and Agnes. Agnes was suspicious of Lola throughout but their “relationship” confused me.
  • The end. Too fast-paced and the author made it seem like she was tying all the loose ends together. (view spoiler)  The ending sort of ruined it for me. I wish it was better.

My Rating: It’s a 3.5/5.

Content Notices:  Murder, and death of loved ones in the past.

Audience: 18+

Pages: 243, Kindle Edition

I received a complimentary advance review copy, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

About the Author:

Fiona Zedde is a Jamaican-born novelist and short-story writer who currently lives and writes and Tampa, Florida.

She is the author of six novellas – “Pure Pleasure,” “Going Wild” and “Sexual Attraction” appear in the collections, Satisfy Me, Satisfy Me Again, and Satisfy Me One More Time, respectively.

Her novels include Bliss, A Taste of Sin, Every Dark Desire, Hungry for It, Kisses after Midnight, and Dangerous Pleasures. To find out more about her, log onto her website at