Roomies by Christina Lauren
Published: December 2017
Genre: women’s fiction
Summary: For months Holland Bakker has invented excuses to descend into the subway station near her apartment, drawn to the captivating music performed by her street musician crush. Fate steps in one night in the form of a drunken attacker. Calvin Mcloughlin rescues her, but quickly disappears when the police start asking questions. Using the only resource she has to pay the brilliant musician back, Holland gets Calvin an audition with her uncle, Broadway’s hottest musical director. Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until his reason for disappearing earlier becomes clear: he’s in the country illegally, his student visa having expired years ago. Seeing that her uncle needs Calvin as much as Calvin needs him, a wild idea takes hold of her. Impulsively, she marries the Irishman, her infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves and Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway—in the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting—will Holland and Calvin to realize that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?
Mini Review: Broadway, musicians, Irishmen, Midwesterner in NYC—a recipe for a book I knew I’d enjoy! This was my first Christina Lauren novel and I enjoyed the writing and romance—what a complicated and frightening, confusing situation Holland and Calvin found themselves in—all of it still somehow so grounded and relatable. From the crash info sessions while filling out paperwork to the drilled interview questions in the office, backstage swoons on Broadway to little moments of vulnerable quiet at home—I was immersed in all of it. Hopefully reading another Christina Lauren soon!
This qualifies as book 3 in my TBR challenge.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Publisher: William Morrow
Published: March 2017
Genre: women’s fiction
Summary: Nikki lives in West London, where she tends bar at the local pub. The daughter of Indian immigrants, she’s spent most of her twenty-odd years distancing herself from the traditional Sikh community of her childhood, preferring a more independent (that is, Western) life. When her father’s death leaves the family financially strapped, Nikki, a law school dropout, impulsively takes a job teaching a “creative writing” course at the community center in the beating heart of London’s close-knit Punjabi community. Because of a miscommunication, the proper Sikh widows who show up are expecting to learn basic English literacy, not the art of short-story writing. When one of the widows finds a book of sexy stories in English and shares it with the class, Nikki realizes that beneath their white dupattas, her students have a wealth of fantasies and memories. Eager to liberate these modest women, she teaches them how to express their untold stories, unleashing creativity of the most unexpected—and exciting—kind. As more women are drawn to the class, Nikki warns her students to keep their work secret from the Brotherhood, a group of highly conservative young men who have appointed themselves the community’s “moral police.” But when the widows’ gossip offers shocking insights into the death of a young wife—a modern woman like Nikki—and some of the class erotica is shared among friends, it sparks a scandal that threatens them all.
Mini Review: I wanted something fun, with depth, and Punjabi Widows was just the ticket. Nikki needs to take on an extra job to make ends meet and decides to answer a callout for writing instructors while pinning her sister’s matchmaking ad on the temple community board. Though she was under the impression she would be teaching women to write creative stories, she finds out her real job is to help them learn to read and write, period. In Punjabi, in English, either, both, all of the above. But as she continues her lessons she finds these women seek escape in stories—specifically erotica—as these stories are the only ways they can express themselves without shame. The writing was engaging, and the plot—with male morality police (god, oppressive men are everywhere for us, aren’t they?), mysterious deaths, hush money, and double lives—unexpectedly twisty and thrilling. I loved these women and their stories, ones that stemmed from their lost loves and others from their imagination, the way Nikki empowered them and they ways they strengthened her. If you’re looking for a good sisterhood book and what it means to be part of a community, this is it!
Meet Cute by Helena Hunting
Published: April 2019
Genre: women’s fiction, chick lit
Summary: On her first day of law school, Kailyn ran – quite literally – into the actor she crushed on as a teenager, ending with him sprawled on top of her. Mortified to discover the Daxton Hughes was also a student in her class, her embarrassment over their meet-cute quickly turned into a friendship she never expected. Of course, she never saw his betrayal coming either. Now, eight years later, Dax is in her office asking for legal advice. Despite her anger, Kailyn can’t help feeling sorry for the devastated man who just became sole guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister. But when her boss gets wind of Kailyn’s new celebrity client, there’s even more at stake than Dax’s custody issues: if she gets Dax to work at their firm, she’ll be promoted to partner. The more time Kailyn spends with Dax and his sister, the more she starts to feel like a family, and the more she realizes the chemistry they had all those years ago is as fresh as ever. But will they be able to forgive the mistakes of the past, or will one betrayal lead to another?
Mini Review: Romcoms lately have taken a pleasant turn to include more than just a meet cute (ha!) and romance—other compelling elements in the narrative are propelling the plot forward, which definitely makes me happy! With a cute cover and classic romcom premise, I thought I would enjoy a very surface-level comedy on meeting and interacting with a celebrity crush. But it’s a little deeper than that—Daxton suddenly has to care for his little sister, and their aunt is suing for custody. Kailyn was a great character to relate to and root for, and she has a good head on her shoulders. Daxton’s situation was genuinely heartbreaking to read, and Emme’s teenage reaction to everything catapulted me back to my own middle school years. But around the middle of the novel I wished this custody case would just wrap up already—lots of repetitive scenes, dialogue, and thoughts bogged down the momentum of the story as well as the romance. Overall this was a solid, good read to pass the time.
This qualifies as book 4 of 10 in my library books challenge.