The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane by Jeannie Chin (Blue Cedar Falls #1)
Clay Hawthorn, a surly army vet, arrives in Blue Cedar Falls, NC to fulfill his fallen comrade’s dream of opening a dive bar on the small town’s uppity Main Street. Clay has a chip on his shoulder that turns off most of the Main Street business owners– especially June Wu, the headstrong Bed and Breakfast owner. Together they find new perspectives on their futures and a romance neither was looking for.
Overall, I thought this was an enjoyable and solid read. It’s got some enemies-to-lovers vibes as June (and the entire town) oppose Clay’s ideas to change the beloved Main Street. I would say the spice level is simmering, there is on-page sex but it’s not explicit. The narrators on the audiobook are both great. I bought the audiobook during an Audible sale because Zachary Webber is an auto-buy and was pleasantly surprised by the female narrator Katy Tang. I love discovering new amazing narrators!
The Good Girls Guide to Rakes by Eva Leigh (Last Chance Scoundrels #1)
When Kieran Ransome, the wildly rakish third son to the Earl of Wingrave, is forced to find a proper wife–he strikes up a deal with Celeste Kilburn–his best friend’s sister to help him search. Celeste uses her good girl social standing to vouch for him and in exchange, he shows her the wilder sides of London.
Eva Leigh is an auto-buy author for me. She’s an excellent storyteller and a master at using romance tropes to create well-crafted conflict and unique stakes. While I found this an enjoyable read…it didn’t blow me away. The plotting and setup felt fairly rote. In fact, this book has a similar plot to the first Leigh I read, Forever Your Earl. To me, that book handles the rake-takes-a-woman-undercover-to-see-what-rakes-get-up-to-at-night plotline was more scandalous. I mean, lol, their late-night adventures in this book felt mostly like hanging normies out with theater kids and minorities.
That said, I feel like this is great rec for a Regency romance that “goes down smooth”. There isn’t any triggering content. It’s the first book I’ve read in a while where there’s no emotional abuse, trauma, or death on page. The characters have different perspectives from their family but no one is an outright villain.
Zara Hampton-Brown is an excellent narrator in this book. She has a great hero voice, IDK what she was doing in Neon Gods. Her male voice was terrible in that.
Good as Gold by Sarina Bowen (Giltmaker #1)
35-year-old divorcee Lila Giltmaker is giving herself the one thing she’s always wanted–a baby. The only thing missing? A suitable donor. Then Matteo Rossi–her childhood best friend– strolls back into town after being MIA for 12 years. Matteo is grieving the death of his business partner and is ready to reconnect with his home. He agrees to give Lila a baby but instead of doing IVF, they decide to do it the old-fashioned way.
This series is a spinoff of True North but, honestly, it feels like a True North series. All of the side characters are from the True North books and it has all of the angsty small-town elements. Bowen excels at creating characters you want to root for and making them fight for their HEAs. I feel like this is an unpopular opinion but…I really like friends-to-lovers romance.
Lessa Lamb and Jason Clarke worked well together on the audio. This was my first Lamb and she is great. I have heard Jason Clarke before and he truly has an amazing range. I always have a hard time placing him because he sounds so different every single time I hear him.
Matteo has a snowboarding business and around the time I was reading this book, I started watching Shaun White’s HBO documentary. At one point in the documentary, they talk to an Olympic snowboarder named Danny Davis who looks EXACTLY how Matteo is described. I wonder if Bowen was inspired by him.