HEART AND SEOUL by Jen Frederick

October 10, 2021

From the publisher:

One woman learns that the price of belonging is often steeper than expected in this heart-wrenching yet hopeful romantic novel and first in the Seoul duology by USA Today bestselling author Jen Frederick.

As a Korean adoptee, Hara Wilson doesn’t need anyone telling her she looks different from her white parents. She knows. Every time Hara looks in the mirror, she’s reminded that she doesn’t look like anyone else in her family—not her loving mother, Ellen; not her jerk of a father, Pat; and certainly not like Pat’s new wife and new “real” son.

At the age of twenty-five, she thought she had come to terms with it all, but when her father suddenly dies, an offhand comment at his funeral triggers an identity crisis that has her running off to Seoul in search of her roots.

What Hara finds there has all the makings of a classic K-drama: a tall, mysterious stranger who greets her at the airport, spontaneous adventures across the city, and a mess of familial ties, along with a red string of destiny that winds its way around her, heart and soul. Hara goes to Korea looking for answers, but what she gets instead is love—a forbidden love that will either welcome Hara home…or destroy her chance of finding one.


This book is part family story, part romance, and part travelogue to Seoul in South Korea. Hara was adopted when she was a baby after her biological mother abandoned her on the streets of Seoul. Her adoptive parents live in the Midwest, and there are no other Asian kids in her school. Hara grows up always feeling like an outsider, despite her mother trying to help her learn about her heritage. Hara pushes those efforts away.

Her parents divorce and her father eventually remarries and has a son. When he suddenly dies, she learns he left his money to his “real” child. Hara and her dad had a difficult relationship, but she is very close to her mom. A few months after the funeral, Hara receives an email from the DNA adoption matching service with her birth father’s name and address, in Seoul. Hara decides to go meet him, and hopes to also find her birth mother.

Hara doesn’t plan much; this is a spur of the moment decision. She doesn’t speak Korean but a newish friend does, and her friend will be in Korea at the same time. Hara is sure it will all work out. But of course, there are hurdles.

Her friend arranged for a car and driver, but Hara mistakenly gets a ride with a young, gorgeous man that she originally thinks is her driver. He thinks she is beautiful, doesn’t dissuade her and gives her a ride. Luckily, he speaks perfect English, and tells her he was educated in the U.S. He also admits he is not a driver. She is so jet lagged and he is so good looking, she just goes along with it.

Hara spends two weeks in Seoul, finding her father, her mother, and love. But, and this is a big but and the cause for a lot of negative reviews – there is no happy ending here. However, the sequel, Seoulmates, comes out early next year.

The story is slow moving, and Hara isn’t an especially likeable character. But I like my happy endings, so I will be reading the sequel in hopes of finding it. Frankly, the publisher should have known better than to market this as a romance; one of the defining characteristics of the romance genre is the happy ending. It is women’s fiction with some romance, but it is really a story about Hara learning about her background and her culture. I like learning those sorts of things, too, so it worked for me.

NOTE: Coincidentally, as I finished reading this book I came across this article in the New York Times*:

The Myth of Asian American Identity: We’re the fastest-growing demographic group in the U.S. But when it comes to the nation’s racial and ethnic divisions, where do we fit in? [This article is adapted from “The Loneliest Americans,” by Jay Caspian Kang, to be published by Crown in October.]

10/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

HEART AND SEOUL by Jen Frederick. Berkley (May 25, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593100141. 352 pages.

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*Thanks to the New York Times for allowing me to “gift” my readers with free access to this article, a lovely perk for subscribers.


MY TIME AMONG THE WHITES by Jennine Capó Crucet

October 7, 2021

Notes from an Unfinished Education

From the author of Make Your Home Among Strangers, essays on being an “accidental” American―an incisive look at the edges of identity for a woman of color in a society centered on whiteness

In this sharp and candid collection of essays, critically acclaimed writer and first-generation American Jennine Capó Crucet explores the condition of finding herself a stranger in the country where she was born. Raised in Miami and the daughter of Cuban refugees, Crucet examines the political and personal contours of American identity and the physical places where those contours find themselves smashed: be it a rodeo town in Nebraska, a university campus in upstate New York, or Disney World in Florida. Crucet illuminates how she came to see her exclusion from aspects of the theoretical American Dream, despite her family’s attempts to fit in with white American culture―beginning with their ill-fated plan to name her after the winner of the Miss America pageant.

In prose that is both fearless and slyly humorous, My Time Among the Whites examines the sometimes hopeful, sometimes deeply flawed ways in which many Americans have learned to adapt, exist, and―in the face of all signals saying otherwise―perhaps even thrive in a country that never imagined them here.


This memoir is a collection of essays and is remarkable reading. Crucet is the American born daughter of Cuban refugees, and grew up in Hialeah, a Miami haven for Cuban families. In this book, she talks about everything from moving to Nebraska to Walt Disney World to how she was named after a Miss USA – sort of. What drew me to this book was the immigrant experience being told first hand.

Crucet is the first person in her family to go to college, and she writes about that experience and the difficulties she had because she had no guidance. She applied to only two colleges, because no one told her you could get application fees waived and they were steep. She received a full ride to the University of Florida, no easy feat, but instead, she selected a school based on a brochure a secretary was throwing away. The school that looked so appealing was Cornell University, and she was accepted. She did receive financial aid, but not the free ride she could have had at UF. She decided, along with her family, that Cornell was the best place for her, even though it was a struggle.

Struggle is at the heart of the book. Crucet is Latinx, a light skinned brown person who often passes as white, living in a country where the last president called Mexicans rapists and murderers. I loved the review in the Los Angeles Review of Books; they described this book as “post-Trump Latinx literature.” The bigotry she has to deal with is at times subtle, and other times overt, but it is always there, a backdrop to every essay in this collection. This is a worthwhile read, especially now when right-wing racist groups have gained national attention. It is sometimes painful reading, sometimes funny, but always engaging, making this a difficult but excellent read.

NOTE: I am facilitating a discussion of this book at Lynn University on Friday, 10/8/2021 at noon, with college students and faculty. I am especially looking forward to hearing what the students have to say. This discussion is part of the Impact Series: in collaboration with Student Affairs and the Lynn Library, Project Civitas‘ Impact Series is a multi-departmental collaboration that seeks to immerse students, faculty and staff in holistic conversations about issues of social justice. Register here for the book discussion: https://lynn.libcal.com/event/8297620

10/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MY TIME AMONG THE WHITES by Jennine Capó Crucet. Picador (September 3, 2019). ISBN:‎ 978-1250299437. 208 pages.

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THE TROUBLE WITH HATING YOU by Sajni Patel

October 5, 2021

The Trouble with Hating You, Book 1

From the publisher:

A fiercely independent engineer walks out on the man her parents have set her up with — only to start working side-by-side with him at her job in this laugh-out-loud debut with “delicious banter, deep wounds, heartwarming friendships, and a path to love that often feels impossibly hard, and [a payoff] satisfying enough to give you a book hangover the size of Texas” (Sonali Dev, USA Today bestselling author of Recipe for Persuasion).

Liya Thakkar is a successful biochemical engineer, takeout enthusiast, and happily single woman. The moment she realizes her parents’ latest dinner party is a setup with the man they want her to marry, she’s out the back door in a flash. Imagine her surprise when the same guy shows up at her office a week later — the new lawyer hired to save her struggling company. What’s not surprising: he’s not too thrilled to see her either after that humiliating fiasco.

Jay Shah looks good on paper…and off. Especially if you like that whole gorgeous, charming lawyer-in-a-good-suit thing. He’s also infuriating. As their witty office banter turns into late-night chats, Liya starts to think he might be the one man who truly accepts her. But falling for each other means exposing their painful pasts. Will Liya keep running, or will she finally give love a real chance?


I read the second book in this series, First Love, Take Two and I loved it, so I dug around my Kindle and sure enough I found this book. I was so happy I did – this was also a really good read and a good introduction to the characters.

This book is all about Liyah. She is a very successful engineer; in fact, so successful, she just got promoted to management. Except what her boss didn’t tell her is that the company is facing a ton of lawsuits, and everyone’s jobs are in jeopardy. Determined to work hard and help push the company past this bump, on her first day she is late to the meeting with the lawyer in charge of settling the lawsuits. He turns out to be Jay, who she met briefly a few days earlier when her parents tried to set her up with him. She has no interest in marriage, much less parent-matched marriage, and she flees. Unfortunately, she crashes into Jay right on the front lawn, taking them both down. She really hates his smirk as she sprawls on top of him, and she just takes off. And now it’s time for payback.

After a few snarky comments about her tardiness, they end up working together to try and save this company. But all they do is argue, and the chemistry between them just can’t be denied. Jay is intrigued for sure, but Liyah is playing hard-to-get – or actually, impossible to get.

Liyah has a terrible reputation. When she was a young teen, she accused the leader of their Hindu church of sexually abusing her. Her father called her a liar, and their relationship has been strained ever since. Her mother may have believed her, but she is completely submissive to her psychologically abusive husband. Not exactly the great role models for a good marriage, and Liyah is really destroyed by her father’s refusal to believe her. She starts sleeping around, moves out of her parent’s house after college which is frowned upon in this community, and she develops this bad reputation. So she has a hard time believing that this man and his good family would be accepting of her.

But Jay isn’t giving up. He has his own issues – his father died in a fire, and he was injured, but he feels responsible for his father’s death. He is very close with his mother and brother, and they don’t blame him but he can’t get past the guilt.

Despite their pasts, they keep growing closer. Jay is patient – extraordinarily patient – with Liyah and eventually he breaks down her barriers. Until the man she accused of molesting her starts threatening her and even tells Jay and his family that she tried to seduce him. It’s a mess, and Liyah takes off. But Jay tracks her down and they work through their issues together.

I loved these characters and learning about the Indian/Hindu culture. The hate-to-love trope works really well here, and there is a lot of humor despite the seriousness of some of the issues. I think everything is handled with sensitivity and that really added a lot to the emotional resonance of this story. I’m looking forward to whatever comes next from Patel – she is on my must read list for sure.

10/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE TROUBLE WITH HATING YOU by Sajni Patel. Forever (May 12, 2020). ISBN: 978-1538733332. 352 pages.

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ON LOCATION by Sarah Echavarre Smith 

September 25, 2021

From the publisher:

Nothing like a rocky start between enemy coworkers stuck together on location to prove that love isn’t just a ploy for ratingsit’s a force of nature.

Alia Dunn has finally gotten her big break. After years of working her way up at TV’s top outdoor travel channel, she gets the green light from network executives to bring her dream project to life: produce a series about Utah’s national parks. It’s a touching tribute to her late apong, who sparked Alia’s passion for travel and the outdoors as a kid.

Alia is thrilled—until she meets her newest crew member, Drew Irons. The same Drew she had the most amazing first date with two weeks ago—who then ghosted her. The same Drew who has the most deliciously thick forearms and who loves second-guessing her every move on set in front of the entire crew. It’s not long before the tension between them turns hotter than the Utah desert in the dead of summer, and their steamy encounters lead to major feelings.

But when the series host goes rogue one too many times, jeopardizing the entire shoot, Alia realizes that she’ll need to organize one hell of a coup to save her show—and she’ll need Drew’s help to do it. It’s the riskiest move she’s ever made. If she pulls it off, she’ll end up with a hit series and her dream guy . . . but if it all goes wrong, she could lose both.


This was a fun romance in an interesting setting, the National Parks in Utah. Alia’s Phillipino grandma had taken her there when she was a child, and it was one of the most amazing vacations she ever had. She pitches the idea to the travel channel where she works and is shocked when she gets the greenlight. It will be her first time working as showrunner and she’s excited. That is until she hears who her boss has selected as the host of the show – Blaine, a reality star known for drinking and drug abuse. But Blaine’s agent is a friend of her boss so she’s stuck. The rest of her crew she hand picks and they are fabulous. The only one she doesn’t know is Andrew, who her mentor highly recommends, so she feels like he will be a good choice.

One night Alia is riding the subway home when she spots a good looking young man giving up his seat for an elderly woman. She takes a pic and puts it on social media. He ends up standing next to her and flirting like crazy. She agrees to go out for a drink with him and tells him her name is Lia, thinking it is a safer option than giving her real name. He tells her his name is Drew, and they have the most amazing first date. But then he ghosts her. Of course Andrew, her mentor’s choice, turns out to be Drew. He has a good explanation but she’s not interested. They fight their way through the first few days of filming before she realizes that dealing with Blaine is going to be the big issue.

Drew and Alia finally make amends and start working together. They are both really good at their jobs, and when he has to step in for the inebriated host, he does a fantastic job. He’s always wanted to host but has terrible stage fright. Somehow, Alia gets him through it and a coup is hatched. They will film both Drew and Blaine, when he shows up, and not tell Blaine he is being replaced. Alia only hopes the network doesn’t go ballistic when she presents her final cut.

Everyone gets their happy ending here and it was a fun ride to the finish. Utah sounds like an amazingly beautiful place and I wouldn’t mind seeing some of those parks…someday. I liked these characters and the story and highly recommend this book.

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ON LOCATION by Sarah Echavarre Smith. Berkley (September 21, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593201657. 352 pages.

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THE SHAADI SET-UP by Lillie Vale

September 21, 2021

Click to purchase

From the publisher:

In this witty and heartfelt rom-com debut for fans of Jasmine Guillory, Emily Henry, and Tessa Bailey, an Indian American woman signs herself and her boyfriend up for a matchmaking site to prove they’re a perfect match, only to be paired with her ex instead.

High school sweethearts Rita Chitniss and Milan Rao were the golden couple, until the day he broke her heart. Now, six years later, Rita has turned her passion for furniture restoration into a career and has an almost-perfect boyfriend, Neil. The last thing she needs is for Milan to re-enter her life, but that’s exactly what happens when her mother, an unfailing believer in second chances, sets them up. Milan is just as charming, cocky, and confident as he was back in school. Only this time, he actually needs her business expertise, not her heart, to flip a hard-to-sell house for his realty agency. 

While Rita begrudgingly agrees to help, she’s not taking any risks. To prove she’s definitely over him, she signs herself and Neil up on MyShaadi.com, a Desi matchmaking site famous for its success stories and trustworthy enough to convince everyone that she and Neil are the new and improved couple. Instead, she’s shocked when MyShaadi’s perfect match for her isn’t Neil…it’s Milan. Ignoring the website and her mother is one thing, but ignoring Milan proves much more difficult, especially when she promises to help him renovate the beach house of her dreams. And as the two of them dive deeper into work—and their pasts—Rita begins to wonder if maybe her match wasn’t so wrong after all….


Milan dumped Rita in a voicemail while she was flying to meet him for their trip to Europe during college. He never shows and she is heartbroken, but determined to go on their trip anyway. Six years later, Rita met Neil on Tinder and they hit it off. It’s been a few months of him spending the night a couple of times a week. But his life is ruled by his mother, and she wants him to find a wife, an Indian wife.

In a weird coincidence, Rita’s mom was a young woman when she fell in love with a man. But his family arranged a marriage for him and he broke her heart. Rita thinks her mother never got over him, and it turns out Neil’s father is that man. Rita doesn’t want to get any more involved with Neil that what they already are; he has marriage on his mind. She finally figures out that she can make this all public if the Indian marriage/dating app matches her with Neil. They coordinate their answers, but the 100% match for her is not Neil, it’s Milan.

Meanwhile, Neil’s mother “wrestles” his password to the app from him (she asks him for it) and starts arranging dates for him with the women from the site. And he goes. Rita is pissed but doesn’t really care and isn’t the least bit jealous. And Rita’s mom conspires with Milan’s mom to bring them back together. He is a very successful real estate agent, and she loves decorating and woodworking – she takes other people’s junk and turns the junk into treasures.

Milan has been sitting with a listing for this ultra-modern house for close to a year. No one wants it. So when the moms decide that Rita can fix up the place so he can sell it, they both agree to give it a try. It is very successful, and the house sells almost immediately for above list price. Milan had purchased an old B&B on the beach and has been renovating it to flip. He asks Rita to do the decorating and she agrees. The more time they spend together, the more they both realize that they are still in love. But Rita is leery; she knows she’s not the same girl he fell in love with, and she wants to make sure they are both going into this with their eyes wide open.

This was a really fun read. The families lent a lot of humor to the story, and the characters were all interesting and believable. I am looking forward to her next book – this was a debut novel (for adults; she writes children’s books, too!)

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE SHAADI SET-UP by Lillie Vale. G.P. Putnam’s Sons (September 7, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593328712. 368 pages.

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A LOT LIKE ADIOS by Alexis Daria

September 15, 2021

From the publisher:

The national bestselling author of You Had Me at Hola returns with a seductive second-chance romance about a commitment-phobic Latina and her childhood best friend who has finally returned home.

Hi Mich. It’s Gabe.

After burning out in her corporate marketing career, Michelle Amato has built a thriving freelance business as a graphic designer. So what if her love life is nonexistent? She’s perfectly fine being the black sheep of her marriage-obsessed Puerto Rican-Italian family. Besides, the only guy who ever made her want happily-ever-after disappeared thirteen years ago.

It’s been a long time.

Gabriel Aguilar left the Bronx at eighteen to escape his parents’ demanding expectations, but it also meant saying goodbye to Michelle, his best friend and longtime crush. Now, he’s the successful co-owner of LA’s hottest celebrity gym, with an investor who insists on opening a New York City location. It’s the last place Gabe wants to go, but when Michelle is unexpectedly brought on board to spearhead the new marketing campaign, everything Gabe’s been running from catches up with him.

I’ve missed you.

Michelle is torn between holding Gabe at arm’s length or picking up right where they left off—in her bed. As they work on the campaign, old feelings resurface, and their reunion takes a sexy turn. Facing mounting pressure from their families—who think they’re dating—and growing uncertainty about their futures, can they resolve their past mistakes, or is it only a matter of time before Gabe says adiós again?


Michelle is a talented graphic artist and one of her marketing campaigns went viral. Gabe’s partner in the gym they own is pushing hard to expand to New York, and wants to hire her. He doesn’t know about Gabe’s previous relationship with Michelle. When his partner can’t go to NY, Gabe has to do it. And the only way Michelle is going to help them is if he agrees to stay with her. She has an apartment in the city, and Gabe agrees.

They have unfinished business. Best friends all through school, their relationship intensified the summer after they graduated. Except unbeknownst to Michelle, Gabe is planning on going to college in California, not NY where they both live. When she finds out she is livid. Feeling her temper got the best of her, Michelle reaches out occasionally over the years. She really misses her friend and can’t understand why he won’t respond.

But her apartment is being renovated and shockingly, the date to finish has past and there is no toilet in the apartment. Since her parents are away, Michelle moves back home to the Bronx, next door to Gabe’s family. But when she brings him to the Bronx instead of Manhattan, he freaks out.

What Michelle doesn’t know is that Gabe had a big falling out with his parents. He told them he was going to California, on scholarship, but his father wants him to stay and help out in the stationary store he owns. They have a big fight, and Gabe hasn’t been back or even talked to his parents for nine years. This is really Gabe’s story; he needs to resolve the issues with his family and his business, and learn who he really is. With Michelle’s help, he does that.

The only part of the book I didn’t love were the “interstitials;” snippets of fanfiction they had written together when they were in high school. I could have lived without that, it reminded me of my least favorite parts of Rainbow Rowell’s books. But it did play a big part of the ending, and I did like that!

This is a terrific romance with some humor and interesting, diverse characters. There isn’t a whole lot of sex but it is steamy. If you like the friends to lovers trope (and I do) then this is your book! It is the sequel to You Had Me at Hola, but while I highly recommend you read it (I loved it) you don’t have to for this book to work. Enjoy!

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A LOT LIKE ADIOS by Alexis Daria. Avon (September 14, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062959966. 416 pages.

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THE HEART PRINCIPLE by Helen Hoang

September 7, 2021

The Kiss Quotient, Book 3

From the publisher:

A woman struggling with burnout learns to embrace the unexpected—and the man she enlists to help her—in this heartfelt new romance by USA Today bestselling author Helen Hoang.

When violinist Anna Sun accidentally achieves career success with a viral YouTube video, she finds herself incapacitated and burned out from her attempts to replicate that moment. And when her longtime boyfriend announces he wants an open relationship before making a final commitment, a hurt and angry Anna decides that if he wants an open relationship, then she does, too.

Translation: She’s going to embark on a string of one-night stands. The more unacceptable the men, the better.

That’s where tattooed, motorcycle-riding Quan Diep comes in. Their first attempt at a one-night stand fails, as does their second, and their third, because being with Quan is more than sex—he accepts Anna on an unconditional level that she herself has just started to understand. However, when tragedy strikes Anna’s family she takes on a role that she is ill-suited for, until the burden of expectations threatens to destroy her. Anna and Quan have to fight for their chance at love, but to do that, they also have to fight for themselves.


This is the latest entry into one of the best contemporary romance series. While there are three books in the series, I think that each stands alone. To prove my point, the second book in the series is from 2019, and honestly, I don’t remember a whole lot about it other than the main points – a main character on the autism spectrum and an emotional journey to the happily-ever-after. And that I loved the first two books, so I was thrilled to find this new one. There is an author’s note at the end of the book explaining why there was two years before publishing, and I must insist that if you read this book, and you should, you should also read that note.

I don’t know a ton about autism. That the main character in this series is on the spectrum means that I learn more about it and I think that is a very good thing. For instance, I learned that Asperger’s Syndrome is no longer a diagnosis; instead, the diagnosis is “autism spectrum disorder.” But more importantly, I learned how this woman lives with her autism and deals with it. Interestingly, the author is also on the spectrum and that just makes it more real.

Anna is a concert violinist in San Francisco. She started learning as a child, but was no prodigy – but a viral video turns her into a sensation, and a famous composer even writes her own piece for her. But Anna has taken a leave of absence from her job because she is stuck. She can’t play her own piece all the way through. In fact, she can’t play anything all the way through other than scales. As soon as she makes any kind of mistake, she has to start over, leaving her playing in a loop and very, very frustrated.

There is also frustration in her personal life. For one thing, Anna has spent her life trying to fit in with her family and even with her boyfriend of five years. Julian tells her he wants to marry her, but first wants to sleep around a lot to make sure he’s not missing anything. He wants an open relationship. Anna isn’t happy about it, and then she gets angry and decides what’s good for the gander is good for the goose and downloads a dating app, She decides to have a one-night stand or even better, a bunch of one night stands. The first guy she finds is just perfect – Quan is very good looking in a very bad boy way. But when she goes to meet him at a bar, she has a panic attack.

Quan has his own issues as a cancer survivor. He’s not looking for a relationship; he just wants to get back in the saddle again, as it were. Anna is sweet and beautiful and quirky, and as all she wants is a one night stand, kismet. It doesn’t work out like either one of them planned, so they decide to try again. Meanwhile, they talk and text and watch documentaries together while texting. The second try also fails, but they are both enjoying each other’s company and keep it going. And for the first time in her life, Anna is being herself and not just trying to please someone else.

Anna has been in therapy for a while to try and deal with her violin issues, and it’s not helping. On the other hand, she tries very hard to tell her therapist what she thinks she wants to hear. It’s not very useful and eventually the therapist tells her she believes Anna has been “masking”, trying to fit in, and gives Anna articles and a book about women on the autism spectrum.

Then Anna’s father has a massive stroke. Despite the fact that the doctors want to call in hospice, her mother and her much older, very dominating sister decide to bring him home and take care of him themselves. Anna moves home and is assigned an eight hour shift. She hates living there, hates taking care of her father not because she doesn’t love him, but because it is just so hard for her to try and fit in 24/7. To make matters worse, she thinks her father hates living like this and wants to die. He has a feeding tube, diapers, he can’t talk at all and it just breaks her heart.

Her sister thinks that autism diagnosis is crap and that Anna just needs to work harder. She also is planning a big birthday party for their father and wants Anna to play her violin at the party. Anna has fallen in love with Quan, but her wealthy Chinese family is not thrilled with this Vietnamese non-professional man. Julian is a doctor and his parents are good friends with Anna’s parents so they are invited to the party. But nothing goes right for Anna, and her struggle is real.

This is the type of book that is almost impossible to put down. That said, the crisis point of the story got me so emotional that I had to put it down and just cry. I avoided going back for a couple of hours, but then steeled myself to keep going and get to the happy ending I knew was coming.

Caretaking is a big issue in this story. In fact, the book is divided into three sections; before, during, and after [the stroke.] These characters wormed their way into my heart and there they stay, especially after reading the author’s note. I loved this book so much – I think it is the best book of an already excellent series, and everyone should read it. This is a wonderful romance with lots of humor, pathos, and hot sex, but it is the emotional journey that means everything here. It was worth the two year wait! Don’t miss it.

9/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE HEART PRINCIPLE by Helen Hoang. Berkley (August 31, 2021). ISBN: 978-0451490841. 352 pages.

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THE DATING PLAYBOOK by Farrah Rochon

August 25, 2021

The Rajes, Book 3

From the publisher:

When a personal trainer agrees to fake date her client, all rules are out the window in this “fun, heartfelt, and totally relatable” romantic comedy (Abby Jimenez, NYT bestselling author of Life’s Too Short).

When it comes to personal training, Taylor Powell kicks serious butt. Unfortunately, her bills are piling up, rent is due, and the money situation is dire. Taylor needs more than the support of her new best friends, Samiah and London. She needs a miracle.

And Jamar Dixon might just be it. The oh-so-fine former footballer wants back into the NFL, and he wants Taylor to train him. There’s just one catch—no one can know what they’re doing. But when they’re accidentally outed as a couple, Taylor’s game plan is turned completely upside down. Is Jamar just playing to win . . . or is he playing for keeps?

  • PopSugar: Best Summer Reads of 2021
  • BookBub: Best Romance Books of Summer
  • Washington Post: Romance Novels to Read This Summer
  • Oprah Daily: Most Anticipated Romances of 2021

This is the second book of a no-named series, although it works well as a standalone, too. Although I loved the first book so much, I shouldn’t even tell you that, but if you can, please go read The Boyfriend Project. It made my best books of the year list for 2020.

This book has an added bonus for me; it’s a sports romance, which I love. Jamar has been booted from the NFL after his first year due to a serious injury. None of the teams want to take a chance on him, despite his surgeon’s clearing him to play. Determined to get back to the sport he loves, but wanting to avoid publicity about it, he decides to find a trainer to work with him from outside the NFL bubble. Jamar has seen Taylor’s boot camp style workouts online and besides thinking she’s pretty hot, thinks she is just the woman who can kick his butt back to the NFL. He shows up at one of her popup classes and impresses her when he can do one armed burpees. They chat after, and eventually he talks her into being his personal trainer.

Taylor loves what she does, but the business end of things sucks. She is losing money hand over fist and desperately needs an infusion of cash to pay her bills. She hasn’t gotten a couple of jobs she really wanted because she never went to college. It becomes apparent fairly quickly that something is up about that.

These characters were so well developed that I couldn’t help but care about them. Taylor has all kinds of family drama and Jamar has some serious guilt going on in his backstory. Even though they agree that they cannot be romantically involved, they end up in a fake relationship for the media attention. Which of course eventually turns into a hot romance.

I loved this story and these characters and I can’t wait for the next book in this series! Just wish it had a name.

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE DATING PLAYBOOK by Farrah Rochon. Forever (August 17, 2021). ISBN: 978-1538716670. 384 pages.

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THE VISCOUNT MADE ME DO IT by Diana Quincy

August 17, 2021

Clandestine Affairs, Book 2

From the publisher:

Diana Quincy returns with the second novel in her Clandestine Affairs series featuring a steamy romance between a working class London bonesetter who is dangerously attracted to her mysterious noble client.  

A seduction that could ruin everything . . .

Hanna Zaydan has fought to become London’s finest bonesetter, but her appealing new patient threatens to destroy everything she’s worked so hard for. With each appointment, the daughter of foreign merchants is slowly seduced by the mysterious former soldier. She’s smart enough to know Griff is after more than he’ll reveal, but whatever it is, the bonesetter’s growing desire for the man just might tempt her to give it to him.

An attraction that cannot be denied . . .

Rumors that he killed his own parents have followed Thomas Ellis, Viscount Griffin, practically since he was a boy. More than a decade after the tragedy, Griff receives a tip about his parents’ killer . . . one that takes him straight to a beautiful bonesetter. Griff is convinced Hanna is a fraud, but she stirs genuine feelings in him that he thought had perished along with his family.

Hanna has a gift for fixing fractured people, but can she also mend a broken heart? More importantly, will Griff let her?


I read the first book in this series, Her Night with the Duke, and really liked it, so I was happy to get my hands on this one. This is a terrific romance with the most fascinating heroine.

I never heard of a bonesetter before, but based on the work she does in this story, it is sort of a cross between a chiropractor, orthopedist, and maybe physical therapist, all rolled into one. Hanna is not allowed to go to medical school, she is a young woman, but nothing stopped her from learning from her father. He, too, was a bonesetter, and from the time she was a young girl Hanna knew this was her destiny. The only problem is that the medical community thinks of bonesetters as charlatans and quacks.

Griff’s parents were murdered when he was a teenager and he hasn’t heard from his sisters since. His father’s best friend was named his guardian, and he took care of Griff as best he could. Eventually, Griff joins the army until he is severely injured and sent home. His shoulder, elbow and wrist were injured and never healed properly, leaving him in constant pain for years. His guardian, a doctor and head of a local hospital, tells him to just give it more time and offers opium, which Griff is avoiding at all costs.

Griff happens to be nearby when a young man along with a group of his rowdy friends, approaches Hanna, offering his wrist up as being “injured” to see if she’ll fall for it. Not only doesn’t she fall for it, she is so angry and embarrassed at being made a spectacle that she dislocates his wrist. Before she can walk away, Griff notices the unusual sapphire pendant she is wearing. It was his mother’s, and had disappeared after her murder.

Thinking it may lead him to whoever murdered his parents, he goes to visit the bonesetter under the pretext of his war injuries. She examines him, and there is chemistry between them. She says she thinks she can help him, and by manipulating his shoulder, she relieves the pain he has been in for years. He is amazed, but still curious about the necklace. She prescribes a salve to be strongly massaged into his joints and eventually helps his elbow and wrist as well. Griff was on the precipice of suicide; he just didn’t know how much longer he could live with the pain but after her treatment, he was a new man.

His guardian doesn’t believe that she actually helped him. He thinks it is a coincidence because he felt that at some point it would just heal on its own, and he thinks it did. But Griff knows better. He gets closer to Hanna, even bringing her another patient, but his guardian is set on having her thrown out of London.

Griff and Hanna can never be together. He is of the aristocracy, and she is of the working class. Even if he wanted to look past that, Hanna is also Arab and her family would never allow her to marry outside her race. With all these seemingly insurmountable odds against them, the mystery of his murdered parents, and the struggles Hanna is having with the hospital board, it is quite the hurdle to get to their happily ever after.

This was a terrific love story and Hanna was an intelligent, interesting character. I liked the mystery that was entangled in the story, and of course, the happy ending. I think this books stands alone beautifully, but do read the first one as well, it was also a really interesting read.

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

TTHE VISCOUNT MADE ME DO IT by Diana Quincy. Avon (July 27, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062986818. 384 pages.

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SO WE MEET AGAIN by Suzanne Park

August 16, 2021

From the publisher:

From the author of the “genuinely funny” and “delightful” Loathe at First Sight (NPR), a young Korean American woman’s journey to finding a new career and new love means learning to embrace the awkward and unexpected—exploring familial expectations, finding your voice, and unimaginably falling for your childhood rival.

When investment banker Jessie Kim is laid off in a virtual meeting and then overhears why (“she’s already being overpaid anyway for a woman” and “Asians are worker bees, not someone who can drum up new deals”) she delivers an “eff you guys” speech and storms out. 

After moving back home to Tennessee to live with her loving but meddling mother and father, she runs into her childhood nemesis—golden child Daniel Choi—at the local Asian grocery store. The smart, charming lawyer appears to have it all…while Jessie has nothing.

Jess begrudgingly accepts Daniel’s help to relaunch her long abandoned Korean cooking YouTube channel: HANGUK HACKS, showcasing easy meal prep for busy professionals. But just as she discovers Daniel’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems and there’s more to him than meets the eye, he shows up for a life-changing business opportunity, and their rivalry is back on . . .


Another fun and funny romance featuring food, always a winner for me. Jessie loses her job in finance and moves back home with her parents. They are Korean and a bit old fashioned. Jessie is surprised to learn that her lifelong nemesis, the boy she was always compared to and always lost to, is also back home and living with his parents. Daniel was the preacher’s kid, and his father is back working in the church where he was raised. Everyone is told Daniel has taken a sabbatical from his high powered, high paying job in Silicon Valley, but no one really knows why or any more than that.

When Jessie runs into him at the grocery store, she cannot believe the scrawny boy with a bowl cut that she remembers is now this super hot guy who evidently works out. But she is embarrassed and her come down in the world and doesn’t want to deal with the competition that always rears up between them. But it’s a small community, and when Jessie joins a local entrepreneur group, she finds Daniel is the hero of the group. He even wants to help her.

Jessie decides to bring back to life her old YouTube channel. This time, she gets the idea of hacking the prepared meal kits that are so popular, but often boring. She is going to add some Korean flair to those, and she starts off cooking in the kitchen. But her mom shows up, throws in her two cents, and a meme is born. People love her mom, and her dad shows up too, also drawing good comments. The video goes viral, and her YouTube is up and on its way.

Business is great but it turns out Daniel is in cahoots with one of her business partners, and things get messy. Jessie has fallen for Daniel, but this is just the breaking point. Eventually, her business grows even more successful, and Daniel helps her take it to the next level, along with their relationship. There are a lot of laugh out loud moments here, and the romance is more sweet than sexy, which is understandable as they both live with their parents. But it really works, and I loved it.

Park tells a good story and I really respect her female lead characters; they are smart women working in male dominated industries. I loved her previous book, Loathe at First Sight, and while this is a very different book, it is also a terrific read. Park moves onto my “must read” list and I can’t wait for her next book!

8/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SO WE MEET AGAIN by Suzanne Park. Avon (August 3, 2021). ISBN: 978-0062990716. 368 pages.

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