THE EMMA PROJECT by Sonali Dev 

June 17, 2022

The Rajes Series #4

From the publisher:

Emma gets a fresh Indian-American twist from award-winning author Sonali Dev in her heartwarmingly irresistible Jane Austen inspired rom com series.

No one can call Vansh Raje’s life anything but charmed. Handsome—Vogue has declared him California’s hottest single—and rich enough to spend all his time on missions to make the world a better place. Add to that a doting family and a contagiously sunny disposition and Vansh has made it halfway through his 20s without ever facing anything to throw him off his admittedly spectacular game.

A couple years from turning forty, Knightlina (Naina) Kohli has just gotten out of a 10-year-long fake relationship with Vansh’s brother and wants only one thing from her life…fine, two things. One, to have nothing to do with the unfairly blessed Raje family ever again. Two, to bring economic independence to millions of women in South Asia through her microfinance foundation and prove her father wrong about, well, everything.

Just when Naina’s dream is about to come to fruition, Vansh Raje shows up with his misguided Emma Project…. And suddenly she’s fighting him for funding and wondering if a friends-with-benefits arrangement that’s as toe-curlingly hot as it is fun is worth risking her life’s work for.

https://amzn.to/3QoHv6S

I am so sorry that this series has come to an end. I loved spending time with the Rajes. But on the bright side, it ends with another terrific book. If you haven’t read the earlier books, I think this one stands alone okay, but it is so much richer for having met all these characters before.

Vansh and Naina are at the heart of this book, but even Esha gets her own romance, which made me so happy. Vansh is the baby of the Raje family; in fact, they call him the Baby Prince. Naina was engaged to his eldest brother, but they broke it off when he met someone else. It turned out that they were really just using each other and had no real relationship beyond a friendship. Naina is twelve years older than Vansh, and is fiercely independent. She comes from an abusive family, and has pretty much decided on staying single forever, if only to piss off her father. She has been working for over ten years on a nonprofit devoted to getting medical care to all the women in India, especially those in rural villages. Her dream is on the verge of becoming a reality when Jiggy Mehta, a local tech genius/billionaire, offers her funding. 

But then Jiggy meets Vansh and decides that Naina could share her windfall with his idea of helping the homeless in San Francisco. It’s a noble idea, of course, but Naina was counting on that money. Vansh convinces her that they should work together but spending all that time together leads to something more. Their chemistry is off the charts and Naina agrees to a friends with benefits scenario, but if you’ve ever read a romance novel, you know how that will go!

Esha is the eldest cousin of the Rajes and is mentioned in all the books, but her story comes out more fully here. The lone survivor of a plane crash that killed her parents when she was 8 years old, she has suffered from visions and seizures over the years. She has spent most of her life in the family home called the Anchorage. She hasn’t left the property in more than 30 years. One of her visions is a bird that no one else sees, until she meets Sid. He comes looking for the bird and Esha is shocked that he can see it, not to mention she doesn’t know what he’s thinking or feeling, like she does with her family. She feels better, more “normal” when she’s with Sid and decides to pursue the relationship further, but doesn’t let her family know.

All these storylines are engrossing, and I couldn’t put this book down. Lots of love and laughter, meddling family members, and some steamy love scenes all at play here. I highly recommend this series, and this book.

6/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE EMMA PROJECT by Sonali Dev. Avon (May 17, 2022). ISBN: ‎ 978-0063051843. 416p.

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FOUR WEDDINGS AND AN AUNTIE by Jesse Q. Sutanto

May 6, 2022

Aunties, Book 2

From the publisher:

The aunties are back, fiercer than ever and ready to handle any catastrophe—even the mafia—in this delightful and hilarious sequel by Jesse Q. Sutanto, author of Dial A for Aunties.

Meddy Chan has been to countless weddings, but she never imagined how her own would turn out. Now the day has arrived, and she can’t wait to marry her college sweetheart, Nathan. Instead of having Ma and the aunts cater to her wedding, Meddy wants them to enjoy the day as guests. As a compromise, they find the perfect wedding vendors: a Chinese-Indonesian family-run company just like theirs. Meddy is hesitant at first, but she hits it off right away with the wedding photographer, Staphanie, who reminds Meddy of herself, down to the unfortunately misspelled name.

Meddy realizes that is where their similarities end, however, when she overhears Staphanie talking about taking out a target. Horrified, Meddy can’t believe Staphanie and her family aren’t just like her own, they are The Family—actual mafia, and they’re using Meddy’s wedding as a chance to conduct shady business. Her aunties and mother won’t let Meddy’s wedding ceremony become a murder scene—over their dead bodies—and will do whatever it takes to save her special day, even if it means taking on the mafia.

“Sutanto deftly blends preposterous humor (British slang, mafia posers) with enduring devotion to prove ‘there is no right or wrong way to ‘being Asian.’”—Booklist

“Charming, chaotic, and sometimes ridiculous, this tale will appeal to anyone who both adores and is embarrassed by their family, which is just about everyone.”—Publishers Weekly

“You can’t help but get a kick out of the auntie’s outrageous stunts and their even bigger hearts. Keep your friends close and these four aunties closer.”—Kirkus

https://amzn.to/3KRHxjr

It was so much fun to spend some time with Meddy and her aunties again! This is the sequel to Dial A for Aunties, and Sutanto lived up to the hype and met (maybe even surpassed) expectations.

Meddy is finally getting married and her mom and the aunties are busy planning the wedding. Yes, Meddy is certainly old enough to plan her own wedding, but why deprive her family the pleasure. They meet up with a wedding planner, the grandmother of the family much like Meddy’s, only instead of aunties, there are uncles. The granddaughter is the photographer and makes Meddy feel like she found a new friend, and uncles doing hair and makeup and floral arrangements. Everything is in place and going smoothly until Meddy overhears her photographer on the phone talking about taking someone out at her wedding. Meddy confronts her, and the young woman basically blackmails Meddy and her aunties into letting them do the job and keeping quiet about the possible murder.

This leads to all sorts of shenanigans, along with the aunties taking British slang lessons with hilarious results. There is so much to love here; the humor, the family, and of course, the wedding. It all comes together in an over the top, laugh out loud crime spree of sorts. This series is most reminiscent of early Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books, with similar madcap humor and a touch of romance. I loved it.

5/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

FOUR WEDDINGS AND AN AUNTIE by Jesse Q. Sutanto. Berkley (March 29, 2022). ISBN:‎ 978-0593333051. 304p.

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MUST LOVE BOOKS by Shauna Robinson

January 28, 2022

From the publisher:

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill meets Younger in a heartfelt debut following a young woman who discovers she’ll have to ditch the “dream job” and write her own story to find her happy ending.

Meet Nora Hughes―the overworked, underpaid, last bookish assistant standing. At least for now.

When Nora landed an editorial assistant position at Parsons Press, it was her first step towards The Dream Job. Because, honestly, is there anything dreamier than making books for a living? But after five years of lunch orders, finicky authors, and per my last emails, Nora has come to one grand conclusion: Dream Jobs do not exist.

With her life spiraling and the Parsons staff sinking, Nora gets hit with even worse news. Parsons is cutting her already unlivable salary. Unable to afford her rent and without even the novels she once loved as a comfort, Nora decides to moonlight for a rival publisher to make ends meet…and maybe poach some Parsons’ authors along the way.

But when Andrew Santos, a bestselling Parsons author no one can afford to lose is thrown into the mix, Nora has to decide where her loyalties lie. Her new Dream Job, ever-optimistic Andrew, or…herself and her future.

Your next book club read touching on mental health, happiness, and the peaks and perils of being a young woman just trying to figure it all out. Nora Hughes is the perfect heroine for anyone looking to get past their own chapter twenty-something and build their storybook life.

https://amzn.to/3tLHb9j

I really wanted to like this book more than I did. It’s got a great title that immediately drew my attention because it was reminiscent of one of my favorite books, and the very first book I reviewed for Library Journal, Must Love Dogs. It made the Library Reads list (the books library staff loved reading and cannot wait to share) for January, which almost never steers me wrong. But by the time I finished it – and it took me three days to read it – I just thought it was okay.

I loved that it was set in the publishing world. I loved that it addressed the whiteness of the publishing industry with the protagonists being biracial and Hispanic. But I didn’t love Nora, the main character, (which really hurt because one of my best friends is named Nora and I only associate good with that name!) I didn’t even like her that much. She lied to everyone and I have issues with that. She suffers from depression and that really isn’t addressed in a professional way, which bothered me.

The male protagonist is an author, Andrew Santos, and I wish his character would have been more developed. I still don’t feel like I know much about him at all. He’s Hispanic but I don’t know any more than that. If it was noted anywhere, I missed it I guess. He was just a name on the page to me. and that’s never a good thing.

The story was a bit slow for me, and by the time I finished it I just thought it was just okay. This is also not a book that you should judge by its cover. It looks like a romcom or fluffy romance, but it is not. If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Note: The publisher blurb compared this book to “Younger,” which I loved. If you haven’t seen it, I watched it on Hulu, and Google says it is also streaming on Paramount+. Highly recommend!

1/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MUST LOVE BOOKS by Shauna Robinson. Sourcebooks Landmark (January 18, 2022). ISBN: 978-1728240732. 336p.

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Spotlight Review: SEOULMATES by Jen Frederick

January 25, 2022

Seoul, Book 2

From the publisher:

A Korean-American adoptee fights to be with the one she loves while coming to terms with her new identity in this enthralling romantic drama and sequel to Heart and Seoul by USA Today bestselling author Jen Frederick.

When Hara Wilson lands in Seoul to find her birth mother, she doesn’t plan on falling in love with the first man she lays eyes on, but Choi Yujun is irresistible. If his broad shoulders and dimples weren’t enough, Choi Yujun is the most genuine, decent, gorgeous guy to exist. Too bad he’s also her stepbrother.

Fate brought her to the Choi doorstep but the gift of family comes with burdens. A job in her mother’s company has perks of endless company dinners and super resentful coworkers. A new country means learning a new language which twenty-five year old Hara is finding to be a Herculean task. A forbidden love means having to choose between her birth family or Choi Yujun.

All Hara wanted was to find a place to belong in this world—but in order to have it all, she’ll have to risk it all.

One of Amazon’s Best Romances of January 2022!

https://amzn.to/3fUqz73

This is the follow up to Heart and Seoul, which ended on a cliff hanger so I was all in. These books were marketed as romance, but the first one did not have the “happily ever after” requirement that most romance readers look for. This time, there is a HEA.

So while this has the happy ending, the book is again a more immersive dive into family and Korean culture than romance. Hara and Yujun met and fell in love in the first book, so we don’t get the meet-cute here. Instead, we get a lot of Korean family values and why these two cannot be together. Yujun seems more invested while Hara is more torn about everything. But that makes sense; as a character, Yujun is strong and self assured while Hara questions everything in her life.

Hara is now working for her birth mother in the company Yujun helps run. Needless to say, her boss and co-workers in the marketing department are not thrilled to have nepotism thrust in their faces. She is living with her birth mother in an enormous house in Seoul, and her mother showers her with gifts, mostly designer wear, which makes Hara uncomfortable. She misses her mom and wishes she had a better relationship with her birth mother, who is a bit standoffish. She hates her job, is bored most of the time, and doesn’t get to spend nearly enough time with Yujun as his mother keeps him away as much as possible.

The more we learn about customs in Korea, the more impossible it seems for Hara and Yujun to stay together or have any kind of future. But a happy ending is eked out. This is again more women’s fiction or multicultural fiction than romance, but it is an enjoyable read if you adjust your expectations accordingly.

1/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

SEOULMATES by Jen Frederick. Berkley (January 25, 2022). ISBN: 978-0593100165. 304p.

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THE LOVE CON by Seressia Glass

January 7, 2022

From the publisher:

He’s cosplaying as her boyfriend but their feelings for each other are real in this romantic comedy from Seressia Glass.

Sometimes Kenya Davenport believes she was switched at the hospital—how else could a lover of anime, gaming, and cosplay come from STEM parents? Still, Kenya dreams of being able to turn her creative hobby into a career. She finally has a chance to make it big when she joins the reality show competition Cosplay or No Way.

There’s just one catch: the challenge for the final round is all about iconic pairs, and the judges want the contestants’ significant others to participate. Unfortunately, Kenya is as single as can be at the moment. Luckily her best friend, Cameron Lassiter, agrees to be her fake boyfriend for the show.

Roleplaying a couple in love will force them to explore what they’re hiding under the mask of friendship. Can Kenya and Cam fake it until she makes it, or will she be real about her feelings, knowing it could cost her the best friend she’s ever had?

A LIBRARY READS PICK

https://amzn.to/3HyVem6

Is there anything more fun than the fake dating trope? Well, maybe, but it is a lot of fun and this time is no exception. This book is set in the world of cosplay, which I do not participate in. I don’t generally read graphic novels, and I certainly never read anime or superhero anything, I mean I rarely even watch a superhero movie (sorry, Marvel,) so I was coming at this from a place of unknowing and not too much interest. I felt that way about the Well Met series by Jen DeLuca, set in the world of Renaissance Faires, but I ended up loving that series so here I am, delving into the world of cosplay. I am a curious person and I love learning about things outside my scope of knowledge, and this fit that niche perfectly.

Kenya loves cosplay, but her parents don’t. They don’t understand her fascination with it, and they really don’t understand why she isn’t using the engineering degree they paid for. When her best friend and roommate, Cam, hears about this new reality TV show focused on cosplay, he urges Kenya to enter and she secures a spot on the show. Oh, and Kenya is Black, and Cam is not, which adds another layer of depth to this story.

Everything is going well until she reaches the finale, when the stakes are changed. The final two contestants get some help – but from their significant others. Unfortunately, Kenya hasn’t been in a relationship for a while, but on live TV, she blurts out that Cam will be helping her – then prays he says yes and isn’t too pissed.

Of course he is on board. Years earlier, he had tried to take things to more of a relationship than just friends, but Kenya had shut him down quick. He figures this is the perfect opportunity for her to realize that they can be more.

The ending is no surprise, but it is such a fun journey to get there and that’s what makes this such a terrific read. A lot of laughs, a lot of heart, and some hot sex combine to make this read a winner.

1/2022 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE LOVE CON by Seressia Glass. Berkley (December 14, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593199053. 320 pages.

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THE SINGLES TABLE by Sara Desai

December 9, 2021

Marriage Game, Book 3

From the publisher:

Opposites attract in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy about a free-spirited lawyer who is determined to find the perfect match for the grumpy bachelor at her cousin’s wedding.

After a devastating break-up, celebrity-obsessed lawyer Zara Patel is determined never to open her heart again. She puts her energy into building her career and helping her friends find their happily-ever-afters. She’s never faced a guest at the singles table she couldn’t match, until she crosses paths with the sinfully sexy Jay Dayal.

Former military security specialist Jay has no time for love. His life is about working hard, staying focused, and winning at all costs. When charismatic Zara crashes into his life, he’s thrown into close contact with exactly the kind of chaos he wants to avoid. Worse, they’re stuck together for the entire wedding season.

So they make a deal. She’ll find his special someone if he introduces her to his celebrity clients. But when their arrangement brings them together in ways they never expected, they realize that the perfect match might just be their own.

https://amzn.to/3poEDdu

This is one of my favorite series, and I’m happy to say this latest entry is another terrific read, both funny and heartwarming. Zara and Jay meet at the pre-wedding paintball party of a couple that Zara had matched up. She may suck at dating, but she’s great at matchmaking, giving the old aunties some competition. For Jay and Zara, it’s pretty much hate at first sight though. He’s so competitive he takes paintball seriously, and while Zara is equally competitive, she thinks outside the box and manages to win while simultaneously pissing off Jay. So of course they are seated together at the singles table at the wedding.

Zara is trying to become an entertainment lawyer, but isn’t having a lot of luck. She likes her job, and she likes the people she works with, but they are a small firm so if she can get some big name celebrity clients, she would be happy and so would her bosses. Turns out Jay owns a high profile security firm, and has contacts with a lot of celebrities. A deal is struck: he will introduce her to some big names, and she will find him a girlfriend.

Every girl she introduces him to doesn’t quite measure up. Much to his surprise, it turns out he’s using Zara as his yardstick, which he cannot understand. She is everything that he doesn’t want; loud, wild, pretty much out of control, but she also conveys happiness upon everyone she meets, and for some reason, that is appealing to Jay.

Zara thinks he has a stick so far up his butt it will never see daylight, but as they spend time together at weddings and other events, she starts to warm up to him. Especially when he introduces her to Lin Manuel Miranda. His protectiveness appeals to her as well, and they both slowly realize they are meant to be.

I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions, and the secondary characters, especially the matchmaking aunties, add to the fun. These books do not need to be read in order, I think they each stand alone. Read my reviews of the first two books in the series.

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE SINGLES TABLE by Sara Desai. Berkley (November 16, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593100608. 336 pages.

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A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI by Sonya Lalli

December 6, 2021

From the publisher:

One type-A data analyst discovers her free-spirited side on an impulsive journey from bustling Mumbai to the gorgeous beaches of Goa and finds love waiting for her on Christmas morning.

Twenty-nine-year-old Niki Randhawa has always made practical decisions. Despite her love for music and art, she became an analyst for the stability. She’s always stuck close to home, in case her family needed her. And she’s always dated guys that seem good on paper, rather than the ones who give her butterflies. When she’s laid off, Niki realizes that practical hasn’t exactly paid off for her. So for the first time ever, she throws caution to the wind and books a last-minute flight for her friend Diya’s wedding.

Niki arrives in India just in time to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights, where she meets London musician Sameer Mukherji. Maybe it’s the splendor of Mumbai or the magic of the holiday season, but Niki is immediately drawn to Sam. At the wedding, the champagne flows and their flirtatious banter makes it clear that the attraction is mutual.

When Niki and Sam join Diya, her husband and their friends on a group honeymoon, their connection grows deeper. Free-spirited Sam helps Niki get in touch with her passionate and creative side, and with her Indian roots. When she gets a new job offer back home, Niki must decide what she wants out of the next chapter of her life—to cling to the straight and narrow like always, or to take a leap of faith and live the kind of bold life the old Niki never would have dreamed of.

https://amzn.to/3poEDdu

Nikki has always been the good daughter. Her older sister, Jasmine, is a bit of a rebel, and Nikki has never wanted to upset her parents like her sister does. So when her parents offer to do a little matchmaking for her, she agrees. The young Indian doctor is a nephew of a friend, is good looking and successful, so they decide to meet for lunch.

But a few minutes before they are to meet, Nikki gets laid off from her tech job. They go out for lunch and get very drunk, and the good doctor invites her back to his apartment. Thinking he’s kidding, she declines and goes home. Then she decides to attend her college roommate’s wedding in India – two days before she has to leave. Nikki is not the impulsive, spontaneous type, so this is completely out of character for her. But she decides the time is now. Her parents were born in Punjab, and while the wedding is in Mumbai, she can stay in India for a few weeks and meet her relatives for the first time.

The wedding is more than just a one day affair; there are a week’s worth of events leading up to it, and the bride has invited all her wedding party to join her and her new husband on their honeymoon in Goa, a beach resort area. At her first event, Nikki encounters a racist old auntie who upsets her. leading her to meet another auntie, a kind and good person. She wants to set up Nikki with her son, but she declines. Then at the event, she can’t help but notice the gorgeous bass player in the band, and he appears to notice her as well. Turns out Sam is the kind auntie’s son.

Sam and Nikki start spending time together at the wedding events, and she is invited to Goa to stay in his family’s apartment there. His mother will be there as well, so she decides to put off visiting her relatives in Punjab for a few days.

As Sam and Nikki grow closer, they both start to realize that this is way more than a holiday fling. But Sam lives in London, and she lives in Seattle. There are other hurdles as well; besides Nikki’s job loss, Sam is struggling with his career as well. When she offers to move to London to be with him, he tells her he isn’t sure he is going back but doesn’t offer any alternative. Convinced that whatever they were building towards is now over, Nikki goes on to Punjab and meets her family for the first time. When she returns home, she is determined to get over Sam.

Set during the Diwali holiday around Christmas, the holiday cheer is a part of the story. I knew as little about Diwali as Nikki does, so it was fun learning about this important holiday. Sam and Nikki seem to be over, but this is a romance so a holiday miracle is expected and occurs. This was an interesting and fast moving story, and a good read. This holiday romance is filled with charm, pathos, love, and laughter. Enjoy!

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI by Sonya Lalli. Berkley (October 5, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593100950. 336 pages.

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DONUTS!

December 2, 2021

I couldn’t resist putting these books together for a review. If only there were ten more, an even dozen donut books! Wouldn’t that be fun?! And FYI, Amazon is having a sale – buy one of these books, get the other for half off! Happy Holidays!

So, The Donut Trap. A brief synopsis from the publisher:

Julie Tieu sparkles in this debut romantic comedy, which is charmingly reminiscent of the TV show Kim’s Convenience and Frankly in Love by David Yoon, about a young woman who feels caught in the life her parents have made for her until she falls in love and finds a way out of the donut trap.

Jasmine Tran has landed herself behind bars—maple bars that is. With no boyfriend or job prospects, Jasmine returns home to work at her parents’ donut shop. Jasmine quickly loses herself in a cyclical routine of donuts, Netflix, and sleep. She wants to break free from her daily grind, but when a hike in rent threatens the survival of their shop, her parents rely on her more than ever.

Help comes in the form of an old college crush, Alex Lai. Not only is he successful and easy on the eyes, to her parents’ delight, he’s also Chinese. He’s everything she should wish for, until a disastrous dinner reveals Alex isn’t as perfect as she thinks. Worse, he doesn’t think she’s perfect either.

With both sets of parents against their relationship, a family legacy about to shut down, and the reappearance of an old high school flame, Jasmine must scheme to find a solution that satisfies her family’s expectations and can get her out of the donut trap once and for all.

https://amzn.to/32DbRxV

I loved “Kim’s Convenience” (it is streaming on Netflix) so I had high hopes for this book. I can definitely see the similarities. Oh, and just FYI, one of the stars of that TV series is Simu Liu, now the star of the new Marvel movie, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” and recent host of SNL. But I digress.

This book read a little young for me, it is more “New Adult” or even Young Adult, but no matter. It is completely adorable! I liked these characters and loved the family dynamic. This donut-sweet romance is fast paced with a lot of laughs. A wonderful debut, and I can’t wait to see what Julie Tieu does next.

NOTE: Circling Back to You comes out next summer!

Onto Donut Fall in Love – a brief synopsis from the publisher:

A baker provides the sweetest escape for an actor in this charming romantic comedy.

Actor Ryan Kwok is back in Toronto after the promotional tour for his latest film, a rom-com that is getting less-than-stellar reviews. After years of constant work and the sudden death of his mother, Ryan is taking some much-needed time off. But as he tries to be supportive to his family, he struggles with his loss and doesn’t know how to talk to his dad—who now trolls him on Twitter instead of meeting him for dim sum. 

Innovative baker Lindsay McLeod meets Ryan when he knocks over two dozen specialty donuts at her bakery. Their relationship is off to a messy start, but there’s no denying their immediate attraction. When Ryan signs up for a celebrity episode of Baking Fail, he asks Lindsay to teach him how to bake and she agrees.

As Lindsay and Ryan spend time together, bonding over grief and bubble tea, it starts to feel like they’re cooking up something sweeter than cupcakes in the kitchen.

https://amzn.to/3xF4CBb

I’ll be honest; I cannot resist a punny title! Of the two donut books, I preferred this one as it delves into reality food TV, a personal favorite. This is also a more adult read, and I don’t mean sex – the characters are a bit older and more mature, that’s all.

Lindsay really wants a new job, but is sort of stuck career-wise, and is back home helping out her parents in their donut shop. This is a small, family business and a traditional donut/coffee shop. In Florida, like elsewhere in America, we have these types of donut shops that are barely hanging on as Dunkin’ spreads like, well, a virus. We have The Dandee Donut Factory, a small, family owned chain (soon opening in Massachusetts!) But we also have trendy donut shops, like Duck Donuts and Voodoo Donuts (at Universal Studios in Orlando.) And famously, we used to have not one, but two topless donut shops!

Moving on. Lindsay’s trying to help her parents take their donut shop toward the trendy side, so they can raise their prices and make more money. They are resistant, of course, but when they go off and leave her in charge one day, she cooks up some interesting new flavors, like matcha tea donuts. But as she’s bringing them out, a man literally runs into her.

That man turns out to be a movie star, but Lindsey doesn’t recognize him. Instead, she tears into him for the damage. Ryan recently lost his mother, but one of his favorite memories is of the time they baked cupcakes. They were pretty much inedible, but it is a fond memory. When Ryan is invited to participate in a celebrity baking competition, he realizes he needs some help. He doesn’t want to make a complete fool of himself on national TV.

Ryan hires Lindsey to teach him to bake, and they spend several afternoons together. Lindsay knows who he is, finally, and is a bit smitten. To her surprise, so is Ryan. There are some definite bumps on their road to happily ever after, but the ride is so much fun! This is a delicious romance, sure to please fans of the Food Network and romcoms. More mashups like this, please!

12/2021 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch


THE DONUT TRAP by Julie Tieu. Avon (November 9, 2021). ISBN: 978-0063069800. 368 pages.

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DONUT FALL IN LOVE by Jackie Lau. Berkley (October 26, 2021). ISBN: 978-0593334300. 368 pages.

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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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