About Jaclyn

I'm a total bookaholic! Fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, YA, science fiction, I read practically anything and everything. I also love talking about books, and chatting about books with people who love them as much as I do!

Review | Million Dollar Marriage, Katy Evans

Evans-MillionDollarMarriage-28092-CV-FL-V1.inddNell is a super nerdy PhD who reads Baudelaire and Chinese philosophy for fun. Luke is a tattooed bad boy who owns and runs a dive bar. So when they have to get married to compete in a competition reality show for a million dollars, it’s purely a marriage of convenience, and both have full intentions of annulling the union after the competition. Except while ziplining, running through a maze tied together, and performing a host of other Amazing Race-type challenges, they start getting to know each other better. And the incredible sexual chemistry between them eventually develops into actual love.

I absolutely loved Million Dollar Marriage. I love the concept of getting trapped together for a chance at a million dollars, and I love the chemistry just buzzing between the two leads. I love how Nell is an unapologetic nerd, who believes she’s good only for her brains and is genuinely taken aback when she learns that Luke’s favourite part about her is actually her freckles (awww!). And I love how Luke immediately assumes he’s the brawns in the partnership, only to be genuinely moved when he learns that Nell thinks he’s actually really smart. Their relationship may have started off as opposites attract, but I love that Luke was already becoming attracted to her from the very beginning, and that despite their arguments, they actually worked together well for the challenges.

I just outright fell in love with Luke. He’s hot and sweet and considerate. There are moments where Nell’s fears could cost them a challenge and the chance at a million dollars, but throughout the story, he completely respects her boundaries, and lets her take the lead. I also love how he really listens to her, especially in an intimate setting. When she tells him she’s never come during partner sex, he acknowledges her previous partner must have just been bad at sex, but he doesn’t really harp on it. Rather, he takes things slow and gentle and (spoiler alert) pleasantly surprises her with her response. He also respects her desire to save sex for someone she truly loves, and acknowledges that since they barely know each other, she likely isn’t in love with him yet. I love a good alpha hero as much as any other romance reader, but I have to admit, I’m totally loving how gentle and understanding Luke is. He is labelled the Prince Charming of their TV show, and it’s easy to see why.

Nell may be a bit more difficult to love, just because she’s so prickly. But I love how relatable she is. Her hesitations on sex and relationships are rooted very much in a bad, I’d even say abusive, relationship she had genuinely thought was the one, and I also felt for her during the glimpse we had of her father also being a controlling jerk. She’s dealing with a lot, and I like that she takes a while to open up to Luke.

I also love that Nell is a straight-up PhD, and that throughout the filming, people refer to her as Dr Carpenter, or to her and Luke as Dr and Mr Cross. Her PhD is in comparative literature, which is just delightfully nerdy, but the significant part is how much people rightfully respect the title she’s earned. Given how hard it is for a woman to gain respect in academia, much less for a humanities degree like comparative literature, I love that the other characters simply accept it as Nell’s due, and give her the respect she deserves.

Overall, I absolutely loved this novel. I wasn’t too happy with the little incident near the end that almost risked their happily ever after, but I admit it’s true to the characters. I also totally melted at Luke wanting to introduce Nell to his grandmother — how adorable is that?

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Thank you to Thomas Allen Ltd for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review | Ellie and the Harpmaker, Hazel Prior

EllieHarpmakerBookCoverEllie and the Harpmaker is a lovely, sweet, charming story about love and friendship. Ellie is a woman in an unhappy marriage to a controlling, abusive husband. Dan is a reclusive harp maker who likes his privacy and his routines, until Ellie walks into his shop. He offers Ellie a harp of her own, and unbeknownst to her husband, she comes into his shop daily for lessons, thereby discovering a part of herself that she’d been forced to keep hidden but that gives her a dose of daily happiness.

The novel is written in a genteel, almost fabulistic style. Ellie is drawn to Dan’s shop because of the magic in his craft, and in the friendship that develops between them, and Prior certainly weaves a spell of just that magic for the reader. The novel tackles some serious issues — domestic abuse, a secret that upends a character’s life — yet it all does so with a somewhat hazy, rosy glow. Just as Ellie loses herself in the melodies she can create through her harp, so do can we readers lose ourselves in the world Prior has created, an isolated, idyllic place where a lonely poet and a harp maker can form a connection.

Something about the relationship between Ellie and Dan reminds me a bit of gentle British romances, like Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. Despite the undeniable physical attraction between them, the chemistry isn’t at all fiery. The lasting impression one receives is that of a deep and binding friendship rather than a romance.

The book is a bit of a slow burn. To be honest, it was difficult at times to tell if Ellie and Dan really liked each other, or if they just each offered the other a chance to escape a particular kind of life. Dan is also incredibly naive about relationships — at one point, he completely misunderstands a long-term relationship, in a way that felt a bit more like Forrest Gump than Don Tillman. That reveal just made me more sad than anything, because he was deceived by someone important in his life, but it also made me uncomfortable how Ellie kept digging into his back story without his knowledge or consent.

So the romance in this book didn’t really hook me, but I love the development of Ellie and Dan’s friendship. I love the setting, and I love the descriptions of the harps and the potential they have to make people happy.

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review | Woman on the Edge, Samantha M. Bailey

46640067._SY475_What if you’re on a subway platform and a total stranger hands you her baby then jumps in front of a train? It’s an incredibly tense concept, and one that hooked me immediately.

Woman on the Edge is a quick and exciting read. The first half was really strong, as the novel introduces us to the cast of characters. The woman who jumped turns out to be Nicole, a powerful CEO of a health and wellness organization who is haunted by the death of a baby in her care twenty years ago. The woman who receives the baby is Morgan, a social worker whose husband defrauded the women’s shelter she founded then died by suicide. Morgan doesn’t remember ever meeting Nicole before, yet Nicole has named her the legal guardian of her baby, Quinn.

As the story unfolds, we learn that Nicole has been the subject of harassment by a red-haired woman for years, and that the harassment has started up again and intensified ever since Quinn was born. A red-haired woman also begins stalking Morgan, at one time almost running her over, and Morgan must solve the mystery behind Nicole’s death in order to protect her own life and the life of Nicole’s child. It’s a gripping thriller, told in alternating chapters between Nicole and Morgan’s points of view, and like Nicole and Morgan, it’s hard to know whom to trust.

Unfortunately, the momentum flags a bit as the story approaches its conclusion. The latter half of the book doesn’t really reveal a lot of surprising information, and the red herrings aren’t quite developed enough for any of the potential villains to really have an impact. The last few chapters are a series of reveals that felt a bit too cursory to really make an impact, and felt a bit more like an info dump than anything.

The big reveal about the villain was also disappointing. Their motivation was explained, but it fell flat given how strong the story had started and how rich Nicole’s backstory had been. The villain’s actions also didn’t quite make sense given the rest of the story; I wish there had been more hints earlier on about what they were up to. Overall, it felt more like a need to tie up loose ends than a natural outcome of events.

Still, the first half is super strong, the hook is killer, and the bits about postpartum depression and mental health are sobering. I also like how real the connection between Morgan and Nicole turns out to be, and how much a minor encounter can result in a genuine connection between two strangers.

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Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an egalley in exchange for an honest review.