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BIRDING WITH BENEFITS

This lovely debut about mature characters manages to be both comforting and sexy.

A divorced mom gets a second chance at love when she accidentally takes up a new hobby—birding.

After leaving an unsatisfying marriage that made her feel small, Celeste Johanssen is putting herself first. Her daughter will be leaving for college soon, and Celeste is ready to finally find out what it means to live for herself, not a man. When a new friend asks her to be his friend John’s temporary fake girlfriend, Celeste is happy to take on the challenge. However, when Celeste shows up to meet John, it turns out he has no idea what she’s talking about—he needs a partner for a six-week birding competition, not a fake life partner. But Celeste is full of motivational sayings and she’s ready to say yes to life, so she decides to be John’s partner in the competition—despite the fact that she knows nothing about birds. John doesn’t mind making his ex-girlfriend, a fellow birder, jealous, and Celeste knows that a new “boyfriend” will deter all the busybodies who keep asking when she’s going to start dating again. As John and Celeste spend more time together, both on birdwatching expeditions and at Celeste’s work events, they can’t deny that they have more in common than a shared interested in identifying bird calls; they also share a powerful chemistry, and soon they’re involved in a temporary relationship that’s just “birding with benefits”—perfect for both of them, since John is still bruised from his painful breakup and Celeste isn’t ready for a commitment. But as their feelings grow stronger, they’ll have to decide if a real relationship is worth the risk. Debut novelist Dubb brings in just the right amount of birding detail—enough to make the competition realistic, but never so much that attention is taken away from Celeste and John’s budding romance. It’s refreshing to read about adult characters with established lives, and Celeste and John’s relationship feels realistic as their largest obstacle is their fear of being vulnerable, not any sort of plot contrivance or miscommunication.

This lovely debut about mature characters manages to be both comforting and sexy.

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9781668037836

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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JUST FOR THE SUMMER

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Two people with bad luck in relationships find each other through a popular Reddit thread.

Emma Grant and her best friend, Maddy, are travel nurses, working at hospitals for three-month stints while they see the country. Just a few weeks before they’re set to move to Hawaii, Emma reads a popular “Am I the Asshole” Reddit thread from a Minnesota man who thinks he’s cursed—women he dates find their soulmates after breaking up with him, and the latest one found true love with his best friend! Emma has had a similar experience, which inspires her to DM the man and commiserate. She’s delighted by her witty, lively interactions with software engineer Justin Dahl, and is intrigued when he suggests that if they date each other, maybe they’ll each find their soulmate afterward. Emma upends the Hawaii plan and convinces Maddy to move to Minneapolis for the summer so she can meet Justin in person. The overly complex setup brings Emma and Justin together and the two hit it off, with Justin immediately falling head over heels for Emma. Jimenez then pivots to creating romantic roadblocks and melodramatic subplots centering on each character’s family of origin. Justin’s mother is about to serve six years in prison for embezzlement, which means Justin must move back home to care for his three much younger siblings. Emma was traumatized by her own mother for much of her childhood, left to fend for herself and eventually abandoned in the foster system. When her mother shows up in Minnesota, Emma must face her traumatic childhood and admit that she has prioritized her mother’s well-being over her own. There is little time devoted to Emma’s painful efforts to heal herself enough to accept Justin’s love, which leaves the novel feeling unsatisfying.

A wallowing, emotionally wrenching family drama that leaves little time for romance.

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9781538704431

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Forever

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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FUNNY STORY

Henry fans, rejoice: This is her best yet.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

A recently dumped librarian finds herself fake dating her polar opposite.

When Daphne Vincent’s fiance, Peter, dumps her, she’s shocked—but the worst part is that he’s leaving her for his gorgeous best friend, Petra, the woman he’d always told Daphne not to worry about. Now Daphne has to move out of Peter’s home and restart her life in the small Michigan town where she’d moved to be with him. Salvation comes in the form of Miles Nowak, Petra’s ex—he has a tiny spare room in his apartment, and he understands what it’s like to wallow in heartbreak. Daphne feels lucky to have her dream job as a children’s librarian, but other than that, she feels adrift and friendless in Waning Bay—and then she and Miles get invitations to Peter and Petra’s wedding. In a momentary lapse of judgment, Daphne not only says she’ll attend the wedding, but tells Peter she’s dating Miles. It would be the perfect way to show Peter and Petra that they’ve moved on…if only it were true. In the grand tradition of fake-dating romances, Daphne and Miles pretend to be in love, getting to know each other while having various adventures and misadventures. Daphne quickly learns that although she’d dismissed Miles as a pothead with a lack of direction, he’s actually a good time—and a loyal friend. But Daphne knows she needs to get out of Waning Bay, so this fake relationship can’t lead anywhere…can it? Reliable bestseller Henry has written another surefire hit that manages to be dramatic, sexy, and fun. Miles and Daphne have chemistry that leaps off the page, and their will-they-or-won’t-they energy propels the story to its satisfying conclusion. Daphne is an immensely likable character, one whose past realistically informs her current relationships. The world of Waning Bay is charmingly quirky, and Daphne’s co-workers at the library are endearing. As always, Henry’s biggest strength is the sharp, often hilarious dialogue that makes the story a joy to read.

Henry fans, rejoice: This is her best yet.

Pub Date: April 23, 2024

ISBN: 9780593441282

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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