"...the likability of Ewens’ protagonists places the book a notch above the typical romance."– Kirkus Reviews
This enemies-to-lovers romance follows the relationship of an eager-to-please author and her artist neighbor in Bodega Bay, California.
Millie Hart, 33, is a New York Times–bestselling author—of romance, much to the chagrin of her estranged father, a bookseller. To satisfy him once and for all, she vows to write the next big literary classic and rents a coastal cottage for three months, accompanied only by her cat, Pop-Tart. Almost immediately, Millie finds herself in a battle of wits, and very loud music, with her handsome but irritating neighbor. Drake Branch uprooted his life—from city to hometown—after a motorcycle accident left him with only one arm. Despite a successful glass-blowing career and a cadre of supportive family and friends, Drake’s nightmares and triggering flashbacks persist. The arrival of an attractive, but stubborn, new neighbor doesn’t help his anxiety level. Though Millie finds herself stuck writing the kind of novel that’s serious but gloomy, a far cry from her usual happily-ever-afters, she quickly adapts to small-town life and its quirky cast. Thanks to the encouragement of Drake’s colleagues and his aunt Nikki, who owns the town’s romance bookstore, he starts to reconsider his neighbor, who shares his hatred of wearing headphones. Millie and Drake get cozy over a night of pizza, wine, and glass blowing, but when Millie’s father reappears in her life and the ghosts of Drake’s past return with a vengeance, will their love survive? Ewens (Tap, 2018, etc.) is a skilled storyteller, writing from both Millie’s and Drake’s perspectives and giving each distinctive personalities and struggles. Every character—Drake’s mentor, Esteban; Esteban’s college-bound daughter, Hazel; Millie’s best friend and literary agent, Jade—is thoughtfully imagined. Though the title is a bit misleading, as “blow” is also slang for cocaine, the chemistry is palpable, the plot points clear, and the subplot regarding the stigma against romance fiction and authors incredibly accurate.
A sweet, sexy read with complicated, likable leads, a swoonworthy seaside setting, and a positive message about relationships.
A contemporary romance follows a single dad and the self-sufficient doctor who catches his eye while she tries to escape her own checkered past.
Ewens (Exposure, 2017, etc.) opens her tale as Boyd McNaughton, brew master at Foghorn Brewery, attempts to perfect a new flavor of beer. He cuts his hand on a device called a keggle, whereupon he rushes himself to Petaluma Valley Hospital and meets Dr. Ella Walters, a beautiful physician. Days later, Boyd’s teen son, Mason, meets his dad at the hospital when he’s getting his stitches removed. Mason is focused more on his search for love advice about a girl at school than on his father’s injury. When Ella chimes in on the father-son conversation with some romantic tips of her own for Mason, an immediate bond is forged between Ella and the boy, and Boyd’s curiosity is piqued. Following their first meeting, Boyd tries to suppress his interest in Ella, determining that he shouldn’t disrupt the calm life he has built for himself and Mason by introducing a woman into the mix. Unfortunately, it seems as though he is suddenly running into Ella everywhere around town, and it is impossible for him to push her from his thoughts. Ella is wary of Boyd, especially in light of the turbulent relationship she left behind in her hometown of Los Angeles. Even so, she can’t seem to prevent herself from being drawn to Boyd—and Mason too. As Boyd and Ella try to work through their own baggage, the reader can enjoy the ride, watching them wend their ways toward each other. Despite a predictable plot strand, Ewens manages to create page-turning romantic suspense. A seemingly airy tale, the story still tackles many weighty issues, from parental abandonment to the difficulty of establishing lasting interpersonal connections. With a fast-paced narrative and the deft employment of an unlikely couple, a device that seems to have become the author’s hallmark, the book provides an entertaining tale that is as insightful as it is flirtatious.
A light but satisfying love story
perfect for fans of beer, medicine, and second chances.
A contemporary romance about a woman who returns to California after years of photographing bears in the Arctic and falls in love with a movie star.
In the most recent installment of her Love Stories series, Ewens (Playbook, 2017, etc.) follows Megara Jeffries, an accomplished magazine photographer who’s decided to move back to her hometown of San Francisco and finally put down roots. As a means of earning money now that she’s no longer traveling to exotic locations on shoots for National Geographic, Meg acquires an agent and is soon booked to speak at several public events. At the first, a nervous Meg is escorted onstage by Westin Drake, a Hollywood A-lister whose name means nothing to her. They quickly form a bond, though, as West helps Meg stave off a panic attack and get through her first public appearance. Soon the press becomes obsessed with their budding relationship. As a result of their shared interest in environmentalist causes, Meg and West are thrown together time and again, and each time, they grow steadily more attached to each other. Unfortunately, the closer they get, the more Meg realizes that West lives in a world that she may not care to inhabit. As Ewens creates one obstacle after another for the couple, she also explores deeper questions about personal choices and the true meaning of success. Along the way, she effectively shows how the pair struggles with whether they can have a meaningful future with each other and how they begin to question their own individual paths. The narrative has a light and fast-paced feel throughout, and, as in Ewens’ other books, it engagingly tackles complicated questions without ever sacrificing its quick tempo. As the eighth book in the series, this satisfying tale of love and risk does recycle some characters from prior installments, including Meg’s sisters, but for newcomers, it will stand solidly on its own.
A high-energy love story about identity and attachment, perfect for fans of romances with unlikely pairings.
A contemporary romance about a buttoned-up English professor who falls for her polar opposite, the football coach.
Anna Jeffries, a quiet, humble Shakespeare aficionado, has always been most comfortable inside her own head. She teaches a class on the Bard at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is fighting for a tenured position. Her newest crop of students includes one of the school’s most promising football players. Unfortunately, the guy is self-conscious in Anna’s highbrow class, and he’s not doing well thanks to his reluctance to participate. His coach, Dane Spivac, seeks Anna out in the faculty lounge, hoping to intervene on the player’s behalf. Anna and Dane take an immediate dislike to each other. She sees a snarky jock, and he sees a pedantic snob. After their contentious meeting, however, neither can forget about the other. Anna and Dane cross paths over and over again, arguing anew each time and driving each other crazy. As they work together to help to nurture their student, Anna and Dane slowly begin to acknowledge their attraction and appreciation for each other. When Dane finally makes a grand gesture to declare his devotion, his actions have the unfortunate side effect of angering the tenure committee, jeopardizing Anna’s career and rendering her relationship with Dane even more tenuous. As Ewens (Vacancy: A Love Story, 2016, etc.) depicts Dane and Anna dancing in circles around each other, she also fills her pages with humor, playful dialogue, and copious, but well-placed, references to Shakespeare plays. The narrative is fast-paced and accessible, with many deeply touching and unexpected scenes about loss and emotional health. As Ewens toggles between the ivory tower and the college football field, a few moments become clichéd. Even so, the romance that builds between Anna and Dane is sufficiently suspenseful and nuanced that readers will continue turning pages with glee.
A wholesome tale about playing football, taking chances, making the grade, and sometimes even wearing a little glitter.
A novel offers a contemporary romance about a young, widowed mother who surprises herself when she starts to fall for her brother’s longtime best friend.
Ewens (Taste: A Love Story, 2015, etc.) introduces heroine Makenna Rye Conroy five years after her husband’s untimely death. Makenna is raising their daughter on her own and making ends meet by working in her brother’s trendy California restaurant, known as The Yard. She finally feels that she has gotten her life back to a stable, comfortable place where she can relax and focus on her daughter. Yet one night she experiences an unsettling dream about her brother’s closest friend, Travis McNulty, and suddenly, her focus shifts almost entirely to him. While Makenna manages the finances at the restaurant, Travis, one of the head chefs, exhibits a talent and passion for exquisite dishes. Despite the fact that she has worked side by side with Travis for quite some time, his appearance in her dreams makes her wonder if her mild attraction to him actually runs deeper. The reader learns that Travis has a long-held hankering for Makenna, but he never fancied the feelings would be returned. When he finally sees an opening into Makenna’s life, he doesn’t want to let the opportunity pass. As she and Travis grow closer, Makenna worries that their relationship will upset the delicate balance she has finally achieved between toiling at the restaurant and raising her daughter. Through many compelling scenes at the restaurant, Makenna’s family farm, and even the fussy private school her daughter attends, Ewens shows the central couple dancing in circles around each other for much of the tale. All the while, the author peppers the book with unique details about the restaurant where the pair works, the trendy and singular dishes served, and the quirky clientele. The story’s pacing is fast and engaging, and romantic suspense should keep readers turning pages. Although readers will likely predict the tale’s outcome, the couple’s journey is worth following.
A wholesome and uplifting tale of second chances and gourmet mac and cheese, perfect for romantic foodies.
A novel about family, personal development, and whether true love can overcome deep-rooted emotional damage.
Kara Malendar is a notoriously tough food critic at the Los Angeles Times who’s proud of her reputation. Her job requires a hard outer shell, and after growing up under public scrutiny as the daughter of a U.S. senator, she’s made sure to build a shell that’s triple-reinforced. But when Kara is assigned a feature on Logan Rye, the owner of popular new restaurant The Yard, she’s terrified that the vulnerable person she’s been hiding beneath all that armor will be exposed. Logan is an earthy, passionate, and benevolent chef who believes in humanely produced food and sustainability. He grew up on his father’s farm, where he now sources much of his restaurant’s produce and meat, and he prides himself on taking care of his family after his mother left them. When Kara shows up at his front door to interview him, he’s worried that the life he worked so diligently to create for himself will crumble. It turns out that they first met in Paris while studying at Le Cordon Bleu for a semester—but there, Logan knew her as “Winnie Parker,” the identity she briefly adopted so she could pretend that she wasn’t living in the fishbowl of high society. Unbeknownst to each other, they were the loves of each other’s lives, and their attraction hasn’t waned. As they reignite their romance, both characters reckon with the family trauma that first drove them apart—and whether or not they can deal with ingrained fears of abandonment and rejection. Ewens (Candidate, 2015, etc.) delivers a story that’s equally sensual and smart. The author volleys deftly between Kara’s and Logan’s perspectives, in both the past and the present, with beautiful pacing, revealing plenty of secrets and cliffhangers along the way. The story is full of richly conceived characters and offers brief glimmers of insight into differences between the sexes. It also depicts a foodie world that’s as authentic and intriguing as the people in it.
A charming, engrossing story of love lost and eventually found.
Love and politics make uncomfortable bedfellows in Ewens’ (Premiere: A Love Story, 2014, etc.) latest romantic caper.
Grady Malendar, the wealthy, spoiled son of U.S. Sen. Patrick Malendar, works hard to maintain his image as an irresponsible playboy. Unfortunately for him, his father is running for re-election, and Grady has been assigned a public relations rep to help him clean up his act. Kate Galloway is less than thrilled with her new assignment, but she takes on the Grady problem with aplomb. It won’t come as a surprise that Grady and Kate experience an immediate spark. They do their best to fight the attraction, though; Grady has secrets he’s trying to keep from the spotlight, and Kate is still recovering from a failed marriage and difficult divorce. Yet Grady finds himself drawn to the high-strung PR professional, who also has a vulnerable side, and Kate is intrigued by the kind, compassionate man she finds underneath Grady’s public persona. As their relationship blossoms, they’re forced to confront the demons of infidelity and determine whether complete trust in another person is truly possible. The arc of the narrative is certainly familiar, and the expected outcome is never really in jeopardy. The boy-meets-girl plot is a tried-and-true one, but the likability of Ewens’ protagonists places the book a notch above the typical romance. Kate suffers from insecurities that could doom many relationships, and Grady is a little too perfect (he’s rich, well-built, humble, and enjoys intellectual reading material), although he makes moves that are sure to set romance readers’ hearts aflutter. Ewens also does an admirable job of infusing some tension into the storyline, particularly regarding Grady’s secret (Is it smuggling? Drugs?), but without causing undue concern over the story’s conclusion. The dialogue is witty and full of cultural references. Set against a backdrop of national politics, Ewens’ novel is also a timely read as another election cycle commences.
A fluffy romance with a happy ending that will satisfy even the stodgiest political analyst.
The play’s the thing in this enchanting starter to Ewens’ (Catalina Kiss, 2012) romance series.
Samantha “Sam” Cathner is both grateful and nervous when her childhood friend Peter Everoad returns to California to work on his new play, Looking In. She’s the assistant creative director of the Pasadena Playhouse, and she trusts that anything Peter writes will draw a crowd there. But it turns out that the script is about Peter’s unfinished emotional business with Sam—and even he doesn’t know how the story will end, even as he’s writing the final scenes. It’s a tightly crafted premise, and the story ends with Peter moving to New York City to escape the aftermath of his father’s suicide, leaving Sam brokenhearted just as she and Peter were becoming more than friends. The tension between them is most convincing during play rehearsals: Sam is livid as she watches a professional actor portray her character, “Sally,” as a superficial debutante, while Peter instructs the actor playing “Phillip” to make the audience sympathize with him. However, the novel’s detours into the nuts and bolts of theater production, although detailed and authentic, tend to stall the action. The second act is more successful, as it brings the couple’s lost love into the present moment, with a touch of Hollywood romance. Peter chooses a historic movie theater on Catalina Island, where he and Sam used to spend vacations, to stage a grand gesture that would make anyone swoon. But an unfortunate twist leaves Sam in the same place that Peter left her in years ago, stuck by herself just when she needs him most—only this time, Peter can’t use his youth, or his father, as an excuse. In a character-defining moment, he’ll have to decide how their love will continue after the curtain falls.
Despite this novel’s slow start, Peter and Sam are a likable duo, and readers will be on the edges of their seats as they wait to see if the play has a happy ending.