LOVE ME NOT by Reese Ryan

Abandoned by a mother who chose drugs over her, Jamie Charles barely got out of her own addiction alive. Now, she pours her pain into her art while pouring drinks at a local bar. To Jamie, love is a four-letter word—until she meets Miles, a charming ad exec with piercing blue eyes who makes no secret about his desire for her.

Miles Copeland has family demons of his own, but his unhappy upbringing drove him toward hard work and success. He's determined to win Jamie over, and when he finally does, it's worth every moment he spent waiting. But when he confesses that he's falling for her, she panics. Sex is one thing, but love requires more than she can give.

Jamie can't deny her feelings, but she's haunted by her past. Miles knows his heart, but Jamie's lingering doubts have him questioning their future. It might take the threat of losing him forever for her to realize that refusing to let love in is the worst mistake of all.

It’s not very often you get a female character in a romance novel who is prickly and grumpy and still wins your heart, yet Ryan pulls this off wonderfully. Both of these main characters are complex—a wonderful mix of fierce and wounded—and their growing devotion to each other is really moving. 

Highly recommend this one, especially since it’s sexy and delicious, and a little out of the box, which makes it more interesting and even stronger, in my opinion.

NEW ORLEANS RUSH by Kelly Siskind

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New Orleans Rush Falling for your surly boss is a rotten idea.

Letting him saw you in half is even worse...

Beatrice Baker may be a struggling artist, but she believes all hardships have silver linings...until she follows her boyfriend to New Orleans and finds him with another woman. Instead of turning those lemons into lemonade, she drinks lemon drop martinis and keys the wrong man's car.

Now she works for Huxley Marlow of the Marvelous Marlow Boys, getting shoved in boxes as an on-stage magician's assistant. A cool job for some, but Bea's been coerced into the role to cover her debt. She also maybe fantasizes about her boss's adept hands and what else they can do.

She absolutely will not fall for him, or kiss him senseless. Until she does. The scarred, enigmatic Huxley has unwittingly become her muse, unlocking her artistic dry spell, but his vague nightly activities are highly suspect. The last time Beatrice trusted a man, her bank account got drained and she almost got arrested. Surely this can't end that badly…right?

I loved the premise of this book, the voice was fantastic, and the main characters, Huxley and Beatrice, just pop off the page. However, it bugged me that in so many moments, it was completely clear that they needed to be honest with each other (and the other people in their lives, especially Huxley’s brothers) and then they choose not to. They even often say to themselves, “I should probably be honest about this” and then aren’t. I was also a bit annoyed at Bea’s reaction to Huxley’s “gambling” since I see a huge difference between what Bea’s afraid of and what Huxley does, but maybe I’m splitting hairs on this one. On the other hand, Bea’s sunshine personality and ability to win everyone over, including a mafia thug hired to kill her, is brilliant, as is her attraction to wounded Huxley and the unexpected success of the magic show thanks to Huxley’s hunky brother’s willingness to take off his shirt. Very fun, and I recommend this one, though readers who get annoyed at characters who do things they tell themselves not to, be warned.

Tom Hanks WAITING FOR TOM HANKS by Kerry Winfrey

A rom-com-obsessed romantic waiting for her perfect leading man learns that life doesn’t always go according to a script in this delightfully charming and funny novel.

Annie Cassidy dreams of being the next Nora Ephron. She spends her days writing screenplays, rewatching Sleepless in Seattle, and waiting for her movie-perfect meet-cute. If she could just find her own Tom Hanks—a man who’s sweet, sensitive, and possibly owns a houseboat—her problems would disappear and her life would be perfect. But Tom Hanks is nowhere in sight.

When a movie starts filming in her neighborhood and Annie gets a job on set, it seems like a sign. Then Annie meets the lead actor, Drew Danforth, a cocky prankster who couldn’t be less like Tom Hanks if he tried. Their meet-cute is more of a meet-fail, but soon Annie finds herself sharing some classic rom-com moments with Drew. Her Tom Hanks can’t be an actor who’s leaving town in a matter of days...can he?

This book is getting tons of great buzz (it got a positive Kirkus review, great author praise, fabulous blurbs and mostly high Amazon feedback), and I kind of agree with the assessment. Winfrey has a great voice and the book is delightful in tons of ways. Annie’s connections to rom coms are funny and endearing, her hero really is Tom Hanks-ish in many ways (though he’s more like a Tom Hanks rom com personality with a Tom Cruise face), and main character Annie is a quirky girl, both amazing and retiring, in true rom com fashion. However, I did find her continual backtracking and second, fourth and tenth-guessing a little grating. I mean, the guy is obviously interested in her, and yet she spends half the book telling herself he can’t be, and another quarter convincing herself she can’t go anywhere to pursue her dreams, because her uncle needs her to stay in Ohio. 

So, I recommend this book with some reservations. 

Come for the sparkling dialogue; the requisite supporting cast of dry-witted cheerleaders, horrifying would-be suitors, and various other grumpy and awesome secondary and tertiary characters; and the plethora of rom com references that are as nostalgic, warm and buttery as a tub of movie popcorn. Then take a deep breath every time Annie undermines herself in life and love for no apparent good reason. Obviously the point of the book is that Annie has to get over her fears and inhibitions and a lifetime of loss and playing it safe, but to me, she held on to them with such fierce determination it almost felt ridiculous given her stated goals and dreams, and all the positive and inspiring things that were happening to her and around her.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?