Tag Archive: Contemporary Romance


About the Story

Title: The Wedding Setup

Author: Sonali Dev

Release Date: January 11, 2022

Publisher: Amazon Original Stories

Summary

Ayesha Shetty lost her brother seven years ago, the same time she lost everything else important to her: her dreams, her fierce independence, and the man she loved. Not wanting to see her mother hurt anymore, she put her wild self away and became the dutiful daughter her mother needed and took on her brother’s role in the family business.

Now her best friend’s big, fat Indian wedding is a chance to get away from her endless duties at the restaurant and maybe even have some fun (if she remembers how). But a setup arranged by her mother, with a doctor no less, is the last thing she needs. The fact that he checks all her mother’s boxes just makes everything better…and worse.

Then Emmitt Hughes shows up. Her brother’s best friend. The love she once chose over family duties and her responsibilities. The one she asked to leave, and who did. The one who knows the real Ayesha. Torn between a love from the past that could cost her the only person she has left and her sense of obligation to her mother, will Ayesha find the strength to stop thinking about what everyone else wants and finally put herself first? Or is the old Ayesha truly gone for good?

Author Biography

USA Today bestselling author Sonali Dev writes Bollywood-style love stories that explore universal issues. Her novels have been named best books of the year by Library Journal, NPR, the Washington Post, and Kirkus Reviews. She has won numerous accolades, including the American Library Association’s award for best romance, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for best contemporary romance, and multiple RT Seals of Excellence; has been a RITA finalist; and has been listed for the Dublin Literary Award. Shelf Awareness calls her “not only one of the best but one of the bravest romance novelists working today.” She lives in Chicagoland with her husband, two visiting adult children, and the world’s most perfect dog. 

Buy Link: https://amzn.to/3pWDqM8 

Social Media Links

Website: https://sonalidev.com/ 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SonaliDev.author 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Sonali_Dev 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sonali.dev/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7025918.Sonali_Dev 

Interview with Author Sonali Dev

The Wedding Setup” may be a short story, but it is tremendously powerful. How would you describe it to readers?

Thank you. It’s the story of a girl who used to be a rebel who followed her heart and fought for what she wanted, and then her brother’s death leaves her responsible for her widowed mother. It’s about being knocked off your feet and getting stuck, and learning how to stand back up and reclaim yourself.

The story invites us to take an intimate look into a mother-daughter relationship. This is a universal theme, however, you also steep the plot in your own Indian heritage. Can you tell readers what this story means to you as a daughter? What it means to you as an Indian woman?

There is so much of my own relationship with my mother in this book. We’ve always been incredibly close. She’s outspoken and confident and she modeled some powerful behaviors for me growing up about owning her own body and her voice. But there were the other parts where she was a product of her time and culture, believing in absolute terms that it is a woman’s duty to nurture her family, to marry ‘at the right time,’ to be a certain kind of mother. These are things she pushed hard. Things I internalized but also fought to do on my own terms and not hers. Ayesha’s relationship with her mother used to be this way, and then a tragedy changes their dynamic. So, it’s an exploration of how battles for identity get derailed by tragedy and grief and what it takes to heal.

Ayesha’s mom describes her as obedient, responsible, and “always putting everyone else before her own needs.” After hearing this Ayesha (internally) feels hypothermic. Can you explain how these seemingly sweet compliments completely destroy your heroine?

The mother-child bond comes with a kind of intuitive understanding of each other that’s unique to that relationship. So, while Ayesha has lost her fiery spirit and both she and her mother have lost years to their grief and struggle to survive, her mother knows who her daughter is deep down and how much she’s buried. So there’s a very nuanced intent to these ‘compliments’ and they hit the nerve they’re meant to hit. Ayesha’s reaction to these words is her dead parts coming back to life.

It only takes a moment—one second—for Ayesha to break free from her ice…a single word from Emmitt has her coming back to life. Why does she have such a powerful reaction to someone she hasn’t seen in seven years?

Ayesha had a crush on Emmitt for many years before they got together. She’s always had a strong reaction to him. The years they spent together as young adults were years when she came into herself, and felt seen and cherished. Then she loses all of that when her brother dies and they break up. So, it’s a combination of things that come together when Ayesha meets Emmitt again. They have a natural connection, but also, with his return come all the memories of who she used to be and how much she used to let herself feel.

Ayesha has never forgotten how Emmitt turns “her messy, impulsive, unfettered emotion into something beautiful.” But she has forgotten the effect that she has on him. What buried memories are uncovered as she watches Emmitt react to their reunion?

Emmitt has always dealt with the world and the pain it causes him by keeping everyone at arm’s length. But Ayesha destroys his defenses with her ability to love (and do everything else) so fiercely. So, when he loses her he’s already lost his ability to protect himself. Their joint grief is what separated them, so, while they understand each other’s pain they both also understand the loneliness of not having each other to lean on. They’ve had to make the journey to healing individually, but meeting each other again brings up the piece that needs the other to heal.

How did you get to know your couple? How were you able to understand what was needed to heal their broken hearts?

The one theme that threads through all my books is finding yourself on the tightrope between personal freedom and responsibility to family and community. Healing is always about finding or rediscovering your love for yourself. So, I understand my characters through that lens: how have they lost themselves? What about themselves do they need to reclaim and fall in love with? A truly connected couple is one who aids this journey in each other, recognizes it, and supports it.

In a limited number of pages you not only give readers a living, breathing couple, but also an avalanche of equally interesting characters like Ayesha’s best friend, suitor, aunties…and you even create depth with characters that are no longer living. Why was it so important to spend time with these secondary characters? What do they reveal about your hero and heroine?

I believe that as humans we are a sum total of our relationships and the world we live in and build for ourselves. How someone treats other people and how they respond to how they are treated is what constitutes character. 

At its heart, every story is about a person who is somehow at odds with the world they live in or with themselves because of the expectations of their world, and the journey they make to resolve that conflict. Ayesha wouldn’t be Ayesha without her mother and Bela, her best friend and the community she was raised in. Bela has been her wild other half growing up, then their paths diverged, but they continued to be each other’s support. Her mother has become a crutch she uses to hold on to her grief. Emmitt’s grief over his friend has run his life for seven years too. So the secondary characters are just as integral to the story as the protagonists.

While the plot focuses on grief, there is also great joy to be found. After all, the backdrop of the story is a giant wedding. What do you personally find the most fun at a traditional Indian wedding celebration?

I’m always only there for the food and dancing! Fine, and getting to dress up. And the wine. Also, maybe the chance to hang out with family and friends I only see at weddings. And the drunk aunties and uncles.

After readers devour “The Wedding Setup”, which of your other books would you recommend they read next?

First, thank you so much for devouring The Wedding Setup! I’m incredibly proud of my Raje series, a set of retellings of my four favorite Jane Austen novels set in a politically ambitious Indian American family from Northern California. Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors is a gender flipped Pride and Prejudice. Recipe for Persuasion is a two-generational homage to Persuasion set on a Food Network show. Incense and Sensibility, the love story between a gubernatorial candidate and a yoga therapist who can save him but also destroy his campaign, pays tribute to Sense and Sensibility. And the upcoming The Emma Project (May 17th 2022), which is a gender flipped Emma that explores what it means when a person with tremendous privilege offers charity to someone who has much less.

The Wedding Setup Excerpt 

Goose bumps rose across Ayesha’s skin, one sharp dot at a time. 

“Ayesha.” 

That was it. Just that one word. Her name. In a voice that was its own ghost. 

She squeezed her eyes shut. One tight squeeze. Tight enough to hurt, tight enough to almost dislodge the false eyelashes Andre had pressed into her lash line one by one with the precision of a surgeon. Then boom! she was in control again and back to Ayesha on Ice. 

Eyes blank, face set, she turned toward the voice. 

Emmitt. 

The impact of him was a body blow. 

The entire universe stilled. Words weren’t a thing. Or sound. Breath? What was that? 

Ayesha! Get a grip. 

No grip. That’s how it had always been. She’d had no grip when it came to Emmitt Hughes. Not even a little bit. Not when she’d spied on him and Ajay playing Mario Kart and Minecraft and GTA for hours, for years. Not when she’d yearned and dreamed and spun stories with him at the center. 

I’ve made my love for you, my god. 

It was the cheesiest of lines from one of those Bollywood songs her parents had played on repeat at the restaurant. Amma had loved translating the over-the-top lyrics and explaining their nuances.

Back when Amma was full of stories and songs and laughter. Before Ajay. 

Ajay. 

Her brother’s unspoken name fell between them like a glass bauble and shattered. 

“You remember Emmitt,” Edward had the gall to say. 

Bela shot him a glare. 

You didn’t tell me he would be here. Ayesha threw the silent accusation at her traitorous best friend, who gave her nothing more than another worried look. 

No, Eddie. Remind me again who he is? The snarky words stuck in Ayesha’s throat. Old Ayesha would have said them. Old Ayesha said everything. 

“Emmitt,” New Ayesha said, every feeling buried under her customer-is-king voice from the restaurant. “Nice to see you again.” 

His Adam’s apple bobbed in the long column of his throat. How was he still so darned beautiful? 

One swallow, and then he smiled back. Banking feelings where no one saw them had been his thing. Emmitt the Wall. That’s what Ajay had called him. Her brother had been best friends with him since Emmitt had moved to Naperville in fifth grade after his parents’ divorce. Years of friendship, and he’d still held Ajay at that slight distance he’d been so good at. Something she would always wish she hadn’t cured him of.

You broke me, Ayesha.You broke every defense I’ve ever had against the world. 

She, Ayesha Shetty—too tall, too dark, too outspoken, too intense, too ambitious, too everything for everyone else had been just enough to break through Emmitt the Wall. 

“It’s nice to see you too,” he said gently, sounding . . . she dug through her brain to come up with the right word. Grown-up? Contained? 

Good. Because Ayesha was all those things now too. Not a grenade with its fuse pulled, ready to blow up the world.

***

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Rachel Lacey starts a new series, Ms. Right, with the first book titled “Read Between The Lines”, with Rosie Taft and Jane Breslin navigating their love story. Book addict and bookstore owner Rosie Taft meets her online friend and favorite author Brie in the persona of Jane Breslin wherein her Dad’s company is responsible for demolishing the building that houses Rosie’s store. After several misunderstandings, insecurities and dates leads to Rosie and Jane finding their happily ever after. 

Somehow “Read Between The Lines”, did not deliver to me the complete prowess of Rachel Lacey. It is a good read albeit the chemistry and intensity that I normally enjoy in her books. I wish she had given more depth to her characters Rosie and Jane, and developed their relationship with more maturity as mature women. I actually had more fun with Lia than Jane and Rosie. But I also have to give credit to the way she played out the outing of Brie to her family. Seemed very practical and realistic. 

It’s a good romance read for sure and most readers would definitely enjoy the story. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy reading it, but I missed the Rachel Lacey magic that I enjoyed in her previous books.

Received an ARC from Montlake via NetGalley for an honest review.

Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now on and make a brand new ending ~~ Carl Bard ~~

I still remember the first book of Jennifer Ryan’s that I read and was ecstatic to find a her and I totally would be lost if I don’t get to read her books to feed my reading addiction; be it her new releases or just the countless times I have fallen back to read her previous works.  

Meet Sarah Anderson – a woman who lost herself in the struggles of life, yet found her very self as a successful and enterprising business woman, a mother who adored her two boys, an employer who has the best interests of her employees at the core of her organization treating them as family, and a genuine and honest friend to the very few people she has in her life. With not one single bad bone in her body, empathy and compassion running in her blood, sensitive and generous to the depth of her soul, she may be a fictional character sketched by Jennifer Ryan, but they do exist, and I can truly relate to this very character and personality.

And her soulmate in the making, nothing but the best in Luke Thompson – a successful attorney and a cowboy, caught between the family dynamics of Sarah and her dead husband’s family, his heart and mind at a war even as he falls for her but questioning her actions, he’s got some decisions to make. Spending time with Sarah and her boys, and as her family secrets come to light, making decisions that would effect his future has never been difficult.

“Lost And Found Family” is a wholesome story of a woman choosing a life that is important to her, empowering herself by working hard on the right things leads to a successful career, losing a past that was hurtful and finding a present that only would lead to a future that she always had wanted. Take this journey with Sarah Anderson and Luke Thompson as they finally become a family that they’ve always dreamed of, a brand new ending.

Jennifer Ryan always had an exceptional writing and narrative skill and no review will do justice to her books unless read in person Writing a book is never, ever easy and she has not one wasted word in this amazing story. She’s taken life as is and has placed in a book that breathes this very life as the story unfolds. A true reader’s pleasure!

Received an ARC from William Morrow And Custom House via NetGalley

I’ve become addicted to another author writing stories around alpha males and their equally worthy women, crossover characters from another of my favorite authors……so many to read and so less time!!!!!

Nicole Flockton is a fairly new author for me that I’m enjoying. Who would have thought a routine run to a grocery store would bring Knox Porter and Penni Stewart together in the middle of a hostage situation, But then, stranger things have known to happen, and thus starts their journey of friendship, sparks, love and add in the danger that is the extension of the hostage incident, you get a great read. And if you get to hear from Tex, that is icing on the cake!

A great read, and a great series so far.

Received an ARC from Victory Editing NetGalley Co-Op, via NetGalley

A sneak peak into her new release, and there’s a $100 raffle at the end of the post as well from the publsher.

About the Title

Title: Changing the Rules

Author: Catherine Bybee

Release Date: March 23, 2021

Publisher: Montlake 

Summary 

As an employee of MacBain Security and Solutions, Claire Kelly can certainly hold her own. Armed with an impressive set of covert skills, she’s more than prepared to tackle any job that comes her way…except one involving Cooper Lockman.

Cooper and Claire used to work together before his feelings for her sent him packing to Europe for six long years. But now he’s back and determined to ignore the still-smoldering heat that lingers between them.

Their current mission: go undercover together at a California high school to root out the mastermind behind a prostitution ring targeting young girls. The closer they get to the truth and the closer they get to each other, however, the deadlier their task becomes. As Claire and Cooper risk their lives to bring down their target, will their hearts be the final casualties?

About the Author

New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee has written twenty-eight books that have collectively sold more than five million copies and have been translated into more than eighteen languages. Raised in Washington State, Bybee moved to Southern California in the hope of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Not Quite Series, the Weekday Brides Series, the Most Likely To Series, and the First Wives Series.

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.catherinebybee.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorCatherineBybee

Twitter: https://twitter.com/catherinebybee

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2905789.Catherine_Bybee

Excerpt:

Claire collapsed onto the living room sofa the second she walked in the door. Not only had she suffered a headache the entire day, Cooper ran her like a trainer working an Iron Man competitor. 

“That sounds like a bad day,” Jax said as she walked around the corner of the kitchen. 

“You don’t want to know.” 

Claire flung an arm over her eyes to block out the sun. 

She heard Jax walk in the room and then exhale as she sat down. “You’re right. I don’t give a crap what happened in school, unless it involved Cooper. What I want is the details of last night after I got out of the car.” 

Before Cooper picked them up, Claire and Jax had agreed that Jax would give them a few minutes to have a private conversation. Now Claire regretted that plan. 

“The long story, or the short story?” Claire asked. 

“Whatever one you want to deliver.” 

Claire’s arms slid off her head, and she pushed herself into a sitting position. 

“Cooper has a thing for me.” 

Jax sat silent, blinked a few times. “Okay, and?” 

“What do you mean, ‘okay, and?’” 

“Sorry, Claire, but that’s obvious. I think you’d have to be an idiot to not see it. Even the guys on the team see it.” 

“What? Are they talking about—” 

Jax stopped her with a shake of the head. “Of course not. But you can tell by how they look at the two of you that they know there’s an attraction.” 

Claire pointed to her chest. “I’m not doing anything, it’s him.” 

“Maybe it’s more him.” 

She kept shaking her head. “No, it’s all him. I’m not instigating anything.” 

“You flirt with him all the time.” 

“I do not,” Claire huffed. 

One look from Jax and she rescinded her statement. “Okay, we banter. But it’s always been like that. I have the pool stick, he makes some kind of phallic joke. It’s banter. Not flirting.” 

Jax sat back, crossed her arms over her chest. Claire couldn’t believe her best friend was calling her out. “We’re friends. And last night he ruined that by telling me he’s had a thing for me since we met. Told me he left sunny California for dreary London because I was too young and naive to handle him when I first got here.” 

Jax narrowed her eyes. “Is that really how he said that?” 

Claire’s headache was coming back. “No. He said I was a child.” 

“A child?” 

Claire stood up from the couch, started for the kitchen. “He kept repeating that I was eighteen back then.” 

Jax followed behind. “Which is true.” 

Claire yanked open the fridge, pulled out a beer. “Whose side are you on?” 

“Yours. Always. But I just don’t see where all the fire is about this. Cooper owns up to the flirting comments and puppy-dog looks he gives you, and you’re pissed because he walked away six years ago.”

Like picking a lock, the pieces slid into place and finally started to click. “But he’s my friend.” 

“Trying to say you’ve never thought of him as more?” 

“No.” Her denial was quick. 

Jax started to smile. “You’ve never checked out his ass? The guy can fill out a pair of jeans.” 

Some of the anger she’d harbored all day eased. “That’s true.” 

“And that smile. When he’s belly laughing he has the tiniest dimples.” 

Claire closed her eyes, pictured his smile. She hadn’t noticed the dimples, but now that she thought about it . . . She opened her eyes to find Jax staring at her. 

“Sounds like you have a thing for him,” Claire said. 

“Wouldn’t matter if I did, and I don’t, by the way, but it wouldn’t matter. The guy can’t stop looking at you.” 

“God, what am I going to do with him?” 

“I don’t think you have to do anything. It’s not like he asked you out and you said no and now it’s awkward.” 

“You’re right. It’s worse than that.” 

“You’re overthinking it.” Jax pushed off the counter. “You know what, let’s gussy up a little and hit a proper happy hour. We’ll talk in German and pretend we don’t speak English and shamelessly flirt.” 

Claire abandoned her beer. “Now that is exactly what I need to do and get my mind off of boys.” 

***

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