Blitz | No More Bad Dates by Kate O’Keeffe


No More Bad Dates by Kate O’Keeffe

(High Team #1) (Cozy Cottage Café, #5)

Available on Amazon & GoodreadsPublished on September 5, 2019.

Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Adult

Scroll down for the excerpt and giveaway!


NMBD.jpgThree friends form the No More Bad Dates Pact: stop dating the wrong guys and start dating the right ones – weirdos and jerks need not apply.

Twenty-five-year-old Sophie McCarthy’s career is virtually nonexistent, her family expects her to “do something important” with her life, and she’s totally sick of dating the wrong guys: the self-absorbed, the arrogant, the borderline criminally insane.

After she’s unceremoniously dumped during the vows at her boss’s wedding, she and her two equally disappointed-in-love best friends agree to help each other find decent guys to date. Together, they form the No More Bad Dates Pact: stop dating the wrong guys and start dating the right ones–weirdos and jerks need not apply.

When Sophie’s roommate Jason Christie–a.k.a. doctor-in-training and serial nurse-dater–joins the pact, he vows to weed out the bad ones for her. But with his rejection of every guy Sophie meets, she begins to wonder if he’s got an ulterior motive. And anyway, why does she always have so much more fun with Jason than with the guys she’s actually trying to date?

While desperately seeking her “happy for now,” could Sophie stumble into her “happily ever after?”

High Tea is a spin-off of Kate O’Keeffe’s bestselling Cozy Cottage Café series. Escape to New Zealand in this fun, feel-good chick lit series!


“Maybe the three of us could agree to some sort of pact?” I suggest.

Darcy pushes her long dark hair behind her ear. “It seems super serious to me.”

“Yeah, and super scary,” Erin adds. “I’m not even sure I want to get married yet. I just want to date nice guys. Ones that won’t steal my shoes.”

Darcy laughs. “OMG, I totally forgot that happened to you!”

“What do you think he did with them?” I ask. “He couldn’t have worn them. You’ve got feet the size of a seven-year-old.”

“Hey! I may be short, but I’m perfectly formed,” Erin protests. “At least that’s what Dad always tells me. And I do not want to think about what Mark did with my shoes.” She shivers. “What a creep.”

“Guys with weird shoe fetishes aside, I’m with you, girl. I’m not in the marriage space either, not like my sisters. Boring,” Darcy says. “Dating is fun. But I would love to date some nice guys for a change.”

“That’s called an H.F.N., Darce: Happy For Now,” Erin explains helpfully.

“Where do you get all these acronyms, Erin?” Darcy asks.

“I told you, romance novels. Although I much prefer an H.E.A. to an H.F.N.”

Darcy puts her head in her hands. “Stop hurting my brain, Erin.”

I try the expression out. “Happy For Now. I like the sound of that. Nothing too serious, nothing too permanent. Just . . . happy for now.”

Erin nods. “Exactly.”

Darcy looks back up at us. “Happy is good, and the ‘for now’ part sounds a whole lot less scary than ‘forever,’ that’s for sure.”

I tap my chin as I formulate an idea. “Girls? How about we make a pact that we’re only going to date the good guys. No more jerks, no more creeps with weird shoe fetishes,” I raise my eyebrows at Erin, “no weirdos obsessed with sea life, and definitely no more jerks who dump us at weddings.”

A flicker of a smile spreads across Darcy’s face. “The No More Bad Dates Pact.”

Erin nods, Darcy’s smile catching. “The No More Bad Dates Pact. I like it. OMG, we could hashtag it! It’ll become a thing, like Jimmy Fallon’s worst first dates from a while back. It could be so fun!”

“I’m not interested in trending. I’m interested in dating non-jerks, and having some fun,” I say.

“We could do both?” Erin suggests with a hopeful look on her gorgeous face. “#NoMoreBadDates.”

“Of course we can!” Darcy’s excitement matching mine.

I beam at both my friends. “Hashtag or no hashtag, we’re agreed. We’re going to date nice guys, guys we want to be with, guys who actually deserve us.”

“Yes!” they both reply with gusto.

I raise my glass, and my friends follow suit. “To the No More Bad Dates Pact. May it bring us all our H.F.N.s.”

As we clink glasses, I feel a rush of optimism for the first time since that fateful day with Andrew. The No More Bad Dates Pact sounds like exactly what I need. I cannot wait to start.

Books in the High Tea series:
Book 1: No More Bad Dates
Book 2: No More Terrible Dates – releasing very soon!
Book 3: No More Horrible Dates – releasing soon!

Thank you, Xpresso Book Tours for letting me be a part of the No Bad Dates blitz! I’ll update this part later on to include the other amazing posts from my fellow bookworms and blitz participants.

★★★★★ “The perfect fun-filled escape from reality. Kate O’Keeffe at her delightful best!”- Whitney Dineen, bestselling author of Relatively Normal

★★★★★ “I love this book! If you want a novel you won’t be able to put down and will leave you with a smile on your face after you finish it, this is a great choice! So sweet and romantic!” – Annabelle Costa, bestselling author of My Perfect Ex-Boyfriend


Kate.jpgVisit and sign up to her newsletter so you never miss out on new releases and great book deals again! Follow her on Bookbub to learn about deals on her books. Just cut and paste this link into your browser:

Kate O’Keeffe is a bestselling author of fun, feel-good romantic comedies. She lives and loves in beautiful Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand with her family, two scruffy dogs, and a cat who thinks he’s a scruffy dog too. He’s not: he’s a cat. When she’s not penning her latest story, Kate can be found hiking up hills (slowly), traveling to different countries, and eating chocolate. A lot of it.

Kate is excited to announce her new series High Tea! It’s a spin-off from the bestselling Cozy Cottage Café series, and Book 1 is currently on pre-order, due to be released on September 5th, 2019!


Win one of the ten eBook copies of No More Bad Dates they’re giving away!
Sign up here before September 12.

Review | Just My Luck by Jennifer Honeybourn

JustMyLuckTourBanner.pngJust My Luck by Jennifer Honeybourn

AmazonBarnes & Noble iBooksKobo Google Play Goodreads

Published by Swoon Reads on 16 July 2019.

Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Marty has terrible luck and she knows exactly why. While working as a housekeeper at the ritzy Grand Palms hotel in Maui, Marty made it a habit to steal small items from the guests. What better way to stick it to the rich snobs they have to clean up after? Marty knows how to turn her luck around — she just has to return all of the items she stole.

When Marty meets Will, a new guest who is staying for the summer, she does the one thing she always promised herself she’d never do — fall for an out-of-towner. But Will’s special, different from the other guests at the hotel. Maybe Marty’s luck is finally turning around.

After a string of misunderstandings and accidents threaten Will and Marty’s relationship, Marty has to find a way to fix her luck for good — or say goodbye to Will forever.

Marty’s on a quest, but not an adventure type (unless you’d consider hiking up to the waterfalls with nothing but the clothes on your back as one). Ever since her dad and her prom date jilted on her (not at the same time, of course), she’s been involved in some petty theft as a sort of rebellious message to the universe. Except, the universe decided to punish her for it, so to reverse her karma, Marty figured she needed to return everything she stole from the hotel guests, things she stashed out of sight in a shoebox and buried at the very back of her closet: a pair of cherry-red sunglasses, a vanilla-scented travel candle, a hula girl shot glass, and a luggage tag shaped like a surfboard. Otherwise, Marty’s convinced that her bad luck will just keep coming- and if getting your car totaled by a tree struck by lightning isn’t bad enough, accidentally stepping on dog poo officially sealed it.

Marty’s predicaments reminded me of the 2006 movie that shared the same name with this book, wherein Jake Hardin was always on the receiving end of the worst case scenarios, that eventually it made me wonder, can one person really be this unlucky? Surely the bad luck has to stop at one point. For Marty, it was when she started hanging out with one of the wealthy hotel guests, Will, who she was asked to tour around the island. Even that wasn’t all fun and games, but hey, who here gets to flirt around when they’re working, right? Also, she has the cutest conversations with Will, some of my favorites being:

“The tall one is cute,” [he says]. I pick up a stapler, even though I have nothing to staple. “I didn’t notice.”

The way he smiles at me, like he’s really glad to see me, like he’s been waiting to talk to me, makes my heart race. He probably smiles at everybody like that. I hate the thought that he smiles at anyone else like that.

“What’s wrong with nice?” “It’s pretty much the kiss of death. In my experience with girls, nice means ‘Buddy, you’ve got no chance’.”

I knew right off that I was going to like this book, mainly because we have this seemingly unlikable and complicated heroine who steals from unknowing people, lies to her best friend and her family, and runs away from her problems. I was quite interested to know how the author would develop Marty’s character and how things would work out in the end for her, since it was pretty clear from the start that she’s no Mother Theresa as of late.

And so, like with everything else I’m not ready to deal with, I push it aside. Hoping that it will all somehow magically go away.

It’s a very coming-of-age type of story that fitted just well, and I liked Marty and Will’s romance and individual development, though how it wrapped up felt a little abrupt for me. It’s reminiscent of Something in Between, when things just fell into place for the characters by the end that it felt just a tad bit unnatural. The book is fairly long too (2338 pages on Kindle), so I think it’s because the author really spent a lot of time building Marty and Will’s relationship over anything else.

Quite unfortunate, too, since I wanted to know more about the minor characters because they’re pretty interesting. However, what we got was merely surface-level for me. I would have liked to know more about Marty’s friendship with Nalani (I mean, they did plan to take a gap year to California! How’d that start? Why Cali?) and Will’s relationship with Hayes (family drama and alcoholic tendencies aside, what else should we know about him?).

That aside, I think this book is the perfect summer read⁠— it’s light, cheery, and sweet. Though I feel bad for Marty’s dismal luck, I really couldn’t help but giggle at times, too. This is a book I can see myself reaching for when I’ve read something serious, or probably when I’m off vacationing in Hawaii some ten thousand years in the future.


Thank you, Xpresso Book Tours for letting me be a part of the Just My Luck blog tour! You can read more about the tour here. Don’t forget to check out the other amazing posts from my fellow bookworms and tour participants:

July 15th
Valerie Ullmer | Romance Author >> Excerpt
A Dream Within A Dream >> Excerpt
Kait Plus Books >> Interview
We Live and Breathe Books >> Review

July 16th
Moonlight Rendezvous >> Review
TheBookNerdDiaries >> Excerpt
June Reads Books >> Review
The Heart of a Book Blogger >> Guest post

July 17th
The Avid Reader  >> Excerpt
Across the Bookiverse >> Interview
Provocatrix >> Review
Smada’s Book Smack >> Review
Just Because >> Review

July 18th
Literary Flits >> Guest post
The Cover Contessa >> Interview
Sincerely Karen Jo >> Review
Character Madness and Musings >> Excerpt

July 19th
Twirling Book Princess >> Excerpt
Viviana MacKade >> Guest post
trishajennreads >> Review
The Bookish Introvert >> Review



Jennifer Honeybourn works in corporate communications in Vancouver, British Columbia. She’s a fan of British accents, Broadway musicals, and epic, happily-ever-after love stories. If she could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, she’d have high tea with Walt Disney, JK Rowling, and her nana. She lives with her husband, daughter and cat in a house filled with books. Wesley James Ruined My Life is her first novel.

Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Website


Win a print copy of Just My Luck by clicking here! Giveaway ends July 28th.


Review | A Shifting of Stars by Kathy Kimbray

A Shifting of Stars by Kathy Kimbray


Self-published on 28 May 2019. Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A Shifting of Stars Cover.jpg


A squandering emperor. A handsome stranger. A reluctant heroine. And the ancient magic that will capsize a kingdom.

Seventeen-year-old Meadow Sircha watched her mother die from the wilting sickness. Tormented by the knowledge that the emperor failed to import the medicine that would have saved her, she speaks out at a gathering of villagers, inciting them to boycott his prized gladiator tournament.

But doing so comes at a steep cost.

Arrested as punishment for her impulsive tongue, Meadow finds herself caught up in the kind of danger she’s always tried to avoid. After a chance meeting with an enigmatic boy, she’s propelled on a perilous trek across the outer lands. But she soon unearths a staggering secret: one that will shift her world—and the kingdom— forever.

Filled with longing and heart, surprise and wonder, A SHIFTING OF STARS is perfect for fans of AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, RED QUEEN and SHADOW AND BONE.

The book introduced us right off to the narrator and heroine, Meadow, a young girl terribly grieving the death of her mother to a fatal illness a year ago. She was walking through the night to attend the Gathering, similar to a modern-day poetry reading, where she sought to share her sorrow. Upon hearing other’s entries, though, Meadow realized that writing and talking about her mother was not the kind of story people wanted to hear about, not when they can share those of hope, love, innocence, in a world that was filled otherwise. She then changed hers and talked of the king’s selfishness and corruption, and one thing led to another, Meadow was seized for treason.

I laud the author for how beautifully written the book is. I am not an avid fan of fantasy, mainly because I always feel like there’s something missing. I ask a lot of questions about how things came to be and can never just accept “that’s just how it is”. While this is also something I’m sure the series will improve on in the future, A Shifting of Stars was off to a good start. The characters are interesting, the plot is captivating, and the political theme is honestly not that far off from real life, gladiator tournament aside. Meadow isn’t an unlikable character in fact, it’s easy to understand where her anger is coming from. Her love for her father trumps over anything, including the chance to overthrow the emperor. This was surprising, as opposed to the usual protagonist who is often inclined to act towards the greater good over everything else. Beyond this, though, I couldn’t grasp more of her character, other than the fact that she’s one damn lucky girl for evading death and escaping imprisonment countless of times.

Another thing I liked about this book is that it was not romance-centered. In fact, it took me a couple of characters in before I realized who our dear Meadow’s potential love interest was (I even feared it’d be the ‘son’ who we met in the first chapters). Theirs wasn’t out of instant attraction, I’d say it developed from reluctance to mutual trust. The book was actually more action-packed than romantic, though it’s more because of the secondary characters than Meadow. As opposed to The Selection series, the action and political drama took on a more central role than as a side story, which I wouldn’t  personally consider to be a bad thing.

Plot-wise, I felt like I was holding my breath the entire time, with all the action and twists and turns. While it did hold my attention, at one point, it did feel tiresome, because I haven’t even gotten over one scene when we’re quickly swept towards another adventure. It reminded me a bit of how I felt reading The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. I also found it too fast-paced at times, probably since, as I’ve said, there were so many things happening continuously or at the same time. While I think a lot were element to the story, there were some scenes and characters we could do without that were never really developed. Cases in point: Meadow’s friendship to Anai, Carliss’ ‘secret’ lover (shh), Princess K, the ancient magic that was part of the synopsis but only appeared later on. Unless of course, they were merely foundations of the books to follow.

I’m eager to know how the story will pick up after this will we know more about the technicalities of ancient magic? A more in-depth perspective of the kingdom? What became of the bodies? What and who are the Marascans? Everything that occurred in the last chapters had me biting my fingernails, I hardly had time to guess what could possibly happen next! I’ve got some theories in mind that I’ll save in the meantime, but I do recommend this for fantasy lovers and beginners alike, particularly if you also enjoy political storylines. I enjoyed reading the (mis)adventures and am curious to discover where Meadow and her allies will take us to.

Thank you, Caffeine Book Tours for letting me be a part of A Shifting of Stars blog tour! You can read about the tour here on Shealea’s blog. Don’t forget to check out the other amazing posts from my fellow bookworms and tour participants:

July 07
☕ Blog tour launch at Shut up, Shealea
Becky’s Book Blog
Bemused Bibliophile
Book Reviews from Canada
Polish & Paperbacks

July 09
The Infernal Fangirl’s Heaven
Lost in Fiction
Sage Shelves

July 10
☕ Author interview from Shut up, Shealea
A Bronx Latina Reads
Annotated Paperbacks
Lori’s Bookshelf Reads
Sakhile Whispers
Starlight Reads

July 11
Belle’s Archive
The Bookish Mrs Harding
BookishOwl Reviews
Oro Plata Myta
Your Words My Ink

July 12
☕ Creative post from Shut up, Shealea
& she Reads
A Few Chapters ’til Love
Bookish Kimberly
Celuna Maria
Read at Night

July 13
☕ #CBTTC Twitter chat hosted by Caffeine Book Tours (@CaffeineTours)


Kathy Kimbray is a YA author from Australia.

After graduating from the University of Technology, Sydney, with a degree in Media Arts and Production, she went on to complete postgraduate studies in education and spent many years as a primary school teacher.

Now a full-time novelist, Kathy is lucky to be able to tell stories every day.

Aside from writing, Kathy is an avid reader, dancer, language learner, musical theater enthusiast and fan of terrible reality TV. She lives with her husband in Sydney, and dreams of one day owning that elusive chateau in France.

Author Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter


Caffeine Book Tours and Kathy Kimbray is also hosting a giveaway! Two lucky winners will receive a signed paperback copy of A Shifting of Stars or an Amazon gift card worth 10 USD. This is open worldwide, just click here to enter your name for the Rafflecopter giveaway.

While waiting, you can join in the fun at the Twitter chat on July 13 (9 PM PHT).



I thought I was in love with you

For a short while, I swore that I was writing off relationships for the time being. I was tired, noncommittal, and exhausted from the overall ordeal of being with someone. I figured I was young and had a lifetime ahead of me, so relationships can just take the backseat because I wasn’t interested in being tied down and having to go through a carnival of emotions only to find out it wasn’t going to work out. You know, the very same thing every other person announces to their friends when they’ve been single for far too long.

That’s how you found me.

You asked me out for coffee. I turned you down twice before I said yes. You innocently flirted with the barista. I rolled my eyes, thinking, wow, he thinks he’s cute. I probably wouldn’t have admitted it then out loud, but you kind of were. Small dimple. Stubble. Bright eyes. Beautiful smile. Cute in glasses. Witty. Not to mention at the time, I was a sucker for any person who paid me the slightest attention, independent woman spiel aside.

I didn’t think there would be a second time but you kept asking me out and we kept having these awkward dates that ended with even more awkward kisses. I didn’t think we’d get along or that you’d even stay. Eventually I conceded and allowed things to take its course. I honestly figured it wasn’t going to last and that this– you– will stop, like all the others before you, because at the end of the day I was average and uninteresting and frankly, not an inch like the girls you dated before.

But then, the lull became shorter, our conversations better. We clicked though we were more different than alike. It just felt different with you, like I was lounging on the beachside on a lovely summer day. I wasn’t in a rush, or expectant. I was just there, enjoying whatever there was. It was ideal and comfortable and perhaps a tad boring, but I liked it because it wasn’t demanding or challenging. Until now I haven’t quite figured out if this was a bad thing, because you made me feel like I was sixteen again. I liked being asked how my day went. I liked sharing secrets at 2 AM like high schoolers trying not to get caught. By and by, I had to admit, I liked being with you. It was nice, being wanted and remembered throughout someone else’s day.

At one point, I just thought, it would be so much easier if I loved you.

I guess that was the trigger, the thought that we could be something more. It started with those small things that made me think you were special. It wasn’t just because you took the time to figure out where a picky eater like me would want to eat out for dates. Not because you waited for hours to pick me up after work even when I went on overtime. Not because you seemed genuinely interested when you asked how my day went. These were things even my friends would do. It was because you listened, and you took note of things, including the ones I mentioned in passing that even I forgot about. Those few times I dared to bare myself to you, you didn’t make me feel insecure or my thoughts unwarranted. Shallow it may be but I held these things on a pedestal because the last time I was with someone, those moments were a luxury. It was because you were careful in touching me, and when you kissed me, your lips were sweet and gentle, and your hands held me in caresses that made me feel warm and wanted.

It felt a little like home, and for a long time, I wasn’t anyone’s home.

Somewhere in between, I wrote you a poem. Believe it or not, I don’t like writing poems. I guess that’s when it dawned on me, oh, this guy must be different. This guy made me write again. He restored what I lost interest in when I was lost and broken. And though that was probably the worst poem written in the history of poetry, I sealed the note and pressed it between the pages of my journal. A small, fleeting reminder of how you made me feel.

I thought I was in love with you. I really thought I was.

I wanted to see you smile. I wanted you to laugh at my jokes, no matter how corny or nerdy they were. I wanted to impress you with my little achievements, even something as silly as conquering my fear of spiders. I wanted to be the first person you thought of when you’ve had good days, the person you talk to when you’ve had bad days. I wanted to hold your hand without worry. I wanted to be the one you asked out to try a new burger joint even though I didn’t like burgers. I wanted to get lost with you, trying to navigate with no maps or wifi or agenda. I wanted to hang out with you without finding the need to check the time. I wanted to take care of you when you’re sick or just hopelessly drunk. I wanted to share your dreams and watch you make milestones. I wanted to render you speechless, to think I was smart and pretty, to take my pictures, to make your eyes light up when I’m mentioned, because I was also shamelessly superficial like that. Then I thought of other things– I wondered what it’d be like to meet your family because you seemed close to them. I wondered what it’d be like to cook for you because you’re a foodie. I wondered what it’d be like to wake up in the morning with you after spending the whole night together, talking about mindless things, or arguing about which movie to watch next, or what fast food menu to order breakfast from. I wondered what it’d be like if we were actually, really together, what it’d be like to be with someone who’d choose you.

Maybe this is why they say perception is deceiving. All I saw was this image of you that I created in my head, crafted from only the good things and my daydreams. I didn’t notice it for what it really was. I didn’t notice that our principles were different. I didn’t notice that at times, we spent more time on our phones because we didn’t have anything to talk about. I didn’t understand games or sports, and you didn’t like books or movies. I didn’t know about your hobbies, your favorite food, your childhood dream. I didn’t know how you liked your coffee or if you drink it at all. I didn’t know what your parents did, or how old your siblings were. I didn’t even know what you took up in college. I didn’t know where you worked, only that you did. I didn’t know if these were things you never volunteered to let me know, or I just never asked. What I did know was that for all the things I wanted to do with you, I knew very little about you. I didn’t notice that I was more in love with this idea of you, an image of near perfection straight out of my mind and fantasies.

I have to admit that the idea that we could be something more because you fit the bill of the kind of person I was looking for was perhaps the universe’s way of sending signs. But there were even bigger signs that I chose to ignore because of my fascination with possibly finding ‘the one’, and that was the fact that neither of us were really in love with each other. I think I was just eager to not feel alone anymore that I jumped at the next thing that made me feel the opposite of that. For all those times I claimed I was okay and content, there was still a part of me that longed for what was missing, which I’m pretty sure is natural human behavior. I didn’t notice that idealistic checklist aside, there were more important things that I needed to consider, and while it’s nice to think that a person could so comfortably slip and fill the cracks and become who you needed in life, people who are not ready to be in a relationship are not ready to be in a relationship. Sure, I wanted to be in one, but maybe I still wasn’t ready yet. Just because people around me are finding (and even marrying) their other halves does not mean I should rush into finding mine. It’s always been easier said than done, but honestly at this point, I think the sign that the universe has been sending me is probably that I need to quit having this sense of urgency that could cost me from becoming the best version of myself for the next person I’ll really fall in love with. That instead of creating this idea and imagining things, I should enjoy the moment and really get to know the person– you, more.

Right now you’re taking a nap beside me, your arm touching against mine. Some foreign film is playing, one I know you’re hardly interested in but said yes to anyway. Your lashes slightly fluttered, and you let out a soft snore. I was about to reach over and push back your hair, like the girls do in movies, the move that every viewer knew meant that those two characters are together, but stopped myself. Instead, I decided to write this for you. Maybe this is a love letter, but I like to think of it as a thank you note. Maybe after this I’ll fall for you for real, or maybe we’re just two lonely souls that met to keep each other company for a short while. Maybe you’ll read this, maybe you won’t.

My dearest, thank you for letting those three awkward dates happen before I finally started to open up. Thank you for holding me close on those days I felt I was difficult to be with. Thank you for letting me choose the music whenever we drove around. Thank you for eating the rest of my chicken nuggets because I was full, and for letting me finish your fries even though I was full. Thank you for always challenging me to push myself for the better. Thank you for being patient, and kind, and selfless. And thank you, thank you, thank you for finding me.

Review | Stay A Little Longer by Dawn Lanuza

Stay A Little Longer by Dawn Lanuza

AmazonBarnes & NobleBook Depository

Genres: New Adult, Romance

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

9781524851057_frontcover (1)


They were perfect strangers—all perks, no strings. Until they weren’t.

Elan wasn’t supposed to meet Caty. She lived halfway around the world, and he barely left Manila. Yet here he was, giving her a ride to the airport. Convinced that they would never have to see each other again after that day, Elan and Caty started to bond over truths, dares, stolen kisses, and games in hotel rooms and bars.

With brief encounters that turned them from acquaintances to friends — tipping to the point of lovers, always — will Elan and Caty keep settling for a day, or will someone finally dare to stay long enough to discover: Is this love?

Based on an ancient Chinese myth, the gods tie an invisible red cord on the ankle, or a finger, of two people who are destined to be lovers, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The strings can stretch and tangle and delay their story, but it can never break.

Perhaps it was me quickly associating the idea of a story based on fate to an internet-favorite myth, but the legend of the red string of fate was what immediately popped into my head upon the first few chapters. The book started off unconventionally (as if letting us peak into what the rest of the story would be like), with Caty who, eager to get away from her brother’s and friend’s sexual tension, practically forced Elan to give her a ride to the airport. What followed was a series of only hours-long dates, inconveniently once a year, because Elan is a lawyer based in Manila while Caty’s a prop stylist/assistant/bagel eater in New York. These dates, while never planned, developed an interesting, sometimes platonic, mostly romantic, relationship between the two.

They never had enough time, but he would give this to her. Not as a parting gift but as a reason, a way, to convince her he was worth coming back to every time.

What I love about this book is that, while having that charm you’d find in YA, the characters readily acknowledged the issue of time, distance, and attraction- that sure, the latter was very present, but the first two factors are way too loud to ignore. Both have their reasons of staying where they were, and while they are valid, I was also asking the whole time- who’ll cave first? While this isn’t, ideally, a romantic notion, it’s a completely rational thought.

“When you’re in love, everything seems urgent. Everything has to be now. You have to be with them now. You have to know now.”

This had me thinking, because it does make sense, and I figured it doesn’t just apply to romance but also on things you’re passionate about. I’ve always believed it’s better to do things sooner than later, because what’s the use of postponing something you know you really want when you can have it now? Granted, this may not be appropriate for a lot of things, but it does get the message across. For Elan and Caty, the mindset didn’t apply- originally, because at first they were just these two people who met through a mutual friend, and saw each other naked, but went their separate ways with the Pacific Ocean between them. Eventually, across their dates, the attraction was something they had to address.

I’m unsure if I should consider this as a slow-burn, because right off the bat, from their first meeting, the attraction is obvious. What seemed to be the problem was that terrifying, expensive distance. As a wise girl (Caty) pointed out, “Nothing about [this] is convenient.”

“I’ve always thought that for a relationship to begin, one person had to be braver than the other. Someone has to dive in first. It’s never the two of you, together. It’s nice to think of it that way, but there’s always someone who lays out all the cards first.”

Like I said earlier, I kept wondering who would take the leap, because I honestly wanted them both to stay a little longer wherever they were. Caty’s childhood dream was apparently to live in New York, and while it hasn’t been easy, nothing ever is supposed to be. And as a law student grueling long hours on books and codals, I couldn’t imagine shipping myself out of the country after four years of studying plus that bar exam, if Elan were to do it.

I can say though, that I was left completely satisfied with the ending. At first, I thought I wasn’t going to like it (because as all stories go, someone does have to do the adjusting, and it’s not always something you agree with as a reader), but this one ended beautifully. Not exactly a What if It’s Us kind of ending, but it left me with the same feeling.

Elan and Caty’s story felt so authentic and mature, which fits right into the bill of the kind of stories I’ve been looking for lately. This definitely goes on my must-read of 2019. It’s not too complicated, but it gets the message across.

Stay A Little Longer

Check out the rest of the blog tour participants here:

May 22 | Erika @ The Nocturnal FeyRafael @ The Royal Polar Bear ReadsJen @ Jen D Bibliophile

May 23 | Angela @ Hiding Behind BooksJenny @ Levicorpvs BlogAlice @ Married to Books Reviews and Blog

May 24 | Shaa @ Moonlight PagesCathrina @ Puggyreader WritesJennilyn @ Rurouni Jenni Reads

May 25 | Ynnah @ The Youngvamp’s HavenBryan @ Bryan Hoards BooksRachel @ In Between Book Pages

May 26 | Naadhira @ legenbooksdaryGerald @ Gerald the BookwormDanielle @ dmcireadsblog

May 27 | Kat @ Reading After TenPrincess @ Princess and Pages • Bon @ Provocatrix

May 28 | Kath @ The Last ReaderJessica @ Endless ChaptersRebecca @ Bookingway Reads


Dawn Lanuza writes contemporary romance, young adult fiction and prose poetry. She has two first loves – music and writing – and is lucky enough to surround herself with them. She currently lives with her family and a very loved cream toy poodle.

She sometimes blogs at

Review | Play It By Ear by Tara Frejas #romanceclass

Play It By Ear by Tara Frejas

(Amazon Goodreads)

Genres: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance • Release Date: May 15, 2019

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


What does it really take to be a champion?

When East Genesis Project’s Jo Yihwan reluctantly pinch-hits for injured band mate Steven Bae in a reality TV-slash-talent competition, he decides he’s only in it to win. After all, he is representing his band, and the All-Kill Champion title had some handsome perks attached to it.

But he didn’t expect to meet a gutsy, driven teammate like Ha Yoojung, or feel drawn to her incandescent spirit week after week after week. He didn’t expect her to be carrying a devastating secret that could cost them the grand prize, either.

What starts as a competition becomes so much more. With careers, a long-held dream, and honor at stake, can Yihwan and Yoojung’s hearts survive?

Content warnings: Mentions of sexual assault

They say it’s free to dream, but mine has cost me more than anything money could pay for.

My first thought when I read the blurb was whether I needed to be knowledgeable of K-pop culture and the Korean entertainment industry to keep up with this book. Basically, you don’t really need to, but if you’re like me who has to be familiar with every single thing to build up the image in your head, you might need to keep the search bar on in the background. I received a copy of this book nearing finals week so I was reading the first half during my breaks- after studying, while waiting for food, when queuing up.

This proved to be difficult on my part, especially since I don’t always have my data or wifi on when I’m out or when I’m studying, because I kept needing to Google things! My knowledge of Korean language, embarrassingly it may be to admit, is limited to annyeong and kamsahamnida, with a few scattered phrases or expressions from bingeing on K-drama from college. Anyway, that was why I kept having to rely on context clues when I chance upon a Korean word in the book. Then again- this is more of a personal thing and I doubt others would share my woes.

This is fine, Yoojung. This is perfectly fine.

I can’t tell if it’s because of the unfamiliar words or initially unrelatable characters that made it difficult for me to finish the book at first- but as I quoted above, it was fine. At the beginning, I guess, I didn’t see the appeal or how big of a deal the televised talent competition was for our lead characters, Yihwan and Yoojung. This is what we’re given to start with: both are in their mid-twenties. Yihwan is the lead of the band East Genesis, while Yoojung is a thirteen-year trainee holding on to her last hope for making it in the entertainment industry.

Now, I’ve been informed by K-pop fans of how the e-industry works in Korea, but reading this book just made me gasp of how absolutely hardcore it is for these people. Evidently, it is much more difficult for girls, and Yihwan was able to summarize it as such, after Yoojung shared her share of horror stories:

They were laughing about it now, but he was certain nothing about this was funny while it happened. If there was something trainee life taught him, it was that girls had it tougher. Sheer talent just wasn’t enough. If you didn’t conform to society’s ridiculous standards of beauty, you wouldn’t stand a chance.

It’s interesting to see the parallel between Yihwan and Yoojung. While disparities among genders isn’t foreign (in any industry), I appreciated how the author wrote about it in the book. There were even news and blog ‘articles’ which included ‘comments’ from fans, trolls, that I think aptly captures what stardom really comes with. For Yihwan, though he gets free meals at restaurants, it also means things from his past may keep coming up. For Yoojung, being written as a has-been who was never even famous to start with, tries to keep the dream alive while shutting down the secrets she so desperately tried to hide. But of course, when you’re famous and talented, life has a way of screwing you over.

The matter of the sensitive topic was also tactfully approached by the author, coupled with the different reactions people have over it. The underlying message for me, though, is that you never know whose support you’ll get. Yoojung, having focused most of her young adult life in making it big in a highly competitive industry, didn’t even have a list of people she can confide in. To think that she found them all during the competition— her single, final chance before she forces herself to accept defeat behind the cashier of her parents’ convenience store— is telling of how funny things work out for us, one way or another.

As a pair, Yihwan and Yoojung do make an interesting couple. They’re not very in-your-face. In fact, I’d consider their pairing as cute, light- but mature. I like how Yihwan never missed the chance to show his support to Yoojung, assuring her he’s got her back, in and out of the show. The level of romance could hardly be called cheesy, if at all. I felt more of friendship, support, and loyalty from these two before romance came into play. What a refreshing take, which I’m thankful for. I’ll miss these two, and could see myself rereading their story after finals or during summer just to hear again their banter and interactions with each other and the rest of the characters.

However, I have to give it to G/F, the secondary characters who totally stole the scenes for me and who deserve their own book:

Undisclosed fact: Gabriel liked being needed. More so when it was Fi who needed him. So when she came home that night yelling, “Gabe, I need you!” some primal instinct in him took over. He shot out of his computer chair and made a dash for the foyer, thrilled to be of service.

And, I can’t help but adding:

“The devil works hard, but Gabriel Park works harder.”

I would, without a doubt, give up all the Jo Yihwans of the world for my own Gabe Park.


Cover Illustration: Shaira Bea San Jose | Cover Design/Layout: Tara Frejas

#PlayItByEar #PlayItByEarBook #romanceclass #BackstagePass2 #YihwanKoSaIyo


Tara Frejas is a cloud-walker who needs caffeine to fuel her travels. When she’s not on work mode, she keeps herself busy by weaving her daydreams into stories.

Aside from her obvious love affair with words and persistent muses, Tara is very passionate about being caffeinated, musical theatre, certain genres of music, dancing, dogs, good food, and romancing Norae, her ukelele. She owns a male bunny named Max who sometimes tries to nibble on her writing notes.

Fun fact: She’s a Piscean. Go figure.

Author Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Newsletter | About #romanceclass

Review | The Hate Vow by Nicole French

The Hate Vow by Nicole French


Genres: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The convenient marriage trope is a romance favorite ranging from comedic (The Proposal, Fools Rush In, Because This Is My First Life) to dramatic (Marriage Contract, The Unwanted Wife, The Trophy Wife) versions. Nicole French’s latest book of the new Quicksilver trilogy adapts both.

French is the same person who authored my recently reviewed Spitfire series (Legally Yours, Legally Mine, Legally Ours). We first met Eric de Vries and Jane Lee Lefferts, the main characters of THV, in LY, as they’re both good friends and classmates of Skylar Crosby from Harvard Law. Despite the closeness, E/J’s relationship is one of snarky commentary and petty insults— similar to Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel in Life As We Know It. When we were introduced to E/J, their genuine hatred and underlying sexual tension, controlled by reluctant tolerance, was pretty obvious, which made my live-tweet so much more fun but at the same time difficult, because I didn’t want to give anything away for anyone who hasn’t read Spitfire yet. Thing is, the only thing mentioned regarding their backstory is that they had a one night stand as 1Ls, before they ended up hating each other.

Upon reading the blurb when I participated in the cover reveal, I thought we’d get to know more of what could’ve led to their animosity, before THV spans throughout the events of Spitfire. However, the book actually takes place five years after the initial trilogy. By this time, Skylar is married with two kids and is founding partner of Copley Associates in Boston along with Kieran Beckford and Eric. She’s living this amazing debt-free life with her beautiful family while Jane’s… well, not as fortunate.

At the beginning of THV, Jane had just dyed her hair Pepto-Bismol pink, right after losing her job as a prosecutor. Despite years of working her butt off as a public servant at the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, she was pulled out of her job and her apartment while being terribly reminded of over two hundred thousand dollars’ worth of student loan debt. This comparison is not to pit two equally wonderful (albeit fictional) women against each other. It actually stems from Jane’s insecurity, one that I believe we can all recognize at one point in our lives.

Okay, yeah. So I was jealous. Maybe I was annoyed that now, when I was twenty-nine, I was basically in the same place I was five years ago. I sacrificed the last five years of my life doing what I was supposed to do. I put away baddies in the great city of Chicago. But what had that gotten me? Five years later, I was jobless. Homeless. Futureless.

So with this quarter-life crisis clear, in comes Eric and his unlikely proposal— twenty million dollars in exchange for her hand in marriage. Eric’s offer has his own reasons, one that I’ll save myself from spoiling. While that’s already intriguing enough, what made me really want to read the story is because of E/J’s history and relationship. There was a time in Spitfire when these two settled their sexual tension in the bedroom. After their falling out, though, things were worse— they literally (according to Skylar, anyway) couldn’t even be in the same room together, so it’s interesting how things took a turn for this book to come to fruition.

When I mentioned E/J in my Spitfire review, I said I loved them as a couple. Here, I am reminded again of their appeals as individual characters. Jane is smart, beautiful, confident, and unabashedly herself, palpable in these lines from the very first chapter alone:

When the sun went down and the courthouse was closed, I lived my life as God intended a young, sexually active woman to live: without fear or boundaries.

He wasn’t good enough for me. He wasn’t worth my time. The world was a shitty place for women like me— women who wanted to have just as much fun as men.

I have to admit, though, I am quite disheartened that these girls (Jane and Skylar) had to adjust something about themselves or their lives to fit into their leading men’s. What’s even saddening is this does happen in real life, one I’ve been reminded of constantly, even, by my professors in law school. While intelligence is attractive for males, not all males think the same towards educated, ambitious, and successful females.

Though Eric and Brandon both embraced Jane’s and Skylar’s, the latter two still had to give up something while the former went on with their lives. In Spitfire, it was when Brandon ran for mayor. For Jane, it’s to fit in Eric’s old-money family and affairs. This point though, was eventually revealed to have been a breakup issue between E/J, before the events of this book.

“I would never ask you to give up your career, but you, just like every other man on the planet, think it’s completely acceptable to ask that of a woman. Love doesn’t mean asking each other to give up anything.”

That line may have been taken completely out of context but is nonetheless a valid argument. I guess we can also blame it to the fact that Eric does tend to be arrogant, though probably not as much as Jared (the WASP boy from their Harvard days). While Eric tried to distance himself from the DV family name and business, he still carried himself in a way that betrayed strict upbringing and expensive education. Then again, I wouldn’t consider this as his main characteristic, because while reading THV, and his nightly dalliances aside, I didn’t find Eric’s personality to be as strong as Jane’s. He’s too (for lack of a better word) cool. Sure, they bantered, but I was given the impression he was only like this to her, which seems to have been seconded by the last person I thought would make the observation:

“Sometimes it’s good to have someone in your life who humbles you.”

Unfortunately, without Jane, I didn’t get much of a sense of Eric’s character, and I hope he will have better character development after this, and that the following book isn’t just another push-and-pull moment that would be reminiscent of S/B circa Legally Ours.

That aside, and despite the onslaught of sweet moments between E/J scattered more than the steamy ones, they also argued a lot, and sometimes this didn’t translate to the bedroom. However, the way they fought made me realize that even when the characters made it appear that they let bygones be by bygones, the fact that the past kept being brought up meant that they most probably weren’t over it yet. In a way, both of them were to blame. They were both crappy to each other in the past, adding to that the stress of law school and the bar exam. That particular scene really did convince me, though, that perhaps their relationship so far in THV leaned more towards lust than love.

The in-between drew on way too long for me to the point that I found certain chapters boring. I guess the scenes weren’t new— variations of catty and jealous girls and unlikable family members. Then E/J fought, someone said “Because you broke my heart!”, and bam! The book ended.

I have to say though, I totally didn’t see the cliffhanger coming. The gatecrasher scene was pretty obvious from the beginning, but I didn’t think Girl in Red would make a comeback. I’m certainly looking forward to how these will affect the events of books two and three. I mean— were they or weren’t they? To answer Jane’s last question, I’d say they were, but that’s probably the optimistic law student in me claiming that all the requisites were present.

Like I mentioned earlier, French used both comedic and dramatic turns in writing this book, and I felt all of that in the last chapter. I can’t wait for The Kiss Plot, to be released in late June 2019.

THVBanners_fight you_nowlive.jpg

Book Details: Publisher: Raglan Publishing | Photographer: Sara Elrew Photography | Model: Lucas Bloms | Genre: Contemporary Romance | Release Date: March 29, 2019

Author’s Note: The Quicksilver Trilogy is a companion series to the Spitfire Trilogy. Both can be read separately, but readers may enjoy meeting Eric and Jane for the first time in Legally Yours, available free.


Nicole French is an East Coast/West Coast hybrid creature, Springsteen fanatic, hopeless romantic, and total bookworm. When not writing fiction or teaching writing classes, she is hanging out with her family, playing soccer with the rest of the thirty-plus crowd in Seattle, or going on dates with her husband. In her spare time, she likes to go running with her dog, Greta, or practice the piano, but never seems to do either one of these things as much as she should.

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