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Lightning Reviews: Celebrity Romance, Chemistry, & More


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Welcome to Lightning Reviews! This is where we post our shorter reviews for books that don’t warrant over a thousand words to discuss!

We have three different titles from three different reviewers. I know some of you like to try and guess the writer for each review as you read them. Would love to know if you get them right!

 

    B+

    Chemistry Lessons

    author: Jae

    TW/CW

    CW/TW: past parental death due to overdose

    Best friends since childhood, Regan and Kylie are inseparable. They work at the same school (Ky in the lunchroom, Regan as a chemistry teacher), meet up weekly for a Netflix night, and have their own adorkable, two-person book club. Everyone who meets them is shocked they’re not in a romantic relationship and all of their friends and family think they should be together.

    Ky and Regan know the truth: there’s zero chemistry between them. Regan, ever the science nerd, proposes an experiment to prove their lack of chemistry once and for all. They’ll go on three dates and then everyone will see that they’re only meant to be friends. Of course, they’re the ones who learn something once they pause to see what’s been in front of them all along.

    I love friends to lovers romances, and Chemistry Lessons is a fun example of my favourite sub-trope: they’re already in love and everyone knows it but them. The romance itself is lovely, with zero angst and plenty of cute moments. The minimal tension that exists in the story is due to the reappearance of Ky’s estranged father and whether they’ll reconcile. There is never any question around Regan and Ky becoming a couple. Their HEA is completely believable because it’s clear from the first page that they’ve always been together. Now they’ll just be having 100% more sex.

    At the risk of sounding like a killjoy, my only complaint is that there are a LOT of references to science. The first few were cute and had me thinking “oh, right, because Regan’s a chemistry teacher.” Then they kept piling up and I started getting annoyed. By the second half, there were so many references to chemistry and experiments that new examples pulled me out of the story because they felt overdone.

    Here are the details about the CW/TW above , in case anyone needs them.

    Ky’s father was a lawyer. When she was in high school, he went to prison for a little light embezzling. A few years later, Ky’s mom died from an overdose after mixing Xanax and alcohol. It’s not clear whether the overdose was accidental or not, and while Kylie believes it was likely tied to her father’s fuckup, she doesn’t know for sure.

    My one gripe aside, I really enjoyed Chemistry Lessons. While it didn’t make me a full-fledged member of the Bad Decisions Book Club, it’s the only book this year that made me stay up way past my bedtime two nights in a row. If you like friends-to-lovers romances and are looking for a low-angst story, this would be a good choice.

    Tara

    Contemporary Romance, LGBTQIA, Romance

    DNF

    Love Scenes

    author: Bridget Morrissey

    Celebrity romance is one of my favorite tropes, so I was super excited to read Love Scenes. I tried to make it through this book, I really, really did, but I had to put it down halfway through. I had no issues with the hero or the heroine or their conflict, but the heroine’s incredibly toxic family makes up a huge part of this book and I couldn’t deal with their chronic mistreatment of her.

    Sloane Ford is the daughter of two famous actors, and an actor herself. Her character was recently killed off in the TV series she stars in, and while waiting for other work she agrees to help on the set of a movie that her mother is producing, her sister is directing and her brother is writing the score for.

    The male lead in the movie is Joseph Donovan. Sloane once starred in a rom-com with him, and he made everyone’s life on set hell, to the extent that she almost quit acting. Sloane doesn’t particularly want to work with him, but feels she doesn’t have a better option.

    So we find out early on that during the filming of that rom-com, Joseph was grieving the death of his mom and drinking heavily to cope. He admits to Sloane that he was black-out drunk half the time, knew he was an ass, has since gone into recovery and is trying to make amends for his diva-ish behavior. I didn’t mind that conflict since it’s clear he’s trying to make things up to Sloane while still accepting accountability for his actions.

    What I did mind was Sloane’s parents, especially her mom.

    When Sloane tells her mom she doesn’t want to work with Joseph because he was a dick to her in the past and almost made her quit acting, her mom gaslights her and tells her she’s making something out of nothing because Joseph didn’t want to sleep with her. Which. WTF. It’s like she pulled some scenario out of thin air just to be cruel.

    Later, the lead actress in the film has a legitimate panic attack over doing a nude scene even though she signed a contract saying she would. The director, Sloane’s sister, says they can omit it, the actress agrees to do it in the end, but Sloane’s mom fires her anyway for breach of contract. I’m not sure that even makes sense, but also, hella lack of sensitivity. Sloane’s mom also chews the actress out about it.

    Then she decides Sloane can star in the film even though she’s said she doesn’t want to do period pieces (which this is) nor work with Joseph (who she’ll have sex scenes with). Her mom feels she can steamroll over Sloane’s position because Sloane appeared nude a horror film once (which her mom derides) and the family’s money is on the line for this film. Sloane’s sister is right there for all of this and never once steps in to tell her mom to GTFO.

    It was at that point I couldn’t do it anymore. The romance wasn’t worth me wading through the toxic family dynamics at play in this book. I hope it ends with Sloane going to therapy, distancing from her family, and finding a found family that respects her boundaries.

    Elyse

    Contemporary Romance, Romance

    B+

    Miss Lattimore’s Letter

    author: Suzanne Allain

    Miss Lattimore’s Letter is a light, refreshing summer breeze of a book. While not much surprising happens, this Regency romance is consistently entertaining given it’s wry, well-intentioned, and down-to-earth protagonist. It’s eminently enjoyable, and, given its lack of serious conflict, also eminently forgettable.

    This book has a predictable plot with minimal angst and conflict, and the lovely, if simply sketched, characters give it a sense of reality. Sophie is gifted with common sense and a wry sense of humor, and it’s easy to invest in her story. The other characters range from endearing to annoying but all get a chance to display relatable qualities or motives at some point. While there are no surprises along the route, the trip is still fun given the good quality of the dialogue and the descriptions of Bath and its surroundings.

    This book is grounded in good detail and good characters who undergo believable and meaningful arcs, but it’s basically the warm fuzzy socks of the book world – super comfortable and comforting, completely non-demanding, and not challenging in any way. A minute after finishing the book I already had trouble remembering any of the events that occurred within its pages, although a certain warm fuzzy sock aura remained in my memory. I recommend it as a short and simple comfort read with endearing characters and a relatable heroine.

    Carrie S

    Historical: European, Romance

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