Blog Tour: Waiting for Aegina guest post + excerpt

Today I am partnering with Love Books Group for a guest post from author, Effie Kammenou. In her post, she talks about the characters in her series. Keep scrolling to read her post, an excerpt, and to find out more information about her latest book!

Waiting for Aegina

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Guest post written by the author 

My stories are character driven. I’ve given each character a history that molds their personality, preferences, fears and dreams. The Gift Saga is mainly told from the point of view from the women in this multigenerational story, yet the men that love them, raise them and support them are just as interesting and often as complex as the women they love.

Evanthia’s Gift opens with Anastacia’s story, but in essence it’s the beginning of Sophia’s storyline. Everything that happens to Anastacia and all the decisions she makes directly affect Sophia throughout her life. The first third of the book, Part I, is Anastacia’s story and the backstory for Part II, which focuses on Sophia as she blossoms from an impressionable teenager to an independent woman.

Throughout the chapters, the reader is introduced to Sophia’s closest friends, both as teenagers and adults. The friendships between these women are strong and unbreakable.

This bond between these five women is what’s explored in Waiting
For Aegina. Each one leads separate lives and have all followed their dreams, but when trouble steps into their paths, the friends stand by each other.

Sophia is dealing with the repercussions that plagued her from the first book. She seemingly got her happily ever after, but there was so much she had yet to come to terms with—the death of her mother, a surprise revelation over her paternity, and her children’s resentment of her new husband.

Amy has a secret that only Sophia was privy to. She gave a child up for adoption shortly after her graduation from college. Her husband and son had no knowledge of this and neither did her other friends. When the truth unexpectedly comes out, it affects her family, her relationship with her husband and threatens her position as a United States congresswoman.

Donna married her high school sweetheart. She was the cheerleader who married the star football player, her first boyfriend. But her seemingly perfect marriage frays thread by thread as her husband becomes a man she can no longer respect. When tragedy strikes, Donna must find the strength to go on.

Demi and Sophia have grown up as though they were siblings. Demi is bold where Sophia is cautious and, Demi, outspoken in contrast to Sophia’s more diplomatic manner. But these two opposite personalities bring out the best in each other. Demi begrudgingly endures her intrusive mother-in-law, while also been letting her imagination run wild where her normally loving husband is concerned. Her mouth and insecurities get the best of her, landing her in a bit of marital disharmony.

Mindy has it all, or so it would seem. She has devoted her life to her craft, becoming a respected and well-known fashion designer. But to get there, sacrifices were made and she let the love of her life slip through her fingers. Her fear of being alone places her in the hands of the wrong man, but her friends come to her aid.

Each of these five women are very different with distinctly unique personalities, but the bond they had formed from childhood is cemented for life and they are loyal to the core, seeing each other through good times and bad.


Excerpt

Chapter 1

Sophia

October 2004

Sophia was seated at the edge of a worn leather chair with her eyes fixed on Dean, tears streaming down her cheeks. Ignoring the sting from the cuts and bruises on her forehead and nose, the soreness on the left side of her body, and the sharp pains coming from her casted arm, she gently gripped her husband’s hand, hoping her touch would will him into consciousness.

Not twenty-four hours ago, they were having the time of their lives—reconnecting with old friends, dancing, and maybe drinking a little too much. Which is why Sophia took the keys from Dean and insisted she drive home.

Their joyful night came to a crashing end when a bright light reflecting from her side view mirror blinded Sophia. It was as though everything after that happened in slow motion—the sound of crunching metal and screeching tires, a surreal feeling that the car may have flipped over and over, and the shattering of breaking glass when a car struck theirs, slamming into the passenger door where Dean was seated.

When their vehicle came to a sudden halt, Sophia found that the car had not turned over as she thought, yet somewhere in her confused and disoriented mind, it had registered that they must have spun around.

Clouds of white surrounded Sophia and she screamed out to Dean, afraid he was unconscious or severely injured from the impact the car had taken.

Her door flung open. “Sophia, I have to get you out of the car. Help is on its way.”

“Dino! Help Dino!” Sophia desperately pleaded, not sure to whom she was speaking. It was so dark and she was blinded by fear.

Slapping away the airbags obstructing her view, she called out to her husband. “Dino! Talk to me. Say something.”

Struggling to open his eyes, Dean groaned, but his lids remained closed.

Michael, who had been following in the car behind, could see that metal from the car had compressed around the lower half of Dean’s body and, without help, he would not be able to pull him from the wreckage.

Sophia reached for Dean, but Michael stopped her.

“It’s better not to touch him until the EMTs get here.”

Panic-stricken after watching the erratic driver crash into her brother’s door, Demi helped Sophia out of the car and clung to her.

Within minutes, the dark road was polluted with flashing lights and the sound of blaring sirens. Rescuers came swiftly, assessing the situation quickly deciding to rely on the ‘Jaws of Life’ to cut Dean out of the car. Another medic came to Sophia’s aid, placing her arm in a splint and tending to the open gashes on her face and arm.

“Forget about me! Take care of my husband,” she demanded, her voice strained from fear.

“Your husband is in good hands.” The female medic looked up after she finished wrapping Sophia’s arm. “They’re about to load him into the ambulance now, ma’am.”

“Take me to him.”

“Of course.”

The uniformed woman guided Sophia to where Dean was strapped on a stretcher and about to be lifted into the back end of an ambulance. Too many people surrounded him, making it impossible for Sophia to get close.

Movement, noise, lights, and voices shouting commands—it was all happening at lightening speed, yet at the same time the moment seemed to drag on forever. Sophia became agitated. There was too much fasaria around her. Her yiayiá would say that when there was too much noise and commotion. It was the first word that came to mind as witnesses dramatically recounted the accident, mangled cars were pulled onto flatbeds, and police officers gave the drunk driver, who had sped across three lanes before hitting them, a breathalyzer test. The son of a bitch didn’t look as though he had a scratch on him, and Sophia’s Dino was—she didn’t want to think about what his condition was. She just needed to get to him, but no one would let her.

“Ma’am, we have another ambulance for you if you’ll come with me.”

Sophia pushed away from the EMT. “I don’t need one. I want to go with my husband.”

“That’s not possible, ma’am.”

“You’re hurt,” Demi said. “You need to go with them.”

“I want to stay with you. Michael, drive me to the hospital. I want to be there when Dino arrives.”

“We’ll follow along behind the ambulance you’re in,” Michael said. “You’re in shock, Sophia, and you need to be examined. Let’s be on the safe side.”

*****

Leaning over the hospital bed, Sophia prayed. “Please, God, don’t take him from me now,” Sophia begged in an inaudible whisper. “Dino, oh, my Dino.” She bent over him and caressed his cheek. “Don’t leave me. Not after all we’ve been through. Squeeze my hand. Move your eyes. Give me a sign that you’re still with me. Anything.”

Comforting arms wrapped around Sophia. “Sweetie, you need to take a break. Get some sleep. I’ll stay with my brother.”

She turned to look at Demi and, collapsing into sobs, she shook her head. “No. What if he wakes up and I’m not here?” Sophia’s face grew pale and her lower lip quivered. “Or what if—”

“Don’t say it,” Demi ordered. “Don’t even think it.” Demi wrapped her arms around Sophia. “The doctor said he’ll be unconscious for a while. If anything changes, I’ll call you.”

Sophia pulled away and shook her head adamantly. “I can’t.”

“If you don’t, I’ll get your doctor in here to order you to go home and rest. Your body took quite a beating also. You can’t help Dean if you don’t take care of yourself.” Turning Sophia by the shoulders to face the entrance to the room, Demi said, “Look. Everyone is here. Any one of them will be happy to take you home. I’ll stay with my brother until you get back.”

Sophia waved weakly, her heart melting at the sight of them. In the doorway stood Amy, Mindy, and Donna. They were there when she needed them—always at her side without question—her oldest and dearest friends. The Honey Hill Girls were loyal to the core.


Blurb 

Book Two in The Gift Saga: The continuation of Evanthia’s Gift…

In 1961, five little girls moved into a suburban neighborhood and became inseparable, lifelong friends. They called themselves the ‘Honey Hill Girls,’ named after the street on which they lived. As teenagers they shared one another’s ambitions and dreams, secrets and heartaches. Now, more than thirty years later, they remain devoted and loyal, supporting each other through triumphs and sorrows.

Evanthia’s Gift follows the life of Sophia Giannakos. In Waiting for Aegina the saga continues from the perspectives of Sophia and her friends as the story drifts back and forth in time, filling in the gaps as the women grow to adulthood.

Naive teenage ideals are later challenged by harsh realities, as each of their lives takes unexpected turns. Now nearing their fiftieth year, Sophia, Demi, Amy, Mindy and Donna stand together through life-altering obstacles while they try to regain the lighthearted optimism of their youth.

Can be read as a standalone. For the full emotional impact on the character’s live and histories, read Evanthia’s Gift.

Buy link: Click here

Author Bio

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Effie Kammenou is a believer that it is never too late to chase your dreams, follow your heart or change your career. She is proof of that. At one time, long ago, she’d thought that, by her age, she would have had an Oscar in her hand after a successful career as an actor. Instead, she worked in the optical field for 40 years and is the proud mother of two accomplished young women.

Her debut novel, Evanthia’s Gift, is a women’s fiction multigenerational love story and family saga, influenced by her Greek heritage, and the many real life accounts that have been passed down. She continues to pick her father’s brain for stories of his family’s life in Lesvos, Greece, and their journey to America. Her interview with him was published in a nationally circulated magazine.

Evanthia’s Gift: Book One in The Gift Saga was a 2016 award finalist in the Readers Favorite Awards in the Women’s Fiction category.  Waiting for Aegina is Book Two in The Gift Saga and Chasing Petalouthes is Kammenou’s latest release, completing the series.

Effie Kammenou is a first generation Greek-American who lives on Long Island with her husband and two daughters. When she’s not writing, or posting recipes on her food blog, cheffieskitchen.wordpress.com, you can find her entertaining family and friends or traveling for ‘research.’

As an avid cook and baker, a skill she learned from watching her Athenian mother, she incorporated traditional Greek family recipes throughout the books.

She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts from Hofstra University.


waiting for aegina

 

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Review: Campaign Widows

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Click the picture to purchase the book on Amazon

Rating: ★★★½

I received this book for free from the publisher (Harlequin) as part of their bookstagram publicity campaign. 

This book and I got off to a rocky start. In the beginning, I had a hard time connecting with the book and the characters. I typically get sucked into chick lit, but I didn’t with this one. To me, it felt a bit like fan fiction in the beginning. It kind of felt like I was reading someone’s fantasy election season. Like the 2016 election was so bad that they just created their own.

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Once I hit the halfway mark, things got a whole lot better. The story finally seemed to be picking up and I was able to connect more with the characters. The friendship between the widows also started to blossom at this point and that’s when the book actually started to work for me. However, their friendship never reached its full potential. I would loved to have seen more of them together. A lot of the times two or three of them would be hanging out but not all four of them. 

Out of all the widows, I loved Cady and her storyline the most. She had the most development and was really the glue that brought everyone together. 

As much as I loved Cady, my favorite character was Parker. I loved his sense of humor and his bar was such a genius idea. 

Overall, this was your average chick lit novel, just with an election backdrop.

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Review: Boardwalk Summer

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Click the picture to buy the book from HarperCollins

Rating: ★★★★★

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review as part of a TLC Book Tour.

I absolutely loved everything about this book! 

I was so excited to read this because it takes place in Santa Cruz, California. I just so happen to live in nearby San Jose (which is mentioned in passing a few times in the book) and have been to Santa Cruz and the boardwalk myself. It was really cool reading about a place that I was familiar with. The beach boardwalk was the place for end of the field trips while I was in school. Whenever the Giant Dipper or the carousel was mentioned, I got exited and  was like, I’ve been on that! 

This book has dual storylines: Violet’s story which takes place in 1940 and Mari’s story which takes place in 2007. I found both stories to be very compelling and I liked how they were connected. Usually when it comes to dual storylines, I’ll end up liking one story more than the other, but with this book, I loved them both! 

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I was so happy to see that Mari was Mexican American. It gave the book a realness that was refreshing. There are a lot of Mexican Americans in the Bay Area so it was nice to see that representation. 

The whole tearing down the gazebo and building condos storyline in Mari’s part was so accurate. That happens so much in the Bay Area especially since the Silicon Valley tech boom. Developers are constantly trying to tear down things that have been here forever in order to build stuff the city doesn’t even need. I could relate to Mari’s opposition to it so much! 

As for Violet and her storyline, I enjoyed how it portrayed the reality of Hollywood. It showed both the glamour and the grime of it. It especially important now because of the #MeToo movement. 

Overall if you’re looking for a California beach read, then look no further, this book is for you! And from a local perspective, this was spot on!


Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 
Author Links: Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
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About Boardwalk Summer

• Paperback: 384 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 19, 2018)

In this new novel from the USA Today bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Dowry, two young women two generations apart discover the joy and heartbreak of following their dreams. Aspiring Hollywood actress Violet makes a shocking choice in 1940, and seventy years later, Mari sets out to discover what happened on that long ago summer.

Santa Cruz, Summer 1940: When auburn-haired Violet Harcourt is crowned Miss California on the boardwalk of her hometown, she knows she is one step closer to her cherished dream: a Hollywood screen test. But Violet’s victory comes with a price—discord in her seemingly perfect marriage—and she grapples with how much more she is willing to pay.

Summer 2007: Single mother Marisol Cruz lives with her parents in the charming beach cottage that belonged to her grandfather, Ricardo, once a famed performer on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Drawn to the town’s local history and the quaint gazebo where her grandparents danced beneath the stars, Mari sells raffle tickets at the Beach Boardwalk Centennial Celebration, and meets Jason, a California transplant from Chicago.

When Mari discovers the obituary of Violet Harcourt, a beauty queen who died too young, she and Jason are sent on a journey together that will uncover her grandfather’s lifelong secret—his connection to Violet—a story of tragedy and courage that will forever transform them.

About Meredith Jaeger

USA Today bestselling author Meredith Jaeger was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, the daughter of a Swiss father and an American mother. While working for a San Francisco start-up, Meredith fulfilled her dream of writing a novel, the result of which was The Dressmaker,s Dowry. Meredith lives in Alameda with her husband, their infant daughter, and their bulldog.

Find out more about Meredith at her website, and connect with her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

 

Review: Lighthouse Beach

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Click the picture to buy the book on HarperCollins’ website

Rating: ★★★★

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review as part of a TLC Book Tour.

This was a great beach read about 4 women who flee from a wedding and head to Lighthouse Beach. There’s a little bit of everything: romance, friendship, self-discovery, and secret pasts. 

The best part of the book was the setting of Lighthouse Beach and the role that it played in their lives. Lighthouse beach felt like a character and that gave the book that special something. You could feel the power of Lighthouse Beach through the pages.

I liked the 4 main characters and their story arcs, however, I definitely felt that Allie got the short end of the stick. Her character didn’t get the same level of attention that the other 3 received. Especially in the first half of the book, Allie was there but her presence wasn’t really known. More could have been done with her. At times her character felt like an afterthought. 

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One of the characters in this book is a biker doctor (appropriately nicknamed “Doc Harley”) which I found to be such an interesting combination. I’ve never seen that in a book before and I really liked that. You see bikers in books, but never one who is also a respected doctor. 

The ending leaves you wanting a bit more, but I was glad it was left more open-ended. It felt natural since the book took place over a span of just 1 week. I would love to see a sequel and what happened afterwards. Perhaps a return to Lighthouse Beach (*hint hint* to the author) could happen.

Overall, if you’re looking to start off your summer with a beach read, then look no further than Lighthouse Beach. 


Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
 
Author Links: WebsiteFacebook, and Twitter
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About Lighthouse Beach

• Paperback: 400 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (May 29, 2018)

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Shelley Noble comes a heartrending and uplifting novel about friendship, love, and what we’re willing to sacrifice for our dreams.

What was supposed to be an idyllic wedding leads to an unexpected journey of self-discovery…

When Lillo Gray pulls up to Kennebunkport’s most exclusive hotel wearing a borrowed dress and driving a borrowed VW van, she knows she’s made a big mistake. She’s not even sure why Jessica Parker invited her to her posh wedding. They haven’t seen each other since they were unhappy fourteen-year-old girls at fat camp. And now they’re from two completely different worlds. There’s no way Lillo fits in the rarefied circles Jessica travels in.

Jess isn’t sure she’s ready to go through with this wedding, but she’s been too busy making everyone else happy to think about what she wants. But when she and her two closest friends, Allie and Diana, along with Lillo, discover her fiancé with his pants down in the hotel parking lot, she’s humiliated…and slightly relieved. In a rush to escape her crumbling life, Jess, Allie, and Diana pile into Lillo’s beat-up old van and head up the coast to Lighthouse Island. Once there, she hopes to figure out the next chapter in her life.

Nursing broken hearts and broken dreams, four lost women embark on a journey to find their way back into happiness with new love, friendship, and the healing power of Lighthouse Beach.

About Shelley Noble

Shelley Noble is a former professional dancer and choreographer and has worked on a number of films. She lives at the Jersey shore where she loves to visit lighthouses and vintage carousels. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Romance Writers of America.

Find out more about Shelley at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Review: First Impressions (The Jane Austen Series #1)

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Rating: ★★★★

I received this book for free from the Bethany House Blogger Review Program in exchange for an honest review.

I had actually just finished reading Pride and Prejudice before starting this book so everything was still fresh in my mind. 

As a retelling this was pretty spot on. There was even a list of the cast of characters and their Pride and Prejudice counterparts at the beginning of the book. Personality-Wise, the characters stayed true to their Pride and Prejudice version. Linda (Lydia in P&P) was very flirtatious, Mary Boswick (Mrs. Bennet in P&P) was very silly in her views, etc. For the most part, the storyline followed Pride and Prejudice very closely. Many of the original plot points were included. Overall, the storyline was translated to modern times very well. 

I liked how the book showed you multiple points of view (Eddi, Dave and Linda’s). I particularly enjoyed hearing Dave’s thoughts throughout the novel. 

I also loved that since the characters in the book were putting on their production of Pride and Prejudice at their community theatre, there were lines from Pride and Prejudice in this book. 

This book is Christian fiction, so some of the characters’ viewpoints lean towards that. But I wouldn’t say it was an overwhelmingly Christian book. 

All in all, this was a fun retelling of a classic story. 

Review: How to Walk Away

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Rating: ★★★★

I received an ARC of this book for free from the publisher (St. Martin’s Press).

This book tackles the heavy subject of ending up paralyzed after an airplane crash. When I first started reading this I felt very sad for the main character, Margaret. Her situation was very depressing. But luckily the book didn’t continue down that path. It got pretty uplifting about a 1/3 of the way in. 

I really enjoyed seeing Margaret’s state of mind change throughout her recovery. It was really inspiring. Often times I stopped and thought about what I would do in her situation. 

I loved the love interest, Ian. I liked that he did have his faults, which made him feel real. So many times books like these have a “Mr. Perfect” type of love interest, so I was very happy to see that Ian was different. 

As for the other characters, I really liked Margaret’s sister, Kitty. She was such a fun character. 

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I also really liked that the book was realistic. Like I mentioned previously, Ian felt like a realistic love interest, but besides that, the way Margaret’s condition was handled felt very realistic as well. It could have gone down the “miracle” route, but didn’t. The author did a great job highlighting the reality of Margaret’s injury and did it proper justice. 

The writing style was also superb. It was written in a very easy-going, conversational manner, which made it a joy to read.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The realistic characters and realistic portrayal of life in a wheelchair combined with great writing makes this book a hit! 

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Review: Girls’ Night Out

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Rating: ★★★½

I received this book for free from the authors in exchange for an honest review. 

This book started off really strong. There was a lot of intrigue, which made this a complete page turner. I just couldn’t put it down! I needed to know what happened to Ashley. 

Then the ending came and I was a bit disappointed. It wasn’t as big of a reveal as I thought it was going to be. I was expecting a huge twist that usually comes with thrillers, but instead it was more subdued. That being said I still enjoyed the book overall. 

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I really liked how the authors combined chick lit elements with thriller/suspense elements. The book was a strong blend of the two genres. The setting really helped with that. Mexico was perfect for this story to take place in. 

As for the characters, I wasn’t a big fan of any of them. All three of the main characters annoyed me at some point. I just couldn’t get over some of their reasonings for the things they did and the attitudes they held. They were all a little too self absorbed and it was hard to feel any sympathy towards them. 

Overall, if you’re looking to unwind and want to read a fast paced and thrilling beach read for the summer, be sure to check out this book! 

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Review: The Echoes of Love

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Rating: ★★★

I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

This is an odd book for me to rate because I found the first half of the book to be 2 stars, but the second half was 4 stars. My final rating for this is 3 stars, which is the average of the two.

On an unrelated note, when I first saw that one of the epigraphs was an excerpt from Burnt Norton I was really happy. I love that poem mainly because Lana Del Rey recites it for her interlude on her Honeymoon album and I love Lana Del Rey.

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So the first half of the book was 2 things: slow and cringe worthy.

In regards to its slowness, I thought that it took way too long to get to Tuscany. It took nearly 150 pages for our main character, Venetia, to finally get there. I felt like the story didn’t actually start until she arrived. A lot of the first half of the book was Venetia being wishy washy towards Paolo. She would think to herself, I love Paolo. Then the next page she would be like, I don’t love Paolo. That continued regularly until about half way through and made the book go by so slowly. I got pretty annoyed with her because she could not make up her mind. A good portion of the first half could have been removed because it was all really repetitive.

As for the cringe worthy parts, there were two lines in particular that drove me nuts. The first line described Venetia as having “neither racial or social prejudices” (41). Like okay. That’s kind of an odd thing to say in a book. The second line was when Venetia asked the Chinese fortune teller, “How come you speak such perfect English” (98). As someone who is half Asian, I really have an issue with that. It just adds to the perpetual foreigner stereotype that gets attached to Asians. It wasn’t even a necessary question for the story. Another thing that had me cringing was how predatory the males were in the beginning. Count Umberto was so horrible and even Paolo was a bit too much with his constant demands.

But then the book moved to Tuscany and things got a whole lot better. Paolo and Venetia became less annoying. There were conflicts which finally got the story moving (I loved Allegra’s character. She was really interesting). The romance finally heated up. A lot of the time it reminded me of Jane Eyre and Beauty and the Beast, which isn’t surprising considering Beauty and the Beast (the original fairy tale version) is mentioned on page 304 and Jane Eyre is mentioned in the author’s Q and A at the end of the book. I could definitely see the inspiration and since I love both of those I did end up enjoying the second half.

As for the big reveal at the end, I had already figured it out by that point so I wasn’t super surprised by it.

Overall, this wasn’t the best romance due to its overly long beginning but the second half saved this book from becoming a disaster. I’m am curious to read more from Hannah Fielding because out of all her books on Goodreads this one has the lowest average rating of only 3.66. All her other books have an average rating of over 4. I’m hoping that this book was just a fluke and not representation of her writing as a whole.

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