Review: Royal Seduction

Title: Royal Seduction
Author: Jennifer Blake
Release Date: December 1983
Length: 340 pages
Series?: Royal Princes of Ruthenia #1
Genre: Historical, Romance

On a mission to bring his brother’s killer to justice, the devastatingly charming Prince Rolfe of Ruthenia takes Angelina Fortina captive at a Louisiana country ball. Mistaking Angelina for her cousin Claire who fled Europe after the death of Ruthenia’s heir apparent, Rolfe commits an inexcusable error: using sensual threat in an attempt to pry information from the woman he thought was his late brother’s mistress.

Still, Rolfe cannot let Angelina go. It’s not just that she may yet lead him to Claire — it’s that her touch, and hers alone, has the power to make him forget the bitterness of his past.

Their passionate odyssey in search of justice, however, may already be compromised. For the enemy they seek travels with them, ready to strike should love temper the ruthless desire of Ruthenia’s future king and make him a vulnerable target.

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I first read this book in my mid or late teens. When it had a very different cover. At the time, I thought it highly romantic and adventurous.

After reading it as an adult, I still find it highly adventurous, but I see some pieces differently.

Rolfe and his men have honed in on Louisiana, hot on the heels of his murdered brother’s lover. It is made clear over the course of the book that Rolfe – now the heir – thinks that the mistress is the murderer.

Angeline is a dutiful niece, courting the upper crust of society. Her relationship with her aunt, her chaperone, is very strained. Often, she seeks out the local convent to be helpful and avoid her resentful aunt.

Rolfe and his guards take over the ball and make waves when he specifically targets Angeline for a dance. She is left confused and shaken, and tries to clarify that she is not her well-traveled cousin Claire. They look so alike as to be twins, but she is not who he seeks. Unable to do much at the time, Rolfe and his men lie in wait, watching the house that night, for the moment to secret Angeline away and solve his problem.

On a mission that night to save her notify and ultimately save her cousin Claire, Angeline is captured while making the return trip back home.

This novel does have the captor/captive element woven throughout the entire novel. Rolfe is an alpha male. He is strong in body and mind, perhaps a bit psychotic, and really reminds me of a swashbuckling pirate on land the way he is often described. He is ruthless and unforgiving, but after that night when he tries to force information out of Angeline, he is remorseful and hates what he has done to Angeline, but at the same time sees no other way around what happened. She told him many times he was wrong, and even not believing her, he or his men could have asked anyone at the ball to verify her identity.

Some label this night as “forced seduction”, but it is rape. Bottom line. There is no sugarcoating reality that people are often wont to do. And that is the difference I saw in reading this as a teen and an adult.

Rolfe continues to hold Angeline hostage, hoping to eventually make her break, and obtain the information he seeks about Claire. But Angeline has lived a relatively hard life and has made her very practical. She doesn’t have a fit of vapors or go on a rampage.

The plot is driven by Rolfe’s need to find Claire, and the story continues as they hunt down leads. As they travel across the countryside, Angeline is kidnapped by other people a few times. Eventually, she comes to be back at home and then led on a wild goose chase. She comes face to face with the murderer.

The story is told from Angeline’s perspective, so all of Rolfe’s inner thoughts – and I’m sure there were A LOT – are left up in the air. And she maintains that practical mindset in knowing that he is royalty and she is a commoner, so there could never be a marriage between them. She resigns herself to the fact that Rolfe only wants her physically and nothing more because there can be no more.

However, therein lies the misunderstandings between Angeline and Rolfe. They don’t talk about any of those things. The full breadth of his feelings are never revealed until its nearly too late. He doesn’t want her to become the next target for the murderer – because he or she is now after Rolfe.

I enjoyed this book when I read it as a teen, and again as an adult. I might read it again this summer. The highly-driven action plot is one of the greatest pieces of this novel, alongside the interesting story.

Review: Brown Girl Dreaming

Title: Brown Girl Dreaming
Author: Jacqueline Woods
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Release Date: August 2014
Length: 337 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Historical, Memoir

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become. 

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I read this book last summer with my 7th grade summer school students. Very few were black, but I had one who was. One who was always in trouble and starting stuff up with other kids. One who could clearly see the parallels of the 1960s and today. This book riveted and resounded with him.

Written in free verse, which is usually not my cup of tea, each chapter represented different snapshots in time of Woodson’s childhood, set right in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement.

Jacqueline writes a clear story that depicts her struggle of being northern and southern and how those two worlds were different. She splits her childhood between Ohio, South Carolina, and New York.

The focus throughout is really on her family and friends, and how life changes. It is a powerful read.

Review: Only One Life

Title: Only One Life
Author: Ashley Farley
Publisher: Union Publishing
Release Date: April 2019
Length: 289 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Women’s Fiction

Julia Martin grew up wealthy, but it wasn’t until she met her husband, Jack, that she knew true happiness. He made her feel worthy and loved. Their marriage was also an escape from her sister’s bullying, her father’s scrutiny, and her chilly and enigmatic mother. But when tragedy strikes on the night she gives birth, Julia’s happiness is shattered. She has no choice but to return home to her family’s South Carolina mansion, where the grief and guilt buried in her mother’s past await her.

As a young woman trapped in a bitter marriage, Julia’s mother, Iris, once needed her own means of escape. In Lily, she found a best friend. In the flower shop they opened, she discovered independence. Then came a transgression—unforgivable, unforgettable, and unresolved—that changed Iris’s life forever.

Now, in Iris’s most desperate hour, her only hope is to regain the trust of the daughter she loves—and to share the secrets of the heart that could rebuild a family’s broken bonds.

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I tend to enjoy books that are set in the South. I did enjoy some parts of this book, but overall it just didn’t do it for me. There was something with the writing right from the start that annoyed me.

We learn that Julia and Jack Martin are waiting for their baby’s birth. There have been pregnancy issues in the past, so they are excited but nervous. Julia came from money but still had an unhappy childhood, and has been estranged from her family since she married Jack. It’s a very different life now – they are happy, but struggle hard with finances.

But things aren’t going to remain happy or simple for Julia.

Eventually, she must return to her childhood home, her parents, and sister. Julia tries to mend the broken relationship with her mother, Iris. While it does take time, there are some breakthroughs with her mother. The book does travel back in time for both Julia and her mother. However, her sister is just as much the bully now as she was then, if not even more. There is no reconciling with her father.

Despite growing bonds and reconciliation, I could not stand any of Julia’s family. I hated what happened surrounding her labor and birth of her baby. It forced her into only one choice. Did I say I hated her family? I mean, like, a lot.

One thing that really rubbed me wrong was the way mental illness was presented, portrayed, and “cured” in the book. That last bit isn’t reality. It’s not easy to get better. That’s not how it works.

Review: The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower

Title: The Earl’s Defiant Wallflower
Author: Erica Ridley
Publisher: Intrepid Reads
Release Date: December 2014
Length: 203 pages
Series?: The Dukes of War #2
Genre: Historical, Romance

Oliver York returns from war to find his father dead, his finances in arrears, and himself the new Earl of Carlisle. If he doesn’t marry an heiress—and fast!—he and his tenants are going to be pitching tents down by the Thames. He definitely shouldn’t be trading kisses with a penniless debutante…no matter how captivating she is!

Miss Grace Halton is in England just long enough to satisfy the terms of her dowry. But a marriage of convenience isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. Back in America, her ailing mother needs medicine only Grace’s dowry can afford. Which means the dashing earl she can’t get out of her mind is the one man she can’t let into her heart.

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Grace Hamilton is a Yankee. An American. She and her mother have struggled for years. Now that her mother has fallen quite ill, Grace plans to travel back to England, secure a wealthy husband, collect her dowry, and return to care for her mother.

In order to accomplish any of this, Grace has to essentially convince her tyrannical and heartless grandparents and get in their good graces. They were the best thing done well in this short novel.

Oliver York has returned from the war and finds himself seeking to save Grace among the ton. But Oliver also is in dire straits – his father bankrupted the family estate and title.

This was almost insta-love between the two, but not quite. It’s clear there is something, but the two don’t allow themselves to enter the marriage market mindset with one another because they’re both seeking a mate with money.

Grace most certainly displays her American spirit while trying to fit in and follow the rules of the aristocracy. It is a decidedly set of hard tasks that she feels she will never master.

There were so many standards and rules and etiquette broken, ignored, or not even acknowledged by multiple characters. It seemed very blase and just doesn’t fit the time period at all.

The end was just off course. Everything got wrapped up nice and neat and much too fast for plausible or authentic purposes. But also from the beginning the entire mother storyline wasn’t plausible either.

I think most of the characters had some development, but they needed some…refinement. There was a lot missing in the plot and setting. None of the secondary characters really made a debut and there weren’t really any subplots besides ones related to Grace’s goal in mind. It seemed like this was written to be a novela instead of a novel.

Review: Once Upon an Accidentally Bewitching Kiss 

Title: Love on Beach Avenue
Author: Bree Wolf
Publisher: WOLF Publishing
Release Date: April 2022
Series?: The Whickertons in Love #6
Genre: Historical, Romance

England 1803: TROY BEAUMONT, only son to the EARL OF WHICKERTON, risked his heart once…and came to regret it. Now, he knows only duty, forsaking his family’s tradition to marry for love and love alone. Truth be told, he would rather not marry at all; however, as his father’s only heir, Troy knows he cannot be selfish. He must marry. But who?

LADY LEONORA—or NORA—lost her heart once, mere days before her marriage to another man. Ever since, she has been living a life of regret…until—most unexpectedly—her husband succumbs to his scandalous exploits and she returns to her old home a young widow. Loath of her year of mourning, Nora rides out one day, only to have her path cross…


After avoiding Nora’s presence these past few years, Troy is shocked to find himself face to face with the girl who once stole his heart. He knows he should turn around and leave. Yet his feet refuse to comply, holding him in place as old feelings reawaken, for her teasing smile and compassionate eyes spark an old familiarity. 

Once, they were friends. Once, they knew each other. Once, there was love between them. Could there be again?

Nora is overcome by the way her heart trips and stumbles the moment her eyes fall on Troy. For years, the dreaded thing felt almost dormant, making her wonder if it ever truly functioned in the first place. But why now? Now, that she knows there can be no future for them? After all, Troy needs an heir, and she…cannot provide one.

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I admit, I have enjoyed reading several of Bree Wolf’s books. But this one fell massively short of the mark.

Almost the entire book, up to about the 80% mark, was entirely manufactured misunderstandings, break-offs in mid-sentence, storm offs, and overall refusal to communicate. I was extremely frustrated wondering what was going to change, how anything would be accomplished for either character with their own families, and where this plot was going.

There was essentially no action driving the storyline besides this over-wrought woe.

I definitely started to dislike Nora. Multiple times she seemed to be playing games with Troy regarding marrying or not marrying Mr. Clarke. She constantly swiveled between “I can’t marry Mr. Clarke, he repulses me” to “I think I’ll marry Mr. Clarke, he already has an heir.”

And Nora’s mother. She had a very interestingly strange marriage story. As then did we learn Troy’s parents had. It was too coincidental and much to be plausible. Not to mention all 4 of his sisters got married within one calendar year.

The two biggest points of the book are the end when the mishap occurs and one of Grandma Edie’s secrets is revealed.

It really seemed like this was a book just to be written and there wasn’t much there, simply to wrap up the final siblings’ story.

But. Grandma Edie needs a book!

Review: A Dangerous Temptation

Title: A Dangerous Temptation
Author: L.R. Olson
Release Date: July 2015
Length: 387 pages
Series?: Dangerous #1
Genre: Historical, Romance

Ruined by scandal, Julianna has hidden away in the country for the last few years hoping her indiscretion will eventually fade from the memory of society. Yes, she’s been lonely at times, but she’s content enough to follow her own rules. And when that bothersome nagging sensation that she’s missing something more flares, she’s able to shove it aside and focus on her friends, family and her true passion…painting. Until James arrives. James is arrogant, demanding and makes her believe that anything is possible, even a second chance at love. But is James the man he pretends to be?

James always gets what he wants, and he wants marriage to a woman who will honor and more importantly, obey. The problem is when he meets Julianna, while he’s bathing nude no less, he suddenly starts to question his carefully constructed plans. Bold and daring, Julianna is the very opposite of a meek, obedient wife. He certainly doesn’t need any more scandal; his family has had quite enough. And having an affair with Julianna would definitely bring scandal. The problem is he can’t seem to get her out of his head. But is she truly the sweet country girl she portrays herself to be, or a conniving fortune hunter out to trap him into marriage?

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This is a book supposedly set during the Regency period, but the setting and other details throughout raise questions about its true time in history. However, it is one of the first I’ve seen of historical romances that alternate POVs. A last large note: it needs quite a bit of editing, and most likely accuracy for the time period, which might be part of the problem since that is unclear.

The storyline follows James, an almost broken man with a terribly tragic past that is just so much, as he travels away from his home. And leads to Julianna, who has been secluded in the country following her indiscretion several years prior. Hopefully hidden away society will forget all about her and allow her sister to still have a chance. She now lives a very different life than she did before.

It does follow the trope of a dark and brooding hero and an innocent and virginal heroine. However, they’re both keeping secrets from one another – their real identities. They both are presenting themselves as and believe the other is a nobody. And the reality that he’s not just a farmer and she’s not just a country girl begin to complicate things.

There was definitely attraction and sparks, but then also a lot of doubt and mistrust. It created this divide and turmoil between them. For a while, it didn’t look like they’d make it. I particularly didn’t like James’ constant thoughts that Julianna was a whore. A lot of the inner thought looping, was at times hard to get past.

But – there were a lot of really good quotations to pull from this book. I had 31 lines or excerpts I highlighted or notated, which is quite a bit for a rather simple read such as this. As I went back and re-read my annotations, I was struck by some of the quotes and how well they were woven into the story. Gems among costume jewelry.

There was redemption in the epilogue, which piqued my interest about the other brothers.

Review: Because the Earl Loved Me

Title: Because the Earl Loved Me
Author: Ellie St. Clair
Release Date: September 2018
Length: 270 pages
Series?: Happily Ever After #6
Genre: Historical, Romance

Desire for drama…
Known by all as a beauty with a haunting, hypnotic voice, Anne Finchley has always longed for more than marriage to a nobleman. She dreams of gracing the stage as an actress, an occupation unheard of for the daughter of a duke. But a chance meeting at a country theatre changes her fate forever.

Perfectly planned…
The Earl of Merryweather, Christopher Anderson, pre-determines every moment of his life, carefully calculating every decision — including marriage to the sister of the Duke of Breckenridge. When he begins his courtship, however, everything goes awry, as nothing about her fits his expectations.

A shocking incident changes everything…
When Anne suffers an accident and must rely on Christopher for help, she turns his life upside down. Despite his inflexible ways, Anne finds herself falling for the man she once rejected, but now it may be too late, as the resulting scandal and upheaval may prove to be too much for Christopher to overcome. Everything is telling them they are wrong for one another — but then why does being together feel so right?

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Anne is the daughter and sister of a duke. She’s grown up in the confines and privilege of nobility. There are rules and etiquette that must be followed and adhered to in order to avoid scandal.

But her heart’s desire is to become an actor. On the stage. Not marry off after her debut season.

This dream comes at a time when young adolescent boys were no longer playing the women’s roles, but to be a woman on the stage was most improper. A woman on the stage was a harlot. Most definitely not suitable for a duke’s daughter.

However, Christopher comes courting. Anne tries to do everything in her power to dissuade and discourage him from her. He’s her brother’s best friend! She pushed the limits so far that she did run off with a troop of actors, set on killing two birds with one stone: get rid of the stuffy nobleman and get on the stage.

Except a jealous troop member sets out to enact an accident that ruins not only Anne’s dream but also her face. While Christopher still was able to rescue her and mostly shield her from scandal, everything changed.

I really liked this one with the sparring between the love interests as well as the action. The plot kept moving along. There were moments I didn’t like Anne or Christopher as an individual, but it wasn’t a no coming back from this level of dislike.

I didn’t like the injury scene or certain comments and events that happen afterward. While there was a grain of truth to some characters’ comments, it was beyond socially deplorable etiquette and just cruel. It more than made its point to Anne.

Review: Captain of My Heart

Title: Captain of My Heart
Author: Danelle Harmon
Publisher: Windward Press
Release Date: December 2013 (1992)
Length: 514 pages
Series?: Heroes of the Sea #2 / Officers and Gentlemen #1
Genre: Historical, Romance

Excitement heralds the arrival of Captain Brendan Jay Merrick, a dashing privateer whose daring sea battles against His Majesty’s fleet have made him a legend in the American colonies. Brendan has plans for the Ashton Shipyard to build his magnificent new schooner. But one look at the handsome Irishman, and Ashton’s daughter Mira is making plans of her own . . .

Mira Ashton – queen of schemes and mistress of spunk – disguises herself as a crew member and sneaks aboard the newly built Kestrel to become the schooner’s sharpest gunner … and the captain’s most outrageous distraction. As passions flare, desire explodes with the turbulence of an angry sea with Mira competing against Kestrel for Brendan’s love. But when tragedy strikes, Mira must join forces with her mighty rival in a daring adventure that turns the tide of battle and brings glorious victory to the colonists, the captain … and the lady who has captured his heart.

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Brendan Merrick is half-Brit, half-Irish who runs a well-oiled, loyal crew for the Royal Navy. When Brendan discovers one of his own is cruelly mistreating others, he sets out to put an end to it. Richard Crichton, Merrick’s immediate subordinate, isn’t going to have everything taken from him.

He shoots Eveleen Merrick, shattering her hand. Then he turns the gun on Brendan, with the force of the blow knocking him overboard. Crichton tells the tale that Brendan was a traitor and is believed. Crichton is then promoted, effectively taking Merrick’s position.

Across the pond in America, the Revolutionary War is brewing. Mira Ashton is an zealous patriot. She dresses like a man, fights like a man, sings bawdy songs like a man, but rescues stray cats and brings them home as “rescue efforts.” Her brother is a privateer who leads his crew to rob or sink British ships. Needless to say, Mira knows her way around a ship.

Brendan eventually washes ashore in America. At first assumed to be a spy for the British, he reveals himself to be the Ashton’s newest client. Brendan has a ship design that is unlike any other. Everyone tells him it can’t work; this isn’t done. He persists, insistent it will make Mira’s father famous and wealthy. Brendan names his new ship Kestrel and it is a ship to behold.

The Ashton family in itself also provides an amusing scene whenever two or more are present in a scene. It is clear there is a great love and fondness among them, but also some rather short tempers. They are also pretty strong-willed and hard-headed.

Eveleen does reappear in the book. While she and Mira do not get on, they do eventually forge a connection and Mira helps Eveleen not only face her issues with her weight and help her in those endeavors, but she also encourages Eveleen to also face her mangled hand. To see these topics being addressed and Eveleen so developed as a secondary character were nice additions to the plot.

The romance was sweet to watch build and come to fruition. The interaction between all of the ensemble cast was excellent reading, and Crichton the villain doesn’t disappear or disappoint as a great-to-hate villain.

Review: The Bastard’s Iberian Bride / Marrying Mr. Gibson

Title: The Bastard’s Iberian Bride (Marrying Mr. Gibson)
Author: Alina K. Field
Publisher: Havenlock Press
Release Date: May 2017
Length: 409 pages
Series?: Sons of the Spy Lord #1
Genre: Historical Romance

Daughter of spies
For a chance at true freedom, Paulette Heardwyn needs the fortune left her by her inscrutable father. But she doesn’t know what it is, where it is, or how to find it, and the only man with answers, the Earl of Shaldon, takes his secrets to the grave. Worse, the dead earl tries to force her marriage to his bastard son—and leaves her prey to a traitor seeking the same treasure she’s after.

Soldier, Steward, Bastard
Bink Gibson is ready to throw off his quiet life as steward to his old commander and head for India and the chance of prosperity. But before he can leave he’s summoned to the deathbed of the Earl of Shaldon, a meddling spymaster, a complete stranger…and his father.

And the Earl has set a trap Bink will never be able to resist.

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The original title of this book was The Bastard’s Iberian Bride, which I admit I didn’t like. It has been retitled Marrying Mr. Gibson, which is kind of drab. Definitely think there could have been better ideas for renaming.

Sergeant Edward “Bink” Gibson is prepared to set off for India, full of potential for him. Potential riches, being important. But when a deathbed summons arrives, it requires his attention. And an answer.

What seems like a lifetime ago, Bink would have took off without waiting for first light. Now? He avoids it. His true parentage, hidden and known by only a few, is now no longer left to be a scandalous secret in the dark. Bink is the illegitimate son of the Earl of Shaldon, and his step-father made sure through all his beatings that he knew it. Bink and his mother could never be acknowledged…until now.

As Bink is riding to the Earl of Shaldon’s estate and mansion he visited but once, he comes upon a cart. Nearby, he hears distress. Further delaying his meeting with his father, Bink comes to the rescue of a bit of a harpy, seeking to find an item lost from the cart.

Paulette Heardwyn is seeking her own answers. She was so close to finding out, but the only one who could reveal them to her is on his deathbed. It’s imperative she reach him in time to uncover he knows, but first she must find her most precious possession.

There’s complexity with family connections and secrets tied to the Spymaster himself. There is mystery and suspense twists and turns with headstrong Paulette and protective Bink. Full of secrets and spies. Everyone is suspect and an enemy until proven otherwise.

Review: I Thought You Said This Would Work

Title: I Thought You Said This Would Work
Author: Ann Garvin
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: May 2021
Length: 301 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

A road trip can drive anyone over the edge—especially two former best friends—in bestselling author Ann Garvin’s funny and poignant novel about broken bonds, messy histories, and the power of forgiveness.

Widowed Samantha Arias hasn’t spoken to Holly Dunfee in forever. It’s for the best. Samantha prefers to avoid conflict. The blisteringly honest Holly craves it. What they still have in common puts them both back on speed dial: a mutual love for Katie, their best friend of twenty-five years, now hospitalized with cancer and needing one little errand from her old college roomies.

It’s simple: travel cross-country together, steal her loathsome ex-husband’s VW camper, find Katie’s diabetic Great Pyrenees at a Utah rescue, and drive him back home to Wisconsin. If it’ll make Katie happy, no favor is too big (one hundred pounds), too daunting (two thousand miles), or too illegal (ish), even when a boho D-list celebrity hitches a ride and drives the road trip in fresh directions.

Samantha and Holly are following every new turn—toward second chances, unexpected romance, and self-discovery—and finally blowing the dust off the secret that broke their friendship. On the open road, they’ll try to put it back together—for themselves, and especially for the love of Katie. 

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

This book made me laugh so hard and cry so hard. The chapter titles are hilarious.

Three girls meet in college and have all gone on in life. Two have married, one has had a child (now grown and going to college), and one has pursued a successful career.

Samantha doesn’t know what happened to cause Holly to leave town at warp speed after graduation, without a word since. Katie, the last to join and complete the trio, still maintains a friendship with both of her friends, but also doesn’t know what happened to make Holly leave in the way she did or to make her maintain such a cold and critical view of Samantha.

And now Katie has is hospitalized again – and needs both her friends. Her dastardly ex-husband has surrendered her dog, Peanut. Halfway across the country.

While Samantha also has an ailment that afflicts her, Holly does not believe it. Because of this reason, Samantha can’t go alone, even though she’d like to. Together, Holly and Samantha must travel together to save Peanut.

Once they arrive in L.A., they pick up a third road trip passenger. Summer Silva is a (small scale) celebrity. She’s wacko and insightful. Believes in a lot of woo woo stuff. For most of the book, she’s presented as an airhead.

Once Summer joins in their trip, things become comical and frustrating. Their ordeals and shenanigans were hilarious. I don’t know if I’ve enjoyed a book as much for its comedy.

There were also heartwarming and painful moments, too.

I found so much wisdom wrapped up in this novel that I could apply to my own life or rang true for me. I could identify with different aspects of each of the women. Their friendship reminds me of my own friendship formed with two dear friends, strengthened during college.