Today, I’m writing another set of bullet reviews! For this post, I am reviewing three adult romance novels that sparked so much joy and comfort in my heart:
- The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
- Heart and Seoul by Erin Kinsella
- You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria
All three books genuinely surprised me in the best way possible. But what’s uniquely similar about them is that the plot of their stories involves the influence of certain media, be it news media or entertainment media. Obviously, as a reader with a degree in Communication Research, I am very intrigued by stories wherein media plays a role. And after reading these three adult romance books? I want more!
Books in Bullets
Books in Bullets is essentially a series of mini-reviews with a twist. More specifically, I throw together a few books that share a similarity and discuss them using bullet-point lists of their respective strengths and shortcomings. In simpler words, shorter reviews that are straight to the point and hopefully more effective.
by Lyssa Kay Adams
read the content and trigger warnings.sex (explicit); mentions and references to toxic childhood and family members
read the full synopsis.
The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.
Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.
Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.
Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.
STRONG POINTS & HIGHLIGHTS
? Unique and hilarious premise that’s flawlessly delivered. When I was first introduced to the idea of an all-men book club dedicated to using romance novels as tools to improve their relationships, my expectations were astronomically high. Thankfully, I was not let down! The Bromance Book Club is generously interspersed with nods to the romance genre, references that will appeal to avid romance readers, and unbelievably meta-commentary. This novel is so outrageously fun and ridiculously hilarious that I was gasping for breath in between chapters.
? Second-chance sports romance. I am a huge sucker for men groveling at the feet of the women they love, and this book does not hold back in that regard. Gavin grovels, needs to put in real work towards saving their relationship, grovels some more, and is forced to confront his fragile masculinity.
? Powerful leading characters that make a great power couple. Thea and Gavin are just explosive together! But I really admired how thoroughly developed they are as individual characters. Having grown exhausted of her lifestyle as an athlete’s trophy wife, Thea is determined to finish her college degree and reclaim her happiness. Her rage is well-earned, and her resolve is awe-inspiring. Thea shines beyond her role as a leading lady; instead, she is an empowered heroine to root for. Meanwhile, although Gavin is clearly in the wrong and is responsible for the deterioration of his marriage, he is a difficult character to hate.
? Multiple storylines outside of the romance. The Bromance Book Club is about more than Thea and Gavin’s problems in the sack. Readers are also informed of all the sacrifices that Thea made in order to become the perfect WAG — an acronym that refers to the wives and girlfriends of high-profile athletes — and how they’ve collectively burdened Thea, causing her to feel unfulfilled. There’s an entire storyline dedicated to Thea’s personal journey of becoming the woman she wants to be.
? Sweet spot between fluff and sexual tension. What made this second-chance romance really amazing was the perfect balance between soft, vulnerable moments and heart-racing scenes that will have readers screaming, “JUST DO EACH OTHER ALREADY!”
BUT ON THE DOWNSIDE
? The need to suspend disbelief. If you’re a romance reader looking for realism, this might not be your cup of tea. In The Bromance Book Club, there are scenes that seem quite farfetched and too silly to be true. And it’s part and parcel to the outrageous humor used in this romance novel.
? Misleading causation between a relationship’s emotional health and infinite female orgasms? Although it was never explicitly stated, the story does sort-of, kind-of frame a couple’s emotional connection and open communication as the key to resolving problems in the bedroom. I recognize that The Bromance Book Club is not meant to be an educational tool or resource. But I still think that a more nuanced exploration of this theme could have been very beneficial. I highly recommend reading this excellent review from Aarya for a more elaborate dissection of this issue.
All in all, The Bromance Book Club gave me such a fun time! It brought me a lot of joy and comfort during this weird, uncertain time — and I can easily see myself revisiting Thea and Gavin’s story over and over again. The Bromance Book Club is an endearing, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that’s perfect for avid readers who are looking for fun teasing, (occasionally awkward) flirting, and intense swooning.
by Erin Kinsella
read the content and trigger warnings.sex (on-page); anxiety triggers; panic attacks; ptsd; mentions of child abuse (including flashbacks); period (on-page); alcohol drinking
read the full synopsis.
She’s living her very own K-drama.
Beside herself with excitement, best-selling author Tessa Hale flies to the vibrant city of Seoul, South Korea, where she’s meeting the cast and crew of the film adaptation of her book. The thrill shifts to star-struck panic when she discovers the actor cast as the lead is the idol she’s been high-key crushing on for years.
The last thing he wants is more real-life drama.
Baek Eun Gi is part of one of the biggest K-pop groups in the business. Music has lost its lustre, and he’s hoping a shift in focus will bring back that connection he craves. Although he’s estranged from his family, he has his friends, a thriving career, and a healthy respect for the dating restrictions imposed upon him.
Meet cute, scandal…wedding?
When their paths collide in the most unexpected—and embarrassing— of ways, they try to put it behind them. Too bad there are photos. The music company is irate and offers them a way out of the scandal—a marriage of convenience. Their lives are about to turn upside down, but it just might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them.
STRONG POINTS & HIGHLIGHTS
? A K-pop romance with a delightful mishmash of fun and well-loved tropes. From a found family of charming K-pop idols to an endearing meet-cute to a marriage contract of epic proportions, Heart and Seoul is a literary gift that keeps on giving! I was so impressed with how these well-loved tropes are delivered in a really organic, wholesome, and unique way.
? Heartwarming character relationships. Heart and Seoul unabashedly revolves around its characters and the emotional bonds between them, not just the brewing romance between Tessa and Eun Gi. The boyband members are all fiercely protective of and devoted to each other. It’s definitely a story that looks at different forms of love, especially within chosen families.
? The darker and grittier side of the K-pop music industry. It’s so easy to be swept away by the cheery, bubblegum fantasies promised by K-pop. So, I’m really glad that the author of Heart and Seoul carefully addressed the less fantastical side of the industry, especially its exploitative practices.
? Thoughtful exploration of child abuse and trauma. Heart and Seoul also does a great job of examining the mental health of artists within the K-pop industry, together with the loneliness and anxiety that come with stardom. Eun Gi, in particular, regularly battles trauma that stems from the abuse he’s received from his family. As if being a K-pop idol isn’t mentally and emotionally exhausting enough! I really felt for him and his turmoil. Moreover, I appreciated how child abuse — as well as the trauma resulting from it — was handled with so much sensitivity.
? Perfect balance between heartbreaking and heart-melting. This book is a rollercoaster and a half! In other words, it’s a mix of wonderfully lighthearted moments and devastatingly dark moments that’ll keep readers completely engrossed until the last chapter. Personally, I really could not put Heart and Seoul down even if I wanted to.
BUT ON THE DOWNSIDE
? Occasionally heavy and dramatic. As a whole, Heart and Seoul is like a warm hug from your favorite person. However, it does deal with darker, heavier content such as child abuse and anxiety. While everything in the book is done with utmost care and sensitivity, there are certain parts that veer towards a more dramatic direction that may not be to some people’s liking. There’s certainly a heaviness to this book that requires emotional preparedness and mental fortitude.
Listen. I rarely reread contemporary novels, but Heart and Seoul is a story that I can’t imagine ever growing sick of. The way that it’s so lovingly written really shines through, making it a definite page-turner. Despite its darker themes, Heart and Seoul had me smiling until the very last chapter, and true to its title, has wormed its way into my heart and soul. An easy addition to my all-time favorites!
* I received a digital galley of Heart and Seoul from the author in exchange for an honest review. Any quotes used in this review are subject to changes in the published copy.
by Alexis Daria
read the content and trigger warnings.sex (explicit); depictions of panic attacks and anxiety; trauma and ptsd triggers; discussion of stalking, invasion of privacy, and home intrusion (off-page); broken bones and hospital visits (on-page); depictions of grief; brief mention of cancer and death of a parent
read the full synopsis.
Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.
After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez.
Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy.
After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had.
Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.
With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.
STRONG POINTS & HIGHLIGHTS
? Leading lady looking for real love. I love Jasmine Lin Rodriguez with my whole heart. Not because she’s a perfect heroine. In fact, some of her decisions truly frustrated me. But because she is a fierce, ambitious leading lady who still wears her heart on her sleeve. She has set up walls to protect herself, but at the end of the day, she makes no effort to deny that she loves being loved and being in love — and I found that incredibly easy to relate to.
? Big chaotic family energy. You Had Me At Hola is so wonderfully family-centric! Jasmine comes from a huge loving and meddlesome family who regularly wreak havoc into her life. Meanwhile, although Ashton’s family is smaller in number, they’re no less meddlesome and bossy. It was really great to witness how their respective families have shaped Jasmine and Ashton as individuals and continue to impact their decision-making, especially career-wise.
? Sizzling, passionate romance kept under wraps. Not everyone will agree with me, but I firmly believe that Jasmine and Ashton have incredible chemistry. They are understandably awkward around each other at first. But after building rapport, they eventually grow to become friends who are inexplicably drawn to each other — and it was magical to behold! Although their romance burns quite slowly, it was very much worth the wait. Plus, the complications that come with the need to keep their relationship private to protect their careers? No complaints from me.
? A journey towards self-love and healing. Both Jasmine and Ashton are scarred by their past experiences in different ways. They’re characters with plenty of emotional baggage, and their struggles and insecurities felt so authentic. I was very satisfied with the outcome of their respective character arcs.
BUT ON THE DOWNSIDE
? Unmet expectations regarding the Filipino representation. Through no one’s fault except my own, my hopes for on-page representation skyrocketed when I first learned that Jasmine is Puerto Rican and Filipino. Right from the beginning, the book makes it clear that she is more attuned and more strongly connected to her Latinx heritage. Especially since her Puerto Rican roots are present in both her mother and father’s sides. And that’s valid! Still, I had hoped for more, only to be brutally let down. Aside from vague references to tinikling, I saw little to no glimpses of Jasmine connecting to her Filipino heritage. I was also bothered that there were no Filipino characters in You Had Me At Hola. I mean, I met so many of Jasmine’s Puerto Rican family members, friends, and work colleagues — but literally no one within her social circle is Filipino? That’s just odd. Especially considering the size of the Filipino diaspora.
? Possibly a hit or miss. I’ve noticed that readers either really love or really dislike You Had Me At Hola. It seems to be the kind of romance novel that evokes very strong, very extreme opinions. And honestly? I can see why. First, a lot of romantic development does happen off-page, which can be unappealing to several readers. Second, there are also questionable, eyebrow-raising decisions and behaviors every now and then. Finally, You Had Me At Hola is heaped with exaggerated drama, which definitely isn’t for everyone.
Despite my few gripes with this book, I thoroughly enjoyed reading You Had Me At Hola. It definitely succeeded in giving me Jane the Virgin vibes, sans the problematic actress. Moreover, I liked the writing, the casual queer representation, and the discourses on the meaningfulness of media representation. All in all, You Had Me At Hola is a soap opera within a soap opera that you shouldn’t miss out on. It might not appeal to every romance reader out there, but I do think that it’s worth picking up and giving a try.
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I’d love to hear from you!
? Have you read any of these adult romances? Will you be adding any of them to your TBR?
? Do you prefer your romance novels with a generous dash of celebrity drama? If you’re looking for K-pop romance specifically, then maybe you should check out my recommendations.
? What’s a romance book that has recently sparked joy and comfort in your heart?