I've had a funny month for reading. Do you ever get that feeling when you finish an absolutely fantastic book and you're both eager for something new, but unable to settle on a book because it's not about the characters you were so in love with in the previous one? That was how I felt when I finished The Wedding Date. I didn't want it to be over, but I was on a reading roll and wanted to get stuck into something else immediately. It's a very bittersweet feeling, book grief - the sign of a good read, but one which is over. I hope you find a book this month that gives you that feeling!
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
After getting stuck in an elevator together, Alexa agrees to be Drew's plus one to the wedding of his ex-girlfriend. But, what starts out as a fake relationship turns into something real when the weekend is over and they can't stop thinking about each other... Will their new long distance relationship work out, or will they get in their own way (like they always do...)?
It's rare that romance books get mainstream coverage, so my interest was definitely piqued when I saw The Wedding Date popping up everywhere - and I couldn't resist when I spotted that it was just £1.99 on Kindle. A feel-good, heartwarming read, that I couldn't put down, this book starts out with a sweet meet-cute and then throws adorable and sexy moment after adorable and sexy moment at you, until you're as in love with these characters as they are with each other.
It's so much easier to get into a romance novel, for me, if the characters have other interests other than each other - and that couldn't be more the case here. Alexa is the mayor's chief of staff working on the biggest and most meaningful project of her life, whilst Drew is a paediatric surgeon, and both have a cast of friends and family with whom they have relationships that I was equally invested in as I was in the romance.
My other favourite part of the book is they way that it weaved in discussion of racism, and the realities of being a black woman dating a white guy, who has mostly white friends. They way they both deal with that situation really adds another level to their story, and felt very real to me. I really can't wait for Jasmine's next book, which is coming out later this year, featuring a character we've already met...
The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven*
Izzy is a wannabe comic, a poor orphan who lives with her kooky grandma, and a massive slut. Or rather, that's what a malicious website is telling everyone. And it's getting harder to ignore the situation when photos of her with a politician's son put her slap bang in the middle of a national scandal.
I love me a socially conscious YA book, which this definitely is. Addressing slut shaming, feminism, racism and plenty more besides, this is a book with a great message wrapped up in a funny and poignant wrapper. Written mainly as private blog entries, Izzy is a hilarious narrator and her back and forth conversations with both her grandmother, Betty, and her best friend Ajita are a joy to read. Not only is she hilarious, she actually felt like a really real teenager - which I don't feel is always the case in YA. She's equal parts confident in herself and a mess of insecurities. She doesn't act perfectly but her heart is in the right place, and she certainly doesn't deserve what happens to her at the hands of her anonymous assailant.
You really go on a journey with Izzy over the course of this book, as she faces the challenges thrown her way, and you feel it all with her - the despair and distress and anger and injustice. It's scarily realistic to consider how easily this could happen - the media circus around a teenage girl exactly just like a teenage girl. It's really a great read.
Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro*
Maggie is devoted to her husband, Thomas, and their two children, and to God. But, after striking up a friendship with James, a poet she admires, who, unlike her husband, shares her faith, she is drawn into an affair. As the novel jumps around in time, the relationship between Maggie and James becomes more and more inevitable, even as they try to deny it and stay true to their faith.
There are hundreds of books about affairs, but the religious element adds something else; through letters to James and conversations with an assumed therapist (but, could also be God...), Maggie struggles with her desires which she sees in turn as in opposition to her faith, and as an inexorable part of it. What seems at first to be the standard pre-marital affair (if such a thing exists) becomes so much more complicated as the layers of Maggie's marriage are peeled back (Thomas is not the good father and loving husband that he seems) and the intimacy with James grows.
At times the religious and intellectual expositions that Maggie and James indulge in together were a little out of my reach, but this was a beautiful, frustrating, thought-provoking read.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links and buy something, I may receive a small commission. Books marked with a * were provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.