Review, TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge: Grumpy

March’s theme prompt for Super Wendy’s #TBRChallenge 2022 was “Grumpy.” Here are the books we chose to tackle our TBRs this month.

Erin Read: Always Only You by Chloe Liese (2020)

Bergman Brothers, Book #2

Why was this book on your TBR?

I really loved the first book in this series, and the protagonists of this one sound super interesting.

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge?

The back cover copy doesn’t say it’s grumpy sunshine, but I thought it was? Plus it’s sportsy and we’re doing sportsy stuff this month on the blog. 

What are your thoughts on the book?

Wow, I could totally write a whole mostly gushing review about this book. (I mean, I can live without Shakespeare, and I have routinely thanked my husband for never speaking poetry to me, but I guess everybody’s not me.) I had read the first book in the series as an ARC, and I loved it, even though the protagonists were messy college kids who weren’t adulting all that well (which usually I don’t have a ton of patience for). But of course then how could I not be intrigued by the whole Bergman family? Plus my heritage is very Scandinavian, so I always like finding that in a good book. 

Anyway, I loved the pining virgin hero (Ren) who’s been biding his time until the object of his affections (Frankie) would not be off limits so he could ask her out (they work together). He’s the purest hero you can imagine. I liked that Frankie used being grumpy as a mask to protect herself from a world that takes her spoons. I mean, I didn’t like that she had to do that, but I liked that she found a way to protect herself and that the team still adored her and thought she was fierce. The story centers largely on how Frankie’s disability and neurodiversity impact her life and relationships, so it’s nice that Ren is a legit cinnamon roll. I also appreciated that this book was much more low angst than book 1 of the series (because HOLY ANGST, BATMAN!), but there was still plenty of natural tension between Ren and Frankie to keep things moving until the dark moment. It might be too gentle for some, but it was good for me. 

Buy Now: Amazon

Holly Read: Say No to the Duke by Eloisa James (2019)

The Wildes of Lindlow Castle, Book #4

Why was this book on your TBR?

In the before-COVID times, Erin and Ingrid saw Eloisa James give a talk, and snagged me a signed copy. 

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge?

I was feeling grumpy about saying yes to too much, so I figured I could take some inspiration on saying no. 

What are your thoughts on the book?

Unfortunately for me, my reading experience also aligned with the prompt: this book was making me grumpy.

Some backstory. Eloisa James was, for a while, my number one favorite romance author, but I was kind of “meh” on the numbers series, plus I got distracted by other things, so I had never read any of the Wilde books. So when I started reading this one, my immediate thought was that James’ character work was not as compelling as in her earlier stuff. (Plus it didn’t feel as dense and textured.) I don’t know if that’s my mindset right now and this was not the right time for this book, or if there has actually been a change in her writing.

The point is, I was six chapters in, and I knew a lot of facts about Betsy, but the contradictory mishmosh did not add up to a person yet. I’m DNFing for now, but maybe I’ll come back to this one day. Or maybe, next time I want a Georgian fix, I’ll reread the Desperate Duchesses again.

Sidenote: I reread Erin’s review, and I did not get the sense that Betsy declined the Duke because he was boring, but rather from a weird sense of competition that she would get and decline the most proposals to show the world that she was the awesomest.

Buy Now: Amazon

Ingrid Read: The Bun & the Gun by Vanessa Gray Bartal (2019)

Spies Like Us, Book #1

Why was this book on your TBR?

Someone recommended it online and their awkward, gushing review had me totally curious. 

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge?

I have serious obsession issues with characters who are grudgingly dragged into their happily ever afters, and this one looked particularly juicy.

What are your thoughts on the book?

HOLY cow. Holy mooing cow. I laughed so hard during this book, and then when I finished it I couldn’t fall asleep because my poor love struck, sighing self couldn’t cope with how adorable this couple was. 

Basically this very witty, smart, and completely bananas reference librarian (Maggie) is recruited by a sexy spy man to go work for a secret government agency and help catch the baddies. Ridge the spy man is the grumpiest boss ever and routinely makes everyone cry, but outside of work Ridge and Maggie are best friends. And what makes this book particularly adorable is that NEITHER OF THEM KNOW THEY’RE MEANT TO BE TOGETHER, but WE READERS DO. 

Maggie is determined to help Ridge connect with his other employees, and Ridge is determined to protect Maggie when a new op that depends on Maggie being in the field surfaces. Meanwhile, they’re cluelessly tripping over themselves with clever words and sexual tension. 

The only tiny thing I thought might dull the shine of this book for some people is that Maggie starts out 20 lbs overweight and loses the weight as she goes through training. But I really didn’t see a problem with it because she says very directly that she eats healthier now so she can run faster—the weight loss is a practical result of the necessary lifestyle changes required by her job and it’s not treated like Ridge didn’t see her until she was at a “hot weight”. Ridge is smitten with her from the jump. It’s treated as a simple fact and is a non issue from my read, but I could see some people feeling a prickly way about it.

Regardless, this book was brimming with witty banter and Maggie was fantastic. Five stars, take my money, next book in the series, please.

Buy Now: Amazon

Want to join us in tackling your TBR? April’s prompt is Location, Location, Location.

5 thoughts on “TBR Challenge: Grumpy”

  1. It’s warms the cockles of my heart when the heroine gets to be the grumpy one 🙂

    I read Say Yes to the Duke and had some of the same feelings about James’ writing not feeling as dense. I feel like books rushed more with the want of 3-4 published a year.

    very witty, smart, and completely bananas reference librarian (Maggie) is recruited by a sexy spy man to go work for a secret government agency and help catch the baddies
    I NEED this book!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Two wins out of three is good–and I’m intrigued by The Bun & The Gun, because librarian heroine plus sunshine/grumpy and competence = aztec catnip.

    Re: EJ…yeah. I used to buy everything she put out, and then one day, I just couldn’t finish whichever it was I was reading. Worse, I now draw blanks when trying to remember her books (other than vague memories of the one with the tower). I’m not sure whether her writing changed, but I know my reading preferences have changed, and it was time to say goodbye.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I picked up one of her really early ones (from her first series) fairly recently, and while it had some definite race problems in the portrayal of a major secondary character, I still enjoyed it. The characters were interesting and the writing was just really layered. But maybe I’m just looking back with my rose-colored glasses because I’m not quite ready to say goodbye (at least to her old stuff).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is hard–this is why I haven’t re-read some stuff I loved, back then; I’m afraid it won’t hold up to an unforgivable degree (because, like you said, some stuff one just grits one’s teeth over and reads one, but other stuff can’t be borne)

        Liked by 1 person

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