Review, TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge: Starting Over

January’s theme prompt for Super Wendy’s #TBRChallenge 2023 was “Starting Over.” Here are the books we chose to tackle our TBRs this month.

Erin Read: Got Me Thinking by Casey Cox

Vet Shop Boys, Book #4

Why was this book on your TBR?

I read the first three books in the series but the rest weren’t available in audio yet.

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

Both of the MCs are starting over after long term relationships ending. Also it’s available in audio now.

What are your thoughts on the book?

This is very much in the middle of a series. The veterinarian, Chase, has been experiencing the end of his marriage until this point, and all the other protagonists and their partners show up immediately and with great regularity, and not just because they all work together. Could it be a standalone? Sure. But it’s definitely going to be a more robust read if you have Chase’s background and care about the secondary characters. 

This whole series is really soft. It centers on self-exploration and vulnerability, overcoming deep-rooted fears to embrace love. The protagonists in this book in particular have very few personal struggles to overcome—Chase is trying to figure out who he is after trying to be who everyone else wanted him to be his whole life, and Fischer is figuring out how to adjust to his life as a single parent of twins after moving back to his hometown when his ex walked out. They’re not wealthy, but they don’t have to worry about money, or their jobs, or their families, or past trauma… You get the idea. It’s just really soft. 

At first, Fischer and Chase simply befriend each other because neither has revealed he’s gay and both are doing the work of dealing with life. It’s a lot of charming, playing house relationship building. When their mutual attraction boils over, their relationship becomes a bit more rocky, since neither knows where he stands with the other, but their charming togetherness is never far away. 

This book (and the series) is a comfort read to me. I don’t get the high highs and low lows of a really gripping story that makes your stomach flip-flop, but I was charmed by the care Fischer and Chase took with each other as they tried to figure out what they wanted as individuals and together. I appreciated that Fischer considered how his choices would affect his family, even though the girls were still babies. Also, Chase felt a lot of guilt over his divorce, but his ex was happier not being married to a man who wasn’t attracted to her, so here’s another one for the amicable divorce column. It was just a nice, feel-good romance.

Buy Now: Amazon

Holly Read: An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole (2018)

The Loyal League, Book 3

Why was this book on your TBR? 

I read the first two books in the series a few years ago and thought they were fabulous (reviews of Book 1 and Book 2), but I hadn’t gotten around to this one. 

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

I had named this book as the one book I definitely wanted to read in both 2021 and 2022, so in the interest of starting over, I am actually working to meet my goals this year. 

What are your thoughts on the book?

It actually worked quite well as a story of starting over—both Daniel and Janeta are coming to terms with their new identities in light of what they experience and learn. I’m talking a serious reevaluation, based on the discovery that the freedom they enjoy is conditional because of the color of their skin. As you might imagine, there is significant trauma involved in this realization.

The basic premise of the story is that Daniel is working through his PTSD of being kidnapped and sold into slavery as an adult by being a spy for the Union and occasionally killing Confederate agents; he is assigned to work with Janeta, who is a new member of the spy ring. However, Janeta is actually a double agent, who plans on passing information on to her Confederate boyfriend in a bid to free her father from prison. They go on a road trip together into the Deep South to crash a dinner party between an English agent and Jefferson Davis.

There’s a lot of angst (Janeta) and brooding (Daniel) and pining (mutual), and the end result is a fabulous slow burn romance that hits on every level. I really enjoyed it, and can’t believe it took me so long to read. Holy shit is it a winner.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Want to join us in tackling your TBR? February’s theme is “Getaway.”

9 thoughts on “TBR Challenge: Starting Over”

  1. Whoa, where did that new cover for An Unconditional Freedom come from?! It was my favorite from the series, I thought the 2nd looked like a cookbook cover.
    *I went to Amazon and saw all three got a makeover, all pretty but wish Daniel hadn’t gotten replaced.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know right? I loved the cover with Daniel, though your comment about book 2 looking like a cookbook made me laugh (I went and looked at the old cover and…you’re not wrong).

      I agree that this one was the strongest of the series.


  2. This is my favourite of the series too. I think it’s amazing. I even put it on my Romance Fiction course as an example of how to do great histrom, along with Cecilia Grant. We read Lord of Scoundrels as ur-histrom, I can’t bear to go any earlier than that. *shudders*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can I just say that I would LOVE to take a romance fiction class with Miss Bates, even if it meant sitting in a room with a bunch of teenagers.

      And I don’t know…I think it’s kind of fun to read older histrom. It’s just so…bonkers. Skye O’Malley will always have a place in my heart.


      1. And may I say how much I’d love to have you!? My teenagers are pretty terrific: you’d like them. Firstly, it’s a single-gender school, so what we used to call “all-girls” and they’re enthusiastic readers of romance. We also have tea and cookies or cake to start class and begin with a ritualistic calligraphific image of “Fight the patriarchy, read romance” on our whiteboard!

        As for older histrom, #scarredbyLindsey … But we do read Lord of Scoundrels, so somewhat older? Our other ur-romance-text is Crusie’s Bet Me, though we start by watching the McFayden-Knightley Pride and Prejudice. Pretty great fun all around!

        Liked by 1 person

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