Review, TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge: Baggage

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

Erin Read: Rookie Move by Sarina Bowen

Brooklyn Bruisers, Book #1

Why was this book on your TBR? 

It’s a hockey romance.

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

It’s a second chance romance for former high school sweethearts unexpectedly pushed together in the workplace again. Sounds like baggage to me!

What are your thoughts on the book?

I have many thoughts, and most of them are displeased. 

This is an old book in Bowen’s backlist, but it’s not her debut, so I don’t understand why there’s not more editorial accountability in this book. Why are we getting dialogue from the yoga trainer running through the routine? It’s taking up space and doing nothing else for the story. There are some other editorial mistakes as well (continuity errors, POV errors, etc), and I was surprised by them. That said, it is possible to still enjoy a story, even when there are editorial errors.

Georgia is the type of character who hasn’t really come to terms with the trauma of her past or the decisions she made in the wake of that trauma, so she ends up dealing with the reappearance of her ex by telling herself just about any story she can imagine to keep kicking the can down the road. And then she gets mad at Leo when the actions she set in motion come back to cause trouble. It was infuriating to see her blame Leo for problems that she ultimately created, but it was also infuriating to see Leo mostly just take it. Why is Leo such a doormat? He’s supposed to be this loving, dedicated, cinnamon roll guy, but that kinda also doesn’t work when he impulsively kisses Georgia at a gala after a scene with his ex, so what’s his deal exactly? Tsk.

I was going to DNF this book, but then I went to the grocery store and didn’t have anything else downloaded, so I kept listening and got to the point where I had to rage finish…and I actually liked the ending. Georgia, Leo, and Georgia’s dad (the coach) are all M-E-S-S-Y, but the way they’re all finally forced to confront the trauma that messed them up years before was much more big-picture than I expected it to be. And that is how a book can go from hate to …like, I suppose. I have a couple other books in this series, but now I’m a bit leery. Maybe I’ll give it another shot and see what happens with different characters.

CW: Georgia was raped during her senior year of high school, and it’s not described on page, but the repercussions of it forms a large part of the story.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Holly Read: You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

Why was this book on your TBR? 

This book got a lot of buzz last year, and some people who I trust about romance novels liked it, so I figured—why not? Also the cover is gorgeous.

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

Well. This might not be obvious from just the blurb, but the heroine falls for her sorta-boyfriend’s dad. And is also carrying a lot of grief about her dead husband. And is also hanging out on a sexy tropical island. All of those things include baggage of one kind or another.

What are your thoughts on the book?

Do you like mess? Because these characters are very very messy. Also messy? The Goodreads reviews. Hoo boy is this book divisive. (The fact that the marketing does not make it clear that this is a DILF book did the book absolutely no favors.)

I thought it succeeded as a romance. I must admit that for the first third of the book, I wasn’t sure where we were going, but once Feyi and Alim started bouncing off each other, I could see it. Forbidden pining? Check. Explosive connection that’s so powerful that we’re totally fine blowing up other relationships to make it happen? Check. Heart-wrenching declaration of love right at the end? Check. Some might be squicked out by the power differential between our protagonists, but frankly, if you’re reading a DILF book, that’s part of the fun.

In terms of the non-romance components of the book: I really appreciated that Feyi isn’t subject to narrative punishment for daring to have casual sex (in chapter 1, with a stranger in a bathroom at a bar, who does not end up being the love interest). I thought her relationship with her BFF felt really real.

However, I didn’t much enjoy reading it. I found it overwritten and overwrought. Some might find the prose lush or sensual, but I was mostly like, “Well, that’s a weird metaphor, ok.” Honestly, I just don’t have the patience for “literary” writing these days. 

Also, Feyi was weirdly aware of her pierced nipples way more often than I would assume most women think about their breasts. 

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Ingrid Read: What She Wants by Lynsay Sands

Why was this book on your TBR? 

I bought a whole stack of books from the used book store and scored a couple Highlander books (I’m into those right now).

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

This one features Willa, a woman who saw her best friend murdered as a child and never had any friends, and whose mother died and thus she was raised by a servant in a ramshackle cabin (because someone wanted her dead and so was hidden from the world) and I don’t know about you but I felt strongly that someone of that background would be carrying some amount of baggage.

What are your thoughts on the book?

This book was pretty cute. Hugh (MMC) is kind of ridiculous and bumbling in the beginning and I had a hard time thinking I would ever be really into him as a hero (although I LOVED that he was bumbling, more of that please) but color me corrected. 

Willa and Hugh end up engaged when Willa’s secret guardian arranges that she must be married to his heir and nephew. Said heir/nephew is not interested. So he insults her and then immediately realizes that that would be both a strategic and perhaps emotional mistake, so he works hard to get her to agree to the arrangement again. Willa’s surrogate mother, a witch, tells her that she can’t accept his suit until he crawls on his hands and knees or he’ll die in less than a month, so that situation is pretty hilarious. Then he moves Willa into the castle, which leads to the person who wanted her dead to start up attempting again. It’s part thrilling and part funny, a combination that I found enjoyable.

I will say that both Willa and Hugh are at times truly lacking in sense, but they somehow manage to take turns…so they get by. And luckily they do end up catching the murderer, because I truly do not know how they managed to avoid death with how much they bumbled.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Want to join us in tackling your TBR? April’s theme is “Unusual Historical.”

8 thoughts on “TBR Challenge: Baggage”

  1. Erin: Once upon a time, I glommed several of Ms Bowen’s books (the Ivy Years series), and then she sort of fell off my radar, even though there are still unread books lurking in the TBR. Thank you for reminding me of her work (though I don’t think I’m going to check this one out).

    Holly: Ha! Your reaction to the language issues reminded me of a series that took my reading circles by storm, back in the mid-aughts; I was a devoted fan for sixteen books and a bunch of short stories, and now I wince so much about the use of language in it.

    Ingrid: I’m sorry, I can’t get over the cleavage on the cover. (push up bra in the…Middle Ages, I guess?). Anyway. Some authors can write awkward/bumbling main characters without making them too cutesy for words, but I’m wary. Also, shout out to fellow reader and all-around lovely person willa!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Holly: I read an arc, so I had no spoilers. I thought the angst/issue was going to be Feyi going with the f-buddy’s friend but oh no, Daddy came roaring into the picture and I put the tea kettle on! I swung wildly on how I felt about each character, Nasir and his anger but such an a-hole about it. This was more Feyi’s journey and less about being romance to me but yeah, this got GRs readers talking. I want Joy’s book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely agree that this was more Feyi’s journey—and man, was this book a wild ride. I too felt very torn about Nasir; on the one hand, his feelings were justafied, on one the other hand, he was an ass about it (I saw one analysis that this was the author justifying Feyi and Daddy hurt Nasir and not having to make amends). And I am definitely interested in Joy’s story, but don’t know that I would *actually* read another book by this author because of how I felt about the writing style.


      1. one analysis that this was the author justifying Feyi and Daddy hurt Nasir and not having to make amends

        This makes sense and probably did help and then Feyi threw the death of her husband in his face as a way to stonewall Nasir saying anything about her and his dad’s relationship; two separate issues trying to be dealt with and neither Feyi or Nasir came out looking good.
        I don’t read a lot of lit fic, which the writing style/tone felt to me at times so it had some freshness for me but it also took a backseat because I was agog at the Mess.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. The Mess certainly was something, wasn’t it?

        I used to read a lot of litfic but now I just can’t deal with prose that is Doing Something. Give me clean and clear writing any day of the week!


    1. I have enjoyed the True North books that I’ve read, but they’ve all been rather heavy, too, so that’s a mood I have to be ready for. I’ve been on a sports romance (especially hockey) binge, so I’m always on the lookout for the next series that I can stick with, but not every one is going to hit right. Oh well.


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