Recommended Read, Review

Review: Next of Kin by Hannah Bonam-Young (2022)

Heat Factor: It’s CLOSE to a slow burn but it didn’t feel too slow.

Character Chemistry: Their first meeting had a lot of sparks but not in a good way. Luckily they turned that around pretty fast.

Plot: Chloe’s life takes a massive turn when she takes custody of her newborn sister, who is in pretty rough shape. In order to gain custody, she has to team up with another young foster parent, Warren, who has fought to gain custody of his teen brother. Living together means they have to figure out how to make things work with the added pressure of parenting. Oof.

Overall: Totally smitten with this book in so many ways.

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Hearts and Crafts

Hearts and Crafts: Writing Tension


I’m going to go ahead and say that this is my absolute favorite thing to discuss about good writing. In fact, I’m going to assert that 76% of the time a book is described as “bad”, it’s because of tension issues.1

The actual word “tension” comes from the Latin word tensio(n- ), and from the French word tendere, meaning “stretch.” I normally shudder when I see someone starting a paper with a definition, but here is my exception, because it’s just so COOL. When we experience good tension, we feel it physically—our throats tighten, our stomachs clench, we feel the muscles and ligaments in our joints stiffen and “stretch” taut—all from words on a page. It’s a visceral response,  and here’s the best part—when we experience tension, we’re not responding to what an author is saying. We’re responding to what isn’t being said.

That’s right—tension comes from deliberate space. It’s the shadows, the negative space, the darkness. We’re scared of the night when we’re little because of what we can’t see. And tension in writing is the same. When we read, we physically tense up because we can sense that there is something being left unsaid.

Now, we’re talking about romance here, right? Not murder mysteries. But guess what, same principal applies to sexual tension. We physically respond to what COULD happen between the characters we’ve become emotionally invested in, and the author executes that the exact same way—by creating tension through what isn’t said. 

Here’s why I think analyzing tension is so cool: good writing adds tension in a lot of sneaky ways. 

First off, let’s discuss the obvious. Crafty information gaps in the plot. This one will smack you right in the face if it’s done poorly. The reader doesn’t want to be told exactly what’s going to happen and why in a straightforward and no nonsense way. We love nonsense. We LIVE for nonsense. The hero has a dark and sordid past? Leave me little clues and make me guess. The heroine is secretly in love with her brother’s best friend and it can never ever happen? You better let me see some serious pining, but don’t you dare just spill those beans. 

But here’s the thing–it’s harder than it looks. An author can’t withhold too much of the plot and just dump it all at once, or the reader will feel duped. It’s a mutual relationship the author and the reader have, and the reader wants to be involved in the unfolding. An author also can’t drop too many hints, or the reader will feel bored and unsatisfied. They can’t just throw in some sneaky plot twists and call it good. Essentially–tension is a lot harder to execute than it might look.

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Recommended Read

Review: As Seen on TV by Meredith Schorr

Heat Factor: It’s got its moments of heat but it’s not a rip-roaring fire of a book.

Character Chemistry: They’re very real characters–so their chemistry isn’t overpoweringly “meant to be” but it’s adorable the way they work through things together.

Plot: Adi is desperately chasing a story that could make or break her career–and on the way she stumbles into Finn, a dreamy project manager whose company helps lessen the blow when her whole project falls apart.

Overall: This is a very relaxing and sweet read, which makes sense considering Hallmark movies are an integral part of the plot.

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Review: Dreams of Fate by Skylar Shoar (2021)

Heat Factor: He’s a photographer and there’s a “draw me like one of your French girls” moment, so…pretty steamy. But not heavy in bedroom scenes, and more towards the end of the book.

Character Chemistry: It’s SO fraught. They’re clearly meant to be together but there’s a best friend in a coma and that really messes with things.

Plot: Blair awakes from a coma having met the man of her dreams…in her dreams. When she wakes up, she realizes that he’s a real person stuck in a coma as well, in the same hospital she was in. As she pieces everything together, her life becomes entwined with the life of her dream guy’s best friend, Regan, and she begins to realize that she’s going to have to choose. 

Overall: If you’re thinking “Oh, cute. A Sleepless in Seattle remix.” You’re WRONG and you should get your tissues.

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Review: The Vendetta Plan by Kryssa James (2022)

Heat Factor: It feels kinda like a slow burn but it’s not TOO slow.

Character Chemistry: At first it’s not very apparent but a hot spring makes things…hot.

Plot: Charlotte gets her hiney handed to her after a brutal break up with a terrible ex…but worse, she nearly lost her long-time best friend, Julien, in the process. They end up going on a road trip—but while HER goal is sweet, sweet revenge, Julien’s is sweet, sweet love. 

Overall: The writing was quite good (I’d read another book by this author in a pitter-pat of a heartbeat). If you’re a Marie Kondo reader, you’ll love this one.

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