My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a free ARC in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I’ll be doing content warnings per story rather than before as I typically do in books. Mostly because the only generalised content warning I can really give is that ALL of these have heterosexual romances. Some are just a kiss, some are actual sex. But that doesn’t change the fact that on the whole, this was a cute anthology and something I DESPERATELY needed after the last book (which was good just hard material to read for me). It’s fluffy, not a whole lot of serious business in it and a good anthology to come out before valentine’s day (for those of you, unlike me, who actually celebrate it).
Never Regret by Taylor Sullivan-Content warnings: mentions of prostitution
So, despite this story kind of having that dynamic of virgin/whore and being a virgin past the age of 18 being bad thing going on, this was a kind of cute story. It was highly unrealistic in that I doubt a sex worker (regardless of gender) would leave the money someone was going to pay them after just showing up and holding a person after ordering and eating/paying for dinner. I mean, it’s a sweet gesture but realistically…very unlikely. Definitely not how I’d expect an anthology to start but it was still pretty good.
Maybe Now by Kelly Lincoln- Content warnings: mentions of death, mentions of controlling parents
So, this story starts out with two 14 year old best friends. A boy and a girl. The girl’s dad is kind of controlling and if anyone shows interest in his daughter he finds ways to keep them apart and shelters her a lot. He winds up buying and reading all the Twilight saga books because of her. Because she begs him to buy the first book for her and they hide it in their special tree they hang out The boy finds himself falling for his friend but knowing her father manages to hide his feelings. They’re mostly friends with each other during the summer months because their parents have vacation type property near each other. One summer she breaks her arm falling out of their tree. And then later (I believe after her arm is healed) while they’re hanging out she gets a call saying that her dad has died. After that they don’t see each other until 10 year later. They run into each other during the winter. They kiss and then the story basically ends. It was cute. And probably should have started out with this story in the anthology in my opinion.
Fighting Faith by Brandy Ayers-Content warnings: alcohol, mentions of death
This one takes place in San Sebastian, Spain. Two best friends there for one of the girls’ weddings. The girl getting married has a cousin that they stay at the hotel he owns. And the other one use to have a relationship with that cousin. They go out drinking for the bridal shower. Cousin and friend hook back up and he tells her that his dad basically made him break up with her in the worst way possible so that he would take over ownership and management of the hotel. He tells her now that his dad is gone, he’s selling the hotel and was going to come to Philadelphia to find her and get her back.
Can’t Let Go by Louisa Blackwood-Content warnings: mentions of cancer, mentions of death, mentions of alcohol, mentions of drunk driving, mentions of car crash
This is about a woman who goes back to her hometown to get the least to her family’s house so that she can sell it. She gets memories of her teen years particularly when she gets pulled over by one of the local police officers that she use to date back in her teen years. They kiss in the hallway of her hotel after she checks in and then he leaves at her request. This was cute and one I would like to see go farther.
Missed Kisses by Katie DeHart- Content warnings: alcohol use, drunk driving, death mention
This story starts out with the main female character at 18 years old. We see her upset by what some of her best friends’ friends are saying had happened at a party. We then see her run off and argue with him and him leave. She decides not to make the first move towards repairing their friendship since she’s always the one to do so. The story flashes back to her being 14 and a memory of how terrible his dad was to him and how he showed favouritism towards the other siblings. Then the story jumps to them at ages 16 and 17. The story picks up in the present where she’s moved back into hometown because of a ‘disagreement’ between her prior boss/boyfriend and herself. She reaches out to one of the gossips of the town who suggests she do her own haircutting/styling out of her parents house. She takes it a step farther and files for a mobile hair cutting thing where she goes to people’s houses and cuts/styles their hair. The two former friends meet up because he has broken his leg in a ski accident and she was called to his house via recommendations from a friend of a friend. He tells her what really happened and that he went into the police academy and that he had a revelation in high school around their falling out and basically stopped drinking about then and things moved too fast for him to call her and make things up with her. They kiss and hook up. This was a cute and enjoyable short story.
Crazy Beautiful by Kathryn L. James- Content warnings: alcohol mention, mentions of sexual assault on a minor
The main female character of this is a model waiting for her contract to end. The male character is her older brother’s best friend. They are reunited at a party gala thing she mentions needing a weekend to get away. He tells her that if she can get away that weekend he has an empty room in Cabo because his original plans fell through and he never bothered cancelling. They admit their feelings for each other while on vacation and decide to be in a relationship. Overall, it was an enjoyable story. I did have a problem with the title. Mostly the term cr*zy. As someone who gets that thrown at them due to mental illness, I get really uncomfortable with the term.
Forbidden Kisses by Sha Renée-Content warnings: mentions of death, mentions of illness
So this was a Naval romance. I’m not big on American military type stories. But oh my gosh. This story. Like ALL the consent ever. He’d ask if he could kiss her or touch her in specific places and I died from how that was put in to every scene. And she even made it a point to tell him how attractive it was and how much she enjoyed it. Consent wise this was the best story in this anthology.
Wrong Time by Emma Marie Leigh- Content warnings: prostitution
So this was an interesting story and one I’d like to see continue on in a longer story. It was an interesting premise that I enjoyed. I especially like the whole two lost lovers over time finding each other in different time periods. It was a nice and interesting short story. And one of my more favourite ones too.
At Long Last by Leslie Kung-Content warnings: drunk driving, car crash, mother injured
This story was pretty great. And one that feels like a whole novel could have been written off of it. Like it was complete enough that it felt like a whole novel while reading (not length wise but more like completeness wise). This was also the only story that had non white characters. It was the male character who wasn’t white and it was awesome to see because it didn’t fall on stereotypes. He was Japanese-Italian. Anyway the two main character were friends in childhood and then she moved away. Later on in life they both wind up at the same college together. The night they get re-acquainted her mum gets hit by a drunk driver and both of them wind up taking the first flight they can out to her mum. They wind up getting together much later in life over valentine’s weekend. I could read an entire series based on these two.
Ever Be by Polly J. Brown- Content warnings: mentions of almost drowning
This was a cute short story about two friends who use to surf together until an accident almost took one of their lives. I wasn’t fulfilled much with the ending of this. It felt too abrupt
Left Swipe Chronicles by Jody Pardo– Content warnings: mentions of sex, mentions of tattoos, mentions & descriptions of unconventional piercings
Despite my hatred for Superman, all the Superman references in this made me laugh so much. This was cute, this was funny, and there wasn’t a bit of it I didn’t love.
Love in Photographs by Jaye Cox- Content warnings: mentions of car crash, mentions of amnesia
This one. UGH! I loved and hated it. Like it was great but at the same time it kind of angered me. And I can’t talk about why it did without serious spoilers. Also, WHY WERE THE TWO FRIENDS FIGHTING? It was never explained and that was the worst part for me. Tell me and show me that two best friends are currently fighting and not talking but never saying why bothers the heck out of me.
Precious by Cherry Shephard- Content warnings: body image issues, girl on girl hate
I can’t express my dislike of this story strong enough. Seriously. It’s your classic story of unpopular girl becomes prom queen. Popular girl invites unpopular girl to hang out and makes her basically turn out to be a horrible person to her best friend and makes popular jerk question if she’s really as different as he thought she was and we’ve seen this play out in oh so many teen movies. It’s a boring and tired trope. And this was the WORST story in this collection for me. The characters are basically flat and can be replaced by a [insert sexy inanimate object]. Where all the other stories the characters weren’t one dimensional this one was so much. I really DON’T like one dimensional characters. They add nothing to a story (even a short story) and nothing’s taken away if they weren’t there. And it may just be, having lived drama like this that colours my viewpoint on it and seeing it played out over and over in countless different kinds of media. Or maybe I’m just getting old and can’t stand it anymore. Whatever the case, this wasn’t a story for me. The only part I did like was the scene with her volunteering at the animal shelter and her nursing the kitten.
All in all, this was a pretty solid collection of stories that was pretty enjoyable. And I’d definitely recommend it.
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