One True Loves

“In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.”

All of you here on my site know that I’ve been going through a Taylor Jenkins Reid-volution lately! After finally getting around to reading Daisy Jones and the Six and falling in love with that story and Reid’s writing style, I went on to devour her other highly-lauded book The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. Another smash hit. I loved these books so much that Reid has launched herself right onto the list of my favorite authors, and definitely the authors that I’m watching right now. In that vein, I was curious to see what else she’d written and so I went searching, which is when I found One True Loves.

From the synopsis, One True Loves had my attention. I don’t know about you, but I am a sucker for the whole “loved one back from the dead” trope. All the emotion, the reconciling with new realities, the nuance of human experience in that extreme, all of that appeals to a fascinated part of me. I knew I was going to like this book and, you know what? I did. I really did.

One True Loves is not a simple, sweet, linear love story. That is what I loved best about it. This is a messy story about the messiest parts of our lives: the times when we have to reevaluate everything we thought we knew about life. The main character, Emma, has her life turned upside-down twice in this book: once, when her first love and husband Jesse is lost at sea, and again, years later when he is found and brought back home. This may be a romance novel, but it is also about how we pick ourselves up and move forward after heartbreak. It’s about grief and time, and about how we love in so many different ways.

I cared for the characters in this book. I cared about them. I know that I was wholly swept into this book because it mattered so much to me what happened to them. Reid does such a nuanced and beautiful job of pulling apart all of the tangled, blended emotions that her characters feel in this story. I cheered for them and snarked at them and even rolled my eyes a few times, but mostly I just wanted them to be happy. That’s a powerful thing when an author can create that. Creating characters with depth and complexity seems to be a trend throughout all of Reid’s novels so far and I applaud her for it. It is so masterfully done and creates such an emotional impact.

One True Loves was a quick read but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how perfectly sized, paced, and planned it was too. The book felt like it moved effortlessly from thought to thought all the way until the end, which was– perfect, actually. I loved it. The ending left me happy and teary-eyed and so impressed with the love and nuance used throughout this book.

One True Loves was romantic and sad, beautiful and sweet, and somehow even funny sometimes. All in all, this was a book that I truly enjoyed. I hope you do too.

You can find One True Loves here @ Goodreads & Amazon

Hope you all are surviving the Monday! x — A

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The Unhoneymooners

Luck, fate and determination – whatever it is, I’ll take it. I pull Ethan down to me, feeling the slippery slide of his tank top under my hands and my laugh echoing into our kiss.

When her sister’s wedding ends in widespread food poisoning, Olive gets sent off on the non-refundable honeymoon that her sister so meticulously planned. Only there’s a catch— her new brother-in-law has sent the Best Man, Ethan, in his place too. And Olive and Ethan do not get along.

What starts off as a test of endurance to enjoy her vacation without punching Ethan in the face, soon becomes something else. Forced to pretend they’re married in order to fool Olive’s boss, who they find at the same resort along with Ethan’s ex-girlfriend, both of them start to see a different side of the other. Soon they start to realize that maybe they aren’t pretending anymore, and that fate may have had more of a hand in their “honeymoon” than they thought.

It’s official! The Unhoneymooners by author duo Christina Lauren has ushered in the Summer of 2019.

This was the first time I’ve had the privilege of reading a Christina Lauren novel and I enjoyed every second of this delightful romantic comedy. It is warm, sexy, and written with a wicked sense of humor that had me smirking and cackling over and over again. And it’s now a NYTimes Bestseller!

The main characters in this book made it for me, they were each so funny and relatable, frustrating and flawed, and incredibly sweet together. At least when they weren’t tossing hilarious banter back and forth. The dialogue between them feels easy and real and I often found myself laughing or sighing contentedly at some special moment between them. Olive and Ethan may have started off hating each other but it was easy for me to fall in love with them.

Even the side characters were people I cared about and laughed with throughout the novel. Olive’s family is huge and loving and the way they take care of her was one of my favorite parts of the novel, as well as her relationship with her sister. 

I think what I loved most about this book was that, as sweet and romantic as it is, it still isn’t an easy, straight shot for Olive and Ethan from enemies to lovers. When their vacation ends, there’s a pretty big, emotional twist that immediately pops the happy love bubble they’ve built around them, for them and the reader. It was jarring, but I appreciated it. It felt real even though it was dramatized and, even though Ethan’s behavior at times had me grinding my teeth, I was ultimately glad that they learned they can survive a tough blow. Something about this addition to their love story was emotional and powerful, and added another layer of depth that I enjoyed. I felt so much for everyone in these scenes, and I still feel it hours after finishing.

Ultimately, this was the Summer read I was waiting for. I read this on a rainy day and I loved how it was written so that you could practically feel the warmth of the Hawaii sun on your skin. I felt like I was on the beach with them, warm and without a care in the world. The world that the authors create in the Unhoneymooners feels real and tangible, like a breath of fresh, ocean air.

I blew through this Summer read and wholeheartedly plan to read more Christina Lauren soon, they have joined the ranks of authors I adore. This is the perfect book to read near the beach, dreaming of your own Olive or Ethan. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

“Ami watches her go. “She’s so brave.”

She doesn’t say it like its an epiphany; she just says it like its a face, something we’ve all always known about Olive, a core quality. And its true, of course, but these little truths, finally being spoken aloud, are tiny, perfect revelations, dropped like jewels in Olive’s palm.”


The Bride Test

“You can kiss me,” she said, her voice half whisper, half husky rasp. “Anytime you want, you can kiss me.”

Damn it, Helen Hoang. This was so good. Reading this stole a perfectly good day from me! I mean it was worth it, but I couldn’t put this book down.

The Bride Test, like its predecessor (not prequel) The Kiss Quotient, is probably one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year.

Hoang’s second novel follows Vietnam-native Esme Tran on a journey across the world to meet Khai Diep, who she may very well decide to marry, if all goes well.

Khai has no interest in marriage though, whatsoever. He is reserved, exacting, and convinced he can never actually love someone else. Khai feels that his autism means that his heart is cold and made of stone, and incapable of love or grief or a number of other emotions. However, his family knows otherwise. His mother, in fact, is all the way in Vietnam looking for a bride for him, convinced that her son can be happy too.

Esme Tran, a mixed-race Vietnam native, works cleaning rooms at a hotel and lives her life to support her family and her young daughter, Jade. On an auspicious day at work, she meets a woman with an intriguing proposal: Come to America, meet her son and potential husband, and see if love blooms. Wondering if this could be the opportunity that she, her daughter, and her family need, Esme can’t turn down the offer.

Meeting Khai, let alone getting inside that quiet exterior, is more work than she expected it to be, but there’s something about him that makes her want to know him more deeply. And there’s something about her that might just make Khai finally realize that he can love in his own way, and that he can love with all of his heart.

The Bride Test was an absolute delight to read. 

The story is charming, relatable, romantic, and the perfect amount of sexy. From beginning to end, the characters draw you toward them like a moth, and the pacing sets a smooth, easy rhythm that I couldn’t break out of.

A few of our favorites, from The Kiss Quotient, make an appearance (Stella and Michael are getting married!!), but mostly we are treated to an introduction to the other side of the family we were only given a glimpse into before. The characters that make up Khai and Esme’s families are every bit as special, wonderful, and real as I expected them to be, coming from Hoang. Each character, even side characters, sounded and felt like a whole being, and by the end of the book I was heartbroken to part with any of them.

I also love to see a story that encompasses so many voices that we don’t hear often enough, from the immigrant and neurodivergent communities in particular. Hoang’s personal experience gives her an innate and spectacular talent of letting her readers peek inside the mind of someone who’s different from themselves, and this book was no exception. Understanding Khai was Esme’s goal in this book, but it also becomes the reader’s reward; every piece of information we glean from him, every moment inside his thoughts and feelings, is precious and paints a new world for her readers. For Khai and Esme too, as they fumble and trip over themselves to know one another. 

I personally love how Hoang can take a character who lives in their own world and introduce them to a new one, while never compromising who they are. Her books make me want to be more honest and accepting of myself, look for the good in people and, yes, have some steamy moments too!

This sweet strangers-to-love tale will take you through a spectrum of emotions throughout its rollercoaster of a ride, and will leave you incredibly satisfied at the end. Hoang delivers exactly what she promises in The Bride Test, a beautiful and romantic story about love, the importance of family, and the value of each of our unique perspectives.

“Everyone deserves to love and to be loved back. Everyone.