Once Upon a Book Club – February

Once Upon a Book Club – February

Once upon a time, there was a group of women studying publishing in Edinburgh, Scotland. Neither of them was originally from the country, but they all had something in common: they had a fondness for romance novels. And so it happened, that when they crossed paths, it did not take long before a book club was formed.

This month’s book club pick: The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory.

For February we decided to go a little theme crazy. If you’ve looked closely at the cover of The Proposal you might have noticed the little illustrations of cocktails, cupcakes, and taco’s… Now, with this month being February. (Meaning: Valentines Day.) We went all out and decided a cover recreation was in order for book club day.

The pictures do the talking, but if there’s anything I would want to add: best Valentines day EVER. Not pictured: the DELICIOUS taco’s we made for dinner. (Or the slight scare when we realised we’d left my cat in the room WITH chocolate cupcakes…) (Fury is fine by the way! He, thankfully, didn’t realise the cupcakes were out in the open.)

Once Upon a Book Club – FebruaryThe Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
Published by Berkley Books on October 30th 2018
Genres: Love & Romance
Pages: 327
Buy on Bol.comBuy on Book Depository
Goodreads

When someone asks you to spend your life with him, it shouldn't come as a surprise--or happen in front of 45,000 people.

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn't the hard part--they've only been dating for five months, and he can't even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans...

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik's rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He's even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik's social media blows up--in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can't be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes...

Be advised that this post might contain spoilers! We discuss various aspects of the book(s) and although we try to avoid spoilers, some aspects cannot be discussed without mentioning parts of what happened in the book.

Justine on the plot

In true feel-good-romance-fashion, Jasmine Guillory delivers the ultimate ‘meet cute’ to launch us into Carlos and Nik’s story. After their swift escape post-jumbotron fiasco, the two remain in touch and quickly develop a connection. Albeit sometimes a tad cheesy, the plot offers a surprisingly accurate portrayal of modern contemporary romance. While Nik and Carlos’ interactions are believable, they are constantly convincing themselves that neither wants a serious relationship. Instead, the two remain in the ambiguous ‘no-label’, ‘grey-area’, ‘friends-with-benefits’, whatever you want to call it, zone. So, naturally they fall in love. The diverse character representation (Black, lesbian, Latino, plus size, Korean, etc.), witty dialogue, and overall themes surrounding love and dating were, in my opinion, very much on point. My only qualm in regards to the plot is that I felt there were several missed opportunities for tying up loose ends (mostly to do with secondary characters). Overall, The Proposal is a low-stress, light-hearted read, that pairs nicely with a pool-side holiday, or that mid-week glass of Pinot Grigio.

Lauren on the characters

The two main characters in The Proposal were both fantastic and very well written! First of all, Nikole is such a badass! She handled the entire situation with Fisher like a pro! I loved that she was so independent and did what she needed to do to protect herself. (Those self defence classes? Yes!) Second of all, Nikole had THE BEST friends. I would love to know more about Courtney and Dana (and Natalie too)! They were all such interesting characters. I would love to see their stories rounded out a more. Lastly, Carlos. (Need I say more?) He was so amazing. Reading about him with his family and friends was wonderful. Plus, I felt like him and Nik really balanced each other out. He was definitely swoon-worthy in my opinion. I mean, who doesn’t love a guy that cooks, is a paediatrician, sweet, and quick witted? Sign me up please!

Iris on the romance

The Proposal is a sweet and funny love story about two people determined not to fall in love (but, of course, ends up doing anyway). I thought the story was enjoyable and its portrayal of romance felt surprisingly accurate and realistic. I loved how it was a friends first and romance later type of relationship (and how supportive Carlos was of Nik!). However, I felt like Nik and Carlos’ chemistry lacked a little something. Sure, they were great together and I was rooting for them, but something kept me from fully connecting with them as a couple. It might have to do with the third person writing, or with the fact that the ending felt rushed, but I wasn’t fully invested. All and all, the romance in The Proposal was very enjoyable, just not the most memorable to me.

Caoimh on her favourite scene

I have been racking my brain to try and come up with my favourite scene in The Proposal. It has been a struggle because there are just SO many to choose from! So, I decided to cheat a little and choose two! *Drumroll please* For Nik and Carlos it has to be their attempt to make enchiladas and the infamous sour cream face mask. From its horrifying application to it cracking and ending up all over the floor, it was just hilarious. Nik and Carlos’ laughter was contagious and I could not stop giggling as the entire situation unfolded. My second favourite scene is one between Nik, Courtney, and Dana. Specifically when they sign up for the boxing class. From them underestimating their own strength (and the strength of their trainer) and ending up loving it and feeling powerful. It was the ultimate girl empowerment stance!

Once Upon a Bookclub – January

Once Upon a Bookclub – January

Once upon a time, there was a group of women studying publishing in Edinburgh, Scotland. Neither of them was originally from the country, but they all had something in common: they had a fondness for romance novels. And so it happened, that when they crossed paths, it did not take long before a book club was formed.

One of the perks of studying publishing is that you’re surrounded by avid readers all day, every day! An added bonus is that there are plenty of enthusiasts around when you’re thinking of creating a book club. And so this romance book club was formed. Because this month started off with a three-week break for us, we decided to read not one but three books.

What: One Day in December, The Royal Runaway, and The Hating Game

Who: Lauren, Caoimh, and me (the fourth and final member, Justine, is joining us next month!)

Be advised that this post might contain spoilers! We discuss various aspects of the book(s) and although we try to avoid spoilers, some aspects cannot be discussed without mentioning part of what happened in the book.

One Day in December

Once Upon a Bookclub – JanuaryOne Day in December by Josie Silver
Published by Broadway Books on October 16th 2018
Genres: Love & Romance
Pages: 416
two-stars

Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn't exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic... and then her bus drives away.

Certain they're fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn't find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they "reunite" at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It's Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.

What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

Caoimh on the plot

When I read the blurb for One Day in December I instantly thought this was going to be a version of my favourite movie “Love Rosie”. I loved the similarity of plots with the missed chances between the characters to be together that had me screaming at the screen with Alex and Rosie and Laurie and Jack at the beginning. Josie Silver really wove an intricate plot over the ten years the story is told which was detailed and kept you wanting to see where the characters were each year and how they would end up. However, the cheating element of the plot between Laurie and Jack didn’t make me want to invest in their relationship quite the same as I did with Alex and Rosie, which was my only negative with the plot.

Lauren on the characters

There were some good characters and some bad characters in One Day in December. My favourite character, by far, was Laurie’s friend Sarah. She was such a good friend to Lori, and a great girlfriend to Jack, even when things went wrong. I loved where her storyline went: the success she found both professionally and romantically. When she moved to Australia with her husband I cheered! Good for her, for finding happiness after the mess that was her relationship with Jack.

Laurie was fine, but I feel like she pitied herself a lot and should have been a better friend to Sarah. If she had just told her the truth about knowing Jack at the start, SO MANY problems could have been solved. I feel like Laurie made a lot of mistakes (which is realistic), however, a lot of them were unnecessary and avoidable. (First of all, you NEVER kiss your friend’s boyfriend! I don’t care what the circumstances are. It’s not okay).

Finally, Jack. I think Jack is what ruined the book for me. I didn’t understand Laurie’s attraction to him. Sure, physically, but his personality left a lot to be desired. He cheated on Sarah, he whined A LOT, and he was very mean to Laurie at various points. By the end, I didn’t see what Laurie saw in him. This is not what I want out of a love interest in a romance novel. A book about Sarah and her happiness? Now THAT, I would read and enjoy.

Iris on the romance

Unfortunately, I did not ship the romance in One Day in December, AT ALL. I started this book thinking I would end up loving it (blame all the raving reviews…), but I was sorely let down. The romance wasn’t cute or heartwarming. The meet-cute was fun, but everything that followed just felt so wrong that it frustrated me to no end. I think this mainly had to do with the fact that Laurie is in love with her best friend’s boyfriend. I just have a massive problem with the fact that the boy from the bus stop, which they tried to find together, a few years later is introduced as her best friend’s boyfriend and she NEVER TELLS HER BEST FRIEND. The cheating aspect of the book made the romance as unenjoyable as could for me and, as a result, the story just fell flat.

The Royal Runaway

Once Upon a Bookclub – JanuaryThe Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory
Published by Gallery Books on October 9th 2018
Genres: Love & Romance
Pages: 290
four-stars

Princess Theodora Isabella Victoria of Drieden of the Royal House Laurent is so over this princess thing.

After her fiancé jilted her on their wedding day, she’s finally back home after spending four months in exile—aka it’s back to press conferences, public appearances, and putting on a show for the Driedish nation as the perfect princess they expect her to be. But Thea’s sick of duty. After all, that’s what got her into this mess in the first place.

So when she sneaks out of the palace and meets a sexy Scot named Nick in a local bar, she relishes the chance to be a normal woman for a change. But just as she thinks she’s found her Prince Charming for the night, he reveals his intentions are less than honorable: he’s the brother of her former fiancé, a British spy, and he’s not above blackmail. As Thea reluctantly joins forces with Nick to find out what happened the day her fiancé disappeared, together they discover a secret that could destroy a centuries-old monarchy and change life as they know it.

Lauren on the plot

The Royal Runaway had the most outlandish, unbelievable plot, and I loved every moment of it. This book was a new take on the royal romance genre, and it kept me entertained from beginning to end. Even though the book was completely unrealistic, it was still so fun to read. It had enough plot twists to keep me guessing and keep me interested in the story. The story was well paced. The romance developed fairly naturally through the crazy situation the characters were in (without spoilers: it involves a missing fiancé, a possible murder, stolen money, and a stalker to tie it all together).

My only complaint is that the ending was too quick. Most issues were resolved and the romance was tied up nicely on the last page. However, I would have liked a longer epilogue to further see the couple work things out. It felt too abrupt, but that was the only part of the plot that wasn’t perfectly paced. If you’re like me and love completely wild, unrealistic plot lines (in the best way!!) I would definitely recommend this book

Iris on the characters

The Royal Runaway was quite unrealistic and frankly so are its characters, but that’s exactly what makes them so enjoyable! The two main characters, Thea and Nick, could have used a little more depth but were very likable and a lot of fun to read! Although there are some other characters introduced in the book, the story really revolves around Thea and Nick. Thea is clearly struggling, but loves her family and the history of her country somewhat fiercely. Nick is all gruffiness and very very Scottish. Their banter is so much fun to read and their sweet moments are just that: sweet. All that plus some scenes where their chemistry sparks and you have found the beating heart of this fun and wildly bizarre romance/mystery story!

Caoimh on the romance

I am a sucker for any type of romance that has the word royal proceeding it. So I eagerly snapped up The Royal Runaway. The main couple, Thea and Nick, and their budding romance as they tried to uncover the royal secrets ended in all sorts of scandal and tension. I really enjoyed their development as singular characters but also as a pair – they each retained their core qualities without sacrificing anything to be together. Their romance was the perfect mix of swooning and sexy all rolled into one, especially with Nick being a sexy Scot. There’s not a whole lot that can beat that!

The Hating Game

Once Upon a Bookclub – JanuaryThe Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Published by William Morrow on August 9th 2016
Genres: Love & Romance
Pages: 384
five-stars

Nemesis (n.)
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome;
2) A person’s undoing;
3) Joshua Templeman.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive-aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

Iris on the plot

The Hating Game captured my heart with its hate-to-love slow-burner romance. I literally cannot think of anything that I disliked, because the story is THAT perfect! The story doesn’t sag and the way the romance unfolds over the course of the story gave me ALL THE FEELS. The pace of the story and the way the plot unfolded was believable and constant. I literally could not put this book down. The Hating Game was just so well-written! Definitely my favourite book out of the three titles we read!

Caoimh on the characters

I loved every second and every page of The Hating Game. Most especially I loved the two main characters, Lucy and Josh. Their dynamic was hilarious as their hate for each other jumped off the page in the most hilarious of situations at their publishing company. I loved how Sally Thorne skirted the line between hate and love with Josh and Lucy and how she used that to slowly develop their relationship over the course of the book. I couldn’t put down the book I HAD to see how it ended between them and I was not disappointed. Of all three books, I think Josh and Lucy were my favourite couple to watch come together as they realised there really is a very thin line between love and hate.

Lauren on the romance

The romance in The Hating Game is AMAZING. It’s everything I want out of an enemies-to-lovers romance, and out of an office romance. Joshua was the perfectly imperfect romantic hero and the scene about the colour of his bedroom walls? My heart exploded. He unconsciously (and then consciously) loved her for so long, and was never outright mean to Lucy. Their banter and flirting were perfectly written, and the progress of their relationship was natural and believable. They felt like a real couple, and the obstacles they had to overcome to be together were perfectly resolved. Overall, this book had all of my favourite elements of the romance genre, and it got the publishing world right as well! I would read a dozen more books about Lucy and Josh, just to see more of their banter and undeniable chemistry.

Be sure to check in next month for the next book discussion. February’s book club pick is The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory!