Like You Love Me by Adriana Locke (2021)
Veterinarian Holden McKenzie needs to prove to a potential employer that he's a stable, committed man; when he finds out his childhood friend Sophie needs some quick cash to save her B&B, he proposes a marriage of convenience to help solve both their problems. Neither expected the feelings the fake marriage brings up.
I loved this book so much. Within the first couple of pages, Holden had me laughing out loud. I liked his drive to obtain a dream job at a prestigious place in Florida, and I loved Sophie's commitment to her late grandmother's B&B and her roots in her Tennessee town. The banter between Holden and Sophie felt so natural, and even though their marriage started off lightheartedly, as time went on, you could tell the tone got a little more serious as their romantic feelings started to blossom and the stakes got higher. Their history together (summers spent together growing up) made their relationship feel so effortless and right, and I was rooting for them all along! The small-town atmosphere, where everyone knows everyone else (and their business), only added to the story. Overall, a sweet and at times unexpectedly sexy romance! 4.5 stars
Heart Smart by Emma Lee Jayne (2021)
Scientist and college professor Max Ramsey is up for a prestigious fellowship, but due to his gruff demeanor, communications lecturer Holly is brought in to help clean up his image and prepare him for a series of speeches. They butt heads right from the start, but could their tension evolve into something else?
This was a really great read. I loved the college campus setting, with the focus on professors instead of students. Max and Holly are each well-rounded characters, especially Holly. At first, Max seems intimidating and dismissive of Holly, and I liked how she never backed down. There's also a lot of representation here; Holly has ADHD, and it was interesting to see how it has affected her life, her coping mechanisms, and how it's different for her as a woman. Max not only has a physical disability (a limp as well as scars from a childhood accident), but he also reveals he has Asperger's. I thought that came across a lot more in the second half of the book, where we can really see his difficulties with social cues and expressing himself. He seems much more vulnerable than at the beginning of the story. I wish there has been more in the story about the speech series, getting ready for it, and how Max performed in his bid to win the fellowship, though. 4 stars
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