Not only are both of these romances, though I’d argue the romance in the first one was much weaker and it really should be women’s fiction, but these two are also the only two NetGalley books I have that are publishing this month. How that happened, I have no idea, but I guess I’m just better at not requesting every book in sight anymore? Or maybe I’m starting to be disillusioned by a lot of the books put out by the big publishers and have been opting to read more from the authors who directly request reviews from me. Anyways, these two were a lot of fun to read, even if I had a clear preference.
The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks by Shauna Robinson
Title: The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks | Author: Shauna Robinson | Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark | Publication date: November 1, 2022 | Genre: Women’s Fiction/Romance
Description and purchase link(s)
One Sentence Summary: Maggie doesn’t know what she’s doing with her life, so it’s easy to pick up and go across the country to help out her friend Rochelle run her family’s bookstore while Rochelle is on maternity leave, but the town has a strange fascination with a late author that has Maggie getting creative to keep the bookstore afloat and avoid the cultish Bell Society.
I wanted to love The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks because it features a bookstore. Unfortunately, while there were a lot of things I liked about this book, there were also a lot of things I really did not like. Overall, it was quite balanced between the two so I was able to enjoy it despite my frowning. Mostly.
The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks is set in a small town called Bell River near Washington, D.C. Years before, it was the home of a famous author, Edward Bell, to the extent where the Bell family still holds a great deal of influence, what with many of the business actually being, more or less, owned by their Bell Society. It felt very much like a charming small town, but it was nice that it was still close to large cities. The people were also a lot of fun to get to know, though the Bell Society people sometimes felt bizarrely obsessed with Bell (though I think it must be because of their boss, Ralph, who felt like he worshiped his grandfather). In some ways, it felt like Bell River was encapsulated in its own bubble, but it was still a lot of fun to hang out there.
This book is all about the bookstore. Owned by her best friend Rochelle, Maggie heads over to Bell River to run the store while Rochelle is out on maternity leave. But the bookstore is stuck in the past as the Bell Society refuses to let them sell modern books, sending anyone looking for current books to a nearby city. Of course, this has an impact on the store’s sales, especially when Maggie lets Ralph and his right hand man Malcolm think she can’t handle the tourists’ questions about Edward Bell and the table he wrote his novels at so it’s removed from the bookstore to the museum until Maggie can show her competence. And that’s where things start to take good and bad turns.
Maggie herself is quite a bubbly, friendly, awkward young woman with a lot of life and zest to her. She’s bouncy and fun with a lot of interesting ideas, and she’ll do anything to help her friend’s store stay open, including keeping secrets from said friend. I did love Maggie, mostly. She really was a lot of fun to read, but she started doing things she shouldn’t have and kept a whole lot of secrets from the people she should have been honest with, and then those people just turn around and forgive her. As bright and bubbly as she is, I didn’t like that she basically got a free pass out of trouble, and she did cause a lot of trouble.
Then there’s the romance, because of course Maggie has to have one. Falling for Malcolm probably wasn’t in her plans, and I sometimes wonder if it was supposed to be in the book’s plans to develop that way. It’s clear from the beginning who the love interest is supposed to be, and I did quite like Malcolm. But then he seemed to make an about face when faced with Maggie’s charms so the romance just zoomed off with none of the slower getting to know each other and starting to feel a connection. But I did love how Maggie isn’t a reader and Malcolm is a bookworm and their romance eventually started to feel a little more comfortable, though I still took issue with how suddenly it started.
My favorite part of this book was the diversity. The main characters are a mix of black and white, but there is also an Asian character. I loved how they all really came together to form friendships and a cohesive group all bound together by their love and enjoyment of books. The crotchety old man was also a lot of fun, but the crotchetiness felt more a front than anything deeper, so it was hard to take it seriously. I also loved that the author never let me forget Maggie is black. On the other hand, all the secrets, all the getting off easily, all the things that just fall perfectly in place just got annoying after a while so it felt like the conflict really had to be worked in. Even then it was easily solved.
The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks has a lot of good things in it, but it’s also mixed with a lot of not so great things. I loved the idea of Maggie’s events, I adored the diversity, I liked that it followed a young woman trying to find herself. But I didn’t like how black and white the whole town felt when it came to its namesake, I hated the secrets, I felt let down by Rochelle’s reactions to Maggie, I felt lukewarm for most of the romance, and I really didn’t like how everything just perfectly slotted together.
My rating: 3 cups of tea
Ship Wrecked by Olivia Dade
Title: Ship Wrecked (Spoiler Alert #3) | Author: Olivia Dade | Publisher: Avon | Publication date: November 15, 2022 | Genre: Romance
Description and purchase link(s)
One Sentence Summary: After a one night stand, Peter and Maria don’t expect to see each other again, but all that changes when they’re cast as shipwreck survivors on an isolated island in the show Gods of the Gates and are now stuck filming together for several years on an isolated island with a very small crew.
Ship Wrecked is the third book in the series, following Spoiler Alert, which I loved, and All the Feels, which I wasn’t so keen on. But I love the cast of Gods of the Gates, especially since each book includes snippets of their group chat and even some in the flesh mingling. It’s also really fun to get different perspectives on the same events since these books tend to revolve around the filming years and the time right after it wraps up. It’s great to get to know a new couple and then get a little more on previous couples. After a second book that kind of faltered for me, I really felt like this one turned the whole series around for me. I loved Peter and Maria, and the depth given to them and their relationship is probably my favorite of all three couples.
Ship Wrecked follows Peter and Maria, two plus size actors who play two characters who are shipwrecked on an isolated island, leaving them the sole protectors of one of the gates as they turn their relationship from hate to love. The actors themselves have a fun romance following a prickly few years of filming, but their relationship got off to a rocky start to begin with. While I felt Peter held a grudge for far too long, I loved watching him soften, but I also loved how ingrained his motivations are. Maria was just incredible throughout the book. Her personality was bright and friendly and it was amazing how she managed to make a small crew feel like a family and even more wonderful how she was able to bridge her and Peter together.
This was a really fun read. Despite the age difference between Peter and Maria, I barely felt it even though it reared its head a few times. This could really be divided into two halves: their filming years when they kept it professional yet friendly and post-filming where they really grew and struggled as a couple. I loved everything about their romance. They both have their pasts, their needs and wants. They’re clear about them, even when they conflict with each other, and watching them grow together into what the other needs was just beautiful. Mostly, I loved the maturity in their relationship. There was predictability in their relationship, but they handled it so well that they really felt like they belonged together.
Just like the previous two books, there’s the more lighthearted first half where the couple gets to know each other and fall in love. Then the second half hits and suddenly the story gets serious and they each have to deal with their demons from the past in order to move on together. The first half of Ship Wrecked is a lot of fun and I loved following them as they filmed on a small island and dealt with some horrible show runners. Watching their friendship emerge was lovely, though there’s always something more simmering between them. The second half was a bit different from what I expected as only Peter seems to have ghosts from his past. They’re incredibly impactful, though, and make a lot of sense, so the story flowed really well from there. I loved getting to know Maria and her own painful past, but she’s quite different from Peter, so she really brought a lot of brightness and love. She helped make their relationship that much more mature while adding in a lot of fun. I was so delighted with this couple that I didn’t want the book to end.
The one thing that I wasn’t a fan of were a couple of events that had been seen in previous books. One of my favorite things about this series has turned out to be getting to see the same events from different eyes. It both usually adds something to the current story and adds a little more depth to the previous characters. Sadly, in this book, the events from previous books that were mentioned in this one mostly felt glossed over and didn’t really add much to the previous couples. I was really hoping to see the other characters from the eyes of Peter and Maria, but, sadly, it wasn’t to be.
Ship Wrecked might be a little predictable as a romance and as the third book in the series, but it never failed to hold my interest. I loved getting to see the two previous couples and some of the other characters, and I’m already speculating on which character will get their book next (I really hope Mackenzie gets one, partially because her relationship with her cat is kind of bonkers). This series has an incredible cast full of big personalities and it was so much fun to get to know two more in this book. Theirs is by far my favorite romance so far, and the fact that they filmed on a small windswept island just added to my delight.
My rating: 5 cups of tea
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for review copies. All opinions expressed are my own.
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