Romance

My Review: The Spanish Love Deception (Spanish Love Deception #1): by Elena Armas

Publish Date: February 8th, 2022
Number of Pages: 448 Pages
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre(s): Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.25 Stars

‘I’ll give you the world,’ he said against my mouth. ‘The moon. The fucking stars. Anything you ask, it’s yours. I’m yours.’”

– Elena Armas, “The Spanish Love Deception”

What It’s About:

the official synopsis:

Catalina Martín desperately needs a date to her sister’s wedding. Especially since her little white lie about her American boyfriend has spiraled out of control. Now everyone she knows—including her ex and his fiancée—will be there and eager to meet him.

She only has four weeks to find someone willing to cross the Atlantic and aid in her deception. New York to Spain is no short flight and her raucous family won’t be easy to fool.

Enter Aaron Blackford—her tall, handsome, condescending colleague—who surprisingly offers to step in. She’d rather refuse; never has there been a more aggravating, blood-boiling, and insufferable man.

But Catalina is desperate, and as the wedding draws nearer, Aaron looks like her best option. And she begins to realize he might not be as terrible in the real world as he is at the office.

~~~

Around the time this book was released, it had gotten A LOT of hype surrounding it, and I’d had several fellow bookstagrammers gushing about how hot this guy named Aaron Blackford was….Predictable me was intrigued and had to look into this dude, and it turned out he was the main guy in this book! Since I was such a big fan of The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, which has a very similar premise when compared to this book, I had to give this book a try!

The story revolves around Catalina, who is desperate to hire an actor to play her boyfriend for her sisters wedding back over in Spain where her family still lives. She’s been lying and saying what a dreamboat her guy is when in actuality, he’s about as real as me ever having abs…not gonna happen. Aaron Blackford, who’s the hot office grump, offers to be said stand-in boyfriend, but with a rivalry between the two, Catalina is not THAT desperate as to use her mortal enemy! But as the wedding date draws closer, she gives in and they start to spend time in order to pass as an actual couple.

To be honest, this book started off incredibly slow…like I was really questioning why this book was getting so much hype as it was! It wasn’t like it was badly written, it was more about how it felt like there were too many scenes leading up to them actually leaving for Spain for the wedding. I felt like a few chapters of that content could be cut and it wouldn’t terribly detract from the story all that much. This book is 448 pages, but it could’ve easily been at least 100 pages less in order for us to get the message.

When they finally get the Spain and really start pretending, THAT was when the story picked up for me! The sexual tension was finally showing itself, and if it wasn’t obvious by then, it became SUPER obvious that Aaron had it bad for Catalina! She was definitely feeling it too, but she couldn’t decide if Aaron was faking it, or if it was worth going further and making things real because lets remember: their rivals…

Throughout the book, Aaron is this introverted, stoic, but smoking guy, but when he starts to talk dirty….oh man! My heart, my body, my soul is his! He’s HAWT! And I totally saw what other readers were saying about him!

If you like those office “enemies-to-lovers” kind of story’s, again just like The Hating Game, you’ll probably like this book too! It’s got some really cute moments, and I can definitely assure you that Aaron Blackford is a definite hot piece of male romance novel ass!

What I Liked:

  1. Aaron Blackford Is GOALS! I really can’t gush about him enough! When he starts revealing his true feelings to Cataline, my heart is fluttering alongside hers….and when he’s talking dirty to her, just YESSSS YES YEs! I’m also a huge sucker for when the grumpy stoic guy admits he’s had feelings for much longer than we originally knew about!
  2. The Smut Towards The End of The Book! Aaron Blackford can get down and dirty with his words AND his body, and he could have me anyway he wanted me if he ever decided to swing this way…if it wasn’t obvious by now, Aaron Blackford is the main highlight of this book for me!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Story Could’ve Been Shorter…Like I said earlier in this review, the book didn’t need to be over 400 pages in all honesty. The first half of this book really dragged, and I felt like quite a few scenes could’ve been cut and the story wouldn’t suffer at all for it.
  2. The “Enemies-to-Lovers” Trope Could’ve Been More Obvious…as far as office rivals go, I felt like the author didn’t go far enough with this aspect of Aaron and Catalina’s love story. There wasn’t as much aggravation between the two or hilarious banter as I was hoping for! Plus, Aaron offered to be her fake boyfriend which kind of killed their rivalry from my perspective…maybe if it was a more “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” kind of deal between the two, I’d have found it more believable
  3. The Reason For Their Rivalry Could’ve Been Stronger…When the reason they became rivals in the first place was revealed, part of me was let down because it just didn’t feel like it was a big enough deal, AND it just felt like a simple miscommunication, which I’m not a fan of when it comes to adding conflict…

Conclusion:

Overall, this wasn’t the greatest office rivalry, “enemies-to-lovers” style of story with some fake dating thrown in there too with the grumpy-and-sunshine type of characters…I do love these tropes in my romance stories, but it definitely could’ve been executed stronger than what it actually was.

Besides my critiques of the story, it was for sure still pretty enjoyable! Like I said earlier, the story really does pick up in the back half of the book, and ESPECIALLY when we get to see the spicier side of Aaron Blackford when he loosens that tie a little bit–or a lot!

Do I plan to read other books by this author?

Maybe! It’ll depend on what the story is about, and how long the book is…I may skip if its something thats over 400 pages, just to save me some time!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fancasts/Dreamcasts

My Fancast/Dreamcast: The Caraval Trilogy by Stephanie Garber

Image courtesy of @thereaderandthechef on Instagram

***Warning!! This Fancast/Dreamcast contains spoilers for the whole trilogy, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

Hello readers!

I got another Fancast/Dreamcast to share with you guys, and this one is for a pretty popular YA Fantasy/Romance series: The Caraval series by Stephanie Garber! I’ll admit it’s been a fun and absolutely enchanting set of books with beautiful imagery, twists and turns in abundance, it’s like a fairytale with a scavenger hunt in Venice, Italy under the lights and the stars….

Here’s the synopsis of book #1:

A legendary competition.
A mesmerizing romance.
An unbreakable bond
between two sisters.


Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away. 

~~~

To see my review of book #1 – Caraval – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – Legendary – Click HERE

My review of book #3 – Finale – is coming soon!

~~~

Here is my official Fancast/Dreamcast for the Caraval Trilogy!

~~~

Scarlett Dragna: Clara Alonso

Credit to Owner

This Spanish model came to mind when I was thinking of who would look the part of playing our protagonist of the first novel in this trilogy! She’s probably best known for working it down the runway of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show! Not sure about her acting personally, but hey, she certainly looks the part in my opinion!

Donatella Dragna: Ester Expósito

Credit to Owner

I’ve totally become obsessed with this actress, whose been in the Netflix Spanish drama, Elite. That show is full of unexpected twists and turns and extremely attractive people, so I know she’d be a great fit for this franchise. I think I read somewhere she speaks English along with Spanish, so that’s always a plus!

Governor Marcello Dragna: Jay Harrington

Image courtesy of the actor’s Twitter profile

Honestly, I don’t know much about this actor; his most recent work is being on the S.W.A.T. tv series, and someone else chose him as their fancast, so I googled him and nodded my head in agreement on this choosing. I only wish I remembered who’d picked him as their fancast, I’d totally credit them!

Julian Santos: Amadeo Leandro, or Ryan Guzman

Amadeo Leandro, Credit to owner
Ryan Guzman, Image courtesy of maxim.com

Julian was a little difficult to cast because I had a hard time finding someone who I considered attractive enough to play him! These two were my final two choices whom I’d be happy with either way: Amadeo is a brazilian model I’d discovered on Instagram years ago, and Ryan Guzman is probably the more easily recognizable to most of you. He’s been in movies like Step Up Revolution, The Boy Next Door, Everybody Wants Some!!, and he’s currently on ABC’s 9-1-1 as firefighter Eddie Diaz!

Dante: Alex Badia, or Mariano Di Vaio

Alex Badia, Image courtesy of the model’s Instagram profile
Mariano Di Vaio, Image courtesy of fashionnewsmagazine.com

Dante was another hard character to fancast because I once again had to find someone who I thought was attractive enough to play this mysterious and charming character! Both models came to mind of Dante, who has some darker features, and looks hella good in formal wear or out of it, I’d take him either way!

Count Nicolas D’Arcy/Armando: Dominic Sherwood

Image courtesy of glamaholic.com

He may seem like a really minor character, but he showed up enough times and caused enough drama for me to want to feature him, and as soon as the author revealed he had multi-colored eyes, Dominic immediately came to mind for obvious reasons! Some of you may recognize him as Cassandra Clare’s heartthrob, Jace Wayland, from the Shadowhunters tv series.

Valentina: Nathalie Kelley

Image courtesy of aconsciouscollection.com

Another minor character who doesn’t show up a whole lot, but I wanted to showcased her as well! Nathalie Kelley can be seen in both the CW Shows: Dynasty and The Vampire Diaries as the siren, Sybil. Actually, she was even in The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift if you want to go way back!

Jovan: Keke Palmer

Image courtesy of lulahyers.com

Jovan was another minor character who’d made enough appearances that I thought she was worthy of getting fancasted by yours truly! I’ve followed Keke’s career all the way from Akeelah and the Bee to Nickelodeon’s tv series True Jackson VP to MTV’s tv series Scream Queens and Scream to the hit movie, Hustlers, and so on! Girls got mad talent!

Aiko: Brenda Song

Image courtesy of celebmafia.com

Why wouldn’t I want my original Disney Channel Queen to be cast in this role?! Aiko was a minor character who made our two heroines make some pretty hard choices in order for them to both win the game of Caraval, and definitely deserved a spot on my Fancast/Dreamcast for these books!

Paloma Dragna: Amy Brenneman

Image courtesy of fandango.com

I’ve really only watched Amy on the Grey’s Anatomy spinoff, Private Practice, but she’s exactly how I imagined Scarlett and Tella’s mysterious mother looking like!

Jacks: Dan Stevens

Image courtesy of the actor’s IMDB profile

I’ve really only seen Dan Stevens in the live action Beauty and the Beast, but with even just that movie, I feel like Dan would make an excellent choice to play this enigmatic and charming character! He’s got a handsome smile, but something tells me he’d make a dashing villain that we all secretly hate to love!

~~~

The Fates:

Coming Soon…

~~~

More will be added once I read Finale, so refer back her when I post my review of book #3

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: Hook, Line, and Sinker (It Happened One Summer #2): by Tessa Bailey

Publish Date: March 1st, 2022
Number of Pages: 400 Pages
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre(s): Romance

**Warning!! This review contains spoilers from the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!**

To see my review of book #1 – It Happened One Summer – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

‘I could tell by the way you looked at her, she was something real special.’

‘How did I look at her?’ He was afraid to find out.

‘Ah, son. Like a summer day showing up after a hundred years of winter.’

– Tessa Bailey, “Hook, Line, and Sinker”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

King crab fisherman Fox Thornton has a reputation as a sexy, carefree flirt. Everyone knows he’s a guaranteed good time–in bed and out–and that’s exactly how he prefers it. Until he meets Hannah Bellinger. She’s immune to his charm and looks, but she seems to enjoy his… personality? And wants to be friends? Bizarre. But he likes her too much to risk a fling, so platonic pals it is.

Now, Hannah’s in town for work, crashing in Fox’s spare bedroom. She knows he’s a notorious ladies’ man, but they’re definitely just friends. In fact, she’s nursing a hopeless crush on a colleague and Fox is just the person to help with her lackluster love life. Armed with a few tips from Westport’s resident Casanova, Hannah sets out to catch her coworker’s eye… yet the more time she spends with Fox, the more she wants him instead. As the line between friendship and flirtation begins to blur, Hannah can’t deny she loves everything about Fox, but she refuses to be another notch on his bedpost.

Living with his best friend should have been easy. Except now she’s walking around in a towel, sleeping right across the hall, and Fox is fantasizing about waking up next to her for the rest of his life and… and… man overboard! He’s fallen for her, hook, line, and sinker. Helping her flirt with another guy is pure torture, but maybe if Fox can tackle his inner demons and show Hannah he’s all in, she’ll choose him instead?

In the follow-up to It Happened One Summer, Tessa Bailey delivers another deliciously fun rom-com about a former player who accidentally falls for his best friend while trying to help her land a different man…

~~~

Continuing off the events of the last book, Hook, Line, and Sinker is another addition to what I found to be an entertaining, hilarious, sexy, and just light-hearted romantic story that centered around the Bellinger sisters! This time the younger sister, Hannah, gets the spotlight on her despite how she feels being in the background and usually preferring it that way…

This story takes place a year later when Hannah is working for a production company in LA, and to impress the director she has her eye on, she suggests Westport–the town her and her sister rediscovered–so they return to continue filming.

Her and Fox have an interesting relationship where they’re sort of friends, but there may be some secret feelings both may be harboring for each other….You’ll have to read it yourself to see how it all plays out!

I read this book all within one day, I couldn’t put it down, and the sexual tension that was slowly building between the two main characters was for sure what was the main drive was all about. While this book wasn’t as spicy in terms of quantity with less sex scenes, the moments we do get are twice as intense and felt like a deeper and more meaningful reading experience if I’m being completely honest.

Its a contemporary romance, and once again Tessa Bailey really impressed me with her writing craft and I continue to say she has a fan in me! I can’t wait to get my hands on her books from here on out!

What really surprised me was how the emotional/inner growth actually came from the male character in this romance story! Fox actually has a lot of emotional baggage that is touched upon, I go into more details about what it is exactly later down in my lists, but as a male reader, I’ll say it was refreshing to see a male character get this kind of development in a book, men do face certain societal pressures and also have emotional depth but are told to “man up” and hide it beneath the surface. Men can be victims too, and as I’m typing this review in May 2022, the court battle currently going on between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is a great example to justify me saying this! But that’s all I’ll say about that on this book review…

~~~

You can’t live life worrying about what people will think. You’ll wake up one day, look at a calendar, and count the days you could have spent being happy. With her. And no one else, especially the ones wagging their tongues, are going to be there to console you

– Tessa Bailey, “Hook, Line, and Sinker”

What I Liked:

  1. The Sexual Tension! My, oh my, things were getting hot and heavy between Fox and Hannah as the story progresses and this is mainly why I read this whole book in less than a day! I really thought they had great chemistry, and even though this book was much more of a slow-burn, when things reach their climax in more ways than one, it feels so much more intense and rewarding!
  2. The Author Touches on Important Topics for Men! Surprisingly Fox is the one who gains more inner/emotional growth in this story; its a rarity to see this with a male character instead of the woman in a romance novel! Tessa Bailey expertly touches on important topics like toxic masculinity and male sexualization and imposter syndrome with Fox. In the book, he has a certain reputation amongst his friends and the townsfolk, to even Brendan–his best friend–doesn’t trust him to be alone with Hannah, his fiancé’s younger sister! It’s even lead him to believe he doesn’t deserve a position of power and authority as captain like Brendan wants him to be. I thought Tessa Bailey shed some light on these important lessons and shows that men do face issues with showing emotions and being vulnerable because society tells them to “man up.”
  3. The Dirty Talk Improved! I mentioned this in in the previous review of book #1, but the dirty talk had some cringe moments….BUT luckily I didn’t think this at all in this book!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. There Wasn’t As Much Drama with the Fake Dating…Part of the plot of this story was Hannah asked Fox to pretend to be dating her to make another guy jealous: the director who’s filming the movie they return to Westport for. I thought this was downplayed too much for my preference, and it really only made an appearance once or twice in the book, so part of me was like “what was the point of that then?”….
  2. It wasn’t as Spicy…Don’t get me wrong, there IS spice in this book like the previous one, but just not as much…like season 2 of Bridgerton on Netflix, this sequel was very much more of a slow-burn before the characters do the no-pants-dance.

Conclusion:

Overall, this was an excellent addition to It Happened One Summer, and gave some much needed attention to Hannah and Fox, who also both deserved their own spotlight in this story! There wasn’t as much of a Schitt’s Creek feel to this book as much, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love this book either!

There’s an epilogue scene that is so wholesome and warm and touching; it was the perfect way to end these books, and made me even more of a fan of the author. I really liked these books, I of course recommend them to anyone who enjoys those light, breezy, beachy reads with romance…

Thanks for reading!

— Nick Goodsell