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…


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

YA Fantasy

My Review: Incendiary (Hallow Crown #1): by Zoraida Córdova

Publish Date: April 28th, 2020

Number of Pages: 450 Pages

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Genre(s): YA Fantasy

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

They tell me my power is a curse, but they keep presenting me as a gift.”

– Zoraida Córdova, “Incendiary”

While it’s nothing quite really too original or innovative within the YA Fantasy genre, Incendiary was still quite a captivating read that was inspired by Spanish Inquisition era Spain. With its historical influence, this book was incredibly well written and is a great story for anyone to add to their shelves if they like an entertaining book filled with adventure, courtly intrigue, rebels with magical abilities and a cause, betrayal, ambition, love, and war.

For me, Incendiary has been tossed around as one of the most anticipated releases for the YA Fantasy genre of 2020, and I was just so lucky to be able to get my own exclusive signed copy from Owlcrate, a top tier YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy box subscription. It was the mystery book revealed for their May 2020 box theme: “Rebels with a Cause,” and you can see their exclusive cover design in the image below:

I for one am a big fan of this design, and may even like this version better than the two other designs. Owlcrate’s edition is playing off the Disney-Hyperion cover design at the top of the post, but one thing I don’t like for that one is how cartoony the girl looks floating above the title. I think she would’ve looked better if they kept her more realistic and similar to Cassandra Clare’s Lady Midnight cover model with a similar aesthetic.

I will be honest, reading through this book was easy for the beginning and end, but the middle really slowed down for me. The initial set up was so exciting and thrilling, and it was the same with the ending but with an elevation of it all because you’re familiar with the characters by then and are (hopefully) invested into the story, but man oh man was the middle kind of a drag… just not as much happens in terms of excitement, swordplay, epic battles, or even romance. It’s more about courtly intrigue and attempting to find out secrets, but none of it was incredibly memorable for me. None of the big reveals were all that shocking or mind-blowing, and I’d say even a huge occurence in the story becomes downplayed as a “shocking” reveal turns out to make it not actually true.

One could also argue that the story was filled with many stereotypical tropes of YA Fantasy, and I do agree with the fact that they’re there, but tropes aren’t necessarily a bad thing. We as readers know what aspects of a story we like, and we continue to find other stories that include those for our own comfort and personal enjoyment. The point of them still being loved by readers is that they are still familiar while bringing something new to the table, but this story doesn’t go far enough on the originality factor, at least with its plot. It’s a variation of so many other stories out there of a young girl who must defeat an evil lord/king in order to save the land, and has several handsome suitors with secrets of their own to help her along the way and make her feel desirable. Like I said, it’s familiar and I have liked stories like that in the past, but this particular title didn’t have anything that explicitly stood out, even if the author’s writing was incredibly well done. This may just be because I have already read so many similar titles before it’s publish date; someone who’s not as familiar are has read a whole lot of Fantasy will enjoy this title tremendously!

Overall, I was intrigued but never blown away by Incendiary, but I can say I am curious enough to want to read what happens next when the next book comes out in 2021. Hopefully the second part of this duology will escalate with more brow raising antics and overall maybe just have more fun with the characters and the plot twists. I felt like this one played it too safe, so my fingers are crossed for the author to go further out with it.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.

Maybe when I take everything from them, they’ll take a little piece of me.”

– Zoraida Córdova, “Incendiary”

What I Liked:

  1. The Beginning! The beginning was honestly perfectly done for anyone to instantly be pulled into the thick of the corrupt kingdom, and then following the small group of rebels as they fight and plot for their freedom. Violence and death happen within the first chapter, even the prologue, and meeting Renata, Dez, and the other rebels was thrilling and exciting with complex relationships and the danger they all face. For people that rely on the very first few pages in order to decide if a book is worth reading, the author did an amazing job of providing an obvious YES to that within the first chunk of this story.
  2. The Ending! Just like the beginning, the last chunk of this book was so incredibly fast paced, full of betrayal and broken alliances, so much more excitement, and plenty of well done characterization too. Prince Castian was surprisingly a big component of all that I loved about how this book ends, but I’m not going to give too much away on that!
  3. There’s Plenty of Secrets & Betrayal! Like any good fantasy story, you can’t trust anyone. Everyone has an agenda, some more obvious than others, and Renata struggles to see who she can rely on or who she should seriously watch her back against. It made the book so twisty and fun!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Lack of Prince Castian…For such a key character, the wicked prince has a major hiatus within this book because he’s off at some undisclosed location for the entire middle of the book. You see him in plenty of flashback scenes, but nothing in present time until the big climax of the sun festival. As he makes his reappearance back into the story, he really shows some unexpected depth to his character and proves there’s MUCH more than meets the eye, so it made me disappointed we didn’t see him as much.
  2. THERE’S NO MAP…I will always point this out when it’s missing from a Fantasy novel! Especially when the story refers back to the history of the land and the many cities, battles, territories, etc. like this one does. It says the stories based off the Spanish Inquisition era Spain makes me just fall back on a map of Spain to use as a map, although it’s not canon whether that’s true or not. Maybe there’s not a map in the Owlcrate edition I own, I don’t know… all I know is, I don’t have an official map, so I’m gonna say something about it!


Definitely a more well written YA Fantasy title to add to the collection, this one will surely be well received by many who read it! It honestly doesn’t offer anything too new or have many memorable characters, but it’s still enjoyable nonetheless; I know I will checking out the sequel when it comes out in a year from now, which will hopefully have some more fun and go a little more wild the next time around.

I recommend this to anyone who loves the female led fantasy series/books where with the help of friends and several love interests, they rise up against an oppressive ruler like Throne of Glass, Truthwitch, and Ash Princess. It’s brutal, there’s genocide and torture, but together they can rise and make their world a better place.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell