Her Secret Life. Tiffany L. Warren. 2017. 320 pages. Kensington Books. [Source: ARC provided couresty of NetGalley.] It’s been awhile since I’ve been so conflicted about a protagonist. To say that I wanted to see Nikki lose isn’t entirely accurate, but I definitely wasn’t rooting for her happily ever after, either. Nikki is portrayed as a flawed, yet persistent woman. I can always understand her choices, even if I didn’t always respect them. Her Secret Life follows Onika “Nikki” Lewis through her young adult years, alternating between her high school graduation and early years of college to her post-graduate mid-twenties. In vivid flashbacks, Warren dredges up painful memories of a drug-addicted mother and grandmother who is too consumed with her daughter’s “sickness” to love and nurture the granddaughter who’s left behind. Nikki’s escape comes in the form of a full scholarship to the prestigious Robinson University in Atlanta, a beacon of excellence for the most promising black scholars. It here where Nikki opts to create a new identity. No longer known as the daughter of the town whore, she vows to become successful and sophisticated.
A February Bride. Betsy St. Amant. 2014. 80 pages. Zondervan. [Source: ARC provided courtesy of NetGalley.] A February Bride is a fast, fun read that tugs at the heart-strings. Allie is a runner, at least, she ran from her groom-t0-be on their wedding day. It wasn’t that she didn’t love Marcus, it’s that she didn’t want to ruin his life. After all, wearing the hand-me-down wedding dress that followed your mother and grandmother through countless failed marriages doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in commitment.
Madly. Ruthie Knox. 2017. 273 pages. Loveswept. [Source: ARC provided courtesy of NetGalley.] Ruthie Knox has, once again, created a story that snatched me in from the beginning. What’s not intriguing about a young woman jetting off to find and drag her mom back to Wisconsin from New York when she’s disappeared … yet again? The story then follows Allie’s nuanced relationships with her family and the new relationship with Winston, whom she runs into in a bar while spying on her mother. The budding relationship, while significant, actually doesn’t overpower the overarching story about Allie’s search for her mother. There is a great deal of connections between Winston and Allie, which serve to push the story forward in exciting ways. I never completely knew what was going to happen next, and found I was often skeptical when the characters seemed to be certain of what was going on around them.
Bossed. Sloane Howell. 2017. 203 pages. LoveSwept. [Source: ARC provided courtesy of NetGalley.] Bossed is a romance centered around strong-willed Jenny and her eventual and equally-stubborn boss Ethan. Their first meeting is predictably antagonistic, a quality that carries throughout the book. Ethan runs a tight ship at his sports management agency, and Jenny is a constant foil that he can’t resist. Their sexual attraction is, of course, instant and provides a driving force for the book. Although the plot is pretty interesting and certainly keeps one reading, the nuances of the story and characters left me skeptical and struck me as unrealistic. The power struggle between Ethan and Jenny is realistic; his reaction to her challenging his authority in the workplace is completely contradictory and frankly, unbelievable.
You Can’t Win them All, Rainbow Fish. Marcus Pfister. 2017. 32 pages. NorthSouth Books. [Source: ARC provided courtesy of NetGalley.] There’s a reason Rainbow Fish is so beloved, and this continuation of the story is a perfect example of why. In You Can’t Win Them All, Rainbow Fish learns an important lesson about sportsmanship and skill. While playing hide and seek with friends, Rainbow Fish is dismayed that he can’t immediately find his friends, and even more disappointed when he is quickly found in his own hiding space. However, with the help of his friends, he begins to understand what it means to sometimes win, sometimes lose, but always have a good attitude toward the game.