Tag Archives: contemporary romance

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Book Review – Bittersweets Christmas: Arvin & Tina, by Suzanne Jenkins

I picked up a copy of Suzanne JenkinsBittersweets Christmas: Arvin & Tina December before last as an Amazon freebie.

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What does a Jewish neurologist and a Muslim ER physician have in common? LOVE!

Tina Halevy’s sense of identity had begun to morph long before she met ER physician Arvin Amir in Philadelphia. When she lived at home with mom and dad, every Saturday, she went to The Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. That sense of community was the first thing she looked for when she moved to Missouri for an neurology residency at Barnes Jewish Hospital, and she found it.

But in Philly, she had to start all over again and the isolation was just getting to her when she met Arvin. Once she decided to give him a chance, their romance became legendary among the colleagues at the hospital where they practiced.

The only stumbling block? Tina’s parents, especially her mother, were not going to tolerate a Muslim man for a son in law. Something larger, out of their control would have to happen first, and then they find out why their daughter loved him so much, and that they would love him that much, too.

my review

Oh my, I have so many things to say. I’ll start out with the title, which is “Bittersweets Christmas – Arvin & Tina: Steamy Romance.” I just don’t know if you can call something a “Steamy Romance” if all the sex is behind closed doors or fade-to-black. So, the book is not steamy. Though I do very much appreciate that Tina had no issue with standing up for herself and what she considered acceptable or not in the sex department (and Arvin was willing to take instruction without getting angry about it). Secondly, I don’t think the blurb is particularly accurate to the actual story in the book.

Next, I think I should mention why I chose to read this book. There are lots of reasons a person might pick a book up. I grabbed this as an Amazon freebie because the blurb said, “What does a Jewish neurologist and a Muslim ER physician have in common? LOVE! And how will they celebrate Christmas? Romantically!” and I thought, “Wow, that’s hugely dismissive and feels problematic in about a hundred ways.” I honestly chose to read this book to see if it is as offensive as it sounded to me.

Having now read it, I have to make a side note that if there are any dog whistles here in this interracial/inter-religious romance, I didn’t recognize them. So, I’m going to move forward as if Jenkins did as I sensed and tried to write a book about a White Jewish immigrant getting over her racist upbringing to love a Black Muslim immigrant, all set around Christmas. And she wasn’t trying to write a book steeped in any number of -isms. I can’t know for sure, one way or the other, obviously, but I’m going to move forward with the assumption that she wasn’t.

Also having now read it, I realize that as a White woman who has no claim to any of the religions on display here, I’m not the one to decide if said -isms are present in the book or not. What I will say is that I felt like the religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) weren’t given equal treatment in the narrative and the book is super, Super, SUPER cringey (in general and around the issue of race). OMG, so CRINGE! There just isn’t any delicacy. And I fear this is probably an example of why people who are not of a demographic—be it race or religion—shouldn’t write characters of that demographic without lots and lots of beta readers from that demographic. I suspect there are a lot of errors in representation here.

What’s more, the story-line is far too rushed, with a lot of characters thrown at the reader with almost no introduction. The writing is excessively plebeian, with names used too often in the dialogue to feel natural and too much of the narrative told instead of shown. The editing, however, feels pretty clean.

All in all, I imagine there will be an audience for this book. Like I said, I feel like Jenkins was trying to write a book that countered racism and religious bigotry. I just don’t know how successful she was…or if she was successful but I was too busy cringing to see it.

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Book Review: Frosting Her Christmas Cookies, by Alina Jacobs

Alina Jacob‘s Frosting Her Christmas Cookies was featured on Sadie’s Spotlight last November. I was given a copy of the book as part of the promotional material. However, I didn’t do any holiday reading last year. So, I didn’t get around to it until this year’s Christmas Reading Challenge.

Dear Santa, I do not want a Frost brother for Christmas.

In fact I do not want anything for Christmas—no annoying Christmas carols, no holiday family drama, and no last-minute presents.

And I certainly don’t want to be a bachelorette in The Great Christmas Bake-Off. Yes in the spirit of holiday commercialism, the bake-off is also a date-off and Jonathan Frost is the prize.

I should be hiding away with wine and snacks while waiting for Christmas to end. Instead I’m wearing a reindeer mascot costume and pretending I’m oh-so-excited to meet New York City’s most eligible billionaire bachelor!!! Just look at those blue eyes and six-foot-five tall frame!!! Don’t you want to take him home for the holidays?!?!!


Unlike the other bachelorettes, I refused to debase myself and stroke some billionaire’s ego.

Instead, I threw a candy-cane dildo at his stupidly handsome face.

Then I laughed when he yelled at me.

Of course Jonathan couldn’t take the hint. He came around offering to put a little frosting on my Christmas cookies.

I attempted to shank him with a spatula.

He got offended and said that as a judge on The Great Christmas Bake-Off, he was just trying to help.


Not that I’m looking for holiday romance.

Christmas is already a stressful time of the year without adding a billionaire in the mix.

Between dodging bake-off sabotaging cousins, applying for a long-shot prestigious museum internship, and trying to survive being broke in Manhattan, I’m up to my black lipstick in my own special nightmare before Christmas.

And it’s making me wound tighter than a nutcracker.

So when Jonathan offers to put some frosting on my cookies—and a few other ornament shaped parts—his washboard abs and sexy smirk start to seem like the perfect stress relief.

Especially when he offers himself all wrapped up in a bow.

So no, dear Santa, I do not want Jonathan Frost, but I won’t say no to his Christmas package!

my review

I am starkly divided on how I feel about this book. On one hand, I really enjoyed it. I read a good bit of it with a stupid smile on my face and laughed so often that my husband was finally like, “What?” The writing is sharp and witty, and the editing is clean.

On the other hand, I thought it got too ridiculous at the end and was far too long. I started skimming past all the cooking descriptions and eventually even the sex scenes, just to move everything along. Plus, there is quite a lot of repetition. Most chapters start with yet another reiteration of either Morticia or Jonathan’s quandary. I promise I hadn’t forgotten since the last chapter.

Plus, I just couldn’t quite overlook the irony of Jacobs writing a strong Fuck the Patriarchy, Feminism Rawr female character into a story in which she wins the coveted Mrs. position with her traditionally feminine skills and at the expense and narrative degradation of the other female contestants. So, the Morticia may be all Feminism Rawr, but the book sure isn’t (because of the representation of women, not the baking). I have to wonder if Jacobs was leaning into that irony or painfully unaware of it.

Mostly, however, I enjoyed it, even if I wish it had been a hundred pages shorter.

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Other Reviews:

Review: Frosting Her Christmas Cookies by Alina Jacobs

Frosting Her Christmas Cookies : A Holiday Romantic Comedy (Frost Brothers Book 3) by Alina Jacobs

Come back tomorrow. I’ll be reviewing Bittersweets Christmas, by Suzanne Jenkins and Christmasly Obedient, by Julia Kent.

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Book Review: Fighting For Us, by Bella Emy

Bella Emy’s Fighting For Us was featured on Sadie’s Spotlight last Christmas season. The promo material included a free copy of the book. But I didn’t get around to reading it until this year’s Christmas Reading Challenge.
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I had it all.
A wonderful family with a loving wife who was my world and a beautiful baby girl.
I didn’t need anything more to be rich in my eyes.
Then one day, everything changed and my world was ripped apart.
My wife, my everything, was taken from me, and I was left alone to raise our baby girl.
I was forced from late night sessions at the gym to changing diapers all by myself.
Thank God for the help I received from my parents and siblings or I would have been lost.
I accepted my fate of being alone with my baby girl and living life with just us two…
Until the day I met her, and she became everything worth fighting for.

Life was so perfect.
A loving fiancé, wonderful friends and family, and a job I adored.
Until one day, my world was turned upside down and the man I loved threw the promise of forever down the drain and walked out of my life.
The day he walked out of my door, I knew that everything I had ever grown up to believe in was a lie.
Love is unconditional but love sure as hell doesn’t last forever.
The vow to love me for the rest of our lives ended quickly as he pulled away from me, and buried himself in the arms of his ex.
I was left alone, cursing the male species and everyone who had found their happily ever after.
My sister and my best friend were the only ones there for me…
Until the day I met him, and he became everything worth fighting for.

my review

This was a sweet, easily readable contemporary romance. It was also SUPER predictable. I read a couple chapters and then went to take a shower. While showering I thought about how the book might progress and now know that I anticipated almost all of the major plot points correctly.

[Spoiler warning]
That someone would try and sexually assault her? Check. That he’d step in and save her with all his tough, UFC menace? Check. That they’d fall hard and fast? Check. That there would be some sort of needless friction that tore them temporarily apart? Check. That it would involve his wife? Check. I hit every single one of them. And I don’t say that to be like, “Oh, look how smart I am,” but rather as “Oh, look how predictable it all was.”

The thing is, a lot of people appreciate the predictability. It makes it a safe read. That’s especially appealing in a Christmas read, apparently. So I’m not necessarily saying it’s a bad thing. Just know what you’re signing up for…that and the fact that it’s first person, present tense.

Outside of the likeable characters and predictability, my only comment is that the attempted rapist is treated as a douche, but no one ever even alludes to the fact that he literally tried to rape Carissa. That left a bad taste in my mouth. But, all in all, it wasn’t a bad read.

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