Charming, funny, and heartwarming.

SECOND FIRST IMPRESSIONS

A kindhearted, by-the-book heroine is drawn to a playful, charismatic tattooist.

A preacher’s daughter who was disgraced by making out with her boyfriend on prom night—when said boyfriend went to her father for counseling the next day—25-year-old Ruthie Midona has found refuge as the live-in office manager of the Providence Retirement Villa and creator of a fan forum for a wholesome TV show called Heaven Sent. Just as she’s getting ready to date for the first time since that disastrous prom, other changes threaten her safe routine, including a corporate takeover of the retirement community and the arrival of the new owner's ne’er-do-well son, Teddy Prescott. Though Melanie, the Villa's office temp who's serving as Ruthie's amateur dating coach, judges Teddy as too risky for Ruthie, his disarming behavior undermines Ruthie's pragmatic judgment that he’s a rolling stone. When Teddy needs a place to live and his father lets him move into the Villa if he earns his keep, he becomes the temporary caretaker for two eccentric seniors, and Ruthie glimpses signs of a compassionate character and a skilled artist under his careless facade. Writing from Ruthie’s first-person perspective, Thorne manages to bring all the characters to vivid life, endearing them to the reader through the enumeration of their quirks and fleeting revelations about their pasts. Each scene between the protagonists—whose first meeting will make you laugh and wince simultaneously—is a delight, as is Ruthie’s motley found family. The turning point in Ruthie’s professional and personal arc is unsurprising, but the denouement is joyful in more ways than one.

Charming, funny, and heartwarming.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291285-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Fresh and upbeat, though not without flaws.

THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS

An earnest grad student and a faculty member with a bit of a jerkish reputation concoct a fake dating scheme in this nerdy, STEM-filled contemporary romance.

Olive Smith and professor Adam Carlsen first met in the bathroom of Adam's lab. Olive wore expired contact lenses, reducing her eyes to temporary tears, while Adam just needed to dispose of a solution. It's a memory that only one of them has held onto. Now, nearly three years later, Olive is fully committed to her research in pancreatic cancer at Stanford University's biology department. As a faculty member, Adam's reputation precedes him, since he's made many students cry or drop their programs entirely with his bluntness. When Olive needs her best friend, Anh, to think she's dating someone so Anh will feel more comfortable getting involved with Olive's barely-an-ex, Jeremy, she impulsively kisses Adam, who happens to be standing there when Anh walks by. But rumors start to spread, and the one-time kiss morphs into a fake relationship, especially as Adam sees there's a benefit for him. The university is withholding funds for Adam's research out of fear that he'll leave for a better position elsewhere. If he puts down more roots by getting involved with someone, his research funds could be released at the next budgeting meeting in about a month's time. After setting a few ground rules, Adam and Olive agree that come the end of September, they'll part ways, having gotten what they need from their arrangement. Hazelwood has a keen understanding of romance tropes and puts them to good use—in addition to fake dating, Olive and Adam are an opposites-attract pairing with their sunny and grumpy personalities—but there are a couple of weaknesses in this debut novel. Hazelwood manages to sidestep a lot of the complicated power dynamics of a student-faculty romance by putting Olive and Adam in different departments, but the impetus for their fake relationship has much higher stakes for Adam. Olive does reap the benefits of dating a faculty member, but in the end, she's still the one seemingly punished or taunted by her colleagues; readers may have been hoping for a more subversive twist. For a first novel, there's plenty of shine here, with clear signs that Hazelwood feels completely comfortable with happily-ever-afters.

Fresh and upbeat, though not without flaws.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-33682-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A wickedly funny rom-com about the power of second chances, family, and love.

THE EX HEX

A small-town witch is forced to make magic with the man who broke her heart when his return sets a series of supernatural disasters in motion.

Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones decided to get over the boy who'd dumped her in the only way she knew how: by putting a curse on him. Given that it had been a spell performed after copious amounts of vodka, she hadn't placed much stock in its success. But when Rhys Penhallow finally reappears for the annual fall festival in Graves Glen, Georgia, home to both witches and ordinary people, Vivi begins to sense that her breakup hex might have worked a little too well. In the beginning, it's easy for her to dismiss some wacky occurrences as pure coincidence, but after Rhys invites her to help him magically recharge the town's secret ley lines and the spell goes terribly wrong, they realize they have more problems on their hands than a mere curse. Now, Graves Glen is threatening to fall into total chaos, with problems ranging from possessed wind-up skulls to a talking cat to a very unhappy library ghost. It doesn't help that as far as Vivi's attraction to her ex is concerned, it's almost too easy for her to fall right back into the past and all her old feelings. Putting out small magical fires around town is one thing, but the more often Vivi and Rhys have to put their heads together to solve this mess, the more tempting it is to see if they can pick up where they left off nine years ago—if Vivi can ever forgive Rhys for breaking her heart. Although the story's resolution may feel a bit hurried, Sterling's novel is ultimately crisp and sweet, like biting into the perfect caramel apple, and makes for an equally delicious autumn treat that will sweep readers up into a world of whimsical magic.

A wickedly funny rom-com about the power of second chances, family, and love.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-302747-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avon/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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