Contemporary romance

Girl Friends

Girl Friends

Author: Holly Bourne Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/09/2022

Men see women in two separate categories. There are the women they sleep with, and the women they fall in love with. And they will treat you differently based on that. From the day they first meet as teenagers Fern and Jessica are best friends. Despite their differences, they are there for each other throughout everything, navigating the difficulties of growing up and fitting in. That is, until Jessica crosses a line that Fern can't forgive. But now, more than ten years later, Jessica has unexpectedly reappeared in Fern's life. A lot has changed for them both - but can their relationship be different now they are older? Is it possible for either of them to rewrite the role that they have been cast in? Or will their shared history ultimately be doomed to repeat itself? Set between the present day and the past, Girl Friends is a blisteringly funny and devastating novel: both a joyful celebration of female friendship and a razor-sharp look at the damage we can all cause to those we claim to love the most.

This Diary (World) Belongs to Molly and Jonny

This Diary (World) Belongs to Molly and Jonny

Author: Laura Clark Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/08/2022

Brimming with of-the-moment one-liners from two protagonists, Laura Clark’s This Diary (World) Belongs to Molly and Jonny presents pithy observations on the trials, tribulations and tingles of modern life in a slick package - perfect for fans of knowing confessionals in the tradition of Bridget Jones. Meet Dr Molly Beaujolais and Dr Jonathan Nylon, colleagues and office neighbours at a London university. On the surface, they’re very different creatures. While Molly, a lecturer in performing arts and applied theatre, has flung herself into internet dating and enjoys the resulting flings, Jonny, a lecturer in history, is rather more concerned with the subject of medieval diseases and has little luck when it comes to love and lust. That is, until Molly catches his eye, and expands his horizons. Not that she’s necessarily aware of her impact… Will they? Won’t they? As their respective diary entries play out against a backdrop of Brexit and the 2019 election, their story takes unexpected turns, much like the course of many relationships (and Brexit negotiations).

The Mutual Friend

The Mutual Friend

Author: Carter Bays Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/07/2022

Written by the co-creator of TV hit How I Met Your Mother, Carter Bay’s The Mutual Friend is an original, thought-provoking debut that captures the complex webs of modern living and loving with heart, humour and a whole lot of meaningful observations. Behind the huge cast of characters is a backdrop of two lived worlds – one physical, the other lived through phone screens, and this sets the stage for a multi-layered story that plays out against this duality of modern life – the Age of Distraction. It’s the summer of 2015 in New York, and 28-year-old Alice is determined to finally make something of her life. After enrolling to take the MCAT exam that’ll set her on a path to becoming a doctor, she resolves to accept no distractions. But the problem is, everything is a distraction, not least her unruly new roommate and the possibility of love. Meanwhile, Alice’s hugely wealthy brother is setting out on a spiritual journey, with the narrative perspective jumping back and forth many times over. Indeed, one of this novel’s defining characteristics - and triumphs - is how it skips points of view. While this is a little disorienting to begin with, it’s not long before this structure feels right. Characters pop on and off the page as they do in life, with deep, idiosyncratic human connections revealed alongside satirical commentary on what it means to live online, and through social media. Moreover, this structure also cleverly exposes and subverts its subject matter through jumpy distractions that demand attention.

Honey & Spice

Honey & Spice

Author: Bolu Babalola Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/07/2022

Kiki Banjo is an expert in relationship-evasion. In fact, she has made it her mission to protect the women of Whitewell University from the dangers of players and heartbreak, supplying advice, tips and essentials to paying men no mind on her student radio show, Brown Sugar. And then Kiki meets distressingly handsome newcomer Malakai Korede, who threatens to tear apart the community of women she's fought so hard to protect. Kiki publicly declares Malakai the 'Wasteman of Whitewell' on Brown Sugar and brings a stop to her girls chasing his attentions. But when she and Malakai suddenly find themselves shackled into a fake relationship to salvage their respective reputations and save their academic futures, she is in danger of falling for the very wasteman she warned her sisters about. With her heart compromised and defences weakened, Kiki has to learn to open herself up to the perils of love... and face up to a past that forced her to close down in the first place. A funny and sparkling debut, Honey & Spice is full of delicious tension and romantic intrigue that will make you weak at the knees.

Double Booked

Double Booked

Author: Lily Lindon Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/06/2022

Of the many books birthed in the pandemic, Lily Lindon’s Double Booked is perhaps one of the funniest. Dubbed a queer romcom, the book is also a coming-of-age story for those who’ve outgrown their teens and are well on the way to adulthood. It makes Double Booked a refreshing take on self-discovery, a subject normally the preserve of the very young. We follow Gina as she takes on another self, George, in an attempt to live two different lives. Alongside the funnies is plenty of fizz. There’s an infectious energy to Lindon’s writing and every pages brims with real-life chat/goss/angst/love. As an editor working in publishing and someone who honed her comedic chops at Cambridge’s famous Footlights, the author is somewhat ‘double booking’ herself – and it’s paid off wonderfully. The LoveReading LitFest invited Lily Lindon to the festival to talk about Double Booked. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member.

Debut Books of the Month
Should I Tell You?

Should I Tell You?

Author: Jill Mansell Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/06/2022

It’s never easy burying your true feelings for someone – particularly when that person happens to be your best friend. Raffaele, Amber and Lachlan have been unbreakable since their teens, forming a connection in a loving foster home in the Cornish village of Lanrock. Life’s twists and turns have brought the three back to Lanrock and Amber is fighting hard against the deeper feelings she’s always harboured for Lachlan. Meanwhile, Raffaele is home and heartbroken and foster dad, Teddy, is having the time of his life with glamourous new squeeze, Olga. It’s all going on! Jill Mansell has waved her heartwarming wand again; this is a novel packed with characters so delicately crafted (and adorable), you’re willing them all to find their own version of happiness before the final page is turned. Mansell’s writing is warm and flirtatious and her detailing of place is so on point it doesn’t take much to imagine yourself sitting outside McCarthy’s with a cold glass of white and a plate of flambéed oysters. But as with previous novels, it’s not all sunshine and picnics at the beach. At the heart of this romantic tale are characters who have suffered trauma and loss, hardship and heartache. Should I Tell You? reminds us that whatever our stage of life, love and friendship can help heal our wounds - and having the support of ‘family’ can shape who we are and the paths we choose to take. A gorgeous, life-affirming holiday read.

Vladimir

Vladimir

Author: Julia May Jonas Format: Hardback Release Date: 26/05/2022

Charged with sexual and moral tensions, Julia May Jonas’ Vladimir debut is tantalisingly provocative from start to finish. Its complex, fallible characters are nigh unforgettable as they storm, teeter and flounder on multiple brinks of human experience. Shot-through with dark humour, with a cunning, unexpected sense of hubris rearing forth in the feverish finale, Vladimir is a tragi-comic gem of our times, and incredibly compelling as it lays bare extra-marital affairs with dubious imbalances of power, fulfilling desire through devious means, and middle class, middle-age crises. “When I was a child, I loved old men, and I could tell that they also loved me”. “I’ve always felt the origin of anger in my vagina and am surprised it is not mentioned more in literature”. These are the kinds of declarations made by the novel’s narrator, a middle-aged English professor at a liberal college in the US. Though long accepting of her husband’s affairs (they’ve always had an open agreement about extra-marital sex), he’s now facing accusations of sexual misconduct from former students. Since they teach at the same college, his actions are making her life pretty difficult. At the same time, “trapped in the prison of vanity”, she develops an obsession with a younger novelist. Through the extraordinary escalation of the narrator's infatuation, we see the extremities of manipulation, desire, and the desire to be desired. She becomes, in her words, an “evil puppeteer”. But this is no straightforward story of affairs and lust. The novel careers to a crazy, unexpected, and quite brilliant denouement, with a sense of tenderness and gallows humour through the darker subject matter. At once edgy, playful and serious, Vladimir is a compulsive triumph.

Debut Books of the Month
Reasons To Go Outside

Reasons To Go Outside

Author: Esme King Format: Hardback Release Date: 26/05/2022

If you are in need of a comforting slice of feel-good then I can recommend this absolutely charming debut with my heart and soul. Pearl has crippling agoraphobia and hasn’t stepped outside her Dartmoor home in 43 years, Connor has been trapped within his father’s expectations since his mother died, while in London Nate is just as lonely as can be. The prologue creates intrigue by offering the suggestion of a traumatic event, one that will sit in the background throughout the book. While the unknown incident hovers, soothing humour, true empathy, and heartwarming affection surrounded me as I sank into the story. Author Esme King allows time to weave gently to and fro, gradually revealing information, encouraging understanding to grow. The featuring of two locations, Dartmoor and London, creates an initial distance and separation between the two threads of the story, yet the flowering of friendships sits as a central linking theme. One of the highlights for me in this novel is the successful and rewarding friendships that begin to develop between characters from different generations. The characters became known, loved, even cherished as I read, oh, and the crows, I adored the crows! After I reached the satisfying end I just had to include this lovely novel as a Liz Pick of the Month. So gentle and compassionate as it welcomes courage and love, Reasons to Go Outside is an engaging and wonderfully rewarding read.

Star Books
Sorrow and Bliss

Sorrow and Bliss

Author: Meg Mason Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/04/2022

It’s hard to believe it’s a debut as the challenging subject matter of depression is handled with such a deft touch. So dark, it’s pitch, pitch black. Yet so so sensitive. It’s a masterclass in ascerbic narration and perfectly pitches the dark and the light. When we first meet Martha, she talks about her husband Patrick with such disdain, such boredom and he comments that Martha can supply anyone with an inventory of his flaws. But then everyone thinks he’s perfection, so sweet, so kind, living his life in the middle setting with Martha swinging between the extremes. So where does it all go wrong? Narrated in the aftermath of their separation, Martha is forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, eccentric, bohemian parents this book is filled with laughs and tears. At the heart of the novel is long term mental illness, the crushing depression with which Martha has battled since childhood, a depression which comes in waves for weeks or months at a time. However, it’s never named in the book; what is more important is Martha’s quest to know herself, to work out who is she is and why she never seems able to find contentment. It’s hilarious. It’s brilliant. It’s a sharp observational and witty book of huge talent and I can’t wait to read more of what Meg Mason has to offer.

Books of the Month
What Eden Did Next

What Eden Did Next

Author: Sheila O'Flanagan Format: Hardback Release Date: 28/04/2022

When loved ones from the past reappear in our lives unexpectedly, they have a habit of shaking things up. And not always for the bad. For Eden Hall, the return of an old childhood friend - five years after the death of her beloved Andy – forces her to re-evaluate emotional connections to the past and the relationships that will shape her future. Her late husband’s family have been nothing short of perfect. But when Eden and daughter Lila show signs of moving on, ties with her controlling in-laws become strained. Will Eden have the resilience to put her own happiness first? And will she ever let go of her one true love? Sheila O’Flanagan is a masterful storyteller who delves into female relationships, and the female experience, with authenticity and energy. The friendship between Eden and an elderly patient is particularly special, and for a Desperate Housewives measure of sex, gossip and flirtation, the women of Sycamore Grove, O’Flanagan’s fictional Dublin neighbourhood, are the perfect tonic! Their short, sassy WhatsApp messages offer light relief to the heart-breaking love letters Eden pens to her dead husband. What Eden Did Next is a captivating exploration of how friendship and love can help us overcome adversity. How lives really can be rebuilt after trauma. And why we should always, always listen to our heart. A gorgeously uplifting, romantic read for the new season.

Books of the Month
The Kiss

The Kiss

Author: Santa Montefiore Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/04/2022

Sometimes your biggest mistake can also be a blessing . . . Madison has always known she had a different father to her siblings. But it wasn't until she turned eighteen that she learned his name. And now she wants to meet the man who shares her fair hair and blue eyes. Robert is a very lucky man. A big house, beautiful wife, three handsome sons. Eighteen years ago, he made a mistake. A brief fling that resulted in a daughter nobody else knows about. Robert must finally tell his family the truth. Will they ever be able to forgive him and accept Madison as one of their own?

Red, White and Royal Blue

Red, White and Royal Blue

Author: Casey McQuiston Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/04/2022

What happens when America's First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales? When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius-his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There's only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse. Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston's Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn't always diplomatic.