Oct 262022

New York Times: For more high-intensity drama in contemporary romance, you can’t go wrong with a restaurant setting. Food, feelings, knives and fire! Which is to say: Kitchen-centered romances are great at exploring more than one kind of appetite, and Ruby Barrett’s THE ROMANCE RECIPE (Carina Press, 282 pp., paperback, $15.99) stands alongside favorites like Alexis Hall’s “Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake” and Solace Ames’s erotic romance gem “The Submission Gift.”

Sophie Brunet is fresh off a cooking competition show she didn’t win, and fresh out of an engagement to a man who reacted poorly when she told him she was bi. Desperate to escape the limelight, she accepts the head chef job at a Boston restaurant — but she’d be enjoying it a lot more if her boss were less of a control freak (and less distractingly hot).

Amy Chambers has always had to be the strong one. When her father left, when her mother died, when she decided her restaurant would pay cooks and servers a living wage no matter what. Hiring a famous TV chef and applying for a new reality series with a cash prize is a last-ditch effort to get her restaurant out of the red. Her crush on Sophie was easy to ignore when it happened across the distance of a television screen — but performance pressure and close quarters have a way of turning up the heat.

The feelings in this one are dialed up so high you almost can’t look at them directly: It would be like staring into the sun. Such a style can drift into self-indulgence if the author’s voice isn’t strong enough to carry it — fortunately, Barrett’s wry, lightly bitter tone is a perfect complement to that rich, heavy angst.

Sophie’s soft yet joyful exploration of her bisexuality lightens Amy’s tragic family dynamics, and the climactic payoff feels more than usually well earned. Like Rosie Danan or Kate Clayborn, Barrett has a way of making palpable the full journey of a relationship: It’s not just two hot bodies being hot in proximity to each other — though the sex scenes are definitely spicy! — but two distinct lives growing toward a shared future.

Aug 032022

Shelf Awareness: A Taiwanese American teen stumbles through the confusions of choosing a college, interpreting sexual interest from young men and asserting her desires in this refreshingly sex-positive coming-of-age YA novel.

Jul 262022

June Chu is the “just good enough” girl. Good enough to line the shelves with a slew of third-place trophies and steal secret kisses from her AP Bio partner, Rhys. But not good enough to meet literally any of her Taiwanese mother’s unrelenting expectations or to get Rhys to commit to anything beyond a well-timed joke.

While June’s mother insists she follow in her (perfect) sister’s footsteps and get a (full-ride) violin scholarship to Northwestern (to study pre-med), June doesn’t see the point in trying too hard if she’s destined to fall short anyway. Instead, she focuses her efforts on making her relationship with Rhys “official.” But after her methodically planned, tipsily executed scheme explodes on the level of a nuclear disaster, she flings herself into a new relationship with a guy who’s not allergic to the word girlfriend.

But as the line between sex and love blurs, and pressure to map out her entire future threatens to burst, June will have to decide on whose terms she’s going to live her life—even if it means fraying her relationship with her mother beyond repair.

A modern Judy Blume meets Jenny Han, Boys I Know is a raw and realistic look into the lives of teen girls. June Chu is an authentic if imperfect protagonist, and her journey of self discovery is as uncomfortable as it is cathartic.

Jul 122022

A fiery restaurant owner falls for her enigmatic head chef in this charming, emotional romance

Amy Chambers: restaurant owner, micromanager, control freak.

Amy will do anything to revive her ailing restaurant, including hiring a former reality-show finalist with good connections and a lot to prove. But her hopes that Sophie’s skills and celebrity status would bring her restaurant back from the brink of failure are beginning to wane…

Sophie Brunet: grump in the kitchen/sunshine in the streets, took thirty years to figure out she was queer.

Sophie just wants to cook. She doesn’t want to constantly post on social media for her dead-in-the-water reality TV career, she doesn’t want to deal with Amy’s take-charge personality and she doesn’t want to think about what her attraction to her boss might mean…

Then, an opportunity: a new foodie TV show might provide the exposure they need. An uneasy truce is fine for starters, but making their dreams come true means making some personal and painful sacrifices and soon, there’s more than just the restaurant at stake.

Carina Adores is home to romantic love stories where LGBTQ+ characters find their happily-ever-afters.

Jul 122022

Publishers Weekly: Gracia employs a whirlwind pace that complements June’s myriad triumphs and failures; a large, vibrant cast; and a true-to-life teen voice to explore societal gender roles, racism, and sexuality while artfully depicting one teenager’s search for herself amid cultural and familial pressures.

Jun 232022

Photo credit to Anna

The MTV Beach House series will have all the elements that make for a perfect summer beach read: friends, parties, romance, sex, and drama. In the first book, THE BREAK-UP VACATION, Grace plans a girls’ trip to Cancun with her two best friends. What her friends don’t know is that her ex-boyfriend is also there, and Grace will do whatever it takes to get him back. Perfect for fans of Casey McQuiston and The Sex Lives of College Girls, THE BREAK-UP VACATION also thoughtfully explores what it means to date while biracial. Author Anna Gracia makes her adult fiction debut with the novel.