Mini-Reviews: This Could Be Us & That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a HumanThis Could Be Us by Kennedy Ryan
Series: Skyland #2
Published by Grand Central Publishing on March 5, 2024
Genres: Romance
Pages: 384
Format: ARC
Source: Received from publisher

“Heart-searing, sensual, and life affirming.” ―EMILY HENRY, #1 New York Times bestselling author
An instant New York Times and USA Today bestseller, featured on The Today Show and CBS Mornings

Soledad Barnes has her life all planned out. Because, of course, she does. She plans everything. She designs everything. She fixes everything. She’s a domestic goddess who's never met a party she couldn't host or a charge she couldn't lead. The one with all the answers and the perfect vinaigrette for that summer salad. But none of her varied talents can save her when catastrophe strikes, and the life she built with the man who was supposed to be her forever, goes poof in a cloud of betrayal and disillusion.
But there is no time to pout or sulk, or even grieve the life she lost. She's too busy keeping a roof over her daughters' heads and food on the table. And in the process of saving them all, Soledad rediscovers herself. From the ashes of a life burned to the ground, something bold and new can rise.
But then an unlikely man enters the picture—the forbidden one, the one she shouldn't want but can't seem to resist. She's lost it all before and refuses to repeat her mistakes. Can she trust him? Can she trust herself?
After all she's lost . . .and found . . .can she be brave enough to make room for what could be?

For fans of Tia Williams and Colleen Hoover comes a deeply moving and personal novel about sacrifice, self-reliance, and finding true happiness from “one of the finest romance writers of our age.” ―Entertainment Weekly

"A gorgeously grown-up romance and a story about self-love and reinvention...a great novel for readers who appreciate multilayered romantic fiction with elements of domestic drama, scandal, and inspiration." ―NPR

Warm and wise, Kennedy Ryan’s  This Could Be Us poses this question: what if you could be the love of your life?

Soledad Barnes is married to her college sweetheart with three beautiful daughters, happily living the “perfect” life as a stay-at-home mom, when her marriage abruptly falls apart. Betrayed and disillusioned, Soledad must rediscover her inner strength so that she can provide for her children and find her own happiness. Surely she’s too busy – and too freshly wounded – for a new love. Even if it is with the handsome, thoughtful, and trustworthy Judah Cross. Judah’s plate is full too, as a single dad of two sons with autism and a busy career as an accounting director. But he’s determined to be part of Soledad’s next chapter.

Romance readers, take note: while This Could Be Us does feature a beautiful romance, it’s really an individual journey of self-discovery ,self-worth, and self-love. I’d never read Kennedy Ryan’s work before, so I didn’t know to expect such an emotionally expansive read. The story explores grief, shame, betrayal, joy, rebirth, resilience, and much more. Soledad spends much of the novel “self-partnering,” trying to rebuild her relationship with herself. This was unexpected – but I loved it!

This worked really well for me, since my favourite romances usually feature solid relational connectedness with friends and family, too. Kennedy Ryan clearly excels here, highlighting Soledad’s amazing group of girlfriends, her sisters, her daughters – even her mother and grandmother. There are so many loving, supportive, and funny women in this novel! I would happily read a novella featuring Soledad and her friends Yasmen and Hendrix (whose book I’m now eagerly anticipating).

This Could Be Us is really Soledad’s story. Narratively, Judah does feel a little neglected by comparison. I didn’t mind it, but I did notice the absence of a more developed internal life when compared to Sol’s. Yes, Judah is wonderful – a great father, perceptive, attentive, respectful, and funny. But aside from a wonderful co-parenting dynamic with his ex-wife, Judah doesn’t seem to have many people in his life. This is an intentional part of his character and I understand the choice, but I would’ve liked to see him more connected to others.

Overall, This Could Be Us is wise, warm, and empowering. Highly recommended.

Mini-Reviews: This Could Be Us & That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a HumanThat Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Human by Kimberly Lemming
Series: Mead Mishaps #3
Published by Orbit on May 23, 2023
Genres: Fantasy Romance
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Received from publisher

When a spirited young woman with a penchant for adventure finds herself locked away in a dragon’s tower, she realizes that fate has a peculiar sense of humor when it comes to her romantic prospects, in this laugh-out-loud fantasy rom-com.
All children are told fairytales. Some are epic adventures with high stakes and exciting twists, while others are tales of pitiful princesses trapped in boring towers pining for their Prince Charmings to come and rescue them. Growing up, Cherry always hated those stories. Why didn’t the princesses just get up and rescue themselves? Little did she know that her own fate would take an ironically similar turn. Because now, here she is. Stuck. In a tower. Turns out, when a dragon holds you hostage, he doesn’t just let you get up and leave.
Who knew?
And just when Cherry thinks she sees hope on the horizon, that hope is smashed to bits by—you guessed it—another damn dragon.

Romancelandia has been abuzz about Kimberly Lemming’s Mead Mishaps series, thanks to the series’ cleverly – and intentionally – silly titles. If the title is off-putting to you, then you’re not the target audience. If it makes you smile, read on!

Dante is a dragon, one of the demons recently released from the realm of Volsog. Now able to return to the human realm after hundreds of years, he’s on a mission to find his mate. Cherry, a young Black woman from the Bayou who’s been imprisoned in a tower, just wants to get away from dragons and go back to regular human life. But she’s been locked away so long, she doesn’t realize that life is over – demons and humans are living as one now. When Dante rescues Cherry from her tower, he takes her on what’s essentially a Grand Tour of this fantastical new world. Readers get a speedrun of the world building, which is lighthearted and rather handwave-y. I was prepared to really like this, not in spite of its silliness, but because of it!

Unfortunately there’s a major case of insta-love here, which maybe isn’t surprising given the “fated mates” trope. But I don’t think the trope was executed all that well. Using “fated mates” to highlight the attraction between Cherry and Dante first and then developing their emotional attachment would’ve been much more satisfying. As it was, the romance felt rushed and the plot was too haphazard for me to really get invested in either Cherry or Dante’s character arcs. Actually, neither of them really have arcs – there isn’t much growth for them.

If there’s one thing that really shines in That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Human, it’s the humour. My god, Kimberly Lemming is hilarious. If you like silly, slightly absurd humour that leans into the anachronistic, then you’ll get a kick out of this. I laughed out loud so many times while reading that my husband eventually caved and asked me what was so damn funny! I like that Lemming actually pokes fun at the “monster romance” genre, even her own. There’s a talking sword named Alexis who insists on being treated like a human. In one scene, Cherry’s perusal through the bestiary/encyclopedia The Big Book of Beasts, reveals that each entry contains details on monster’s uh, “bits.” I got a good chuckle out of that.

I think I would’ve enjoyed this more had I read the first two books in the series. Many romance series don’t need to be read chronologically, but I failed to account for the fantasy part of this fantasy-romance. The recaps felt like info-dumps because I was missing context from previous books, and the world-building felt a little clunky. That’s not the fault of the book – just advice for those interested in the series. Definitely start at the beginning!

Recommended for fans of absurdist humour and monster romance, in that order. I will happily read more from Lemming, but maybe not this series.