Monday, September 20, 2021

The Heron's Cry (Two Rivers #2) by Ann Cleeves

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Cleeves--New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows--returns with the extraordinary follow-up to The Long Call, in the Two Rivers series, soon to be a major TV series too.

North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder--Dr Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter's broken vases.

Dr Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He's a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

Then another body is found--killed in a similar way. Matthew soon finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home.

DI Matthew Venn returns in The Heron's Cry, in Ann Cleeves powerful next novel, proving once again that she is a master of her craft.

Source: NetGalley; ARC kindly provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

You know, when I read The Long Call last year, I thought it was good and I liked DI Venn. It surprised me how often I'd think back to the story and in particular, DI Venn. I was drawn to his calmness, his ability to be still in the midst of chaos as he quietly turned things over in his mind while also managing detectives under him whose personalities differed from him. It's a quality I so wish I could master. The Heron's Cry was obviously going to land on my TBR pile. 

I think the greatest thrill about any Ann Cleeves novel is that she's able to pack in so much story. She seamlessly moves from character to character, inviting the reader into their private thoughts and drops all sorts of insightful, curious notes. I like her way of storytelling because whether or not those details are pertinent to the main mystery at hand, they're excellent for understanding the various personalities that populate the village or community the story is set in. With regards to DI Venn, she strikes a perfect balance between his professional and personal sides which he himself tries to keep as separate as possible. While he's often deliberate in his intentions and carries himself in a disciplined manner, Cleeves shows us his tender qualities, which are drawn out whenever he's around his husband, Jonathan. They're not showy displays of affection but simply more honest, more vulnerable interactions where Venn feels safest and allows for a more emotional connection. The first book in the series examined his strict religious upbringing and his continued struggle to make peace with it. The Heron's Call continues that line and also brings Venn closer to possibly reconciling with his religious mother. If not that, at least understanding her better.

In The Heron's Call, the victim, Dr. Yeo is an admired member of the community. Not only is he personally known to one of the detectives on Venn's team, a few of the suspects are as well. And some of them are even high profile. The personal and professional sides clash a bit amongst the detectives which for sure make conducting the investigation trickier. Dr. Yeo was working for an organization that advocates for patient rights and his latest casework involved the deaths of patients who had been suffering from depression. (As this is a sensitive subject and the investigation uncovers some troubling details I will leave a few content/trigger warnings at the end of this review.) 

I would say my only disappointment with The Heron's Cry was that I figured out the whodunnit a few chapters before the big reveal. It's weird because most often when I read mysteries, I like to try to guess at it and I'm generally wrong which is a good thing for me because I'd rather that twist or surprise, but in this case I wanted that question to carry me through the end. It didn't take away from Cleeve's marvelous writing or the suspense of the story, however, so I still say this reading experience is a win. Cleeve's writes the kind of mystery that I crave - thrilling, compassionate, deeply emotional and thoughtful. Fans of small village British mysteries will take to this one as well!

~ Bel


Content Warning




 - depression; death of one of the previous patients by suicide; mention of online suicide chat forum; a separate group within that suicide forum that encourages taking action towards suicide

Monday, September 6, 2021

Battle Royal (Palace Insiders #1) by Lucy Patker

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Beloved author Lucy Parker pens a delicious new romantic comedy that is a battle of whisks and wits.


Four years ago, Sylvie Fairchild charmed the world as a contestant on the hit baking show, Operation Cake. Her ingenious, colorful creations captivated viewers and intrigued all but one of the judges, Dominic De Vere, the hottest pastry chef in London. When her glittery unicorn cake went spectacularly sideways, Dominic was quick to vote her off the show. Since then, Sylvie has managed to use her fame to help fulfill her dream of opening a bakery, Sugar Fair. The toast of Instagram, Sugar Fair has captured the attention of the Operation Cake producers…and a princess.


Dominic is His Majesty the King’s favorite baker, the go-to for sweet-toothed A-List celebrities, and a veritable British institution. He’s brilliant, talented, hard-working. And an icy, starchy grouch. Learning that the irksome Sylvie will be joining him on the Operation Cake judging panel is enough to make the famously dour baker even more grim. Her fantastical baking is only slightly more troublesome than the fact that he can’t stop thinking about her pink-streaked hair and irrepressible dimple.


When Dominic and Sylvie learn they will be fighting for the once in a lifetime opportunity to bake a cake for the upcoming wedding of Princess Rose, the flour begins to fly as they’re both determined to come out on top.

The bride adores Sylvie’s quirky style. The palace wants Dominic’s classic perfection.

In this royal battle, can there be room for two?

*Source: NetGalley; ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

You know anything that comes from Lucy Parker is going to be adorable. It's generally a safe bet. Battle Royal delivers on the sweetness and silliness but also gets real that it can be a bit disconcerting.

Sylvie has been doing well for herself since she was last on national tv and made a complete mess of things before she was booted off the show. Her bakery is a hit, her creations are phenomenal and now the show, Operation Cake wants her back as host. Sounds good but she'll have to judge alongside Dominic who was literally the recipient of her messy baking mishap on live tv. Their creative styles are drastically different, their approach to judging different, so what on earth could they have in common? How about the fact that their bakeries are down the same street from one another and that they're both asked to submit cake design proposals for an upcoming royal wedding. Soon these two enemies become cohorts of sorts on a mission to produce the best cake possible. Success for both of them would mean thriving businesses and a chance to gloat at the other.

As always, Parker writes some of the best zingers and ridiculous situations. Sylvie is one of the most disarming characters, full of love and ready to champion anyone. Dominic appears gruff on the outside but he's honestly a teddy bear on the inside. Sylvie brings that out. The two of them working together is unexpected but fun. 

The touching aspect of Battle Royal is the element of grief. It's pervasive throughout. All the main characters have suffered some sort of loss or abandonment, and their souls are deeply marked by it. It's this that has me thinking that Battle Royal isn't the typical rom-com that readers of Parker's are used to. It's still good and I enjoyed it but I think anyone dealing with grief should be aware that it is a general theme of this story. That and the notion of a found family. They've all had their hearts broken by family either through rejection or disappointment, but it's the ones that they've fostered and nurtured that's become what a family should ideally be. Not going to lie, this hit kind of hard because I understood it so well. 

I will read anything by Lucy Parker because her stories are always entertaining and touching. I think she pushes herself here to explore some complicatedAny fan of Great British Bake Off and romance in general will love this. Battle Royal appears to be a good start to a new series!

~ Bel

Friday, September 3, 2021

Uncharted (Survival Instincts #2) by Adriana Anders

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Hotshot pilot Leo Eddowes is afraid of nothing and no one. So when she's asked to evacuate a man from the wilds of Alaska, she doesn't hesitate. But with enemies in close pursuit and the weather turning sour, what should have been a simple mission quickly shifts to disaster.

And there's only one way out.

When Elias Thorne disappeared, he was America's most wanted. Now he's spent more than a decade in one of the most remote places on earth, guarding a dangerous secret. Leo's arrival, quickly followed by a team of expert hunters, leaves him no choice but to join forces with her—and run. Neither is prepared for their reluctant partnership to flare into something as wild and untamed as the frozen world around them...but as desperately cold days melt into scorchingly hot nights, Leo and Elias must learn to dig deep, trust in each other, and forge a bond as strong as the forces of nature.

Stranded together in a frozen wilderness,

There's nowhere left to run...

*Source: ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

When you pick up Uncharted you need to sit down, buckle up and settle in because once the action starts it keeps going. There's barely enough time to take in an entire breath when the next thing happens and so on.

Uncharted continues the fight or flight tension of the first book. Once again people are after the deadly virus that was first discovered in Antarctica and there are many actors in this game. So many one's not sure who's on which side. Leo doesn't begin this adventure in the best way. The little Alaskan town she and her team have been hiding out in while searching for an elusive scientist is suddenly taken hostage by an armed group working for a nefarious organization. Not good when she's trying to get over a stomach bug. She manages to get out aided by a local who insists that she help her find her nephew and save him from the danger that's coming. Leo, who's a skilled pilot is still shot down and Elias, the guy she was sent by the local to look for, comes to her rescue. It's touch and go for a bit because she's badly injured, in and out of consciousness and that only slows down their escape. In her lucid moments she tries to figure out if Elias can be trusted and/or of he's the guy she and her team have been looking for. When the hunters get close, the chase is pretty much nonstop from there. And it only gets more harrowing in the rough Alaskan wilderness. 

This was a blast to read! I needed a change of pace and this was definitely it. It's suspenseful and thrilling, and when Leo and Elias decide they can trust each other, it only becomes more intense. A lot of their attraction and chemistry comes from the situation they find themselves in, but they also make sense. They compliment each other beautifully in terms of attitude and grit. Elias has been hiding out in the wilderness for so long that he needs for someone to be able to handle that, too. Leo has just as much grit as he does. The big surprise for me was how much I ended up liking a certain hunter - Ash. His role in everything is not exactly clear but boy, oh boy, does he have the stealthy bad boy vibe down. Combined with an English accent and he is freaking sexy to me. I must know more about this mysterious operative. 

Uncharted is ceaseless high-octane fun with tender and steamy interludes thrown in. There's also a a dog (Bo), and who doesn't love a human's best friend that's in on the adventure and looking out for them? I had an awesome time reading this and I'm excited for more to come!

~ Bel

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Southern Playboy (North Carolina Highlands #4) by Jessica Peterson

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Hiring the woman who wrecked me to nanny the kid I just found out I have is a dumb idea. Getting naked with her in the back of my truck is even dumber.

But old habits die hard.

Amelia Fox was my high school sweetheart, the girl who broke my heart and nearly ended my football career nine years ago. It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other, much less make a comeback.

But I did come back. And I’m not about to let go of everything I fought for just because my world is imploding again.

When I find out I’m the father of a two-year-old boy, I’m ready to start my final season in the pros. It’s my last chance to nab the championship I promised my dad I’d win before he died.

Enter Amelia: teacher, toddler whisperer, and—oh yeah—my ex-girlfriend. We haven’t spoken in almost a decade, but I’m desperate, and she’s looking for a job.

I need to focus, which means I need help with this kid. Which means I need her.

The arrangement works until one night of bad decisions and great sex threatens to ruin everything.

Can we make it work this time around?

Or is she just another bad habit I need to break before she breaks me?

Source: ARC provided in exchange for an honest review

The North Carolina Highlands series has become like comfort food because you keep returning to a familiar place with familiar faces. Getting to know each Beauregard sibling has been a blast and I have to say, Rhett Beauregard might just be my favorite right now.

Rhett's still playing football professionally and has only recently started feeling ambivalence towards the sport to which he's devoted his entire life. At his brother's engagement party he sees his first love, Amelia. The reunion goes sort of well i.e. things gets awkward. Though the blast from the past is a little much for his drunken mind to take in, the memories that come back are welcomed. But Rhett's life takes an unexpected turn when he learns that he is the father of a two year-old and that he now has sole custody of the child. Unsure of what to do and how, he reaches out to Amelia for help. As a preschool teacher, she's well equipped to handle a toddler and teach him how to be a father. Since Amelia's job situation kind of blew up in her face, she agrees to become a nanny for his child on the condition that they adhere to strictly professional interactions and nothing more. But we already know that's going to be hard. Mutual attraction aside, Rhett's family has always been kind and welcoming to Amelia. Where her family unit contains only her and her hippie grandmother (she is a character, by the way!), Rhett's family is the large, loud, loving brood has a lot of love to go around. So there's no way they can avoid any overlapping.

This felt like a very mature story with Rhett's impressive response to being a father and taking on the responsibility immediately. This guy was meant to be family man. His existential crisis comes from his conflicting desires to end his football career successfully or extend it for the promise of more lucrative opportunities that would mean financial security for his son. He's been guided by his need to fulfill a promise to his father but now with his son, Liam in the picture, he's begun to adjust his mindset.

I do feel the need to bring up a couple of trigger warnings. One, there is brief mention of Amelia's mother passing away from cancer. Two, there is second brief mention of cancer during a quick conversation between Rhett and his trainer about Rhett's health. It comes about because he's been tired during training lately (duh, he's a dad now and up all night with a kid!) and the trainer gets in to hysterics and assumes it's cancer. When I came across it, I don't know ... it just came off as flippant and unnecessary. Yes, I'm sensitive to it at the moment but that was my honest, immediate reaction to it.

Other than that, Southern Playboy is a sweet, sexy, endearing read about establishing connection, and in Rhett and Amelia's case, re-establishing it. It's also about connecting back to what makes them individually happy in the first place. The story's hard to put down and Rhett just makes my day!

~ Bel

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Island Queen by Vanessa Riley

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A remarkable, sweeping historical novel based on the incredible true life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, a free woman of color who rose from slavery to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful landowners in the colonial West Indies. 

Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom—and that of her sister and her mother—from her Irish planter father and built a legacy of wealth and power as an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and planter that extended from the marketplaces and sugar plantations of Dominica and Barbados to a glittering luxury hotel in Demerara on the South American continent.

Vanessa Riley’s novel brings Doll to vivid life as she rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and leveraging the competing attentions of the men in her life: a restless shipping merchant, Joseph Thomas; a wealthy planter hiding a secret, John Coseveldt Cells; and a roguish naval captain who will later become King William IV of England.

From the bustling port cities of the West Indies to the forbidding drawing rooms of London’s elite, Island Queen is a sweeping epic of an adventurer and a survivor who answered to no one but herself as she rose to power and autonomy against all odds, defying rigid eighteenth-century morality and the oppression of women as well as people of color. It is an unforgettable portrait of a true larger-than-life woman who made her mark on history.

Source: NetGalley; ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

Island Queen has been one of the most anticipated historical fictions to release this year. Not only is it based on a woman of color, it's a woman of color who went on to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs of her time. Dorothy "Dolly" Kirwan was born into slavery but scraped together her savings so she could eventually buy her freedom and that of her rest of her family. Reading about slavery anytime is disturbing and to view it from Dorothy's point of view only made the horrors more personal and terrifying. An immediate thing that struck me about her was how much she seemed to admire her father, a slave owner. He was devoted to Dorothy, her little sister and their mother but that devotion was not enough to free them. Though she was a slave, she and her family seemed to have been protected from the harsh lives the other slaves led. It didn't mean that she was spared from a harsh reality having to contend with her half brother who hated her, poverty and the ever-changing political climate in the Caribbean at the time. After a horrible incident involving her brother, she runs away to a different island where she finds employment with another slaver who has always been kind to her and her family. There she maintains a good rhythm, becomes resourceful, saves her money and yes, finally buys that long-awaited freedom she's dreamed off for so long. Dorothy, who naively thought as a child that her own father would publicly claim her, grew to develop a strong sense of her own agency, now has the world in her sights.

I had never heard of Dorothy "Dolly" Kirwan Thomas before and to read about her was to marvel at what a resilient, ingenious person she was. It's amazing that as a woman of color at that time, she managed to carve out a distinct space for herself. While she couldn't read, she was acclaimed for her business acumen. She understood human nature and relied heavily on her instincts and the few close people in her inner circle she could trust. She also comes across in the novels as forthright, not one to waste time or energy on anything that wasn't fruitful. Her story unfolds through her various relationships to the people in her lives, particularly her romances. I like how the chapters are broken down taking the reader through the pivotal years in her life. 

In her extensive author's notes, Riley explains that she spent 10 years researching anything she could find out about Dorothy. I think she did amazingly at piecing together what she could of Dorothy's exploits. Part of me wishes there was more to tell outside of her love affairs but I think at that period in time, Dorothy had to play the game as it was laid out - in a white man's world. I do believe she fell in love and hard, but that she also knew her own mind, and if they couldn't reciprocate she was self-sufficient enough to take care of herself. Dorothy's driving motive for working as hard as she did was that she didn't want herself or her children to be beholden to anyone. Freedom for people of color wasn't guaranteed so financial security was of utmost importance to her. That was how she could provide for her family and set them up in the world.

I fell in love with the Caribbean when I first went there a few years ago and I appreciate that Island Queen brings awareness to its political and economic history, and that it also looks at colonial history through the eyes of a woman of color. After I finished the novel, I read up on Dorothy some more, wondering what became of her many descendants. Dorothy's story has stayed with me and I still think about what a force she must've been. Since its release, Island Queen been selected as GMA's Buzz Pick, and it's been optioned for a movie by the team behind Bridgerton. I'm so pleased that Dorothy's story is being brought to life and will reach an even wider audience. Island Queen is worth all the buzz!

~ Bel

Monday, August 9, 2021

Incense and Sensibility (The Rajes #3)

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The author of Recipe for Persuasion—“not only one of the best but one of the bravest romance novelists working today” (Shelf Awareness)—adds an Indian American twist to Jane Austen's classic Sense and Sensibility in this delightful retelling that is a feast for the senses.

Yash Raje, California’s first serious Indian gubernatorial candidate, has always known exactly what he wants—and how to use his privileged background to get it. He attributes his success to a simple mantra: control your feelings and you can control the world.

But when a hate-fueled incident at a rally critically injures his friend, Yash’s easy life suddenly feels like a lie, his control an illusion. When he tries to get back on the campaign trail, he blacks out with panic.

Desperate to keep Yash’s condition from leaking to the media, his family turns to the one person they trust—his sister’s best friend, India Dashwood, California’s foremost stress management coach. Raised by a family of yoga teachers, India has helped San Francisco’s high strung overachievers for a decade without so much as altering her breath. But this man—with his boundless ambition, simmering intensity, and absolute faith in his political beliefs—is like no other. Yash has spent a lifetime repressing everything to succeed.

Including their one magical night ten years ago—a too brief, too bright passion that if rekindled threatens the life he’s crafted for himself. Exposing the secrets might be the only way to save him but it’s also guaranteed to destroy the dream he’s willingly shouldered for his family and community . . . until now.

Source: NetGalley; ARC provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

I wish it could be enough to say that I love Sonali Dev's writing, I wish I had a gift for words and that they flowed from me as easily as they do from her, but really, you should read her latest novel because it is wonderful! 

The next installation in The Rajes, sees us finally getting to know Yash, the much-loved and admired brother who's running for governor of California. The action is instant in the first chapter when an attempted assassination takes place. Yash is spared any physical harm thanks to his quick-thinking and fast-acting bodyguard. Yash is grateful to be alive until he learns that his bodyguard is now is a deep coma. The survivor's guilt and the shock from the shooting resurface old trauma that now seems to paralyze him. He can't face a crowd or make a speech. His mind is all over the place. They're all valid reactions after going through something horrific. He's aghast when someone suggests he might want to seek help. However, the help they're suggesting isn't the usual go to see a therapist kind of thing. It involves meeting with a family friend, India, a talented yoga instructor who also does yoga therapy with her clients. It's not the first time these two are meeting. There was that incident years ago at Yash's sister's wedding when they had that incredible moment together that's stayed with them ever since. Yash isn't sure that this is the best solution for him, but since he'd rather not have his issues leaked out to the public, he goes with it. India, just has to maintain an emotional distance and not let on that she's hurt by Yash's actions from that the past. 

This was a slowburn romance. A good deal of healing takes place in between Yash and India meeting and them finally coming together. I thought Yash's emotional journey was handled sensitively and I was fascinated and empathetic of the traumahe had to sift through. This being the third book in the series, I was already familiar with the Raje family history and the weight of the legacy that's bestowed on all the children, in particular Yash. Unfortunately, multiple tragedies have been visited upon the Rajes but they're not mined for extreme emotional reaction as much in Incense and Sensibility, which I'll be honest was a relief to me. The previous book was exceptionally heavy on the tragedy and it was difficult to take in all in. Yash and India's connection, while unsteady at first is magical. India understands him and sees through to his core the way no one else can. Even his best friend and fake girlfriend of the last however many years doesn't know Yash this intimately.  It's an unnerving sensation but exactly what he needs to remember his original purpose.  India is such a fresh breath of air, so secure in herself and steadfast in her love of family. 

Speaking of ... family is once again important but it does feel like their presence overwhelms the story at sometimes. I did not like the storyline involving India's sister, China and her love interest, a popular Korean actress who's firmly planted in the closet. It's mainly because China is an extreme character where everything about her is overdramatic. She's more distraction that addition to the story for me. Other than that, I enjoyed the close familial bond that India shares with her mother and sister which contrasts to the strained relationship Yash haswith his ambitious and emotionally-distanced father. 

Incense and Sensibility does touch on some controversial issues with Yash's run for governor such as racism, immigration, and voters' general perception of what a trustworthy candidate should look like - someone in a committed relationship. It's this fake relationship that's a sore sticking point and could land Yash in hot water if the truth comes spilling out. It's a problem that gradually grows way too big. Yash's fake girlfriend morphing into the role of villain is done so subtly but effectively that you don't even realize it until it's happened. 

I have yet to actually read a Jane Austen novel. I know, it's ridiculous and I should remedy this before the year ends. Anyway, I have no way to tell how Dev's retelling compares to the original on which it's based, but maybe that's a good thing? My main takeaway from Incense and Sensibility is that it's important and okay to question why we do things. Why we put so much effort into achieving something, and how much our initial intention changes over time. Yash and India are a power couple on their own terms, fulfilling their dreams, and that's what I love about this story.

~ Bel

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Ties That Tether by Jane Igharo

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When a Nigerian woman falls for a man she knows will break her mother’s heart, she must choose between love and her family.

At twelve years old, Azere promised her dying father she would marry a Nigerian man and preserve her culture even after emigrating to Canada. Her mother has been vigilant about helping--forcing--her to stay well within the Nigerian dating pool ever since. But when another match-made-by-mom goes wrong, Azere ends up at a bar, enjoying the company and later sharing the bed of Rafael Castellano, a man who is tall, handsome, and white.

When their one-night stand unexpectedly evolves into something serious, Azere is caught between her growing feelings for Rafael and the compulsive need to please her mother who will never accept a relationship that threatens to dilute Azere's Nigerian heritage.

Azere can't help wondering if loving Rafael makes her any less of a Nigerian. Can she be with him without compromising her identity? The answer will either cause Azere to be audacious and fight for her happiness or continue as the compliant daughter.

Source: paperback borrowed from library

I'd been waiting to get my hands in this novel and did not waste any time with it as I finished it in a day!

Azere is a smart, talented young woman who has a great job, wonderful friends and a tight-knit family. As an emigrant, she's had to find a way to balance her native Nigerian roots with the new roots she had to establish in Canada. She's also had to make promises to her parents to live up to their expectations, one of them being that she'll marry a Nigerian. Mind you, this is a promise Azere made when she was a young 12 year-old. Her mother has held her to that since and continuously introduces her to a revolving door of eligible Nigerian men. One such date goes terribly south, so Azere heads to the hotel bar where she ends up making great conversation with Rafael who's travelling to Toronto on business. They close the bar and stumble into bed with each other. She just broke her promise but she can't feel sorry for that because she enjoyed herself.

While she'd like to keep this one night stand firmly in the past, everything goes awry when it turns out that Rafael is her new co-worker AND ..... she's pregnant! There's no way she can explain this to her mom - the white guy she slept with who's very much not Nigerian, and that she's preggo by said white guy - without all hell breaking loose. All of this sudden chaos brings Azere to a fork in the road where she has several questions to ask of herself before she can pick her direction: Who is she? What does she want? And whom is she trying to please?

It was so easy to read this because the story moves along at a good pace. And it was also difficult because of all the nasty stuff being thrown her way by her own mother. She's unsurprisingly angry at Azere and disappointed. There are a lot of complicated emotions tied up in their relationship and I've got to say, I was not fond of her mother at all. Yes, I admire her strength at moving to a new country and building a new life with her daughters. What got me riled up was how she treated Azere. No matter what Azere accomplished professionally or personally, it would be insignificant next to her duty to get married. At no point during all the matchmaking did her mother stop to consider Azere's feelings. Azere might have made that promise but she was a child with no experience of the world when she made it. Azere's mother was not my favorite person and her attitude made my blood boil every time. 

Azere and Raphael's relationship goes through several tough hurdles between the surprise pregnancy and their families and work. There's also Raphael's own painful past that he hasn't shared with Azere that causes a rift between them. It's not the only thing working against them but they definitely have an uphill battle.

I liked the realness of this story and how both their strong cultural backgrounds felt like a third main character in here. Having strong ties to one's cultural heritage is important and admirable, and for those of us who don't have that, enviable. How Azere and Raphael come to a resolution and find what works for them, their equilibrium, was fascinating to me. I also liked Igharo's writing which went smoothly from the first page. I enjoyed reading Ties That Tether and hope to read more from Jane Igharo in the future!

~ Bel