I have a batch of three books by new-to-me authors that I’m excited to talk about today! First up is the new geeky contemporary romance Loathe at First Sight by Suzanne Park, followed by f/f hockey romance Out on the Ice by Kelly Farmer and spooky post-WWI m/m historical Best Laid Plaids by Ella Stainton.
Loathe at First Sight by Suzanne Park (August 18)
In Loathe at First Sight, Melody is ecstatic about landing her dream job as a video game producer, despite the heaping dose of misogyny that comes with it. But things at the company change quickly after an idea she pitched as a joke suddenly becomes their most high-profile project with Melody in charge. Of course, she could do without having the CEO’s nephew assigned to her team, but the more they work together, the harder it is for them to fight their attraction.
So I only made it five chapters (about 16 percent) before I decided to DNF this. The main reason was the amount of sexist and racist bullshit Melody had to put up with. I think it’s important to show office cultures like this in books because it 100 percent exists (though maybe I’m naive in hoping it’s not actually this bad), but this book kind of overwhelmed me with how awful it was. And there wasn’t even a fun romance to keep me reading along. We barely met the hero when I decided to DNF, and he broke Melody’s mug — the one personal item she cared about at the office — and accused her of stealing his notebook (she didn’t). I might have kept reading, because it is a readable book, but I saw Aarya’s review on Goodreads, and I just don’t have the stamina for all of the racism and misogyny to continue at this level, let alone get even worse. Especially when it sounds like the romance is never that central to the story.
I was so looking forward to this book, as I was excited to see Avon publishing a Korean American author and I really want to see more books with tech heroines. But unfortunately this one just didn’t work for me.
Rep: Korean American protagonist; Korean American author.
I received an arc of Loathe at First Sight from the publisher via Edelweiss.
Out on the Ice by Kelly Farmer (August 24)
In Out on the Ice, former women’s Olympic hockey player Caro is nervous about bringing in Amy, a current professional hockey player, to help coach summer camps at her all-women hockey training facility. The two of them are very different, with Amy being extroverted and always sharing things to social media and Caro being reserved and strict about keeping her personal and professional lives separate. But the more time they spend together, the more undeniable their chemistry becomes, and the more the two of them realize neither one is interested in just a summer fling.
This book was such a pleasant surprise! I’m not usually one to scroll through Netgalley looking for new books to review, but I realized recently that most if not all of the queer books I’ve been reviewing are m/m or m/f, and I wanted to change that. So I was explicitly looking for f/f romance, and when I saw this hockey romance, I knew I had to read it! And I’m so glad I did!
There are so many things I love about this book. It’s a little slower paced and really focuses on both Caro and Amy’s personal growth as well as their relationship, and it does it so well. I felt like I really got to know Caro and Amy throughout the book and was cheering so hard for them to be happy! I loved seeing Caro going to therapy (the second book I read in a row with therapy on the page!) and really push herself outside of her comfort zone in order to build a life and a family for herself. And it was great seeing Amy be such a positive, outspoken ambassador for LGBTQ+ rights and watching her become the best version of herself as well. And Doug! Doug is Caro’s black lab rescue dog, and he’s the sweetest. I love all of Amy’s fun nicknames for him!
I think the only thing that was really missing for me was a conversation about how Caro is Amy’s boss, since the story is set around Amy working as a summer coach at Caro’s all-girls hockey facility. I personally didn’t feel like the power dynamic was problematic because coaching was just something fun for Amy to do for one summer and not her main source of income, but I do wish they had talked about it. Also, I wish it hadn’t been a closed door romance, but that’s my personal preference. Overall, I thought this was a thoughtful, delightful slow-burn romance, and I really enjoyed reading it!
I’m not usually one for content warnings, but I do want to mention a few. Caro was forcibly outed to her family when she was younger and recounts it on the page, and her relationship with them and their religion-based homophobia is an ongoing topic throughout the book. There’s also conversations about biphobia and suicide.
Rep: White lesbian heroine with depression and chronic migraines, white bisexual half-Jewish/half-Catholic heroine. White bisexual author.
I received an arc of Out on the Ice from the publisher via Netgalley.
Best Laid Plaids by Ella Stainton (August 31)
In Best Laid Plaids, Joachim is a WWI vet working on his doctoral thesis about the power of delusional thinking and wants to interview Ainsley, a professor who ruined his promising career by publicly claiming he can talk to ghosts. The problem is, the more time Joachim spends with Ainsley, the harder it is for him to maintain that Ainsley isn’t lying about his ability. Add that to their undeniable attraction to each other, and Joachim is at a total loss as to what to do about his paper and the teaching post he’s been working so hard for.
I enjoyed this one a lot! I really liked getting to know Ainsley and Joachim and their eccentricities and seeing Joachim being exceedingly careful not to scare Ainsley off and Ainsley slowly letting down his guard to be with Joachim. They’re really perfect for each other. I liked the general cast of characters and the setting in Scotland, and I really liked that this is a historical set in a different time period than we usually see. I also thought the supernatural element was neat and liked how it was incorporated into the story and how both Ainsley and Joachim interacted with it. Also, I didn’t realize this until I read the first chapter of the next book at the end, but I’m really excited that this is a series that will follow Joachim and Ainsley. I can’t wait to see what adventures they get up to and what trouble they find together while pursuing their research! This was a great debut book, and I suspect those who particularly love chaotic main characters will really enjoy Ainsley.
I will say, probably the biggest drawback for me was that sometimes I had a hard time following which voice I was in. It jumped around a lot and in some ways their voices were kind of similar, and more than once I thought I was in a different perspective than I actually was and had to back up and clarify. Oh, also, small nitpicky thing: Joachim kept referring to Ainsley as “the younger man,” which makes it sound like there’s a significant age gap. But it seems like it’s only a few years? Which makes it really odd to me that he kept mentally using the phrase. I couldn’t tell you why I noticed it, but once I did, it was everywhere.
Rep: White gay heroes. White bisexual author.
I received an arc of Best Laid Plaids from the publisher via Netgalley.
I’m really disappointed Loathe at First Sight didn’t work for me, because I really love seeing more tech heroines and it sounded like a fun premise. But I know others have really enjoyed it, so if you can put up with the toxic bullshit that Melody has to deal with, it might worth giving it a shot and seeing what you think!
Fortunately, I really enjoyed both Out on the Ice and Best Laid Plaids! I recommend both of these books if they catch your eye. I know I’ll definitely look out for more from these two authors!
Also, if you’re following along with the fall bingo board Jenica at Firewhiskey Reader and I are doing, these books fulfill A LOT of prompts! All three have punny titles, and Best Laid Plaids and Out on the Ice are both debut books, while Loathe at First Sight is a sophomore novel, so odds are high these authors are new to you! Loathe at First Sight also has a STEM heroine, while the other two have excellent pets in them. Also, Out on the Ice is a hockey romance and Best Laid Plaids is a non-Regency historical. If you also count one of these as a Twitter rec (because you know I’m recommending Out on the Ice and Best Laid Plaids on Twitter!), that gets you at least seven squares! Eight if you count the HEA one!
Which of these three books are you most excited to read? Let me know in the comments!