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Kilts, Cooking & Annoying Heroines

Hi everyone! 

How are your weeks going? Mine is going okay. I haven't been feeling some of the romance books I've been reading sadly, so I've been getting back into murder mysteries and crime thrillers instead. I found my old collection of Tess Gerritsen books, and some I actually never got around to reading, so now I'm reading her Rizzoli & Isles books from the beginning.

Before I got into the murder mystery phase, I did get a chance to read some romance books, and I thought I'd share some quick thoughts with you all today. First, I'm sharing my review for the lastest book in Mary Wine's highlander series, Highland Weddings. Though I enjoyed the book, it wasn't as enjoyable as some of the other books in the series. I also review a diverse foodie romance with East in Paradise, which was a sweet book, but I also struggled with the heroine quite a bit.

Take a deeper look at what I thought about them!
HIGHLAND FLAME by Mary Wine [★★★]
Received for review purposes. This does not affect my opinion of the book.
Some of you may have followed my reviews for the previous books in this series by Mary Wine on the other blog. If you don't know, I'm totally in love with this series. It's my first highlander series and Mary Wine has done nothing but impress me with the way she weaves together romance and politics. I'm always eager to read the next book in the series, so I jumped on Highland Flame with a lot of excitement. 

Right away though I could tell that Highland Flame wouldn't be as good for me as the previous books in the series. It's not a terrible book, but compared to the others, it falls behind a little bit. In Highland Flame, we're given Jane's story. She's a feisty, brave and sometimes reckless Englishwoman determined to return back home after her Scottish husband's passing. Jane is a great character, who shows a lot of strength and resilience throughout Highland Flame. Her scoundrel of her husband was even ready to prostitute her to settle his gambling credit, but she knows she's worth more than that and vehemently refuses. She remains true to herself throughout the book, and always bounces back whatever the obstacle she faces. 

She totally deserved a sweetheart like Diocail. I initially wasn't quite sure what to make of Diocail. He's just become the leader of his clan and desperately needs a wife to fix things around in their decrepit castle. I couldn't quite get a handle on his personality at first, but as the story progressed, we got to see the caring man underneath all that gruff exterior. He wants to do good for his clan, and his kindness and patience towards Jane were nothing short of swoony. Though I loved these two characters individually, I felt like a certain spark was missing in their relationship. I don't quite know exactly why that was, but I only know that I never felt as strongly for them as I did the previous couple. They enter into a marriage with Jane still hell-bent on going back to her home in England, but throughout the Highland Flame, they become familiar with each other and grow a bond. I'm just not convinced by their bond though. As always, Mary Wine writes excellent steamy scenes. Another aspect I liked here was the deeper exploration of what it's like to belong to a clan led by Highlanders. 

All in all, Highland Flame was certainly readable, and if you're a fan of this series, I definitely recommend checking it out.
EAST IN PARADISE by Tif Marcelo [★1/2]
Received for review purposes. This does not affect my opinion of the book.

After absolutely LOVING Tif Marcelo's debut novel, North To You, I was really excited to give East in Paradise a try. I'm going to admit right away that I didn't love this book as much as I adored the first, mostly due to my irritation towards Bryn, the female protagonist. However, I still recommend this book because it had some many other elements that were written absolutely brilliantly. Tif Marcelo is a talented author, and even though East in Paradise is only her second book, I'm completely in love with her writing.

As I said, I did not get along with Bryn. She's fiercely independent, bullheaded and goal-oriented, which aren't qualities that I look down on. However, I felt like she sometimes took it a little far, so much so that she had this tunnel-vision that led to her hurting people. She could be really over the top and I never really saw much growth in her character until the end. For instance, on her first meeting with Mitchell, he accidentally spills coffee on her while she's on her way to an important meeting. The guy is a total gentleman, and even buys her a replacement t-shirt, but she makes up her mind about him, and is downright mean to him. When she finds out that he's the landlord of the property she wants to start her cooking retreat, she's even meaner to him. She gets upset and defensive anytime he expresses concern about some of her renovation plans on HIS property. I just didn't understand why she was so callous and prickly around him, especially because he 100% did not deserve any of that coldness. Mitchell, on the other hand, I loved from the beginning. He is just back from deployment, and is suffering from a PTSD-related sleeping disorder. He tries to work with his mental health by going to see a therapist, as well as taking medications for his condition. Let me just say, I was really impressed and thrilled that Tif Marcelo made East in Paradise a therapy-positive one. Besides dealing with his PTSD, Mitch is also trying to turn his parents vineyard around to get it to be as successful as it was in the old days. Mitch is so kind and caring, he's impossible not to love.

Though he and Bryn don't start off on the right foot, there's no denying that the spark that ignited from their first meeting. Add to that the fake-relationship they decide to engage in to bring in more viewers to Bryn's live-stream, their relationship is certainly tumultuous. Tif Marcelo's writes their relationship beautifully though. As they begin to get to know each other, Bryn starts to loosen up, and be more of herself around him. It's a sweet romance, with lots of chemistry, proving that Tif Marcelo excels at writing sweet and swoony romances that give you all the butterflies. I will say that I was just a bit let down by the reason for the big breakup/misunderstanding towards the end because it felt like Bryn regressed back to her cold self, but then the way Mitchell tries to win her back just about made me melt, so I really can't complain. Like North to You, East in Paradise is also a foodie romance, so you get lots and lots of description of food that will make you so hungry - definitely keep food nearby when reading this one! Family plays a big role again here, which I absolutely loved. Bryn's Filipino family are loud, boisterous and completely supportive of each other, and Mitch's brothers are meddlesome, but love their brother like nobody's business.

Bryn might have prevented me from loving East in Paradise as much as I loved North to You, but it is still a fantastic romance novel, with a lot of lovely elements that work well together. I can't find out whose book we're going to get next! Tif Marcelo is an author to keep on your radar!

Has a character nearly ruined a book for you, but you still enjoyed the story overall? What are some highlander romances you recommend?
 Let me know in the comments below!

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