This just in: a new summer rom-com has hit the shelves! Love, Just In is Natalie Murray’s debut adult romance novel, published by Allen And Unwin (who were kind enough to send me a copy for review).
In case you couldn’t tell from the styling and cover art, Love, Just In is aimed squarely at the Emily Henry crowd. It’s Australia’s answer to You and Me on Vacation and other BookTok best-sellers. The story follows Josie, a big-city TV reporter forced to move to a regional bureau after a panic attack live on air, and her semi-estranged paramedic bestie who underwent a tree change after an unthinkable tragedy.
Josie’s new job is going to bring them back together, and maybe they’re meant to be more than friends after all.
Yes, Love, Just In is a friends-to-lovers romance, with a little bit of heat, a peek behind-the-scenes in a TV newsroom, and a few well-timed public health messages. As a dyed-in-the-wool Sydneysider, who wouldn’t move to Newcastle no matter how hot the paramedic boyfriend is, I felt a bit slighted by all the city slander and country life propaganda… but besides that, Love, Just In is a fun read with a resonant message about health anxiety.
Buy Love, Just In on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)
Get Love, Just In on audiobook via Libro.fm here. (affiliate link)
When I opened the package from my friends at Macmillan Australia, the blurb of The Professor intrigued me immediately. A university student is found dead in his apartment, an apparent suicide, and his German professor is questioned about a suspected teacher-student relationship turned sour. A disgraced former detective receives a call from her mother, a university professor, begging her to clear a colleagues’ name.
What’s so intriguing about that? Well, firstly, the gender of the titular professor isn’t immediately revealed. I thought we could be in for some fun with some evil gays. And secondly, the author bio inside the cover says that Nossett has a PhD in German literature, and we all know a ring of authenticity can make a big difference in a mystery-thriller.
The Professor makes good on the blurb about 50% of the time. The titular professor is a woman, so the story doesn’t really lend itself to a queer reading, but it definitely feels a lot more realistic than most dark academia novels I’ve read. As Nossett says in her Acknowledgements: “This story is as much a mystery as it is a novel about campus life, professor burnout, and student-professor relationships.”
I didn’t realise until a few chapters in that The Professor is actually a follow-up novel to last year’s The Resemblance. I feel like Nossett gives enough context and background to follow along, but I know most readers would prefer to start at the beginning – so there’s your heads up.
I loved the Athens, Georgia setting – an unconventional choice for dark academia mystery-thrillers – and the carefully crafted prose. I got strong Tana French vibes, so it would be the perfect pick for fans of her novels. There are plenty of twists and turns, and the last 50 pages absolutely bulldozed my expectations. The Professor is a great read, and I’ll be on the lookout for more by Nessott.
Buy The Professor on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)
The lead-up to Christmas is kind of the perfect time to read The Heart Is A Star, so author Megan Rogers has my endless gratitude for sending through a review copy a couple of weeks ago. Coincidentally, it arrived the day after I heard the hosts of Chat 10 Looks 3 recommend it on a recent episode, so I was extra-keen to dive in.
The main character, Layla, is going through somewhat of a midlife crisis – only instead of buying a sports car and marrying a younger woman, she’s about to lose her job as an anesthetist, and wondering how her dad really died, and travelling across the country to make sure her mother doesn’t take her own life. So, yeah. She’s got a lot going on.
Layla’s mother is a “bottomless pit parent”, histrionically unstable and prone to threatening self-harm when she’s feeling lonely or hitting the bottle a bit too hard. Layla just knows, though, that this time it’s different. Waiting the two days until Christmas could be the difference between life and death, so she changes her flight and heads home early.
The Heart Is A Star combines rich and evocative nature writing with a family drama about “the messiness of midlife”. Rogers examines the inter-generational impacts of inherited trauma, ultimately revealing that discovering the truth doesn’t necessarily mean a happy ending. You’ll likely find reading it, as I did, that The Heart Is A Star follows a familiar trajectory, the outcome feeling sadly inevitable, with themes and motifs that are recurrent throughout #MeToo literature.
Buy The Heart Is A Star on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)
Get The Heart Is A Star audiobook from Libro.fm here. (affiliate link)
Love And Other Scores is “a sexy, surprising queer romance” by Abra Pressler, released just as the weather warms up here in Australia, i.e. just in time to whet our appetite for tennis season and the Australian Open (where, not-so-coincidentally, this MLM romance is set). The wonderful team at Macmillan were kind enough to send me a copy for review.
This tension-fuelled love story has strong Red, White & Royal Blue vibes. Mid-career tennis player Gabriel finally has the chance to take a Grand Slam, if he can keep his head down and his mind focused. Noah is a big obstacle to that, the gorgeous Melbourne bartender with a mysterious past. They meet, they flirt, and they both know taking it any further than that would be a bad idea – they both have good reasons to try and stay out of the spotlight. But their chemistry proves just too damn strong.
Love And Other Scores has a cute, if fairly standard, rom-com conceit. It also follows the exact trajectory you’d expect. The leads fall head-over-heels in love almost immediately – they’re declaring that the other is the only one who truly knows them, that they can’t live without each other, et cetera, after barely a week’s worth of dates squeezed in around matches at a major international tennis tournament. The conflict almost always boils down to whether or not they can get over themselves and carry on, or just get bogged down in their own insecurities and neuroses.
It’s all palatable enough, except for some moments of amateurish writing. I try to give debut authors the benefit of the doubt, but some of the similes Pressler users gave me the ick (“his swaying arse is like a siren song, luring me to the deep”? thanks, I hate it).
The side characters and their relationships with the leads are strong, though, and keep Love And Other Scores on solid(ish) ground. Pick this one up to read in the sweaty, sleepy days between Christmas and New Year.
Buy Love And Other Scores on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)
Jack Heath is an alarmingly prolific writer (he’s written over forty books!), he’s got range (he writes for both children and adults), and yet Kill Your Husbands is the first book of his I’ve read. It’s his latest novel, definitely for grown-ups, and Allen & Unwin were kind enough to send me a copy for review.
Kill Your Husbands is a locked-room mystery set over the course of a weekend getaway. Three couples rent an isolated house on a mountaintop, to spend some time reconnecting and relaxing in nature. There’s no wifi and no phone reception, but that’s alright – unplugged escapes are all the rage now, aren’t they?
Things get spicy when the idea of partner-swapping comes up. The friends concoct a convoluted scheme where, for one night only, they’ll sleep with someone who isn’t their spouse. What could go wrong?
Well, one of the husbands turning up dead, for one. And then another. And one of the wives goes missing.
Yes! We’ve got swinging! We’ve got murder! Kill Your Husbands has the kind of scandalous, ridiculous fun I love in a novel. Heath alternates the perspectives, bringing in the points of view of the detective investigating the murders and her girlfriend as well (a masterstroke that stops the reader feeling trapped in the suffocating self-involvement of the victims/culprits).
Could the three women have been working together? Maybe it’s a movement. Burn your bras. Kill your husbands.
Kill Your Husbands (Page 220)
It’s perfectly paced to keep you intrigued all the way along. Even though the red herrings might feel a little obvious at times, the pieces of the puzzle fit together nicely in the end. Kill Your Husbands was great fun to read, and I’m seriously impressed by Heath’s skilled hand in crafting a killer summer mystery.
Buy Kill Your Husbands on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)