Now just because I was on a blogging hiatus didn’t mean my reading had come to a complete standstill! I read a ton of books over said hiatus that I can’t wait to review – including recent #romanceclass releases, How She Likes It by Carla de Guzman and Mango Summer by Agay Llanera, both of which were launched at the last #romanceclass event, Feels Fest 2018 (read my recap here!).
After hearing the summaries of both books, I just knew I had to have them. (Also, y’all know I am a certified first-class #romanceclass ho.) Female CEO and her single father assistant? Magic mangoes on a farm in Zambales? Um, yes? I was lucky enough to get an ARC of of How She Likes It, and managed to get Mango Summer at its intro price just shortly before it was released on Amazon.
Read on the find out what I thought of these two recent #romanceclass releases!
Title: How She Likes It
Author: Carla de Guzman
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
CEO-in-training, heiress and cosmetics company marvel Isabel Alfonso needs to hire an assistant.
She needs to hire someone who is smart and competent to arrange a trip to Shanghai for her to meet with potential business partners. She needs to learn how to let go of her cosmetics company, in order to take on the CEO role she’s been groomed for her entire life. What she does not need to hire is a young single dad, last seen with her in bed as a one night stand.
Falling for Adam Sevilla is a complication that Isabel doesn’t need.
And with so much on the line, she can’t afford to make any mistakes. Her choices are clear; head the family business and leave her company behind, or keep her business at the risk of losing everything. Isabel’s always been smart. She’ll figure it out. Right?
Trigger Warnings: Explict sexual content, child neglect
Honestly? “Female CEO” was a trope I didn’t know I needed in my life. And honestly, I don’t know why it took me until now to realize that fabulous, wealthy MCs make for great romance novels, considering how sick I am of alpha male billionaire love interests swooping in and making a hard done by heroine’s dreams come true.
Isabel Alfonso and Regina Benitez (from If the Dress Fits, which I reviewed here!) are the heiresses to Alfonso-Benitez South Holdings, a major conglomerate formed by their fathers. The race is on when the board is set to choose the next CEO from either of the two–a position Isabel badly wants; not just because she hates to lose, but also because she wants to prove to her father, the ultimate high-powered businessman, that she deserves this legacy.
The fly in that ointment is her hot new assistant, Adam, who has a ton of issues of his own – chief amongst which is that he’s a struggling single dad with an adorable daughter (who just so happens to be named after one of the greatest Disney princesses of all time – I am, of course, talking about Leia Organa). Of course, things are made a lot more difficult when Adam turns out to be a one-night stand Isabel never thought she’d see again.
I’m a sucker for powerful, self-assured heroines, and Isabel Alfonso more than fulfills that need. Honestly? She could step on my neck with her stilletos and I’d thank her. She is the exact combination of self-posessed, self-assured, and still so reassuringly flawed and human that I love. And our hero, Adam, is the exact kind of sweetheart who easily falls in love and wears his heart on his sleeve that I adore.
With the characters embodying well-beloved tropes while at the same time turning them on their ears, you’d think Carla could skate by with a chill, easy-breezy plot, right? Well, yes, it’s true, I could have read 200 or so pages about Isabel and Adam falling in love with no hardships and strife and still rated this book five stars, but you know that’s not how Carla operates. Mixed in with the steamy sex scenes and squeal-inducing chemistry is the kind of corporate intrigue that you normally find on Netflix shows – you know, the kind you binge watch while also taking notes on what the characters are wearing?
But despite all the drama, all’s well that ends well for Adam and Isabel, and Carla de Guzman continues to earn her more than well-deserved place at the top of my list of favorite contemporary romance authors!
Title: Mango Summer
Author: Agay Llanera
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
For the first time in a century, the fruit in San Antonio’s most famous mango farm all turned sour. Fiona, thirty-six and single, knows why. According to her family’s legend, the only way to keep the mangoes sweet is for the women who run the farm to be married and bear children. If Fiona doesn’t find anyone soon, the inheritance her family has been protecting for generations is in danger of rotting away.
Greg used to have a massive crush on his older sister’s best friend. When he drops by Fiona’s farm to get his sister some of San Antonio’s sweetest mangoes, his quick visit turns into an extended vacation. As the days go by, his feelings for Fiona begin to take root and grow. At twenty-eight, how can he convince Fiona that he’s more than her friend’s kid brother?
Trigger Warnings: Explict sexual content
I, admittedly, had never read any of Agay Llanera’s books. And I realize that this was such a huge mistake on my part. Agay is a master of evoking emotion – especially nostalgia. One of the biggest draws of Mango Summer is the farm, owned by generations of Agay’s family. My mom is from San Carlos, Pangasinan, and when my siblings and I were younger she always insisted on us going home to the ancestral house every summer or Christmas break – an ancestral home which, by the way, was on a mango farm. As a result, a lot of my childhood memories involve being outdoors in the sunshine, climbing mango trees to pick the fruit (both ripe and unripe, because bagoong is life y’all), and sitting on the bamboo tables and benches my uncles put up themselves to eat the mangoes with my bare hands. In just a few short sentences, Agay was able to bring all this back for me.
At dusk, when the world melts into shadow, the air is the thing most alive.
From her spot under the mango tree, Fiona smells the farm more clearly than she sees it. The scent is a lush, primal mix of unseen creatures crawling, burrowing, being born and rotting away; of green things straining against the earth to reach for the sun.
Beautiful. Absolute poetry.
The romance between Fiona and G-boy – excuse me, Greg – was well-crafted and captivating. They had such chemistry, fueled on by their proximity to each other, their shared history, and the fact that both of them are recovering from life-changing relationships that eventually ended. I loved how, despite the pressure on both of them from all sides, Fiona and Greg were determined to take their relationship at their own pace, moving on to the next level only when they themselves were sure they were ready.
One of the most important lessons this book gives us is that true happiness comes only when you believe it will, and that happiness is in your hands and yours alone. It takes Fiona most of the book to discover that, and to make peace with it, but its a lesson she does get in the end – much to the everlasting joy of San Antonio’s mango-loving population.
Mango Summer combines small town magic, nostalgia, and hot, steamy sex into one spellbinding romance that I absolutely, one-hundred percent recommend!