LA may be a city of smoke and mirrors, but this trio of romances is a friendly reminder of how important it is to delve beneath the surface and get to the heart of the matter in, well, matters of the heart.
Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell
Taj McCoy’s debut romance isn’t interested in superficial Hollywood glitz; rather, it’s an exuberant story about a relatable Everywoman whose shine has lost a bit of its luster. The title may be Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell, but it takes Savvy a while to bounce back after her boyfriend, Jason, breaks off their six-year relationship over dinner after announcing he needs an “upgrade.” Her tightknit group of gal pals squad up for Savvy’s sake, encouraging her plan to overhaul her life. On the docket are goals like getting a promotion, writing a cookbook, renovating her grandparents’ house in Los Feliz and losing weight. Absent are the things that really count, like bolstering her self-confidence and learning to love herself as she is. A key moment in her journey comes early on, when she epically misjudges handsome Spencer Morgan. Because of his dusty clothes, she assumes he’s experiencing homelessness and brushes off his flirting, only to learn that he’s actually a contractor. It’s the opposite of a successful meet-cute, but it does result in a profound moment of self-reflection. Savvy feels constantly judged for her weight, and she projected that sense of constant negative scrutiny onto Spencer. Moments like this drive the plot; McCoy is less focused on romance than she is on thoughtfully constructing her heroine’s journey to enlightenment. Luckily, Savvy is a particularly zeitgeisty heroine: a woman on a quest to improve both her physical and mental well-being.
Funny You Should Ask
Young adult author Elissa Sussman may be poised for a breakout hit with her first novel for adults, Funny You Should Ask. This tightly written romance follows a successful writer and a Hollywood A-lister who previously crossed paths during an interview that changed the trajectories of their lives. Chani Horowitz is now a writer of essays, profiles and commentary, but a decade ago she was just kicking off her career. She was thrilled to land a profile piece of the next James Bond, a wholesome Montana boy named Gabe Parker. He was handsome and dazzling, and Chani was totally crushing on him. They clicked immediately and then spent a momentous weekend together in LA, roaming from Gabe’s house in Laurel Canyon to a high-profile movie premiere to a gay club, reveling in the city’s culinary scene and endless supply of things to do and places to see. But afterward, Chani returned to New York City with her boyfriend, Gabe married his new co-star, and neither of them were happy. Funny You Should Ask bounces back and forth between Chani and Gabe in the present and during their lost weekend. There are a ton of details to unpack, with a lot of different characters in a lot of different times and places. But Sussman’s smart writing and firm control over the narrative steadily lead you on to the next page, and the next page, and the page after that. She also uses the dual-timeline structure to great effect in support of the eventual happy ending.
Business Not As Usual
Dreamy Daniels, the heroine of Sharon C. Cooper’s latest contemporary romance, Business Not As Usual, truly lives up to her name and will charm the pants off readers (and off her love interest, too). Dreamy’s personal mantra is that anything is possible if you believe. She plays the lottery every week with her grandfather, confident with her whole being that she’ll be a big winner one day. A hard worker with a vision for starting a nonprofit for aspiring female entrepreneurs, Dreamy makes do in the meantime by working as a secretary for a tech guru. But then she meets venture capitalist Karter Redford who, despite being the son of acting royalty, turns out to be a kindred spirit who sees the value in a little intellectual elbow grease. He appreciates both her shiny, wild exterior and the resilient, creative thinker beneath it. To Karter, the fact that Dreamy lives in one of LA’s underprivileged neighborhoods doesn’t matter. But his mother thinks that Dreamy isn’t cultured, sophisticated or educated enough to be a good match for her son. Cooper, however, doesn’t fall back on such stereotypical characterizations. Dreamy and Karter are intelligent, mature adults who root for each other, which in turn makes the reader root all the harder for them in this flirty, fun and refreshing romance.