Katie Garaby

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Daphne and her fiancé had the perfect meet cute: On a windy day in a park, Peter chased down her hat. They fell in love, and moved back to his lakeside hometown of Waning Bay, Michigan. Everything was picture-perfect—until Peter’s bachelor party weekend, when he realized he was in love with his childhood best friend, Petra. And so Daphne finds herself adrift in a town where she knows basically no one, bearing witness to her ex-fiancé and his new fiancée’s disgusting displays of love. The only person who can understand her grief is Miles, Petra’s ex. Daphne proposes they become roommates, and soon, they hatch a scheme. What if they post some easy to misinterpret pictures and make Petra and Peter think they are together?

In our introduction to the leading couple of Emily Henry’s Funny Story, a frustrated Daphne is annoyed that Miles is listening to Jamie O’Neal’s “All By Myself” at top volume, stoned. It’s not exactly love at first sight, but they’re both deeply charming and relatable, showcasing Henry’s skill at crafting engaging yet realistic characters that immediately hook readers’ hearts. You want Daphne and Miles to heal. You want them to bump into their exes and make out so hard that everyone is a little uncomfortable. (But who cares! Peter and Petra should suffer!) Henry also expertly sidesteps the worry-inducing pitfalls of having a couple bound, at least initially, by grief. No one wants a happy ending undercut by the characters using each other as an emotional scratching post. Thankfully, Miles and Daphne’s relationship is simply one part of their individual healing journeys, not the entirety of them. With a supporting cast of helpful family and friends, meaningful and passionate purpose in their community and a little bit of therapy, all things are possible. The work they each put in on their own only makes the love story more satisfying. 

With her signature laugh-out-loud banter and flawed but lovable characters, Henry has created another novel that’s everything her readers have come to expect, without falling into predictable patterns. Funny Story is Emily Henry at her best.

Featuring laugh-out-loud banter and flawed but lovable characters, Funny Story is Emily Henry at her best.
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When beginning this review, I promised myself that I wouldn’t go overboard with baseball puns to describe just how wonderful KT Hoffman’s sports romance, The Prospects, is. Like “Hoffman hits it out of the park with his debut” or “Gene and Luis are the grand slam of relationships.” I tried my hardest, but damn if baseball doesn’t lend itself to describing the absolute home run that is this book.

As the first openly trans professional baseball player, Gene Ionescu is no stranger to hope and hard work. He thrives on it; and baseball loves an underdog. The minor league Beaverton Beavers are like a second family to him, and he feels safe and supported among his teammates. Until Luis Estrada, his former teammate and current rival, gets traded to the Beavers and suddenly all that Gene has built for himself feels threatened. At first, Gene and Luis can’t work together on or off the field. But a begrudging friendship blooms during long hours on the bus and intimate after-hours practices. As Gene and Luis find their stride, they gain the attention of the heavy hitters in the Major Leagues and see each other with fresh eyes. Had Gene never really noticed how sexy and kind Luis was? And does Luis really need to head to his own place when Gene’s apartment (and maybe Gene himself) feels like home? Soon their tenuous friendship gives way to tender new love. But with the Majors calling, the two must decide what they truly want, both from each other and their baseball careers.

The legendary Yankee catcher Yogi Berra is quoted as saying, “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.” So what happens when a book mixes romance and America’s favorite pastime? You get the perfection that is The Prospects. I will be the first to admit that everything I learned about sports, I learned from sports romance novels. But as an expert on the genre, I can tell the difference between a writer who is just using a baseball diamond as a backdrop and a writer who loves the game so fiercely it almost outshines their love for the main characters. Hoffman is one of the latter. Every corner of this book shines, from the tender love of Gene and Luis to the charming found family that surrounds them and the game that brings them all together. The Prospects is about dreaming big, finding love and blowing the roof off simply by existing. It’s a debut so good it’s in a league of its own. (I’ll see myself out.)

KT Hoffman’s The Prospects is a perfect baseball romance that overflows with love for the sport and its main characters.
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The Phoenix Bride, Natasha Siegel’s stunning sophomore novel, is a breathtakingly beautiful novel about forbidden love in 17th-century London.

The year is 1666, one year after the bubonic plague wreaked havoc on London. Young widow Cecilia Thorowgood lost her husband, who was a childhood friend and a love match, to the disease. Without financial means of her own, Cecilia finds herself trapped in her sister’s home, deep in the throes of a paralyzing depression and hounded by a slew of doctors who try to cure it with scalpels and leeches. When Cecilia shows no signs of improvement, her sister decides to take the risk of hiring a foreign doctor. David Mendes is not only Portuguese, but also Jewish. He and his father recently immigrated to England, where they can publicly practice their faith. Their new home is a marked improvement from Portugal, but antisemitism still runs rampant. However, David and Cecilia form a friendship despite the social barriers between them, born out of their grief over the loss of loved ones. Cecilia deeply mourns her husband, and David has yet to move on from the death of Manuel, a friend whom he loved secretly for years. As the two begin to heal, they realize the love they have for each other is beyond anything they could have imagined. But is it enough to help them overcome seemingly insurmountable societal odds?

This book will break you open with its beautiful writing, and readers will find themselves wringing their hands, wondering how on earth David and Cecilia could ever be together. Siegel does not soften history to make it easier for her characters to find love, a popular tactic in other queer historical romances. Instead, she finds subtle ways for her characters to bend the rules while not outright disregarding them, allowing them to find their own happily ever after even though traditional markers like marriage remain out of reach. David and Cecilia’s victory feels realistic and hard won, pushing readers to reconsider what an HEA looks like. And while Seigel handles many heavy subjects in The Phoenix Bride such as grief, trauma, antisemitism and biphobia, the romance doesn’t feel weighed down by these issues. Cecilia is a darkly funny heroine and while David is a more serious foil for her, they have a charming ease with each other that creates lighter moments to balance the weightier aspects of the story.

The Phoenix Bride is a gorgeous romance about healing from trauma, making peace with grief and finding love where it doesn’t seem possible. This glorious follow-up to her debut, Solomon’s Crown, firmly establishes Seigel as a writer to watch.

Natasha Siegel’s beautifully written The Phoenix Bride pushes readers to reconsider what happily ever after looks like.
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Martha Waters’ fifth and final Regency Vows romance, To Woo and to Wed, ends the series on a high note. In this second-chance romance, Waters once again brings us into a world full of heat and charm, where love matches are plentiful and happily ever afters are guaranteed.

Life as a widow isn’t half-bad for Lady Sophie Bridewell. In fact, it’s quite freeing. She can spend her days in the library reading and eating French pastries to her heart’s content. Not too shabby! But when her sister Alexandra, who is also a widow, shares that she is being courted but doesn’t want to get married and leave Sophie alone, well, that just won’t do. A decade ago, she rejected her own true love, the Marquess of Weston, rather than jeopardize her sisters’ potential betrothals, and she refuses to let that sacrifice be for nothing. Instead, Sophie approaches West with a proposition: They’ll fake an engagement until Alexandra is married, then go their separate ways. This actually works out quite well for West, whose malevolent, meddling father has begun pushing him to marry. A fake engagement to the woman he loves—er, loved—should be easy. But as their “fake” feelings get more and more real, Sophie and West must work to leave the past behind and look towards the future.

In a Waters romance, friend groups are supportive and families are, for the most part, loving. (Parents even make sex jokes about their children’s love lives!) Regency novels are a very popular subgenre, especially after the success of “Bridgerton,” but Waters’ work is still exciting, fun and fresh. She twists the norms of the time to suit her own purposes and creates characters that feel shockingly contemporary. Sophie and West are some of her most endearing leads; you’d be hard pressed to find two people more worthy of love. The responsibility they believe they owe to their families and to each other constantly tugs them in different directions. Both are so deeply invested in being a noble martyr that, at a certain point, you just want to force them to sit down and talk instead of continuing to assume what’s best for each other. But isn’t that part of the fun and frustration (funstration? frun?) of reading romance? Watching two people dance around each other and feeling the tension build until they tear each other’s clothes off and bang until their problems are solved? Destiny is waiting for these two, if they can just get out of their own way.

To Woo and to Wed is a perfect ending to the Regency Vows series, solidifying its status as one of the most entertaining historical romance series on shelves today.

To Woo and to Wed is a perfect ending to the Regency Vows series, solidifying its status as one of the most entertaining historical romance series on shelves today.
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It is a truth universally acknowledged that all the young ladies who make their debut are looking for one thing and one thing only: a wealthy husband. Or are they? In Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend by Emma R. Alban, our heroines Beth and Gwen want anything but. When the two meet at a party early in the social season (Gwen’s fourth and Beth’s first), they hit it off immediately. They decide to spend their time setting up their widowed parents instead of searching for their own husbands, hoping that a happy marriage between the two will allow Gwen and Beth a bit more freedom. There is just one small problem: Their parents seem to have had a romance of sorts in the past, and now might actually hate each other. Never ones to say no to a challenge, Gwen and Beth find every excuse to spend more time together and plot their parents’ inevitable union. But when a suitor begins to express interest in Beth, the two must face the fact that the love story they are crafting might just be their own.

A cheeky, queer twist on the The Parent Trap, Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend is a rollicking romp through Victorian England. Alban crafts a deliciously clever romance for Gwen and Beth. While the girls are helping their parents reconnect, they are able to first explore a friendship, one that naturally gives way to their own true feelings. Gwen and Beth are a fantastically fun couple, and it’s such a delight to watch them discover their love for each other. The juxtaposition of the young women’s new and exciting feelings with their cynical, seasoned parents’ second chance at love provides a great balance to the narrative. Alban captures all of these feelings on the way to providing two satisfying and hopeful HEAs. And while the love stories shine, the familial relationships are also noteworthy and charming. Although they couldn’t be more different, Gwen’s devil-may-care father and Beth’s wary, weary mother both show that a parent’s love knows no bounds.

If you are looking for a bighearted queer romance with stolen kisses and grand gestures, then Alban’s Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend is the book for you. A sweet and sensual historical romance, it will have you full of champagne giggles and matchmaking mischief.

Emma R. Alban’s Don’t Want You Like a Best Friend is a bighearted, queer and historical spin on The Parent Trap.
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In Midnight Ruin, Katee Robert takes readers back to the city of Olympus with a story of redemption and possibility between lovers old and new.

Eurydice Dimitriou has a reputation—no, not that kind. She is the innocent Dimitriou sister. The nice one. The gentle one. But after Orpheus Makos very publicly shatters her heart, she is ready to step out of the shadows and find her own way in Olympus. Who better to guide her on this new path than Charon Ariti, Hades’ right-hand man? Charon has given everything to ensure the safety of Hades’ territory, but he’s ready to find someone he can call his own, and he has a soft spot for the youngest Dimitriou. 

But things are never that simple, especially in Olympus. Charon and Eurydice should be the perfect pair, but Eurydice can’t quite forget her first love, especially since Orpheus is committed to winning her back. As things begin to heat up among the trio, the city of Olympus continues to unravel as outside forces threaten its safety.  

Robert is known for pushing the envelope, especially when it comes to exploring kink and polyamorous partnerships. But she does so deftly and with care, never losing her sense of fun, and that is why readers keep coming back. A Robert romance is full throttle, fast paced and consistently jaw-dropping. I certainly didn’t see puppy play on my 2024 romance bingo card, but here we are. (Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks!)  

For fans of the series, Midnight Ruin is both an exciting continuation of the larger narrative and a necessary breather. After a string of enemies-to-lovers romances, it feels good to spend time with this gentler trio. As the political unrest in Olympus ramps up, their quiet love story is a small respite amid the chaos. Each partner plays an important role in the dynamic: Orpheus’ renewed sense of loyalty, Charon’s gentle guidance, Eurydice’s kind but determined heart. If you were to take one out of the equation, the relationship would no longer work. It’s impossible not to hope for this trio to secure their love.

Dangerous and thrilling, Midnight Ruin is a classic Katee Robert romance. You never quite know where you are going, but you’ll gleefully enjoy the ride all the same.

Dangerous and thrilling, Midnight Ruin showcases Katee Robert’s ability to explore kink and polyamorous partnerships deftly and with care.
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Lana Ferguson’s The Fake Mate is the perfect introduction to the wild world of the omegaverse, a romance subgenre where people (who are often also wolf-shifters) are divided into a hierarchy of alphas, betas and omegas. Fun and easy, The Fake Mate is all pheromones and big, sexy energy. It’s the literary equivalent of a really delicious snack, the kind that once you open the bag, you just can’t stop before it’s gone.

Despite being a successful doctor, omega Mackenzie Carter can’t seem to get her grandmother to register that she’d rather focus on her career than dating. And after a string of horrible dates who seem more interested in her tail than her mind, it only makes sense to lie and tell Gram that she’s met someone. Enter Noah Taylor, a gruff cardiologist at Mackenzie’s hospital who has kept the fact that he’s an alpha hidden from the board. When his secret gets out, he needs to convince everyone that he’s happily settled down and nothing like the stereotypical aggressive alpha. It’s a practically perfect setup for a fake-dating arrangement. But once Mackenzie and Noah become friends with benefits, it’s almost impossible for this alpha and omega to ignore the pull of fate.

The Fake Mate pulls out a bunch of tropes that rom-com readers know and love: fake dating, workplace romance and a good, old-fashioned grumpy/sunshine pairing. But the omegaverse has its own tropes, like the alpha/omega dynamic, heat cycles and knotting. (Google at your own risk.) Ferguson doesn’t compromise when blending these two worlds, creating an exciting entry point for folks who want to dip their toes into the omegaverse but aren’t quite sure where to start. Mackenzie and Noah are easy to fall for and fun to root for, and the stakes of their story are breezily low. There’s something reassuring and deeply satisfying about a book that’s easy to slide into, a little banana-pants and blessed with an almost alarming amount of spice; judging by The Fake Mate and her debut, The Nanny, that particular combination seems to be Ferguson’s specialty.

Whether you’re new to the omegaverse or a longtime fan, the scorching The Fake Mate will thrill those in search of a book that turns the heat all the way up.

The Fake Mate, Lana Ferguson’s omegaverse rom-com, is all pheromones and big, sexy energy.
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Cat Sebastian’s We Could Be So Good is a sweet workplace romance that follows two men who work at a newspaper in late 1950s New York City. It reads like a love letter to the queer pulp novels of the era, but with an infusion of hope not often seen in literature about the time period. 

Nick Russo is a gruff, working-class journalist from Brooklyn who has worked his way up the ladder to become a lead journalist for The Chronicle. Charmingly naive Andy Fleming is the begrudging heir to his family media empire and Nick’s future boss. Nick is prepared to hate Andy, who he sees as a pretty boy who has had everything handed to him, but that’s easier said than done. During their first encounter, Nick finds Andy literally stuck—his tie jammed in a filing cabinet. Andy’s lovable mess charms the grumpy journalist, and soon Nick is helping Andy with small, everyday tasks like keeping track of keys as well as bigger issues like navigating the politics of the paper. Nick, who has long known he is gay, is content to merely pine for his hapless friend. But then Andy begins to question his own feelings for Nick and whether they could be more than platonic.

We Could Be So Good takes place in the oft-romanticized late 1950s, which are a particularly fascinating and high-stakes backdrop for a queer historical romance. It would be easy to fill both men with shame and self-loathing, given the threats to their safety. And yet this book is filled with so much hope. The queer scene was beginning to blossom in this era, with pulp novels acting like a road map for the LGBTQ+ community. Nick and Andy read these books, and Sebastian incorporates plot devices and tropes from them into her work. However, instead of the shame and violence that often accompanied contemporary 1950s narratives, Sebastian gives Nick and Andy a safe space to explore their sexuality. They even experience some (albeit minor) degree of acceptance from their families. These refreshing choices prevent the story from being bogged down by the toxicity of the time period, allowing the reader to experience queer optimism if not outright joy.

With We Could Be So Good, Sebastian adds a tender, heartening stunner of a love story to her already-impressive body of work.

Cat Sebastian’s midcentury romance is a tender, heartening stunner of a love story.
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In A Rogue at Stonecliffe, Candace Camp takes readers on a wild adventure full of romance and suspense in Regency England. 

More than a decade ago, the love of Annabeth Winfield’s life left without a word. Forced to wonder if she made it all up in her head, Annabeth begrudgingly attempted to get on with her life. She clearly didn’t mean as much to Sloane Rutherford as he meant to her. With time, Annabeth finds herself engaged to the perfectly fine, albeit a little boring, Nathan. So naturally, that’s when Sloane returns, warning Annabeth that she is in trouble.

Sloane has actually spent the last decade as a spy and is attempting to leave that life behind him when a ruthless, anonymous blackmailer threatens Annabeth. He is desperate to keep her safe, but the plucky Annabeth is not about to let Sloane lock her in a parlor. As the stakes increase and the two find themselves constantly together while trying to stop the blackmailer, old feelings rise to the surface and they wonder if there isn’t a bit of unfinished business between them.

A cornerstone of the historical romance subgenre with a mile-long backlist, Camp knows a thing or two about creating compelling characters. While the blackmailing plotline is often confusing, the love story is on point. The chemistry between Sloane and Annabeth absolutely crackles, and it’s perfectly believable that, despite being separated for a decade, these two would still be head over heels for each other. Folks who love a Regency romance rife with palpable sexual tension and intrigue will have a wonderful time reading A Rogue at Stonecliffe.

Those in search of a Regency romance rife with palpable sexual tension and intrigue will have a wonderful time reading A Rogue at Stonecliffe.
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Julie Anne Long’s How to Tame a Wild Rogue is a joyful, sexy and stylishly written Regency romance that reunites readers with the quirky found family of the Grand Palace on the Thames boarding house.

The sixth installment of Long’s Palace of Rogues series introduces its main couple, infamous  privateer Lorcan St. Leger and Lady Daphne Worth, in what is possibly the single greatest meet-cute this reviewer has ever read. After her father gambled away the family wealth and her fiancé left her for a governess, Daphne was forced to find work as a lady’s companion. But when her employer’s husband makes a pass at her, Daphne ties together her bedsheets and hoists herself out the window to escape him—only to find that the barrel she was relying on to help her reach the ground has been moved. Lorcan, curious as to why a beautiful woman is dangling out a window, decides to offer a hand. When the weather takes a turn for the worse, the pair take shelter at the Grand Palace on the Thames. In order to share the only remaining suite at the boarding house, the two must pretend to be husband and wife, but real feelings soon begin to take hold. As the tension between her and Lorcan escalates, Daphne must decide if she is willing to take a risk for love.

This excellent book will be best understood by those who are already familiar with the wonderful inhabitants of the Grand Palace on the Thames; newcomers will most likely want to start at the beginning of the series. The Grand Palace itself is a key part of what makes How to Tame a Wild Rogue so enjoyable, as Long is able to revisit a place that has already been the setting of so many love stories. She tells the story not only from Lorcan’s and Daphne’s perspectives, but also from the points of view of Angelique and Delilah, the owners of the Grand Palace who have starred in previous books in the series. Fans of these characters and their dashing husbands will be delighted by the insight Long provides into their lives post-happily ever after. They and their regular residents all feel like family, providing equal parts comedic relief and suspense. However, the strength of the supporting cast doesn’t draw attention from the compelling two main characters. Lorcan and Daphne are both desperate to be chosen and loved, and they respond with such tenderness to the possibility of healing from their pasts and building a new life with each other.

Long proves once again that she’s one of the queens of Regency romance in the wonderful How to Tame a Wild Rogue.

Julie Anne Long returns to the Grand Palace on the Thames with the utterly romantic How to Tame a Wild Rogue.
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If every story has already been told, then writers have the supreme challenge of telling old tales in new ways. Kate Goldbeck’s debut novel, You, Again, is the perfect example of how to do this successfully. A fresh take on the iconic rom-com When Harry Met Sally, You, Again is funny, deliciously awkward and uniquely romantic. 

What happens when Ari, a struggling comedian who doesn’t believe in love, meets Josh, a hopelessly romantic chef? Well, naturally, they find out they are sleeping with the same woman. While both figured that they’d never meet again, New York City has other ideas, and a series of maddeningly funny run-ins ensues. Until one day, five years after their initial meeting, when heartbreak has them both reeling and they form an unexpected friendship. But over time, the lines start to blur and Ari and Josh’s commitment to being “friends without benefits” slowly crumbles.

You, Again provides a clever and highly satisfying rendition of enemies-to-lovers, especially because it isn’t a solitary disappointing encounter that makes Ari and Josh enemies, as is often the case. Oh no. These two consistently enrage each other for years before life delivers them both humbling heartaches, allowing them to extend a bit of grace. This progression from mounting hostility to a weary truce makes their friendship and its inevitable romantic turn all the more satisfying in the end.

Josh and Ari are both flawed and funny messes who can’t seem to get out of their own way. And it’s very fun to watch them be messy. The magnetic push and pull that Goldbeck constructs between the two makes it obvious that keeping their relationship purely platonic won’t last. Ari, with her unapologetic and hilarious goading, and Josh, with his stubborn and oftentimes infuriating sense of righteousness, are perfectly crafted to first infuriate, then delight each other.

In one of the novel’s best scenes, Ari, riffing on the title of Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, asks, “Is it possible to wallow greatly? Somebody write that book.” Well, congratulations, Goldbeck: You did it. You, Again wallows in fantastic, funny and romantic fashion.

You, Again is a fantastic, funny and uniquely romantic update of When Harry Met Sally.
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How does any good romance protagonist woo their intended? Do they leave secret gifts for their love to find? Do they mend a tear in their shirt as an act of service? Whatever it is, it usually isn’t to compare their future lover’s brown eyes to beef stew. And yet, the gruff but kindly Rufus d’Aumesty does exactly that to Luke Doomsday as they begin to circle each other in KJ Charles’ gorgeous and delightful A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel.

It’s been 13 years since the events of The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen, the first book in Charles’ Doomsday Books duology. Rufus d’Aumesty has found himself unexpectedly named the Earl of Oxney, and has since been saddled with belligerent relatives who refuse to leave his home and are intent on proving his illegitimacy. One such attempt brings Luke, who played a key supporting role in the first novel, to the earl’s door with stories of a secret marriage and his own claim to the title. Luke is a frighteningly competent smuggler-turned-secretary, and Rufus, a career military man, desperately needs help sorting out the affairs of his newfound earldom. Before they know it, their tentative alliance against Rufus’ grasping family blossoms into the tenderest of love affairs. But each man has his secrets, and those secrets threaten to eat away at the very foundation of their relationship. Rufus and Luke must soon ask themselves what exactly they are willing to sacrifice for love.

There is a moment in this book, not quite midway through, when Luke is caught sneaking around the manor by Rufus. Emboldened from weeks of building tension, Luke glares at Rufus and charges him to either “sack me, fuck me, or leave me be.” Phew. Let me tell you, I mopped my brow and then hollered with glee. Charles’ ability to steam up the pages while also producing pure, fangirl-esque joy is a defining trait of her work. There isn’t a ton of waiting to get to the juicy bits in a Charles book, but somehow, she still makes you feel like you’ve spent hours begging for her characters to just kiss already. At times, it can feel like romance readers must choose between spice and plot, but we don’t have to make that choice here: It’s all there, perfectly laid out by an expert writer who unerringly produces novels that are masterfully crafted, deliciously adventurous and so, so horny. A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel is a nonstop, swoony adventure from start to finish.

KJ Charles concludes her Doomsday Books duology with the masterfully crafted, deliciously adventurous and so, so horny Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel.

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