Contemporary Quickies

Open Road Summer
Written by Emery Lord
Contemporary, Road Trip, Romance
368 Pages
Edition Publishing September 1st 2018
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★★☆
After breaking up with her bad news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s twenty four city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls only summer of break up ballads and healing hearts.

But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy next door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.
Seventeen year old Reagan O'Neill is embarking on a summer of tour buses, plush hotel suites and watching from the wings as best friend and America's country music darling Lilah Montgomery completes the leg of her Southern tour. Behind the stage presence, Dee is heartbroken and nursing the breakup of her teenage sweetheart. Although the narrative follows Reagan's journey, best friend and superstar Dee is a wonderful secondary character, reminiscent of Taylor Swift's beginnings as a country music darling. 

For Reagan, the summer long tour is an opportunity to mend, having escaped an abusive relationship, her alcoholism and underage drink driving charges. Her once single, now remarried father is repairing their parental relationship while maintaining his sobriety with the support of his new wife. When vicious rumours begin to surface surrounding Dee's private life and wholesome image, long time friend and fellow musician Matt Finch joins the tour creating a media distraction. With his boyish good looks and southern charm, the last thing Reagan needs is another distraction.

Reagan portrays a tough girl image, confident and often shallow. Beneath the surface lies an insecure young woman who is beginning to piece her life back together for her father she feels abandoned by, for her friend Dee but most importantly, for herself. The issue I found with Reagan is her assumptions and judgement of other females around her, especially in regards to Matt, after joining the tour.

Matt is lovely and clearly attracted to Reagan, she challenges him, frustrates him and the two share wonderful banter and chemistry. As a performer, Matt is also a heartthrob for teens and the young female audience, to which Reagan takes issue. Wearing slim, short, revealing clothing or heavy makeup does not equate to being sexually promiscuous. Even if a character chose to engage in sex with multiple partners, that's great as long as they're being safe and the sex is consensual.

Apart from the slut shaming not being addressed, it was a fun, wonderfully written, summer read with a loving friendship, swoony romance and beautiful moments of imperfections that make life perfect.



Skylarks
Written by Karen Gregory
Contemporary, Activism, LGBT, Romance
320 Pages
Published July 1st 2018
Thank you to Bloomsbury Australia
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★★★★
We watch the bird as it flies high above us, singing like it's the only thing in the world that matters.

And I feel it, that life can be beautiful. That there are possibilities.

Keep your head down and don't borrow trouble is the motto Joni lives by, and so far it's seen her family through some tough times. It's not as if she has the power to change anything important anyway. Like Dad's bad back, or the threat of losing their house.

So when Annabel breezes into her life, Joni's sure they're destined to clash. Pretty, poised, privileged, the daughter of the richest family in town must have it easy.

But sometimes you find a matching spirit where you least expect it. Sometimes love can defy difference. And sometimes life asks you to be bigger and braver...
Karen Gregory creates such wonderfully realistic narratives about life and human struggles. The honest, working class family on the verge of financial ruin due to big corporation purchasing their small, low income housing estate with plans to raise the rent beyond the means of residents. Working parents with young families, single parents on pensions and the elderly that call Cherry Tree estate home. Including the Cooper family.

To help make ends meet, Joni Cooper works at her local library over the summer holidays alongside Annabel Huntington, a girl from the wealthy side of the tracks. I loved their tentative friendship as they begin to understand one another, those uncertain moments of whether their friendship is venturing into romantic love. It was so lovely and gentle, one of my favourite aspects of the storyline.

While it's often easier to deny the inevitable for Joni's parents, older brother Jamie is determined to fight against the injustice of eviction. The central focus is on the socioeconomic repercussions of the small estate takeover will potentially leave hundreds of families homeless, it's a David verses Goliath battle that begins to unite the community. I enjoyed the political activism and grass roots campaign that Joni involved herself with, although it placed further strain on her family, relationship and also employment.

Overall, it was a quick yet satisfying read. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

18 comments

  1. I'm thrilled you enjoyed Open Road Summer. It was such a lovely and swoony read. I was totally into it. I get what you mean about the slut-shaming, though I think the author addressed why she didn't address it somewhere in a blog post ... I'll have to look it up to see if I dreamed it or what!

    Skylarks isn't a book I've heard anything about, but it sounds really lovely. I love that she works in a library, and the romance seems so sweet. Just right up my alley. Thanks for putting it on my radar!

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    1. I'll have to have a Google to see if I can find it. Apart from that aspect, I really enjoyed it. I just wish it had been challenged within the narrative and a part of Reagan's growth as a character.

      Skylarks was really lovely. I love small town, grass roots movements within communities and Karen Gregory is such an incredible author that breathes life into her characters.

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  2. I've read a lot of glowing reviews for Open Road Summer and hope to get to it soon (-ish....in my lifetime lol)

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. You really can't go wrong with any Emery Lord release, she writes such feel great romances and narratives with character depth. Looking forward to seeing what she's working on next!

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  3. Thanks for these mini reviews, and I'm really glad you liked both of them. I still need to check out something by Emery Lord. I hear good things!!!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. She's amazing Lauren, such wonderfully warm reads. Perfect for the upcoming winter. I've read all of her releases thus far and they're all incredible. You can't go wrong with one of her feel great reads!

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  4. Open Road Summer was the first Emery Lord book I bought, and the only one I have not read. I feel confident after reading your review, that I will really enjoy it though. Good banter and a road trip are always a plus for me.

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    1. I love contemporary road trip adventures as well, the character development in the small confined spaces is always intense, especially when characters share an attraction. I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did Sam, would love to see what you think of it!

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  5. I've been hearing amazing things about Emery Lord's books, they seem perfect for summer!

    Tasya // The Literary Huntress

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    1. They are Tasya! Wonderful romances with character depth, I particularly liked the secondary characters in this one namely Dee. She's wonderful and would love to see her with her own narration.

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  6. I really want to read Open Road Summer! I love it when characters are different from how they really seem on the outside. Plus you know I just love myself some fun, romantic banter. ;) I'm a bit worried about the slut shaming, but if it's just a minor scene, I might be able to pass it by. Fantastic reviews as usual, Kelly! 💕💕

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    1. It's throwaway comments when Reagan feels threatened by other females paying attention to Matt. She often comments on how they're dressed which is bizarre seeing that she's usually dressed in a similar fashion but takes umbrage with others. Only a small blight on what's a pretty great storyline. Id love to see what you think of it.

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  7. Open Road Summer has been on my list for awhile! If there is slut-shaming that goes unaddressed, that'll really turn me off of the story. It doesn't matter how good the rest of it is. You shouldn't include something like that in a story without taking the time to address that issue before the end. Characters need to have consequences, too. A lot of younger people look to literature to learn and grow, and that shouldn't be an example that they see. It's important those concerns are discussed and resolved within the story.

    The second book is new to my eyes, but your review was lovely! I've already added it on Goodreads.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

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    1. Karen Gregory is such an underrated author, she's an author I love to recommend to contemporary readers. Both Skylarks and Countless. On the surface they seem like just another great read but they have so much more depth. Her debut novel Countless was incredibly emotionally and stayed with me long after I'd finished.

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  8. I am so glad Open Road Summer is getting published outside of the US. I saw it in a bookshop the other day and got all excited. I may not be reading as much contemporary YA but I have a soft spot for that book and might have to purchase my own copy. I do admit I don't remember the slut shaming in the book but I haven't read it since it's release. I do hate the need to put other women down in books by MCs so I'll watch out for that when I do purchase and reread.

    And look at that stunning cover for Skylarks! It sounds like a really enjoyable read and one I definitely want to read. Two girls from opposite sides of the tracks? And an MC struggling as her family faces eviction? Sounds like it has a lot going on and a really good book.

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    1. It's subtle and in passing but there really wasn't a need for it to be included, seeing it wasn't challenged or addressed. Otherwise I really loved it. I love Emery Lord, she writes such feel great reads.

      Skylarks was so, so lovely. At the core is a grass roots community movement but such a gentle female romance as well. I really enjoyed it and she's an incredible author.

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  9. I love me some Emery Lord, so I'm so excited to start reading Open Road Summer!!

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    1. Such a wonderful read Geraldine, can't wait to see what you think of it!

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