Olivia Dade

Books: Romance

There's Something About Marysburg: Teach Me (2019), Sweetest in the Gale (2020)


He's Come Undone: A Romance Anthology (2020)

There's Something About Marysburg

Teach Me (2019)

Teach MeRose Owens has been teaching for twenty years, but the head of secondary social studies for their school system decided to take a shot at her through a new teacher joining their school–and giving some of her favorite courses to the incoming teacher.

Rose is very self-contained–almost obsessively so.

Keisha, without fail, shouldered responsibilities others shirked, which meant she was always busy. Always in a hurry. Always at least a few minutes late. Under other circumstances, Rose would have befriended her without hesitation. But a smart, private woman didn't cross-contaminate her professional and personal lives.

Which makes it hard for her to deal with the fact that the new teacher (who has twenty-five years experience) is a genuinely nice guy and is impossible to dislike.

What I particularly liked about this story: both Rose and Martin are in their 40s. Rose is an apologetically large woman–and that's one of the things Martin likes about her. And there is no casual boinking here–it takes the two months to become friends, and then something more.

I wasn't completely sure about Martin's daughter Bea, who seemed a little too well-behaved and sweet to be a teenager (even if she wasn't unhappy about her parent's divorce).

I did love Rose's ex-in-laws, but I also did wonder how they ended up with a son who was such a jerk.

One scene I particularly liked was the staff meeting, guest-speaker bingo.

Publisher: Hussies & Harpies Press

Sweetest in the Gale (2020)

Sweetest in the GaleThis is actually three novellas, all set in the town of Marysburg: "Sweetest in the Gale", "Unraveled", "Cover Me"

"Sweetest in the Gale"

Griff Conover has worked with Candy Albright since moving to Marysville, and he's always had his eye on her. But his grief at losing his wife kept him from truly being interested, no matter how much about her he liked.

But as the new year starts, something is terribly wrong with Candy.

He'd seen that particular greyness before. In the mirror, three years ago.

Yes, this story deal with grief. Candy having suffered her own loss, and Griff deciding if he is ready to move on with his life.

Why couldn't he seem to feel the same about his own fracture, his own pain? Why couldn't he greet his own healing with uncomplicated relief?

It's a heavy topic, but she does a lovely job with it.

Did he intend to wait until he no longer feared another loss?

If so, he'd never move on. Never fall in love again.

"Unraveled" was in the anthology He's Come Undone which I read last year, so I didn't reread the story here.

"Cover Me" is the shortest story, and is the only one that doesn't involve the faculty of Marysville High School.

Elizabeth Stone is worried.

Terrified, really.

"In the shower last month, I found a—" She faltered, then made herself finish. "I found a lump along the side. Toward the middle. You can't see it, but it's pretty easy to feel. I think it's a cyst, since I tend to get those, but I don't know. It doesn't hurt."  …  Since Elizabeth was taking advantage of a program offering free mammograms to uninsured Marysburg residents, Cailyn likely understood the situation without further explanation. At the very least, she didn't ask any more questions.

Having gone through the process myself, if gives a very accurate description of an ultrasound breast biopsy. Which isn't something I expected to read in a romance story, but I appreciated it nevertheless, since it's something lots of women have to go through, and can be terrifying.

Yes, this story talks about breast cancer and the gawdawful mess that is the American health care system.

I'm not innocent. I'm a flawed human being, and I've made some bad decisions. Does that mean I no longer have value to you or to our society? Does being fat and a former smoker mean I deserve to d—"

Luckily, along with the side of rage served up about the health care system, the story is also a lovely friends-to-lovers, marriage of convenience story.

The stories were very good, but–as noted–they were quite heavy, and might not be right for a lot of people unless your head is in the right place.

Publisher: Hussies & Harpies Press 

Rating: 8/10


He's Come Undone: A Romance Anthology (2020)   Emma Barry, Olivia Dade, Adriana Herrera, Ruby Lang, and Cat Sebastian

Hes Come Undone A Romance Anthology

This is five romance novellas by five authors, three M/F and two M/M.

Appassionata by Emma Barry. Brennan Connelly is a professional piano technician–one of the best in his field. The pianist, Kristy Kwong, is someone he's had a crush on since they were teenagers. But Kristy is a fallen star trying to make a comeback, who does her best to put absolutely everyone off.

It's probably weird, but my favorite part of this story was all the technical musical and piano stuff.

There's no formal schooling to be a technician. I took a course from the guild and became Phil's assistant. He was good about making sure I was exposed to different styles, different approaches. He was the one who arranged for my internship with the concert tech at Tanglewood."

I also enjoyed Kristy's arc trying to deal with her stage fright.

Unraveled by Olivia Dade.

Simon Burnham, high school math teacher, has been assigned to mentor Poppy Wick, the art teacher who has just moved into town.

Simon is an uptight prig but he is also able to recognize when he has made a mistake, and apologize.

A girl at the table next to him twitched suddenly. As her hand shot into the air, her face alight, she began to grin. Revelation. Watching it dawn on a student's face was a privilege, one he didn't take for granted. He'd been chasing that particular expression for over twenty years, day by day.

I very much enjoyed both the mysteries, and the passion both had for teaching.

I really liked Simon a lot.

The rules of gentlemanly behavior were clear under the circumstances, and he followed them. After she'd packed her belongings in her tote, he offered to carry it for her. As she locked her classroom door behind them, he scanned the dim hallway to ensure her safety. Once they reached her car, he made certain she left the lot before driving away himself.

Caught Looking by Adriana Herrera. Yariel and Hatuey have been best friends since they were teenagers–and Yariel has been in love with Hatuey for almost that entire time.

This was fine. It kept me reading, but nothing especially stood out.

Yes, And… by Ruby Lang. Darren Zhang is a doctor who needs to learn to relax. So he signs up for the meditation class as assigned–except he accidentally ends up in Joan Lacy's improv class.

He'd entered the information a week ago, but there must have been a last-minute switch. He had to leave. But he'd already been in here for fifteen minutes, and exiting was going to be disruptive. The combination of wanting to be a good student even if he wasn't taking this course was at war with the desire to bolt and find the meditation room, where he'd already missed roll call and was thus probably labeled undependable.

That paragraph sums up Darren perfectly. But I appreciated that Joan was also struggling, trying to deal with her mother's health issues and figuring out what she was actually doing with her life.

Tommy Cabot Was Here by Cat Sebastian. Set in Massachusetts in 1959.

Everett Sloane loved Tommy Cabot, but when Tommy got married Everett all but ran away across the ocean to try and mend his heart. Now he's back and shocked that Tommy's son is a student at his school–and he that he has once more to try and deal with his feelings for Tommy.

This was probably my favorite story in the anthology. Everett has good reasons to stay away from Tommy. But Tommy's life is very different now from what he or Everett could have expected, and it's changing him–mostly in very good ways.

Rating: 8/10