Blame It On The Brontes by Annie Sereno

Book: Blame It on the Brontes

Author: Annie Sereno

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Romance Steam Level: 2.5 out of 5 (Somewhere between Hot Cocoa and Full Boil) [Fade to Black]

Publisher: Forever (Grand Central Publishing)

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Format: ebook

Length: 384 pages

Athena Murphy loves teaching college students classic literature. Departmental politics and the constant pressure to publish? Not so much. After losing her temper at a staff meeting, Athena’s career is on thin ice.

In a last-ditch effort to save her job, Athena finds herself back in Laurel, Illinois and (hopefully) hot on the trail of the mysterious C.L. Garland. Rumors persist that the woman who pens spicy retellings of classics like “David Capafeel” and “Sins and Sin’s Ability” is a lifelong resident of Athena’s own hometown. If she can identify Garland and write a definitive biography, her career will be back on track. Eager to hear plenty of town gossip, Athena begs for a waitressing job from a family friend, only to find out that the new owner of the café is Thorne Kent, AKA the one who got away. Twice.

I’m not gonna lie. I have mixed feelings about this book.

On the one hand, it’s a cute small town second chance (okay, third chance) romance with lots of word play, literary references, and college/first love nostalgia. When Thena and Thorne were a couple, they were absolutely adorable together. I loved the way he encouraged her earring addiction and how they discussed literary topics together. This is a pretty funny book. Multiple scenes had me literally laughing out loud. The café regulars were an interesting bunch. It was fun to get to know each of them alongside Athena.

On the other hand, Athena is truly terrible at sleuthing. TERRIBLE. Several of her arguments for suspecting or dismissing townsfolk as the mysterious Garland made zero sense. It was painful to watch. Also, Lydia’s subplot bothered me. It felt like the “solution” was there for irony and shock value rather than anything else. It didn’t feel authentic to that character, at least not as the story currently stands. I mean, I can kind of see how it makes sense, but to me it felt forced.

The biggest thing that bothers me is the book’s approach to s3x. This is a romance novel about a series of smutty retellings of classic literature, yet the love scenes are closed door/fade to black. Don’t get me wrong, I can handle a clean romance as long as the rest of the story is solid. Here’s the problem: this is not a clean read. It’s got foul language and a hot make out scene and multiple mentions of n1pples and p3nises. At one point, someone is literally hit over the head with a s3x toy! It makes zero sense for the love scenes to fade to black. End rant.

Ultimately, I feel like this is going to be one of those books where a lot of people love it and a lot of people totally hate it. As for me, I’m on the fence.

Bottom Line: Cute, slow burn, lovers-to-strangers-to-friends-to-lovers story in a midwestern town. Smutty book with no actual smut.

P.S. I have a theory that several of the minor characters are modeled after classic literary characters. At the very least, I identified a Miss Havisham and of course [Spoiler] is a take on Mrs. Rochester.

Thank you to NetGalley and Forever Publishing for an Advanced Reader Copy ebook. ⁠

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