Straight as a Jalebi by Ritu Bhathal

I was offered a copy of Straight As A Jalebi to read in return for a review quote. As you know, I try to keep up with any new romance novels that feature South Asian characters, so I was delighted to read it.

Sunny is the ‘good’ son. He works in the family business and is generally very straight-laced. His niche shop in Birmingham has started a collaboration with the Indian clothing designer Milan, whose dazzling wedding clothes are bringing UK desi brides to the shop in droves.

Milan is the polar opposite of Sunny. He’s flamboyant and over the top, playing to his campy designer image.

Sunny and Milan are drawn inexorably towards each other, but neither of them can come out to their families. Before they know it, they’re both engaged to nice, suitable girls to be married. What are they going to do now?

It’s nice to see South Asian rep. It’s even nicer to see queer South Asian rep. I also liked that Sunny’s side of the story was rooted firmly in the diaspora, so that you got to see Indians with all sorts of different outlooks on life.

This is a delightful male-male sweet romance. Sunny is just adorable and Milan is the perfect guy for him! I raced through this book in one highly enjoyable weekend. 

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Canva for authors: How to make a tropey marketing graphic for your book

Have you seen those graphics that have a book in the centre and then list all the reasons you should read it – with romance, it’s usually done by listing tropes. This works because romance readers tend to like tropes. You’ll often see social media posts that say ‘I love this trope – tell me more books that have it, please’. So someone scrolling through their social media feed might come across the image of your book cover and clock that they like a certain trope in it … and hopefully click through to buy it.

You don’t HAVE to use tropes. You can list awards, if you’re lucky enough to have won any. Or even very short quotes from people.

It’s remarkably easy to make one of these in Canva. Here’s my step-by-step tutorial on how to do it. It’s on my YouTube channel. There are a whole load of other videos on there – a lot of which are about how authors can use Canva to promote their books.

The graphics that you see are often made by publishers’ marketing departments, but there’s no reason why you can’t make one yourself.

If you’ve found this tutorial useful, please share it (and subscribe to my YouTube channel – I’d be very grateful).

If you’d like a free Canva template – sign up to my newsletter here:

You can sign up for a free Canva account here:*

* This is an affiliate link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but it gives me some intangible benefit- I haven’t figured out what yet.

Love on the brain by Ali Hazelwood

I loved The Love Hypothesis, so I expected that I’d love Love on the Brain too. I did – it’s got a scientist heroine. I love the lab related dynamics and the sausage referencing (because they’re very true to life). The whole thing with the engineer who did one term of neuroscience patronising the woman who has a PhD and a whole bunch of papers in actual neuroscience is also very relatable.

The story is great. My only quibble is that Levi seems to be very similar to Adam from TLH. Come to think of it, Bee is kinda similar to Olive. Apart from that, it’s a great book. The secondary characters were great. Love the goth girl.

Great STEM rep and a good fun book. If you haven’t read The Love Hypothesis, you’ll like this one. If you have read TLH, you’ll probably still like this one, but feel a weird sense of de ja vu from time to time.

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Book review: Do You want to start a scandal by Tessa Dare

Sometimes, you’re just in the mood for something light, fast paced and funny. This book delivers on all of those promises.
Charlotte is the youngest of three daughters and her mother is basically Mrs Bennett from Pride and Prejudice – anxious to marry off her daughters to rich men. Charlotte tries to save Piers from her mother and inadvertently stumbles into a scandal and an arranged engagement.
Piers has his own secrets, which means that he is in danger. He can’t protect someone like Charlotte.
I really enjoyed the interaction and the respect between the two main characters. As with all books by Tessa Dare, it was very funny.

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Book review: His grumpy childhood friend by Jackie Lau

Book cover with title His grumpy Childhood Friend. Shows an East Asian woman and an East Asian man smiling at each other. The man is shirtless.

This book has been on my Kindle for a while and I finally got around to reading it. I love that Charlotte is a grumpy, caffiene obsessed, social awkward weirdo. I also love that Mike is a ray of sunshine, who has loved her forever and is exactly who she needs.

It’s a quick read. There’s quite a lot about food (which is one of the things I like about Jackie Lau’s books). I didn’t love this as much as I loved some of her other novellas (You should all read Only One Bed for Christmas), but it was pretty close.

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Premade romance book covers (with titles generated by ChatGPT)

A collection of ten illustrated book covers for romance novels

Over the Christmas period, I spent some time playing with ChatGPT, just like everyone else did. I wanted to challenge myself to make some book covers, but I needed inspiration. On a whim, I asked ChatGPT to give me some chicklit/ romcom titles. It came up with a huge list.

Eventually, out of 200 titles, I picked 25 which sounded like they could be on real books and made book covers for them all.

One of the reasons for setting myself this silly challenge was so that I could practise my Canva skills. If I’m going to do YouTube videos showing authors how to use Canva for their marketing, I should know what I’m talking about. I taught myself how to use Canva (and the basics of graphic design) by watching YouTube videos and just messing about with it for years.

Here are 24 of the covers in all their glory (25 looks messy). So … do you want to buy one? I’m selling them as premade ebook covers on my Etsy site. Each cover will be sold only once. If you buy one you get a jpeg of the book cover (with the title and author name changed to your title and name). You also get a link to the editable Canva template – so that if you want to tweak something, you can do.

Use them for an existing book that you’re self publishing. Or as inspiration for one you haven’t even started yet.

For those who are curious about animated book covers (where the cover is animated to start with and you use a static version as your ebook cover) the Love and The Internet cover has animated hearts. (If you buy this one, you’ll get a static jpeg image to use as your cover and a link to the Canva file so that you can use the MP4 video.

If you want me to make you a bespoke book cover, just email me.

Book Review: Vera Wong’s unsolicited advice for murderers by Jesse Sutanto

I loved this book. Vera is such a great character – elderly, lonely, fearsome, interfering – an all round force of nature.
Mostly though, she’s lonely. Life is dull and colourless. No one comes to her tea house and nothing much happens. Until she comes downstairs and finds a dead man in her shop.
Vera decides that the man has been murdered (even though the police don’t think so) and decides to solve the mystery herself. We then get to see a group of very different individuals, all of whom could have killed the victim.
I loved how we got to know the gang and how they became a sort of family to Vera. It was really sad to think that they were potential murderers.
A brilliantly evocative and funny book. I recommend it wholeheartedly if you’re after a comic murder mystery.
I received a review copy from Netgalley. This is my honest review.

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Canva for Authors – How to Make a cover reveal teaser image

Cover reveals are tremendous fun – you get to tease people about them for days before the actual cover reveal. You could post for five days on the run up to the event saying things like ”only four more days to go’ … or you could show people elements of your cover in isolation to build up some excitement. Here’s how you make an image that shows only part of your book cover at any one time.

Want to know more? Head over to my YouTube page and find out how to make these images in Canva. If you find it useful, please subscribe to my channel for more videos like this.

A Season For Love by Ally Sinclair

I enjoyed this book a lot.
Emma Love is trying to revitalise her mother’s dating agency by adding an old fashioned twist – A season, where people meet potential partners face to face, eschewing the digital dating app and going to actual conversations and fun instead. Will it work? Will everyone get paired off?
There are four couples in this story – Annie, Lydia and Jane – all of whom are Emma’s clients and Emma herself. They all get their own stories, complete with happy endings.
There’s a definite Bridgerton vibe to the Season – even before the Regency ball at the finale. There’s even a gossip mag about the people involved in the Season. So if you wanted Bridgerton vibes with Gossip Girl scenarios, this is the perfect book for you.
I look forward to the next Season!

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