Review: The Theory of Second Best by J. Bengtsson


J. Bengtsson
Series: Cake #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Released: January 9, 2017
Source: Audible Audiobook
Rating: 4 stars

Twenty-two-year-old Kyle McKallister has lived his life in the shadows. Younger brother to one of the world’s most elusive and embattled celebrities, Kyle has carved out a comfortable existence touring with his famous brother and living in the lap of luxury with no commitments or plans of his own, only a deep, haunting loyalty to his brother. But his life is about to be shaken up when the opportunity comes to compete on a popular reality show.

Small town girl Kenzie Williams has come on the show for one thing only: to win. But when a disastrous start forces her to rely on an eclectic band of misfits, she finds herself immediately smitten with a handsome and mysterious cast mate.

But life on the island is just a game. Can Kyle and Kenzie’s fragile spark survive the pressures of the real world?

After loving Cake, the first book in this series, so much, I was excited to continue and get Kyle’s story. As Jake’s younger brother, Kyle struggled with not only living in Jake’s shadow but also intense feelings of guilt. Outwardly Kyle was the laid-back jokester but that masked a whole lot of past hurt.
Small-town girl Kenzie was ready to break out, see the world, and shed some of the responsibilities she’d be shouldering for so long. Being chosen for a Survivor-style reality show seemed to be the perfect escape, and the prize money would help her family.

I was so iffy about the reality-show aspect (I am not a fan of reality TV) but the ins and outs of the show didn’t over-shadow what I was really there for: Kenzie and Kyle. I loved the instant friendship they formed (in spite of their inauspicious beginning when Kenzie puked all over Kyle) and how they came to depend on one another. There was a great cast of secondary characters while they were on the island and the real highlight was the epic bromance between Kyle and Dale. The chill California dude and the minivan-driving nerd delivered so many laughs.
While I loved Kenzie, this was really Kyle’s story for me. Seeing what happened to Jake through Kyle’s eyes, and how Kyle suffered in the aftermath, was so heartbreaking. And the scenes between the two brothers in the end, giving voice to things that they’d kept silent about for years, definitely had the tears flowing.
This is one of those series that has me wondering why it’s not more well-known and why more people aren’t talking about it. Bengtsson created characters that feel utterly realistic, and while their situations may not be commonplace, their reactions and their attempts to get by the best that they can are completely understandable and relatable. She shows that while love can help heal, it’s not a magic cure that can fix all wounds. It’s also worth noting that the audio versions are perfection and Andi Arndt and Zachary Webber (and Joe Arden in the first book) turn the words on the page into a listening experience that made me feel every laugh, every cry, and everything in between.


Review: The Path to Sunshine Cove by RaeAnne Thayne

RaeAnne Thayne
Publication date: March 30, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Women's Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: HarperCollins/Harlequin
4 Stars
She knows what's best for everyone but herself...

With a past like hers, Jessica Clayton feels safer in a life spent on the road. She's made a career out of helping others downsize--because she's learned the hard way that the less "stuff," the better, a policy she applies equally to her relationships. But a new client is taking Jess back to Cape Sanctuary, a town she once called home...and that her little sister, Rachel, still does. The years apart haven't made a dent in the guilt Jess still carries after a handgun took the lives of both their parents and changed everything between them.

While Jess couldn't wait to put the miles between her and Cape Sanctuary, Rachel put down roots, content for the world--and her sister--to think she has a picture-perfect life. But with the demands of her youngest child's disability, Rachel's marriage has begun to fray at the seams. She needs her sister now more than ever, yet she's learned from painful experience that Jessica doesn't do family, and she shouldn't count on her now.

Against her judgment, Jess finds herself becoming attached--to her sister and her family, even to her client's interfering son, Nate--and it's time to put everything on the line. Does she continue running from her painful past, or stay put and make room for the love and joy that come along with it?

Jess travels light and uses her no-nonsense approach when helping her clients downsize and declutter their homes. When she arrives in Cape Sanctuary, with her vintage Airstream trailer in tow, she is combining work with a family visit. Her sister Rachel lives in Cape Sanctuary with her husband and kids and, while they stay in touch, there is a distance between them. Upon her arrival, she immediately has a run-in with Nate, her client's son, and they get off to a rocky start.

Rachel's life may look picture-perfect from the outside, but she feels anything but. She tries so hard to present an Instagram-worthy persona, but her son's recent autism diagnosis has her floundering. Her tight grip of control is slipping and she lashes out at her husband just when she needs him most. With her sister Jess in town for a few weeks, Rachel wants to regain the closeness they once had, but Jess seems content to keep their surface-level relationship as-is.

There was so much to enjoy in this one. The main characters were such good, decent people and their struggles, and their reactions to them, felt so realistic. Jess was independent and could be a little prickly, but still found herself becoming attached to Nate, his mother, and his daughter. I loved Nate's mother Eleanor and how she drew Jess in so quickly, becoming both a friend and a mother-figure. I enjoyed the chapters from Nate's point of view as he navigated his relationship with his teenage daughter as well as his feelings for Jess. And poor Rachel was so overwhelmed... it was easy to sympathize with her. It was obvious she loved her husband, and he adored her, but they were feeling so disconnected from one another. These characters are what drew me into the story so quickly and had me invested in their lives.

This is only the second book I have read from Thayne and both have been such feel-good stories that were exactly what I needed at the time. While these characters were dealing with some serious issues and had heartache in their pasts, the tone was never too heavy. I certainly recommend this heartwarming tale to readers who enjoy stories of family connections with a side of romance. 

Disclosure: I received a complimentary advance copy of this book for review. This does not impact my opinion of the book or the content of this review. I received no compensation and my review is voluntary.



New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @raeannethayne

Facebook: @AuthorRaeAnneThayne

Instagram: @raeannethayne


WWW Wednesday #103 | March 24, 2021


So apparently it's been six months since my last WWW Wednesday post. That was right around the time that I took on my more relaxed approach to blogging (Best. Decision. Ever.) and eased way up on feeling the need to post a certain number of times each week. And one of the things that fell by the wayside was WWW Wednesday posts. I definitely won't be going back to doing these every week, but it seemed like a good idea today, so here we are.
How is your week going? What are you reading today?



Currently reading: Despite the fact that my requesting of ARCs has dwindled to almost nil, I couldn't pass this one by. The synopsis grabbed me and the comparison to Me Before You intrigued me. The two main characters are patients in the rehabilitation ward of a hospital - both recovering from traumatic injuries. Although they never see one another face to face, their beds are separated by a curtain, they slowly forge a friendship. They are both dealing with such emotional trauma, in addition to the physical wounds, and I'm already cringing thinking about when one of them leaves the hospital. I need good things to happen to these two!
Current progress: 42%

Currently listening: I love returning to Casey and Jake, one of my favorite fictional couples, but at the same time, this one isn't going in the direction I expected. Which isn't a bad thing, but it's also feeling like there's a bit of filler happening that isn't really moving the story forward. Even so, I'm enjoying my time with Casey and Jake and I'm loving the moments focused on Jake's past and his continued journey is working through it. 
Current progress: 52%



Listened To: It's not often I can really warm to a prickly character. The ones who put up walls and refuse to let anyone get close. It's just not the kind of character I connect with. But Emma managed to be the exception to the rule because I felt so much for her and wanted so much for her. I love the way Bengtsson continues to explore Jake's past through the eyes of his siblings. It adds another layer to the story and delivers an even bigger emotional impact. Emma and Finn's story was just So. Good. I loved the drama-free way their relationship evolved. 

Read: Okay, so this one is sooo far out of my usual wheelhouse, but I was craving something light and had just seen someone mention it, and the paperback was less than five bucks on Amazon. Sold. And while it wasn't anything memorable, it was a sweet story that I thoroughly enjoyed. Mission accomplished.



Up next is probably Vi Keeland's The Invitation, because my hold just came in at the library, and Rogue Wave by J. Bengtsson because I need more of the McKallister family in my life.

What are you currently reading?
I wanna know! :) 

Blogoversary Giveaway: Girl Plus Books Turns 6

I'm not even going to pretend that I remembered the blogoversary this year. As with years past, I only noticed it when I saw it mentioned at Nicole's Feed Your Fiction Addiction. So all thanks go to Nicole, not me! 
And also as with years past, I refuse to bore you with a bunch of stats. "Oh, I've had blah-blah number of posts! And blah-blah number of reviews!" Because, (1) is there anything more boring than someone else's blog stats?, and (2) honestly, I don't even care so why should you? Girl Plus Books isn't about numbers and stats to me. It's the place where I can talk about my love of books and reading and fictional people and you all get it. You're my people. :) It's the place where I've made friends. And the place where I've learned of new books and authors that have become favorites. 

So, thanks for being here. Thanks for reading my ramblings. Thanks for commenting and interacting. Thanks for being my people.

To say thanks, I'm celebrating with a giveaway. The winner can choose any book (up to $20 USD) from Book Depository. The giveaway is open internationally as long as Book Depository delivers to your country. Note: if the winner is in the U.S., chances are the book will come from Amazon for faster shipping.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Sunday Post #243 | March 21, 2021


The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's a chance to share news: a post to recap the past week on your blog, showcase books,
 and share what's coming up on your blog in the week ahead. 
Was anyone else out of whack for days after the time change or was it just me? I mean, it seems ridiculous because it's only one hour, but still... I felt like I was off my game for days afterward. Side note: And why do we even do this anymore? I mean, seriously, what's the point? 

The weather has been all over the place this week. It was sunny and almost 80 mid-week, and yesterday it was rainy and in the 50's. What's it like where you are? 

The Husband was out of town yesterday for a car show so I used the alone time for a little retail therapy. :) I hit up HomeGoods and found the exact white lantern that I wanted for the foyer. Score.

Does anyone use a white noise machine? Any recs? I typically have the ceiling fan on all night but when it's cooler and the fan isn't on it's like it's too quiet to sleep. Sounds backwards, right? But I miss the hum of the fan. I've ordered a white noise machine from Amazon that actually has settings for fan sounds so I'll see how it goes.     

This week's 80's music fix is Don't You Want Me (1981) from The Human League. It's one of the first videos I remember seeing on MTV and still a favorite.

Tuesday, March 16

Friday, March 19






Nothing this week.

How was your week? Any new books? Any news to share?
I'd love to hear about it!