I started the year with well-intentioned goals of reading longer books and joining book clubs to expand my reading. However, my schedule did not accommodate them and I ended up reading books for comfort.

There's a reason romance is my favourite genre. Romance books can be anything we want. They can be funny or intense or have suspense or whatever else. The best part is that they end with a happily-ever-after.

In January, almost all of my reads were romance books. And honestly, I needed that.

cinderella and the duke by lydia drake

cinderella and the duke

I started this book in December and finished it a few days into January. What a book to start the year with.

Cinderella and the Duke is a historical romance with a charming, snarky, quick-witted heroine and a former-rake duke who can match her banter. It started off well and kept me entertained throughout.

I absolutely loved the main characters. Julia is not the typical main lead of a historical romance. She is a spinster well past the average marriageable age and is looking for an escape. She does not care about romance or love. She wants freedom from her current life.

Gregory, the Duke of Ashworth, is tired of his former routines but cannot let them go while also fending off the hawkish mothers trying to web their daughters to him. He wants a quiet life now.

Julia and Gregory get into a marriage of convenience which, obviously, develops into more. Their chemistry and banter were perfect. I rooted for them right from the start. I loved how they were clearly the best partner for each other because they complimented each other so well and cared in all the right ways.

My only disappointment was the tension leading to the third-act breakup. I've seen this "problem" play out multiple times in other historical romance books and this story had nothing new. I would have preferred a better plot for that.

But overall, a fun book to read.

mixed signals by b. k. borison

mixed signals

I read and loved the first two books of the Lovelight series and was eagerly waiting for this book. However, I got caught up in reading other books and completely missed the release date. When I realized that it is available in early January, I ran to get it.

The first two books of the series were cute and soft and charming so I expected those vibes from this. Mixed Signals met my expectations and gave me so much more as well.

Layla and Caleb have lived in the same small town for years. Caleb has been harbouring a crush on her while she's been looking for love elsewhere. One day, their paths cross in an unlikely place which is a turning point in their relationship. They decide to "fake date" as an experiment for a month with less-than-reasonable reasons because they're caught up in the moment and are also afraid to commit fully. Of course, real feelings develop and things go farther than they expected.

The book is adorable, soft, and completely wholesome. Reading it was like receiving a mental and emotional hug. The vibes were immaculate and I finished the book in no time.

I loved the relationship development and how soft Layla and Caleb were for each other. It was so nice to see them learn about each other, care in small ways, and support each other through multiple things. And of course, the story had all the small-town quirks like other small-town romance books.

Overall, the perfect third book for the series (book 2 is still my favourite of the three). I am definitely going to read more books by this author.

fake empire by c. w. farnsworth

fake empire book cover

Fake Empire was my first 5-star read of the year. It sounded amazing when I read the synopsis so I made sure to get to it soon and it was worth it.

The book is an arranged-marriage-turned-love-story featuring the heirs of the two most powerful families in America. They've been skirting around each other for years knowing that they will eventually end up marrying each other. When the day finally comes, it's not what they were expecting at all.

I loved Scarlett and Crew individually. We get to see their histories, their strengths, vulnerabilities, and more. I couldn't help but root for them. They're strong forces in their own ways and turn out to be a lot more than what they're known for under the surface. We learn about them as they learn about each other and the peeling of layers was beautiful.

Their relationship progression was a work of art. It wasn't fast and while there was physical chemistry, their romantic relationship wasn't pushed further because of it. They connected emotionally and started genuinely caring for each other. I especially loved all of the romantic fluff at the end of the book. It did not end with a quick happily-ever-after scene. We get to see them be stable and happy.

Overall, I highly recommend this book!

steal like an artist by austin kleon

steal like an artist

For my non-fiction read of the month, I actually started Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Pérez but the book is hard to read and I knew that I wouldn't finish it in January. Since I had a reread of Steal Like an Artist pending after buying the physical copy recently, I decided to read it quickly.

I somehow did not enjoy it as much this time compared to my first read of the book. It did still give me ideas and motivate me to blog but I think because I read it just to tick off something, it wasn't as impactful on me.

I did like annotating the book on paper this time. As usual, annotating makes reading much better. I made sure to take notes of ideas and my goals while reading. After finishing the book, I skimmed through them and they pushed me to do a little bit of research and formulate a small intention for my future content.

the fantasy league by meg reading

the fantasy league

The synopsis and book cover gives a very different vibe of the book than what it actually is. I went in expecting a spicy romance with a possibly irritating male lead (at least until he becomes nicer). I also expected more focus on sports since the male lead is a football player.

The book pleasantly surprised me. It was actually pretty cute and swoony. Abel is a talented football player who is completely crushing on his home chef Scarlett. He was so nervous that he couldn't eat the food she prepared in the first few days and ended up throwing them away and avoided almost all contact with her. He was clearly hopeless so his coach and publicity manager came up with a scheme that nudged him towards her.

Scarlett is a talented chef who rose to some fame through her blog and is soon publishing a cookbook. She did not have a good opinion of Abel because of his mess-ups and was planning to quit as his chef when he proposed an outrageous deal.

Abel and Scarlett's relationship growth was a little wonky. There would be sudden developments at times and nothing other times. Once Abel and Scarlett admitted to their feelings, they were almost openly clingy and cringey which was actually adorable to see.

I guessed the third-act breakup very soon into the book and it wasn't done well. I do think that a breakup or period of tension was needed for their relationship but the way it was done was not a good one.

Overall, an okay book. Not that impressive compared to my other reads of the month.

blame it on the vodka by fiona cole

blame it on the vodka

I have mixed feelings about this book. I picked it up because it is a best-friends-to-lovers story where the two get hitched while drunk in Vegas. The guy has been in love with her since he met her and she always kept him at an arm's length so that their relationship doesn't get ruined by anything deep.

After they get married, things blow up between them and they have to find their way back to each other. They even learn new sides of each other while pretending to be a peacefully married couple.

Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy the book. I should have DNFed it but it wasn't that bad so I stuck with it. It never really got better, though. I liked Raelynn's backstory and character growth but there wasn't much to see about Austin. I somehow couldn't root for them throughout the book.

It felt like the only thing keeping them together was their history and their underlying physical attraction to each other. The author tried to make it seem like they seamlessly fit but they didn't. There was a lot of "telling" instead of "showing" where the characters say how they fit together in ways. We don't simply see it without explanation, it is explicitly called out.

I may be being a little nitpicky but it just didn't work for me. And these are the only reasons I can think of. Overall, not an impressive read.

reluctantly yours by erin hawkins

reluctantly yours

This was a refreshing read after a disappointing book! Reluctantly Yours sounded like a fun and entertaining romance and it delivered my expectations.

The book features Barrett and Chloe—two people who do NOT like each other and can barely stand to be in the same room. Barrett is a cut-throat CEO growing his father's company and does not have time for relationships or "fun." Chloe is his mother's assistant in their publishing company and dreams of becoming an editor. She lives and breathes books.

When a mishap occurs and Chloe does something less than honourable, she gets caught by Barrett. Barrett, having other requirements in mind, makes a deal with her. They end up fake dating and have to keep up the ruse for a little while. But of course, feelings develop.

I thoroughly enjoyed Chloe and Barrett's banter. Their animosity was throwing sparks right from the start and it's obvious that it won't take much to turn the animosity into love. It was funny how Barrett's mother accepted their fake dating story easily because of their sparks while they argue.

The relationship development was cute, the characters were interesting, and the plot was entertaining. Overall, a solid read. I recommend it if you want something lighthearted.

indigo ridge by devney perry

indigo ridge

I've read and enjoyed a couple of books by Devney Perry before. I actually read Juniper Hills, the sequel to Indigo Ridge and loved it. I considered reading this one later but somehow didn't feel like it. Recently, the book popped up on my Instagram feed and I decided to give it a shot.

Indigo Ridge is about Winslow, the county's new sheriff, and Griffin Eden, the eldest son of the most popular family. They have a one-night stand, each assuming that the other is not from the same town but realize the truth the next day. They try to move past it but their attraction eventually wins. Soon, they're having a casual relationship without any labels but the longer they spend time around each other, the deeper they fall in love.

I've read romance books that began with one-night stands and where the relationship starts purely out of physical attraction before. None of them was as good with relationship development as this book.

Indigo Ridge is a romance book with intensity. It was something different. The vibes were different, the relationship growth was new, and the plot was one with suspense. I especially liked how Winslow is the sheriff and smartly does her job and Griffin always supports her. They don't seem like they fit right from the start but they totally fit in the ways that they give care and require care.

Overall, a good read. I'm glad I read it and it reminded me that I need to read more from this author. Book 4 of the series was released recently and I already got it before reading book 3 haha.

chat with me!

How was your January? Were you able to start the year with some good books? How are you doing on your goals (if any)? Tell me in the comments!

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Sumedha spends her days reading books, bingeing Kdramas, drawing illustrations, and blogging while listening to Lo-Fi music. Read more ➔

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  • Becky @ A Fool’s Ingenuity says:

    I’m adding half of your January books to my TBR asap. Fake Empire is especially interesting to me so I definitely want to read. I agree Invisible Women is a lot of facts in one book so I get why you’ve not managed to finish but it was so interesting I recommend it to everyone just for how interesting it was the lack of information and analysis on data it can have.

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    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      I hope you enjoy them, especially Fake Empire! I still haven’t made progress on Invisible Women but after what you said, I’m going to make sure I read a few pages every day at least.

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  • Jenny in Neverland says:

    Definitely a lot of romance books here! The only romance-y book I read in January was Get A Life, Chloe Brown and I didn't like it haha. I also read A Man Called Ove which was wonderful and The Vanishing Half which was absolutely spectacular x

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  • Jamie @BubblyBooks says:

    Romance is one of my favorite genres too - so happy to see you loved so many books this month! Cinderella and the Duke is super cute an I have Mixed Signals on my TBR 🙂

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  • Raji (@journeyintofantasy) says:

    Great post! I really like how you included a short review for each book you read. I don't read a lot of romance novels so I'm not familiar with any of these, but glad you enjoyed them. I love the new layout of your blog!

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  • Stephanie | The Espresso Edition says:

    Looks like a wonderfully romantic month! That's what I'm hoping February will be for me. I've got a few other genres thrown in there, but for the most part, I'll be focusing on romances for Love Month 🙂 I've been seeing The Edens books everywhere lately. I might have to check those out. It's good to know that you enjoyed Mixed Signals. I'm about to read In the Weeds after loving Lovelight Farms and I'm really excited! 🙂 On a completely different note, I'm loving the blog refresh! It looks great!

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    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      Feb is a great month to read all the romance books! I'm sure you'll love In the Weeds and you HAVE to check out The Edens! I started the latest book Jasper Vale yesterday and I'm liking it (it's also very hyped).
      Thank you so much, Stephanie! Glad to see you like it too, I was a little unsure of how the change would be since I maintained the same look for two years but I was itching for a change haha.

      Reply ➔
  • Eustacia | Eustea Reads says:

    Invisible Women was so hard to read because I couldn't believe how women are so constantly overlooked in ways that affect us so tangibly (actually I can). You definitely need to be in a good headspace for that book.

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    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      I agree. I started becoming angry at the world while reading the prologue itself! I’m still at about 30% in the book and I really need motivation to complete it ?

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  • Marie says:

    Ooooh I love discovering all of these new books, thank you! I've been reading more romance lately, so this blog post is perfect for me. The whole lovelight farm series has been on my TBR, I'm so happy you enjoyed them. Plus, I love these covers SO much. Also soo curious about Fake Empire, it sounds so good!! 🙂

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  • Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    These are amazing list. I so wish to read Borison books. I keep seeing them everywhere and they sound just as good as the cover.

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  • thecritiquesofafangirl says:

    Nearly all of these books sound AMAZING! I love that most of them are marriage of convenience or fake dating! I love those tropes ? thanks for these lovely recommendations

    Hope that you have a better time in February ❤️‍?

    Reply ➔
    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      oh I did not notice the common tropes ? looks like jan was a month of fake-to-real romance tropes haha. hope you have a great february as well!

      Reply ➔
  • Anoushka says:

    SUMEDHA SEEING MORE POSTS FROM YOU ALWAYS MAKES ME SO SO HAPPY I LOVE THEM?? this was so much fun to read!!!!! I’m sorry life hasn’t been the best BUT YAY ON ALL THE GOOD BOOKS!!! all of these sound amazing (THE COVER FOR FAKE EMPIRE) and reading your thoughts on them all WAS THE BEST EVER. THANK YOU FOR WRITING THE BEST EVER WRAP UPS. fingers crossed that february turns out much better for you than January <33

    Reply ➔
    • sumedha @ the wordy habitat says:

      thank you so much, Anoushka!! I love writing these wrap-ups too and i’m so glad you love to read them! hope you have an amazing feb as well!

      Reply ➔