As 2021 comes to a close, I’m revisiting my 20 favorite romance novels of the year, and my final selection is the brother’s best friend romance, Josh and Gemma Make a Baby! And you know what? It hasn’t even released on Kindle yet! I listened to the audio version (out now), and this light and playful baby-making romance stole my heart. I loved the subtlety of the romance, which has a great, slow build in intimacy. Though the hero has been in our heroine’s life for over 20 years, she’s never truly known him – not when he stole her v-card years ago, and not in all of the years since. It’s only when he agrees to make a baby with her that they become friends themselves, and I loved the transition from “acquaintances who are kinda-sorta family” to friends to lovers. Sarah Ready is a new-to-me author who shows such skill in writing those quiet moments. This shines brightest in its ability to be light and funny one moment, then emotional and heartfelt the next. It may be my first time checking out the author’s work, but I’m certainly looking forward to more in 2022!
Read on for my original review, notes on the audiobook quality, and plenty of quotes to give you a feel for the vibe!
Anytime I’m up til three in the morning bingeing – straight up DEVOURING – a romance, you know it’s a great one. And I did exactly that with this. Ready is a new-to-me author, but something about the blurb had me really excited for this, so I turned on the audiobook as soon as it became available. I had no idea what was in store for me. This was such a layered read, with moments of lightness and humor, scenes that had me tearing up, multi-faceted characters, and a storyline that had me grinning by the end. We only get the heroine’s point of view, so I was getting definite Love Hypothesis/Spanish Love Deception vibes – and that is a very, very good thing. Even this couple’s messy history worked for me, and the book just got better and better as the story progressed. Pair that with Mallon’s one-woman powerhouse of an audio performance, and this was a truly satisfying romance.
The story follows Gemma, a woman who has started to realize that if she wants kids and a family, she’ll need to get creative. Gemma is not able to get pregnant the old-fashioned way, and her divorce has left her wary of relationships, so she’s two-for-two in disappointment. But on New Year’s Eve, Gemma makes a resolution to change that… she just needs a little help. Enter Josh, her brother’s best friend and the panty-dropper who took her v-card at 16. He’s practically part of the family already, and Gemma already knows that he’s got *ahem* baby-making skills. Even better? Josh is a carefree player who will make it easy for Gemma to keep things feeling like a business transaction… or so she thinks. Turns out, Josh has been in Gemma’s life for over twenty years, but she never really knew him at all.
The blurb didn’t mention that Josh is a player or that they’ve already slept together once, so I was immediately worried when that came up in the story. Manhoe brother’s best friend is one of my least favorite tropes, but it’s done in a way that didn’t bug me. Nothing about Josh screams “manhoe,” and Gemma has definitely NOT been pining over him, nor did they have some great love story in their teens. Plus, there are some interesting developments, and the twists on the tropes were pleasant surprises. There’s a bit of OM drama, but zero OW drama, so I had no trouble loving Josh. And you know what? Their history just makes the story richer, and as the pieces of this slow burn romance started coming together, I could totally see why that was the case. We may not get Josh’s perspective, but I could easily see that he’s a kind, loving, cinnamon roll of a hero. There are breadcrumbs sprinkled along the way that felt somewhat obvious to me (as a veteran romance reader), but even I was surprised with how everything came together. This has such a light and fresh feel throughout, though it needs to be said that there are also plenty of potential triggers along the way, particularly relating to all aspects of pregnancy. It put me through my paces emotionally, and I loved how it all progressed. I also loved these two together, and that made it a fulfilling, highly devourable read.
Releases on Kindle on January 25th
Now live in audio!
The audio is excellent, I highly recommend that as well. Erin Mallon is the sole narrator, but she is so great at changing up her voice to fit the characters. She made this easy and enjoyable to listen to, and her performance just enhances the story. It’s also the perfect runtime for me, around 9 hours, and the light feel and slow burn romance lend themselves to a relaxing listen. I was able to binge this in one day, and if I’d started earlier, then I wouldn’t have been up so late, lol. I was eager to do so though, and it was well worth my time.
Already live in audio! https://amzn.to/3e2WEsI
New Year’s Resolution:
Have a baby
Preferably with Josh Lewenthal
Meet Gemma Jacobs. She’s driven, energetic, and a positive thinker. She has a great career working for famed self-help guru Ian Fortune, she lives in a cute studio apartment in Manhattan, and her family is supportive and loving (albeit a little kooky). Her life is perfect. Absolutely wonderful.
Except for one tiny little thing.
After a decade of disastrous relationships and an infertility diagnosis, Gemma doesn’t want a Mr. Right (or even a Mr. Right Now), she just wants a baby.
And all she needs is an egg, some sperm, and IVF.
So Gemma makes a New Year’s resolution: have a baby.
Josh Lewenthal is a laid back, relaxed, find-the-humor-in-life kind of guy. The polar opposite of Gemma. He’s also her brother’s best friend. For the past twenty years Josh has attended every Jacobs’ family birthday, holiday, and event – he’s always around.
Gemma knows him. He’s nice (enough), he’s funny (-ish), he’s healthy (she thinks) and he didn’t burn any ants with a magnifying glass as a kid. Which, in Gemma’s mind, makes him the perfect option for a sperm donor.
So Gemma wants to make a deal. An unemotional, businesslike arrangement. No commitments, just a baby.
To Gemma’s surprise, Josh agrees.
They have nothing in common, except their agreement to make a baby and their desire to keep things businesslike.
But the thing about baby-making…it’s hard to keep it businesslike, it’s nearly impossible to keep it unemotional, and it’s definitely impossible to keep your heart out of the mix. Because when you’re making a baby together, things have a way of starting to feel like you’re making other things too – like a life, and a family, and love. And when the baby-making ends, you wish that everything else didn’t have to end too.
About the Author:
Author Sarah Ready writes contemporary romance and romantic comedy.
Her books have been described as “euphoric”, “heartwarming” and “laugh out loud”. Her debut novel The Fall in Love Checklist was hailed as “the unicorn read of 2020”. She loves to write fast-paced, emotionally compelling romances about quirky, smart women and the men who love them.
Before writing romance full-time Sarah had lots of fun teaching at an Ivy League. Then she realized she could have even more fun writing romance. Her favorite things after writing are adventuring and travel. You’ll frequently find her using her degree at a dino dig site, crawling into a cave, snorkeling, or on horseback riding through the jungle – all fodder for her next book. She’s lived in Scotland, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland and NYC. She currently lives in the Caribbean with her water-obsessed pup and her awesome family.
You can visit her online at www.sarahready.com
More of the Best of 2021!
Top 20 of 2021: The Complete List – here
Best of 2021: Top Picks by Trope can be found here!
Best of 2021: My 10 Favorite Romance Series can be found here!
Every 5-Star Romance Novel I Read in 2021 can be found here!
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