Meet Me in Madrid by Verity Lowell: Carina Press Blog Tour Review and Excerpt

Book Information

Meet Me in Madrid by Verity Lowell is available in trade paperback and eBook on October 26th!

In this sexy, sophisticated romantic comedy, two women juggle romance and career across continents.

Charlotte Hilaire has a love-hate relationship with her work as a museum courier. On the one hand, it takes her around the world. On the other, her plan to become a professor is veering dangerously off track.

Yet once in a while, maybe every third trip or so, the job goes delightfully sideways…

When a blizzard strands Charlotte in Spain for a few extra days and she’s left with glorious free time on her hands, the only question is: Dare she invite her grad school crush for an after-dinner drink on a snowy night?

Accomplished, take-no-prisoners art historian Adrianna Coates has built an enviable career since Charlotte saw her last. She’s brilliant. Sophisticated. Impressive as hell and strikingly beautiful.

Hospitable, too, as she absolutely insists Charlotte spend the night on her pullout sofa as the storm rages on.

One night becomes three and three nights become a hot and adventurous long-distance relationship when Charlotte returns to the States. But when Adrianna plots her next career move just as Charlotte finally opens a door in academia, distance may not be the only thing that keeps them apart.

My Review

I will admit to raising my eyebrows—sardonically, of course—at the way Charlotte and Adrianna fell in love as soon as they fell into bed, but shortly thereafter, I was totally rooting for them to overcome their obstacles and get their HEA.

To be fair, they do have a pre-existing relationship, so this is not the story of two strangers falling in love, but they do go from acquaintances to… not…very quickly. But when something feels right, you go with it.

Although the title refers to where Charlotte and Adrianna initially meet, most of the book doesn’t take place in Madrid *and* the protagonists spend most of the book apart. BUT, thanks to modern technology, they can still be together even when they’re in two different places.

And on that note, the chemistry is 100% scorching hot, and one can only surmise that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is the reason why they can’t keep their hands off each other when they’re in the same place. And why they have erotically-charged video chats.   

There’s a ton to like about this book: the protagonists are both Black women who work in academia. They’re also a bit older than the average age of romance protagonists, which is wonderful—I don’t mind reading about people barely out of college, but it’s always a nice change of pace to read about people (whispers) my own age. But I am here for the academic drama and I am here for shutting down critics—no, it is not just a cartoon rabbit. I know that probably doesn’t make much sense, but read the book to find out what I’m talking about.

Because Charlotte and Adrianna spend most of their time apart, they are bolstered by secondary characters like James and Esther, who both deserve books of their own, although not together, of course.

I would absolutely recommend Meet Me in Madrid. It took me a few chapters to get into the story, but once I got hooked, I couldn’t put the book down. This is a tender and sweet love story and I couldn’t get enough of the descriptions of food—yum! I am looking forward to reading more from Lowell in the future.

I received an ARC of this book from Carina Press/NetGalley

Exclusive Excerpt

The car arrived with the luggage while they were still flirting and deliberating in the kitchen, the cava as yet unpoured. Hearing the buzzer, Adrianna had reluctantly thrown on a robe and slippers and run down the three flights, leaving Charlotte still leaning on the counter to contemplate what came next.

“I’m putting your very nice suitcase in my room,” a breathless Adrianna said as soon as she closed the apartment door behind her. “It won’t fit in the study.”

It would have fit in the study. But it fit a lot better in the bedroom.

“I’m out here,” Charlotte informed her. She had taken the bottle and glasses and resituated herself on the living room sofa. If it had been in the States, the long, upholstered couch with its plethora of throw pillows would have sat smack-dab in front of a flat-screen TV. This one, by refreshing contrast, faced a wall of tall, arched casement windows looking onto mostly sky and a distant cityscape punctuated by the city’s numerous church towers. Today the potted trees and summer furniture on the neighboring balconies were coated with an inch or two of velvety snow.

What sun there had been was already dimming.

Adrianna was surprised, but certainly not disappointed, to find Charlotte curled up at one end of said sofa, glass in hand, taking it all in just as she herself liked to do at sunset.

“It’s beautiful,” Charlotte said. “Doesn’t look like any place else I’ve been.”

“Sure doesn’t.” Adrianna sat down close beside Charlotte. Encouragingly close, she hoped.

Charlotte filled Adrianna’s flute with pale bubbly and raised hers in a wordless toast. Their glasses clinked.

“What are we drinking to?” Adrianna asked.

“Bank closures and oversold hotels?” Charlotte replied with a laugh and a gulp. Her legs were folded under her and as she went to set down her glass, she slipped into Adrianna’s shoulder, not seeming to mind at all when Adrianna leaned into her and caught her eye.

“If you’d have looked at me like that in school, I’m not sure what I would have done,” Charlotte said.

“I can’t promise I never did,” Adrianna admitted. “Especially there at the end.”

“You were definitely shopping around at one point, as I recall. Like a freshman for new classes,” Charlotte said. “Least that’s what it looked like from where I stood.”

“I was a train wreck,” Adrianna said solemnly. “My ex cheated on me with someone I cared about and I was worried to death I wouldn’t get a job—and interviewing cross-country practically every week while I finished the last chapter of my diss. Those days seem incomparably easy, yet completely impossible when I look back. But I fucked things up with a lot of people and I hate thinking about it.”

“Your heart was broken,” Charlotte said, reaching for the cava. She’d stopped looking at Adrianna but her voice conveyed empathy.

Had someone broken Charlotte’s heart? Adrianna wanted badly to know.

“And I did that to others in return,” she said.

“You are indeed a heartbreaker,” Charlotte laughed.

“You’re one to talk,” Adrianna replied. “I can’t believe you weren’t dating your pretty little ass off—or seeing faculty on the sly at least. I don’t think I do believe it.”

“Well, you can believe it or not. I’m not saying I didn’t sleep around some. But grads and faculty were off-limits. Not out of moral approbation. I just knew it would throw me off my game. I don’t mind telling you I had tempting offers from both parties.”

Good thing Adrianna wasn’t one of those former suitors. It was so much better finding her again like this, now that they were both past the stage of perpetual heightened insecurity. Now that there was no history with Charlotte, only possibility.

Neither of them were drunk, just usefully relaxed, their inhibitions disarmed by the alcohol, their focus sharpened by the caffeine.

Adrianna set down her own near-empty glass and turned toward Charlotte.

“Let’s toast to layovers instead.”

“With what?”

“Come here,” Adrianna said, just to see how Charlotte reacted to being told what to do.

“Make me,” she replied, finishing what was left in her flute and starting to rise.

“Where are you going now?”

“I’m thirsty. Think I’ll get a glass of water…”

“Fuck the water,” Adrianna said. She pulled Charlotte back down to her for a deep, wet kiss that burned deliciously from the sparkling wine in her mouth and on their lips. Charlotte responded with a kind of unrestraint, immediately taking the lead. God did she. Adrianna suddenly seemed to feel her touch everywhere.

It was one of those moments when you don’t realize how much you want something—someone—until she’s within reach. She wasn’t going to lose her second chance.

About the Author

Verity Lowell is a professor and occasional curator who writes queer of color romance. She likes imagining and describing a world where art, ambition, and history provide the background for diverse and steamy love stories, mostly about women falling hard for women. She and her partner and their cats live in New England and sometimes elsewhere.

Find Verity Lowell Online

Website: https://www.veritylowell.com/ 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21135117.Verity_Lowell 

Carina Adores is home to highly romantic contemporary love stories featuring beloved romance tropes, where LGBTQ+ characters find their happily-ever-afters. 

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Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Book Description

In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.

Ari has spent all of high school burying who he really is, staying silent and invisible. He expected his senior year to be the same. But something in him cracked open when he fell in love with Dante, and he can’t go back. Suddenly he finds himself reaching out to new friends, standing up to bullies of all kinds, and making his voice heard. And, always, there is Dante, dreamy, witty Dante, who can get on Ari’s nerves and fill him with desire all at once.

The boys are determined to forge a path for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them. But when Ari is faced with a shocking loss, he’ll have to fight like never before to create a life that is truthfully, joyfully his own.

My Review

Readers need to begin with the first book; they need to understand where the protagonists have been in order to fully appreciate the journey they undertake over the course of this sequel.

Ari and Dante fell in love over the course of the first book, and they spend this one exploring their relationship: both the intense feelings of attractions and the emotional aspect of loving someone else so much.

The prose is gorgeous. It’s so lyrical—the words just flow across the page, and when combined with an intriguing storyline, it makes it difficult to put down. The narrative unfolds solely from Ari’s perspective, and being with Dante helps him gather a new outlook on aspects of his life he took for granted, such as his friendship with Susie and Gina from the first book. It also helps him draw perspective on other aspects of his life that he’s been avoiding for years. In both cases, it appears that acknowledging his true self serves as the source of these changes.

With a setting in the late 1980s, the AIDS pandemic is an unavoidable topic for our two protagonists. While neither is directly affected by it in terms of a diagnosis, the public’s reaction to the crisis—ranging from disinterest to outright disgust—does have an impact on the boys. Despite this negativity, Ari and Dante have each other, as well as the support of both sets of parents and their friend group. And that’s all they need.

I would absolutely recommend Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World. On the surface, we have the story of two Mexican-American boys coming of age in the late 1980s, but this is a story with such profound depth. There are so many beautiful quotes about our place in the universe, and solitude, and letting other people in—that are going to stay with me for a long time. My 14 year old read the first book while at summer camp, and was thrilled to pieces to learn that I had an ARC. She devoured it in less than a day, declared it wonderful, and couldn’t wait to tell the friend who loaned her the book about how cool I am. So, long story short, this book has the seal of approval from a member of the target demographic.   

I received an ARC of this book from Simon & Schuster/NetGalley.

The Queer Principles of Kit Webb by Cat Sebastian

Book Description

Kit Webb has left his stand-and-deliver days behind him. But dreary days at his coffee shop have begun to make him pine for the heady rush of thievery. When a handsome yet arrogant aristocrat storms into his shop, Kit quickly realizes he may be unable to deny whatever this highborn man desires.

In order to save himself and a beloved friend, Percy, Lord Holland must go against every gentlemanly behavior he holds dear to gain what he needs most: a book that once belonged to his mother, a book his father never lets out of his sight and could be Percy’s savior. More comfortable in silk-filled ballrooms than coffee shops frequented by criminals, his attempts to hire the roughly hewn highwayman, formerly known as Gladhand Jack, proves equal parts frustrating and electrifying.

Kit refuses to participate in the robbery but agrees to teach Percy how to do the deed. Percy knows he has little choice but to submit and as the lessons in thievery begin, he discovers thievery isn’t the only crime he’s desperate to commit with Kit. 

But when their careful plan goes dangerously wrong and shocking revelations threaten to tear them apart, can these stolen hearts overcome the impediments in their path?

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Fifteen Hundred Miles From the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa

Book Description

Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life.

Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self.

Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone.

Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.

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The (Un)Popular Vote by Jasper Sanchez

Book Description

Optics can make or break an election. Everything Mark knows about politics, he learned from his father, the Congressman who still pretends he has a daughter and not a son.

Mark has promised to keep his past hidden and pretend to be the cis guy everyone assumes he is. But when he sees a manipulatively charming candidate for student body president inflame dangerous rhetoric, Mark risks his low profile to become a political challenger.

The problem? No one really knows Mark. He didn’t grow up in this town, and his few friends are all nerds. Still, thanks to Scandal and The West Wing, they know where to start: from campaign stops to voter polling to a fashion makeover.

Soon Mark feels emboldened to engage with voters—and even start a new romance. But with an investigative journalist digging into his past, a father trying to silence him, and the bully frontrunner standing in his way, Mark will have to decide which matters most: perception or truth, when both are just as dangerous.

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Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

Book Description

Welcome to Charon’s Crossing.
The tea is hot, the scones are fresh, and the dead are just passing through.

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead.

And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead.

But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.

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The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

Book Description

Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

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Role Model by Rachel Reid

Book Description

The highly anticipated fifth novel in Rachel Reid’s Game Changers series sees a grumpy professional hockey player meet his match in an out-and-proud social media manager…

The hits just keep coming for Troy Barrett. Traded to the worst team in the league would be bad enough, but coming on the heels of a messy breakup and a recent scandal… Troy just wants to play hockey and be left alone. He doesn’t want to be in the news anymore, and he definitely doesn’t want to “work on his online presence” with the team’s peppy social media manager.

Harris Drover can tell standoffish Troy isn’t happy about the trade—anyone could tell, frankly, as he doesn’t exactly hide it well—but Harris doesn’t give up on people easily. Even when he’s developing a crush he’s sure is one-sided. And when he sees Troy’s smile finally crack through his grumpy exterior, well… That’s a man Harris couldn’t turn his back on if he wanted to.

Suddenly, Troy’s move to the new team feels like an opportunity—for Troy to embrace his true self, and for both men to surrender to their growing attraction. But indulging in each other behind closed doors is one thing, and for Troy, being in a public relationship with Harris will mean facing off with his fears, once and for all.

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Subtle Blood by KJ Charles

Book Description

Will Darling is all right. His business is doing well, and so is his illicit relationship with Kim Secretan—disgraced aristocrat, ex-spy, amateur book-dealer. It’s starting to feel like he’s got his life under control.

And then a brutal murder in a gentleman’s club plunges them back into the shadow world of crime, deception, and the power of privilege. Worse, it brings them up against Kim’s noble, hostile family, and his upper-class life where Will can never belong.

With old and new enemies against them, and secrets on every side, Will and Kim have to fight for each other harder than ever—or be torn apart for good.

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One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Book Description

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time.

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