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Monday, August 24, 2020

I've Found A New Author I Love : Only When It's Us & Always Only You by Chloe Liese

Happy Monday, beautiful readers!

It's a dual review kind of day today and I'm so excited about these books. I loved loved the first two books in Chloe Liese's Bergman Brothers series and could not wait to share my love for these books with you.

Chloe Liese was also gracious enough to stop by and answer a few questions for me. I love her answers and it will give you insight into her writing. I hope you enjoy the post!

ONLY WHEN IT'S US

by Chloe Liese
Series: Bergman Brothers #1
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Adult
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: April 1st 2020
Source: KU Subscription
Star Quotient: ★★★★
Kiss Factor: ✷✷✷✷
Amazon - IndieBound

I discovered Only When It's Us while endlessly scrolling through Pinterest one evening and immediately went to check it out on Goodreads. The vast amount of praise this little book had received piqued my interest so I went straight to Amazon to pick up my copy. Only When It's Us was a darling little story which turned to be a pleasant surprise. It's only my first book from Chloe Liese, but she already has a fan in me.

Heroines who are turbulent and passionate always wind up being memorable for me. Willa, the protagonist in Only When It's Us, has the fieriest personality which made her the most endearing to me. In between handling her studies and being a soccer player, Willa was always trying to support her beloved mother who was suffering from cancer. She has a lot on her plate, but she handled everything without uttering a word of protest. It has always been her mother and her against the world, which has led to her being guarded with her heart. Given Willa's strong bond with her mother who raised her as a single parent, she was obviously in pain and in deniable about her mother's condition. It ached to see her heart grieve for her mother - I wanted to embrace her and take all the hurt away. Her stormy interactions with Ryder, her grumpy lumberjack classmate, provided her with momentary distractions from the sadness in her life. Oh, how I also adored Ryder. I don't believe I've read a romance novel with a deaf hero in the past, so discovering that Ryder was deaf was a lovely surprise. While I cannot speak to the accuracy of the deaf representation, I found it to be insightful. Chloe Liese explored his struggles beautifully. His disability has led him to being misunderstood by others, but Ryder remained a quiet, but sweet, strong, and soft-hearted. It's impossible not to fall for the man.

The romance in Only When It's Us was like a warm cozy hug. I had a dopey grin as I watched them bicker, banter, and prank each other. It was hard not to cheer for Willa and Ryder as they fit like a lock and key together. We not only saw them be each other's rocks as they faced upheavals in their lives, but we also saw them become drivers of growth for each other. Theirs was an adorable relationship that also had a wonderful amount of chemistry. I loved that it was slow-burn romance and that the author tortured us just the right amount by making us wait to see Ryder and Willa give in to their attraction. The other relationships in Only When It's Us were equally charming. Ryder's large Swedish family, in particular, was a joyous addition to this book. They stole every scene they were in and I'm thrilled that I will get to meet them frequently as the Bergman Brothers series progresses. Willa's relationship with her mother was also an unwavering part of this book. Their unyielding bond gave me a giant lump in my throat. Their openness with each other, as well as their utter pure love for one another, shone like a bright light throughout the book.

Every page of Only When It's Us was brimming with love. If you're looking for a compelling new voice in romance, then Chloe Liese should be on your TBRs. I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

***

ALWAYS ONLY YOU

by Chloe Liese
Series: Bergman Brothers #2
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Adult
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: August 4th 2020
Source: ARC received for review
Star Quotient: ★★★★1/2
Kiss Factor: ✷✷✷✷1/2

Gahhh! My heart is so full! Somehow, I wound up enjoying Always Only You even more than I enjoyed Only When It's Us. Chloe Liese has been my favorite romance discovery this year and she has certainly made my reading journey an even more rewarding experience.

I loved Willa in the first book, but the protagonist here, Frankie, owns my heart. Though I haven't read too many books featuring main characters who are on the autism spectrum, I have fond memories of the few books that I have read. Neurodivergent individuals aren't a monolith and when written authentically, they make for incredible main characters. I immediately felt a connection to Frankie and her voice. Despite her chronic rheumatoid arthritis, she has carved herself a fulfilling and independent life for herself. Chloe Liese didn't shy away from portraying her day-to-day struggles that able-bodied folks don't even spend time thinking about. It was insightful for me as a reader and certainly made me realize how privileged I am to have been born in a body that isn't attacking me with invisible pain on a daily basis. Her condition made Frankie a certified grump and she mostly kept to herself as she didn't want anyone to feel like she was a burden on them. It wasn't all bleak, however. Frankie thrived in her life even in the face of her challenges and the author illustrates all her highs through her successful career and her different relationships throughout the book.

Meeting Ren was probably one of the best encounters that could have happened to her. This big ginger Shakespeare-spouting hockey player was a giant teddy bear with the biggest heart. I could not get enough of his sunshine self and the kindness he bestowed upon everyone he met. Ren was top book-boyfriend material and he will have many of you swooning, sighing, and wishing he were real. It's an impossible task to not fall for a character who was devoted to his big lovable family and was comfortable crying and blushing in public. Ren made my cold-heart full and I just loved him so so much. Ren has also been in love with Frankie for the longest time, but because of their intertwined careers and Frankie's desire to keep people at an arm's length, he has instead been pining and waiting for her. He was respectful of Frankie and cared deeply about her and her happiness. As with Only When It's Us, the romance in Always Only You was a slow-burn one that was incredibly gratifying. Chloe Liese writes some of the best banter and I loved every moment of Ren and Frankie's interactions, especially the scenes of them being domestic. Watching Frankie come to the realization about her feelings for this man who was 100% devoted to her just filled me with the best dose of serotonin. I shipped them. HARD.

I swear guys, Always Only You is so charming and delightful. If you like the grumpy-sunshine pairing, you must give this book a read. Next up in the Bergman Brothers series is a marriage-in-trouble romance and I can hardly wait!

***


Friends!

I'm pleased to give a warm welcome to Chloe Liese. I loved her Bergman Brothers books so much that I had to ask her to stop by to ask her some questions. I hope you enjoy reading Chloe's questions and I hope this interview convinces you to pick up her books.

Can you tell the readers about the Bergman Brothers series using a few inspiration photos?





ALWAYS ONLY YOU is an own-voice story for autism representation. I loved that you highlighted that autism is a spectrum through Frankie and Ziggy. Why did you choose this book in particular to feature an autistic main character in Frankie? 

I wanted to dig into autism representation and neurodiversity pretty early on in the Bergman world because this isn't the last time you'll see it. As you mentioned, Ziggy is also on the autism spectrum and through her, you see how different autism is from person to person, especially when she's set side by side with Frankie. Also, neurodiversity is here to stay in the Bergman family, so be on the lookout!

One of my goals as an author is to create fictional worlds that invite readers into deeper understanding of both the diversity and prevalence of difference out there. Currently, the CDC estimates that 1 in 59 children has autism, and that's not factoring in other neurodiversities such as anxiety, ADD, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, dyscalculia, dyslexia, OCD, and many more. The point is, I truly believe a lot of us are living in hiding, keeping our differences which may be neurodiversity but may be many other things under the radar, and I wanted to write a world that welcomes difference and destigmatizes it, that shows you that you don't have to hide you are to be loved and belong.

Specifically, I made Frankie my first autistic lead because I wanted to show (again) how diverse the spectrum is. She's in a role handling social media, being around other people that some folks might assume based on stereotypes a person with autism might not like or worse, couldn't do (patently wrong!). The fact is there are lots of socially integrated jobs and professions (like lawyers, physicians, musicians, teachers, and many more) that spectrum folks like; we just have certain needs and hacks for handling the ways in which they are draining or more challenging for us, whether it's noise-canceling headphones in the breakroom over lunch (or Frankie's earplugs during games), a fidget necklace that looks like just another piece of jewelry, a chair at the desk that lets us sway and bounce, or more clear and scheduled expectations for duties and routines in the day, and that is on top of doing all the things in our off hours that replenish and reset us and give us care. This is not unlike ensuring there are accessible restrooms and entranceways, braille and captions in places of work and establishments for those with different mobility, vision or auditory needs; no one should be doubting that a person in a wheelchair or with a mobility aid, a person who has low vision or is deaf can be integrated professionals. The onus is on society to be more accessible and integrated and respectful of the abilities of those who we've historically said aren't abled. They are, they just need different things that aren't as typical to be a part of the recreational and professional world. Disability and difference aren't death sentences to love, romance, fulfillment, professional success, or a happy life. I wanted to set the tone early on in this series that this is what I will be showing through fiction time and again. Frankie was the perfect place to start.

Ren was such a swoony hero. *happy sigh* For readers who haven't met him yet, what would you say are his best qualities that make him top-tier book boyfriend material?

Thank you! I'd say Ren's top book boyfriend qualities are: he's in touch with his emotions, he doesn't take himself too seriously but he's serious about what he believes, he cares deeply about his family and friends, and he's willing to wait for the woman he loves. Oh and killer big old hockey butt. I can't deny the hockey player bod's a draw, too ;-).

I have a soft spot for all the Bergman Brothers, but Ren is my absolute favorite so far. I like to torture authors a little bit, so if the Bergman brothers weren't just fictional, who do you think you'd want as a romantic partner?

Hm. If I had my pick of the Bergmans, I'd probably go for Ren, too. I'm autistic, like Frankie, and when she tells him her diagnosis, he truly has the dream response that I don't want to spoil for readers so I won't say more beyond that he's empathic and just sees her as the woman he's wild about. It's not so difficult to love neurodiverse people if we wipe away our preconceptions and simply see the person before us and learn them along the way, as they learn us. Ren does that like a rockstar. I will say though, probably Ryder would have been the kind of guy I dated in college but he's a little too into teasing and sarcasm to be my long-term partner. Viggo's a few books away, but he's probably a close second to Ren.

I love the family dynamics in the series. The Bergmans are a family of 5 brothers and 2 sisters. What made you want to write a big family and who is your favorite Bergman member?

Thank you! Family is important to me, and while I'm an only child, one of my parents comes from a large family, so the holidays were always this cheery chaos that I sometimes had to steal a break from but always looked forward to. I wanted to write a big family because I liked the idea of showing how family shifts and integrates as children grow up, as parents age, as the siblings find partners, how siblings support each other as they deal with struggles, and exploring the intergenerational relationships and wisdom we can share with our family members. I don't know that I can say I have a favorite member, but Ziggy has some pretty powerful depths and layers that I'm excited to share later in the series, and Viggo to me maybe feels like an emotional driver in the family. He's got some big moments to play in the coming books, and he's a very passionate person. While I'm not as assertive as him, I feel a connection to his romanticism, his belief in fighting for the things you love, and I like his playfulness. I'm excited for readers to see more of him.

I love that you are such a proponent of romance as a genre and are unapologetic about your love for it. If you could pair any of your recent romance reads with Ren and Frankie, which ones would you pick and why?

Thank you! I am truly a deep believer that reading romance is revolutionary and robustly feminist. It asserts the cultural, economic, emotional and literary value of stories that celebrate relationships, passion, growth, intimacy, female pleasure, and human connection. If I could pair a few recent romances with ALWAYS ONLY YOU, I'd probably say: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, Get a Life Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, and The Bromance Series by Lyssa Kay Adams.

If you're able to share, what can we expect next from the series? P.S I can't wait for the marriage-in-trouble book!!

Next up is the first Bergman sister's story! Freya is the eldest Bergman sibling and her husband Aiden has a fairly prominent role in the first book in the series, ONLY WHEN IT'S US. We're going to dig into what happens to a marriage when it passes the honeymoon phase and the pressures of life come calling. I think it's very important to write romances beyond the wedding day because as Lisa Kleypas says marriage isn't the end of the story, it's the beginning. This story will definitely have some heavy moments but I intend to keep lots of humor and energy in it as I have with the first two books. I think it's important to allow readers to process cathartic emotions and difficult relationship dynamics without burdening them or making them too sad, so while a marriage in crisis is no laughing matter, laughter is part of its resolution.

Thank you to Chloe for taking the time to answer my questions.
Have you met the Bergman Brothers yet?
Let me know in the comments below!