Recent Reads | First Lie Wins and Red String Theory

Posted January 18, 2024 / Book Reviews, Recent Reads / 0 Comments

Recent Reads | First Lie Wins and Red String TheoryFirst Lie Wins by Ashley Elston
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on January 2, 2024
Also by this author: 10 Blind Dates, 10 Truths and a Dare
Format: Audio/Physical (352 pages) • Source: Book of the Month, Everand
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Evie Porter has everything a nice, Southern girl could want: a perfect, doting boyfriend, a house with a white picket fence and a garden, a fancy group of friends. The only catch: Evie Porter doesn’t exist.

The identity comes to Evie Porter. Once she’s given a name and location by her mysterious boss Mr. Smith, she learns everything there is to know about the town and the people in it. Then the target: Ryan Sumner. The last piece of the puzzle is the job.

Evie isn’t privy to Mr. Smith’s real identity, but she knows this job will be different. Ryan has gotten under her skin, and she’s starting to envision a different sort of life for herself. But Evie can’t make any mistakes--especially after what happened last time.

Because the one thing she’s worked her entire life to keep clean, the one identity she could always go back to—her real identity—just walked right into this town. Evie Porter must stay one step ahead of her past while making sure there’s still a future in front of her. The stakes couldn't be higher--but then, Evie has always liked a challenge...

I haven’t read a lot of books centered around con women/men before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. All I knew going into it is that Ashley Elston wrote it, and I love her YA books! Happy to support any of my favorite authors if they make a genre and/or age target jump. I didn’t even read the synopsis before I dove into the story.

FIRST LIE WINS follows Evie Porter as she works on her next assignment. She doesn’t really know what the purpose is but she’s meant to get close to Ryan Sumner; her mysterious boss Mr. Smith hasn’t given her anything else to go on.

I liked getting to know “Evie” and unraveling her past throughout the story. I will say that the first half was fairly boring, unfortunately. I was generally curious about what was happening but that also led to the question… what is the point of all this? It took a little too long to get there for me.

Elston did a really great job of connecting people from her past and linking the flashbacks to present day – it was really well done and made for a great end of the story. The final half of the book flew by for me and I was finally curious to know what was going on. There was a bit of an info dump at one point to explain a bunch of things but I guess there really wasn’t a way around it. The story was twisty and layered for sure.

I think I expected more of a fast-paced thriller but it wasn’t exactly that. I will totally read future adult mystery/thrillers from Ashley Elston though. She has such a great writing style!

I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.

Recent Reads | First Lie Wins and Red String TheoryRed String Theory by Lauren Kung Jessen
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Published by Forever on January 9, 2024
Also by this author: Lunar Love
Format: Audio/eARC (352 pages) • Source: Publisher, Spotify Audiobooks
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This charming fated-love rom-com about two star-crossed lovers will appeal to readers of Helen Hoang, Jasmine Guillory, and Sarah Adams.

Just a date . . . or a twist of fate? 

When it comes to love and art, Rooney Gao believes in signs. Most of all, she believes in the Chinese legend that everyone is tied to their one true love by the red string of fate. And that belief has inspired her career as an artist, as well as the large art installations she makes with ( obviously ) red string. That is until artist’s block strikes and Rooney begins to question everything. But then fate leads her to the perfect guy . . . Jack Liu is perfect. He’s absurdly smart, successful, handsome, and after one enchanting New York night—under icy February skies and fueled by fried dumplings—all signs point to destiny. Only Jack doesn’t believe. And after their magical date, it looks like they might be lost to each other forever . . . until they’re given one more chance to reconnect. But can Rooney convince a reluctant skeptic to take a leap of fate? 

This was very cute and Jessen has definitely solidified herself as an auto-read for me. I enjoyed LUNAR LOVE but feel like it was missing a bit of oomph. Truthfully, I feel similarly about this one, but the concept was right up my alley. I looove the discussion of fate vs. choice; it’s something I enjoy exploring in other genres (like time loop and parallel universe/life stories) – it was fun to see in a contemporary romance! Red string theory has always been of interest to me in particular.

I enjoyed these characters for the most part but definitely found myself a little bored halfway through. Rooney and Jack were sugary sweet and sometimes corny in their dialogue. I enjoyed watching them get to know each other. They stayed true to themselves and their beliefs, which made for some fun debates. They both learned from each other and Jack came out of his shell a lot thanks to Rooney.

This was very Hallmark-like in its innocence but also in it’s occasionally cheesy moments. I don’t like using the term “clean” for romance ever but in a sense this was so innocent and pure lol. A little too cutesy, but well worth the read!

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