A few months ago Pinterest started recommending me books. My feed, which is usually mainly interior design and fashion, suddenly started to be full of aesthetic edits, or reuploaded BookTok videos. As a bookworm and a perpetually curious person, I needed to know what the algorithm was recommending me.
There were many books appearing on my feed, but I decided to select four to read. I chose them based on how often they appeared, or if the plot seemed interesting. Turns out most of these books were contemporary romance, a genre I rarely read when I started this ‘challenge’. It also turns out most of these books were also part of a series, and, because I don’t like starting series in the middle, I ended up reading eleven books total. Some were good, others were questionable, and a few I would gladly use as the fuel in a firepit.
The four books I initially selected to read were Twisted Games by Ana Huang, Liar by Fiona Cole, The Deal by Elle Kennedy, and The Mountain is You by Brianna Wiest. So let’s review them.
If you decide to read any of these books, please check the trigger warnings before doing so.
The Twisted Series
Twisted Games is the second book in the Twisted series by Ana Huang. This series features four books that follows a group of friends as they graduate college, start their adult lives, and find their partners.
Tropes: grumpy x sunshine, brother’s best friend, billionaire, neighbors, forced proximity, opposites attract, morality chain, interracial.
Twisted Love follows Ava Chen (FMC) and Alex Volkov (MMC). Ava is a college student that freelances as a photographer. Alex is a cold, grumpy, quiet, genius billionaire that technically works with real estate development, but has some very questionable and shady tactics (i.e. he is a criminal). He is also Ava’s big brother’s, Josh, best friend.
When Josh goes to study abroad, he asks Alex to look after Ava. So, naturally, the MMC moves into his friend’s house, right next door to the FMC. And, because FMC is a sunshine, she tries to befriend / annoy the MMC (mostly to be sure he is not a robot). And from bad cookies to swimming lessons, their relationship becomes more.
Both these characters have a dark past and unresolved trauma, and honestly I just wanted to hug them at times. But I think Alex would unalive me if I did that. Overall this is not my favorite book from the series, I gave it two stars because I don’t love the MMC antics. He gave me the ick. Buuuuut… I loved them on the following books in the series, they were adorable.
Siri, play invisible string by Taylor Swift.
Twisted Games (the one Pinterest recommended)
Tropes: bodyguard, forbidden romance, forced proximity, royalty, age gap.
Twisted Games follows Bridget von Ascheberg (FMC) and Rhys Larsen (MMC). Bridget is a princess and future queen of a small European country called Eldorra, while Rhys is her bodyguard. Basically this book has a Princess Diaries prequel vibe.
When they first meet, the FMC and MMC struggle to get along. But throughout the years they learn how to platonic like each other. That is until MMC decides to help FMC fulfill her remaining bucket list items before she becomes queen. Then they can’t keep their hands off each other. The only problem is that according to the law of Eldorra, the King or Queen of the country needs to be married to someone born in the nobility.
I think both the FMC and MMC are great characters and would be nice people. But their book was kind of boring. My brain didn’t retain that much of the plot.
Siri, play Love Story (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift.
Tropes: enemies to lovers, best friend’s brother, forced proximity, interracial.
Twisted Hate follows Jules Ambrose (FMC) and Josh Chen (MMC). Jules and Josh are bounded by her best friend and his sister, Ava. And they hate each other. The only reason they call a truce is because they start working together in a non-profit, and they need to find a way to be civil around each other.
Jules deserved better because she is an amazing and fun character, while Josh is trash.
At first I was enjoying the book and the characters story and arc. The FMC and MMC are far from perfect, but they are charismatic, and even their flaws add some charm to them. And then the third act breakup scene happens. And Josh says something very cruel for… no reason at all? Because he was hurt and couldn’t control his emotions? Basically, if I was Jules I don’t think I would ever be able to forgive him. This was her biggest insecurity, and a source of trauma, and he knew about it. Yet, he decided to say it.
Siri, play Picture To Burn by Taylor Swift.
Tropes: fake dating, forced proximity, neighbors, roommates / living together, morality chain, boy obsessed, billionaire.
Let me already disclaim this: Twisted Lies is my favorite book from the Twisted series, and so far one of my favorite contemporary romance novels ever. I really like the characters and their dynamics, and I loved the easter eggs we got on the two previous books from the series.
Twisted Lies follows Stella Alonso (FMC) and Christian Harper (MMC). We meet Christian on Twisted Games; he is Rhys’s former boss and (chaos instigator) best friend that doesn’t believe in love. Stella is the shy and quiet friend and a fashion influencer that suffers from anxiety and can easily spend days without leaving her apartment.
At the beginning of the book, the FMC is trying (and needs) to get her dream sponsorship and believes that if she finally achieves 1 million followers she will get the contract. Her agent believes one easy way for her to increase her following would be to get a boyfriend. So she goes on a quest to find a boyfriend, or someone that would agree to pose as one. The MMC sees her during one particularly bad date, and, as every normal person that is definitely not in love with their tenant / friendly acquaintance, he offers to be her fake boyfriend. Shortly after their new agreement, MMC finds out FMC has a stalker. And, because he owns one of the best security companies in the world and is not in love with his tenant, he tries to find the stalker while making the FMC live in his penthouse.
As I said before, this is currently one of my favorite contemporary romance novels. For me Stella is the most relatable character from the series, while Christian’s life is an organized chaos (which he usually instigates), he has his shit together, and also hates Josh. If you want a simp that will defend you no matter what, travel around the world with you and is a material gworl, then this book is for you. As long as you don’t mind the MMC’s dark charcoal grey morals.
Siri, play Mastermind by Taylor Swift.
The Voyeur Series
Liar is the fourth (fifth? Or would it be sixth?) book in the Voyeur series by Fiona Cole. This series follows a group of people in Ohio. To be 100% honest, I didn’t actually read the whole series and I have no desire to go back and read the books I missed. The writing didn’t compel me, and these are not my genre of books. It’s more erotica than a contemporary romance, and I am genuinely confused why this book appeared in my feed.
Voyeur follows a 19-year-old college student and her 29-year-old college professor and supervisor. I felt uncomfortable while reading this book, it had grooming vibes. Probably because the girl was being groomed. The ten-year age gap would be less icky and problematic if the girl wasn’t literally still a teen, and if the professor hasn’t also done some other problematic stuff. This is not taboo, this is just wrong.
Siri, play Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve by Taylor Swift.
If I was some paint, did it splatter / On a promising grown man? / And if I was a child, did it matter / If you got to wash your hands?
The guy is an asshole that breadcrumbs and then hurts the MMC. And I can’t see him as the hero in a romance novel. This book also has a big age gap.
Siri, play I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift.
The guy is dork and has a child after a one-night stand. It’s a forgettable book, but better than the previous ones in this series. This is also the one book without big age gaps.
Siri, play Stay, Stay, Stay (Taylor’s Version) by Taylor Swift.
Liar (The one Pinterest recommended)
It follows Olivia and Kent, he is fourteen years older than her, and her uncle’s best friend and business partner. He is also friends with her father. They find this out after they already had a one-night stand, when he attends one of their family dinners (honestly, it was funny). This book was okay, but, again, is not my style.
Oh, and the MMC properly recognizes the age-gap.
Siri, play Paris by Taylor Swift.
Teacher is the last book in the series, so I wanted to read it. It follows Daniel and Hanna, they are acquaintances turned friends turned lovers. The MMC owns an exhibitionist club, and the FMC is afraid of intimacy due to her past. Because she is comfortable around him, he offers to try and help her slowly overcome her fear. She also helps him overcome his trauma.
This is actually my favorite book from this series, I think it is the best written one, and I like that there is a slower build-up from being just friends to lovers. I also really liked the mountain scene, maybe I should find someone to scream off the edge of a mountain with me.
Siri, play Snow On The Beach by Taylor Swift.
The Deal is the first book from the Off-Campus series by Elle Kennedy. It follows a group of university hockey players.
The Deal follows Garrett and Hanna. The FMC is a music major that also has the best grades in an ethics / philosophy class. The MMC is the captain of the university’s hockey team, and like everyone else in the ethics class, he is failing it. And because he doesn’t want to have to drop out from the hockey team, he annoys Hanna into helping him.
They start the book as strangers, and quickly becomes good friends, and then they start dating. And the chemistry of these characters is incredible. And yes, the characters say questionable things, but they are 20-year-olds in college in the mid-2010s, so it’s realistically.
Siri, play Lavender Haze by Taylor Swift.
The Mountain is You: Transforming Self-Sabotage into Self-Mastery by Brianna Wiest
This is the only non-fiction book, and the one that inspired this post. This book appeared constantly on my feed for weeks (maybe months) and it wasn’t through sponsored posts. As the name would suggest, it explores why we self-sabotage and how to overcome it. The writing follows an insta-quotable style I know some people don’t like; I personally don’t care. Overall I really liked this book, and Pinterest’s algorithm was right in recommending it to me. I do have self-sabotaging tendencies, mainly due to perfectionism, and I feel like reading this book actually helped me.
Siri, play Anti-Hero by Taylor Swift.