NJB Time Travel Edition Review: Wanted, A Gentleman by K.J. Charles (Spoilers!)

Its time for a spin in our lovely NJB time travel machine! Today, we’re going back to visit a gorgeous book. ‘Wanted, a Gentleman’ is one of the first K.J. Charles books I ever read and it definitely filled my soul with love for it, because of its commitment to diverse characters, A+ character development and its tendency to make me write all the quotes down, cause they are just so damn good.

But first, content/trigger warnings: racism, discussion of slavery, internalized homophobia, mentions of physical violence, discussion of marital rape, extortion, planned physical violence towards a MC with consent of all parties.

Some historical books try to run away from the realities of slavery and emancipation while doing romance. But K.J. Charles always looks straight at the difficult moments, without flinching and without marinating in them to an extent that feels overdone. Martin St. Vincent is a freed black gay man, living in London, doing a favor for the family who previously owned him. Theodore Swann is a white gay man who makes his living by publishing novels (which he claims are bad, but aren’t really that bad) and by running a small newspaper where individuals can advertise for romantic connections.

The only child of the family has been carrying on a love affair with someone via letters and using Theodore’s newspaper and thus we have our meet cute.

Theodore is a charming, desperately frustrating, scamp of a human, trying to get out from under the yoke of a particularly awful debt. Martin is a decent, caring man who wants to do this favor for the family that formerly owned him because it puts them on more of an equal playing field and because of some complex internal feelings about debt he was towards them, as well as caring for the young child he once knew.

Through a series of hilarious and realistic methods, they end up in a coach together, hurtling towards the Scottish border in an attempt to stop a hasty wedding. On the way, Theodore learns a great deal about being a black man in England (the stares, the suspicion, the moments when people assume a thousand things about you) while Martin learns a great deal about inconvenient lust. They cascade together eventually, with a great deal of snark and awkward moments.

Its just so god damn believable. Some of their interactions are so real and hit right in the heart. Moments when Martin corrects something so simple about what Theodore is assuming and Theodore takes it to heart. Moments when they realize both how little they know each other and yet how much they want to. It hits me, right in the chest, every time with this book.

Because the book doesn’t assume that everything is hunky dory since Martin is free, nor does it focus on the micro aggressions of strangers around him. Instead, it focuses on the real and complex moments between him and someone he’s coming to care for, who is trying to do and say the right thing and inevitably messes it up. And as someone with a marginalized identity who loves others with different intersections, this is exactly how it goes. You never know how bad your blindspots are til you slam right into them. The most important thing you learn is how to apologize and own it right.

And Theodore learns and does it well. Its part of why they work together, along with a thousand other things.

I won’t spoil the twists, turns and loveliness of the later part of the book for you. I could talk about this book for far too long, but just know that if you need:

-hope on a bad day

-two people trying to figure out how to open their hearts to each other

-hijinx

-great dialogue

Then you need look no further than ‘Wanted, a Gentleman’. I give it five stars and it lives in my frequent reread shelf, which is the highest honor I can give anything.

Until our next time travel edition,

Not Just a Buzzword

 

Review: The Good Luck Girls (Spoilers)

This book’s a bit out of the ordinary for me, being more fantasy and action than pure romance, but its so fantastic I definitely had to review it. A note that this one’s content and trigger warnings are a little harder and more intense than my usual fare.

Content and trigger warnings: Attempted rape described on the page, telepathic intrusion, physical assault, murder, auctioning off of people’s first sexual experience, trauma, near death experiences, death of secondary character, description of traumatic event involving a gun, MC and SC’s dealing with traumatic experiences. The overall feel and intensity of violence is that of a Western, but with more described violence against women. The main character has distinct flashback experiences and disassociative like episodes due to trauma. 

Ok, so this book is not your average bear, either for this review site or in general. But oh my god, its such a beautiful breath of fresh air, both in fantasy, world building and in amazing survivor works. The core crew of this book is survivors of assault in one way or another and watching them band together and fight their way to freedom was cathartic and gorgeous.

The rough plot is this: in this particular universe, the equivalent of the ‘Wild West’ was settled by two groups of people, fairbloods and dustbloods. Dustbloods have in some way traded away their shadow in the past and have a legacy of being defined in this way. In this universe, sometimes girls who are part of families who are deeply poor are sold to brothels and become known as Good Luck Girls. They are kept by these houses until around 16 and then become sex workers, with their first sexual experience being auctioned off to local wealthy individuals in town.

Good Luck Girls are tattooed with a magical tattoo that blooms as they move towards puberty, which they are unable to cover without immense pain over time. When the tattoo reaches maturation, that’s when their first night is auctioned off.

I will not lie, the first quarter of this book is pretty massively trigger filled for survivors of sexual assault. It gets better, but its part of why I want to definitely stress the warning. 

Aster and her sister Clementine were sold to the Good Luck House several years ago. Aster’s already moved to working as a ‘Sunset Girl’, the term used for a person whose services are being sold by the house. Clementine is just about to go through her first night, after being auctioned off to a local big shot. A series of events which I won’t spoil for you (but can provide via DM if you are concerned about triggers) has them and several other Good Luck Girls on the run from the house, chasing the possibility of freedom.

Along the way, they meet up with the lovely and enterprising Zee, who works as a guide through the area known as the Scar and helps them find their way to the best possibility they have for freedom. There’s bank robberies, discussions about vengeance, learning about each other along the way and tons of revelations about life, each other and trust.

Mostly what I love about the book though is the camaraderie between the whole crew, how they stick together and the real and intense look at how survivors can band together to help each other out. Its inspiring, lovely and real. There’s a lot in here about healing as well and learning how to deal with the parts of trauma that stick with you.

So if you’re looking for a book that makes you want to cheer as people try to have healthy relationships in the wake of trauma and learn how to cope, as well as be one heck of a thrilling ride straight to the end, I’d highly recommend this book.

I give it 4 stars, not because of problems with the writing but because some of the setting bits could have used some more fleshing out and there were times the fantasy bits felt thin in places. I still don’t entirely understand what dustblood means and it felt like something that disappeared as the book went on. Also, though there is some discussion of how one secondary character is from an indigenous culture, I felt the backgrounds of some of the other characters were a bit more sketched than laid out. More time in the world might help and I hope we get to see more in this setting.

 

Until next time,

NJB

 

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and it was so utterly magical. Books are amazing y’all.

 

 

 

 

Review: The Candle and the Flame (Light spoilers)

Its a lovely day on NJB, because I not only get to squee about an amazing diverse book, but its also one that hits me close to home and brings with it something I’ve been looking for since I started reading books as a child. Not just satisfaction, but also a deep sense of being known, of not being alien to myself and others and thousands of tiny details that make me feel utterly transported and yet comfortable.

I’m talking aboutThe Candle and the Flame, this incandescent debut book by Nafiza Azad. I won’t lie, I literally hoarded this book for a rainy day because I could tell it was going to be so good. I savored it and stretched it out and refused to be interrupted while reading it. I want to buy a paperback copy of it just so I can put it in my spice cabinet at home and smell all the things that remind me of home and love and comfort while I read it.

I literally don’t know how to tell you all the ways I felt about this book, but I’m going to try. First off though, content and trigger warnings. This is a little heavier than some of what I usually review. Its a YA novel, focusing on the city of Noor, which has a fair amount of complex political interactions happening, as well as a history of bloodshed. Controlling abusive relationships, in the past and present, along with child neglect, family estrangment, a massive loss of life prior to the beginning of the book, blood spatter and death. I wouldn’t describe it as gory however, but I could see the family estrangment and abusive relationships being a trigger for some. YMMV.

So this book. This book. This fabulous book. Its a mystery and a romance with some action and it fits so perfectly together. Its a soft, careful romance, fit for 90’s Bollywood with passionate kissing and hugging and not much else on the physicality spectrum. But damn, you don’t feel like you’re missing out. The love between the two main characters is so soft, careful and working on explicit consent. I love it so and I wish I’d had it as a teenager so I could have learned about healthy relationships and what they look like.

The other relationships in this story are also on a range, from healthy to unhealthy and provide a vast variety of looks, power differentials and ways of interacting. There’s a reason I’m going to recommend this to my young cousins. .

But here’s the thing I’m going to gush about until the cows come home. The details…the tiny, culturally specific details that made me feel as though I’d come home and my grandmother was waiting for me with a cup of chai and homemade mutthi. There’s no sense of this being a spectacle for the dominant culture or of requiring explanation. Everything is presented as what it is and the glossary is in the back if you need it. But for me, it was the first time ever I’d cracked open a work of fiction and felt as though I could  be transported to a place that felt simultaneously new and old. It didn’t hurt that the Maharani in this book has the same name as my mother, an experience I’ve never had until this book. To see names I know and cherish, foods I grew up with, experiences and moments I’d lived that previously had been absent from fiction I read….I don’t know how to describe this to you.

There are no words for the depth of feeling it created in me. Suffice to say, books like this are why I started Not Just a Buzzword. Because I knew that books like this were possible and real. I wanted to know them, love them, find them and experience them. I wanted to feel them in the depths of my soul and in every sense of my body. The Candle and the Flame delivers this, along with a story that twists and turns and keeps the reader engaged. I slowly devoured this book like the bikaner bhujia that used to come in suitcases from India and was rationed out, knowing there was no way to get more once it was gone. I highlighted words in Hindi and Urdu, just because it made me feel so much to see them in print, not as translations, but just existing. There was no apologizing, no explanation but just words in their context. There was an assumption of being understood and it filled my soul with peace.

I can’t describe this book to you. I can’t recommend it enough. Read it, cherish it. You may not feel how I did when you do, because for me, it was indescribable. But its an incredibly worthy addition to YA fiction and it embodies a richness of setting and a centering of diverse narrative that I want to see in every new work I read.

Nafiza is a true gem, in creating a world that felt like home but also was new and open. Her Djinn are fantastic and complex, with lots of possibility for future books. Her characters have complex relationships, internally and externally and grow and change as the story progresses. One of the secondary characters I liked the least became the one I admired the most and it felt utterly natural. The politics are fascinating and the characterizations are so real.

Giving it 5 stars feels somehow like a pittance, because I can’t even tell you what this book meant to me. So you’ll just have to read it and know that it meant the world to me. Its going on a shelf with G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel, and I hope to fill that shelf with many more books like it.

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

 

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and I don’t think they were honestly expecting a love letter in return, but hey that’s not my problem.

 

 

 

 

Review: Iron and Velvet (Mild spoilers)

Hello NJB fans! We’re thrilled to get back in the saddle with you for this lovely piece, ‘Iron and Velvet’ by Alexis Hall. Its fun, its pulpy, its queer, what’s not to love?

But first, content and trigger warnings. There’s a pretty decent amount of gore and fighting in this book, as well as a bit of body horror. I would rank it somewhere around an episode of Supernatural, with vampire stakings and really gross bug monster kind of things. There’s an off screen death of a secondary character who we never meet prior to the book opening and the character does deal with some grief on that part. There’s conflict as well between the main character and her mother. There’s also a controlling, jerk ex boyfriend who definitely doesn’t understand boundaries at all. I suspect its a rather hilarious satire of Edward from Twilight, but it has a few squick moments where he doesn’t respect the main character’s agency. Nothing worse than an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer most days, but if you’re looking for something fluffy, you might want to page past or pick something different to read for the day. Lastly, the main character does have some difficulties with abusing alcohol for part of the book.  If you want more details, feel free as always to DM me on twitter @ShivaniSWriting. 

Ok, now on to the squeee! This book was just an utter delight to read, start to finish.

Its like if you took Harry Dresden from his early books, transformed him into a lesbian woman and then sent her on a series of mysteries that she bounded through with all the disaster in her soul. There’s beautiful, dangerous women everywhere, vampires, faeries, poor choices galore. There’s pacts made without enough forethought, ex girlfriends who are also ludicrously powerful witches, coitus interruptus by strange, horrible beasts from the deep with lamprey mouths (don’t worry, its just an attack and nothing weird involving the monster happens.)

Its funny, its snarky, I genuinely was intrigued by the mystery that the main character is trying to solve and I had such a soft spot for her and her disaster decision making skills by the end. Also, the romance in the book, while odd at moments, is charming and utterly believable. The depiction of grief that’s done is also believable and I found myself pretty invested in the character early on. There’s also discussion of the fact that the character hasn’t always identified as a lesbian and its done well in my opinion and realistically.

Things that weren’t perfect: I couldn’t tell if the feel of the masculine gaze occasionally intruding was a manifestation of the sort of noir feel of the books or something from the author. It didn’t put me off but it occasionally drew me out of the zone. However, it doesn’t feel as though the sex scenes are gratuitous or based on stereotypes, so it was more of a niggling thing than anything else.

I also almost wanted to break this book up into two or have a little more time with some of the scenes. But that might just be me wanting more.

All in all, I loved it and I want to read the next one as soon as I can get my hands on it. 5 stars and I’m looking forward to rereading it again soon, cause its just the perfect sort of thing for around Halloween.

TL;DR If you’re looking for something that feels a lot like early Buffy without having to deal with the ramifications of supporting its previous creator, I suspect you’d like this. Plus, no sex shaming!

 

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

Review: Ashore (Mild spoilers)

Welcome back to Not Just a Buzzword! Today, we’ve got an unusual review for you, in that its the 2nd book in a series. If you loved our review of Adrift by Isabelle Adler, I suspect you’ll love the next book Ashore. I know I did.

First off, content and trigger warnings. On content, there is a large discussion of substance use and abuse, particularly alcohol and stimulants. The characters deal with it well but it could be difficult for some readers. There’s also some medical procedures that occur within the book, but occur largely off page. 

For trigger warnings, its a bit of a longer list. Discussion of past rape, night terrors, memories of torture, bigotry, mutilation and discussion of death and rape of off screen characters we have not met. None of the discussion is intensely detailed, which was useful for me but it was still more than what I usually read. If you would like further details, feel free to DM me on Twitter @ShivaniSWriting.

Whew, ok, now that we’re past the important stuff, let’s get on to the reading. So I loved the first book and Isabelle was kind enough to send me an ARC for the second when she saw me squeeing on social media about it. I stayed up late that night reading it, as I have a soft spot for Matt and his horrible decision making skills and overgrown sense of responsibility for other’s well being.

This book picked up from where Adrift left out, with our intrepid space cowpokes wandering the galaxy, trying not to get murdered and living something like the dream. But Matt’s ability to attract trouble hasn’t died down and even his budding relationship with Ryce can’t seem to help that.

One of the interesting things in this book is we seem to get some confirmation that Ryce is demisexual or somewhere on that spectrum. The word isn’t explicitly said, but he does mention that he needs more time to know someone before being physical and Matt accepts this. There’s some definite misunderstandings around the whole thing, but its nice to see some realistic representation there.

Oddly, the plot of this book reminded me slightly of the whole podracing bit in The Phantom Menace, what with trying to raise money, illegal racing and people trying to murder you while you race. But it was fun and entertaining, though possibly a bit long.

Ryce and the crew get stuck trying to make this work to make some money while also dodging some less than friendly characters. They’re also trying to save the life/rescue one of their crew mates. There’s quite a lot of threads going here, but they do all eventually get tied up. We get to know more of the crew, their back story and we get a front row seat to Matt’s insecurities and Ryce’s misunderstandings. Its cute, its intense and its also quite thrilling. Matt and Ryce also deal with some of their unhealthy coping mechanisms and talk frankly about them, which I definitely enjoyed.

I won’t spoil the book for you, but suffice to say, if you like your queer silly babies who can’t quite figure out how to talk about their feelings with a healthy dose of action, mystery and space opera level drama, you’ll enjoy this book.

I give it a 4.5 out of 5, cause the racing got a bit long for me but I loved so much of this book. Can’t wait for the next one.

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

 

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and its mine, you can’t have it.

Review: A Little Light Mischief (Light spoilers)

Hello, its another edition of the “I love everything Cat Sebastian writes, can I clone her so I can have more books faster” review. I’m your host and I have all the feelings.

That’s right, we’re here to review to review ‘A little light mischief’ featuring everyone’s favorite secondary character scamp, Molly Wilkins and the lovely Alice Stapleton. They’re charming and adorable and I love them.

First off, trigger and content warnings. Its pretty light (ha!) on this one, but there is mention of alcoholism, verbal abuse, past economic abuse and an incident where a primary character relates a tale of sexual harassment. It is touched on quickly and I didn’t find it rough, but your mileage may vary.

Now on to the squee! We’ve got our lovely characters, getting to know each other slowly and lovingly over some embroidery and sewing. (I am really all about this trend of more books with fantastic embroidery and sewing, its just lovely.) Little moments and tiny glances and ahh it does my queer heart good to see all those awkward moments of trying to figure out if someone is interested or you’re just hoping they are.

We learn more of Alice’s sad story, which I won’t spoil here, but its decently sad and makes you want to burn the patriarchy. Its a Cat Sebastian book, so that’s pretty standard. But we also get to see more of Molly, who I loved in the books with Jack Turner and Oliver Rivington and its so fun. She’s cheeky, she’s lively, she’s loyal and she wants justice despite the lack of justice in her own life.

They wind a tale, with just a little bit of theft, retribution and a wayward waif or two added in for good measure and wind up with a happily ever after that made me sigh and want to go make hot chocolate and learn to embroider. Except I have no patience.

So I will just to have read lovely books like this again. If you need something light, easy and joyous to fill your heart on a bleak day, I can’t recommend this book enough. Its fast and quick to finish but it lingers in your heart and brings a smile to your face.

I give it a solid 5 out of 5, cause its just perfect, but god I wish it were longer so I wasn’t done already.

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

*I received an Arc in exchange for an honest review and its mine and you can’t have it.

Review: The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics (Spoiler free)

Content warning and trigger warning: Discussion of abuse, sexism, misogyny, verbal abuse, controlling behaviors. Discussion of problematic consent in past experiences, emotional abuse

How do I talk to you about this book? I don’t even know. It feels like it lifts me to the heavens and then brings me down into the fields and back again. I feel like I should write a poem to this book, instead of a review. It seems to demand something special or extraordinary, because it is an extraordinary book.

The details, the relationships, the horrifyingly accurate sexism and how it stings in the readers soul, even as its laced with patronizing misogyny’s words of best interest: I actually probably should write a poem to this book. Plainly, its giving me feelings.

But you don’t come to this site for poetry: you come for reviews. So here it is, unabashed and honest.

I love it. Oh god how I love it. I haven’t loved a book like this in a while. Its so real and honest and pure and yet not afraid to be wicked. The characters are so believable. Even the villains seem like people you would know down the street. It stings and it binds the wounds and it holds you close and says “I know. I know what its like to feel your world made small by someone. I won’t let them make you small”.

As someone who’s been sewing for years and dabbling in art, as well as spending years in biology and chemistry, it feels as though this book were made for me in some parts. The disdainful treatment of arts claimed to be ‘womanly’, feeling the pressure to be an assistant to someone else’s genius rather than your own and the little grit that gets into the pleasure of a day when someone assumes you weren’t the one who made this glory. The times when someone stole your work and said it was theirs and gave you a small smile, as if to say “Well, you know how it is”.

Its all there. And it enhances everything.

And the love between Catherine and Lucy! Its so sweet, so beautiful, so real. Its hard to not want to touch their faces and hold them close and threaten the lives of anyone who hurts them. They are darlings and they are our darlings. The little bumps and realities of their love story, Catherine’s family love story playing out in reminiscence and just so much fantastic art and science. The moments of doubt and indecision and god, the ways they find to be together.

Can you tell I liked it? I literally can’t quite control myself about it.

I’m not going to spoil anything, other than its a love story, which you already know, because its just too good. You need to savor this book like a glorious chocolate you bought yourself because you wanted it or the perfect baked good on a cold, rainy day with a cup of tea. Let it fill you and warm you and hold you close. Press it to your chest and let it seep in to the cracks of your heart.

Keep it for a bad day if you need to or a good day or just a day when nothing feels right.

And then, when its done, heave a sigh and let it breathe. It won’t go anywhere, because its in your heart now. Hearts are handy like that, keeping what we love.

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

(I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and I’m going to make a tiny shrine to it cause that’s how I roll sometimes, ok?)

Review: The Right Swipe (Spoilers)

Content Warning/Trigger warning: Mentions of past abusive relationship dynamics, death of secondary characters, medical conditions that result in death, incomplete reading, so cannot vouch for all content being covered

So, its a new experience here at NJB. This is the first time I haven’t been able to finish a book that I actually really love. Its Alisha Rai, which also hurts, because I love her works and her so much.

But for some reason, the past relationship between Peter and Rhiannon kept hitting me in a bad place in my head. Even before he was introduced and we were just hearing bits and pieces, I found myself struggling with it. It took me out of the book and made it hard to keep reading. So, if you have a history or difficulty reading books with controlling or manipulative ex’s, you might want to avoid.

What I am going to talk about are the parts of the book that I loved that kept me trying to finish it. First off, Samson. Adorable, cinnamon roll, caretaker for a beloved family member and advocate for friends. God I just wanted to cuddle him. He’s also so respectful of Rhiannon’s boundaries and listens pretty well, despite being totally gone over her. Utterly adorable and totally part of why I kept going with this book, cause I wanted him to have a happily ever after.

Then there’s Rhiannon. Oh lord. A survivor, strong, fierce, loving, gentle, bold and she has a difficult relationship with a mother she loves? Sign me up for a lifetime subscription. That hard shell with the squishy center? Ugh. Slays me every time. I am all for that wearing a hoodie everywhere life.

Their romance starts from an accidental ghosting, which I never realized was a thing I liked, but totally is. They communicate well, despite all their intense insecurities and worries about each other. They make sense and I might have to look up a synopsis just so I can know how this all ends, cause I’m still invested, despite the DNF.

I can’t give a totally thorough CW/TW as I didn’t finish. But I’m hoping someone out there can for those of you wanting to deep dive into this book. Its so cute and its so lovely. Its just not something I can make it all the way through. I also need to know how Peter gets his comeuppance with all of my soul, cause that’s how I’m built.

With that in mind, I’m giving it a provisional 4 stars. I hope some of you love it to pieces, because its definitely deserving.

 

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

 

p.s. I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

Review: ‘Hither Page’ (Mild spoilers)

Trigger warning/Content Warning: death of secondary characters, secret identities, mention of suicide, thoughts of suicide, depression and hate speech

You all know this blog has a special place in its heart for Cat Sebastian. And Hither Page continues that beautiful tradition. But why does it merit special mention?

In my opinion, its the disability representation. I mean, yes, its a M/M romance mystery and queer love of all kinds is still marginalized in so many places. But for me, what gets me is the compassionate and loving discussion of PTSD (known in the time as shell shock or combat fatigue) and how the characters cope with it.

There’s discussion of how PTSD affects everyone involved in war, not just combatants. There’s understanding and compassion for each other, that blooms into self compassion eventually. It makes my former therapist’s heart beat a little faster to see healthy relationships developing like this.

James Sommers is the adorable cinnamon roll of a country doctor who came back from the war looking for peace and quiet in the little country town he left. He doesn’t quite feel he has a right to be as shaken by the war as he was and he tries to keep his life as simple as possible so that he doesn’t spiral downward.

Enter Leo Page, who is ostensibly here to look at church tracings, but even I didn’t believe him in the first few paragraphs. Like, wow, that’s an impressively dull subject. Good job spy guy. He’s really here to figure out what the heck is going on in this tiny town for murders to be happening and investigate around. But as he does, he starts wanting and needing a bit of the peace, quiet and caring that Wychcombe St. Mary has to offer. Along with its murders, secrets, hermits and late night graveyard drinkers. (It will make more sense in context, promise)

Leooo…my soft little spy baby. I just wanted to wrap him in a blanket and say he could take a nap. God, Cat always gets me with these characters. I have no resistance to them. Keep your cinnamon rolls, I want my tired little soldiers who need to be told its ok to rest and care about people again.

(Ok, I also love cinnamon rolls but that is beside the point!)

Anyhow, the mystery progresses alongside the romance with tons of hidden trails and red herrings and all sorts of glorious things. There’s adorable old ladies in cottages trying to domesticate Leo, teenagers engaging in some creative rebellion, knitted scarves full of meaning and highly convenient emergencies that require Leo to stay overnight at James’s conveniently open guest room. (Sorry, there’s more than one bed. But its still good.)

I’m sort of a sucker for predicting endings but this one I didn’t manage. So good on you Cat, cause that’s usually easy for me. The amount of lovely minor characters is also kudos to her, cause I managed to care about more than James and Leo and everyone felt real. I would have to say my 2nd favorite character is a minor one, which is impressive. Leo takes the lead, sorry James. You’re adorable though.

I loved this book so much. Its a Cat Sebastian, so how could I not? But I found myself wanting more time for romance. Maybe this is just because I’ve been reading way too much slow burn fanfiction this week (cough, I partially blame Cat for this as well for introducing me to Stucky). It felt as though there wasn’t enough room for both the mystery and the romance at the end. There were a lot of loose ends to be tied up.

I also still have questions, such as why Wendy was left that money in the first place. Was it just so Mildred could be a troll? Did she care for her? I’m just not sure and that poked at me. It may have been addressed and I totally missed it in my voracious reading. That’s happened.

I also just wanted acres of more cozy fireside cuddles and smooches and little passionate love things. It felt a little fast for me at the end for a resolution on the romance end. But knowing its a series helps.

For that reason, it gets a very solid 4.25 out of 5, with a desperate need for the next book to be out so soon because I have needs for this level of squish and redemption.

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and I will love it, and pet it and call it George.

Review: Proper English (Mild Spoilers)

Trigger warning/Content Warning for this book: Bullying, extortion, drug use, use of derogatory slurs against various groups, murder of a secondary character off screen

I am struggling with where to start on this review because my entire mind is just full of “I LOVE THIS BOOK AND I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO HAPPY FOR A MURDER” and somehow, that seems a bit insufficient and also unclear.

(Its a fictional murder. Just to be clear. I am not happy for any other type of murder.)

You know when you’re watching a movie and you hear the ominous music start and you really hope the jerk who’s been hitting on people in a creepy way gets axed by the serial killer first so you don’t have to hear his voice anymore?

Yeah, you might feel a bit like that. I know I did. But you might ask, what does murder have to do with romance? In this case, everything.

You see, KJ Charles didn’t just make a romance book about two lovely women coming together unexpectedly. Said women also get to solve a murder mystery about someone who everyone had a motive to murder. They are all stuck in the house for reasons and so they decide they might as well solve the murder before the police get here (think Clue, but more bigotry on the part of the murdered person). Its delightful.

First off, why does it hit the blog? One, its f/f historical romance done well, which is a rare and beautiful unicorn. Two, femme and butch rep without stereotyping or privileging of one way of presenting versus another. At least, I’m calling it femme and butch, but your mileage may vary. There’s also a brief and less focused on romance between a lovely Punjabi Sikh woman and her English lover, but really Victoria steals the show.

As a Punjabi, this was a near and dear one to my heart. Discussions of vegetarianism, the fact that South Asians have been in England for a long time and also someone standing up to the bigoted jerk on her behalf? Swooning. So rare to see and cathartic for the small brown kid in me who got their food made fun of on vegetarian holy days.

Moving on, we’ve got Patricia (Pat) and Fenella (known as Fen), two lovely humans who are very different but appreciate each other. Pat’s a sportswoman of some renown, growing up in a family of brothers and developing a practical way about her, that doesn’t lead to her being seen as womanly often. Then we’ve got Fen, an heiress who’s learned how to seem helpless and ‘cherishable’ in the mode of the time but not precisely how to be seen for who she is. Between the two of them, they create a fantastic balance and also make openings for growth on both of their parts.

I was worried for a moment when Fen came up, because she’s so stereotypically femme and its a characterization that is often disrespected or seen as featherheaded. Even Pat isn’t sure initially if she has a thought in her head.

But I should have remembered I was reading a KJ Charles book. Fen’s character is complex and she has reasons for presenting as she does. They’re a shield but also part of her, similar to Pat’s brisk, forthright nature. When she and Pat begin to finally see each other without their societal masks on, it changes the entire tone.   They use each other’s strengths and others perceptions as ways to help solve the mystery.

Pat’s defense of Fen before she even gets to know her is also breathtaking. “If a woman is brought up to do nothing except get married and mix in society, its hardly fair to blame for carrying out the job she was given. If you didn’t want that sort of woman you shouldn’t have proposed to one, and having done so, its hardly fair to criticize her for it.”

Yes! Talking about how society’s expectations cages women into impossible no win scenarios of who they have to be is 100% why K J Charles is an auto buy author. I can always rely on her to remember the context of the characters. (Except for the villain Maurice, but I am really terribly all right with shooting him out of a cannon).

And when they each get down on certain parts of themselves, the other lifts them up.  Fen loves Pat’s forthright attitude and Pat loves Fen’s ability to think of others, smooth things over at times and do the societal niceties she’s never learned how to do. Its so wholesome and lovely I might cry.

 

I could probably write about how much I love this book for pages and pages, but I’m going to try to trim it down to a few sentences.

If you like:

-mysteries where you’re not sad about who died

-two people coming together without either of them losing who they are

-adorable, heartfelt conversations between multiple characters

-unexpected redemption and love

You’re going to love this book and its out today. So throw your plans out the window, get a snack and cozy up.

5 stars and the happiest I’ve ever been about a murder! No other book I’ve reviewed can say that.

 

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

 

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and you would have to murder me to get it from me. Don’t try. I like being alive.