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.

 

 

 

Review: ‘That Kind of Guy’ Spoilers!

Usually, I try to do a spoiler free review, but the squee in me will not be contained this time. So be warned, spoilers abound here!

First things first, content and trigger warnings. There is mention  and discussion of chronic illness for multiple individuals, discussion of infidelity, plagarism and unhealthy relationship dynamics. Possibly triggering would be the discussion of sexual encounters where one of the MC’s consented without wanting to, because he wished to make others happy. Some boundaries are pushed during one drunken discussion by two characters, but boundaries are set hard and respected. One of the MC’s mothers is emotionally abusive and says some painful things during the book, which could be triggering for some.

Next, what makes it rate hitting the blog. We have black woman author, white man demisexual, discussions of trauma, chronic illness being discussed openly and the practical needs of it and people with complex family histories getting HEA’s! What’s not to love?

Now on to the squeee!

So I’ve enjoyed Talia Hibbert’s Ravenswood series so much so far, but this is likely going to end up being my favorite book. The characters, Zach and Rae, are part of the same core group of folks we’ve seen in her other books but we haven’t had their stories yet. Zach is Nate’s younger brother (Hannah’s partner in Untouchable) and works as a smith. Rae is Hannah’s best friend, a divorcee who moved to Ravenswood under a cloak of mystery with three cuts on her face.

They have the most adorable set up, where Rae comes by every day walking her dog Duke (who is a tiny bear that I wish to steal) while Zach is totally coincidentally taking his break outside at the smithy. She tells him stories she’s cooking up and he enjoys the heck out of it and occasionally helps pick apart a problem.

This man is straight author candy and I love it.

So Zach and Rae meet every day and hang out, but never really seem to go further. Then, one night, they decide after a few drinks with friends to go wandering to have an adventure.

Note: This is where the boundary pushing occurs. You can probably skip these pages if you’d rather not see it. Its referenced throughout the book and truthfully, you won’t miss much by doing so. Rae learns quickly and realizes how she’s fucked up and owns it. Zach feels good for having his boundaries respected and for laying down the law instead of trying to go along.

So, its awkward, they make up and do some good communicating. Then it comes out that Rae has a convention to attend as a fledging author and needs some help to feel confident and good as her ex-husband will be at the conference. So Zach offers to be her fake boyfriend for the weekend. Trope heaven! Oh and they get to the hotel and there’s only one bed! Even more tropes!

I won’t spoil the convention for you, because there’s lots of fun, twists and turns here. Let’s just say that the fakeness starts to flake off pretty quickly, both start realizing their feelings and pants feelings for each other, misunderstand each other, have hot fun times and then have one critical misunderstanding.

As we return to Ravenswood, we get to witness Rae taking down her emotionally abusive mom on the phone for the first time as she squares herself up to talk to Zach and be honest and open with him. They talk, they kiss, its fucking perfect and cute. I want a Duke plushie to snuggle.

tl;dr BUY THIS BOOK! Its so cute and fluffy and though there are some parts where things could be rough, they are dealt with well and in a gentle way. Both of the characters learn from each other and their own burgeoning self esteem to stand up for themselves and what they want and its just beautiful. Their relationship makes sense on the most fundamental level and if I wrote fanfiction, I would write screeds about their happy life and the new puppy they buy that Duke loves and them moving into Zach’s house and making it less scary to the neighborhood kids.

Also, the dirty talk? Hooooootttttt. *fans self* You won’t regret that.

5 stars out of 5 stars and its going on my comfort reads shelf. Can’t get much better than that!

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and I will hoard it for fluffy feelings until I am old.

 

Review for ‘A Duke in Disguise’ (Spoilers)

First, content and trigger warnings along with spoilers: physical abuse of family members, attempted murder of multiple people, verbal abuse, aggression towards women and threats all committed by the villain of the piece. He’s a horrifying sack of refuse but if this stuff is rough for you, I would be cautious. He gets his comeuppance if that helps to know.  This is mainly at the end of the book and part of the climax and resolution, so there is tons of beautiful fluff before it.

Ok, so if you’ve followed me on Twitter for any length of time, you know of my desperate and all abiding love for Cat Sebastian’s work. When I found out she had a new book coming out, I climbed the walls trying to get an ARC because I have the patience of a border collie waiting for a ball to be thrown. Thankfully, Cat (and her publisher)  took pity on me.

I have no shame about my choices. This book literally made me fill my notebook with three pages of quotes and I can’t even explain my feelings. But I will try.

‘A Duke in Disguise’ hits the blog because it has an amazing bisexual woman who isn’t erased in her relationships and is lovingly forthright about her feelings about her identity. Verity Plum is my new bisexual hero and I will defend her until my last breath. There’s also strong, interesting female side characters who make tough decisions and make it work and Lady Caroline has my respect forever. There’s great discussion about the unequal requirements and losses that can occur in marriage, which I also appreciated.

 

The main characters are an adorable cinnamon roll of a human man named Ash who reminded me way too much of Steve Rogers in all his bumbling, amazing consent practices and desperate lack of self esteem. He carries hairpins around just to help his love interest keep her hair together and blushes when engraving naughty pictures. He’s just so cute. He wants family so bad and connection so bad, but he’s also so bad at reaching out for it. I just wanted to cuddle him and make him go to therapy.

But the real star of the show is the fabulous, snarky, bisexual and not ashamed in the slightest of it, Verity Plum. She is as advertised, full of truth and ripe with possibility. Also, she is so funny that her dialogue is most of the quotes that I wrote down over my 2nd reading of this book. (Because I had to do a second reading so I could actually articulate my feelings beyond ‘EEEEEEE’).

Verity runs a paper with her brother Nate, who is the sort of lovable, Hamilton-esque dude who has no sense of his own safety and is far too involved in doing the right thing to realize that consequences fall on more than just his shoulders. The paper they own is on this side of sedition but Nate keeps trying to push the envelope while Verity slowly loses her mind in worry. Ash returns to living in their home after his mentor leaves for Italy in the hopes of improving his health and is Verity’s shoulder and rock in this hard time.

The moment I fell in love with this book happened when, during a discussion of her brother’s genius, Verity says that Nate gets to be a genius while she handles the economics of their life and food. Its a stark and lovely indictment of emotional labor by women and about who is allowed to follow their dreams and passions. Nate would be lost without Verity, but I don’t know if even Nate knows that. But Ash sees it and that matters.

Verity…I feel like I could spend an entire blog post just about her. Her experiences with women aren’t erased and they aren’t tangential. Her ex lover appears all over throughout the book and is hugely important in her development and growth. Verity’s so confident and comfortable in her sexual self and its so rare to see. Her bisexuality isn’t for titillation or a male gaze. Its hers and she revels in it.  Somehow, that felt so intensely validating.

Things start coming to a head with a rather unexpected finding of family from Ash’s quarter, some secrets and a spectacular amount of bad communication. There are large hats to prove love, seditious pamphlets as wedding presents and bonding over corpses of villains.

One of my favorite parts that Cat always delivers on is discussion of disparity in class and station in romance. So many romances just hand wave this away, but I can always trust Cat to look these things dead on and ensure her characters find truthful, real ways to navigate the difficulties of the world they live in. Verity knows things will have to change if she marries someone who’s moving so up in the world but she finds a way to stay herself.

In the end, the happily ever after comes around, but it feels authentic and true. Verity and Ash find a way to be together that doesn’t require Verity to become a pretty painted doll or Ash to become some toady to the aristocracy. I won’t spoil any more for you, but read this wonder. Its so worth it and after so many shitty representations of bisexual women in media, it heals something inside me to see such good representation, alongside great consent and realistic relationship building. Even the side characters are lovely and compelling and it helps set up Unmasked by the Marquess so you can know more about Portia Allenby and her family.

5 out of 5 stars and I would sky write quotes on the moon if they would let me.

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

 

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and no you can’t have it, its mine.

 

 

Review: The Takeover Effect (Spoilers)

So, I’m a little behind on this one, but its not for lack of love. I stumbled on Nisha Sharma’s book and it just seemed too good to be true. As a Punjabi woman who loves romance, I so very rarely get to see my culture represented. So of course, I had to read and review it.

Okay, on to trigger warnings and content warnings: The one major difficulty I had with this book was some of the pushing around consent. There are times the main male character (Hem) does not listen to a no that is stated or pushes past it until a yes is said. There is also a moment where it seems like they had talked about not using condoms at some point but it was perhaps not discussed prior to the sexual encounter. Its unclear and it was confusing and a bit rough. I found myself skipping past sex scenes because the consent was so murky at times and I wanted to enjoy the book.

While it is resolved and the female character (Mina) eventually affirms consent each time and enjoys herself, this was difficult for me and I could imagine it being difficult for other readers.  I can understand that it felt very in line with the character to push so hard, but it made it harder for me to enjoy the book. So, reader be warned on that one.

The Punjabi words interspersed everywhere, the cultural moments, the food, the aunties and uncles lovingly sprinkled everywhere, the references, even the dialogue. I felt so at home in moments in this book and so intensely hungry. Do not read at night in a place without Indian delivery. I am regretting that right this second.

The speed of the romance was a bit fast for me, but for those who love a romance movie, it will likely be just right. I’m more of a slow burn person myself and I know my bias. Its a super quick read as well, perfect for gobbling up in the tub.

The espionage, the backstabbing, the lawyer conversations and all the twists and turns in this book made for a great thriller. It feels very legal TV show, which I love.  I legitimately did not figure out who the mole in their company was until the very end and it surprised me. Also, the ending scene where justice happens is pretty satisfying, to anyone who’s had a shitty uncle who patronizes them. Very satisfying in fact. There’s even parental make up scenes with their children, which always hits me hard.

Also, Rajneet, Mina’s best friend? Fire and loveliness. I want her story right now. I loved the intro at the end and it definitely sparked my interest.

My biggest problem is Mina is so cool and Hem both seems to respect her and also not listen to her no on lots of things. When she asks to slow down, when she says not now, when she talks about the very serious professional implications of their relationship (which I cannot believe he does not listen to). I get he has his damage and that’s real, but it made me want to smack the back of his head like a Punjabi auntie and ask how he’d feel if someone pushed his sister/cousin/female relative like that. Because apparently, someone can only be a person if they’re related to a dude, but whatever. And I’m not even old enough to be an auntie yet. But that boy is fixing for getting his ears pulled the way he is acting.

Still, there’s chai, there’s happy endings, there’s happy mothers and complex mothers and families coming together. Its a little like Kabhi Kushi Khabhi Gaum in a lot of ways (if you haven’t seen it, its on Netflix, thank me later) but slightly less dramatic and lots more sex.

Due to the content and consent difficulties for me, I have to give it 3.5 stars, but I am super looking forward to this author’s next book. I see so much beauty coming through the mustard fields here!

 

*I received an ARC in exchange for my honest review of this book.

Edit: On further consideration, I am upgrading the content warning to a full on Trigger Warning. Any sexual assault survivors may be wise in avoiding or finding a more comprehensive review before diving into this text.

 

 

Review: Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure (Spoilers!)

I am currently supposed to be in bed sleeping, but I just finished this book and am now too wired to sleep because it is soooo goood internet friends!

So here I am to share it with you. Because I locked myself out of twitter like a responsible adult.

First, content and trigger warnings: Accusations and discussion of  rape by a villain against a never met minor character. No graphic details of any kind, but it is named as rape. The villain is an asshole about it as well, but nothing graphic is said. Scarcity of resources, discussions of physical attractiveness and of systemic sexism.

Second, what makes it hit the blog. Its two older women who fall in love. I never see this sort of pairing anywhere, even in fanfiction. Its realistic, its loving, it talks about how ageism means no one sees them anymore and it brings in class and pretty privilege as well. Its a true gem and I do not exaggerate when I say I haven’t read a book like this before.

Ok, now on to the show. First, its Courtney Milan. You know you’re going to love it, cause she’s fantastic. Also, even though there is discussion of assault, she is so fucking lovingly vague about it and it literally is a sentence with no description. This is usually a trigger for me and it wasn’t at all this time. Minorly startling, but it made sense and I was able to move right along.

First, we have the amazing Violetta Beauchamps, a fighter of the first degree, trying to find her way to solvency through Mrs. Martin’s pockets. Mrs. Martin’s nephew (the villain we will soon meet) lives in the boarding house she formerly managed and is a class A jerk who should be shot to the moon, except that wouldn’t be fair to the moon.

So, Violetta tries to show up and get some money out of Mrs. Martin, because her asshole of a boss fires her to deny her the pension she’s earned. So she takes her careful files, finds the relative he asked to stand surety for him and asks her for the money.

The problem is, the asshole forged that signature. But Mrs. Martin takes a shine to Violetta, who seems to be waking her up after a long sleep.

What results is a long series of hijinx, adventures, ludicrous amounts of cheese toasts, atonal choirs serenading assholes and other amazing, lovely occurrences. I won’t spoil them all, because its just so lovely and I want you to experience it all. But if you need a pick me up, especially after the news of one more schmuck messing up the world for everyone, this is the book you need. You’ll laugh, yell, be touched to the core and cheer for this unlikely, amazing pair.

Pick them up. Hold them close. Eat cheese toast with them. They’re here for you and for all of us who are just so tired of not being seen and loved for who we are.

5 out of 5 stars and I love it more than I love toast and that’s saying a lot.

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I have absolutely no regrets about my decisions.

Review: Can’t Escape Love (Spoilers!)

So I was going to try to do a spoiler free review of this one, but there’s too much to squee about and I need to do specifics. So those who hate spoilers, you’ve been warned.

First, content  and trigger warnings. Examples and discussion of past experiences of ableism. Family conflict and difficulty accepting diagnoses. Parents who split their children on good and bad axis and have to be schooled to stop. Boundary problems among family members. 

Ok, so, first. What rates this being on this blog, besides being written by Alyssa Cole, who is one of our queens of diverse romance (we’re not worthy…we’re not worthy). First, the main character is a black woman in a wheelchair, the lovely twin sister of Portia (from a Duke by Default). Her name is Regina (but she goes by Reggie) and she is hysterical, lovely and unapologetic. She also has the coolest wheels ever.

The love interest for the story is an autistically coded Vietnamese-American man named Gustave (who goes by Gus) and to be frank, I just wanted to cuddle him so much. Both of them actually. Blanket forts. I had a lot of feelings.

Ok, so Reggie and Gus go way back on the internet, when he used to do puzzles and stream and she was his only subscriber. Its like the 21st century meet cute and I love it. His voice used to lull her to sleep but at some point, he stopped doing the streams and deleted all the recordings.

And now Reggie can’t sleep. So she does the totally irrational but sort of logical thing and seeks him out via the internet (with help from Portia) and emails him to ask if she can pay him to speak so she can go to sleep.

Right after I died laughing from this part and resurrected, I dived back in. Gus takes this all with stride and they manage to work things out so that Reggie can get some sleep and Gus can…hang out? He’s not getting a ton from the arrangement in the beginning but that doesn’t seem to bug him much.

But of course, inevitably, the pants feelings start. And its so funny. They make so much sense together, but they’re also so lovingly awkward. Not like Ben Stiller, where you wish you could poke your eyeballs out to stop watching this, but more like Chandler Bing on a good day, trying to do something nice and failing to not be weird about it.

That’s oddly specific. Anyhow! So they’re cute and they’re getting interested and the inevitable twists come, which I will leave to you.

But they watch anime together and talk about OTP’s and Reggie is a total fangirl and Gus  loves puzzles and they don’t infantilize each other and its just so cute and pure.

Why are you still reading me? Go read this. You won’t regret it. My only regret is that its a novella and not a full length book cause I would read that so fast.

4.75 stars, cause my heart wanted more of these two and I still keep looking back to see if I actually got to the end.

 

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

 

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and I desperately hope they keep giving them to me cause I kind of have a book problem and this is a decent solution.

Review: ‘A Prince on Paper’

I swear this isn’t turning into the Alyssa Cole review blog (but damn a being can dream). She’s just been producing so much amazing stuff lately that you are going to be inundated for a bit. Its a great problem to have, trust me.

Content and trigger warnings for the book: Discussion and description of past controlling and abusive behavior by Nya’s father and continued attempts at controlling behavior. Emotionally abusive language. Gaslighting, recovery from said gaslighting. Death of a parental figure and funerals. Lack of consent around usage of pictures of main characters. Discussion of death of a close family member and the resultant grief and guilt. 

First, what makes it hit the blog, besides my intense feelings about Alyssa Cole’s writing. Nya’s someone recovering from trauma, an African woman and learning how to find her own agency. Johan is from a blended family and lost his mother young. He’s learning how to cope with all those feelings.

Can you see why I lost my mind at this?

Ok, so for anyone who had a super soft spot for Nya in ‘A Princess in Theory’ (the woman being held captive of sorts by her father, who was the villain of the piece), this book is for you. It has virtual dating sims, playboy Prince’s with secret hearts of gold (one of my faaave tropes), people coping with complex parents and families, coming out stories, and empowerment. Its a delightful clown car, except there are no clowns (whew) and its much more fun than that.

Whew, ok, I’m getting ahead of myself. So, Nya is heading back to Theosolo for the wedding of our previous pair from ‘A Princess in Theory’ (which if you haven’t read, go get that, for the love all that’s holy, you will want to know the details and its so cute!).

Anyhow, she unexpectedly bumps into Prince Johan, who we’ve seen fabulous glimpses of here and there, especially in ‘A Duke by Default’ (otherwise known as the adventures of Swordbae and Woman of the 21st Century in my head). They have a key misunderstanding, because of course. And then they start realizing how amazingly hot and intriguing they both are.

Its fun, its steamy, there’s twists, turns, the past coming back to haunt and healing from family wounds. There’s fake engagements, real engagements, romantic castles and very public love confessions.

One of my favorite parts of this book is how the characters handle their pasts and each other. They also handle conflict in a beautiful and realistic way. It sets so many good standards for a healthy relationship, even with all the drama.

What more could you want? I’m not gonna spoil it, cause it would be a crime, but go snag it when its out on April 30th! You won’t regret it in the slightest.

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

 

*I received an Arc for an honest review and you will pry it from my fingers when I am dead and gone.

Review: Once Ghosted, Twice Shy

Hey, its been a minute since we’ve had a review here. But Alyssa Cole is here to knock my socks off and yours, so let’s get into it.

You may have read her earlier works ‘A Princess in Theory’ or ‘A Duke by Default’ that were the first books in this series. But if like me, you read the first book and wanted to know what the heck happened with Likotsi and her amazing love affair that happened in the back ground, strap in cause we finally get to find out.

Content warnings: Discussion of death of a family member. Off screen and not graphic but difficult to skip for plot reasons. 

I literally was so intense about wanting to read this book that I missed the deadline to pick up my ARC, I bought it anyway.

What? I had to know. Likotsi and her amazing style and snarky ways had snuck her way into my heart and set up a shoe closet and I couldn’t stay away. I don’t even like shoes that much.

In this book though, we get to know the mystery woman who charmed Likotsi. Her name is Fabiola (but she goes by Fab for short, cause of course, she’s so fab) and she’s an aspiring jewelry designer when she meets Likotsi. Their chemistry is so intense and beautiful. I found myself desperate to be as cool and suave as Likotsi. Seriously, where did my game go? She has got it in spades!

There’s the required twists and turns, cause nothing is ever easy but oh its so beautiful and believeable. Fab’s choices makes so much sense and Likotsi’s pain rips at you. When it all begins to work out, it feels so real and right, not contrived but earned.

I won’t spoil what messes up their romance and then brings them back together, but its a roller coaster. I didn’t anticipate so much of this book, nor did I anticipate how much it would fill me with a desire to own a dapper closet like Likotsi.

If you like romance novels with family, beautiful queer women who communicate with each other and some impressively sexy scenes, this book is for you!

Go, pick it up! I’m rereading mine again.

*I was supposed to receive an ARC in exchange for an honest review, but I missed the email in my spam, so I bought this anyway. So now you know I really, really love this book.

Review: Band Sinister (Spoilers!)

As a preamble, you have to know how much I love KJ Charles work. She was the first queer romance author I’d ever read and I am spoiled after her works.

If you’ve read a few of my reviews, you know how much I value good consent, accurate depictions of marginalized peoples in historical era and lovely strange words from the era. With KJ Charles, you get all of that and such great romance. She doesn’t shy away from representing the fullness of the era and the historical accuracy and reality don’t hinder her happily ever afters at all. Rather, they fill them out and make them more glorious and representative.

Content and trigger warnings: Description of an broken bone and the resulting medical care. Not gory, but a little graphic. Description and discussion of parental neglect, slavery, racism and homophobia.

First, what makes this book worthy of a Not Just A Buzzword review: it not only represents a non monogamous group that are healthy and functional with each other, but also black characters whose lives are not tangential or used as a narrative arc for others and who have their own desires. Lastly, a Portugese Jewish doctor, a woman who’s found herself outside of society’s strictures and dealing with period attitudes in amazing and realistic ways.

Is it obvious I loved this?

For main characters, we have the lovely Phillip Rookwood, black sheep of his family, acknowledged bastard (due to his mother’s affair) and all around shameless lover of pleasure and thumbing his nose at society.

On the other side of this happily ever after, we have Guy Frisby, a country gentleman fallen on hard times, who is deeply devoted to his sister Amanda and a classical scholar of some knowledge.

Phillip heads up a select group at his residence, Rookwood Manor, who meet to engage in activities that the current society would deeply disapprove of. Its a source of mystery and gossip in the area. Guy Frisby’s family has a long and complex history with Phillip’s which makes it unlikely for them to ever meet. Until Amanda breaks her leg wandering onto the property for reasons I will let you discover.

Amanda breaks her leg, Guy shows up to take care of her, they can’t move due to the severity of the break and the book really picks up speed here. We meet the lovely Dr. Martelo, a Portugese Jew who has no patience for the barbaric practice of bloodletting in cases of illness or English doctors who care more for propriety than health. He and Amanda are a joy to behold and by no means a tiny side plot of this story. I love his discussions of medical ethics and Amanda’s lively debates with him and everyone else in the house.

Then we have John Raven and Octavio Corvin, Phillip Rookwood’s partners in crime, family and lovers. John Raven is a freed slave who has an equal hold in this relationship and the others’ lives. Also, unlike many books featuring freed slaves, his previous status as a slave is not made the central plot point of his existence, but rather a part of his life. I appreciate it, because so often authors fall into the trap of only seeing a character through their trauma, instead of their wider life. Corvin is an aristocrat who was given John Raven by his father as a child and freed him at 14. Rookwood was sent to live with Corvin’s family at the age of 10, which is how all of them met.

The conversations around how to manage nonmonogamy and learning how this process works for all of them are so glorious. I classify Corvin, Raven and Rookwood as non monogamous because there are examples of when one of the partners has attempted monogamy and it has not been beneficial for them, either individually or as a whole. But it could be seen in a number of ways and my classification is not set in stone by any means.

The relationship between them is one of comfort, safety and love, which definitely goes beyond period definitions of proper relationships, but is beautiful in its space for them all to be themselves. There are other members of the Murder who are mentioned, but they are mostly in monogamous relationships and therefore not caught up in the hijinx as much. Still lovely though.  The triangle (as they occasionally are referred to as) has been together since their teenage years and Phillip hasn’t really wanted to bring anyone into the mix until he meets Guy.

We have a classic trope of innocent and experienced in Guy and Phillip, but I swear my heart grew three sizes at the lovely, explicit consent kept throughout. I might have to go back and reread all those lines, because it legitimately felt healing to read such perfect, non coercive, language around consent said in such a loving way. Phillip’s favorite endearment, beloved, seems to mean something somehow more in my mind.

There’s the required misunderstandings in a romance, hilarious moments and even tree climbing, which is pretty hysterical. Guy and Phillip have a great deal of conversation on many topics, including religion and Latin, which are frankly amazing. I’ve never known Latin could be erotic. Its a vocabulary lesson, at the very least.

Finally, the villain (of sorts) appears and threatens to tear all our lovers apart. They win the day and have some of the cutest proposal scenes in the world and I swear I wanted to shout on a rooftop as this ended. Also, even the villain gets to be told she’s valuable and deserves being cared for. Its a win for everyone. Its a happily ever after that you can believe, that feels true and real and fills your heart with joy.

I give it 5 glorious stars, shining with light and I would give it every star in the sky if I could. Its going to stay on my shelf for comfort reads and I can’t think of a higher recommendation than that.

TL;DR

If you love queer romance with real talk of shame, coming out and learning who you are, alongside glorious consent, fantastic smut and hilarious hijinx, this book is for you.

 

Until next time,

Not Just A Buzzword

 

 

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review and I am so deliriously happy about reading it. Getting it free didn’t influence me, cause I would have loved this book even if it cost 500 dollars.