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

A black man in a cravat and blue fitted coat poses with a cane on a country road. His face appears serious and he looks directly at the viewer.

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.

If you feel like picking up this book, follow the link below and NJB will receive a small amount of the cost. Thank you so much for helping support the site!

https://books2read.com/u/4j2KwX

Until our next time travel edition,

Not Just a Buzzword

 

Review: The Good Luck Girls (Spoilers)

A black woman with natural hair stands in profile to the viewer. The skin on her neck and creeping up to her cheek has a difference in color from the rest of her skin. She is wearing a leather jacket, a bandana and a bandolier. Presumably pants as well.

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.

If you’d like to pick the book up, follow this link and NJB will receive a small amount from the purchase! Thank you so much for your help in keeping the site up and running.

https://books2read.com/u/bzopaz

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: Can’t Escape Love (Spoilers!)

A black woman with natural hair, wearing jeans and a yellow top, sits in a wheelchair at a table holding a spoon up. An East Asian man sits next to her with his arm around her, with his spoon in the sundae they appear to be sharing. They are looking at each other and smiling.

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.

If you want to enjoy the wonder that is Reggie and Gus, follow the link below to get a copy of the book and NJB will receive a portion of the cost. Thank you for helping support the site!

https://books2read.com/u/mKD9EB

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.