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: Ashore (Mild spoilers)

A presumably alien world stretches out before the viewer with a large circular space craft above it. A lone humanoid stands on the mountains below and sun shines down from above. There are more mountains in the distance.

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.

If you want to pick this book up, follow this link and NJB will receive a small percentage of the cost. Thanks for helping support this site!

https://books2read.com/u/mZKwPp

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: Adrift (Minimal spoilers)

A lone humanoid stands on an alien world, with a large wreckage of a space ship off the distance. A red space object glows in the distance.

So its time for a change of pace here at NJB. We’re reviewing a lovely piece of science fiction today! Its still got a romance arc, so have no fear, but its been a lovely change of pace for us and I think you’ll like it. Its so unusual and awesome to see queer folks in sci fi that isn’t tokenizing or bad and Adrift by Isabelle Adler is a great example of it.

First, trigger and content warnings: Death, loss of parents, torture, mentioned rape but no description, boundary pushing that is resolved, near death experience, graphic physical assault resulting in wounds. 

We’ve got Matt, Tony and Val as our intrepid crew of amusing, mildly shady individuals with chips on their shoulder. A bit strapped for cash, they decide to take a job offered by the mysterious Mr. Ari that comes with their very own mystery pilot, Ryce Faine. Matt is pretty instantly intrigued by the lovely Mr. Faine and the book is off from there.

For those of you who liked Firefly, the feel of the space smugglers on the edge of things and taking slightly shady jobs will make you feel right at home. However, along with our intrepid band of misfits, we’ve got aliens, family politics, mysterious ancient civilizations and moral decisions! Its got everything you’re looking for, but its still fun and character based. I enjoyed the mysteries that cropped up in the book and found myself staying up reading it, because it was just so delightful and fun.

I loved the point of view of the books, since Matt is a snarky, vaguely self aware disaster. He’s always trying to do the right thing, even if he’s awful at self preservation. Like, seriously awful at it. Poor baby needs a bubble suit or something.

Ryce is interesting, mostly because he remains a mystery to Matt for much of the book and therefore to us. But he has a sweetness and an idealism that matches well with Matt and their bumbling courtship is hilarious to watch. I’m hopeful we’ll get to see more of them in future books, because I really want to know more about Ryce and his background. Also, I just want more information about the setting. Really just more. *makes grabby hands*

It is darker than most of the books I usually read, with a lot of violence. I will put that out as a caution. Matt is also pushy in the beginning and has to get put in his place about it by Ryce and others. He takes it well though and realizes what he’s doing. Ryce is more than a match for him and their back and forth is darling and realistic.

All in all, its a lovely sci fi romp, with mystery, odd gadgets, twists and turns and some very Indiana Jones delving into ancient ruins. Isabelle has a sequel out now, so I’m going to be digging around for it, because I love the characters, but I give this a very firm 5 stars. If you need a change of pace like me and don’t mind a bit of violence and mystery, I would definitely recommend picking it up.

If you do decide to pick it up, follow the link below and NJB will receive a small percentage of the cost. Thank you for helping keep the site running!

https://books2read.com/u/3JDK8A

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

Review: ‘Hither Page’ (Mild spoilers)

A row of small drawn houses in black stand against a snowy landscape. One of them has two lit windows with a small figure standing beside them.

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.

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

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

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: Band Sinister (Spoilers!)

Three young people stand in a group. One gentleman is wearing a brown frock coat, breeches and short boots, holding a cane and wearing a small hat. Next to him with her hand in his arm is a young woman in a white dress and a large shawl and hat. Her other hand is on the arm of a young man, in breeches and a blue crock coat with blond hair and a hat in his hand. They are all looking in different directions.

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.

If you feel like snagging it, follow the link below and your purchase will help support NJB and its future reviews! I thank you from the bottom of my TBR for your help.

https://books2read.com/u/mVw7NJ

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.