Review: How to Find a Princess by Alyssa Cole (light spoilers)


Hello! Its Alyssa Cole hour on NJB, otherwise known as every 2nd tuesday (a being can dream right?) and we’re here to talk about her newest book in the Reluctant Royals series.

But first, as always, content warnings and trigger warnings:

Deceit between main characters, difficulties with boundaries, unreliable families, ableism, family secrets, some complexities around consent due to deceit.

Whew! There’s a lot here. For those who fell in love with Beznaria (like me) in How to Catch a Queen, this book is chock full of her fabulousness. She’s gutsy, determined and sort of difficult to stop in a good and problematic way.

Bez comes from a long line of guards of the Royal guards of the Royal family of Ibarania. However, the royal family has been struggling for years due to the loss of its heir. Bez’s grandmother has been taking the blame for years and she’s determined to clear the family name and find the lost heir.

There’s just one teensy weensy problem: her boss at the World Federation of Monarchies definitely didn’t approve her doing this. And doesn’t like her a lot. And seems to be actively sabotaging her or something.

However, Bez is not deterred by simple things like job security and people not getting her methods. ( I wish I was so bold sometimes). She’s got a lead and she’s going to follow it like a bloodhound.

Enter Makeda Hicks. Makeda has spent the last decade of her life trying to forget anything about royalty after her mother went on a wild goose chase trying to prove she was the last Ibranian heir. Now, she works hard at a grocery store, trying to make ends meet and show people how useful she can be.

Til the boss’s favorite who can’t seem to do their job at all pushes her out of her job and she finds herself jobless and girlfriendless. Its back to her grandmother’s B and B to lick her wounds and try to figure out where it all went wrong.

Bez shows up in her traditional whirlwind to try to take her all away from this to her royal destiny. But is it really as simple as she makes it sound?

I enjoyed the heck out of huge chunks of this book but often struggled with Bez’s tendency to gloss over things or justify means to an end. I totally got that it was partially part of her neurodivergence and loved that about her, but it occasionally made things in the romance department harder. I loved them getting to know everyone on the ship however and in some ways, would have been happy if they had just decided to say screw it and live there forever. It would have been charming.

The ending, which I won’t spoil, left me a little confused. I think it needed a bit more lead up and set up to make it work. I liked it in a lot of ways but the pacing felt a little off. I did appreciate that it felt true to the characters and what they wanted however.

All in all, a good book and a fitting addition to the series. I can’t wait to see more of what Alyssa makes!

Until next time,


*I received an arc of this book for an honest review and learned so much about cargo ships.

Review: Iron and Velvet (Spoilers!)

A city block runs across the bottom of the book and also perpendicularly up the opening side. It appears to be Big Ben or a large clock tower similar to Big Ben.

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 sexual 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 I deeply enjoyed that representation.

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: A Little Light Mischief (Spoilers!)

Two women sit on a settee. One has brown hair and wears a lilac colored dress and has her hand on the other woman's neck. The other has blond hair and a blue dress and has her hand on the other woman's upper arm. They seem close to kissing.

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

Two women are lying on a bed that is covered in red fabric. One of them is wearing a deep red dress with a great deal of fabric and has blonde hair. The other is wearing brown and has dark brown hair and is touching the other woman's face.

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: Proper English (Spoilers!)

A woman with blonde hair in an updo, long earrings and wearing a white dress looks up towards the sky. She is places standing on rolling hills near an old stone home with two levels.

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

An older white woman sits in a blue dress with her elbow on her knee and her hand on her face. She looks directly at the camera and is wearing a blue dress. In the background is Big Ben and the Thames.

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: 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!

I’m gonna go reread my copy 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.