NJB Time Machine Review: How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole (Spoilers)

Welcome back to NJB, or as it may come to be known, the unofficial intense fan club of Alyssa Cole and everything she writes. I am here to talk about the magic that is “How to Catch a Queen” and also have “How to Find a Princess” on the list for an upcoming review and I am so pumped!!!

Ok, so first things first: content and trigger warnings. Toxic family dynamics, isolation tactics used against an MC, sexism, toxic masculinity, deceit, loss of parental figures, abandonment off page, death of parental figure on page and descriptions of vomit.

Now on to the show!

If you’ve read any of my past Alyssa Cole Royals reviews, you know I love this series to bits. But I have to say, this book blows all my past expectations out of the water. I hoarded each chapter, only wanting to read when I could be fully immersed. I took notes as I read of all the bits I loved and pondered tweeting them cause I just wanted to share the sheer joy of this book.

Shanti, one of our main characters, is a tornado of determined, passionate, femme energy. I fell in love with her from the word go. You may remember her from cameos in Cole’s previous Reluctant Royals books. Her match in this book is Sanyu, king of Njaza. You may remember him from a distinct desire to possibly punt him due to him not eating his wife’s food after an advisor deemed it insufficient while Johan and Nya were visiting the country. (I had stabby feelings. You may have too.)

I will admit, I was slightly worried at how Alyssa was going to get into Sanyu. I was preeeetttyyy firmly in the “fire him from a cannon front” prior to this book. But I shouldn’t have doubted. Sanyu’s perspective is so open and compelling and powerful for folks who have lived in the shadows of powerful parents and have complicated relationships with them.

By the first few chapters, all of my anger and hate for Sanyu had transmitted to Musoke, his advisor and parental figure. Somewhere around the part where Sanyu tells the story of being forced to stab his blanket with a spear, I was ready to call for Musoke’s head.

However, I was drawn back in to the fun with amazing jokes, hilarious text message threads between royals, a highly inventive and hilarious RoyalMatch.com representative (oh my god she’s getting her own book, i am so excited) and some impressive discussions on how to create a healthy relationship for folks who don’t have good examples in their family.

Truly, this book is a gift. Huge range, amazing characters, realistic relationship problems, people learning how to communicate, second chance romances, learning how to set boundaries and talk with your family and amazing mental health representation. These things are why these books are the gold standard for me of how you write books on royals without falling into the same old pitfalls. To see African royalty climbing out of colonial legacies and finding their own way is a beautiful vision of how things could be. To see two people finding a way to make a relationship that works for them and fits them is also amazingly beautiful. And lastly, to see an author deal meaningfully with the complexities of family of origin and trauma and loss fills my heart with joy. I won’t spoil anymore, but go read this. You won’t regret it and then I will have someone else to squee with on twitter about this.

But until next time,


p.s. I didn’t receive an arc for this book, cause 2020 was wild, but I decided to review it anyway cause Alyssa’s work is fantastic.

Review: K.J. Charles’s ‘The Sugared Game’ (Spoiler free)

I often say that the highest amount of praise I can offer a book these days is saying I lost sleep reading it in the wee hours of the night. What with having a toddler at home these days, sleep is the most precious of currencies, only outweighed by alone time.

I woke up 2 am randomly and decided to finish this book if that tells you anything. I am currently typing this review at 4:45 am.

Its really good. Like really good.

Ok, so some TW and CW: Death, dismemberment, period typical homophobia, deceit, conflict between family, misogyny, health difficulties, survivor’s guilt, discussion of prior self harming habits, and a great deal of lying on many people’s parts.

So, if you read the previous book, you will know that Kim Secretan, our erstwhile protagonist’s love interest, is the truest meaning of a disaster. At the beginning of the book, we find out that he has scampered off after a lovely time with Will Darling, our protagonist and failed to call.

Clearly, he has issues. But Will, while good naturedly stomping around his bookshop and attempting to take his best friend out for drinks, stumbles back into his world by chance and the whole merry go round starts again.

We’ve got Zodiac back in the picture, a lot of skulking about, smooching in shadows and, from my part, the intensely desperate desire to get Kim into therapy if it exists at this time.

The book is also a fascinating look at how damaging the Great War was to England and how it changed ideas of class and proper behavior. I always love K.J.’s attention to detail and period.

Its very much got the feel of some of the later Feximal books, so fans of that will likely enjoy it. I would say its blood and gore content is roughly equivalent to a modern mystery show, like Elementary.

However, if you love mystery, suspense, figuring out your sexuality on the run and being slightly too attached to your weapons for anyone’s comfort, you will love this book. I can’t wait to read the next one and god I hope someone gives Kim a nice holiday and some books on loving yourself or something cause he is going to make me cry at this rate.

Until next time,

Not Just a Buzzword

p.s. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.