THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY by Alix E. Harrow

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.


Title : The Ten Thousand Doors of January
Author : Alix E. Harrow
Format : ARC
Page Count : 385
Genre : historical fiction fantasy
Publisher : Redhook
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

This was nothing that I expected it to be while also being exactly what I thought it would. Go figure that one out because I’m not sure I do!

Doors [..] are change, and change is a dangerous necessity. Doors are revolutions and upheavals, uncertanties and mysteries, axis points around which entire worlds can be turned. They are the beginnings and ending of every true story, the passages between that lead to adventures and madness and even love.

THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY is portal fantasy and historical fiction but, mostly, is about lost parents, absent parents, adoptive controlling parents, good people who make poor choices, bad people who care, the love of a dog, and the ones who stick around through good times and bad. Words have power, doors do more than just open to the next room, and there really are monsters that go bump in the night. 

There’s only one way to run away from your own story, and that’s to sneak into someone else’s.

For all the magic and wonder and strangeness of this world, and the ten thousand others we visit, it had a very strong backbone that felt relatable to the reader, whilst still being utterly magical, too. I loved how this story connected, though none of it was a surprise to me, and how each piece was slotted together. I loved the ending, too. There are some things I wish had been better explained but I suppose that would spoil some of the whimsy and wonder and, really, overall it doesn’t take away any of my enjoyment. It’s a small wish.

It’s a profoundly strange feeling, to stumble across someone whose desires are shaped so closely to your own, like reaching toward your reflection in a mirror and finding warm flesh under your fingertips. If you should ever be lucky enough to find that magical, fearful symmetry, I hope you’re brave enough to grab it with both hands and not let go.

I would absolutely read more by this author because if this is her debut, which is hard to believe, I can only imagine what is to come from her. 
If you’re looking for a lyrical, dreamy, diverse read, with plenty of historical foundation and all sorts of creative fantastical elements, you’ll want to pick this one up.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – SEPTEMBER 10, 2019

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!
As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


As per the pitch, Tamsyn Muir’s GIDEON THE NINTH ‘unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers’. If you can’t tell, I (Hollis) really don’t care which pitch or blurb I use, I’m just so so excited about this book, and want you to be, too!

Laura Weymouth’s sophomore novel, A TREASON OF THORNS, is alt-historical-fiction fantasy about a girl who is in exile after her father commits treason. It’s about living Houses and grief. And many more subjects — some potentially triggering. The author has listed content warnings on the GR page and refers to her website for more information. I (Hollis) read her first book, which was almost painfully depressing and simultaneously lovely, and I’m keen to see how I fare with this one.

THE TESTAMENTS by Margaret Atwood is one of the most loudly shouted about releases this year. A sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale is the book most fans never expected. The story is set fifteen years after the first book and promises to answer all the questions we’ve ever had about Gilead.

FRANKLY IN LOVE by David Yoon has such an interesting cover and knowing that surname as YA lovers do, we’re all intrigued about this one. This is a YA contemporary about young love and diversity. Frank Li is a US-Korean teen in love with a white girl and his parents will not approve. It sounds humourous, fun with some serious topics.


Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below!

GIDEON THE NINTH by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth is the most fun you’ll ever have with a skeleton.

The Emperor needs necromancers.

The Ninth Necromancer needs a swordswoman.

Gideon has a sword, some dirty magazines, and no more time for undead bullshit.

Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth unveils a solar system of swordplay, cut-throat politics, and lesbian necromancers. Her characters leap off the page, as skillfully animated as necromantic skeletons. The result is a heart-pounding epic science fantasy.

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse. She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won’t set her free without a service.

Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action. The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon’s sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.


Title : Gideon the Ninth
Author : Tamsyn Muir
Series : The Ninth House
Format : eARC
Page Count : 437
Genre : LGBTQIA+ sci-fi fantasy
Publisher : Tor.com
Release Date : September 10, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So listen. The only reason I’m not giving this five stars is because sometimes, while reading, I would feel a little lost. Confused, even. It’s been awhile since I read an adult science-fiction novel, particularly one as complex as this, with such a large cast, and during the over (!) two (!!) weeks (!!!) it took me to read this, between slumps and life chaos and other ARC deadlines, it was just.. a lot.

I would have thought you would be happy that I needed you. That I showed you my girlish and vulnerable heart.
Your heart is a party for five thousand nails.”

But I never stopped having fun.

Gideon would’ve sworn there were tears in her eyes, except that no such liquid existed. Harrow was a desiccated mummy of hate.

The characters in this series are.. just, everything. Gideon is a riot. I spent most of my time, confused and non-confused, reading this book and giggling. Snorting. Cackling. Highlighting. This isn’t a comedy but is comedic af. The author, through Gideon, is snarky and sarcastic and just.. relentlessly relatable. For all that she’s the cavalier, swords-person/bodyguard, of a necromancer, in space, who is battling to riddle out puzzles of which the end goal is to make them immortal and all-powerful. You know, totally relatable.

I cannot and will not read your thoughts, control your body, or look at your most intimate memories. I don’t have the ability and I certain’t don’t have the desire.
It’s for your own protection, not mine. I imagined Crux’s butt once when I was twelve.”

I’ve seen this pitched, and even pitched it myself, as ‘lesbian necromancers in space’ and that does such an injustice to the scope and breadth and complexity of everything, plot and characters, of this book. But it’s one hell of a great hook and if it’s what pulled you in, fantastic. Just buckle the hell up and know there is so much more to this.

I’ll still do it.”
Why?
Probably because you asked.”
That’s all it takes, [..]? That’s all you demand? This is the complex mystery that lies in the pit of your psyche?
That’s all I ever demanded, you asswipe.”

This book is spooky, funny, heartbreaking, hilarious, rich in ‘I’m too dumb for this’ science, and even weirder magic. The cast is vibrant and diverse and while sometimes I wish I had taken notes on who is what and why and what are the Houses.. even confused, I was happy. Truly. This is a book that needed more time than I had to give it and that’s on me. Even though, yeah, okay, it’s on me but I’m also knocking down a star.

Why was I born so attractive?
Because everyone would have throttled you within the first five minutes otherwise.”

But.

Nav, show them what the Ninth House does.
We do bones, motherfucker.

I will say, brace yourselves. This isn’t the standalone I thought it would be. And I was u n p r e p a r e d for the end of this book in many many ways. I may have cried. Well, okay, welled up. But regardless I need book two yesterday. The good news is I’ll definitely reread this before the sequel (is it a duology? a trilogy?) so I hope to a) maybe have a better handle on things earlier on in the unfolding of the story and b) maybe, hopefully, round up.

Gideon was experiencing one powerful emotion : being sick of everyone’s shit.

Regardless, if you’re comfortable with adult sci-fi, prepared to hunker down with a long book, and want hilarity alongside diversity? You need this. The fact that this incredible title is a debut just blows my mind. Just the way the book itself did. Infact, just putting this review together, and pulling the quotes, actually makes me want to just.. start reading it all over again. And that almost never happens to me. So I hope that says it all! Even though I said.. a lot. Already.

You are my only friend. I am undone without you.”

Oh, did I mention there’s a hate to love f/f romance? Hm? Did I?

You definitely need this one in your life.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE YEAR I LEFT by Christine Brae

Carin Frost doesn’t understand what’s happening to her. A confident businesswoman, wife, and mother, she begins to resent everything about her life. Nothing makes sense. Nothing makes her feel. Maybe it’s the recent loss of her mother in a tragic accident. Or maybe she’s just losing her mind. 

Enter Matias Torres. As their new business partnership thrives, so does their friendship—and his interest in her. Carin is determined to keep her distance, until a work assignment sends them to Southeast Asia where a storm is brewing on the island. In the midst of the chaos, Matias asks her to do something unimaginable, exhilarating, BOLD. Carin knows the consequences could be dire, but it may be the only way to save herself. 

An honest look at love and marriage and the frailties of the human heart, this is a story of a woman’s loss of self and purpose and the journey she takes to find her way back. 


Title : The Year I Left
Author : Christine Brae
Format : eARC
Page Count : 284
Genre : Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Vesuvian Books
Release Date : August 20, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★.5


Micky’s 1.5 star review

I found the synopsis for THE YEAR I LEFT appealing. I like books with married couples, mid life troubles and the worries and stresses that evolve in a relationship; it’s real. That said, this book was way out of what I thought when I read that blurb and I’m going to try to pinpoint why it didn’t work for me. There might be some mild spoilers.

The protagonist, Carin is a workaholic, driven and hugely successful business person with a husband and son. They’re financially loaded as a family and pretty materialistic. Carin was unlikeable from the off despite her circumstances and her grief. I could see her mental health problem immediately but that didn’t mitigate who she was and how she behaved. I’m sorry to say that I disliked her from start to finish and therefore, I didn’t really connect with her.

I did however, understand her feelings about Jack, her husband but I could not reconcile her parenting or connection with her son, Charlie. As for Matias, again I made no connection with him as a character or them as an evolving work colleague, friendship and more. To me, this was a story about unrelatable selfish people. The storyline took a ridiculous turn that sealed my difficulty with this book.

Added to these difficulties, the narrative was largely in the first person which I don’t normally mind. However, in this book it was written as a letter to Matias and I found it awkward to read and it continually took me out of the story. You find out later why this is, but it doesn’t help with processing the story for the rest of the book.

Whilst this book wasn’t for me, I do think some people will find the format and story appealing as it has emotional and angsty content. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the early review copy.

THE AVANT GUARDS, Vol 1 by Carly Usdin

When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team.

As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

From Carly Usdin (Heavy Vinyl) and artist Noah Hayes (Wet Hot American Summer, Goldie Vance) comes an ensemble comedy series that understands that it’s the person you are off the court that matters most.


Title : The Avant-Guards, Vol 1
Author: Carly Usdin
Illustrator : Noah Hayes
Series : The Avant-Guards
Format : e-ARC (graphic novel)
Page Count : 116
Genre : YA
Publisher : BOOM! Studios
Release Date : 3 September 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Micky’s 3 star review

A good start with potential for this new LGBTQ graphic novel focused on a newly contrived basketball team. Charlie has transferred into the school and she is ‘set upon’ by the enthusiastic recruiting of Liv, who is described in the blurb as ‘charming’ but I just thought she was too full on. The temperature of this graphic novel is a little bit funny and a little bit serious.

I really liked some of the characters that I’ve met so far, Charlie, Nicole and Jay. As a team working together, I am hoping to see more of what that brings. I must say, that I felt a general disconnection with the story line that seemed to go in strange directions at times with elements that didn’t make sense but might, I guess, when the next volume comes out. Seeing as Liv will be a main character, I am going to need some winning over to like her and connect with her. The burgeoning romance seemed to come out of nowhere and again, I will need some more convincing. I have to say the visuals were very appealing and that cover really does draw me in.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book, thank you BOOM! Studios.

THE GIRL THE SEA GAVE BACK by Adrienne Young – double review!

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.


Title : The Girl The Sea Gave Back
Author : Adrienne Young
Series : Sky In The Deep (book two)
Format : ARC/Finished Copy
Page Count : 336
Genre : historical YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books / Titan Books
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I feel like everything that kept me from loving SKY IN THE DEEP, was missing in THE GIRL THE SEA GAVE BACK. This makes me very very happy.

I was sure this was going to be an easy three star read; lots to like but not quite getting me all the way there which, I mean, would’ve been a better result than book one. So colour me surprised by this rating.

This story takes place ten years after the events of SKY IN THE DEEP and, once again, we have warring clans. The characters we knew from book one have known peace and a time of rebuilding, rebirth, as a united people but now another group, the Svell, are stirring up trouble. Made worse by the fact that the Svell people are, themselves, divided. Additionally, they feel they are cursed by the existence of an outsider who lives among them, who washed up on their shores, and yet they also rely on her for her gifts at reading the runes, and predicting the future, as she is a Truthtongue. 

It’s Tova’s prediction that sparks tragedy for Halvard’s people and we watch as they are on opposites sides of a war neither of them want. Halvard loses people he loves and Tova is blamed for things beyond her control as the fragile trust she has with the man who has raised her.. frays. Betrayal abounds with the Svell people and she’s tossed amongst them, lost, confused, and resigned.

Tova doesn’t know who she is, Halvard is bound so strongly with his family, both blood and found, and I actually really enjoyed bouncing back between their perspectives and the glimpses we got from their past. Their connection isn’t much, either, but yet feels.. present. There’s almost no romance here and yet we see possibility, potential, and that’s honestly where this book became more than I thought it would be.

I found the pacing to be pretty much perfect and I loved where the book, and our characters, ended up. This is a stronger book and the events, the loss and brutality, felt more real. The stakes somehow higher. The surprises (of which maybe there was only one but it was a good one) more surprising. I definitely have a question or two about how some things played out but those niggles are buried pretty far underneath my general contentment over the story.

If SKY IN THE DEEP wasn’t a book you were able to get on with, I would definitely recommend you pick up this sophomore offering. And if you loved SKY IN THE DEEP, I think you’ll be just as satisfied, if not more, by this follow-up in the author’s viking world.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 3 star review

This was my first read by Adrienne Young and I was informed by a few that it stands alone as a book and reading book one wasn’t vital. I made the mistake of jumping straight into THE GIRL THE SEA GAVE BACK and I think that I missed out on some world building that would have helped me so much with this read. There wasn’t much space given to any world-building in this book and felt like I was playing catch up with the different tribes, their names, their belief systems and allegiences.

After about 20% of the book I felt that I had some context to understand the story that was playing out with two characters having alternate POVs – Tova and Halvard. These were two characters that were mystically connected but geographically separated. Halvard was a reluctant heir to leading his people and Tova was a virtual prisoner of her adopted people. This story is told over just a number of days with battle, strategy and mysticism at the core.

I enjoyed the mystical part of this story, the fate ruled by runes, spinners and the All Seer. I liked the concept of Tova and her race. There were however, a lot of characters to dislike in this book. So many prejudiced people with cruelty being part of life. The back and forth of past and present was written a little confusingly to me.

Ultimately, I felt unsatisfied with the story overall and this was just an okay read for me. I felt that the connection between Tova and Halvard was pointless in the end but I appreciated the how the different races were at war or peace at different times.

Thank you to Titan Books for the early finished copy for review.

WELL MET by Jen DeLuca

All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.


Title : Well Met
Author : Jen DeLuca
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : women’s fiction, romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

If what you’ve always wanted is a romance set against a Renaissance Faire, with a hate to love trope, then WELL MET is sure to be the book of your dreams. Or at least one of your top favourites from 2019.

I’ve only read one other book with this kind of setting, and honestly both the title and the author escape me, so that probably says a lot about how much I liked it. As a result I maybe went in to this one with lower expectations but whether that had anything to do with my enjoyment or if this is just that fun? Who can say (spoiler : it’s just that fun).

So, what, am I just supposed to pull an extra bard out of my ass now?
Not a bad idea. It might dislodge the stick that’s up there.”

This is a women’s fiction title but is more romance heavy than some of the more recent ones I’ve read and it was honestly just.. cozy. We have two sisters, separated by quite a few years, reconnecting when the older sister is injured in a car accident and needs help not only going to and from doctor’s appointments but also with her teenager daughter. As Emily’s life has recently imploded, losing her job and her boyfriend, it isn’t much hardship to uproot herself to her sister’s small town. Additionally, Emily thrives on organization and handling crises. Win win win.

Emma the Tavern Wench missed Captain Blackthorne greatly. She wanted him to come by the tavern he’d been neglecting lately, because she thrilled to see him and lived for those moments where his attention was like the sun. But Emily the Regular Person wanted to give Simon a good shake and ask him what his problem was.

Part of what Emily takes on is a volunteer position in the local Renaissance Faire. Her niece wanted to be part of it and the only condition is a parent or guardian volunteering alongside. So Emily jumps in with both feet; and splashes all over the event organizer, Simon. I don’t mean that literally. But Simon is basically the raincloud of Emily’s sun and it sets the whole tone for their relationship over the coming weeks.

A month ago I hated the guy, and I thought he hated me. This is like a summer romance on steroids.”

The Faire takes up the majority of the plot and events but it also acts as a great foil for some of the emotional issues that crop up over the story. DeLuca’s story touches on topics of grief and self-worth and I thought both were done really well and also just emotional enough without the angst or agony dragging on too long. I’ll admit there were brief moments where I thought Emily a touch too in her head or oblivious but it does fit in with her hangups and previous experiences and, in hindsight, I think it fits.

I wanted to crawl in to him, become part of him so he would never feel alone again. But I didn’t know how to tell him that without it sounding like the world’s creepiest Valentine’s card.

Additionally there were so many moments where I thought “well here comes the misunderstanding or lack of communication romance trope” and instead.. nope. I think that might honestly be the only thing that makes this stand apart from your typical romance. A few less frustrating tropes on the checklist.

Brace yourself. I’m going to woo your ass off.

If you want some great banter, some excellent tension, smoldering sweet swoons, and a good emotional backbone for a story set against old timey cosplay and fun, you should definitely pick this one up. I’m pleasantly surprised by yet another debut title and can’t wait to see what DeLuca does next. And if it involves a companion novel featuring a certain kilted not-so-meaty-meathead and a certain sister..? Here for it.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

THE LADY ROGUE by Jenn Bennett

The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.


Title : The Lady Rogue
Author : Jenn Bennett
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA historical fantasy
Publisher : Simon Pulse
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I requested this book for one reason, really, and one reason only : the name next to “author”. I’m a big fan of Bennett’s contemporaries and I’ve dabbled in her adult PNR series (which I still have to finish!) so seeing her switch from YA contemporary to YA historical/fantasy didn’t concern me. I was excited. I might not have loved SERIOUS MOONLIGHT but I love her writing, her previous books, and had every reason to expect the same of this one.

But nope.

This book was a chore to read. I pushed through it quickly because the last thing I needed was another slump, and it wasn’t too long, and I just kept waiting for the spark. Or any spark, really. I felt nothing for the characters who were, respectfully, spoiled and or sulky as well as overdoing the charm to the point of not being charming. I felt nothing for the angst over the romance which we were beat over the head with to a ridiculous degree. And honestly the Vlad the Impaler plot/mystery that sent these two gallivanting all over Eastern Europe just.. didn’t really hook me and, like, did it ultimately even matter? I’m so confused.

I also want to say the pitch comparison to THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE definitely had me thinking this was queer. And it is not.

I didn’t love the characters, the angst, the romance, the plot. Even Bennett’s writing, which I normally love, felt different and failed to entice. If this hadn’t been an ARC, I would’ve DNF’d. If this was any other author, I would probably one star. But I just can’t bear to. And I do think maybe this is a me problem? Despite everything?

Anyway, I don’t think this is a series, so I’m relieved about that, but even if it was.. I wouldn’t be reading on.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. ** 

AMERICAN ROYALS by Katharine McGee

What if America had a royal family? If you can’t get enough of Harry and Meghan or Kate and William, meet American princesses Beatrice and Samantha.

Two princesses vying for the ultimate crown. 
Two girls vying for the prince’s heart. 
This is the story of the American royals.

When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washingtons have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren’t just any royals. They’re American. And their country was born of rebellion.

As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America’s first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling. Nobody cares about the spare except when she’s breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn’t care much about anything, either . . . except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there’s Samantha’s twin, Prince Jefferson. If he’d been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince . . . but two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.

The duty. The intrigue. The Crown. New York Times bestselling author Katharine McGee imagines an alternate version of the modern world, one where the glittering age of monarchies has not yet faded–and where love is still powerful enough to change the course of history.


Title : American Royals
Author : Katharine McGee
Series : American Royals (book one)
Format : ARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : NA alt-history contemporary
Publisher : Random House Books for Young Readers
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

AMERICAN ROYALS was a concept I was excited about because, for all the royalty romances out there, we’ve never had one that reimagined, and rewrote, American history to fashion them with royalty (or at least I’ve never seen/read one!). Beyond that, however, I didn’t really know what to expect. My guess was drama, politics, and many things in between.

It’s definitely drama. Politics, not so much. This is all drama. It’s like Gossip Girl on steroids in some ways, I think. Maybe. I only watched like two seasons of that and it was a long time ago and okay maybe I should move away from this comparison.

Princess Beatrice is the eldest, the heir, set to become the country’s first Queen. The laws have changed and the monarchy is looking to be more progressive in regards to inheritance with women not being passed over for just having the bad luck to be born first but female. Yay! But only in that one way. Welp. Commoners are still not eligible for marriage and lo and behold isn’t that who Beatrice finds herself falling in love with? All despite trying to still adhere to the law, to tradition, and find herself an actual suitable match her parents, and the country, will approve of.

Then there’s her siblings, twins Samantha and Jefferson. They have a commoner friend, Nina, with whom they grew up with. Who is trying to keep the royal and regular sides of her life separate. To distance herself from the twins after an event that happened the night they graduated high school. 

Sam, who is everything Beatrice isn’t, who is directionless, troublesome, and Jeff who is beloved by all. And who dumped his longterm girlfriend, Daphne, even though she has no intention of staying dumped.

This book is a lot. I thought I was actually enjoying it at first, despite some of the nastier drama, but honestly I think I kept expecting something of this book that it wasn’t. And that’s on me. I was feeling leftover heartwarming RED, WHITE & ROYAL BLUE feelings and I thought this was going to be more rom-com, maybe, or just.. fuzzier. But it’s not.

AMERICAN ROYALS is definitely more in line with a soap opera, or reality shows (no shade! but I hate them), while still being clever enough to be riddled with the strangeness of the reimagined history, historical figures, and different way of life. As weird as it was, I sorta liked it, but it might be weirder for actual Americans who actually care, or are patriotic, about it all. I think this book will be a love or a hate; you’ll love the drama or you won’t, you’ll love the alternate universe feel or you won’t. And while I definitely didn’t hate it, I just didn’t love it. 

I couldn’t find myself feeling much for any of the characters or their various plights or plots; I never lost myself in this story or world, I was always keenly aware I was just reading about them. The only one who got much of a reaction out of me was Daphne. At first I just hated her, felt icky about her, but more and more I had to kind of admire her. Not for good reasons. But hey, at least she inspired a reaction.

I might read on, as it’s definitely not a standalone, but I’m not sure I’ll be clamouring for the sequel with the kind of curiosity I had about its predecessor. Mostly I’m just hoping it’s not a trilogy and everything wraps up in two books. Guess we’ll find out.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE by Evie Dunmore – double review!

A stunning debut for author Evie Dunmore and her Oxford Rebels, in which a fiercely independent vicar’s daughter takes on a powerful duke in a love story that threatens to upend the British social order.

England, 1879. Annabelle Archer, the brilliant but destitute daughter of a country vicar, has earned herself a place among the first cohort of female students at the renowned University of Oxford. In return for her scholarship, she must support the rising women’s suffrage movement. Her charge: recruit men of influence to champion their cause. Her target: Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery who steers Britain’s politics at the Queen’s command. Her challenge: not to give in to the powerful attraction she can’t deny for the man who opposes everything she stands for.

Sebastian is appalled to find a suffragist squad has infiltrated his ducal home, but the real threat is his impossible feelings for green-eyed beauty Annabelle. He is looking for a wife of equal standing to secure the legacy he has worked so hard to rebuild, not an outspoken commoner who could never be his duchess. But he wouldn’t be the greatest strategist of the Kingdom if he couldn’t claim this alluring bluestocking without the promise of a ring…or could he?

Locked in a battle with rising passion and a will matching her own, Annabelle will learn just what it takes to topple a duke..


Title : Bringing Down the Duke
Author : Evie Dunmore
Series : League of Extraordinary Women
Format : eARC
Page Count : 368
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : Berkley / Little Brown UK
Release Date : September 3, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis / Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5 / ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

And another debut author smashes it out of the park in 2019!

It is becoming clear to be me why a fair girl like you has been left on the shelf. You are not only bookish but a radical political activist. All highly impractical in a wife.”

BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE was just.. pure fun? Deliciously swoony? Just the right amount of angst?

There came a time in a duke’s life when he rarely encountered an honest opinion, where he could be on his way to hell in a handcart and everyone would politely step aside and wish him godspeed.

You might find yourself looking at this plot summary and thinking, sure sure, read that HR a thousand times. Bluestocking attracts a Duke? Nothing new. And yeah okay maybe. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t worth your time.

Have you by any chance missed that class at finishing school where they teach you to feign delightful ignorance in the presence of a man?
I’m afraid so.”

These characters all but leap off the page. The attraction, the chemistry, the sizzle is.. damn. Their backstory has elements of drama but are never overblown, or overwrought, and come out in the open naturally without being held onto until the last minute. Every up and down, back and forth, push and pull, was so.. organic? And also, strangely, refreshing. Additionally the side characters, the bluestocking suffragettes, were just fabulous. All of them. Hattie might have been my favourite.

Did you really give a man a nosebleed?
Yes.”
Why?
I suppose because the village lads I ran with as a girl didn’t teach me how to slap like a lady.

The specifics of the setting, that this takes place during the opening of the first women’s college, and focuses mostly on women’s rights, feminism, and the injustice of the sexes, I mean.. there’s never a wrong time to tackle those issues but right now it feels so so timely. And how sad is that; this book is set in 1879 and here we are.. still fighting.

She had never really known her place. Where others were appropriately intimidated, she seemed oddly intrigued by the challenge.

This debut is so strong and so clever. The cover might make it seem that this is all lighthearted joy and hijinks but don’t be fooled. This is a love story between people who have their eyes wide open. Who are sensible, and logical, and intelligent. Who know the implausibilities of a union between them and fight it because they know better. Which makes that tension even more delicious. And yes, sure, there is still fun to be had.

Would you have me change my place in history to prove how much I want you?

BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE is compulsively readable and a delight to devour; I finished this in a shockingly small handful of hours which, considering my slumpy month, is a miracle. And I’m ecstatic to see that not only are we guaranteed more from this debut author, but we’re getting more from this series and set of characters. I’m going to be clamouring for more A League of Extraordinary Women books and likely seriously regretting my decision to read this early because now the wait will feel even longer than just a year.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 5 star review

Hold me, because after reading this, I feel a book hangover coming on. This was a sweep-you-off-your-feet kind of historical romance read but with extra bonuses. What are these extra bonuses I speak of? This was one of the most feminist reads I’ve had in an age and injecting this level of feminism into HR is no easy feat. Second bonus, the battle for equality was on both sides.

Annabelle was low-born, intelligent but encumbered by the will of her cousin for what happened in her destiny. After much struggling she had secured a stipend to be one of the first cohort of women at Oxford. What I hadn’t realised was that life at Oxford for these women was just a smidge of an experience compared to the men. Annabelle joined a suffragette movement and ended up petitioning the Duke of Montgomery, Sebastian.

Sebastian was a stick up his…kind of Duke, a lot cold, obsessed with his duty and roles for the queen and parliament. However, this story is a journey of Sebastian’s unravelling. His character development was vast as he opened up his mind to women’s position in life through Annabelle and also as he opened himself up to being able to feel.

These two had chemistry off the historical charts, with a slow build of kisses and touches. Being together was an undeniable eventuality and it was compulsive reading, beautiful and delicious. I appreciated Annabelle’s prior experience and how this was handled in the book.

She had tried to climb Montgomery like a cat.

The story took me on a journey of giggles, entertainment, longing and some heartbreak. I have come away from this book so delighted by the content that I immediately pressed pre-order on a physical copy because I will be rereading this.

BRINGING DOWN THE DUKE is a debut of exciting proportions, with a slightly slow start but a pace that will delight very quickly. The story, characters and research underpinning this read make it something rather special. Evie Dunmore is an author to watch and I will be waiting with bated breath for her next book. Rounded up to 5 stars.

Thank you to Little Brown for the early review copy.