WHAT THE DEVIL KNOWS by C.S. Harris

Sebastian St. Cyr thought a notorious serial killer had been brought to justice until a shocking series of gruesome new murders stuns the city in this thrilling historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Who Speaks for the Damned.

It’s October 1814. The war with France is finally over and Europe’s diplomats are convening in Vienna for a conference that will put their world back together. With peace finally at hand, London suddenly finds itself in the grip of a series of heinous murders eerily similar to the Ratcliffe Highway murders of three years before.

In 1811, two entire families were viciously murdered in their homes. A suspect–a young seaman named John Williams–was arrested. But before he could be brought to trial, Williams hanged himself in his cell. The murders ceased, and London slowly began to breathe easier. But when the lead investigator, Sir Edwin Pym, is killed in the same brutal way three years later and others possibly connected to the original case meet violent ends, the city is paralyzed with terror once more.

Was the wrong man arrested for the murders? Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy turns to his friend Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for assistance. Pym’s colleagues are convinced his manner of death is a coincidence, but Sebastian has his doubts. The more he looks into the three-year-old murders, the more certain he becomes that the hapless John Williams was not the real killer. Which begs the question–who was and why are they dead set on killing again?


Title : What The Devil Knows
Author : C.S. Harris
Series : Sebastian St. Cyr (book sixteen)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : historical fiction / crime mystery
Publisher : Berkley Books
Release Date : April 6, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’m rather tempted to round up on this one, at which point this intro will be deleted, but for now (or for good), I am a little hesitant. I don’t know if I’m thinking more fondly of this experience because it’s been a year since the last installment, around the same time I binged like.. fourteen of these back to back (which was just too much), or because it was just a little better than the last few.

We had a few moments of what I refer to as “copy paste” scenes which Harris seems to include in all her books but overall, much like the last book, there were quite a few less than usual. I was delighted.

The murder mystery itself was.. kind of all over the place. In the sense that there were so many pieces and moving parts and you really don’t see the big picture until the end. I both love and hate these kind of mysteries because I find the complexity very artful but it also means that if you aren’t being compelled by the new clues, you’re just sorta being dragged along. Which wasn’t quite the case here but it was close.

What saved said mystery from feeling too out of place from too many pieces of the puzzle were some familiar, and new, faces that tie into Sebastian’s personal life. I was curious why we were reunited with a few of them but oh you understand why come the end. I can’t say I totally saw that coming but neither was it a complete surprise. There was another event that finally came to pass that I think means we might finally be building up to something else (why am I even expanding on these vagueries..) that has been brewing for, I swear, like four or five books now. When is that confrontation going to happen! Will it ever! Why do I ask the same rhetorical questions in every review for this series! I’m not mad I’m just making a point about my own ridiculousness.

Much like some other series I’m keeping up with, I wonder how many more are still to come in the Sebastian St Cyr series. However unlike those other series, I’m not currently mad about this one.. well, continuing on. Despite some of the rehashing and a new murder mystery of the week duds, somehow, I’m still looking forward to more. Maybe because I just want to payoff of everything that we’ve come to expect will (one day) be revealed. Any hints on when that might be, Harris..? No? Cool. Cool cool cool cool cool. See you next year.

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

LIFE’S TOO SHORT by Abby Jimenez – double review

Vanessa lives life on her own terms — one day at a time, every day to its fullest. She isn’t willing to waste a moment or miss out on an experience when she has no idea whether she shares the same fatal genetic condition as her mother. Besides, she has way too much to do, traveling the globe and showing her millions of YouTube followers the joy in seizing every moment.

But after her half-sister suddenly leaves Vanessa in custody of her infant daughter, she is housebound, on mommy duty for the foreseeable future, and feeling totally out of her element.

The last person she expects to show up offering help is the unbelievably hot lawyer who lives next door, Adrian Copeland. After all, she barely knows him. But as they get closer, Vanessa realizes that her carefree ways and his need for a structured plan could never be compatible for the long term. Then again, she should know better than anyone that life’s too short to fear taking the biggest risk of all. . . 


Title : Life’s Too Short
Author : Abby Jimenez
Series : The Friend Zone (book three)
Format : eARC/Paperback
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Forever/Piatkus
Release Date : April 6, 2021/April 22, 2021 UK

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

So we’re three books into this series (though this one I think is more like a companion where books one and two were definitely more connected) and I think we all know the drill by now : pack the damn tissues. Though, out of all three books, this was probably the one I cried the least over. And yes we’re all ignoring the fact that a strong wind can make me cry, so, why even bother mentioning the cry factor. Like it means anything. Moving on.

Don’t get a cat. It’ll walk around pushing your drinks off the coffee table. You’re not emotionally strong enough for that.

I think Life’s Too Short did right all the things (all? there were only a few, really) that I didn’t love from The Friend Zone. Not that there’s any crossover here (though there might be cameos!). The topics are very different, with very different realities for both characters, but both deal with issues surrounding health — the latter reproductive and this one focusing on the possibility of a terminal illness. Having neither of these conditions I, of course, can’t speak on any of it, not in my review for book one and not this one now, but it surely seemed like the author did her research.

I’ve never seen [The Office].”
You’ve never — are you serious? Where have you been? How do you understand memes?

That said, I don’t think I was fully living this book, only visiting. I enjoyed what was going on, I was moved, entertained, but even though I think this was the better paced of all three stories, I don’t think it will have the same kind of lasting impression books one and two have had. But I still really really enjoyed it, even going as far as rounding up to bring all three books on par star-rating-wise.

I can’t do what you do. I can’t pretend none of this is happening. I can’t pretend to be happy.
I don’t pretend to be happy. I just refuse to be sad.”

This has all the beats, all the emotes, again the pacing (!), but it just didn’t crawl inside me. As much as I liked these characters, I never loved them. I just got swept up in their adventures. But that’s a ridiculous and silly complaint, really, and probably means nothing to anyone but me. And I still think you’re going to enjoy this.

Um, where’s the dog? You do remember you have one, right?
With all the shitting it does? How could I forget.
You just left him at home? He can’t be in the apartment all day by himself, he’ll be lonely.
He’s got the demon he’s possessed with to keep him company.

Neighbours, friends-become-more, a baby, a very elderly dog, and a sorta-grumpy meets sunshine trope? This’ll hit so many notes for so many readers (worth noting is that I think this toed the line more towards women’s fiction than pure romace only because the heat level was way lower than I remember the other books being). But it’s also chockful of many other topics I haven’t even mentioned and don’t want to for fear of spoilers (if you think you need content warnings please do seek them out). And I so hope it hits all the right notes for those who are impacted by the subject matter. If you can, if there are any out there, please try and hunt down some feedback on the ALS content. I’m too early to see anything yet but I’ll be keeping my eyes out for it.

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


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Light and dark
Joyful family goodness
Dark clouds

This third installment in The Friend Zone had a lighter feel to it, or so I thought. I think I should know by now that Abby Jiminez’s signature is to lure you in then pounch on your feelings, stamp on them a little and then gently pick you up again. That was basically my experience with this book and you can see, I really enjoyed it.

Vanessa was such a bright spark of a character, infectiously joyous, a kind and lovely heart but deeply enclosed inside were these dark shadows. She didn’t let them out much and she didn’t commit to anyone but her family. Adrian, her neighbour, lawyer, owner of impressive abs was a quietly lovely character.

This story was built around a quick but deeply evolving friendship that made for invested reading. The baby of the piece, Grace was pretty delightful even though her personal story was tragic. I loved everything around this little unit, their bonds and banter.

However…I hit a point in the book where I thought oh my goodness please do not take this story, these characters there. I was preparing to throw the book at the wall but the book was saved. The tension is still in my body while I write this review. Kudos to Jiminez for that ability to have me so invested.

I have loved this series, I don’t know if there is more to come but I am a fan of this author’s writing, characters and wit.

Thank you to Piatkus/Little Brown UK for the review copy.

ALL RHODES LEAD HERE by Mariana Zapata

Losing people you love is hard.

Aurora De La Torre knows moving back to a place that was once home isn’t going to be easy.

Starting your whole life over probably isn’t supposed to be.

But a small town in the mountains might be the perfect remedy for a broken heart.

Checking out her landlord across the driveway just might cure it too.


Title : All Rhodes Lead Here
Author : Mariana Zapata
Format : Ebook
Page Count : 551
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : April 1, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Grumpster (hot cross-cinnamon roll)
Grief
New beginnings
Bats
All the feels

Mariana Zapata made my reading weekend and filled me up with all the good feelings, the journey, the investment and I would like to read this again…now?

All Rhodes Lead Here is aptly about a journey towards something. Aurora (Ora) was finally returning to her childhood home town to start afresh, a place of grief but once a place of happiness. This outdoorsy gal (me) loved that this book homed in on hiking, nature and wild animals as a backdrop. They brought hilarity but also danger.

One small step for Aurora De La Torre, one giant leap for the rest of my life. I wasn’t going to let anyone ruin it. Not even Game Warden Moody.

Grumpy Rhodes (hey, yeah – Zapata excels at the grumpster, so what) was a little rude, a lot stern and a great dad. Amos his teen was such a huge part of this story and his relationship with Ora was everything. Rhodes himself had a journey and all I will say is yes, slow burn and I’m a little singed around the edges from the sparks.

Whilst this story was about fresh starts, it was also a slow unravelling of Aurora’s past and there were two clever stories I needed answers on and I was invested the whole of the book on those past issues. Aurora was a gorgeous character inside the most, outside also but her heart was infectiously lovely.

I burnt through these pages in the way that Mariana Zapata knows how to lead me. I wasn’t disappointed in a thing and everything felt unique to this story. I loved it, I savoured and devoured it simultaneously, I will be re-reading and audioing as soon as I can. Go get!

TWICE SHY by Sarah Hogle

Can you find real love when you’ve always got your head in the clouds?

Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.

Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous–and it turns out he has a very different vision for the property’s future.

Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.


Title : Twice Shy
Author : Sarah Hogle
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date : April 6, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Few things are as satisfying as the moment the title of the story or the cover plays out on page of the book you are reading. In this case, it was the cover more than the title and.. looking at it now with context? My heart.

Which is basically an apt description for this whole read. My. Heart. Twice Shy is pure sweetness, pure wonder and whimsy, and slow-melting gooey delight.

I think he’s under a curse — if he laughs, he’ll die. This is a sensible explanation to me. It isn’t that I’m not a joy to be around, it’s that he’ll literally die.

There’s a gentle edge of melancholy to the story because what brings these characters together is the passing of someone they had both loved and both felt possessive of in different ways. Together they have to come together to decide what is to be done with the inheritance they’ve been left, in the form of property now resembling something of a ruin (with extra fun inside!), and naturally there is friction not only in personality but also intent. And yes, incase you weren’t aware, this is a grumpy/sunshine pairing but the layers as to the why of their assigned archetype is just something else.

I get it. You’re Mr. Reality Man and you have no tolerance for good vibes or whimsy, but you know, dude, you’re really starting to bum me out.”
Mr. Reality Man? WHat kind of superhero lottery did I lose?

I flew through this book, unable to put it down, but while I found You Deserve Each Other to be more compelling — because of the sharp biting contention, and how far that couple had strayed, making their journey more of.. well, a journey, back to each other — instead I found this one to be less of a hold-on-for-dear-life ride over the waterfalls and instead just let myself be leisurely caried along down the river. It is a less intense read but while the ups and downs were gentler it was still very moving. The last 30% in particular was the definition of lovely. And I think, as I also said with about her debut, this is a good I’m going to love even more on a reread when I’m able to eagle eye so many little things I might not have picked up on without the benefit of hindsight.

At what point did my happy place stop being a dream and start being the person in front of me?

With two books under her belt, Hogle is offering something for all readers but also satisfying those who love romance no matter the specific tropes (or who love all tropes; and there’s a great homage to them all snuck into the narrative, too!). I cannot wait to see where she’ll go for her next release. If she wasn’t an auto-read after her debut, she sure is now.

If you haven’t yet read this author, I highly recommend you do so.

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

THE ASYLUM by Karen Coles

1906: Being a woman is dangerous, being different is deadly.

Maud Lovell has been at Angelton Lunatic Asylum for five years. She is not sure how she came to be there and knows nothing beyond its four walls. She is hysterical, distressed, untrustworthy. Badly unstable and prone to violence. Or so she has been told.

When a new doctor arrives, keen to experiment with the revolutionary practice of medical hypnosis, Maud’s lack of history makes her the perfect case study. But as Doctor Dimmond delves deeper into the past, it becomes clear that confinement and high doses are there to keep her silent.

When Maud finally remembers what has been done to her, and by whom, her mind turns to her past and to revenge.


Title : The Asylum
Author : Karen Coles
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 352
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Welbeck Publishing
Release Date : April 1, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines
Eerie and sinister
Gothically good
Revenge

The Asylum was a page-turner of a gothic thriller. Set inside the mind and experiences of Maud who was incarcerated with amnesia, this was a story of such mistreatment that it was tough to read at times. There was no doubt that Maud was mentally ill, but beyond help…no.

The story tracks a good doc/bad doc situation in this historical asylum. One psychiatrist determined to advocate for Maud and help her with getting her memories back, the other was determined to prevent this. Maud’s story as it unravelled was sad, discomforting, tragic and at times horrendous.

There are no chains binding me, no manacles, yet I am chained to this place as securely as if there were indeed a manacle around my neck. I am chained here by my madness.

The powerless of women in this era, especially those without means, was underlying the whole story. Men in control, men taking advantage, men doing much worse. There were women as accessories to the bad experiences but Maud eventually found inner strength in her lucidity.

I found The Asylum hard to put down, those pages turned themselves as I wanted answers for the mystery. This was a great, satisfying thriller with a rather dark foreboding feel to it. That cover is stunning and clever. There are a number of triggers in this book for some readers, so please look for trigger warnings or DM me for details.

Thank you to Welbeck Publishing for the early #gifted review copy.

ROYALLY MATCHED by Emma Chase

Some men are born responsible, some men have responsibility thrust upon them. Henry John Edgar Thomas Pembrook, Prince of Wessco, just got the motherlode of all responsibility dumped in his regal lap.

He’s not handling it well.

Hoping to help her grandson to rise to the occasion, Queen Lenora agrees to give him “space”—but while the Queen’s away, the Prince will play. After a chance meeting with an American television producer, Henry finally makes a decision all on his own:

Welcome to Matched: Royal Edition.

A reality TV dating game show featuring twenty of the world’s most beautiful blue bloods gathered in the same castle. Only one will win the diamond tiara, only one will capture the handsome prince’s heart.

While Henry revels in the sexy, raunchy antics of the contestants as they fight, literally, for his affection, it’s the quiet, bespectacled girl in the corner—with the voice of an angel and a body that would tempt a saint—who catches his eye.

The more Henry gets to know Sarah Mirabelle Zinnia Von Titebottum, the more enamored he becomes of her simple beauty, her strength, her kind spirit… and her naughty sense of humor.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day—and irresponsible royals aren’t reformed overnight.

As he endeavors to right his wrongs, old words take on whole new meanings for the dashing Prince. Words like, Duty, Honor and most of all—Love. 


Title : Royally Matched
Author : Emma Chase
Series : Royally (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 276
Genre : NA romance
Publisher : Emma Chase LLC
Release Date : February 21, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Here it is, the start of another series to knock off my list and complete as per an earlier blog post. Though I had ended up rereading books one and two to complete the first series I tackled, I didn’t bother rereading book one in the Royally series as, while events carry over, we pick up with new characters. I didn’t really think I needed the details, just the broad strokes of what came before; and that much at least I did remember. Not that I even needed to as much of it was rehashed. Contemporaries are good like that!

This was really fun though. It didn’t quite warrant very high marks as I did feel some of the relationship moved quite fast, even if it did start with a decent amount of friendly foundation, but I did have a good time. It was quite raunchy, actually, and if book one was like that, well, I totally forgot. But it was definitely steamy, with some good emotional strings being plucked along the way, and actually the whole Bachelor-style reality show happening in the wings was pretty fun. I liked how that was done without any really petty or catty behaviour. We love to see it!

One of my nittier picky things was definitely the grand gesture (we hates them, precious) but that’s always a personal pet peeve thing for me so it’s not the fault of the book. But there was one shithead in this book, who granted didn’t get much page time, but I kind of wish we’d seen some fallout. There was something alluded to that may have happened in book one (sigh, this is why I generally reread, guess my opening paragraph was a little bit “spoke too soon..”) and I think because of that something more should’ve happened. Unless we’ll see him in future books? Hard to say.

Overall though we had a really well rounded and fabulous cast. I definitely want to see more of some of these periphery characters. I’m hoping they crop up in future books. I guess I’ll find out soon as, surprising no one, I will likely be knocking the rest of these out in short order.

If you’re looking for a quick but fun, and sexy, romance with a royal edge, you could definitely do a lot worse than these!

KING OF SCARS by Leigh Bardugo

Face your demons… or feed them.

The dashing young king, Nikolai Lantsov, has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war–and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, Nikolai must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha general, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried–and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.


Title : King of Scars
Author : Leigh Bardugo
Series : King of Scars (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 527
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Imprint
Release Date : January 29, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

It’s finally happened! All these years later, despite all my anticipation — like so many things — I have finally read this book. And.. it didn’t quite do All The Things I expected it to do; but that might be due to a few factors. Like, my slump. Like, my soul-deep exhaustion when I started reading this. Or maybe the beginning just was kinda slow. Even all of the above. But right around the 60%ish mark.. I was hooked. I was in it. And that ending was evil.

Zoya, say something spiteful.”
Why?
Because I’m fairly certain I’m hallucinating, and in my dreams you’re much nicer.
You’re an idiot, Nikolai.
Not your best work.”

We have a few rotating POVs featuring almost all familiar faces but for the majority of this book I was only keen on Zoya’s. Yes, even though Nikolai was one of said POVs, he just wasn’t the draw for me. Zoya was. More Zoya. Zoya all the time, please. Nina’s POV had me a bit emotional during a certain moment, I’m sure you’ll guess the one if you’ve already read this, and while I liked what she was doing and where her adventures had taken her, I wouldn’t say I was always mad to be pulled away from it. Again, I’ll draw your attention to Zoya. Her POV was the only one I was ever sad to leave. Though, the one unknown POV? Pure sweetness. Also other emotions I won’t hint at.

Do something!
Like what?
You have guns!
I’m not going to shoot at bees.”

This is definitely not a series I think you can start without previously reading — at the very least — the main Grishaverse trilogy. But also there’s so much Six of Crows content in here, alluded or referenced to, that like.. you really shouldn’t be reading this at all if you haven’t read those series. Not just that but it spoils so much. Don’t put yourself through that. Obviously I’m late to the game with this warning but still. I’m putting it out there.

Most of us can hide our greatest hurts and longings. It’s how we survive each day. We pretend the pain isn’t there, that we are made of scars instead of wounds.”

I’m definitely glad circumstances made it so I waited until almost the eve of the release of book two to read this because, again, that ending was rude. I’m happy to know I’ll have resolution soon. Imminently. And I hope the overall experience of book two kicks all sorts of ass. Can’t wait.