SISTERSONG by Lucy Holland

535 AD. In the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia, King Cador’s children inherit a fragmented land abandoned by the Romans.

Riva, scarred in a terrible fire, fears she will never heal.
Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, when born a daughter.
And Sinne, the spoiled youngest girl, yearns for romance.

All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold – a last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. But change comes on the day ash falls from the sky, bringing Myrddhin, meddler and magician, and Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear the siblings apart. Riva, Keyne and Sinne must take fate into their own hands, or risk being tangled in a story they could never have imagined; one of treachery, love and ultimately, murder. It’s a story that will shape the destiny of Britain.


Title : Sistersong
Author : Lucy Holland
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 416
Genre : Historical
Publisher : Macmillan
Release Date : April 1, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★.5


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Three siblings, three povs
Detailed
Twisty

This fantasy-esque historical story was very different to my expectations and not in a bad way. The story starts with three sisters and ends with three siblings, that detail was core to this story. As such, I favoured Keyne’s evolving story to that of Riva and Sinne. I did sometimes wish for more time in each POV before they switched.

This was a deep and detailed story that slowly gathered pace and plot. Set in a time post-Roman rule and at a time of expectation of Saxon invasion, the sense of impeding war was ever present. The story pitched a convincing battle alongside this of old magical ways versus newer Christian beliefs.

Most of the characters in this story were rather complex, none more than Keyne, Mori and Tristan. There were plenty of characters to be suspicicious of and some to really dislike. The context of this English land during this time conjured a dark and barren place in my mind. Freedoms even for the King’s children were minimal and there was a sense of oppression from numerous directions.

The plot was clever, twists a-plenty with deep, historical research apparent. Overall, this was an immersive read.

Thank you to Pan Macmillan/Black Crow PR for the early review copy.

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. **

DANGEROUS WOMEN by Hope Adams

Nearly two hundred condemned women on board a sailing ship bound for Australia. One of them is a murderer. From debut author Hope Adams comes a thrilling novel based on the 1841 voyage of the convict ship Rajah, about confinement, hope, and the terrible things we do to survive.

London, 1841. One hundred eighty Englishwomen file aboard the Rajah, embarking on a three-month voyage to the other side of the world.

They’re daughters, sisters, mothers–and convicts.

Transported for petty crimes.

Except one of them has a deadly secret, and will do anything to flee justice.

As the Rajah sails farther from land, the women forge a tenuous kinship. Until, in the middle of the cold and unforgiving sea, a young mother is mortally wounded, and the hunt is on for the assailant before he or she strikes again.

Each woman called in for question has something to fear: Will she be attacked next? Will she be believed? Because far from land, there is nowhere to flee, and how can you prove innocence when you’ve already been found guilty?


Title : Dangerous Women
Author : Hope Adams
Format : Paperback
Page Count : 400
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Michael Joseph Books
Release Date : March 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Suspense on the seas
Desperation
Emotive
Gritty themes

The cover of this book swept me away initally, followed by the synopsis. Reading the book totally lived up to my hopes and expectations. I would categorise this as a historical suspense. Its strengths partially lie in the fact that this story context is reality, the voyage of convicts being transported and occupying themselves by making a quilt. The other strength was the execution, the writing that transported me along with the passengers of the ship.

The story was told from the POV of the ship’s ‘matron’ Kezia, a 23 year old women of respectable background, there to oversee the female convicts on their way to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania). There were other POVs of some of the prominent convict characters. There was a stabbing some weeks into the journey (this is the the blurb, no spoiler here) and much of the story I spent speculating and getting it wrong.

This was very much a women’s book, about women, for women, understanding women of that era However, these women were ever at the mercy of men and it wasn’t set in a time where women were empowered so I wouldn’t necessarily call this a feminist read. However Kezia did have her moments of assertion among the leading men of the ship.

This was a compelling tale, with twists and turns. Ship life had all the smells, hardship and difficulty you might imagine but the description enhanced your sense of these womens’ existence. I would have loved an epilogue of what happened to these women after they got to their destination. I wanted to know if they really got their new chance.

We’re many small pieces, each of us different but now stitched together. A patchwork of souls.

If you love historical reads and/or if you love suspenseful reads, Dangerous Women will not disappoint. There are triggers in here for some and please check out other reviews or message me if you want details.

Thank you to Michael Joseph Books for the review copy.

ENLIGHTENED by Joanna Chambers

David Lauriston has been recuperating at Lord Murdo Balfour’s Laverock estate for the last five months. At Laverock, he has regained his health and confidence and has found—with Murdo—more happiness and contentment than he has never known before.

David is all too aware that some day soon he will have to leave Laverock—and Murdo—and return to his legal practice in Edinburgh, just as Murdo will have to return to his life in London. But when David’s mentor, Patrick Chalmers, asks David to return to Edinburgh to visit him on his deathbed, it seems that day has come sooner than either David or Murdo would have wished.

Chalmers begs David to undertake one last piece of business for him: to secure the future of Chalmers’s daughter Elizabeth. But to carry out his old mentor’s wishes, David must travel to London, with Murdo.

No sooner have the two men arrived in the capital than they encounter Murdo’s ruthlessly manipulative father, who reveals a shocking secret that rocks David to his foundations. What’s more, when David discovers Elizabeth is facing far greater danger than even her father feared, he is determined to help her, no matter the cost to his own safety.

As the stakes rise, it is Murdo who must choose what he is prepared to sacrifice to keep David at his side, and ask whether there is any possibility of lasting happiness for men like them.


Title : Enlightened
Author : Joanna Chambers
Series : Enlightenment (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 279
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ historical romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : January 8, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

And so concludes the main trilogy of this series following David and Murdo. I’m quite pleased by their ending, as well as the endings of a few other characters that followed them throughout these three books, and honestly I was the least irked by either of their behaviour in the telling of this particular installment.

That said, while I was very happy, and occasionally moved by the emotional revelations, it was one particular bit of plot featuring a good friend of David’s that got me the most emotional. I may have teared up.

While — for whatever reason — this series hasn’t become a new favourite, it can’t be denied that I really got on well with Chambers’ writing and really enjoyed the characters. I have two novellas still to read that feature these two leads (so I guess I’m not quite done..) and while I look forward to seeing what else they get upto (though you likely won’t see those reviews here, maybe check GR if you’re curious), I am keen to see what this author does with a different pair. That said, if you’re a fan of KJC or Cat Sebastian and you want another queer historical series to sink your teeth into, and you haven’t yet tried these, I would recommend! They aren’t too long and they are smartly written. And I still hope to discover a Chambers I’ll love in her other series — or maybe even in the books within this world. Fingers crossed!

AN UNEXPECTED PERIL by Deanna Raybourn

A princess is missing, and a peace treaty is on the verge of collapse in this new Veronica Speedwell adventure from the New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award-nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

January 1889. As the newest member of the Curiosity Club—an elite society of brilliant, intrepid women—Veronica Speedwell is excited to put her many skills to good use. As she assembles a memorial exhibition for pioneering mountain climber Alice Baker-Greene, Veronica discovers evidence that the recent death was not a tragic climbing accident but murder. Veronica and her natural historian beau, Stoker, tell the patron of the exhibit, Princess Gisela of Alpenwald, of their findings. With Europe on the verge of war, Gisela’s chancellor, Count von Rechstein, does not want to make waves—and before Veronica and Stoker can figure out their next move, the princess disappears.

Having noted Veronica’s resemblance to the princess, von Rechstein begs her to pose as Gisela for the sake of the peace treaty that brought the princess to England. Veronica reluctantly agrees to the scheme. She and Stoker must work together to keep the treaty intact while navigating unwelcome advances, assassination attempts, and Veronica’s own family—the royalty who has never claimed her


Title : An Unexpected Peril
Author : Deanna Raybourn
Series : Veronica Speedwell (book six)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : historical romance/mystery
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : March 2, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

Easily the best part of this book was that it wasn’t the previous installment. As in, it was better. Not that it counts for much as I felt book five just so overwhelmingly.. well, not good. But anyway, yes, this was likely the closest to being what I loved from these books in the early installments. For which I’m grateful, even as I continue to believe I have just lost the love for this world. Or maybe the magic just isn’t there anymore. One or the other.

While I won’t say that this mystery was compelling or edge of your seat, I do think the diversion of the politics of this little country, and the involvement of the princess to the murder victim, was well done. I even appreciated that despite how things are now going for our investigative duo, there are still moments of friction and disagreements and yet it doesn’t become a big moment of drama. They work through their clashes, resolve them, and I appreciate that adult behaviour. I do think my love for Veronica will never quite return and it’s definitely Stoker that is keeping me in this game but she does have her moments.

Overall, even though we had some near death/disaster moments, the stakes never really feel high or even remotely tense. I think the series has just become somewhat.. fluffy? Lighthearted? I think I saw another reviewer say cozy and I don’t disagree with that actually. They are a little silly, while balancing real moments of history, and maybe I just have to stop taking them as seriously as I have during the last few installments. I don’t know. Time will tell. Because I still don’t think we know how many more books are to come. I wish we did.

Ultimately this wasn’t a bad addition to the series and I am happy to not have been disappointed yet again.

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

BEGUILED by Joanna Chambers

Two years after his last encounter with cynical nobleman Lord Murdo Balfour, David Lauriston accidentally meets him again in the heart of Edinburgh.

King George IV is about to make his first visit to Edinburgh and Murdo has been sent North by his politician father to represent his aristocratic family at the celebrations.

David and Murdo’s last parting was painful—and on Murdo’s part, bitter—but Murdo’s feelings seem to have mellowed in the intervening years. So much so, that he suggests to David that they enjoy each other’s company during Murdo’s stay in the capital. 
Despite his initial reservations, David cannot put Murdo’s proposal from his mind, and soon find himself at Murdo’s door—and in his arms. 

But other figures from David’s past are converging on the city, and as the pomp and ceremony of the King’s visit unfolds around them, David is drawn into a chain of events that will threaten everything: his career, his wellbeing, and the fragile bond that, despite David’s best intentions, is growing between him and Murdo.


Title : Beguiled
Author : Joanna Chambers
Series : Enlightenment (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 224
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ historical romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : January 8, 2018

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

As with my review for book one, I still can’t manage to quite round up on this one, either. But this time for different reasons.

While the background noise of book one, and the motivation and moving parts of the plot didn’t interest me, that wasn’t the case in book two. This time we have a King’s visit to Scotland to contend with, the catalyst (excuse) for the reappearance of a certain romantic interest, but also there are heartbreaking domestic issues to contend with. Additionally I also loved how a certain character from book one reappeared, and how he had changed; it definitely didn’t go the way I expected. And I really liked how it seemed to have tied off a loose end (or two).

So while all that was good, what and where was the miss?

The problem for me is I found that our leads felt a little.. different. Yes, time has passed, and on the part of David he’s done some hard thinking, and pining. And while we still had some of those same clashes from before, I was frustrated by the way that he would retreat after having made so much progress. Particularly because it was the same song and dance from book one. I would’ve much rather had see new worries, new concerns, while still in the same vein, I guess. It felt out of place considering how much stronger the connection was. But nonetheless his core self, his instrospection, his inherent goodness, it’s all just really lovely.

As for Murdo, while I have no complaints with him being more tender, a little moony, he had softened dramatically in the time between books and.. I don’t know. I think the problem is this is a single POV, as in we don’t get his, and maybe I’m missing that other side of things to sell this to me. But there was an absolutely gutwrenching and yet heartwarming scene with him surrounding a rather pivotal moment for the two of them and I thought that was brilliant.

My whatever weirdness about not being to round up on this series aside, I enjoy the writing, and I’ll be diving right into book three tomorrow.

PROVOKED by Joanna Chambers

Tormented by his forbidden desires for other men and the painful memories of the childhood friend he once loved, lawyer David Lauriston tries to maintain a celibate existence while he forges his reputation in Edinburgh’s privileged legal world. 
 
But then, into his repressed and orderly life, bursts Lord Murdo Balfour.
 
Cynical, hedonistic and utterly unapologetic, Murdo could not be less like David. And as appalled as David is by Murdo’s unrepentant self-interest, he cannot resist the man’s sway. Murdo tempts and provokes David in equal measure, forcing him to acknowledge his physical desires.
 
But Murdo is not the only man distracting David from his work. Euan MacLennan, the brother of a convicted radical David once represented, approaches David to beg him for help. Euan is searching for the government agent who sent his brother to Australia on a convict ship, and other radicals to the gallows. Despite knowing it may damage his career, David cannot turn Euan away. 
 
As their search progresses, it begins to look as though the trail may lead to none other than Lord Murdo Balfour, and David has to wonder whether it’s possible Murdo could be more than he seems. Is he really just a bored aristocrat, amusing himself at David’s expense, or could he be the agent provocateur responsible for the fate of Peter MacLennan and the other radicals?


Title : Provoked
Author : Joanna Chambers
Series : Enlightenment (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 202
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ historical romance
Publisher : indie
Release Date : April 25, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5



Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Part of me is actually tempted to bump this up to four but something is holding me back for now. Probably because I compare most m/m historical romance to KJ Charles but.. this was still very good.

As a heads up, you should know this story also differs from KJC in the sense that this series doesn’t seem to be made up of companions following different couples and in fact I think the first two or three may follow the same couple. Make of that what you will.

Despite not being able to round up, though, I think this series might get stronger as it goes. I found the characters to be incredibly fascinating, particularly our protagonist, David, who suffers under the illusion that his fancying of men is unnatural and wrong and yet for all that he harshly judges himself, he never judges others. There were moments when he imagined another possible future for himself that just.. yeah, he is lovely.

The romantic interest, on the other hand, is fully himself and fully unashamed of himself and they spark off each other very well. Their relationship, outside of the steamies, is full of tension because while they are chemically compatible, they don’t seem to be emotionally or morally compatible. They view life so differently, and what they might expect of their lives considering their ways, and it’s so interesting to watch them hash it out.

I think mainly what dragged this down a bit for me is, despite the third party involved who played a fairly main role (and who I liked quite a bit), the whole reason for the events that throw these characters together just wasn’t that interesting, I guess? The characters definitely carried this installment, which is great, but I do hope the plot of book two is a wee bit more interesting.

I’m so keen to read on and I do smell a binge a’coming.. doesn’t hurt that this series seems to clock in with somewhat on the lower end of a page count. Additionally, I’m happy to have knocked this off my tbr (shelved on GR back in 2017!) and cleared yet another eBook off my unread pile! Lots of winning here.

THE WINTER OF THE WITCH by Katherine Arden

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingaleand The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all. 


Title : The Winter of the Witch
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Winternight (book three)
Format : physical hardback
Page Count : 372
Genre : historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : January 8, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was a reread for me, though unlike the other books in the series it was only my second time doing so. Not to sound like a broken record but I still cannot believe how long it’s been since originally reading this series, considering how much I love this world, but I am so happy to have been reunited.

Love is for those who know the griefs of time, for it goes hand in hand with loss. An eternity, so burdened, would be a torment. And yet –yet what else to call it, this terror and joy?

Unlike my recent reviews for book one and two, however, I am SOL to cheat and just copy in parts of my original reviews from GR here to the blog. Mostly because I was too in my feels to properly review it at the time. And I’m pretty much right back in the same boat so, like, damn this sucks.

The world has lost its wonder.

As opposed to the book which resoundly does not.. suck, that is.

You shouldn’t have told them I was a girl. Then they might have believed that I was dangerous.

If I thought I couldn’t say much about book two its a whole lot of that but more for a finale. But if you’re expecting a big confrontation, or two (or three?), a whole bunch of secrets revealed, heartbreak, and romance, and tears, and more? You’ll get it. A lot of all of that.

I am sorry for this awful non-review review but you’ll just have to believe that the book, this series (this author!), is worth reading. I truly honestly cannot recommend this series enough. And cuddling up to it on Christmas Eve, with some much deserved snow coming down? Nothing better.

THE GIRL IN THE TOWER by Katherine Arden

The magical adventure begun in The Bear and the Nightingalecontinues as brave Vasya, now a young woman, is forced to choose between marriage or life in a convent and instead flees her home—but soon finds herself called upon to help defend the city of Moscow when it comes under siege.

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.


Title : The Girl in the Tower
Author : Katherine Arden
Series : Winternight (book two)
Format : physical hardback
Page Count : 384
Genre : historical fiction/fantasy
Publisher : Del Rey Books
Release Date : December 5, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This was a reread for me, my third in fact (!), and yes if you’re feeling deja vue I had also just reread The Bear and the Nightingale for the third time, too. I still cannot believe how long it’s been since originally reading this series, considering how much I love this world, but I am so happy to be reunited.

Witch. We call such women so, because we have no other name.

That said, as with my recent review for book one, I’m going to cheat and just copy in parts of my original reviews from GR here to the blog. Mostly because I’m lazy but also because none of my opinions have actually changed.

Has the world run dry of warriors? All out of brave lords? Are they sending out maidens these days to do the work of heroes?
There were no heroes. There was only me.


I honestly don’t know how to review this book. So much of this story relies on book one’s plot and information but the basics are : The Girl in the Tower is a story about a brave girl and her impossible horse. But it’s also a story about the tug of war between the faith in the old world, the myths and the legends, and that of God and wealth and power. It’s about the harsh bite of cold, the hollow cramp of an empty belly, villages burned to the ground, girls stolen away in the night, and a power desperate to be unleashed from its bridle. And through all that, Vasya is still fighting for her place in the world — not that of marriage or stuck in a convent, but for adventure.. and to be believed by those she loves. The politics in book two take a sharp turn, though they’ve always been present, and an uprising must be stopped even as an ghost from Vasya’s past, who plays a significant role in a present-day evil, is laid to rest.

It is going to end. One day. This world of wonders, where steam in a bathhouse can be a creature that speaks prophecy. One day, there will be only bells and processions. The chyerti will be fog and memory and stirrings in the summer barley.

The Bear and the Nightingale is like a slow-moving chill, it creeps up on you and chips away at your warmth ever so subtly, until you’re frozen. Whereas The Girl in the Tower is more like trying to out-pace a blizzard. Both books are enjoyable but in this sequel we see Vasya tested even more than she was in the first book.. and we also see her rise above. She gets a glimpse of who she could be if not for the constraints of her sex and it’s bittersweet and beautiful.

Curiosity is a dreadful trait in girls.” 

Knowing how this one played out in advance, I loved picking up on all the clues, all the foreshadowing, that Arden laid out for her readers. None of the excitement was lost; and certainly none of the trepidation, either, for a specific chapter with a certain race. I now feel my own bit of added trepidation knowing what awaits me in book three. I want to race to it but I also want to lurch to a halt and wait. I want both. I want it all.

Suffice it to say, you need to read these books. Arden’s series is atmospheric, harsh, brutal, unkind, beautiful, magical, wonderful, hopeful. It’s everything. You deserve some of that.

THE SUGARED GAME by KJ Charles

It’s been two months since Will Darling saw Kim Secretan, and he doesn’t expect to see him again. What do a rough and ready soldier-turned-bookseller and a disgraced shady aristocrat have to do with each other anyway?

But when Will encounters a face from the past in a disreputable nightclub, Kim turns up, as shifty, unreliable, and irresistible as ever. And before Will knows it, he’s been dragged back into Kim’s shadowy world of secrets, criminal conspiracies, and underhand dealings.

This time, though, things are underhanded even by Kim standards. This time, the danger is too close to home. And if Will and Kim can’t find common ground against unseen enemies, they risk losing everything.



Title : The Sugared Game
Author : KJ Charles
Series : The Will Darling Adventures (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 288
Genre : LGBTQIA+ romance/historical fiction
Publisher : KJC Books
Release Date : August 26, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m not sure my feelings about this book are entirely fair as I’ve come out of quite a bit of a lull/slump and I knew the first book I picked up might suffer for it. But I thought a KJC might help battle that prediction and also I mean she’s kind of a guaranteed pick me up. And yet..

I don’t know about you, but the position of hand puppet to [spoiler] does not appeal to me.”
Nor me. If I want someone sticking their hand up my arse–
Oh, do go on.”
I’m not going to be [spoiler]’s hand puppet either, was what I meant.

Certainly not a bad book, not that I think she even has one, and a three star is far from a dislike but I didn’t quite enjoy this installment as much as book one. We did have some good reveals and how this plays out into book three will be interesting but to be honest I found myself less enamoured by the MC and the love interest and instead was just rooting for the ladies of the story. They had felt like full and realized characters in book one and yet they definitely stole the show for me in this one. And I love that it went that way because they are certainly deserving of a spotlight.

That said, if you are not yet on the KJC train you absolutely have to. If not this series, another, find a standalone, whatever. If you’re into queer fiction or historical fiction or where the two meet and you aren’t reading this author? What even are you doing!

Hoping that book three goes out with a bang but also hoping to not be battling anymore slumps between now and then. Fingers crossed!