YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY by Akwaeke Emezi

New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Akwaeke Emezi (they/them) reimagines the love story in this fresh and seductive novel about a young woman seeking joy while healing from loss.

Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again. 

It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career. 

She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?

Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.


Title : You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty
Author : Akwaeke Emezi
Format : eARC
Page Count : 288
Genre : romance
Publisher : Atria Books
Release Date : May 24, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : unrated


Hollis’ unrated star review

I’ve sat here, the minutes ticking by since I closed my kindle, waffling on how I feel about this book. Not just rating wise but overall feeling wise. This is going to be a polarizing book, I think.

After having fallen in love with The Death of Vivek Oji last year, I’ve been on a mission to slowly devour everything this author has written. The fact that they flit between genres, and themes, and styles, is so interesting and at the announcement of a romance novel — a romance novel with a Florence + The Machine lyric for a title — I mean, obviously I was sold. I wanted to see what they would do in this particular genre.

And for so much of it.. I was pretty into it. I enjoyed the voice (I make this distinction for a reason, I’ll expand more in a bit) and I enjoyed the friendship between Feyi and Joy. Their conversations were mostly limited to their romantic endeavours with the occasional hype moment from Joy on Feyi’s behalf but.. still, I felt the friendship, I felt the connection. But the romance? The various ones we follow? Welll..

I absolutely appreciate that Feyi, having survived what she did, and feeling like she’s maybe in a place to dip her toe in romance again, would be hesitant for more than something physical. And would shy away from something more. And I do feel like we saw some stepping stones out of her grief in the form of people but.. I don’t know. This is where I get mixed. Because I can see it what the author did (or, rather, I think I see what they were doing), and understand it, but I can also not love it? I guess? In some ways it’s brave and also real but..

Maybe it was the writing that hindered some of this. Because I’ll tell you right now I didn’t enjoy this writing the same way I’ve enjoyed the author’s previous writing. I can’t put my finger on what about it bothered me but something did.

Even without the romance drama, this book is messy. Grief is messy. Processing that, dealing with the concept of moving on, it’s all a mess. Emotional and fraught. And then when combined with romance? Messier. Add in some.. complicated results with how things shake out with said romance? Chaos. There’s a lot going on here. And there are times that Emezi has these beautiful notes, these little pauses of reflection, and they are just lovely. There are moments to be heard but also moments where the characters are listened to, and understood. But it’s still also dramatic and a lot. Which is fine! If that’s what you want.

I definitely see people loving this or.. maybe not hating it but being on the fence of it all. So while I’m taking the easy way out and not rating this.. it’s probably a 3. So just imagine that instead of the nothing and let me remain in a state where I don’t have to commit.

I will definitely continue to pick up titles by this author, as well as catch up on their backlist, but this wasn’t quite the breakthrough hit I thought it would be. At least not for me.

That cover is absolutely stunning though isn’t it? Gorgeous.

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

A LADY FOR A DUKE by Alexis Hall

A lush, sweeping queer historical romance from the bestselling author of Boyfriend Material-perfect for fans of Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Lisa Kleypas!

When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.

Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.

As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.


Title : A Lady For A Duke
Author : Alexis Hall
Format : Physical
Page Count : 480
Genre : Historical Romance/LGBTQIAP
Publisher : Piatkus Books
Release Date : May 24, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Best friends then and now
Identity beautifully written
Angsty ride

A Lady For A Duke is something of a special historical romance because it features a trans main character. I have read another book of a similar era with this representation but nevertheless, this is such a welcome offering. All that said, Viola’s identity was often background and the dynamic between the couple was in the foreground.

There was such a complex friendship in this story, none of which I’m going to describe because it was impactful and emotional reading that shouldn’t be spoilt. Gracewood was a shell of a man when Viola found herself back in his life and secrets were everything. Suffice it to say, Hall wrote this whole story with care but in particular, Viola and Gracewood navigating the changes to their dynamic was pretty beautiful.

I really appeciated how the power between these two MCs was pitched. Viola was a strong woman in many ways and Gracewood was diminished physically but he was protective and an advocate for everything that Viola was.

“Forgive my language, but…fuck the world. I will change it for you if I have to.”

I loved the first half of this book, I felt the emotions so strongly in that section, simultaneously feeling mush for these two whilst feeling heartbroken in part. The second half was more plot driven than character driven which made for a full story. Overall, this was a memorable and valued story.

Thank you to Piatkus Books for the early review copy.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER by Casey McQuiston – double review!

Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.


Title : I Kissed Shara Wheeler
Author : Casey McQuiston
Format : ARC / eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+ contemporary romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Press/MacMillan Kids
Release Date : May 3, 2022/May 12, 2022

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


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This book is really making me reconsider my rounded up “3.5 star feels” for One Last Stop. Because I Kissed Shara Wheeler gave me the queer ensemble of my dreams whilst also having an electric and fun and unexpected plot without any of the lulls found in the author’s sophomore release. Infact, this made me incredibly nostalgic for their debut because I’m left with that same sparkly feeling — minus the hangover from some of the more intense emotional moments.

God, why is he still here? What is he doing? There’s no way his job is that hard. All he des is cut the arts budget and misinterpret the Bible. How many hours can that possibly take?

Because, yes, I Kissed Shara Wheeler? Fantastic. I knew by the end of chapter one I was going to be a goner for this book and only something absolutely terrible could ruin it. And, spoiler, nothing did.

While she does like boys, she generally finds the traits of a compelling villain — arrogance, malice, an angry backstory — tedious in a man. Like, what do hot guys with long dark hair have to be that upset about? Get a clarifying shampoo and suck it up, Kylo Ren.

As usual my brain is stalling out a little on what to say but like. This has that competitive academic rivals tension. It has a kiss-fuelled scavenger hunt. It has unlikely allies who become true friends. It’s about self-discovery. It’s about quiet rebellions that lead to louder ones. It’s about old friends become new again. It’s about found family. And so much more.

Chloe, we’re gay. We can’t do math.
Okay, well, next time I’ll come and make a spreadsheet.
This is why we need you. Once in a generation, there is born a bisexual who can do math. You’re the chosen one.”

It’s not all easy or fun or just non-stop queer shenanigans, though. With the setting of this book, both in a little town in Alabama and at a Christian school to boot, you know there’s going to be some issues to tackle. But those issues never overwhelmed the story. But neither were they too minor to not play a part. It was the perfect balance.

Your mama and I decided long before you were both that we would let you be whoever you are, no matter who that is.
And if who you are is a snarling little Pomeranian with eyes like fire, than that’s who you are, darling.”

If YA is all McQuiston plans to ever write again (this is not confirmed, I’m just saying), I would honestly only be a tiny bit upset to lose adult content from them. Because it really was that good. I know I will be rereading this and, likely, loving it even more.

Highly recommend.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
YA contemporary comedy mystery
Dramatics
Bigatory

There’s lots to recommend this read, it’s beautifully queer, a fun romp but somehow, it just didn’t hit the notes for me. There’s an eclectic band of friends thrown together in this story and that was the element I became most fond of.

Shara was missing and I struggled with Shara as a character for much of the story, and maybe I was supposed to. She seemed manipulative and they way she had all these peers pitched against one another initially, really wound me up. There was space for redemption but overall I didn’t like her. Shara however, wasn’t really the main character even if the whole story was centred on her, Chloe was the MC and I did like her mostly. Chloe had some epic moms which I appreciated.

The themes were welcome in this book and they included exploring identity, sexuality and rebelling against bigatory. These important themes were well handled but it felt alongside a fair bit of dramarama. I think the drama and manipulative characteristics of Shara were what kept me from connecting with the characters sadly. I didn’t feel any chemistry in the romantic moments either.

I am disappointed I didn’t enjoy this more but I can see that so far from a ratings perspective, I am in the minority.

Thank you MacMillan Kids for the early review copy.

KAIKEYI by Vaishnavi Patel

In the vein of Madeline Miller’s Circe comes a bold and sweeping debut that reimagines the life of Kaikeyi, the vilified queen of the Indian epic the Ramayana.

“I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.”

So begins Kaikeyi’s story, that of a young woman determined to create her own destiny in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come. But as she transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most-favored queen, Kaikeyi’s will clashes with the path that has been chosen for her family. And she must decide if her resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak.


Title : Kaikeyi
Author : Vaishnavi Patel
Format : eARC
Page Count : 432
Genre : historical retelling
Publisher : Redhook
Release Date : April 26, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So, I am prefacing this review by saying I know nothing of the epic that inspired this book. I didn’t even know the name Kaikeyi. Had I heard it, I wouldn’t even know to guess what it would be about. But seeing it compared to Circe, or at least likened to this style of female-focused retelling, I had to snatch it up.

Curiously, I read the wikipedia summary after finishing this book and wow. I mean, I don’t know if it’s accurate (again, prefacing, I am Jon Snow and know nothing), but what a different spin on things. And actually it made me appreciate this story even more.

It occurred to me [..] that maybe the gods had marked me for my mother’s sins. Sons could not be held responsible for maternal sins, but daughter’s? [..] Nothing protected me.

I truly don’t even know where to begin, really. This isn’t a short book and nor is it one that you can blast through; this took me hours to read. Maybe I savoured it, maybe I just didn’t rush, but either way, it took time.

The story spans decades, from Kaikeyi’s birth until well into middle age (ish), when her son is almost full grown. We see her grow up amongst many brothers, lose her mother, and try to find a place where she belongs. Then, once married off, she is even more at loose ends having lost the connections and stability she had at home. She struggles for a time to be a wife — one of three — but is lucky enough to be married to a good man who finds more value in her than just someone to give him sons; though she eventually does. And it’s after the birth of her child, and others, that things begin to change again.

Kaikeyi, remember that you did the right thing. You are not wicked.
Then why do I feel wicked?
Because those who are good question themselves. Because those who are good alway wonder if there was a better way, a way that could have helped more and hurt less. That feeling is why you are good.”

Please note, I made a very oversimplified summary of things and omitted a lot because spoilers. There is so much more to this than the above. There are gods, and demons, magical connections, unexpected friendships, the fight to empower other women in a society that only values them to a certain extent, and more.

I was sad this ended, I could have definitely read more, and I do wish some plot points had been made clearer. But maybe that’s just because I’m unfamiliar with the source material. I don’t know. Overall, I thought this was very strong, very interesting, and would absolutely recommend. I will be very interested in Patel’s next release (can you believe this is a debut!?), whether related or not, and will definitely be picking it up.

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

THE LONG GAME by Rachel Reid

To the world they are rivals, but to each other they are everything.

Ten years.

That’s how long Shane Hollander and Ilya Rozanov have been seeing each other. How long they’ve been keeping their relationship a secret. From friends, from family…from the league. If Shane wants to stay at the top of his game, what he and Ilya share has to remain secret. He loves Ilya, but what if going public ruins everything?

Ilya is sick of secrets. Shane has gotten so good at hiding his feelings, sometimes Ilya questions if they even exist. The closeness, the intimacy, even the risk that would come with being open about their relationship…Ilya wants it all.

It’s time for them to decide what’s most important—hockey or love.

It’s time to make a call. 


Title : The Long Game
Author : Rachel Reid
Series : Game Changers (book six)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 496
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ romance / sports
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : April 26, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

I can only imagine the pressure Reid faced when sitting down to tackle this “sequel”. Granted, I think I’ve said that about every post-Heated Rivalry release but this was the biggie because finally we weren’t just getting cameos sprinkled amongst other stories but we were getting more Shane and Ilya. Front and centre. Live in HD 4K — or whatever the cool kids say. It was finally time for them to get (maybe?) their true HEA. So, having said all that, I hope the readers find it not only worth the wait but just as satisfying as book two.

I hate this. My team was perfect. Now we have this asshole.”
Your team is terrible.”
Yes, but, you know. The vibes are good.

And speaking of a wait, this was a romance eleven (thirteen?) years in the making. I loved a lot about their relationship, particularly what we got to see unfold in this instalment, but my favourite parts were the nostalgic reminiscing on where and how it all began; and how differently things may have gone.

I will kiss you during a face-off.
Pretty sure that would be a face-off violation.

For me, the highlight, as always, was Ilya. I think maybe we’re all a bit trash for him but honestly he’s just burrowed under my skin in all the ways. With his humour, his language fails, his chirping, his vulnerability; with everything. Shane, however, is a little less complicated and sometimes does come across a little oblivious and a little self-absorbed but never intentionally or maliciously. It’s just how he is.. until he’s made aware of something and then he totally course corrects. But it absolutely suits him not only because of his upbringing but also the way he took to his career. The way these two bounce off each other, how they also fit, is just lovely.

Why is it a secret? You wouldn’t be the only gay hockey players. Or queer. Sorry, I shouldn’t assume.”
I am bisexual. Shane is super gay.”
I’m regular gay.”

There were moments about this that surprised me (certain topics and issues previously addressed that were repackaged so beautifully for this particular instalment; no I’m not spoiling), moments that moved me (yes, I teared up), and, of course, moments (Ilya!) that made me laugh. I couldn’t believe how quickly I chewed through this chonky book (almost five hundred pages!) and while at first I did think we were spinning our wheels a bit, it took me a moment to realize this story spanned the timeline of all books since Heated Rivalry. I knew that in theory but it took me a moment to realign myself with the events without external prompting via chapter headings. Obviously there are elements of this story that are a bit repetitive because the conflict that spans the book is the same and yet I also appreciated the way the beats of the story played out.

I fear not living up to the expectations of the Montreal Voyageurs organization and our fans.”
Would be easier to cheat death than to meet Montreal’s hockey expectations.

Not wholly related to the book, however, it needs to be said : I have always loved how Reid has portrayed her hockey world — I always find it interesting to see how authors reinvent the teams and what they keep or discard from the real world — and seeing her more or less break up with Montreal in fiction as (I believe) she’s broken up with them in real life was bittersweet but, hopefully, satisfying as a creative to work through that ending. I hope, if we get to see these two again, we’ll have more Ottawa jokes to look forward to. I highlighted so many of those.

You should sign with Ottawa. Your contract is probably cheap, yes?
You’re a hard guy to like, Rozanov.”
That is not what Shane thinks.

The Long Game has plenty of steam, plenty of sweet, plenty of feels, plenty of fun, and, of course, plenty of hockey. All in all, I think fans of this couple, and this series, will be very pleased by this long-anticipated and long-awaited reunion — though maybe less pleased about the cover.

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

THE SCOTTISH BOY by Alex De Campi🎧

1333. Edward III is at war with Scotland. Nineteen-year-old Sir Harry de Lyon yearns to prove himself and jumps at the chance when a powerful English baron, William Montagu, invites him on a secret mission with a dozen elite knights.

They ride north, to a crumbling Scottish keep, capturing a feral, half-starved boy within and putting the other inhabitants to the sword.

But nobody knows why the flower of English knighthood snuck over the border to capture a savage, dirty teenage boy. Montagu gives the boy to Harry as his squire, with only two rules: don’t let him escape, and convert him to the English cause.

At first, it’s hopeless. The Scottish boy is surly and violent and eats anything that isn’t nailed down. Then Harry begins to notice things: that, as well as Gaelic, the boy speaks flawless French, with an accent much different from Harry’s Norman one. That he can read Latin too. And when Harry finally convinces the boy – Iain mac Maíl Coluim – to cut his filthy curtain of hair, the face revealed is the most beautiful thing Harry has ever seen.

With Iain as his squire, Harry wins tournament after tournament and becomes a favourite of the King. But underneath the pageantry smoulder twin secrets: Harry and Iain’s growing passion for each other, and Iain’s mysterious heritage. As England hurtles towards war once again, these secrets will destroy everything Harry holds dear.

A sexy, slow-burn, enemies to lovers historical romance, Alex De Campi delivers a steamy but tender love story. “Brokeback Mountain” meets “50 Shades of Grey” set again the vivid backdrop of Medieval Britain. Perfect for fans of Madeleine Miller’s “Song of Achilles”, the novels of C. S. Pascat, and K.J. Charles.


Title : The Scottish Boy
Author : Alex De Campi
Narrator : Richard Pearce
Format : Audiobook
Length : 15 hours, 50 min
Genre : Historical Fiction/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Saga Audiobooks
Release Date : March 16, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★


Micky’s 2.5 -3 star review

Headlines:
Men not boys
Romp-fest

Sigh, I have a lot of thoughts about this book and I’m sad they’re not hitting the expectations I had. The premise for The Scottish Boy was great and it started off really well, with a plot that had traction and potential. Iain was the wiley, captured wildling and Harry was the nobleman of sorts. These ‘boys’ were young adults.

The plot had a sort of loose A Knight’s Tale theme but with a gay relationship and lots of sex (full emphasis on the sex). I am reluctant to ever judge if there is too much sex in a book, that’s subjective, but for me, the constant romping overtook everything else, the plot suffered and I just got bored by it. The initial connection and hatred between Iain and Harry was really compelling and their push and pull kept me reading but I cannot lie, I wanted more depth to the plot.

The book itself felt a little overlong, 500+ pages, 15 hours on the audio. From an audio perspective, the narration was solid and definitely enhanced the experience. This was a single POV, from Harry’s perspective but with good dialogue and accents.

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

WILD AND WICKED THINGS by Francesca May

In the aftermath of World War I, a naive woman is swept into a glittering world filled with dark magic, romance, and murder in this lush and decadent debut.

On Crow Island, people whisper, real magic lurks just below the surface. 

Neither real magic nor faux magic interests Annie Mason. Not after it stole her future. She’s only on the island to settle her late father’s estate and, hopefully, reconnect with her long-absent best friend, Beatrice, who fled their dreary lives for a more glamorous one. 

Yet Crow Island is brimming with temptation, and the biggest one may be her enigmatic new neighbor. 

Mysterious and alluring, Emmeline Delacroix is a figure shadowed by rumors of witchcraft. And when Annie witnesses a confrontation between Bea and Emmeline at one of the island’s extravagant parties, she is drawn into a glittering, haunted world. A world where the boundaries of wickedness are tested, and the cost of illicit magic might be death.


Title : Wild and Wicked Things
Author : Francesca May
Format : Physical
Page Count : 432
Genre : Fantasy/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Orbit Books
Release Date : March 31, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Blood, bodies and darkness
Friendships tested
Heritage

This book threw the reader into Annie’s world post WW1, a different version, one with magic but magic that was pretty much outlawed. An inheritance took Annie away from her frugal home on the coast to an island where her father’s property and belongings awaited her. This new place was full of decadence, forbidden things and danger.

Annie’s character had real growth, she moved from obedient young woman, in the shadow of others to an independant thinker and leader in some respects. That part of her she knew was there, the magic, was allowed time to grow. I liked Annie, Emmeline, Nathan and Isobel. I did not like Bea. The sapphic elements were subtle at times but present and important to the story.

To all intents and purposes, this was a historical fantasy thriller. There were many dark moments, some gore, and some real sinister feels at times. It was easy to get swept up then shrink in tension at the dark scenes.

The plot was really curious in terms of the magic, how it worked, how it controlled and I appreciated that the magic in this world was scary in nature. I think many will appreciate the freshness of this story.

Thank you to Orbit Books for the early review copy.

HEARTSTOPPER VOLUME 4 by Alice Oseman

Boy meets boy. Boys become friends. Boys fall in love. The bestselling LGBTQ+ graphic novel about life, love, and everything that happens in between: this is the fourth volume of HEARTSTOPPER, for fans of The Art of Being Normal, Holly Bourne and Love, Simon.

Charlie didn’t think Nick could ever like him back, but now they’re officially boyfriends. Charlie’s beginning to feel ready to say those three little words: I love you.

Nick’s been feeling the same, but he’s got a lot on his mind – not least coming out to his dad, and the fact that Charlie might have an eating disorder.

As summer turns to autumn and a new school year begins, Charlie and Nick are about to learn a lot about what love means.

Heartstopper is about love, friendship, loyalty and mental illness. It encompasses all the small stories of Nick and Charlie’s lives that together make up something larger, which speaks to all of us.


Title : Heartstopper Volume 4
Author : Alice Oseman
Series : Heartstopper
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : YA LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Graphix
Release Date : January 4, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★



Hollis’ 4 star review

This was pure wholesome sweetness. Even though it wasn’t only pure wholesome sweetness and I may have welled up a few times along the way.

Oseman’s balance between that loveliness and the heavier topics (mental illness, eating disorder, self-harm, even homophobia) is pretty much perfect. This one definitely goes a little harder in those heavier issues as things come to a head and we finally get both acknowledgement and action into what Charlie has been battling. It was hard to read about so please take care before picking this one up.

I am so in love with the art style but also really love the choices in how the dialogue and panels are put together. It makes the whole experience so lovely.

If you’ve yet to start this series, please bump it up your TBR! Volume five (coming out sometime this year) will be the final so there’s no better time to start than now. Highly recommend.

BAD JUDGMENT by Sidney Bell

Embry Ford was a quiet, ordinary guy—until tragedy ripped his life apart. Now he’s living under the radar, desperate to hide his identity and determined to learn the truth behind what happened. Even if that means working for—and bedding—a man he loathes.

As a bodyguard to a shadowy arms dealer, Brogan Smith knows distractions can kill as easily as a bullet. But when he sets his eyes on his client’s sexy assistant, he can’t get him out of his mind. Even more unnerving: the closer he gets to Embry, the more Brogan starts to suspect he might be protecting the wrong man.

Embry was sure nothing but vengeance would satisfy him—until Brogan offers him something far more tempting. Now Embry must choose: punish the people who nearly destroyed him or fight for a future with the man who has become his entire world. 


Title : Bad Judgment
Author : Sidney Bell
Format : eBook
Page Count : 359
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ romance / suspense
Publisher : Carina Press
Release Date : September 19, 2016

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

Okay, so, I am once again cheating by stealing big chunks of an old review for this review as I just did a reread of this with two buddies (hi buddies!) and honestly.. other than some in-the-moment-specific commentary, my feelings of this — even five years later! — have not changed. I did downgrade it from a full five to half a point less but honestly that’s just semantics that this point. This book is still fantastic and I’m still pretty trash for this author. Which is a sad thing to say because I have no idea if she has any plans to release any more books. So I must, instead, sit here and hope.. and pine.

I’m sorry, you’re going to have to say that again, because I heard that with the ear that only catches stupid sentences.

But anyway.

Brogan, why the hell are you sending dirty texts to Ford? On MY phone. My mother could have read this! Do you want to get fired? Why did you turn off autocorrect? What is wrong with you?

This book has everything. An OTP that will wreck you in every possible and wonderful way. Seriously hilarious dialogue and banter that is at times silly and ridiculous but so charming and adorable. Such sass oh my god the sass. Mystery, tragic backstory, violence, abuse, thrilling corporate espionage, murder.. yes, it’s all in there to keep you on the edge of your seat, but the friendships, the connections, are what make this story so spectacular and wonderful.

Do you remember the good old days when straight men were too macho and insecure to talk about gay sex? I do. They were nice days.

I’m not saying it isn’t without it’s less awesome moments. There’s definitely elements the reader isn’t supposed to like, and man did I not like them (see above RE abuse), but Bell packs so much into this story to outweigh those little bits, even when they are integral to the plot.

It’s been a really long time since I’ve wanted something badly enough to feel it with my whole body, Mario. I’m not saying it’s not a mistake. I’m saying it might be a mistake worth making. Sometimes mistakes lead to the best moments of your whole existence.

It’s not often that some of the events that occur in darker contemporary reads that feature m/f pairings are echoed in m/m stories and I love how Bell treated the genre equally. I mean, those events aren’t really something to cheer for but the inclusion makes it realistic. I loved the emotion, the pain, the rage, the love, the forgiveness, the impossible to resist heat.. everything was described and shown so beautifully. All these years later I’m still amazed this was the author’s debut because it’s so so strong. The chemistry between these two was just.. and the characters themselves.. ugh, I’m just a mess.

He was utterly, wildly, madly furious with Brogan for making him into this divided creature with hopes and feelings and thoughts of a future.

I really don’t want to give much about the plot away. But the story, using only google-esque search keywords, involves : bodyguards, weapons manufacturing, illicit activities, espionage, looooove, shitty bosses, dog farts, handcuffs, vengeance, pirate pyjamas, and whistleblowing. And a whole lot more than that. 

I don’t have time to deal with whatever is going on with you right now, but later, we’re going to talk about why you’re lying to me. Then we’ll have a separate talk about why you’re such an awful liar, because it’s embarrassing.

If you’ve yet to read this, or yet to read this author at all, I highly suggest you take some corrective action. Her books are almost exclusively a little on the darker end of things, definitely less contemporary romance and more suspense or action romance (I don’t know, there’s probably a specific , but it’s absolutely got enough of everything to always feel balanced and something about her writing.. it just works for me. So much so that after revisiting this world, I want to revisit her other series, like, now. And I think that really says it all.

DELILAH GREEN DOESN’T CARE by Ashley Herring Blake

A clever and steamy queer romantic comedy about taking chances and accepting love—with all its complications—by debut author Ashley Herring Blake.

Delilah Green swore she would never go back to Bright Falls—nothing is there for her but memories of a lonely childhood where she was little more than a burden to her cold and distant stepfamily. Her life is in New York, with her photography career finally gaining steam and her bed never empty. Sure, it’s a different woman every night, but that’s just fine with her.

When Delilah’s estranged stepsister, Astrid, pressures her into photographing her wedding with a guilt trip and a five-figure check, Delilah finds herself back in the godforsaken town that she used to call home. She plans to breeze in and out, but then she sees Claire Sutherland, one of Astrid’s stuck-up besties, and decides that maybe there’s some fun (and a little retribution) to be had in Bright Falls, after all.

Having raised her eleven-year-old daughter mostly on her own while dealing with her unreliable ex and running a bookstore, Claire Sutherland depends upon a life without surprises. And Delilah Green is an unwelcome surprise…at first. Though they’ve known each other for years, they don’t really know each other—so Claire is unsettled when Delilah figures out exactly what buttons to push. When they’re forced together during a gauntlet of wedding preparations—including a plot to save Astrid from her horrible fiancé—Claire isn’t sure she has the strength to resist Delilah’s charms. Even worse, she’s starting to think she doesn’t want to…


Title : Delilah Green Doesn’t Care
Author : Ashley Herring Blake
Series : Bright Falls (book one)
Format : eARC/Paperback
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary LGBTQIAP+ romance
Publisher : Berkley/Little Brown UK
Release Date : February 22, 2022

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

While this wasn’t quite the “wow, new-favourite!” read I had maybe hoped it would be, I would definitely read this author again, so I think that’s still a win.

I think ultimately why this doesn’t rate higher for me is a bit because it’s at times somewhat childish and immature (such as in the case of the plans/hijinks the girls come up with to sabotage their friend’s/sister’s relationship, all towards proving said friend/sister isn’t meant to be with him) but also.. yeah, I don’t know. For a bunch of thirty year olds, somehow, it just read a little young. Maybe it was all the leftover childhood angst that infused it? I don’t know.

I really wanted to root for the romance — heyo, ladies who are super into wanting each other, more of this please — but while I liked both characters in theory, only one really came off the page for me. And that was Delilah. I felt for what Claire was going through, appreciated who she represented (not only a young mother but also having had a child with a man while still being very bi and how that dynamic had zero angst [well, not that kind of angst, at least]), but.. I didn’t really like her beyond the theory? Delilah though.. she broke my heart. She was vibrant and dynamic and I was a little in love with her myself.

Sure, it has a bit of that Cinderella-ish feel to it, and I wish maybe some of the “villains” of the piece had been less campy (maybe this is where I felt the immaturity from, too?) but overall there’s enough emotion to keep this grounded and from veering off in the direction of Too Much. Though some plot points maybe needed A Little More, too.

So, yes, on a whole? Not quite a slam dunk. But I will definitely read on in this series — well, I say series, I imagine it’ll be companion novels for the other friend and then the sister. But either way! I will read.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Great chemistry
Quirky cuteness

This book had all my excitement engaged, I fancied everything about this blurb, the potential of the couple, the small town and returning home vibe and the family complications. In execution, I enjoyed all these elements, just not as much as I’d hoped.

The strengths of this couple for me was that together they brought a quirky cuteness, Delilah brought the strong but untouchable feel to the piece and Claire brought a overwhelmed hot-mess-ness when really she wanted to project capability and organisation. I liked them together, their potential, their chemistry. There were some interesting side characters in Claire’s friendship threesome, especially Astrid, Delilah’s step mother and then the whole marriage scenario. The plot was interesting for sure.

So, all that is really positive but there was just something that made this read drag a bit for me. Honestly, I can’t quite put my finger on it but it took me weeks of picking up and putting down this book to finish and I’m sad about that. I wanted to be totally spun into the story that I couldn’t put it down.

Overall, I came out feeling this was an okay read with some good parts and slow parts.

Thank you to Little Brown for the early review copy.

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