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.

WHERE WE LEFT OFF by Roan Parrish

Leo Ware may be young, but he knows what he wants. And what he wants is Will Highland. Snarky, sophisticated, fiercely opinionated Will Highland, who burst into Leo’s unremarkable life like a supernova… and then was gone just as quickly.

For the past miserable year, Leo hasn’t been able to stop thinking about the powerful connection he and Will shared. So, when Leo moves to New York for college, he sweeps back into Will’s life, hopeful that they can pick up where they left off. What begins as a unique friendship soon burns with chemistry they can’t deny… though Will certainly tries.

But Leo longs for more than friendship and hot sex. A romantic to his core, Leo wants passion, love, commitment—everything Will isn’t interested in giving. Will thinks romance is a cheesy fairytale and love is overrated. He likes his space and he’s happy with things just the way they are, thank you very much. Or is he? Because as he and Leo get more and more tangled up in each other’s lives, Will begins to act like maybe love is something he could feel after all.


Title : Where We Left Off
Author : Roan Parrish
Series : Middle of Somewhere (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 260
Genre : LGBQTIAP+ romance
Publisher : Dreamspinner
Release Date : September 26, 2016

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

On the one hand, though we did not go out with a win, this book — unlike the second — did not give me any déjà vu feelings. So that’s nice.

On the other hand, however, the author made an interesting choice with how this story shook out. In this series finale, we are reunited with secondary characters we met in book one. Leo, a young queer boy living in Holiday, and Will, an older man who has since relocated to New York, and, oh, is Rex’s ex. They had a bit of a flirty dynamic in book one but it was well established nothing would happen due to the age different and how young Leo was. But now, a few years later, Leo is in New York for university and, also, for Will; a man he hasn’t been able to forget.

I skimmed some reviews after finishing this book because I wanted to see why the rating for this one was so much lower than the rest (not that it means anything to me, seeing as I’ve rated all three the same), and wow, readers did not hold back on this one! I’m not spoiling anything, you can go take a look if you’re really interested, but again I’ll just reiterate : Parrish made some interesting choices. I’m not against it or for it, I feel pretty middling, but I completely understand the frustration.

What was a nice change, however, was that for the first time in this series, it wasn’t our POV that I had the hardest time with. I actually did like Leo a lot and really appreciated how the author tracked his coming of age progress. But nor did I hate Will. I could understand his motivations well enough.. to a point. I think there did come a point for things didn’t quite make as much sense as they did in the early stages but.. yeah. Also, the whole thing with his looks, I don’t know, that was strange at times, too.

As an aside, I’m starting to wonder if the author’s current obsessions found their way into the each book; the middle instalment was very preoccupied on Supernatural for a few chapters and this one had a lot of page time dedicated to Felicity. A little weird. Oh well.

If nothing else, I’ve knocked the first series off my Five Series to Finish list and, yeah, to that end, in general, I’m glad to have completed one more series that I started so long ago. They can’t all be winners.

OUT OF NOWHERE by Roan Parrish

The only thing in Colin Mulligan’s life that makes sense is taking cars apart and putting them back together. In the auto shop where he works with his father and brothers, he tries to get through the day without having a panic attack or flying into a rage. Drinking helps. So do running and lifting weights until he can hardly stand. But none of it can change the fact that he’s gay, a secret he has kept from everyone.

Rafael Guerrera has found ways to live with the past he’s ashamed of. He’s dedicated his life to social justice work and to helping youth who, like him, had very little growing up. He has no time for love. Hell, he barely has time for himself. Somehow, everything about miserable, self-destructive Colin cries out to him. But down that path lie the troubles Rafe has worked so hard to leave behind. And as their relationship intensifies, Rafe and Colin are forced to dredge up secrets that both men would prefer stay buried.


Title : Out of Nowhere
Author : Roan Parrish
Series : Middle of Somewhere (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 274
Genre : LGBQTIAP+ romance
Publisher : Dreamspinner
Release Date : February 26, 2016

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

You know that feeling you get when you’re convinced you’ve read something before? But know you actually haven’t read the specific thing you’re reading? That was my experience with Out of Nowhere. This was so familiar and likely means I’ve read something very similar somewhere along the way (not a surprise, hardly anything is unique).

This book takes place parallel to the timeline of book one but focusing in on Colin, one of Daniel’s brothers, back in Philly. If you’ve read book In The Middle of Somewhere, you know Colin is something of a pseudo villain. I say pseudo because he’s got Reasons for why he’s an asshole and we get to spend the entire book waiting for the author to convince us that those Reasons are enough to redeem him.

I’ll admit I preferred the plot and plot elements of this story more than book one but once again I was left feeling a lot less positive feelings about the main character and feeling many positives about the love interest. Which sort’ve makes me dread book three because one time is a fluke but twice is a potential trend.

Colin is a self-loathing closet case who self-harms, in a variety of ways, and twists himself into knots to please his undeserving father. He lives the same day over and over again without consciously realizing he has no expectations for his future because he’s always living a lie. Rafael, meanwhile, has a sordid past he is committed to leaving behind and, with his second chance, he wants to do good. While I could only root so hard for a relationship when I liked only half of the pair, I’ll admit I always enjoyed the interactions between the two men when Rafe was helping Colin figure little things out. Once again, these Mulligan men are finding love with people who are probably too good for them. But that’s the fantasy, right?

Like in book one, I enjoyed the supporting cast of characters, this time the colourful group of queer kids at the youth group where Rafe, and then Colin, work and volunteer. They were a delight. The whole tangent around Supernatural went a little too long but everything else? Great.

The epilogue was probably the worst part of the whole book, though. There was a group interaction between a bunch of couples that was just so painfully awkward and shoehorned in for the sake of tying up some loose ends while also setting up book three. And speaking of which.. I’ll be diving right in and hoping to end this series on a high note!

IN THE MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE by Roan Parrish

Daniel Mulligan is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in—not at home in Philadelphia with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates looked down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Holiday, Northern Michigan, but he’s a city boy through and through, and it’s clear that this small town is one more place he won’t fit in. 

Rex Vale clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his muscular body, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people. 

When the two men meet, their chemistry is explosive, but Rex fears Daniel will be another in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in can be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia, where he discovers a secret that changes the way he understands everything. 


Title : In the Middle of Somewhere
Author : Roan Parrish
Series : Middle of Somewhere (book one)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 416
Genre : LGBQTIAP+ romance
Publisher : Dreamspinner
Release Date : July 10, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

Having just demolished a long (loooong) fantasy series, I decided to switch gears with a queer romance. And seeing as this particular series is on my Five Series to Finish list for 2022, and book one would be a reread (and thus would only require half the usual brainpower), it couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ll admit I’m going to be stealing a lot of the content from my first review (yes, I had a review for this one!) as though my rating has changed, the majority of my feelings have not.

Even back in 2016, when I was far newer to queer romance, I wasn’t as in love with this one as I might have otherwise expected.

In The Middle of Somewhere wasn’t bad but it was a little disappointing.  

The romance features a fairly typical match up; Daniel, the brainy mile-a-minute professional, fish out of water, and Rex, the burly, shy, protective, caretaker (as in, he takes care of those around him) who lives a rather isolated life in the woods. I think I probably was less bothered by Daniel all those years ago, though he was far from my favourite at the time, but I’ve come to realize that Daniel is one of my least favourite kind of leads. Switching from intensely vulnerable and uncertain to preppy and sophisticated to scrappy and cussing often in the same breath. And, oof, wow did his crazy rambles make my eyes glaze over. And as this is told from his POV, and his POV only, that resulted in a bit of frustration. Though he, too, was something of a typical archetype, I did really like Rex, Daniel’s love interest; but it’s also hard not to because for all his issues he’s pretty much perfect. Ginger, Daniel’s best friend, was good fun in that quirky female bestie kind of way.

This series opener did seem a little drama/’everything in my life was or is awful’ heavy but I think that’s natural in a book where the plot is very emotionally driven — even if I wasn’t terribly emotionally moved by it all. However, that may be because I did find this to be a very long book (and, I mean, it is long, over four hundred pages). Other than two major events, the one that brings Daniel to Holiday and another which I won’t spoil, not a lot happens. And what does seem to occur in the day to day wasn’t super interesting (Daniel is an english professor and a lot of time is spent focusing on his classes and his own schooling while also revealing how he’s mostly useless at life). I felt the story got rather bogged down in the middle and, for some reason, seemed repetitive with information; and those rambles. See aforementioned eyes glazing over. I’m not afraid to admit I skimmed certain passages that I knew were not critical to the story. And hey, they weren’t! I didn’t miss a thing.

My original review went on to say the romance between these leads was sweet and I don’t really disagree but all these years later.. it isn’t memorable or any kind of a standout. But it’s comfortable and did what it set out to do. And past me was right! This did not find it’s way onto my list of must-reads. In fact, after this reread, I’m sorta regretting prioritizing this series. Oh well. Onto book two!

GIRLS OF FATE AND FURY by Natasha Ngan

The epic romance of Lei and Wren comes to a breathtaking conclusion in the explosive finale to the acclaimed, New York Times bestselling Girls of Paper and Fire series.

‘Don’t struggle, Lei-zhi. It’s time to take you back to the Hidden Palace. You’re going home.’

The jaw-dropping conclusion to Girls of Storm and Shadow left the fates of Lei and Wren hanging in the balance. There’s one thing Lei knows – she can never return to the Hidden Palace. The trauma and tragedy she suffered behind those opulent walls will plague her forever. She cannot be trapped there with the sadistic king again, especially without Wren.

The last time Lei saw the girl she loved, Wren was fighting an army of soldiers in a furious battle to the death.

With the two girls torn apart and each in great peril, will they reunite at last, or have their destinies diverged forever? 


Title : Girls of Fate and Fury
Author : Natasha Ngan
Series : Girls of Paper and Fire (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date : November 30, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 2 star review

“Anyway, suffice it to say I’m still waiting to be won over by this series and at this stage I can only hope it ends well. It’s a pretty low bar for me at this point.

That was how I left off my review for book two in 2019. Suffice it to say.. hopes were dashed. Having said that, though, this was not the series for me and I think I mostly knew that by book one. So no one is surprised by this result and also, you know, grain o’salt.

Also please note I’m only putting in this low-bar effort to review because we have reviews for the first two books on the blog. Otherwise this likely would’ve only existed on GR. Aren’t you all lucky.

I found the first half of this finale to be an utter and total slog to get through — true, I could remember almost nothing about how book two ended, or much about book two in general because it being a journey-centric instalment. But I soon remembered enough to get by. And even still, despite the bonus of having a new POV, nothing sparked joy or excitement. There was some minor enjoyment, or at least I was dialled in, for about twenty percent near the middle, but once that had passed.. more slog. Somehow, despite everything going on, especially a certain reveal near to the end, there was so intensity. There was no dramatic sense of stakes or danger or anything. Which I think is my whole issue with both the story and the writing : while sometimes emotion is conveyed, I can never actually feel it.

I can absolutely understand why people not only love this world but also the representation found within the pages as well as identifying with the characters. I appreciate all of those things. But that’s as far as it goes.

I doubt I’ll read this author again but I’m glad to have completed this series, and have one less unfinished story hanging over my head.

SOMETHING FABULOUS by Alexis Hall – double review!

From the acclaimed author of Boyfriend Material comes a delightfully witty romance featuring a reserved duke who’s betrothed to one twin and hopelessly enamoured of the other.

Valentine Layton, the Duke of Malvern, has twin problems: literally.

It was always his father’s hope that Valentine would marry Miss Arabella Tarleton. But, unfortunately, too many novels at an impressionable age have caused her to grow up…romantic. So romantic that a marriage of convenience will not do and after Valentine’s proposal she flees into the night determined never to set eyes on him again.

Arabella’s twin brother, Mr. Bonaventure “Bonny” Tarleton, has also grown up…romantic. And fully expects Valentine to ride out after Arabella and prove to her that he’s not the cold-hearted cad he seems to be.

Despite copious misgivings, Valentine finds himself on a pell-mell chase to Dover with Bonny by his side. Bonny is unreasonable, overdramatic, annoying, and…beautiful? And being with him makes Valentine question everything he thought he knew. About himself. About love. Even about which Tarleton he should be pursuing. 


Title : Something Fabulous
Author : Alexis Hall
Series : Something Fabulous (book one?)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 363
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ historical romance
Publisher : Montlake
Release Date : January 25, 2022

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


Hollis’ 3 star review

This read was a bit of a peaks and valleys situation for me. How I was feeling when this book started was not how I felt all throughout but definitely by the end I had come back around so many times that I ended on the same note I began. Which is to say.. it was fine.

You doubt my capacity? How infirm do you think I am?
I never said you were infirm. You’re very firm. Almost.. excessively firm, really.
I understand you’re trying to be reassuring, but stop it at once.

But there was so much greatness in and around the fine-ness.

What really ruined this for me was our male love interest’s sister, the one Valentine, our protagonist, is meant to be marrying. While we do — riiiight near the end — get some general insight as to what is driving her, beyond the obvious, to avoid this marriage, I’ll admit.. the damage had long been done. She was just too frustrating and ridiculous and dramatic and honestly I was glad we didn’t have more scenes with her than we did.

I’m relieved that one of you at least is blessed with some modicum of sense.
I mean, she could be captured by pirates or highwaymen or.. or vampires or anything.”
Forgive me, I spoke prematurely.”

Whereas Valentine, our Duke, for all that he was seemingly in the wrong.. I didn’t think he deserved half his bad rep? He broke my heart more often than not. Maybe that’s the benefit of having his perspective vs the others but honestly he didn’t deserve the half of it.

The twin, Bonny, well. He was a slowburn warm up, at least for me. I was tickled by his early interactions and then just mildly tolerant but overall I did enjoy him. He was definitely the right amount of outlandish sunshine-y silliness to Valentine’s.. well, Valentine.

I can’t believe you like me.”
If it’s any consolation, neither can I.

I will warn you that this is a bit ridiculous, a lot of camp, even some satire. Hall deploys all the usual tropes with a twist while also making this historical incredibly and enthusiastically, and unabashedly, queer. But heavy emphasis on the silly and ridiculous. Just know that going in.

I wish I had loved this a little more but Belle honestly did too much damage to my sanity to rate this higher. But. The good times? Were great. As was most of the banter. I’m not at all mad about the time I spent with this one. I don’t quite know if it’s to be a series, not GR definitely lists a “one” next to the series, so I’m keen to see who we would read about next. But if it’s Belle’s story.. well. Maybe not.

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


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Silliness and camptastic
A romp across the country
Irritation to more

Stow your serious side as you enter into Something Fabulous. It’s silly but endearingly entertaining all the same. It had shades of the ridiculous but again, you tolerate it for the ride. These two characters, a lesson in rubbing one another up the wrong way were such polar opposites.

Valentine was the pompous Duke who seemed to have little insight into his own sexual preferences, desires and he had no idea how others perceived him. Self awareness was not his forte and was his early downfall in the marriage stakes. Bonny was all contrast, overtly aware of who he was, what he liked and he seemed to like Valentine.

Their banter seemed to multiply exponentially which sometimes proved a bit much for my tastes but overall, I had plenty of laughs along with these two. I did not have laughs with Belle, Bonny’s sister however. Reading this I would go from snickers to annoyance in a few pages and that dragged my enjoyment down. It took me a while to read this one and I’m blaming Belle in the background and foreground!

Thank you to the publisher through netgalley for an early review copy.

LOVE AND OTHER DISASTERS by Anita Kelly

The first openly nonbinary contestant on America’s favorite cooking show falls for their clumsy competitor in this delicious romantic comedy debut “that is both fantastically fun and crack your heart wide open vulnerable.” (Rosie Danan, author of The Roommate)

Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she’s focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money.

After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan.

As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.


Title : Love And Other Disasters
Author : Anita Kelly
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : Contemporary Romance/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Headline Eternal
Release Date : January 18, 2022

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Great characterisation
Finding the real
Sweetness

I requested this book for the non-binary MC and for me, that element and the romantic connection was the thing I enjoyed most about this book. London was a grumpy, serious then often sweet character. Delilah was wildly flamoyant with anxious tendencies which made for an interesting mix as a couple.

The context of the cooking show had me somewhat disinterested and that’s probably because I’ve read a few this year, so I just wasn’t ready for another. I didn’t feel like we saw a great depth to the other characters in the story but Delilah and London were strong.

It was interesting seeing London and Delilah throw off their baggage, previous lives and find some new reality, I welcomed those parts. Overall this was enjoyable but it didn’t blow me away.

Please check out queer reviewers on this title.

Thank you to Headline Eternal for the review copy.

HERE’S TO US by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

In the follow-up to their charming NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER, What If It’s Us, best friends Adam Silvera (They Both Die At The End) and Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda) reunite to give Arthur and Ben another shot at true love.

From the creator of 13 Reasons WhyWhat If It’s Us is soon to be a feature film!

Ben has spent his first year of college working on his fantasy manuscript with his writing partner Mario, who is a great Spanish tutor, and an even better kisser. So why can’t he stop thinking about the fact that Arthur’s back in town two years after they called it quits?

Arthur is in New York for a dream internship on Broadway, with a boyfriend back at home that he couldn’t be happier with. But when he comes upon Ben cuddled up with a mystery boy, he starts to wonder if his feelings for Ben ever truly went away. 

Even as the boys try to focus on their futures, they can’t seem to help running into each other in the present. Is the universe forcing them to question if they’re actually meant to be?

Possibly not. After all, things didn’t work the first time around.
Possibly yes. After all, the sparks are still flying.
Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith and raise a glass.

Here’s to celebrating old friends!
Here’s to embracing new beginnings!
Here’s to believing in second chances!


Title : Here’s To Us
Author : Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera
Series : What If It’s Us #2
Format : Physical
Page Count : 472
Genre : Contemporary YA/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Simon & Schuster Children’s UK
Release Date : December 28, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headline:
All the sweet, cute and complicated you need
A web of friendly connections
Second chances

“People don’t warn you that heartbreak is a chronic condition. Maybe it quiets down a little over time, or you can muffle it with distance, but the ache never quite dials down to zero.”

Here’s To Us was the sequel I always needed on finishing What If It’s Us. We needed to know what would happen for Ben and Arthur and this second installment landed the reader a jump onwards.

Albertalli & Silvera managed to age up these two and their crowd of friends and yet it still felt YA. I appreciated the smattering of increased emotional maturity, that is until these two tried to handle their relationships. I really liked Mario and Mikey, the were both stand-up guys and I kind of hated the outcome for them, while wanting the very necessary result. So that sweet also had a slice of bittersweet.

The story was fast-paced, all sweetness and cute with wit and drama added in. The pull of Arthur to Ben and Ben to Arthur was irrefutable. The side characters remained strong in this duet of stories and as well as Mario and Ben, I especially liked Jessie and Dylan.

I felt complete and satisfied on finishing, this sweet and kooky world was fun to inhabit for a second time.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK & Pride Book Tours for the review copy.

IF WE WERE VILLAINS by M.L. Rio

Oliver Marks has just served ten years in jail – for a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the man who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened a decade ago.

As one of seven young actors studying Shakespeare at an elite arts college, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingenue, extra. But when the casting changes, and the secondary characters usurp the stars, the plays spill dangerously over into life, and one of them is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless. 


Title : If We Were Villains
Author : M.L. Rio
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 368
Genre : contemporary mystery
Publisher : Flatiron Books
Release Date : April 11, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

Considering I only recently read The Secret History, after years of build up and anticipation, and had it bomb, I opened my hold of If We Were Villains with some two-fold trepidation; one, because they are so often compared so if I hated (it was one star) the first one, wouldn’t I hate this one? And two, did it make sense to read these so close together, regardless of how I enjoyed them?

And yet here we are with four stars. Which is additionally surprising because for the first third I don’t know that I was really in this story, just along for the ride. But somewhere along the lines it grabbed me and would not let go.

Also, yes, I cried at the end. Let’s just get that out of the way.

But wow, yes, so my biggest takeaway/recommendation would be don’t classify this in the same category as The Secret History. They are definitely aesthetic cousins and there are similarities with the studious fanatic ensemble element but honestly that’s where, for me, it ends. Because in addition to those differences the writing was also vastly superior. I enjoyed these characters, I enjoyed how the narrative was set up, the mystery of it all, and well.. pretty much everything. Except the stuff that broke my heart, that was rude. But in a good way.

Probably the strangest thing, however, was that the majority of this book takes place in 1997 and yet it never felt like it. Neither timeline felt like any particular time and so it feels strange to even mention a distinct year. It will likely help it to endure, to not be bogged down by referenced, but I wonder why the distinction was ever made. I’ll have to check out reviews and see if my little brain missed something.

Having said that, my brief skimming of reviews did reveal that the biggest hurdle of this book for other readers was a lack of familiarity with the subject matter; and while I get that, I cannot claim to be an expert or even an intermediary on the subject of Shakespeare, and yet it still worked for me. I think this is going to be a very hit or miss thing for each reader with or without knowledge of the Bard. But that’s just my two cents.

I will be very keen to read whatever this author comes out with next and, being that this released back in 2017, I’m sure there’s a very long queue to join in anticipation over whatever that might be.

A MARVELLOUS LIGHT by Freya Marske – double review!

Red White & Royal Blue meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in debut author Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light, featuring an Edwardian England full of magic, contracts, and conspiracies.

Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.

Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.

Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.


Title : A Marvellous Light
Author : Freya Marske
Series : The Last Binding #1
Format : Physical ARC / eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : Historical Fantasy/LGBTQIAP+
Publisher : Tor Books
Release Date : December 9, 2021

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


Micky’s 3.5 -4 star review

A Marvellous Light really was a great debut novel, bringing that genre I love of historical fantasy and spotlighting a gay relationship in that era. This was the kind of read that I liked as soon as I dipped my toe into but it still took me a little while to truly get into it. When I did, I appreciated the unfolding magical world in historical England and most of all, I adored the connection that began to evolve between Edwin and Robin.

Looking back over the story as a whole, the plot really was rather clever. If I had moments of fogginess over what was happening, clarity did come without me feeling overly confused. The rules of the magical world and what was happening with Robin had a pressing sense of urgency, I was willing things to resolve. There was intelligence and wit throughout.

I can’t believe we were almost killed by a hedge.”

These two really were chalk and cheese, both in magical power and lack of but also in personality, physicality and communication. I particularly loved Robin, his openness, generosity of feeling and willingness to go with the flow. The chemistry between these two rose off the page…

“You are the most fascinating thing in this beautiful house. I’d like to introduce my fists to whoever taught you to stop talking about the things that interest you.”

There were a few periods in the book that felt a bit pacey, but if you feel that too, it’s worth pushing through. I didn’t like Edwin’s family at all and some of that focus was longer reading for me.

I would definitely recommend this read to you. It read authentically in terms of context and culture to my knowledge (and limitations) and I’m really pleased this is a series. I’ll be turning up for the next book!

Thank you to Tor Books and Black Crow PR for the review copy.


Hollis’ 3 star review

Just need to get this out of the way : I don’t think this ever should’ve been compared to Red, White & Royal Blue. It shouldn’t have been in the pitch. Prior to reading the book it made me hesitant to pick this up and post-reading the book I’m just perplexed.

That caveat aside, I did struggle with this book which made the times when I was really enjoying it a bit of a bummer because it would inevitably take a dip into a less enjoyable section or get a bit bogged down. But considering it’s a series and it sounds like there’s a lot of moving parts and things to reveal and overcome, a battle even maybe, I understand there’s a lot to set up. Having said that, I might’ve liked less emphasis on the romance knowing we had more books to come and therefore more time to let the romance breathe. I did enjoy it but also.. I wouldn’t have been bothered by some added yearning as opposed to resolving most (I assume..) relationship issues within the opening instalment.

What I didn’t have a problem with, however, was how the plot conflict was handled near the end. I disliked a huge portion of the characters in the story, as we’re meant to, and dragged my feet through a lot of the middle because of those scenes, but there was a fist pump moment with how deftly and cleverly one of the villains of the piece got their ass handed to them. It showed a lot of foresight for what these protagonists know they are to face and it was a “lose the battle to win the war” bit of craftiness that I adored and is so rarely seen in fantasy.

Another thing I adored? A certain house/cottage. While the magic system and a lot of the worldbuilding was somewhat interesting, though also at times kind of vague (maybe that’s just me?), I am hoping this house and the magic around it is a clue that things aren’t quite how they appear at first glance. Because I am so here for that.

I am looking forward to reading on in this series but, between the hype and the interesting choice in comp, just be wary going into this one that it doesn’t oversell itself before you cash out.

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