CROSSED by Eliza Crewe

War is here.

Full-scale war has erupted between the Crusaders and demons and even Chi has to admit isn’t going well. Like any sensible rat, Meda’s eager to abandon the sinking ship but, unfortunately, her friends aren’t nearly as pragmatic. Instead, Meda’s forced to try to keep them all alive until the dust settles.

As the Crusaders take more and more drastic measures, the tables turn and Meda suddenly finds herself in the role of voice of sanity. No one is more horrified than she is. When old enemies reappear as new allies and old friends become new enemies Meda has to decide—again—whose side she’s really on.

And then the Crusaders decide that Meda should go to Hell. Literally.

Can’t a monster ever catch a break?


Title : Crossed
Author : Eliza Crewe
Series : Soul Eaters (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 346
Genre : YA paranormal fantasy
Publisher : Strange Chemistry
Release Date : August 13, 2015

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

I definitely expected this ending to be unexpected but the fact that it was also delightful and delicious? So good.

I have seen too much good in my enemies, too much evil in my allies.

Obviously there’s even less I can say about this finale than the books that came before because I in no way want to spoil the surprises that await you. But just know.. they await. Patiently.

It’s this, my own depravity, that makes me unable to condemn others for theirs, that makes me want to believe that no matter what mistakes I make, that there is forgiveness. There is hope.

This series has a snarky hilarious narrative built around our not-at-all innocent soul eater, a half demon, Meda. It has strong female friendships that are complicated by differences and realness but endure nonetheless. It has an interesting and complex romantic element that constantly surprised me. It has darkness and violence but also hope and light. And so much more.

Just as the Crusaders are plagued with hate, demons are afflicted with hope. The equal opposite nature of the cosmic game board means no one is above reproach, and no one is below it.

If you’re looking to beef up your backlist reading, you love YA, and you enjoy a twist on the usual formula; if you love to revel in some excellent dialogue around good and evil, the truths we avoid and the lies we tell ourselves, no matter what side we’re on, this would be a high recommend from me.



KINGDOM OF GODS by N.K. Jemisin

For two thousand years the Arameri family has ruled the world by enslaving the very gods that created mortalkind. Now the gods are free, and the Arameris’ ruthless grip is slipping. Yet they are all that stands between peace and world-spanning, unending war. 


Title : Kingdom of Gods
Author : N.K. Jemisin
Series : Inheritance Trilogy (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 613
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : October 11, 2011

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 3 star review

I’m trying not to be bummed because three stars is still a good rating (and I think I’m an outlier, on a brief scan of ratings on GR) but this just didn’t satisfy me the way books one and two did.

I’ve mentioned in my other review that the way book two fit into book one was different but still connected. Well that trend continues with book three but this one steps even further away from the major themes that connected those earlier instalments. This one also shifts gears in the particular perspective we follow.

Regardless of my liking of it, though, it’s impossible to argue against the fact that Jemisin did really interesting things with this. We really delved into the meat of her world, her characters, and the division between her mortals and her gods and all from the perspective of a character we’ve grown to love up until this point. But while I appreciated some new facets to him, and again a better understanding of the way it all worked, I think the problem was I just wasn’t as compelled by him; or the new characters we met along the way.

But again, it was all interesting.

It can’t be said Jemisin isn’t creative as hell and what she does with her concepts, the narratives and explorations, not to mention her late stage reveals, are just brilliant. And while I dragged my feet a bit, and didn’t love the (long) journey of this one every step of the way, I did actually like the ending. It’s such a change from where we started and I love that.

And it’s not over! I actually have two novellas still to complete but I don’t think I’ll do much reviewing of them unless they blow me away. So thus concludes the last series on my latest Five On Our TBRs list. Super glad I gave myself the push to get through this and don’t regret a single moment of it. If you’ve read to read Jemisin, if you’ve yet to read this debut series of hers, don’t delay. I highly recommend.

FATED BLADES by Ilona Andrews

An uneasy alliance between warring families gets heated in this otherworldly novella from bestselling author Ilona Andrews.

At first glance, the planet Rada seems like a lush paradise. But the ruling families, all boasting genetically enhanced abilities, are in constant competition for power―and none more so than the Adlers and the Baenas. For generations, the powerful families have pushed and pulled each other in a dance for dominance.

Until a catastrophic betrayal from within changes everything.

Now, deadly, disciplined, and solitary leaders Ramona Adler and Matias Baena must put aside their enmity and work together in secret to prevent sinister forces from exploiting universe-altering technology. Expecting to suffer through their uneasy alliance, Ramona and Matias instead discover that they understand each other as no one in their families can―and that their combined skills may eclipse the risks of their forbidden alliance.

As the two warriors risk their lives to save their families, they must decide whether to resist or embrace the passion simmering between them. For now, the dance between their families continues―but just one misstep could spell the end of them both. 


Title : Fated Blades
Author : Ilona Andrews
Series : Kinsmen (book three)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 222
Genre : fantasy sci-fi romance
Publisher : Montlake
Release Date : November 23, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

So, listen, this might not measure up to other books by these authors that I’ve given four stars to but it feels like it’s been a hundred years since they published a book (time has no meaning anymore) and I started having a good time almost immediately after starting it, and said good times pretty much didn’t stop, so. It gets a four.

He felt a sudden urge to do something dramatic and impressive. He needed to get ahold of himself.

I probably should’ve reread the preceding novellas to see if there was, in fact, any carry-over or easter eggs in this one because as far as I can remember the first two were completely unconnected, beyond being set in the same universe, and this one feels the same. I’ll leave it to my blog buddy to confirm this, though, as she’s read them more recently than me.

All you really need to know is this is Andrews but sci-fi. The world, the hierarchies, it’s all pretty much explained in this novella so if you choose to start here, you aren’t going in with a loss of context. Everything relevant you need is here.

Am I seeing things? Clearly this is just a weirdly specific bad dream, one where two people who hate each other team up to bust into my office and destroy my prized furniture.

Oh, and also? It’s an enemies-to-lovers romance but more in the sense that the enmity is inherited, not personal, and they have to come together in an extreme situation when they are both, similarly, betrayed. The journey takes them through a reluctant teaming up, to respect, to.. well, more. Obviously.

If you like action scenes, if you like family politics, if you like snark and banter, if you like my-enemy-is-my-enemy-but-I’m-making-them-my-friend dynamics, and also if you can’t infer the other trope I won’t list by the title..? Well, just give it a think.

This is a very biased review because there are so few books by this duo I don’t enjoy and I would honestly read their grocery list and probably have a good time. And I make no apologies for it. If you haven’t yet joined the Andrews bandwagon, what are you waiting for?

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

CRUSHED by Eliza Crewe

Meda Melange has officially hung up her monstrous mantle and planted her feet firmly on the holy and righteous path of a Crusader-in-training. Or, at least, she’s willing to give it a shot. It helps that the Crusaders are the only thing standing between her and the demon hordes who want her dead.

The problem is, the only people less convinced than Meda of her new-found role as Good Girl are the very Crusaders she’s trying to join. So when a devilishly handsome half-demon boy offers escape, how’s a girl supposed to say “no?”

After all, everyone knows a good girl’s greatest weakness is a bad boy.

uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny… she may finally give into it.


Title : Crushed
Author : Eliza Crewe
Series : Soul Eaters (book two)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 271
Genre : YA paranormal fantasy
Publisher : Strange Chemistry
Release Date : August 5, 2014

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 3.5 (rounded up) star review

So, yes, I’ll admit the rating on this one may be a bit confusing but I’ll explain. This one is not quite as satisfyingly all around excellent as book one but nonetheless it’s still really good. Which is why it’s rounding up. But within the ranking of the series it’s worth noting this is not quite on par.

Having said that, Crewe had already shown she was willing to do things differently with this series and she continues that trend and then some. While things in this world are pretty black and white, despite some book one teasing about the good guys willing to lie, cheat, and steal, as long as their intentions were honourable or purposeful to the cause, this one really leans into the extremes for which both sides will go to win. And for Meda, who is half demon and half good, with a third important element within her at play, this is a dangerous place to be; especially when she’s chosen the side she’s chosen.

Contrary to what you might expect, I don’t go on a murderous rampage. A real monster is too clever for that. A real monster shakes the hands of elderly couples as he invests their life’s savings in his Ponzi scheme; she kisses babies and runs for political office; he waits until she’s in love. A real monster knows that an attack huts; but a betrayal scars.

It’s not easy being caught up amongst the stirrings of a war and she learns she doesn’t fit anywhere. Worse, her best friend, doesn’t seem to be standing with her, either. And that’s the final straw. Something’s got to give.

I can’t be good, but apparently I can’t be mad, either. I’m a wasted half of everything.

Honestly, I’ll admit, the first half of this book was hard. It was hard seeing Meda stuck where she was and at the mercy of those around her. Specifically there was a possession scene that had me crawling out of my skin. It was just.. wow. Huge kudos. This series, for all its darkness and violence and death, has never felt truly dark or horror-ish but that moment was it for me. Hoo boy.

But, don’t worry, the humour was still here too. Meda’s voice is a little less cheeky, mostly because of her circumstances, but it’s still there. And there’s heartbreak, too, that was so beautifully done. Again, this author is really challenging our expectations for the usual plotlines and expectations of how things go, particularly with YA.

Super excited to see how Crewe wraps this in book three because I have a feeling more unexpected excellence is awaiting me but I won’t have to wait long because yes I’m diving right in.

THE BROKEN KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin

In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a homeless man who glows like a living sun to her strange sight. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. 

Oree’s peculiar guest is at the heart of it, his presence putting her in mortal danger — but is it him the killers want, or Oree? And is the earthly power of the Arameri king their ultimate goal, or have they set their sights on the Lord of Night himself?


Title : The Broken Kingdoms
Author : N.K. Jemisin
Series : Inheritance Trilogy (book two)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : November 3, 2010

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

And here I was just saying how book one hadn’t been as devastating as other Jemisin works. Welp, eating my words a little here. Nom.

I had a weird time with this book because while it was so different from book one, it was also great. Yet I had a hard time focusing on it despite that. Probably a me thing. Though there could’ve also been a bit of a middle lull. But I’m not shaving off any points because overall I’m so enjoying this story. And also because the last 15%? I devoured. And I was aforementioned devastated by.

I definitely shouldn’t have doubted this author because how the hell did we end book one with a very clear horrible villain and here I am in book two.. feeling bad for them?

While I couldn’t have predicted how this series tied together after The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, it makes so much sense now. I may have been overthinking it because, haha, in hindsight it’s obvious. Also not quite as mind-bendy as the narrative in her other series, which is fine, because again, I think this is a more palatable and easier fantasy to follow and process. But that doesn’t make it any less interesting or special or challenging or thought provoking.

It’s all very well to say the world values reason and compassion and justice, but if nothing in reality reflects those words, they’re meaningless.

It’s been ten years since the end of the big shake-up, the end of book one, and in The Broken Kingdoms we follow Oree, who is blind but able to navigate to some degree due to her ability to see the echoes and presence of magic. She lives in the shadow of the World Tree, under the city where book one took place, which is city now populated by godlings. Some are her friends, another was a lover, and so when godlings start dying, Oree is caught in the middle of it. Made worse by the presence of a stranger she rescues who won’t speak, isn’t a godling, but is something.. else.

Watching the way things played out in the aftermath of book one was, in some ways, somewhat predictable, based on the geas, but in other ways? Not at all.

Even now, with a better understanding of the way this series is piecing itself together, I can’t predict what might await us in book three. Mostly because I’m sure Jemisin has some surprises along the way. And hopefully some more devastations. Because what can I say, she does them well, and I like the pain.

THE KINSMEN UNIVERSE by Ilona Andrews

** PREVIOUSLY PUBLISHED – This is an anthology edition of the Kinsmen Universe, which includes SILENT BLADE, SILVER SHARK, plus a new short story, and three original illustrations.**

Family is everything. Talent is power. And revenge is sweet.

In a distant, future world Kinsmen-small powerful groups of genetically and technologically advanced families-control vast financial empires. They are their own country, their own rulers, and their only limits are other Kinsmen. The struggle for power is a bloody, full-contact sport: in business, on the battlefield…and sometimes in the bedroom.

Silent Blade
Old hatreds die hard. Old love dies harder.

On the planet Rada, Meli Galdes’ family is of minor rank, and were relying on her marriage to Celino, the razor-smart, ruthless leader of the powerful Carvanna empire. When he abruptly breaks their engagement, he ruins her family and guarantees that Meli will never marry, as no suitor will oppose the rich and influential Carvannas.

But Meli has a rare, secret, lethal-and valuable-talent. As a melder of energy, she’s capable of severing anything in her path. So she ‘leaves’ her family and trains to become one of the best and most lethal of assassins, all the while covertly guarding her family’s interests. Now she’s ready to quit; but she has one more assignment.

To kill the man who ruined her life.

Silver Shark
Claire Shannon is a killer…and her weapon is her mind.

Born on a planet torn by war for over 300 years, Claire is a soldier: a psycher, with the ability to read, control, and destroy the minds of enemy psychers and to infiltrate the biological network where they battle to death.

When Claire’s faction loses the war, she barely escapes extermination from both sides, as her talent brands her as too dangerous to society. By so-deeply burying her ability that she avoids detection, Claire is instead deported to Rada as a refugee, where she must find work to remain. She finds a job as personal assistant to Venturo Escana, a premiere kinsman; one of Rada’s most wealthy entrepreneurs—and most powerful psychers.

She thought she had left war behind, but now she must hide her skills and her growing feelings from Venturo…and this battle might just cost her everything…

A Mere Formality
The leader of the fierce Reigh people expires during an intergalactic summit, putting 30 million colonists’ lives and livelihoods in jeopardy. When the new heir to the Reigh throne, Lord Nagrad, demands restitution, the phrase “‘a life for a life” turns the intergalactic calamity into an arranged marriage contract between Lord Nagrad and sharply intelligent diplomatic analyst Deirdre Lebed… and the negotiation of terms becomes anything but formal!


Title : The Kinsmen Universe
Author : Ilona Andrews
Series : Kinsmen #1 -#2.5
Format : ebook
Page Count : 235
Genre : Sci-Fi Romance
Publisher : NYLA
Release Date : December 31, 2018

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Micky’s 4 star review

I was feeling all slumpy and Ilona Andrews helped me through the weekend (again). Each installment featured couples in the same universe, sometimes with a little crossover. It was delicious sci-fi with a good dollop of romance. What’s pretty special with this ebook boxing of the three stories is that you get some beauiful illustrations that I can imagine are amazing in the physical book too.

This book is three elements wrapped up in one book:

Silent Blade:
This novella would have got a 4 star rating on it’s own for me. A quick transportation to a new world, easy to fathom with a couple crafted from Andrews gold. I was sad to leave these two behind and wanted to see them in the next story.

Silver Shark:
I didn’t get my wish, this was a different couple and a different perspective to these planets, but after 5 minutes of reading and hoping for the previous couple, I was wrapped up in the new guys. This story focused on psychic powers and a scary place called the bionet, less scary than real life on two warring planets though. I would happily read more into the world of both the two first couples.

A Mere Formality: I was more meh aboout this one, a very short story in the universe but it didn’t capture the magic of the previous two. That said, I’m all set for Fated Blades which is out soon.

THE HUNDRED THOUSAND KINGDOMS by N.K. Jemisin

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.


Title : The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Author : N.K. Jemisin
Series : Inheritance Trilogy (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 417
Genre : fantasy
Publisher : Orbit
Release Date : February 25, 2010

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★  


Hollis’ 4 star review

So this was a reread for me but only in the loosest of terms because I didn’t remember a thing about it. But not only did tackling this series satisfy my completionism, even though I hadn’t added this to my Series to Finish list, it was also recently pushed high on my TBR after having read her Broken Earth trilogy last year. I had previously slapped this instalment with a three on GR but not reviewed it; past-me’s thoughts? Who knows.

And hoo boy. I think I actually loved this more than the opening of her other series? And to discover it was actually her debut? Mind blown.

It is blasphemy to separate oneself from the earth and look down on it like a god. It is more than blasphemy; it is dangerous. We can never be gods, after all — but we can become something less than human with frightening ease.

This is definitely a series that, so far, is much more accessible than the Broken Earth trilogy; for all that I love and respected that series, I do think the more it went on, the more I lost the thread. It was just too big, maybe (probably) too smart for me. This one is great but it is, in some ways, more typically what we expect from fantasy. And this is not an insult.

This library must hold all the knowledge of the world.”
A few millennia worth, from a few pockets of humanity, nothing more. And that picked and sorted, trimmed and twisted to suit the tastes of those in power.
There’s truth even in tainted knowledge, if one reads carefully.”
Only if one knows the knowledge is tainted in the first place.”

The story itself isn’t unlike the narration of Jemisin’s other series wherein there is something telling us a story, or reliving it themselves, and so there is some jumping around, little hints, warnings, to come. And then also conversations outside the story itself. I love this kind of storytelling because it compels and cajoles and, at least in my case, causes me to devour the book. Case in point, this was a two sitting read for me.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms deals with loss, betrayals, and traumas; in this world there was once Three, only for one to commit murder and then — for simplicity’s sake — punish the other by confining him, and their offspring, into mortal bodies, leaving only One. We meet Yeine, who is mourning her mother’s death, enroute to the main city, the seat of the ruling class of people; of which she is directly descended and now one of three heirs to the throne. Of course, nothing is easy, and as she’s from what is referred to as a barbarian country, she is unprepared to be thrown into a political minefield she might not survive.

On the surface, it sounds more or less the standard fantasy format, right? Yes. Sure. But still.. what Jemisin does, what we experience, what her characters are put through, and the secrets they are hiding, are just.. so well done. This is definitely less emotionally devastating than her other series but this was so well paced, so well told, and I fell in love with these gods, monstrous and otherwise, and also Yeine.

With the story having ended the way it did, it makes me very more curious to see how the next books tie into the series on the whole, but having seen what Jemisin’s done in the past (though, technically, her writing future) I have no doubt it’ll all make sense in the end.

Highly recommend, and yes, diving right into book two.

SUMMER SONS by Lee Mandelo

Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom with bleeding wrists that mutters of revenge.

As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble, letting in the phantom that hungers for him.


Title : Summer Sons
Author : Lee Mandelo
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 384
Genre : LGBTQIAP+ horror/thriller
Publisher : Tordotcom
Release Date : September 28, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Imagine the dynamic from Sakavic’s All For The Game mashed up with a certain dreamer and car-loving scoundrel from Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys but set in the American south and transplanted into an academia-focused horror.

That’s basically Summer Sons.

This was a hard one to sink into because when the story opens up you aren’t quite sure how things were between the main character, Andrew, and the man he’s grieving. Brother? Best friend? Lover? The intensity of his focus, his drive, to prove that Eddie was murdered, that he didn’t commit suicide, is.. well it’s intense. And in some ways it’s uncomfortable because the grief is so big, these feelings so intangible (and many unprocessed), and then of course he’s also being haunted, possessed, stalked, by a presence that he thinks — knows — is Eddie.

Thrown into Eddie’s world, his home, with his roommate, and a new group of friends, as well as new school and a graduate program all hand-picked for him, Andrew is suspicious of everything, and everyone, and trying to recreate Eddie’s last days, weeks, months, in the time they were separated. And it all harkens back to what happened to them as children; a mystery that is slow to be revealed.

The ultimate big baddie reveal isn’t quite a surprise but I guess.. I understood the reasons but not the rationale? Maybe there wasn’t one.

This group of characters are an odd mix of destructive, queer, diverse, and with a splash (or four) of recklessness. But somehow you do sorta fall in love with them. I didn’t like them at first, which I think is purposeful given how off balance Andrew is to be there among them and why, and how they tested him back, but I was compelled by them and then, eventually, well. Yeah, I got it. But on the whole it’s a strange mix of themes, vibes, plots, and aesthetics.

The real delight is the road Andrew travels to look back at his relationship with Eddie and how that shaped so much of him, and how it also held him back. There are two distinct ways he gets to relive some key moments and they are both pretty powerful.

While some of the plot dragged, and we endured some repetition, and to be honest the academia stuff didn’t really interest me as a driving force, it was the characters that kept me glued to the page. And while I did enjoy the atmosphere, and the horror elements, it was their character work that is the main draw for me and why I’ll definitely pick up another read by this author.

THE BRONZED BEASTS by Roshani Chokshi

In love they breathed. In destiny they believed. In the end, will divinity be their demise?

After Séverin’s seeming betrayal, the crew is fractured. Armed with only a handful of hints, Enrique, Laila, Hypnos and Zofia must find their way through the snarled, haunted waterways of Venice, Italy to locate Séverin. 

Meanwhile, Séverin must balance the deranged whims of the Patriarch of the Fallen House and discover the location of a temple beneath a plague island where the Divine Lyre can be played and all that he desires will come to pass. 

With only ten days until Laila expires, the crew will face plague pits and deadly masquerades, unearthly songs and the shining steps of a temple whose powers might offer divinity itself… but at a price they may not be willing to pay.


Title : The Silvered Serpents
Author : Roshani Chokshi
Series : The Gilded Wolves (book two)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 416
Genre : YA historical fiction / fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : September 21, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

So the end of this series is here and maybe, after loving book two so much, I should’ve tempered my expectations — after all, book one just wasn’t quite it for me — but honestly I’ve come out the end of this one just.. not knowing really how to feel.

This National Treasure-esque fantasy historical series has always leaned into “too smart for me” territory but I’ve enjoyed, even if I struggled to comprehend, the historical tie-ins, the history, the nuance, and thankfully this one maybe feel less stupid. But my intelligence or lack thereof aside, the series has always been balanced out by the delightful dynamic of the cast of characters (we love an ensemble, she continues to say, ad nauseum!) and after the events of book two, the dynamic sours and takes a turn. I wasn’t mad about it, and it was still enjoyable in its new configuration, but.. I don’t know, something was missing.

Likewise, the big conflict, the thing we’ve been leading towards, the main event if you will.. did I even really understand it? Nope. Could I visualize it? A little. Is that partially my problem? Probably! I plan to read some reviews and see if this just went wrong for everyone or, more likely, it was just me.

Additionally, the ending. How to describe it. Unexpected? Bittersweet? Lovely? It definitely went in a direction I didn’t see coming (hence the unexpectedness) and was a nice resolution to one of the other romances (hence the loveliness), but.. for how it finally did end, that last line, after all the time, all the loss..? Well, yeah, hence the bittersweetness. I also just wonder why. I don’t quite understand. Another thing I’ll be looking for clarity on in some reviews.

So, overall, this was a strange reading experience. But I’m not mad about pushing on to keep reading because the richness of this world, the diversity of the characters, the mystery of it all, the delightful ensemble banter.. there was a lot to enjoy. Would that I had ended up a higher note with it all but at least it’s not a low note! I’ll take the win.

PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMAN by Evie Dunmore

London banking heiress Hattie Greenfield wanted “just” three things in life:

1. Acclaim as an artist.
2. A noble cause.
3. Marriage to a young lord who puts the gentle in gentleman.

Why then does this Oxford scholar find herself at the altar with the darkly attractive financier Lucian Blackstone, whose murky past and ruthless business practices strike fear in the hearts of Britain’s peerage? Trust Hattie to take an invigorating little adventure too far. Now she’s stuck with a churlish Scot who just might be the end of her ambitions….

When the daughter of his business rival all but falls into his lap, Lucian sees opportunity. As a self-made man, he has vast wealth but holds little power, and Hattie might be the key to finally setting long-harbored political plans in motion. Driven by an old revenge, he has no room for his new wife’s apprehensions or romantic notions, bewitching as he finds her.

But a sudden journey to Scotland paints everything in a different light. Hattie slowly sees the real Lucian and realizes she could win everything—as long as she is prepared to lose her heart.

Going toe-to-toe with a brooding Scotsman is rather bold for a respectable suffragist, but when he happens to be one’s unexpected husband, what else is an unwilling bride to do?


Title : Portrait of a Scotsman
Author : Evie Dunmore
Series : A League of Extraordinary Women (book three)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 448
Genre : historical romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : September 7, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

For a historical romance, this was oddly light on romance. Plenty of sexytimes, when we eventually got to that point, but Dunmore spends a lot of the word count on many of the societal issues of the time (some of which are relevant today) — yes, a women’s right to vote has been the guiding star of this whole series, and all that is twisted up with that right, but this instalments shifts to the conditions of the working class, specifically miners, unions, and the wage disparity between the genders of said working class.

You can’t tell me Dunmore doesn’t know her shit or, at the very least, puts in a hell of a lot of hours on research. Much of it was interesting, though perhaps not always compelling, but I appreciated the debates between the two main characters who took to these subjects through the lens of their very different upbringings, perspectives, and privileges.

Where this story was less interesting was the romance. However, this more or less followed the format of Beauty and the Beast or Hades and Persephone so if that dynamic is your catnip, you’ll definitely be hooked — at least by the beginning.

Hattie is definitely something of a departure from the leading ladies of the other books who were, categorically, more radical and easier to identify with because they felt more modern. Whereas Hattie, despite attending Oxford, despite supporting the suffragists movement, faces the very real realization that though she supported the cause for a woman to not be property and possessed by her husband, it takes her own marriage for her to actually understand the fight. She is very much a representation of the women of the time — granted, a certain woman — where she is soft, monied, and comfortable, having been afforded everything in her life up until this point. Which makes her exposure to self-made and rough Lucian, to the small community in the Lowlands and their working conditions, everything, a shift. She is very much the spoiled rich girl getting a wake up call. She’s not ever cruel or terrible with her attitudes — she is, at heart, a good person — but Dunmore does occasionally make her lean into her bratty petulance and she has some less gracious reactions.

Whereas Lucian.. granted, he definitely starts off a villain, he has villainous ways, but the way he starts to lean in (get it!), curve himself around Hattie, even as he unbends; his whole backstory, really, was great. The problem, however, is I didn’t feel Dunmore gave it as much time to breathe. We get a lot of time to unpack much of Lucian along the way as he unravels parts of himself in tribute to Hattie and trying to find equal footing as a result of their less than honest beginnings and yet the big moment, the big confession, doesn’t come from him. Which makes sense but somehow you lose that emotional punch. Which I feel is kind of true for most of this book. There is much to be felt in the bones of this story, the causes, the conditions, the casual cruelty of the culture, but somehow the meat, the emotions, weren’t really present. Add to that fact that the romance only felt charged in the bedroom.. and it feels unbalanced.

Particularly when it came to the a conflict/plotline near the end which, honestly, comes out of nowhere and didn’t fit with the rest. Which then leads into this whole other conflict that just.. I didn’t like. You can see it coming a mile away due to foreshadowing, and it fits in with the formula this story is based around, but. But I would’ve been fine had the formula been altered.

All this long rambling review to say : I really respect and enjoy Dunmore’s commitment to her historical setting. The research, the atmosphere, the subject matter, the critical unpacking of a woman’s lack of agency during this time, everything. Thankfully, unlike book two, this one didn’t stray into grey areas or trip itself up, it’s just in the romance that I felt some of this was lacking. So I’m pleased to say I am going into the possibility of a book four (Catriona?) with higher hopes, more in line with what I expected after book one, and look forward to where Dunmore goes next.

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