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!

GOOD GIRL COMPLEX by Elle Kennedy

She does everything right. So what could go wrong?

Mackenzie “Mac” Cabot is a people pleaser. Her demanding parents. Her prep school friends. Her long-time boyfriend. It’s exhausting, really, always following the rules. Unlike most twenty-year-olds, all she really wants to do is focus on growing her internet business, but first she must get a college degree at her parents’ insistence. That means moving to the beachside town of Avalon Bay, a community made up of locals and the wealthy students of Garnet College.

Mac’s had plenty of practice suppressing her wilder impulses, but when she meets local bad boy Cooper Hartley, that ability is suddenly tested. Cooper is rough around the edges. Raw. Candid. A threat to her ordered existence. Their friendship soon becomes the realest thing in her life.

Despite his disdain for the trust-fund kids he sees coming and going from his town, Cooper soon realizes Mac isn’t just another rich clone and falls for her. Hard. But as Mac finally starts feeling accepted by Cooper and his friends, the secret he’s been keeping from her threatens the only place she’s ever felt at home. 


Title : Good Girl Complex
Author : Elle Kennedy
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : NA contemporary romance
Publisher : St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date : February 1, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 2 star review

I’ll admit, I grabbed this because of the author and the fact that this wasn’t related to the Off-Campus books. Because while I loved that series — though admittedly lost some love with the spin-off — I wanted to see what Kennedy could do in a new space, with new concepts, and different characters.

The answer, however, is.. there wasn’t much new-ness to this.

This is a fairly typical rich girl/good girl/highsociety girl meets poor boy/bad boy/local boy set-up and it does all the things you would expect it to do. There’s nothing groundbreaking or fresh about how this all played out. There doesn’t necessarily have to be — because tropes we all love exist because we like to return to them — but I wanted something new, something different, to make this stand out. Because as is there’s nothing memorable about this and I will likely forget most of it by the time it’s released (reading and reviewing this in September 2021).

At the very least, some exciting chemistry or sizzle could’ve taken the edge off but honestly.. there wasn’t much of that, either. Another thing that did not standout.

If the aforementioned tropes, along with the secret mentioned in the summary (which, though is very early on addressed, I won’t mention due to spoilers), do it for you, I think you’ll enjoy. But I think this is the last Kennedy I’ll request to review; I might still pick up the author if something appeals but I have a feeling I may have outgrown her.

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

THE ROUGHEST DRAFT by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

They were cowriting literary darlings until they hit a plot hole that turned their lives upside down.

Three years ago, Katrina Freeling and Nathan Van Huysen were the brightest literary stars on the horizon, their cowritten books topping bestseller lists. But on the heels of their greatest success, they ended their partnership on bad terms, for reasons neither would divulge to the public. They haven’t spoken since, and never planned to, except they have one final book due on contract.

Facing crossroads in their personal and professional lives, they’re forced to reunite. The last thing they ever thought they’d do again is hole up in the tiny Florida town where they wrote their previous book, trying to finish a new manuscript quickly and painlessly. Working through the reasons they’ve hated each other for the past three years isn’t easy, especially not while writing a romantic novel.

While passion and prose push them closer together in the Florida heat, Katrina and Nathan will learn that relationships, like writing, sometimes take a few rough drafts before they get it right.


Title : The Roughest Draft
Author : Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : January 25, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★


Hollis’ 3 star review

Welp, this one is a wee bit of a bummer. Not that three stars is b a d, she says, endlessly into the void that is her own guilt complex. Ahem. But. Yeah, I definitely through this would wow me a lot more than it did.

This is the Wibbroka duo’s first adult romance so, hey, it’s basically like a debut, so I definitely won’t shy away from picking up their next attempt (please tell me there’s a next attempt) and it certainly won’t put me off their YA titles. But the epic spark and chemistry I expected.. well, it fizzled. Right as the couple got together.

These two writers, once darlings, have split after two books together. Four years have passed and with another book still on contract, and some pressure from Katrina’s fiancée (spoiler, I hated him, and you’re supposed to), not to mention how the buzz might inspire more sales for Nathan’s recent solo offering which.. didn’t flop but is not flying off the shelves, they reunite.

Untangling what went wrong, experiencing their tension, the struggle to fake being friends, even as they slowly become friendly again, the whole dynamic was great. But when we find out what sent them in opposite directions — by the way, we get flashbacks through the story — well. I had feelings. And then when these two finally worked it all out and their relationship changed.. I was.. not underwhelmed but. I was whelmed.

I was really into the concept of this, I enjoyed some the post-working-it-out conflict and unresolved angst of it all, and I especially enjoyed watching these two characters’ method for co-authoring (could it be how the authors themselves right? curious!), but between the fiancée, the letdown of the aforementioned reveals and romance, it just kinda went sideways on me. Part of this could be my expectations, I was hyped for this, but the other part I don’t think is me. So. Make of that what you will!

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

WEATHER GIRL by Rachel Lynn Solomon

A TV meteorologist and a sports reporter scheme to reunite their divorced bosses with unforecasted results in this charming romantic comedy from the author of The Ex Talk.

Ari Abrams has always been fascinated by the weather, and she loves almost everything about her job as a TV meteorologist. Her boss, legendary Seattle weatherwoman Torrance Hale, is too distracted by her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, the station’s news director, to give Ari the mentorship she wants. Ari, who runs on sunshine and optimism, is at her wits’ end. The only person who seems to understand how she feels is sweet but reserved sports reporter Russell Barringer.

In the aftermath of a disastrous holiday party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to solve their bosses’ relationship issues. Between secret gifts and double dates, they start nudging their bosses back together. But their well-meaning meddling backfires when the real chemistry builds between Ari and Russell.

Working closely with Russell means allowing him to get to know parts of herself that Ari keeps hidden from everyone. Will he be able to embrace her dark clouds as well as her clear skies?


Title : Weather Girl
Author : Rachel Lynn Solomon
Format : eARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Berkley
Release Date : January 11, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

It hurts a bit to round down on this one because there is a lot in this story that is deserving of four stars. From the representation to how charming and slow-burny sweet it was and more. But the more I thought about it after having finished the more I started questioning things.

First off, I have to say, this was way better than another “scheme to get our bosses back together” romance I read in the last year. I can’t even remember the title of it, which says a lot, but you probably know the one I mean. This was handled so much better; it wasn’t nearly as manipulative and while their goal was to end some of their own frustration, it was also a plan hatched out of realizing that their bosses still had unresolved feelings. So if that is making you hesitant to pick this up, I think you’ll be happy with how it’s done.

You’re the kind of person who makes other people feel good to be around. That’s a great thing.”
You feel good being around me?
All the time.

Having said that, though, we have another romance marketed as a rom-com and it is.. not. I remember laughing out loud twice, probably at things no one else would laugh at, but overall this is a contemporary with serious topics and situations and romance. I don’t think I’d argue it’s steamy women’s fiction the way I have for other reads, though. It’s just got depth alongside the sex.

Why was abject horniness not listed as a side effect on this medication?

But about that sex, I’ll admit that for me the sexiest scene was one without any sex at all. Barely even touching (each other or themselves). However I did appreciate that their first time is not intercourse and some other elements and discussion around that early scene which I won’t detail. More of this please!

There are tropes to this romance I didn’t know going in, mostly because I’m a #NoBlurbsClub — but also because they aren’t mentioned. And? I loved them. I really did. I enjoyed both of these leads, too, as separate humans. But did I love them together? I.. don’t think so? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that they didn’t fit, I just didn’t feel it. I wanted to but it just didn’t spark. Even as I rooted for them and who they were, the struggles they had, and how accepting they both were of those struggles.

Eventually, you deal with something for long enough that it comes such an intrinsic part of you, and you cant imagine yourself without it. You accept it, maybe because you feel you deserve it but also because you’re scared that if you tried to change it, it wouldn’t work.

So between the lack of com to the rom and a romance that didn’t make me swoon, here we have a bit of a rounded down rating. But. Everything else? Again, the characters themselves? The discussion around mental health and depression, the presence of an plus-sized male love interest getting some well deserved love, the inclusion of not one but two (!) Jewish main characters, and more that I refuse to tell you? It was all so good.

I will continue to eat up Solomon’s romances so I can’t wait for what’s next.

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

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.

SEA OF RUIN by Pam Godwin

Bennett Sharp is on the run. 
Wanted for piracy, she fears neither God nor death nor man. Except Priest Farrell. 

The unfaithful, stormy-eyed libertine hunts her with terrifying possessiveness. Nothing will stop him from coming for her. Not his unforgivable betrayal. Not when she’s captured by the ice-cold pirate hunter, Lord Ashley Cutler.  She must escape Ashley’s prison and Priest’s deceit. But can she walk away from their twisted desires? 

Two gorgeous captains stand on opposite sides of the law. When they collide in a battle to protect her, the lines blur between enemies and lovers. Passion heats, secrets unravel, and hearts entangle until they break. 

Can love prevail in the sea of ruin?


Title : Sea of Ruin
Author : Pam Godwin
Series : Sea of Ruin (book one)
Format : eBook (overdrive)
Page Count : 482
Genre : dark historical romance
Publisher : Heartbound Media, Inc.
Release Date : April 28, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 4 star review

You know how we don’t call books guilty pleasures anymore? Or try not to, at least? If we still did, I think this would be one of them. There are so many reasons to feel guilty about enjoying Sea of Ruin. Starting with the ship-full of triggers and dubious content within the pages.

However.

This somehow still managed to be a lot of fun? Compelling as fuck? Delicious? Whilst also constantly making me question myself because of aforementioned dubiousness. Truly. At one point this skirts (if not outright crossed into) torture porn because Bennett, the protagonist, goes through pretty much every kind of awful and pain imaginable. The entire spectrum of bad. And once or twice it even happens with a love interest. Sometimes bits are glossed over in a way that.. well, doesn’t make you forget what’s happening but is less of a play by play. Other times not so much. So, you know, when they say dark romance.. (jazz hands) they mean it.

The vibe here is basically Pirates of the Caribbean minus the campy fun meets all the grittiness of Black Sails. Dark bites aside, I didn’t expect to enjoy a pirate book this much as I’ve been pretty meh about every one I’ve read thus far (not many). But maybe that’s because they were YA. This isn’t remotely in that category. Insert big flashing sign saying tHisS iS aDuLt here, please.

I can’t say I was surprised about some of the unraveling of plot but to be honest I don’t think we’re supposed to be. And when I say plot, I mean that in the vaguest sense of the definition of the word. This is mostly a lot of adult content (both sexy and side eye-y) wrapped around a few pivotal scenes that have information related to backstories and motivations but otherwise.. yeah, not a lot of actual plot. But to be honest I didn’t even really notice until after I’d finished it and realized it was more character driven and, also, character-tossed -about-in-and-out-of-harm-or-sexy-times.

And still.. it worked.

For readers of dark romance I don’t know how this measures up to other reads as I don’t tend to dip into this subgenre so I don’t know if this is technically tame or just par for the course; but, regardless of your tastes, if you are worried about triggers, I definitely encourage you read other reviews and especially any content warnings to see if you’re up to braving these turbulent seas. It’s not hard to find the specifics.

I think it very likely I’ll read this author again — I’m sure I have a few of her books on my kindle from various sales over the years — because if she can make me like a book this much despite all the dodgy bits? What can’t she do.

If you want something gritty, sexy, historical, piratey, dark, romantic, and more, Sea of Ruin might just fit the bill. Also, it’s recommended you read the prequel after this book to avoid any spoilery bits that are revealed within the main book. Just a heads up. I’m off to read that now.

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. **

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.

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