Review, TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge: Freebie

May’s theme prompt for Super Wendy’s #TBRChallenge 2023 was “Freebie.” Here are the books we chose to tackle our TBRs this month.

Holly Read: A Spinster’s Guide to Scandalous Behavior by Jennifer McQuiston

The Seduction Diaries, Book #2

Why was this book on your TBR? 

I got this in a free box sometime in the last 5 years or so, and it’s been sitting on my shelf since then. 

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge?

Ingrid recently read a different book by Jennifer McQuiston and really liked it, so I figured I’d try her out and see if she worked for me as an author. 

Plus, I’ve been on a big histrom kick recently and really enjoying it, so wanted to keep that energy going. 

What are your thoughts on the book?

This book felt like pretty standard Avon Regency Romance fare, though I guess it’s technically a Victorian, since they ride a train. We’ve got a headstrong heroine who gets herself into a pretty pickle and a damaged hero who is ready to pick her up when she falls. (And, of course, does some falling himself.)

One thing that makes this book stand out is that McQuiston leans way in to heroine Lucy’s “not like other girls” energy—but in such a way that her differences from others don’t make her special for everyone…just for the hero. I also liked that Lucy is a bit selfish and impetuous, and is mildly punished in the narrative for her headstrong behavior. Not, like, seriously punished; just enough that she is forced to reckon with her privilege and maybe rethink some of her decisions. 

I didn’t love the dynamic between Lucy and Thomas, which is: Thomas is really trying, and Lucy is determined to believe the worst of him. It made me question why Thomas wanted to be with Lucy so badly. Maybe her “not like other girls” energy is irresistible after all. 

Overall, I would say that this book was inoffensive. It was fine, but didn’t stand out as exceptional in any way.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Erin Read: Cinder Ella by S.T. Lynn

Black Trans Fairy Tales, Book #1

Why was this book on your TBR?

I think I found it when I was researching romance featuring transgender characters. 

Why did you choose this book for this month’s challenge? 

Aside from doing this challenge, I decided a good way to make a dent in my TBR was to knock out a bunch of the really short books, and this one is a two-hour novella. So it’s kind of like a two-fer?

What are your thoughts on the book?

First and foremost, this book is about a transgender woman coming to be acknowledged for herself. Ella’s father was supportive, but when he married her stepmother and subsequently died, her stepmother and step-sisters deadnamed and misgendered her, and they were also verbally and physically abusive. Given that this is a Cinderella retelling, this approach makes sense in the context of the story, but it was probably more uncomfortable than your average Cinderella-with-abusive-family uncomfortable, especially when the step-sisters “help” Ella get ready for the ball in a gown and makeup solely to humiliate her. 

There were a few consistency errors (or ideas simply not fully fleshed out), and I think the author spent a little too much time on some things (the first chapters are very heavy on the work Ella does around the house, as well as her interest in makeup and pretty clothes), and not enough time on others. As I mentioned, the story is about Ella’s personal journey, from seizing the opportunity to be herself at the ball to making the most of her own life once she’s away from her abusive family; her romance with the princess is about as limited as it is in the Disney movie. There could have been more room for Ella to make it on her own and to reunite with the princess after some time had passed, but we flew through that and resolved everything in a couple of chapters, so a lot of opportunities to ramp up tension, drama, and pining were left by the wayside. That said, this was an easy, sweet (except for all the abuse) read, and I don’t regret picking it up. 

One final note for anyone wanting to know about Own Voices type information: The author identifies as nonbinary, ace, and aro according to their bio, but they don’t include any self-identification of their race. 

Buy Now: Amazon

Want to join us in tackling your TBR? June’s theme is “Love is Love.”

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