Recommended Read, Review, TBR Challenge

TBR Challenge: Tales of Old

May’s theme prompt for Super Wendy’s #TBRChallenge 2022 was “Tales of Old.” Here are the books we chose to tackle our TBRs this month.

Holly Read: The King’s Man by Elizabeth Kingston (2015)

Welsh Blades, Book #1

Why was this book on your TBR?

When Erin reviewed Desire Lines, which is the third book in this series, I thought, “That sounds like a Holly book.” I’m pretty sure this is the first ebook I ever purchased.

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

Gotta love a good medieval romance.

What are your thoughts on the book?

Holy Shamoly, Elizabeth Kingston can write. There are some standard Medieval romance scenes—for example, the our hero wakes up wounded, thinks he’s in Hell, and mistakes the heroine for an angel—but Kingston’s prose really elevate these moments so that though the beats feel familiar, they are not cliché. 

I loved the journey for both of the main characters. Rannulf is the king’s fixer (and given that the king in question is Edward I, known for his ruthlessness, well…) who needs to learn to forgive himself. Especially for killing his adoptive father, who was admittedly horrible, but who Rannulf also loved deeply. Rannulf’s psychology was absolutely fascinating, and I appreciated the new spin on the Bad Romance Dad. 

Gwenllian is a certified bad-ass and leader of men, who must give it all up when she marries Rannulf—and while she’s sad to leave that part of herself behind, she’s also relieved to no longer have to lead. So actually, her psychology is also fascinating. She is torn between her past and her future, between her love of her homeland and her duty to her king, between her mother and her husband. 

A note: there is a lot of gender essentialism in this book, but it absolutely works here, given the time period and the characterization. Just so you know not to expect any Woke Knights, because Rannulf is decidedly unwoke. And even though Gwenllian is a woman in pants, there are none of those scenes where “she must be a woman because of her pretty violet eyes.” Rather, her armor is a central part of her identity, which causes an existential crisis when she must set it aside for more womanly pursuits.

I loved this book. Highly recommended for the nerds out there. 

Buy Now: Amazon

Erin Read: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley (2009)

Mackenzies & McBrides, Book #1

Why was this book on your TBR?

It’s a pretty famous (and lauded) historical romance and, bonus, I found a used copy at the library book sale one year.

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

I wanted a historical romance that was also an older publication for this month. A double whammy, as it were.

What are your thoughts on the book?

It’s always a little nerve-wracking, wondering if a book that everyone seems to be excited about will live up to the hype. In this case, readers, it does. For me, anyway.

There is ton of period, er, relevant ableism and also a little bit of homophobia, but those terms are used to refract ideas for the reader, taking something we in a modern age see and (more or less, anyway) understand, and shifting it slightly so that we can see something about the period in question (1881 Edwardian London, Paris, and Scotland). Ian’s “madness” is not well understood even by his brothers, who love him dearly, but we recognize it as neurodiversity, more specifically as autism. Because of his ND, Ian’s father had him committed to an asylum, where he spent his youth and young-adulthood until his older brother inherited the dukedom and could get him out. In Paris, we meet one of the men who had been in the asylum with him—and who had been committed solely because he was gay. Ashley providing us with insight into the setting is also shedding some light on the historical treatment of individuals who do not fit the “normal” mold. I like it when authors poke at readers like that.

This book also features what feel like older protagonists—although apparently Ian is 27 and Beth is 29, so they’re not that old—but Beth is a widow who grew up in London’s East End, so she’s savvy and no-nonsense. This gives us a heroine who, when confronted with a murder connected to Ian’s past, trusts her gut and Ian and doesn’t engage in furtive questioning of the hero’s integrity or motives. She knows the limits and lengths of her power (she’s an heiress thanks to inheriting a fortune) and doesn’t let people cow her. I also like that. Very much. 

There’s a lot here about letting people be who they are, loving them as they are, and sharing vulnerabilities with the people one loves and is loved by. Also Beth and Ian are pretty horny and not shy about it, so that’s fun. 

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

Want to join us in tackling your TBR? June’s theme is After the War.

Recommended Read, Review

Review: Her Favorite Rebound by Jackie Lau (2022)

The Cider Bar Sisters, Book #4

Reviews of The Cider Bar Sisters Book #1, Book #2, Bonus Novella #2.5, and Book #3

Heat Factor: Once they jump in bed, boy oh boy do they jump in bed.

Character Chemistry: Sierra swears up and down that it’s not serious, but thinks that her next boyfriend is going to have a lot to live up to.

Plot: Jake falls in love with Sierra at first sight. Too bad she’s dating his former boss and all-around bad dude, billionaire Colton Sanders.

Overall: If you’re looking for fun and sexy, Jackie Lau doesn’t disappoint

Continue reading “Review: Her Favorite Rebound by Jackie Lau (2022)”
Recommended Read, Review

Review: Honeytrap by Aster Glenn Gray (2020)

Heat Factor: The moments when they connect are really special, but it doesn’t happen often

Character Chemistry: Gennady’s a bit of a cynic, and Daniel just can’t help falling in love

Plot: Wise Spies – they both know very well the games their governments are playing, and that connection forges unexpectedly deep trusts that carry through years and separations

Overall: Oof. Wow. How can I read another book now?

Continue reading “Review: Honeytrap by Aster Glenn Gray (2020)”
Recommended Read, Review

Review: The Long Game by Rachel Reid (2022)

Game Changers, Book #6

Review of Game Changers: Book #1, Book #2, Book #4, Book #5

Heat Factor: It’s sexy (like the rest of the series), but unlike in Heated Rivalry, most of the sex is at home, so it’s heavy on their emotional connection this time, and less about the tittilation of sexual awakening and sneaking around

Character Chemistry: Shane likes to be *rewarded* (wink) for the discipline of never letting on that he’s in love with Ilya, while all Ilya wants is affection

Plot: Shane and Ilya have been secretly in a monogamous relationship for three years, and it was all going fine…until a confluence of components of Ilya’s life make it not so fine anymore

Overall: A relationship in trouble in which both parties really want to make it work, but are fearful that they won’t be able to

Continue reading “Review: The Long Game by Rachel Reid (2022)”
Dueling Review, Recommended Read

Dueling Review: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (2004)

Holly’s Take

Heat Factor: He eats donuts off her boobs

Character Chemistry: It’s fate

Plot: A comedy of errors ensues when Min and Cal (attempt to) resist the universe’s plan for them to be together

Overall: Couldn’t put it down

Ingrid’s Take

Heat Factor: Kissing while eating donuts has never been so steamy

Character Chemistry: It’s instantaneous and angry, then alllll the sexy tension

Plot: Min’s ex tries to get Cal to bet over her—but the more they try to avoid each other, the more they end up attached at the hip

Overall: I was shocked by how much I enjoyed this book

Erin’s Take

Heat Factor: It’s a very slow burn, but she does get tied to a couch

Character Chemistry: This is a push-you-pull-me that works marvelously

Plot: Min is about to approach Cal when she overhears that she’s the subject of one of his bets, so she accepts his invitation out of spite, and fate takes the wheel

Overall: I didn’t like all the stuff that happened in this book (and I wasn’t supposed to, either), but I really liked the book

Continue reading “Dueling Review: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (2004)”