Review: The Problem with Perfect by Philip William Stover (2023)

Heat Factor: It’s not a slow burn, it’s a no-sex burn

Character Chemistry: There were moments it could have been great, but it never really clicked

Plot: Ethan keeps compounding his problems by trying too hard to make everything how it should be, and Beau opens his eyes to how he wants it to be

Overall: I liked it fine, but readers will probably enjoy it more if they expect a single personal growth arc rather than a glorious romance

Continue reading “Review: The Problem with Perfect by Philip William Stover (2023)”
Review Revisited

Review Revisited: Holly’s Take on By the Moon We Fall by Ashton Abbott

Raedan Warrior Series, Book 1

So, Ingrid read this book a few years ago, back when it was called Necromancer Rising. Abbott recently re-released it with a new title; it’s possible that the text was also updated, but if so, the changes weren’t significant, because everything Ingrid wrote in her review is still true.

However, as someone who has likely read more paranormal romance than Ingrid had when she first reviewed this book, I have a few additional notes for potential readers.

  1. When Ingrid said this book is dark, she wasn’t kidding. It’s not just the villains who are decapitating people. Both the hero and the heroine kill people in cold blood—and not just in battle. In fact, a central internal conflict for Adeline is what her relationship with dark magic will be. 
  2. This is a fated mates book, with the twist that William was not *entirely* honest with Adeline about why her powers weren’t working. So we’ve got a bit of dishonest beginnings here to spice up the fate, which was a fun twist. Also a fun twist: both William and Adeline can sense that they are uniquely attuned to each other.
  3. I would also call this an age-gap romance. William is 500, give or take a century. Adeline is 21 (plus the fourteen years she was dead). While this is fairly standard in paranormal romance, Adeline’s youth and naïvité were really played up here.
  4. The worldbuilding is somewhat uneven. Ingrid noted that she relied on the author to explain who actually died and who didn’t; part of that is that there seemed to be inconsistencies in how to kill an immortal. Some vampires die when you break their necks, and some don’t. On a bigger picture, there are a LOT of characters representing a LOT of different kinds of creatures, so there’s not really space to flesh them all out. Even creatures who appear frequently in paranormal romance—such as werewolves and vampires—don’t seem to follow standard genre formulas for how they should behave.
  5. A corollary to #4: Some of the characterization is uneven. Part of this is, I think, a feature of having so many characters, but I couldn’t really get a bead on William or Adeline either.
  6. With that said, the plot moves at a brisk pace and kept my attention. And some of the secondary characters were just weirdly delightful. 

As a sidenote, the villain here is the Morrigan, and Abbott also wrote/is writing a trilogy all about this particular triple goddess from her/their perspective—which would be a fun companion piece to read in parallel with this story and its sequels, if you decide you like gore and antiheroes. (I reviewed the second part of that trilogy here.)

Anyways, read on for Ingrid’s original review, which covers thoughtful things like tension and pacing.

Continue reading “Review Revisited: Holly’s Take on By the Moon We Fall by Ashton Abbott”
Recommended Read, Review Revisited

Review Revisited: Holly’s Take on Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai (2023)

After Erin read Bitter Medicine, she told me I’d probably like it. And I was feeling like reading something that I’d probably like that wasn’t a bonkers historical romance, so I did. 

She was right, I liked it. 

I also would have written a completely different review than Erin did, because she said basically nothing about the plot. 

So here I am, to talk about the plot. Not spoilers or anything, but to highlight some of the central themes, and also to address the plot structure, which is kind of unusual. 

The basic premise is that Elle’s younger brother tried to kill her older brother; in order to stop him, Elle destroyed her older brother’s magic. The two of them have been in hiding for the past twenty years. (Elle, being magic, is about 100 years old, and hasn’t really aged during this time.) Elle feels tremendous guilt for what she did to her brother, as well as a deep responsibility for keeping him safe—as well as sadness for the rupture in her relationship with her younger brother. She hides her abilities so that she won’t be discovered. All in all, she’s living a shadow of her former life, until Luc makes her feel again.

The blurb says that Elle and Luc collaborate, hinting that this collaboration is in hunting down Elle’s younger brother, who has finally tracked her down. This implies that the Big Epic Climax will be the showdown between Elle, Luc, and the wayward evil brother. And while this scene happens, it does so at about the halfway point, leaving Elle irrevocably changed. So be aware: if you’re reading this for a suspense-y fantasy epic showdown, that’s not what this book is doing. 

Instead, this book is interested in what happens in the after. What do you do when something horrible—something bitter to swallow, even—happens? How do you come to terms with the fact that sometimes those bad things are ultimately good for us? Since the title of this book is Bitter Medicine, maybe it should have been obvious to me that this was the theme, but the blurb and the opening worldbuilding set up my expectations for something else.

I would also like to note that a central theme of this book is drawing and maintaining boundaries with parents / parental figures. It’s never too late to take the boundaries you need, even if you’re 100 years old! Some readers might fight these scenes difficult; others might feel seen in these moments.

Finally, while I liked this book, I do want to say that there were a lot of loose threads at the end. I was left wondering things like:

  • What the heck happened to that fox spirit with the sense of smell? She seemed pretty desperate.
  • If Elle is an “agent” in the same organization that employs Luc, why does this agency also think that Elle is deceased? Do fairies not have fingerprints?
  • And the biggest question mark of all: At the end of the book, both Elle and Luc have lost huge pieces of themselves. Can they truly be happy without these defining parts of their former identities? 

Read on for Erin’s review, which will fill you in on the worldbuilding and the feel of the story.

Continue reading “Review Revisited: Holly’s Take on Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai (2023)”

Review: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna (2022)

Heat Factor: A case of pining so good, I would have preferred it without the sex scene

Character Chemistry: OMG

Plot: Mika is hired to teach some kid witches witchcraft and finds a family

Overall: I can see why this book was such a hit, but it didn’t hit for me

Continue reading “Review: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna (2022)”
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.”