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.


Saturday Smutty Six: Bad-Asses

To celebrate Women’s History Month, every Saturday in March we’re posting a top-six list of some of our favorite heroines. Since we’ve got history on the brain, books are in loose chronological order by setting.

This week: Bad-Ass Heroines. You know: the ladies who shoot guns and throw knives and can kill a man with a hatpin.

Continue reading “Saturday Smutty Six: Bad-Asses”

Review: Desire Lines by Elizabeth Kingston (2019)

Welsh Blades, Book 3

Heat Factor: Not super hot. Not particularly cool either.

Character Chemistry: I’m given indicators that they complete each other, so I guess it must be so.

Plot: A journey home

Overall: Wasn’t convinced, but 180° + good writing = good read

Continue reading “Review: Desire Lines by Elizabeth Kingston (2019)”