Historical Romance

Review: Slippery Creatures by KJ Charles

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Title: Slippery Creatures (The Will Darling Adventures #1)
Author: KJ Charles
Genre/Themes: Historical, MM romance, Mystery
Release Date: 13 May 2020

Author's links: Website / Twitter / FB Group / Goodreads

My rating: 3.5 Stars


Blurb

Will Darling came back from the Great War with a few scars, a lot of medals, and no idea what to do next. Inheriting his uncle’s chaotic second-hand bookshop is a blessing...until strange visitors start making threats. First a criminal gang, then the War Office, both telling Will to give them the information they want, or else.

Will has no idea what that information is, and nobody to turn to, until Kim Secretan—charming, cultured, oddly attractive—steps in to offer help. As Kim and Will try to find answers and outrun trouble, mutual desire grows along with the danger.

And then Will discovers the truth about Kim. His identity, his past, his real intentions. Enraged and betrayed, Will never wants to see him again.

But Will possesses knowledge that could cost thousands of lives. Enemies are closing in on him from all sides—and Kim is the only man who can help.


Review

This is the first book in a new m/m historical romance series set in 1920s London. There is a strong suspense/mystery plot that the MCs are involved in and the next books are expected to follow the same couple on more adventures. 

Overall, I enjoyed the mystery plot and found both Will and Kim to be very intersting characters. I am partial to Will, I think we saw more of him, got to know him better - his past as a soldier, his present as a heir to his uncle's bookshop, left with no real support network other than a woman he recenetly made friends recenlty, his uncertain future. Kim, on the other hand, remained pretty much a mystery, I didn't get his motivation and to be honest, I found some of his actions deeply hurtful to Will. 

There is a strong chemistry between Will and Kim but they also have many issues to deal with in order to become a real couple. I was not fully convinced they would end up together in the long term. Actually, at the end of the book, they are tryng to be friends first, with a possibility for something more. I feel Kim needs to do much more to deserve Will and to earn his trust (again). I hope he can do that in the next books.

The suspense/mystery was engaging and I liked following Will (and in some way, Kim) worked to unravel it. I liked seeeing how the different characters dealt with the new times after WW1, the gradual introduction of new technology into the daily life.

There are two big side characters, both female, Will's best friend Maisie whom I loved and Kim's fiance, Phoebe, whom I had difficult time relating to. it's a fake engagement of sorts, and I appreciate her support for Kim (and his relationship with Will), she seemed superficial to me. 

In short, despite some niggles I have with this book, it's a promising start of a new series with intersting suspense plot and great characters.

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A. K. Larkwood

Review: The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood

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Title: The Unspoken Name
Author: A. K. Larkwood
Genre: Fantasy, f/f romantic elements
Release Date: 11 Feb 2020

Author's links:

My rating: 4 Stars


Blurb

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard's loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.


Review 

This is a debut diverse fantasy with f/f romantic elements which I mostly enjoyed and had no major issues with it other than the pace being rather slow at the beginning. It's an engaging, complicated story involving death cults and sacrifices, all-powerful gods and magicians. 
The story has a slower start, descriptive, understated, very much reflective of who Csowre was at that time. As the story progresses we see her grow up, completely transform herself and through trial and error become her own person. I loved seeing her complicated relationship with her mentor and saviour and master. Csorwe and her friend/enemy Tal also had a turbulent relationship which brought forth major life-altering decisions for both of them.

Csorwe was given a second chance at life but has actually become a tool for Belthandros Sethennai, with no purpose of her own. And then she had to re-evaluate everything in her life for the second time. She went on to forge a life for herself (and the woman she fell in love with). It's a slow, painful discovery of who you are and what matters for you the most. 

The story was casually queer - m/m and f/f relationships were just part of the world, actually of all the different worlds we get to visit in the story. 

It’s a debut work of this author and I am looking forward to reading more. I feel the story is opened to sequels and I am here for it. 

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Ainslie Paton

Review: One Kiss from the King of Rock

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Title: One Kiss from the King of Rock
Author: Ainslie Paton
Genre: Contemporary romance, Rockstar, Second chance
Release Date: 16 April 2020

Author's links:


My rating: 4.5 Stars


Blurb

Evie Tice won’t kiss her ex, Jay Endicott, ever again. But she wants to. Burns for it. Half the adult population of the world does, because he’s a rock god who can apparently light up the stage. She wouldn’t know. When he quit on her, she made sure to block him from her life and stick to easy breezy hook-ups.

But Jay is back, sexier than ever, with the first leg of his global tour and her brothers’ band opens for him. As their social media manager, Evie can’t avoid Jay, but she can use him, to get off and get even like he once used her.

There’s one little issue. No kissing, because if Evie kisses Jay, she’s going to fall in love with him all over again. 


Review

I loved the first book in the series and read this one right after it, well ahead of its release. I enjoyed this one very much as well though it has a different vibe than the first. It's an over-the-top angsty second-chance rockstar romance - tropey and sexy and very moving.

Evie and Jay reconnect 10 years after a nasty breakup of what they both saw as their once in a lifetime , first and last love. They start with lots of anger, a deep grudge that is eating them from the inside. But the chemistry is there leading them making a sex pact before risking it all to be honest with each other. 

We see some bits of the rockstar world, though the main focus was on the internal conflict. There was a lot about how they have changed, who they are now and what they want. 

I was happy to see both of them as successful, happy with what they do. She has her own business, she is good at what she does and is in no way dependent o him. His success is also well deserved and this put them on an equal footing which I very much liked. 

They managed to overcome the hurt from the past (outside forces were at play back then and now they they were grown up to forgive and move on). His betrayal at present felt huge though, monumental because it was a sign he didn't know her now and that was difficult to accept/overcome. But it also prompted her to be honest with herself and let the music back in her life, this time on her own terms.

I am not happy with the reconciliation with her father and what he did, they all forgave him all too easily in my opinion, for something that affected his whole family and and in a way changed the course of their lives.

It's an intense, passionate romance that I can highly recommend. 

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Dal MacLean

Review: Blue on Blue by Dal Maclean

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Title: Blue on Blue
Author: Dal Maclean
Genre: M/M romance, crime thriller
Release Date: 24 March 2020

Author's links:

My rating: 3.5 Stars

Blurb 

After three years working as a private investigator, newly reinstated Detective Inspector Will Foster still holds himself responsible for the death of an officer under his command. But he’s returned to the Met bent on redeeming himself and that means bringing down gangland boss Joey Clarkson.

Will’s prepared to put in long hours and make sacrifices for his work, even if it comes at a cost to his nascent romance with international model, Tom Gray. After all, Tom has a history of wandering but crime is a constant in London. And Will has committed himself to the Met.

But when a murder in a Soho walkup leads Will into the world of corruption, he finds himself forced to investigate his own friends and colleagues. Now the place he turned for redemption seems to be built upon lies and betrayal. And someone is more than willing to resort to murder to keep it that way.

Review

I was excited to read this book after I enjoyed the previous two in the series (all of the books work as standalones). I liked a lot of things in this one but also bothered by some, most notably misogyny and some bi-phobia that never got challenged on the page. I liked the murder mystery plot and the suspense, had some issues with the romance and the general portrayal of women.

The author has created a complex world of villains, both within the police  and in the criminal world. I am ok with having women as the villains, but when it's only them, things don't feel right to me. This was my feeling for most of the first half of the book but gradually we got to see that men can be monsters too and some women acted as good people, so I'd say some balance was achieved.

What still bothered me and I would describe it as casual misogyny is how random women (Tom’s agent, Pez’ business partner/colleague were all presented in a negative light). I found it completely unnecessary for the plot and would have enjoyed the story much more without it. 

As for the romance, Will and Tom’s relationship was pretty volatile, lots of insecurity on both sides which I could understand based on who they were and their lives so far. It's a kind of second-chance romance (they are making a new start after ending things with Tom cheating on Will). I felt that we didn't get to see them together enough, they were both too busy and not talking things through and letting their own insecurities undermine their relationship. Tom’s biphobia (Will is bi, his previous relationship with a woman was pretty important to the story) went unchallenged and I didn’t like that.

Also, there were examples of fatphobia which was totally redundant. June’s fate was bad as it was, there was no need for casually judging her for putting on weight. It was nothing aggressive, rather a careless comment manifesting a deeply ingrained understanding of being fat as something bad. I find this kind of fatphobia the most hurtful.

On the positive side, I loved the writing, loved the politics within the police, the whole element of keeping secrets and at the same doubting everyone - I found it engaging, I was never sure who the murderer was, who among Will’s colleagues was on the take.

The story deals with pretty heavy subject matter, not just the murder investigation but also child abuse and rape (all in the past and not graphic but still, hard to read at times).

CWs: murder, violence, abuse and rape (including child abuse and rape, in the past), fatphobia, biphobia, manipulation, gaslighting

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Charlie Adhara

Review: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing by Charlie Adhara

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Title: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (Big Bad Wolf #4)
Author: Charlie Adhara
Genre / Themes: Shifters /Murder mystery
Release date: 2 March 2020 

Author's links: Website / Twitter/ Goodreads

My rating: 5 Stars

Blurb

Agent Cooper Dayton and his partner, Oliver Park, are going undercover—at a retreat for couples who need counselling. They do say the best cover story is one that’s close to the truth…

Agent Cooper Dayton is almost relieved to get a phone call from his former boss at the Bureau of Special Investigations. It means a temporary reprieve from tensions created by house hunting with Oliver Park, his partner both in work and in life. Living together in a forever home is exactly what Cooper wants. He’s just not keen on working out the details.

With a former alpha werewolf missing, Cooper and Park are loaned to the BSI to conduct the search at a secluded mountain retreat. The agents will travel to the resort undercover…as a couple in need of counseling.

The resort is picturesque, the grounds are stunning and the staff members are all suspicious as hell.

With a long list of suspects and danger lurking around every cabin, Cooper should be focusing on the case. But he’s always been anxious about the power dynamics in his relationship with Park, and participating in the couples’ activities at the retreat brings it all to the surface. A storm is brewing, though, and Cooper and Park must rush to solve the case before the weather turns. Or before any more guests—or the agents themselves—end up dead. 

Review 

This is the fourth book in the series following the same couple who have already gotten together and now we see them navigating being in a relationship, something none of the MCs has much experience with while simultaneously investigating another criminal case involving werewolves.

This story is well written and the suspense plot is very engaging. I liked how atmospheric the setting was, we get a strong sense of the place where the story is set, a picturesque mountain retreat, simultaneously isolated and lush, dangerous both for humans and werewolves,

Oliver and cooper went undercover into a couples' retreat for werewolves. and were forced by te circumstances to talk through a lot of the things between them. On top of the close quarters, they got caught in a brutal storm deep into a murder investigation. I liked seeing them opening more with each other, talking about their fears and doubts. They get the chance to learn more about teir partner but also to discover new things about themselves. 

The issues they faced in their relationship felt real to me - (self)-doubt, are you good enough for your partner, do you want to same things in the long term. And all this ad the added bonus of one of them being a werewolf in a world were werewolves existed but few humans knew about them.

Among of the strengths of the book for me was the inclusivity of the world it created - we see m/f, f/f and m/m couples. I also liked the way PTSD and anxiety were presented in the story. Most of all I liked how Oliver and Cooper's love was show as caring and protecting your partner. This resonated deeply with me.

This is shaping into a great rom suspense series and I can't wait to read the next book with more of Oliver and Cooper's adventures coming out in 2021. 

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