Lying with Lions by Annabel Fielding

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

Edwardian England. Agnes Ashford knows that her duty is threefold: she needs to work on cataloguing the archive of the titled Bryant family, she needs to keep the wounds of her past tightly under wraps, and she needs to be quietly grateful to her employers for taking her up in her hour of need. However, a dark secret she uncovers due to her work thrusts her into the Bryants’ brilliant orbit – and into the clutch of their ambitions.

They are prepared to take the new century head-on and fight for their preeminent position and political survival tooth and nail – and not just to the first blood. With a mix of loyalty, competence, and well-judged silence Agnes rises to the position of a right-hand woman to the family matriarch – the cunning and glamorous Lady Helen. But Lady Helen’s plans to hold on to power through her son are as bold as they are cynical, and one day Agnes is going to face an impossible choice.

The Review

For anyone who reads my reviews, you know I love historical fiction. Throw in a little gothic intrigue? *chef’s kiss* I live for lush, descriptive, elegantly flowing storylines. It’s easy to get lost in the world and emotions of the characters.

While Lying with Lions had those elements, I found myself losing track of what the story’s purpose was. There were moments I got so invested in the new direction the story was going, and then a new chapter would pull me in a completely different direction.

What I liked (and kind of disliked) was the span of time the story occurred over. It was YEARS that zipped by. We did get to see the evolution of Agnes and her position in the Bryant family. I liked seeing her grow into someone bold and someone who could stand on her own with authority. Her intelligence is what drew me in further.

Lady Bryant, there had always been an element of mistrust. Slowly it unfolded in her political aspirations and how far she would go to ensure her wants were put first. That goes hand in hand with how she treated Agnes. Their relationship wasn’t as balanced as Agnes saw it as.

The romance aspect of this was mostly fade to black. I’d give it a one out of five on the spice scale.

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Queen of All by Anya Leigh Josephs

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

The only interesting thing about fourteen-year-old Jena is other people. Her mother disappeared when she was a baby, and her best (and only) friend, Sisi, is not just the lost heir to a noble Numbered house, but also the Kingdom’s most famous beauty. Jena herself is just awkward, anxious, and often alone: not exactly heroic material. But when a letter summons Sisi to the royal court, both girls find their own futures, and the Kingdom’s, in Jena’s hands. Sisi, caught between the king and the crown prince, searches for a magical secret the Prince is willing to kill to keep. Jena can save her: but only if she is willing to let her go, maybe forever. It’s hard to do that when she’s in love with Sisi herself.

 

Review 

I have mixed feelings about Queen of All.

I was extremely excited to see a YA LGBTQ+ novel. Add the fact that it was branded as F/F and a fantasy world I was all about it. One of the main issues I had, was the main conflict was a little meh. There was so much build-up but by the end of the book, I was left wondering if I had missed something. What happened with the prince? Was Jena more than meets the eye like I thought she was going to be? I felt a bit lost.

Sisi and Jena are tight friends. So much so, that once Sisi is summoned to the royal court due to her rumored beauty, Jena goes with her. They take on the royal court and work together to ensure they are safe.

What I liked was Jena. She took the opportunity to read and learn as much as she could. She used her plain appearance to venture around the castle unnoticed. But I feel like she got pushed into the traditional role of supporting character who is the fat best friend. Nothing irritates me more. I had so many hopes for her and was let down.

There were few LGBTQ+ elements in this. Jena does admit to herself that she has feelings for another girl, but again, her happiness here gets sacrificed.

This was just a huge miss for me. Other readers absolutely adored this novel. Check out the reviews on Goodreads, they raved about it. It just didn’t work out for me.

To be released June 9 2021

Wonderstruck by Allie Therin

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

New York, 1925

Arthur Kenzie is on a mission: to destroy the powerful supernatural relic that threatens Manhattan—and all the nonmagical minds in the world. So far his search has been fruitless. All it has done is keep him from the man he loves. But he’ll do anything to keep Rory safe and free, even if that means leaving him behind.

Psychometric Rory Brodigan knows his uncontrolled magic is a liability, but he’s determined to gain power over it. He can take care of himself—and maybe even Arthur, too, if Arthur will let him. An auction at the Paris world’s fair offers the perfect opportunity to destroy the relic, if a group of power-hungry supernaturals don’t destroy Rory and Arthur first.

As the magical world converges on Paris, Arthur and Rory have to decide who they can trust. Guessing wrong could spell destruction for their bond—and for the world as they know it.

Review

I’m going to miss Rory and Ace! The Magic in Manhattan series had quickly become one of my favorites and I always looked forward to the next novel. All good series have to come to an end and I’m happy with how this series wrapped up.

            Ace and Rory head to Paris and towards the world’s fair to destroy the relics that are dangerous to humanity for even existing. It could be life or death for them, but this is much bigger than them. Zhang, Jade, Gwen, and Ellis all return and at first, I was like, huh? Gwen and Ellis? But Gwen and Ellis surprised me.

            My favorite parts about Wonderstruck

            The action sequences. There were moments that my heart was racing with anxiety. I needed to keep turning the page to see what was going to happen. Adding the vivid setting, imagery and dialogue I felt as though I was in the moment.

            Rory finally acknowledged that he can ask for help and that these people were his real family. Family isn’t always what you’re born into, it’s the people who make you feel whole. He finally saw this.

            There were moments Ace and Rory couldn’t keep their hands off of each other. It was clear they missed each other when they were separated, but even when they were traveling together there were little touches between each other. My inner romantic sighed happily a few times.

            What I wished there was?

            More novels in the series! I know, I know. But honestly? The only thing that was missing, was on page love scenes. I’m an avid romance reader so with the build up and then skipping to later was a little disappointing.

            BUT

            I absolutely loved this series. It’s one I’ll revisit and continue recommending to other readers because it truly was a series that made me happy and excited to read.

To be released February 9th – Get your copy here

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows (Feminine Pursuits, #2)

Four out of Five Stars

Summary

When Agatha Griffin finds a colony of bees in her warehouse, it’s the not-so-perfect ending to a not-so-perfect week. Busy trying to keep her printing business afloat amidst rising taxes and the suppression of radical printers like her son, the last thing the widow wants is to be the victim of a thousand bees. But when a beautiful beekeeper arrives to take care of the pests, Agatha may be in danger of being stung by something far more dangerous…

Penelope Flood exists between two worlds in her small seaside town, the society of rich landowners and the tradesfolk. Soon, tensions boil over when the formerly exiled Queen arrives on England’s shores—and when Penelope’s long-absent husband returns to Melliton, she once again finds herself torn, between her burgeoning love for Agatha and her loyalty to the man who once gave her refuge.

As Penelope finally discovers her true place, Agatha must learn to accept the changing world in front of her. But will these longing hearts settle for a safe but stale existence or will they learn to fight for the future they most desire?

The Review

I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did. I expected it to be overly floral and reminiscent of the boddice rippers that you may have found your mother hiding away from prying eyes. Despite the cover, this was an elegant historical romance that made me want to go back and find the first novel in the series.

Agatha Griffin never expected to find a colony of bees in her warehouse, but the woman who would come to her rescue was just as surprising of a discovery. Penelope Flood, bee-keeper extraordinaire spends most of her time taking care of the beehives around town. She floats between the wealthy and the tradesmen.

Through beekeeping, Agatha and Penelope form a bond. Penelope’s letters originally intended to keep Agatha updated on her relocated bees, shifted into companionship. I love when authors include letters between characters. You get a clear picture of their voice, their sarcasm and sense of humor. It feels intimate and genuine.

I melted once they finally gave in to their feelings. I’ll say this, I was not expecting the romance scenes to be written how they were. They weren’t cheesy or unbelievable. These women together were passionate, insatiable, and exciting.

While they were finding themselves as a couple, they found themselves as individual women. Agatha had to be strong, business-minded, and needed to take care of everything around her, found her match with Penelope. Penelope, who had grown used to loneliness found a true companionship with Agatha.

*insert wistful sigh here*

This was a great read, despite the cover, and I hope to read more from Olivia Waite.

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Starcrossed by Allie Therin

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

When everything they’ve built is threatened, only their bond remains…

1925 New York

Psychometric Rory Brodigan’s life hasn’t been the same since the day he met Arthur Kenzie. Arthur’s continued quest to contain supernatural relics that pose a threat to the world has captured Rory’s imagination—and his heart. But Arthur’s upper-class upbringing still leaves Rory worried that he’ll never measure up, especially when Arthur’s aristocratic ex arrives in New York.

For Arthur, there’s only Rory. But keeping the man he’s fallen for safe is another matter altogether. When a group of ruthless paranormals throw the city into chaos, the two men’s strained relationship leaves Rory vulnerable to a monster from Arthur’s past.

With dark forces determined to tear them apart, Rory and Arthur will have to draw on every last bit of magic up their sleeves. And in the end, it’s the connection they’ve formed without magic that will be tested like never before.

The Review

Rory Brodigan and Arthur Kenzie are back in the second installment of the Magic in Manhattan series, and they are as insatiable as ever.

From the opening pages, I was transported to 1920s New York. The historical accuracy is my second favorite part of this series (nothing can beat the relationship between Rory and Ace). The settings created dazzle the reader. I could feel the cold when Rory managed to get himself into trouble, because of course he can’t help but put himself in troublesome situations.

Rory faces Ace’s ex, and all of his insecurities come to light. He’s not from the same class as Ace and he’s much younger. He has to sneak around to be with Ace, hell, he can’t even get access to Ace’s apartment from the front entrance. How could Ace really want him? What Rory fails to realize is that he’s everything Ace needs in a partner.

For me, the plot in this novel was pushed back until the end of the book. Rory is dealing with the effects the ring from book one has on him. His bouts of destructive jealousy tickled me. He’s so smitten with Ace.

It was interesting to get a bit of Ace’s history in this book, and we got to see the monster in his closet. There was a little wobble between he and Rory, but they worked through it and managed to come out of peril safely. Well, relatively so.

The spicy scenes were fade to black in this novel, but I didn’t need that with these characters. Their interactions were intimate and loving. How they spoke and touched each other showcased their feelings for each other.

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Hemingway’s Notebook by Jackie North

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Five out of Five Stars

Summary

Soulmates across time. Two souls connected by destiny.

In present day, Jake, lonely and cut off from his parents, travels to the Chamberlin Inn in Cody, Wyoming to work on extra credit for his college seminar.

In 1932, Sebby labors at the Chamberlin Inn for pennies a day, wishing with all his heart for a better life.

While taking photographs in the room where Ernest Hemingway once stayed, Jake is flung back in time to the year 1932. There he meets Sebby who is living on the edge, half starving, a victim of the Great Depression. He’s been dodging rent collectors, getting behind on doctor’s bills, trying to care for his ailing Pop.

Sebby falls hard for Jake with his movie star smile, but knows something is different about him. Jake wears strange clothes, talks too fast, and doesn’t look like he’s gone hungry a day in his whole life. He’s also the handsomest boy Sebby has ever seen.

Jake is drawn to Sebby’s dark eyes, shy smile, and gentle heart. Sebby is like nobody Jake has ever met. And though the year 1932 scares him to his very core, he needs to decide. Go home? Or stay and weather the Depression with Sebby, whom he has grown to love.

Review

I absolutely love this series, that is no secret. The covers are gorgeous, the characters feel real, and the history is accurate. These are books I rec out to everyone. Saying that, this book hit me in a different way. It could be I’m currently studying Hemingway in one of my classes, or I spent a lot of time in my undergrad years studying this time period. But this one officially takes my number one spot in the Love Across Time Series. Sebby and Jake are just, they’re everything!

Sebby and Pop are living life the best they can during the Great Depression. They’re barely making it, but they do the best that they can without heat, hot water, or enough food. Jake’s trying to get through his college program, but ends up in in 1932 Cody, Wyoming.

Sebby’s so sweet and innocent, which makes his attraction to Jake that much sweeter. Jake, he wants to do all that he can for Sebby and Pop. He cared so much for the people he had just met, it was hard to find fault in him.

The attraction between Sebby and Jake was perfect *sigh*. Sebby’s unintentional flirting had me smirking while reading. I like that this was kept, low level heat. I mean, there were still intimate moments between them. Both Sebby and Jake had so much to learn about themselves and each other, that I could picture a follow up short story showing us how Colorado turned out for them.

This was a definite one-click read for me and I’m so glad that I read it.

Get your copy here!

Silent Sin by E.J. Russell

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

When tailor Marvin Gottschalk abandoned New York City for the brash boomtown of silent-film-era Hollywood, he never imagined he’d end up on screen as Martin Brentwood, one of the fledgling film industry’s most popular actors. Five years later a cynical Martin despairs of finding anything genuine in a town where truth is defined by studio politics and publicity. Then he meets Robbie Goodman.

Robbie fled Idaho after a run-in with the law. A chance encounter leads him to the film studio where he lands a job as a chauffeur. But one look at Martin and he’s convinced he’s likely to run afoul of those same laws—laws that brand his desires indecent, deviant… sinful.

Martin and Robbie embark on a cautious relationship, cocooned in Hollywood’s clandestine gay fraternity, careful to hide from the studio boss, a rival actor, and reporters on the lookout for a juicy story. But when tragedy and scandal rock the town, igniting a morality-based witch hunt fueled by a remorseless press, the studio brass will sacrifice even the greatest careers to defend their endangered empire. Robbie and Martin stand no chance against the firestorm—unless they stand together.

 

Review

Robbie Goodman didn’t intend to land in Hollywood amidst the glamor of silent film stars. It was a stop on his way to Mexico. He didn’t intend to stay. As he learned more about who he is as an individual, he found more reasons to stay in Hollywood despite the trouble that came with living amongst the rich and famous.

1920s Hollywood, I loved it! The terminology used to fit this time period and enhanced the characters. Robbie, naïve and tender-hearted Robbie, gets hired as a driver for silent-film star Martin Brentwood. He gets his first taste of how Hollywood works while watching Martin work. He’s open to all the possibilities and the new experiences he can experience.

Martin is a bit jaded. He’s been through some stuff and living ‘the life’ he does, doesn’t make it easy for him to form meaningful connections. Robbie is his first taste of freedom. He truly cherishes Robbie. It melted my heart with the care he took with Robbie.

Their romance is sweet, playful and the more romantic scenes take place off-screen. So if you’re looking for that, it isn’t what you’re going to get in this book. I was more than okay having those fade to black scenes, especially with the youth of Robbie and the nature that they had to hide the lifestyle they lived.

I enjoyed this one thoroughly and at times I didn’t want to put it down.

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Flesh and Gold by Ann Aptaker

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary:

Havana, 1952, a city throbbing with pleasure and danger, where the Mob peddles glamour to the tourists and there’s plenty of sex for sale. In the swanky hotels and casinos, and the steamy, secretive Red Light district of the Colon, Cantor Gold, dapper art thief and smuggler, searches the streets and brothels for her kidnapped love, Sophie de la Luna y Sol. Cantor races against time while trying to outrun the deadly schemes of American mobsters and the gunsights of murderous local gangs.

The Review

Flesh and Gold was much more than I expected. Cantor Gold, a thief and smuggler, arrives in Havana searching for the love of her life, Sophia, but trouble follows Cantor wherever she goes.

Now, the first thing you need to know is that this is not a romance (like my usual reads). It is the ultimate love story though, seeing the lengths that Cantor was willing to go to find Sophia.

This is very much a crime noir, think mobsters and dens of ill repute (I don’t know how else to say it). Every time I thought I had a line on who was playing who, everything flipped upside down. It’s the best kind of mystery to read.

I like the fact that everything and everybody felt important to the storyline. The detail was rich enough that I could feel the balmy humidity of Havana. I could feel the way passersby stared at Cantor and her suits and masculine attire. The attitudes, language, and buildings placed me in 1950s Havana. There was a bit of violence, some of it a little unbelievable, but Cantor does live on the darker and more dangerous side of the life.

If you enjoy crime noire, this is definitely a series you’ll want to pick up and read.

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Ride the Whirlwind by Jackie North

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Five out of Five Stars

The Summary: Soulmates across time. Two hearts, stronger together.

In present day, Maxton is good at finding trouble and bad at everything else.

In 1892, Trent Harrington, sheriff of Trinidad, Colorado, lives a respectable but lonely life, devoid of any closeness.

Trying to escape a past that keeps chasing him, Maxton drives south to avoid getting arrested. When his car spins off the road, he is swept up in a desert whirlwind and finds himself in the year 1892. Lost and alone, unused to the laws of the wild west, Maxton gets arrested anyway.

Trent is tasked with escorting Maxton to Trinidad. The request isn’t unusual, but the miscreant is. Maxton draws Trent’s heart out of its shell with his flashing green eyes and lush head of hair. It isn’t right. It isn’t natural. It’s illegal. Yet Trent cannot resist the impetuous young man.

As the two men travel through the vast, empty desert to their destination, will they find in each other the love and companionship they never thought they’d have?

The Review

Maxton is driving away from the trouble he managed to get himself in when he drives off the road and into a desert whirlwind. When he comes out on the other side he finds himself in 1892. He can’t seem to stay out of trouble though. He ends up in jail and in the hands of Sheriff Trent Harrington as he’s escorted to Trinidad. Trent isn’t prepared for a man like Maxton, nor having his eyes opened in the way that Maxton manages.

John and Laurie are still my absolute favorites, but there was something about Maxton and Trent that nearly won me over. Maxton is unapologetically himself. Even if that calls for trouble in 1892. Trent has lived his life hiding who he was. It’s an explosive combination.

Maxton was so different from his friends, that of course he wouldn’t travel the same way they did. Until he accepted himself, the opportunity that 1892 presented him, the whirlwind wouldn’t ever leave him alone. He found that stability in Trent. Even at times when they broke each other’s heart, they found their way back together and ended up stronger for it.

They were cautious with each other. It wasn’t just an opportunity for sex. They formed a connection that made me want to read more of their story. They learned what each other liked, what they were afraid, and they were kind to each other.

There’s something about the way Jackie North writes about life in the west. It’s realistic, it’s gritty, and at times it hilariously funny (the underwear – that’s all I’m saying). I felt like I was watching a movie in my mind. I could feel the heat of the day, see the bright starlit sky at night, and smell the food they made.

This was the perfect escape.

Pre-Order your copy here