Tag «Historical Fiction»

Single Sundays: Glitter by Abbi Glines

Single Sundays: Glitter by Abbi Glines

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Glitter (from Goodreads):
Lies, Deceit, Vengeance, Desire, and Hate…
wrapped up in a façade of all that sparkles and shines.

​A pretty face, a fetching smile, a fabulous gown, a flutter of lashes at just the right moment – Miriam had been taught she must do all these things to land a wealthy husband. Much preferring the company of books to people, the only thing that stopped Miriam from fleeing to the countryside was her younger sister – who was counting on Miriam to make a match that would ensure she could care for her mother and sister properly.

​He knew his duty to his title and he would do as was necessary.

​Although Hugh Compton, Earl of Ashington, hadn’t wanted his father’s title at the age of nine and twenty, he gained it two years ago when his father died unexpectedly. The only good that had come of that was Hugh had been able to move his father’s wife to the dowager house.

​Now it was time to marry.

Many disliked the arrogant Earl of Ashington but none so much as his brother.

After his mother was sent off as if she were trash to be disposed of, Nathaniel swore he’d even the score. With the intent of charming the boring Lydia Ramsbury right out of his brother’s arms, Nathaniel discovered it was a new face that had captured his brother’s attention – a one Miss Miriam Bathurst.

Vengeance had never looked so sweet.

breakdown

Author: Abbi Glines
Genre: New Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Date: June 21, 2021
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s been a long time since I read an Abbi Glines novel. She actually used to be one of my most read authors when Goodreads used to keep track of that sort of thing. (Maybe that’s because the Rosemary Beach series had over 10 books…)

Anyways, normally, I would stay far away from a book that hinted at a love triangle. However, Abbi Glines has written some that I have loved and some that I have hated (The Vincent Boys). But I was curious to see what she would do with a historical romance novel when she primarily writes contemporary romance and so I downloaded the audiobook from my library and dove in!

The Plot:

So, I actually liked the love triangle aspect for this story. The Prologue sets the stage with Miriam declaring she is about to marry a man but he isn’t who she truly loves — so, which brother is which in that scenario?! It added this suspense to the novel that I really enjoyed and kept me reading.

I got a lot of classic Jane Austen romance vibes with this story but there is also a modern edge to it as well — it’s that unique touch to Abbi Glines’ work that keeps me hooked in her stories.

I do wish the ending was flushed out more. I think this story lags a little in the middle and there is a lot going on plot wise that could have been resolved earlier to keep things moving.

The Characters:

Lots of historical romances write in the third person POV so it was interesting to get first person POVs for all three characters. I had hoped that this would mean that the characters would be a little more dynamic but they felt a little one-dimensional to me. I liked them all but I felt like they weren’t anything I hadn’t read before.

Miriam is the bookish heroine stereotype that many historical romances use. She’s likeable but she is designed to be by using that bookish, beautiful wallflower trope often found in historical romances. I also thought the brothers’ relationship could have been expanded upon as well.

I did love Miriam’s aunt though! She was an absolute hoot!

The Romance:

This felt very Jane Austen to me in its approach (not a bad thing!) and it has this slow burn to it that I enjoyed. Plus, the mystery of which brother Miriam falls in love with reminded me that love triangles can be a good plot device when done right.

My Audiobook Experience:

There is a female narrator that does all 3 of the characters–including the brothers. She does a good job giving each character a unique voice but I think having 2 different men to read the parts of the brothers would have been better.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

Call me a fan! I enjoyed Abbi Glines’ fresh take on the historical romance novel!

Read if You Like: love triangles, historical romances
Avoid if You: dislike first person POVs
similarreads

  • Victoria and the Rogue by Meg Cabot
  • The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn (Bridgertons Series #2)
  • Hold the Forevers by K A Linde (Coastal Chronicles #1)

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Series Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Series Review: These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for These Violent Delights (from Goodreads):

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

Perfect for fans of The Last Magician and Descendant of the Crane, this heart-stopping debut is an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai, with rival gangs and a monster in the depths of the Huangpu River.

breakdown

Series: These Violent Delights
Author: Chloe Gong
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Historical Fiction, Romance, Drama, Action, Suspense
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: November 2020 – November 2021
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was drawn to this series for a few reasons: the cover never failed to catch my eye when I was browsing library titles and I love the title. I’m a huge Shakespeare nut so anything Shakespeare related and I am so there. But when I read that this book would be set in the 1920s in Shanghai–I was completely sold!

The Concept / The World:

I think Romeo and Juliet gets a bad rap when it comes to the general public. Everyone knows about the doomed, naïve lovers and I think they get a lot of flack for that in popular culture. But when you study the play or even see it acted out, it really is a much richer story than people give it credit for. Which makes it the perfect foundation for this particular series and the world it takes place in.

I thought the setting of 1926 Shanghai was so great! You’ve got the gang wars and the lack of our modern conveniences. But more importantly, you have the cultural inspiration of China and what it means to be loyal to your family and country. It just adds another rich layer to this retelling that stays true to the original work but shows how the play could have very easily taken place somewhere other than Italy.

The Plot:

I will admit to being a little disappointed in the first book because it wasn’t what I totally expected. There’s a lot of information to take in from the rival gangs, to the politics of the city to the various characters we meet. And perhaps listening to the audio version wasn’t the best choice because I might have missed some important details and not have noticed. However, I did find it suspenseful with the Science Fiction aspect of the “madness” and overall, it does do a great job of setting up the foundation for the sequel.

The sequel was great! I found it was nonstop in the action and plot twists. I also think the allusions to Romeo and Juliet are a little more obvious; though I like the unique takes we get on those elements. It isn’t a carbon copy of the original text by any means.

The Characters:

Juliette isn’t the naïve girl from the play. Sure, she has her weaknesses, but she can hold her own in a fight if she needed to with her cunning wit and her fighting skills. I enjoyed watching her character overcoming obstacles and growing from the past.

Roma is a little more of an enigma but again, another strong character who had some great growth.

I really enjoyed the side characters we met as well. I had a hard time in the first book keeping everyone straight but everyone was well developed.

The Romance:

I felt like the passionate romance was missing a bit in the first book. Perhaps that’s because Juliette and Roma spend more time apart then together. Other than the passing mentions of their previous love affair, I wasn’t entirely sold that their connection was this amazing thing that would have them contemplating betraying their families.

Things definitely improved in the final book though in that respect and I was very happy to see how it comes together there.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed the audio production. While I think it might have stopped me from fully grasping what was happening all the time, it is well done. My only complaint is that when the narrator does Roma’s voice, the pitch can be super hard to hear so I found I was constantly adjusting the volume as I listened.

concSLOW

Series Rating: 3.5/5

These Violent Delights 3/5 | Our Violent Ends 4/5

overall

Overall, an original take on the classic Romeo and Juliet trope that will keep readers on their toes with its blending of Science Fiction and Historical Fiction.

Read if You Like: Romeo and Juliet retellings, forbidden love
Avoid if You: dislike Shakespeare retellings

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Fresh Fridays: My Contrary Mary (Mary #1) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

Fresh Fridays: My Contrary Mary (Mary #1) by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Mary Series

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for My Contrary Mary (from Goodreads):

Welcome to Renaissance France, a place of poison and plots, of beauties and beasts, of mice and . . . queens?⠀

Mary is the queen of Scotland and the jewel of the French court. Except when she’s a mouse. Yes, reader, Mary is an Eðian (shapeshifter) in a kingdom where Verities rule. It’s a secret that could cost her a head – or a tail.⠀

Luckily, Mary has a confidant in her betrothed, Francis. But after the king meets a suspicious end, things at the gilded court take a treacherous turn. Thrust onto the throne, Mary and Francis are forced to navigate a viper’s nest of conspiracies, traps, and treason. And if Mary’s secret is revealed, heads are bound to roll.⠀

breakdown

Series: Mary

This is a spinoff of the My Lady Janies Series.

Author: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Standalone Retellings
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling, Humour, Parody, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: June 2021 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I have a bit of a so-so relationship with the My Lady Janies Series. I didn’t *love* it but I enjoyed the idea of spinning well known history and there were some moments of brilliance interspersed with moments of silliness. I wasn’t sure if I was going to pick up this series but when I read that the first book was about Mary Queen of Scots–a historical figure I knew a decent amount about–I was willing to give them a shot.

What I Liked:

–I Was Familiar with the History–

Part of my struggle with the Jane Series was that I wasn’t overly familiar with all the history of our lead characters. So certain scenes and how they unfold were a little lost on me. I couldn’t see the intelligent spin the authors put on the historical moments.

But I do know the history of Mary Queen of Scots because I researched her story after I started watchin the TV Series Reign. As I often do with series that are based on history, I read the history and learn what history says happened, not the creative license TV shows or movies sometimes take.

So I think I got a little more out of this story because I could see how the Eðian (shapeshifting) aspects puts a spin on notable history events.

–Witty–

I laughed a lot thanks to the audiobook. I learned with the Jane Series that the audiobooks were the way to go for me to get the most out of the humour. But there is a lot of play on words and other aspects that made me appreciate the efforts the authors put into weaving this tale.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Sometimes It Gets Silly–

I have a bit of a love-hate thing with the Eðian aspect. It’s a fun idea and helps explain some of the prejudices of the time. But sometimes, I think it gets a little silly and distracts from the realism of these historical events. Having read the Jane series, I knew what to expect when it comes to these twists but I’m still torn on how much I actually like them in the books.

My Audiobook Experience:

I learned my lesson with the last series that the humour and dry wit comes across better when I listen to these books as audiobooks so that’s what I did for this series. I definitely enjoyed the audiobook production and I do think it contributes positively to my reading experience.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m a little undecided about continuing on with this series. I’m not a huge Mary Shelley fan and the synopsis for the second book doesn’t overly excite me. I like Fae stories though….we will see. Right now I’ve marked it as a pass on Goodreads.

My Rating: 3/5

My Contrary Mary 3/5 | My Imaginary Mary TBP | Book 3 TBP

overall

Fans of the original Jane series will be excited for another round of historical hijinks! And new fans will appreciate the clever weaving of fantasy and history — so long as you know what you are getting into before you pick it up.

Read if You Like: historical retellings with fantasy spins, parodies
Avoid if You: dislike satires/parodies

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Series Review: The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn

Series Review: The Bridgertons by Julia Quinn

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Duke and I (from Goodreads):

In the ballrooms and drawing rooms of Regency London, rules abound. From their earliest days, children of aristocrats learn how to address an earl and curtsey before a prince—while other dictates of the ton are unspoken yet universally understood. A proper duke should be imperious and aloof. A young, marriageable lady should be amiable… but not too amiable.

Daphne Bridgerton has always failed at the latter. The fourth of eight siblings in her close-knit family, she has formed friendships with the most eligible young men in London. Everyone likes Daphne for her kindness and wit. But no one truly desires her. She is simply too deuced honest for that, too unwilling to play the romantic games that captivate gentlemen.

Amiability is not a characteristic shared by Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings. Recently returned to England from abroad, he intends to shun both marriage and society—just as his callous father shunned Simon throughout his painful childhood. Yet an encounter with his best friend’s sister offers another option. If Daphne agrees to a fake courtship, Simon can deter the mamas who parade their daughters before him. Daphne, meanwhile, will see her prospects and her reputation soar.

The plan works like a charm—at first. But amid the glittering, gossipy, cut-throat world of London’s elite, there is only one certainty: love ignores every rule…

breakdown

Series: The Bridgertons

There is a prequel Series: The Rokesbys & a series of Lady Whistledown Stories

Author: Julia Quinn
# of Books: 8 (Full Reading Order Here)

There are also 2nd epilogue novellas for each novel.

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Regency, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2000 – June 2006
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Although I am a huge regency romance fan, I had never read the Bridgerton Series. Truthfully, like many people, it never crossed my radar until Netflix made the TV series. I nearly binged all the episodes in one sitting but controlled myself (and finished it within a reasonable 2 days). I loved watching these siblings on the TV series and just couldn’t get enough! And thanks to its massive popularity, my library soon got all the audiobooks and I quickly found my next audio series to read. Plus, I was impatient to see where these character stories would go.

How it Compares to the TV Series:

I’m sure most people who will be reading this series are doing so because of the Netflix TV Series. Since the first season is based on the first book, The Duke and I, I was a little worried the book would be a regurgitation of the TV show.

And while some scenes are very similar, they’ve also added a lot more plotlines to the TV show (like the whole meeting the Queen bit and anything to do with the Queen really) to make it, well, a show. But I’d say the TV series has captured the essence of the books and that’s all you can ask for really. Time will tell what the second season will be like but I think they did a great job with the adaption so far.

The Plot:

The first 3 books are your classic Regency reads, with a few loose retellings of some classic tales like The Taming of the Shrew (Book #2) and Cinderella (Book #3), thrown in for inspiration. They’re a little lighter and have a few laughs along the way. Lady Whistledown’s character (and her anonymity) helps to keep that dramatic flare of the ton alive while also maintaining an overarching plot line to thread the individual books together. I just thought they were a lot of fun to read.

I think Book #4, Romancing Mister Bridgerton, is the book that the entire series has been leading up to. We’re on the cusp of revealing who Lady Whistledown is and I think the romance that everyone (or maybe just me) has been anticipating since the first novel/episode is the focus. It’s probably my favourite of the series.

But once the identity of Lady Whistledown is revealed, I find the remaining books in the series lose that lighter side to them. To Sir Philip, With Love (#5) has a darker, somber edge to it. And while it is a touching book to read, I missed the rest of the meddling Bridgerton Brood and the always watching Lady Whistledown. I also think this was the book where my experience with the TV show dampened my reading experience. I find Eloise’s character to be very different between the two mediums, so I think I was expecting a different type of story here.

That somber tone continues on in When He Was Wicked (#6) and I felt like that was when my interest in the series started to wane. I really struggled with this story for a few reason. One: is that timeline jumps around a bit between books #4 and #5 so I got a little lost there. Two: is that the lead is a Bridgerton we don’t really know much about other than a few key pieces (so I didn’t really know what to expect). Three–and perhaps the biggest reason–is that I really struggled with the romance. I just found it to be a little off-putting because it is a complicated situation and I didn’t really enjoy that aspect (more below). It also has that somber tone to it that I don’t enjoy but on Goodreads, people seem to adore this book so maybe I’m just a minority here.

The last two books in the series I enjoyed a little more, but again, I think I wanted slightly different stories. I actually think the plots should be switched for the last two novels in some ways.

The Characters:

I love all the Bridgertons. I just think they are so much fun and I love how much they love their family. It’s touching to see. You really get invested in all their lives.

The Romance:

I would say most of these books have a slow burn romance. These characters really take their time to fall in love and fight the inevitable. But I thought all the pairs were great matches.

However, I did struggle with the romance in When He was Wicked (#5). For those who don’t know who the lead is in this book I’ve put my thoughts in as spoilers:

When He was Wicked (Book #5) Spoilers

I honestly was excited for Francesca’s story because she is the enigma of the Bridgertons. All we know is that she was a young widow. I’m not one of those people who believes you can’t find love after the death of a beloved spouse/partner so I was looking forward to her finding love again. However, while I liked Michael objectively as a character, I didn’t like the idea that he has always been in love with Frannie. And I felt like Frannie was having an emotional affair with Michael while she was married to John by asking him about all his wicked encounters with women–I dunno, the whole thing just felt icky to me. Maybe if they both fell in love after John’s death I wouldn’t have struggled with that as much.

[collapse]

The Second Epilogues:

What a fun treat these were! They were great ways to wrap up each character arc and gives a glimpse into the very far future in some instances. I love a good, wrapped up conclusion!

My Audiobook Experience:

We have the same narrator throughout the series and I thought she did a great job. She has a great way of injecting humour and emotion into her reading. She really brought the characters to life for me.

Series Rating: 4/5

The Duke and I 4/5 | The Viscount Who Loved Me 5/5 | An Offer from a Gentleman 5/5  | Romancing Mr. Bridgerton 5/5  | To Sir Philip, With Love 4/5  | When He Was Wicked 2/5  | It’s in His Kiss 3/5  | On the Way to the Wedding 3/5 

overall

Fans of the show will like spending extra time with their favourite family. Fans of regency reads will enjoy this classic delivery. I do think the series loses some of its original charm as it concludes but all the stories are entertaining nonetheless.

Read if You Like: historical romances, books featuring siblings
Avoid if You: dislike historical romances

similarreads

  • The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare (Girl Meets Duke Series #1)
  • Slightly Married by Mary Balogh (Bedwyn Saga #1)
  • A Duke in the Night by Kelly Bowen (The Devils of Dover Series #1)
  • Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks (The Montgomerys and The Armstrongs Series #1)

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Series Review: Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

Fresh Fridays: Kingdom of the Wicked (#1) by Kerri Maniscalco

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Kingdom of the Wicked Series

book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Kingdom of the Wicked (from Goodreads):

Two sisters.

One brutal murder.

A quest for vengeance that will unleash Hell itself…

And an intoxicating romance.

Emilia and her twin sister Vittoria are streghe—witches who live secretly among humans, avoiding notice and persecution. One night, Vittoria misses dinner service at the family’s renowned Sicilian restaurant. Emilia soon finds the body of her beloved twin… desecrated beyond belief. Devastated, Emilia sets out to find her sister’s killer and to seek vengeance at any cost—even if it means using dark magic that’s been long forbidden.

Then Emilia meets Wrath, one of the Wicked Princes of Hell that she has been warned against in tales since she was a child. Wrath claims to be on Emilia’s side, tasked by his master with solving the series of women’s murders on the island. But when it comes to the Wicked, nothing is as it seems…

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Author to Watch
Series: Kingdom of the Wicked
Author: Kerri Maniscalco
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Witches, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 27, 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

**This post was originally published as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Ever since I finished the Stalking Jack the Ripper Series, I’ve been awaiting Kerri Maniscalco’s next series. And while I am normally not one to enjoy stories about witches, I loved her previous series so much that I knew it was worth the try.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

You couldn’t ask for a better setting than historical Italy! I’ve been to Italy before so it wasn’t hard to picture the setting in the book but it’s so easy to be transported there as you read the book. There is just something so eerie about the setting with the cobble stone streets and alleys. Add to that the clash between religion and supernatural magic and its a lush setting for a book like this.

–The Sinister Edge–

I got a lot of Caraval vibes when I read the synopsis thanks to the sister dynamic. But this book differs in many ways from that series. This one has a more sinister vibe to it; much darker thanks to the additions of witches, demons and magic. A much different foundation and approach that gives it a unique edge.

–Banter Between Wrath & Emilia–

Kerri Maniscalco knows how to write grant banter between her lead characters. I loved every scene these two shared and couldn’t wait for the next one!

What I Didn’t Like:

–Some Aspects are Predictable–

There were certain plot points that I thought were pretty easy to see coming but I had so much fun reading the journey to get there that I didn’t really care so much.

My Audiobook Experience:

I had read all of the Stalking Jack the Ripper Series as an audiobook so it was an obvious choice for this one. It’s a great production and it even has sound effects! I think it really added to the whole atmosphere and transported me right into Emilia’s world.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I can see that things are building for the rest of the series so I am super excited to see where this goes next!

updates

–January 28, 2022– Book #2: Kingdom of the Cursed

This book definitely has a different feel from the first one. I found the suspense comes more from the sexual tension that is brimming between Emelia and Wrath…and trust me, I’m not complaining! Their hate to lust you vibes are great and filled with plenty of chemistry.

I found the middle of the book got a little stale for me. We kinda kept rehashing the same things over and over without any huge developments. But the last quarter picks the plot pack up and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next one.

My Rating: 4/5

Kingdom of the Wicked 4/5 | Kingdom of the Cursed 4/5 | Book 3 TBP

overall

Perfect for fans of Caraval and/or Stalking Jack the Ripper! This story is fast-paced in a rich setting that will immediately suck you in. I highly recommend the audiobook version!

Read if You Like: slower stories, world-building, alternate dimensions
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Single Sundays: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Single Sundays: Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Romanov (from Goodreads):

The history books say I died.

They don’t know the half of it.

Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them, and he’s hunted Romanov before.

Nastya’s only chances of saving herself and her family are to either release the spell and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya has only dabbled in magic, but it doesn’t frighten her half as much as her growing attraction to Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her.

That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.

breakdown

Author: Nadine Brandes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retelling, Romance, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

As someone who claims to love Imperial Russian History as much as I do, I really don’t know much about Anastasia Nikolaevna. I think most people know the gist of her family’s history and their subsequent exile. But I like books that explore alternate histories and play the “what-if” game so this was something I was eager to read!

The Concept / The World:

It’s hard to write a story–reimagining or not–that is based on history. I mean, most of us know how Anastasia’s (Nastya) story ends so it can be hard to surprise a reader. But at the same time, a good story teller should be able to weave together the historical moments we already know and give you a new perspective on it.

Here, that perspective is the idea that Nastya had magic. And I think that both helps and hurts the story at the same time. Could you have omitted it and still had a story? Probably.

The Plot:

Like I said above, you kinda already know how things are going to go for the Romanovs. This is a survival story and that can make it very depressing at times. As someone who loves the glitz of Imperial Russia, it was a good reminder for me that things weren’t always so opulent and a lot of people suffered during this time period.

But the pacing of the plot was just off for me and I found my mind wandering. Maybe if I knew more about Anastasia’s history, certain scenes would have popped out for me more.

The Characters:

One of my favourite aspects of this story is the Romanov family. The heart of this novel is about a family trying to survive while still being a family. Yes, they had incredible power and control, but when they lose it all, they are just a family. Their bonds and their sacrifices were heartwarming and heart-wrenching to watch unfold.

I also liked that things weren’t always black and white with some of our character interactions. There’s a lot of lessons about getting to know a person before you pass judgement and learning to forgive others for their past actions.

The Romance:

I think I’m in the minority for this one but I didn’t love the romance. I can appreciate the slow burn and the challenges they face but I was never fully convinced it was an amazing connection. Or maybe that is the point of it: that love can come from unlikely places and surprise you.

My Audiobook Experience:

It’s quite a lengthy audiobook and even though I listen to books at a faster playback speed, it did feel slow to me. Maybe that affected my overall feelings for the book. Though I think if I read it as an eBook/book, I might have put it down…

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This one just didn’t do much for me. I think fans of the Anastasia story and who know the history might get more out of this magic spin to her story.

Read if You Like: Imperial Russia, historical retellings, magic
Avoid if You: dislike survival or depressing stories

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Series Review: An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

Series Review: An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for An Uncertain Choice (from Goodreads):

Due to her parents’ promise at her birth, Lady Rosemarie has been prepared to become a nun on the day she turns eighteen. Then, a month before her birthday, a friend of her father’s enters the kingdom and proclaims her parents’ will left a second choice. If Rosemarie can marry before the eve of her eighteenth year, she will be exempt from the ancient vow.

Before long, Rosemarie is presented with the three most handsome and brave knights in the land. But when the competition for her heart seemingly results in a knight playing foul, she begins to wonder if the cloister is the best place after all. If only one of the knights the one who appears the most guilty had not already captured her heart.

breakdown

Series: An Uncertain Choice
Author: Jody Hedlund
# of Books: 5 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Teen, Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: March 2015 – September 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I only read the first 3 book of the series and have opted not to pick up the sequels (#4, #5).

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had had An Uncertain Choice on my library’s wishlist for a long time. I think it was a “judged by the cover” situation because I don’t recall hearing about it anyway. Fast forward a few years when I’m super into audiobooks and I decide that this would make a great series to read!

The Concept / The World:

All the stories are connected initially (Books #1 to #3) through a group of three boys who are training to be knights and the ladies they meet along the way who steal their hearts. The final two books focus on some side characters we meet throughout the series.

Some people bill this as a Christian Fiction; it isn’t the first label would slap on this series. Perhaps my unfamiliarity with the genre doesn’t have me fully convinced. There is nothing overtly religious about anything here (Book #3 is as close as it gets but I think you could argue historical events also explain its tone) so don’t let that turn you away. But the ideals of treating people with respect, helping others and chivalry are themes throughout. I also think the sweet and chaste romances perpetuate that idea as well.

The Plot:

Some of the books had a stronger plot than others. For example, Daring Sacrifice had a loose Robin Hood retelling to it that was fun. I found every book to be predictable but the stories flow well enough (despite some repetitive scenes) that I didn’t mind too much.

The Characters:

Most of the characters have a naivety and innocence to them that is somewhat charming. Their hearts are in the right place so I let some of their mistakes go by with a grain of salt.

And the boys are chivalrous but without being condescending! I thought these books were pretty “pro-girl-power” and it was nice to see these girls take charge when they had to.

The Romance:

The romances are sweet and very chaste to my normal reading choices. They happen a little quickly but it worked for the story.

My Audiobook Experience:

While I think the sole female narrator did a good job overall with two POVs, I really wish we had two narrators. I had the hardest time catching the change in POV throughout this series! There wasn’t much of a tone change between our female lead and our male lead–or at least not one that was noticeable immediately if you picked up where you left off. It was very frustrating.

Why I Stopped Reading After Book #3:

It’s simply because my library lacks the books and that I didn’t enjoy the series enough to purchase them for myself.

Series Rating: 3/5

An Uncertain Choice 3/5 | A Daring Sacrifice 3/5 | For Love and Honour 3/5 | A Loyal Heart N/A | A Worthy Rebel N/A

overall

If you like quick, sweet historical romances, this is great series for you to try.

Read if You Like: sweet romance, more teen oriented reads
Avoid if You: want more romance, want more action

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Series Review: The Devils of Dover by Kelly Bowen

Series Review: The Devils of Dover by Kelly Bowen

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for A Duke in the Night (from Goodreads):

Duke. Scoundrel. Titan of business. August Faulkner is a man of many talents, not the least of which is enticing women into his bedchamber. He’s known-and reviled-for buying and selling companies, accumulating scads of money, and breaking hearts. It’s a reputation he wears like a badge of honor, and one he intends to keep.

Clara Hayward, the headmistress of the Haverhall School for Young Ladies, on the other hand, is above reproach. Yet when she’s reunited with August all she can think of is the way she felt in his arms as they danced a scandalous waltz ten long years ago. Even though her head knows that he is only back in her life to take over her family’s business, her heart can’t help but open to the very duke who could destroy it for good.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Must Read Author
Series: The Devils of Dover
Author: Kelly Bowen
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a novella: #3.5 Night of the Scoundrel

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: February 2018 – May 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (#1 & #2); eBook (#3)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I fell in love with Kelly Bowen’s work after reading her Season for Scandal Series. She reminds me of my favourite historical fiction author Tessa Dare only that Kelly has a slightly darker approach to her characters and their pasts. She’s also Canadian and I love to support my fellow Canucks so she easily became a must-read author for me. I couldn’t wait to try another series by her.

The Concept:

One of the biggest reasons I’m drawn to Historical Fiction is the fact that our female leads usually defy the societal norms of the time. They challenge the prejudices and roles of their time by being their authentic selves. So the whole concept of a school that teaches women subjects like art and medicine in times when those were perceived as simply hobbies or something that challenged their delicate constitution was a great aspect to the story.

The Plot:

My only other experience with Bowen’s work is A Season for Scandal which follows a group of people who were the Olivia Pope (Scandal) Fixers of their day (just not as crazy as that group). So there were an edge of danger and suspense to those novels that I expected to be here but really wasn’t given the setting. (Book #3, A Rogue by Night falls back into that mold though which is probably why it was my favourite of the series). I try not to compare series to other series but I did have to curb my expectations a bit to get into the story.

But once I got acquainted with everyone and what the plot was, I enjoyed the drama that we do get.

The Characters:

Writing great, solid characters is a talent and it’s one Bowen excels at. Everyone is just so rounded as a character. They all have their flaws and strengths and that allows them to grow as the story evolves. And everyone just has great chemistry together. I really loved the family dynamic of the Hayward clan.

The Romance:

All these couples had really fabulous chemistry together. And I loved how they all challenged their partners to become better people. In my books, I like the idea that you have to “work on ‘me’ before we become ‘we'” and that’s what we get here. I really saw the connections and draws for each couple…and I definitely swooned a few times.

My Audiobook Experience (#1 & #2):

I would have loved to have read the entire series in audio but I was at the whims of my library for this one. Great narration throughout.

Series Rating: 4/5

A Duke in the Night 3/5 | Last Night With the Earl 4/5 | A Rogue by Night 5/5 | [Night of the Scoundrel N/A]

overall

A solid series about a family that defies convention–all the while falling in love with their perfect match!

Read if You Like: regency reads, romance
Avoid if You: want more erotica

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DNF Series Review: The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

DNF Series Review: The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

book4

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Beautiful (from Goodreads):

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.

breakdown

Series: The Beautiful
Author: Renée Ahdieh
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First & Third Person
Publication Dates: October 2019 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I only read the first book of the series, The Beautiful, and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m 50/50 for Renée’s book series so far. I loved The Wrath and The Dawn (so much that I bought the hardcovers which I rarely do) but was left a little underwhelmed by The Flame in the Mist. So this series was going to be the tiebreaker. And boy, was I excited to try it! I miss the YA paranormal (ie vampire) reads of my younger days and this seemed like the perfect gothic read to remind me why that genre was such a trend 10 years ago.

What I Liked:

–The Setting–

I’ve never been to New Orleans and this book just made me want to go there right away. The gothic setting is so lush and captivating. Renée writes great worlds without dumping so much info on you. I wish we spent more time in it though.

–The Mysterious Narrator–

I really loved the mystery of who this second narrator (the murderer) was. That mystery kept me going honestly. It kept the story moving and my mind racing with theories when I would zone out from Celine’s narration.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Celine–

I had flashbacks to Bella Swan with this lead–and that isn’t a compliment. She was so, so dry and dull. I got so bored of her lamenting about this “dangerous” side lurking inside of her (which wasn’t all that dangerous if you ask me. Perhaps it was just a strong case of curiosity?). Honestly, as I write this I struggle to write anything about her because she was so forgettable to me.

–Nothing Happens–

A lot of this book felt like filler to me. As in some chapters contributed nothing to the plot and could be omitted without alarm. The last few chapters when everything comes into place were exciting but I was so over this story by then (I just wanted to find out who the narrator was!) I didn’t bring myself to care.

–The Romance–

The chemistry between Bastain and Celine was non-existent for me. I didn’t get where on Earth those deep feelings came from. I think they talked maybe 3 times before they are declaring love?

I think some people might disagree with this part but I thought Celine had much stronger chemistry with the police detective Mathew. At least she interacted with him enough times that I could believe they would develop romantic feelings.

My Audiobook Experience:

I enjoyed the audio production. The accents were great and I never struggled with listening to it…it was the writing that I had a hard time with.

Will I Finish It?

No. Despite an intriguing ending I really don’t care about Celine enough to pick up the sequels. Especially when I learned it was going to be a 4 book series. No thanks!

My Series Rating: DNF

The Beautiful 2/5 | The Damned N/A | The Righteous N/A
|Book 4 N/A

overall

For those who really love gothic settings with a slow building plot line, this might be a good one for you. But if you want something faster paced, look elsewhere!

Read if You Like: gothic reads, slow story building
Avoid if You: dislike vampires, dislike paranormal

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Series Review: Girl Meets Duke by Tessa Dare

Series Review: Girl Meets Duke by Tessa Dare

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Duchess Deal (from Goodreads):

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
– They will be husband and wife by night only.
– No lights, no kissing.
– No questions about his battle scars.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
– They will have dinner together every evening.
– With conversation.
– And unlimited teasing.
– Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Girl Meets Duke
Author: Tessa Dare
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Book 4 to be released in February 2021
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: August 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was in a historical romance phase, I discovered Tessa Dare and I’ve never looked back. Even though I don’t go out of my way to read much of the genre anymore (there are a few exceptions like Anna Harrington and Kelly Bowen), I make it a point to read anything Tessa Dare writes.

The Plot:

I’d read 14 other books by Tessa Dare by the time I started this series and you know what is shocking to me? That all her series and novels feel fresh and unique. Certainly, there are aspects to her novels that are her trademark–like the unconventional-to-society heroine or a scared hero or the way she can convey humour throughout–but I never truly feel like I’m reading a regurgitation of her previous novels or that they follow a set, formula.

I had a blast meeting all these new characters and watching all the hi-jinx they get into as they fall in love and challenge societal norms.

The Characters:

I immediately fell in love with ALL our leads in The Duchess Deal. When our heroine meets the future heroines in the series, I was so excited to see who was getting their story next that I definitely peeked at the synopsis for the rest of the series.

Everyone is just delightful. And I love how their individual struggles and growth are highlighted in their novels through the plot and romance.

The Romance:

The tension is so delicious in each novel! I couldn’t get enough of our couples–it made the books so addicting to read! But I really loved how the romances had a bit of a slow burn to them where they take their time to truly fall in love with the person and not just because they have insane physical chemistry.

My Audiobook Experience:

Humour doesn’t always come across in written novels for me–though that has never been a problem with Tessa’s novels–so audiobooks are a great way for me to get the humour because you hear the tone the author wants the dialogue to be delivered in. Now that I’ve started listening to her books in audio, I think that’s the only way I can enjoy them! They are just so easy and fun to listen to!

Series Rating: 5/5

The Duchess Deal 5/5 | The Governess Game 5/5 | The Wallflower Wager 4/5 | The Bride Bet TBD

overall

Honestly, this series reminded me why Tessa Dare has become an automatic must read author for me. She never fails to disappoint when it comes to characters, romance, plot and humour!

Read if You Like: historical fiction
Avoid if You: dislike historical fiction romances

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