ARC Review – Broken Valley

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing Broken Valley by Owen Lach, the sequel to last year’s Founder’s Mercy. I enjoyed the first book and have been anticipating the continuation of the story. The wait is finally over, and the book will be released tomorrow, January 24, 2023.

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ALC Review – Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell

Hello, everyone! I’m a bit late getting this review posted. It was supposed to be Monday’s post, but I spent most of that day shopping the after Christmas candy sales and the 50% off hardbacks sale at B&N. I’ve been a bit behind ever since because the rest of the week has been busy as well with doctor’s appointments and preparing for today’s road trip to the in-law’s house. I’ve finally managed to carve out the time. So, today I’m reviewing the audiobook Take a Bow, Noah Mitchell by Tobias Madden.

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ARC Mini Review – External Forces

Hello, everyone! I’m slowly clearing out my backlog of ARCs from 2022. I’m not sure I’ll get to them all before the end of the year, but I’m going to try my best… The next one up is External Forces by Shannon Fay.

A mage for the British royals matches wits with a power-mad old foe in a beguiling novel of enchantments and daring by Shannon Fay, author of Innate Magic.

London, 1957. By crafting magical outfits for his friend, Princess Katherine, cloth mage Paul Gallagher is getting ahead. It’s not a seamless path. Not since the Virtuis Party came to power. The far-right faction is using criminals to create a protective barrier around England. The enchanted uniforms the prisoners wear may beget a demand for mages, but using luckless convicts as tools for warmongering reactionaries isn’t Paul’s dream for cloth magic.

His road to success takes an even darker turn when the unexpected death of a member of the royal family plunges the country into chaos. The Virtuis Party is rising, its mysterious puppet master is gaining control, and Paul and his allies are prepared to do anything to protect the princess, the throne, and ultimately, the soul of the country. That means falling back on the innate magic Paul dreads using again. It’s illegal, dangerous, and so potent it can raise the dead.

But as the fate of the entire nation hangs by a thread, dire times call for extreme magic.

***Thank you to 47North for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

This was such an improvement compared to the first book, Innate Magic. I liked the first book, but its meandering plot felt like it was going nowhere for most of the story. External Forces, on the other hand, had a fairly tight and engaging main story with incredibly high stakes. There was quite a bit of action in this book, and the violence and torture were graphic enough to make me squirm in my seat while reading. The story also deepened the world-building and provided a lot of interesting information about the magic system that makes me excited to see what comes next for this series. The alternate 1950’s Britain was still a fun setting, and it allowed for the exploration of some timely topics, including queer and women’s rights and the fight against fascism growing under the guise of ‘safety.’ The characters, especially Paul, seemed much more mature in this book compared to the first. Paul felt less like the stereotypical bisexual man and more well-rounded. He had to grapple with severe challenges to his morals and handled all the crises with a surprising amount of grace. He still made plenty of reckless, selfish choices too, though. I guess he wouldn’t be Paul without them. lol. One thing I love about this series is that it centers a bisexual man who primarily pursues long term relationships with women (at least during the time we’re with him on the page). This representation is sorely lacking, and it was nice to get a story where the bi guy ends up with a woman even if the romance felt a bit forced at times. Most, if not all, of the bi male rep I’ve read has the bi man experiencing a bi awakening and choosing to pursue relationships with men. So, it was a nice change of pace to have Paul confident in his identity from the beginning and not shy away from relationships with women in an effort to make the story ‘more queer’ because bi men in love with a woman are just as queer as gold star gays. ***Steps off soap box.*** The only other qualm I had with this book was the large time gap since the first book. It felt like so much character growth happened during that time, and I was a little let down we didn’t get to see it on the page. Overall, I really enjoyed this story and am curious to see where it goes next. Therefore, I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars.

ARC Review – In the Lives of Puppets

Hello, everyone! I’m very excited to be bringing you this review today. I started reading In the Lives of Puppets as soon as I was approved to receive it on NetGalley, and I couldn’t be more grateful to Tor for allowing me to read it early. I love everything I’ve read by TJ Klune, and this book was no exception. This will largely be spoiler-free ramblings about how much I loved the book. Consider yourself warned. lol.

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ARC Review – The Gentleman’s Book of Vices

Hello, everyone! Today I’m reviewing The Gentleman’s Book of Vices by Jess Everlee. I was so excited to be approved for this ARC because it sounded like it would be a great read. If the synopsis or my review piques your interest, you can pick the book up starting tomorrow, November 29, 2022.

Is their real-life love story doomed to be a tragedy, or can they rewrite the ending?

London, 1883

Finely dressed and finely drunk, Charlie Price is a man dedicated to his vices. Chief among them is his explicit novel collection, though his impending marriage to a woman he can’t love will force his carefully curated collection into hiding.

Before it does, Charlie is determined to have one last hurrah: meeting his favorite author in person.

Miles Montague is more gifted as a smut writer than a shopkeep and uses his royalties to keep his flagging bookstore afloat. So when a cheerful dandy appears out of the mist with Miles’s highly secret pen name on his pretty lips, Miles assumes the worst. But Charlie Price is no blackmailer; he’s Miles’s biggest fan.

A scribbled signature on a worn book page sets off an affair as scorching as anything Miles has ever written. But Miles is clinging to a troubled past, while Charlie’s future has spun entirely out of his control…

***Thank you to Carina Adores for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley. My review contains my honest thoughts about my reading experience.***

I’m not quite sure where to start with this one. I had so much fun while reading it that I finished it in a day. The story was easy to sink into, and I loved the historical setting even though there were a few anachronisms. I’m not an expert on this period of British history (late 1800’s), and I didn’t even notice them until I saw other reviews point them out. I fell in love with the characters almost immediately, and the story did a wonderful job of peeling back their layers and making them feel real.

The premise of this book was just so much fun. A man, Charlie Price, loves his smut and wants to get the autograph of his favorite writer to add to his illicit collection. The only problem is the writer is anonymous. After using his friend to investigate, Charlie discovers the writer’s identity and decides to ambush him to get his signature. The writer, Miles, freaks out about his identity being revealed, and hilarity ensues along with the beginning of their steamy romance. To make matters even more complicated, Charlie is due to be married in a few weeks to a woman he admires but does not love.

I loved the dynamic between Charlie and Miles. Charlie was a certified rake who spent most of his free time in underground gay sex clubs. He was an eternal optimist. Although, that optimism hid a deeper and more complex person with understandable fears beneath its shiny veneer. Whereas, Miles wore his fear and paranoia on his sleeve. After his former lover was persecuted for being gay, Miles mostly stuck to himself, his anonymous writing, and the failing bookstore that his dead lover left him, which is why it was such a shock to the system when Charlie waltzed into his life knowing the secret of his smut writing gig. They had a delicious sunshine/grumpy thing going for them, as well as a light sub/dom dynamic. The chemistry was great, if a little quick, and their illicit affair really felt tense, as if the shoe could drop for either of them at a moments notice. Even though I assumed they’d get their HEA or HFN by the end, there were moments where I really questioned if that would be the case, which I really liked.

I loved the found family of the gay club, as well. It had such a fun and wholesome vibe considering it was a sex club. lol. The workers and regular patrons truly had each other’s backs, and I was excited to see that the bar owner will be the topic of the second book in this series. Charlie’s bride-to-be was also a great character. When I first read the synopsis, I was worried that she would get completely shafted by Charlie’s selfishness, but she was treated much differently than I expected and was a major character in her own right rather than a victim of the circumstance.

There was only one thing that keeps this from being a five star read for me: one specific fade to black scene. The moment had been built up for so long, and the importance of the emotional intimacy attached to it was heavily underscored leading up to the interaction. Then the scene just ended and skipped to the next morning. It was SO frustrating because it felt like such an integral moment for their relationship that the reader didn’t get to experience firsthand. There was plenty of other spicy content in the book, and I just don’t understand why that scene wasn’t also included.

Overall, this was a hilarious, heartfelt, and slightly raunchy romance filled with big personalities, tons of bookish goodness, and plenty of drama. I don’t know how anyone could not laugh, or at least smile, while reading it. If you enjoy MM romance, I definitely think you should give this one a chance. Therefore, I rate the book 4 out of 5 stars.