Title: If the Fates Allow

Author: Annie Harper (editor), Killian B. Brewer, Pene Henson, Erin Finnegan, Lilah Suzanne, Lynn Charles

Publisher: Interlude Press

Lenght: 212 pages

Genre: Romance

Score: ★★★★


This is a wonderful holiday anthology with some great pieces and some weaker ones. Overall impression is very sweet, but the first story really drags it down. I really loved that the book was a mix of m/m and f/f stories.

Gracious Living Magazine Says It Has to Be a Live Tree by Killian B. Brewer
I honestly could barely make it through this story and only the fact that it’s short made me power through it. I couldn’t stand the Do-Nothings (I grew up around a large quantity of women like this and I’d rather jump into an active volcano than to deal with them again) and their completely unnecessary fatshaming jokes were grating. The whole plot made me uncomfortable, and as it descended into a frantic mess of expectations versus reality, I was very glad for it to be over.

True North by Pene Henson
This was a wonderful story that I enjoyed a lot. Shay was a very nice character and her dynamic with Milla was very sweet and even better was her friendship with her best friend Devon (who was hinted at to be asexual, which always makes me happy) and her relationship with her family. I was somewhat annoyed byt the unnecessary confusion over Devon supposedly being Shay’s girlfriend, but I powered through that annoyance and got a very nice story.

Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille by Erin Finnegan
Unfortunately, I couldn’t get into this story much. I’m always quite interested in stories dealing with grief, but Jack as a character just didn’t grip me at all. His flashbacks about his lost partner felt intrusive in the way they were inserted into the story and I ended up skipping most of them. I really enjoyed the twist, although it took me a while to realise what just happened, because I wasn’t expecting anything magical.

Halfway Home by Lilah Suzanne
I loved this story so much. As someone who dealt with feeling absolutely nothing at all, I felt connected to Avery. Her and Grace’s relationship was sweet and I found Avery’s panicked blubbering whenever Grace was near absolutely adorable. I also loved Rudy the gremlin dog. I wouldn’t mind this story to be longer.

Shelved by Lynn Charles
As always with anthologies, the last story was my favourite. I loved the premise of the story and all the characters involved. I love how Wes and Karina practically adopted each other. I loved how it showed the importance of libraries, especially for minorities in small communities. The relationship Karina had with her uncle (and later with Wes) was wonderful to see, especially given what her father was like. Karina’s matchmaking was hilarious and I loved to see how much she cared. There were parts that should’ve been fleshed out and I genuinely would love for this story to be worked into a longer story. I’d be all over that.


It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian

Title: It Takes Two to Tumble

Author: Cat Sebastian

Publisher: Avon Impulse

Lenght: 384 pages

Genre: Romance, Historical

Score: ★★★★★

It Takes Two to Tumble is exactly the book I desperately needed during a year like 2017. It’s gentle, hilarious, kind both to its characters and readers and so, so hopeful.

Cat Sebastian writes amazing characters. Complex, with pasts and relationships that could exist outside their romances and most of them are just precious. Bed Sedgwick responsible and kind, with his heart so full of love. He takes care of others in any way he can and brings joy everywhere he goes. He wishes for a quiet life filled with love and laughter. He has a beautiful soul and is absolutely adorable. Phillip Dacre is desperately searching for something to make him feel alive again. His depression almost cheated him out of his family, but now he wants to do better, both for his children and for Ben. There is a wonderful acknowledgement that sometimes, our brains lie to us and we shouldn’t listen to them. He wants the best for his family and will do anything he can.

As always, the secondary characters are delightful. Cat writes the best children and, just like Ben, I immediately fell in love with the Dacre children, especially the little hellion Peggy. Ben’s best friend Alice had the best kind of cutting humor, his housekeeper Mrs. Winston was wonderful and so was Mrs. Morris, Phillip’s cook. Special mention goes to Ben’s family, the Sedgwicks, because the few members we’ve met so far make me excited to meet the rest too. Alton, Ben’s father, is absolutely ridiculous but also fascinating. Hartley, Ben’s little brother, seems to fall squarely into the category of “a bit of a tit” that I love so much and here’s hoping the next book in the series is about him.

This book has a lot to say about mourning, relationships, and life in general and it does so with tenderness that brought tears to my eyes more than once. The ending is a culmination of everything that is beautiful about this story and I still can’t believe how amazing it was. It was probably Cat’s best work so far and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.


The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale

Title: The Love Song of Sawyer Bell

Author: Avon Gale

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Lenght:  234 pages

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Score: ★★★★


This book was so sweet. It was charming, funny and romantic with a simple premise that was held up by the characters.
Sawyer and Vix had a wonderful chemistry, their relationship was adorable and I loved their approach to sex, which was to not take it too seriously. Seriously, never have I laughed so hard during sex scenes. There were several times where I had to put my reader down and just laugh and laugh. This is probably the first book where I genuinely couldn’t wait for the next sex scene because they were so delightful. Loved those. Sawyer, with her university problems, was a very relatable character and I loved seeing her journey. I enjoyed the secondary characters too, although some could take some more fleshing out. I was delighted at having a canonically asexual character too, even if he didn’t get much screentime. When I found out there will be a sequel, I squeed.
While Sawyer and Vix’ relationship was sweet and I have high hopes for their future, I didn’t feel good about where the book left them. There is a lot of miscommunication in this book and there was no proof in the book itself that they learned how to healthily communicate through their problems.

The thing that genuinely enraged me were all the “sexy” comments secondary characters made towards the main couple. I don’t read f/f books to be told that men find queer women sexy. I already know that by living in this world as a queer woman. I don’t enjoy completely unnecessary reminders from male side characters. I also don’t enjoy that to happen several times in one book. I especially don’t appreciate the “what, are you going to comment on us making out in this cab car?” “no, I literally couldn’t care less” scene. I almost threw my reader across the room. It’s so unnecessary and gross. Please stop. This thing knocked the book off potential 5*.

The cover is very beautiful though.


The Doctor’s Discretion by EE Ottoman

Title: The Doctor’s Discretion

Author: EE Ottoman

Publisher: Pronoun

Lenght:  195 pages

Genre: Romance, Historical

Score: ★★★★

The first time I saw the cover for The Doctor’s Discretion, I thought to myself “that is one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen”. After I’ve read the blurb, I knew I had to get my hands on this book.

Augustus Hill and William Blackwood are doctors working together to categorize a medical collection of a late collector. Feeling a sense of kinship and budding romance, when Henri Moss, a trans man, is jailed in the hospital Augustus works at, he turns to William for help saving him. The trio then goes on the run, promising to protect Moss, who Augustus and William grow enormously fond of.

I loved the medical angle of the book. The history of medicine is one of my favorite subjects to learn about, even though it usually ends up with me being enraged at the doctors and scientists of the past for their treatment of minorities. Despite that, there is still a sad lack of doctors in historical romances. The book treats its serious subject with the care and respect it deserves. There is a clear talk of the way the characters’ various identities inform the way they are treated, and the way that class, race, or gender intersect and create unique challenges they must deal with. And the characters are aware that while their experiences aren’t the same, they share a sense of solidarity. They don’t shy away from the ugly realities of the medical profession and the way it has treated the more vulnerable members of our society over the years.

Augustus and William had a very sweet chemistry. While I would’ve enjoyed more development be given to their budding relationship, once they were off the ground, it was wonderful. I loved how they took one look at Moss and decided “yes, he is ours, we will protect him till our dying days” because honestly? Same.

The characters were wonderful. I loved how passionate Augustus and William were about their work and all the discussions of medical theory. I loved how strongly they felt about saving and protecting Moss, despite the ever-present specter of being caught and jailed themselves. I loved Moss and the way he refused to put down any books, a cute quirk until you realize this is probably him dealing with a deeply traumatic experience. I am somewhat desperately hoping there will be a sequel about him. I would love to know so much more about him.

My main issue is that the ending was very rushes. After the amazing book, it felt like a brick wall. It was a good ending, but very, very rushed. Although it does give me hopes for a possible sequel?


Hamilton’s Battalion by Courtney Milan, Rose Lerner and Alyssa Cole

Title: Hamilton’s Battalion

Author: Courtney Milan, Rose Lerner and Alyssa Cole

Publisher: Self-published

Lenght:  394 pages

Genre: Romance, Historical

Score: ★★★★★


This book might be my favorite romance anthology I’ve ever read. The three stories are beautiful, human, extraordinary stories. They are touching, and heartfelt, painfully raw and hopeful. They make you feel like you belong. I finished the book with a huge smile on my face.

Promised Land by Rose Lerner

Rachel and Nathan’s story was raw and desperate and I couldn’t put my book down. As a member of the Armenian diaspora, this story hit very close to home. I can relate to Nathan’s hope for his people to be respected and his need to hold onto his cultural habits. I could also understand how Rachel wished to just be accepted and belong with the majority. I loved seeing their journey of accepting what both of them need from their shared future.

My only quip is that seeing them together right at the start of the story lessens the impact of getting them there.

The Pursuit of… by Courtney Milan

This story is hands down one of the best I’ve ever read. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed this hard while reading. John and Henry had a beautiful, crackling chemistry that made me fall in love with them immediately. Their banter was genius and the use of the Cheese of Death as a framing device was endlessly amusing to me.

I loved seeing their debates of civil rights and that Henry, despite his best intentions, was very clueless about certain topics and that he kept learning. I also adored seeing them old and happy and still deeply in love, as there are nearly not enough older queer couples in media. And the community they built around themselves was wonderful.

That Could be Enough by Alyssa Cole

I have to admit that I share Mercy’s annoyance at her employer’s absolute devotion to her late husband, but I loved the way it was handled. I felt for her desperation, her feeling as though she’s throwing her life away, at her unwillingness to open up her heart again. I loved Andromeda, with her charming ways and strong will. Their romance was very sweet, the way Andromeda sweeps Mercy off her feet. Their flirting was wonderful, and the character development was joy to behold.

I was annoyed at the unnecessary miscommunication, but I will forgive it since these two ladies charmed me to my very core.


An Unsuitable Heir by KJ Charles

Title: An Unsuitable Heir

Author: KJ Charles

Publisher: Loveswept

Lenght:  246 pages

Genre: Romance, Historical, Mystery

Score: ★★★★½


I find it very hard putting into words what this series, and this book in particular, means to me. Whenever I stop to think about it, my heart becomes unbearably full and I feel the need to start reciting poetry to the nearest person. It’s slightly embarrassing, to be honest, but I can’t seem to do anything about it, since it feels like this entire year was spent waiting for more of this series. I knew I was excited for the final book, but I didn’t expect to feel so much.

(Side-note: I will be using he/him pronouns for Pen, because while I believe he’d chose different pronouns if he had the access to them, these are the ones he uses in the book and it didn’t feel right for me to make the choice for him.)

When Mark Braglewicz, a private enquiry agent, is tasked with searching for the lost heir of the late Earl of Moreton, he doesn’t expect to find a soulmate. Pen Starling, the beautiful and joyous non binary acrobat doesn’t want anything to do with his earldom. He loves his life on the trapeze with his twin sister and his evenings with Mark. But with a violent murderer still at large, Mark knows the only way to save Pen’s life is to get him to claim his birthright. The decision taken from his hands, Pen is forced to put up with his new relatives, at least while his parentage is investigated. But the murderer is still out there, bidding his time.

I adore the characters. Pen. Dear lord, Pen. He’s such a wonderful, cheerful person who managed to retain his kindness and joy towards others, despite the world not returning the courtesy. He’s funny and full of love and all he wishes for is to be able to live out his life and to be left alone. His world is magical and full of colors and he managed to carve out a place for himself, where people respect him and his gender. And now that that safety is torn away from him, my heart absolutely ached for him. His experiences with dysphoria hit so close to home: the dizzy spells, the inability to look into a mirror or even at his own body. It made me feel raw and aching, with a desperate need to help him.

Pen and Greta’s relationship won me over in under a minute. Greta is fiercely loyal, protective, careful and so, so funny. Their mantra of “No repentance, no regret” made me tear up. I also wanted to applaud every instance of the twins not backing down under the hatred the older Taillefers threw their way, because they were magnificent.

Mark is someone I wanted to see more of ever since we met him in the first book and he didn’t disappoint. His quiet, calm acceptance, the strength and will to help and make things right for others. He insists he’s just a simple bloke, but there’s nothing unremarkable about Mark. There is nothing simple about the way he respects people, their boundaries and identities, the way he listens and strives to understand, the way he makes others feel safe. There is a good reason why both Clem and Nathaniel come to him to seek help.

The background characters need to be mentioned too. Clem was his usual wonderful supportive self, delighted over his new relatives. But for me, it was Justin who absolutely stole the show. He’s excited and enthusiastic to show how hard he’s working now. His budding, teasing friendship with Mark is delightful and he has some of the best lines in the entire book. Seeing how far he’s come made me want to cry.

Mark and Pen fall into the kind of comfortable love where it feels like they’re been together for years. They work hard on understanding each other, their quirks and needs and limits. They listen to each other and clearly communicate what they need. They flirt adorably and make silly jokes and horrible puns and my heart ached so, so painfully at their despair of being kept apart. They also had a beautiful case of body worship going on and I could feel some deep part of my soul being healed at the sight of a disabled character being treated with such a reverent care.

I knew their relationship was going to be beautiful the moment Mark took Pen into the Jack and Knave and told him embarrassing stories about himself. In one stroke, Mark gave him a community and showed him he’s not alone. Pen’s overwhelmed reaction reminded me of the first time I attended a Gay Pride, the way the sight of so many proud, openly queer people made me break down and sob my heart out. Mark gave him the best possible gift he could.

Unfortunately, while the characters, romance and the overall plot are amazing, the conclusion to the murder mystery isn’t. Without spoiling anything, I’m afraid the reveal itself falls flat. And while everything surrounding it felt great, the reveal itself made me somewhat disappointed.

An Unsuitable Heir was a wonderful ending to one of my favorite trilogies. While it has some aforementioned problems, the emotional resonance from the characters themselves was so strong I ended up not caring much. This trilogy brought me so much joy in a year where I desperately needed it.


Shade, the Changing Girl, Vol. 1: Earth Girl Made Easy

TitleShade the Changing Girl Vol. 1: Earth Girl Made Easy

Author:  Cecil Castellucci  (Author), Marley Zarcone (Illustrator)

Publisher: DC Comics

Lenght:  144 pages

Genre: Comics, Science Fiction

Score: ★★★


I’m honestly torn about this book. The art and covers are absolutely gorgeous, so I had high hopes. Unfortunately, they fell somewhat flat.

The story is a mess, that’s the only way I can describe it. Readers aren’t eased into it, most pages contain huge amounts of info dumps, which still don’t explain anything. Maybe if I’ve read the original Shade the Changing Man, I might’ve understood more, but isn’t it a point of reboots to attract new readers? I spent most of my time reading utterly confused and whenever I thought I started to understand what was happening, I was thrown another confusing curveball. And despite how dense to understand it was, there was barely any plot to think of. I’d almost call that amazing, if I wasn’t so annoyed. I really wanted to like this book.

Untitled 8

Loma Shade, a bird alien from a faraway planet (that is basically Earth but some of the inhabitants are aliens. Some of them. A lot of them looked like regular humans. No, it’s never explained) dons the coat of madness and somehow her spirit transfers to a comatose teenage girl on Earth, Megan. It’s never explained how exactly the coat or the “Madness” works, as far as I can remember. Loma decides to take over Megan’s life and finds herself back in high school, where she tries to figure out why everyone hates her so much. Surprise, turns out Megan was a horrible despicable abuser to everyone around her! Meanwhile, back on Loma’s planet we get a side-plot about a secret research facility trying to utilize the Madness for some sinister purposes. This side-plot actually seems to be the main plot, given how Loma on Earth literally doesn’t do anything but hang out at high school and terrify her classmates, but at the same time, it’s touched upon so very sporadically, I’m not too sure. Like I said, the story is a mess.

There doesn’t seem to be any direction to this book. Loma is a huge fan of Earth who wants to learn everything possible about it, but she never actually learns anything. It seems like the Earth portion spends most of it’s time running in circles, watching Loma on her wacky hijinks, wasting time. It’s a very pretty waste of time, but still a waste. It seems like every few pages Loma needs to be told again why people are scared of Megan (because she was a horrible abuser!!! We’ve been over this five times already oh my god), how to act, not to do magic around people. Also, let’s not get started on the implications of adult woman inhabiting teenage girl’s body. Let’s NOT.

Untitled 6

Which brings me to my other point. The art is gorgeous but also very confusing. I could never figure how much are people around Loma seeing and there’s never any explanation. Sometimes it seems that all the magic around his visible, sometimes not. It’s confusing.

The art really is gorgeous though. The lines are beautiful and the flat colours fit the style so well, it’s probably the best drawn comics I’ve seen. The art is mostly the only reason I kept reading, to be honest.

Untitled 15.jpg


Abroad by Liz Jacobs

Title: Abroad

Author: Liz Jacobs

Publisher: Brain Mill Press

Lenght:  372 pages

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Score: ★★★★★

Nick was the product of all things unspoken, all things fearful and untold. Don’t tell anyone you’re Jewish. It’s good, you pass, you don’t have the family nose. You have light hair, thank God. Your sister’s got the sad Jewish eyes, but you—you took after your dad. You’ll be okay.

To fully explain how much this book means to me, I need to tell you something about my family. My Armenian mother immigrated to Czech Republic in 1986, when both countries were still part of the Soviet Block. I was raised on a mix of clashing cultures, both with heavy historical baggage, be it genocide, communism, or generations of illnesses and disabilities. Growing up, it seemed to me that I had duty to my family, to my ancestors even, to get married and have as many children as possible, creating the next generation, to make sure we are still around. It’s a very heavy duty to place on a young child. There is no space for queerness. The way I understood it, there never was and never will.

I have never found a character more relatable to my lived experiences than Nick Melnikov. I generally tend to avoid books that seem to be too close to my life. I still have hard time unpacking years of self-loathing and confusion relating to my identity and I don’t enjoy much seeing that in text. But Abroad came highly recommended, and the cover is frankly gorgeous. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into, but I don’t think I was prepared for the way this book would steamroll me.

Abroad is a coming-of-age story following three protagonists and their university shenanigans: Nick, Dex and Izzy. Nick, a transfer student new in London, is invited to join Dex and Izzy’s group and what follows is a series of seemingly stereotypical college life. The story isn’t complex- they go clubbing, have study sleepovers, go on trips, and drink a somewhat astounding amount of alcohol. They fight with their friends and families, and get crushes. Where this book shines are the characters.

The protagonists are wonderful. Izzy is a beautiful, cheerful, and active chubby girl dealing with her newfound bisexuality while juggling stress over her film major and worry for her disabled mother. Dex is a confident, proud, and openly queer black biochemistry major, worrying about his little brother currently dealing with racism and loneliness. And Nick? Oh Nick. Nick is the reason I spent the second half of this book sobbing. His Jewish family fled Russia to the US when he was a child and lost his father as a teenager. His identity is tangled in layers and layers of confusion, fear and pain, all of it portrayed with a beautiful, heartbreaking accuracy. He tries to outrun his identity, but of course that isn’t possible. His journey is painful and cathartic and exactly what I needed.

The wider cast is wonderful too. The central group of friends is a bunch of lovable nerds who genuinely feel like a real group that exists. Of course, they have disagreements, but these are people who have lived and went through a lot together. On the other side, we have Nick’s mother and sister, whose way of speaking, mannerism and mentions of food made me miss my own mother painfully.

There are very few books that made me cry as hard as Abroad did. Reading it helped me release years of confused bitterness and pain that I wasn’t even aware I was holding. It helped me wish for more from my own future. It made me sad, and painfully happy at the same time. I need to see what the sequel brings, because I need these characters to be happy quite desperately.



A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas

Title: A Conspiracy in Belgravia

Author: Sherry Thomas

Publisher: Berkeley

Lenght:  336 pages

Genre: Mystery, Historical

Score: ★★★★½


A Study in Scarlet Women, the first in the Lady Sherlock series, came highly recommended to me. I love socially awkward geniuses solving crimes and falling in love, especially if said geniuses are women. Needless to say, I fell in love with Charlotte Holmes and the particular way she sees the world around herself, the way she cares about the women around her, or the way she is around her dear friend Lord Ingram. When the sequel, A Conspiracy in Belgravia, promised to go deeper, I was overjoyed.

When Lady Ingram comes begging for help from Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte finds herself torn between her loyalty to Lord Ingram and the need to help people. As Lady Ingram’s problem turns out to be her ex-lover Myron Finch, coincidentally Charlotte’s illegitimate half-brother, she starts feeling there’s more at play. Throw in unidentifiable bodies, mysterious murderers and possible poisoners, Charlotte realises she shouldn’t try to go into this battle alone. The story twists and turns in unpredictable ways and there were more than few shocked gasps from yours truly.

Charlotte continues to be absolutely delightful. It’s so wonderful to have a female genius protagonist who is allowed to embrace femininity. It’s also wonderful to have a chubby female character whose main passion is eating and not being mocked for it. Her primary motivation is still the need to provide for her beloved sisters. She loves and uplifts the women in her life and her relationships with them are some of the strongest.

Her relationship with Lord Ingram only grows throughout this book. The way these two are devoted to each other as well as some of the glimpses into their shared past made my heart and soul ache for them. There is so much confused trust and loyalty tangled up in pain and desperate longing.

Lady Ingram gets somewhat humanizing moments without erasing her horrible bigoted views of her husband. Inspector Treadle sadly only grows in his confused sexism and frankly, whenever he appeared in the story, I groaned, which is a long shot from my joy at seeing him interact with his wife in the first book, but by now, his behavior is irredeemable to me. Olivia gets some wonderful character development and becomes slightly more confident. Miss Watson and Miss Redmayne continue to be the best characters.

Books in this series have a tendency to pull together a series of seemingly unconnected cases that are revealed in the grand finale to be neatly tied together, giving the reader a glorious “aha!” moment. Unfortunately, I repeatedly caught myself thinking “wait, so what is the plot here?” which was a bit jarring. Additionally, even after finishing the book, there were some plot threads I was unsure I actually understood and I still can’t figure out if I should chalk it up to the plot being clunky or I’m just not smart enough. One thing I will definitely not excuse is the high number of povs. Six povs is frankly a bit excessive.

A Conspiracy in Belgravia has issues, but none of them took away from my enjoyment of the book. I’m honestly quite desperately hoping for the next book in the series and Charlotte and Lord Ingram have been occupying my thoughts for days now.

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Spectred Isle by KJ Charles

Title: Spectred Isle (Green Men #1)

Author: KJ Charles

Publisher: Self-published

Lenght:  271 pages

Genre: Romance, Historical, Paranormal

Score: ★★★★★


“I suppose you know you’re beautiful,” Randolph said, very softly.

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal is one of my favorite books. It’s a perfect mix of romance, interesting plot, and heartbreaking ending. It is amazing partly thanks to the unique narration and the melancholic atmosphere. When I found out KJ Charles is planning sequels set in the same universe, I was both delighted and worried. How do you follow up to that kind of book, that kind of ending, without cheapening it? You write Spectred Isle, as it turns out. As I mentioned, I had very high expectations for this book, and yet, it sailed right above them.

Walking in the steps of its predecessor, Spectred Isle has magnificent atmosphere. Set in 1925 during the Roaring Twenties, London is a mix of desperately hopeful people looking forward to a better future (and the irony of that is not lost on the reader), while mourning an entire lost generation and all their potential. Our heroes have seen the horrors of the War firsthand and will fight tooth and nail to prevent something so horrible from happening second time (again, the irony is lost on nobody). All the characters have been chewed up by the war in all kinds of horrible ways, and yet, they aren’t giving up. They are amazing.

Saul took his face in both hands, one still a touch slippery with grease, and kissed him. It wasn’t the hungry need of before, but a careful, serious kiss, deep and open, and Randolph leaned into it, taking what he was given with a deep, nameless relief.

Saul Lazenby, an archeologist disgraced in the war, finds himself in the employ of the highly eccentric Major Peabody, who seems keen on uncovering an arcane conspiracy behind London. When his previously nonsensical ideas start turning up results, Saul is rightfully disturbed. When those directions make him constantly run into the mysterious Randolph Glyde, Saul isn’t sure what is going on anymore.

Randolph Glyde, the last of the ancient arcanist family, is the current leader of the Green Men, arcane defenders, a role he’s woefully unprepared for. His entire family perished in the war, taking their secrets with them and Randolph is left juggling several roles not his, only because there is nobody else to take them. He and his group must ward off the power-hungry government and figure out who is trying to take advantage of the weakened veil between worlds to summon ancient evils. So, when he keeps running into Saul Lazenby in all the wrong places, he starts to suspect there may be more players on the board. When Saul is plunged into the arcane world, Randolph sees him for his true worth and the two team up to figure out what is going on around them, all while falling deeply in love.

Saul took his face in both hands, one still a touch slippery with grease, and kissed him. It wasn’t the hungry need of before, but a careful, serious kiss, deep and open, and Randolph leaned into it, taking what he was given with a deep, nameless relief.

Randolph and Saul’s relationship is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever read about. Based on mutual respect, it’s kind and soft, with a hint of desperation two somewhat broken people might feel when they find a kindred soul. They understand each other, what they went through in their lives and the scars they carry, but that only makes the other more beautiful in their eyes. They are so, so careful with each other’s hearts and bit by bit, they help each other to lessen the pain. The see the other as they really are, and are unable to believe they could be allowed the joy of being together.

Saul is an amazing character. He has been through a lot, and while accepting his guilt, he won’t let it overpower him. He has a hard time trusting others and looks at the world around him with slight impatience for nonsense, but he’s undeniably kind and soft around the edges. Randolph is scathingly sarcastic and dominant, but his demeanor hides deep hurts. He is almost painfully honest, but that only makes his kindness more real. When he stands up for Saul, we believe him.

The supporting characters are amazing as well. The mystery surrounding Hugh Barnaby and Max Isaacs kept me guessing and when I finally found out the truth, I screamed in excitement. Sam Caldwell absolutely stole the book. As the only remaining link between The Secret Casebook and Green Men, I was excited to see him all grown up while anxious over his family’s fate in the original book. Sam in Spectred Isle is a wonderful supportive sweetheart, bringing righteous fury to anyone who deserves it. There was a perfect amount of throwbacks to his parents’ life and I cried my eyes out whenever the Casebook itself was mentioned; it touches upon the erasure of queer lives from their own narrative and how important it is to not forget our own history.

Spectred Isle made me cry repeatedly. It is my favorite of KJ Charles’ books (and as someone who sold their soul to A Seditious Affair, I do not say that lightly), thanks to the incredible atmosphere, often creepy plot, beautiful romance with wonderful characters. The plot itself made me excited for more and I honestly can’t wait to see what happens next in the series.