Reviews

A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian

Title: A Gentleman Never Keeps Score

Author: Cat Sebastian

Publisher: Avon Impulse

Lenght: 384 pages

Genre: Romance, Historical

Score: ★★★★★

When I first read It Takes Two to Tumble, the first book in the Seducing the Sedgwicks series, I was immediately intrigued by the character of Hartley Sedgwick. He was prickly, sarcastic, mysterious and seemed to be hiding a large amount of hurt. He was exactly my type when it comes to fictional characters, so I was excitedly waiting for his book. You would think that after all this time, I’d finally learn that usually when I’m intrigued by a self-loathing, sarcastic character, it’s because I see myself in them. So when I got my grubby little gremlin hands on A Gentleman Never Keeps Score, I expected to like the book. I didn’t expect to be dragged on a painfully raw journey of self-reflection.

I’m going to outright say it: this book is my favorite read this year. I started crying maybe 10% in and never really stopped. I cried my way through this book with various intensity ranging from ‘gently weeping’ to ‘broken sobs dragged from my soul while keeling over’. Yes, I do enjoy my suffering, thank you.

Sam Fox, ex-boxer and current public house owner, promises his friend and future sister-in-law Kate, that he will get back a dirty painting she sat model for years ago. When he tries to track down Eastbrook, the lord who had the painting done, instead he gets Hartley Sedgwick, Eastbrook’s godson and the beneficiary of his will. Since Hartley has his own reasons for wanting to find out what happened to Eastbrook’s collection of dirty paintings, he decides to team up with Sam to find them. But what they really end up finding is sense of community, safety, and love.

Hartley is difficult and mean, sarcastic, cuts people off because caring and dealing with others is exhausting and doesn’t know how to handle interpersonal relationships. He feels broken, twisted by the abuse he went through that he’s just coming to terms with. Despite his protests, he’s a deeply caring, lonely man, who doesn’t know how to care about other people, but he wants to, so much. One of my favorite lines, paraphrased, says: “What happened to you isn’t okay, but you will be.”

It’s incredibly validating to see sex repulsed characters represented so tenderly in a romance. While I don’t share his background, seeing our shared particular brand of triggering sex repulsion was so painful, but powerful and beautiful. The way I felt reading the sex scenes, a mix of deep sadness and intense pride, is something I never felt before. I have never seen my own experiences mirrored so closely. Hartley wasn’t forced to ‘overcome’ himself so he could have ‘normal’ sex. He needed the help to reclaim his bodily autonomy, and when he does, it’s absolutely beautiful.

Sam is another lovely person. He is such a genuine, kind, beautiful and caring person. He took his fears and pain and mistreatment and turned it around to carve out a safe space for himself and his community. He would do anything for those he cares about. His absolute respect of Hartley’s boundaries and continuous assurances of his consent should not make me cry, but they did.

The sense of community and found family is absolutely wonderful. Sam’s relationship with his brother Nick and his friend Kate is soft and kind and supportive, the one that makes me think of warm evenings around the hearth. Hartley’s complicated relationship with his brother Will and his adorable friendship with his servants Alf and Sadie was so, so sweet and again, made me cry.

I’ve already said enough times that this book made me cry. But I feel like people expecting the warm, sunshine atmosphere of the first book should be aware how different this book is. It’s painful and raw, but so, so hopeful, important and healing.

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Reviews

Unfit to Print by KJ Charles

Title: Unfit to Print

Author: KJ Charles

Publisher: KJC Books

Lenght: 90 pages

Genre: Romance, Historical

Score: ★★★★★

On the foggy streets of London, Vikram Pandey, a crusading journalist, promises to look for a missing boy, not knowing what he’s getting himself into. Reunited with the man he thought he lost years ago, they must uncover the mystery surrounding the boy’s disappearance, heaps of pornography, and their unresolved feelings for each other.

Unfit to Print is the kind of book that immediately draws you in, refusing to release you until you finish it in one sitting. Dark, tangible atmosphere, wonderful characters with romantic tension you can cut with a knife and KJ’s characteristic dry humor.

Vikram is wonderful. Honorable, full of righteous anger, unable to stand by while others are suffering. He’s tenacious and serious, but kind and supportive. He was never able to forget his lost friend, his emotions a confused mess.

Gil has been deeply fucked over by his family and his circumstances, lost his faith in people and his ideals, but he still managed to unapologetically carve out a space for himself. He has been betrayed before and keeps people at arm’s length, but when he lets Vikram in, it’s beautiful.

Their relationship is deep and complicated, full of hurts old and new; both characters bring in their own baggage and yet it’s so, so sweet. I didn’t know I desperately needed childhood sweethearts finding their way to each other after being forced apart.

As someone, who is a bit of a continuity obsessed weirdo, I was delighted by all the hints and references that show us proofs that all KJ’s non-paranormal historicals are connected. I even let out whoops of joy at several of them. I can’t wait to read what KJ has in stock for us and I’m hoping this isn’t the last time we see Vikram and Gil.

For the record, this is how I felt putting all the references together:

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Reviews

The Henchmen of Zenda by KJ Charles

Title: The Henchmen of Zenda

Author: KJ Charles

Publisher: KJC Books

Lenght: 232 pages

Genre: Romance, Historical

Score: ★★★★★

I think my favourite thing about The Henchmen of Zenda is the unabashed fun KJ is having with rewriting the original book, calling it out on its bullshit, while still showing her love and appreciation for it.

This book is glorious. It’s a joyful romp, poking fun at the conventions of the genre, completely unashamed. I couldn’t stop grinning while reading, every new page exciting.

I’ve read Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda in preparation for this book and I’m so, so glad I did, because now I can appreciate KJ’s version even more. The beauty of her version is that it takes the marginalized, left out of mainstream literature on purpose, and writes them back in, all while giving them back agency in their own stories. They are active agents in their own narration, fighting for their own future. KJ’s version is built upon friendship, trust, and belief in your allies.

The narration was superb. Jesper Detchard, with his snide remarks towards the world, Rupert, and Rassendyll in particular, stole my heart. While I tend to prefer kind-hearted heroes, Jesper, with his sarcasm, pragmatism and deeply hidden caring heart, was a balm on frayed nerves. Combined with the ever-charming and delightful Rupert of Hentzau and the strong-willed Antonia, the main cast of this book made my heart sing. I feel like stories of deep friendship and trust in the face of impossibilities is what we need now. These three are exactly the kind of protagonists I need now- they are objectively bad people, but they care so, so much. And while the romance between Jesper and Rupert isn’t exactly a classic romance, it’s a relationship that works perfectly for them.

I can’t exactly put into words why this book hit me in the heart so hard. It could be the unabashed “no, we’ve always existed, you can’t erase us anymore”. It could be the dry humor and swearing of KJ’s that I love so much. It could be the incredible ending. It’s probably all of it combined.

Reviews · Uncategorized

Unmasked by the Marquess by Cat Sebastian

Title: Unmasked by the Marquess

Author: Cat Sebastian

Publisher: Avon Impulse

Lenght: 384 pages

Genre: Romance, Historical

Score: ★★★★★

 

There is something utterly charming and cozy about the way Cat Sebastian writes that makes me come back time and time again. Her particular brand of grumpy assholes who are horrible at love is my personal catnip, and you can’t even imagine my boundless joy when I found out her next book will have a non-binary protagonist.

As always, the book’s greatest strength are the characters. Alistair de Lacey is an utter sod, a bit of an asshole, horrible at being charming and yet I adore him. He tries so, so hard to be an asshole who doesn’t care about anyone or anything, but it is only after he lets love into his heart that he finally achieves his final form as a menacing cartoon supervillain, complete with high-backed chairs and stroking kittens. I don’t understand why I don’t find him a grating alphahole. In characters not written with such care I would. Be it bestowing names on people, grumpily threatening to send them to Canada or calling them scamps, I could only laugh at his antics, completely charmed.

Charity Church, aka Robert Selby, or as I prefer to call her, Robin, was absolutely magnificent. I kept whispering “oh god I love you so much” as I read. Robin is highly driven, selfless and kind, but also sarcastic with to plans on taking anyone’s shit (we’re looking at you, Alistair); someone on the crossroads of her life, trying to figure out what to do next with her life. She can’t continue living as Robert, but can’t go to being Charity, because that’s not an identity that fits anymore. She doesn’t want to hide away from society to live as her preferred gender identity, but also can’t stay in London that she craves. Can you live while denying a huge part of your own identity? Robin doesn’t want to find out.

It was wonderful seeing a non-binary character whose gender was so tied to their presentation. Robin’s fight for her own gender identity touched me in ways many things haven’t, and the fact that Alistair, so baffled and so steepled in propriety and traditions, learned to accept and support her warmed my soul.

There is a beautiful scene, where Alistair compared Robin to a changeling from the folk tales and it felt so profound, I had to put the book down to give myself a breathing space just to be able to absorb such beauty. The legends of changelings have fascinated me for years, but to have the connection made between them and queer people, and non-binary people in general, resonated with me in a way I still have troubles putting into words.

This book is hilarious, and snarky, and touching; it is filled to the brim with loyalty and love in all kinds of possible forms. I love everything about it and can’t wait for the next to squeeze my heart too.

Reviews · Uncategorized

LT3 Press: For the Hoard

I’ve decided to review the stories from LT3’s For the Hoard collection in one bigger post to save the confusion.

Evergreen by Geneva Vand

 

Publisher: LT3 Press

Lenght: 126pages

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

Score: ★★★★★

This story was simply adorable. The serious theme of the story made me somewhat wary in the beginning, but those fears were quickly drowned out. All the characters were so sweet, with beautiful relationships, especially the sibling bond between Gabriel and Ashley, who absolutely stole the show. Kym the dragon was funny, warm and mischievous and I fell in love with him immediately. The entire story had a beautiful, soft and cozy atmosphere and I wouldn’t mind more from them.

 

 

Heart of the Dragon by Jamie Sullivan

Publisher: LT3 Press

Lenght: 161 pages

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

Score: ★★★★

This story was adorable, funny, sweet and completely absurd, in the best kind of way. Dragon accidentally kidnaps a baby, decides the baby is better off with him, adopts the baby as his own son and raises him as a dragon. The relationship between Madfall, the dragon, and Oenyn, his human son, is ridiculously sweet. Madfall is a great father and raises a wonderful boy. Richard, the knight sent to slay the dragon, who fails spectacularly, was great too. This story has some minor pacing issues, but I ended up not caring at all.

 

Forward the Hunt by Lotus Oakes

Publisher: LT3 Press

Lenght: 131 pages

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

Score: ★★★★★

I loved this story, because it had a lot to say about some vert serious issues, without overwhelming the reader. It has a lot to say about immigration and how it affects the children in a very realistic way that I very appreciated as a child of an immigrant. It shows how abusive manipulation, even seemingly positive, affects people and their self-worth. And it’s all done with care.

Haruki was a wonderful main character- strong-willed but kind, torn between his family and the country he lives in. But when his loyalties are truly tested, he does what is right. Star the dragon was funny and charming, teasing and flirting with Haruki, but never crossing his boundaries. I enjoyed their romance a lot.

 

Smoke Signals by Meredith Katz

Publisher: LT3 Press

Lenght: 100 pages

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

Score: ★★★★★

This story was hilarious and adorable. Petulant, grumpy dragon who hoards video games is such a cute concept, I’d love to read more. I loved how Mike and Zali’thurg’s relationship progressed from ‘oh my god this fucking guy’ to love and adoration, but it was so sweet. My gaming soul appreciated how both the protagonists were gaming nerds. My cat loving soul appreciated Josephine the fluffball. This entire story had me aww-ing from the start to finish and I’d love to read more about these guys.

 

Dragon Magic by Megan Derr

Publisher: LT3 Press

Lenght: 440 pages

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

Score: ★★★★★

I’ve long been fan of Megan Derr’s writing and this book is another to my collection of my favorites. I admit I was curious how she’ll handle four protagonists all falling in love, but it was magical.

The story was compelling, with it’s seemingly simple goal that took twists and turns. It felt like I was playing an RPG and I loved it, even if I saw some of the plot twists coming, I still enjoyed the ride immensely.

I adored all four of the protagonists, always looking forward to the next chapter and switching of povs. I usually have no trouble chosing a favorite in an ensemble, but here I did. All of them had their own strengths and weaknesses, with different needs and goals. Four characters also give a large number of different group dynamics with various relationships. There was Mahzan and Sule’s bickering with the underlying sexual tension. There was Binhadi and Cemal’s quiet and calm banter full of admiration. Mahzan and Cemal’s openly flirtatious banter was a joy. Plus there was the mind-link, which added the possibility of unwanted thoughts, but also flirting and bickering. All emotions ran high and it was magnificent. I also loved the casual trans, demi and bi representation, but Derr excels at those, so I wasn’t surprised.

Reviews

Kiss the Girl by Melissa Brayden

Title: Kiss the Girl

Author: Melissa Brayden

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Lenght: 305 pages

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Score: ★★★½

I am so, so torn on this book. I adored the romance and the two protagonists. It made me tear up repeatedly with how wonderful it was. But every time I got a bit too excited, the rest of the book barged in to make sure I don’t get too into it.

We follow Brooklyn and Jessica, two women who meet at a bar, hit it off and later on find out their advertising firms are bitter rivals. Despite disapproval from Brooklyn’s friend and the fact their firms were competing against each other for a lucrative contract, they decide to pursue a relationship together. I was expecting the inevitable short separation to be caused by the work competition and was surprised it wasn’t, although I can’t say I was happy about it either way.

Brooklyn and Jessica work so well together. Their chemistry is wonderful, their banter cute and their story of learning to trust each other made me wibble. Brooklyn is a complicated person who’s been through a lot in her life and doesn’t open her heart easily and it creates issues in their relationship, but I liked that. Real people are complicated and working through trauma is completely understandable. Every part of the book that was concentrating on the romance itself was absolutely wonderful. It was the rest that was a problem.

This book is full of small annoyances that build up until even the great romance can’t excuse them. The prologue of the book is atrocious and made me almost put the book down. Brooklyn does many things that in my book make her an asshole (which I’m not saying I can’t stand asshole heroes, quite the opposite), but the book never calls her out on them and instead portrays her as just being quirky. Is it funny that she refuses to adhere to traffic laws, endangering everyone around her? I don’t think so. There’s a horrible little subplot about Mallory, Brooklyn’s friend, constantly getting the wrong order at Starbucks, which culminates in Brooklyn yelling at the barista, ending with the terrified barista finally giving Mallory the right order. Was this necessary? Is Brooklyn taking out her anger on a teenage minimum-wage Starbucks barista a ‘crowning moment of glory’? The book says it is. I say this whole subplot was just stupid and ruins the enjoyment of Brooklyn for me. I adore asshole heroes, but there needs to be some character development regarding their assholery. Brooklyn also repeatedly calls Hunter, her mixed-race friend, ‘exotic’. Is that Brooklyn’s or the author’s racism? I can’t tell, but it makes me wary about reading the second book centering Hunter.

There is also a subplot about Brooklyn being put up for adoption after her birth and while I have no personal experience with the subject, it made me uncomfortable. It made me so, so uncomfortable. Several plot points related to her meeting her mother made me say ‘holy fuck’ out loud while reading, and not in the good way. I can’t imagine the storyline was handled with care.

All in all, if you’re able to ignore everything but the romance, you might love it. I wish a lot of things were cut from the book and that I could’ve loved it more

Reviews

Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker

Title: Fire on the Ice

Author: Tamsen Parker

Publisher: Swerve

Lenght: 169pages

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Sports

Score: ★★

This is not going to be a kind review. This book is a clusterfuck that infuriated me so much, I’m not feeling disposed to be nice, especially given that Tamsen Parker is a writer that I’ve heard only good things about, thus I actually had expectations going in. The blurb seemed interesting, the writer a known one. What could go wrong? A lot, it turns out.

My first issue was that this book isn’t a romance, but erotica. While I’ve read erotica that I enjoyed, this was definitely not one of them. This story is a proof that there is such a thing as ‘too much sex’, given how nothing else happens. The characters don’t even talk until around 30-40% into the book, which for someone like me who loves banter and is uninterested in sex, is insufferable. If the sex was at least interesting, I could enjoy that, but no. It’s boring. It’s so, so boring. It feels like the characters going through a list of sex acts they should perform for the reader’s enjoyment. There’s no chemistry between the characters! How do you expect me to be emotionally invested in two characters fisting if they talked to each other once! I ended up skipping pages on regular, audibly groaning.

There is barely any character development. Hell, there’s barely any personality to these characters. The first-person pov is jarring, especially since these two characters, that are supposed to be so very different, sound exactly the same. They didn’t talk about any of their issues or expectations maybe until the last few chapters of the book. We are never any reasons why Maisy and Blaze even want to be a couple, since apart from the sex, they seem to be completely incompatible.

Maisy is the only one who goes through at least a bit of character development. She starts off by being judgmental about Blaze’s bisexuality and seems ignorant as to what polyamory is, but after Blaze’s explanation (which reads more like the author preaching at the reader), she shifts her views and all is good. Then she learns to be more confident by having Blaze trample all over her boundaries. That’s pretty much it.

It’s Blaze who I have most issues with. Frankly said, Blaze is a dick. She’s a dick who doesn’t respect Maisy, does something absolutely horrible to her, never apologizes, never even tries putting herself into Maisy’s shoes, and then acts like she’s the victim, gaslighting Maisy. And then the book continues as if nothing happened.

Here’s a spoiler version of what Blaze does. Since she’s afraid she won’t score a medal in the games and she’s desperate for any kind of attention, she sets up a public meeting with Maisy where she kisses her, with a paparazzi nearby to take photos and publish them. That would put Blaze in the news, since as far as the world knows, Maisy is straight. Maisy, who is closeted. Maisy, who has emotionally abusive parents who force her to ‘keep that thing private’. Maisy, working in figure skating, a famously homophobic sport. Blaze publicly outs Maisy to the whole world, only because she needs attention and is willing to get it any way. Blaze spends the whole book talking about how trust is important between partners and then she does this? I refuse to accept that from a supposed romance heroine. It’s absolutely disgusting.

Maisy calls her out on outing her, and then leaves, having a very bad panic attack. The entire time Blaze is angry, because in her twisted way of thinking, Maisy being angry about being forcibly outed to the whole world means that she’s just ashamed of being seen with her and that she must think Blaze is a slut. She also argues to herself that Maisy should be out because ‘Canada isn’t’ homophobic’. I’m sorry but what? WHAT? In what kind of universe is that okay? We already have proof in text that yes, there are homophobic Canadians, such as Maisy’s parents! How can Blaze, an American, argue that being out in these countries is absolutely safe? Hell, I’m from Czech Republic and while it’s one of the better countries when it comes to gay rights, I still don’t feel safe being out? What kind of goddamn argument is this?

So Blaze forcibly outs her, which is absolutely never okay, then gaslights her by arguing Maisy is just ashamed of her because she’s slut-shaming, Maisy has a horrible panic attack. And then what happens? It’s all forgotten. We end the chapter with the panic attack and start the next one with Maisy pretty much over it, watching Blaze skate, everything mostly forgotten. The author has this awful, traumatic thing happen and then it’s as if nothing happened? How do you use something this bad as a plot point for some ‘drama’ to happen, and then ignore all the repercussions it would have for the character? How can you have Maisy ever trust Blaze again? At this point, I only finished the book because I hoped Maisy would drop-kick Blaze into the garbage where she belongs. That didn’t happen, even though I strongly feel that it should’ve.

It’s not often that I read a romance book and don’t want the characters anywhere near each other. Even with books I end up hating, I’m still usually okay with the characters staying together. Not with this one. A couple where one of them shows such contempt for the boundaries and safety of their partner is not one I could ever cheer for.

Reviews

HeartShip and HeartOn by AJ Cousins

Title: HeartShip

Author: AJ Cousins

Publisher: Self-published

Lenght: 150 pages

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Score: ★★★★★

 

Title: HeartOn

Author: AJ Cousins

Publisher: Self-published

Lenght: 196 pages

Genre: Romance, Contemporary

Score: ★★★★★

AJ Cousins is an author I’ve had on my radar for some time and came highly recommended, which always makes me a bit wary, but this series was the best possible introduction to her. I’ve decided to review HeartShip and HeartOn together, since I couldn’t put either book down and went to the second immediately after finishing the first. They were just that addicting.

HeartShip is a frankly adorable story about two men falling in love by bonding over their favorite show on Twitter. It’s a very relatable, sweet and human story that felt real. Benji and Josh are two very different people with different life experiences who actively work on their relationship and it’s a joy to behold. I love that we get to see the work that goes into maintaining a healthy long-distance relationship and then seeing the way they flourish while together in the sequel. It’s heartwarming, as is the book as a whole.

Deion and Carlos in HeartOn continue the trend of sweet couples. Their exploration of bisexuality and what it means to lock away such an important part of yourself; familial expectations and overworking. They face both professional and personal challenges, but they face them head-on. I love that Carlos was never pressured to come out to his friends or family, which is a huge pet peeve of mine. The start of the romance felt slightly rushed and they still have a lot to work through, but given that this is probably not the last time we’ll be seeing them in this series, I’m okay with that.

The characters and their relationships feel incredibly real and profoundly human. The couples have arguments and then work through them; they go to work and have hobbies and friends and families. The world around them feels alive. I love that all the characters are treated with love and compassion. I also love how all the jocks are sweet and caring.

These books feel like a warm soothing balm on my frayed nerves and it’s exactly what I needed. They’re wholesome, humane and achingly sweet, making me cry several times while reading them. HeartShip and HeartOn are pure joy and I can’t wait to read more.

Reviews

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.

Reviews

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.