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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.

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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 · Uncategorized

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.