Friday, October 01, 2021

Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Scales and Sensibility by Stephanie Burgis

Stephanie Burgis’ new series, Regency Dragons, gets a delightful start in Scales and Sensibility. Its a regency romance with added fantasy elements, dragons and magic, and the two sides go together seamlessly to create a world that feels natural.

Elinor Tregarth lives the dreary life of a poor relative in her aunt and uncle’s manor after her parents died and left her and her two sisters penniless. Constantly bullied by her cousin Penelope, she finally snaps and leaves the house without a penny, but with Penelope’s pet dragon Sir Jessamyn.

Her position untenable, she makes an ardent wish to be exactly like a society matron, Mrs. De Lacey—and her dragon makes it happen! A game of masquerade ensues, where she tries to maintain her pretense among people who are becoming increasingly suspicious of her. She soon finds herself in deep trouble from many quarters.

To make matters worse—or better—Benedict Hawkins, a penniless suitor of Penelope, likes to spend time with Elinor instead. But how is she to let her feelings grow when she isn’t who he thinks—and he needs a fortune to save his estate and family.

Tension rises to almost unbearable before everything is solved and a happy ending can be declared.

This was a charming, well-written historical romance that was maybe a little lighter on the romance than I would’ve wished, but there was plenty of other things to keep my interest. Elinor was an excellent heroine, Benedict was a slightly distant but wonderfully suitable hero, and all the villains were perfectly villainous. But the book was stolen by Sir Jessamyn, the timid dragon who ended up changing Elinor’s life for good. A wonderful start to a series. I will definitely want to read more.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Infamous by Minerva Spencer: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Infamous by Minerva Spencer

Infamous is the third book in Rebels of the Ton series by Minerva Spencer. It’s a Regency romance set in the early 19th century England and the world of its aristocrats.

It’s a series only in a loose sense. The people featured in this book made only a brief appearance in the epilogue of the previous book and vice versa. However, most of the characters have been introduced in Spencer’s previous series, Outcasts, and are familiar to readers of that. I haven’t read them, and as the author assumed familiarity, it left me feeling a bit of an outsider throughout the book.

The book begins a decade before the actual events. Celia, the pet of the ton is also its meanest person. Egged on by an equally mean duke, she creates a scandal that forces two people, Lucian and Phyllida, to marry. But the scandal destroys her too and a decade later she’s living retired life as a companion of an old lady. She’s learned her lesson and is transformed, but when she’s forced to spend Christmas at Luce and Phil’s manor, old hurts surface. As does her old attraction to Richard, Luce’s twin brother.

Richard hasn’t been bothered by the scandal, living his dream life as an entomologist and travelling around the world. His sister’s Christmas wedding forces him to return home, only to find Celia there, the woman he was attracted to a decade earlier. But her sister’s fiancĂ© is the same horrible duke that ruined Celia’s life—and Lucian’s too.

There are two romances in this book, with own point of view chapters for every party: Richard and Celia, and Luce and Phil. Despite having been married for a decade, the latter are strangers to each other. Celia’s sudden presence forces them to take stock of their marriage and build a better relationship. I was more invested in their romance. I found it sweet and a bit heart-breaking too.

Richard and Celia were a more typical couple. Since Richard didn’t feel ill-done by Celia, there wasn’t a great baggage between them. Their romance was built during time spent together. They were good scenes, but at some point I began to grow bored, as they didn’t really drive the plot forward, making the middle part of the book slow and too long.

There was only a minimal plot outside the romance. The dastardly duke made his move at the end of the book, but until then no one tried to do anything about him, not even to stop an innocent girl from marrying him. Plot-wise, then, this was a bit of a disappointment. But the writing was good, people were interesting and there was a happy ending for everyone involved, so it left me feeling good.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Ignite the Fire: Incendiary by Karen Chance: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Ignite the Fire: Incendiary by Karen Chance

There was a bit of a wait (again) for Ignite the Fire, book 11 in Cassandra Palmer UF series, and when it finally arrived, it had been divided into two parts for its size. The first is called Incendiary.

The book starts with the exact scene the previous book ended, with Cassie, Pritkin and Mircea on their way to a fey party in 16th century Romania to locate someone who might know where Mircea’s long-lost wife is. There’s a lot of mayhemand a dragonwhich made me fear that the book would be yet another chaotic addition to the series.

Fortunately things slow down a littlefor a moment. Enough to give Cassie and the reader time to reflect what’s going on and what’s happened so far in the series, which is a lot. And while it’s a short respite, the action and rest are better balanced here than has been the case in previous books.

The action scenes are easier to follow this time, with fewer things going on simultaneously and with better descriptions. The timeline is still messy though, as according to Cassie only six months has gone and the reader has witnessed it all, yet Cassie has an entire life happening between the books too.

There’s a new god giving Cassie trouble and this time it’s Zeus, who isn’t exactly easy to win. But he’s occupying the body of a fae king, so she sets out to defeat him instead. It doesn’t go easily, but instead of endless detours like usually where she ends up in a totally unrelated situation, she actually manages to locate him, if not like she imagined or planned.

Since this is the first part of a two-parter, there isn’t a final battle at the end of the book. The book ends in a middle of a fight-scene, with the worst kind of cliff-hanger. But hopefully the second part has already been written and we don’t have long to wait for the conclusion.

On the personal front, Cassie seems to have gotten the hang of her life as Pythia. Her court is in order, her successor, Rhea, is becoming truly formidable, and her self-confidence issues were at minimum. She again went through most of the book without taking care of her physical needs like eating, so if the gods don’t kill her, malnutrition will.

The love spell that ties her to Mircea and Pritkin, which Mircea promised was lifted, is back in effectwith some interesting consequences. But since Cassie really needs the strength and skills she can borrow from her companions, she doesn’t complain. But it may put her relationship with Pritkin in jeopardy. My only complaint is that Pritkin spent most of the book absent or unconscious, which is never good.

With a book this well balanced and interesting once againand without Mircea’s obsession with his wifeI’m hopeful for the rest of the series. And I hope the second part comes out soon.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Mind over Magic by Lindsay Buroker: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Mind over Magic by Lindsay Buroker

Mind over Magic starts Witch in Wolf Wood, a new UF series by Lindsay Buroker. Like her previous series, Death Before Dragons, it’s set in Washington State, near Seattle, but while it has werewolves, it’s not immediately obvious if it takes place in the same world.

The book is described as paranormal women’s fiction, meaning it’s aimed at a more mature audience. Morgen, the protagonist, is forty-something, newly divorced computer geek who’s just lost her job. Inheriting her grandmother’s house in the middle of nowhere might be her chance for a fresh start.

Turns out it makes things even more complicated. The house is guarded by a grumpy werewolf whose self-appointed task is to make sure that the new owner doesn’t sell the place. There are plenty of takers though, and one of them might have hastened things up by killing Morgen’s grandmother.

This is a good series starter, and it’s different enough from DBD that it doesn’t feel like a repeat. Morgen isn’t a tough and practically unbreakable assassin of supernatural creatures. She’s introverted and perfectly ordinary human—only it might be she isn’t. The book is told in third person in her point of view, which makes her feel slightly distant, but there’s enough background information to make her interesting. Armin the werewolf is grumpy and not very talkative, and we don’t learn much about him yet. There’s mystery and some mayhem, but it’s dealt with a real-world fashion, with cops and accountability. There isn’t romance—yet—and while it’s sort of stand-alone, the ending is open enough to build a series on. I will definitely read the rest too.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Jessica Arden: review

3/5 stars on Goodreads

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Jessica Arden

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Jessica Arden starts Ghosted Cozy Mysteries series. It’s set in New Orleans and stars Paige Harrington who suddenly finds herself being called to investigate a murder—by the ghost of the victim.

It’s a closed room murder, with a limited number of suspects. But since it was dark, the ghost has no idea who killed him, so no easy solution there. Paige sets out to investigate, but she can’t exactly tell the police where she gets her information from, not even when her good friend is framed for the murder.

She isn’t alone though. She’s helped by her ex-boyfriend who suddenly returns to town after disappearing four years earlier with only a goodbye note. His leaving has left Paige with self-confidence issues, and now that he’s back, old romantic feelings resurface too. It makes working together difficult.

This was a quirky and fun book, but not a terribly good mystery. Paige ignores obvious questions that would lead to solving the mystery faster, random people show up just so they can offer helpful information that she then ignores, and in the end the killer reveals themselves before she even suspects them. The killer’s motivation is bizarre, to say the least. (spoiler) I mean, why would a secret society that does ritual killings be so concerned with representation that more old-fashioned members would feel it necessary to act to stop it? (end spoiler)

But what truly irked me and lowered the rating was the deus ex machina solution. I dislike them in general, and here it removed Paige’s agency completely. Instead of being the main actor of her story, someone who rises to the occasion despite being the underdog, she was forced to look from the sidelines as others handle the difficult parts for her. For someone already dealing with self-confidence issues, this should’ve been the worst kind of outcome. Yet she doesn’t even notice.

I had some smaller issues too. Paige took to becoming a ghost PI a bit too easily; not even a token question about why it happened. Character info was repeated several times, as if for the first time; random character facts sprang out of nowhere, and important info was omitted completely. For example, I thought Paige was showing unseemly interest in a married man, only to learn towards the end of the book that he’s divorced. The cast of characters was slightly too large, and not everyone was necessary for the story. But in general, the characters were nice and interesting (Auguste the talking hedgehog was my favourite) and they will carry the series onwards.

I received a free copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.