The Lass Wore Black by Karen Ranney

15709178Summary (from goodreads.com):

He was her Highland lover, but would he be her savior?

Catriona Cameron was once famed for her seductive beauty and charm. Now she saw no one, hiding from the world…and no one dared break through her self-imposed exile.

No one, that is, until Mark Thorburn burst into her home, and Catriona’s darkened world began to have color again. Thorburn, secretly the heir to an Earldom, claimed he was a footman. But Catriona didn’t care about the scandal their passion could cause…for this very touch sparked her back to a life of sensuality, one she thought she’d never have again.

Little does she know that Mark is part of a masquerade. One that will end when they become the target of a madman set on revenge. Mark realizes he will have to do more than win her love…he will have to save her life as well.

Review:

I picked this one up to alleviate boredom on a Sunday afternoon. I saw the A+ at the top of the Smart Bitches review, read the phrases “historical Scottish romance” and “Beauty and the Beast retelling,” and skipped over to Amazon where it was on sale for a cool $3.79. Lately, I’ve been reading a bunch of historical romance novels that are basically Beauty and the Beast retellings with physically/emotionally scarred heroes, so this seemed right up my alley. I generally don’t read reviews or descriptions because they tend to be spoilers, so this one ended up being different than I expected (in a good way).

I don’t know about you, but when I hear “historical Scottish romance,” I think Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: lots of giant dudes in kilts running around the highlands being stereotypical Scottish brutes. Which I like, but it’s only a tiny (and often inaccurate) piece of Scottish history and culture. So I loved that The Lass Wore Black was set in Edinburgh in 1863 and that the hero was a nobleman doctor. (Let’s be real. I just loved Mark. I enjoy the kind-hearted, put-upon, and overworked romance novel hero.)

I liked Catriona’s character development. She’s a self-centered bitch at first. I thought it was just the trauma of being maimed in a world that only values women for their beauty, but I like the way Mark’s exploration of her past reveals that she’s pretty much always been that way. Her transformation into a nicer person happens gradually and believably, as does her physical and emotional recovery from the accident.

The only thing that really didn’t work for me was the fact that Mark slept with Catriona without telling her that he was a doctor hired by her aunt to help her. That’s majorly unethical, no matter how much he tried to justify it to himself, which squicked me out and made me angry at the same time. I basically spent the whole middle portion of the book yelling “UNETHICAL!” at my Kindle whenever they had sex (which kinda kills the mood).

Overall, though, The Lass Wore Black was great. It doesn’t follow any of the historical romance formulas too strictly, it does different and interesting things with several familiar genre tropes (Scotland, Beauty and the Beast, etc.), and it’s well written (lots of showing, not much telling). It reminds me of A Lady Awakened by Cecilia Grant in that it’s bleaker and, I think, more realistic than many historicals (no bubbling optimism or wacky hijinks here). While this less fanciful tone appeals to general readers, it does so without alienating romance fans, giving it plenty of cross-genre appeal.

Rating (Spiciness, Not Quality):

1.5/4 chili peppers (0 being no sex, 5 being full-fledged erotica)

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Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

Poison StudyFrom Goodreads:

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

Like:

I loved the premise of this book.  Take your chances and definitely die from poisoning someday or be executed today.  Rock meet hard place and both of you meet Yelena who will scornfully look at her situation and decide that she likes neither the rock nor the hard place will find someway out of this mess.  I won’t lie, Yelena is my favorite part of this book.  She is incredibly stubborn and an almost suicidal need to take things into her own hands.  when she knows she is doomed to eventually die one way or another she decides both not to give up, and that if she is going to die then she has nothing to loose and might as well risk everything.  But she takes smart risks.  She learns to fight and pick locks so that she can keep herself alive and attempt to find a cure for Butterfly’s Dust.  There is also a lot of action in the book and it’s just fun reading.  Maria Snyder breaks down the fights so that you have a good sense of exactly what is going on and what people’s battle strategies are.  I found that refreshing and very appealing.  She takes into account that Yelena is a short girl, who isn’t as strong as the soldiers around and develops a fighting style to adjust.  Every minor character fights in a way that takes their body type, height, and age into account.  Kudos.

Didn’t Like:

Unfortunately, there’s plenty in the book that made me scratch my head.  There are a lot of circumstances and times that Yelena just happens to be in the right place at the right time to overhear something.  A lot of times.  Yelena has to be the luckiest poison taster around.  Also her background before getting made poison taster just happens to give her a big advantage over the people around her, and her athletic abilities as an acrobat just happen to be the skill she needs to survive and impress the higher ups.  Maybe is she had other skills she would have been able to compensate in different ways, but I can only take so many coincidences before my ability to suspend disbelief starts to get strained.  Also, Valek, who is in charge of Yelena, is supposed to be an expert Spy Master.  We see him be a strong fighter, assassin, and strategist (Yay! for showing rather than telling), but the extent to which he comes to rely on Yelena for information does his credibility more harm than it does her’s good.  Yelena becomes almost Mary Sue-ish at times.

One last small point that bothered me…. When was the book set?  It starts out seeming very medievalish, but then you get smatterings of technology that seem out of place.  It’s not important to the plot, but it drove me nuts.  When are you set book?!  When!?!

Overall:

I liked this book a lot.  There were some problems with the plotting, but I stayed entertained the entire time and invested in whether Yelena was going to make it out alive.  It’s a little like a mix between Graceling and The Hunger Games, which are two of my favorite books.

3/4 Throwing Stars

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Book Club Pick: Timmy Failure, Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

15798116Summary (from Goodreads):

Meet “detective” Timmy Failure, star of the kids’ comedy of the year. Created by New York Times best-selling cartoonist Stephan Pastis.

Take eleven-year-old Timmy Failure — the clueless, comically self-confident CEO of the best detective agency in town, perhaps even the nation. Add his impressively lazy business partner, a very large polar bear named Total. Throw in the Failuremobile — Timmy’s mom’s Segway — and what you have is Total Failure, Inc., a global enterprise destined to make Timmy so rich his mother won’t have to stress out about the bills anymore. Of course, Timmy’s plan does not include the four-foot-tall female whose name shall not be uttered. And it doesn’t include Rollo Tookus, who is so obsessed with getting into “Stanfurd” that he can’t carry out a no-brainer spy mission. From the offbeat creator of Pearls Before Swine comes an endearingly bumbling hero in a caper whose peerless hilarity is accompanied by a whodunit twist. With perfectly paced visual humor, Stephan Pastis gets you snorting with laughter, then slyly carries the joke a beat further — or sweetens it with an unexpected poignant moment — making this a comics-inspired story (the first in a new series) that truly stands apart from the pack.

The Feathery Revenge

Review: Timmy Failure is adorably illustrated and full of sharp humor. If you like Pastis’ other comics – AND I LOVE THEM – you’re going to enjoy this book.

Timmy is an utterly clueless and useless detective. Most of what Timmy knows about detecting seems to come from old noir movies, tv cop shows, and his own wild imagination. The pictures serve as the highlight of the book and imbue the story with a ton of humor. I LOVED the side characters, who really shine in this series. Total the polar was adorably clueless and loyal. His penchant for trash scraps, seals, and Rice Krispie treats just made him more endearing. In short: I want one. And Flo the librarian was a COMPLETE AND TOTAL WIN. I cackled when I heard the origin of his name and just loved his overall look. Flo is a prime example of the modern librarian we all someday hope to meet (and be).

I had serious trouble liking Timmy as the story went on. I get he’s a kid, so a certain amount of self-centeredness is to be expected. But his self-involvement inures him to the problems other have that may have. This started to really irk me about two-thirds of the way through into the story. By this point, I got the impression that we’re supposed to laugh at Timmy’s continual poor handling of his unfortunate situations but I had a hard time finding the humor . Maybe I’m older than the intended demographic and/or just a grumpy old codger.

Overall: An adorable and hilarious set of drawings with a simple if somewhat awkward story. The drawings and the subject matter seem good starting place for older children with good vocab skills or the YA crowd. Despite his many faults, Timmy wields an extensive and hilarious vocabulary.

Rating: 3/5 stars 

Quiet Like a Ninja

Review:  I expected to like Timmy Failure.  Kid goes around solving mysteries that might not quite work out.  The premise sounded entertaining.  However…  I did not enjoy this book.  My favorite part was Timmy’s new teacher and meeting Flo, the librarian.  Flo is genius.  But Timmy himself drove me nuts.  Maybe it’s because I’m adult, but I could not connect to kid Timmy at all.  And with all the bad things going on in Timmy’s life that he is completely oblivious to, reading the book just felt awkward not funny.  I wanted to believe that Timmy was just hiding his feelings, but I don’t really think that.  He really lives in a fantasy world that just made me kinda sad.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having a rich imagination, but Timmy falls more into delusional than head-in-the-sky-dreamer. I was impressed by his large vocabulary and the illustrations add a fun element to the story.  Without them any comedy I got from the book would have been lost.

There is nothing in the book that feels uplifting, and I think that is what really bothered me.  There are problems for Timmy to solve, but there is no tension, no feeling that anything has consequences or meaning that would create an emotional attachment to the story or the characters.  Not even when Timmy starts getting good grade and might not have to repeat his grade.  (Because his teacher tricked him into studying)  Or when he gets his polar bear back.  (Yes you read that correctly he has a polar bear, but I’m guessing this is kind of a Calvin and Hobbes situation)  However, Calvin’s antics made him kinda crazy but endearing and cool.  Timmy… again I just felt sad for him.  If you want mysteries, zany humor, wacky illustrations, told in a diary or case-study fashion I suggest reading The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger instead.

Rating: 2/5

The Royal We

Review: I lovelovelove Pearls Before Swine (as does The Feathery Revenge; she has an awesome Pig plushie used for stress cuddling during episodes of Downton Abbey and Avatar: The Last Airbender), so I was expecting to love Timmy Failure, too. And I really did like it! But I read Betsy Bird’s review at Fuse #8 before I read the book, which made me read past the humor to feel bad for Timmy. I couldn’t seem to take off my grown-up glasses and simply enjoy it as a funny book about an inept kid detective (which is my failing, not the book’s!). I plan to talk it up to kids at the library this summer, though, because it is hilarious–especially if you’re in the mood for schadenfreude, Segways, and  (imaginary?) garbage-eating polar bears.

Rating: 3/5

Combined Rating: 2.67/5

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Dangerous Race by Dee J. Adams (Adrenaline Highs #1)

12349291Summary (from Goodreads):

Four years ago, race car driver Tracey Bradshaw almost died in a horrific crash. Now scarred inside and out, she’s making a comeback, but her team is plagued by a series of “accidents.”

When the team leader dies under mysterious circumstances, former driver Mac Reynolds takes charge. The pair clash as Trace resents his high-handed attempts to control her, while Mac fears Trace’s recklessness will get her killed. Neither can throttle back the desire that spins out of control whenever they touch. Trace lets herself be seduced when Mac convinces her he finds her beautiful despite her scars, and she begins to hope for more. But Mac knows he’s not nearly good enough for Trace…

(Note: This book is free through May 31, so I wanted to put up a review while the deal’s still good. You can download from the publisher’s website or your regular online bookstore of choice.)

Review

I’m generally not a huge fan of romantic suspense. I haven’t done much reading in the genre, but my general impression from reviews (read online and passed on by friends) seems too much like Law & Order with interludes for sexytimes. I generally autopass on the subgenre. But Dangerous Race is free for the month of May, the premise seemed interesting, and the first few pages were promising. So I downloaded it.

You guys. I enjoyed this books so much that I blew my book budget immediately downloading Danger Zone (about a dyslexic lady stuntwoman and a billionaire racing empire owner) and Dangerously Close (about a reclusive rock star and woman who’s just lost most of her sight in an accident) as soon as I was done. The Adrenaline Highs series reads like the perfect blend of contemporary romance (read: fun and sexy), action (read: car accidents on and off the track), and mystery (read: killer on the loose). All the feelings.

I lovelovelove that the heroine is a female racecar driver! Trace is smart and funny and tough, but she’s also stubborn and vulnerable–especially when it comes to sex (she has a nasty scar on her thigh from having her thighbone replaced with a titanium rod after her racing accident and her fiance left her because of it). I like Mac. He’s a tough alpha male (like all romance heroes, unfortunately) but he’s never recovered from his own racing accident years earlier, which gives him some believable emotional depth.

While reading, I got kind of annoyed with Trace’s insecurity about her scar. She was convinced that it made her unlovable (spoiler: not true). But when I thought about it after finishing the book, her fear makes perfect sense in context. I’m familiar with cognitive dissonance re: body image and self-consciousness, and her inability to see herself as attractive despite ample evidence to the contrary is totally realistic.

There’s also a nice secondary plot and romance between Trace’s twin sister, Chelsea, who found out about Trace through their mother’s deathbed confession. The sisters build a relationship with each other and Chelsea connects with Trace’s best friend, Matt, as they try to figure out who’s trying to kill Trace and make sure that Trace wins her big race. A few of these threads didn’t feel totally resolved by the end, but it didn’t detract from the overall story.

The suspense element was done well. It didn’t weigh down the story with its seriousness, but provided enough believably scary action to balance the romance aspects of the story. I figured out the villain’s identity almost immediately, but that didn’t detract from the overall story. One of the nice things about romance as a genre is that the general shape of the ending is pretty predictable; the way the author gets the characters to that ending is the interesting part.

In summary: recommended for romance readers who aren’t generally suspense fans as well as action/suspense fans who aren’t opposed to plenty of sex scenes (two fairly spicy romances develop simultaneously).

Rating (Spiciness, Not Quality)

3/4 chili peppers (0 being sex-free, 5 being erotica)

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Book Club Pick: Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger

10874177Summary (from goodreads.com):

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail Carriger’s legions of fans have come to adore.

The Feathery Revenge

Review: I completely fell in love with this book. Espionage & Etiquette is a fantastic selection for new readers and for fans of the Soulless series. With no prior reading necessary, first-time readers are easily welcomed to a blossoming steampunk Britain peppered with supernatural creatures. For Soulless fans, inventions and characters like the Lefouxes, Sidheag Maccon, and Monique de Pelouse are delightfully featured.

Sophronia is spirited, smart, and insatiably curious. The book’s supporting cast charm too. Dimity is Sophronia’s chatty, socially-graced best-friend. Smart, thoughtful, well-liked, steamhand Soap serves the dual roles of new friend and potential love-interest. Frankly, I was ecstatic to encounter a YA where the romance is set up to develop over time and not be all about the insta-love and angst.

Just when I thought I knew enough about Carriger’s universe, I was delightfully surprised. Immersive and original locations like Madame Geraldine’s, the Sootie decks, and Bunson’s boy’s school for evil geniuses provide stellar on- and off-ship adventure and suggest plenty of new and brilliant places awaiting depiction and discovery.

The story moves at a fairly brisk pace and once Sophronia leaves for finishing, the book becomes extremely difficult to put down. A marvelous balance is struck between establishing and exploring character relationships and action-plot advancement. Mentions of nobleman mobsters called Picklemen and the Westminster vampire hive excellently sets up conspiracies for future books.

A series total of 4 books makes this an approachable series for those weary of committing to an exhaustive set of installments. Espionage also works well as a standalone without any huge cliffhangers or loose ends.

I’d definitely recommend this book for fans of steampunk adventure, intrigue, and Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series. If the next books are as exciting as this one, the rest of the series cannot arrive fast enough. Besides, I desperately need to know what the red lace handkerchief and lemon are for.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Quiet Like a Ninja

Review:  This one starts of with a bang.  Sophronia’s natural curiosity and tom-boyishness serve her well in this finishing school for spies.  School girl rivalries and friendships are entertaining.  Some of the supporting cast members will be recognizable to fans of the Parasol Protectorate series, but knowledge of those books isn’t necessary.  Overall, the book is cute.  The premise is promising and the idea of a spy school for girls that may or may not be evil is appealing.  There are plenty of unanswered questions for subsequent books to explore.  And I guess that’s where my problems with the book begin.  I enjoyed the book while it was setting up the world, but when it stops doing that cracks begin to show in the pacing.  I wanted to know more about her classes and what she was studying that just watch her sneak out at night.  The ending is wrapped up quickly without answering many questions.  the plot points just sort of get tied together and the last few pages feel rushed.  Like they were tacked on because there needs to be some sort of pause point between books, but there’s a sense that nothing has really been solved.  To me it felt more like the end of a chapter rather than a book.  The plot is fairly predictable and you can see where Carriger is laying the groundwork for future books.  I just wish there had been a little less groundwork laid and a little more attention paid to the main plot of this book.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book when I was reading it.  But the ending killed it for me and I went from Ooo exciting! to meh.  I liked it enough to read the next in the series, but I won’t be breaking down my local bookstore’s doors to get it.

Rating: 2/5

The Royal We

Review: I’m deeply, deeply fond of the Parasol Protectorate series, but I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to feel about Etiquette & Espionage. There were lots of things to like: Bumbersnoot the mechanical dachshund, the name “Lord Dingleproops,” the precocious Sophronia, tiny Genevieve, phenomenal worldbuilding (don’t tell me you don’t want to go to secret assassin Victorian finishing school on an airship), the promise of finally getting the details on the Kingair pack’s attempted assassination of Queen Victoria. But the wonderful details and funny set pieces never really added up to anything. There wasn’t much of a plot, so the book kinda meandered up to an ending-like place and then stopped. Hopefully, the next book in the series will have a more defined plot and move us more towards the assassination. It will definitely be funny, though, and I will definitely be reading it.

Rating: 2.5/5

Combined Rating: 3.17/5

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Cinders and Sapphires (At Somerton #1) by Leila Rasheed

Cinders & Sapphires (At Somerton, #1)From Goodreads:

One house, two worlds…

Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies’ maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can’t help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada.

For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada’s beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family’s honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name—but it would mean giving up her one true love . . . someone she could never persuade her father to accept.

Sumptuous and enticing, the first novel in the At Somerton series introduces two worlds, utterly different yet entangled, where ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction, and unspoken dreams are hidden behind dutiful smiles and glittering jewels. All those secrets are waiting . . . at Somerton.

—————————

The intrigue, romance, and scandal made this book SO tough to put down. Fans of Downton Abbey will love the upstairs- downstairs feel and relish the intrigue swirling through the Westlake household. Secret ambitions, family secrets, and forbidden love unabashedly drive the story.

In addition to numerous intrigues, Cinders and Sapphires centers on the relationships among the Westlake family and servants. Major and minor players in the household find themselves eagerly and inadvertently drawn into others’ machinations and secret pursuits. The enmeshed lives of the family and servants really emphasize how the behavior of one household member can directly and irrevocably affect the reputations and lives of other members. Somerton’s opulence and hierarchal insularity is tempered by the progressivism and social changes the early 20th century brings. The problems of the era – urban poverty, failing imperialism, women’s rights – ground the story and grant it some historical truth.

The characters are not as particularly clever or well-developed as I would have liked. Some characters are stock good, like Georgiana and Michael, and stock evil, like Martha and Tobias. Idealistic Rose and Ada are blandly wholesome and unwilling players in the Templeton ladies’ and Stella’s scheming. Minor flatness aside, I could understand and sympathize with most of the characters. Given all the vindictive plotting players like Charlotte and Fiona do, further insight into their motivations and perspective would have made them more compelling if not likable. I will be honest: the schemings and scandal make up for the less than stellar characterization.

A powerful need for good old comeuppance also propelled me through the book. I wanted cruel plotters thwarted and good hearted romantics rewarded. The romantic aspects of the story were a mixed bag. I found it difficult to invest in the Ada’s and Ravi’s love. Despite the pair’s strong attraction, we never actually see the relationship develop from allure at first sight into love. Infatuation? Yes. True, risk-everything-and-anything love? I’m not quite sold. We’re given nothing to suggest that this isn’t just mooning, cow-eyed first love for either of them. Sebastian and Oliver’s romance, however, was far more interesting and believable. Neither is the other’s first romantic – or physical – encounter and both have been wounded by prior scornful lovers. The two are also painfully aware of the social, financial and legal dangers their relationship poses. Their romance culminates in a cliffhanger of sorts and I desperately want to see if and how it can be saved.

Overall: A delicious page turner with all sumptuousness of the societal elite and intrigue that accompanies it. Fans of social scheming, Downton Abbey’s setting/period, and historical YA will find something to like about this book.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Book Club Pick: Beauty and the Werewolf

10081055Summary (from goodreads.com)

The eldest daughter is often doomed in fairy tales. But Bella—Isabella Beauchamps, daughter of a wealthy merchant—vows to escape the usual pitfalls.

Anxious to avoid the traditional path, Bella dons a red cloak and ventures into the forbidden forest to consult with “Granny,” the local wisewoman. But on the way home she’s attacked by a wolf—who turns out to be a cursed nobleman. Secluded in his castle, Bella is torn between her family and this strange man who creates marvelous inventions and makes her laugh—when he isn’t howling at the moon.

Bella knows all too well that breaking spells is never easy. But a determined beauty, a wizard (after all, he’s only an occasional werewolf) and a little Godmotherly interference might just be able to bring about a happy ending.

The Feathery Revenge

Review: Light, fast story that works well as a standalone. I haven’t read the rest of the series but minus some repeated mentions to the past ruthlessness of Godmother Elena and the King this wasn’t a problem at all.

A modern heroine, Bella knows herself and refuses to be cowed or bullied. Filled with determination and passion, she must find her agency in worlds – magical and social – that don’t easily allow it. Lackey cleverly and refreshingly plays with fairy tale tropes and puts her own spin on the “Beauty and Beast” mythos and world building.

Given the title, it is pretty clear who Bella will end up with; but the story and Tradition do a great job of tweaking the expected romance on the nose and keeping the less hyper-detailed readers guessing. Surprisingly the story kept me waffling on who the villain of the piece was until the last 30 pages or so.

Recommended for: fans of fairy tales, butt-kicking heroines, fast & frothy reads

Rating: 3.5/5

Quiet Like a Ninja

Review:  I dug that this was a blend of Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast.  Bella stays strong despite the obstacles thrown in her path, but without sacrificing the sense that she is a real person.  Her reactions to being torn from her family are realistic.  As is her need to stay busy to distract herself.  I really liked these small character touches.  Also, the discussion of how the Tradition can force a step-mother to become wicked and how Bella’s own actions undermined her step-mother and contributed to her becoming wicked-ish really appealed to me.  There isn’t a clear black-and-white bad guy in that dynamic.  Otherwise the love story fell flat.  Werewolf Sebastian is given very little page count to begin with and he never develops into a whole person.  I wanted to know more about what made him tick.  You could have left out the love plot and I would have been happier.  The story has great bones, but parts of it felt under developed.

Rating: 2.5/5

The Royal We

Review: I’d been getting bummed out by all the terrible contemporary romances I was reading in the quest to find something similar to Crusie. Beauty and the Beast retellings are pretty much my favorite things ever, so I decided to give this a go on a very boring weekend evening and read it all in one sitting. I love the way the Five Hundred Kingdoms series plays with fairy tale tropes and I adored the beta male werewolf nerd. The only downsides were the fairly obvious baddie and the fact that I’d really been hoping for a slightly racier romance element. Overall, however, it’s a totally charming light fantasy novel. I went back to read the rest of the books in the series and they were equally delightful. Recommended!

Rating: 4/5

Combined Rating: 3.33

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