I’ve been trying to get this post up for five days now and it’s still giving me problems. Bleh. But at least I’ve managed to get SOMETHING up this week!
So my reading for this week didn’t start off that great. I thought a short story would cleanse my palate between books, so I tried The Sacrificial Knight by Kestrel Drake ★★, a fantasy m/m romance with dragons! And knights! And, like, way too much info-dumping and badly developed world-building and really just iffy writing. At one point the dragon!hero straight-up says the story he’s about to tell is boring– not a good sign, tbh. It’s the author’s very first published thing, however, and that would explain most of the bumps.
Got a tiny bit tired of fantasy romance, so next I read Escape Velocity by Anah Crow ★★½, a scifi m/m romance with what I THINK is a whitewashed cover. It is super, super sweet, the kind of gooey romance where nothing really bad happens, or if something does happen it has little emotional impact. (Parents don’t approve of your gayness? Poof! They die off-screen! Without ever having actually had a conversation with anyone!) Or maybe I just didn’t connect emotionally to the protagonists. They’re sweet, but not entirely compelling. It’s definitely a tooth-rotter and I almost couldn’t take it.
Less dangerous to teeth was my next book, The Gentleman and the Rogue by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon ★★★½, a historical m/m romance between a nob and a cheerful prostitute-turned-valet. It’s been on my TBR forever as I apparently got it free during a promotion a few years ago, but I’d completely forgotten about it until now. Huzzah!
This one had a good balance between the sweet and the depressing, as the nob has PTSD from being in the war and the valet just wants to be loved, and then there’s the subplot where a doctor psychologically tortures a child for kicks. NOT a fan of endangered children in romances, tbh. But I did like the unpacking of both heroes’ issues (trust! being a biggie) and how there’s a found family kind of thing and also very nice sexytime scenes, weird dated vocabulary1 nonetheless.
Last month I’d read two Ginn Hale books, and while they weren’t perfect they were still pretty darned good and I wanted to read more of her work. So when I found a Kobo coupon lurking in my inbox I used it to pick up another of her books: Wicked Gentlemen ★★★, a fantasy/mystery book with two dudes who grow to love each other. One’s a demon, one’s a priest-cop. It’s set in a kind of dystopian-ish alternative historical era, where demons have left hell to live in the world above, and the government is run by priests with a penchant for torture. There’s two main storylines: the first is a kidnapping and the second is a murder. It’s not entirely a (murder) mystery– like, there IS a case to be solved, but the focus is just as much on the relationship between the two leads and their personal drama as it is on the dead people. I wasn’t entirely in love with it, but I liked it well enough.
Then Kobo had a 50% coupon spree and I used it to splurge on two books, one of which was Dragon Slayer by Isabella Carter ★★½, which I desperately wanted to love. Not only was there a dragon thing, but it ALSO has a prince and a duke in a forced marriage scenario. I’ve found myself very fond of romances with princes in them, especially if they’re married to grumpy dudes with hearts of gold. And that’s what’s in this book! But unfortunately the trappings couldn’t carry the rest of the story, which wasn’t as emotionally fulfilling as it probably needed to be. It was a little too heavy-handed with the villain/the prince’s terrible father, for instance. I finished it feeling kind of bleh about the whole thing.
I’d snagged Spaghetti Western by E.M. Lynley ★★★ for free from the publisher during a promo last Christmas, and all I really remembered about it was the pun-y title. It’s a contemporary m/m romance set on a ranch, between a cowboy and a chef still smarting from a cheating previous boyfriend. It’s not the most fabulous book ever, with some very obvious cliche plot points and an iffy rebound relationship– plus I kept finding continuity errors, always an upsetting thing. But it was also weirdly relaxing and not too terrible.
Remnant by K.J. Charles and Jordan L. Hawk ★★★★ was a reread, and just as fun as the first time I read it. It’s a crossover between JLH’s Whyborne & Griffin series and KJC’ Caldwell & Feximal mysteries; both are historical fantasies with gay leads, and it was super fun seeing them team up and solve a mystery together.
Then, craving more princes and fantasy and romance, I read Treasure by Megan Derr ★★★, the first in her Lost Gods series. It’s…very different from her other books! It’s set in a pseudo-Asian fantasy land, except everybody has anime hair so it felt more like a pseudo-weeaboo fantasy land instead. That aside, it has pining and killer mermaids and dragons and magic and romance and twins and adventures on ships! But despite all that, I still didn’t enjoy it as much as I like some of her other books. Was it the anime hair? Something in the characterization? Not sure. I have the rest of the series ready to go (got a boxed set with a coupon!) and I’m hoping the next book is more enjoyable.
The final book I read this week is also the longest book I’ve read this year! Dynasty of Ghosts by P.L. Nunn ★★½ is a fantasy romance with, surprise, a prince! And a lesser noble who can see ghosts. I read nearly 1000 pages in two days, and it was such a marathon I’m surprised I haven’t fallen into stagnation, especially since it ended up not being that good of a book. It started off strong, with a power imbalance problem and a massive war and possibly a conspiracy! But then, somewhere around the middle, it dumped all that and focused on the romance, with an occasional ghost. It really needed that other stuff, as without it the plot majorly dragged. 500 pages about how the nobles hated the lesser noble and the prince completely oblivious to anything and the lesser noble fainting all over the place does not make for a fun time.
Overall, I don’t think my reading this week was top of the pops. Here’s hoping next week is better! I’ve got an Alexis Hall contemporary from the library and KJ Charles’ newest from NetGalley, so it’s GOTTA be better.
- bunghole. ↩