blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Restless Truth – Freya Marsk

A Restless Truth is the second entry in Freya Marske’s beloved, award-winning Last Binding trilogy, the queer historical fantasy series that began with A Marvellous Light.

Magic! Murder! Shipboard romance!

Maud Blyth has always longed for adventure. She expected plenty of it when she volunteered to serve as an old lady’s companion on an ocean liner, in order to help her beloved older brother unravel a magical conspiracy that began generations ago.

What she didn’t expect was for the old lady in question to turn up dead on the first day of the voyage. Now she has to deal with a dead body, a disrespectful parrot, and the lovely, dangerously outrageous Violet Debenham, who’s also returning home to England. Violet is everything that Maud has been trained to distrust yet can’t help but desire: a magician, an actress, and a magnet for scandal.

Surrounded by the open sea and a ship full of suspects, Maud and Violet must first drop the masks that they’ve both learned to wear before they can unmask a murderer and somehow get their hands on a magical object worth killing for—without ending up dead in the water themselves.

My thoughts: I didn’t think this would be better than A Marvellous Light, one of my favourite books of recent years, but oh it is. I loved Maud, I loved Violet, I even like grumpy Hawthorn. Basically I adored this book. A sapphic murder aboard a ship with magic and hijinks and lots of Maud getting a very private education from Violet. And it’s so, so, so good. Elements of Tipping the Velvet, Titanic (do not tell me the hiding in the car scene wasn’t a huge nod, that ended very differently), Agatha Christie style crime novels (made me think of the recently published A Fatal Crossing and Miss Aldridge Regrets) and just tremendous fun.

Maud is undercover, when the lady she’s accompanying across the Atlantic is murdered and she needs to solve the crime, identify the piece of the very important Last Contract, and avoid getting murdered herself, so she can report back to Robin and Edwin safe and sound. So obviously she recruits a team – an actress, a Lord and a reporter/jewel thief, and those are just the people who know they’ve been recruited (there’s a menagerie involved too – cheetahs at sea!)

I loved this and I can’t wait for my fancy Illumicrate edition to arrive and sit next to its siblibg on the bookcase and there’s still a book three to come and I am very excited as you might be able to tell…

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

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Cover Reveal: My Spanish Romance – Olivia Spring

Dating her brother’s best friend is against the rules. 

But some rules are meant to be broken…

After discovering her cheating ex’s plans to move into her building, accountant Lily jets off on a sabbatical to Marbella. 

When she unexpectedly bumps into her brother’s best friend, hot Spanish DJ Carlos—the guy she’s had a crush on since forever—sparks fly. 

But Carlos promised Lily’s brother he’d never mess with his little sister. Breaking the bro code would end their friendship. 

Lily knows that Casanova Carlos doesn’t do relationships, so all he could offer is a steamy holiday fling. And after wanting him for so long, if they spent the night together, Lily’s heart and body might never recover.

She tries to suppress her feelings, but when Carlos takes Lily to his favourite places in Spain, the attraction becomes harder to resist. With her brother hundreds of miles away, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt, right?

Should Lily throw caution to the wind and risk heartbreak by enjoying a sizzling Spanish romance? And if she does, will it lead to long-term love? 

Order this fun, steamy, brother’s-best-friend, forbidden love romcom now and join Lily in Spain to find out!

Read as a standalone novel or as part of the My Ten-Year Crush series.  

Pre-order: Amazon UK Amazon US Publication Date: 19th January 2023

Olivia Spring is a British, London-based writer of contemporary women’s fiction, sexy chick lit and romantic comedy. Her uplifting debut novel The Middle-Aged Virgin, which was released in 2018, deals with being newly single in your thirties and beyond, dating, relationships, love, sex and living life to the full.

In addition to The Middle-Aged Virgin, Olivia has published The Middle-Aged Virgin in Italy, Love Offline, Losing My Inhibitions, Only When It’s Love and the sequel When’s The Wedding? 

My Ten-Year Crush, Olivia’s seventh novel, marked the start of a new series in 2021. My Lucky Night and My Paris Romance followed soon afterwards and book four, My Spanish Romance will be published in January 2023.

When she’s not writing, Olivia can be found enjoying cupcakes and cocktails and of course, seeking inspiration for her next book!

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Double Cover Reveal: A Scottish Country Escape & The Christmas Highland Lodge – Julie Shackman

Escape to the Scottish Highlands with a brand new spring romance from bestselling author, Julie Shackman

*Julie Shackman’s brand new romance The Cottage in the Highlands is exclusively available on First Reads for November*

Determined to overcome a family tragedy, Elle Cassidy decides to reopen her late mother’s ailing newsagent as a stationery shop in the quiet Scottish town of Fir Haven.

But when the arrogant yet handsome crime writer Dexter Grayling almost runs over Elle in his beast of a sports car, the town is thrown into a tailspin – especially when Dexter claims that local resident Linda Carlucci has put a curse on him and he is no longer able to write.

Can Elle put aside her dislike for the self-absorbed writer and help Dexter uncover what is really going on with the Carlucci family? And in the process will Elle realise that there’s a lot more to her beloved Fir Haven than she first thought…

For fans of Donna Ashcroft, Jane Linfoot and Rachael Lucas.

Pre-order Links: Amazon UK Amazon US  Publication Date: 16th March 2023

The brand new Christmas romance filled with love and second-chances

Fall in love with the Christmas romance of the year, full of love and second chances!

Lottie Grant loves the festive season so much that she works at the incredibly successful Christmas shop, Christmas Crackers, in her pretty Scottish home town of Craig Brae. But when the shop is sold, her world is turned upside down, leaving her wondering what she will do next.

Just as she’s about to give up hope on finding a new dream job, an offer comes that she can’t refuse, managing a set of luxury wooden cabins… and opening just in time for Christmas!

As she gets to work decorating the cabins, and hanging lights on the fir trees, Lottie can’t believe her luck. That is until the arrival of Blake Dempster, a moody but handsome hiking expert, who threatens to bring down her festive joy. But never one to shy away from a challenge, Lottie is determined to change Blake’s mind about all things festive.

And as the snow falls and the fairy lights sparkle, will work-obsessed Lottie and frozen-hearted Blake make their Christmas wishes come true?

Pre-order Links: Amazon UK Amazon US Publication Date: 20th October 2023

Julie Shackman is a former journalist from Scotland, who has always wanted to write feel-good romance. As well as being an author, Julie also writes verses and captions for greetings card companies. 

She admits to having an obsession with stationery and handbags and has an impressive pile of gorgeous To Be Read novels she is wading her way through.

She is married, has two sons and a Romanian rescue puppy, Cooper. A Scottish Country Escape and The Christmas Highland Lodge are Julie’s eighth and nineth novels respectively.

Julie Shackman Author • Julie Shackman (@G13Julie) / TwitterJulie Georgina Shackman (@juliegeorginashackman) • Instagram photos and videos(2) Julie Georgina Shackman | Facebook

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Syren’s Mutiny – Jessica S. Taylor

TheSyren'sMutiny copy

We’re celebrating the release of the highly anticipated dark fantasy The Syren’s Mutiny by Jessica S. Taylor. Read on for more info and a chance to win a signed copy of this extraordinary book! Be sure to visit our hosts to enter!

Cover

The Syren’s Mutiny

Publication Date: November 9th, 2022

Genre: Dark Fantasy/ Pirates/ Mythology

It’s frightful bad luck to have a woman aboard.”

Brigid knew the superstition, but when her father tried to marry her off, she had no choice but to stowaway on a ship bound for Bhodheas. When she’s discovered and discarded, her fate seems sealed…until she’s saved by the ocean and its queen.

Transformed into a syren and given new life, Brigid now has the power to seek revenge on those who wronged her.

Caelum has spent his entire life trying to help those who couldn’t help themselves. After years suffering the cruelty of his pirate father, saving others from a similar fate was ingrained in him. But when he’s unable to save a young girl from being thrown overboard for hiding away, he’s devastated.

Until one day, when he’s thrown into the water by unforeseen forces, he comes face to face with the past, and maybe, with his future.

But there’s a darkness lurking on the seas they both call home. And Caelum and Brigid have no idea just how intertwined their stories really are.

Content Warning:
This book contains dark and adult themes. Possible trigger warnings include: violence, drowning, death, dismemberment, torture, brief/non-explicit references to child kidnapping and deaths, mentions of past domestic violence, mild sexual content, and mentions of arranged marriages.

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Excerpt

Brigid

Abruptly, the ship diverted from its course, turning hard toward the rocky cliffs on the other side of it. Even in the water, there was a sickening crash and the sound of splitting wood as the nose of the ship rammed into the jagged peaks.

We kept singing.

The ship began to turn, its side now scraping along the rocks as well. Men, driven mad by our song, began jumping overboard as the ship started to take on water and dip lower beneath the waves. While still close to the shore, the water here wasn’t exactly shallow, and the ship would sink in its entirety.

We circled, diving deep as bodies began tumbling in the water, the panic induced by our song preventing them from seeing reason and turning toward the cliffs for refuge. Sorcha looked over at me, her eyes wide as she processed the scene in front of her. She still seemed intimidated, yet interested.

I motioned for her to follow me. As we swam up closer to the surface, gleeful that these men would feel our wrath, a body crashed into the water in front of me. A man, based on the broadness of his shoulders and the general bulk of his frame. His body twisted, his limbs flailing as he sank through the water.

I stopped short, letting go of Sorcha, who continued swimming up toward the surface with the others. I swished my tail to hold myself steady as I stared at him. Instead of flailing, he was trying to steady himself. He righted his large, muscular body and finally turned in the water to face me. His eyes widened, but he didn’t seem afraid of me.

Another man splashed into the water in between us, diverting my attention. This man, once the bubbles around his form dissipated, was terrified. His eyes widened, and he opened his mouth to scream, but only more bubbles came out. He furiously tried to kick to the surface, but Maira was faster. Swimming down between us from the surface, she lunged forward, grabbing his leg and pulling him down into the depths. He kicked, still releasing a stream of bubbles from his mouth as he flailed about furiously.

With Maira gone into the depths, I turned my attention back to the man from before. He was closer to the surface now, almost close enough to breach it. Flicking my tail, I used my power to surge up, wrapping my talons around his ankle just as his head surfaced.

I could not let him escape. This man seemed a powerful swimmer, and if I let him go, I had no doubt he would survive. And given how closely he had seen Maira and me, I couldn’t let that happen. In the moment, I was grateful Sorcha had continued to the surface and wouldn’t have to watch this. I wasn’t sure she’d have the stomach to witness this death up close.

I yanked hard on his boot, pulling him back beneath the waves. Down, down, down we went before I released him. I wanted to see his face, this man who had not seemed afraid of us. Had he seen us before?

Tilting my head to the side, I looked at the man more closely as he calmly treaded water, not trying to get back to the surface. His face was familiar to me…somehow. I swam slightly closer to him, whipping my tail in the water, impressed when he didn’t back away. We stared at each other for a moment longer before it clicked in my head. The bright green eyes staring back at me, the dark hair floating in the water, the chiseled and strong face. While he had aged some, I knew that face, those eyes.

The boy from the ship.

Caelum.

My eyes widened, and my stomach twisted again, my heart in my throat. I never thought I would see him again after being thrown overboard. He had fought to try to save me, even knowing he would be punished by the captain for it. My mind was spinning, trying to process the man before me as I studied him.

He was still oddly calm, keeping himself upright but never trying to go back toward the surface. He studied me back, his eyes roving over my body and stuttering on my tail before traveling back up to my face. He seemed resigned to his fate. His gaze was intense, and I wondered if he recognized me as well. I doubted it, as he had only seen me for a brief moment. But I had remembered him.

His cheeks began to bulge, a sign he was running out of time under the water, and he finally cast a glance upwards to the surface before looking back to me. But still, he didn’t make a move.

In an impulsive moment, I knew I couldn’t let my only savior, the only redemption to men, drown because of us. Because of me. Before I could stop myself and think about the betrayal my family would surely feel, I rushed toward him, grabbed him under the arms, and pulled his chest against mine as I propelled us toward the surface. He would not die on my watch. I would not be the cause of his ruin.

Not after he had suffered trying to save me on that ship.

Purchase The Syren’s Mutiny Here!

About the Author

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Jessica was born and raised in Kentucky, but has been moving with the waves and is currently residing in southern Maine with her husband and cat, Nebula. Jessica’s love of reading and writing began at a young age with the help of her grandmother and her local library, and she hasn’t looked back since. Similarly, her love for pirates, mermaids, and all things fantasy have only grown more intense with time.

Author Jessica Taylor | Instagram | Facebook | TikTok | Pinterest

My thoughts: a sort of Little Mermaid retelling but one where the heroine doesn’t lose her voice but will suffer as she changes between fins and feet.

Brigid became a syren to get revenge on the kind of men who threw her overboard to drown. But a chance encounter with the man, who as a boy tried to save her, has her rethinking the syrens way of life.

Joining Caelum and his crew in an attempt to stop his evil father, she realises she can use her powers to do good, not just kill. But can she convince her sisters and the goddess they serve not to drown Caelum and his crew, but be the heroes instead?

A clever action adventure with a love story and a desire to change at its heart.

Book Tour Schedule

November 7th

R&R Book Tours (Kick-Off) http://rrbooktours.com

@ofmoviesandbooks (Review) https://www.instagram.com/ofmoviesandbooks/

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Ecce! Libri! (Review) https://eccelibri702630676.wordpress.com/

@ecce.libri – https://www.instagram.com/ecce.libri/

November 8th

@thenerdybookreview (Review) https://www.instagram.com/thenerdybookreview/

@booktreasuresau (Review) https://www.instagram.com/booktreasuresau

@thatmillennialreader (Review) https://www.instagram.com/thatmillennialreader/

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@accio_mischief (Review) https://www.instagram.com/accio_mischief/

@caffeinatedbibliophilia (Review) https://www.instagram.com/caffeinatedbibliophilia/

Bunny’s Reviews (Review) https://bookwormbunnyreviews.blogspot.com/

@NerdyFoxReads (Review) https://www.instagram.com/nerdyfoxreads/

@dreaminginpages (Review) https://www.instagram.com/dreaminginpages/

I Love Books & Stuff (Spotlight) https://ilovebooksandstuffblog.wordpress.com

November 9th

@a_reads_alot (Review) https://www.instagram.com/a_reads_alot/

@alexis.reads__ (Review) https://instagram.com/alexis.reads__?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

@amber.bunch_author (Review) https://www.instagram.com/amber.bunch_author/

Riss Reviews (Review) https://rissreviewsx.wixsite.com/website

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@books.and.salt (Review) https://www.instagram.com/books.and.salt/

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@read.em.if.you.got.em (Spotlight) https://www.instagram.com/read.em.if.you.got.em/

November 10th

@courtneys.shelflife (Review) https://www.instagram.com/courtneys.shelflife/

@ems_literarycorner (Review) https://www.instagram.com/ems_literarycorner/

@hazelwriteswords_ (Review) https://www.instagram.com/hazelwriteswords_/

Black Raptor Books (Review) https://www.blackraptorbooks.com/blog

Rambling Mads (Review) http://ramblingmads.com

@the.robin.joyce (Review) https://www.instagram.com/the.robin.joyce/

@fictionalwanderluster (Review) https://www.instagram.com/fictionalwanderluster/

Breakeven Books (Spotlight) https://breakevenbooks.com

November 11th

@wicked_bibliophile (Review) https://www.instagram.com/wicked_bibliophile/

@witchinglybookish (Review) https://www.instagram.com/witchinglybookish/

@acupofteaandabookplease (Review) https://www.instagram.com/acupofteaandabookplease/

@creepylilbookworm (Review) https://www.instagram.com/creepylilbookworm/

@bookishly_kenia (Review) https://www.instagram.com/bookishlykenia/

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@wendyreadsforfun (Review) https://www.instagram.com/wendyreadsforfun/

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blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Frost Falls at the Potting Shed – Jenny Kane

It has always been Maddie Willand’s dream to take over her father’s plant nursery. But after his sudden death, she
is devastated to discover that she might lose The Potting Shed forever.
Maddie’s bossy older sister, Sabi, is joint owner of the nursery, and she’s convinced that the best thing for both of them would be to sell up. Determined to keep the
business going, Maddie can’t afford any distractions, but staying focused might be harder than she thinks when – after a major garden centre chain puts in an offer – her search for legal advice throws her into the path of attractive lawyer Ed… Amazon


Jenny Kane is the bestselling author of many romantic fiction series. These include the Mill Grange series, Abi’s Cornwall series, and the Another Cup series. She has had bestsellers in the Amazon Romance, Contemporary Fiction and Women’s Fiction charts and multiple
bestsellers. If you enjoy Jenny’s writing, then why not follow her author page, for updates on all of her new releases!

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My thoughts: this is a sweet rom com full of misunderstandings between people who all need to learn to communicate better! Petra and Jake, Maddie and Sabi, Sabi and Henry, Maddie and Ed. Honestly, I kept muttering “talk to each other!”

If Maddie and Sabi can’t get their (sister) act together, they’ll fall out big time, Maddie wants to keep the family business and eventually develop it, like their dad wanted, but Sabi has her eye on a big new house.

Luckily, eventually, after a lot of misunderstandings, rows and silences, they get a bit better sorted. Ed does some hot shot lawyer stuff, Henry essentially knocks some heads together, and they all pitch in to make this Christmas season the best The Potting Shed has had. But is it enough to save it? And will love bloom in the polytunnels? Read it and find out!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Blitz: The Girl of Lost Petals and Possibilities – Laura Briggs

On holiday in Egypt with Sidney and Dean, young writer Maisie is—in her mind—on top of the world.
Her long-labored manuscript is finally going to be published, she and Sidney are deeply in love, and the future looks bright on every level.
In one moment, however, it all changes. Tragedy leads to overwhelming loss that Maisie can’t even begin to process. As the world itself turns upside down, there’s no solace for Maisie from the growing sense that her wonderful future is finished.
No dream about to come true. No certainties of new chances in life.
No Sidney.
Even if the first two did not break her, the last one is determined to. It’s up to Maisie to find her strength and determination to find a new future, even if—unthinkably—it may be nothing like the one she dreamed of.
Purchase

Laura Briggs is the author of several feel-good romance reads, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller ‘A Wedding in Cornwall’. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her pets, gardening, and seeing the occasional movie or play.

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Giveaway – Win an e-copy of The Girl of Lost Petals and Possibilities (Open Internationally).**T&Cs below.


My thoughts: if you’ve read the Little Hotel in Cornwall series, you’ll know these characters, but it also works as a standalone book. Maisie and Sidney are so happy, after a wonderful trip to Egypt with their snarky pal Dean, they’re back in Cornwall and looking forward to the rest of their lives.

But when Sidney has a terrible accident (heart in my mouth, because I kind of love Sidney) and they’re separated (his poor dogs, subjected only to the vicar’s mad housekeeper’s cooking – I love her too), it’s heartbreaking. And the blows keep coming- the publication of Maisie’s book is delayed, then Covid hits and the hotel shuts its doors. The staff all move in to deep clean the place and stay employed.

Will Maisie ever leave the Penmarrow? Will Sidney and Dean be ok? Who is feeding the dogs now? And will Riley and Brigette kill one another or finally admit they’re clearly mad about each other?

Utterly heart rending and sad, but with funny and sweet moments (the girls movie night, the crazy cocktails, Maisie’s mum coming to visit, Dean’s cranky emails), this is lovely and moving and I very much enjoyed it.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.


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blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Snowed in for Christmas – Sarah Morgan

She’s snowed in with the family. The only problem? They’re not her family.

A family gathering
This Christmas the Miller siblings have one goal – to avoid their family’s well-meaning questions. Ross, Alice and Clemmie have secrets that they don’t intend to share, and they are relying on each other to deflect attention.

An uninvited guest
Lucy Clarke is facing a Christmas alone, and the prospect of losing her job – unless she can win a major piece of business from Ross Miller. She’ll deliver her proposal to his family home in the Scottish Highlands and then leave. After all, she wouldn’t want to intrude on the Miller’s perfect family Christmas.

A Christmas to remember
When Lucy appears on the Miller’s snow-covered doorstep, she is mistaken for Ross’s girlfriend. But by the time the confusion is cleared up, a storm has hit and Lucy is stuck. As everyone settles in for a snowed-in Christmas, tensions bubble to the surface and suddenly Lucy finds herself facing a big family fallout with a family that isn’t hers…

My thoughts: it’s time once more for the classic Sarah Morgan Christmas romance. And this time we’re in the Scottish Highlands with the Miller family and Lucy – a PR exec with a plan to save her boss and the company. But a few feet of snow means a change of plans.

The Millers are warm and welcoming, and meddling (I see you Nana Jean with your old lady schemes) and won’t let Lucy leave without some serious festive cheer. And will the Miller siblings find love in the snow?

These books are always a cheer, every family in them is delightful and they’re always very jolly – perfect in fact to read during Christmas.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Dead Romantics – Ashley Poston

Florence Day is a ghost-writer with one big problem. She’s supposed to be penning swoon-worthy novels for a famous romance author but, after a bad break-up, Florence no longer believes in love. And when her strict (but undeniably hot) new editor, Benji Andor, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye.

Although when tragedy strikes and Florence has to head home, the last thing she expects to see is a ghost at her front door. Not just any ghost, however, but the stern form of her still very hot – yet now unquestionably dead – new editor.

As sparks start to fly between them, Florence tells herself she can’t be falling for a ghost – even an infuriatingly sexy one. But can Benji help Florence to realise love isn’t dead, after all?

My thoughts: this was lots of fun, complete with clever pop culture references and jokes, terrible puns and a love story that was a While You Were Sleeping, Ghost (yes all my references are old – I’m old!) and a touch of enemies to lovers (although they’re not enemies – more strangers with secrets).

Florence is highly strung, panicking and then her world crumbles and she has to return to her quaint home town (their mayor is a dog – why is that not a thing here? Replace Sadiq Khan with Fido!) and the family she hasn’t spent much time with since she left. And a ghost. It gets complicated.

I loved her best friend Rose, she was hilarious and Goth sister Alice, even her sweet brother Carter and his boyfriend Nicki. Everyone in Florence’s family are nice people, most of the town seems to be pretty nice. But they treated Florence badly and she left.

Her burgeoning relationship with Ben is tricky to say the least but in an excellent twist of fate, there may be hope yet.

Read it, cheer for Florence when she finally stands up to her awful ex, dance to Build Me Up, Buttercup, and enjoy. It’s very charming.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Wolfsong – T.J. Klune

A Green Creek Novel.

Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.

Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road, the boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane.

Ox was seventeen when he found out the boy’s secret, and it painted the world around him in colors of red and orange and violet, of Alpha and Beta and Omega. Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his head and heart. The boy chased after the monster with revenge in his bloodred eyes, leaving Ox behind to pick up the pieces.

It’s been three years since that fateful day—and the boy is back. Except now he’s a man, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.

My thoughts: this was good stuff. Most werewolves are born, not bitten, especially the Bennetts, an old clan, returned home after years away. Ox lives on the same remote road and his connection to them is almost instantaneous. Especially to Joe.

The pain of their bond and then separation fuels the story – as Joe seeks revenge and Ox must hold the homestead, and the broken remains of their family, their pack, together. Joe’s return changes everything. And their connection sparks.

A bittersweet love story between two young men forced to grow up fast, and the family they find. I loved it.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: A Taste of Iron and Gold – Alexandra Rowland

The Goblin Emperor meets “Magnificent Century” in Alexandra Rowland’s A Taste of Gold and Iron, where a queer central romance unfolds in a fantasy world reminiscent of the Ottoman Empire.

Kadou, the shy prince of Arasht, finds himself at odds with one of the most powerful ambassadors at court—the body-father of the queen’s new child—in an altercation which results in his humiliation.

To prove his loyalty to the queen, his sister, Kadou takes responsibility for the investigation of a break-in at one of their guilds, with the help of his newly appointed bodyguard, the coldly handsome Evemer, who seems to tolerate him at best. In Arasht, where princes can touch-taste precious metals with their fingers and myth runs side by side with history, counterfeiting is heresy, and the conspiracy they discover could cripple the kingdom’s financial standing and bring about its ruin.

My thoughts: it took me a while to understand how the world in this book works, and how people relate to each other as the court is very formal and full of rules about who can do or say what to whom. But once I got my head around all of the traditions and relationships, it all flowed very nicely.

The Prince, Kadou, wants to cement his bond with his sister – the Queen, and his new baby niece, who he’s very fond of, and by taking on a complex investigation into counterfeit coins, the Shipbuilder’s Guild and some of the servants closest to the royal family. There’s a conspiracy here and he must get to the heart of it before anyone he cares for is placed in danger.

I liked the growing connection between Kadou and his bodyguard Evemer, the complex layers of servitude and courtly manners making it hard for them to even say exactly what they mean at times. But as they grow closer, it takes on more complexity as Kadou’s former guard is still around and still trying to foster a relationship with Kadou that he doesn’t want. I really liked Eozena – the guard captain and also the only person allowed to tell the Queen and Prince what to do. She was very funny at times, bossing Kadou about in her affectionate, almost parental way.

Kadou was at first quite hard to read, he’s shy and quite reserved, keeping things to himself and struggling to form friendships and connections. Kept separate from most people because of his status, he struggles to bond but with Evemer, he opens up. It’s rather sweet.

The world building was fascinating and complex, lots of layers and etiquette involved. The story was clever, with the conspiracy and counterfeiting, something you might expect royalty to have nothing to do with, cutting right to the heart and Kadou having to become a detective to solve it with Eozena and Evemer to help him.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.