Magical almost-steampunk

Witchmark (The Kingston Cycle, #1)Witchmark by C.L. Polk
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This made me think of World War I, Pat Barker‘s Regeneration Trilogy (on a much shallower level), Sherlock Holmes (blond), Steampunk (with aether instead of steam engines) and the M M Romance of KJ Charles (without the hanky-panky).

It took me a little to warm up to the main character, it was not love a first sight. The bad guy was a bit one-dimensional. A deeper look at him would have been nice. I hope that some of my favourite side characters from this will show up in the second book. And I really, really wanted to see Grace burn in a fire for a long time.

Good world-building, nice plot, not terribly complex. Overall I liked the story, but wasn‘t glued to the page. I could have done with a trickier mystery and a little more suspense. The bicycle chase was fun. I loved the reveal at the end—I had my suspicions, but guessed wrong and had a wow-moment.

I am pretty sure that I will pick up the sequel at some point.

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Royal romance

A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals, #3)A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Picked this up because some of my goodreads buddies read it together and I was looking for a light palate cleanser. I had a hard time liking this and almost dropped it about a hundred pages in. Maybe I should have started with the first of the series.

Too many things rubbed me the wrong way. I found Nya to be annoying and whiny (yes, I am missing her backstory, because I didn‘t start with the first book…). Johan‘s made-up fantasy language was very, very weird. One of the main characters being the Duke of Edinburgh was just plain odd. I kept imagining the 90-odd-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth II and that really did not work.

However, a synopsis somewhere mentioned a fake engagement—my favourite romance trope—and there were the odd funny moments, so I decided on ignoring odd stuff and to pretend this is a fantasy novel set on an imaginary planet.

The inevitable drama and misunderstanding between the main characters was ok, they were even somewhat adult in their reasoning. Nya definitely became more likable over the course of the book. Lukas‘s crisis felt very stuck-on at the last minute, as if the author wanted to include a popular topic in fiction and didn‘t manage to mesh it well with the rest.

I finished the book, but I am not sold on the series or the author. I did not truly enjoy this, although it had its (rare) moments. If my romance reading buddies hadn‘t liked this so much, I would probably have DNFd this. ★★¾☆☆

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Convenient motorcyle mechanic…

The Backup Boyfriend (The Boyfriend Chronicles, #1)The Backup Boyfriend by River Jaymes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

„Dylan hoped the good Dr. Johnson excelled at his work, cuz he sucked at starting motorcycles and picking up the pieces after a failed relationship.“

My favourite romance trope, a pretend-relationship/marriage of convenience/friends-to-lovers set-up. Alec Johnson is invited to an awards ceremony. So is his ex with the new boyfriend. And his motorcycle mechanic Dylan volunters to go along as his pretend boyfriend, because the ex pissed him off. Say hello to a lot of complications of the emotional kind.

I went into this with very low expectations. Based on that it was very entertaining, with a minimal amount of annoying drama. Even the usual romance predicament of sane grown-ups not talking to each other was at a bearable level. Lots of pretty explicit sex—a bit much at times, actually. The usual HFN ending. But all in all I liked this and might even get the next one in this series of loosely related m-m romances. Which seems to involve the ex…

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Not burning

Phoenix Unbound (Fallen Empire, #1)Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

DNF at 46%, 184 pages. I read Part One, then proceeded to very heavy skimming of Part Two, discovering nothing interesting.
I really liked all the previous book I read by Grace Draven, but this book did nothing for me. I did not particularly like either of the main characters, the plot was predictable and lacked tension. The story offered nothing exciting or fresh and was kinda pointless. Did she return to Beroe? If she did, I missed it in my skimming frenzy.

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Uncollected wish

The Wish CollectorThe Wish Collector by Mia Sheridan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“So I guess you’re the wish collector, then?”
He paused. “The wish collector. I guess I am.”

The first 100 pages are a slow, long build-up, establishing both their backstories. Why did he become, who he is. Why is she in town and how did she get there. Meeting on opposite sides of that wall, starting to talk and slowly becoming friends. Plus we get a few chapters, alternating with the main, present day story, of the past and „the story of Windisle Plantation and the tragic tale that is said to have transpired beyond its gate.“

I was pretty much lightly skimming from the second chapter or so. I did not like the writing style much. Not sure, it felt bland and simplistic?

Think more Phantom of the Opera than Beauty and the Beast.

Sentences like “Had he hoped she was unattractive so she might want to give someone like him a chance?“ or “…the woman had obviously gotten mixed up with the wrong person and was going to learn a harsh lesson, but maybe she needed it.“ made me uncomfortable and also dislike Jonah a lot. This is a novel and Jonah is a fictional character, but comments like that are beyond the pale. It makes me wonder what type of person the author is, that she can even come up with stuff like that.

The author tried to pack 3 books into one: romance with a historical drama tacked on, a crime novel and a sort of vigilante-redeems-himself-by-doing-good storyline. It‘s too much. None of it is done satisfyingly, everything just scratches the surface.

This was only two stars for me for the majority of the book. It slowly inched it‘s way to 2.5 stars, because despite all of the above the story was not bad. The solution to the romance made me up that to 2.75, but overall it was not a satisfying read for me.

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Done sweeping

Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“I do not comprehend this species. How have they ever managed to achieve interstellar civilization without self-destructing?”

Finally, after about one year of updates, the epilogue in December. And finally, finally the longingly awaited HEA, with a little teaser for the next installment.

I am a little underwhelmed. There was too much discussion about who does what to whom and why for my taste. And too many too detailed descriptions of endless, different settings. And Maud always being the clever one and explaining to the others how it all works got a little old as well. The action scenes were great though. Ilona Andrews knows how to write great sword fights and bloodshed in general.

And I guess it is a tough one to keep a great narrative going in a weekly online serial with barely any editing. At the moment I feel no great need to pick up the edited, improved, mature version. But if the next story in the Innkeeper universe will show up on IAs website, I am game.

Main chapter page: (probably won‘t be available online for much longer)…

PS: I am at a loss about attaching the appropriate genre label. Science Fiction it really isn‘t. Ok, there are space ships and some interstellar travel. But it‘s mostly flying through the great beyond in vessels resembling catsles, with gardens, trees etc. It‘s definitely not UF. Romantic, soft SF? Space Fantasy?

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It‘s a deal…

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1)The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

„Charming princes weren’t always what they seemed. Shining armor went out of fashion with the Crusades. And if fairy godmothers existed, hers was running several years late.“

So she ends up marrying a duke, because he needs an heir. No emotions involved. His ex found him revolting, because he was terribly burned at Waterloo, when a cannon misfired. Obviously this will go well, no pesky love or drama, right? And no run-ins with the ex, miscommunications, etc.

Pretty silly, almost farcical. There is a bunch of female friends that presumably will get books and devilish handsome/ugly rakes/misfits of their own.

Surprisingly little drama. There is some, otherwise the story would miss a crucial romance element, but it is just enough. Some humorous situations and even a trusty sidekick (own story?). Her backstory was nicely done.

My favourite side character was Khan, their butler. He needs a story of his own. The sub-plot with their servants was a bit daft. Come to think of it, this story has lots of little sub-plots. They are mostly fun. Plenty of plot bunnies!

His ex needs to trip down a long flight of stairs, obviously. But perhaps she‘ll get a book of her own as well.

In case you are wondering:
Waterloo is a place in Belgium, where the decisive battle of the Napoleonic wars took place in 1815. Allied troops under the British general Wellington really walloped Napoleon.
Other than that we are looking at a fairly typical regency romance, minus any attempt at accuracy in terms of language or gender stereotypes of the time.

I am not sure if I will read the next one. I might. However, I lost a little interest in the second half of the book. But I am having a slow month, so don‘t mind me.
4 brain candies for this one.

Check out When A Scot Ties A Knot by the author, if kilts are your thing! Marriage of convenience as well. Sorry for the lack of a link, Goodreads is wonky…

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