Sunday, March 26, 2023

Review: Spell Bound by F.T. Lukens

Spell Bound by F.T. Lukens
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: Male/Non-Binary Young Adult Fantasy Romance 
Spell Bound cover
ISBN: 9781665916226
Release Date: April 4, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Edison Rooker isn’t sure what to expect when he enters the office of Antonia Hex, the powerful sorceress who runs a call center for magical emergencies. He doesn’t have much experience with hexes or curses. Heck, he doesn’t even have magic. But he does have a plan—to regain the access to the magical world he lost when his grandmother passed.

Antonia is…intimidating, but she gives him a job and a new name—Rook—both of which he’s happy to accept. Now all Rook has to do is keep his Spell Binder, an illegal magical detection device, hidden from the Magical Consortium. And contend with Sun, the grumpy and annoyingly cute apprentice to Antonia’s rival colleague, Fable. But dealing with competition isn’t so bad; as Sun seems to pop up more and more, Rook minds less and less.

But when the Consortium gets wind of Rook’s Spell Binder, they come for Antonia. All alone, Rook runs to the only other magical person he knows: Sun. Except Fable has also been attacked, and now Rook and Sun have no choice but to work together to get their mentors back…or face losing their magic forever.

Grumpy meets sunshine is only the beginning of the fun in Spell Bound. F.T. Lukens’s tale of magic, rebellion, and coming into one’s own is engaging, interesting, and wholly entertaining.

Rook is a genius but that doesn’t help him after he’s cut off from magic with the death of his grandmother. He wants to belong and is so lonely it broke my heart. He goes to the office of Antonia Hex, a rebellious and incredibly powerful sorcerer, and asks for a job. Antonia sees something in him and agrees and to take him on, bringing Rook back into the world of magic he’s been so desperately missing. Now all he has to do is keep his invention – the Spell Binder – secret because it would land he and his boss in a world of trouble and upset the control the Consortium has over all magical society. Oh, and he has to keep his cool around Sun, the apprentice of Antonia’s frenemy, Fable. The latter isn’t easy because while Sun is grumpy and prickly, they also make Rook want to swoon. But then something goes wrong and Sun and Rook have to figure out a way to save their mentors and themselves before magic is cut off from all of them forever.

In Spell Bound, Lukens creates a wonderful world of magic that is interesting and well-rounded. I loved learning about the magic, the rules, and those that rebel against the Consortium. Discovery is what makes this book so entertaining so I can’t say much without spoiling it. We see different sides of magic, from the mundane to the extraordinary, and it’s wonderful. The different facets made me want to stay in this world longer, to learn more through Rook and Sun’s eyes.

And speaking of Rook and Sun, our protagonists are at the heart of the book and they are a delight. Rook is eager, brilliant, and sweet in a way that charmed my socks off. Sun is talented, inquisitive, and – despite their prickly, antisocial exterior – kind. Rook throws them off their stride, but I loved their relationship and how it grew over the course of the story. The two of them fit perfectly and there were times I simply melted as their feelings for each other grew. Spell Bound is filled with magic, discovery, challenging gatekeeping, and finding your own power. I truly enjoyed it from beginning to end and I cannot wait to revisit this story again.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Review: The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway by Ashley Schumacher

The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway by Ashley Schumacher
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance 
The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway cover
ISBN: 9781250840240
Release Date: March 14, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Since her mother’s death, Madeline “Gwen” Hathaway has been determined that nothing in her life will change ever again. That’s why she keeps extensive lists in journals, has had only one friend since childhood, and looks forward to the monotony of working the ren faire circuit with her father. Until she arrives at her mother’s favorite end-of-tour stop to find the faire is under new management and completely changed.

Meeting Arthur, the son of the new owners and an actual lute-playing bard, messes up Maddie’s plans even more. For some reason, he wants to be her friend - and ropes her into becoming Princess of the Faire. Now Maddie is overseeing a faire dramatically changed from what her mother loved and going on road trips vastly different from the routine she used to rely on. Worst of all, she’s kind of having fun.

Ashley Schumacher’s The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway is filled with a wise old magician who sells potion bottles, gallant knights who are afraid of horses and ride camels instead, kings with a fondness for theatrics, a lazy river castle moat with inflatable crocodile floaties, and a plus-sized heroine with a wide open heart… if only she just admits it.

The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway is a sweet, funny, sometimes heartbreaking story of finding yourself after loss. Maddie Hathaway has grown up on the Renaissance Faire circuit, but after the loss of her mother almost a year ago she’s at sea, struggling with grief. When she arrives at Stormsworth, the faire her mother loved the most, she’s aghast to find it changed and under new ownership. She’s also taken aback by Arthur, the son of the new owners and a bard who dubs her “Gwen” and who is persistent in his attempts to be her friend. Maddie doesn’t want to let anyone new into her heart for fear of the pain of losing them, but Arthur has a way of getting under her skin. Before she knows it, she’s going on adventures and letting go of her routine, which scares her but it’s also thrilling.

It’s easy to adore Maddie and Arthur. I wanted to hug Maddie who was sad and vulnerable but finds herself and learns to move forward over the course of the story. Arthur is sweet, determined, and very careful and considerate of others’ feelings. He’s got a charm offensive which is adorable but he also has vulnerabilities. I liked watching them become friends and fall for one another and it isn’t a smooth ride for them. Grief, fear, and insecurities aren’t small obstacles and author Ashley Schumacher doesn’t treat them as such. The result is an ending that is not only satisfying but feels earned.

Despite its heavy themes, The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway is light on its feet and has plenty of fun. From knights riding camels because they’re afraid of horses to moats with crocodile floaties to more, Schumacher blends the bright with the dark. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this story with its good heart and endearing characters.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Review: The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by KJ Charles

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by KJ Charles
Series: The Doomsday Books, Book 1
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Male/Male Historical Romance 
The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen cover
ISBN: 9781728255859
Release Date: March 7, 2023
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Abandoned by his father, Gareth Inglis grew up lonely, prickly, and well-used to disappointment. Still, he longs for a connection. When he meets a charming stranger, he falls head over heels—until everything goes wrong and he's left alone again. Then Gareth's father dies, turning the shabby London clerk into Sir Gareth, with a grand house on the remote Romney Marsh and a family he doesn't know.

The Marsh is another world, a strange, empty place notorious for its ruthless gangs of smugglers. And one of them is dangerously familiar…

Joss Doomsday has run the Doomsday smuggling clan since he was a boy. When the new baronet—his old lover—agrees to testify against Joss's sister, Joss acts fast to stop him. Their reunion is anything but happy, yet after the dust settles, neither can stay away. Soon, all Joss and Gareth want is the chance to be together. But the bleak, bare Marsh holds deadly secrets. And when Gareth finds himself threatened from every side, the gentleman and the smuggler must trust one another not just with their hearts, but with their lives.

After an affair with an anonymous lover ends poorly, a heartbroken Giles Inglis learns of the death of his father. With nothing for him in London, the lonely Giles travels to his new home in Romney Marsh to take up the baronetcy. His new home comes with family members he’s never met and digging through his father’s papers piques his interest in the local habitat. But his new life isn’t all family bonding and beetles for Giles. Romney Marsh’s chief industry is smuggling and the Doomsday family rules. When Giles agrees to give testimony against a captured smuggler, he’s thrown for a loop when he’s thwarted by Joss Doomsday…the lover he can’t get over. The sparks between them are still there, but there’s more at stake now. For Romney Marsh is full of secrets that can get the two men killed.

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen is a truly wonderful romance. I adored Giles and Joss from the start and I loved watching the two, one unsure, the other charming, fall in love.

Joss is the head of the Doomsday clan and though he loves his family, the infighting is tearing at him. He’s got pressure on all sides, so many people relying on him, and nothing is left for himself. Nothing except Giles, that is. Giles is lonely and awkward, feeling unwanted and just trying to find his place in the world when he comes across smugglers. Giles broke my heart but I loved seeing him grow, to find joy and a life that made him happy. On the outside, Joss and Giles couldn’t be more different. Joss is the head of a smuggling clan surrounded by family and Giles is a budding naturalist whose been so lonely for most of his life. The two fit like lock and key and I loved watching them lean on each other, be there for one another. It isn’t always easy for them and there are a lot of bumps in the road, but KJ Charles made every up and down worth it for a supremely satisfying happily ever after.

Danger lurks in the background of The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen, threatening our heroes. Charles twines mystery, threats, family drama, and more through the story. I won’t spoil what happens because the fun of the book is learning what the heroes must face, but everything winds together perfectly. Charles perfectly blends the action with the quieter, character-driven moments. The result is a wonderfully entertaining story I hated to put down and one I cannot wait to revisit. I loved this story from beginning to end and I’m very much looking forward to the next Doomsday book.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.