ARC Review: An American Duchess

Title: An American Duchess

Author: Caroline Fyffe

Source: NetGalley

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Publication Date: June 25, 2019

When Beranger Northcott arrives to take his rightful place as Duke of Brightshire, the entire household is turned on its head by his new wife, Emma. Emma is an American from Colorado. Overnight, she’s gone from working on a ranch to being a duchess. Although she wants to do her best to fit into society and with Beranger’s family, she finds no welcome from his stepmother and stepsister. Instead, she befriends an orphaned girl named Charlotte, who’s taking her cousin’s place in as a scullery maid until her cousin is well again. They quickly become close, which is a solace to Emma as she finds the household more and more unfriendly as time goes on. Will Emma ever feel at home in England, or was marrying a duke and sailing away from her family a mistake?

I wanted to like this book, and for the first half, I was enjoying it. I liked Emma and Charlotte a lot. They both had interesting personalities and inner lives. I liked the way Charlotte was unfailingly polite and gracious when people were cruel to her–and they often were. I also liked Emma’s relationship with Beranger. You could really see the love and why she’d made the choices that she had.

The problem was, about halfway through, it just seemed too many unbelievable things happened. Without going into too much detail, it was all a little too contrived. I also didn’t like the resolutions to either mystery that crops up in the story. The writing also kind of unraveled and the characters became a little samey sounding. It just felt silly and pointless and by the end, I was irritated and glad to be done.

The strength of this novel are the characters and their relationships with each other, but the events and plot are very thin and ultimately not very enjoyable.

ARC Review: Play it Again by Aidan Wayne

Title: Play it Again

Author: Aidan Wayne

Publisher: Carina Press

Source: NetGalley

Format: e-book

Publish Date: April 22, 2019

Dovid (Duh-vid) Rosenstein is a popular YouTuber who, along with his sister, Rachel, runs “Don’t Look Now.” When he becomes obsessed with an adorable let’s player named Sam, he plugs Sam on his channel, wanting him to get more views. Sam, a shy gamer from Ireland, is baffled when his channel is suddenly flooded with new viewers and subscribers. When he thanks Dovid on his channel, it leads to a series of DMs between the two men, which leads to texting, which leads to phone calls, which leads…

They may be in two different countries, but soon Dovid and Sam find themselves becoming more and more attracted to one another. But can a long-distance relationship between two people who’ve never met in person really work?

This was a very cute book and a sweet read. I liked both characters, but Sam was definitely my favorite. I found his anxiety and shyness to be very real. Not that Dovid wasn’t real, too! They were both realistic and well-written. I liked seeing their relationship grow from a one-sided admiration, to mutual admiration, to attraction, and eventually to love.

As cute as it was, the writing style didn’t work as well for me. All the YouTube bits seems stilted and unnatural. I’m not sure if it was simply the nature of trying to translate a visual medium to text or if the writer just didn’t convey it well enough. I also found the plot to be a little simplistic. There wasn’t much conflict or tension. It was a sweet slice of life, but it was a lot of Sam and Dovid just talking or thinking about how much they liked each other. Sam had a lot of problems with his job and his family, but we don’t see it; we’re just told about it when he talks to Dovid. It might have been interesting to see some of those conversation and really get a feeling of how horrible his family way. I don’t know. It just seemed all too easy, when it came down to it.

Overall, while I liked this book, I found it a little boring because of the lack of tension and conflict. If you’re looking for an easy, sweet book without much conflict, than this definitely is the book to pick up.

ARC Review: The Stone Rainbow by Liane Shaw

Title: The Stone Rainbow

Author: Liane Shaw

Source: NetGalley

Publisher: Second Story Press

Publication Date: September 17, 2019

Jack is a gay boy living in a small town. Although there are rumors circulating about his sexuality, he is in the closet to everyone but a few friends and his mother. Even though his friends and mom try to understand and accept him, things are awkward and uncomfortable and Jack feels alienated. Then, a boy named Benjamin moves to town and Jack finds himself intensely attracted. After a brush with near tragedy, Jack decides he can’t hide who he is anymore and decides to make a statement to himself, his friends, and his own.

I really liked this book a lot. Jack and his struggles felt very real to me. I totally understand what it feels like to come out and not be understood, or to declare who you are and not be accepted. I also loved his relationship with Benjamin. They were very high school, but it felt natural and real the way they interacted. The whole book was very authentic and full of real feelings.

I liked, too, that Jack was gay in a way I haven’t seen very much in YA recently. He wants to be fabulous and wear pretty clothes. Part of his coming out is gaining the courage to dress the way he wants and sparkle and shine.

I also really liked that the characters were very complex. There were characters who were kind homophobic when they talked but then took a stand for what was right and actually followed through and made choices that for them was tough. They were nuanced and, while not very likable, very real and ultimately admirable in their way.

This was an charming, realistic, and uplifting book about a boy coming of age and growing. It’s about a family who comes to not only love him but accept him and about a community coming together in pride.

Five out of five stars

Book Review: Milady by Laura L. Sullivan

Title: Milady

Author: Laura L. Sullivan

Source: NetGalley

Publisher: Berkley Books

Format: e-book (ARC)

Thank you to NetGalley and Burkley Books for this e-ARC.

Milady de Winter is a villain in The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas. She’s a seductress, a spy, and a murderer. However, history is written by the victors–by men–and Milady’s story is much, much different than the one you might know. This book recounts her life from her early days being raised by her mother in the countryside to her confrontations with the musketeers.

I really enjoyed this book, but with a sort of caveat. It was at its strongest when exploring Milady–or Clarice’s, as she’s called in this book–past. She was a very interesting character and all her training was fascinating. I loved reading about her early days, her introduction to court, and all that followed.

Where the book was weak was when it dealt with the events of The Three Musketeers. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t read that book in years or the author was just too vague as to what was going on, but I found it a little hard to follow. I didn’t know where Milady was half the time or why she was there. It starts after she and d’Artagnan meet, but doesn’t explain how or when they did. I guess I’m supposed to be familiar enough with the story to just remember, but I honestly feel like this book should have been clear enough on that without me having to reread another book to get this one. It should stand on its own. So, all the Milady/musketeer scenes irritated me and dragged down the book. I will, however, say that the ending was brilliantly done and almost made up for all that irritation.

Overall, this was a fast-paced book full of intrigue and training montages of a sort. It satisfactorily explained the past of a character who I’ve wondered about, and expanded on the history of other characters. I’m glad I got approved for this ARC and look forward to reading it again in the future.

Four out of five stars.

Mildady will be released July 2, 2019

Book review: Tiger Queen by Annie Sullivan

Thank you Net-Galley for this ARC.

Princess Kateri lives in Archra, a drought-stricken desert world. Water is severely rationed, there is a two-child limit, and they people of the city are menaced by the Desert Boys, who come into the city to steal their water. The punishment for stealing is to be flung into the arena and forced to choose between two doors: behind one is freedom, the other a tiger.

Kateri is in the middle of battling for her right to rule. She must face suitors in the arena and fight them to prove that she is strong enough to be queen. When her last opponent is announced, she knows she can never win. She flees for her life, running to the desert to ally with the one person she thought she’d never turn to: Cion, the head of the Desert Boys. In the desert, she trains for her life and her right to live. She also learns a terrible truth that turns her world upside down.

Overall, I liked this book. It wasn’t the best and it was very simplistic and a little rushed. The beginning was very hard to get through because the king and his head guard, Rodric, were so incredibly vile. They were over-the-top villains who only needed mustaches to twirl. They weren’t very interesting either, just brutal bullies and they weren’t fun to read about.

Things pick up when Kateri runs to the desert and trains with Cion. I really liked everything to do with the Desert Boys and their lives. While I liked the romance that grew between the two main characters, I did feel it was a little rushed and underdeveloped. If the book was longer, maybe there would have been more time to flesh it out.

If you’re looking for an interesting, quick read about a princess who fights and is smart, then this is the book for you.

Three out of five stars.

Book Review: Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Alex Clarmont-Diaz is the First Son of the United States and he knows one thing for sure: he hates the Henry, the Prince of England. However, after a disastrous accident at the Royal wedding, he and Henry have to fake a friendship for the sake of international relations. Close proximity and near constant texting leads Alex to come around to the fact that Henry isn’t all bad… until his entire world is turned upside down after Henry kisses him on New Year’s Eve.

Now, while his mother is busying campaigning to be reelected to the White House, Alex finds himself rushing headlong into the most important relationship of his life. He and Henry have a lot to juggle with, neither being in a position to come out and not able to keep the other a total secret. When things spiral out of control, they have to ask themselves the most important question of all: is this relationship worth everything?

I loved this book. Both the character were immensely likable. It was set up as enemies to lovers, with Alex absolutely despising Henry in the beginning, and I loved his realization that his obsession wasn’t hate but attraction. I liked how ambitious he was and how he worked hard on his mothers campaign and at school.

I also really liked Henry. There was something so tragic about him. He was lonely and isolated and clearly in love with Henry but trying to hide it. He wanted to do what was best for his country, but he wanted to be true to himself as well. He was in a terrible situation and dealt with his beautiful.

I have to say that this was probably one of the most romantic books I’ve ever read. Some of the events in this were so romantic, I melted into a pile of mush. And I’m not a romantic person. But there are certain things that are guaranteed to melt my heart, and one of those things was prominent in this novel. The way the boys talk and write to each other, the thought they give to their words, the softness… it wasn’t just sweet, it was romance in it’s finest form.

I got this book from NetGalley and I cannot wait for it to come out on May 14 so I can purchase it. The characters are a delight, the plot is strong, and it’s one of the most genuinely romantic romances I’ve read.

Five out of Five stars.