Review of “Witchmark” (The Kingston Cycle #1) by C.L. Polk

Polk, C.L. Witchmark. New York: Tor.com/Tom Doherty and Associates, 2018.

Paperback | $15.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1250162687 | 318 pages | Historical Fantasy

5 stars

Witchmark came highly recommended by a book club friend or two as a romance-adjacent fantasy with an m/m romance, and some recent conversation on Twitter in response to some hostile reviews for the forthcoming sequel regarding the shift in protagonist (despite said book not even finished and available to reviewers yet) inspired me to pick up the book even sooner than I originally planned.

This book had such an engaging plot, and was so fast-paced. I also liked that, while it’s not the most complicated fantasy in terms of worldbuilding and magic, it feels both easy to comprehend due to the historical influences and also well-drawn enough to be distinct at the same time.

Miles and Tristan are both fabulous characters, and especially Miles, given that he’s the protagonist and narrator. I loved the exploration of his conflicts as far as his family is concerned. And their romance…there are some pretty cute moments between them, and it balances out the darker atmosphere of the mystery plot and the world war.

This book was utterly enjoyable, and I will definitely be reading the sequel. I would recommend this to fans of great historically-inspired fantasy.

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Review of “Tempt Me With Diamonds” (London Jewels #1) by Jane Feather

Feather, Jane. Tempt Me With Diamonds. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 2019. 

Mass Market Paperback | $7.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-142014360 | 266 pages | Edwardian Romance

2 stars

I received an ARC of this book through a Goodreads Giveaway. All opinions are my own.

I haven’t read Jane Feather before, but I feel that Tempt Me with Diamonds was a poor introduction to her work, considering her lengthy career as a published author, dating back to the 1980s. I don’t know how her prior work compares, but I felt this one misused a totally great premise both for the book itself and for the projected series.

Rupert as a character was one of the few redeeming features of this book. Normally, infidelity is a deal-breaker in romance, except in extreme circumstances, but I felt he was at heart a good person, both in his friendship with Diana’s late brother, Jem, and for the most part in conducting himself in this new situation, even being the one to back down at first when the living arrangement becomes intolerable.

But Diana was incredibly hard to like, due to her spoiled nature. And I felt like the growth of their feelings wasn’t navigated well, given the love-hate factor, and things wrapped up with me still wondering if they had truly resolved their issues, or if divorce would be in their future.

I also found it super weird that this was promoted as the first in a series about “three friends who met at an elite English boarding school,” since I got little to no hints of that aspect in the book from my perspective (I admit I may have glossed over what mentions of it there was), and the friends were both even more annoying and one-dimensional than Diana.

Needless to say, while I may check out some of the books in Feather’s backlist, I will likely not be keeping up with the series. I also don’t know if I would recommend this to anyone. Perhaps anyone who has read Feather’s other work, so they can give a more informed opinion as it regards this book’s consistency with her style.

Review of “A Memory of Violets” by Hazel Gaynor

Gaynor, Hazel. A Memory of Violets. New York: William Morrow, 2015. ISBN-13: 978-0-06-231689-9. $14.99 USD. 

4.5 stars

This is yet another wonderful, compulsively readable book from Hazel Gaynor. This book, like many of her other works, has memorable characters woven into a wonderful historical concept, which shines new light on something that isn’t really talked about in the history books, with issues like children living in poverty and the way people with disabilities were often ostracized.

And once again, she also juggles two, interconnected timelines with ease, and the way Tilly was connected to Flora/Florrie was not what I initially expected. My one complaint comes from the writing style, which differs slightly from her other dual timeline books in that the sections from Florrie’s perspective are written in first person, while sections from Tilly, Margeurite, and Rosie/Violette’s POV are in third person. This is not immediately objectionable, as Florrie’s journal is the historical artifiact at the center of the book, but the full chapters written from her perspective are written in present tense, while the extracts of the journal that Tilly reads are written in past tense, presenting some confusion as to whether Florrie’s chapters were meant to be part of the narrative of the journal or not.

However, once I adapted to the flow of the writing style, I was able to more easily focus on some of the parallels between the two stories, dealing with contrasting relationships between adoptive parents and daughters, and different, but evolving, relationships between sisters. Despite some of the odd writing choices, this is still a beautiful book, that, like Gaynor’s other work, culminates in an ending that will leave the reader satisfied.