Review of “Once Ghosted, Twice Shy” (Renegade Royals 2.5) by Alyssa Cole

Cole, Alyssa. Once Ghosted, Twice Shy. New York: Avon Impulse, 2019.

Mass Market Paperback | $4.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0062931870 | 144 pages | Contemporary Romance

4 stars

Despite not being massively wowed by the Reluctant Royals series to date, I was super excited for the release of this novella, in part because I really enjoyed Likotsi’s character, but also because I was happy to see more f/f romance from a traditional publisher. And I was truly blown away. While I could definitely see ways that this story could have been fleshed out to be a bit longer (and definitely wanted it, because Fab and Likotsi’s relationship is amazing), I did like that it portrayed a beautiful love story between two black queer women, providing some intersectionality as well.

While I was initially skeptical when I saw the dual timeline setup, given that I had seen this attempted in novellas before (and even full novels) with mixed results, I really liked it in this one, getting a sense for how their past fling had potential and the reason it ended in the past, and seeing them reunite and address their lingering feelings and the reason Fab ended up breaking it off in the present. Both of them are incredibly sympathetic, and I enjoyed that they had a dynamic where, even though things did end on a bad note, when they reunited, they did not try to deny the feelings that still existed between them.

And while it is more subtle, I did like how the story touched on some of the issues facing black people today, through the explanation of Fab’s family situation. And I found it wonderful that Likotsi offered to help, regardless of how things worked out between them in the end.

This was a delightful palate cleansing novella, and one that has me anticipating more in the series. I would recommend this book to fans of black and/or queer romance.

Review of “Claiming Mister Kemp” (Baleful Godmother #4) by Emily Larkin

Larkin, Emily. Claiming Mister Kemp. [Place of publication not identified]: Emily Larkin, 2017. ISBN-13: 9780994138477. $8.99 USD. 

5 stars

Prior to reading  this book past the first few pages (my first attempt), I thought this book was not for me. I believed everyone deserved to love who they wanted, yes, but I didn’t know if it was within my comfort zone to read about a homosexual relationship.

However, I was quickly proven wrong when I sat down to read this novel again, quickly becoming invested in the relationship between Tom and Lucas. My main objection was that I didn’t know if I would be able to relate to them, but I quickly found something to like and empathize with in each of them: Lucas and his struggles to reconcile his desires with what society considers proper and legal, and Thomas with his passions for art and his desire to pursue the relationship with Lucas more freely.

Larkin imbues the story with awareness of the stakes during the historical period she was writing about, as well as giving the characters close to the two leads a compassion for them being themselves and being happy that, while feeling a bit ahead of its time, allows for a convincing happily-ever-after for a couple who would face have faced a lot of scrutiny to be who they are and love who they wish to love.