“Godslayers” (Gearbreakers #2) by Zoe Hana Mikuta (ARC Review)

Mikuta, Zoe Hana. Godslayers. New York: Feiwel and Friends, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-1250269522 | $18.99 USD | 416 pages | YA Sci-Fi Romance 

Blurb

Godslayers—Zoe Hana Mikuta’s high-octane sequel to Gearbreakers—is perfect for fans of Pacific Rim, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Saga, and Marie Lu’s Legend series.

The only way to kill a god is from the inside…

The Gearbreakers struck a devastating blow against Godolia on Heavensday, but the cost of victory has been steep. Months later, the few rebels who’ve managed to escape the tyrannical empire’s bloody retribution have fled to the mountains, hunted by the last Zenith—Godolia’s only surviving leader.

Eris has been held prisoner since the attack on the capital city, which almost killed her. And she begins to wish it had when she discovers Sona—the girl she loves, the girl she would tear down cities for—also survived, only to be captured and corrupted by the Zenith. The cybernetic brainwashing that Sona has forcibly undergone now has her believing herself a loyal soldier for Godolia, and Eris’ mortal enemy.

With the rebellion shattered and Godolia moving forward with an insidious plan to begin inducting Badlands children into a new Windup Pilot program, the odds have never been more stacked against the Gearbreakers. Their last hope for victory will depend on whether Eris and Sona can somehow find their way back to each other from opposite sides of a war…

In the series

#1 Gearbreakers

Review 

4 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley  and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. 

Godslayers is a wonderful follow-up to last year’s Gearbreakers. From the general concept to the characters and their relationships, I generally really enjoyed how things developed here. And while it is a sci-fi series, I love his character- and relationship-centric it is, whether it be the found-family dynamics among the group or the main romance between Eris and Sona. 

Eris and Sonia’s relationship remains super sweet, although it is challenged by them being torn about by the circumstances of the last book. Eris is imprisoned, but would still do anything for Sona. And Sona has been subjected to brainwashing, leading her to believe herself to be loyal to Gosolia, which serves as a major obstacle for their romance to overcome, and while things end on an optimistic note for them, it’s not without some big twists and turns as they face down their enemies. 

The world isn’t much more fleshed out in this one, so if that was an issue for you, be aware that it doesn’t improve. I still don’t mind, as there’s enough to provide context to what the major characters are dealing with. 

With that in mind, if you enjoyed the first one, it’s absolutely worth your time picking up the second. But if you didn’t care for that one, it’s more than likely you’ll be equally dissatisfied. I personally enjoyed it, and would recommend this duology for fans of romance-heavy sci-fi. 

Author Bio

Zoe Hana Mikuta currently attends the University of Washington in Seattle, studying English with a creative writing focus. She grew up in Boulder, Colorado, where she developed a deep love of Muay Thai kickboxing and nurtured a slow and steady infatuation with fictional worlds. When she is not writing, Zoe can be found embroidering runes onto her jean pockets, studying tarot or herbology, or curled with a cup of caramel coffee and a good, bloody but heartwarming book. She is the author of the Gearbreakears duology.

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“The Other Side of Leaving” by Jacqueline Ramsden (ARC Review)

Ramsden, Jacqueline. The Other Side of Leaving. [Place of publication not identified]: Jacqueline Ramsden, 2022.

ASIN: B0B3271DNL | $3.99 USD | 298 pages | Contemporary Romance

Blurb

What happens when you meet the one person you can’t live without–right as she’s leaving?


Tilly Fenchurch never saw any reason to leave Vermont. Living in the town where she grew up, working at her moms’ family business, and never traveling far, she tells herself she’s happy–at least until she’s pulled, quite literally, into Frankie’s world.

Frankie Holt is excited. She’s just applied for her dream job in LA and she can’t wait to leave small-town Vermont behind. That is, until she grabs a random stranger in a celebratory hug and meets someone unforgettable.

A plan to reunite their estranged friends brings them closer together, and before long, it’s hard to imagine life without each other. With Tilly convinced she’s straight, Frankie attempts to fight her growing crush, while Tilly is left questioning everything she ever thought she knew about herself, her sexuality, and her life.

Will Frankie and Tilly figure out their feelings in time, or will three thousand miles tear them apart?

The Other Side of Leaving is an 80k toaster-oven, friends-to-lovers slow burn. Content warnings for anxiety and depression, on-page sex, and some angst.

Review

4 stars 

I received an ARC from the author via BookSprout and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. 

Jacqueline Ramsden is slowly becoming a new favorite of mine from the indie queer romance writing scene, and The Other Side of Leaving is a perfect example as to why. It’s sweet and heartwarming, with a bit of angst (but not an overwhelming amount), and I really feel emotionally invested in the characters. And the fact that this one is a friends-to-lovers story absolutely helped matters. 

I love the interplay between Tilly and Frankie. They’re opposites in what they perceive as their life goals and desires, which is one element of the conflict. Tilly also goes on a journey of figuring out her sexuality which really spoke to me, as someone who’s only come to some catharsis about it as an adult…and still isn’t 100% sure. Not to mention reckoning with anxiety…Tilly really is my soul sister. Meanwhile, Frankie is usually very carefree and open, but I really appreciate how her growing feelings for Tilly complicated that. I love how these two played off and influenced each other, and while it took a while for them to figure themselves and each other out, it ultimately came together beautifully. 

This is a wonderful read, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a sweet, heartfelt sapphic contemporary romance.

Author Bio 

Jacqueline (she/they) is a genderqueer, demisexual writer. She spent most of her childhood with her head in a book and is a massive romantic, so it made sense to start writing queer happily ever afters.

They enjoy books, tea, and swooning over their girlfriend. If you would like to see that in action, you can follow them on Twitter.

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“In Deeper Waters” by F.T. Lukens (Review)

Lukens, F.T. In Deeper Waters. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2021.

ISBN-13: 978-1534480513 | $9.99 USD | 336 pages | YA Fantasy Romance 

Blurb

A young prince must rely on a mysterious stranger to save him when he is kidnapped during his coming-of-age tour in this swoony adventure that is The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Pirates of the Caribbean.

Prince Tal has long awaited his coming-of-age tour. After spending most of his life cloistered behind palace walls as he learns to keep his forbidden magic secret, he can finally see his family’s kingdom for the first time. His first taste of adventure comes just two days into the journey, when their crew discovers a mysterious prisoner on a burning derelict vessel. 

Tasked with watching over the prisoner, Tal is surprised to feel an intense connection with the roguish Athlen. So when Athlen leaps overboard and disappears, Tal feels responsible and heartbroken, knowing Athlen could not have survived in the open ocean. 

That is, until Tal runs into Athlen days later on dry land, very much alive, and as charming–and secretive–as ever. But before they can pursue anything further, Tal is kidnapped by pirates and held ransom in a plot to reveal his rumored powers and instigate a war. Tal must escape if he hopes to save his family and the kingdom. And Athlen might just be his only hope…

Review 

4 stars 

After having enjoyed F.T. Lukens’ recent release, I was happy to hear that wasn’t the first they’d released in that style. And while I think In Deeper Waters is the one I enjoyed a little less of the two, that doesn’t mean this one was any less fun. 

Despite not being related in any way that I could discern, the two are stylistically linked in being high fantasy with low world building, but fairy tale massive vibes and fun. I compared the other book to The Princess Bride, but the comparison is even more apt here, as pirates play a big role in the shenanigans. 

Tal and Athlen are both such fun characters to follow, and I really liked seeing what they got up to. They do have an instant connection, but it’s well executed. I also love how, in spite of some of the obstacles stemming from their origins, they can be authentic with each other in a way they often can’t with others. Tal especially has often had to be on his guard outside his family, due to his powers being shunned, and it’s wonderful to see someone accept him because of them, and be his companion as he’s out in the world on his own for the first time and coming into his own. 

This is super fun, and I hope F.T. Lukens continues to write these, because they are such a joy to read. If you love fairy tales and Princess Bride-esque fantasy, I think you’ll enjoy this too. 

Author Bio

F.T. Lukens is a New York Times bestselling author of YA speculative fiction including the novels So This Is Ever After, In Deeper Waters, and the forthcoming Spell Bound as well as other science-fiction and fantasy works. Their contemporary fantasy novel The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic was a 2017 Cybils Award finalist in YA Speculative Fiction, the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Gold Winner for YA fiction and won the Bisexual Book Award for Speculative Fiction. F.T. resides in North Carolina with their spouse, three kids, three dogs, and three cats.

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“I Kissed Shara Wheeler” by Casey McQuiston (Review)

McQuiston, Casey. I Kissed Shara Wheeler. New York: Wednesday Books, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-1250244451 | $19.99 USD | 355 pages | YA Contemporary Romance 

Blurb

From the New York Times bestselling author of One Last Stop and Red, White & Royal Blue comes a debut YA romantic comedy about chasing down what you want, only to find what you need…

Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.

Fierce, funny, and frank, Casey McQuiston’s I Kissed Shara Wheeler is about breaking the rules, getting messy, and finding love in unexpected places.

Review 

4 stars 

I was excited for I Kissed Shara Wheeler without really knowing much about it. I mean, the title sells itself, and after that one anti-sapphic TikTok about Casey McQuiston’s last book, I’m glad McQuiston hasn’t felt discouraged from continuing in that direction. But it also happens to hit all my appeal factors, being about messy queer teens navigating their identities within an uber-conservative Christian environment. 

With that in mind, I easily found myself falling in love with the characters and their complex dynamics. Chloe and her rivalry-turned-maybe-more with Shara centers the novel, and I loved how the tension between them was palpable, even while a large part of the book is about the scavenger hunt Shara challenges Chloe and the other major characters she’s kissed to. 

As such, it could easily feel like two separate, yet interconnected stories: one about the hunt, one about the eventual reunion. But McQuiston pulls it together, with the journey Shara’s romantic interests go on together seeing them all grow on their own paths of self-discovery, while also anticipating the further romantic development between Chloe and Shara. 

The pacing is a bit mixed, although I feel it directly mirrors the passage of time. At the start of the book, it begins with a countdown to Graduation Day, along with a note of how long it’s been since Shara left. This style of  chapter headers continues until the end, culminating with Graduation, and over a month has passed. 

This book is so fun, while also being a warm tribute to queer teens, about coming of age and exploring one’s identity. I enthusiastically recommend this one, especially for fans of messy sapphic contemporary romance. 

Author Bio

Casey McQuiston is the author of New York Times bestselling romantic comedies Red, White & Royal Blue and One Last Stop. As a Louisianan living in New York City, Casey enjoys telling long, loud stories and deep-frying things in a kitchen that’s honestly too small for all that. Often in that tiny kitchen is an always-hungry poodle called Pepper. I Kissed Shara Wheeler is Casey’s first young adult novel.

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“Sofi and the Bone Song” by Adrienne Tooley (Review)

Tooley, Adrienne. Sofi and the Bone Song. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-1534484368 | $18.99 USD | 399 pages | YA Fantasy Romance 

Blurb

Music runs in Sofi’s blood.

Her father is a Musik, one of only five musicians in the country licensed to compose and perform original songs. In the kingdom of Aell, where winter is endless and magic is accessible to all, there are strict anti-magic laws ensuring music remains the last untouched art.

Sofi has spent her entire life training to inherit her father’s title. But on the day of the auditions, she is presented with unexpected competition in the form of Lara, a girl who has never before played the lute. Yet somehow, to Sofi’s horror, Lara puts on a performance that thoroughly enchants the judges.

Almost like magic.

The same day Lara wins the title of Musik, Sofi’s father dies, and a grieving Sofi sets out to prove Lara is using illegal magic in her performances. But the more time she spends with Lara, the more Sofi begins to doubt everything she knows about her family, her music, and the girl she thought was her enemy.

As Sofi works to reclaim her rightful place as a Musik, she is forced to face the dark secrets of her past and the magic she was trained to avoid—all while trying not to fall for the girl who stole her future.

Review 

4 stars

I really enjoyed Adrienne Tooley’s  debut, so I was excited for her follow-up. And Sofi and the Bone Song delivers. With Tooley’s background as a musician, it’s cool to see how she applies that to building a magic system and world with restrictions on music and the practice of it, including specific licenses being given out by the government to be “official” practitioners of specific instruments. 

And the way this shapes the characters and the conflict between them immediately captivated me. Sofi is in a difficult situation, having just lost her father, and having been raised with the expectation that she’d succeed him in his Musik position. However, she finds herself trounced in the auditions by Lara, and she suspects that Lara used magic to obtain the role, even though it’s illegal. It’s the perfect setup for a sweet enemies-to-lovers romance. The romance itself isn’t center stage, happening amidst a larger adventure, but it’s sweet and subtle, and I absolutely rooted for them. 

The adventure the two go on together, in addition to allowing them to get to know each other, provides context for them as characters. Sofi especially sees a lot of growth as more about her relationship with her father comes to light. Lara also gains more depth, with revelations about her true power. 

I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend it to anyone who likes romantic sapphic YA fantasy. 

Author Bio

Adrienne Tooley is the author of Sweet & Bitter Magic and Sofi and the Bone Song. She grew up in Southern California, majored in musical theater in Pittsburgh, and now lives in Brooklyn with her wife, six guitars, and a banjo. In addition to writing novels, she is a singer/songwriter who has currently released three indie-folk EPs.

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“Valiant Ladies” by Melissa Grey (ARC Review)

Grey, Melissa. Valiant Ladies. New York: Feiwel & Friends, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-1250622204 | $18.99 USD | 352 pages | YA Historical Romance 

Blurb

Two teen vigilantes set off on an action-packed investigation to expose corruption and deliver justice in Valiant Ladies, Melissa Grey’s YA historical fiction novel inspired by real seventeenth century Latinx teenagers known as the Valiant Ladies of Potosí.

 By day Eustaquia “Kiki” de Sonza and Ana Lezama de Urinza are proper young seventeenth century ladies. But when night falls, they trade in their silks and lace for swords and muskets, venturing out into the vibrant, bustling, crime-ridden streets of Potosí, in the Spanish Empire’s Viceroyalty of Peru. They pass their time fighting, gambling, and falling desperately in love with one another.

 Then, on the night Kiki’s engagement to the Viceroy’s son is announced, her older brother—heir to her family’s fortune—is murdered. The girls immediately embark on a whirlwind investigation that takes them from the lowliest brothels of Potosí to the highest echelons of the Spanish aristocracy.

Review 

4 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. 

I love when I find previously unknown figures or events from history through historical fiction, and Valiant Ladies is a fun fictionalized portrait of the Valiant Ladies of Potosí, sapphic teen vigilantes fighting to bring down the patriarchy  in seventeenth-century Peru. It’s so fun and action-packed, and freaking queer

I love the dichotomy of the two leads, Kiki and Ana, leading “normal” lives of the time as “proper” ladies by day, with all that entails, while taking to the streets and raising hell in the name of justice by night. Both are fun, distinct characters; Kiki is the more traditionally brought up, pampered lady and the story involves expectations for her that she faces, but she has a spark of rebellion. Ana has a more rough-and-tumble background, having grown up on the streets, and seen more of the injustices firsthand. 

I loved seeing these two working together in the fight for justice, while also coming to a realization about their feelings. And the pining! Amid the high-stakes politics of the story, it’s so well executed! 

The plot did feel a little odd pacing wise, and it impacted my investment to an extent. However, I ultimately was satisfied with how it came together. 

I enjoyed this book a lot, and I’d love to read more from Melissa Grey in the future, especially if they’re similar to this one. If you enjoy sapphic historical fiction with a strong romantic arc, you’ll like this one. 

Author Bio

Melissa Grey was born and raised in New York City. She wrote her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn’t stopped writing since. She is the author of The Girl at Midnight trilogy l, Valiant Ladies, and Rated. When she’s not penning novels, she’s designing video game narratives. She currently lives and works in Iceland.

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“So This Ever After” by F.T. Lukens (Review)

Lukens, F.T. So This Is Ever After. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-1534496866 | $19.99 USD | 341 pages | YA Fantasy Romance 

Blurb

Carry On meets Arthurian legend in this funny, subversive young adult fantasy about what happens after the chosen one wins the kingdom and has to get married to keep it…and to stay alive.

Arek hadn’t thought much about what would happen after he completed the prophecy that said he was destined to save the Kingdom of Ere from its evil ruler. So now that he’s finally managed to (somewhat clumsily) behead the evil king (turns out magical swords yanked from bogs don’t come pre-sharpened), he and his rag-tag group of quest companions are at a bit of a loss for what to do next.

As a temporary safeguard, Arek’s best friend and mage, Matt, convinces him to assume the throne until the true heir can be rescued from her tower. Except that she’s dead. Now Arek is stuck as king, a role that comes with a magical catch: choose a spouse by your eighteenth birthday, or wither away into nothing.

 With his eighteenth birthday only three months away, and only Matt in on the secret, Arek embarks on a desperate bid to find a spouse to save his life—starting with his quest companions. But his attempts at wooing his friends go painfully and hilariously wrong…until he discovers that love might have been in front of him all along.

Review 

4 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley. Review based on final copy. All opinions are my own. 

So This Is Ever After caught my attention due to the bright, cute cover and that it was a different type of fantasy story, following the hero and his friends after he’d saved the day and was the new ruler. That has the potential to go either way, as all the big swashbuckling adventures are behind them, but I ended up really liking it. 

There’s little in the sense of grounded world building. Sometimes this might bother me, but the fairytale and the “this is what happens after ever after” vibe allowed me to roll with the punches, even if I wanted a bit more in the sense of imagery. Fellow author Ashley Poston makes a comparison to TJ Klune (presumably House in the Cerulean Sea), and it has a slightly similar cozy vibe. It also felt like a queer response to The Princess Bride, and thinking about it in that context helped a lot. 

I also really liked that by exploring what happens “after,” it discusses the implications of what the often-young characters of beloved fantasy series have to go through to save the world, especially in regards to the resulting trauma that would happen if this occurred in real life. These issues are touched on compassionately, and ultimately it’s light and about navigating life and finding joy in the wake of all that. 

The plot also has a ton of shenanigans, as Arek and his friends tackle the new challenge of ruling the kingdom they saved. The main problem of the story is Arek’s attempt to find a spouse, to prevent an unfortunate death on his eighteenth birthday. However, his courting attempts all go comically wrong. 

I really liked the bond between Arek and Matt. They do take a while to get together, but it also feels right for them as they navigate their feelings in the situation they’re in. 

This book is a lot of fun, pure sweet candy and fluff. If you want the equivalent of a romcom in a fantasy setting, I recommend this one. 

Author Bio

F.T. Lukens is a New York Times bestselling author of YA speculative fiction including So This Is Ever After, In Deeper Waters, and the forthcoming Spell Bound, as well as other science-fiction and fantasy works. Their contemporary fantasy novel The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic was a 2017 Cybils Award finalist in YA Speculative Fiction and the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Gold Award Winner for YA Fiction, won the Bisexual a book Award for Speculative Fiction, and was also named to ALA’s 2019 Rainbow Book List. F.T. lives in North Carolina with their husband, three kids, three dogs, and three cats.

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“Home Field Advantage” by Dahlia Adler (ARC Review)

Adler, Dahlia. Home Field Advantage. New York: Wednesday Books, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-1250765840 | $19.99 USD | 304 pages | YA Contemporary Romance 

Blurb

In Dahlia Adler’s Home Field Advantage, a sweet and funny f/f romance from the author of Cool for the Summer, a cheerleader and the school’s newest quarterback are playing to win, but might lose their hearts in the process.
Amber McCloud’s dream is to become cheer captain at the end of the year, but it’s an extra-tall order to be joyful and spirited when the quarterback of your team has been killed in a car accident. For both the team and the squad, watching Robbie get replaced by newcomer Jack Walsh is brutal. And when it turns out Jack is actually short for Jaclyn, all hell breaks loose.
The players refuse to be led by a girl, the cheerleaders are mad about the changes to their traditions, and the fact that Robbie’s been not only replaced but outshined by a QB who wears a sports bra has more than a few Atherton Alligators in a rage. Amber tries for some semblance of unity, but it quickly becomes clear that she’s only got a future on the squad and with her friends if she helps them take Jack down.
Just one problem: Amber and Jack are falling for each other, and if Amber can’t stand up for Jack and figure out how to get everyone to fall in line, her dream may come at the cost of her heart.
Dahlia Adler’s Home Field Advantage is a sparkling romance about fighting for what – or who – you truly want.

Review 

4 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. 

Having enjoyed Dahlia Adele’s prior book, I was excited to try another from her with Home Field Advantage. And while sports is very much not my thing, it’s definitely one of those books that you can enjoy even if you aren’t into football or cheerleading. That said, I do like how the book flips the traditional football player-and-cheerleader dynamic on its head by making it sapphic, and interrogating the misogyny of sports like football in the process. These and other tough topics, like teen  pregnancy, abortion, and miscarriage, the death in a DUI-related car accident that serves as an inciting incident, and queerphobia are among the issues either tackled or touched on in the book. However, it never loses its generally lighthearted feel, and Adler demonstrates the care and sensitivity and has for her readers in handling these issues. 

Jack is incredibly easy to root for, being the new kid and a girl recruited to fill a void left by the passing of the school’s star player. She’s a terrible double bind as a result as everyone seems to be against her, but I’m glad she didn’t let it get to her. 

Amber is also incredibly sympathetic, in that she too deals airy pressure upon Jack’s arrival. She wants to be welcoming, but she also has aspirations to be cheerleading captain, a position that’s unattainable if she doesn’t play along with the rest in their campaign to oust Jack from the team. 

I really liked the development of their relationship. Given the odds they’re up against, it’s nice to see them be so open and supportive of each other for the most part. There’s also a lot of room for growth, as they (especially Amber) make mistakes, which get called out and are worked out without a ton of drama. 

This book is super sweet and cute, and I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys sapphic contemporaries. 

Author Bio

Dahlia Adler (she/her) is an editor of mathematics by day, LGBTQReads overlord and Buzzfeed Books contributor by night, and an author and anthologist at every spare moment in between. She is the editor of several anthologies, including His Hideous Heart, and the author of many novels, including Cool for the Summer and Home Field Advantage. She lives in New York with her family and an obscene number of books.

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“Wicked Beauty” (Dark Olympus #3) by Katee Robert (ARC Review)

Robert, Katee. Wicked Beauty. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-1728231792 | $15.99 USD | $15.99 USD | 400 pages | Erotic/Fantasy Romance 

Blurb

*A scorchingly hot modern retelling of Helen of Troy, Achilles, and Patroclus that’s as sinful as it is sweet.*

She was the face that launched a thousand ships,
 The fierce beauty at the heart of Olympus,
 And she was never ours to claim.

In Olympus, you either have the power to rule…or you are ruled. Achilles Kallis may have been born with nothing, but as a child he vowed he would claw his way into the poisonous city’s inner circle. Now that a coveted role has opened to anyone with the strength to claim it, he and his partner, Patroclus Fotos, plan to compete and double their odds of winning.

Neither expect infamous beauty Helen Kasios to be part of the prize…or for the complicated fire that burns the moment she looks their way.

Zeus may have decided Helen is his to give to away, but she has her own plans. She enters into the competition as a middle finger to the meddling Thirteen rulers, effectively vying for her own hand in marriage. Unfortunately, there are those who would rather see her dead than lead the city. The only people she can trust are the ones she can’t keep her hands off—Achilles and Patroclus. But can she really believe they have her best interests at heart when every stolen kiss is a battlefield.

Review 

5 stars 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley and am voluntarily posting a review. All opinions are my own. 

Katee Robert does it again…and Wicked Beauty may just be the best yet of the Dark Olympus books. Well, it’s definitely the boldest and the sexiest. She follows through on her promise to deviate more and more from the often-tragic and misogynistic Greek myths with this mashup of the tales of  Achilles and Patroclus with the infamously beautiful Helen, with the Minotaur and the Labyrinth sprinkled in for good measure. 

Helen is such a fun, feisty heroine. All of the Robert/Olympus heroines have strong personalities, but she’s in a league of her own. She has a dark backstory acknowledging some of her mythological origins (Paris is a grade-A douche), but that only makes her more of a heroine for me. I love her boldness in challenging the expectations her brother Perseus (now the new Zeus) has for her by entering the competition to claim the title of Ares, which also happens to include her hand in marriage as a prize. It feels very much like an adult Merida “I’ll be jousting for my own hand!” move, and I’m here for it. And she’s incredibly competent in the competition, even as she’s faced with complex feelings for one of the challengers. 

Achilles has never been one of my favorite Greek characters, because I felt like he’s been built up a lot, and I never really got the appeal, beyond him being a great warrior. But I love the way Robert acknowledges his ego issues, both as a warrior, and more importantly, as a lover. More than once, he grapples with the complex feelings he has about Helen, who he initially thought was a bit of a snob. He also questions how he feels about seeing Patroclus, with whom he’s been in an open relationship for a while, with Helen, reckoning simultaneously with the jealousy he feels the knowledge that he’s hypocritical for feeling those feelings. 

I love Patroclus, and while it could have been easy for him to have been an afterthought or be sidelined, as his personality isn’t as dominant as the other two, he remains a constant throughout. His relationship with Achilles is threatened both by Achilles’ complex growing attraction to Helen, as well as the past that Patroclus and Helen share as old friends and the spark that lingers as a result. It makes for a compelling romantic arc, and one that had me happy to see them all work things out and end up together. 

And speaking about some of the dynamics in general, it’s a testament to Robert’s writing that she makes some things I typically loathe with a passion (“hate” or “angry” sex) or would view as red flags from other writers (acknowledged neglect of contraceptive use) and puts me at ease. Her care and self-awareness when it comes to balancing kinks and potentially sensitive content is much appreciated. 

I love this book, and I’ve loved this series so far. I enthusiastically recommend you pick this up, especially if you’re into mythology retellings and/or erotic romance.

Author Bio

Katee Robert is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Entertainment Weekly calls her writing “unspeakably hot.” Her books have sold over a million copies. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, children, a cat who thinks he’s a dog, and two Great Danes who think they’re lap dogs. You can visit her at or on Twitter @katee_robert. 

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“The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes” (The Queer Principles of Kit Webb #2) by Cat Sebastian (ARC Review)

Sebastian, Cat. The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes. New York: Avon Books, 2022.

ISBN-13: 978-0063026254 | $15.99 USD | 352 pages | Historical Romance—Georgian

Blurb 

Cat Sebastian returns to Georgian London with a stunning tale of a reluctant criminal and the thief who cannot help but love her.

Marian Hayes, the Duchess of Clare, just shot her husband. Of course, the evil, murderous man deserved what was coming to him, but now she must flee to the countryside. Unfortunately, the only person she can ask for help is the charismatic criminal who is blackmailing her—and who she may have left tied up a few hours before…

A highwayman, con artist, and all-around cheerful villain, Rob Brooks is no stranger to the wrong side of the law or the right side of anybody’s bed. He never meant to fall for the woman whose secrets he promised to keep for the low price of five hundred pounds, but how could he resist someone who led him on a merry chase all over London, left him tied up in a seedy inn, and then arrived covered in her husband’s blood and in desperate need of his help?

As they flee across the country—stopping to pick pockets, drink to excess, and rescue invalid cats—they discover more true joy and peace than either has felt in ages. But when the truth of Rob’s past catches up to him, they must decide if they are willing to reshape their lives in order to forge a future together.

Review 

5 stars 

Cat Sebastian brings readers another book with the theme “be queer, do crimes” in the form of The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes. It’s a companion novel to last year’s The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, with the two sharing the over-arching ducal bigamy plot and taking place simultaneously. You can read this as a stand-alone, but I do recommend reading both to get a fuller picture of the situation and the relationships among the characters. And both books are just so dang delightful. 

Rob and Marian are both wonderful characters, in all their chaos and complexity. I was instantly endeared to Marian, a woman with the gumption to shoot her vile husband. She’s prickly (for understandable reasons), but she’s a good person at heart, showing her love for those who deserve it in her own way. I was particularly moved by her complex relationship with motherhood, and how it isn’t always an instant bond between mother and child, but there’s a gray area between that and complete dysfunction. 

Rob is an absolute delight who won me over right away, from his extremely flirtatious nature when “blackmailing” Marian to his willingness to make sacrifices because he believes it’s what Marian wants. He also loves kittens, and animal-lover heroes are always a plus. 

Sebastian also continues her trend of subverting historical romance tropes and expectations. The commentary on wealth and class  is obvious, what with this story being a loose retelling of Robin Hood. I also really liked the way it explored sexuality in such a progressive way. Marian doesn’t care for penetrative sex, but it’s not treated as something she’ll get over with the “right” person because he has a magic penis, but rather one of many examples of how she and Rob prioritize each other and their happiness and needs in all facets of their lives. 

This book is just as fun as its companion novel, but with even more depth of character (especially on Marian’s part). If you enjoyed the first one, I think you may love this one. And if you love historical romances with prickly heroines and sweet heroes, and want a side of crimes committed in the name of justice, you should absolutely keep an eye out for this one. 

Author Bio

Cat Sebastian lived in a swampy part of the South wiry her family and dog. Before her kids were born, she practiced law and taught high school and college writing. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s doing crossword puzzles, bird watching, and wondering where she put her coffee cup.

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