Review – A Lady’s Guide to Scandal

Pressured by her parents into a loveless marriage, Eliza finds herself widowed at 29. Her inheritance is unexpectedly large, but with a catch – she must not bring the family name into disrepute.

Multiple people in her life are telling her what to do, but for the first time her fortune allows her the opportunity to begin making decisions for herself. Beginning with a stay in Bath with her cousin, Eliza is able to ask herself what she actually wants from life. A growing friendship with a Byronic poet, and the rekindling of warmth with a former suitor, also prompt her to think about what she wants from love. All the while she must be careful that her exploration of her new self does not draw so much gossip that she loses her inheritance.

I enjoyed reading this book. A combination of ‘Persuasion’ and ‘Bridgerton’, it has a charming sense of place and society. The cast is a manageable size, with some sparkling female characters. While principally a romance, at the heart of the book is Eliza’s personal growth as she shakes off the various people who want to tell her how to live her life. It is a pleasure to see her begin to make decisions independently, even when they don’t seem entirely sensible.

I received a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review – Bookshops & Bonedust

Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bookshops & Bonedust is sold as cosy fantasy, and it delivers on its promise. A standalone prequel to Legends & Lattes, it focuses on Viv the orc at the beginning of her career as a mercenary. She is keen to fight, but a wound forces her to take a reluctant break to recuperate in the quiet town of Murk. She ends up spending most of her time in a bookshop, and after awkwardly accepting a book recommendation from the owner she finds herself increasingly invested in the shop’s fortunes.

There are two levels of plot tension in the book. The overall grand tension is technically the threat to the town from a necromancer. However, the everyday tension that takes most of Viv’s attention is the struggle to keep the bookshop afloat with her friends. Likewise, we see two distinct sides to Viv’s character – the keen mercenary and the gentler shopkeeper. It is made clear throughout that young Viv will go back to being a mercenary once healed, but it also sows the seeds for her eventual retirement from that life when she opens Legends & Lattes. It is also made clear that both sides bring valuable skills that make a whole person – sometimes needing to be headstrong, and sometimes choosing to be more thoughtful.

This book is charming, with a small cast of predominantly female characters and a very gentle ff romance. The extracts from fictional books do feel a bit self-indulgent at times, but I found that very forgivable. There is a slightly bittersweet tone that comes with the time limit of Viv’s stay in the town, but there is also a warmth in the way she finds meaning and friendship despite the fact she won’t be staying. It’s an enjoyable book full of little details, and it compliments Legends and Lattes extremely well.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review,

View all my reviews

Review – In the Lives of Puppets

In the Lives of Puppets by T.J. Klune

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a charming quest narrative set in a world where robots have attempted to wipe humans out.

‘In the Lives of Puppets’ is described as a Pinocchio retelling, but this is quite a loose description. Pinocchio motifs are present – ie the Blue Fairy, the fox and the cat, the Terrible Dogfish/whale – and some of the rescue mission structure is used, but the central moralising about a little puppet who won’t be good is decidedly absent.

Instead we have a story about robots and a human deciding what kind of people they want to be, and sometimes reconciling that with who they were before. Mostly it’s a story about friendship, love and family. The cast is small and distinct – in particular the supporting robots, Nurse Ratched and Rambo the Roomba, seem like an attempt at quotable comic relief at first, but as the book progresses they increasingly feel like fully-fleshed characters.

For a book set in a ‘kill all humans’ style world, this is a surprisingly gentle book. There is peril and bloodshed, but it isn’t a gory or violent read. Instead, it’s frequently tender, and the romance is tentative and vulnerable. You could probably call this very soft science fiction, although the fable style and the quest format make it more of a fantasy hybrid. The storyline doesn’t really deliver any surprises but I enjoyed reading about the characters and I’m sure the book will do well.

Thank you to the publishers and Netgalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Anthology – Weird City 3

Weird City 3, an urban fantasy anthology edited by George Wilhite, is currently awaiting editing. I’ll have a 3500 word story in there called The Archester Minotaurs. It’s another vampire one, with some minotaurs thrown in for good measure.

I don’t think there are enough minotaur stories around.