This was…complex. I've slept on this review, and at the end of the day I think it boils down to this: this is a memorable, engaging, and haunting story. But ultimately not for me.
Story structure: ★★★
Dave Cartwright is done. Unwilling to look his PTSD from Iraq in the eye, when his wife dies in a car accident after their last fight it's the last straw for Dave--he throws in the towel. With society.
He becomes convinced that the only way to take charge of his life--and the life of his seven-year-old daughter, Bella--is that he needs to move them into the North Cascades, a mountain range in rural Washington. So he does. He leaves his house, his life, his money, and his support network and takes Bella.
So the two Cartwrights move into the wilderness. So far, so good. Bella thinks its an adventure, and Dave can finally breathe away from all of the gunk that he didn't want to face in town.
But then things start to turn, and Bella's life changes--she starts seeing these visions. Not flashbacks, per se, but more glimpses into the life of an ancient Native American woman who lived in these mountains at the end of the last Ice Age.
With those two dual narratives--Bella and Dave's in the present, Sitka and her son's in the far ancient past--this novel unfolds with atmospheric undertones and an ominous edge.
Will the North Cascades let either duo survive?
If this feels very much like the concept of Into the Wild to you, you're not alone. I felt very similar vibes and reactions to this decision while Dave was putting it into place. (Into the Wild frustrated me to no end.) Does Dave think this will work? How does he think this is good for his daughter, who is still learning things in school and is grieving herself? How long does he think he can keep this up? Why are we spending so much time with this Native American family? Why is Bella seeing their lives play out like a disassociated movie in her head?
Those were my questions.
Maybe it was just me, as a 26-year-old female with no overly outdoor bone in her body. Maybe it was also my complete lack of experience with PTSD as it relates to our current veterans returning from a war with more grey areas than justice. But. At the end of the day, I just didn't understand Dave or his motivations. And when I couldn't get behind his decisions, I found myself upset with the story. I was worried for Bella, for their survival, for their sanity. I was also extremely perturbed by the lack of action taken by the town and Dave's surrounding family.
I don't know, folks. I found myself more concerned with the logistics and logic of this book to the point that I couldn't enjoy the story. My family calls me the extreme "over -worrier" though, so take my ??? with a grain of salt.
Another element of the story that confused me was the interjections of Sitka, the Native American woman, surviving with her young family in the same wilderness. I completely understood the parallels taking place--one family versus another in the same place, with the same desperate wills to survive. But to have Sitka's story displayed to Bella, and not to Dave, felt strange to me. How is a young child supposed to make sense of that story, and what was she supposed to do with this information?
I don't know. As you can see, I have a lot of feelings and strong emotions around this story. Because of that, I DO strongly encourage others to pick up Legends of the North Cascades if the story seems of interest to you. The writing is stellar and the plot is compelling, and it clearly provokes a response--which is the best type of fiction.
Thank you to Algonquin for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
This pretty, gorgeous, absolutely irresistible package of a book is so much fun to hold and to have on your shelves. I bought it for the hype and I am 100% satisfied with my purchase. As a book collector, this will live on my shelf forever and look beautiful.
But did I love it??
...No. Sadly. I tried so, so hard to love this novel—but at the end of the day, when you strip the marketing, the blacked out pages, and the mysteriousness of the blurb from consideration... the story itself didn't do much for me.
I've been sitting on this all day, what to say for this review. Because after reading so many other reviews on Goodreads, Instagram, TikTok, you name it.. it seems like it's just me in this corner of hey, it was cool, but it wasn't amazing? I was bored, frankly. And I thought the plot struggled to make itself known between the choppy descriptions of really cool things and the goobledygook name pronunciations.
Not much... happens. I mean, in a very literal sense, the characters move from space to space quite frequently and talk, a LOT, to a lot of people in various settings. But my overall feeling for 80% of this 500 page "prologue" was one of looking at the metaphorical clock, going hey... I'd love for the story to start soon, thanks, and then... at the very, very last page, it felt like we were finally getting somewhere. (I hold a large candle of hope that due to the ending's takeoff, this "prologue" was meant to feel this way and the next volume will not have this issue.)
Reig and Trad are two twins who live in a different realm/reality within an organization known as the Octunnumi. Like a fantastical version of the Men in Black concept ( I am really, REALLY reducing the complexity of this book's premise with this comparison, and I know that, but this is a good likeness if you strip away the excess), the Octunnumi exists but the world of Earth doesn't know they exist. They pop in and out of these portal doors and affect/change/manipulate things in our world and we never, ever know they're there. They interface with magical beings and influence humans' opinions on art, culture, design, and technology.. all from behind the unseen curtain.
In the realm of the Octunnumi, Reig and Trad travel from fantastical section of the realm to fantastical section of the realm like an interdimensional train station/antique store/urban market hybrid that would make an AMAZING visual cornucopia of a movie. The descriptions are lush and the areas of the realm sound awesome. A playground for the imagination in every sense of the word.
But what are Reig and Trad doing, exactly, and what happens in this prologue?
Well, while still avoiding spoilers, let me just say... not much.
There's a plot thread of children, presumed dead from a failed rescue operation ages past, who have been identified as alive. This is the "core" plot of sorts, as Reig and Trad were on the rescue team and never got over this loss - so to find out these children are alive, yet still missing, has spurred the two boys into action to relocate them. The core plot, as much as it can be called such, is the twins moving around the realm talking to people and gathering people/ideas/things together loosely to work toward finding these missing children.
There's also a plot thread of Reig and Trad's old friend, Nicolas, who was forcefully ejected from the Octunnumi around the time of the failed rescue operation and condemned to a life on Earth due to his forbidden love with a girl outside his race. This comes back to bite the Octunnumi organization in the butt when Nicolas arrives on their doorstep many regenerations later (oh, did I mention all of these operatives endlessly regenerate/reincarnate instead of die? Yes, they do. It is unnecessarily confusing) with a mystery of his own and ulterior motives.
And, of course, there are Reig and Trad themselves. They were the most interesting to me at the start, as there was a fair amount of foreshadowing involved regarding a meta Narrator who interacts with the boys directly (the author of this book, self-inserted as their Narrator), some allusions to the some Things that will Happen Soon and other such nuggets. I was intrigued at their history and their future. However, like many other things about this novel, my fascination soon turned to boredom and eventually shifted into flat out exasperation as hundreds of pages flew by and Reig and Trad remained exactly the same. No character development or growth, no insights into their motivations and/or feelings of attachment, and ultimately no sense of what they cared about and/or wanted to happen. Unlike most novels, the main characters you get on page one are the exact same as the ones on the last page.
As you can see from my extremely scattered thoughts and reactions, this was an ultimately polarizing read. I liked elements, I disliked other elements, and ultimately I didn't love it. But am I intrigued enough to see if my dislikes are solved in volume two? Heck yes.
We'll see what happens next.
Compelling and off-kilter, this novel was a very quick read. But I wanted more as a mystery reader?
Mystery elements: ★★
This is another one of those books where I have to preface my review and say "oh hey, it was me again—I thought this book would be something else. Whoops!" That doesn't happen too often these days as I'm getting better and better at figuring out my own reading preferences... but clearly there are still some one-offs that sneak past my radar.
I was looking for a more standard whodunit, complete with a detective, a perpetrator, and a solution. The Falling Woman is more lyrical than that, and less tied to those rules and regulations. This is a novel about humanity, struggle, and what we do when faced with impossibilities.
It's a beautiful novel in it's own way.
At first it's just a rumor. A woman survived a mid-air plane explosion? Impossible. Literally, unbelievable. But the rumor grows, and soon the investigators in charge of explaining the plane crash take a leap into the impossible - maybe the "falling woman" is real. And if so, how exactly did she survive?
Plane crash investigator Charlie Ranford is on the case. Well, he's mostly on the case. Okay, partially on the case. He doesn't exactly want to be on the case, but that's the way it is, alright? (Charlie is a very contradictory, anxiety-ridden personality. It's a little exhausting.)
A reluctant advocate for the "Falling Woman," as she is dubbed by the press, Charlie starts to unpeel the layers from fact and fiction to see if maybe, just maybe, she's a legitimate story. But if she's real... why can't they find her? Why did she go off the grid? Does she not want to reunite with her family? Why?
The Falling Woman unpeels like an complicated wrapping, and as we uncover the motivations and situations that led to Charlie speaking in front of a tribunal about his actions following the crash, we as the reader come to realize that this isn't a mystery about who or what ended the lives of those on the plane. It's a story about humans, and the struggles and realities that we all face when confronted with impossible choices.
Give this one a try if you like novels centered on the complexities of our decisions, humans stuck in hard places, and the ties that connect us all in the end. This isn't a novel with a "who crashed the plane and why ending" and I feel like that's not a bad spoiler to share - because if that's a spoiler to you, then this isn't the right novel to read.
Come for the characters and stay for the characters—it's a fascinating journey.
Thank you to Algonquin for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
A complicated story with some beautiful writing. The "hot stew" of one community's complex and layered peoples amidst conflict? Indeed.
Emotional connection: ★★
So this is a doozy of a novel. I'm going to do my best to synthesize my feelings for it here, but as it was so complex and rich with social commentary, I'm sure I'll accidentally overlook at least one thing.
In modern-day Soho, where sex workers, restauranteurs, drifters, old hanger-ons and more all coexist on the same street, "community" is a blended thing. For sex workers Precious and Tabitha, their community is a rich tapestry of clients, coworkers, neighbors, and old acquaintances—and each other. For Robert, one of their older regulars, his memories of a time as a gang leader's heavy-hitter are an unwelcome reminder of the past and the people around him at all times. For Agatha, the complicated daughter of Robert's billionaire gang leader and the property owner of Precious and Tabitha's building, community is a concept that she shuns and tries to bury in cold distance and money.
Those are just a few of the perspectives we're following in Hot Stew, Fiona Mozley's sophomore novel. A complex, ever-shifting perspective of one community's simmering landscape...this was intense.
The inciting incident is Agatha's decision to force out those who live in her properties, but it quickly becomes a different animal to read--this isn't just about a property, or even an address. It's about the soft ties that bind a bunch of (seemingly) unconnected people.
For those who love literary fiction with an edge, this is a great novel for you. It is scintillating in its perusal of womanhood and ownership. It also tackles multi-generational conflicts and lasting impacts. It is also an introspective of a geographically-based community.
However, I as a reader was not the perfect audience. While I enjoyed and quickly became engrossed in the storytelling, Hot Stew failed to cross the barrier between awareness and involvement for me on a character level. I am a very character-driven reader. Due to the focus on almost a dozen distinct POVs in this slim novel—and the intention of the author to focus on the community itself as a singular "POV" of sorts—I felt perpetually held at a distance from the characters themselves.
Overall, personal lack of connection aside, I found Hot Stew utterly compelling. Do pick it up if any of the above has interested you—you're in for a memorable reading experience.
Thank you to Algonquin for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
From girlhood to womanhood, Libertie is one woman's journey to freedom—both mental and physical—inspired by the life of one of America's first Black female doctors. Talk about some stunning writing and storytelling.
I think this book is going to be the source of a lot of discussion this year. It feels like a story that will last, not the least because of its captivating writing and strong sense of character.
Libertie is a free born Black woman growing up in Brooklyn in the mid-1800s. Her mother is a practicing doctor. The two women and their female assistant, Lenore, operate a medical practice for Black people in the New York area, and occasionally for white women, too, as Libertie's mother can pass for white.
In this uniquely matriarchal and progressive bubble, Libertie is raised. She is raised to be educated, to read and write and learn medicinal treatments, and to follow in her mother's footsteps as a free Black woman with ambitions of her own. She grows up with an abundance of food, education, and sense of self in a world where many Black individuals are still actively enslaved and seeking freedom.
But like many daughters, Libertie doesn't necessarily recognize the unique circumstances of her mother's efforts as a gift to savor... she needs to carve her own path, regardless of the consequences.
Spanning from Brooklyn to Ohio to Haiti and beyond, Libertie was a physical, mental, and emotional journey that will remain with me for years to come.
I thought this novel was beautiful. The writing was show-stopping—Greenidge's prose lifted me into the story immediately and I found myself swept along for the ride in a consuming reading experience. Even though I disagreed with many of Libertie's actions and feelings, I couldn't help but read her story.
Complex themes of racial identity, divides between free born Black people and those escaping from enslaved situations in the American South, what it means to be female and Black in 1800s America, classicism, religion, a hint of magical realism... this novel packed in a lot in its 300-some pages. I thought it was masterfully done.
My one caveat to the reading experience is minor, and most likely personal. I found Libertie's refusal to trust and follow her mother's guidance to be intense. This might be because my own relationship with my mother is very close, but for whatever reason I found Libertie's decisions to be rash and filled with an odd level of anger and distrust. Clearly a personal reason, but still wanted to mention it here in case other readers feel the same way.
Overall, a beautiful story that I hope receives a wide readership this year. One of my favorite reads of 2021.
Thank you to Algonquin Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
A different book from the rest of the series, and one that is sure to upset some with its pacing and plot. This is a slow burn, a fast burn, and a character-driven exploration all at the same time. And yet. For those of us who have been waiting...this was a healing.
(I have a LOT to say, so strap in!)
Pacing: ★★ 1/2
Character decisions: ★★★★
Disclaimer: This is the 11th book in the Black Jewels world and the direct sequel to The Queen's Bargain. While I do not spoil anything for this particular book, there ARE spoilers for the other books in the world and for The Queen's Bargain. Please do not read if you do not want to be spoiled for previous books.
This is not an entry point novel for the series.
I really don't know where to start. For those of us who have been with Anne Bishop since Daughter of the Blood, we've been through some things. In particular, Twilight's Dawn imparted some shocking new developments for the plot and its characters and then left us to hang with that for several years—i.e., discovering that Daemon and Surreal decide to get married and have a daughter named Jaenelle Saetien. (There's other stuff too, obviously, but that was the mic drop.)
Then the The Queen's Bargain entered the scene in 2020 when we followed Lucivar Yaslana and Daemon Sadi as they embarked on the new frontier: parenthood. In particular, we got to watch Jaenelle Saetien grow up and Daemon's internal chalice crumble once again as his true nature as the Sadist fell apart with Surreal's fear and distrust. It was a painful journey, there's no mistaking that. But it ended on a hopeful tendril: Witch intervened.
Following the events of The Queen's Bargain, Lucivar and Daemon are now older, wiser, and soothed by the fact that their one true Queen, Witch, is not as lost to them as they had previously assumed. She's not back—not really—but her core remains sentient and she can speak with them in the Keep of Ebon Askavi. And for the two sides of the triangle, that is enough. For the Sadist, who needed the oversight and the acceptance, that is enough.
And for Daemonar, who is now old enough to be considered a young man, that is enough. His Auntie J is raising Daemonar to be the new third side to the triangle with his Uncle Daemon and his father. And a new storm is brewing in Kaleer. Before long, Daemonar will be needed. The queen will have need of her weapons.
For the long-lived races, several hundred years is not enough to forget the memory of Witch and the sacrifices made for the Blood of the realms. But for the shorter-lived races, that lesson has become a distant memory. When history becomes a distant memory, some decide to conveniently forget its teachings...
A new taint is darkening the pages. And Daemon, Lucivar, and Daemonar need to be ready.
This was... a journey. First off, I have to admit that the pacing of this book was difficult. The first 100 pages were a lot of recap and character interactions that I enjoyed as a Black Jewels mega-fan but did become tedious, even for me. So the plot itself took its sweet time to arrive.
But when it did, it really kicked off. To avoid spoilers, let's just say that while Kaleer might have forgotten that Saetan's sons have claws... the sons themselves have not. If peace isn't an option, they're happy to pick the other road. Whew boy, the boys are BACK.
The Queen's Weapons follows quite a few points of view. Daemonar is one of the main ones, along with Daemon and Lucivar. But we're also along for the ride with Surreal—who finally finds her backbone that was mysteriously absent for all of The Queen's Bargain—and with Jaenelle Saetien. (And a few others, but those are the main ones.)
Let's talk about Jaenelle Saetien. I mean, I really can't due to spoilers, but I want to. Desperately. This was an intense novel that Jaenelle Saetien made much more difficult to get through for us readers. But the pain and agony of dealing with her—there's no other way to put it, it felt like a chore to experience her behavior—was made worth it by the climax of the novel.
Anne Bishop doesn't need to keep outdoing herself with masterful writing and emotionally complex characters, but man does it feel like she outdoes herself with each new book. This was another masterclass from the queen of dark fantasy. I know I'm the last person to provide an unbiased review, and y'all can call me out on that I don't even care, but I loved this. It's always a joy to walk the roads in the Realms with our favorite people.
And Witch, I'm glad you're with us again.
If you were upset with Twilight's Dawn, then let me promise you that this book is a healing. It's a painful, joyous ride—but the ending made me cry from happiness. We made it. The light at the end of the tunnel is glorious, and now I am unreservedly excited for whatever happens next.
Thank you to ACE/Berkley for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Two adult gay men reckon with being part of the community now that's out and proud and more accepted in modern culture—with vastly different results. With a sharp focus on the generation of cis white men who grew up with the fear and the secrecy and never expected to be thrust into the mainstream, this was an interesting and thought provoking read.
Plot/Pacing: ★★★★ 1/2
Character development: ★★★★
Scope: This was focused on cis white gay men and their experiences
Sebastian and Oscar grew up as friends. Both gay, cis, and white, they experienced several early moments together and were relatively close. But as adults, they drifted apart.
In Let's Get Back to the Party, author Zak Salih invites us to tag along with Sebastian and Oscar as they go their separate ways in adulthood. While they started out with similar childhoods and share a gay cultural identity, the two have manifested those experiences very differently as adults.
Sebastian looks at the modern world around him in awe. A teacher, he finds himself increasingly obsessed with one of his young male students. The student has been out and proud for years, has a boyfriend, and has enjoyed being a gay man in modern America. Grappling with his odd place as being too old for that type of generational freedom of expression, Sebastian watches it unfold in the younger generation and muses on the pasts and futures of the gay community.
Oscar looks at the modern gay experience with more negative feelings. Seeing the assimilation of the community into the straight culture—and the number of gay men doing the "straight" thing and getting married and settling down—he sees the lifestyle that the community carved for themselves disappearing before his eyes. He becomes obsessed with the past, and fixates on a famous gay author's past works instead.
A deep dive into the complicated intricacies of generational loss and growth, Let's Get Back to the Party is a read that is hard to forget.
I really enjoyed the messy and complicated truths that the author presented for us in the archetypes of Sebastian and Oscar. While it's true that both of their experiences reflected the white, cis male gay experience and do not speak to the intersectionality at play in other conversations, this was still an intimate portrait of how modern times have fundamentally changed that community for better and for different. Really appreciated the read.
Thank you to Algonquin Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
A brutal slice of life into the world of Rafael's rodere—I really enjoyed this entry into the series. Given the usual length of Anita Blake books, this was basically a novella! But a very important one with the seeds of bigger plots to come...
Plot/Pacing: ★★★★ 1/2
Character development: ★★★★
New ideas: ★★★★
Let's get a housekeeping note out of the way. Yes, I love this series. Yes, I know that they are not everyone's cup of tea. I'm also aware that they tend to be a bit long-winded, overly invested in the relationship drama, and sometimes get tediously caught up in dialogue. That's just part of what this series is about - and I, for one, have loved them for years. So please note my deep affection for this series and take that into account for my reviews.
Rafael is latest entry into the world of Anita Blake, a version of the U.S. where vampires, were-animals, and the undead all exist in our modern society with interesting—and often bloody—results. This is not an entry point novel for the series.
In this latest installment, we finally(!) get a window in the world of the rat king, Rafael. The wererats have been a powerful were-animal faction in St. Louis for some time in the Anita Blake novels and are known for their fighting ability, their pack's strength, and the fact that their national king, Rafael, has been an ally to Anita Blake for years.
It's time to peel back the curtain on what goes on in the kingdom...
Rafael is in trouble. His ties to Anita—and therefore his perceived ties to Jean Claude and the other weres in Anita's sphere--have made him appear weak to the rest of the wererats across the country. They think it's time for a new king. And the way the rats determine their ruler is by blood. Specifically, a fight to the death. So Rafael's been fighting in the pits now, defending his crown and title, for some time.
The only way to become the new rat king is to kill the old one...
Anita Blake wasn't aware of just how bad Rafael's standing has gotten. When he asks her to attend this latest pit fight against the best challenger yet, Anita knows something must be different about this fight. For the first time, Rafael doesn't know if he's going to win. When Anita shows up, to her horror she realizes that a) there's someone familiar pulling the challenger's strings and b) her relationship to Rafael is about to get tested, and brutally. Can she fight her way to the top of the rat pile and assert her place while protecting Rafael from this latest deadly threat?
We know she can, she's Anita Blake, but what exactly will she learn along the way? There's a different kind of magic amongst the rodere that they've kept hidden for some time...
I thought this was one of the strongest entries into the Anita Blake series that we've seen in quite some time. Part of that was due to its subject—Rafael's world has never been fully described, so the newness was appealing to me—and the other part was its sheer short length. We didn't have time to get overly drawn into the relationship dramas (even though the characters did their best to do so anyway!) and therefore a lot of the usual "not this again!" feelings weren't present.
I am also extremely intrigued at what the author alluded to with the addition of the wererats' magic systems... it bodes well for Anita Blake's character arc and opens the door for more books to come featuring this new thing.
Don't skip this one in the series, folks! It's a good one and not the usual spin-off fare.
Thank you to Berkley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Camilla Bruce is now on my list of must-read authors. Her interest in the darker elements of the female experience—and in this case, the sociopathic murderous elements—makes for fascinating reading. This was a great work. But it could have been shorter.
Character portrayals: ★★★★★
Have you heard the story of the Widow of La Porte? Belle Gunness' reign as one of the most prolific female series killers in early 1900s America is a chilling (and true) tale.
Belle Gunness was born Brynhild Storset in Norway in the 1800s to a poor family of rural tenants. Her earliest years are spent with vicious nurture and violent nature, and an early sexual encounter gone extremely sour—the author's editorializing at work with this fact, as this encounter is rumored in Norway but not officially confirmed--leads to her first murder. Little Brynhild poisons her abuser and likes the feeling of power she gets.
Little Byrnhild doesn't do well in Norway. The villagers whisper about her and her pride chafes at the knowledge that everyone in her small town knows of her shame. She writes to her older sister, Nellie, in America and desperately asks for her to help her.
Nellie agrees to fund Brynhild's voyage to America and takes her under her wing in a Norwegian-American apartment community in Chicago. Brynhild becomes Bella. Bella's pride, greed, and need for control over the men in her life lead to some dark decisions... and her sister Nellie begins to suspect that something is not all right with her sister.
As the years go by, Bella's life seems to be marked by obvious tragedy. Her husbands and children just keep...dying. And her homes and businesses just keep... burning down. What's up with that? Eventually, Bella moves to rural Indiana and marries Peter Gunness, her new persona as Belle Gunness begins. And once Peter suffers a tragic accident with a meat grinder—or cleaver, depending on who you ask—what's a twice-made widow to do with a huge farm but create an ad asking for male farm hands to come and help her? It's not exactly her fault if all the men disappear in the night...
The black widow spider creates her wicked web...
Told in two points of view, one from Belle herself and one from her sister, Nellie, In the Garden of Spite takes us along for the ride as we silently witness Belle's entire life from girlhood to her bloody reign as Belle Gunness on her murder farm. It's a chilling tale meant to unsettle, and Camilla Bruce's mastery of ominous, distanced writing really sells the tension throughout this almost 500-page novel.
But bringing up the length of this book brings up my only caveat—it was pretty long. In the marketing, the focus is entirely on Belle's time in La Porte as a murdering farm widow. This seems to be a bit misleading and definitely affected how I viewed the pacing of the book. When you start a book expecting to read a novelization of the Widow of La Porte....and then it takes 380 pages to get to Belle's life as "Belle Gunness" in the first place... Honestly, it made the first 3/4 of the novel feel incredibly slow. I kept waiting for the "real" plot to happen and that took away from the experience of reading the characters' life stories.
I'd definitely recommend going into this knowing that you're getting a life's story and not a snapshot novelization or a glorified true crime fixation.
This is a personal and chilling character study of one woman's descent into the darkest levels of the human psyche and her lack of acceptance of her own darkness. It's also about the toll that life on her loved ones, and the knife's edge between loving and protecting your family versus realizing the monster in your family tree.
Definitely read the author's note at the end - it gives a lot of context for Belle's real life, the amount of research the author used, and a key list of artistic differences that the author decided to take on in order to explore the themes.
Thank you to Berkley, Goodreads, and NetGalley for my giveaway ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review.
3.5 stars, rounded up!
An American railroad heiress, an English duke in need of funds, and an arranged marriage with a lot angst and chemistry than anyone is expecting.
August Crenshaw is the oldest daughter of an American railroad tycoon. She's got a head for figures and enough ambition to hold her own... and yet. When her parents give her and her younger sister, Violet, the ultimatum that one of them must marry a duke in England... August can't believe it. Will she have to compromise on her autonomy and freedom sooner than she planned?
Evan Sterling, the Duke of Rothschild, is up to his ears debt thanks to his father. Evan never planned on being the duke of the family and he certainly never planned on having to save his family from ruin, but here he is. When the Crenshaw family shows up in England in need of a title, Evan sees a way out. But then he meets August in an underground brawl in Whitechapel and one fated kiss will forever change the outcome...
As August and Evan navigate the tangled landscape of England's Society, her parents expectations, and Evan's desire to win August on his own merit and not for his title, they find they might be in for more than they bargained for.
I thoroughly enjoyed this debut. It had some refreshing twists on some old tropes and I LOVED how August's fierce need for independence shown through as both a positive trait AND a negative one. I know how bizarre that sounds, but hear me out—she's stubborn to the point of ignoring her own desires and the facts around her, and to be honest that bites her in the butt. I liked the realism of that, and how it made her character more human and less "perfect protagonist."
There's also the perfect set up for the next novel, of course, with August's younger sister Violet in need of a duke of her own...
Looking forward to reading that one too!
Thank you to Berkley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.