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Audio ARC Review: Darkhearts by James L. Sutter

Publication Date: June 6, 2023


Perfect for fans of Red, White, & Royal Blue and Perks of Being a Wallflower, Darkhearts is a hilarious, heartfelt novel about fame, romance, and what happens when the two collide.

When David quit his band, he missed his shot at fame. For the past two years, he’s been trapped in an ordinary Seattle high school life, working summers for his dad’s construction business while his former best friends Chance and Eli became the hottest teen pop act in America.

Then Eli dies. Suddenly David and Chance are thrown back into contact, forcing David to rediscover all the little things that once made the two of them so close, even as he continues to despise the singer’s posturing and attention-hogging. As old wounds break open, an unexpected kiss leads the boys to trade frenemy status for a confusing, tentative romance—one Chance is desperate to keep out of the spotlight. Though hurt by Chance’s refusal to acknowledge him publicly, David decides their new relationship presents a perfect opportunity for him to rejoin the band and claim the celebrity he’s been denied. But Chance is all too familiar with people trying to use him.

As the mixture of business and pleasure becomes a powder keg, David will have to choose: Is this his second chance at glory? Or his second chance at Chance?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Darkhearts is a beautiful book about love and second chances and learning to forgive others (and yourself) for missed chances. It’s about figuring out who you are and what you really want, and letting the rest go. It’s messy and painful and beautiful and full of second-hand embarassment and sheer joy. I loved it.

Watching David and Chance figure out what they can do, what they can’t do, what they should do, and what they want to do was a lot of fun. It was very much an end-of-highschool coming-of-age story, with the added complications of fame and missed chances at fame. I loved being along for the ride.

The audiobook is performed beautifully and the narrator really brings the characters to life. I’m glad I listened to it because I think it adds to the story and makes it easier to get swept up in it.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Wednesday Books, and Macmillan Audio for providing an early copy and early audio copy for review.

Audio ARC Review: Right Girl, Wrong Side by Ginny Baird

Publication Date: March 28, 2023


Busy flower shop manager Evita Machado can’t wait to get to Nantucket. With a bad breakup behind her, relaxing at the shore with her folks and her brothers and their families sounds like the sure cure for heartache, and their vacation destination looks like an amazing place! But when they arrive at the quaint rose-covered cottage, another group has already put down stakes: the Hatfields.

Ryan Hatfield was Evita’s former crush from high school, but their business rival moms refused to let them date. Now history professor Ryan is here for a week with his parents, who won them this oceanfront rental in a society silent auction. Once it’s clear there’s been a double-booking due to a bidding mistake, Ryan’s mom digs in her heels, meaning to stay. When Evita’s mom won’t back down either, both sides tepidly agree to share the luxury accommodations by dividing the cozy space.

With the boisterous Machados livening things up and the strait-laced Hatfields tamping them down, can Evita and Ryan keep the peace between the warring factions while fostering a growing chemistry between the two of them?

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was slow to warm up to this one. The premise was cute and amusing, but I found the writing in the first 20% or so lackluster. Then the characters really started to shine and made up for it. In the end, I loved it.

I really enjoyed how the romance itself almost took a backseat to the family drama. It’s clear that the whole impetus for reconciling the Hatfields and Machados is to make it possible for Evita and Ryan to be together. They crushed on each other in highschool, drifted apart because of their families’ long-standing feud, and then instantly fell for one another when the two families showed up for the same beach-house getaway due to a charity auction mixup. Even so, there were very few scenes of them being romantic, and the story mainly focused on the two of them as mediators in the family drama and scheming together over how to get everyone together.

All of the characters were so amusing and endearing and just felt real. There was such a contrast between the uptight, secretly unhappy Hatfields and the gregarious and loving extended family of the Machados. This created endless opportunity for humor and conflict.

I listened to the audiobook and thought it was great. I did end up speeding it up quite a bit, but the Spanish accents felt natural and believable and the characters’ voices were all easily distinguishable and pleasant. The kids’ voices were incredibly unnatural sounding which I found jarring, but it did add some humor. The narrator really brought the story to life and I think I enjoyed it a lot more than I would have otherwise.

Ryan and Evita were so sweet together, falling easily into their familiar highschool lab partners bond and enjoying one another’s company from the beginning despite their families’ antics. They were incredibly believable as the sort of couple who lasts. They were easily the most mature members of their families, and both had to have serious talks with their parents about respecting their boundaries and choices as adults. They also both were very good with the children.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Dreamscape Media for providing an early copy of the audiobook for review.

Audio ARC Review: Hotel of Secrets by Diana Biller

Publication Date: March 28, 2023


During ball season, anything can happen, even love.

It’s ball season in Vienna, and Maria Wallner only wants one thing: to restore her family’s hotel, the Hotel Wallner, to its former glory. She’s not going to let anything get in her way – not her parents’ three-decade-long affair; not seemingly-random attacks by masked assassins; and especially not the broad-shouldered American foreign agent who’s saved her life two times already. No matter how luscious his mouth is.

Eli Whittaker also only wants one thing: to find out who is selling American secret codes across Europe, arrest them, and go home to his sensible life in Washington, DC. He has one lead – a letter the culprit sent from a Viennese hotel. But when he arrives in Vienna, he is immediately swept up into a chaotic whirlwind of balls, spies, waltzes, and beautiful hotelkeepers who seem to constantly find themselves in danger. He disapproves of all of it! But his disapproval is tested as he slowly falls deeper into the chaos – and as his attraction to said hotelkeeper grows.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a delightful glimpse into the lives of a truly eclectic and charming cast of characters. I found myself drawn into their chaotic and turbulent lives and came to care for all of them over the course of the story.

The plot was chaotic as well, with quite a few twists in the spy/assassin/secrets threads, although the romance did tend to overshadow those most of the time. I didn’t mind though – it was a charming romance and I loved getting to know Maria and Eli. Watching Maria learn to trust and love her friends was so much fun, and especially so was watching Eli blossom from a closed-off and straight-laced investigator into someone who cared deeply for Maria and her various chaotic friends.

The French spy (I forget his name) was perhaps my favorite side character, always popping up unexpectedly all charming and unassuming and saying ‘well, I am a spy’ whenever his presence is questioned. The way he and Mac dragged Eli out of his grumpy “I don’t have friends” shell made me grin so wide.

Every person in the story was unique and just oozed so much life and character. I felt so warm and cozy as I was reading – I just wanted to immerse myself in the story and characters and wrap their chaotic love around me like a warm blanket.

It was slow to grab me, so if you are a fan of eclectic and well-rounded characters you might want to give it a little extra time to hook you.

The audiobook was wonderfully narrated. I ended up speeding it up to 2x speed because I think the narrator speaks slower than many, but it made the story even more immersive and made the characters seem even more real.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Dreamscape Media for providing an early audio copy for review.

Audio ARC Review: Ander & Santi Were Here by Jonny Garza Villa

Publication Date: May 2, 2023


Aristotle and Dante meets The Hate U Give meets The Sun Is Also A Star: A stunning YA contemporary love story about a Mexican-American teen who falls in love with an undocumented Mexican boy.

Finding home. Falling in love. Fighting to belong.

The Santos Vista neighborhood of San Antonio, Texas, is all Ander Martínez has ever known. The smell of pan dulce. The mixture of Spanish and English filling the streets. And, especially their job at their family’s taquería. It’s the place that has inspired Ander as a muralist, and, as they get ready to leave for art school, it’s all of these things that give them hesitancy. That give them the thought, are they ready to leave it all behind?

To keep Ander from becoming complacent during their gap year, their family “fires” them so they can transition from restaurant life to focusing on their murals and prepare for college. That is, until they meet Santiago López Alvarado, the hot new waiter. Falling for each other becomes as natural as breathing. Through Santi’s eyes, Ander starts to understand who they are and want to be as an artist, and Ander becomes Santi’s first steps toward making Santos Vista and the United States feel like home.

Until ICE agents come for Santi, and Ander realizes how fragile that sense of home is. How love can only hold on so long when the whole world is against them. And when, eventually, the world starts to win.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is an absolutely gorgeous story. It sucked me in from the very beginning, making me instantly love and care about the characters, and never let me go. It’s about courage and bravery in the face of unfair authority, about finding who you are and what you want to do and who you want to be with, about embracing your roots and being unapologetically yourself no matter what anyone else says.

Ander is a dramatic nonbinary teen in San Antonio who is getting increasing recognition for their murals and preparing to go to Chicago for art school. Santi is a shy and quiet undocumented immigrant teen fleeing from the violence that killed half his family. They meet in Ander’s family’s restaurant and sparks fly. Their love story is raw and honest and changes each of them for the better, giving them hope and courage and determination. Santi wears his heart on his sleeve for Ander, who does the same, and they fit together so well.

I loved the many scenes of Ander painting and the way Santi loves all of their paintings. The way it’s described, you can tell that the author is very familiar with artists and perhaps is one themself. There is so much love infused in each of those scenes and descriptions.

I also loved how loving and accepting Ander’s family are in this book. They are loud and they argue but the love always shines through and they support Ander through everything. Ander’s friends also come through for them and show their love. Ander comes from such a vibrant, loving family that I was jealous.

I also loved that the conflict does not touch Ander’s nonbinary identity. It is an established fact at the beginning of the book and no one questions it. It never takes a central role except as an essential part of Ander. Ander is nonbinary and that’s the end of it.

The conflict, instead, first centers around Ander’s self-doubt about their future as an artist and the way the influences they want their art to be shaped by, and then later, as Ander begins to figure themself out, the conflict shifts to center around Santi’s undocumented status and his future and their future together. It’s masterfully done, and never feels forced or artificial.

ICE is a looming threat throughout the last quarter of the book, and things take a bit of a darker tone, but Ander and Santi grow to meet the challenges they are faced with and the ending felt right and inevitable and perfect. Did I cry? yes. Was it worth it? Definitely yes. 10/10 would read again.

The audiobook was brilliantly performed, with every character feeling distinct and real, with their own voice and tone. The way the different character voices carried emotion was excellent. The sprinkling of Spanish scattered throughout also was performed excellently and enhanced the setting for me, making it feel more real. Did I understand all the words? No. Did I understand the meaning behind them? Yes. And the emotions and tone they were delivered with helped with that.

This book needs to be in libraries and classrooms everywhere in this country. And it definitely needs to win some awards.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for providing an early copy of the audiobook for review.

Audio ARC Review: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

Publication Date: May 2, 2023


Enter the brutal and elite world of a war college for dragon riders from USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Yarros

Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away…because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom’s protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I LOVED this book. So much. I even preordered the audiobook after listening to only 30% of the audio arc. Because I knew I would love it and want to read it again.

This is the brutal magic-school-that-is-trying-to-kill-you book of my dreams. The challenges and tests are trying to kill you. The entrance ‘exam’ is trying to kill you. The other students are trying to kill you. The dragons are trying to kill you (if you are found not worthy). But if you make it? You become a badass dragon rider.

And then the plot thickens. And goes exactly where I hoped it would. I only guessed a tiny fraction of what happened – just enough to be very pleased with where everything went.

I loved the characters. I loved violet, and how hard she worked to overcome her body’s frailty (EDS, I’m guessing), and how sharp her mind was. I loved how Xaden insisted on calling her ‘violence’ from the beginning — seriously, best nickname/pet name EVER.

The love story was perfect. The brutality of the school and the students was perfect. The dragons were perfect. Just, chef’s kiss, it was absolutely EVERYTHING I wanted, gimme the next one now.

The audiobook was narrated brilliantly and I felt like I was right there for all of it. The characters had distinct voices and personalities that brought them to life, the intensity started high and only cranked higher as it went on, and Rebecca Soler’s voice was pleasant to listen to.

10/10 100% recommend. Seriously, if you like brutal magic schools / dark academia / dragons? Read this now.

*After some thought, I would like to recommend this to Sarah J. Maas fans. This (especially the romance) is what she was trying to do with ACOTAR, only so much better. Even if you don’t like Sarah J. Maas (like me) I definitely recommend it. But also if you want that Feyre / Rhysand vibe without some of the more questionable aspects… this is it.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Recorded Books for providing an early copy of the audio for review.

ARC & Audio ARC Review: Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh

Publication Date: April 11, 2023


While we live, the enemy shall fear us.

All her life Kyr has trained for the day she can avenge the murder of planet Earth. Raised in the bowels of Gaea Station alongside the last scraps of humanity, she readies herself to face the Wisdom, the all-powerful, reality-shaping weapon that gave the Majoda their victory over humanity.

They are what’s left. They are what must survive. Kyr is one of the best warriors of her generation, the sword of a dead planet. But when Command assigns her brother to certain death and relegates her to the nursery to bear sons until she dies trying, she knows she must take humanity’s revenge into her own hands.

Alongside her brother’s brilliant but seditious friend and a lonely, captive alien, she escapes from everything she’s ever known into a universe far more complicated than she was taught and far more wondrous than she could have imagined.

A thrillingly told queer space opera about the wreckage of war, the family you find, and who you must become when every choice is stripped from you, Some Desperate Glory is award-winning author Emily Tesh’s highly anticipated debut novel.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was truly epic and stunning. It’s one of those times I wish I could give an extra star or two on top of the usual 5 because this story deserves it.

Kyr is SO hard to like at the beginning. She’s completely brainwashed and has 100% bought in to the narrative her “uncle” Joel is selling: that they’re a resistance determined to get revenge and glory for humanity — rather than a barbaric cult in the middle of nowhere. And yet by the end, you find yourself completely on her side, rooting for her every step of the way and feeling everything she feels.

Watching events play out, feeling the layers of brainwashing being stripped away as the narrative progresses, was incredible. The twists were shocking, the characters endlessly compelling, and the plot was truly stunning, once you get to the end of it and look back. I LOVED it.

The audiobook narrator did a phenomenal job giving all the characters unique voices and capturing the pain and trauma they have lived, and the transformation Kyr undergoes.

Absolutely one of the best books of the year.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Tor/Forge, and Macmillan Audio for providing an early copy and early audio copy for review.

ARC and Audio ARC Review: The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles

Publication Date: March 7, 2o23


Bridgerton meets Poldark in this sweeping LGBTQIA+ Regency romance from award-winning author KJ Charles

Abandoned by his father as a small child, Sir Gareth Inglis has grown up prickly, cold, and well-used to disappointment. Even so, he longs for a connection, falling headfirst into a passionate anonymous affair that’s over almost as quickly as it began. Bitter at the sudden rejection, Gareth has little time to lick his wounds: his father has died, leaving him the family title, a rambling manor on the remote Romney Marsh…and the den of cutthroats and thieves that make its intricate waterways their home.

Joss Doomsday has run the Doomsday smuggling clan since he was a boy. His family is his life…which is why when the all-too-familiar new baronet testifies against Joss’s sister for a hanging offense, Joss acts fast, blackmailing Gareth with the secret of their relationship to force him to recant. Their reunion is anything but happy and the path forward everything but smooth, yet after the dust settles, neither can stay away. It’s a long road from there—full of danger and mysteries to be solved—yet somehow, along the way, this well-mannered gentleman may at last find true love with the least likely of scoundrels.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once again, KJ Charles has written my favorite kind of romance. I love how her books are instant comfort reads at this point, while at the same time remaining fresh and new no matter how many I’ve read. You’d think she’d run out of unique and loveable characters (most of them gold-hearted rogues who aren’t particularly morally bothered) with chemistry of the sort that means warmth and comfort and companionship and someone always on your side, in addition to the usual definition. And yet.

I love her wit and sly humor. I don’t tend to like must “humorous” books because they tend to rely on steortypes, punching down, bawdy humor, etc. Not so KJ Charles. Her humor is of the witty, sardonic, dry variety and it’s just wonderful. Here, I’ll give you an example:

“I would like to talk about this again, more civilly, to understand your point of view. I don’t know if I’ll agree but I’d rather disagree with more nuance.”

Joss hoped nuance didn’t mean shouting.

A lot of the humor in this book comes, as in the example above, from the language barrier of Marshman smuggler vs. educated Londoner. So I guess you have to like clever humor about words. Luckily, I do.

Joss and Gareth are wonderful characters. Really, every character in this book is a wonderful character. They all have such distinct personalities and feel so very real. Their romance feels very natural too, as they work together and learn to trust one another.

I absolutely LOVED everything about this and I had the biggest smile on my face while reading it. I knew I would love it – It’s KJ Charles, that’s a foregone conclusion – but it always surprises me how much I love it in the end.

The plot was great. Twisty and full of danger and trouble, but also full of quiet moments of companionship and connection. I loved how it ended, too. It was perfect. I will absolutely read the next one as soon as it comes out (and her next book, and the next…) because she’s one of my favorite authors at this point. I’ve preordered the audiobook as I know I will want to revisit this and that’s one of my favorite ways to do so.

Thoughts on the audiobook:

This audiobook and I did not particularly get along. LOVE LOVE LOVE the book, but the audio…

The narrator speaks very slowly which is fine, I can just bump up the speed (which I did, to 2x). But he adds. Random. Pauses. in the middle of sentences, then jumps back to speaking at a steady pace and. Then. Adds. More. Pauses. and it’s driving me nuts because I *can’t* increase the speed any more because then the rest is too fast.

I eventually got used to his particular style of narration, but it’s still not my favorite. Worth it, to experience the book again, but another narrator would have improved it.

I also found Joss’ grandfather to have a really strange accent in the audio. We know from the story that he was from a plantation in Georgia and thus speaks with a slow drawl. The audiobook narrator interprets this as. Speaking. Very. Very. Slowly. With. Long. Pauses. Between. Words. It has an almost staccato effect which is very much not how a southern drawl works.

5+ enthusiastic stars for the book, 3.5 unenthusiastic stars for the narration.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Sourcebooks Casablanca, and Dreamscape Media for providing an early copy and early audio copy for review.

Favorite Quotes:

Nobody liked paying taxes, granted, but governments levied them all the same, and one had to put up with it since there didn’t seem to be any way of stopping them.

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles

Gareth had spent most of the last two days outside in self-defense, despite the persistent light mist and drizzle. He was beginning to feel that country life was bad for the nerves.

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles

There was a remarkably pervasive quality to the rain on Romney Marsh, as if the sky had chosen its side in the precarious balance between land and sea. Everything felt damp, even indoors.

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles

“He didn’t dine, Cecy,” Catherine said. “He just ate.”

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles

“That’s entirely specious.”

“Talk English,” Joss suggested sardonically.

Gareth discovered he couldn’t instantly define specious.

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles

Gareth had no idea what to say. He wasn’t a political philosopher. He had a vague sort of idea that country, king, and law were the foundations on which the nation was built, while nevertheless acknowledging that he had no intention of taking up arms for the country, the king was a mad German, and he’d spent much of his adult life happily breaking the law. Still, they were principles, even if they weren’t his principles. He’d thought this would be an easy fight to pick.

He’d met plenty of radicals in London—men who wanted wealth redistributed, laws changed, the government made representative. Joss Doomsday, fervent patriot of a hundred square miles of marshland, was perhaps the most radical man he’d ever met.

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles

“Starting fights instead of facing problems isn’t courage.”

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles

“But I’ve a fair bit to lose if they hang me for smuggling too. You can’t just not do things acause of the consequences.”

“Consequences are literally the reason not to do things. That’s what they’re for.”

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles

“If you want something, you ask for it. You told me so, before. Is that always how you get what you want?”

Joss shrugged. “You don’t get what you want by not asking for it.”

Gareth contemplated the obvious truth of that statement. “I may have to change my approach to life.”

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles

“I would,” Joss said. He didn’t know what Gareth was up to; he’d back him to the hilt anyway. “Right obstinate fellow, the new squire.”

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles

ARC Review: Something Wild and Wonderful by Anita Kelly

Publication Date: March 7, 2023


From the author of Love & Other Disasters comes a sparkling grumpy-meets-sunshine romance featuring two men’s sweeping journey across the Western wilderness.

Alexei Lebedev’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail begins with a single snake. And it is angling for the hot stranger who seemed to have appeared out of thin air. Lex is prepared for rattlesnakes, blisters, and months of solitude. What he isn’t prepared for is Ben Caravalho. But somehow—on a 2,500-mile trail—Alexei keeps running into the outgoing and charismatic hiker with golden-brown eyes, again and again. It might be coincidence. Then again, maybe there’s a reason the trail keeps bringing them together . . .

Ben has made his fair share of bad decisions, and almost all of them involved beautiful men. And yet there’s something about the gorgeous and quietly nerdy Alexei that Ben can’t just walk away from. Surely a bad decision can’t be this cute and smart. And there are worse things than falling in love during the biggest adventure of your life. But when their plans for the future are turned upside down, Ben and Alexei begin to wonder if it’s possible to hold on to something this wild and wonderful.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This was a warm, cozy hug of a book. Alexei and Ben were such warm characters. Well, Alexei took a bit of warming up to people, but he was earnest and friendly. Ben befriended everyone he met and just exuded friendliness and warmth. They had such an easy, peaceful companionship that they fell into as they walked the Pacific Crest Trail. It was so nice to read.

The descriptions of the trail and the hiking were so beautiful and so appealing. It made me feel like I was there with them and made me want to attempt the hike myself. There’s no way I could actually do it, but imagining it feels nice.

The difficult parts were not so much conflict between the two (aside from a few misunderstandings) but rather things each was struggling with internally. For Ben it was the loss of a close relative to Alzheimers and his past abusive relationships. For Alexei it was being cut off by his parents after coming out as gay. These were things each had to wrestle with on their own, and I really like that they weren’t swept under the rug when they got together. They took the time and space they needed and came to terms with them, allowing them to build a stronger future together.

It was wonderful to see Alexei being welcomed into Ben’s family and friend group, and it was wonderful to see Alexei and Ben’s close relationships with their little sisters.

There is a section toward the end where it becomes an epistolary novel for a bit, the sort where most of the letters are unsent. Those are always heartbreaking, and this was no exception. I really, really, like the way it was written. Having the letters be unsent halves of conversations made them so much more impactful.

Most of all, this is a book emphasizing the wonders of queer companionship. As a queer person myself, who values that sort of companionship very highly indeed, this book hit all the right notes for me.

The audiobook performance was beautiful and the narrator imbued the characters with so much personality. I loved listening to it and definitely recommend it.

*Thanks to NetGalley, Forever, and Hachette Audio for providing an early copy of the ebook and audiobook for review.

ARC & Audio ARC Review: Infamous by Lex Croucher

Publication Date: March 21, 2023


22-year-old aspiring writer Edith ‘Eddie’ Miller and her best friend Rose have always done everything together-climbing trees, throwing grapes at boys, sneaking bottles of wine, practicing kissing . . .

But following their debutante ball Rose is suddenly talking about marriage, and Eddie is horrified.

When Eddie meets charming, renowned poet Nash Nicholson, he invites her to his crumbling Gothic estate in the countryside. The entourage of eccentric artists indulging in pure hedonism is exactly what Eddie needs in order to forget Rose and finish her novel.

But Eddie might discover the world of famous literary icons isn’t all poems and pleasure . . .

My Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this book, although there were many places where it dragged a bit and felt too-long. I also don’t know that I would call it “the best laugh-out-loud Regency romp of 2022” as it is advertised. There were funny moments, but a lot of it was more Eddie being painfully oblivious to what was going on around her. She’s so in her head and fixated on the idea of being a published writer – as well as in complete denial about how she feels about Rose – that she doesn’t really see what’s happening until it’s (metaphorically) hit her across the head a few times.

Poor long-suffering Rose stands by Eddie faithfully until she has to take a stand (which, good for her) and even then Eddie doesn’t wake up to what’s going on. Really, Eddie has a lot of growing up to do in this book before she becomes a likeable character. I was constantly tempted to shake Eddie and go “oh, come on!”

Nash was an excellent villain. He at first seemed fun and playful, and the scene with him charming Eddie’s entire outlandish oddball family was endearing. Nash’s charming of everyone takes on a darker cast, however, as the book progresses and his true character comes to light. As with everything else, his true character comes to light MUCH later for Eddie than for everyone else, as she is again painfully oblivious and in complete denial. She’s fixated on the idea that he can get her published and all else is seemingly easy for her to ignore.

The ‘house party’ adventure gets wilder and stranger the longer it goes on, and I felt a lot of secondhand embarrassment at Eddie’s refusal to see what’s happening around her. Or maybe it’s just a willingness to overlook just about anything with the dangling possibility of a book deal.

I mean, the house practically falls down around their ears and no one bats an eyelash. To say that the people in Nash’s orbit are strange is… an understatement.

I found the cast of weirdos to be quite wonderful, however. I’ve always been drawn to the outcasts and those who buck the strictures of society, so I did appreciate the bohemian outlook they had. And I liked them all the way to the end – it’s just Nash (and to a lesser extent his wife) that gets revealed to be more terrible every day.

The ending was cathartic after the mess that went down, and after Eddie’s eyes are opened to a few things. Eddie still isn’t my favorite character, but I did like her more by the end, even though I don’t think she does enough to earn Rose’s forgiveness.

The writing was really beautiful and evocative, and the audiobook performance was great. The narrator did a fabulous job capturing everyone’s mood and personality, and the voices the narrator chose were perfect for the characters.

*Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Bonnier UK Audio for providing an early copy for review.

Audiobook ARC Review: Saint by Adrienne Young

Publication Date: November 29, 2022


New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns to the world of The Narrows with Saint, a captivating prequel to Fable and Namesake.

As a boy, Elias learned the hard way what happens when you don’t heed the old tales.

Nine years after his lack of superstition got his father killed, he’s grown into a young man of piety, with a deep reverence for the hallowed sea and her fickle favor. As stories of the fisherman’s son who has managed to escape the most deadly of storms spreads from port to port, his devotion to the myths and creeds has given him the reputation of the luckiest bastard to sail the Narrows.

Now, he’s mere days away from getting everything his father ever dreamed for him: a ship of his own, a crew, and a license that names him as one of the first Narrows-born traders. But when a young dredger from the Unnamed Sea with more than one secret crosses his path, Elias’ faith will be tested like never before. The greater the pull he feels toward her, the farther he drifts from the things he’s spent the last three years working for.

He is dangerously close to repeating his mistakes and he’s seen first hand how vicious the jealous sea can be. If he’s going to survive her retribution, he will have to decide which he wants more, the love of the girl who could change their shifting world, or the sacred beliefs that earned him the name that he’s known for―Saint.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I really enjoyed this. Adrienne Young’s writing always seems simple on the surface but then immediately draws me in and I remain hooked throughout the story.

I loved Fable and Namesake, so I was excited to read Saint. I wasn’t sure about it at first, because he and Isolde are hard characters to get to know. They keep everything so close to the chest and are very wary about trusting anyone. As the story progressed, however, they began to let down their guard little by little and I cared about them a lot before I even realized it.

The romance was the sort where they’re instantly attracted to one another but fight it, which isn’t my favorite trope but I think in this case it worked well. For Saint his attraction to Isolde is almost like his mystical rituals about the sea. For Isolde it’s like the Midnight. Like it’s bigger than the two of them and they can’t understand it or change it but just ride it out.

The story moved along at a good clip and there was plenty of action to keep me riveted. I loved that it was set either out on the sea or at various ports. Those are my favorite sort of books.

The side characters were great as well. They all felt real, as did the setting, like I could walk into those ports and those people would be there, exactly as described.

The story also managed to feel very new and yet end in a place that perfectly set up Fable and Namesake. It left a good span of years between the end and the start of Fable, but it arranged the playing pieces in such a way that I could see how they were lining up and how they would fall.

I will definitely be seeking out more of Adrienne Young’s books when they are published.

The audiobook narrators were excellent as well. I enjoyed their voices and the character voices they chose. It definitely helped bring the story to life.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for providing an early copy for review.