It’s been spooky, turkey, and pine tree season! I seem to instead be channeling an overall desire for flannel, knit sweaters, and warm drinks, since most of my reads this month fall, once more, into that “cozy” category and heavy on the romance. Frankly, not too many books read these past few months or, at least, not many books that are published. I did read quite a few books as a beta-reader and then was up to my neck in revisions, so I was mostly reading my books, which don’t count. Either way, without further ado, three months of books!
A Taste of Gold and Iron by Alexandra Rowland: This was a delight. Very, very slow burn romance between a prince and his bodyguard, who are very opposite yet work so well in contrast with each other. The mystery element was a little transparent, much like it was with A Strange and Stubborn Endurance and yet, I found myself not minding it, since it honestly doesn’t matter, as the book isn’t really about the mystery, it’s about the romance and the politics. I adored the world-building, especially that it was so, so casually queer-normative and not once was a character’s sexuality or gender identity used for “drama” or weaponized against. People were just queer and the way it was done was so deft, never once did I feel it would stray into the whole “oh, this person is being hurt because they’re [insert queer identity here].” As for the characters, Kadou is a wonderful depiction of living with anxiety and I found his experience rather…eye-opening, seeing that I never realized I struggle with anxiety till I saw a character with anxiety and I was like…oh, his brain beats him up just like mine does me! …oh. Wait a minute… Evemer (and his mother!) is wonderful and I just love how he has to learn to use, y’know, words. Complex sentences. Express himself. Not just rely on grunts ’cause that’s going to trigger Kadou’s anxiety terribly. Aaaaand, slightly spoilery, but there was a certain character I had enjoyed greatly and braced myself for his death, probably in a dramatic moment of self-sacrifice because of course that’s what you do with the ex in romance novels…and he didn’t die. In fact, he not only lives but recognizes that his feelings are his to work through? Which was unexpected, refreshing, and very much welcome. Also, there’s a positive hat-tilt to the importance of therapy. My only moment of marginal disappointment was when I realized the romance was definitely monogamous but there were a few hints that it could have gone down a poly amorous path. There just isn’t enough poly am representation in mainstream publishing…
Immortal Rising by Lynsay Sands: Ah, the installment for the long-running Argeneau series that I missed. This one was different, and had a refreshingly different pace/approach/formula. The last few (er, like dozen) have had older immortals who are well past their first couple of centuries and uninformed mortals as their life mate, so you get a lot of the same sort of structure of the immortal dancing around the reveal, and eventually the reveal which if, like me, you’ve been reading all thirty-something of these for years, you can recite near verbatim in your sleep. This one had a young immortal (who, even more intriguingly, is one of the “fangless” variety) and a…well, I hesitate to call him just a mortal, only because he, er, is genetically modified to have wings and his mortality is a little questionable? Either way, he’s already in on the secret, so the obligatory explanation is extremely brief. There was a twist I wasn’t expecting, and another which…eeeeeeh, okay, fine, I’ll give it though it borders on silly (however, this series knows it’s campy and embraces the camp, so again, didn’t bother me even as I rolled my eyes…but smilingly so), and a certain enemy arc is brought to a conclusion. I wonder who the next antagonist will be for the next batch of life mate couples…*
After the Bite by Lynsay Sands: The new installment of that same long-running series. To be absolutely honest, I can finish reading these in a day, and often do, which is why they tend to be on here in batches. They’re fast reads, usually funny, and just pleasantly entertaining with a rather creative approach to the world-building (I mean, vampires who aren’t vampires, but nano-infested immortals from the lost city of Atlantis…that is just so campy and embraces the camp wholeheartedly). This one was back to older immortal and ignorant mortal structure, which was okay, and there might be a new antagonist being introduced, though we’ll see. Admittedly, the one issue I’m starting to have with these is when they inevitably call for reinforcements and we get ALL the cameos from a bunch of previous books…only, it’s been a few years since I read them and I don’t know who half these people are anymore anyway… Still, I do still enjoy the idea that, oh, sure, finding your life mate is incredible, once-in-a-lifetime chance that every immortal dreams of…but it’s also WILDLY inconvenient, seeing that you keep passing out from incredible, and incredibly brief, sex. And, er, everywhere. Woe to the life mates who have sex in a confined bathroom with an awful lot of sharp edged counters and hard tile everywhere, for they are doomed to head injuries (which, er, has happened in previous books).*
At the Feet of the Sun by Victoria Goddard: This book. This book. This book was incredible. I’d been waiting for it for a few months now, and it was worth that wait in every way. But most importantly, this book gave me that queer experience of seeing oneself finally, FINALLY reflected in a character and feeling validated. This book made me cry. A lot. I devoured it in three days, and even then, I had to take breaks because of the sheer amount of feels it inspired in me. Because I understood. But more than that, this book understood me. Up until reading this one, I have never had the experience of reading an ace character who is not only explicitly described as ace, but has the way they love not only validated but shown as being just as important as allo-experiences of love. I have never read that before, never experienced a book that said to me, “Hey, the way you experience love? Yeah, that’s valid, and here’s a whole book with a character who experiences love the way you do and it’s beautiful.” I finally, finally have a book that, when someone asks, “So what’s it feel like to be ace?” I can point at and be like, “Read that. It’s very close to my experience.” And that is just the romance. The rest of the book is just gorgeous, and I adored every bit of it. Will I reread this 1000-page behemoth? Oh, yes. Reread and re-experience and love every moment. Again, I just adore the way this world depicts both the concrete reality and the fantastical—not just fantasy, per say, but whimsy and myth and folklore and story. And the way Goddard writes characters is truly just extraordinary. And you have no idea how utterly delighted I am to discover that not only are there two more Red Company books planned, but there’s also a third for Lays of the Hearth-Fire. I thought this one was going to be the end, I really did, but then…I learned there will be more. Adore, I simply adore. And I foist! Read, read, and join me in my adoration!**
Also, it’s very, ah, fitting that I featured both Alex Rowland’s new book and Victoria Goddard’s new book in the same blog post. For reasons.
* Just as a note, though I mostly read queer-leaning romances, this series is almost painfully het and follows the mainstream category romance market formula very closely. This is not a knock to category romances or het relationships, but if you’ve come across my blog because of the queer SFF romances I feature, just know that these are not those.
** This review has very little, ah, content, mostly because if I get started, I won’t shut up, and I would prefer to keep in as unspoilery as possible. Because I will babble. And I will give things away.