Edwin’s Recent Reading Roundup: Paranormal Romance
Life has been hectic the last few weeks, so I haven’t had time for reviews, but I have, of course, still been reading! And I’ve read some good stuff that’s worth highlighting…
Black Magic Glitterbomb by Sage C Holloway
This novella grabbed me with the blurb and didn’t let go until I reached the very satisfying conclusion. I mean, the blurb tells us the book is about a mediocre dark mage who steals the coffee makers of his defeated enemies and accidentally rescues a clueless blond twentysomething while defeating said enemies. And then the sentence of the book proper is “I liked to relax over a cup of coffee and the bodies of my enemies.” How can you not want to keep reading?
The book continues in this vein, with dark mage Benji and rescued cutie Kit quickly being confronted with magical assault from enemies as varied as magical tentacles and evil cupcakes (yes, evil cupcakes). The humour is charming, the developing relationship between Benji and Kit is sweet, and the interaction between them and Benji’s collection of friends and frenemies (including a kindly blood mage, the worst married couple in existence, and a too eager apprentice) rollicking good fun. The book took me about an hour to read, and I can’t think of a better hour I spent the last couple of weeks. Recommended (and currently less than a buck!).
The Sumage Solution by G L Carriger
G L Carriger is the contemporary PNR pen name for Gail Carriger, author of the excellent Parasol Protectorate series of Victorian PNR novels. The Sumage Solution is the first in a series about a pack of (mostly) queer werewolves who have recently relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area (The reasons for the relocation are set out in Carriger’s earlier short story, Marine Biology). The central romance is between the pack’s Beta (and brother of the Alpha), Bryan, AKA “Biff,” and Max, who is essentially a magical bureaucrat.
Max is also a sumage, essentially an anti-mage: instead of casting magic he inhibits its use. Coming from a prominent magical family, he’s something of a disappointment to them (being gay didn’t help either). Much of the action in the book is Max dealing with the baggage of his family background, both in terms of the emotional toll his rejection took on him, and in terms of some mysterious magical artefacts his father left behind. He and Bryan did not initially get on well, but eventually become friends and then more. Bryan is a total sweetie, and does an interesting take on the “beta” trope: he’s not his alpha’s enforcer, rather he’s the pack’s domestic heart. A big, hairy biker who also makes sure his pack eats their greens and is an EMT in his day job. Dream man, basically.
The romance between the two of them moves quite quickly but is believable, and includes some surprisingly hot sex scenes. The paranormal plot is interesting (and seems to be a continuation, 100-odd years later, of the Parasol Protectorate universe), and keeps the action moving. I could have done with a bit more time on the details of the magic system (there seem to be 3 different types of mages and sumages, and it’s not entirely clear what each does), but this is a minor quibble. Throw in enough humour to make you smile fairly frequently and you have a thoroughly enjoyable weekend read.
Cutie and the Beast by E J Russell
This is the first in a new contemporary PNR series featuring 3 princes of faerie. The prince in this book is Dr Alun Kendrick, therapist to the supernatural population of Portland. He has also been cursed to have hideous appearance. His love interest is David Evans, his cute young temp receptionist.
At one level, this is essentially a friends-to-lovers romance. Alun resents the presence of a human, David, in his office, and is also waiting for David to reject him because of his looks. Slowly, both Alun and his patients start to appreciate David’s sunny friendliness, and a relationship begins to build. This element of the story works really well. The chemistry between Alun and David is palpable, and David’s general sweetness and naiveté (without being an idiot) make him a really appealing character. Similarly, the banter between the main couples and the well-drawn support characters is great.
Less successful is the paranormal world building. It’s not entirely clear how all the elements – faeries, vampires, dragons, shifters – fit together, and there doesn’t appear to be a governing cosmology to the world. You don’t need to tell the reader all of this, but it does all need to hang together consistently, and this element of Cutie and the Beast doesn’t quite get there. Regardless, the appealing relationship at its core make this book well worth a read.
Edwin gets grumpy if his SF/F reading doesn’t feature happy queer main characters. Aside from that, he reads and writes for a living (though not fiction), so of course his hobby is reading, and now writing about what he reads. Why do anything else? Connect with Edwin on Twitter.