Hello, and welcome to the “What She’s Reading” catch-up edition. Due to a tornado of crappy life stuff, I had to take a break for a bit, but I’m back! Here’s what I’ve been reading while I was gone:
This is the 10th book in Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, which I highly recommend. (They have to be read in order, but the first one is my least favorite…they start really picking up around book three.) And finally, we get the story of Valentine, the devious Duke of Montgomery, the man pulling all the strings behind the scenes. Amoral, grasping, seemingly omnipotent…and a power-hungry blackmailer. He’s a beautiful dandy, but he has the kind of beauty that is used to intimidate and seduce, all in the service of him gaining more knowledge and more power. I had no idea how Hoyt was going to pull this one off. I wasn’t sure how I could root for this dark of a hero, and I didn’t want her to ruin such a terrific villain with a redemption arc.
And…well, in my mind, she pulled it off. We had some idea of Val’s backstory from the previous book, where his sister was the heroine. In this book, she goes deeper into his sick, sad upbringing. However, she walks the fine line between explaining why he ended up this way, without excusing the awful things he’s done. It worked for me, but I can see how it might not work for some people. I think this is a book you’ll love or hate, with little in between. I went in needing to be convinced, and she completely sold me.
(Also, Bridget is perfect. She’s terrifyingly competent, and completely his match. She is most of the reason this book works,)
Anytime anyone asks me for a sweet, happy, comfort read, I direct them toward Annabeth Albert. I love her books because they’re sweet without being saccharine or shallow, and have happy endings that are earned, but without dragging her characters through the mud. One of the themes throughout her books is how what people do for work influence who they are and how they live their lives. In Beta Test, this is very literal — the heroes are coworkers. Tristan is old money, a little stuffy, a lot preppy, and a total hardcore gaming nerd. He’s the kind of guy who dreams sweet dreams about color-coding and Excel spreadsheets. Ravi, on the other hand, is a brilliant artist/graphic designer, so hipster it hurts, and is a charming, devastatingly handsome people person. Ravi is very very out and Tristan is very very private. This is an enemies-to-lovers book, with the slight twist that they get together early-ish in the book, and the rest of the book is them figuring out how to be together.
What I really enjoyed about this book is that Albert could have gone to a very cliched place with both Tristan and Ravi’s families, but didn’t. Tristan’s family, in particular, is something that we’ve seen done to death in m/m — his mom is a conservative senator — but she really takes the time to treat her characters as human, and explore the complexities of family relationships in a way that makes it feel so fresh. My only complaint about the book is that it wrapped up a little fast, compared to the comfortable pace of the rest of the book. I am so looking forward to the next book in the series, and hey, if you’re having a bad day? Read some Annabeth Albert. You’ll smile.
Disclaimer: I am a friend of the author and beta read this book. However, I wouldn’t put it on the blog if I didn’t think it was great! Liberator is part one of the Flights of Love series, following David, a college student in 1984 Cleveland, who is transported back to the 1940s after meeting a mysterious older man at a friend’s party. The book follows David and Jim through the 1940s, with some flashes to the future. It’s a wonderfully crafted, tense book with a slow, slow burn romance. The tension is due in part to the slowly simmering attraction, but also due to David’s knowledge of what’s to come, watching the inevitable march toward war in the United States. (Did I mention that David is a Jewish bisexual hero? I know this is relevant to some of your interests.)
This book is part one of a larger story; neither the romance nor the plot is resolved at the end of the book, so if you’re the kind of person who likes to wait until all the books are out, be forewarned. When she asked me to read it, I read it all in one gulp, and emailed her, possibly in all-caps, “WHERE IS THE REST I NEED IT NOW PLEASE.” So if you like a can’t-put-it-down, well-researched time travel romance with a bisexual Jewish hero…this is the book for you. Then you can join everyone else in the wait for the next one!