Naughty List (Mine This Winter) review

A Review of Naughty List (From Mine This Winter), by Melanie A. Smith (Cover with a couple kissing in winter clothing, with a background of snowy alpine mountains with evergreen trees)

(From the Mine This Winter anthology)

steamy Christmas romance novella, open door romance

Note: This is an ARC review specifically of one of the stories in this anthology, Naughty List, by Melanie A. Smith. I received a copy and this is an honest, voluntary review.

The most important thing I could note here isn’t just that Naughty List is everything you’d want from a steamy-cute Christmas romance. It’s how funny this story is! Joanie’s frank and hilarious narration keeps the story rolling and adds so much depth and enjoyment.

Greg is a sweet guy and obviously caring, yet he doesn’t come off as a mismatch for Joanie. His efforts to play it cool can be really amusing, though he does find his footing when matching her naughty banter. Add the best friend and her fiance, plus ample self-aware jokes about Hallmark Christmas movies, and it’s a very well-rounded story even with the shorter page count. I felt like I got to know everybody really well.

This was a fun, short and steamy Christmas romance in a small, snowy town, with just the right number of missteps on its way to an HEA.

My rating:
5/5

Beyond the Filigree Wall review

A review of Beyond the FIligree Wall, by Melissa Wright

(Rivenwilde #1)

December 6, 2022

romantic fantasy, interconnected standalone series, fae fantasy, clean romantic fantasy

Note: I received an ARC and this is an honest, voluntary review

Beyond the Filigree Wall is a fast-paced story with a kick-butt heroine—except her only usable weapon is her wits. I really enjoyed this story and its world.

MC Etta is up against her father, the new chancellor Gideon (cue enemies to lovers tension!) and, on top of all that, the fae. But she can’t do anything about the fae until she becomes marshal, a position Etta’s trained most of her life for. Gideon has his doubts about her, however, and single-handedly derails her appointment by the Council.

The romance in Beyond the Filigree Wall develops steadily from a semi-forced proximity situation, with a dash of Pride and Prejudice. I liked that Etta starts as a formidable warrior, but the focus is on her mind, plus she has a bookish love interest. Though the ending was not perfectly tidy (and very complex), expect plenty of fae-worthy secrets, twists and tricks!

Beyond the Filigree mockup with Christmas decorations

Wizardom Legends: Thief for Hire review

A Review of Wizardom Legends: Thief for Hire

(The Outrageous Exploits of Jerrell Landish #1)

Humorous Fantasy, Fantasy Adventure

fantasy heist, anti-hero, morally gray hero

Meet Jerrell Landish, the light-hearted version of Kaz Brekker!

An itinerant thief, gambler and flirt rather than a crime boss, Jerrell is still every bit the anti-hero with no compunction about killing. Yet Thief for Hire is the kind of book you read with a smile on the edge of your lips, and frequent head shakes. It’s not often the word “outrageous” is an understatement!

This book won me over. I found it easy to dive in, but all the casual violence (though not overly graphic) made it hard to root for Jerell for a while. As he got into increasingly tight spots, I became invested again and read straight through to the end.

My rating:
4/5
A mockup of Thief for Hire surrounded by fall decor

The Borderlands Princess review

ReviewTheBorderlandsPrincess

(Stone Circle #1)

Spicy romantic fantasy, fae romance

Note: I received a copy and this is an honest, voluntary review.

I really enjoyed this debut novel from the Of Smoke and Shadows author. The story, though, is just getting started, so expect a bit of a cliffhanger!

The Borderlands Princess pulls a fun switcheroo on readers. At the start, I expected it to be the story of a human Princess betrothed to a fae king who is morally gray at best. While that’s true, it’s so much more than that! It’s really about a princess whose fate was decided long before she was born learning how to reclaim own life. She’s also a mature princess, not at all what I usually read.

The opening chapters were pacey and the plot had plenty of little twists, plus one big moment that I thought was a home run. There was also some clever play with timelines. I did wish it sunk deeper into Connall’s perspective and showed more of what happened on his end, since there was a lot going on in a short period of time. Note that there were also many line editing issues in the version I read, and the pacing lagged a bit in the middle. The last quarter, however, was truly exciting. It absolutely flew by for me.

I’m already looking forward to book two!

My rating:
4.5/5

Read A Court of Swords and Sugar Plums on Vella!

Vella readers, rejoice! You can now read the next installment in the Season of the Fae series, A Court of Swords and Sugar Plums, on Kindle Vella!

Right now, the plan is to later publish this story as winter-themed novella duology, so don’t worry if you don’t have access to Vella. (Vella is still relatively new, and is currently for U.S. Amazon users only.)

Check out the full cover!

A Court of Swords & Sugar Plums, by C.K. Beggan - Cover image of a sword topped with holly and surrounded by plumes of smoke

For the synopsis and more, visit the Season of the Fae series page here.

Cheers!

-CKB

Of Smoke and Shadows review

A review of Of Smoke and Shadows, by Ophelia Wells Langley

(Stone Circles # 0.5)

Spicy Romantic Fantasy, Steamy Fantasy, Prequel Novella

fated mates, fae romance, villain origin story

Note: This story is now available on KU. The version I read was a reader magnet and has some changes based on reader feedback.

This novella has some very steamy scenes towards the end and is for mature readers 18+ only.

This prequel to The Borderlands Princess is like ACOTAR meets The Witcher.

Of Smoke and Shadows is the intriguing backstory of the Fire Fae King in a forthcoming first book, author Ophelia Wells Langley’s Stone Circles series. It’s a series of vignettes of the moments that shaped Achill, beginning as a young, mateless prince afraid of his father. He quickly becomes brutal and has some hard life lessons that make him think twice.

There was spicy open door fae romance near the end, so if that’s your thing, the author has you covered! (And if not, consider yourself duly warned!) I also found Achill’s smoke magic interesting, especially since it’s considered substandard in his court. I’m curious how it will be used going forward.

Though not every period in Achill’s life had a full arc for his developing character (I wondered what happened while training with his uncle that changed him so much), the way the plot drops in on key moments very much reminded me of season 1 of The Witcher. The female characters were especially well-rendered, so I’m looking forward to reading The Borderlands Princess.

My rating:
4/5

The Fool and the Sparrow review

A review of The Fool and the Sparrow, by Dana Fox

(Arcana of the Tarot #1)

Steamy romantic fantasy

Note: I received a copy and this is an honest, voluntary review. This book contains graphic love scenes and real-world violence, and is for mature readers only.

The Fool and the Sparrow is anything but ordinary.

Lyrical opening chapters from Kit, the actual Fool in the tarot deck living in the realm of Arcana, collide with the perspective of Thea, a trained assassin on the streets of Las Vegas. It’s amusing and surprising. The scenes in which Thea comes to terms with Kit’s supernatural self are particularly well-executed.

These two are drawn to each other by the universe. Their romance develops quickly and Kit makes Thea feel safe at last. But she also knows that feeling is fleeting: she’s trying to uncover the secret global organization that trained her.

If you like incredibly steamy, graphic love scenes, The Fool and the Sparrow has plenty for you. I felt like the ratio of romantic moments to love scenes was a bit too skewed for me by the end, but that’s my personal taste. (I like a more generous helping of romantic moments.)

Overall, this was a creative and completely different romance with action and tension besides. I read through it quickly!

My rating:
4/5
The Fool and the Sparrow book cover mockup, surrounded by fall leaves, a velvet pumpkin and a shining acorn lantern

Warrior of Blade and Dusk review

A review of Warrior of Blade and Dusk

(The Zheninghai Chronicles #2)

Other books in this series:
Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses (#0)
Guardian of Talons and Snares (#1)

romantic fantasy, Eastern-inspired fantasy, clean romantic fantasy

Note: I received an ARC and this is an honest, voluntary review.

If your favorite parts of Guardian of Talons and Snares were the pursuit on the road and the developing, complicated romance between Aranya and Kai, you will love book two, Warrior of Blade and Dusk, as much as I did.

This was such a fun, exciting and satisfying conclusion. Truly action-packed, it takes the best parts of book one and amplifies them. Kai, for one, has softened a lot, without losing too much of his sparky edge. (Though we do see him requesting snuggles!)

The romance also kicks into high gear on this one. Araya also stays her plucky self, but continues to strengthen mentally. I love that an action and romance-forward story focuses so much on its character’s psychological development.

Though the series continues with the story of Princess Meiling, there were some scenes suggesting interesting storylines to come. I’m really looking forward to it!

My rating:
5/5