Band Sinister by KJ Charles

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Band Sinister is a Regency-era m/m romance novel by KJ Charles. I received an ARC of this book, and before I launch into my review, I want to share how excited and grateful I am for the opportunity. For Charles’ last two books, I stumbled upon the submission form for review copies too late. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I was able to submit a request for Band Sinister.

Guy and Amanda Frisby live in bucolic mediocrity, and while they aren’t necessarily happy with their forced seclusion, they endure it because that’s the way things need to be.

As the story begins, Amanda has just written a gothic novel based on their neighbor Sir Philip Rookwood and his friends. Amanda breaks her leg in an accident, and is taken to Rookwood Hall to recover. Guy is obligated to join her in order to maintain a sense of propriety; no decent woman will serve as chaperone because of the rumors surrounding Sir Philip and his friends. They are certainly an eclectic bunch, but they are kind to the Frisbys.

Guy realizes that Rookwood Hall is not the wretched hive of scum and villainy that he was led to believe. There’s clearly a connection between Guy and Philip, but Guy has never allowed himself to even acknowledge such feelings, let alone act upon them. Philip is much more (so much more) experienced, but he’s gentle and patient with Guy, who proves to be equally adept and curious. Guy is so shy that he can’t even say what he wants in English- he reverts to Latin. And if that’s not the sweetest most precious thing in the entire world, I don’t know what is.

In many books, conflict stems from a Big Misunderstanding that could have been resolved with a frank conversation. Conflict in Band Sinister does not fall victim to this pitfall; it’s much more realistic, and it’s heartbreaking to contemplate the weight of obligation versus doing what the heart wants.

I loved everything about Band Sinister. I took two classes about gothic novels in college, so I appreciated the inclusion of a gothic novel as a plot point. I’d like to think that Charles named the Frisbys after the family of mice in the children’s modern classic Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. It would be so delightfully perfect.

Speaking of delightfully perfect, I’m grateful for the lessons in some of the salacious lines from Latin literature.

On a more serious note, despite the frequent doses of levity, this book presents some serious points on family bonds, friendship, love, redemption, consent, and trust.

I would absolutely recommend Band Sinister to fans of m/m historical fiction. This is absolutely my favorite KJ Charles book. I received my copy at the end of August, and I’ve read the book at least 3-4 times since then. I plan to buy my own copy of this book, and if an audiobook is produced, I’ll buy that too. I can’t wait to read Charles’ next book, but in the meantime, I will content myself with another readthrough of Band Sinister.

 

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Carols and Chaos by Cindy Anstey

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Carols and Chaos is a young adult historical fiction novel written by Cindy Anstey. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because I have enjoyed her three previous books.

Carols and Chaos serves as a companion to Suitors and Sabotage, but each of the two books offers a very different perspective. Both books are set during the Regency era and both have young adults as their protagonists, but Suitors features members of the gentility whereas the two protagonists in Carols are servants. Upper servants, yes, but servants nonetheless.

Kate Darby has established herself as a lady’s maid. This is not to be a permanent occupation- Kate intends to open up her own dress shop one day when she has saved up enough money. The young ladies she assists are amiable, but her job is not always easy because her mother (who lives nearby) asks for help and doesn’t understand that Kate’s focus needs to be on her duties at the manor house. Kate also does not need to be distracted by the handsome Matt Harlow, who serves as valet to the Steeple brothers, who have come to stay at the house for the Yuletide season. Read more

Last Night With the Earl by Kelly Bowen

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Last Night With the Earl is the second book in Kelly Bowen’s The Devils of Dover series of Regency-era historical romance novels. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because I enjoyed A Duke in the Night, which was the first book in the series.

Rose’s sister was Clara was the heroine of A Duke in the Night. Rose is happy for her sister, but she is perfectly happy to remain at Haverhall School, giving art lessons to young ladies and taking on commissions for personal portraits. However, her plans for a predictable future change when a man from her past quite literally tumbles into the house.

Eli Dawes has not been seen for years, and is presumed to have died during the Battle of Waterloo. He has been hiding on the Continent for a number of years, but his father’s death compels him to return and reluctantly claim the title he has inherited. Read more

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

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Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster is a middle grade historical fiction novel by Jonathan Auxier. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because I’ve enjoyed some of Auxier’s other books, and I thought it would be a good fit for my three girls who are in the fourth and sixth grades.

Nan Sparrow works as a chimney sweep in Victorian London. It’s a miserable existence, with no end in sight, but that changes when she meets Charlie, a gentle creature who befriends her. Nan has never really had a friend, and she is fiercely protective of Charlie. She understands that he would never hurt anyone, but is there a place in the harsh world for a monster? Read more

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

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Mistletoe and Murder is the fifth book in Robin Steven’s Wells & Wong series of middle grade historical mysteries. My oldest daughter is eleven years old, and she is a big fan of this series. We actually own the UK editions of most of the series (including this one), but we were super excited when we received the opportunity to read an ARC of the American edition.

In fact, my daughter was so excited about reading this book (again) that she asked if she could write the review. So, here you go:

My review on Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

Note: this is my first review EVER so, sorry if you think it’s short :/

Hello whoever is reading this! This is my review on Mistletoe and Murder.

This book is part of a series called Wells and Wong in the US, but in England, it’s called A Murder Most Unladylike.

The book takes place during Christmas time in England, and Hazel and Daisy-the main characters- are staying in wintry Cambridge for the Christmas holidays.

But-of course-a murder happens. Two days before Christmas, a person is murdered, and Hazel and Daisy have to solve the case- But they have competition with the Junior Pinkertons, a rival agency, and they have to find the killer before Christmas day! Talk about all that stress!

But a big twist comes at the end, something you’d never see coming!

If you liked Mistletoe and Murder, you should try more Murder Most Unladylike books! I DEFINITELY recommend them, the books are so great, like this one! Robin Stevens is an amazing author, and I definitely love this series!

Okay, back to my adult/mom perspective now!

Boarding school books are my absolute favorite, so I was a little sad to see Daisy and Hazel leave their school for the holidays. However, it was quite pleasant to see them reunite with some of the characters from previous books in the series.

I found the mystery to be quite satisfying, and although I did pick up on the direction the book was going to take in its earliest stages, I was surprised by the Big Reveal. I do think it’s great that Hazel and Daisy go about solving their cases. Everything is very methodical and organized. Details and observations are written down in a notebook, and they discuss points before reaching conclusions.

I loved the way this book tackled tough subjects like gender and race in such a meaningful way by incorporating them organically into the plot. I also loved the evolution of Daisy and Hazel’s friendship; like many teen girls, their friendship has suffered ups and downs, but manages to persevere.

I would absolutely recommend Mistletoe is Murder to middle grade readers. I would suggest starting with the beginning of the series and then reading the books in order. Stevens is an extremely talented author, and the books are surprisingly nuanced- not your typical middle grade fare! As a mom to girls, I cannot say enough how much I appreciate such a wonderful series with strong female leads who work together and are very very clever. We are both eagerly looking forward to finding out what is going to happen next for our intrepid sleuths!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book.

 

 

 

 

A Sinner Without a Saint by Bliss Bennet

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A Sinner Without a Saint is the fourth book in Bliss Bennet’s The Penningtons series of Regency-era historical romance novels. I was not familiar with Bennet before this, but as soon as I saw that this entry featured a m/m pairing, I was intrigued.

Benedict Pennington might be the younger son of a peer, but he is also a talented artist who harbors strong opinions about art. He believes that art museums should be accessible to everyone, and not even the wealthy people who can afford private collections.

Viscount Dulcie is the heir to his father’s earldom, and he has spent most of his life courting scandal. Dulcie and Benedict were at school today, and the latter had a bit of a crush on the former. They have not encountered each other since then, but when they are forced into close proximity, they realize that their feelings have not dissipated over the years. Read more

Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All by Anthology

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Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All is a Tudor-era YA historical fiction novel. This book was already on my radar, so when I saw it on the new release shelf at my town library, I was very excited. I prefer the 19th century when choosing historical fiction; I don’t spend very much time reading fiction from this era, but I was looking forward to trying something new.

This is an anthology, with a different author telling the story of one of Henry’s six wives. I think this helps to give each of the six women a unique voice, and her personality really comes through this way. Here are the authos who contributed: Read more

Love at First Hate by J.L Merrow

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Love at First Hate is a contemporary m/m romance novel by J.L. Merrow. I prefer historical romance to contemporary, but the premise sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a try.

Sam Ferreira arrives in the small town of Porthkennack to help with an exhibition on Edward of Woodstock. He got the job because his friend Jory recommended him, and Sam sees this as the perfect opportunity for a fresh start. Sam clashes almost immediately with Jory’s older brother Bran, who is sponsoring the exhibition. Their personalities are wildly different, as are their opinions on historical scholarship. Eventually, the acrimony fades and grows into something different, but can this budding relationship withstand secrets from the past? Read more

The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo

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The Duke with the Dragon Tattoo is the sixth book in Kerrigan Byrne’s Victorian Rebels series of historical romance novels. I was very excited to read this book because I’ve read all of the other books in the series, so I have been looking forward to this latest entry for almost a year.

Lorelei does not have much joy in her life, but she takes pleasure in rehabilitating injured animals. So when she sees an injured young man on the side of the road, she persuades her father to bring him home. This stranger heals, but he doesn’t even remember his own name. Lorelei calls him Ash, and they spend as much time as possible together. Lorelei falls utterly in love with Ash, and he says that he’ll always be there for her. But one day, and Lorelei believes that she will never see him again. Read more

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein by Linda Bailey

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Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein is a picture book written by Linda Bailey and illustrated by Juliet Sarda. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because I wanted to share it with my girls. They always enjoy the books I receive, and their feedback is useful in helping me write my reviews.

This is a children’s biography about Mary Shelley, the woman who wrote Frankenstein. Because this is a picture book rather than a chapter book, there is a limited amount of space in which to convey a great deal of information. Mary’s childhood is briefly covered; most notably, that she hid behind the sofa to listen to Coleridge recite the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Much of the book covers her relationship with Percy Bysshe Shelley and the circumstances that led to her inspiration for writing Frankenstein. The prose is quite evocative, and one can quite easily picture spending rainy days in a castle with two of England’s most famous poets. The book ends with the enduring legacy of the Frankenstein story.   Read more