Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch

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Salt Magic, Skin Magic was written by Lee Welch. This is a Victorian-era m/m romance novel with elements of fantasy and magic. I found out about this book in one of my Facebook groups, and it sounded like the perfect book for me.

Lord Thornby had a pleasant life in London, but after being summoned home by his father to their remote estate, he finds that no matter what he does, he is unable to leave. He is physically trapped on the estate with no hope and no one to help him.

John Blake is a trained magician who arrives at the estate as a favor to a friend. Thornby’s young stepmother believes that she is the victim of dark magic and that Thornby is the one cursing her. Blake is prepared to eliminate the threat, but he realizes that while the house most certainly is cursed, Thornby is as much of a victim as his stepmother. Read more

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Kiss Me at Christmas by Valerie Bowman

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Kiss Me at Christmas is the tenth book in Valerie Bowman’s Playful Brides series of Regency-era historical romance novels. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because I’ve enjoyed the other Playful Brides books.

Readers were first introduced to Daffin and Regina in the last book- A Duke Like No Other. As this next adventure begins, Regina has given up on marriage, but she has decided that she wants to lose her virginity to commemorate her 30th birthday. She attempts to recruit Daffin, a Bow Street Runner, to help her with this, but naturally, he refuses. However, when it appears that someone is targeting her family, her cousin Mark hires Daffin to serve as bodyguard. Despite some initial awkwardness stemming from Regina’s earlier request, they strike up a friendly rapport. Soon enough, they realize that there really is a genuine attraction that is getting harder and harder to deny. But even though they have retreated to the countryside for Christmas, it seems as though that threat has followed them from London. Who is trying to hurt the family and why? Read more

First Earl I See Tonight by Anna Bennett

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First Earl I See Tonight is the first book in Anna Bennett’s Debutante Diaries series of Regency-era historical romance novels. This might be a new series, but I thoroughly enjoyed her Wayward Wallflowers series, so I was looking forward to the experience.

Fiona’s father is not an aristocrat, but her sizeable dowry has the ability to open doors that might otherwise be closed to her. Fiona has always intended to marry for love, but when she receives a note from a blackmailer threatening to expose family secrets, she knows that she needs to act fast. If she marries quickly, she can use her dowry money to pay off the blackmailer and protect her sister’s reputation.

She chooses David Gray, the Earl of Ravenport because his financial situation is an open secret. He was also recently jilted, so Fiona hopes that these factors will work in her favor and compel Ravenport to go along with her wild scheme. Read more

Us by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

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Us is a contemporary m/m romance novel by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. It’s the second book in their Him/Us duology. I listened to the Audible edition of Him earlier this year, but only recently got around to listening to Us.

The story picks up a couple of months after the events of Him. Jamie and Wes are living together in Toronto- Jamie works as a coach for an elite youth hockey team, and Wes is a rookie for the city’s NHL team. However, they are living as roommates because Wes isn’t ready to be an openly gay professional athlete. Their luxurious apartment is their sanctuary, but that changes when one of Wes’ boisterous teammates moves into the building. He wants to hang out all the time, and it’s becoming harder and harder for Wes and Jamie to keep their relationship a secret. Is this a sustainable plan for them or will it tear them apart? Read more

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

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The Kiss Quotient was written by Helen Hoang. I’d heard a lot of buzz about this book, so I was very excited when I found it on the new release shelf at my town library. To make a long story short, I enjoyed this book so much that I purchased my own copy- and I added the Audible edition as well.

Stella Lane is a young woman on the autism spectrum. She has a long list of academic and professional accomplishments, but she has not had very much success with romance. Stella decides that she needs to change this by hiring an escort to teach her to be better at the physical aspects of a relationship- from kissing to intercourse, and everything in between. Stella’s first encounter with Michael Phan is fairly benign, and Michael agrees to work with her exclusively- eschewing all other clients. Instead of being irritated by her eccentricities, Michael is patient, and willing to work with her. He finds himself feeling genuine attraction instead of faking it like he usually does with clients. But is there any possibility of a future together with such different backgrounds? Read more

Bloodline (Whyborne & Griffin) by Jordan L. Hawk

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Bloodline is the fifth book in Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne & Griffin series. I started reading the series this summer, and I try to have large gaps between each book; there is only a finite amount of material, and I want my experience to last as long as possible.

After their adventure in Egypt, Whyborne and Griffin return to Widdershins. Their lives to return to whatever passes until normal until they are faced with a new predicament involving abandoned ships, cryptic notes, a murder, and mysterious cousins from England. Once again, Whyborne and Griffin see the hallmarks of something supernatural, and find themselves racing to save humanity (or at least the city of Widdershins) from an unknown threat. Read more

Mages & Mechanisms by Devin Harnois

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Mages & Mechanisms was written by Devin Harnois. This is a m/m romance novel set in a steampunk fantasy world. I picked up this book on Kindle Unlimited after seeing a few recommendations for it on Facebook.

Leander is a gifted craftsman, but business has not been very prosperous lately. He decides to hire a mage to bring his mechanical creations to life, and as soon as Jak arrives at the shop, it’s clear that there’s no one better suited for the job. Jak is quite different from anyone Leander has ever met before, and their odd partnership yields spectacular results. Their creations catch the eye of a wealthy aristocrat who offers a large lifechanging amount of money to build a mechanical dragon. They work so well together, but this would be their most ambitious project to date. And as if that weren’t challenging enough, Leander and Jak are finding it increasingly difficult to deny the attraction building between them. Read more

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.

 

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