New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: Hook, Line, and Sinker (It Happened One Summer #2): by Tessa Bailey

Publish Date: March 1st, 2022
Number of Pages: 400 Pages
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre(s): Romance

**Warning!! This review contains spoilers from the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!**

To see my review of book #1 – It Happened One Summer – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

‘I could tell by the way you looked at her, she was something real special.’

‘How did I look at her?’ He was afraid to find out.

‘Ah, son. Like a summer day showing up after a hundred years of winter.’

– Tessa Bailey, “Hook, Line, and Sinker”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

King crab fisherman Fox Thornton has a reputation as a sexy, carefree flirt. Everyone knows he’s a guaranteed good time–in bed and out–and that’s exactly how he prefers it. Until he meets Hannah Bellinger. She’s immune to his charm and looks, but she seems to enjoy his… personality? And wants to be friends? Bizarre. But he likes her too much to risk a fling, so platonic pals it is.

Now, Hannah’s in town for work, crashing in Fox’s spare bedroom. She knows he’s a notorious ladies’ man, but they’re definitely just friends. In fact, she’s nursing a hopeless crush on a colleague and Fox is just the person to help with her lackluster love life. Armed with a few tips from Westport’s resident Casanova, Hannah sets out to catch her coworker’s eye… yet the more time she spends with Fox, the more she wants him instead. As the line between friendship and flirtation begins to blur, Hannah can’t deny she loves everything about Fox, but she refuses to be another notch on his bedpost.

Living with his best friend should have been easy. Except now she’s walking around in a towel, sleeping right across the hall, and Fox is fantasizing about waking up next to her for the rest of his life and… and… man overboard! He’s fallen for her, hook, line, and sinker. Helping her flirt with another guy is pure torture, but maybe if Fox can tackle his inner demons and show Hannah he’s all in, she’ll choose him instead?

In the follow-up to It Happened One Summer, Tessa Bailey delivers another deliciously fun rom-com about a former player who accidentally falls for his best friend while trying to help her land a different man…

~~~

Continuing off the events of the last book, Hook, Line, and Sinker is another addition to what I found to be an entertaining, hilarious, sexy, and just light-hearted romantic story that centered around the Bellinger sisters! This time the younger sister, Hannah, gets the spotlight on her despite how she feels being in the background and usually preferring it that way…

This story takes place a year later when Hannah is working for a production company in LA, and to impress the director she has her eye on, she suggests Westport–the town her and her sister rediscovered–so they return to continue filming.

Her and Fox have an interesting relationship where they’re sort of friends, but there may be some secret feelings both may be harboring for each other….You’ll have to read it yourself to see how it all plays out!

I read this book all within one day, I couldn’t put it down, and the sexual tension that was slowly building between the two main characters was for sure what was the main drive was all about. While this book wasn’t as spicy in terms of quantity with less sex scenes, the moments we do get are twice as intense and felt like a deeper and more meaningful reading experience if I’m being completely honest.

Its a contemporary romance, and once again Tessa Bailey really impressed me with her writing craft and I continue to say she has a fan in me! I can’t wait to get my hands on her books from here on out!

What really surprised me was how the emotional/inner growth actually came from the male character in this romance story! Fox actually has a lot of emotional baggage that is touched upon, I go into more details about what it is exactly later down in my lists, but as a male reader, I’ll say it was refreshing to see a male character get this kind of development in a book, men do face certain societal pressures and also have emotional depth but are told to “man up” and hide it beneath the surface. Men can be victims too, and as I’m typing this review in May 2022, the court battle currently going on between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard is a great example to justify me saying this! But that’s all I’ll say about that on this book review…

~~~

You can’t live life worrying about what people will think. You’ll wake up one day, look at a calendar, and count the days you could have spent being happy. With her. And no one else, especially the ones wagging their tongues, are going to be there to console you

– Tessa Bailey, “Hook, Line, and Sinker”

What I Liked:

  1. The Sexual Tension! My, oh my, things were getting hot and heavy between Fox and Hannah as the story progresses and this is mainly why I read this whole book in less than a day! I really thought they had great chemistry, and even though this book was much more of a slow-burn, when things reach their climax in more ways than one, it feels so much more intense and rewarding!
  2. The Author Touches on Important Topics for Men! Surprisingly Fox is the one who gains more inner/emotional growth in this story; its a rarity to see this with a male character instead of the woman in a romance novel! Tessa Bailey expertly touches on important topics like toxic masculinity and male sexualization and imposter syndrome with Fox. In the book, he has a certain reputation amongst his friends and the townsfolk, to even Brendan–his best friend–doesn’t trust him to be alone with Hannah, his fiancé’s younger sister! It’s even lead him to believe he doesn’t deserve a position of power and authority as captain like Brendan wants him to be. I thought Tessa Bailey shed some light on these important lessons and shows that men do face issues with showing emotions and being vulnerable because society tells them to “man up.”
  3. The Dirty Talk Improved! I mentioned this in in the previous review of book #1, but the dirty talk had some cringe moments….BUT luckily I didn’t think this at all in this book!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. There Wasn’t As Much Drama with the Fake Dating…Part of the plot of this story was Hannah asked Fox to pretend to be dating her to make another guy jealous: the director who’s filming the movie they return to Westport for. I thought this was downplayed too much for my preference, and it really only made an appearance once or twice in the book, so part of me was like “what was the point of that then?”….
  2. It wasn’t as Spicy…Don’t get me wrong, there IS spice in this book like the previous one, but just not as much…like season 2 of Bridgerton on Netflix, this sequel was very much more of a slow-burn before the characters do the no-pants-dance.

Conclusion:

Overall, this was an excellent addition to It Happened One Summer, and gave some much needed attention to Hannah and Fox, who also both deserved their own spotlight in this story! There wasn’t as much of a Schitt’s Creek feel to this book as much, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love this book either!

There’s an epilogue scene that is so wholesome and warm and touching; it was the perfect way to end these books, and made me even more of a fan of the author. I really liked these books, I of course recommend them to anyone who enjoys those light, breezy, beachy reads with romance…

Thanks for reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance

My Review: House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: February 15th, 2022
Number of Pages: 805 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

***Warning! This book review contains spoilers for this book and the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned***

To see my review of book #1 – House of Earth and Blood – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.75 Stars

His smile broadened as he walked out. ‘I never would have met Bryce. And every horror, every nightmare … all of it had been worth it for her.’

– Sarah J. Maas, “House of Sky and Breath”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

Bryce Quinlan and Hunt Athalar are trying to get back to normal―they may have saved Crescent City, but with so much upheaval in their lives lately, they mostly want a chance to relax. Slow down. Figure out what the future holds.

The Asteri have kept their word so far, leaving Bryce and Hunt alone. But with the rebels chipping away at the Asteri’s power, the threat the rulers pose is growing. As Bryce, Hunt, and their friends get pulled into the rebels’ plans, the choice becomes clear: stay silent while others are oppressed, or fight for what’s right. And they’ve never been very good at staying silent.

In this sexy, action-packed sequel to the #1 bestseller House of Earth and Blood, Sarah J. Maas weaves a captivating story of a world about to explode―and the people who will do anything to save it.

~~~

Okay, so it’s only been about a month and I think I NOW can say I’ve gathered my thoughts on this book that has actually stolen my breath away! This was easily one of my most anticipated book releases of 2022 since its been two years since we’ve ventured with these characters and experienced all that happens in House of Earth and Blood.

It’s quite the sequel to say the least! Old characters get new depths added to them, there’s a plethora of new characters who add so much to the story, there’s tons and tons of twists and turns, the plot somehow gets deeper and deeper, and lets just say that ending will freakin’ BLOW YOUR MIND like it did more me at 2 in the morning!

In this book, the story starts up again a few months after the catastrophic events where the glass gates are opened with portals to Hel and the demons are let loose in the city and countless people are injured or killed. Bryce and Hunt are just trying to ignore the thinly veiled threat of the overruling Asteri and their watchful eyes, and are just trying to live their normal lives and continue to be together under more mundane and normal circumstances. Things aren’t that easy, as they learn about rebel movements in place and secret weapons being found that could turn the tides of this possible war on the horizon (lets be real, we know it’s happening, has it never actually happened in a fantasy book you’ve read?)

This is also quite a substantial book and is easily one of her thickest titles to date, but it doesn’t feel that way as you read it; she has this way of connecting you to all her characters in such a way that you could literally read them talking over sports while drinking in a bar and you won’t get bored.

Speaking of the characters, that is such a major highlight of this book! Characters you met in the original book are back and have so much added onto them as the story develops that they still feel so fresh and real, even though you may not like as many of them as you get to know them! I don’t remember the last time I was so jealous of a character being surrounded by so many amazing male characters, but here Bryce is with company like Hunt, Ruhn, Ithan, Tharion, Flynn, Declan, and even a new character who is a lot more than meets the eye!

Thats the other thing about the new characters: there’s a lot of them, and ALL of them serve a huge purpose to the story and the many twists and reveals that come your way! I love the cast so much, and no surprise, SJM has truly created a wonderful array of them for us to enjoy.

One thing I can definitely critique is that we were promised a lot more spice in this book….first of all, I wasn’t a fan of the idea of Hunt and Bryce keeping things slow and trying things out on a platonic level–a horrible decision, really–and I thought we were promised like 500% more sex in this book! Well technically there’s more sex in this book than the previous one, but the amount we were promised sounds like there was supposed to be even more than what we got in A Court of Silver Flames…I’m not saying we don’t get any, we do and it’s great and it makes me happy when they go at it, but I was hoping for more in this regard.

And of course that ending……..oh my goodness, I can’t say any more because I risk spoiling it, but just holy shit that has to be the best way to end this book or any of her books! I need another SJM new release NOW!

I say anyone who sticks with the series all ADORE this book, it’s so much better in every way, I wish I could sound like I wasn’t just gushing about this book, but when my only critique was that there wasn’t enough spice in it, it’s hard not to! This book was phenomenal!!

Males will always try to control the females who scare them. Marriage and breeding are their go-to methods.

– Sarah J. Maas, “House of Sky and Breath”

What I Liked:

  1. THAT ENDING! I think I speak for the whole dang fandom when I say that the way this book ended was probably the most epic, most exciting, most mindfuckable of an ending that she could’ve come up with! I know It’s said a lot as we all finish books, but holy shitballs do I need the next book NOW!!!
  2. Things Get Spicier! Bryce and Hunt finally get their heads out of their own butts and into each others genitals! Yes, I went there…….but so did they *wink*wink*
  3. The Twists! Sarah J. Maas continues to surprise us readers to no end as more and more gets revealed! Danika and her extra-curricular activities that Bryce had no idea about, new characters who thicken the plot, Family tree’s revealed, The Underking, the Asteri, and even Hel itself and the Demon Princes have information all exposed about them that really raise the stakes! Plus, ALL the new characters have so much to add to the story in different ways, like there wasn’t one random addition, and they all had more going on beneath the surface to make this book even more addictive…
  4. The Multiple Romances! In Book 1, the romance was definitely all about Hunt and Bryce, and while it still shines a light on their relationship plenty, there were some other relationships also formed! Some were more alliances, but for some male characters, there’s definitely some sparks (or flames) flying!
  5. Buddy Reading It With My #Bookstagram Friends! I joined Bookstagram back in October, and I’ve made some truly wonderful friends while being active on there! We finally did our first successful buddy read together with this book, and it was so much fun to come up with theories and guess who was behind the many mysteries that raised questions, and of course, gush about the sex scenes! Brit, Kay, Laura, and Emily – Nothing But Love for my Wolfpack ❤

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Where’s The Smut?…So yeah there are sex scenes that finally happen in this book, but weren’t we promised like 500% more sex in this book? Umm, I think the decimal should’ve been moved over a few spots…I mean, there was so much sex in A Court of Silver Flames that some got cut out! What we got between Hunt and Bryce (and even Ruhn a few times) was hot and spicy like how I like my food, but with the promise of more, I felt like the quantity didn’t meet expectations.
  2. Tharion Was Pretty Shady…I love mermaids, and especially hot mermen, but Tharion was making some questionable decisions in this book, and exhibited some less than stellar behavior, like I was finding myself not happy with him and some of the things he did. Just shady behavior…..
  3. All The Tightening Balls…Laura in my Bookstagram Wolfpack pointed this out so then I couldn’t not notice this, but when SJM was writing about a male getting turned on, several times there was a mention of his balls tightening in arousal….LET ME tell you all who read this that this does not happen, if anything we get a hard-on, but our balls don’t tighten except for if we’re freakin’ freezing and the temperature is dangerously low…so not hot, no pun intended. Women authors who say this in romance/erotica need to cease and desist!
  4. The Book Got Spoiled Before It’s Release Date…Now this doesn’t affect my overall rating of how much I enjoyed this book, but all I can say is there’s a special place in Hel for those who leaked the book and gave major spoilers before the book even released is unforgivable! Some A-holes even tried to sell books from BAM (Books A Million) a week early for well over $100 dollars…I hate people sometimes.

Conclusion:

Overall, House of Sky and Breath exceeded expectations of how this story continues, there’s hardly a bad thing I can say about it. The world-building continues, there’s no info dumping like in book #1, the romance was much more present and was with more characters besides just Hunt and Bryce: Ruhn even has a little something something happening on his end too!

The ending of this book is quite literally mind-blowing, and like I said before, I am in desperate need of a new SJM book like NOW, I hope we don’t have to wait years for any answers to what I saw as the final scene in this wonderful book.

It’s by far the best book of 2022 for me so far, I’m so looking forward to how this story keeps developing! its ahhhh-mazing

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance

My Review: Glint (The Plated Prisoner #2): by Raven Kennedy

Publish Date: January 3rd, 2021
Number of Pages: 470 Pages
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers for the previous book in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!***

To see my review of book #1 – Gild – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

‘Sometimes,’ he murmurs, ‘things need first to be ruined in order to then be remade.’

– Raven Kennedy, “Glint”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

For ten years, I’ve lived in a gilded cage inside King Midas’s golden castle. But one night changed everything.

Now I’m here, a prisoner of Fourth Kingdom’s army, and I’m not sure if I’m going to make it out of this in one piece. They’re marching to battle, and I’m the bargaining chip that will either douse the fire or spark a war.

At the heart of my fear, my worry, there’s him—Commander Rip.

Known for his brutality on the battlefield, his viciousness is unsurpassed. But I know the truth about what he is.

Fae.

The betrayers. The murderers. The ones who nearly destroyed Orea, wiping out Seventh Kingdom in the process. Rip has power sizzling beneath this skin and glinting spikes down his spine. But his eyes—his eyes are the most compelling of all.

When he turns those black eyes on me, I feel captive for an entirely different reason.

I may be out of my cage, but I’m not free, not even close. In the game of kings and armies, I’m the gilded pawn. The question is, can I out maneuver them?

This is the captivating second book of The Plated Prisoner series. It’s an adult epic fantasy story blending romance, intrigue, and beautiful imagery. Return to the seductive story of magic inspired by the myth of King Midas, and get caught up in the world of Orea.

Please note: There is explicit language and romance in this book, not suitable for those under the age of 18.

~~~

Well folks, I can definitely say that Glint is a definite improvement from its predecessor for multiple reasons: the momentum of the story has really picked up from where you were last left off with the ending of book #1, the character development with Auren is finally happening, and there’s finally some hints to some actual romance and not some powdered over Stockholm syndrome-esque love that the character Auren believes is true…it’s something that is actually real—thank god…

The story picks up almost immediately with how Gild ended: Auren, along with the small chunk of Midas’s soldiers and the saddles, have been taken in by Commander Rip, general to King Ravinger’s army. They’re traveling across the land back to where Midas is also traveling to in order to make a trade or make some sort of deal while political intrigue is well under way outside of what you glimpse in the actual story.

Auren faces multiple journeys, one of course being physical with the army traveling across the frozen tundra of the land, the journey of gaining her sense of confidence and freedom, her slowly developing feelings for Commander Rip as he shows her respect and allows her to grow at her own pace and slowly reveals to her the manipulation that Midas had infected her mind with over the last decade she’s been the golden kings beloved.

While the stakes have been risen and more and more happens in terms of the conflict ascending, the pace of the story continues its rather slow pace which can make it a harder book to stay focused on! You just want more to happen, you want more answers, and for the love of god, you just want Auren and Commander Rip to tear each other to threads and bang each other’s brains out while they’re in the same tent together! The anticipation is truly what keeps you going.

Much like the last book, the last bit of Glint is where all the tension reaches its boiling point and the excitement finally makes its appearance! The final scene is that special moment where you could be like “Holy shit…..now this story is getting good!” The reveal was something I truly didn’t see coming, so the fact that the author continues to throw twists into her story that truly surprise me is also a nice treat to make me see why so many of my bookish friends keep recommending these books to me…

He shakes his head. ‘No, Auren. You’re the one that needs to burn. You need to spark to life and fight. Stop letting him dull you, stop letting the whole fucking world trample you,’ he shouts, making me flinch from the vehement demand. ‘If you tried, you could shine brighter than the fucking sun. Instead, you’ve chosen to sit back and wither.’

– Raven Kennedy, “Glint”

What I Liked:

  1. Auren Finally Sees The Truth! As Auren and the saddles are taken by Commander Rip and his army, she slowly starts to see how bad her situation with Midas truly was…like seriously, it’s like she’s woken up from a trance and finally see what a douche-canoe the king with the golden touch really is! That’s the other thing too: it’s not actually him with the power, and Auren realizes how much he needs her so much more than vice versa.
  2. Queen Malina Strikes Back! While Midas is away and the saddles are commandeered, Queen Malina is taking some action of her own! Obviously she despises her husband, King Midas, and hates what he’s done to her kingdom during his reign. She wants to take it back over while their land is vulnerable, and while she’s a detestable character, I could get behind her not just laying around and isn’t afraid to be the change.
  3. The Shocking Ending! Let’s just say when you meet King Ravinger finally face-to-face, you’re going to be shown something you definitely did not see coming, honestly the moment was when I whispered “holy shit” out loud to myself and seriously get excited about where these books were going!
  4. There’s More Romance! The sexual tension between Rip and Auren is so spectacularly done, it’s such a big improvement to finally see some actual romantic promise in this series because there was absolutely NOTHING romantic about King Midas and his relationship with Auren…Rip is ready for something to happen, but it’s still clear that Auren has a ways to go in terms of growth before anything happens there, but let’s definitely agree when I say that some seeds are planted!
  5. I’m Not Sure Who’s Really An Ally! The story by this point really branches off and becomes it’s own thing from the original tale of Midas and his power, and with that comes a more interesting and unpredictable story to keep you guessing as to what could possibly happen next! Like “Game of Thrones” more people in positions of power rise up and become major players on the chess board, more characters become involved and of course, more and more tension rises to make everything eventually come to even bigger blows when the big confrontation and battle inevitably takes place!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Pacing Is Still Very Slow…While there are some major high points in the story that really add some excitement and unpredictability in the story, it takes you a bit longer than you’d maybe like to admit….almost like a journey across a harsh and cold tundra in itself. Sorry if that seems mean, but with how character driven this story is, the pacing is definitely on the longer and slower and more methodical side.
  2. King Midas Is Still A Threat…King Midas in this story is actually worse than Tamlin in A Court of Thorns and Roses series, like seriously, this dude doesn’t even try to hide how awful he is at this point…I thought the story was going to go a different direction and that Midas was going to be stopped by now, but he’s still very much at large and also very much trying to take over all the kingdoms. Part of me wishes he had some redeeming qualities in order to give him more depth as a villain, but so far I haven’t seen it.

Conclusion:

Overall, Glint by Raven Kennedy was a major step up from the previous book in The Plated Prisoner series! It was a little more of the same we saw in the first book, but enhanced and improved upon everything like the danger, the romance, and the surprises that the author comes up with to throw you off your tracks! Maybe some of you readers may catch them better than I did, but I was personally surprised at how the author snuck those past me…

The next book in this series is Gleam, and all my bookish friends who’ve read these books all say this one is the best; its like The Court of Mist and Fury of the popular series by Sarah J. Maas. I’m definitely going to read on with these books, because even though the pacing of this story is much slower than I’d like, I’m going to say it’s more on the slow but methodical path, because that final scene in the book really had me going “Oh shit….this is about to get good!”

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance

My Review: A Shadow in the Ember (Flesh & Fire #1): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publish Date: October 19th, 2021
Number of Pages: 647 Pages

Publisher: Blue Box Press
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers as this book is a spin-off out of the “From Blood and Ash” series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

Total Star Rating: 3 Stars

It is far easier to be lied to than it is to acknowledge that you have been lied to.

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “A Shadow in the Ember”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers. Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.

However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then… end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot.

Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death.

~~~

Instead of moving forward with the story of the “Blood and Ash” series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, we kind of go backwards in time to go and meet an incredibly important character that we met in “The Crown of Gilded Bone:” The Primal of Death, Nyktos. We go back approximately 200 years before FBAA starts and meet Nyktos and his Consort, Sera, who we know are actually Poppy’s grandparents.

It’s the beginning of a spin-off series set in the same world, you definitely get to see some Easter eggs of what is to eventually come with the Ascended and everything Poppy, Cas, and Kieran are dealing with in more current times.

I was a little bummed going in because personally, I am not the biggest fan of prequels. You already know to some degree what’s going to happen, so the fact that the story is somewhat predictable to that degree makes me not as interested. In a way, you’re already spoiled how it ends. I told myself to keep my criticism and weariness to a minimum because if I learned anything from TCOGB, I can trust the author to satisfy me with her storytelling skills. For the most part, this book didn’t disappoint, but I can also say that it didn’t feel as good as it could’ve been.

For most of the beginning towards the middle of the book, it felt like I was just reading a version of “From Blood and Ash” all over again with similar character archetypes and relationships, and maybe that was something the author wanted to do with showing so many parallels between Sera’s story and Poppy’s, but personally I got incredibly bored with the book for this reason. It didn’t feel like it’s own story, just a remixed version of a story the author already gave me.

I’m definitely not saying this isn’t worth the read though! The last chunk of the book is where this book truly starts to feel like it’s own entity and starts to veer away from the many comparisons of FBAA with epic battles of gods vs. gods and many twists revealed to thicken the already intricately drawn out plot.

Also, there was some incredible sexual tension between Sera and the Primal himself as they can’t deny the mutual attraction they feel towards each other. There wasn’t as many sex scenes as I was hoping, but we got some incredible spice from what we were given!

Of course, JLA leaves us bewildered with a crazy reveal at the very end of the book that even I can admit, it’s making me really excited for the next book to see how exactly all this information comes into play! It seemed to definitely get a great reaction out of the fandom, at least those who’ve posted about it on the FBAA World Spoiler Group on Facebook!

What I Liked:

  1. I Love A Good “They’re Sent To Kill Them, But End Up Falling For Them Instead” Trope! I really discovered I loved this when I read “The Bridge Kingdom” by Danielle Jensen, but it was also just so spectacular in this book too! Sera has been trained pretty much since she was a child on how to seduce the Primal of Death and then kill him when he’s at his most vulnerable, but of course those dang feelings get in the way and complicate everything! I’m personally here for it, and the angst and drama when the other finds out about it…
  2. Sera Is Even MORE Badass Than Poppy! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I liked Sera even more than I did Poppy at the beginning of FBAA! She’s more badass with a weapon in hand, she doesn’t ask as many questions, and she and Nyktos have some hot AF chemistry too!
  3. The Twist With The History Of The Primals! I feel like I should have seen of this coming with how “Crown of Gilded Bone” turned out. But seriously, WHO could possibly guess the twists with the crazy family trees that the author reveals to us as the plot thickens, and even what happens at the very end of this book too….bravo Jennifer 👏🏼👏🏼

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. There’s Not As Much Spice As I Was Hoping…so I’m not saying there isn’t some very well written smut in this book, because there is, but I was hoping for more than what we actually got. I figured if Sera was sent to seduce the Primal of death, she’d really put that training into…ummm…action if you know what I mean.
  2. Maybe A Few Too Many Parallels To Blood And Ash?…I was very bored with this book for a large part of the beginning because it felt like I was reading “From Blood and Ash” all over again. There were so many similarities…the maiden and her elder knight mentor and guardian, douchey royals, and mysterious, snarky, dark, and sexy brooding man for the love interest…it just felt like the same book rewritten with minor changes to keep it somewhat new

Conclusion:

Overall, “A Shadow in the Ember” was a good book that I’d hoped would be great, but unfortunately some of my weariness with prequels came to be as this book just felt like recycled material with the same archetypes and type-cast of characters all like characters from FBAA that we’re familiar with.

HOWEVER, like I said, as you get to the last chunk of this book it really begins to feel like it’s own original story with a lot more excitement and plethora of twists and reveals that even though it’s a prequel, I’m very curious to see what happens further with Sera and Nyktos and everyone else!

NOW. as I’m typing this review, it’s around three months until the next installment of the FBAA series, “The War of Two Queens.” Now THAT is what I’m very excited to read! I need to know what happens to Cas, all the Draken who’ve woken up to join the battle, and possibly find yet another book boyfriend in Reaver! I can’t wait, and I can already tell it’s going to be a top book of 2022 for me!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult Romance, Paranormal, YA Fantasy

My Review: The Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2): by Kerri Maniscalco

Publish Date: October 5th, 2021
Number of Pages: 448 Pages
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Genre(s): Paranormal, New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers from this book and the previous in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – Kingdom of the Wicked – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series so far – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

‘Tell me,’ he whispered, his voice sliding like silk over my flushed skin.

‘What?’ My own voice came out breathless.

‘I am your favorite sin.’

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Cursed”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

After selling her soul to become Queen of the Wicked, Emilia travels to the Seven Circles with the enigmatic Prince of Wrath, where she’s introduced to a seductive world of vice.

She vows to do whatever it takes to avenge her beloved sister, Vittoria… even if that means accepting the hand of the Prince of Pride, the king of demons.

The first rule in the court of the Wicked? Trust no one. With back-stabbing princes, luxurious palaces, mysterious party invitations, and conflicting clues about who really killed her twin, Emilia finds herself more alone than ever before. Can she even trust Wrath, her one-time ally in the mortal world… or is he keeping dangerous secrets about his true nature?

Emilia will be tested in every way as she seeks a series of magical objects that will unlock the clues of her past and the answers she craves…

One sister.
Two sinful princes.
Infinite deception with a side of revenge… Welcome to Hell.

~~~

I sincerely apologize readers, as I’m typing this review, I’m noticing how much longer it’s taking me to post more often here on my blog…all I can really say to explain myself is life is crazy, I’m really tired a lot, I’m trying to have a social life because sitting at home in bed with depression doesn’t help, I’ve gotten back into drawing. I’ve started a bookstagram account (@goodyreads) and actually because I’ve been reading up a storm for the last few months too! Like I can’t even keep up with typing up reviews with all I’ve read so far! But anyways, onto my review…

The Kingdom of the Cursed is the sequel in this series, but the second book syndrome is (thank god) NO WHERE to be found…in fact, it’s the total opposite because I loved this book way more than the first one! It’s so much deeper and richer and sexier, and I’m so glad that the author decided to go the more New Adult path for this story instead of keeping it in Young Adult. I think it serves the story so much better!

We start off immediately how book 1 ended, and that was such a big cliffhanger so you’re right back in the thick of it as Wrath and Emilia travel to Hell together. Emilia is still feeling the sting of betrayal at how Wrath seemingly tricked her and made her soul the one he needed to free himself from the Devil and give him a bride…BUT she can’t help but still feel very much attracted to him, even if she has to do all she can to hide that little tidbit for what it’s worth…

As they get into Hell, there’s the preparation of a celebration that they must attend at some point, and it’s not exactly confirmed right away, but Emilia will most likely be the guest of honor. In order to get into Pride’s manor and learn if he’s for sure who’s behind her sister’s murder, she reluctantly turns to Wrath to train her on all mind-games and mental/emotional abuse the other princes may take upon, but let’s just say things get pretty heated in more ways than one….

Everything about this book is just bigger when compared to the previous book…and no, it’s not just about what Wrath is packing underneath his breeches. The plot thickened so very much, as did the sexual tension between our two main characters, it was a surprisingly hot read! And there’s so much more mythology and lore explored this time around surrounding Emilia’s lineage to add as well!

The plot itself may feel slower at some points, especially with the training and Emilia’s repetitive inner monologues about either finding her sister’s killer or how much she either hates Wrath or wants to get naked with him, but it is more character-driven this time around, and I personally didn’t have a problem with it, but I can see others might. Either way, it was a perfect book for spooky season!

You see a shift in both characters and definitely some growth; Emilia has definitely grown some thicker skin and isn’t as naive and innocent; she’s kind of turned into a scheming Slytherin-esque heroine if I do say so myself. Wrath also shows a lot more emotion this time around as he fights his own urges and admits to his attraction at some point or another, but isn’t afraid to be a cold and ruthless ruler of his realm all the same!

There are lots of twists at the end of this book, some you may be able to guess, but some I honestly wasn’t expecting, so the surprise of it all definitely adds to my appreciation of this book. And of course, it ends on an even bigger cliffhanger in multiple ways that I won’t spoil (duh) and that you’ll have to read to find out for yourself!

~~~

Your longings will taunt and tease you into oblivion if you can’t control them. This is a realm of sin and desire.

— Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Cursed”

What I Liked:

  1. The Mature NA Shift! I am sooooo glad that the author decided to up the maturity on this story and make it a more New Adult level of reading because, let’s be honest, Wrath is WAY too sexy to stuck in Young Adult, and this book DEFINITELY proves that! Sexy Demon Prince can freakin’ get. It!
  2. How Much Thicker The Plot Got! I was surprised at how much deeper this mystery goes and how the story went from being a simple murder mystery to what exactly are Emilia’s abilities, what do they mean, and raises plenty more questions about her lineage as a witch too! The author also helps this by diving deeper into the mythology and lore behind this world and the history of the seven realms of hell, the first witch, and the 7 princes of hell!
  3. Wrath & Emilia’s Sexual Tension! Holy….shit! This book was freakin’ hot! I mean, it wasn’t as smutty as a Sierra Simone or Lorelei James novel, but I wasn’t expecting the amount of spice this book had! Kudos to the author on upping the sex appeal in this regards! It makes me think how well other YA authors would do if they decided to write more mature content…
  4. All the Secrets and Mistrust! One thing that continues to drive this story is all the intrigue and all the omission of truths that Wrath and Emilia keep from each other…I mean, it makes sense since they’ve gone from enemies-to-lovers-andbackto-enemies in these books, and it is oh so juicy to see them at each other’s throats (and other body parts here and there 😉)

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Why Are The Demons So…Non-demonic?…So there’s a couple side characters in this book who are all demons of Hell, and part of me was a little turned off at how…civilized it all was! Call it cliché, but I was hoping for more chaos and monstrous creatures to fight against or outsmart. There weren’t even werewolves and vampires like in the previous book! Fauna is an excellent example; she seemed just way too sweet and innocent to be a demon in all honesty…she was pretty much just the voice in Emilia’s head to remind her of how good Wrath could be when she was particularly upset with him about something.

Conclusion:

Overall, I really enjoyed this sequel tremendously more than the previous book by a long shot! The romance was added much heavier and much more steamier too, which I am incredibly happy about, but even the plot got much deeper too and with an ending like this one, you can bet there are LOTS of questions I have for what can happen next! It showed how little we truly know as an audience, and I’m only sad I have to wait another year to get more answers!

If you love the romance dynamics of Poppy and Casteel in A Kingdom of Flesh & Fire, or Feyre and Rhysand in A Court of Mist and Fury, you’ll devour this book!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell