Romance

My Review: The Spanish Love Deception (Spanish Love Deception #1): by Elena Armas

Publish Date: February 8th, 2022
Number of Pages: 448 Pages
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre(s): Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.25 Stars

‘I’ll give you the world,’ he said against my mouth. ‘The moon. The fucking stars. Anything you ask, it’s yours. I’m yours.’”

– Elena Armas, “The Spanish Love Deception”

What It’s About:

the official synopsis:

Catalina Martín desperately needs a date to her sister’s wedding. Especially since her little white lie about her American boyfriend has spiraled out of control. Now everyone she knows—including her ex and his fiancée—will be there and eager to meet him.

She only has four weeks to find someone willing to cross the Atlantic and aid in her deception. New York to Spain is no short flight and her raucous family won’t be easy to fool.

Enter Aaron Blackford—her tall, handsome, condescending colleague—who surprisingly offers to step in. She’d rather refuse; never has there been a more aggravating, blood-boiling, and insufferable man.

But Catalina is desperate, and as the wedding draws nearer, Aaron looks like her best option. And she begins to realize he might not be as terrible in the real world as he is at the office.

~~~

Around the time this book was released, it had gotten A LOT of hype surrounding it, and I’d had several fellow bookstagrammers gushing about how hot this guy named Aaron Blackford was….Predictable me was intrigued and had to look into this dude, and it turned out he was the main guy in this book! Since I was such a big fan of The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, which has a very similar premise when compared to this book, I had to give this book a try!

The story revolves around Catalina, who is desperate to hire an actor to play her boyfriend for her sisters wedding back over in Spain where her family still lives. She’s been lying and saying what a dreamboat her guy is when in actuality, he’s about as real as me ever having abs…not gonna happen. Aaron Blackford, who’s the hot office grump, offers to be said stand-in boyfriend, but with a rivalry between the two, Catalina is not THAT desperate as to use her mortal enemy! But as the wedding date draws closer, she gives in and they start to spend time in order to pass as an actual couple.

To be honest, this book started off incredibly slow…like I was really questioning why this book was getting so much hype as it was! It wasn’t like it was badly written, it was more about how it felt like there were too many scenes leading up to them actually leaving for Spain for the wedding. I felt like a few chapters of that content could be cut and it wouldn’t terribly detract from the story all that much. This book is 448 pages, but it could’ve easily been at least 100 pages less in order for us to get the message.

When they finally get the Spain and really start pretending, THAT was when the story picked up for me! The sexual tension was finally showing itself, and if it wasn’t obvious by then, it became SUPER obvious that Aaron had it bad for Catalina! She was definitely feeling it too, but she couldn’t decide if Aaron was faking it, or if it was worth going further and making things real because lets remember: their rivals…

Throughout the book, Aaron is this introverted, stoic, but smoking guy, but when he starts to talk dirty….oh man! My heart, my body, my soul is his! He’s HAWT! And I totally saw what other readers were saying about him!

If you like those office “enemies-to-lovers” kind of story’s, again just like The Hating Game, you’ll probably like this book too! It’s got some really cute moments, and I can definitely assure you that Aaron Blackford is a definite hot piece of male romance novel ass!

What I Liked:

  1. Aaron Blackford Is GOALS! I really can’t gush about him enough! When he starts revealing his true feelings to Cataline, my heart is fluttering alongside hers….and when he’s talking dirty to her, just YESSSS YES YEs! I’m also a huge sucker for when the grumpy stoic guy admits he’s had feelings for much longer than we originally knew about!
  2. The Smut Towards The End of The Book! Aaron Blackford can get down and dirty with his words AND his body, and he could have me anyway he wanted me if he ever decided to swing this way…if it wasn’t obvious by now, Aaron Blackford is the main highlight of this book for me!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Story Could’ve Been Shorter…Like I said earlier in this review, the book didn’t need to be over 400 pages in all honesty. The first half of this book really dragged, and I felt like quite a few scenes could’ve been cut and the story wouldn’t suffer at all for it.
  2. The “Enemies-to-Lovers” Trope Could’ve Been More Obvious…as far as office rivals go, I felt like the author didn’t go far enough with this aspect of Aaron and Catalina’s love story. There wasn’t as much aggravation between the two or hilarious banter as I was hoping for! Plus, Aaron offered to be her fake boyfriend which kind of killed their rivalry from my perspective…maybe if it was a more “I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine” kind of deal between the two, I’d have found it more believable
  3. The Reason For Their Rivalry Could’ve Been Stronger…When the reason they became rivals in the first place was revealed, part of me was let down because it just didn’t feel like it was a big enough deal, AND it just felt like a simple miscommunication, which I’m not a fan of when it comes to adding conflict…

Conclusion:

Overall, this wasn’t the greatest office rivalry, “enemies-to-lovers” style of story with some fake dating thrown in there too with the grumpy-and-sunshine type of characters…I do love these tropes in my romance stories, but it definitely could’ve been executed stronger than what it actually was.

Besides my critiques of the story, it was for sure still pretty enjoyable! Like I said earlier, the story really does pick up in the back half of the book, and ESPECIALLY when we get to see the spicier side of Aaron Blackford when he loosens that tie a little bit–or a lot!

Do I plan to read other books by this author?

Maybe! It’ll depend on what the story is about, and how long the book is…I may skip if its something thats over 400 pages, just to save me some time!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Frozen Tides (Falling Kingdoms #4): by Morgan Rhodes

Publish Date: December 15th, 2015
Number of Pages: 413 Pages
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

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

To see my full review of book #1: Falling Kingdoms – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #2: Rebel Spring – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #3: Gathering Darkness – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast for the whole series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

For anyone who’s been following in my reviews of this series, some may be surprised at how my rating has dropped when compared to the previous book in this series. Believe me, I was just as surprised at my reaction to this fourth book in one of my favorite YA fantasy series, but to be honest, I just couldn’t help but be disappointed in this title a little bit.

There were plenty of parts that I immensely enjoyed, and still can say I loved reading it like the other titles; I guess for me it was mainly my disappointment with the direction the series was starting to move in at this point. I feel like there was a shift in the overall feel of the books by this point, and the overall story had started to move in a direction that maybe I wasn’t so fond of, at least concerning certain subplots or character arcs. While plenty of the twists and the forbidden romance continued to pique my interest, there was just a lot more aspects that I just wasn’t entirely agreeing with.

There were a couple things I loved about this series. One was the introduction of the Kraeshian Empire, the homeland of Prince Ashur and Princess Amara Cortas. Its presence has been brewing in the background since the second book, so it was nice to see it finally make its grand entrance into the story. Another was, of course, how Prince Magnus’s relationship with Princess Cleo continues to develop oh-so-achingly slowly, and one last one worth mentioning was the development of spy/assassin/double-crossing Felix Graebas.

There were of course plenty of things I disliked about this books as well: Princess Lucia Damora being the biggest one worth mentioning. I go into more details about all these things I’ve mentioned further below in my review, as I do in all of my book reviews on this website.

Overall, I did enjoy this book like all the other books in this series so far, I was literally vibrating with excitement waiting for their publishing date every year after waiting those 365 days. I couldn’t help but literally binge read whenever these books came out, because while it’s such a cheap tactic to put on us readers, the author is damn good at those cliffhangers that keep us coming back! The thing is, I wasn’t nearly as satisfied with this book when I finished like I was with the other books. I can’t explain it, but like I said, I felt like there was just a major shift with the overall series once I got to this book, and while I still enjoy the story and characters and want to keep reading on, part of me just isn’t as emotionally invested as I once was *shrugs.* Part of it could be because around the time I’d first read this, I was really getting more into the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, and maybe that stole the thunder from this series a little bit?

What It’s About:

Because if you don’t choose to fight against the wrong in the world, then you are the wrong in the world.”

– Morgan Rhodes, “Frozen Tides”

Rebels, royals, and monsters wage war over the Mytican throne in the shocking fourth book of the Falling Kingdoms series, from New York Times bestselling author, Morgan Rhodes.

CLEO: Reeling after a bloody showdown in Limeros ending with Amara’s abduction of the water crystal, and a vacancy in the Mytican throne, Princess Cleo must cast aside her feelings and look toward her kingdom with the eyes of a Queen.

MAGNUS: With the kingdom in chaos, Princess Lucia still missing and quite possibly in danger, and a shocking realization about Cleo, the steely prince is once again torn between love and duty, leaving him wondering whether he’s strong enough to rule his people.

LUCIA: The young sorcercess has had her vengeance after the cruel death of her first and only love. Heartbroken and unable to trust anyone, she allies with the awoken Fire god, who also seeks revenge.

JONAS: After escaping death by the skin of his teeth, the defeated rebel—along with a mysterious stranger–leader reunites with Princess Cleo, only to find himself a mere pawn in a dangerous hunt for the elusive Kindred.

KING GAIUS: Abandoned by Melenia and betrayed by his own children, Gaius flees Mytica and sails to Kraeshia, where he attempts to ally with the famously brutal emperor across the Silver Sea.

What our hearts want can overtake what our minds tell us is forbidden to us. We can’t control these feelings, even if we desperately wish we could.”

– Morgan Rhodes, “Frozen Tides”

What I Liked:

  1. The Kraeshian Empire! It’s been something that’s been brewing in the background since the first appearance of Prince Ashur at Cleo and Magnus’s wedding in Rebel Spring, and you finally get a glimpse of the vast empire in the capital city! To be honest, it doesn’t seem too different from Dorne in Westeros from Game of Thrones, but the author uses it to really further the development of Amara Cortas, who is quickly letting us know she’s an irresistible force to be reckoned with in these books. You learn more about her and her family, and it adds some major depth to her crafty demeanor.
  2. Felix Graebas! You met him in the previous book, Gathering Darkness, and you probably loved him as much as I did for his cheeky personality and overall charming amount of shadiness. Turns out, he was actually an assassin sent by King Gaius to kill Jonas, but he couldn’t go through with it in the end because Jonas had become like a friend to him. Still, Jonas and Lysandra found out and banished him away, which leads Felix to realign himself with the wicked king and become his personal bodyguard! There’s more to his character, but I don’t want to give too much away; like Amara, he’s given more attention in this book and there’s more depths added to him and his motives.
  3. Magnus and Cleo’s Romantic Development! In Gathering Darkness, we got a major moment with them admitting their mutual unrequited attraction to each other—along with a steamy kiss—and Magneo officially became canon! In this book, their relationship continues to evolve as they return to the Limeros palace, Magnus’s home, and continue to bicker and get on each other’s nerves, but it’s okay because it’s foreplay for them. They reluctantly learn to trust each other and use their strengths together in order to come ahead of all the key players in the hunt for the Kindred.
  4. Many Cliffhangers! It’s definitely a normal expectation for these books, but the ending will blow your mind with how much happens! Lots of excitement for the last 25% of the book, and I won’t spoil it, but expect a lot of unexpectedness!

What I Disliked:

  1. Lucia Damora…I swear, I like her less and less with every book…Sis just needs to go away. In this book, she takes a walk on the dark side as she aligns herself with Kyan, who was actually the fire spirit trapped inside the Fire Kindred. It turns out each orb has some immortal being trapped inside like some sort of poké ball and releasing them is actually pretty bad news for EVERYONE, including the Watchers on the other side of the portals strewn about Mytica. Lucia and him travel around the realm and search for a portal that can still be activated and allow him to kill off Timotheus, the leader of the Watchers. While this new predicament is interesting and raises the stakes, Lucia does not. She’s just so easily unlikeable by this point, and her chapters were really bleh for me. So many opportunities with her whole story arc were just tossed out the window like a Corona beer during the pandemic; the storyline of her birth parents was a letdown, and even her powers aren’t all that much more impressive…
  2. The Kraeshian Rebellion…While at the Kraeshian Empire, Nic and Jonas meet Mikah, who is a servant-but-actually a leader in a rebellion group looking to overthrow the whole Empire led by Amara’s family…This whole addition was absolutely not necessary to include into the story, to be honest. Sure, it was an unexpected twist for Mikah’s character, but I can say this whole rebellion doesn’t mean anything for pretty much the entirety of the book. If anything, it serves as a plot convenience to rescue a certain character, but that’s it! There was another way to go about sneaking someone out of the palace than including this rebellion into the story, especially if it won’t come into play to the entire plot after that…pointless.
  3. Jonas Continues to Dwindle…Jonas is like that meme with the guy doing the post game interview, stating they had ’em in the first half. That perfectly sums up Jonas’s character in this series! I had high hopes for him, I really did—I even totally hoped him and Cleo ended up together—but he’s slowly being pushed further and further onto the back burner. He’s accomplished literally none of the mission’s he’s set out to do, and it feels like by this point, even the author is seeming to give up on him.

Conclusion:

Another thrilling edition to the bestselling Falling Kingdoms series, this title continues the usual recipe these books have: winding twists and turns up the wazoo, unpredictable character deaths, scorching romance, bloody political intrigue, and magic now oozing off the sides.

While many other readers who read this book seemed to love this addition, I was a little less than impressed with this title for the reasons I’ve already listed above, so I won’t repeat myself and get repetitive on the matter. Still, with the many cliffhangers this book gives us at the end, you can bet your cute butt that I’m still invested and kept reading these books! I’ve spent too much time screaming over everything that’s happened and just about everything else with these books to give up at this point.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, LGBT

My Review: The Priory of the Orange Tree: by Samantha Shannon

Publish Date: February 26th, 2019
Number of Pages: 827 Pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre(s): Fantasy, LGBT+

Total Star Rating: 2 Stars

It took me many moons, many breaks, and many other books in between, but I felt accomplished when I finished this behemoth of a Fantasy novel. Now, was the book as incredible as I hoped for it to be?…

Honestly, I find it hard to say…

There were quite a lot of parts of the story that I enjoyed immensely, some more than others, but I felt as though the book needed a little more editing done as in it maybe needed to be condensed because this book was long…so so long, and I felt like it didn’t need to be. There were quite a lot of high-octane, important moments that pique your interest, but with that comes a lot of slower moments within the four intertwining stories that may or may not be a real haul to cross over, and it felt like because of that the more exciting parts of the story fell flat because they couldn’t entirely hold up the weight those slower scenes gave us.

I will also say that when I started this book back in April 2019, I had no idea it was going to take me until October to fully finish it. The reason behind that was because those slower moments made me have to take breaks from it. The excessiveness made my eyes travel to other books to read in between sessions, and it was like I had to work my way up to getting back into this book. I look at other reviews, at least the ones that are glowing, and scratch my head at how those people managed to zoom through this large book in three days or less…

I didn’t hate it, and there are plenty of parts of it that I really had a lot of fun reading! The dragons and wyverns, even a new creature called an Ichneumon, the slow (literally so effing slow) burn romance, and I really enjoyed quite a lot of the characters. It’s like I said though, I think the author tried to do too much all within this book, that with inconsistent pacing that made it feel like the plot got lost a few times in the middle (or maybe just went off on a tangent too many times) that made the book not start to really interest me until about pages 450-500, and made me not enjoy this title as much as I could have.

Believe me, I am disappointed about that too…

What It’s About:

There’s an ancient evil that rose almost a thousand years ago; an enormous fire-breathing dragon known as “The Nameless One.” He was the king of all dragons and wyrms, and with his army of other fire-breathing creatures, he was destined to destroy the whole world in his raging flame and end life as we all know it. Miraculously, he was defeated and imprisoned deep beneath the ocean, with a myth that so long as there’s a descendent on the throne of Virtudom of the one that ended his tyranny, the dragon-king would never rise again.

Almost a thousand years later, The lands of the east and west are tense and isolated from each other; the reason being that there are different legends of how The Nameless One was actually defeated. The West believed a single man with a magical sword was the hero, while the east believe there water-dragons banded together and defeated their enemy. It caused tensions to rise, and for any alliance between them to end, and have shut their gates of entry with the east terrified of a draconic plague, and the west for thinking the east as heretics and “wyrm-lovers” for revering their water-dragons as gods, along with the possibility of them being allies with The Nameless One.

The story revolves around four main characters as they travel all over the world as rumors begin to stir that the king of dragons may once again ascend from his prison and lay havoc upon them all once again.

Tané has trained her whole life to becoming a high-level dragon rider in the East, but when a strange circumstance presents itself in front of her the night before her coronation ceremony, it causes her to make a choice that could ruin all the work she’d done, and all that she’d sacrificed to get there be for nothing…

Ead Duryan may live inside the walls of court, but she couldn’t possibly feel more like an outsider. As a lady-in-waiting, she keeps a watchful eye over the queen, Sabran Berethnet, who is the descendent of the one they believed to have vanquished The Nameless One. As threats draw near and shadows dance in every corner, Ead must use forbidden magic in order to assure no harm comes to Sabran in the dark times ahead…

Lord Arteloth “Loth” Beck, who is a close friend in Sabran’s court, is banished and sent on a dangerous quest in order to find answers, but finds more than he could’ve imagined…

Niclays Roos, former alchemist for Queen Sabran and her court, has been exiled in the East for many years, making him vain and bitter in his old age, but ends up on an unexpected journey for answers, justice and retribution…

What I Liked:

  1. The Dragons! I never tire of reading books with dragons (or wyverns) within the story. By the way, shout out to the author for knowing the difference between the two! Surprisingly, not as many people know the difference, Google it if you’re one of those people…
  2. The Diverse Cast of Characters! Representation matters, and that is a mantra the author must’ve told themselves as they created the cast of characters within this story. We’ve got almost all ethnicities involved, and even a good amount of LGBTQ+ characters are represented, two of them are of the four protagonists this story follows.
  3. The Slow-Burn F/F Romance! A major highlight of this book is how you watch a relationship start from literally nothing and experience how it develops into an uneasy alliance, to friendship, and then a romantic relationship. It was done so well, and between two important & complex female characters too! Yes, that’s right: a slow burn LGBTQ+ F/F romance!
  4. There’s Feminism Up The Wazoo! If people thought that Game of Thrones was feminine empowerment, think again; this title puts that comparison up in smoke. Every female is a strong, fierce lady in ancient times, even amongst the male characters and fiery demons of the sky coming to cause a lot of chaos. Also worth noting is how these all these powerful women are in high positions of power, which is surprisingly so rare for a fantasy novel!
  5. The Lady Of The Woods Shocking Twist! There’s a mysterious legend behind a witch known simply as “The Lady of the Woods” and seemed like a story that was used to frighten little kids to stay out of the forest at night. ***Mild Spoiler Alert***She’s real, and she plays a bigger role than you’d first think. At around the 500 page mark, a shocking twist is revealed and added some pretty brow-raising news that changes what everyone in this story was lead to believe their whole lives! It. Was. Awesome! Going off of that, there were plenty of other twists throughout the story, and they were fun, but they weren’t anything earth shattering or *gasp* worthy; I’d say this specific twist is the only one that got a big reaction out of me, and the reason behind that is because to me, it was the only one that felt like the author had it planned out before she even started her first draft, when she planned out all the major story beats. It wasn’t randomly placed or added for pure shock value, no, it changed the landscape of the story, and revealed the opposite of what was known as the “truth” was actually a lie for a very long time.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Book Moves Incredibly Slow…After the initial set-up, the book moves at a much slower pace than I’d anticipated. It’s rich and exuberant with the world building and character development, but when other reviewers on Goodreads say things like “Just stick with it, it gets so much better around 70% in”…Okay, a book SHOULD NOT take that long to finally get interesting…especially a book the size of this one…the book is gargantuan and could cause some major damage if used as a weapon.
  2. TMI With The Worldbuilding…This kind of goes off #1, but consider this more specifically towards the world building done in this novel; while part of me wants to commend the author for going so in-depth with all the history, the different cultures, the history and the legends, the languages, and of course the dragons…it just felt like some of it was a gigantic info dump that made the story so much slower to get through. Maybe it was all important to some readers, but to me, it felt like up to 200 pages could’ve been taken out; I didn’t need so much information on literally every single city they visited or the history of the crown in one of the kingdoms, especially if they were only a part of the story for one chapter.
  3. The Confusing Gender Politics…So while I loved the females with power in the Queendom, part of me was confused by the way their political systems were set up. My impression of some of the lands had the same set up as the same ole way as traditional male-dominated courts we feel familiar with in a plethora of other fantasy. It felt like it was supposed to be a polished and ready to be another chauvinistic, sexist society, but it simply wasn’t…it was just female instead. What my complaint about this is why have a female dominated rule be so similar to that of a male reign? Why not switch up the rules of how the court rules, how the royalty reigns? I felt like the author could’ve made the story a little more interesting if she maybe flipped the normalized, familiar societal culture of a fantasy kingdom on us and created something new and different.
  4. An Ending Like Season 8…What’s super ironic about the ending is that it actually felt so rushed and condensed…UNLIKE LITERALLY THE REST OF THE BOOK. It wasn’t a terrible climax, but I was still shaking my head as it ended and thought “That’s it?!?” It was squeezed in to make sure it was there, to reassure we get an ending, but maybe if the author took my advice and condensed the overall book, maybe she would’ve had either more time or more space to make it more memorable. Sloppy pacing in my opinion. (And yes, I’m referring to the final season of Game of Thrones if no one has caught that by now)

Conclusion:

A story with a rich and complex world full of mystique and wonder, and female empowerment in almost a surplus amount that makes it feel fresh, new, and exciting addition to the fantasy genre; I was disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this title as much as I’d hoped I would. In my opinion, the author maybe needed to have spent less time on their world-building, and maybe more time on tightening up the plot to possibly condense the intimidating size of this standalone novel.

The characters are the big highlight rewarded to those who dare lift this book off the shelf like a literary King Arthur and Excalibur in order to open it’s pages; they are complex, engaging and well-developed as they travel over land and sea and move the story at it’s inconsistent pace. I recommend this to anyone who loves dragon-centric fantasy, anyone looking for a well written female/female slow-burn romance, or someone who’s just looking for some badass, powerful female characters trying to save the world, and that I’m seriously not exaggerating on! Just because I may not have enjoyed it doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking into for yourself; the book has a lot of positive reviews which makes it incredibly worthwhile to a lot of readers! I just don’t want a book that grabs my attention at the halfway mark!

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Erotica, Romance

My Review: American King (New Camelot Trilogy #3): by Sierra Simone

Publish Date: November 13th, 2017
Number of Pages: 485 Pages
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Erotica

***Warning!! This post may contain spoilers for the previous titles in this trilogy yet! Continue reading at your own risk, you’ve officially been warned!***

To read my review for Book #1 – American Queen – Click HERE

To read my review for Book #2 – American Prince – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

So, this is it…the final chapter of this surprisingly addictive trilogy that I discovered this year and finally got to reading, and so far it has been one of my favorites to mark down by far! It is for sure one of the most well written stories that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and that even goes for any sort of fiction, not just romance/erotica. Sierra Simone has definitely gained a fan in me with how she’s made such a tantalizing story affect me so.

I’m glad I didn’t have to wait too long to get into this third title because the ending of the last one was rough…I mean, I was almost in shock. I was pacing my room, it was about 3 am, and my heartbeat couldn’t slow down for the life of me. It seriously hit me right in the feels, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. Any story that can get to you like that has to be amazing, it just affects you so strongly. All the twists and turns, the shocking revelations, the heartache, the sacrifices, the love, and the characters that will stick with me for quite some time.

I loved this trilogy for multiple reasons: the weaving of the story going back into the past and staying in current times, the chemistry between the characters, it’s look on the darker side of attraction, the scandals, the secrets, the moral integrity of the characters, how we slowly unravel more and more behind the characters as the story develops, the beautifully written words, the smoldering sex scenes, and how its a modern retelling of the classic Arthurian tale in Camelot. Of course, some things got switched around and there are a few things added and taken out, but more or less the same. I also wanted to mention how the author wasn’t afraid to go there, as in she went to a forbidden place that people would look at as a perversion of the story; a kinkier, weirder side towards it with absolutely no shame, but honestly I appreciated that she was willing to go to a place not too many authors can go within the genre. It makes it stand out more and makes it feel like I’d found a buried treasure that hardly anyone else knew about.

The first two books within the trilogy absolutely knocked me on my ass (the second one with all that we learned about Embry most of all), and this one didn’t disappoint either, but I had some cautions simply because the character I liked the least out of the trio, Ash Colchester, was going to be the main focus. It’s not that I hated Ash or anything like that, I just wasn’t all into the fact that I found him to be so manipulative towards Greer and Embry, and I’m not too informed into the dom/sub lifestyle, but anyone who enjoys the physical actions of whipping and striking that much for sexual pleasure just doesn’t sit right with me. Sure, he’s a big war hero, and he’s done amazingly brave things, is extremely honorable, and was then president because of it all, but somehow the idea about how he hides his true self until behind closed doors kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

What It’s About:

Continuing off the events of the previous title, Ash and Embry are now turned from President and Vice into running competitors, as Embry has separated himself in order to be able to make sure the people he loves most are safe, even if that means going to war. Ash thinks differently, and wants to do everything that he can in order to avoid war at all costs. Still, that doesn’t stop the two from meeting up at each other’s hotel rooms once the debates and/or interviews are done for the day…

While running against the man he loves and further pushing himself away from him and his wife, Embry is still being blackmailed by Abilene, who roped him into marriage and having his unborn child. Greer and Ash tackle the issues of trying to move forward without Embry at their side, all the while urging him to return. There’s more pain and more suffering that occurs which leads the three of them to continue to turn towards each other for comfort and pleasure, even as everything slowly continues to unravel.

Ash finally gets his moment in the spotlight, and between events in the past and present, new light is shed on him and his character as we discover how he came to be, and what exactly his thoughts and opinions were during other key moments from the other two books in this tantalizing story!

What I Liked:

  1. It Made Me Like Ash More As A Character! While he’s still not my favorite person in these books, having some more information about him and his inner struggles throughout the story made me be able to relate to him a little bit more. From a confused young man fresh out of college just on the cusp of knowing who he was (along with his sexual identity), to becoming the most powerful man in the country; he had some depths that made me see where he was coming from a little better. One thing I could truly admire about him was the lengths he’d go to show his love for Greer and Embry, no matter how much it hurt him. If he had to, he’d always choose pain if nothing else.
  2. The Romance is Still Alive! So despite Greer and Ash having to deal with the fact that Embry is no longer with them in the public’s eye, that doesn’t stop the three of them from staying together behind the scenes. It felt like not much had changed in that sense, which was a relief, because at the end of it I just want them to be happy.
  3. The Relationships! The book felt like it explored more on each of the three’s personal relationship between each other, what was needed to be done in order for each of them to grow, and how the separate relationships intertwined into their whole relationship as the trio. It explored Embry’s relationship with Ash, along with his relationship with Greer, and of course, Ash’s relationship with Greer. Each have their private, one on one moments with each other in order for their bond to become stronger and fight against all that threaten to tear them apart. The author perfectly balanced all sides of the MMF relationship, not just emphasizing one or the other.
  4. The Author’s Personal take on the Arthurian Tale! So I was able to enjoy the story without much outside knowledge of King Arthur, but the story is a close resemblance to the classic tale, just a more modern take on it with plenty of things switched around to freshen it up. The author made her own corrections towards the story this one is based on answered some questions that popped up: Why should Arthur be betrayed by the two he loves most? Why should all of them end up broken and alone? She also explains all this in an afterword at the end of the story to talk to us about all of it!
  5. An Actual Plot Along with Sex Scenes! Like an romance/erotica story, theres sex scenes…a lot of sex scenes. What’s good about the ones in here are they aren’t just randomly placed throughout and they do add to the story. It helps that there is a well written story to go off of as base to give these scenes more meaning too! Some stories hardly have a plot with sex scenes throughout to hide the fact, but luckily these titles had both.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The “Magical Twist”…By the name of the trilogy, along with having a wise mentor-like character named Merlin…It wasn’t so surprising to see the story take on a little reveal like in this story. That doesn’t mean I liked it though, it just makes for a cheesier plot twist that the story didn’t exactly need, but maybe it has to do with the fact that this entire trilogy was an ode to the classic tale with King Arthur, Sir Lancelot, and Guinevere.
  2. At First, the Ending…When I first read the ending, I was a little disappointed because it felt like the author resorted to playing it safe and trying to make everyone happy and to have a happy ending. BUT, upon reading the afterword Sierra wrote to the readers, my initial opinion changed, and felt like she fairly justified her decision on it.

Conclusion:

Another great addition to quite possibly my favorite book(s) read in 2019! It had everything a good story needs, and while I’m sad the story is over, it doesn’t take away from the amazing journey it took me on! A perfect recommendation for anyone who loves to read well written erotic fiction with compelling and complex characters, angsty situations with lots of scorching tension, and plenty of surprises to keep you guessing!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Horror

My Review: IT: by Stephen King

Publish Date: September 14th 1986
Number of Pages: 1142 Pages
Publisher: Viking
Genre(s): Horror

Total Star Rating: 4.75 Stars

I remember during my senior year of high school I really wanted to switch IT up with what I normally read for some reason. I have never been a big fan of horror, whether IT be in a book or movie, so IT was out of character for me to want to find something spooky/creepy/frightening. My creative writing teacher, Mr. Waltman (a.k.a one of the best teachers I’ve ever had the pleasure of having) immediately recommended this title to me. I had a vague idea about IT beforehand; IT was by that horror guy author, and was about a killer/demon clown…I wasn’t entirely wrong, but as I took IT upon myself to get a copy at the local Barnes & Noble, I had absolutely no idea what kind of story I was truly getting myself into…

I will start off and say that yes, this has to be the most fucked up book I’ve ever read! Pardon my language for any sensitive readers who get offended by crude language, but IT‘s such an accurate and short-but-sweet way to describe my experience reading this substantially thick story. IT‘s so dark and twisted, and I finally began to understand why Stephen King has such a reputation in the literary world as being one of the most influential authors of our time. That opinion may change based on who you ask, but there’s no denying his name and his stories leave an impression on you if you read any of his stories, and on the whole genre. I’m kind of picturing him being the Tolkien of Horror, to be completely honest!

How does someone come up with stuff like this?!?

What It’s About:

This story is about a young group of seven friends in Derry, a small town in Maine, and school gets let out for the summer of 1958. They’re known as a group of outcasts simply known as the “Loser’s Club” (people nowadays can relate to IT with the group of kids in Stranger Things), and their encounter with this supernatural, evil force lurking in the town’s sewer system; stalking children and viciously devouring them. IT‘s a force that only children seem to be able to see and adults are completely unaware of, and ITs most common form is that of a demonic clown known as Pennywise that holds a handful of red balloons. IT‘s an evil force so frightening, so horrifying that IT doesn’t even have a name, IT‘s simply known as “IT.” IT can change ITs appearance into whatever ITs prey fears the most, and attacks the town every 27 years. Over that summer, all seven kids encounter IT, evading IT before IT can kill them unlike so many before, and defeat IT to save themselves and everyone in Derry.

Or so they think…

27 years later, mysterious deaths and disappearances begin to occur again, and the one friend who stayed behind, Mike Hanlon, calls out to the rest of the Loser’s Club to return in order to fulfill their blood promise. The promise that they would all return if the evil shadow over their town ever returned, that if IT was ever once again on the loose, they’d all return and finish what they started…

What I Liked:

  1. The Intertwining Time Periods! The story goes back and forth between two time periods in the past when they’re all kids and the present when they’ve all grown up. Stephen King masterfully runs both timelines together, revealing more and more as the story progresses. Even though this book is an astounding 1,142 pages, there’s really not a single thing that needs to be taken out or condensed; everything is integral to the story.
  2. Pennywise The Clown! The villain of this story is perhaps one of the best villains in the history of literature, at least in my humble opinion. Pennywise is a badass of a character. The best way to describe IT is that IT is a shapeshifting demon that takes the form of ITs victim’s biggest fear, because ITs power comes from that fear, IT feeds off of it before IT kills ITs prey. Pennywise is just ITs most common form in the story, so that’s the image that is associated with IT. IT comes out of nowhere in the story, and terrorizes the town every 27 years before IT goes and hibernates in the deep depths of the town’s sewers, and is King’s physical representation of the emotion “fear” and how IT holds us back, IT‘s that insidious voice in our heads that fills us with doubt, and dread and stops us from achieving our goals.
  3. Stephen King’s Themes! One theme that the author absolutely nails within this story, and also probably in many others of his too, is the sense of innocence and childhood. He captures the essence of friendship with the group dynamic in the story; to dealing with bullies on the playground, to that first crush who doesn’t know you exist, to the adults who roll their eyes as the neighborhood kids all ride by on their bikes to go get into trouble somewhere. IT was surprising while I was reading that IT gave me so much nostalgia of when I was a kid, and would go down my suburban block to play with the other kids my age. We’d play games like Capture the Flag, Ghost in the Graveyard, just about every version of Tag you could think of, or go off exploring somewhere that was usually off limits. Other themes within the story are bullying, grief, childhood trauma, ugliness beneath the facade of a perfect small town, the idea of fear ITself, sexual assault, racism, and child abuse. Yes, what a surprise…A Stephen King novel that talks about dark and taboo subject matter, and tells IT in a creative way. But how crazy is IT to think that subjects like those are still so important, and are seen more often in the news, even when it’s 2019 compared to 1986 when this book was first released?
  4. The (New) Movie Associated With The Novel! IT‘s been said that the 2017 film is Stephen’s favorite adaptation of ANY of his books. I especially loved IT, and that’s coming from someone who hates horror. There weren’t the cliché jump scares and terribly written plot. Plus, excellent marketing strategies for spacing the 80’s mini series from the recent flick that’s also releasing part two later! Can you guess the time difference?……27 years. 🤡🎈

Things I didn’t Like:

  1. The Length…Normally, I do like a decent sized book, especially if I get really into the story, but this one was a huge mountain to climb over. IT took me over four months to actually finish! I love books, but I like to be able to read A LOT of books! At least IT felt like a major accomplishment when I finally finished this book!
  2. The Blood Promise Scene…For anyone who’s read the book already, you know which scene I’m talking about…For those who haven’t, sorry, but I’m not saying a single word on IT. If you want to find out what I mean, I recommend just reading the book yourself! Like I mentioned above, this book is Fucked. Up! IT‘s so dark and I believe I remember hearing somewhere how Stephen King was also in a dark place mentally and emotionally when he wrote this novel. This particular scene though, while IT was disturbing, just didn’t make sense to me in the story. I understood that IT was supposed to represent the loss of childhood innocence, one door opening and stepping forward, but never being able to go back; its powerful stuff, but I feel like the direction that scene went in was a entirely unrealistic and over the top. And IT took place in a sewer too…ew!
  3. The (Lack Of) Lore Behind Pennywise…I know there’s a particular charm to having a air of mystery surrounding the entity known as “IT,” but personally I really wanted to find out more about the creature. What exactly was IT? Where did IT come from? How long has IT been around? Why pick a small town in Maine? Why come out every 27 years? What are ITs origins? The backstory of what exactly this demonic force was remains unknown, or I just completely missed IT if such information was actually revealed, and I really wish there was more information revealed! I know story wise, IT would’ve been near impossible to include a big reveal, like the kids look IT up in some ancient book in the library, because no one besides them even knows IT exists. Adults are completely unaware of the parasite that casts ITs shadow over the town, so who’d know what they were dealing with? I get IT, but I was frustrated by this and wanted to learn more.

Conclusion:

In summary, I’d consider IT to be Stephen King’s masterpiece, and I am aware that I am saying this even though IT‘s the only title of his that I’ve actually read. Like some supernatural force, this story intrigued me, pulled me in like some hypnotic siren’s song, and took me to a place that I never thought I would go to in terms of literature. Consider all that with how this book was just a simple recommendation tossed my way from my high school creative writing teacher.

None of Stephen King’s other titles have had that much of interest to me at that moment in time, and I still say that I am not a horror fan, but this book is an exception to my usual tastes. IT‘s a step way beyond just regular horror…IT excites you, IT stays with you, and IT leaves you up at night, afraid of falling asleep or walking near a storm drain ever again. IT plays on fear, but also uses IT in a sickly, literal way in the form of a demonic force.

To put IT simply:

IT is amazing!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell