If you’ve been here for a minute then you know that I adore Alyssa Cole’s books and Alyssa Cole in general so I was incredibly excited for How to Catch a Queen, which you can get for yourself on December 1st! My copy is already pre-ordered and it’s possibly pre-ordered in two different places, but I’m not really sure. You can already pick up a digital copy of Second Chance on Cypress Lane by Reese Ryan, but the paperback is out next week. Finally, several months later, I have read Desolation Road by Christine Feehan, the fourth book in the Torpedo Ink series. It’s the one that has worked the least well for me and I’ll talk a little about that at the end of this post! Thanks to Netgalley for How to Catch a Queen and Second Chance on Cypress Lane and the respective publishers (Avon and Forever) for the advanced copies for review! And thanks to Edelweiss and Berkley for the advanced copy of Desolation Road, my apologies for the many months it took me to read it.
How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole
How to Catch a Queen is, as always, a really well-written book with several passages that had me stopping to highlight them. It also has the really funny, banter-filled text message threads between various Royals and Royal-adjacents (Portia, light of my life!!!) that I’ve so loved from A Duke by Default and A Prince on Paper. Sanyu and Shanti are really, really well drawn characters whose internal motivations make so much sense and the mental health representation of both the grief, anxiety, and trauma informed patterns Sanyu has are exquisite. The introduction of one of the love interests for the next book was impeccable and I cannot wait to have her story. And, of course, Alyssa Cole’s world-building is so well done, I think I hate this Royal Advisor nearly as much as I dislike some of the elected politicians in the real world. She has created such a rich history for her made up country that I wound up feeling like my thoughts and concerns for the citizens of Njaza whose voices weren’t being heard overshadowed the relationship development between Sanyu and Shanti.
It is easy to see how reading this book in the time and place that I did (November 2020, in the United States) may have impacted my reading of a King who doesn’t really know how to lead and keeps letting other people tell him what to do. And, honestly, as much as I liked Sanyu, as much as I think all of his decisions and thought processes made sense given his backstory and anxiety, he is not a good king at the start of this book. Which is, I guess, where Shanti steps in, because Shanti has been training to be a Queen basically her entire life. But Shanti is treated horribly by everyone in this dang palace except for one guard who deserves her own HEA for the record. And it’s probably unfair of me, but not only did I want Sanyu to do more within the pages of the book to stand up for his people and to listen to his people, with guidance from Shanti, I also wanted Sanyu to kick out his advisers for being horrifically mean to Shanti.
I wound up feeling like Shanti and Sanyu really do have great teamwork and they’ll probably wind up being good and decent rulers for Njaza, but when the country is on the brink of collapse, it’s worrisome to see so much progress still needing to be made and forgiving the man who kept the country there AND treated your wife like poop. Again, reading this in November 2020 means that I wasn’t able to read this with the ability to put on political blinders and just read for fun. And, honestly, I don’t think it’s written for you to be able to do that because there is so much on the page about politics for Njaza. So a lot of these feelings are probably from resentments in real life, but they bled over onto the page so I was left feeling dissatisfied with the book as a romance. Tbh, Shanti deserves better and her HEA needed to include more groveling from basically everyone. That said, this is a really well-written book that I think a lot of people will really love.
CW for grief, anxiety, and sexism
Second Chance on Cypress Lane by Reese Ryan
This is a small town, second chance romance between Dexter and Dakota. Dex broke up with Dakota on winter break his first year of college when Dakota told him she wanted to go to Texas A&M to be with him instead of NYU like she planned. Now Dakota’s back in town after losing her job so close to a promotion to her dream job of being an on-air broadcaster every day in NYC. Dex is in town, but also works and lives down the coast in Myrtle Beach, and he’s determined that this is finally his chance to renew his relationship with Dakota. Only Dakota isn’t really here for that. She’s got enough on her plate without adding in Dex, but she can’t stop thinking about him, or running into him for that matter.
This book does pining really well. Dex has been in love with Dakota forever and he tried to put it behind him and move on but he failed. Dakota knows she has feelings, but she wants to pretend they aren’t there. The emotions are all there, but something just didn’t work for me with this one and I can’t quite pinpoint it. I never got fully invested in their story even though I think all the components were there, but I couldn’t quite sink into it. Maybe I need to reread it when it’s not 2020.
I am, though, so incredibly excited for the side character’s to get their HEAs. Like Sin is one of my favorite side characters I’ve been introduced to all year. I love her so much. What a true friend. And Dexter’s sister, Em, and her best friend, Nick?? Hello, yes, I’m ready for this. So, a good kickoff to this new series from Reese Ryan and I’m definitely looking forward to more!
CW for lingering grief due to parental death, discussion of familial strife related to parental regrets, and diabetes (Dakota’s dad)
Desolation Road by Christine Feehan
This book released a while ago, so forgive me for this review being (a) really late and (b) really short, but unfortunately, of the four Torpedo Ink books out so far, this is the one that worked the least well for me. Feehan always writes long books and although I read this one quickly, it just didn’t hit the same spot the others have. Consent is always… like borderline at times in these books, but IS present, but something about the way it was discussed this time just had me like, “What?” It sort of had to do with the kink being explored and also Absinthe using his voice/talent to control people. It left me feeling a little out of sync with the characters and the overall tone of the book. That said, I really enjoyed a lot of the character development for the members of Torpedo Ink in general and am really looking forward to some stories I don’t think we’re getting for a bit.
Have you read any of these books yet? If so, what did you think? If not, are you planning to?