Booksandlala is my favorite booktuber and while I’m generally not the best at participating in specific challenges, I’ve decided this year to make an effort to complete the Buzzword Challenge each month. Normally I don’t feel the need to make a blog post about the books I read for the challenge, but this month, the word is “secret” and I have two ARCs with “secret” in the title and I finally read The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches so I figured I would make an exception. Shout out to Netgalley for the e and audio ARC of The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles and for the e and audio-ARC of Hotel of Secrets by Diana Biller. I believe I have already pre-ordered Hotel of Secrets, but I suppose we’ll see if at the end of the month, I have an email from Barnes & Noble telling me it’s shipped. (I really should keep a list of the books I pre-order…) ANYWAY, let’s talk about these books in more detail, shall we?
The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles
Actual Review: This book was such a romp and I really enjoyed it! If you’re here for a dash of #BeGayDoCrimes shenanigans, some general angst about what happens if the world finds out your secret (and then the world is a better place than sometimes it feels), and a very proper sort of man falling for a bit of a scoundrel (I mean, he is a smuggler) then this book is definitely for you. There was a lull in the middle where the pacing just wasn’t quite keeping up with my mood reading impulses, but all in all, this one gets a highly recommend from me!
Musings on Secret in the Title: There are lots of secrets in this book and while I always struggle a bit with the whole homosexuality had to be kept a secret thing in historical romance, I’m also like… We’re literally still living in a society. I thought we’d moved past that and yet… Anyways!!! Setting that aside, there’s also the smuggling. And Gareth’s dad’s secrets, of course. So, yes, I really appreciate the use of Secret in the title.
Narration: Tell me why this narrator sounds like the man who played Hagrid in the movies based on the series by she who shall not be named. But I wound up really enjoying the narration style and this narrator does do different voices for the various characters, which is super necessary for my brain so I was very grateful. I think Martyn Swain was really great though so I am glad to have read a book from him!
Hotel of Secrets by Diana Biller
Actual Review: Diana Biller is truly one of the most distinct voices in historical romance and I am obsessed with her. Hotel of Secrets had this magical, enchanting quality about it, but also like, so much sexiness. The way this book was crafted to bring about a bit of a mystery with a full fledged romance was a masterclass in how to write a true ROMANCE with suspense elements. Just a really fantastic cast of characters, secrets, and setting. I am obsessed with Diana Biller just like before, but now I’m even more impressed because this is entirely unconnected to the Moore’s, which means the woman REALLY understands character building. Twelve out of ten, excellent.
Narration: While only one narrator, I thought Carlotta Brenten did a truly fantastic job of bringing this story to life. I didn’t find her voice for Eli cringe ever, which you know, is sometimes a concern. I would say, listen to a sample, but if our tastes in audiobooks tends to align, you should be good to go.
Musings on Secret in the Title: ABSOLUTELY deserved and the way she deals them out throughout the book was really truly well done. And Hotel of Secrets is a literal HOTEL OF SECRETS. You know what I’m saying?
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches
by Sangu Mandanna
Since I’m reviewing this as part of the Buzzword prompt, I want to talk about the use of “Secret” in the title and whether or not I think it makes sense. The answer is a resounding yes. In this book, witches have to keep their power secret and Mika Moon isn’t the biggest fan of that so she is pretending to be a witch on social media (as an actual witch). The way this book explores the way that secret is necessary or perhaps unnecessary is really wonderfully done. I love the found family, the children (they’re hilarious), and the romance that develops. This book was cozy and lovely and I really adored the way the secret keeping was explored. I would like more books set with these characters, though I don’t suppose I know exactly how that would work. It definitely makes me want to read more of the “cozy fantasy” sweeping social media right now though!