Category Archives: Reviews

Book Review: Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski

Sword of Destiny (The Witcher series)     

Author: Andrzej Sapkowski

Publisher: Orbit

American release date: December 1, 2015

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy/LGBTQ/400 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

Geralt of Rivia, known as the Witcher, returns in another collection of short stories chronicling his adventures.

The Bounds of Reason – The people Geralt does jobs for are not always appreciative, and are sometimes downright dishonest. Having almost had his personal possessions stolen, Geralt makes the acquaintance of a man called Borch, known as Three Jackdaws, and his girls, Téa and Véa, two Zerrikanian warriors. They travel together to an inn known as the Pensive Dragon, where they eat and drink well, and talk about things such as dragons. Taking to the road again, they attempt to cross a bridge, only to find their way barred by soldiers who insist that only those with a safe-conduct can go through, by orders of King Niedamir, Lord of Caingorn. They aren’t the first to be stopped from crossing, and among the others Geralt finds Dandelion, who mentions the King and a dragon. Apparently a dragon appeared on the pastures outside Barefield and now the hunt is on. Three Jackdaws, amused by the tale, offers to pay the bribe required to get them through the blockade, to search for the dragon. They run into the other groups who’ve been allowed past, including a group of dwarves, a cobbler named Sheepbagger and his contingent, a sorcerer named Dorregeray, and the sorceress Yennefer, whom Geralt hasn’t seen in four years.

A Shard of Ice – Geralt and Yennefer are living together in a town called Aedd Gynvael, which translates to a shard of ice. Something about this town is rubbing Gerald the wrong way. People seem to know things they aren’t telling him. When Geralt tells the mayor he doesn’t intend to stay for any length of time, the mayor suggests he might like to talk with the wizard Istredd. When Geralt goes to see him, his worst suspicions are confirmed.

Eternal Flame – Geralt runs across Dandelion, who is having a variety of objects lobbed at him by an angry woman. The two men head to the nearest inn, but Dandelion is broke, as usual, and Geralt has spent his unds on a new jacket. At the inn, they run across a Halfling of Dandelion’s acquaintance, Dainty Biberveldt, who is talked into buying them food and drink. Imagine their surprise when another Dainty Biberveldt burst into the room, the first one’s doppelganger. And the fun has just begun.

A Little Sacrifice – Geralt finds himself intervening between a lovesick duke and the object of his affections—a mermaid. The two would-be lovers are at an impasse, neither willing to concede what the other wants. The duke wants her to have legs and live on land, Sh’eenaz wants him to grow a tail and come into the sea with her.

Geralt and Dandelion are traveling together and broke. It’s Dandelion’s fault, but Geralt is not angry. When an opportunity arises for Dandelion to make some money, he acts as if what he is being offered is beneath him, but Geralt unhappily reminds him they need the money. His nose out of joint, since Geralt seems to pick and choose his jobs without commentary, Dandelion agrees to accept the offer with Geralt’s promise that he will accept the next job that comes his way.  As it turns out, another bard has also been hired for the occasion, one whom Dandelion knows—Miss Essi Daven, aka Little Eye.

Sometimes love requires a little sacrifice.

The Sword of Destiny – Geralt finds himself in Brokilon, which is not a safe place to be, as evidenced by the bodies he finds. Brokilon is a forest and it belongs to the dryads, who do not suffer intrusion lightly and do not hesitate to shoot their arrows at trespassers. Geralt finds one person still alive, a man he knows by the name of Frexinet. The wounded man begs Geralt to find a princess, and then they are attacked. Good thing Geralt has friends in high places. But is this something he wants to become involved in?

Destiny has a way of happening anyway.

Something More – While crossing a bridge, Geralt finds a merchant cowering beneath his wagon, having been abandoned by his companions. He convinces the merchant, whose name is Yurga, that he means no harm but that he needs to leave this place quickly as it is dangerous. Yurga begs Geralt to help him and he’ll give him anything he wants? Geralt says he wants whatever Yurga comes across on his return but did not expect, and Yurga agrees. However, in protecting Yurga, Geralt himself is gravely injured and Yurga must save him.

Sometimes what you ask for is something more.

This second collection of Witcher stories is every bit as good as the first. Andrzej Sapkowski takes what could have been an ordinary sword and sorcery tale and brings it to life. He gives depths to his characters, monster or human, and he does a great job of world-building. His action scenes are riveting, and I can see Geralt in my mind’s eyes, whirling and slashing and dodging and throwing up witcher signs.  I love Geralt, he is a great character and, despite his claims to the contrary, I believe he is more human than he lets on, capable of greater emotions than he thinks he is. I love Dandelion (although I would never date him, I much prefer Geralt). Together, they make a great team. I don’t care for Yennefer much, but I’m afraid we haven’t seen the last of her. In this book, we first meet Ciri. I know we’ll see more of her.

Geralt must have gone through hell to become a witcher, and that as a child. It’s inconceivable that someone could do that to a child, and yet apparently it happened. What an unnatural sort of mother was Geralt’s to allow this to happen. I love the theme of destiny that runs through the stories, and how everything works out because of it.

If you like the video game, you’ll love the books. Looking forward to the next one!

 

 

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Book Review: The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

The Last Wish (The Witcher series)       

Author: Andrzej Sapkowski

Publisher: Orbit

American release date: July 18, 2017

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Fantasy/LGBTQ/352 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. Which means he slays monsters for a living. He wasn’t born that way. Rather, witchers are made, through the use of herbs and spells and potions and such. They are considered to be mutants, despised by many except when their talents are of use. In becoming a witcher, Geralt’s hair turned completely white, devoid of any pigmentation, thus earning him the nickname of the White Wolf.

The Witcher – Geralt receives a cold welcome on his arrival at The Fox inn in Wyzim, but demands to be taken to the castellan, Velerad, whom he shows the proclamation which has brought him there. After viewing Geralt’s witcher emblem, Velerad tells the tale of the king who lay with his sister and created a child, born a monster known as a striga. The people of Wyzim want the striga to be killed, as it has been running rampant and killing townspeople. King Foltest wishes his daughter to be uncursed, but there are others who wish her dead, and are willing to pay for that to happen.

Geralt begins to prepare for his job, speaking with the king as well as those few who survived the striga. It is said that the way to undo the curse is to survive the night in the old palace where she holds sway, and that after the third crow heralding dawn, if she remains outside her sarcophagus, all will be well. Easier said than done, apparently. Geralt prepares himself with his usual potions and his silver witcher sword. He also has an ace in the hole. He wishes to undo the curse, if he can, but he has sworn he won’t hesitate to defend himself if necessary.

A Grain of Truth – After finding the bodies of a dead couple who were viciously mauled, although not by a werewolf, Geralt discovers a tower hidden in the forest. As he approaches, he spies a young girl who instantly flees from him.  Dismounting from his steed Roach, he approaches the mansion on foot, and strange things begin to happen, such as the doors and shutters flying open and closed at one time. Then a monster rushes straight toward him. Although he threatens Gerald in no uncertain terms, Geralt doesn’t run, as has been suggested, and instead converses with the creature, whose name is Nivellen. Once he calms down, Nivellen agrees to tell Geralt his story, and how he came to be there.

The Lesser Evil – Entering another town, Geralt runs into someone he knows, an alderman named Caldemeyn, so of course they have to get a drink together.  Geralt has brought a strange spider-like creature with him, slung across his saddle. It’s known as a kikimora and he hopes to receive a bounty for its death. Caldemeyn has no use for such a creature and suggests Geralt consult the local wizard, irion. They had to the wizard’s tower, but a fish-head on the door informs them that Irion is not receiving and to go away. On learning that Geralt is there, the wizard agrees to let him and turns out to be someone Geralt knows, using a different name. Irion tells Geralt his tale, and why he is holed up in this tower under an assumed name. But every story has two sides, and Geralt has a choice to make. Will he be forced to choose the lesser evil?

A Question of Price – Geralt is invited by a queen to a banquet. The odd thing is that he is to go disguised as someone else, posing as the Honorable Ravix of Fourhorn and wearing a coat of arms of a bear passant. Geralt questions the castellan who admits that something bad is happening, something that has people frightened. They say there is a monster that is small and hunchbacked, that creeps around the castle at night and rattles chains. Geralt is still not sure why he needs to go in disguise. Geralt finds some interesting people at the banquet. Once he figures out what he needs to do, then it’s just a question of price.

The Edge of the World – One of Geralt’s oldest and closest friends is a poet/troubadour by the name of Dandelion, who loves wine, women, and song, is very bawdy, and prone to act first and think later. Sometimes he travels with Geralt to find material he can write about. Between the two of them, adventures just seem to happen.

Geralt and Dandelion are invited to the home of Nettly, in Lower Posada, that he may discuss witcher business with Geralt. His home is in the Valley of Flowers, a lovely place where everything seeds mightly… and grows as to make the heart sing. Elves live in the nearby mountains, but the two groups do not mix with each other.  Geralt and Dandelion meet with Nettly and Dhun, the elder of Lower Posada, who tells them that the problem is they have a deovel, or devil. Oddly, Dhun doesn’t wish the devil to be killed as he has shown himself helpful in the past. But when he is up to mischief, he is hard to bear. Dandelion doesn’t believe in devils, but Geralt has a more open mind. Geralt finds he will have to work to uncover the truth of what is afoot in the Valley of Flowers.

The Last Wish – When Geralt and Dandelion go fishing for breakfast, Geralt gets more than he bargained for when he meets Yennefer, a sorceress. Instead of a fish, Dandeliion catches a large jar, which he believes to contain a djinn. The delighted troubadour is determined to get his three wishes, but trouble ensues and he is injured, necessitating Geralt to take him to a healer. Unfortunately, at the nearest village, they cannot gain egress at night. Geralt finds himself in the same company as other travelers who cannot get in, and one of them tells him of Yennefer and where she is staying. As first light, Geralt goes to gain her assistance, but isn’t prepared for what he is about to receive.

The Last Wish is a collection of short stories chronicling some of the exploits of Geralt the Witcher. Always traveling in search of the next job, Geralt has never put down roots, or entered into a stable relationship. Which doesn’t mean he doesn’t have ladies he has loved, or friends with whom he has shared adventures.

Each chapter begins with The Voice of Reason, which takes place in the present, and leads in to each tale.

I first discovered Geralt through the first Witcher game, which I am still playing and greatly enjoying. When I learned there were books, I had to read them, of course.

Geralt is a great character, and he’s fun to read about as well as to play. The stories are well told and fascinating, drawing on recognizable tales as well as original tales. If you’re a Witcher layer, this is a must-read book. But you don’t have to play the game to appreciate these stories. Mythical creatures abound, but it’s important to remember that you can’t always judge a book by its cover. Not all beautiful creatures are good, and not all ugly ones are bad.

There will soon be a Witcher series on Netflix, starring Henry Cavill. The previews look good, so I’m looking forward to watching, and I am waiting for the next volume of Witcher tales to come to my library. I highly recommend this series, especially if you are into fantasy and video games.

 

 

 

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 7 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 7     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: May 15, 2005

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Rukia has been confronted by two Soul Reapers, newly arrived from the Soul Society, who have announced their intention to take her back to Soul Society—for her trial and execution—when unexpected assistance arrives in the form of Uryu Ishida. Ishida claims to just be in the neighborhood, going to a 24-hour dressmaking shop. No one’s actually buying that. Meanwhile, Ichigo comes across a trussed-up, smelly Kon behind the toilet. Once freed, Kon tells Ichigo that Rukia is gone and left a note, which they have to decipher. Once the message is read, Ichigo decides to go after her, but he has a problem—he can’t become a Soul Reaper without Rukia’s help! What can he do? Luckily help arrives in an unexpected form, and Ichigo is soon on his way.

He arrives just to time to find Ishida laid out flat. One of the Soul Reapers, Renji Abarai, can’t figure out who or what Ichigo is, and Ichigo isn’t exactly forthcoming on details. The other Soul Reaper is Renji’s Captain (or taichou), Byakuya Kuchiki, and he has heard of Ichigo. Renji has to laugh when he learns that Ichigo has no idea what his zanpaku-to’s name is! Renji has seriously misjudged Ichigo, though. In the ensuing battle, Ichigo is felled, presumably killed, to Rukia’s horror. But you can’t keep a good man down (and seriously, what hero dies at the beginning of a manga?), and Ichigo regains his feet, determined to keep fighting. Rukia has to act fast, so she does, announcing rather loudly that she will return to Soul Society with her brother and Renji.

Ichigo is saved by the same savior as before, who is none other than Kiskue Uruhara, whom Ichigo refers to as Hat-and-clogs. Ichigo expresses his frustration at not being able to get to Soul Society to save Rukia. The enigmatic Kiskue says he knows how, but he’ll only tell Ichigo if he agrees to train with him for ten days. Otherwise, he says, Ichigo will die if he tries to save her. Of course Ichigo agrees. Meanwhile, unknown to him, Orihime and Chad and Ishida end up together, also determined to go to Soul Society to save Rukia. They end up with a rather unusual mentor of their own.

Kiskue’s training isn’t easy. The question is, can Ichigo survive it, or will he turn into his own worst nightmare?

Watching the anime as well as reading the manga gives me a somewhat unique perspective, and lets me pick up on things in the manga that I don’t remember from the anime. This volume is a good example. At one point, when it looks as though Byakuya has killed Ichigo, he comments that he somewhat understands Rukia’s motives, that Ichigo does resemble him. Who’s him? And why wasn’t this in the anime? Or did I miss it? Hmmm, keeping an eye on that one.

I have to say that Rukia, at this point in the manga, isn’t nearly as doom and gloom as she is in the anime. I love how Tite Kubo sets up so many questions, many of which won’t be answered for a long time to come. To keep us wondering, I guess lol One such mystery is Kiskue Uruhara. He obviously isn’t just another shopkeeper, despite his attempts to appear innocuous and innocent. But first off, he knows about Soul Reapers and he sells their merchandise to Soul Reapers in the Land of the Living. So why is he there? What about his mysterious employees – the large Tessai, and the children, Ururu and Jinta? And a talking cat? I know there’s a story there.

This volume is the beginning of the Rescue Rukia arc (not sure what the official name is but that works for me). Forces are gathering, plans are being made, and everyone is preparing to fight the entire Soul Society if necessary in order to save Rukia’s life. This is our first glimpse of Renji and Byakuya. They grow on you, trust me. Especially Renji. The jury’s still out on Byakuya, ‘cause frankly he has a major stick up his backside and an attitude for days. Ishida grows on you too, although right now he’s something of a pain too. But Renji is a pretty good guy. Some of my favorite characters have yet to appear, looking forward to that.

All in all, a good volume, and a good set-up for what’s to come.

Book Review: Innocence and Carnality by J. Alan Veerkamp

Innocence and Carnality       

Author: J. Alan Veerkamp

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

American release date: April 23, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/LGBT Romance/350 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Nathan is a bird in a gilded cage. A member of the Deilian aristocracy, his life is proscribed by a series of rigid rules. But something goes horribly wrong when his “inclination” is discovered—that is, his homosexuality. Suddenly he has become the black sheep of his family, and his future looks bleak indeed, as the people of Deilia do not tolerate such behavior. Nathan’s father has him fitted with a chastity belt to keep his virtue intact until such time as he can find him someone who is willing to wed him, sacrificing his very dignity in the process.

Nathan’s father eventually comes up with a husband for his wayward son… enter Lord Rother Marsh Delaga III. He shows up one day and is unlike anyone Nathan has ever met. He is quite open about being gay, and is very obviously interested in Nathan. The wedding takes place right away—this is a man who doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet when he wants something—and he whisks his handsome and innocent young husband off to the strange and seductive land of Marisol.

Delaga House is not what Nathan expected. In fact there’s no way around it, it is a bordello. With some very interesting occupants.  Such as Alexandra, the very competent manager, and Blythe, the rather large bodyguard with a mind of his own and a mouth to match, and Vivian, who has a sharp tongue and an inflated sense of her own importance. Luckily, Nathan has brought his valet Harston with him, with whom he is close, someone to anchor him in this strange land.

Thanks to his strict upbringing, Nathan has trouble adjusting to the sensuality of his new life, but it feels oh so good. And just when he thinks maybe life as a married man in Marisol will be good, he the blinders torn from his eyes. Has he traded one kind of cage for another? Where can he turn and who can he trust? If he doesn’t lost his innocence and learn how to deceive, he will never survive the experience.

Innocence and Carnality is my first book by J. Alan Veerkamp, but it won’t be my last. I’ve been looking forward to reading this ever since I saw snippets of it in our writer’s group. It was well worth the wait. It’s sci fi with a definite steampunk vibe that I love. I especially loved Nathan, and enjoyed reading about his journey, and the things he had to do to survive as he became less and less innocent through necessity. The author has a wonderful writing style that flows easily, and he creates very memorable characters. The sex scenes are very hot and steamy and very explicit.

If there is a lesson one can take away from this book, perhaps it’s that there are no absolutes with good and bad, and what may seem to be good may not be, and what is looked down on as bad might be just a matter of understanding. I think this book would make an awesome movie.

In all good books, a character should grow in some way, not simply exist. Veerkamp has accomplished that with young Nathan, who not only experiences new things, but learns from them and develops as a person. You can’t help but cheer for him and hope he rises above the bad in his life in the end in order to emerge triumphant. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy men having hot steamy sex but are also a romantic heart, and liked it with a touch of sci fi.

Well done, J. Alan, well done indeed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Blue Morning, Vol 7 by Shoko Hidako

Blue Morning, Vol 7     

Author: Shoko Hidaka

Publisher: SuBLime Publishing

American release date: March 13, 2018

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Yaoi/232 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer:  Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Akihito finds one of his father’s old suits and tries it on, only to find it fits him as if it were made for him. He has a reason for dressing this way. He’s going to pay a visit to the dying head of the Katsuragi house. Meanwhile, Tomoyuki is returning to the Ashizaki house, along with Amamiya, having spent the night with Akihito. Now he has to face the anger of Saemon Ashizaki.

On Akihito’s arrival at the Katsuragi house, he is met by Takayuki Katsuragi, who is highly displeased at this unannounced visit, fearing it’s being done to cause him to lose face. Akihito insists he has no desire to place Tomoyuki as head of the Kuze house, he merely wishes to speak with Takamasa Katsuragi before it’s too late.

Soichiro returns home to find Katsuragi in his room, and he’s surprised to find the man has been drinking. Not surprising considering what happened between him and Soichiro’s father. They speak of Akihito and his plans to spend the summer at Kamakura before leaving for his studies in England.

When Akihito, dressed in his father’s suit, is finally permitted to see Takamasa Katsuragi, the dying man confuses him with his father, and at Akihito’s urging, begins to spin a tale going back some thirty-odd years. Afterward he retires to Kamakura. Time passes, and summer is nearly gone, but no sign of Katsuragi.

Katsuragi and Soichiro have a confrontation regarding the latter’s marriage, as well as the geisha he loves, but it’s not satisfactory to him, even after Katsuragi explains his reasoning. He dismisses Katsuragi peremptorily, tells him to get out.

Things are surely coming to a head in this series, truths are coming out, revealing a complicated web of lies. Akihito has learned that which Tomoyuki yearns to know, and is about to tell him the truth. Surely, using this information, they can find a way to stay together and be together, as equals? I believe that is what it all comes down to in the end, finding the common ground on which they can be equal partners, not master and servant, and free to live their lives together.

Even so, I worry that there are forces who may work against them. At this juncture, although Soichiro has long been supportive of their relationship, right now he is angry, so there’s no telling what he may do. His father is angry too. I think the next volume is the last one, and should be here in just a few months. I’m looking forward to seeing these two men get the happy ending they deserve.

Another great volume, waiting anxiously for the next one!

Book Review: Bleach, Vol 7 by Tite Kubo

Bleach, Vol 6     

Author: Tite Kubo

Publisher: Viz Media

American release date: April 5, 2005

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Manga/Supernatural/200 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

As Ichigo battles Hollows which Quincy Uryu Ishida has lured with his bait, Orihime and Chad awaken to find themselves safe, having been removed from the battle by a mysterious stranger in a striped hat. Chad demands to know what has happened, and what it has to do with Ichigo. Ishida is finding that his plan is going awry. He can’t kill the Hollows with just one shot anymore, alarmingly, and as his strength wanes, the number of Hollows only increases—not quite what he’d had in mind when he began the contest with Ichigo.

Rukia is dismayed to find that her strength is not what it should be. Suddenly beset by what she at first thinks is Ichigo, she realizes it is Kon clinging to her like a leech, she spots Ishida and learns that this sudden infestation of Hollows is his fault and wants to know what he was trying to prove. Meanwhile, Kiskue is revealing the truth about their powers to Orihime and Chad, and how they were activated. Seeing their skepticism, he invites them to come along with him and see for themselves.

Ichigo has finally caught up with Kon and is furious that he didn’t do what he sent him to do, which was to retrieve Rukia’s thingamajig. Ishida is still intent on having Ichigo as his opponent, but Ichigo notices the ominous cracks in the sky. As they watch, Rukia explains to him about the Quincies and why they had to be destroyed.

Despite everything, Ichigo wants to work with Ishida, not against him. Ishida explains why he hates Soul Reapers so much, and Ichigo explains about the death of his mother, and his own war against Hollows. Can these two work together to defeat the Hollow horde? And what the heck is a Menos Grande?

Should they be frightened?

There is a lot going on in this volume of Bleach. Since I’m watching the anime (although I’ve way ahead of where I’m reading), I find it interesting to note things in the manga I would have liked to see in the anime. Such as the scene with Kiskue and Orihime and Chad, where he explains about their powers. Watching Ishida and Ichigo learn to work together is great, as they both have issues to work through, mostly Ishida. Ichigo, for the most part, is pretty laid back, and takes things in stride. Ishida, on the other hand, is rather high-strung and nervous.

The fight against the Menos Grande is pretty awesome, not to mention we get to see more of Kiskue Uruhara and Tessai, although there is much we don’t yet know. I loved seeing Rukia and Ishida assimilate with their schoolmates, and the first appearance of Mr. Yoruichi is priceless.

Another great volume of Bleach, looking forward to more of the same!

 

Book Review: A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals #3) by Alyssa Cole

A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals #3)       

Author: Alyssa Cole

Publisher: Avon

American release date: April 30, 2019

Format/Genre/Length: Paperback/Contemporary Romance/381 pages

Overall Personal Rating: ★★★★★

Reviewer: Julie Lynn Hayes

 

Nya Jerami is the daughter of the disgraced and now imprisoned former minister of Thesolo. Escaping to the glitz and glamor of NYC, Nya is dismayed to find the city is too big to suit her, and she feels out of place there. Her career isn’t taking off the way she’d hoped, and her love life leaves something to be desired too, only to be found in the virtual dating games she plays. Returning to Thesolo for the royal wedding of Ledi and Thabiso can either be a curse or a blessing, as she is unsure of the reception she will receive from the people, some of whom think she is as guilty as her father. However, in all her speculations as to what might happen, she never figured Prince Johan into her calculations.

Johan von Braustein is literally the red-headed step-prince of Liechtienbourgh and has long held the title of the Playboy Prince. But that works for him, as it draws attention to himself and away from his half-brother Lukas, the actual heir to the throne, who is only seventeen and not ready for the scrutiny of the press. Johan hides behind his infamous persona and admits no one. But then he finds himself up close and personal with Nya in the most unexpected way, and all bets are off.

These two are in for a bumpy ride.

As if this isn’t enough pressure, a referendum is about to be held in Liechtienbourgh, which may bring about the end of the monarchy. What will happen to Prince Jo-jo/Johan then? The paparazzi are threatening to tear down his carefully built persona, while even from prison, Nya’s father attempts to manipulate her.

On the flight to Thesolo, Nya and Johan, aka Jo-Jo, find themselves becoming friends. Neither one knows the other has been watching for a long time. Secrets are being guarded, information withheld, and emotions kept in check. Due to unexpected circumstances, they present the world with a fake engagement. But how long will they be able to maintain the charade?

Much as I loved the first two books in the Reluctant Royals series, this one took my heart immediately, especially Prince Johan. By the time I was finished reading, I knew this was my favorite, without a doubt. Watching these two people watch each other, wanting, longing, and unable to speak due to perceived problems, broke my heart. Both are wounded, although in different ways, and both are afraid to love. Love, in their experience, can be manipulative or it can lead to great loss and pain. But there is more to it than that, as they come to learn, and they will have to take a leap of faith at some point in order to make their dreams come true.

Johan’s brother Lukas is both engaging and bratty, typical teenager, although he does have reason to act out, what with the upcoming referendum. He’s been raised all his life to become a king, but what if there is no monarchy? Not to mention, he has other issues he’s afraid to discuss which make him lash out at those he loves best.

Nya’s support group, aka Ledi and Portia, are not as evident in this book, but they are there for her as much as possible, and it’s good to see them again, as well as glimpses of Thabiso and Tav.

This book resonated the most deeply with me, and I could see myself in Nya, playing her dating sims, although mine tend to be of the male variety, such as Dream Daddy. It’s easier to give your heart to a virtual lover than an actual one, but sometimes you just have to take a chance. This is a don’t miss addition to the series, but you really need to read them all, as well as the two novellas that are part of the series also, or you’ll be shortchanging yourself.

I would so love to see these books made into a series or movie!