Waiting on Wednesday: Heart on Fire

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Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine where we readers salivate over the books we wish were on our bookshelves yesterday.

This week’s victim: Heart on Fire by Amanda Bouchet
Publication Date: January 2018 Piatkus

Who is Catalia Fisa?

With the help of pivotal figures from her past, Cat begins to understand the root of her exceptional magic, her fated union with Griffin Sinta, and Griffin’s role in shaping her destiny.

Only Cat holds the key to unlocking her own power, and that means finally accepting herself, her past, and her future in order to protect her loved ones, confront her murderous mother, and taking a final, terrifying step–reuniting all three realms and taking her place as the Queen of Thalyria.

What doesn’t kill her will only make her stronger…we hope.

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So, I just finished the second book in this trilogy last week and let me tell you, I’m ready to read the third one, especially after looking at that blurb above. It hints at all of the questions I’m ready to have answered. I’m also excited to see Cat finally accept not only her destiny, but the truth of her character. It’s been a long journey for her and she deserves that kind of peace and understanding about herself.

I’m also totally jazzed to watch an Andromeda-Catalia battle.

Also, the covers on all of the books are absolutely stunning, but I love the color scheme that goes with Heart on Fire. It’s gorgeous.

Read on!

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Breath of Fire

Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet was a whirlwind and in the best way.

**Slight spoilers abound after this line**

I really enjoyed the first book of the trilogy, A Promise of Fire (you can read my review here), which I embarrassedly started reading without realizing it was a romance, which did make for a really fun surprise. This time around, I was ready to witness the romance between the couple I’d come to adore so much.

And then I read the first chapter.

I’m one of those readers of romance who absolutely hates it when the main couple has any sort of conflict whatsoever. Especially considering, for so long, I read romance novels to fill a void in my own, non-existent love life (I know, sad, but true), when the couple fought or reach that “threatening-conflict” stage, I always hated that part; because dammit, if my love life was going to suck, at least let me pretend to be in love with X dashing character without having that love threatened! So, naturally, when I started reading Breath of Fire, my stomach immediately twisted in knots and I was completely unprepared to go deal with that kind of conflict in the first chapter.

Just as I was equally unprepared to deal with what happened in chapters two and three.

Let’s just say that reading those (and other sections) while sitting at work was probably not the best move.

Flushed face. Accelerated breath. Chills everywhere. Amongst other things.

I’m sure you’re catching my drift, here. This is a romance, after all.

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Needless to say, I still continued to read it while at work, being turned on by Griffon be damned. I had a book to devour. Which I pretty much did, reading in 100+ page chunks. My favorite aspect of this series is that the balance between romance plot and fantasy plot is done well. I’m just as interested in the romance between Cat and Griffon (which evolves in this book in some fantastic ways, particularly when you look at that last chapter) as I am in figuring out Cat’s destiny and the power bid going on between Sinta and Fisa.

Though that balance and blend between both plots is probably my favorite aspect of the book, there are so many other aspects I adore, as well. Griffon. The incorporation of mythology. Griffon. The banter between everyone in Alpha Sinta. Griffon. The growing familiarity we get of Griffon’s family and Cat’s association (and role) with them. Griffon. The little bits of humor slipped in, especially in terms of word play or the style that the book was written. Griffon. The way that Cat overthinks like I do, making her so relatable.

Have I mentioned I also have a major crush on Griffon?

I will say that although I enjoyed this book thoroughly, I did find some moments a bit cheesy and sometimes, I thought the dialogue between Cat and Griffon to be a bit…much (then again, I’ve never had a man love me that much, so maybe I’m just inexperienced). But other than that, I really had no complaints and thought this was a strong follow up to an already really strong debut. I’m jazzed for the final book, Heart of Fire, to come out in January (which is, by the way, not soon enough, especially after that teaser provided in the back of the book) and I’m pretty sure I’ll be looking up Bouchet’s next series after this one. You should check these out. I bet you’ll enjoy them.

Read on!

The Bloodsworn

**Copy of The Bloodsworn by Erin Lindsey graciously given by Literary Agent Lisa Rodgers in exchange for an honest review**

“Not for you.” 

*commence endless screaming*

 harry potter panic dont panic potter puppet pals GIF

I realize you have no idea regarding the significance of that line, thrown in out of context like that. But oh is there significance and feels attached to it, as there are many, many feelings attached to this entire book, not to mention the whole series. So I’m just being cruel and teasing you. Trust me, you wanna find out why that line makes you want to fist-pump the air into oblivion (but you can’t because you work in a public library, so you satisfy yourself by whispering, Fuck yes” instead).

If you’ve read either of my reviews of the previous two books (The Bloodbound and The Bloodforged), you know I have some opinions (<– understatement of the year).

The first in the trilogy, The Bloodbound, gave me a feeling of nostalgia and home I haven’t felt in ages, as I returned to a story focused in a realm and time of knights; a time period that I adore and is so close to my heart, as it was these types of stories that fueled me during my youth. There, I met Alix Black, who inspired me and encouraged me in a time where I desperately needed both of those things. By the end, I wanted to be a little more like her.

Hell, I still do.

In The Bloodforged, I couldn’t even properly describe how many emotions I experienced, so I forced to try and express myself through a lot of nerdy GIFs. It has been a while since I read a book where I kept telling myself, “There is no way this can get any worse,” only to be proven wrong.

Over.
And over.
And over again.

It was, honestly, quite fantastic, even if the ending resulted in me abusing my paperback as I threw it harshly against the ground in protest. At such a plot twist, I was both wary and excited to read The Bloodsworn; excited because I had to know what happened next, yet wary because I had a sinking feeling that the events to come would make the events in The Bloodforged feel like child’s play.

And I was right.

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You know the advice writers get about being ruthless to their characters? How the best stories are formed by creating the worst possible conflict for your character to conquer? Yeah, Lindsey is obviously a master at this, because holy shit. Similar to book two, every time I dared to hope that the situation couldn’t get any worse, I was proven sorely wrong. More impressively, it wasn’t just one character going through some shit. It was multiple characters dealing with multiple problems, all of which were the most extreme circumstances where the worst possible thing that could happen usually did. But not only that, all of these situations affected and depended on the outcomes of the others. Oh, and with multi-POV, these events were revealed with expert pacing, so the tension continued to build and build until you finally reached that point where you had to know what happened to Alix, only to be shifted to Rig. Or Erik. Or Liam.

Rinse and repeat for 300+ pages.

Friends, this shit is gold.

Complete with twists and turns, political plots of epic expectations (and endings) and threads that were woven since book one and sewn together neatly (even if a little scarred with all the shit they were forced to go through) here in book three, The Bloodsworn was exactly what I wanted–and honestly, have come to expect–to end this fantastic trilogy. This entire series was such a refreshing and needed read. The characters are some I am not eager to leave behind and I’m so glad Lisa pointed this series my way. I have a feeling Lindsey will be an author I’ll be stalking admiring for a long time to come.

Oh, and as an author whose goal has been to write the perfect summer vacation novel, I’m pretty sure Lindsey’s already achieved that. I can’t wait to see what she comes up next.

Read on!

PS: I might have a crush on Rig. Maybe a really big one.

PPS: Can we get a spin-off story just on the adventures of Rudi? Talk about most underrated character.

The Bloodbound

**Copy of The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey given by Literary Agent Lisa Rodgers in exchange for an honest review**

Sometimes, the best books you don’t discover. Instead, they find you.

Like The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey, for instance. I had no idea this book existed. It had never slipped onto my radar and I had no idea the author existed. I might have never discovered it, if I hadn’t happened to be introduced to Lisa at WorldCon last year and the topic of my book review blog hadn’t been brought up. A few months later, a box of Jabberwocky goodies arrived at my door, courtesy of Lisa. Amongst them was The Bloodbound. It took me a while to actually get to reading this book (and considering Lisa’s kindness, I really should have read this sooner), but perhaps I was meant to read this book at this moment. Because wow, did I need to read this book right now.

I am so thankful for it.

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When I started reading The Bloodbound, it immediately felt like coming home. I’m not exactly sure how this is, considering this book was literally dropped in my lap as a surprise. Perhaps it was because I haven’t read something with a historical feel in quite some time, even though stories about knights were my bread and butter growing up. Perhaps it was because I’ve always been a sucker for writers who give attention to the details and aren’t afraid of the gruesome ones–and The Bloodbound was filled with both. Perhaps it was because there was a complicated love triangle that mirrored ever so slightly to what I am dealing with currently in my life, so I was desperate for any sort of guidance of what I should do or solace that love would win out in the end. Perhaps it was a combination of all of these things.

Or perhaps it was simply because of Alix Black.

Our heroine, a lady and scout who moves up the ranks in surprising ways, I immediately latched onto Alix’s strength. Mostly because I wasn’t shown only her prowess in battle, her resistance against gender limitations, her fierce tongue or how she carried on and made tough choices despite what she struggled with personally. I also saw her vulnerability. Her nervousness, her doubting her own skills and decisions, her mistakes, risking her heart and being confused. In her, I saw pieces of myself and admired pieces that I’m lacking, yet Alix exemplifies, to the point where it emboldens me to want to emulate her a little bit more; be a little braver, take a few more risks, have confidence in my voice and trust my heart. Alix was so much more than just a simple character in a story that you read and enjoy, then promptly forget about.

To me, Alix was real. And she’s bloody inspiring.

Needless to say, I enjoyed this book thoroughly and devoured it. Especially once I reached the end. I’d be lying if I said I had to make a microwavable meal for dinner the night I finished the book, as it distracted me from reality so well that I missed my eating window before work and had to scramble to get something into my stomach. It was beautifully written, the characters are fantastically complex and realistically three-dimensional, and the warfare and political schemes were a delight to get lost in.

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I’m pretty sure that Lisa, the kind aforementioned literary agent who sent me a copy of book, knew that I would fall so hard for Alix and the world she lives in and is trying to save…as she also sent me copies of books two and three in the trilogy. *bows down in gratitude* She might not have known how much I needed this book when I finally found time to read it, but I am seriously thankful for it and the courage–and hope–I found reading it.

Read on!

PS: I also included both versions of the cover, because holy goodness, they are both so gorgeous.

A Promise of Fire

So on a scale of having your liver repeatedly ripped out by an eagle for all eternity to being the ruler of Mount Olympus, reading this book surpassed even the mighty, lightning-wielding Zeus. This book was freakin’ awesome.

*Minor spoilers abound after this point*

It was particularly awesome because I had absolutely no idea what it was about when I first decided I wanted to read it, which meant I was so utterly surprised, multiple times, as I read it. I’m not sure who shared it or what, but I was just perusing through Twitter one afternoon and I saw the cover. That’s it. I didn’t read whatever the person wrote about it and didn’t know if it was a new release (hint: it sorta is). I just saw the cover. It had a woman who looked like a major BAMF (and I am always drawn to major BAMF-ing females) and it mentioned fire.

A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1)
I mean honestly, how can you not pick up this book because of this cover alone!?

I didn’t need anything else.

So I put the book on hold and got it from the library a few weeks later. Never once did I even look at the back and see anything about what this book was about. I just dove right in. And I think that made it just 20 times more epic that it naturally already was. I was thrown into a world that I wasn’t prepared for: a world where magic is both common and feared; a world dripping with familiar mythology–that was also made new–that seriously skyrocketed my excitement levels; a world where I related to the characters, became so attached their humor and got so invested in what was going to happen next.

And then I think I discovered my greatest surprise, diving in with complete ignorance: it’s a romance. A gloriously steamy, tempting, dangerous-level-swoon-worthy romance (hint: do not read the last 60 pages whilst waiting for your car to get repaired. I repeat: DO NOT). Also, I know what you’re thinking: Nicole, the blurb on the cover even says, “fantasy romance at its finest,” but I didn’t even read that. I was so blind. Oh so totally blind.

Cat, our brilliant heroine rocking the front cover, was someone who I empathize with and also someone I wanted to throw against a wall and shake some sense into her. If Griffon was making those sort of advances on me…*fans self* Granted, I understood her rationale, but still, if you aren’t interested, dearie, please move along, because some of us have been waiting patiently over here!

*coughs*

Anyway, romantic feelings over a fictional character aside, I love romance novels. I love being able to pretend to have a love life by living vicariously through these characters (which also explains why I got so angry with Cat because she has what I want). Yet I’ve read very few romance novels or authors where I become as equally interested in other aspects of the books (political schemes, for example) as I do waiting for the next steamy scene to make my breath catch. Bec McMaster is one author who comes to mind where I’m equally invested in all aspects that make up her steampunk London.

And it would appear that Amanda Bouchet is now another.

I loved the magic involved. I am so invested in all of the characters, both from the circus and from Griffon’s group and his family. I loved the Greek mythology. Ohmygosh, did I love it. I loved Cat’s spunk and her attitude and her abilities and how she struggled against becoming “one of the guys,” so to speak, and loved it as she finally embraced it. I was just as concerned with Cat fitting in with the royal family and the drama with the healing centers as I was enthralled at every passionate kiss Cat and Griffon experienced. I never skimmed through the sections that weren’t steamy, like I’ve done with a few regency romances in my day (sorry about that…).

My only complaint falls in line with the ending–and it’s probably because I thought the book was longer than it actually was, as it included that first chapter from the next book, thus tricking me into a false comfort of more pages, more action, more answers and instead I turn the page, see that it is about to end, say, “What the fmfsnsinf,” aloud in front of two old ladies who are also reading beside me in the waiting room at the car dealership and am forced to meet their glares as I interrupted their own bliss. I properly blushed, sunk further into my chair and then finished reading the last page, stewing in anger silently that it was over and I have to wait until January to read the next installment. It was not okay to end it there. I have questions.

*slips back into a stew of anger while staring at her calendar, waiting for the New Year to roll around…slowly…ever slowly…*

Read on!

Seven Secrets of Seduction

THIS BOOK, YOU GUYS.

Secret #1: Every good seduction begins with a baited hook. 

Okay, I’ll just calm down for a second so I can explain why this was the best romance I think I’ve read so far–or, at least, in a long while. It ranks up with my all-time favorite (which started my romance binge) Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare.

I first got into reading romance perhaps barely a year ago. I’m no expert by far, only having read a handful of authors, but I think I’ve mentioned in a previous book review that I don’t read romance novels for the intricate plot, the crazy twists or to be left an emotional, choking-sob wreck by the cliffhanger that I was forced to deal with, regarding characters that I am equally emotionally invested in as I am real people. If I find a romance novel that does all that and what I want…well then, that’s just bloody impressive (as I haven’t found one that does). No, I read romance to fall in love for the evening, to be wooed.

In the bluntest of terms, to be seduced.

I’m a single woman who gets lonely and I’m not ashamed to admit that on particularly lonely nights, I make sure to have a small stack of romance books to keep me company; to keep me up until three in the morning, my stomach filled with butterflies and heat rising to my cheeks as chills travel down my spine. When reading a romance, I want to feel like the devilish rogue, dashing prince or charming scoundrel is talking to me, trying to make me fall in love with him; a perfect escape from my romanticless-reality. When the woman he is actually wooing in the story feels chills, I want to feel chills; when her breath accelerates, mine should; when she feels his breath against her neck, I want to question whether or not I felt it, too. That’s what I want when I read a romance novel. That’s what I mean when I say seduced. It’s been a while since I’ve read a romance that had this affect on me.

Cue Seven Secrets of Seduction by Anne Mallory.

This book follows the life of Miranda Chase, who is the protagonist that I wish every romance could follow, because I connected with her so well. One, she worked in a bookshop. Two, she was a bookworm, with books being her first love. Three, the book opens up with her reading so deeply, she doesn’t have a care in the world for a man who is trying to gather her attention. Four, she has a guilty pleasure of reading illuminations and wondering what it would be like to be wanted like that. Five, she has to go and work for the Viscount, organizing his massive library. Six, she questions her own worth and why someone would ever one pay attention to her romantically, compared to everyone else in the ton. She’s just a lowly shop girl, after all.

Seven Secrets of Seduction (Secrets, #1)

Basically, she’s me, living a life that I wish I could have had, if I lived in that time period. So the fact that I could relate to her so well made it possible for everything that happened to her feel so real to me, which is exactly want I wanted; to escape into her life and her troubles and her passions, if only for a few hours.

Cue the source of all of them: Viscount Maximiliam Downing.

Uh-huh.

The fact that he didn’t hide his intentions–well, okay, he sorta didn’t, but I won’t spoil it for you–at the beginning and began trying to win Miranda over at the start was amazing. He is a fantastic flirt. The fact that the first scene that made my breath catch occurred in a library–I mean, c’mon, the location itself is swoon-worthy even if nothing swoon-worthy ever happened there (thankfully, that was not the case here). The fact that I got literal chills multiple times reading this book is the reason I’ve already put the next two in the series on hold at the library.

I guessed the twist in the plot way early on, so no surprises there. The ending wasn’t exactly fireworks. Of course, considering my eyes had started to hurt 100 pages previously and it was past three in the morning when I finished the book didn’t give the ending any help. Yet neither of those facts bothered me much, because this book did exactly what I wanted it to. Moments left me breathless, laughing aloud at my own foolishness at being wooed so easily by a book character; gave me chills, tingling deep down into my fingers and making the back of my neck heat up. For a couple hundred pages, I was very successfully seduced.

And I’m ready for round two.

Read on!

How a Lady Weds a Rogue

I usually devour romance books. Averaging around 400ish pages, they are easy to read in one sitting, with their soft prose and predictable, general plotlines: soon-to-be-couple meets, they either immediately like each other or immediately hate one another, then they fall in love, they get busy, they get angry after not being honest with one another, they almost split and then they get married. Personally, I don’t mind the repetitiveness of the genre (also, I recognize that this doesn’t apply to every romance book published. It’s simply a trend I’ve noticed in the books I’ve read). Each book, while following this most general format, has different characters, different locations and are usually still interesting enough for me to dive into, despite the predictability. I don’t read romance books to be wowed by plots or guessing at every turn (though sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised). I read them to be wooed, to fall in love for an evening, because I’m a tid bit lonely and a solid steamy romance helps keep the loneliness at bay.

How a Lady Weds a Rogue by Katharine Ashe was a very solid book. It is the third in the Falcon’s Club series, which, of course, I didn’t realize until I already started reading it. Having not read the previous two books, there were moments when I was a bit confused and could obviously tell when scenes were meant to be rewarding for series-readers. Yet I wasn’t hindered by those moments and could still understand and enjoy the book rightly enough.

How a Lady Weds a Rogue (Falcon Club, #3)

Unlike the previous romance book I reviewed, this one had a little more of the steam and wooing that I was looking for. Wyn was certainly an interesting hero and I absolutely loved the utmost gentleman angle that the book looked through, particularly listing out the “rules” a gentleman should follow. Especially juxtaposed with “minx” Diantha, who constantly challenged Wyn’s gentlemanly nature, I thought it was a fun ride. I could tell I was getting into the book when I had a very distinct urge to stop reading it once I reached the “they get angry and have to split” stage, this time inspired by lies on both sides, a man’s fear and a gentleman’s duty.

Even being 95% sure that they are going to get back together at the end (because that’s what romance books typically do, right?), I still didn’t want to read through the scenes where Wyn lied to Diantha about his feelings for her, in order to protect her. And or when Diantha believed Wyn would only marry her because of duty, not of love. As a reader–particularly as a reader longing to be in love–it was totally frustrating and definitely made me want to shake both characters and tell them that, instead of lying to one another and coming up with the explanations behind each other’s motives, why not bloody talk to one another? A constant frustration, yet there has to be some conflict, right?

Overall, I enjoyed it. I thought Diantha was an awesome protagonist, with her fiery spirit and her inner fears that no man could possibly love her. I connected with her on multiple levels, which is what I want to do with the heroine. As far as the hero went, he didn’t sweep me off my feet, but he did give me chills on multiple occasions, so in my book, a win. The first book I’ve read from Ashe, but I think I’ll look into some others, in time. A few more romance books on the shelf from the library, plus the start of a fantasy series and a book of fairy tales that I need to get reading, first.

Read on!