Daughter of No One by Sam Ledel

I never read fantasy novels, I just am not interested in all the world building. I feel like the majority of the time you spend so much time of developing that aspect of the book that everything else can end up taking a backseat. As much as this is a fantasy novel, with the elves and the fae, what you also have is an old-fashioned adventure filled with mystery and a slow burn romance.

Jastyn Cipher and her mother were cast out of the village by the royal family. Jastyn’s mother had a child with a fae and therefore broke one the kingdom’s laws. After spending quite some time in shackles the mother and young child have been shunned by their community for decades. Jastyn despises the royal family. Unfortunately, Jastyn’s younger sister has fallen ill and nothing the Alchemist mixes will fix what she ails from. Going to the queen to beg for her healing powers is not something this young woman wants to do but at this point she has no other options.

Princess Aurelia Diarmaid wants more than anything to break out of the castle and experience the world outside of its protective walls. Her parents have kept the princess safe but have also clipped her wings and made her feel trapped and restless.

Our two main characters are a study in contrasts. Jastyn is considered less than a commoner. Her life has been filled with barely meeting basic needs has toughened her and made her a skilled outdoorswoman. Aurelia wants for nothing but as much privilege as she has something is missing.

The world building and fantastic elements are all there. Ledel makes them believable and paints you a picture as the story unfolds. Where I think the book really takes shape and leaps to the next level is the dynamic between our leading ladies. There is an excellent lesfic drama/romance unfolding between the two young women. Everything is stacked against them and that is obvious from their initial meeting. Attraction, longing gazes, a simple touch, it all begins to stoke the fires of a would be romance. You cannot help but love these two brave heroines who are thrust into chaos and an adventure. With Jastyn, I loved all that vulnerability and the crushing hopelessly on someone who is completely above your stature in society. It is just enough angst to keep you rooting for the impossible. With Princess Aurelia, you love that she is nothing like Jastyn thought her to be. Aurelia is capable, smart, compassionate and is absolutely fearless in the face of danger.

Sam Ledel has definitely set up an epic adventure of star-crossed lovers. This book one of a trilogy doesn’t leave you with a cliffhanger but you are definitely going to be left ready for the next book. The romance is just blossoming, they are not a couple this is one where we are going to have to work for it a bit. As a non-fantasy lover, I adored this book and am ready to read where Ledel takes us next. This book is quality writing, great pacing, and top-notch characters. You cannot go wrong with this one!

4.25 out of 5 stars

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The Art of Us by K.L. Hughes

When you pick up this book be prepared for your heart to be ripped out of your chest. This book knocked me flat out more than a time or two. You can literally feel your heartbreak right along with the main characters. A fantastic emotional ride that is chock-full of angst and emotion.

Charlee and Alex meet early on in college. There is an instant connection, and they spend the next years blissfully in love, head over heels. When school ends Alex is offered an amazing career opportunity on the opposite coast. They thought they could overcome the distance, make it through this intersnship, but instead, it broke them.

Five years later Alex has returned to NYC. she thought she could handle being back but the emotions and loss of Charlee are overwhelming. Everywhere she goes brings back a flood of memories of better times. The book flashes back between Charlee and Alex’s romance to current day. When Alex and her lost love meet back up the chemistry pops right off the page. Tension, angst, romance this book is deliciously full of it all. I’m not kidding when I say this book pulls at your emotions. A felt my heartbreak with them, I felt their joy, their pain. KL Hughes takes you on one hell of a ride. So good!

4 out of 5 stars

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All the Ways to Here by Emily O’Beirne

Every time I pick up an Emily O’Beirne book I am spellbound on how she delivers amazing storylines, dazzling dialogue, and characters that you treasure long after the last page is turned.

Emily O’Beirne is the very best at what she does for a variety of reasons. Each book captivates me. Her characters are so developed you feel as if you personally know them. Their dialogue sounds and feels real. To me, dialogue is the make it or break it for a book. You can either write it or you can’t. To make it flow and feel real the whole way through, that takes a mega amount of skill, and this is a skill O’Beirne has in spades.

There are two authors that stand at the very top of this genre. Every single one of their books is fabulous. O’Beirne is one of the two. Am I biased? Yeah, I guess I am for the fact that I know when I open one of her books that I am going to be blown away by its awesomeness. I could read one of her books every single month and it still wouldn’t be enough. She writes the kind of books that you want to finish just so you can re-read it. Finish that baby and start right back at it again.

If you read Future Leaders of Nowhere and adored it as much as I did, this one is for you. Willa and Finn are back navigating the waters of demanding school work, home life, and their new relationship. What a great read, but even more so what amazing characters. Once again Emily O’Beirne steals your heart with another beautiful read.

5 out of 5 stars

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Strawberry Summer by Melissa Brayden

Melissa Brayden is to me one of the very best writers in the lesbian romance genre. She has set a very high standard, you know like Mount Everest high. Each and every book a met or surpassed the quality and awesomeness of the previous book. That’s unbelievably difficult to achieve, to time and time again bring just the best of the very best. There is a but! With that being said Strawberry Summer is not my favorite of hers. Don’t get me wrong it’s good, totes is, it’s just not great.

Strawberry Summer spends a lot of the story in a flashback. When we meet the two main characters Courtney Carrington has just moved from Chicago to a small picturesque farming community just outside of Santa Barbara. The first day at her new high school, she meets and has her a-ha moment with Margaret Beringer. Margaret is kind of a loner, not unpopular, just keeps to her small group on the fray of popularity. She’s a strawberry farmer’s kid who spends her days hanging out with nature and reading Hemingway for fun. Courtney, a strikingly beautiful department store heiress is immediately smitten and doesn’t hold back her admiration. This is a story of first loves in a star-crossed lover kind of way. Time and distance keep pulling these two apart but they spend most of their late teens and early 20’s as a couple.

There inlays one big issue. You know as the reader a shoe is going to drop, you are waiting for it the whole time. This is a romance novel, they must break up to get back together, and they met as teens for God ’s sake. You know it’s going to happen! Right! So, there many stories that have done this exact same format and have done it very well. Poppy Jenkins is probably the biggest standout. To me, this particular book spends too much, like 75+% of the book in flashback mode. You just keep waiting for the younger days to be over and get to the now. Well, at least I did.

The other issues. It’s not fun! I know I can’t believe I wrote that, but it wasn’t. There just isn’t that great dialogue between the mains that you expect from a Brayden book. Up until know, you had amazing witty banter and wordplay. You just don’t see it in this one, maybe because Margaret is a more serious character and humor isn’t her go to language. I was missing it, I wanted it back! I also wanted that amazing tension Brayden is the queen of ratcheting up. Again, not there! I didn’t feel that the transitions were as seamless as previous books either, I kept thinking, another summer and they are still together, where are we headed, why is this not moving along at a faster pace. So much of the book was in the past, I just kept wishing more of it would have been focused on the present.

There are good moments too. Moments that are so sweet you smile and moments so tragic your heart breaks. Overall it is a good book, it really is. There are going to be people that adore this one, promise. To me, this one was somewhat, formula wise, reminiscent of Waiting in the Wings, but without the tension and amazing interchange between characters. Even the supporting cast was cute but lackluster. This feels harsh, and I don’t mean it to be. It is a good book, I totally promise. I liked you, Strawberry Summer, I do, but I don’t love you.

3.75 out of 5 stars

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