This week I have mini reviews for three books by new to me authors.
The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken– I rarely read outside contemporary but when Jane, the Kensington publicist, told me about this book I felt compelled to read it. She described it as feminist and humorous with a kick ass heroine and a shifter/centaur hero. All of those things are correct. Seriously, a sure fire way to sell me on a book is to tell me that it is feminist.
The heroine, Keeley is a magnificent blacksmith and absolutely does not need someone to save her. She loves her family fiercely, even her estranged sister, Gemma. (Who at one point is referred to by a secondary character as “Sir Gemma” due to her position. It was great)
Keeley embarks on a journey to save her family and it was a great journey. Along the way she meets a group of centaurs, including Caid, who is her love interest. We do get multiple POVs in this book, including Keeley and Caid. Multiple POV normally irritates me, but Aiken made it work.
The romance is not the main focus of this story. The core story is centered on this war of lands and who will be queen. There are some twists and turns that kept me engaged. I will definitely read the next book, Aiken piqued my interest in a pairing. The contemporary reader in me would have liked more romance but it really wouldn’t not have been appropriate for this story. There were a few moments where I wasn’t really sure what was happening but I just kept reading and knew it would work out. LOL
It should be noted that if you don’t like to read about beheadings, this book is not for you. And wow, I just tried to find a meme for that and went to a dark place real quick.
Sidelined by Suzanne Baltsar– I picked this up due to a cute cover and because the blurb mentions the heroine, Charlie is the coach of a high school football team. Connor, the hero, starts off as a whiny man baby who is mad that he wasn’t promoted to head coach. Charlie and Connor clash heads immediately but Charlie WAS NOT here for his shit. I loved it!
The tension was high in this book as they slowly went from enemies to lovers. Connor got over his BS pretty quick and realized that Charlie was a super competent and worthy coach. And how hard it was Charlie to be not only in a traditionally male focused world, but also how much harder she had to work to be accepted.
Charlie moves to Minnesota for the coaching job and had no friends. She makes friends and it was nice to see the small friend group is diverse. I hope to see another book from this friend group.
The pacing for this book was fast and near perfect for the story. I finished it in two sittings. The heat was a little higher than I thought it would, but that is just me judging a book by it’s cover. I thought the author balanced the on and off field time appropriately. This book is also feminist and doesn’t shy away from commentary on sexism. I am all for seeing more women in romance working in “traditional male jobs.”
The only downside was the conflict. It was kind of contrived and not a surprise to me. I wish it had been different. All it all I really, really enjoyed this book and will definitely read more books by Baltsar.
Well Met by Jen DeLuca– I heard about this book last year when I was tweeting about going to the Maryland Renaissance Faire for the first time ever. So basically I have been waiting for a year to read it.
It was good but not great. The heroine is 24. This was a let down to me. I mostly read the book imagining Emily was older. It is well documented that I like older characters.
Emily and Simon meet when Emily volunteers to work at the local Ren Faire. Simon starts off being gruff and rude to Emily and she decides she dislikes him. We only get Emily’s POV and it takes quite some time before we learn more about Simon and what is making him so cranky.
There is a really cute scene that is also filled with tension where Emma and Captain Blackthorne, their Faire alter egos, participate in a hand-fasting ceremony. This scene may have had me swooning.
While Emily slowly (this is a slow burn romance) falls for Simon, she also falls for the small town in Maryland where she has moved to help her sister and niece. I enjoyed Emily’s solo journey just as much as I enjoyed her love journey with Simon.
My main complaint with the book is that the first 30% felt very slow and that not a lot was happening. Once Emily and Simon get together and declare themselves together it goes quickly before the conflict. I did feel that the grovel was good and appropriate for the characters.
DeLuca also lays some groundwork for the next book and I am looking forward to the next one. Well Met also made me look forward to attending Ren Faire again this year.