Ash and Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout
One of my favorite genres is urban fantasy. I tend to binge through a genre then take a break. I binged urban fantasy for a long time and didn’t pick up one single UF in 2020, until now. I’m so glad I decided to try Ash and Blood by Jennifer L. Armentrout. I listened to this on audible. Here’s a great tip- if you have the ebook (which I did, and just hadn’t read yet) you can go on Amazon and use their match tool to find out which ebooks have matching audiobooks at a GREAT discount. I’ve picked up several audiobooks this way.
This series is amazing. I want to hear more, but then I don’t want it to end. Ash and Blood is about Poppy, the honorable maiden who lives in a kingdom with a cold Duke and Duchess. The Duke and Duchess are part of a class of people called the Ascended. Poppy is subject to a lot of rules. She can’t speak with most people, she can’t travel, she is heavily guarded, is basically part of THE worst home school program ever, and wears a veil and mask 24/7. Very few people have actually seen what she looks like. When Poppy reaches a certain age, she will also Ascend, which feels a lot like becoming royalty. It’s a little vague but we’re to believe that it’s a great honor, and she is a very special maiden. Poppy has a gift, she can read people’s feelings and help take away their pain. Poppy has never questioned the kingdom or truth of the hierarchy. But, she longs for freedom and to live a normal life. The entire maiden role doesn’t sit well with her.
One of Poppy’s guards dies in a horrible attack and she is assigned a new guard. Hawke is cocky, young, and flirty. He’s much different than her previous guards. He’s seen her longing for adventure, appreciates her fire and they grow close. But, there is something off about him. Hmmm….
Like many urban fantasy’s it’s a complex story, everyone isn’t who they appear to be. There are different beings, legends, kings, queens, and a new world revealed in layers, chapter after chapter. This series has the perfect blend of action, romance, mystery, shocking moments and I LOVE the clever banter between Hawke and Poppy. Their chemistry is some of the best I’ve read. Hawke is my new book boyfriend. The narrator for this series is terrific! She is flawless as every character.
Machiavellian by Bella Di Corte
I do dig a good mafia romance. Machiavellian by Bella Di Corte checked all the boxes for me. I really enjoyed this book! Capo is from a mafia family, but the twist is that he’s supposed to be dead. His dear father thought he had him killed. Oops. Meanwhile, Capo has been spending his time stirring up crap between the crime families of New York and his father. Mariposa is much younger (there’s a significant age gap here) and has hit rock bottom. She’s been fired from her job, has no living family, is nearly living on the streets and this has her making some pretty poor choices.
One of those choices is to assume the name of her best friend’s roommate, who is dead. Freshly murdered. But she had a promising interview scheduled for the night of her murder. The interview was at an exclusive club. Mariposa wears the dead girl’s clothes, grabs the invite for the interview (which is really a fancy VIP party), and heads out to try her luck. The club’s security lets her through, although it’s clear they realize she’s not who she claims to be. Off she goes to people watch, mingle, and figure out exactly what this job entails. Eventually, she’s lead back to a dark room that smells like chocolate and she is blindfolded. A man walks over to her, gets very close, it’s intimate, they’re both buzzing with attraction and they kiss. It’s a wild, hot kiss. They definitely have chemistry. The man is Capo. And…the rest of the story is a fun ride. If you’re into mafia romance or romantic suspense, this is an excellent read. I found it hard to put down. I liked Capo and Mariposa together. There were some surprising moments and great side characters. My only negative was how the story resolved. It just felt like a complex unique mystery was resolved too quickly. Not easily, but faster than I wanted it to be solved.
Stroke of Midnight by K. Webster
Stroke of Midnight by K. Webster is a modern-day smutty Cinderella story. I felt like I was reading a script for an adult film. Not an entirely bad feeling…but not what I was expecting. Winston Constantine is one kinky rich dude. And, he’s found the perfect partner with Ash Elliott. Ash is much younger, and while her dad and stepmother are quite wealthy, they aren’t very generous with Ash. She needs cash for college and takes on a job cleaning Winston’s office building. She’s not the best cleaning person, but Winston finds that she is good at “other’ things. He likes to humiliate her and she feels embarrassed for liking their relationship. The humiliation along with her youth was cringey for me. To each their own.
This is a quick dirty read. It did end on a cliffy and I may feel compelled to get book two.