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Poppy Flowers at the Front

Review: Poppy Flowers at the Front, by Jon Wilkins

Poppy Flowers at the FrontI accepted a review copy of Jon WilkinsPoppy Flowers at the Front through Damppebble Crime Blog Tours.

About the book1917: with her father in the British secret service and her brother Alfie in the trenches, under-age Poppy Loveday volunteers against her parents’ wishes to drive ambulances in France. We follow her adventures, racing to save wounded men driven to the Casualty Clearing Station, and back to the Base Hospital.

During one battle she finds Élodie Proux, a French nurse, at a roadside clutching a dead soldier. Poppy rescues her. Élodie becomes her dearest girl as they fall in love.

Poppy and Élodie encounter frightening adversaries at the Western Front as well as away from it during the closing weeks of World War One.

Poppy Loveday

Poppy Loveday

Élodie Proux

Élodie Proux

While it’s well known on the continent, I’ll give a quick little FYI for American readers. Poppies are worn on Remembrance Day (much like our Memorial Day) in honor of fallen soldiers. That should help in understanding the title.

There is much to appreciate about Wilkins’ Poppy Flowers at the Front. I very much liked Poppy as a character, Élodie too, though we get to know her far less than Poppy. Their young romance was very sweet and that contrasts well against the travesties of war. Wilkins’ does an excellent job making the pointlessness and devastation of war feel real, without steeping the reader in gore. And I adored Poppy’s relationship with her family.

However, I also felt the book lacked a central theme and/or plot-line. It felt very much like it picked up one random day and the reader follows until the book ends on another random day, and random things happen randomly during that time. I also might quibble with it being categorized as a “crime thriller.” That wouldn’t be the genre I’d put it in. Lastly, the version I read really needed another editing pass. All in all, however, not a bad read and not one I’d hesitate to recommend.

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Follow the rest of the tour here.

Book Review: The Moreva of Astoreth, by Roxanne Bland

I first came across The Moreva of Astoreth (The Peris Archives Book 1), by Roxanne Bland, because it featured on Sadie’s Spotlight. When I later saw it available on Netgalley, I decided to give it a read and requested a copy.

In the service of the Goddess…

Moreva Tehi, gifted scientist and the spoiled, stubborn and headstrong granddaughter of Astoreth, the Devi Goddess of Love, deliberately misses Ohra-Namtar, the compulsory and holiest rite of the Great Pantheon of Gods.

For her sin, Astoreth banishes her for a year from her beloved urban desert home to tend Her spaceship landing beacon in the northern reaches of the Syren territory, a cold, dark, and wild place whose inhabitants are as untamed as the territory in which they live.

As the spiritual leader and commander of the military garrison stationed there, Tehi must stay one step ahead of the cunning machinations of her second in command. But there is one who poses an even greater threat to her future—one who will lead her into the dangerous realm of forbidden love, setting them both on a course that can only lead to damnation and death.

I really wanted to like this book. If anyone has been paying attention to the sci-fi romance genre over the last few years, there are an awful lot of hulking, male, blue aliens. (I even wrote a whole blog post about it once.) It was notable to see the blue alien as the female for a change. Plus, I could see that the author was trying hard to subvert some literary tropes and social norms that I love seeing subverted. Unfortunately, I don’t think she was wholly successful. Here’s an example.

The main character is a priestess and her vestments are what many today would consider the clothing of prostitutes (tight, short dresses, corsets, garters, high heels and a riding crop). One of the regular religious ceremonies is an orgy. This could have been written to empower women in both their clothing choice and their sexuality. I think it maybe was even supposed to. Unfortunately, Bland then created a main character who hated the rite, showing her to panic and try and fight her way out of her obligated orgies. Thereby undermining any empowerment she may have created and reducing the character again to a woman performing unwanted sexual acts, i.e. The Whore.

As a side note: no reason is given for this particular choice of religious uniform (other than that the goddess liked it) and, since there are both male and female Moreva, I couldn’t help but wonder if the male Moreva also wore corsets, short/tight dresses, garters, and high heals and were the epicenter of 20+ person orgies. It’s never discussed, but I rather hope so.

My main complaint however is that there is barely a story here. We’re told the main character is horribly bigoted. The plot is supposed to hinge on it.  But we never see it. In fact, she befriends one of the people she’s supposedly so bigoted against almost immediately and treats him as an equal, submitting herself to his instruction and offering her assistance from almost the moment they meet. I never felt her bigotry, but I was told about it regularly. Similarly, the reader is subjected to several context-less dream sequences in which she symbolically fights said bigotry, but we never see her making real world changes to her behavior (as it never appeared bigoted to start with). And lastly, the romance comes out of no where. The reader is told about it, but I didn’t feel it develop even a little bit. There’s a predictable twist at the end and then it all wraps up almost miraculously.

All in all, I felt that despite good intentions and even an interesting idea for a world, the whole thing just never developed into anything I enjoyed spending time with. I was honestly bored most of the times. The writing is perfectly readable though, and I had no issue with the editing (even though I read an ARC). I think I’d be willing to give a Bland book another chance. She can obviously write, but this particular book wasn’t a winner for me.

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Book Review: Demon’s Wish, by Xenia Melzer


I accepted a copy of Xenia Melzer‘s Demon’s Wish (Demon Mates, #1) for review during it’s Totally Entwined Release Book Blitz.

about the book

Finding love is hard—especially when you’re a demon and your potential mate is your sacrifice…

Sammy is content with running his bookshop and leading a book club consisting solely of paranormal creatures. Despite the persistence of his friends, he has resolved himself to a life without romance, since he doesn’t think anybody could find him and his tendency to spill useless knowledge whenever he gets nervous attractive.

Dresalantion is a demon prince and slightly—make that majorly—annoyed when somebody persistently tries to summon him. He finally decides to show up and put the fear of Dresalantion into his summoners but finds himself rescuing their sacrifice instead.

Sammy intrigues him from the get-go, and when Dre realizes that Sammy can get him the manga he’s been hunting for months—not to mention that he refuses a wish he offered him—the sexy demon decides to get to know this fascinating man better. Much better.

Reader advisory: This book contans scenes of kidnapping and an attempted human sacrifice.

my review

The Good:

This is a seriously sweet, low angst story. Two men meet, are instantly attracted, fall in love quickly, and spend the whole book making each other happy, with no drama. Both characters are likeable. And the big, hulking demon just wanting to find his one special love breaks the alpha-asshole cliche. There’s also some appreciable diversity in the side characters. It’s an enjoyable read and is quite well edited.

The Meh:

The book got quite a few chuckles out of me. But some of that humor ran on the juvenile side. I think I cringed or rolled my eyes as often as I laughed. No demon should ever ask, “Do you have to go number one or two” if the author wants him to be taken seriously. just sayin’

Some of the dialogue was clunky, especially around saying names too often to feel natural. And I got bored with all the recitations of random facts and, even more so, with the lengthy book club discussions. They slowed the plot down.

The bad:

Let’s talk sex. The sex in this book is fairly graphic (if not particularly impassioned), with quite a lot of emphasis on penetrative sex and what’s going to go where and do what. Now, I have no problem with sex. I love me a raunchy sex scene. But I have a couple complaints here.

First, and probably most importantly, the books reads as if it’s written for and about teens. Sammy is in his mid-twenties and Dre is 800 years old, but you’d never know it from the writing. So, to read a book that feels quite young and then have sex scenes focused heavily on accommodating a monster cock (both in the sense that it belongs to a demon and is monster-huge) felt out of place. This book would have done better with fade-to-black sex, sweet sex, or simply to have brought the tone of the rest of the book up a few years, IMO.

Secondly, the author made a point to include an asexual character, so they’re aware not everyone loves sex or the same sort of sex. But then wrote a story that reinforced the myth that penetrative sex is the only real sex. It had to be had to for the plot and love to progress, whether the characters wanted it or not. And considering one character has a penis that is physically too large to be accommodated by the human body (and that’s not at all cliched, *eyeroll*), not wanting it would have made sense. Plus, it’s would have been a significantly more interesting exploration of the compromises mixed species relationships have to face. Instead the “special moment” was all about the mechanics of how to get one character’s cock inside another. *boring*

I could probably also address here how the smaller, more feminized character had to endure a painful physical transformation to be with the larger, more manly one. As well as how there was never any doubt or discussion about what role both would play in bed (though I’ll grant it was at least mentioned that the larger one was grudgingly willing to try switching in the future). And probably too that the mechanics of claiming a mate leaves no room for female demons to claim theirs, only to be claimed (not that that is at all addressed, there are no female demons in the book).

I feel like I had one more point to add here, but I’ve forgotten it apparently. All in all, I’d say that this is a sweet book let down by it’s sex. In fact, I feel like the sex was written by someone who’d either never had it or had been told they had to include it to get published and did so reluctantly. It feels that silted and focused on the least important parts of the sex act. But outside of that, it’s a fun little book.

 

Giveaway

Enter to win signed/personalized copies of books 1 & 2 in the Club Whisper series and a $5.00 First For Romance Gift Code!

Xenia Melzer’s Demon’s Wish Giveaway

XENIA MELZER IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN SIGNED/PERSONALIZED COPIES OF BOOKS 1 & 2 IN THE CLUB WHISPER SERIES AND A $5.00 FIRST FOR ROMANCE GIFT CODE! Notice: This competition ends on 13th January 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.