Tag Archives: fantasy romance

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Book Review: Speak Easy, by E.S. Barrison

In May, when the SCOTUS leak first dropped, before the Supreme Court actually made their appalling ruling on Roe vs Wade, Charlie Nottingham organized a #ReadForOurRights event over on Tiktok. She and several other authors agreed to donate the proceeds from book sales that month to campaigns fighting to reestablish and/or protect women’s rights. I ordered several books from several authors during this event. (Something like 17, if I’m remembering right.) E.S. Barrison‘s Speak Easy  was one of them.

speak easy cover

Victors, they say, write history.
Too bad the victors can’t write.

After her father passes away, Nanette hops on a caravan to the neighboring country of Rosada to join her sister. Yet Rosada is in the grip of a deep fog: magic is banished, storytelling is outlawed, and the Order reigns. With her sister grown complacent over the horrors of their new home, Nanette takes matters into her own hands to protect stories, no matter the cost.

With the help of a loud-mouthed cabby, Nanette forms a plan to reignite the storytellers in Rosada. But it’s not safe to tell stories, even in the shadows.

With tensions rising and storytellers vanishing, Nanette must decide: are stories worth her relationship with her sister?

Are stories worth risking her life?

my review

Let me start by saying how stunning I think the cover is. Now let me move on to the content underneath it.

I have two primary and opposing feelings about this book. On one hand I think it’s a really timely read, being primarily focused on the suppression of truth and rise and destructiveness of propaganda (or ‘state-sanctioned stories.’) And I acknowledge that Barrison added a lot of recognizable, real-world issues. The main character is bisexual. There’s a trans character happily living their life. There’s a diabetic struggling with the cost of his insulin (thought they don’t call it that in this magical realm). There’s a government being eclipsed by religious insurgence. There’s police abuse and ongoing experiences of trauma. (Plus more I’m leaving out because it would be spoilery.) So, I think this is a book of the times.

However, I also found the storytelling very straightforward and not overly engaging. There are no red-herrings, twists or turns, or unexpected events. Problems crop up and are immediately and easily mended. (I found the sister’s sudden change of attitude and miraculous save toward the end especially convenient and unbelievable!) The story is very linear. This happens and then this happens and then this happens. It’s simplistic in the extreme, as is the writing itself. Which is unfortunate, especially in a book about the importance of storytelling.

speak easy photoFor this reason, despite the fade to black sex scenes, I think it would be best for the younger end of young adults—those who aren’t yet looking for too much complexity in a story. I see the book labeled as intended for 18+. But I don’t think that matches the reading experience.

All in all, I’m not sad to have read the book. But it wasn’t a favorite either.

Other Reviews:

Ashley’s Reviews


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Book Review: The Beast, by Jenika Snow

I purchased a signed copy of The Beast, by Jenika Snow.

the beast cover

What if the Beast never turned into the prince?

My father had just sold me off.

Bartered my body to erase his debt to the very devil himself.

A Beast of a man. Literally.

A creature whispered about amongst the villagers and feared by all.

He was a beastly visage at three times the size of a man, his monstrously huge body covered in fur. Sharp fangs and eyes that held an unearthly red glow. He had pawlike hands tipped with claws and horns that arched back from his inhuman face.

I was to live with him, to be his in every way—all ways—he saw fit.

I was to be his wife, and so I offered myself up as the proverbial sacrifice to the very devil himself.

I just didn’t expect to enjoy being with a monster as much as I did.

my review

Meh, I didn’t love it. I picked this up because I’d seen it raved about over on Tiktok and thought the idea of Beast, from Beauty and the Beast, remaining beastly was intriguing. But there’s just not much to it. Which might be fine (erotica doesn’t need much of a plot), except what is there doesn’t even try to be original in any way. It just feels like poorly done Disney fan fiction.

So, if the minimal plot didn’t interest me, that left the sex. What a reader likes in a sex scene is super individual. But, for me, this was far too focused on how he was going to hurt her and she’d beg for more. (Plus, all the spitting…and leaking…wasn’t my jam). Which means the sex wasn’t a big winner for me either.

Thus, to say it again, I didn’t love it. But to each their own.

the beast photo

Other Reviews:


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Book Review: The Dragon’s Bride, by Katee Robert

I purchased a copy of Katee Robert‘s The Dragon’s Bride.

the dragon's bride cover

Briar Rose might have a name out of a storybook, but she learned at a very young age that no prince was coming to save her. She’ll have to save herself. Unfortunately, even that is an impossible task in her current situation—trapped in a terrifying marriage to a dangerous man.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, which is how she finds herself making a deal with a demon. Freedom from her husband…in return for seven years of service.

She expects the service to be backbreaking and harsh. She doesn’t expect to be put on an auction block in a room full of literal monsters and sold to the highest bidder.

To Sol.

A dragon.

He might seem kinder than his fearsome looks imply, but she knows better than to trust the way he wants to take care of her, or how invested he is in her pleasure. In her experience, if something seems too good to be true, it certainly is.

Falling for Sol is out of the question. She’s suffered enough, and she has no intention of staying in this realm…even if she leaves her heart behind when she returns to her normal life.

my review

I had a pretty middle of the road reaction to this book. But that feels a little disappointing. I saw it raved about and recommended so very many times that anything less than utterly loving it feels like a let down. But if I force myself to let that go, I can admit that I enjoyed this book, just not as much as the reviews led me to believe I would. (That’s the danger of too much hype, right?)

On the positive side, Sol is just a doll. He’s so sweet, even with his dangerous edge. It would be hard not to appreciate him. Similarly, Briar is a fun character. I very much appreciated that she was able and willing to go for what she wanted. The overall world seems fun and the writing is easy to read.

On the negative side, I didn’t think the sex scenes fit the characters. This might take little explaining and is 100% subjective. I’m not going to be all ‘no abused woman would do x, y, or z.’ I can’t know what someone with a history of abuse would or wouldn’t do in any given scenario, the dragon's bride photolet along when faced with a dragon. But what I will say is that I didn’t feel like the characters Sol and Briar were outside of the bedroom matched the characters they became in bed. It’s hot and very on point for current spicy fantasy trends. But it felt a lot more like it was written to those same trends than to character consistency. And this annoyed me…even if it was hot, as I said.

All in all, I liked the book. I’ll read the next one. But it wasn’t the knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark I was hoping for.

Other Reviews:

Review: The Dragon’s Bride by Katee Robert

Book Review: The Dragon’s Bride by Katee Robert

Book Review: The Dragon’s Bride by Katee Robert