LGBT, New Adult Romance

My Review: Check Yes, No, or Maybe (Meeting His Match #1): by Stormie Skyes

**Kindle ARC Edition**
Publish Date: January 15th, 2022
Number of Pages: n/a
Publisher: 4 Horseman Publications
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, LGBT+

First and Foremost, I just want to personally thank the author for giving me an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy) of this story for an honest review!

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

Crappy job. Yes.

Take back an annoying ex. Definitely no.

Hit on the sexy new firm partner looking him over…maybe?

For Aaron Cambrian, life is lived by checklists. No matter how promising, everything – jobs, potential partners, cars, drinks, food, etc – needed to meet all his criteria or he walks away.

Everything changes one night at the cocktail bar when his best friend challenges Aaron to abandon his list and ask the first hot guy who catches his interest if he can buy him a drink.

Thanks to his old nemesis alcohol, Aaron takes the dare! The next thing he knows, he finds himself in the condo of an absolute stranger! It was supposed to be one drink. One accidental kiss… Good thing he’d never see the guy again.

Wrong! When the sexy new partner at Kimball & Marks law firm turns out to be the hot stranger, Aaron is faced with a life-changing decision: keep the checklist or lose the hottest, most frustrating man who ever stole his heart.

~~~

I was happily surprised when the author and I connected on Instagram and I ended up receiving an ARC of this book! It hasn’t happened often to me…in fact, this is only the second time I’ve ever gotten the privilege to read something technically before it’s release date! It’s a great opportunity to add some hype for newly released books, and hey, if this somehow leads to me getting ARC’s of books by say…Sarah J. Maas, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Leigh Bardugo, Elle Kennedy, or Sarina Bowen, I would for SURE volunteer to give an honest review of any of their upcoming stories! Just tossing that out there…

Check Yes, No, or Maybe is an easy, light-hearted, and cute romantic story with a touch of spice that’s also MM—which I’m also a big fan of! I’ll say it every time, but it’s great to see so many MM romance stories out now that weren’t as readily available for someone like me when I was growing up in the early 2000’s and questioning things. This book wasn’t perfect, but that’s honestly okay! You can tell the author had fun writing this story, and it did keep me reading to see what happened next, so if a book can keep my attention like that, and I mean I was up reading until three a.m. one morning, so I consider that a success!

The story mainly revolves around Aaron Cambrian, who’s a college student studying to become a chef while also working at a law firm to help pay the bills and rent, and he’s at low point in his life…his toxic ex has run out on him yet again, he feels like he’s one misstep away from getting fired, he’s constantly compared to his master chef father who abandoned him and his family, and it even feels impossible to walk up to a sexy stranger in a bar one night…

When the urging of his best friend leads him to do exactly that in their usual Friday night hangout spot, he surprises himself by ending up in bed with a hot stranger…only to later discover that of course the guy also just happens to be the new partner of the law firm he works at!

Maverick Waylan is smooth, charming, always dressed to impress, and has his eyes set on Aaron, who has to decide if the feelings Mav evokes is worth it all…

There are a few things I have to critique on with the story, which I do in greater detail further down below in my review, but again, it was an enjoyable story despite its faults, and I did have some hearts floating above my head for both Aaron and Maverick as I read on about their love story.

What I Liked:

  1. The Spice! There were a couple of heated moments between Aaron and Maverick that make the romance a little more on the spicy instead of the sweet side that I personally enjoyed. I’m a proud smut lover, so of course I’ll say that it made the story that much better! I only wish there was even more tossed into the story.
  2. The Cover Design! I love the simple, almost cartoony designs that romance covers are getting in recent memory. This cover is another great example of this artistic decision.
  3. It’s An Addicting Slow-Burn! It may not be the best written book I’ve ever read, but I can also admit that it did still keep me interested and kept me up late at night to see what was happening next. I was mainly invested in the sexual tension between Aaron and Maverick and HAD to read on until something happened between them!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Abrupt Ending…Big surprise I’m not a fan of the ending, but that seems to always be something I critique in my reviews when it comes to romance novels…It just felt so abrupt and there were a few things that were left unresolved that I wish we saw more of possibly!
  2. The British Slang Tossed Into Non-British Character’s Dialogue…Now I know Maverick is supposed to be a British character, but there were a few instances where some of the American characters say a word only someone who’s British would say…I did find myself double-checking to make sure this book was set in NYC because of it.
  3. Certain Conflicts/Side-Plots Are Never Fully Utilized…While I’m a big fan of the romantic plot of this story, it felt like a lot of subplots weren’t given nearly as much attention that maybe should’ve been in order to make this a stronger story. One example is Aaron’s father being a big celebrity chef that abandoned the family before the story took place, but the family still deals with paparazzi and getting their mugs in the tabloids…but thats kind of it…like Aaron has some issues with his father for all this, but it’s never really explored or develops more than that besides one instance that causes drama between him and Maverick. Another example is Aaron’s ex, Declan, and their whole toxic past. It’s referenced like one time but thats about it, like I feel like maybe some more background info could’ve made this stronger too. You also don’t feel like you get as much out of Maverick’s family too even though that was presented as a possibly big conflict for the couple to overcome. Also, for someone who’s worried about his crush running off about his strange quirk for writing lists, he doesn’t write a whole lot of actual lists in the book. I also feel like maybe there didn’t need to be as many side characters too, but they did make for it to be easier to read on in the story.

Conclusion:

Overall, Check Yes, No, or Maybe was an alright book that really is a sweet, romantic storyline between two male characters—something I’m always happy to read—and just have a light, easy, beach read of a romance novel. I feel like readers who are drawn to stories like Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston or Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall will enjoy this book too! They have the same lighter tone and also a similar style of setup.

It wasn’t the perfect story and honestly it left me questioning a few things as it ended, but I still found it entertaining and I can also say I did enjoy it! There was mainly a focus on the romantic development, which isn’t a bad thing, but if the author also put more attention onto the several other subplots happening, it would’ve strengthened the story a lot better in my opinion!

I still say to give this a try if you think you might enjoy this story, or if you’re just looking for a lighter, easy-going romantic novel to kill a plane ride with, or if you just need a little break from the heavier and darker material that you may read as well!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Gild (The Plated Prisoner #1): by Raven Kennedy

Publish Date: October 1st, 2020
Number of Pages: 289 Pages
Publisher: Independently Published
Genre(s): Fantasy, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.25 Stars

Does it really matter if your cage is solid gold when you aren’t allowed to leave it? A cage is a cage, no matter how gilded.

– Raven Kennedy, “Gild”

What It’s About:

The official synopsis:

The fae abandoned this world to us. And the ones with power rule.

Gold.

Gold floors, gold walls, gold furniture, gold clothes. In Highbell, in the castle built into the frozen mountains, everything is made of gold.

Even me.

King Midas rescued me. Dug me out of the slums and placed me on a pedestal. I’m called his precious. His favored. I’m the woman he Gold-Touched to show everyone that I belong to him. To show how powerful he is. He gave me protection, and I gave him my heart. And even though I don’t leave the confines of the palace, I’m safe.

Until war comes to the kingdom and a deal is struck.

Suddenly, my trust is broken. My love is challenged. And I realize that everything I thought I knew about Midas might be wrong.

Because these bars I’m kept in, no matter how gilded, are still just a cage. But the monsters on the other side might make me wish I’d never left.

Author’s Note: This is a fantasy romance m/f story. There will be monarchs and magic and fae and steam and violence and all the feels. This book contains explicit content and mature language not intended for anyone under 18 years of age. This is book one of three in the series, so that means it won’t be tied up in a bow at the end. In fact, the bow is probably going to be tossed right off a cliff. But it’ll be worth the fall.

~~~

Gild is the first installment of an adult fantasy series called The Plated Prisoner that revolves around a loose retelling of the mythological royal figure: King Midas. To be honest, I’m not too familiar with the whole story of him besides how the story is from ancient Greek origins and the obvious fact that whatever he touched with his hands turned to solid gold.

I picked this title up because there has been quite some hype as of late surrounding this series on social media like Bookstagram, BookTok, and in my personal reading circles, so when I saw the first two books at my local Barnes & Noble, I was happily surprised and immediately picked them up!

This story takes place in a realm called Orea, where there are six kingdoms, and King Midas rules over the sixth kingdom, Highbell. In his Golden Castle is the caged woman, Auren, who the story actually revolves around. She is Midas’s favored, his prized possession, his ring to rule all rings, his pet, so you get the picture…

Somehow, she’s able to live in her fully golden body and even has her own silken ribbons that go down her spine that can move on their own and can feel things like pain and touch. She was the victim of child trafficking and was homeless until Midas rescued her, and for ten years she lived in a golden, gilded cage in his castle and shows her joy and gratitude of being his even though her “savior” keeps her in a golden-caged prison.

King Midas is coming up with a plan to take over the fourth kingdom, the most powerful of them all, which is also ruled by a figure known as King Ravinger, or King Rot. There’s also hints tossed in about how long ago there was a seventh kingdom ruled by the Fae, and how Orea was actually co-founded by humans and Fae, but the Fae betrayed them about 300 years ago and cut the bridge between their worlds and disappeared…but perhaps some of their magic was left behind?….who knows!

Now, some of you might be wondering why I’ve given it a lower score out of 5 stars, and you better believe it that I’ll tell you why:

I had some pretty mixed feelings overall about the book, and not even because of the more darker themes and trigger-warning instances–no, that content actually kept me pretty interested–but merely because of how this book is extremely light in action and plot; it’s all set up to introduce the world, the characters, the main character’s current predicament, and give you the hint of magic that will hopefully come more into play later on.

Here’s my quick input on the trigger warnings: there is murder, there is sexual assault, there is rape, there is heavy misogyny and sexism, there is bargaining others for sexual favors without their consent…

Personally, I wasn’t triggered by these instances in the story…to be honest I thought it made the story more interesting, BUT I also understand that not everyone enjoys that sort of content or wants to read it, so it’s fair to give a warning to this sort of thing.

AND before cancel culture comes for my ass, just to clarify: just because I’m not triggered by this happening in the story doesn’t mean I’m okay with rape/sexual assault or condone it in anyway! Put your pitchforks and torches down and keep reading…

It’s funny because it’s not like this is the only book that has the sort of “setting the scene” formula in the books I’ve read…The Hunger Games had this too with Katniss Everdeen taking her sister’s place in the 74th annual games and being frisked off to the Capitol and seeing the corruption and greed and danger firsthand, A Court of Thorns and Roses with Feyre being introduced to the world of Prythian and the lord of the spring court, Tamlin….yeah, I’m sure most of us on here know how that turned out…but anyways you get my point! The first book is merely set-up for character intros and world-building, then the actual overall series plot doesn’t really come into play until the sequel.

Back to Gild, the beginning was actually pretty decent with it starting literally right in the middle of some action…and there were some unexpected twists thrown in too that impressed me, I felt a mix of reactions to Auren and how obviously brainwashed she was by King Midas, but the midpoint was the big slow drag for me. I was seriously wondering why people were hyping this book so much, but my bookish friends kept me going, and I did some research that suggested the author does this on purpose to show you how mundane Auren’s life is before the plot truly begins. The last 30 % of the book actually really saved it for me and definitely leaves off on a cliffhanger! A lot of danger, a lot of new characters, and a lot of twists!

Sure, there wasn’t really a plot to go off of, nor really a sense of resolution in any way, but it sure makes you curious to grab the next book like IMMEDIATELY because, seriously…with an ending like that, what could happen next?!

~~~

Men making deals on the behalf of women never seems to go very well for the women.

– Raven Kennedy, “Gild”

What I Liked:

  1. It Wasn’t Afraid to Get Dark! So this is the dark side of my Gemini coming out, but the trigger warning content actually was a highlight for me and raised my brows in curiosity and interest rather than dread or cringe. King Midas has a harem of “saddles” (or sex slaves in all honesty), and even Auren is considered one even if she is always kept separate from the others while in her cage. Since they’re still slaves, their bodies aren’t even their own and decisions get made without their consent, and this is reminded to you several times throughout the story. Like any popular dark fantasy show, there’s plenty of bloody betrayal and blood shed as well. There’s even a cruel death of a certain character that was cruel because of how the corpse is treated after their death…
  2. King Midas Story Gets Some Attention! I personally haven’t really heard of any King Midas retellings that have gotten attention like this book has, or if there are many others to compare to at all, so this fact makes the story actually stand out in this way alone. I like that its a more unique retelling of a classic story that hasn’t gotten as much attention as say…Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid, or even Hades and Persephone.
  3. The Ending! Like I said earlier, the end of this book absolutely does a 180 and saves the whole story! As soon as a specific character and his soldiers make their first appearance, you know things are about to get a whole lot more interesting!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Very Lacking in Action and Plot…While I loved the other books that have the formula of being mostly set-up for the next books in the series, this book was a little weaker in that sense just because not as much happens to make it feel like a stronger book as a standalone. At least The Hunger Games and A Court of Thorns and Roses stood stronger on their own!
  2. Not A Whole Lot of Romance Either…There are some sex scenes that happen, but that doesn’t mean there’s a whole lot of actual romance happening in this book either. The only thing that even comes close to it is actually pretty toxic because Auren is brainwashed by King Midas and its all a textbook example of Stockholm Syndrome…I’m hoping the next books have more in this regard as the story continues.

Conclusion:

Overall, Gild by Raven Kennedy was a good but not great read, BUT from the urging of my bookish friends and from several other readers on social media AND reading the ending of this book as well, my interest to read on spikes up like I just chugged three Redbulls back-to-back!

Everyone says the next books, Glint and Gleam, are so much better and so much more happens, so with that in mind and how those sequels really do get much better in my experience, my final words are:

Lets see what happens!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles, Writing/Articles

NJGENTERTAINMENT.COM’S Top 10 Books of 2021

Hello Readers!

2021 has been quite a year full of ups and downs, a few achievements and also a few downfalls, but it’s always good to say it was another great year of reading under my belt too. I’m definitely noticing a pattern with some of my book choices and it is definitely ENEMIES-TO-LOVERS, which is definitely the most popular romance trope out there, so no surprise there! I’m also glad to be able to find a lot more M/M romance too, both those kinds of stories are totally my weakness…

Below is my list of the top books I read this year, and they are in no particular order, so enjoy!

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1. The Supernatural Beasts & Bullies (Zodiac Academy) Series by Caroline Peckham & Susanne Valenti

Image courtesy of Instagram account @kaythebooklover

First thing I can say is WOW, these books sucked me in like a black hole, because while I was reading these back to back to back, I honestly couldn’t tell you what else was going on in my life because they were the only thing on my mind. If I was at work, I was thinking about these books and the characters, and if I wasn’t bathing or sleeping, odds are I was reading these books. The story itself is alright, but it’s the characters and all the intertwining relationships that really drive the whole series for me, along with the two forbidden romances also happening. What a whirlwind of a series, I can’t believe the final book already is coming out…

To see my review of book #1 – Zodiac Academy: The Awakening – Click HERE

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2. A Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns & Roses #4): by Sarah J. Maas

Image courtesy of emmasbibliotreasures.com

It should absolutely not be a shock that a Sarah J. Maas novel made it onto this list, but SJM is that author where I don’t even have to read the blurb or even know what it is about and she can take my money. I know the bookish fandom is really torn on her, and that’s cool, but this reader is on the side that absolutely loves her stories! Besides, the inner struggle that Nesta faced was absolutely astounding, mental health was a big theme of this book, and the romance was SJM’s spiciest yet! Absolutely loved this addition to her ACOTAR series…

To see my review of A Court of Silver Flames – Click HERE

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3. The Crown of Gilded Bones (Blood and Ash #3): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Image courtesy of booksamillion.com

By far one of my most anticipated releases this year, it absolutely did not disappoint, and JLA really impressed me with how she’s made every book in this series bigger than the previous one in this series. I was floored with that tremendous final chunk of the book that had me in what has to be the biggest reading hangover I ever experienced in quite awhile! These books are such a bookish obsession for me, I can’t recommend them enough…

To see my review of The Crown of Gilded Bones – Click HERE

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4. The Bridge Kingdom (Bridge Kingdom #1): Danielle L. Jensen

Image courtesy of Instagram account @danielleljensen

This book honestly surprised me the most out of this list because I was not expecting to like it as much as I did! The enemies-to-lovers dynamic between the two main characters was done so well and I wasn’t expecting how strategic and militaristic the author got with the politics and dueling kingdoms in this fictional world. Definitely a lesser known title to check out…

To see my review of The Bridge Kingdom – Click HERE

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5. Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked #1): by Kerri Maniscalco

Credit to owner

I’m very curious about the world this author has created, plus I do love the spicy and spooky vibes this book gives off mixed in with a murder mystery of the witch and demon variety. The demon prince, Wrath, is way too hot for YA Fantasy so I’m glad that Kerri Maniscalco revealed that the second book—Kingdom of the Cursed—will be even more spicy, which makes me definitely interested, and I had to include an image of the Fairyloot edition because I own a copy and it’s probably one of the most gorgeous books on my personal shelf…

To see my review of Kingdom of the Wicked – Click HERE

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6. Iron & Fire (Silk & Steel #2): by Ariana Nash

I’m loving how intense these books and how morally grey the characters are, it’s like a queer romance Game of Thrones—so Gay of Thrones?—especially Lysander! He’s easily the best character out of these books so far, and even better that he’s a dragon-shifter prince. The romance was more apparent and absolutely scorching in this 2nd installment in this series, and with all that happens, I gotta get the third book on my kindle ASAP…

To see my review of Iron and Fire – Click HERE

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7. It Happened One Summer (The Bellinger Sisters #1): by Tessa Bailey

Image courtesy of underthecoversbookblog.com

As soon as I heard that this was a “Schitt’s Creek” inspired romance, I knew I had to get my hands on it and read it! This was just a light, fun, and even a little spicy romance that I really enjoyed and of course recommend. Piper and Brendan made an adorable couple, and I’m even looking forward to the sequel coming out in 2022!

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8. Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2): by Kerri Maniscalco

Credit to owner

Okay, but I was not expecting Kerri Maniscalco to go so hard on this sequel, but I am oh so glad she did! She did such a spectacular job that I had to include KOTC as it’s own entry. The story continues with Wrath and Emilia traveling back to Hell, and it’s taken a steamier and more New Adult direction that really makes the story even better!

To see my review of Kingdom of the Cursed – Click HERE

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9. The Hating Game: By Sally Thorne

Image courtesy of allbooksaboard.com

There has been a lot of hype around this enemies-to-lovers office romance novel, and theres even a movie with Lucy Hale and Austin Stowell out now, so I decided I had to read this at least once. It was cute, it was funny, and it even had a little spice which I always appreciate! I thought it was a fun book that is perfect to fill in time waiting for a darker and heavier installment to any series you may be reading, or if you’re just looking for a light romance to enjoy.

To see my review of The Hating Game – Click HERE

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10. A Kingdom of Shadow and Light (Fever #11): by Karen Marie Moning

Image courtesy of Karen Marie Moning’s Twitter profile

The crazy ride that is the “Fever” series by Karen Marie Moning had come to an end with the 11th installment, and things certainly end with a bang with Mac, Barrons, Cruce, and company as Mac has many, many, many things all going on at once while she’s coming to terms with her new powerful position! A good ending that could’ve been great, but still a fitting end to an extraordinary story!

To see my review of A Kingdom of Shadow and Light – Click HERE

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Honorable Mentions:

Try (Temptations #1): by Ella Frank

Wicked (A Wicked Trilogy #1): by Jennifer Armentrout

A Shadow in the Ember (Flesh and Fire #1): by Jennifer Armentrout

Four Letter Word (Dirty Deeds #1): by J. Daniels

A Touch of Darkness (Hades and Persephone #1): by Scarlett St. Clair

One Time Only (One Time Only #1): by Lauren Blakely

Collide (Blackcreek #1): by Riley Hart

Fake It ‘TIl You Break It: by Meagan Brandy

Crosstown Crush (Sins in the City #1): by Cara McKenna

The Play (Briar-U #3): by Elle Kennedy

The Dare (Briar-U #4): by Elle Kennedy

~~~

Well, there you have it!

What a year it was with so many great titles that released, and it reminds me of how there are already a few titles set to release in 2022 that I am MAASively looking forward to! If there’s not a link to some of the books above, it just means I haven’t posted a review YET. Thats a goal for me going into next year: getting back on top of trying to post a review or post an article more often than I have this past fall and into winter. It’s a crazy time of year, but once the holidays are over and done, and things begin to calm down, I’ll have more time to get caught up on a few reviews that I’m behind on!

Have a wonderful holiday season, stay safe and have fun with your loved ones, get plenty of sleep and drink plenty of water, and we’ll hear from each other in the coming new year!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, New Adult Romance

My Review: A Shadow in the Ember (Flesh & Fire #1): by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publish Date: October 19th, 2021
Number of Pages: 647 Pages

Publisher: Blue Box Press
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance, New Adult Romance, Paranormal

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers as this book is a spin-off out of the “From Blood and Ash” series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

Total Star Rating: 3 Stars

It is far easier to be lied to than it is to acknowledge that you have been lied to.

– Jennifer L. Armentrout, “A Shadow in the Ember”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

Born shrouded in the veil of the Primals, a Maiden as the Fates promised, Seraphena Mierel’s future has never been hers. Chosen before birth to uphold the desperate deal her ancestor struck to save his people, Sera must leave behind her life and offer herself to the Primal of Death as his Consort.

However, Sera’s real destiny is the most closely guarded secret in all of Lasania—she’s not the well protected Maiden but an assassin with one mission—one target. Make the Primal of Death fall in love, become his weakness, and then… end him. If she fails, she dooms her kingdom to a slow demise at the hands of the Rot.

Sera has always known what she is. Chosen. Consort. Assassin. Weapon. A specter never fully formed yet drenched in blood. A monster. Until him. Until the Primal of Death’s unexpected words and deeds chase away the darkness gathering inside her. And his seductive touch ignites a passion she’s never allowed herself to feel and cannot feel for him. But Sera has never had a choice. Either way, her life is forfeit—it always has been, as she has been forever touched by Life and Death.

~~~

Instead of moving forward with the story of the “Blood and Ash” series by Jennifer L. Armentrout, we kind of go backwards in time to go and meet an incredibly important character that we met in “The Crown of Gilded Bone:” The Primal of Death, Nyktos. We go back approximately 200 years before FBAA starts and meet Nyktos and his Consort, Sera, who we know are actually Poppy’s grandparents.

It’s the beginning of a spin-off series set in the same world, you definitely get to see some Easter eggs of what is to eventually come with the Ascended and everything Poppy, Cas, and Kieran are dealing with in more current times.

I was a little bummed going in because personally, I am not the biggest fan of prequels. You already know to some degree what’s going to happen, so the fact that the story is somewhat predictable to that degree makes me not as interested. In a way, you’re already spoiled how it ends. I told myself to keep my criticism and weariness to a minimum because if I learned anything from TCOGB, I can trust the author to satisfy me with her storytelling skills. For the most part, this book didn’t disappoint, but I can also say that it didn’t feel as good as it could’ve been.

For most of the beginning towards the middle of the book, it felt like I was just reading a version of “From Blood and Ash” all over again with similar character archetypes and relationships, and maybe that was something the author wanted to do with showing so many parallels between Sera’s story and Poppy’s, but personally I got incredibly bored with the book for this reason. It didn’t feel like it’s own story, just a remixed version of a story the author already gave me.

I’m definitely not saying this isn’t worth the read though! The last chunk of the book is where this book truly starts to feel like it’s own entity and starts to veer away from the many comparisons of FBAA with epic battles of gods vs. gods and many twists revealed to thicken the already intricately drawn out plot.

Also, there was some incredible sexual tension between Sera and the Primal himself as they can’t deny the mutual attraction they feel towards each other. There wasn’t as many sex scenes as I was hoping, but we got some incredible spice from what we were given!

Of course, JLA leaves us bewildered with a crazy reveal at the very end of the book that even I can admit, it’s making me really excited for the next book to see how exactly all this information comes into play! It seemed to definitely get a great reaction out of the fandom, at least those who’ve posted about it on the FBAA World Spoiler Group on Facebook!

What I Liked:

  1. I Love A Good “They’re Sent To Kill Them, But End Up Falling For Them Instead” Trope! I really discovered I loved this when I read “The Bridge Kingdom” by Danielle Jensen, but it was also just so spectacular in this book too! Sera has been trained pretty much since she was a child on how to seduce the Primal of Death and then kill him when he’s at his most vulnerable, but of course those dang feelings get in the way and complicate everything! I’m personally here for it, and the angst and drama when the other finds out about it…
  2. Sera Is Even MORE Badass Than Poppy! I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I liked Sera even more than I did Poppy at the beginning of FBAA! She’s more badass with a weapon in hand, she doesn’t ask as many questions, and she and Nyktos have some hot AF chemistry too!
  3. The Twist With The History Of The Primals! I feel like I should have seen of this coming with how “Crown of Gilded Bone” turned out. But seriously, WHO could possibly guess the twists with the crazy family trees that the author reveals to us as the plot thickens, and even what happens at the very end of this book too….bravo Jennifer 👏🏼👏🏼

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. There’s Not As Much Spice As I Was Hoping…so I’m not saying there isn’t some very well written smut in this book, because there is, but I was hoping for more than what we actually got. I figured if Sera was sent to seduce the Primal of death, she’d really put that training into…ummm…action if you know what I mean.
  2. Maybe A Few Too Many Parallels To Blood And Ash?…I was very bored with this book for a large part of the beginning because it felt like I was reading “From Blood and Ash” all over again. There were so many similarities…the maiden and her elder knight mentor and guardian, douchey royals, and mysterious, snarky, dark, and sexy brooding man for the love interest…it just felt like the same book rewritten with minor changes to keep it somewhat new

Conclusion:

Overall, “A Shadow in the Ember” was a good book that I’d hoped would be great, but unfortunately some of my weariness with prequels came to be as this book just felt like recycled material with the same archetypes and type-cast of characters all like characters from FBAA that we’re familiar with.

HOWEVER, like I said, as you get to the last chunk of this book it really begins to feel like it’s own original story with a lot more excitement and plethora of twists and reveals that even though it’s a prequel, I’m very curious to see what happens further with Sera and Nyktos and everyone else!

NOW. as I’m typing this review, it’s around three months until the next installment of the FBAA series, “The War of Two Queens.” Now THAT is what I’m very excited to read! I need to know what happens to Cas, all the Draken who’ve woken up to join the battle, and possibly find yet another book boyfriend in Reaver! I can’t wait, and I can already tell it’s going to be a top book of 2022 for me!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult Romance, Paranormal, YA Fantasy

My Review: The Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2): by Kerri Maniscalco

Publish Date: October 5th, 2021
Number of Pages: 448 Pages
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Genre(s): Paranormal, New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

***Warning!! This review contains spoilers from this book and the previous in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – Kingdom of the Wicked – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series so far – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4.5 Stars

‘Tell me,’ he whispered, his voice sliding like silk over my flushed skin.

‘What?’ My own voice came out breathless.

‘I am your favorite sin.’

– Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Cursed”

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

After selling her soul to become Queen of the Wicked, Emilia travels to the Seven Circles with the enigmatic Prince of Wrath, where she’s introduced to a seductive world of vice.

She vows to do whatever it takes to avenge her beloved sister, Vittoria… even if that means accepting the hand of the Prince of Pride, the king of demons.

The first rule in the court of the Wicked? Trust no one. With back-stabbing princes, luxurious palaces, mysterious party invitations, and conflicting clues about who really killed her twin, Emilia finds herself more alone than ever before. Can she even trust Wrath, her one-time ally in the mortal world… or is he keeping dangerous secrets about his true nature?

Emilia will be tested in every way as she seeks a series of magical objects that will unlock the clues of her past and the answers she craves…

One sister.
Two sinful princes.
Infinite deception with a side of revenge… Welcome to Hell.

~~~

I sincerely apologize readers, as I’m typing this review, I’m noticing how much longer it’s taking me to post more often here on my blog…all I can really say to explain myself is life is crazy, I’m really tired a lot, I’m trying to have a social life because sitting at home in bed with depression doesn’t help, I’ve gotten back into drawing. I’ve started a bookstagram account (@goodyreads) and actually because I’ve been reading up a storm for the last few months too! Like I can’t even keep up with typing up reviews with all I’ve read so far! But anyways, onto my review…

The Kingdom of the Cursed is the sequel in this series, but the second book syndrome is (thank god) NO WHERE to be found…in fact, it’s the total opposite because I loved this book way more than the first one! It’s so much deeper and richer and sexier, and I’m so glad that the author decided to go the more New Adult path for this story instead of keeping it in Young Adult. I think it serves the story so much better!

We start off immediately how book 1 ended, and that was such a big cliffhanger so you’re right back in the thick of it as Wrath and Emilia travel to Hell together. Emilia is still feeling the sting of betrayal at how Wrath seemingly tricked her and made her soul the one he needed to free himself from the Devil and give him a bride…BUT she can’t help but still feel very much attracted to him, even if she has to do all she can to hide that little tidbit for what it’s worth…

As they get into Hell, there’s the preparation of a celebration that they must attend at some point, and it’s not exactly confirmed right away, but Emilia will most likely be the guest of honor. In order to get into Pride’s manor and learn if he’s for sure who’s behind her sister’s murder, she reluctantly turns to Wrath to train her on all mind-games and mental/emotional abuse the other princes may take upon, but let’s just say things get pretty heated in more ways than one….

Everything about this book is just bigger when compared to the previous book…and no, it’s not just about what Wrath is packing underneath his breeches. The plot thickened so very much, as did the sexual tension between our two main characters, it was a surprisingly hot read! And there’s so much more mythology and lore explored this time around surrounding Emilia’s lineage to add as well!

The plot itself may feel slower at some points, especially with the training and Emilia’s repetitive inner monologues about either finding her sister’s killer or how much she either hates Wrath or wants to get naked with him, but it is more character-driven this time around, and I personally didn’t have a problem with it, but I can see others might. Either way, it was a perfect book for spooky season!

You see a shift in both characters and definitely some growth; Emilia has definitely grown some thicker skin and isn’t as naive and innocent; she’s kind of turned into a scheming Slytherin-esque heroine if I do say so myself. Wrath also shows a lot more emotion this time around as he fights his own urges and admits to his attraction at some point or another, but isn’t afraid to be a cold and ruthless ruler of his realm all the same!

There are lots of twists at the end of this book, some you may be able to guess, but some I honestly wasn’t expecting, so the surprise of it all definitely adds to my appreciation of this book. And of course, it ends on an even bigger cliffhanger in multiple ways that I won’t spoil (duh) and that you’ll have to read to find out for yourself!

~~~

Your longings will taunt and tease you into oblivion if you can’t control them. This is a realm of sin and desire.

— Kerri Maniscalco, “Kingdom of the Cursed”

What I Liked:

  1. The Mature NA Shift! I am sooooo glad that the author decided to up the maturity on this story and make it a more New Adult level of reading because, let’s be honest, Wrath is WAY too sexy to stuck in Young Adult, and this book DEFINITELY proves that! Sexy Demon Prince can freakin’ get. It!
  2. How Much Thicker The Plot Got! I was surprised at how much deeper this mystery goes and how the story went from being a simple murder mystery to what exactly are Emilia’s abilities, what do they mean, and raises plenty more questions about her lineage as a witch too! The author also helps this by diving deeper into the mythology and lore behind this world and the history of the seven realms of hell, the first witch, and the 7 princes of hell!
  3. Wrath & Emilia’s Sexual Tension! Holy….shit! This book was freakin’ hot! I mean, it wasn’t as smutty as a Sierra Simone or Lorelei James novel, but I wasn’t expecting the amount of spice this book had! Kudos to the author on upping the sex appeal in this regards! It makes me think how well other YA authors would do if they decided to write more mature content…
  4. All the Secrets and Mistrust! One thing that continues to drive this story is all the intrigue and all the omission of truths that Wrath and Emilia keep from each other…I mean, it makes sense since they’ve gone from enemies-to-lovers-andbackto-enemies in these books, and it is oh so juicy to see them at each other’s throats (and other body parts here and there 😉)

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Why Are The Demons So…Non-demonic?…So there’s a couple side characters in this book who are all demons of Hell, and part of me was a little turned off at how…civilized it all was! Call it cliché, but I was hoping for more chaos and monstrous creatures to fight against or outsmart. There weren’t even werewolves and vampires like in the previous book! Fauna is an excellent example; she seemed just way too sweet and innocent to be a demon in all honesty…she was pretty much just the voice in Emilia’s head to remind her of how good Wrath could be when she was particularly upset with him about something.

Conclusion:

Overall, I really enjoyed this sequel tremendously more than the previous book by a long shot! The romance was added much heavier and much more steamier too, which I am incredibly happy about, but even the plot got much deeper too and with an ending like this one, you can bet there are LOTS of questions I have for what can happen next! It showed how little we truly know as an audience, and I’m only sad I have to wait another year to get more answers!

If you love the romance dynamics of Poppy and Casteel in A Kingdom of Flesh & Fire, or Feyre and Rhysand in A Court of Mist and Fury, you’ll devour this book!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell