Cat Sebastian – The Queer Principles of Kit Webb

Title: The Queer Principles of Kit Webb
Author: Cat Sebastian

Kit Webb has left his stand-and-deliver days behind him. But dreary days at his coffee shop have begun to make him pine for the heady rush of thievery. When a handsome yet arrogant aristocrat storms into his shop, Kit quickly realizes he may be unable to deny whatever this highborn man desires.

In order to save himself and a beloved friend, Percy, Lord Holland must go against every gentlemanly behavior he holds dear to gain what he needs most: a book that once belonged to his mother, a book his father never lets out of his sight and could be Percy’s savior. More comfortable in silk-filled ballrooms than coffee shops frequented by criminals, his attempts to hire the roughly hewn highwayman, formerly known as Gladhand Jack, proves equal parts frustrating and electrifying.

Kit refuses to participate in the robbery but agrees to teach Percy how to do the deed. Percy knows he has little choice but to submit and as the lessons in thievery begin, he discovers thievery isn’t the only crime he’s desperate to commit with Kit.

But when their careful plan goes dangerously wrong and shocking revelations threaten to tear them apart, can these stolen hearts withstand the impediments in their path?

This book was very…twee. Something I wasn’t entirely unprepared for, since the cover doesn’t exactly scream ‘dark and edgy’ and if you’re familiar with fanfiction neither does coffee shop. And I wanted something cutesy and twee when I picked up this book. And I got it. I got a book that contained the phrases “He even smelled good, even though the only scent Percy could detect was yesterday’s soap, tobacco, and what his mind stupidly and unhelpfully identified as man” and “He felt like he ought to be cataloguing all the ways this was different from kissing a woman but it wasn’t.” which both poke fun at stuff that you found frequently in fanfiction about ten years ago, yet somehow also shout them out pretty non-ironically. I got a book with cheesy hurt/comfort scenes (including I want to hurt the person who hurt you), Kit having strong feelings for his pet-spider (of course only Percy understands), witty female side characters that of course can hold their own, and did I mention that it’s set in a coffee shop?

I also got Kit who lost many people he loved tragically, who recently received a serious injury that crippled his leg and who now has to learn to live with a disability and Percy who has just found out that his entire life has been a lie and the things you learn about his childhood and his parents make you want to call Georgian child services. And those two hatch a plan together that could get both of them killed. So not exactly light-hearted. But I kept forgetting about that between the best-of cheesy romance/fanfic tropes this book bombards you with. And then it came up again and I thought ‘Dude. Shouldn’t you be more affected by that?’ So, I guess I would have either needed this to be either less dark or less cutesy, but the combination of both didn’t work at all.

KJ Charles – Subtle Blood

Author: KJ Charles
Title: Subtle Blood
Series: Will Darling #3

Will Darling is all right. His business is doing well, and so is his illicit relationship with Kim Secretan–disgraced aristocrat, ex-spy, amateur book-dealer. It’s starting to feel like he’s got his life under control.

And then a brutal murder in a gentleman’s club plunges them back into the shadow world of crime, deception, and the power of privilege. Worse, it brings them up against Kim’s noble, hostile family, and his upper-class life where Will can never belong.

With old and new enemies against them, and secrets on every side, Will and Kim have to fight for each other harder than ever—or be torn apart for good.

I had been very excited for the conclusion of the Will Darling Books and was not disappointed. The mystery is again great fun and kept me guessing for a long time. Not to mention, it offers a fun twist on the “sleuth investigates because a family member is under suspicion” trope (which I am usually not overly fond of), in that Kim doesn’t particularly care for his brother – or is fully convinced of his innocence – but him getting convicted for murder and executed would mean Kim would end up with the title and all the publicity that comes with it, something he wants under no circumstances. This goes so far that he is seriously considering using his connections to save him, even if it does turn out he’s guilty. Surprisingly, these considerations do cause some tension in his relationship with Will.

This does give us a great set-up. Kim’s brother is so unlikeable, as reader, you almost want it to be him because the thought of him continuing to run around freely is depressing. (And besides he doesn’t exactly act innocent). But at the same time it’s clear that him having actually committed a murder would open an entirely different can of worms. That’s a good way to up the stakes for the grand finale without fabricating stupid misunderstandings or making the case ridiculously over-the-top (I mean…it’s already pulp. The case is ridiculously over-the-top. But in a fun way).

And for the rest: It still has all the things I loved about the first two books: a great couple (that still has to work on their relationship and does so), charming side-characters (I admit I thought Phoebe was fun in book one…now I love her), and delightfully fiendish villains who have hatched a dastardly evil scheme. And a surprising end – in more than one way.

ARC received from the author