Review of ‘Thorn’ by Anna Burke.

Rowan is the daughter of a merchant who unknowingly gives her a cursed rose taken during an ill-fated hunting trip. The rose was in a land of eternal winter inhabited by a mysterious woman called the Huntress. Furious at the merchant for killing her wolves and stealing her rose, the Huntress irrupts into the merchant’s house and takes the rose back along with Rowan. Trapped in the Huntress’s realm of eternal winter and curse, Rowan will have to choose between her family loyalties and her growing feelings for the Huntress.

Following my new year resolution to read more books out of my comfort zone, I chose a genre that I seldom read: fantasy. ‘Thorn’ is a retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. In this novel, according to the author, bravery and not beauty defines Beauty. As in her previous book ‘Compass Rose’ Ms. Burke is very poetic in her metaphors, this time changing naval comparisons for winter ones. Her depiction of the freezing landscape with its vast gamut of whites, menacing beasts and dimmed sunlight acts as an ideal backdrop to this beautiful story.

This novel is written in first person from the point of view of Rowan except for a few short sections written in third person point of view from the Huntress. Both main characters are well-rounded and believable and the reader cannot help but feel the pain of both: the Huntress as a victim of her own arrogance and Rowan as a casualty of her father’s weakness. Underneath lies a heavy criticism to the patriarchal system, in which women are traded as goods in the name of their fathers’ interests, and the confict between family loyalties and a woman’s search for true love.

‘A rose for a rose, a thorn for a thorn’. With each repetition of this mantra, the reader sees this phrase in a different light. The tone of this novel shifts back-and-forth from poetic and romantic as a rose, to hurting and heartbreaking as a thorn. Similarly, the pace changes from slow-burn romance to fast paced thriller. This book has been a pleasure to read and shows that Anna Burke is quickly becoming more than a promising writer.

Overall, a very good lesfic retelling of the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’. A tale of suffering, bravery and love conquering all. 5 stars.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘The road ahead’ by A.E. Radley.

Two days before Christmas, all flights from the south of Portugal are grounded due to technical problems. Among the passengers stranded are Rebecca Edwards and Arabella Henley, two strangers that decide to share the last rental car and drive the 1,500 miles back to London. The women can’t be any different and even incompatible but they’ll soon discover that the journey is also of self discovery and mutual understanding.

This is book one of the ‘Around the World’ series by this author which is followed by ‘The Big Uneasy’. Much of this book is spent in the building up of the mains’ friendship so, I suggest that in order to appreciate this story fully, you commit to read both books in chronological order.

‘The road ahead’ follows the ‘opposites attract’ formula and indeed, these women couldn’t be any different. Rebecca is in her late twenties, middle class and a lesbian while Arabella is in her early forties, upper class and – allegedly – straight. They are profoundly different but the author excels in transforming their relationship from the awkwardness of two strangers sharing a small space to find a common ground and to establish a budding friendship. This is where the book earned my 4 stars.

Unfortunately I couldn’t feel their romantic chemistry as much as their friendship bond. Maybe because the author doesn’t get the reader enough into Arabella’s headspace to see her musings about her life’s choices and sexuality, her romantic decisions come through as a bit forced and rushed. It doesn’t help either that the book finishes before their romance develops fully. So I think that this book is better appreciated as a whole with the sequel or else as a friendship story. Either way, it’s entertaining, sometimes funny, others sad, sometimes road-trip, others an inner journey.

Overall, an entertaining age-gap, opposites attract romance better enjoyed with its sequel. 4 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of ‘Bring Holly home’ by A.E. Radley.

Fashion magazine editor Victoria Hastings discovers while staying in Paris that her former assistant Holly Carter, who allegedly abandoned the job, is in hospital with amnesia. Victoria is adamant to bring Holly back home and help her recover but, in the process, both women will undergo a journey of mutual discovery of their feelings.

This is another novel based on the Devil wears Prada trope which normally features an age gap relationship and an ice queen against a more lively character. The peculiarity of this novel is that Holly suffers from amnesia which brings additional conflicts to the plot.

The novel is written in third person from the point of view of three characters: the leads Victoria and Holly and Victoria’s friend Gideon. While the main characters are well-rounded, I didn’t feel their chemistry until the very end maybe because the reader is told about the characters’ feelings more than shown by their actions. The secondary characters are a bit stereotyped and Victoria’s children sometimes act too mature for their ages.

All in all, the story is entertaining with some funny and humorous moments and a good twist at the end. Depite some situations feel a bit far-fetched, it’s a good read if you don’t take things too seriously.

Overall, an entertaining read based on the Devil wears Prada trope. 3.5 stars.

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