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 ‘Lost in paradise’ by Rachel Lacey.

Nicole Morella is a recently divorced New Yorker taking some thinking time in a cruise ship in the Mediterranean. When she meets Fiona Boone, a British artist living in France, they hit it off immediately but their budding attraction is interrupted when the cruise is hijacked. Both women escape in a lifeboat and they will need to fight together for their survival and their chance at love.

Rachel Lacey is a seasoned author of almost twenty romance novels but this is her first LGBT and f/f book. According to the author’s notes, she wrote the first draft in a week which is a big accomplishment because the plot is original and well crafted.

Written in third person from the point of view of both main characters, the story is varied in thrilling moments, romance and drama, all of them well balanced and realistic. Both women face setbacks in their fight for survival and the reader cannot help but cheering for them. The secondary characters are mostly in the background but it makes sense as a big part of the story happens with both women isolated from anyone else. However, when the secondary characters make their appearance, they are well-rounded and believable, specially Nicole’s parents.

There’s a trigger warning of abuse but just narrated by one of the characters in a couple of paragraphs. The sex scenes are well written and realistic and show the characters’ growing intimacy. I think that this book will appeal not only the usual lesfic reader but also to Ms. Lacey’s fans.

Overall, an entertaining book with a well-balanced mix of thrilling scenes, romance and drama. 4.5 stars.

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

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Review of ‘A recipe for love’ by Lucy J. Madison.

Danika Russo is a newly retired 55 year old who is going through a life crisis after having taken care of her terminally ill partner and father. As she loves cooking, she decides to enroll in an Italian cooking class. There she meets gorgeous classmate Finn Gerard who is 15 years younger. Their attraction is undeniable but Finn hides a secret and doesn’t want to commit to Danika. Will they have their happily ever after?

The main character in this book is Italian cuisine. The author’s maternal family is Italian and she remembers how important is cooking for them, how they show love through food. All over this novel, there are lots of food descriptions and metaphors and an appendix with some of the author’s own recipes. I suggest not reading it when you are hungry!

‘A recipe for love’ is written in third person solely from Danika’s point of view which is ideal as it keeps Finn’s mysterious behaviour a secret. It’s good to see that Ms. Madison wrote in Danika an older, slightly overweight and flawed character. Danika suffers from low self esteem, insecurity and negative body image. At the beginning, she reflects a lot about her past and lost opportunities which can be tedious and depressing but, throughout the book, it’s good to see her transformation. However, the gravity of the plot never shifts completely until the very end. Natalie, Danika’s best friend, is a great secondary character who brings a bit of much needed levity to the story.

The reader doesn’t get to know Finn except for her being younger and beautiful. Even though there is insta-attraction and insta-love, the mains remain separated most of the book. Their chemistry feels a bit off, possibly because the narrative distance is quite remote in the romance parts where the author uses more tell than show, specially in the sex scenes which sometimes are mentioned as an afterthought. I dropped my rating for this reason along with a few minor typos.

Overall, this is an ok age-gap romance that deals with serious issues such as terminal illness and the meaning of life, all surrounded by the sensuality of food. 3.5 stars.

ARC provided to me in exchange for an honest review.

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