PositiveSmart Bitches Trashy BooksIt’s a good anthology, with a range of stories in a variety of genres, but I must admit, I’d assumed from that blurb that it would be mostly queer retellings. I enjoyed the anthology a lot more once I reframed it in my head as ‘diverse Arthuriana’ ... While the individual stories in Sword, Stone, Table didn’t all appeal to me, I did appreciate the variety and the way the stories were set against each other. An anthology is more than the sum of its parts, and out of seventeen stories, there were six I loved, four I liked, three that were perfectly fine, two that were interesting but a bit too experimental for my taste, and only two that I disliked. That’s a very good average for an anthology! If you like twists on the King Arthur stories, if you enjoy fantasy and science fiction, and if you like more POC and queer people in your stories, I think you will enjoy Sword, Stone, Table. But if you are coming into this as a romance reader, please do be aware that while there are plenty of happy endings in this book, there are quite a few tragedies as well. Which, after all, reflects the source material.
RaveSmart Bitches Trashy BooksI’m not quite sure I’d count this book as a romance, to be honest. The story is told in alternating viewpoints between Leena and Eileen, and it’s primarily a story about two women rediscovering themselves after a loss ... There is a fair bit of grief in this book, but it isn’t a sad book – in fact, there is a lot of humour, a lot of emphasis on community and on building friendships that cross age barriers, and a lot of the delight of finding new ways of living that bring you joy and fulfilment ... it was really the perfect book to curl up with if one is under the weather. It’s sweet and funny and kind and low conflict, and if I can’t be Eileen myself, I’d settle for her coming over and organising my life for me.
RaveSmart Bitches Trashy BooksThe Duke Who Didn’t is a complete delight ... Chloe YiLin Fong is a character after my own heart ... The Duke Who Didn’t also has a lot to say about the experience of being an immigrant, of being the child of immigrants, and of being seen as a foreigner in one’s own country ... The story also delights in waltzing right up to classic romance genre tropes and then either subverting them or fulfilling them in the most upside-down way possible ... This is a story about love, and family, and finding ways to grow into yourself, without being defined by the expectations of people who can’t see you properly. But above all, it’s a book about sharing burdens – about not having to do everything yourself and not having to be perfect in order to be loved.
MixedSmart Bitches Trashy Books... a RomCom set against the backdrop of a lot of pain and grief and insecurity, and I found it fairly depressing to read, perhaps because aspects of Chloe’s personality hit a little too close to home ... I really can’t stress enough how stressful and exhausting it was to be inside Chloe’s head ... By contrast, we don’t get to see the inside of Nick’s head at all ... Don’t get me wrong; I do think the relationship they reach in the end is a very sweet one, and good for both of them, but the process of getting there is fairly painful. It was so clear that Chloe was hurting Nick deeply and not noticing, and at the same time, Chloe was so full of hurt and stress herself that it was absolutely wonderful when Nick kept being there for her time after time – and devastating when he reached his limit and said he couldn’t keep doing this ... I also liked the various minor characters in the book...And the banter between Chloe and Nick was really first class. It’s not everyone who will happily play straight man to your one-woman comedy routine ... The fact that Chloe is casually and openly bisexual, is friends with her ex, and also has sexual relationships with people who aren’t the hero was a nice change from the norm ... I loved the food porn because I always love the food porn and the banter and humour were delightful. Tracey was fantastic, Nick was great, and even Annie came good in the end. I loved the bi representation too. And Chloe…I had so much sympathy for Chloe that this book hurt to read. I don’t know what to do with that. It’s a really sweet story, and Chloe does get the happy after she deserved, but I got so depressed along the way, because the stress and the need to do everything for everyone felt very real and very familiar and I seriously considered having a mid-life crisis on the spot. So for me, it wasn’t an enjoyable reading experience, because it was tailor-made to target some of my very best neuroses, but for a different reader, I think it could be really affirming and lovely ... It’s very, very hard to be objective about this book, but I do think it needed a bit more time spent in the happy ever after given how bleak things got for Chloe in the last quarter of the story. I like to finish a romance novel with a smile on my face, not with a vicarious stress hangover.
RaveSmart Bitches Trashy BooksWhile this book is surprisingly sweet and light, and ... there is plenty of darkness in the backstory, so proceed accordingly ... I found myself laughing out loud in delight at the banter. Having said that...things get a bit angsty in the latter third or so of the book ... this is a very, very smart book ... I love this book. It does take you down into the darkness at times, but it leads you out again, and shows you the path so that you will be able to find it next time. It is sweet and sharp and clever and extremely funny and it left me with a happy sigh and a smile on my face. This is a definite A, verging on Squee, from me.