Ehn. Serviceable thriller/mystery, but it was too much praised for me. It was particularly recommended to me because of the way it addresses gaslightiEhn. Serviceable thriller/mystery, but it was too much praised for me. It was particularly recommended to me because of the way it addresses gaslighting in terms of mental illness and an unreliable narrator, and I can see why some might like that, but I...didn't. Partially because the pacing felt all over the place, with too much plot heavy lifting done with interstitial pieces outside the first person narration so that more page space could be devoted to the narrator's anxiety and panic-fueled bad decisions.
But mostly I had trouble with it because of how heavily the author leaned into having the narrator not be believed by anyone. Yes, that's the whole point, but a) it is a personal bugbear in that I find that sort of thing very, very unpleasant to read, and b) there wasn't near enough vindication to make it worth the misery of pages and pages of the narrator spiraling in anxiety and being condescended to/dismissed by every single other character. (Also, how much of it was her actual anxiety disorder and how much was not taking care of basic bodily needs like food and sleep? This narrator needs some of Lisbeth Salander's endless sandwiches. The fixation on not eating was also very uncomfortable to me.)
Also my god the plot holes that a mack truck could drive through there at the end.
The setting was nice, though. Very Hurtigruteny, with added luxury yacht. ...more
There were sparkling moments of witty narration, amusing set-ups, and spy hijinx - all of which are right up my alley - but I could not get over my diThere were sparkling moments of witty narration, amusing set-ups, and spy hijinx - all of which are right up my alley - but I could not get over my distaste for the heroine. I could see the author laying the groundwork for there being much more beneath her surface, but I eventually didn't care enough to stick around. I particularly lost my taste for the heroine's brand of careless cruelty in pursuit of her own interests when she decided unmasking a spy would be a *darling* party trick, no matter who she has to trample in the meantime. ...more
Queer poly second-world fantasy/historicalish romance WITH GIANT CATS YOU CAN RIDE. It's got a very fanfic-like sensibility (a la The Captive Prince,Queer poly second-world fantasy/historicalish romance WITH GIANT CATS YOU CAN RIDE. It's got a very fanfic-like sensibility (a la The Captive Prince, in a lot of ways), particulalry in the way it's long and leisurely in its treatment of both worldbuilding, religion-building, and...emotional-arc-building(?), as it's got a lot of romance novel trappings but doesn't hit the beats in quite the way most romance novels do. It's lovely in how the heroine's neurodivergency is handled by her love interests; there's some excellent secret!pining, and the fantasy worldbuilding is interesting.
(view spoiler)[Is this really a spoiler? I mean, you kinda know from the front cover that they're all three going to end up with each other. Cutting just in case. While I'm all about all three of them finding happily ever after together, I did find the extensive in-universe justification for the second wedding(s) a little, "....really?" Like, get married! Totally! Everyone gets married to each other! Fancy dresses and suits galore! But multiple pages outlining how the marriage contract is legal even though the relationships themselves may be illegal? It kind of sucked the punch out of the characters finally being in a place where they are emotionally ready to pledge their troth to each other all the way around. (hide spoiler)]
BUT REALLY, IT'S ABOUT THE GIANT CATS. I don't know quite know if they're supposed to be like actual big cats (panthers, tigers, etc), but I could not help picturing giant versions of house cats, in particular my own. GIANT CATS WHO TALK SMACK, HIT THE 'NIP, AND GO GALLIVANTING WITH YOU. I am verklempt. And want to go take a nap on my cat's belly. ...more
I had hopes, I did. I like the idea of the heroine deciding to move on from poorly-disguised pining only to fall into a more grown-up sort of love witI had hopes, I did. I like the idea of the heroine deciding to move on from poorly-disguised pining only to fall into a more grown-up sort of love with her childhood fantasy. But a crushingly foolish heroine (with brief shining moments of good sense that make her dumbass, self-endangering decisions feel even stupider) + a hero basing all sorts of life decisions on a "curse" on his family + yenta-ing brothers-in-law who are worse than stereotypical society misses in encouraging deception to hasten marriage with a shrug of "all bad behavior is okay because they're in love, even if they won't admit it" + a moustache-twirling villain who has THREE PAGES of monologue explaining his nefariousness = spite read. ...more
Weekend At Bernie's + screwball comedy dialogue + only the vaguest whiff of an attempt at historical accuracy and/or non-modern language. EntertainingWeekend At Bernie's + screwball comedy dialogue + only the vaguest whiff of an attempt at historical accuracy and/or non-modern language. Entertaining fluff and by far the best of the trilogy. ...more
Too often I find I don't write up reviews for books that I really enjoyed but were not life-alteringly fabulous, as it's sometimes hard to articulateToo often I find I don't write up reviews for books that I really enjoyed but were not life-alteringly fabulous, as it's sometimes hard to articulate more than, "ooooh, yeah." But well, oooooh, yeah, Satie's getting added to my list of Trusted Romance Authors. (Am not an autobuy sort of gal, but these are the authors I would not hesitate to pick up. Other authors on the list: Courtney Milan, Cecilia Grant, Anna Cowan, KJ Charles. Close but not quite on the list are Sherry Thomas and Loretta Chase. Just to show you what I'm working with.)
Anyway. I digress. I like Satie's writing. I like the unusual predicaments she puts her characters in; I like the genuine problems she puts in the way of her heroes and heroines, especially that these problems don't default to One Of Them Is Wrong.
I like that all of her protagonists are a little off-plumb, from themselves or from society, and falling in love doesn't change or pretend to fix that. I especially like that several of her heroines are bad with emotions and/or people in believable ways but that are also not problems to be fixed. Yes, there is a bit of wish fulfillment in how nicely things turn out for everyone (i.e. everyone's happy endings are a bit less complicated than those in Cecilia Grant's books), and especially the last bit of this book is particularly end-of-series storybook, but, spoiler, that's kinda why I read romances. I like nice things happening to people I've been rooting for throughout an entire book/series.
Do things occasionally get a little histrionic? Sure! Do people have sex in unusual and probably improbable locales? Absolutely! Do the villains twirl moustaches like a boss? The bossest! Do deuses ever machina? Machtastically! But there's enough meat on these bones to make them a really satisfying read.
I do find that the titles don't stick with me; The Secret Heart is The One With Boxing And Dancing, aka In Which; The Lover's Knot is The One With Printing and Misunderstandings; The Orphan Pearl is The One With International Intrigue, and this one is The One With The Rake And Mutual Emotional Constipation. Alternatively, I think of them by the trope they dissect/reimagine: #1 is The Fortune Hunter Redeemed; #2 is Childhood Sweethearts Separated By A Big Misunderstanding; #3 is A Slightly More Realistic Good English Girl Ends Up In A Harem But Comes Back; and #4 is A Rake Redeemed. Daaaaang but I love a good play-on-trope.) ...more
It would be unfair to excoriate this novel just because of its one-note, hamhanded depiction of women, as characters of all genders get short shrift.It would be unfair to excoriate this novel just because of its one-note, hamhanded depiction of women, as characters of all genders get short shrift. And true, it's only the two protagonists that get a hand-waving of interior life or individual motivations, but the difference between the way the male protag and the female protag are treated is a bit depressing. Ugh, yes, from page one you know that they're the romantic end game of the series (which seems to be proceeding glacially if reviews of the other books in the series are any indication), but the sneering contempt for the male protagonist's current girlfriend comes through even in the bits that are supposed to make her appealing. I just - I'm tired of mysteries where all the dead bodies are women, where the sexual appeal of every female character must be discussed at some point, where even when there are multiple women present onscreen, the vast, vast majority of them exists solely to revolve around men, be abused by men, provide motivation for men.
Yes, I picked this up because I was going to the Lake District and wanted something to read while I was there that was set there, too. Thankfully I put it down immediately and did not besmirch my trip with mediocre reading material; picked it up again at the end of the year just for completionist's sake. ...more