I just finished reading QUEENS OF GEEK, so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself jumping from a book about conventions to a book about - gasp - LARPing (or "live action roleplaying"). The premise is a strange, but intriguing one. Adrianna "Andy" Bottom is forced to move from Seattle to Beverly Hills after her father's line of bathroom accessories (think: Buddy Bowls) make it big. Worse: she's forced to be a part of her family's latest money making scheme. A reality TV show called Bathroom Barons.
I can't even say that with a straight face. You should see my smirk.
Everyone wants to be Adrianna's friend because she's rich and basically a minor celebrity, but Adrianna finds herself attracted to the nerdy kid in school named Kevin, who is into comic books and LARPing. But Adrianna's friend, Harper, warns her against this and tells her that befriending Kevin will result in her being ostracized by the entire school. After a catastrophic misunderstanding turns Kevin against her, Adrianna decides that the only way to get close to him is to don a mask and LARP.
This was light and fun, and reads like a knock-off version of a Meg Cabot story, where the temperamental and awkward popular girl realizes that the boy she wanted was the one who was there beside her all along. Also like Meg Cabot, it reads about ten years out of date and as though it were written by someone who really has no idea what geek culture is actually like. Even though I enjoyed SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS, I have a few hangups about it:
**WARNING: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW**
1. Lennox later says that the reason he bullied Kevin and his friends was because Corbin, the Bathroom Barons TV producer, bribed him to. But this doesn't make sense because Adrianna later finds out that he's the Mac Attacker who throws food at Kevin and his friends when they LARP in the park and that he was doing that well before Adrianna hopped on the scene from what I remember.
2. Lennox's behavior is basically sexual assault. Unwanted touches, unwanted kisses, lol-your-yes-means-no-type behavior. This is never dealt with in a satisfactory manner. Again, Lennox says that much of this was bribed by Corbin (which would make him complicit in arranging sexual assault against a minor?) and that he only did it because he wanted Harper back. Ooookay. Well, you're still not a nice guy, and I don't think you deserve a happily-ever-after for doing all that BS, thank you.
3. I'm so tired of stories where the girl makes a minor mistake and then has to scale Mt. Everest to get the guy back. It was so, so painfully clear that her slight against Kevin was a misunderstanding and he doesn't forgive her for it until she organizes a LARP competition/fashion show, makes him a fancy new costume, and saves his park from being bulldozed (and at the cost of her father's business). What more do you want? You're no prize, either. Even though Andy and Adrianna were the same person, he didn't really know that, and you could argue that he was stringing both of them along. Jerk.
4. The whole "geeks are major losers who get bullied by the whole school" stereotype is right out of the 90s/early 2000s. It was like that when I was in high school, but it definitely isn't like that now. Geek culture has entered the mainstream, and with anime being turned into movies, Marvel superheroes in theaters, and conventions becoming an adolescent rite of passage, this felt super inaccurate. LARPing is kind of the last bastion of weirdness, which is probably why the author chose it as Kevin's hobby, but I doubt that you would get ridiculed for it to the point of bullying/assault.
5. What the hell is wrong with the adult figures in this book? Why didn't Adrianna's parents fire that utterly corrupt production manager, and why didn't the teachers do something about the bullying??
Apart from those hang-ups, though, SECRETS OF A RELUCTANT PRINCESS was just the light read I needed to get me between some heavier books. I'd read another book by this author.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
Oh, Sarah Andersen. I love you the way Californians love avocados.
I've been purposely putting off reading my ARC of this book. Not because I thought it was going to be bad, mind, but because I enjoyed ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH so much that I wanted to savor the anticipation of reading this book because I knew it would be at least another year or more until Andersen published a new one. That can't be too weird, right? Surely I'm not the only person who avoids reading books they're excited about...right?
Like ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH and HYPERBOLE AND A HALF, BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP explores many common problems that introverts, millennials, women, and book lovers will be able to relate to.
Why does puberty suck for women so much more than it does for men?
Why are periods so damn inconvenient, not to mention inconsiderate?
Why is talking to people so hard?
Why do we all love cats so obsessively?
Why do we throw so much money away on books?
Why are we cold all the time, even with a sweater?
Why do we like this thing?
There isn't a lot to say. I liked ADULTHOOD IS A MYTH and I liked BIG MUSHY HAPPY LUMP. My fear was that LUMP might be nothing more than a reprisal of ADULTHOOD and I am happy to say that my fears were misguided. LUMP stands on its own, and it is both endearing and hilarious.
Thanks to the publisher/Netgalley for the review copy!
Women are held to more rigorous standards when it comes to their appearance, and it's a losing battle. We all get older: it's an inevitable by-product of growing up & gaining maturity - so why are women the ones who are punished for it; the ones who are mocked for either not trying or trying too hard; the ones who are criticized, debased, sexualized, and dehumanized?
It occurred to me recently that I hadn't read any poetry since I picked up Edna St. Vincent Millay's THE HARP WEAVER. When I saw this on Netgalley, I rejoiced inwardly because it seemed like such a relatable, tongue-in-cheek concept. A book that mocks the concept of growing older as a woman and light-heartedly pokes fun at double-standards? I could not wait.
Now, having read it, I am of two minds. On the one hand, I feel obligated to point out that this is a collection of poetry and not an original work of new, fresh poetry. The contributors to this effort are diverse and range in style and period, from Amy Poehler to Shakespeare, and do not mesh particularly well - especially not if you went into this book as I did expecting something else.
The tone of this book felt off to me. It is divided into various sections, depicting different attitudes regarding one's descent (or ascent) into old age. Each section has a forward, which is very sarcastic in a pop-culture-laden Cosmopolitan op-ed sort of way. This is at odds with the poems themselves, many of which are serious in tone. Some of my favorites in here - Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, Walt Whitman, Margaret Atwood - are almost morose, and I feel like the tongue-in-cheek intros act at odds with the sober, speculative content of the poetry.
I've said this many times: one of the problems with many anthologies is that it is difficult to find content that manages to stand out without contrasting in a jarring way. There are always going to be some additions that outshine the others, and some that drag down the rest. I understand the difficulty of being an editor for such a collection. The way HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? was curated definitely falls prey to this tendency. The poems are so different in tone that they clash, and there's no rhyme or reason to them, apart from the motif of growing older and feeling sad or insecure or accepting of this.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
Remember when TWILIGHT was at the height of its popularity, and people began opening up Wikipedia to search for paranormal creatures to have fall in love with some ditzy teenage girl so they could write the Next Big YA Paranormal Romance, too? Yeah. I think we all remember the "girls in prom dresses" period of YA fiction. Those were dark times, my friends. Dark, dark times.
I feel like ASHES ON THE WAVES is definitely influenced by TWILIGHT. The male love interest speaks in an archaic way and seems a bit too naive. He also tries and fails to convince the heroine to stay away from him because he's dangerous, although in this case it's because he might be a demon instead of a vampire. The heroine, by contrast, is a pretty girl without a lot of substance. She moves from a big city to a dreary, isolated small town - except instead of the Olympic Peninsula, it's an island sandwiched between Scotland and Ireland and entrenched in Celtic folklore.
Liam, the hero, is regarded by everyone on Dorcha with suspicion because they think he killed his mom at birth (like, legit killed her, with scratch marks and gushing blood and everything). He's drop-dead gorgeous, has a paralyzed arm, and has absolutely zero knowledge about the world. He's so sheltered and naive that when he gets jealous over a girl, he thinks his anger is a result of a demon possessing him. Everyone on Dorcha wants him dead, and most of them try.
Anna, the heroine, is a rich heiress who lives in the big mansion on the island. She's being exiled because of some racy behavior she displayed in her parents' ritzy circles. She doesn't really have much of a personality. Her two conflicts in this book are 1. fall in love with Liam and 2. act out because her parents don't love her enough. She and Liam even meet when he stops her from jumping off a cliff. Ashes on the Waves? More like Ashes on the New Moon. *tips wineglass*
The paranormal element in this book is interesting, but not utilized very well. Here you have creatures like Na Fir Ghorm, the Cailleach, the Bean Sidhe, and Selkies - and what do they spend their time doing? Making bets on the purity of the love between two teenagers. I am not kidding. We're talking Shipping Wars. Mary Lindsey turned the Fae into a crude facsimile of Tumblr.
Likewise, the Edgar Allan Poe connection is also tenuous. I liked the snippets of poetry at the beginning of each chapter and the book itself is supposed to be a retelling of Annabel Lee, but it feels kind of weird to base a book on a song...especially when you have all the Fae stuff thrown in as well. The author had some creative ideas but she ended up throwing them all together in the hopes that they would fit, and they really didn't. It was not a cohesive effort by any means, in my opinion.
"Just go with it" me enjoyed how easy it was to read this book. "Feminist" me was annoyed by the instant love, the lack of development of the female character, and the fact that a fourteen-year-old is engaged to and then almost raped by a man twice her age, because on this island, due to the shortage of men, it's apparently okay to marry children to adults. Even though this takes place in the twenty-first century. "Amateur critic" me was annoyed by all the other things, like the characterization, the cheesy plot, and that bizarro ending.
Seriously, what was that ending. I looked to see if there was a sequel because I thought I was missing something important, but nope; I guess that's how it ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.
The first book I ever read by Alyssa Cole was BE NOT AFRAID. Like AN EXTRAORDINARY UNION, BE NOT AFRAID is a Civil War-era historical romance told from an African American perspective. Unlike EXTRAORDINARY, BE NOT is short & wasn't able to utilize its length well. As much as I appreciated reading a fictional account of history from a perspective we need more of, I ended up being disappointed, although I did say that if the author wrote a full length novel, I would be back.
Well, she did, so here I am!
And I am glad to be back, because AN EXTRAORDINARY UNION was everything I had been hoping to get out of BE NOT AFRAID. EXTRAORDINARY features a strong, female protagonist in the form of Elle Burns, a young African American woman with an eidetic memory who is a spy for the North. The hero, Malcolm McCall, is also a spy. He's Scottish, but is in a better position than most white people at this time to understand what it's like to be used and dehumanized because of the horrible things he experienced during the Jacobite Rebellion.
Their paths cross at the house of an odious Southern family, the Caffreys. Elle is posing as a mute slave. Malcolm is posing as a Confederate soldier, come home to bask in the glory while secretly gathering information and exchanging it with other spies. He falls for Elle pretty much on sight, and his admiration of her only grows as he learns more about the role she's playing in the house and the secret brilliance of her mind. Getting her to trust him is another thing entirely, though.
EXTRAORDINARY UNION is a roller coaster of a read. There is so much action, so much danger, and the main characters are both so likable that you desperately want them to survive and find happiness. Elle is such an amazing heroine, she's so brave and smart. And Malcolm is a dashing hero who is so ahead of his time. I shipped them immediately, and spent the rest of the book gnawing at my fingernails the way hardcore Game of Thrones fans do whenever they start the new season. Cole manages to capture the sheer awfulness of the time period and the inherently racist societal structures that helped perpetuate slavery and racism with the ease that Octavia Butler did in KINDRED (although far less graphically!), while also showing the complex nuances that relationships at this time period could have, whether it's the kindness a slaveholder might bestow upon a slave (and how disturbing it is, that treating someone as a human being might be regarded as a mere courtesy), or the hypocrisy some Union soldiers had, seeing the people whose rights they were allegedly seeking as nothing more than a means to an end. The result? A romance that lays out the facts and makes you think.
I saw that this book was the first in a series, and I am so excited because it's been a while since I found a historical romance series that captured my fancy like this one. Her style is reminiscent of Beverly Jenkins's (and you can imagine the shrill fangirl squeal I emitted when I saw her thank Jenkins in her acknowledgements section), with a dash of Elizabeth Hoyt. Somehow, she manages to combine Jenkins's broad scope with Hoyt's steamy romance.
P.S. Eff you, Susie. You're officially the Joffrey of this book universe.
Thanks to Netgalley/the publisher for the review copy!
I have to admit to a certain amount of fascination with stories revolving around high school drama. I was on the fringe of my high school social scene & didn't really get mixed up in any of the "he said, she said..." nonsense, so whenever I read books like these I feel like a scientist discovering a fancy new phenomenon. "What is this?" I ask myself. "What does this mean?"
#SCANDAL is a bizarre YA contemporary that revolves around many different topics. Lucy is the sister of a famous celebrity (although nobody is aware of the connection). She's also hopelessly in love with her best friend Ellie's boyfriend, Cole. Since Ellie gets sick on the night of their school dance, she asks Lucy to essentially babysit her boyfriend for her. Alcohol gets involved. The party gets knocked up a notch. And then somebody decides to take pictures and post them on social media.
There's a Gossip Girl-like angle in the form of Miss Demeanor, a high school gossip Facebook fanpage where a mysterious individual posts gossip about the student body in a snarky, tongue-in-cheek tone. It's a bit savage but mostly harmless - until Lucy's pictures get leaked on her Facebook profile & tagged, and somebody creates a site called "Juicy Lucy." Suddenly, Lucy - the stereotypical geek/hipster/alt-girl - is branded a slut, catcalled in the halls, and ostracized by her friends, all because of a few pictures being pasted on her social media.
The story then branches out as Lucy not only tries to navigate her complex relationships with her new boyfriend, estranged celebrity sister, and newly ex-best-friends, but also figure out who took the compromising pictures of her and set up the petty website and also who the identity of Miss Demeanor really is.
I was disappointed with how the bullying is handled in this book. I didn't feel like the principal took it seriously. I didn't even feel like Lucy took it seriously. People were throwing things at her in class and pasting stuff on her locker and chanting the word "slut" at her in the hallways. And yet, Lucy doesn't really react to any of it in a believable way and neither do the authority figures - in fact, they suggest it's Lucy's fault. I know blaming the victim is a real issue and I would not fault the book for that, except that by the end of the book, we're led to believe that it is, in fact, partly Lucy's fault. Lucy also feels very distant from the bullying and doesn't have a lot of emotional depth as a character.
Despite its many faults, I enjoyed this book. It had a wide array of characters and while they were all a bit too quirky and affected to be truly believable, I enjoyed the banter between them. There was just the right amount of drama to keep things interesting and Ockler is a good enough writer that I kept turning the pages in a secure state of suspension of disbelief. If you're looking for something light for purely entertainment, #SCANDAL is not a bad choice.
Heather, Sarah, and I decided to do an impromptu buddy read of CAPTAIN OF MY HEART because it was free, and as the mods of the Unapologetic Romance Readers group, it is our job to read as many romances as unapologetically as possible. #ReadDangerously
I was skeptical about this book from the beginning and only downloaded it because it was free. Why? A) that title, and B) this book was originally published in 1992, and you guys know how I feel about 90s bodice rippers (or should by now, considering how often I complain about them in my reviews - have you been following me?!).
So with low expectations, I began reading this book, and found myself...actually impressed.
CAPTAIN OF MY HEART opens up with action. We're introduced to Brendan Merrick, a charming, half-British, half-Irish flag-captain who is beloved by all his crew. When he finds out one of his immediate subordinates is mistreating members in exceedingly cruel ways, he immediately sets out to put a stop to it. But that man - Richard Crichton - is a villain of every sense of the word. He shoots Brendan's sister, Eveleen, shattering her hand, and then shoots Brendan as well, knocking him overboard. With no one the wiser, Crichton tells his superiors Brendan turned traitor, gets his position, and continues his villain unchecked.
Meanwhile, America is currently in the midst of its Revolutionary War. Mira is an overzealous patriot who enjoys dressing in men's clothing, fighting with her fists, singing boisterous songs, rescuing stray cats and then sneaking them into her house (they're called Rescue Efforts and they have numbers), and baking inedible pies. Her brother, Matt, is a privateer who leads his men against British ships to either sink or rob. When Brendan washes ashore, everyone assumes he's a no-good British spy, but it turns out he's actually her father's newest client with a ship design that's never been done before, but will make her father both famous and rich.
The romance unfolds against the backdrop of war, as well as Crichton's revenge quest for the man he felt robbed him of both his honor and his rights. The descriptions of the ships are wonderful, and the schooner that Brendan commissions, Kestrel, is pretty much a character herself. I can't imagine how much research went into this book, but it must have been a lot. The detail is incredible, and it seems like the author knows what she's talking about (I don't know for sure, though. What I know about ships could fill a thimble, and there would still be plenty of room left over for the thumb).
Crichton was a great villain. He was scary without being ridiculous, and his obsession with bringing Brendan down really kept the plot going. I loved Brendan. He's not one of those rapey heroes who still desperately tries to pretend he's the good guy that you see so often in 90s bodice rippers. He's a genuinely nice guy, and his charm seduces its way off the pages, making the reader go, "Faith!"
When Brendan's sister, Eveleen, is introduced, she and the heroine don't like each other and there is some body shaming that made me go, "Okay, here we go..." But then Eveleen's character is developed more, and to my surprise, Harmon did a halfway decent job portraying emotional eating. Eveleen and Mira bond, and Mira actually helps her exercise to lose weight and helps give her a renewed sense of confidence in herself. She loses the weight slowly, and learns to deal with the hand that was disfigured by Crichton's bullet. I really enjoyed her story arc a lot, because it isn't often that you see female characters who aren't the heroine developed so fully.
I could never really figure out whether Mira annoyed or amused me. I loved the Rescue Efforts (because I am a cat lady), and it was refreshing to read about a heroine who was genuinely a bad-ass and not just playing at one. It was cool to see her beating the crap out of people and manning the guns on a ship with deadly accuracy. Towards the beginning of the last quarter of the book, however, she does something pretty terrible to Brendan with devastating consequences, and it was really annoying to me because I've read several books about heroines who do annoying things because of a Misunderstanding, and then end up doing something drastic instead of just talking it out with the hero. She feels terrible about it later, as she should have, but I couldn't bring myself to like her as much after that. It tipped the scales too much in favor of "impetuous" instead of "endearing."
CAPTAIN OF MY HEART is a great book, though. The pacing is uneven, but the scenes with action and romance are well done, and all of the characters stand out as individuals. You'll be amused by Mira's family's terrifying fights, Brendan's rather eccentric crew, and the personality of Kestrel, the ship who doesn't have time for your games. It's got wonderful nautical descriptions and a villain who is genuinely creepy. Okay, 90s bodice rippers, you win this time. I surrender...
Read Heather's review here, and Sarah's review here.
P.S. I see that the Kindle edition I read was "updated and revised." I'm always curious to hear what's changed from the first edition. Does anyone have an idea? Inquiring minds want to know!
Don't even care what it's about. I have to have it because of the dramatic Fabio angel on the cover treating his wings like they're a cape & he thDon't even care what it's about. I have to have it because of the dramatic Fabio angel on the cover treating his wings like they're a cape & he thinks he's the Batman....more
I will be the first to admit that I know almost nothing about the Amish. My knowledge is limited to Devil's Playground (2002), which I was forced to watch in high school, and my friends' reviews of Amish romance novels because prior to now, I had never actually picked one up myself. My romance book club is doing this 50-category challenge designed to broaden our reading horizons, however, and one of the categories is "Amish romance." Conveniently enough, I found the first three books in the Amish YA romance "Temptation" series for sale for $3.
I wasn't going into this book with high expectations. Based on the summary, I was expecting something a forbidden romance sketched along the lines of TWILIGHT, only instead of being a vampire, the love interest was Amish. My suspicions were on fleek: Rose and Noah fall in love on sight and the entire novel consists of their being tortured of never being apart of the other's world unless they give up their own forever. Fine, okay. I was cool with that, and hoping to learn about the Amish community and maybe enjoy a fluffy but unrealistic love story shared between two teens.
Instead, I got a pretty unhealthy, almost emotionally abusive relationship between two horribly unlikable characters, with a side order of misogyny, slut-shaming, and bad life choices.
Noah is attracted to Rose but isn't happy with her the way she is. There's always a qualifier: that she's too wild, that she needs to be changed. He expects her to give up her entire way of living to convert to being Amish so he can marry her, when they've known each other for only a few weeks, and he's not afraid to criticize her or put her down in order to rationalize his thoughts.
She shouldn't be alone in a public place like this. It wasn't safe or appropriate with all the men around here (96).
Somehow I'd have to curb her impulses and make her listen to me. But it was for her good - I'd heard all kinds of stories about what happened to women out there among the English (98).
Pretty much every woman in this book is just awful, except for Sarah, Noah's sister. The jealous Amish girl who wants to court Noah calls Rose a "hure." Rose's brother, Sam, calls his father's girlfriend"some ho you picked up at a bar" (163). Rose refers to her father's girlfriend as "Her" and "Dad's plaything" and emotionally blackmails her father about his guilt over the relationship (their mother's dead) to leverage getting a new puppy and sneaking around with her boyfriend. Hypocrisy? Oh, I think so. But it isn't just her father's girlfriend who gets the flak. Rose calls her brother's girlfriends "bimbos" and "Barbies" many, many times. It's really disgusting.
The abusive relationship
Noah makes Rose feel bad about herself in an attempt to sway her to his way of thinking. He implies that she dresses too slutty (not in those exact words - he couches it in good intentions, saying that his family would think better of her if she comports herself well); wears too much makeup; and even says that he wouldn't want her to cut her hair.
"But you would never cut your hair short, would you?" His face was serious again and his voice sounded frustrated for some strange reason (172).
"I think English women are too willing to make battles out of things they don't need to." He was hard-faced again (173).
"You shouldn't put yourself into the kind of situation that could get you into trouble - or cause the others to think poorly of you" (211).
It's also pretty damn clear that he sees her family as the enemy, an obstacle.
Shaking his head, [Rose's brother] said, "It's ridiculous for you to expect Rose to give up her freedom so she can be with you. Dude. It ain't going to work. I'm just warning you." I didn't like what he said. I suddenly say not only my family as an obstacle to a marriage with Rose but also her family, and especially her older brother. I had underestimated his interest in the matter (191).
When she fights him about converting to being Amish, he slut-shames her.
"What's the problem, Rose? Is it that you don't want to miss out on driving a car or going to your rock concerts? Or maybe you can't stand the thought of never being able to dance for all the English men again" (259).
Then it gets disturbing. He starts thinking about ways to force her - and her family - to marry her to him.
But as much as I wanted to do it, I couldn't physically force her to submit to me (277).
He considers impregnating her to force a shotgun marriage.
Another idea had briefly penetrated my brain - getting her with child. My folks and her dad would be forced to allow us to marry (277).
By the way? Rose is sixteen.
But Noah thinks the baby idea is a great one, and proposes it to Rose, who gets upset. When she refuses, he has this to say:
"I don't see any other way for us to be together. So if you don't want to try that option, and you don't want to become Amish...then I guess it's over between us" (281).
Rose tries to date someone else after they break up, but isn't attracted to him the way she is to Noah. Likewise, Noah considers courting Ella from his community - the girl who called Rose "hure" - but is repulsed by their kiss and ends up ditching her and their families early.
When he goes to rescue Rose from a party she's miserable at, he gets into a buggy crash with a semi and ends up at the hospital. Rose is so distraught at the thought of losing him forever that she immediately gives in to all his terms, agreeing not just to converting to being Amish but also:
"I'd even go through with the - you know - baby idea you had, if you think it would help" (352).
The book cheerfully ends with Rose getting sent off to live with another Amish family to prepare for her conversion to Amish life.
I really tried to read this with an open mind. I was amenable to "Amish TWILIGHT," even if it ended in marriage. Hell, I wanted to like the book - I'd bought books 1-3 in the series, so it would be pretty miserable for me if I didn't - but I couldn't. It made me angry and frustrated. Rose was such an awful character. Noah was an annoying, manipulative character. The treatment of all the female characters was abhorrent. The Amish weren't portrayed very favorably, either, in my opinion, with Noah's parents being portrayed as hypocrites; the Amish girls as oppressed victims; and the other Amish boys as creeps (two of them express their intentions to sexually assault Rose). The only characters I really sympathized with in this book was Sarah, Noah's sister, and Rose's father, Dr. Cameron. They were the only truly likable characters in here.
Your may very well feel differently, and if that is the case, I respect you for it. However, if the quotes I provided upset you or annoy you, you should probably find a different Amish book to read. I'm still trying to decide whether or not I want to read the second and third books in this series. What do you guys think? Should I continue?
CHAINED was an impulse item from the free section of the Kindle store. Part of the allure - apart from it being, you know, free - was the prospect of a historical interracial romance. The perspectives of people of color are sorely lacking in most historical romances (the only authors I can think of offhand who write them with any regularity are Courtney Milan and Beverly Jenkins), so this was a huge selling point for me.
I was therefore annoyed when I began reading the book and realized that it wasn't "A Medieval Historical Romance" as advertised on the title, but a medieval-inspired fantasy.
Those are two very different things.
Putting my annoyance aside, I continued to read the book despite its deceptive packaging, and found to my surprise that CHAINED was actually a pretty decent story. It is set in a world called Alemere. The heroine, Gwen, comes from a country called Dinasdale. Her people are proud of their royal heritage and lean towards archery. The hero, Caden, comes from Daleraia. His people are less refined, ruthless, and brutal. Unlike the Dinasdalians, they have no gods; their sword is law.
Gwen is engaged to a prince from Lerrothe, but her wedding night is unsatisfactory. She doesn't really want to be a princess, anyway. She is a skilled archer: when we meet her in the beginning, she shoots five men in her father's woods for attempting to rape a girl. In her father's absence, she is the word of Dinasdale, so when a band of Daleraians are brought in after a woman in her kingdom is raped and murdered - allegedly by a member of the Daleraian noble family, Gwen has to decide what to do with them. She decides to imprison them but keep them in good condition for ransom. Caden ends up imprisoned in Gwen's own quarters because of his constant attempts to escape.
It doesn't take Gwen and Caden long to realize that both events - the rape and murder and Gwen's own wedding - might be the byproducts of the sinister machinations of someone attempting to sow discord in Alemere, thereby breaking the tentative peace between Dinasdale and Daleraia. It also doesn't take long for them to realize that they have a rather potent attraction to one another, either.
I enjoyed this story. It's reminiscent of GAME OF THRONES in some ways, and the court intrigue is well done. I liked Gwen's character. She is a strong woman with good political sense, who isn't afraid of her sensuality. She killed five men and kneed a would-be rapist in the testicles. She never did anything in the book that made me shake my head and say, "Well, that was stupid!" She was bad-ass.
I was less impressed with Cade's character. There is an OW and Cade does get kind of wishy-washy about her and Gwen, although it's always clear who he prefers more. Plus, he does something very stupid towards the end. When Gwen falls under suspicion he's forced to imprison her and insists on doing it himself so he can explain the reason why to her. He doesn't do this. Instead, he has sex with her, lets her fall asleep, and when she wakes up, basically says, "Congrats! You're going to jail!"
Overall, CHAINED is one of the better finds I've gotten from the "free" section of the Kindle store, which can be a bit of a crapshoot. I would recommend it for people looking for a fun, light fantasy read. The author really needs to change that "Medieval Historical Romance" tagline, though. I can't imagine that I'm the only person who felt cheated when they found themselves reading fantasy...
Also, there is a cliffhanger ending, in case you're curious.