A Rose to the Torch by Bartholomew Lander

Incredible world building

I can completely understand why people have a “Marmite” reaction to this (i.e. they either love it or hate it): if I hadn’t read the prequel to this, All Bleeds Through (ABT), then I believe that I would have been somewhat confused, too.

ABT lays out the basics of the universe, with tales set inside it that eventually all link together. This brings nearly all of those loose threads together, and shows how much each individual and story really are connected. When I realised this, I had to go back and check, and I was wowed.

Not only that, the mythology is set up brilliantly. We not only have the Hemomancers and Humans, and how they are affected by events and each other, we also have a whole background of religious mythology with such amazing depth to it, that it’s completely believable that it could be our world and not just an alternate universe.

As for the story itself, here we have Coral, and Gavin, alongside other characters who were introduced to us in ABT. It is primarily Coral and Gavin’s histories which are revealed here as being important to the story as a whole, neither of whom actually truly knew about their background and the true meaning of it.

Coral goes from being a scared, ambivalent teenager, to a strong wildcard contender. She’s supposed to be a “nought”, one with the blood type O Negative, who has no control over the blood of others. Yet there is a huge fight over her blood; in the hunt to kill noughts over the years, Coral is now perhaps the only one left, the only one who can save an evil lord whose blood was poisoned years ago in order to end the slaughter.

But, this is where it gets complicated for Coral: who is the real monster in this story? The lord who has tried to control all other hemomancers for more than a century? Or those willing to sacrifice Coral for the greater good?

Can Coral not only prevail but find a way to fight back? It’s not until the very end that she finds out who are true friends are, but by that time, will it be too late?

I must admit, my rating hovered back and forth on this, mostly due to the characterisation. But it all came together wonderfully, as the characters and the story developed. Most of all, towards the end, it was possible to understand the characters and their reasonings better. The ending was a total shock, but shouldn’t have been so surprising, really. No one is safe and what can go wrong, will go wrong, etc. So, along with all of the above, I just have to rate it highly, just like the prequel.

The final lines leave hope, despite the devastation. A nice way to make way for the sequel.

Final rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

*I received a free digital ARC via NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Blood and Deceit by Laura Greenwood

Naughty Necromancers

That title of mine might give the wrong impression, when this is actually about necromancers who decide to act like “Gods” above all others. But not all necromancers are that way – Tabitha happens to be a necromancer of the old school, disappointing several of her old acquaintances. But new connections come along and she finds out that she’s not as alone as she might seem.

I must admit, I found a couple of points of this a little disappointing. The big “reveal” didn’t feel anywhere near as dramatic as it could have been. The characters, too, whilst the main characters should have been likable, I didn’t feel like they had enough depth to be able to connect to them.

Not a bad story, but unfortunately a bit forgettable.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

*I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*

Big City Billionaires Box Set by Michele de Winton

Even billionaires need love

I’m a little bit behind in my reviewing, due to having been sick. So luckily I had lots of books, light reads, to keep me company, including this one. Each story is reviewed individually below.

Valentine’s Vengeance

This first story I recognised as I’d already read it as part of the  Happily Ever Alpha box set. It was the story that first introduced me to Michele de Winton’s writing and drew me in to read more of her works, eventually landing me right back at the beginning.

I absolutely loved the story when I first read it. I must admit, I wasn’t as in to the “OMG” overreacting stuff this time around, but the story as a whole still really appealed to me and I eventually found that I enjoyed it as much as the first time around.

Rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

Love Stuck

Sass is pretty much awesome. Alternative, knows who she is and what she wants. Yet it appears to unsettle her first ever client as an independent stylist. Unsettle him in more ways than one.

Seriously good fun, back and forth, with a not-so-easily-won HEA. MdW definitely knows how to write drama!

Rating: ★★★★☆ – Really liked

Lady Boss

This was my absolute favourite of the series, and that had nothing to do with the lady being the billionaire this time around. It’s a great twist, sure, as there should be more stories with a powerful woman leading them, instead of it always being the man who has all the money and power. Better still, it detailed obstacles that needed to be overcome for the woman to become the powerhouse.

But, what I loved most about this was the detailed descriptions, of places visited, of the flight. I was really into the story, much further than most easy-read stories take me. Truly a hidden gem.

Rating: ★★★★★ – Loved it/couldn’t put it down

Bonus Story: Fighting for Freya

I was quite happy to see a continuation to the Hot Tide series and all the characters I was familiar with from it, especially a story for Holokai, the apparent “more interested in surfing than girls” guy. With someone there who actually gets under his skin, he does relax more. But the big shame that came with this story is that, for me, it was too short. There were too few words to give depth to the story, so it ended up as an unfortunate disappointment rather than the huge Holo victory that it should have been.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ – Sort of liked/OK

Overall, a great, quick-read boxset that will leave you hanging for more.

Final rating (rounded to the nearest number): ★★★★☆ – Really liked

*I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.*