Cabbages & Kings by Morgan Sheppard


Cabbages & Kings by Morgan Sheppard
Publisher: Elemental Publishing
Genre: Historical, Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

A Hero. Honourable Thief. Lovable Rogue. Scoundrel. Blackguard.

Everyone’s heard of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men, with big, bad Sheriff of Nottingham and evil Prince John trying their best to thwart Robin at every turn. But what if things were different to what you’ve been told? What if Robin wasn’t as altruistic as history portrayed?

In the late spring of 1198, the hamlet of Girton is razed to the ground. Newly married eighteen-year-old Will Scathlock and sixteen-year-old Alana move to the larger village of Blidworth to start their lives anew. In his new job as a forester for the Royal Palace of Clipstone, known to the locals as King’s Houses, Will hears tales of a good thief, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. But in her role as seamstress for the Manor House, Alana hears a different story.

Find out what it was like for the peasant folk Robin was supposed to be helping, before his well-known adventures in Nottingham. Do you want to know the truth? Meet Alana Dale and read her story of what it was really like, and how it all began.

Cabbages & Kings takes the Robin Hood story to new horizons with this laugh-out-loud hilarious new reimagining!

I’ve always enjoyed a good retelling, especially about Robin Hood, a childhood favorite! Cabbages & Kings is just that, and so much more! A sweet coming-of-age story willed with humor and unexpected antics as Alana (a teen) leans to stand up for herself despite that not being done in her time!

Needless to say, not everyone is happy with this young lady learning to speak her mind, and she ends up in all kinds of delightful situations as she learns her limits and finds new allies along the way! I loved getting a more humorous take on the Robin Hood story while still getting a story with strong storytelling and enjoyable characters!

This one is truly unlike any other retelling I’ve found so far, and I loved Morgan Sheppard’s style and tone in this one! Enjoyable to YA readers and even perhaps for teens a little younger, this one’s sure to please!

To Court A Queen by H. L. Burke


To Court A Queen by H. L. Burke
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

Devin doesn’t want to get married, but he wants to be a frog even less.

Knight errant Devin takes a shortcut through the woods, only to be captured by fairy forces. The fairy queen has run out of breathing males to fight for her hand, and Devin, while not ideal fairy stock, is breathing—for now.

Telling a vain fairy queen you’d rather not be her one true love is a ticket to life on a lilypad, so the knight agrees to face three challenges to win Queen Agalea’s hand. When a clever servant girl offers to help him navigate the trials in order to stop the constant bloodshed of the courtship ritual, Devin jumps at the chance.

Cat-Elf Sevaine’s only goal in life is to stop Agalea from killing off every male she gets her hands on. When cocky but quick-on-his-feet Devin stumbles into her world, she may finally have a champion who can beat Agalea’s cruel games—if she can resist falling in love with him herself.

With Sevaine’s help, Devin balances “flirting” with his “beloved” and overcoming tasks specifically designed to kill him. But even if he defeats Agalea’s challenges, will happily ever after be possible if he’s fallen for his new partner in survival?

To Court a Queen is a quick read and I loved the original take on Fae and Faeries in this fun story!

I read this one in only a couple sittings and found it to be quite an enjoyable read and a humorous romance! A sweet and lighthearted read, I loved reading the adventures (and misadventures!) of Devin the Knight as he finds himself in quite the conundrum! He finds himself promised to be married to a Fae Queen!

Not at all the ‘short-cut’ he had planned, but it leads into this delightful story and one I found myself actually laughing aloud at more than once! Cute and endearing, I’m glad I got the chance to read this one! I look forward to reading more of H. L. Burke’s stories soon!

The Rogue and the Peasant by Amberley Martin


The Rogue and the Peasant by Amberley Martin
Publisher: Caveline Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

Everyone knows a girl locked in a tower is supposed to wait for a prince—but that isn’t the destiny this girl has in mind.

Esme’s life has been filled with secrets. Her mother says she’s destined to be a queen, but she won’t say when. Or how. Or who Esme’s father is.

When Esme’s imprisoned by the evil fairy godmother, she only has more questions. Who is the young man guarding her? Why is he so interested in her father’s identity? And can she convince him to help her escape before she’s forced to marry whichever self-absorbed prince with a hero complex turns up to rescue her?

Since his father’s murder, Rory’s life has depended on keeping his identity secret. Working for the fairy godmother seems like a fair trade for his safety, until he’s sent to kidnap a girl who wears his family ring, a girl his father’s ghost is suspiciously quiet about.

Unraveling their connection might do more than save them both from the fairy godmother. It might save the fate of an entire queendom.

But can Esme achieve her destiny when Rory’s trying to avoid his own?

The Rogue and the Peasant is a fun, fairytale adventure that blends Hamlet with Rapunzel to make something completely new.

A fantastic debut from Amberley Martin, The Rogue and the Peasant is a wonderful story of hope, redemption, and growing up!

Neither Rory nor Esme have been dealt the life they would have liked, but despite that, both are determined to make something of it! I loved the positive messages and themes in this one! It’s a wonderful story and blends the beloved Hamlet and Rapunzel stories into something both familiar and completely new in a way I absolutely adored!

I did have a bit of trouble with how to place this one, as some places seem to mark it ‘Adult’ but with its slightly more simplistic style it’s more of a YA/NA crossover, which I loved but feel it’s hard to judge what to expect with a story when it’s listed in both groups. That said, after reading it I’d likely place it more YA-Upper YA and can see readers of both enjoying this one!

I loved meeting Esme and Rory and seeing the fun tributes to the original stories while also remaining original in its own right in this one, and felt the story was well written!

The Mountain by Matthew C. Lucas


The Mountain by Matthew C. Lucas
Publisher: Montag Press
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

In the mountain…

Lillia Tanner’s dream of becoming a commissar has turned into a nightmare. Voices in the darkness whisper rebellion against the Commonwealth she is sworn to serve. And Lillia feels compelled to heed their call.

King Elon has found a new faith for his dying people. But the old gods are still cherished. The cult of his heretic goddess is beckoning him to a crusade in the dark of the Mountain and a civil war in his realm.

Judge Jonathan Acacia keeps a semblance of order in the workers’ quarter. Caught between his family’s political intrigues, the cruel laws he must administer, and a demon of addiction, the darkness he contends against will either embrace Jonathan or devour him.

The dark is coming to life. War is coming with it.

And there is nowhere to hide in the Mountain.

Rich in detail, filled with intriguing lore and world-building, The Mountain by Matthew C. Lucas is an unforgettable and imaginative Fantasy lover’s dream!

This is one of those that remind me of the classics while still bringing something unique and original to the fantasy world. The Mountain has a wonderful balance of complex and morally grey characters who all have their own hopes and desires that get wonderfully messy as things begin to tangle and unravel in unexpected ways!

From the start, we see the depth of detail that makes this genre really come to life, and I loved how easy this one was to picture and how delightfully dark the theme was while still maintaining a good sense of purpose and plot throughout.

Definitely an unforgettable read and one I highly recommend! I loved meeting these characters and seeing out things turned out in this incredible story!

Queen of Shadows by Britt Cooper & Erin Dulin


Queen of Shadows by Britt Cooper & Erin Dulin
The Chronicles of Faybl, #1
Publisher: Finch Books
Genre: YA, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Romance
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Chamomile

Why be a princess when you can rule the shadows?

Rejecting the senseless demands of her wicked stepmother, Ella of Locksley shares her family’s abundance with the people of her land. Yet, the desperation of her community has only begun.

When the nation of Llundyn is brutally attacked, Princes Ric and Johan begin to fight for their right to rule, leaving the kingdom’s very heart to hang in the balance as subversive forces emerge. Taxation drives the citizenry toward hopelessness, with the absence of leadership taking its toll.

Striking out on her own, Ella takes up the nation’s cause, making a name for herself as the infamous Hood, and leads her cunning crew, stealing from the rich to provide for the poor. But the return of the rightful heir, along with a forbidden romance, changes everything—with artifice and betrayal leading to an unlikely alliance that unites prince and thieves.

The passion and true love of a king leave Ella torn between duty and loyalty when, at the stroke of midnight, her identity is exposed. She’ll face the ultimate choice—enduring as the Hood or sacrificing it all for the ones she loves.

This epic debut by co-authors Britt Cooper & Erin Dulin will leave readers wanting more!

Queen of Shadows is a steamy Fantasy Romance story that pairs Robin Hood with Cinderella in an unforgettable whirlwind of excitement! The chemistry between these two was immediate and I loved finding the fun easter eggs along the way paying homage to their original tales while enjoying this amazing retelling!

This one definitely sets a dark tone from the start, and I loved it! Ella is the Queen of Shadows, and it shows in this brilliant blending of everything I love about this genre! Strong character types, sizzling chemistry, a reluctant hero, a good balance of action and romance, and a tantalizing slow-burn!

From the start, I was hooked! I loved getting to know this remarkable cast, and absolutely cannot wait to read more! I couldn’t put this one down and eagerly await the next installment of this extraordinary series!

Talk of Tokyo by Heather Hallman


Talk of Tokyo by Heather Hallman
Tokyo Whispers Series
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Genre: Historical, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

CAREFUL WITH YOUR WORDS

1897 Tokyo is no different than anywhere else in the world: men are exploiting women. Specifically, Western men are exploiting Japanese women, and Suki Malveaux holds no punches in her condemnation of their behavior in her weekly column in the Tokyo Daily News.

Suki knows firsthand when Western men arrive at Tokyo Bay there’s only one outcome for Japanese women: a child and new mother left behind as nothing more than discarded shrapnel from the heartless war on love.

Griffith Spenser is her latest target. He’s been seen with Natsu Watanabe, one of Tokyo’s esteemed war widows. Under full anonymity of the moniker “The Tokyo Tattler,” Suki makes sure Griffith knows exactly why his behavior with Natsu won’t be tolerated.

Away from her Japanese mask as a columnist, Suki never intended to meet the cad. When he seeks her out to hire as a tutor for his niece and nephew, she’s faced with seeing him day in and day out without him ever knowing who she really is.

Caught in her struggle for anonymity so she can keep battling for women’s rights, Suki’s about to learn the full impact of her words on the people behind the story, especially on Griff.

After reading the prequel to this series, I was excited to know these characters more, and Talk of Tokyo didn’t disappoint! This series overall was a slightly more explicit and sensually focused than I’d had originally expected, but again after the prequel, I had a better idea of this author’s writing style, and found I enjoyed this one!

I found it interesting that we get to meet some of the side-characters introduced in Scandals of Tokyo instead of jumping right to the MCs in the prequel. In this one we meet Suki and Griffith. Not at all a pairing I’d first expected to work out, but I loved how their story plays into the culture and history of Japan in the 1890’s and seeing how their interracial relationship was also affected by those things.

There is only one ‘sex’ scene in this one, although we know it’s been building for much of the book by the time it actually happens. There are body parts mentioned though, which I only mention as I know some readers (romance and otherwise) rather use ‘code names’ instead of the actual names in steamy scenes, but nothing unexpected in a sensual romance. Along with the romance the theme of newspaper journalists, often focusing on the female journalists showing how their gender is also seen in the role.

I loved seeing Suki (along with being half French, half Japanese) find her place as this story goes on, and seeing both her reporter story and her romance with Griffith are affected by the events that unfold! I haven’t seen many stories like this one that combine Japanese culture, a historical setting, and newspaper reporters from around the world calling Tokyo home in the late 1800s, I must say, it’s an interesting idea and I’m loving how this series is coming along!

The Wayfarer by Zachary Kekac


The Wayfarer by Zachary Kekac
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

“Burying sorrow is like burying water; it simply seeps into the soil and up into everything that grows from it.”

___

The Wayfarer stands on the rim of insanity. Forgetting everything. Everyone.

He doesn’t know when the forgetting began, but the Shadow does. A doppelganger wreathed in darkness; a figure only he can see; it claims to know both why he is losing his mind, and the way to restore it. Wary, desperate, with what seems no other way open to him, the Wayfarer submits himself to the Shadow, its warning compelling him forward:

Move on.

Or wither.

As the Shadow leads the Wayfarer through sentient forests, the graveyards of dragons, and realms between realms, so too does it lead the way into his forgotten past, restoring fragments of memory throughout the journey. Only the memories are distorted, nightmarish. In them he sees his friends, his family—dead. Impossible. His friends are alive, aiding him on his journey. His family is safe, awaiting his return.

Disillusioned by these perversions of past, the Wayfarer decides the only way to salvation is within himself. Aided by a psychoactive mixture, he descends into his subconscious, seeking the truth of his unravelling mind, the memory of his madness’ beginning.

You are not ready.

Though the Wayfarer can sense the truth lurking within the abyss of his subconscious, something in the Shadow’s words waylays him. Something in the Shadow’s words holds a truth of its own, warring with the truth within himself.

Frustrated, fearful, his mind fraying at its seams, the Wayfarer stands now on the rim of a choice: to trust the Shadow, to hope on a fool’s hope that its way was the way to remedy; or to forsake it, to do as he willed and seek resolution his own way, knowing with the wisdom of a man prone to folly that it may very well be the way to ruin.

I was instantly drawn to The Wayfarer and enjoyed it immensely! This story takes readers on a dark and twisted tale as the MC slowly loses himself to his own internal darkness, which is why he’s named ‘The Shadow’. This is definitely a darker read, which is clear from the blurb, but it’s interesting to see the swirling mix of what’s read and what’s real to the MC but only in his head, things realize are merely imagined, as truth as the story goes on.

I enjoyed this one, and know with High/Epic Fantasy it’s not always about the characters, which is fine, but I tend to prefer more character driven stories, and found that this one actually was more about prose and the flowing writing style, and less about the character’s own personal journey or struggles. I found the story overall to be beautifully written, hauntingly so, but wish it was even slightly more character focused, since it flowed smoothly and was well told, but lacked the depth and emotion that character focused stories are more apt to have.

I can see others enjoying this one, but it’s a bit harder to recommend due to its dark themes and unique style. It’s unlike anything else I’ve read to compare it to, but I’m pretty sure Dark Fantasy/Fantasy Horror readers might know of similar stories and may even enjoy this one.

Stormcaller by Christine King


Stormcaller by Christine King
The Murmuration #1
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

Raised in fear of her elemental power, Seren has spent her life protecting her exiled people and trying to live up to their legends. When that responsibility is brutally taken from her, she and her shapeshifting friend Atomi must enter a divided world where their very existence is treason. Axys is a land of peace and prosperity for those in the Eternal Lady’s favour, but her benevolence comes at a cost that Seren and Atomi are unwilling to bear.

A storm wind stirs the long dormant ashes of rebellion.

Their legend is only just beginning.

It is an intriguing story of shapeshifters and elemental magic weirders. Stormcaller is somewhat more geared toward YA readers, but in an interesting take on magic and how the elements and nature around us affects us.

In the start we meet a pair of best friends, one a magic wielder, the other a shapeshifter, both types of magic commonly found among the Daggi people. It’s set in a unique tribal setting, and I loved the world building and setting in this one!

I do wish the story had been just a little more polished, as the POVs sometimes changed mid-chapter and some of the scenes were a little rushed, it made reading a tad choppier than I’d prefer, but overall wasn’t hard to follow and kept my attention. I’d also have liked it better if the character relationships had been a little deeper and more developed, but Stormcaller makes for an interesting debut, and I’d love to see more of this series and more from this author in the future!

Scandals of Tokyo by Heather Hallman


Scandals of Tokyo by Heather Hallman
(Tokyo Whispers, #1)
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Genre: Historical, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Chamomile

In the Foreign Quarter of Tsukiji, Tokyo, Japan, Victorian England is alive and well. Manners and etiquette are as valuable as gossip and deceit. Men are more rakish than ever – so far from home, societal rules seemed to be relaxed. But courting young women still requires a deft hand, a smart wit, and a man with something to offer.

INTERNATIONAL SCANDAL

Intent on being an international journalist of repute, Evelyn Prescott will do what it takes to make her mark.

It doesn’t hurt her father has built a newspaper empire, but finding a scandal in Japan is no easy task.

As much as she hates to admit it, she is forced to meet with the owner of the Tokyo Daily News, Ned Taylor, also an Englishman.

Ned holds a deep-rooted dislike of Evelyn’s father’s approach to journalism, and Ned, a notorious rake, pushes her to see just how far Evelyn is prepared to go to get her story.

Evelyn Prescott is intent on being a famous international journalist, yet she may have bitten off more than she can chew!

In this prequel, we meet the young journalist, Evlyn Prescott. She’s finally left home and must find a worthy story to make her mark. Yet, when she finds herself face to face with the handsome, Ned Taylor, who just so happens to own Tokyo Daily News and is her biggest rival! Oh year, did I mention his devilishly good looks and his known reputation as a rake?

While this to the series intro is a short prequel, sparks fly! This young couple is an interesting match, and I loved seeing them finally pair off after learning of Evelyn’s family business and knowing Ned owns the Tokyo Daily News, her father’s biggest rival.

I loved meeting Ned, Evelyn, and others in this exciting introduction to this historical story set in Tokyo, Japan 1896. In addition to meeting this fun couple, we also meet Evelyn’s Aunt Prissy and another important character, Natsu who is also featured in Talk of Tokyo, book 2 in this series.

I read this one easily in one sitting, loved the ‘deal’ made between these two, and seeing how things played out for them! I look forward to seeing more of their story in the future!

As a romance, I’m sure you’re wondering, how steamy is this one? Seeing as this prequel is only right around three chapters, the tension between the characters is mostly limited to flirty banter and a good dose of sensual tension. There is one instance where these thoughts do see our alluring yet untouchable Ned having a detailed and heated fantasy-dream that ends on a spicier note! It’s also suggested that their story isn’t over yet, and that more heated scenes are to come for these two, and other couples in the series!

I enjoyed getting to meet these characters and getting a taste for the setting and what’s to come in this series! The next installment features another reporter hinted about in this story, along with another character talked about but not yet introduced here. Seeing how this story leads up to that one, and knowing a bit of the background and how Ned and Evelyn fit into the plot has me excited for more of Hallman’s Tokyo Whispers series!

Scarlet Princess by Elle Madison & Robin D. Mahle


Scarlet Princess by Elle Madison & Robin D. Mahle
The Lochlann Feuds, Book 1
Publisher: Self-published
Genre: Romance, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, New Adult
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Chamomile

A reckless princess. An enemy kingdom. A mistake that could cost her everything.

Rowan has always known her place in the world and exactly who she is: a princess of Lochlann. That is, until a series of missteps land her in the hands of her enemies. Now, she’s an outsider being forced to reconsider everything she thought she knew.

When her relationship with her captor takes an unexpected turn, she must figure out if centuries of animosity between their two lands is more than they can overcome, or if the Socairans might be able to accept her as one of their own.

If she’s not careful, her choices very well could bring war to the people she’s sworn to protect…

This unforgettable story is packed-full of witty banter, hilarious antics, swoony charm, and sarcastic insults!

This author team does an amazing job of bringing their characters to life, and making them feel real and unique! Not only the main characters (which I loved!) but also the side characters, a detail that makes this story even more amazing and unforgettable!

Princess Rowan is one of those fun characters who lives for mischief and is always getting herself into all manner of trouble, and I loved her brash and spunky attitude, and seeing her travel to a strange, and enemy, land. I also loved her cousin, Davin, who is easily like a twin to her and who is always there to bail her out only to dig headfirst into yet another of their crazy schemes!

Theodore is also a fun character, and between him and Evander, the story never saw a dull moment as Rowan stands toe-to-toe with some of the Clan Heirs and refuses to give anything but her best, and a load of sass while she’s at it!

While this book, and The Lochlann Feuds trilogy, can be read and understood without reading The Lochlann Treaty, also by Elle Madison & Robin D. Mahle , this one happens twenty years after the first, but this one does contain some spoilers as Rowan’s parents as well as some her other family are mentioned in the beginning of this one and it’s their story that is the focus of The Lochlann Treaty series.

This one takes a slightly cleaner approach, but is great for fans of ACOTAR, Shadow and Bone, and Blood Heir. Pairing fun fantasy elements with unforgettable characters, a steamy romance in the making, and epic world-building! This story hits all the high points and is woven together into a must read and unforgettable tale!