books

Alyssa Cole

Books

Reluctant Royals: Can’t Escape Love (2019)

Anthologies: Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances (2017)

 

Can’t Escape Love (2019)

First things first: I LOVE THIS COVER.

This is an AMAZING cover and I completely cannot believe it came from Avon.

So the story. This is a novella that apparently takes place at the same time as the book about the main character’s twin sister. This become important later in the story, because events are referenced that we aren’t told about. (Which I find kinda irksome, to be honest.)

Reggie runs the geek website Girls with Glasses and is proud of the nerd fandom she cultivates. She’s quit working for her parents to concentrate on her website, and that has caused her insomnia to act up. Impulsively, she reaches out to a guy whose puzzle solving live stream she followed for months, because listening to his voice relaxed her so she could sleep, but his archives are deleted and she’s desperate to avoid sleeping pills. So: why not?

I feel like a kid who got told that if I kept pulling a face it would get stuck like that, and found out my parents were right,” she said on a sigh. “I’ve spent so many nights working late and now I’m being punished with sleep deprivation to teach me a lesson.

I adore both of the characters in this story. Reggie is stubborn and proud and loves being a geek. Gus is focused and doing what he loves, even if his family doesn’t understand.

Gus leaned back in his office chair and brushed a hand over his thick black hair, feeling it resist as it prepared to spring back into its natural disheveled state. It wouldn’t be tamed by anything but the hair product his grandmother mailed to him with the assorted Vietnamese treats in the care packages she sent from California. He lived in Queens, two blocks away from an Asian supermarket and one block away from a beauty supply store, but he didn’t tell Bà N?i this. It was how she showed her love.

I really REALLY love that bit.

So she is in a wheelchair, which is clear from the cover, and I love how her chairs are a part of the story without being a plot device.

Over there is Optimus Prime, for when I need to travel over rough terrain, which is basically most terrain in the five boroughs when you use a wheelchair because no one gives a fuck about accessibility or maintaining infrastructure. Namor is my beach buddy, with special wheels for moving across sand. That’s Evangelion, my light, stealthy, easily maneuverable chair, and, lastly, Voltron, a specially made Franken-chair that can be configured a few different ways.”

She needs a wheelchair. She has money so she spends it on making her life easier, and that includes having different types of chairs for different activities.

So, I loved both Reggie and Gus, and I also enjoyed how they meet up and it was delightful watching them fall in love.

So where was the weakness?

That comes from the fact that this novella isn’t really a stand-alone story.

Reggie and her twin have issues that stem from their parents having divided them into the good twin and the not-good twin. We see that in Reggie’s conversations with her parents, and also her exchanges with her sister. We also see Reggie upset by events happening to her sister. That’s fine as well.

The problem comes when An Event happens that is apparently completely detailed in her sister’s book. We catch glimpses of the event, and we see that Reggie is upset because her sister doesn’t return her calls to let her know she is okay. Then there is a very long phone call and Everything Is Resolved. But this conversation isn’t given here. That’s a bit annoying, but the real aggravation is what the conversation shifts something in Reggie, which ends up changing her relationship with Gus, but we don’t get to see what that is, so for me–having not read the other book–the shift occurs in a black hole of sorts, and it’s aggravating.

I don’t get to see how she patched things up with her sister, and I don’t get to see the conversation that allowed her to shift her feelings about Gus.

This ends up being a problem because I’m super picky about what kind of modern setting romances I read, preferring mysteries or super geeky characters (or both) or LGBT characters. The idea of a book about a secret Duke is… unappealing. I don’t care about the modern aristocracy (I don’t care about the historical aristocracy either, but I can tolerate it in small doses if it’s not a main point of the story) but I’ll have to read that book to discover what happens between the sisters, and THAT just annoys me.

I haven’t decided what I’ll do yet. I really REALLY like Reggie and Gus, and would have loved a full length story about them. But I’m not sure about a story about a secret duke and a woman who works for him in some undefined field. And all of that complicates me feelings about this story. It’s not a cliffhanger, since everything is resolved. But I don’t like not knowing HOW things were resolved.

Publisher: Avon Impulse

 


Hamilton’s Battalion: A Trio of Romances (2017) Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Alyssa Cole

Set in the Americas in 1781 and 1820

This is three stories with some overlapping characters, including Alexander Hamilton, who appears at least in the background of each story.

PROMISED LAND by Rose Lerner

Rachel ran away to join the army as Ezra Jacobs, and is proud she has made Corporal and takes care of her men. So she is shocked to find Nathan Mendelson in her camp, and immediately has him arrested as a loyalist spy–even though he recognized her as Rachel.

What Nathan doesn’t understand is why Rachel is fighting so hard for Independence, and his discovery of her passion for independence is quite lovely.

Plus, the story has funny bits.

He ran over what she’d said again. “Wait! Am I the British in this analogy? As in, you heroically claimed your freedom from my tyrannical rule?” No, because he was a nebekh who couldn’t stand up to his mother. “No, wait, my mother is the British, and I’m… Canada?”

But also has some lovely lines about the parts of war that can be glossed over in romances.

Was this her last sight of him alive? She thought of the knapsacks they had piled neatly in the trench. How many would go uncollected on their return?

That very much is a reminder of the nature of war.

THE PURSUIT OF… by Courtney Milan

Corporal John Hunter joined the army to gain freedom for his sister’s husband. He feels little loyalty for the country that enslaved his mother, and him and his sister.

The colonies didn’t care about John’s freedom, so he returned the favor by not caring about theirs.

Henry Latham has decided that he no longer wants to fight for the British, but isn’t quite sure what to do except get himself killed.

(H)e’d overtly committed treason and absconded in the heat of battle. Technically, it had been after the redoubt was surrendered, but not by much.

If that wasn’t the heat of battle, it was perhaps the warmth of it.

When John Hunter gives Henry his coat, Henry swears to return the favor. What John doesn’t expect is that Henry actually meant it.

All British were odd, John reminded himself. They might seem rational, but why else would they fight so many wars, just for the dubious pleasure of ruling the ungrateful?

This was a fun story, despite making note of slavery and the treatment of both slaves and Freedmen. (ie, black men and women were treated terribly.)

THAT COULD BE ENOUGH by Alyssa Cole

Mercy Alston has been helping Mrs Hamilton gather letters and stories for her husband’s memoirs. When Andromeda Stiel arrives in her grandfather’s stead, to relate his stories of Alexander Hamilton, Mercy’s carefully built walls quickly tumble down around her.

Mercy raised a hand to the ache in her chest. There’d been a time when she’d felt beautiful things acutely. Felt them in her body and heart and soul. A flower pressed between the pages of a book had given her sustenance that even food could not. She’d shed tears at the sight of a bird with a ribbon streaming from its beak, flying toward its nest. She knew better than to expose herself like that now; years of experience and heartache had cured her of those naive tendencies.

One of the things I especially liked about this story was The Grove.

I have a difficult time with stories where people are treated badly, because they upset me and are very hard for me to get through. So stories of slavery and the treatment of blacks in the Americas are something I tend not to read, because I know the world can be a terrible place where people can be treated horribly. I don’t need fiction to point this out to me, especially if it’s likely to throw me into a mood swing.

This isn’t because I want to ignore these past harms, but because I tend to feel the misery too vividly. I avoid dystopias for the exact same reason. I know these terrible horrible things happened–and still happen. If I focus on it, it tries to eat me alive inside. So I hide from these stories, because I feel I can’t get past horrors to get to the hope and redemption.

Stories like these make me think that perhaps I can work through the horror and awfulness to get to the love and reminders of goodness that does exist in the world–and did exist even in the past.

These is a wonderful collection, and I highly recommend it.

Publisher: Courtney Milan
Rating: 8/10

 

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