For the Love of April French by Penny Aimes

April French doesn’t do relationships and she never asks for more.

A long-standing regular at kink club Frankie’s, she’s kind of seen it all. As a trans woman, she’s used to being the scenic rest stop for others on their way to a happily-ever-after. She knows how desire works, and she keeps hers carefully boxed up to take out on weekends only.

After all, you can’t be let down if you never ask.

Then Dennis Martin walks into Frankie’s, fresh from Seattle and looking a little lost. April just meant to be friendly, but one flirtatious drink turns into one hot night.

When Dennis asks for her number, she gives it to him.

When he asks for her trust, well…that’s a little harder.

And when the desire she thought she had such a firm grip on comes alive with Dennis, April finds herself wanting passion, purpose and commitment.

But when their relationship moves from complicated to impossible, April will have to decide how much she’s willing to want.

Review:

Oh, how I love this book – let me count the ways.

The quickfire oh-so-good:

  • First, this is an incredibly sweet romance. It’s a kink-based relationship and the love and care are utterly melt-worthy.
  • Romance featuring a trans woman, written by a trans woman! Woo!
  • It does not read like a debut at all. The voice is assured, and considering some of the tricks Aimes pulls off? Woah.
  • One of the most interesting things, as a long-time romance reader, is the way she plays with narrative. The story isn’t completely linear, but it’s not a chopped salad of events, either. Everything makes sense, and the way it plays with conflict and expectations is amazing.
  • Speaking of – reader expectations are subverted on the regular in the most interesting way.
  • With the non-traditional narrative and subverted expectations, the conflict comes from places you rarely see it, and it’s worked through in similarly non-traditional ways. I would love to get into more details, but the last thing I want to do is spoil it for anyone, please forgive.
  • Dennis is a Black millionaire and April is a white trans woman, and they recognize that they’ve both faced oppression and microaggressions while also recognizing that one person’s experience doesn’t equal the other’s. That, being white, April doesn’t have the same interactions with police that Dennis does. That Dennis will never know what it’s like to move through the world, and more specifically Texas, as a trans person.
  • The bits that could be repetitive aren’t, and it’s so carefully plotted.
  • Both characters go to therapy for great reasons! And we see two therapy sessions with different people and dynamics! And Dennis gets a Dom mentor to go over the emotional side of being a top, which I’ve never seen before!
  • Each character has a bestie, but they are very different, not only from the person they’re besties with, but the relationship itself. Jason is a white guy who has been friends with Dennis forever and they can read each other’s moods and expressions with ease. Fatima is a hijabi woman who’s lunch friends with April at work, and over the course of the book we see their relationship deepen and grow.
  • …did I mention that it’s sweet and melt-worthy?

The only less-than-perfect things for me are details of a subplot and not even worth mentioning here.

If you like romance and are open to reading a (sweet!) kink-based relationship, you have to give For the Love of April French a try, and feel free to shout my way on social media as you do!

Content notes: BDSM/kink including impact play; mentions of surgery; misgendering; a short, mini panic attack on the page

Thanks to Carina Press and Netgalley for providing a review copy.

Big Bad Wolf by Suleikha Snyder (Third Shift #1)

53279743Joe Peluso has blood on his hands. But lawyer and psychologist Neha Ahluwalia is determined to help him craft a solid defense…even if she can’t defend her own obsession. Because Joe took out those Russian mobsters for good reason–those six bad guys were part of the ruthless clan of bear shifters who control Brooklyn’s Russian mafia. His vigilante justice has earned him countless enemies in New York’s supernatural-controlled underworld, and no friends in a government that now bends to Russia at every turn.

Joe knows that creatures like him only deserve the worst. But meeting Neha makes him feel human for the first time in forever. But when the Russian mob attacks the jail for payback, Joe and Neha go on the run–from monsters who want him dead and from their own traitorous hearts.

Review:

I enjoyed Snyder’s Tikka Chance on Me so when I saw she’s coming out with a paranormal romance I jumped at the chance to read it. I usually shy away from books with mafia elements or ex-military heroes, but I enjoyed her look at motorcycle gangs so why not give it a try?

I’m so glad I did. Off the top, this book won’t be for everyone – the hero is a bit of an arse, there are two danger bangs, and while the consent is there it isn’t the most explicit. None of it ended up bothering me, though.

On to the good!

  • This is the first fiction I’ve read that truly interacts with what America has become politically since 2016, pushing it further into a dystopia. Think new Patriot Acts, detention camps on both borders, and drones tracking people in Sanctuary Cities. It’s an alternate 2021 that went off the rails even more than we actually did.
  • There are a bunch of supernatural folx, but Snyder doesn’t try to explain them all at once. Many series start with one kind of shifter then branch out, so I like that we’re starting with a mix here.
  • While we have a wolf character packs aren’t a thing. Instead of those forced relations we’re heading towards a found family, which is utterly my jam.
  • There are many PoVs and they work well together – the hero, heroine, Neha’s coworkers, and the staff at Third Shift.
  • Pretty much every character is from a marginalized group, including people of color, LGBTQIA+ folx, a Jewish guy, Sikh folx of varying devotion, and of course shifters.
  • The diversity of Indian culture is emphasized and celebrated – different languages, religions, styles of dress, and more. We even have a naga, so bonus points for non-Western supernatural beings.
  • I love the secondary characters and cannot wait for them to get their own HEAs, especially a certain Irish vampire who’s too charming for his own good.
  • One character is a cop but he has reservations about his day job, and things… change by the end. I like the way it’s handled.

The not-so-good:

  • Instalove, thanks to the fated mates trope. If you’re a paranormal romance fan it’s par for the course.
  • If you’re into explicit consent the danger bangs may leave you feeling squick-y. I’m not a huge fan of sex just after getting away from the bad guy, but I got through okay.

Big Bad Wolf takes place in a world that I do not want to live in but am happy to visit in fiction, especially with such a great cast of characters – I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for providing a review copy.

The Love Study by Kris Ripper

53710329._SY475_Sure, The Love Study has a sweet couple whose romance I enjoy, but the way it examines the nature of love is even better.

First the setup – Declan abandoned his last boyfriend at the altar and has avoided dating for years, thinking that relationships are beyond him. His heart has healed in the meantime, though, and he might be ready to try meeting people again.

Enter Sidney. They’re a relationship advice YouTuber looking to start a new video series – The Love Study – and Declan is the perfect subject. Sidney will set him up on dates, and after each they’ll discuss what worked and what didn’t. But as they spend more time together, Declan realizes the only person he has chemistry with is Sidney.

Before I get into the review proper, some rep – Ripper is genderqueer and so is Sidney. Yes, the jacket copy says “nonbinary”, probably because it’s a more recognizable term, but in the book Sidney prefers “GQ” to “enby”. Declan has anxiety including panic attacks, but it’s not overly detailed and didn’t end up bothering me. There are also mentions of homophobia, transphobia, and racism.

The little things make me feel safe reading this book, and most boil down to respect. When Declan and Sidney make plans options are offered including the option to do nothing, no pressure. They brainstorm solutions, like when trying to figure out what to call each other – partner? lover? datemate? companion? They’re comfortable talking out their feelings, even when they don’t have all the words for them yet. This kind of respect should be the foundation of all relationships, not just intimate ones, and I love seeing it.

Related – Declan is used to spilling the beans about his sexual escapades to friends, but Sidney wants to keep things private and he respects that, even grows to like it after a while. Sidney’s wishes end up affecting us readers as well – this is a closed door romance, so there’s no explicit sex on the page.

The respect is great but my favorite thing about this book, hands down, is how it made me think about the nature of relationships. By watching Declan’s dates – never disasters, but always lacking somehow – Ripper examines what it means to be “romantic” and how different people have different definitions. Sidney laments how “romantic” gestures often have a gendered element, even in queer relationships – someone offering to pay for dinner, opening doors, giving chocolate on Valentine’s Day. That it feels more like playing a role than being genuine.

There are thoughtful discussions on whether dating is the best way to get to know someone, and the “goal” of relationships. Now that everyone can marry, should that be the universal goal? Is long-term commitment sufficient? Heck, is it necessary? How much are thoughts around queer marriage are bound up with it being not only a personal statement, but also a political one?

In examining these issues Ripper is also taking a meta look at the Happily Ever After in romance. Many books end with a marriage or similar, but can the main characters simply like each other a lot and have that count as an HEA? There were times that I would put the book down and stare off into space, thinking about everything Ripper is laying down.

As much as I love this book there are a couple of things that didn’t quite work for me. I would have preferred a higher heat level, while recognizing that it would have brought a genderqueer character’s genitals into the conversation, which is never ever a requirement. There’s a found family element but it felt a bit forced to me. Then again, I think that dynamic takes a couple of books to develop. And the ending was… fine. A bit predictable, not bad, just fine.

If you are a thematic reader, if you would like to examine the nature of love and relationships, and if you are looking for a comfortable, safe space to go in these uncertain times, there’s nothing better than The Love Study. I’m an instant fan of Ripper and can’t wait to dive into zir backlist.

Thanks to Carina Press for providing a review copy.

When We Do Harm: A Doctor Confronts Medical Error by Danielle Ofri

53625428._SY475_Patients enter the medical system with faith that they will receive the best care possible, so when things go wrong, it’s a profound and painful breach. Medical science has made enormous strides in decreasing mortality and suffering, but there’s no doubt that treatment can also cause harm, a significant portion of which is preventable.

Drawing on current research, professional experience, and extensive interviews with nurses, physicians, administrators, researchers, patients, and families, Dr. Ofri explores the diagnostic, systemic, and cognitive causes of medical error. She advocates for strategic use of concrete safety interventions such as checklists and improvements to the electronic medical record, but focuses on the full-scale cultural and cognitive shifts required to make a meaningful dent in medical error.

4.5 stars

So many things can go wrong in modern medicine, from misdiagnosing a disease to administering the wrong medicine with disastrous results. While there’s all kinds of research about medical error most of it concentrates on procedural errors in inpatient settings, such as doctors forgetting to wash their hands before approaching a patient’s bed. The literature ignores that most medical care is given in outpatient settings (doctors’ offices, acute care) and many, many errors take place when a doctor tries to figure out what’s wrong with you in the first place.

Add in mistakes caused by the computerized charting system, exacerbated by poor hand offs, and ignored by know-it-all doctors and we have a mess. Ofri leads us through it all in her approachable, engaging, and beautifully written style.

Here are some things I learned:

  • According to one study (everything is clearly end noted, by the way) over 80 percent of errors are related to a problem in doctor-patient communication. Ofri points out that nearly every error she reviewed for the book could have been prevented, or had its harm minimized, had there been better doctor-patient communication.
  • Capitalism in health care messes up so much stuff. Electronic medical records started as a billing system. Diagnoses are connected directly to billing codes, and there is no billing code for uncertainty. If there’s a set of interrelated problems the doctor has to pick one as the diagnosis, risking that later doctors won’t grasp the complexity of the issue.
  • Don’t get me started on malpractice lawsuits.
  • Procedural errors can be fixed with checklists, but diagnostic errors are cognitive errors, and “fixing” how a doctor thinks is much, much harder.
  • Hospital culture matters. Do the nurses feel comfortable speaking up when they see something wrong? Are patients’ families listened to or dismissed?
  • Many proposed solutions assume slow, methodical thinking when much of what doctors do is in the moment, under time pressure.

I love Ofri’s writing style – suspenseful narrative nonfiction when going through a case, introspective and insightful when discussing her own experience with error.

There are days when I envy Sisyphus: at least it’s the same stinking boulder he’s pushing up the hill every day. For a doctor, it’s a sea of boulders, any one of which – if missed – could come crashing down on one of my patients. Or on me, in the form of a lawsuit.

Make no mistake, many cases in this book are hard to read. A wife watching her husband die before her eyes without the medical staff doing anything to stop it. Mistreatment of a burn victim leading to his death, despite the efforts of nursing staff to get him better care. But the last couple of chapters give us hope, as well as concrete things a patient and their family can do to prevent medical error. Websites, professional organizations to contact, laws to be aware of, how to word requests to doctors, it’s all here.

This is my favorite Ofri book to date, which is saying a lot. A must read if you have any kind of interest, and a natural follow-up to The Checklist Manifesto as Gawande only scratches the surface.

Thanks to Beacon Press and Edelweiss for providing a review copy.

Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha (Mercenary Librarians #1)

40078832._SY475_The United States went belly up 45 years ago when our power grid was wiped out. Too few live in well-protected isolation while the rest of us scrape by on the margins. The only thing that matters is survival. By any means. At any cost.

Nina is an information broker with a mission: to bring hope to the darkest corners of Atlanta. She and her team of mercenary librarians use their knowledge to help those in need. But altruism doesn’t pay the bills—raiding vaults and collecting sensitive data is where the real money is.

Knox is a bitter, battle-weary supersoldier who leads the Silver Devils, an elite strike squad that chose to go AWOL rather than slaughter innocents. Before the Devils leave town for good, they need a biochem hacker to stabilize the experimental implants that grant their superhuman abilities.

The problem? Their hacker’s been kidnapped. And the ransom for her return is Nina. Knox has the perfect bait for a perfect trap: a lost Library of Congress server. The data could set Nina and her team up for years…

If they live that long.

Review:

I held on to this advance copy for a while, sure I would like it – and what’dya know, I love it.

The good:

  • Yay for science fiction to take us away from our current world. Sure, it depicts an America where government has been taken over by corporations, infrastructure has collapsed, and it’s every chemically and mechanically enhanced person for themselves… but at least it’s not our reality! I kid (kinda…) but it was nice to be so fully immersed in another world, even one as gritty as this.
  • The worldbuilding is solid. There’s one slight info dump early, but this America is so different from ours it felt justified. After that we learn things in bits and pieces, and by the end of the book I feel like I have a solid grasp of the world.
  • I love all of these characters, and they’re all fleshed out as people with different abilities, likes, and quirks. Bonus for found family vibes and casually mentioning that someone has had both boyfriends and girlfriends, because that’s totally a thing.
  • The structure helps introduce us to the characters one-on-one, as in addition to chapters from the two main characters’ point of view we also get interstitial chapters from everyone else. Being inside each person’s head let me get a better grasp for who they are while hinting at potential future conflicts and love interests.
  • Yes love interests, because Deal with the Devil is a great blend of science fiction and romance. I get the impression that we’ll be following a different couple in each book while the overall story arc continues. There isn’t as much sex as in Rocha’s other works, but what’s here is hot and advances the story as it should.
  • And the plot! Things are always happening. At 65% or so I was worried because many books would have ended things there, but the story afterward was just as important and maybe even more interesting.
  • The fights are so well done. They’re gripping but also made me cackle with joy.
  • And the banter! Once the band is together the wit and one liners fly – this is my love language.

The neither-here-nor-there:

  • Be ready for a bunch of tragic pasts with torture and abuse, along with the murder and death you’d expect in a story with mercenaries. The fights are about action, not gore, so I wasn’t grossed out.

The not-so-good:

  • The documents placed between each chapter could have been a little more clear – I’m know I’m going to get more out of them on a reread.

In short, Deal with the Devil takes place in a gritty, post-apocalyptic world where librarians and their friends save the day while maybe falling in love. I wasn’t sure if escaping to a different hellish world would work for me but I blew through pages and enjoyed the ride.

Thanks to Tor and Edelweiss for providing an advance copy.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

40265832Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.

In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

Review:

I first heard Kendi on the WNYC show On the Media being interviewed by Brooke Gladstone. He blew my mind twice in ten minutes so I knew I had to pick up How to Be an Antiracist.

The core tenet is that there is no such thing as being “not racist”. You either support and/or abide policies and actions that further racial inequities, as a racist, or you confront them, as an antiracist. Doing nothing, saying you’re “not racist”, only furthers the racist status quo.

Kendi breaks down a bunch of big ideas such as dueling consciousness and race as a construct, while interweaving stories from his own life. We watch him grow up from a boy who parrots the questionable ideas the world has taught him, to holding anti-white racist views in college, to appreciating and later fighting for not just antiracism but for those who fall at intersectionalities between race and gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and more. He’s not afraid to share ugly thoughts he’s had and how he worked past them – this is a man who has done the work and has the receipts.

The first few chapters of the book cover big concepts and I went through them slowly to take everything in. Once these basic concepts are set he talks about subsets and nuances before widening back out to end on the ideas of success and survival.

My ereader is chock-a-block with highlights – Kendi says so many things that are thoughtful and get at the core of an issue. He argues that antiracism and anticapitalism go hand in hand. That the idea that Black people can’t be racist is absurd. That racist ideas are born not of ignorance and hate but self-interest, and that holding up a mirror can be much more effective than trying to persuade those who support racist policies. You may not agree with every point but they are all presented clearly and grounded in history.

The historical overviews in the middle of each chapter may have been my favorite sections. Kendi summarizes history and scholarship in a way that provides all the essential details without being didactic. Sometimes I wanted to know more but I’m more than happy to read other books about the movements and people he mentions.

<i>How to Be an Antiracist</i> is an in-depth examination that encourages all of us, regardless of race and level of knowledge, to do our part to stamp out racism. I am thankful to Kendi for writing about his life experience and scholarship so openly and honestly, and now I’m looking forward to reading his other book, Stamped from the Beginning. I feel a bit changed inside, for the better.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

43092891Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. Another item? Do something bad. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

Review:

Trigger warning for discussion of a previous abusive relationship.

How I love this book. Let me count the ways.

The good:

  • First and foremost is the rep. Some of it is own voices (both Hibbert and the heroine are Black British women with chronic pain) but every single bit feels well considered and empathetic and full of love. Other rep includes fibromyalgia, migraines, fat rep, positive depictions of therapy, and other stuff I’m surely missing. There are some great reviews by own voices folks, which gives me even more confidence, and just seeing the way she handles wearing glasses made me, as a useless-without-my-specs person, feel seen.
  • The book is British without screaming it. The spelling is American (I’m going to guess that was the publisher’s call) but there’s much more emphasis on class differences than you find in American romance, or even Britain-set romances written by Americans. It felt real and not the least bit stereotypical.
  • Their relationship is a slow burn in the way I like – getting to know the other person, and finding them more attractive the more you know.
  • Red is a-ma-zing. He expertly walks a line of being considerate of Chloe and her limitations without being mothering or infantilizing her. His consent is first rate and the respect and love he feels are all over the page.
  • There is a cat and it’s actually important to the plot, not forgotten as the romance heats up. Huzzah!
  • The banter is good, but the communication is better. There’s a bit of foot-in-mouth syndrome going on, but after the initial anger passes they get together to talk things out like adults. I am not a fan of Big Miscommunications, so the way romance has been evolving away from it has been amazing.
  • Do you need a warm hug right now? Of course you do. This book is that warm hug, full of love.

I inhaled Get a Life, Chloe Brown during a 24 hour readathon and have no regrets on the binge. It’s an easy recommendation for almost any romance fan, as well as for those who are thinking about getting into the genre.

Thanks to Avon and Edelweiss for providing a review copy.

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

37789271._SY475_A Place for Us unfolds the lives of an Indian-American Muslim family, gathered together in their Californian hometown to celebrate the eldest daughter, Hadia’s, wedding – a match of love rather than tradition. It is here, on this momentous day, that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that lead to their son’s estrangement – the reckoning of parents who strove to pass on their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who in turn struggle to balance authenticity in themselves with loyalty to the home they came from.

Review:

Trigger warning for drug abuse.

This is exactly the kind of book I was hoping to read for the Booktube Prize – something that I’m interested in, but probably wouldn’t have picked up anytime soon. A Place for Us is a multi-generational family saga of sorts, which originally made me wary, but I ended up liking it. A bunch.

What makes the entire book for me, on top of great writing and character work, is the structure. The first major section is told from the perspective of the three children. We watch them grow up – moments between them, how they interact with the community, major events that shape their lives, even though they may not look significant to start. We bounce around in time, which made me nervous at first, but once we learn a couple of milestones (the eldest going to college, a particular birthday party or conversation) the timeline becomes easy to keep track of. Based on the kids’ stories we form some ideas why Amar is no longer part of the family.

The second section is from the point of view of their mother, and while some parts overlap she adds more information and another way of looking at things. We learn about conversations the kids had no idea about as well as the thoughts behind her actions, and it both interleaves a layer of story and changes our ideas and who is most wrong.

The father gets his say in the last section in a note written directly to Amir. He explains what he did and why, and realizes he may have gone wrong somewhere but isn’t sure how. The overall affect is a story that is told both straightforwardly as well as intricately.

The way everything is woven together is masterful and a bunch of interesting themes are explored – growing up as a brown person in the US during 9/11, how each person approaches their Muslim faith differently, the roles different children are expected to fill and why. I love that the religious elements are both so important and not explained in a Islam 101 manner. We aren’t spoon fed info about the faith, and I think the book is stronger for it.

All in all it’s hard to believe this is a debut. I actually enjoyed a multi-generational family story of sorts… I don’t think that I’m coming around to the sub-genre, necessarily, but this book is an outstanding example of it.

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

35412372Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.

Review:

Trigger warnings for abuse, rape, self-harm, self-destructive behavior, disordered eating, and suicidal thoughts and actions.

I went into Freshwater, my first read for the semifinal round of The BookTube Prize, with little information. My friends loved it but were cagey in their reviews.

I’m going to join their ranks.

The good:

  • The writing is beautiful in a lyric, understated way.
  • I enjoy watching all these personalities, Ada and the spirits, rub against each other and unsettle each other. Many take turns as narrators, allowing the narrative to slip backwards or forwards in time in a seamless way. I’ve read a bunch of books that do this poorly, but it’s a great device when used well, like here.
  • It took me a while to get into the story, especially as I felt the narrators out. But once I did, wow. I read the last 40% in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down.
  • We see the legacy of abuse and how trauma experienced as a child can shape you.
  • Ada shares traits with the author, and it feels like a deeply personal story.
  • Emezi slowly cracked open my mind so a reality that I never imagined could pour in. They patched me up when they were done, and I’m a better person for it.

The not-so-good:

  • Nothing major or of particular note.

I am more than excited to read more of Emezi’s writing. They have a YA fantasy coming out this fall and more books in the pipeline – I can’t wait.

Reverb by Anna Zabo (Twisted Wishes #3)

43185688Twisted Wishes bass player Mish Sullivan is a rock goddess—gorgeous, sexy and comfortable in the spotlight. With fame comes unwanted attention, though: a stalker is desperate to get close. Mish can fend for herself, just as she always has. But after an attack lands her in the hospital, the band reacts, sticking her with a bodyguard she doesn’t need or want.

David Altet has an instant connection with Mish. A certified badass, this ex-army martial arts expert can take down a man twice his size. But nothing—not living as a trans man, not his intensive military training—prepared him for the challenge of Mish. Sex with her is a distraction neither of them can afford, yet the hot, kink-filled nights keep coming.

When Mish’s stalker ups his game, David must make a choice—lover or bodyguard. He’d rather have Mish alive than in his bed. But Mish wants David, and no one, especially not a stalker, will force her to give him up.

Review:

What a wonderful end to an amazing series!

The good:

  • Mish is a pansexual cis woman, David is a trans man, and they’re in a book full of lots of queer folks written by a non-binary person. All the yes.
  • The romance is like-likes-like, which I don’t see very often. Mish and David both see themselves as protectors and have a similar personality type, and as a result they have a feel for what makes each other tick. It brings them closer while also contributing to issues down the line.
  • I love that Zabo doesn’t have Big Miscommunications in their books. People talk to each other about their feelings like the adults they are – insert mock gasp of shock here. 😉
  • The found family dynamic runs through the series and is extra strong here. You can sense that the group is nearly complete and that David is the last puzzle piece. And him fitting goes both ways – the band accepts him as part of the family, and he has to realize and accept that he both fits and is wanted.
  • There’s a natural friendship between David and Adrian as the two guys who are with the band but don’t play on stage and it works so well.
  • The queerness of the band is never forgotten, and they are totally there for their fans and each other, from lead singer down through the roadies.
  • Little realities of touring ring true and make sense. For example, when they get donuts at a rest stop they make sure to buy the most garish ones they can find because they’ll look good on Instagram.
  • There’s tons of positive modelling, showing how delicate situations should be handled. When David sees a crew member hesitating to enter the men’s room, unsure of their reception, he warmly says “come with me” and strikes up a conversation.
  • In a similar vein, David is cis-passing, so Mish doesn’t realize that he’s trans. We see him come out to her from his point of view, worried she won’t be accepting. Her reaction is honest, real, unforced, and utterly respectful and accepting. We see how much it means to David, and I fell in love with both of them even more.

Neither here-nor-there:

  • The BDSM element so strong in the first two books is really light here. That being said, if you’re interested at all in this series I suggest you start with book one, Syncopation, in order to enjoy the character arcs and warm fuzzies to their fullest.

The not-so-good:

  • Nothing in particular!

I’m both sad to see this series end and excited to see what Zabo does next – it appears that Twisted Wishes’ opening band could get its own spin off series and I hope it does, and soon!

Thanks to Carina Press and NetGalley for providing a review copy.