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Romance Picks for LGBTQ Pride Month: Chef’s Choice, Mortal Follies, and the Green Creek Series

31 May

Chef’s Choice
by TJ Alexander

I had written previously about Chef’s Kiss by TJ Alexander.  If, like me, you were a fan of the sweet romance between bisexual chef Simone and nonbinary kitchen manager Ray than you will want to check out Alexander’s second novel, Chef’s Choice, which features Simone’s charming roommate, Luna O’Shea.  Luna gave up college in order to fund her transition, and is currently working as a personal assistant, that is until she is fired.  She therefore jumps at the chance that French transman, Jean-Pierre, provides her to be paid to pretend to be his girlfriend and compete in a cooking challenge that will allow him to inherit his Grandfather’s culinary empire.  Of course romance fans know that often pretend relationships have a way of becoming real ones; the fun is always how they develop along the way.  Alexander puts some daunting challenges to overcome including differing cultural and economic backgrounds that have impacted Luna and Jean-Pierre’s world views, along with the fact that neither has the kitchen skills to whip up an elaborate multi-course meal.  This is delightful treat for foodie romance fans.

Mortal Follies
by Alexis Hall

Alexis Hall is one of my favorite romance authors. I’ve written several posts about his works in the past. His stories tend to be sweet and funny sometimes mixing in a bit of mystery or fantasy; Mortal Follies includes a bit of all of these. Set in Bath in 1814, Maelys Mitchelmore is at a society ball when the unthinkable happens, her dress begins to disintegrate by some magical force. Lady Georgianna Landrake, nicknamed the Duke of Annadale, comes to her rescue and loans Maelys her cloak, but may have managed to steal her heart in the process. Maelys seeks out Lady Landrake’s further assistance when the curse that has been placed on her continues to unfold. Will they be able to find the culprit in time? One unique addition that helps shape the story is that it is narrated by the mischievous fairy Robin Goodfellow, who hides in the background telling us the story as it unfolds (banished from Oberon’s court he has taken up writing to support himself). Another enjoyable element is the friendship between Maelys, her cousin, and Miss Bickle, her best friend. Fans of Julia Quinn’s gossipy regency romance Bridgerton series and Gail Carriger’s Parasolverse, that mixes period society drama with fantasy elements, will enjoy this fun romp.

Wolfsong and Ravensong
by TJ Klune
I had previously enjoyed and blogged about TJ Klune’s three recent stand alone adult novels The House in the Cerulean Sea, Under the Whispering Door, and In the Lives of Puppets so I was curious when I saw the Green Creek series he had written, was now being republished in new hardcover editions. Each of the novels in the four book series deals with a different gay or bisexual member of a pack of werewolves in Green Creek, Oregon. The first book, Wolfsong, focuses on Ox a human boy who befriends the eccentric family that moves in near his house in the forest. He becomes particularly close friends with the youngest pack member and then as they reach adulthood their feelings evolve into something more. The second book, Ravensong, follows my favorite character in the series, Gordo, a witch whose magical tattoos including one of a raven sometimes seem to move about his body. The second novel is interesting in that it not only builds from the first novel, but it also has parts that take place during the first novel as well as flash backs. It gives an interesting depth to see incidents from different points of view. Although both are self-contained they are definitely more powerful when read as a larger whole. Both books deal with issues of consent, destiny, generational trauma, and self-determination while navigating pack dynamics. The novels have more sex and violence than his stand-alone works of fiction so if you are looking for gentler reads these might not be your jam, but for those looking for a complex mix of fantasy, bildungsroman, romance, and horror Wolfsong and Ravensong have a harmony that will resonate. The next two in the series Heartsong and Brothersong continue the adventures.

I received advanced reader copies of Mortal Follies, Chef’s Choice, Wolfsong, and Ravensong from NetGalley and the publishers to provide you with honest reviews.

If you enjoy LGBTQ romances, consider joining us for June’s Romance Book Club featuring Love & Other Disasters by Anita Kelly about the first nonbinary competitor on a national cooking show finding love with a fellow contestant. For those who like to cook themselves, you can take an in person or virtual cooking class and learn to make some Pride Month treats. Our Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion in June will also have LGBTQ representation for Pride Month with a LAMBDA Award Nominee, The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart. And consider participating in our Read Out Loud and Proud! Banned Books Read-a-thon!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Information and Digital Services Manager

An Intense and Atmospheric Mystery from Lucy Foley: The Paris Apartment

17 May

Having vacationed in Paris, I was fascinated by all the cultural opportunities this spectacular city has to offer, including museums, art galleries, fine French dining, the Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Versailles, the Arc de Triomphe, etc. It truly is the “City of Lights”and one can get caught up in all the glorious and historical sights. Lucy Foley’s The Paris Apartment, however, exposes the dark and sinister underbelly of Paris in a creepy and clever whodunit told in alternating points of view. The characters are all dark and edgy and everyone knows something they’re not telling. Even the eerie Paris apartment building where the mystery unfolds is its own wonderfully drawn character, a swanky but unsettling old building with walls, hidden stairways, and secret passageways that seem to know something we don’t. I was completely drawn into this intense and suspenseful murder mystery from the very beginning as Foley’s descriptive narrative and intriguing plot developments lured me in.

The story opens with Jess, a broke and alone young woman, who contacts her half-brother Ben, a journalist in Paris, about crashing with him for a while in order to get a fresh start. She’s just left her bartending job in London under less than ideal circumstances and needs to escape and lay low for a while. Although Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked him, he didn’t say no either and she feels everything will look better in Paris. However, when she shows up, Ben is missing and a cryptic voicemail and some other mysterious clues suggest foul play. 

The longer Ben remains missing, the more Jess is provoked to start digging into his situation and the more questions she has. She discovers that Ben was investigating some criminal activity involving some of the building’s nefarious tenants.  Ben’s dysfunctional neighbors are an eclectic group and not particularly friendly or forthcoming either.  As she interviews the neighbors about Ben’s disappearance, she is met with suspicion and hostility from almost everyone. Only one young man shows her any consideration, even though he says he has no useful information for her. She begins to suspect that none of the tenants are as innocent as they want her to believe.  When Jess probes too deeply and reveals the building’s dark and sinister secrets, she finds herself isolated and in danger. As a last resort, she reports her half-brother’s disappearance to the police, however, even they seem reluctant to get involved and seem to have ulterior motives for keeping Ben’s absence uncovered.

As the twisty, yet engrossing plot unravels and the dark secrets are literally unearthed, the reader feels as though they have devoured a delectable meal, especially the last revealing chapters. The Paris Apartment is yet another entertaining and escapist mystery from the talented Lucy Foley. It’s filled with suspense, intensity, a cast of seedy, yet intriguing characters, and enough plot twists to satisfy any avid fan of atmospheric page-turners or murder mysteries. 

Looking for more mayhem from the city of lights; you can read a previous blog about another mystery set in Paris here.

Written by:
Ethan Galvin
Information and Digital Services Librarian

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