• Grace A. Johnson

March Mini Reviews: Part 2



The Princess Companion – Melanie Cellier

I’ve been wanting to read Melanie Cellier for a long while now. For one, who could resist such beautiful covers? For two, that blurb sounds pretty amazing! For three, I’ve heard a lot of great things about her books, so put the three together, and it’s a no-brainer.

I had to at least give her a try.

I went into The Princess Companion very hopeful...then, about a page in, I was already prepped to throw in the towel. Throughout the first chapter (or was it the prologue?) in Max’s point-of-view, I could hardly make myself stomach it. I didn’t like his character, the style, the voice, all of it. There were a few (but forgivable) errors that only made the Elizabeth Bennet in me surge.

So I set it aside and came back to it later.

And, boy, am I glad I did! Once I met Alyssa, the story flew by! I couldn’t read it fast enough! Cellier’s style was so much more smooth and witty, engaging and friendly, from Alyssa’s POV, and I loved it—which is crazy, because y’all know I usually prefer the heroes to the heroines (even if I never get to read the hero’s perspective).

Especially the first chapter. Y’all, I cracked up seventy-five times over in one chapter. One chapter!

The amusement leveled out after a while, of course, as things got more serious. The story took some interesting turns, and the plot kept my attention. Even though Max just didn’t do it for me, Alyssa was a positively lovely heroine—so full of life, joyful, courteous, kind, considerate, and so good with Sophie and Lily! I did so love her character.

Which was a very good thing, because if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have made it past the first few pages. There were so many eh moments—mostly because there was very little world-building (if any), everyone had very strange names (meaning there were Claudes and Eleanors in the mix with Nikkis and Corinnas...like, make up your mind—21st century names, vintage British names, or fantasy-style names), and I couldn’t grasp the time period very well. Being fantasy, I had no eras to label the story’s setting, but I would’ve liked a firm comparison. Instead, we have carriages and guns, gowns and modern English. Maybe it was more like the 18th century, what with the addition of guns and all. Still, I would have liked a firmer grasp on where and when I was—you know? That tends to be the norm with most fairytale retellings, so maybe that’s why I haven’t read very many.

I can’t say the plot ever slowed or that I was truly bored. Between Alyssa and Max’s relationship and the obvious nefarious schemes being cooked up in the shadows, I was thoroughly entertained the entire time. I loved all of the secondary characters—from the king and queen to the twins to the princesses to the servants—and the subplots, like Henry and Eleanor’s relationship.

(*grins to herself as she realizes that the names of King Henry and Queen Eleanor might have been an allusion to the Henry and Eleanor of 12th century England* Who knows!)

What I appreciated the most, though, was how the retelling was done! It was obvious, but not glaringly so. I was terrified at how the Princess and the Pea might be pulled off—I mean, really? The girl sleeps on the mattress, feels the pea, and is proclaimed princess. Big whoop. But since Alyssa kept her mouth shut, she wasn’t revealed until much later, and she certainly proved her worth as a character long before then! Not to mention all the other subplots and events kept the story rolling without a hitch.

In the end? Well, I’m definitely glad I read The Princess Companion. It was lovely, engaging, and basically all that I had expected. I can’t be sure I’ll ever get around to reading the rest of the Four Kingdoms, but I do so love the characters—so we’ll see! I do know that reading Ava’s story would be a treat one day!

Angel Gate – Willowy Whisper

Ah, Willowy, you’ve done it again!

This girl is hands-down one of the most technically perfect authors out there. I could go on and on about how well-balanced her prose is, how smooth her pacing, how well-developed her suspenseful romances.

But seeing as how this is supposed to be a mini review, I think I’ll cut to the chase and focus on my thoughts on Angel Gate.

Like always, Willowy captivated me from Page 1 with this story of a runaway actor. I came to feel for and love the characters—Cass and Audrey and Shane and the rest of the supporting cast. And when she threw in that fast-paced suspense? Amazing!

The best part of it all was how well she wrote Cass. She focused more on him and stayed in his POV for most of the book—which few romance authors do, as they focus more on the heroine. I appreciated that, since it is his story, and since she gave him a distinct voice and wrote him so well! His emotions were evident and his thoughts very realistic. She did a fabulous job with my man Cass.

However, what kept me from getting fully immersed in the story was how 1950s everything was! From the situation with What’s-Her-Name to Cass’s acting career to several small things—if it weren’t for the mention of Matt Damon, I would’ve thought it was at least 1960-something. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a his-fic kind of gal, and I love retro/vintage vibes, but in a strictly contemporary 21st century story, eh...I don’t know, it just kind of took away from it.

Plus, I’m not a fan of stories (or even movies/TV shows) about actors and celebs, simply because their portrayal is all off, so I guess that’s more of a personal pet peeve (of which I have many).

Aside from that, it was such a lovely story! If one can call murder and mayhem in the small-town South lovely. Cass was a great hero, and Audrey was as decent a heroine as any. (I don’t like most heroines in general.) The story was so well-paced and balanced, and I’ll say it again—Willowy can pull off a suspense! I cannot wait to read the novels she has in the works—Regency romantic suspense sounds phenomenal!

Angel Gate certainly didn’t top Willowy’s historical work—which I definitely need to read more of—but it was a sweet, inspirational read that I thoroughly enjoyed! I mean, why wouldn’t I have?

Bookishly Ever After – Sarah Monzon

I can’t remember exactly how or where I heard about Sarah Monzon, but ever since I first saw her split-time romances—particularly the pirate one—I knew I had to read something of hers someday. With the gift of KU, my first pick was Book 1 in her Book Nerds and Boyfriends collection, which I finished in, like, twenty minutes one morning.

First page, I’m hooked! The heroine, Emory, was so fun and relatable, and Tater Tot? Adorable! Monzon’s writing is well-balanced, laugh-out-loud hilarious, and so smooth! I enjoyed every single page of this novella, and Lord knows I kept wishing for more! The romance was so sweet and well-done for such a short book. I’ll definitely be finishing this series, and I can’t wait to get into Finders Keepers!

A Groom for Gracie – Heather Blanton

I actually had pretty high expectations for this book, and while they certainly weren’t met, A Groom for Gracie was a fun, inspirational read.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a western (all right, three months), so I was quickly swept back into the Wild West—and, y’all, I kept thinking of When Calls the Heart and Dr. Quinn while reading!

Heather Blanton’s style is straightforward and clear—which, admittedly, is not my style—but she kept the story moving forward at an even pace that was easy to follow. The story was pretty predictable (how many marriages-of-convenience must people write?), but I do like how well the twist at the end was weaved in.

The story breezed by, so I never really connected with the characters Gracie and Noble. I did like Gracie, since she was so unique and well-developed—I mean, you don’t read about a lot of unrepentant pocket-picking women in Christian romances, so having that kind of character who stays true and realistic was very refreshing. Noble, on the other hand, was kind of flat to me.

And the romance? Well…it wasn’t as heavy as I would’ve liked, but I do like a lot of heaviness when it comes to MoCs, so maybe that’s why the romance seemed almost like a subplot up against Gracie’s life struggles.

In the end, I was kind of disappointed, but I don’t regret reading A Groom for Gracie. I’ve heard so much good about Blanton, so I’m sure I’ll give her another try!

Well, some of these books were a hit and miss, but some were pretty fantastic (not to mention these reviews were much shorter than last time)! If you missed Part 1, read it here!

#minireviews #indiebooks #fantasy #romance #fairytaletretellings #newfavorites #ilovetoread



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