A quirky, steamy fantasy that’s just what the romance genre needs.

A trader is swept up into an epic adventure after she inadvertently saves a demon’s life.

Cinnamon Hotpepper has only ever known a quiet, unassuming life on her family’s spice farm, and she doesn’t expect that to change. When it comes time for their village’s deity—the goddess Myva—to choose her new patrons, Cinnamon’s plan is to keep her head down and avoid getting involved with anything too far outside her comfort zone. Staggering home after one too many mugs of wine that same night, though, she inadvertently crosses paths with a demon, someone who should terrify her, and narrowly escapes with her life. The next morning, who should knock on the farm’s front door but the demon himself? Something about Cinnamon has given Fallon Ozul the ability to break out of the spell that has kept him in a monstrous frame of mind. Now he wants her help in seeking out the witch responsible for keeping his kind enslaved and telling everyone they’re evil, putting an end to her once and for all. And who is that witch? None other than Myva, who isn’t actually a goddess. Cinnamon knows she’s not cut out for an adventure like this, but she can’t deny her growing attraction to Fallon, so maybe she won’t try that hard to resist his efforts to persuade her to join him. In the process of destroying Myva’s hold on the demons, they might succeed at changing their world for the better. While the contemporary-feeling dialogue and characterization might clash with the setting and worldbuilding for some readers, and the book’s evolving romance could have benefited from more room to spread out, the story is a charming addition to the fantasy-romance realm.

A quirky, steamy fantasy that’s just what the romance genre needs.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780316570275

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024


Slow and plodding.

A young woman with a magical ability to harness light discovers she is royalty.

Talasyn is a foot soldier for her homeland of Sardovia, which has been under attack for the past decade by the powerful and evil Night Empire, a conflict known as the Hurricane Wars. Talasyn is an orphan with no knowledge of her family, but she assumes they might be the source of her rare, magical Lightweaving talent. During a battle with the forces of the Night Empire, Talasyn spars with Prince Alaric, a fierce warrior who is the son and heir to the Night Emperor. Talasyn is sent on a covert mission into Nenavar, a nearby matriarchy that has remained neutral during the Hurricane Wars, to try to access a Light Sever which could hone and refine her magic. Instead, she discovers she is the heir to their royal throne; she and her mother, now presumed dead, disappeared under mysterious circumstances when she was a year old. Alaric follows her into Nenavar, and they discover his magical ability to cast darkness and shadows produces shocking results when mixed with her Lightweaving. A few weeks later, the Night Empire defeats Sardovia and ends the Hurricane Wars, and the novel transitions to a tedious, slow-moving story of court intrigue and diplomacy. A group of Sardovian soldiers and refugees seek asylum in Nenavar, but Talasyn’s grandmother agrees to protect them only if Talasyn agrees to join the royal court and marry Alaric. The politics surrounding the impending wedding is the primary plot for the rest of the novel, and it’s a slog. The glacially slow pacing only serves to highlight the confusing world building and underdeveloped characters. It’s unclear why Alaric and Talasyn are attracted to each other, and their tentative romance is just as stuck in a rut as the plot.

Slow and plodding.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9780063277274

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2023


Maniscalco fans will enjoy, but it will be hard for new readers to find their footing.

An artist with a secret and a Lord of Hell must work together to solve a puzzle in this romantic fantasy adventure.

Miss Camilla Antonius has a lot on her plate. She’s a talented artist, but is barely keeping her late father’s gallery afloat while being blackmailed by a local lord who knows a potentially ruinous secret about her. Envy, one of the seven princes of hell, is also trying to keep up appearances while a terrible malady slowly decimates his court. When he’s invited to play a dangerous magical game with a prize that could save his people, he goes all in. When one of his clues involves Camilla, the two must work together, becoming partners as they cross realms, dealing with human, demons, and Fae in order for both to win what they most covet—all while doing their best not to fall in love. Though this is a standalone novel, it’s set in the same universe as Maniscalco’s Kingdom of the Wicked trilogy, and certain elements, character dynamics, and plot points will be harder to follow for readers unfamiliar with the earlier books. This is also Maniscalco’s adult debut, and it shows: Steamy scene follows steamy scene as characters use extremely coarse language, like a teenager at last gleefully free of parental supervision. The story itself, an adventure filled with riddles to be solved and problems to be overcome, is fun and interesting but overshadowed by the need to push every boundary. Despite its length, the book reads quickly, switching back and forth between the two leads’ points of view, though the voices aren’t distinct enough to be clear. It’s all quite jumbled.

Maniscalco fans will enjoy, but it will be hard for new readers to find their footing.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9780316557290

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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