Books With Romances I Actually Enjoyed

Top Ten Tuesday(77)

Hello my fellow book lovers!

I think it’s safe to say if you’ve been following me for a bit that you all know that I am not the biggest fan of YA romances, romance heavy plots, or just the romance genre in general. However, I promise you my heart is not completely made of ice! Here are a few of books that had romances that melted even my heart!

Also just a fun little side note that I had “We Go Together” from Grease stuck in my head the entire time I wrote this for some reason:

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So of course I’m going to be talking freely about the romances in these books and why I loved them so much and as a result there will be potential spoilers for some of the books. Some books it comes pretty obvious who is going to get involved with who but a few of these are surprises so here is the spoiler warning!

**** Please note that there are potential romance related  spoilers for the following books: The Night Circus, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Queens of Geek, The Diabolic, And I Darken, My Lady Jane, The Forbidden Wish, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, The Winner’s Curse, and Six of Crows!!*****

Anyways! I will link up my full reviews for each title if I have them!

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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Celia and Marco’s romance is subtle, magical, and star-crossed what’s not to love about all of that? Their romance does have elements of insta-love but I honestly didn’t mind it at all since it felt like they were fated to be together from the very first pages (which of course they were since that’s what the book is about but you get what I mean!). They’re the kind of pairing that felt destined, like soul mates and I couldn’t wait for them to be together!

I don’t have a full review up for this book unfortunately, I just don’t know how to review it!


The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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This romance is between Aladdin and Zahra, the genie of the lamp, and as the title implies it’s a bit of a forbidden relationship. There were no tropes present here at all and Aladdin and Zahra’s relationship actually takes quite a while to develop, a nice slow-burn romance if you will. I was so desperate for them to get together while reading and was so satisfied when it finally happened!

You can read my full review of “The Forbidden Wish” here.


The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

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I don’t think I’ve shipped a paring so hard in a long time! Monty and Percy were straight up adorable and I think what made me ship it even harder was that they were both so clueless to the other’s feelings that they spent a majority of the book thinking their love was unrequited! They’ve been friends forever though and we start the book with both of them secretly loving the other so there aren’t any tropes such as insta-love here!

I do have a full review up for this book!

I just can’t link it since both posts were pre-scheduled as I am currently on vacation sorry for the inconvenience but if you’d like to read it you can search for it under my review index or search bar!


Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

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Love, love, loved the romances in this book! There are two different relationships that develop throughout the story and that would be between Taylor x Jamie who have been friends for a while already and Charlie x Alyssa two YouTube vloggers we also get to see some awesome diversity here since Charlie is Chinese-Australian and Alyssa is African- American and both are bisexual. Plus on top of all of that the romances are just so positive, fluffy, and adorable!

You can read my full review of “Queens of Geek” here.


The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

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Nemesis and Tyrus kind of  had a “forbidden love” romance and there were definitely NO tropes or cliches with it either this was a complete slow burn romance and it definitely is secondary to the plot. I think that Nemesis and Tyrus fit so well together because they’re both ruthless but also with a strong underlying goodness to them. I also spent a good chunk of the book waiting for them to just love each other already! 

You can read my full review of “The Diabolic” here.


And I Darken by Kiersten White

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The romance definitely isn’t the only thing going on in this book which is probably part of why I liked it so much, it was more in the background. There definitely isn’t any insta-love at all and it’s actually quite a slow-burn romance, however, there is a love triangle but it isn’t your typical love triangle since it’s two sibling competing for the same man and is completely unrequited on the one side. It’s actually really complicated now that I think about it….

Anyways I really wanted Lada and Mehmed to get together just because they both spent so much time pining after one another in secret. The tension! I just wanted them to kiss!

You can read my full review of “And I Darken” here.


My Lady Jane by Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton, and Cynthia Hand

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While this may not be the most swoon-worthy romance to me it was still amazing because it was slow-burn and trope-free! Jane and Gifford were extremely cute and adorable and I loved how they disliked each other right away but slowly grew to care for one another by being themselves. It was realistic!

You can read my full review of “My Lady Jane” here.


The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

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This was one of those books that I thought was going to be a mess of YA romance tropes but fortunately I was proved very wrong! There is no insta-love, no love triangles, or anything! Kestrel and Aren’s romance is very much slow-burn and forbidden love but I loved all of it! I felt that both characters were just really good for each other as well.

You can read my full review of “The Winner’s Curse” here.


Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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The romance between Karou and Akiva is a little rocky for me because on one hand it’s very much insta-love (even though that’s justified later on) but on the other hand I loved the forbidden romance elements in this story. I think when characters can’t be together my brain rebels and declares “THEY MUST BE TOGETHER NOW!”, I’m seeing a pattern here. I digress, I really liked how well developed their romance was though and blame any misgivings I have on the romance due to the fact that I’m not the hugest fan of Akiva in the first place…I’m just not.

You can read my full review of “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” here.


Honorable Mentions

(aka romances I also enjoyed but not enough to go into great detail)

  • Alice by Christina Henry
  • The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
  • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  • Red Rising by Pierce Brown
  • Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

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Have you read any of these books as well? What did you think?

Did you enjoy any of these romances or not so much?

What are some of your favorite bookish romances?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

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Top 5 Wednesday: Books That Aren’t Set in the Western World

Top Ten Tuesday(1)

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Thoughts on Tomes and created by Lainey @ Ginger Reads Lainey. You can check out the group’s Goodreads page for this month’s topics!

This week’s topic is books that aren’t set in or inspired by the Western World, so nothing in North America or Western Europe! That also means no Fantasy or Sci-fi that may have been inspired by these places so nothing medieval based in a fantasy for example!

This is such a fun topic that calls for us to really think outside the box and opens the way for us to potentially find more diverse reads!

These are also in NO particular order and if I have reviews I will link them up as well!

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5.) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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While this is YA fantasy not directly set in the real world it’s pretty clearly based off of Russia and Russian culture. Therefore I’m just going to say it counts! It’s also a very well written, fast paced, heist book and I say the hype is worth it!

You can read my full review of “Six of Crows” here.


4.) And I Darken by Kiersten White

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This is a historical retelling with a gender bent Vlad the Impaler as one of the main characters. It’s set in the 1400s in both Wallachia, which is modern day Romania, and the Ottoman Empire, which is mostly modern day Turkey.

I personally thought White did her research very well for this story!

You can read my full review of “And I Darken” here.


3.) The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

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This is a 1,001 Nights (a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories) retelling set in the Middle East and it also has some fantasy elements but they’re clearly inspired by Middle Eastern culture as well.

You can read my mini review of “The Wrath & The Dawn” here.


2.) The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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This is a YA fantasy story but it’s also a retelling of “Aladdin and His Wondrous Lamp” which is a story from 1,001 Nights (which as stated above is a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories). The story and it’s setting are inspired by the Middle East.

You can read my full review of “The Forbidden Wish” here.


1.) Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

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This is a fantasy and steampunk story that was inspired by Japan or the Eastern World if you will. I, personally, really enjoyed this book but I have heard people mention that it was not researched very well and the Japanese vocabulary wasn’t used correctly. That’s why I’m saying the book is “inspired by” versus saying “based on” and I acknowledge other people’s claims that this wasn’t necessarily the best book as far as the cultural representation goes.

However, it’s still inspired by the Eastern World so I decided it applies here and as I said I did still enjoy the story. It’s nice to see steampunk elements in a book that isn’t set in Western Europe!

You can read my full review of “Stormdancer” here.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

What are some books you’ve read or have on your TBR that aren’t set in the Western World?

Do you have any recommendations?

Let me know in the comments!

The Sassy

Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

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description

No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

review

This book pretty much met every expectation I had for it:

  • A brutal, fierce, warrior heroine
  • A complex, thrilling plot
  • Tons of detail and overall development
  • Action, betrayal, and revenge galore!

So I guess you could say I was definitely not disappointed and very much impressed with this book and I cannot wait for the sequel!

PLOT

“And I Darken” basically has everything I love in a fantasy book but this is actually historical fiction which may surprise some people, it’s a “retelling” of history in which Lada (the main character) is Vlad the Impaler. It was very, very interesting to read this book and then look up the corresponding history and make comparisons between the two this also may just be me since I’m a big history geek. Just a fun little tidbit there….

This book covers quite a large time span as we witness Lada and Radu’s birth, childhood, and growth into young adults. That being said I thought the pacing was pretty spot on, it wasn’t necessarily very fast paced the entire time and I never found myself truly bored while reading although I will say it lost a bit of steam in the middle.

As I said above this story has so much detail and complexity it’s practically mind blowing, there’s so many things going on and yet it wasn’t confusing to follow at all. A lot of the story revolves around war and politics…but mostly politics and I loved it. The best way for me to describe the plot is to compare it to a spider’s web, there are so many different threads going different ways and interconnecting everything. There are so many twists and turns and you just don’t know what will happen next a lot of it is completely unpredictable.

The setting was also very interesting we almost never see any YA Fiction books set in Eastern Europe especially as far back as the 1400’s. I don’t claim to be an expert on 1400’s Eastern European history but I thought Kiersten White did an excellent job making the setting feel as authentic as possible. Another thing that really adds to this is the addition of the religions, albeit subtle,  of Christianity and Islam and how the characters felt about each. And none of the historical or religious facts every felt preachy or like we were being info-dumped on.

characters

The characters in “And I Darken” are probably the best part of the entire book. They are brutal, complex, morally ambiguous, and despicable…… I adored them all. I was 100% invested in Lada and Radu’s characters I cared so deeply about both of them and a lot of what kept me reading was wanting to know what would happen to them.

Lada is one of my all time favorite characters now she is mentioned in the description of the book as brutal and brutal she most definitely is as well as fierce and just an all around badass. She is the total opposite of your typical YA heroine, she is no special snowflake that’s for sure. Lada is resilient and relentless in her desires she will not stop fighting until she has what she wants.

Radu, Lada’s younger brother, is the polar opposite of his sister. Where she is brutal, physically strong, and violent he is vulnerable, book-smart, and kind. I think I enjoyed seeing Radu come out of his shell the most, he’s quiet and pays attention to details others would overlook and is very key in some of the politics of the book because of the secrets and information he learns.

Big plus with this book? One of the strongest sibling relationships I’ve had the pleasure of reading about. I loved Lada and Radu because they got stuck in the same siutaion together and trust only one another, the bond is so strong between these too. They do some messed up stuff in order to protect each other at any cost.

Of course then we have one other very important chief character (although he does not narrate) and a slew of very complex and interesting secondary characters. I’ve said this many times before but I’ll say it again: if you want to impress me with your book you better have some well developed secondary characters. “And I Darken” certainly delivered on this front too.

romance

This was an aspect of the book where I’m unsure what to really say about it because it was about as complex as everything else! There is a bit of a love triangle although it definitely is NOT your typical love triangle there are a lot of different factors that get mixed in with it so it definitely is not the kind we all dislike so strongly in our YA books. I would explain more but I don’t want to spoil the surprise!!!!

Just know that while I shipped the romance(s) so hard, they were also very frustrating to read about! I mean this in the best possible way because I sat the entire time like this:

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Basically I approve of the romance in this book and that almost never happens.

in conclusion

I absolutely loved this book and the only reason I docked 0.5 stars is because I felt it didn’t quite live up to the other books I did give 5 stars to.

What I Liked:

  • The setting (as I said it’s a rare one)
  • Genderswapped Vlad the Impaler
  • The complexity of the plot
  • Well developed characters
  • Interesting (ship-worthy) romances

What I Didn’t Like:

  • The pacing slowed the tiniest bit in the middle

RECOMMEND

I highly, highly recommend taking a look at this book! If you love fantasy I think you’ll really enjoy “And I Darken” because while it isn’t fantasy itself it has all of the war and politics games you find and enjoy in fantasy books.

Links: Goodreads / Amazon / Book Depository

The Sassy