Book Reviews: Willowkeep and Winner’s Curse

This week, I finished reading two books, got half-way through another good one, read two NetGalley ARCs that need more work before they are publishable, and wrote the first 4,000 words of my next book. It’s been a crazy week book-wise, and this was in addition to work, getting my kids back into the school/homework routine, helping my husband find a little bit of comfort while he’s dealing with calcific tendonitis, not getting picked for #PitchWars, finding out one of my cousins was almost killed by a semi-truck and that the father of one of my best friends died. So, I guess it was a crazy week life-wise too.  I’m always reading, but I seek that literary haven more the crazier life gets. So, forgive me if I review more than one book in this post.

First, let me tell you about the two books I finished: Willowkeep by Julie Daines and Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski.

Book Review: Willowkeep


Julie Daines is a friend of mine through our writers’ club. I was a beta reader for her book Eleanor and the Iron King, which I loved. I bought my copy of Willowkeep several months ago. It’s a Regency romance about a young woman, Charlotte Darby, who inherits a vast estate and is thus pulled out of the poverty that she and her little sister were raised in. It is also very much about the steward of the estate Charlotte inherits, a young man named Henry Morland, who comes to care for her as she transitions into her new role, and she for him, but they are restrained by their disparate situations, especially since his seems to be worse than hers was, and by those who plot to get Charlotte’s newfound fortune.

In some ways, it is very much a typical Regency romance, the development of the plot and of some of the minor characters dictated by the societal rules of the time and the roles they forced people into. And the names of some of the characters seemed already familiar, common in classic books of that era. But in more important ways, it is not typical. The setting, for instance, includes Charlotte’s hometown of Hull.  It is a harsh place, not only because of the trade upon which it is based (fishing), but because of the things that happened to Charlotte’s parents and siblings there. The depictions of those events give the setting and story more of a depth, even a darker element, than many other modern-published Regency books.

More importantly, though, the characters of Charlotte and Henry seemed particularly fresh to me. Charlotte never loses her cockney accent and never really tries to adopt the protocols of elite society. These omissions are not done out of any kind of spite; they just seem to be a natural effect of her general naivete and fierce love for her sister, who is developmentally disabled. Henry shows himself to be more than a proper steward when he develops a special knack for helping Charlotte’s sister, which ends up playing a crucial part in transitioning the plot from routine Regency to a sophisticated, emotion-driven saga. It is for that reason that I found this book to be a delight.

Winner’s Curse

Winner's Curse coverAfter Willowkeep, I immediately started and finished Winner’s Curse, and finished it within a couple of days. It was quite different from Willowkeep, but I loved it as well. It is a speculative fiction novel based on the purchase of a slave by the main character, Kestrel, and the development of an unexpected, ill-fated relationship between her and the slave. Though it “ended” with a total cliffhanger, it was beautifully-written, well-imagined, and intense. That’s one of my favorite words to use when describing books. I love for them to be intense.

If you’re thinking of reading this book, be warned: don’t buy or check it out without also checking out or buying its sequels Winner’s Crime and Winner’s Kiss because the story doesn’t end at the end of book one. And you’ll want to read this one all the way through, as I have.

Now, I’m reading Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal. It’s Regency magic. It’s Regency romance and magic–two elements that I’ve never seen combined in one book before! I’m enjoying it very much, and can’t wait to finish it and tell you about it.

My Book

While my first manuscript, Forced, is in the querying stage again, I’ve started writing another book. I feel like I shouldn’t be; it’s very, very hard to keep going when one is so busy and when one has faced so many rejections. But this story–which I hope will be a sort-of YA prequel to Inception, with a touch of Forty First Dates and Maze Runner–feels too exciting to not write, so I’ll give it a try. This is very much my way of being crazy.


What books have you been reading or writing this week? Tell me about them!

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