Time for another batch of arc reviews! This installment features the latest Gilded Age historical romance by Joanna Shupe, the highly anticipated new contemporary romance by Kate Clayborn, and a new middle grade fantasy by Rebecca Roanhorse.
The Prince of Broadway by Joanna Shupe (December 31)
The Prince of Broadway by Joanna Shupe is a historical romance set in the high-stakes world of casinos in Gilded Age New York. Florence has plans to open a casino for women, plans her family wouldn’t approve of, but knows she has a lot to learn in order to make her business successful. So she seeks out Clay, the owner of the most luxurious casino in the city, and offers to pay him to teach her what she needs to know. As it happens, Clay has been seeking revenge against Florence’s family for years, and while he’s reluctant to take her on, he can’t turn down an opportunity to further his plans — or spend more time with Florence, who he can’t stop thinking about.
I’ve loved pretty much all of Joanna Shupe’s Gilded Age romances, and The Prince of Broadway is no exception. I really enjoyed this one and thought it was a strong addition to Shupe’s publication list. I especially like how Shupe took tropes I tend to hate and made them work. Like, using a woman to get revenge on a man is one of my least favorite tropes, but Clay was really forthright with Florence about wanting revenge against her father but not wanting to use her to do it. I also liked how Florence’s dad wasn’t the two-dimensional villain I originally thought he was, and that he grew as the story progressed and ultimately made reparations for his actions. Again, it was different from the usual revenge story you usually see in romance, and I really liked how it was all handled. Plus I loved how Clay supported Florence in her endeavors and was willing to commit to a good grovel! Seriously, this book was a delight, and I definitely recommend checking it out!
I received an arc of The Prince of Broadway from the publisher via Edelweiss.
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn (December 31)
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn is a contemporary romance with one of the most unique setups I’ve ever seen. Meg is a hand letterer who started her business lettering wedding invitations and save the dates, but is currently struggling to find inspiration for a big pitch she has coming up that would really expand her brand. She’s not at all prepared when Reid walks into the store where she’s working and confronts her about the coded message she incorporated into his wedding program the year before, predicting that his marriage was doomed — a prediction that turned out to be accurate. The two strike up a tentative friendship, and as Reid agrees to explore the city Meg loves so much before he leaves it for good at the end of the summer and help her find her inspiration, the two gradually start to fall in love.
Ok, so I liked Love Lettering and thought it was really well written, but I didn’t love it, and I think a lot of that is because of my personal preferences. I prefer stories with dual narration, which this didn’t have, and as a result, I didn’t feel like I really got to know Reid all that well. That’s not necessarily a deal breaker, as there are other single POV romances that I’ve loved, but for some reason, I didn’t jive with Meg’s voice. This book took a really long time to get started for me, and while I loved seeing Meg develop friendships with some of her coworkers and clients (and Reid, of course!), I didn’t love how long it took for some of that to get started. Reid really wasn’t a main character for a lot of the first part of the book, and I disliked all of the hints about something going on with her best friend, but never saying exactly what. Honestly, the whole thing felt a little more women’s fiction-y to me than I typically prefer, which I think is a large part of why this book didn’t work for me. But I can’t say what I would have liked better! I do think this was incredibly well written and does an excellent job showing Meg’s character arc, so if this book has at all caught your eye, I think you’re in good hands! It just wasn’t my favorite.
Also, I want to add as someone who lives in New York that I thought this book was refreshingly accurate! The only thing I snickered at is the idea that Reid’s first date with his ex-fiance was to Shakespeare in the Park. Those are a big production that are put on for free, so getting tickets is a process. I usually camp out starting at 8 a.m. to get tickets that are handed out at noon for that night’s showing (I promise it’s not as bad as it sounds, I just bring a blanket and hang out in the park and read for a few hours while I wait), so I can’t see anyone doing it as a first date. Unless you’re lucky enough to win tickets via the lottery (which I miraculously did this past summer!), but you can’t exactly plan that as a date. But seriously, this is a nitpicky thing, and overall I thought Clayborn did a great job bringing New York to life! And it’s made me look at signs in the city in a new way, which I love.
I received an arc of Love Lettering from the publisher via Netgalley.
Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (January 14)
In Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has plans. She wants to be internet famous, or the hero of the basketball team, or something! She just knows it’s big. Only her life takes a turn out of left field when she sees a monster at her basketball game, a monster who just happens to be her dad’s new boss. When her dad disappears one day after leaving a message behind to run, Nizhoni finds out that she and her brother are descendants of the legendary Navajo Hero Twins, and that she has to take up her family’s mantle and fight the monsters. With her dad’s life and the fate of the world on the line, Nizhoni, her brother, and her best friend must go through a series of trials aided by the Diné Holy People in order to defeat the monsters.
I’m a huge fan of Roanhorse’s Sixth World series, which starts with Trail of Lightning, so much so that I’ve even considered reading her new Star Wars book despite the fact that I have little to no interest in Star Wars just because I like her writing that much. So of course I was thrilled to get an early copy of Race to the Sun. While I did enjoy this book, the reality is that I’m not the target audience, and the Sixth World series is more my speed. That said, I think this book is really well done and that any middle grade mythology reader will love it. Roanhorse just did such a great job crafting the world in this book using Navajo mythology and sending Nizhoni on her quest. It was a lot of fun and everything I would hope for in a book from this imprint. So if you love a good middle grade novel, you should 100 percent check this out! And if you prefer adult fantasy, then definitely give Trail of Lightning a shot. You won’t be disappointed!
Also, shoutout to the Albuquerque Scorpions jersey that Nizhoni’s dad wears! I remember them from when I lived in Albuquerque because my brother started playing hockey there because his best friend’s dad played for the Scorpions. So when we moved to Florida and the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup, my brother was watching and got me interested in playing too! So it was a fun thing for me to come across in the book.
I received an arc of Race to the Sun from the publisher via Netgalley.
Have any of these books caught your eye? Let me know in the comments! These are such a great group of books and I can’t wait for everyone else to read them!