Tag Archives: Adult High Fantasy Romance

Release Day Review: A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane

A Touch of Stone and Snow (A Gathering of Dragons Book 2) by Milla Vane
High fantasy romance released by Berkley on July 21, 2020

A Touch of Stone and Snow by Milla Vane book coverMilla Vane returns to a world of kings, magic, and passion in her exhilarating A Gathering of Dragons series, as a great alliance forms to stand against an evil warlord intent on their destruction.
Danger lurks in the western realms. The Destroyer’s imminent return has sent the realms into turmoil as desperate citizens seek refuge—but there’s no safety to be found when demons and wraiths crawl out from the shadows. Even Koth, a northern island kingdom left untouched by the Destroyer a generation past, is besieged by terrors spawned from corrupt magics.
When Lizzan leads the Kothan army against these terrors, only to see her soldiers massacred and to emerge as the only survivor, she is called a coward and a deserter. Shunned from her home, Lizzan now wanders in solitude as a mercenary for hire, until she encounters a group of warriors seeking new alliances with the northern kingdoms—a group that includes Aerax, the bastard prince of Koth, and the man who sent her into exile.
Though they were childhood friends, Aerax cannot allow himself to be close to the only woman who might thwart his treacherous plan to save their island realm. But when a goddess’s demand binds them together, Lizzan and Aerax must find a way to overcome their painful pasts. Or there will be no future for the western realms…

A quick note before diving into this review: one of the main characters is an alcoholic, and Vane does not hide this.

I really enjoyed this book, and think it does a great job of following up on the action in the first book of this series. That said, you don’t need to have read the first book to be able to understand what is happening, since this is set in a different part of the world from the first book, but the relations and events explained in the previous novel and novella will be helpful here. This book is also a glorious, gritty epic fantasy romance, with fantastical creatures–even the nonmagical kind, battles, and quests. The romance in this book is a second-chance kind of a romance, with a decent splash of I-hate-you-but-still-have-feelings-dammit! Thrown in. And before I forget, there is an intelligent big cat in this book, and I always enjoy a good animal appearance. When we first meet Lizzan, she is going through a very rough patch and not dealing with it in a super healthy manner, so we get to see her work her way through that as the book progresses. Aerax is not over Lizzan at all when we meet him, and we get to see him fall more deeply in love with her. However, this is not an easy romance. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Release Day Review: Crush the King by Jennifer Estep

Crush the King (Crown of Shards #3) by Jennifer Estep
Adult high fantasy published by Harper Voyager on March 17, 2020

Crush the King by Jennifer Estep book coverA fierce gladiator queen must face off against her enemies in an epic battle in this next thrilling installment of New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep’s Crown of Shards series—an action-packed adventure full of magic, murderous machinations, courtly intrigue, and pulse-pounding romance.

Queen Everleigh Blair of Bellona has survived the mass murder of the royal family, become a fearsome warrior trained by an elite gladiator troupe, and unleashed her ability to destroy magic. After surviving yet another assassination attempt orchestrated by the conniving king of Morta, Evie has had enough. It’s time to turn the tables and take the fight to her enemies.

There is no better opportunity to strike than during the Regalia Games, a time when warriors, nobles, and royals from all the kingdoms come together to compete in various sporting events. With the help of her loyal friends, Evie goes on the attack at the Regalia, but things don’t turn out the way she hopes. Soon, she is facing a terrifying new threat, and she will have to dig deep and learn even more about her growing magic if she has any chance of defeating her foes.

Because to secure her throne and ensure her kingdom’s survival, Evie must think like a true Bellonan: she must outsmart and outwit her enemies . . . and crush the king.

I’m a big fan of this series and really enjoyed Crush the King. Not much can take me out of my weeks long Schitt’s Creek fan fiction glom right now but this book did! I like the fast-moving story, action sequences, and royal intrigue. It’s hard for me to avoid spoilers for the previous books since this book wraps up some things that have been running through all the books. So proceed with caution if you haven’t read the previous books! Continue reading

Release Day Review: A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane

A Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons Book 1) by Milla Vane
Dark adult high fantasy romance released by Berkley on February 4, 2020

A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane book coverA generation past, the western realms were embroiled in endless war. Then the Destroyer came. From the blood and ashes he left behind, a tenuous alliance rose between the barbarian riders of Parsathe and the walled kingdoms of the south. That alliance is all that stands against the return of an ancient evil—until the barbarian king and queen are slain in an act of bloody betrayal.

Though forbidden by the alliance council to kill the corrupt king responsible for his parents’ murders, Maddek vows to avenge them, even if it costs him the Parsathean crown. But when he learns it was the king’s daughter who lured his parents to their deaths, the barbarian warrior is determined to make her pay.

Yet the woman Maddek captures is not what he expected. Though the last in a line of legendary warrior-queens, Yvenne is small and weak, and the sharpest weapons she wields are her mind and her tongue. Even more surprising is the marriage she proposes to unite them in their goals and to claim their thrones—because her desire for vengeance against her father burns even hotter than his own…

I am extremely all over the place about this review. First of all, let me say that I enjoyed reading A Heart of Blood and Ashes very much. I could not put the book down. I read until 5 AM and was like “ok I need to get some sleep…” And anyway I finished reading it in less than a day. Upon finishing it I immediately went to check when the next book was out – and was like “!!!” If you like high fantasy romances, I think you’ll very much enjoy this book. I do want to say though – I think people have labeled it “dark” and … it definitely fits that, for the heroine. It is a cruel harsh world, and the “civilized” societies don’t mean people act better. At all. (Although for this book the setting is mostly traveling across plains – there’s a lot of action.) I’m happy to answer any questions you might have, and I think a good starting place would be the content warnings on Milla Vane’s page.
 
As stated, this is a dark adult high fantasy romance which means there are situations and circumstances that will disturb some readers. The world itself, the mythology contains violence – it isn’t described but it’s matter of fact there. The hero and most of the other main characters are barbarians. Here it just means their social [niceties] differ from ours. The heroine has suffered deeply as well. It’s a very harsh, matter of fact world that is trying to recover being decimated by “the destroyer” – with the threat of his return. I think part of it was separating my social expectations and adjusting to how that world operates. There are still universal things that are not okay, of course – but what Maddek and Yvenne find acceptable and normal differ from what we generally would.

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Release Day “Guest Post” Jeffe Kennedy on The Orchid Throne + Giveaway!

Hi friends! So uh, if you care, you’d probably have noticed we’ve been a bit MIA over here in ALBTALBS land. Just a lot yet nothing going on. Which … in part might explain this post.

The Orchid Throne by Jeffe Kennedy book coverIn the Forgotten Empires magic is forbidden, dreams are destiny, and love is the greatest power of all…

A PRISONER OF FATE
As Queen of the island kingdom of Calanthe, Lia will do anything to keep her people free—and her secrets safe—from the mad tyrant who rules the mainland. Guided by a magic ring of her father’s, Lia plays the political game with the cronies the emperor sends to her island. In her heart, she knows that it’s up to her to save herself from her fate as the emperor’s bride. But in her dreams, she sees a man, one with the power to build a better world—a man whose spirit is as strong, and whose passion is as fierce as her own…

A PRINCE AMONG MEN
Conrí, former Crown Prince of Oriel, has built an army to overthrow the emperor. But he needs the fabled Abiding Ring to succeed. The ring that Lia holds so dear to her heart. When the two banished rulers meet face to face, neither can deny the flames of rebellion that flicker in their eyes—nor the fires of desire that draw them together. But in this broken world of shattered kingdoms, can they ever really trust each other? Can their fiery alliance defeat the shadows of evil that threaten to engulf their hearts and souls?

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Review: The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken

The Blacksmith Queen (The Scarred Earth Saga, #1) by G.A. Aiken
Adult High Fantasy published by Kensington on August 27, 2019

The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken book coverThe Old King Is Dead
 
With the demise of the Old King, there’s a prophesy that a queen will ascend to the throne of the Black Hills. Bad news for the king’s sons, who are prepared to defend their birthright against all comers. But for blacksmith Keeley Smythe, war is great for business. Until it looks like the chosen queen will be Beatrix, her younger sister. Now it’s all Keeley can do to protect her family from the enraged royals.

Luckily, Keeley doesn’t have to fight alone. Because thundering to her aid comes a clan of kilt-wearing mountain warriors called the Amichai. Not the most socially adept group, but soldiers have never bothered Keeley, and rough, gruff Caid, actually seems to respect her. A good thing because the fierce warrior will be by her side for a much longer ride than any prophesy ever envisioned …

I have been waiting not so patiently for this book since it was announced and I was not disappointed! I love the zaniness of the author’s Shelly Laurenston urban fantasy/paranormal romance books and am just now making my way through her fantasy romance Dragon Kin series as G.A. Aiken. The Blacksmith Queen has family squabbles and insults aplenty like the other series. To me the silliness is a little dialed down from the Dragon Kin series or the Shelly Laurenston books but the book is still funny and overall delightful! There are plenty of battles and fantastical creatures although it’s light on kissing and sexy times in case that’s something you’re after! Continue reading

[Adult] High Fantasy Romances: A Quest (+ Books I’ve Read in this Genre)

Hi friends! As you know, I’ve been on a big kick for adult high fantasy romances! I’m pretty sure I’ve explained “high fantasy” in previous posts … not sure about the other so … By adult I don’t mean “adult situations” I mean “the main characters are considered to have reached the age of majority in their world/culture.” (Although you know, adult situations are good too 😛 ) It seems this is still a genre dominated by YA but … you know. Also, one of my “quirks” is I hold off on reading a series until it’s finished. (Mostly because I’ll blow through an entire series in just a few days.) I do sometimes make an exception but … it’s rare. (And I also need to be assured each book can stand sufficiently alone/doesn’t end on a massive cliffhanger.)

Anyway, here’s my updated list! I would like to note… I’ve branched into YA. I mean – see above, right? I thought about trying to find some symbol to denote YA titles but … that seems too daunting. I periodically make these posts because I ask for recommendations on social media a lot, and a lot of people are always interested, so hopefully this helps us all out. 😀

Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson book cover

Here’s what I’ve read: Continue reading

Release Day Review: Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep

Protect the Prince (A Crown of Shards book 2) by Jennifer Estep
Adult High Fantasy romance released by Harper Voyager on July 2, 2019

Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep book coverMagic, murder, adventure, and romance combine in this second novel in the exciting Crown of Shardssaga from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep.

Everleigh Blair might be the new gladiator queen of Bellona, but her problems are far from over.

First, Evie has to deal with a court full of arrogant, demanding nobles, all of whom want to get their greedy hands on her crown. As if that wasn’t bad enough, an assassin tries to kill Evie in her own throne room.

Despite the dangers, Evie goes ahead with a scheduled trip to the neighboring kingdom of Andvari in order to secure a desperately needed alliance. But complicating matters is the stubborn Andvarian king, who wants to punish Evie for the deaths of his countrymen during the Seven Spire massacre.

Dark forces are also at work inside the Andvarian palace, and Evie soon realizes that no one is safe. Worse, her immunity to magic starts acting in strange, unexpected ways, which makes Evie wonder whether she is truly strong enough to be a Winter Queen.

Evie’s magic, life, and crown aren’t the only things in danger—so is her heart, thanks to Lucas Sullivan, the Andvarian king’s bastard son and Evie’s … well, Evie isn’t quite sure what Sullivan is to her.

Only one thing is certain—protecting a prince might be even harder than killing a queen…

I loved Kill the Queen, book 1 in this series and Protect the Prince is more of the same. Jennifer Estep has created a great world and I love the tone and structure of these books. To me the pacing and content are like action movies in book form and I just want roll around in them for days. There’s two royal courts, a little road trip, political machinations abound, skulking through secret passage ways, sleuthing to find spies and assassins, magic battles, and romance?! The best things ever all in one package in my opinion! Perfect summer reading. Continue reading

Guest Author Anna Kashina on Romance in Blade Fights + An Exclusive Excerpt of Shadowblade AND a Giveaway!

Hi friends! You might know that [adult] high fantasy romance is totally “my thing.” So when Anna Kashina contacted me about reviewing her upcoming book I was first, pretty starstruck, then [pretty immediately] was like “DOES IT FEATURE ADULT CHARACTERS AND IS THERE ROMANCE?!” And when she answered “yes” I was like “WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO BE A GUEST AT ALBTALBS?!!?” And she said yes!!! So here we are! I’m so excited to welcome Anna Kashina today! Her newest book Shadowblade is out today!

Romance in blade fights

There are two things I find irresistible in fantasy novels. One is a good romantic subplot, well balanced and integral to the story. The other is a good blade fight – especially the kind with a lot of cool technique behind it. It’s an additional bonus – as well as a challenge – to make these fights emotionally gripping, as well as being technically cool. But if one manages to achieve all this, there is only one more step to the ultimate prize: to combine the two, using blade fights as a tool to advance the romance. It’s so rewarding when it’s done well.

I am a sucker for a dark and dangerous male lead with a morally complex character. A superb swordsman, trained to become an elite assassin, in my mind, cannot fail as a romantic hero. In my books, I love to match these kind of guys with strong women who can stand up to them, and have hidden strengths of their own. When developing these characters and their relationships, a sword fight can become more engaging than a love scene, and so much more effective in showing off their strengths and limitations, as well as their morally complex sides. Continue reading

Review: How to (Not) Train a Firecat by R. Cooper (Author), Erin Gamble (Illustrator)

How to (Not) Train a Firecat by R. Cooper (Author), Erin Gamble (Illustrator)
High fantasy M/M romance published by R. Cooper on December 26, 2018

How to (Not) Train a Firecat by R. Cooper book cover

The firecats of Dua are giant beasts with red-gold fur and lashing tails. They are also loving and loyal companions to the few they choose to serve. Every member of the royal House of Durii has a personal guard and a firecat to serve as a reminder of the greatness of their rule. After all, only the truly extraordinary would walk alongside a firecat. Only the truly extraordinary could.

Not River, obviously. River took the job of cleaning up after the noble beasts when he came to Dua years ago. He’s not any kind of soldier or guard, and he’s too mouthy to belong around royalty. All he wants to do is avoid some of the more resentful guard trainees, care for the very spoiled cats, and try not to get his heart broken by one maddeningly gentle apprentice wizard.

Apprentice Gavin is powerful, brilliant, and probably noble. He’s destined for greatness—and more than likely a guard and a firecat to protect him. He’s not meant for one insignificant little beastminder like River.

But firecats are not the only creatures who are fierce, loyal, and beautiful to behold. River is about to learn that the firecats and the guards who walk with them have more in common than he thought. And he will have to accept that he might be extraordinary as Gavin thinks he is.

I read this book because the cover is adorable, and also because I love a good “behind the scenes” book and a good magical creatures book, and this one combines both of those things.

River, who is the caretaker for the cats, is a scrappy fighter who’s not afraid to break a knee or two to defend himself. He’s very aware of being an outsider from a foreign culture and his low status and fully expects that Gavin, while currently his lover, will be expected to marry well and will eventually leave him. He’s also determined not to take any nonsense from any of the trainee cat wranglers / future guards of the nobility. River is also dealing with some culture shock, in the sense that he’s from a culture that doesn’t support same-sex relationships and still getting used to living in a society pairing off is required but the gender of one’s partner is not significant. Continue reading

Release Day Review: Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep

Kill the Queen (Crown of Shards #1) by Jennifer Estep
Fantasy published by Harper Voyager on October 2, 2018

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep Book CoverGladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance.

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.

Fan-freaking-tastic! I would have finished this in one day if I didn’t have to do grown up stuff after I started reading. Great characters, awesome world building. Jennifer Estep got me to care about gladiators when fighting is not my thing at all—no interest in WWE, MMA, UFC, etc. But I had a running montage in my head of the fight sequences while Evie, the main protagonist, and the troupe are training and during the gladiator shows (“Are you not entertained?!” Came to my mind several times). All the best elements of action movies—this book was like a summer blockbuster movie (think of Gladiator, the Thor: Ragnarok Thor versus Hulk battle) to me, only in book form. Shifters and magic abound in this world on top of traveling gladiator troupes putting on shows for the masses. If all this sounds appealing to you, this is the book for you. Continue reading