5 star, adult

ARC Review: A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin

A whip-smart debut that follows the adventures of an entirely unconventional heroine who throws herself into the London Season to find a wealthy husband. But the last thing she expects is to find love…

Kitty Talbot needs a fortune. Or rather, she needs a husband who has a fortune. Left with her father’s massive debts, she has only twelve weeks to save her family from ruin.

Kitty has never been one to back down from a challenge, so she leaves home and heads toward the most dangerous battleground in all of England: the London season. 

Kitty may be neither accomplished nor especially genteel—but she is utterly single-minded; imbued with cunning and ingenuity, she knows that risk is just part of the game. 

The only thing she doesn’t anticipate is Lord Radcliffe. The worldly Radcliffe sees Kitty for the mercenary fortune-hunter that she really is and is determined to scotch her plans at all costs, until their parrying takes a completely different turn…

This is a frothy pleasure, full of brilliant repartee and enticing wit—one that readers will find an irresistible delight.

**A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting comes out July 12, 2022**

Thank you Netgalley for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Witty and filled with charming banter between our love interests, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting was unputdownable and had me smiling and cheering all the way through.

If you love period pieces or in general a fan of writing in the Regency era, look no further! I loved the way the author wrote because it felt like transporting back in time. It wasn’t written in a contemporary style and often used words that were definitely more common in that time period than today. Don’t you just hate it when the book is meant to be of another time but the language itself and the conversations don’t really reflect that? It felt like Jane Austen could’ve written this and I absolutely ADORED that.

The story follows Kitty Talbot, the oldest of 5 girls, who is left to fight for her family with the massive debt her parents left behind after their passing. Putting on charm like armor and utilizing a mind that could strategize like the best of the men, she set to work to offer herself up as a wife to the richest men London society could offer. If only she could pave the way of making their acquaintance.

I loved Kitty’s tenacity and her wit. It takes a lot to go from unnoticed naive girls setting foot in London for the first time to becoming established in Society (yes, with the capital S) well enough to please not only the men she’s trying to catch but also the mothers who must give their blessing to such a union. She often times had to give up her own wants and happiness to provide a better future for her younger sisters and that made me feel for her all the more.

However, her character is very much challenged, especially when going toe to toe with Lord Radcliffe who immediately catches onto her plan. He was the best kind of love interest, total Darcy material if I do say so myself. Initially cold and overprotective of his family, he and Kitty butt heads from their very first meeting. But the slow burn of their ensuing partnership – or I suppose blackmailed allyship – that turns these enemies to lovers was the very best this trope can offer.

Their dialogue was some of my favorite things in the book. They both have such sarcastic and sharp tongues when they let their guards down and allow someone to truly see them. Underneath all the armor and glam shown to the rich and the privileged, these two didn’t truly fit into the rules and the scheming the Society was known for. Together, however, something magical happens and watching the slow transition in their relationship was the absolute best. As character development goes, they each challenged the other to become more of who they wanted to be, not the version they showed the world or the comfortable rut they did not want to leave. If that’s not what a great relationship does, then I don’t know anything about love.

The secondary characters were also fabulous. We only get to know one of Kitty’s sisters well as Cecily travelled to London with Kitty to help her find a wealthy husband. I would’ve loved to read more about Cecily and her own experiences among the ton as she’s more bookish and distracted by intellectual ideas more than what’s going on right in front of her. Although she wasn’t looking for it, I was super glad to see romance was in the cards for her too. It’s a shame we don’t get to see more.

With so much to offer transporting us back to such historical times filled with lovable characters to root for, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting is something surely everyone should look out for as a next read.

Overall Recommendation:

If you’re looking for a great Regency story with the best slow burn romance, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting is YOUR book! From a smart protagonist to a totally swoon worthy love interest, the romance is worth rooting. I appreciated the author writing in a style with vocabulary that transported me back to the 1800s as that added an extra layer of authenticity to this world. A great debut that will surely bring me back to anything Sophie Irwin publishes next.

2.5 star, YA

Review: Cinder & Glass by Melissa de la Cruz

For this princess, winning the crown is no fairytale.

1682. The king sends out an invitation to all the maidens in France: their presence is requested at a number of balls and events that will be held in honor of the dashing Prince Louis, who must choose a bride. 

Cendrillon de Louvois has more grace, beauty, and charm than anyone else in France. While she was once the darling child of the king’s favorite adviser, her father’s death has turned her into the servant of her stepmother and cruel stepsisters–and at her own chateau, too!

Cendrillon–now called Cinder–manages to evade her stepmother and attend the ball, where she catches the eye of the handsome Prince Louis and his younger brother Auguste.

Even though Cendrillon has an immediate aversion to Louis, and a connection with Auguste, the only way to escape her stepmother is to compete with the other women at court for the Prince’s hand.

Soon, as Cendrillon glows closer to Auguste and dislikes the prince more and more, she will have to decide if she can bear losing the boy she loves in order to leave a life she hates.

Melissa de la Cruz takes a lush, romantic hand to this retold fairy tale classic.

I’m a hugeeee sucker for all things Cinderella. It’s my favorite fairy tale and obviously my favourite one for retellings. So you can imagine my disappointment with how Cinder & Glass turned out, especially with such a gorgeous cover.

This story is set in 1600s France in the court of King Louis XIV. I loved the inspiration to set this fairytale in a historical period instead of some completely reimagined land. The plotline was also intriguing with a competition for the prince’s hand (very reminiscent of The Selection) while secretly falling for the younger prince instead.

With all these elements that just SCREAM at me to like it, it begs the question why I didn’t end up loving this book.

It really all comes down to execution. The set up for a Cinderella tale is quite simple. The protagonist lived a happy life with her family even as her mother died when she was young as her father more than made up for it. The loss of her father and the marriage to her stepmother are the turning points in the story that truly leads to the problems she has to face.

This takes a whole section of the book to even reach, a good quarter of the book setting up the beginning of the Cinderella plot. While I appreciate getting to know a bit about the inner workings of the French court when Cendrillon moved to Versailles, was it really necessary to drag it out that long? Her stepsisters are still fairly horrid and her new stepmother just screams evil in disguise.

Then there’s the pacing. Maybe it’s not my favoured format of reading but it felt very…narrated and detached? As if the author is simply moving through time telling us of what is happening to Cendrillon instead of diving into the depths of emotion she must be facing. I wanted to FEEL and instead it was all rather clinical in execution.

My favourite part of any Cinderella tale is the romance. Yes, I’m a modern day woman who can occasionally swoon at a princely figure coming to help and believe a woman who is being oppressed by someone in power over her. But even that held its own problems here.

First, the competition wasn’t really all that big in this story? It was present but we knew from the start that Cendrillon wasn’t going into it for love as she had met Auguste a year ago and already formed a bit of an attraction to him. Her motivation led to, well, a lack of ambition and focus to win so it wasn’t really that interesting reading about her dates or the other girls she competed with.

The attraction she felt for Auguste wasn’t even consolation as the chemistry was barely there. It felt like they had developed a good friendship in the scary world of court politics but it suddenly blew into the realm of “more-than-friendship” in the blink of an eye, with only the angst that she couldn’t be with him. I wanted to believe in this romance but I really wasn’t feeling it. And that just sucks big time because what’s a Cinderella tale without the love that conquers all?

While I have many complaints about this book, I did enjoy the setting and managed to read this in a day as it’s not too long of a book. The lush descriptions of Versailles made me wish I could go back there again and explore it a little less rushed. It also helped that it’s still a story based on my favourite fairytale. If it was any other, I probably would’ve been tempted to DNF at any time.

I can’t say I recommend this book – something my heart hurts to say because Cinderella! – but it could’ve been worse in some ways. There’s still the fight against the evil stepmother and satisfaction gained when good triumphs over those who oppress and abuse. The idea was there, but perhaps the execution could’ve used some tweaking.

And that cover is to die for so I could just sit here all day staring at it, which would be enough.

Overall Recommendation:

Cinder & Glass fell flat as a Cinderella retelling due to its lack of emotional depth and unhurried pace through the key points we all recognize from the tale. I wanted to love this so bad because I love Cinderella but I couldn’t emotionally connect with any of the characters, even the pain Cendrillon was going through. It’s not a Cinderella story if you don’t even sympathize for her. Or fall in love with her love story.

4 star, YA

Review: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

I’ve been trying to support some more Chinese authors, or at least getting to know some of their works a bit better. I came across this one in the library and decided to pick it up. With my recent interest in historical fiction, I figured this one would be right up in my alley. I think I wasn’t 100% correct on this, but overall I’m still glad I picked it up!

Outrun the Moon is an emotional tale that takes place in 1906 San Francisco. Our protagonist, Mercy, makes a series of seemingly crazy deals to get herself into a prestigious school, deceiving all her classmates. Things seem to be fairly under control until an earthquake hits, devastating the city. How will Mercy be able to use her wits and bravery to overcome this mess? Or will it prove too much for her to handle? This is the story of her journey.

The historical elements of this book were great. I really enjoyed the old Chinatown setting and the attitudes of the people at the time were really well represented here in this book. I really felt like I was transported back to that time, watching from the outside in. As such, the characters that were in this book were also well-crafted, and I enjoyed having all their different perspectives, even if it was definitely aggravating to endure the “ancient” discriminating mindsets.

I also enjoyed the Chinese elements that were sprinkled into this story. It was well incorporated, without overtaking the story. Through the eyes of Mercy, a young Chinese girl in the early twentieth century, we are able to experience with her the discrimination and social status of a person in her position, as well as the effects of such status on her family and neighbours. This was definitely a huge element that hit home, and I felt that it was well done.

Throughout the story we really got to watch Mercy grow and face adversities. She may be a strong-willed character who loves to fight and not back down, but in her moments of weakness her humanity and stumbles also make her so relatable. With her morals and her upbringing, she truly made an interesting main character, and I couldn’t help but root for her from the side through the ups and downs. I may have disagreed with some of her decisions in the book, but her strength to follow through and her own emotional journey was something that I could still respect.

Overall, this was a really touching story in a well-researched backdrop and is definitely worth a read if you are into historical fictions.

Overall Recommendations

Outrun the Moon follows a young female protagonist, Mercy, in her hometown of San Francisco Chinatown in 1906. Not wanting to be stuck in the slums, she devices a clever plan to get into a prestigious girls school. Though she makes it in, the plan isn’t as easy to execute as she thought. When an earthquake literally turns her world upside down, will she be able to find the strength to continue? Find out in this exciting historical journey!