Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: An Emotional Punch With a Side of Intrigue and Scandal

The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Published: July 7th, 2020
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Royal Romance
My rating: 4.5 stars
Acquired this book: From the publisher in exchange for honest consideration
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Buy: Amazon Canada || Amazon US || Indigo

After a scandalous secret turns their fairy-tale wedding into a nightmare, Rebecca “Bex” Porter and her husband Prince Nicholas are in self-imposed exile. The public is angry. The Queen is even angrier. And the press is salivating. Cutting themselves off from friends and family, and escaping the world’s judgmental eyes, feels like the best way to protect their fragile, all-consuming romance.

But when a crisis forces the new Duke and Duchess back to London, the Band-Aid they’d placed over their problems starts to peel at the edges. Now, as old family secrets and new ones threaten to derail her new royal life, Bex has to face the emotional wreckage she and Nick left behind: with the Queen, with the world, and with Nick’s brother Freddie, whose sins may not be so easily forgotten — nor forgiven.

Since I was late to the game reading The Royal We, I was able to start The Heir Affair with all the happenings and characters fresh in my mind. After spending over a week with Bex, Nick, Freddie, and the gang, they became very real to me, with their saga feeling as if it played out like a movie in my head. Now I miss these characters and their world!

Part of why The Royal We was so fun was because it was familiar in a way. I didn’t follow Will and Kate’s relationship in the early days, but I became obsessed with the couple when they announced their engagement, so getting to read a fictionalized version of a story with many similarities to their relationship was entertaining and amusing. The Heir Affair was completely different, though; it was still a lot of fun and I was still entertained and amused, but it all felt fresh and new and much less like Will and Kate fanficiton.

We so rarely get to see what happens after the ‘and they lived happily ever after’. Most romances feature couples falling in love and, while they struggle and overcome obstacles, you know a happily ever after (or happy for now) is guaranteed. But what happens when the shine of a new relationship wears off and the honeymoon is over? What happens when the obstacles in a marriage seem insurmountable? That’s what we got in The Heir Affair. We still got the ‘behind the scenes’ of royal life/life in the public eye and how that affected every aspect of Bex and Nick’s life, but their relationship had more depth because more was at stake. While most people can’t relate to dodging paparazzi and having every aspect of their life scrutinized under a microscope, the authors managed to make it relatable. It helped that real-life issues like infertility, infidelity, secrets and lies, and mental health were woven through the plot.

While The Royal We felt mostly like fun escapism, The Heir Affair dealt with much heavier subject matter. It was still hilarious and definitely had plenty of fun, light-hearted moments, but it also made me tear up and outright cry on several occasions because Bex’s pain was so authentic. Also, as someone who has had mental health struggles for years, I appreciated the way mental health was dealt with in an honest and open way, with references to therapy and coping mechanisms. I also continued to enjoy Bex's relationship with her college friends (I want a friend like Gaz in my life - in fact, I think we all need a Gaz), the different (and healthier) dynamics between her and her sister Lacey, and Bex's relationship with various royals. There are several scenes with the Queen that had me grinning and laughing throughout. With all the heavy subject matter, this book easily could have turned depressing, but the authors struck a good balance between the parts that felt like an emotional gut-punch and the parts that were truly hilarious.

If you haven’t read The Royal We, I highly recommend picking up a copy, along with The Heir Affair. This royal saga will make you laugh, cry, rage, and fall in love. Full of surprises and lots of heart, The Heir Affair is one of the best sequels I’ve ever read, and I'm grateful to the authors for giving us the opportunity to return to this world. I know Bex, Nick, and the others will stick with me for a long time.

Read my review of The Royal We

Have you read The Heir Affair or The Royal We? Do you have a favourite sequel? Or a book you wish would get a sequel?

*Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate, and some of the links in this review are affiliate links. All income made through affiliate sales goes directly back into maintaining Ramblings of a Daydreamer. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan: A Royally Good Romance

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Published: April 7th, 2015
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Royal Romance
# of pages: 558 (Mass Market Paperback)
My rating: 5 stars
Acquired this book: Won on Instagram
Add to Goodreads
Buy: Amazon Canada || Amazon US || Indigo

American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it's Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain's future king. And when Bex can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick's sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he's fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she's sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.

The Royal We has been on my radar since 2015. I kept saying I would read it, but I always put it off, and after all these years I have to admit the hype had me nervous to finally start. The hype was justified, though, and I loved this book for so many reasons.

I’ve been a ‘royal watcher’ since I was a child. Like many, I adored Princess Diana, and I mourned with the world when she died. I’m halfway between Princes William and Harry age-wise, and having lost a parent myself just a few years before, watching them publicly grieve made me feel a strong connection to them. I paid slightly less attention to them as I grew up, but Will and Kate’s engagement rekindled my interest. The fact The Royal We is basically Will and Kate fanfiction was a huge draw for me, and it didn’t disappoint.

My favourite part of the book was the beginning, when Bex and Nick were in Oxford, largely in their own little world, separate from the duties and responsibilities of Nick’s usual life as a prince who would one day be king. I enjoyed watching them become friends and then watching as their friendship blossomed into something more. This part of the book was the most relatable - watching them fall in love, watching Bex make new friends, adjust to life in England, miss her family back home, and basically have a normal college experience except for the fact she was friends with a prince.

I did thoroughly enjoy the royal aspect of the book too. You could feel Bex’s frustration and pain at not being able to go public with Nick while still having to deal with the press. I loved her friendship with Nick’s brother Freddie (the ginger-haired spare who was known for being a partying playboy...hmm, I wonder who he was based on?), and I appreciated the complexities of her relationship with her twin sister, Lacey. One of the things that really stuck with me is just how pervasive the media is. I don’t think I ever quite grasped the lengths people will go to for a story or a photo of a member of the royal family (or any celebrity). I’ve always been aware of the gossip - I make a point to scan the ludicrous headlines of the tabloids in the grocery store waiting line, just for giggles - but I try not to believe anything unless it comes from an official source. Many people don’t feel the same way, though, and will treat any and every crumb of gossip as fact, even if it’s wildly false. This book really makes you think about how things can be twisted and turned for the sake of a headline, how relationships can be damaged or ruined, and the strain it puts on the people who aren’t able to step outside their door without having it turned into a story.

Royal romances can be hit or miss for me, but this one knocked it out of the park. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, romantic, and it pulls at your heartstrings. Part of me regrets waiting so long to read it, while the other part of me is grateful I let the hype monster keep me away for so long because it meant I got to start the sequel, The Heir Affair, immediately and spend more time with these characters who came to mean so much to me.

Have you read The Royal We? Do you like royal romances? Have a favourite?

*Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate, and some of the links in this review are affiliate links. All income made through affiliate sales goes directly back into maintaining Ramblings of a Daydreamer. Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron: Badass Girls Taking Down the Patriarchy? Yes, Please!

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Published: July 7th, 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Retelling/Dystopian/LGBTQ+
# of pages: 400
My rating: 4.5 stars
Acquired this book: From the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for honest consideration
Add to Goodreads
Buy: Amazon Canada || Amazon US || Indigo

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her stepsisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew...

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them. 

Between the gorgeous cover and this pitch - “queer black girls team up to overthrow the patriarchy in the former kingdom of Cinderella" - I knew I had to read Cinderella is Dead. I’ve always been a fan of fairytales and retellings, and this one has made it onto my list of top favourites.

All the girls in the kingdom of Lille are forced to attend the annual ball, during which the goal is to be chosen for marriage. They have three chances, after which they’re considered undesirable and are often forfeited to the palace, never to be seen or heard from again. In Lille, women are little more than possessions, and men are allowed to treat them however they see fit, which is often with abuse and absolutely no respect. Sophia doesn’t want any part of that for herself or anyone else; she knows things should be different, and she wants to live a happy, free life with her girlfriend. Disgusted and disheartened, Sophia flees her first ball and ends up at Cinderella’s mausoleum, where she meets the only living descendent of Cinderella’s stepsisters, Constance, and begins to learn that the true tale of Cinderella is far different from the palace-approved version known to everyone in the land.

I loved so many things about this book. As I was reading, I saw countless parallels to today’s reality, and I loved how the story was a commentary on modern society and the issues many people face while also incorporating magical elements that managed to feel realistic. The world Sophia lived in was bleak and heartbreaking, but she was such a bright light. She wanted to live in a world where women weren’t possessions and couldn’t be forfeited for things beyond their control, where they were able to choose who and what they wanted to be - and who they wanted to be with. When she met Constance and saw how brave, tenacious, and determined she was, she realized it was possible for her to be like that too. Those things had been in her all along, despite being told she wasn’t entitled to happiness or freedom, and Constance helped her see it was possible to do more than just wish things were different.

I really loved how Cinderella is Dead turned the familiar tale on its head in so many ways. A lot of people have an issue with the Cinderella story because they don’t like the idea of the prince ‘saving’ her or the insta-love aspect, or, in the case of the live-action Disney remake, the fact Cinderella’s motto was “have courage and be kind” but it led to her being a pushover. Sophia and Constance knew courage was necessary, but they put actual action behind it too. They were a fierce pair, and I cheered them on every step of the way. Sophia challenged the status quo and knew things should be different and could be, and meeting Constance helped her see how she could act on that desire for change and equality.

Full of fierce, kickass characters, an engaging plot, and enough magic to completely enchant you, Cinderella is Dead is a hopeful, inspiring modern-day fairytale that should be on everyone’s TBR.

Have you read Cinderella is Dead? Do you have a favourite fairytale retelling?

*Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate, and some of the links in this review are affiliate links. All income made through affiliate sales goes directly back into maintaining Ramblings of a Daydreamer. Thank you for your support!

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