Once Ghosted, Twice Shy (Reluctant Royals, #2.5) by Alyssa Cole

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#1.) A Princess in Theory ★★★★
#2.) A Duke by Default ★★★★

“Out of all the train cars in all the world you had to walk into mine.”

Oh my word, this was glorious. Alyssa Cole just keeps proving, over and over, that she is the queen of romance, and that the Reluctant Royals series is such a bright shining light for the romance genre. And I truly and utterly fell completely in love with Likotsi and Fabiola, and this is one of my new favorite f/f stories ever written.

Likotsi is the personal assistant to Prince Thesolo, who we get to know very well in A Princess in Theory! She is also Black, a lesbian, and (in my opinion) a sexual icon. Seriously, I haven’t swooned this hard over a character in a long time. But Likotsi finally has some free time and is planning on spending some time exploring the city, but technical difficulties make her train break down. But maybe fate is at play a little bit, when her ex spots her through the train window.

Fabiola is an up and coming jewelry maker, who is social media famous, bisexual, and is also Haitian and from a family of immigrants, who are having problems with deportation. This book is such a sexy second chance romance, but it really shines a spotlight on very real things that are going on here in America and weaves these important discussions into this beautiful story seamlessly.

But Likotsi and Fabiola decide to get some lunch together, which kind of turns into them spending the day together. And the chapters begin to alternate from the present, to them meeting on a Tinder-like app, and then to why they eventually called it quits eight months ago. And I was so damn enthralled in all the timelines. And the chemistry between these two? Out of this damn world.

Also, I just wanted to also say that this is ownvoices for the Black representation but also the queer representation! And if you all have time, you should check out this article from The Mary Sue because it is magnificent.

Overall, I hope Alyssa Cole never stops writing this series. I will honestly read ninety-nine more installments, with the biggest smile on my face. This series is the stuff that OTPs are made of and Once Ghosted, Twice Shy proves that the side characters are even equally as perfect. And friends, I don’t even have words for how excited I am for A Prince on Paper this April! Also, I totally think you could read this one without reading the previous full-length books in the series! And I completely recommend you do so, if you’re looking for something quick, steamy, and romantic.

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Content and trigger warnings for deportation and forced separation of families.

Buddy read with Kathy from Kathy Trithardt! ❤

 

A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals, #2) by Alyssa Cole

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ARC provided to me by the publicist in exchange for an honest review.

#1.) A Princess in Theory ★★★★

“We have a fantastic romance section,” she said. “Do you need recommendations? How do you like your dukes? Grumpy? Tortured? Alpha, beta, or alpha in the streets, beta in the sheets?” “Actually, I meant nonfiction”

Friends, this was nothing short of pure joy to read. Please, if you’re looking for a heartwarming, funny, and expertly crafted romance, please look no further. A Duke by Default follows the main character in A Princess in Theory, Ledi’s, best friend Portia! But this time, Portia is on a journey to change her life and be a different person, and what better way than with a change of scenery and career? And maybe she will cross paths with someone who is much more than meets the eye himself.

Portia Hobbs – Black American woman, who is ready to risk it all, move across the world, and try her luck at being an apprentice for a swordsmith in Scotland, because she is in her late twenties and still hasn’t found the career that is right for her.

“Everyone acts like you’re just supposed to find what you love right away, and if you don’t, just do something you don’t love. And if you do neither of those things you’re being selfish.”

Tavish McKenzie – Biracial (Chilean and Scottish) man, who was left Bodotria Armory and is currently running it with his brother and sister-in-law, even though its becoming harder and harder for him to turn a profit, but hopefully a new apprentice can turn things around.

“Pull out your sword,” she commanded and Tav was certain it was the sexiest thing a woman had ever uttered to him.”

And spoiler, she does. Portia and Tavish’s chemistry is out of this world. These two characters feel so real, and seeing them start out a little rocky, but slowly become friends, and maybe something more, was so beautiful.

But the entire cast of side characters are honestly magnificent as well. Like, I truly am going to say a prayer every single night that Alyssa Cole never stops writing, and that she never stops blessing us with more characters from this world. Seriously, I love them all with my entire being.

Reggie – Portia’s twin sister, famous blogger, brain virus survivor, uses a wheelchair, and is my hero. Seriously, I’m ready for her book with her and her mystery man immediately. Please.

Cheryl – Chinese, owns a freakin’ Doctor Who themed Chinese restaurant named Doctor Hu’s (honestly, goals), and is Tavish’s sister-in-law.

Jamie – Jamaican, Tavish’s brother, and Cheryl’s partner! Also, the most lovable character in this book, seriously. I want him and Cheryl’s background story so badly!

“ . . . it’s just how your brain is wired. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with you.”

Throughout Portia’s trip she slowly is coming to terms with her having ADHD. ADHD is something that is very personal to me, and the spectrum is actually very large; from hyperactivity (me) to inattention, and everything else in-between. I struggled with putting all my time and energy into something to just stop caring about it shortly after, running in unhealthy and huge amounts, fidgeting constantly, and just feeling restless in general for most of my life, until I realized that maybe my actions weren’t as “normal” as I was lead to believe. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, along with most mental illness, is still hella stigmatized, but seeing Portia slowing coming to the realization that nothing is wrong her, that she was just a little different, that she’s the furthest thing from a failure, and her realizing her self-worth was an honor to read and brought me to tears so many times. Also, this is the third book in a row I’ve read with a main character living their best lives with ADHD, and damn, what a blessing.

“Something in her loosened with relief as the possible diagnosis repeated itself in a loop in her brain. ADHD! ADHD! ADHD! She had a word to use for her behavioral patterns. There were other people who felt the same way she did, maybe.”

We also get to see Portia dealing with the abusive things her parents say, while completely ignoring how their passive-aggressive jabs could hurt their daughter. From comparing her to her sister, to saying horrible things about how they wish the outcome of her sister’s medical emergency should have happened to her, to them just not caring about how Portia wishes to live her life and find something that makes her happy. And not to get too personal, but again, super relatable to me and my life.

“Just because your parents don’t appreciate what you do doesn’t mean it holds less value.”

This book also shines a heavy and bright spotlight on the refugee crisis going on today in Europe. America isn’t the only place that treats immigrants unfairly, and this book really shows how strongly fear tactics can work. People do horrible things in the name of a “border” and this book shows how children will mimic the terrible things their parents say. Oh, and how white people will say terrible things and make terrible jokes to people who they think are white, too. “It’s just a joke, brah!” No, you’re just racist.

Tavish and his loved ones always channel everything back positively and give back to the community and the kids who feel lost and helpless. This book also weighs in on Gentrification and how people will come in and buy a ton of low-income business and residences and then make them a profit while completely forcing the residence to seek other places to live their lives. Seriously, these books pack such a powerful punch.

“Here’s the thing with teasing. It might seem like torture now, sitting there wanting what you can’t have, but when you finally get it? It’ll be the best you’ve ever had.”

But even though this book has important issues, the romance is steamy perfection. Like, the sexual tension in this book starts right out of the gate, and it has the most rewarding payoff. And, I mean, this is a damn story about a girl falling in love with a damn swordsmith! Not only have I never read anything like that before, I’m not sure if I’ve even heard of a sexier premise. Also, this book has Portia and Tavish going to a renfest! Like, one of the saddest parts of me moving across the country is not being able to go to Michigan’s Renaissance Festival! I was living for every scene in this book, seriously.

Plus, this book is downright funny. I never laugh out loud from books, ever. This book and A Princess in Theory left my sides hurting. The banter in this book is perfection. And just in general, Portia and her friends are goals. Complete and utter goals. From unconditional love, to the best and most realistic banter.

Portia: 😘

Ledi: Same thing I do every night: studying viruses and trying to stop them from taking over the world.

Nya: Playing a dating sim to make up for the real date I had earlier. Rognath the Vampire Lord is much better at courtship than Luke, who started the night by calling me Sexual Chocolate and went downhill from there.”

Overall, I loved this story so much. The writing is superb, the characters are to die for, and the messages mean more to me than I have words for. I completely recommend this series with my entire heart and soul. And I am so hyped to read all about Johan and my favorite texter in A Prince on Paper! And thank you so much, Alyssa Cole, for this story that I will keep close to my heart forever.


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Trigger and content warnings for hurtful parents and their hurtful comments (who think they aren’t being hurtful), people being ignorant and gross to immigrants (always in a negative light and challenged completely), talk of past racist racial profiling from the police, a quick scene with assault, and for a human drugging another human.

A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals, #1) by Alyssa Cole

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“One can never read too many fairy tales”

A Princess in Theory was nothing short of an absolute treat to read. I easily fell in love with Alyssa Cole’s writing and her characters. And I completely believe she is a genius with her perfect portrayal of the “far away country prince email spam” trope. This book was funny, heartwarming, important, and completely captivating.

Prince Thabiso – An actual African Prince, and the sole heir to the throne of Thesolo, and his parents (the king and queen) are on him about settling down and starting a family. But he has never been able to forget the girl who he was promised to marry one day, who has been missing for most of his life.

Naledi Smith – Ledi has grown up in foster care, barely remembering her family that passed away, but she has overcome it all and has a very promising life in New York. She is also in grad school studying epidemiology, and working nonstop between the lab, different jobs and studying. (Also, give me all the books with STEM girls, please!)

“I know you’re very busy, Ledi. If you can fit me in, I’d be honored to be one of the many things that take up your time.”

And these two amazing characters come together, once Thabiso finally decides to come to New York to find Ledi, who he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about his entire life. I mean, it’s not like she’s answering his emails in the nicest of manners. And the chemistry between these two? Honestly, it’s off any chart.

Not only is this an amazing romance, it has so many important themes. I said above how much I loved that Ledi was part of the STEM field, but this book also talks about the racism and sexism she has to face every single day for just pursuing her dream. Ledi has to constantly convince the white male supervisor in the lab how she is a “team player” while being forced to pick up other white dudes’ slack. I am not sure I’ve ever read this in any book, God forbid a romance book, and I was honestly living for every second of it.

Ledi also has to experience what it is like to grow up apart from a culture she has never known. And she has to think about the power imbalances of her and Thabiso’s different family backgrounds, different wealth and economic situations, and just the difference in power of him knowing more of the story than she knows. And all of it is done expertly.

And this is an ownvoices novel, because the two characters and most all the side characters are black. Seriously, this book has so much good in the pages. On top of an amazing and swoon worthy romance. Oh, and it’s so damn funny, too. Thabiso experiencing New York for the first time had my sides hurting from giggling. Seriously.

“Why is it so hot down here? What is that strange smell? Are those cats frolicking on the tracks? Dear goddess, they’re rats!”

And the sex scenes in this book were the perfect amount of sexy and fade to black, in my opinion. Also, Alyssa Cole puts consent at the forefront of this story, and proves again that there is nothing sexier than well established consent. Also, my pan self wants to date both Ledi and Thabiso, so praise this author and her magical writing.

Overall, I recommend this with my entire heart and soul. This is so intelligently written, expertly crafted, and this story is honestly romantic perfection. And I know I’ve gushed a lot about Ledi and Thabiso throughout this entire review, but I also fell so damn in love with Portia! Ledi and her friendship was so realistic, and I absolutely cannot wait to start her story immediately in A Duke by Default!


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Trigger and content warnings for loss of a loved one in the past, abandonment, talk of animal death vaguely, and talk of disease epidemics.