1.) A Lesson in Thorns ★★★★
“I am the girl who kneels at night. I am the bride of thorns.”
Alright, first off, I still completely recommend A Lesson in Thorns, and it is still one of my favorite romances of the year. I just believe with my whole heart that you should pretend it is a standalone, because Feast of Sparks was a complete mess. From unprotected sex, with multiple partners back to back, to questionable flashbacks to boys who are only sixteen, to Dom/sub relationships that felt a lot like abuse, to even incest, this book was a joke. Also, if you couldn’t tell, this is probably going to be a rant review, so if you don’t want me trashing a book you love, you probably shouldn’t read any further. AND I am probably going to lace MINOR SPOILERS for books one and two throughout this review, so please use caution while reading.
➽ Becket – The priest. Bi, and living his life for God.
➽ Rebecca – The genius. Bi, Black, and the Dom of my dreams still.
➽ Delphine – The socialite. Bi, plus-sized, and Instagram famous.
➽ St. Sebastian – The saint. Bi and biracial (white and Mexican).
➽ Auden – The heir. Bi, and owner of Thornchapel.
➽ Prosperpina/Poe – The dreamer. Bi and narcoleptic (both ownvoices), total submissive, but extra annoying and whiney in this installment.
Basically, this is a story about a girl named Poe, who comes back to a remote manor called Thornchapel after her mother goes missing. She is quickly reunited with the friends that she hasn’t seen in many, many years, and they soon realize that they all would totally be down having sex with one another, and so they do. But at the end of the first book a big reveal happens that leaves Poe and her five friends very shook up.
But I mean, what is the best way to cope with finding the dead body of your mother, after she’s been missing for twelve years? More kinky sex, please! Because like, who wants to read a 400 page book where they would spend at least a sentence talking about grief, trauma, and depression? Yikes!
I always want to touch upon how so many white women in romance fetishize m/m romances written by white women. And yes, this is a book that feels polyamorous without using the word, and there are many group sex scenes, and maybe scenes involving more than m/m sex, but this book has A LOT of m/m sex, and flashbacks all the way throughout about these two boys and how their romances started. I don’t even want to talk about how uncomfortable it is to read about sixteen-year-old boys and their erections and them noticing things about each other, and their promises for more than just making out, but it just feels extra bad in Feast of Sparks.
Also, it is not lost on me that we barely get to see Poe and Rebecca have a sex scene (with Auden there), and Delphine and Rebecca’s sex scene wasn’t on page. Yet, we get so much Auden and Saint, pages and pages, both past and present, no matter at what point in the story you are at. You all, do better, it’s 2019, and your obsession with m/m written by women is gross.
Yet, I can’t believe that I actually read a book in 2019 that depicted people having group sex without using condoms. Because you know, “Hehe, we talked about it and we are all healthy” is totally enough. Especially when three guys are cumming inside the same girl who didn’t tell them that she wasn’t on any form of birth control. Especially when one of the guys is having back to back anal sex, because who cares? It’s hot to “spill your manly seed everywhere” or what the fuck ever. Jesus wept, and so did I.
I will never be quiet about the importance of healthy and consensual relationships of all kinds, but especially sexual relationships that are in or venturing into the BDSM world. Auden’s treatment of Saint in the name of “kink” was really gross, and I honestly had a feeling this book was going to be a let down after he first slaps him in the first sexual encounter. Again, this is portrayed as a kink, maybe masochistic tendencies, and Saint likes it, but there was never any pretalk about the arrangement or if anything physical was going to happen during the sexual encounter; he just slapped him to be cruel, in my opinion. And every single time he would bite him and make him bruise and bleed? Like, dude, please stop.
Speaking of cruel, let’s talk about Auden’s treatment of Saint’s mother. You quickly learn why Saint is upset at Auden, and it’s a very good reason to be upset at someone. Yet, we are strung along the entire book while waiting to find out what Saint did to Auden to deserve such treatment. And it was the most pathetic reason you could imagine. Yet, Saint thinks it is valid apparently, so who am I? Oh, just someone who can smell abuse, and a victim in a cycle of abuse from their constant abuser, a mile away. Hello.
Lastly, this is something that made me feel uncomfortable, but I know it wont make everyone feel that way; there is a sexual scene that happens in a church with a priest and it made my Catholic-self want to repent. I’ll drag myself, and say that I normally do LOVE erotic reading about people trying to balance their convictions and their sexual wants, but this one was too much for me. Because the priest stays in the role of priest and it just skeezed me out completely. Plus, when you’re comparing a dude’s cum to Holy Communion? I’m out. I’m sorry, I’m out. *prays the rosary forever*
Overall, this was probably the worst book I’ve read all year, and I’m just so disappointed. I will not be continuing on with the series. Even though I loved A Lesson in Thorns, I was harassed by a reviewer on multiple platforms about how me saying the characters could be pan was wrong, even though the word bi wasn’t used for all of them, which lead me to writing to the author and her confirming it, which lead to me being hurt, honestly. I licked my wounds and picked this book up though, because I loved A Lesson in Thorns and me and my friends were so dang excited to buddy read this together at midnight! Sadly, the last chapter was truly the worst thing I’ve read all year, and I don’t care anymore to see how this plays out. And I don’t care if it ends up being fake, because Auden thought it was true, and the author is using it as a plot device to have all of us believe it is true.
Content and Trigger Warnings: talk of loss of a loved one, grief depiction, trauma depiction, depression depiction, underage drinking in the past, bullying in the past, physical violence in the past, some very triggering internal monologues about body image, brief rementioning/hint of sexual abuse in the past, talk of human sacrifice, religious rituals involving sex, invasion of privacy, unprotected sex without telling or discussing with the partner(s), and incestuous sexual relations and storylines!