You guys know how this goes, right? Every so often, I pop up here on Frolic with a list of KU reads (non-scammy, non-stuffed KU reads—they do exist) that I absolutely adored. I’m really getting my money’s worth with that subscription, I’ll tell you that for free.
Now, I know I usually write a pithy introduction full of jaw-droppingly sophisticated dick jokes worthy of The New Yorker. Unfortunately, you’ll have to do without those this month. Thanks to these books, I’ve been too busy wailing “IT’S SO ROMAAAANTICCCCC!!!!!” while shoveling ice cream down my throat to write anything decent.
And now you, too, can be a weepy, useless mess! Here you go, guys: four KU reads that absolutely ruined me. Please read responsibly.
Marked by Fire is a retelling and slight transformation of Arthurian legend. It is also a beautiful lightning bolt that punched me in the heart. Set in 6th century Wales, it’s earthy and violent and visceral and so damn soft, wow. I love it.
“I can hear your fucking teeth chattering. Come on.”
Arthur and his hero Bedwyr hit all the tropes. Big brother’s best friend? Check. Forced proximity? Check. Oh-no-there’s-just-one-bed? Check. Plus, so much angst—perfectly balanced by the heartbreaking gentleness and laugh-out-loud banter that is their lovely relationship.
“Are you lying?”
At the start of the book, Bedwyr holds so much power—but the dynamic flips when he loses his sword hand while protecting Arthur in battle. Suddenly, he’s banished, disabled, and depressed. Obviously, this is the point when Arthur turns up to help and refuses to go away. Wonderful! They argue. They train together. They kiss. It is sweaty. It is triumphant. It is too cute for words.
I think Arthur sums them up best:
“Maybe you keep me from doing foolish things sometimes. Maybe I push you now and then to act before you can overthink. It’s a balance, like a well-crafted sword.”
Pink Slip is about a pair of long-married spies who fall in love with their personal assistant. Yes, it is exactly as awesome as it sounds. I adored all three characters, but I can’t lie; it was the relationship between the heroines that rocked my world. Walls came crumbling down. Tears flowed. Hearts swelled. Etcetera.
‘Monica said he had to come home to her; so he did. Simple as that.’
Monica and Lane are an opposites-attract dream team who met at university. Devil-may-care Lane has been devoted to the perfectionist Monica ever since. She leads, both on the job and in their relationship; he watches her back. Enthusiastically. Wink, wink. Aaaaand then they hire Kierra.
“Do you want this done fast? Or do you want this done right?”
“I’ve been telling you for twenty years that the answer is both.”
Over the course of some years the trio salivate over each other and low-key fall in love—but the whole working-for-spies situation is iffy, so nothing happens between them… Until Kierra has to act as their ‘pet’ on a mission that takes them to a Serbian sex club.
“Kierra was a liability. And Monica was completely compromised.”
The best part about this story is watching the ever-composed Monica completely fall apart over Kierra. Also good: watching Lane watch Monica fall apart over Kierra. His eternally in-control wife is crumbling over their sweet assistant, and he enjoys it thoroughly. They are all SO GONE FOR EACH OTHER and it is DELIGHTFUL.
But my absolute favourite thing? This line:
“How would you know you really wanted to be here if you never left?”
The Gravity of Us is fourth in its series, but I jumped right in because I can’t be tamed. Also, pretty sure they’re standalones, so it didn’t really matter. The book follows Graham and Lucy through what can only be described as a nonstop train of Bollywood-worthy drama. If you’re not into Bollywood, what that means is, I cried a lot, laughed a lot, and also screamed “WHAAAAAT?!” on a regular basis.
“You’re a really shitty human, but a pretty awesome dad.”
The hero, Graham, is an absolute arsehole. He has perfectly valid reasons for being an arsehole, but I still can’t excuse him. Thankfully he grows and changes, not because of the heroine’s magical hoo-ha (that’s gotta be my least favourite trope), but because of his own determination to be better. True redemption? We love it!
“He called you pure.”
Lucy, our heroine, is excruciatingly giving (can’t relate) but she’s not a pushover. What I really enjoyed about her character is that she doesn’t lower her standards to fall in love with a shitty hero. Lucy spends a large part of this book being way too good for Graham—and during that part, she is not into him. Because why would she be? HE SUCKS. She only falls for him when he becomes a man worth falling for. It’s a delicious, soul-shaking slow burn.
“Time was a curse, the way it slowly morphed relationships into foreign affairs.”
My only issue with this book? At one point, the heroine asks if the hero is home early because his date had a dick. Is she implying that the date was a catfish, or is that a transphobic ‘joke’? It’s annoying when problematic elements mar a great read, which is why I like to point them out. Loudly. Here’s something I’d love: for the author to see this, rethink, and delete that part. We live in hope, huh?
I leave you with the Tinder profile the hero writes for himself, completely in earnest:
“New York Times bestselling author who has a six-month-old child. Married, but the wife ran away. Looking to hook up. Also, I’m five foot eleven.”
I highlighted so much of this polyamorous historical romance that I am frankly annoyed with myself. In 1906 a fancy lord named Aubrey and a journalist named Lucien have a one-night stand that accidentally becomes several nights that accidentally become love. Oops!
“Speak, then, lovely creature.”
Lucien, our working-class hero, is one seductive motherfucker. I mean, goddamn. Give a man a chance, will you? Meanwhile, the noble Aubrey is so awkward and vulnerable, it hurts. This internal contrast to their external positions goes some way to balancing their relationship: emotionally, Lucien needs to coax Aubrey; socially, Aubrey needs to be gentle with Lucien.
‘Didn’t it mean something, that a formal sort of fellow used your Christian name?’
The class difference between the pair could’ve been handled so cavalierly, but instead, it’s given genuine thought and respect, which in turn deepens the romance. They have to work in order to learn each other, you know? It is just so… sweet. And meaningful. And I cry every time! Amazing.
“Behold! Was there ever a keener stand?”
There is so much love in this book. While it follows Aubrey and Lucien directly, their other romantic relationships are key. Aubrey is practically married to his two childhood pals, who are literally married. Lucien has his own thing going on with a married man whose family he adores. Sounds complicated, and yet, it’s not. Basically, everyone is in love with everyone and it is absolutely fabulous.
Because I am a sappy emotional mess, my favourite part is the fact that they are both writers, and they secretly read and admire each other’s work. Writer relationship goals!
“I’m the target demographic for any publication you write for.”
Are you ready to weep?
I hope so, because any of the above books will head-butt you unrepentantly in the feels, and you will enjoy it. If you’re going to read all four, make sure you fill the kitchen with your snack of choice.
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