Mini-Reviews: Safe, Hero, Willoughby

Ashley Weaver, Playing It Safe

As bombs fall on London in the autumn of 1940, Ellie McDonnell is summoned to the port city of Sunderland by her handler, Major Ramsey. She doesn’t know the details of her mission, but things get complicated fast when a man dies right in front of her the day she arrives. She and Ramsey both suspect the man has been murdered, possibly because of shady spy activities. As Ellie befriends the dead man’s social circle, she uncovers many secrets and endangers her life in the process. I’m continuing to enjoy this series, mainly for the likable main characters and WW2 setting. I wasn’t as compelled by the mystery — the murderer’s identity seems to come out of nowhere — but there are some good suspenseful scenes. I also liked the developments in Ellie’s relationship with Ramsey. This book just came out, but I’m already impatient for the next one!

Robin McKinley, The Hero and the Crown

Aerin has always felt like an outsider who doesn’t belong. She’s the daughter of the king’s second wife, a reputed witch who supposedly died of disappointment that Aerin wasn’t a boy. She doesn’t have the magical Gift that’s shared by all people of royal blood. Most of her cousins despise her, and she’d rather ride her father’s old warhorse or practice swordplay than be a courtier. But when dragons and demon-magic from the North threaten her kingdom, Aerin discovers she has a crucial role to play. This is a book of my heart; I loved it as a child and am delighted to discover it’s just as good as I remember. Aerin is surprisingly relatable for someone who slays dragons, and Robin McKinley’s writing is pure magic. I’m really happy I revisited this one!

Claudia Gray, The Late Mrs. Willoughby

***Warning: SPOILERS for Sense and Sensibility***

Jonathan Darcy has been invited to Allenham, the estate his old schoolmate John Willoughby has just inherited. Willoughby was a bully during their school days, so Jonathan isn’t particularly excited about the visit — until he meets Juliet Tilney again, who’s staying nearby with her friend Marianne Brandon. He and Juliet are both eager to renew their acquaintance, but things take a dark turn when Willoughby’s wife is murdered. Could Willoughby or Marianne be the culprit? I don’t usually love Austen pastiches, but so far this series has impressed me with its fidelity to Austen’s characters even as it places them within a murder mystery. I was able to identify the murderer pretty early on, but I still enjoyed the plot, and I liked the development of Jonathan and Juliet’s relationship. To get the most out of this book, you definitely have to be familiar with both The Murder of Mr. Wickham and Sense and Sensibility, but if you liked book #1 of the series, you’ll enjoy this one too.

Mini-Reviews: Parfit, Swift, Keeper

Stella Riley, The Parfit Knight

When an attack by highwaymen and a heavy snowfall force the Marquis of Amberley to take refuge in a stranger’s home, he doesn’t expect to fall in love, but the beautiful, intelligent Rosalind Vernon captures his heart almost immediately. Because she is blind, Rosalind hasn’t had a Season or met any gentlemen apart from her nearest neighbors. So Amberley encourages her to go to London, hoping to woo her once she’s mixed a little more with the world. But their romance is threatened by misunderstandings, jealous rivals, and a tragedy from the past. If you’ve read everything by Georgette Heyer and are looking for a read-alike, I think Stella Riley might fit the bill! Riley isn’t quite as witty, but the character types and dialogue are very Heyeresque. I tend to prefer romances where the characters take a little longer to fall in love — it’s pretty instantaneous for both Amberley and Rosalind here — but otherwise I really liked this one and can’t wait to continue with the series!

Chloe Neill, A Swift and Savage Tide

In this alternate 19th-century world, the Napoleon equivalent has escaped from exile and is bent on conquering Europe through the forbidden use of magic. So Captain Kit Brightling and her crew are once again called upon to stop him — along with infuriatingly attractive soldier Rian Grant. When they encounter an enemy who can manipulate magic in new, powerful, and terrifying ways, Kit realizes she may have to test the limits of her own magical Alignment as well. I enjoyed the first Kit Brightling book quite a bit, and this one is more of the same. I think the series is trying really hard for a “found family” element with Kit’s crew, but I must say I’m not really feeling it; the secondary characters still don’t feel like they have very distinct personalities. I do, however, enjoy the seafaring adventure and the romance, which definitely progresses in this book. I hope a third installment is in the works, because there’s a lot more to explore in this world!

Charlie N. Holmberg, Keeper of Enchanted Rooms

When Merritt Fernsby unexpectedly inherits a house on an isolated island in the Narragansett Bay, he’s delighted — until he realizes that the house is enchanted and won’t let him leave. Luckily, Hulda Larkin is on the case: She belongs to an agency that cares for bespelled houses and knows how to deal with walls that move, libraries that toss books around, bloodred paint that drips from the ceiling and so on. As Hulda helps Merritt adjust to his new home, their relationship deepens, but everything is threatened when a powerful wizard with a grudge against Hulda sets his sights on Merritt’s home. I enjoyed this book, which is sort of a cozy take on the haunted house genre. Both Merritt and Hulda are likable, interesting characters, and I enjoyed watching their relationship grow. But I found the chapters from the villain’s POV distracting and not terribly necessary to the story. Overall, though, I did like this one and plan to seek out the sequel.

Mini-Reviews: Happy, Temptation, Paladin

Emily Henry, Happy Place

Harriet has an extremely tight-knit friend group from her college days, and they still reunite for a week every year at a beach house in Maine. Normally this is Harriet’s happy place, but she’s dreading the trip this year because she and her longtime boyfriend, Wyn, broke up five months ago — but didn’t tell anyone else about it. They decide to pretend they’re still dating so as not to ruin the trip, which goes about as well as you’d expect. This is an angsty, emotional book that I found very compelling while I was reading it, but now I’m thinking it might be a little overblown. I did like that Harriet and Wyn’s problems felt realistic and weren’t magically fixed in the end. I also liked the group dynamic and how the various friendships changed over time. Overall, I did like the book, even if I sometimes wanted the main characters to get over themselves.

Lauren Willig, The Temptation of the Night Jasmine

Lady Charlotte Lansdowne has been in love with her distant cousin, Robert, since childhood. After spending several years soldiering in India, he has just returned to claim his inheritance as the duke of Dovedale. Sparks fly between them, and Charlotte is thrilled that Robert finally seems to return her love. But he’s currently more focused on righting a wrong from his past, which means getting close to the sinister Sir Francis Medmenham and his Hellfire Club. This book isn’t one of my favorites in the series, though it’s still a pleasant read. Robert tries to do the whole noble sacrifice, “I’m not good enough for you” thing, which I found deeply frustrating. Also, the French spy’s involvement is never really explained, though maybe the next book will provide some answers? Anyway, I’m still liking the series fine, but this installment is not the strongest.

Lois McMaster Bujold, Paladin of Souls

Ista, the 40-year-old dowager royina of Chalion, has survived madness, a curse, and the deaths of several loved ones. She wants nothing more to do with the gods after what she’s suffered, yet she’s so impatient with the dullness of her current life that she goes on a pilgrimage just to get out of the house. But unexpected events — including prophetic dreams, demons, capture by enemy soldiers, and two brothers who seem to share a mysterious wound — make clear that the gods aren’t done with Ista just yet. I’m continuing to love this series! Bujold has created a vivid fantasy world with complex theology and geopolitics. The plot takes a little while to get going, but once it does, it really cooks! I also loved following Ista’s spiritual journey as she comes to terms with the gods’ involvement in her life. I’d definitely recommend this book if you enjoy sword and sorcery, but you should read The Curse of Chalion first.

Mini-Reviews: Tie, Bright, Italian

Ngaio Marsh, Death in a White Tie

The London Season is in full swing with its debutantes, chaperones, and elaborate parties. Unfortunately, a blackmailer is also making the social rounds, preying upon high-society women. Inspector Roderick Alleyn is on the case, and he asks his friend Lord Robert “Bunchy” Gospell for help, since Bunchy is invited everywhere and will be able to observe suspicious activity firsthand. When Bunchy is murdered, Alleyn will do whatever it takes to bring his killer to justice — but was it the blackmailer or someone else with a grudge against Bunchy? This is another excellent Alleyn novel; I loved getting more insight into his character as he’s forced to investigate the death of a friend and to suspect people he knows and likes personally. I’ll certainly continue with the series and am glad Marsh was so prolific!

Chloe Neill, The Bright and Breaking Sea

In an alternate 19th-century Britain, Kit Brightling is a naval captain who is magically Aligned to water. Her successes at sea have earned her the queen’s favor, and now the queen has ordered her to rescue a spy who’s been caught by the enemy and imprisoned in a pirate fortress. But Kit is also compelled to team up with Rian Grant, a viscount and former soldier. They distrust each other at first, but their opinions change as they’re forced to work together. Meanwhile, they uncover a dangerous conspiracy involving a deposed emperor and a ship capable of weaponizing magic. What a fun book! The plot is full of excitement, from daring escapes to naval battles to espionage at society events. I also really liked Kit and Grant’s relationship, though I found most of the secondary characters underdeveloped and unmemorable. Still, I’d heartily recommend this book if you love historical romance and/or tales of the British navy with a bit of magic thrown in. There’s a sequel that I plan to get my hands on ASAP!

Rebecca Serle, One Italian Summer

After her mother’s tragic death, Katy feels utterly bereft and disconnected. The loss makes her question everything in her life, including her marriage to her college sweetheart. Needing space, Katy decides to go solo on the trip to Italy she’d been planning with her mom. But when she gets to Positano, she’s shocked to meet her mother in the flesh at age 30 (not a spoiler, it’s mentioned in the cover copy). As Katy gets to know this younger version of her mother—and embarks on a flirtation with a handsome stranger—she also learns more about herself and begins to process her grief. I’ll say one thing about this book, it made me want to travel to the Amalfi coast immediately! But I found Katy a frustrating character. Though her grief is understandable, her actions aren’t particularly sympathetic, and while I love my mom, I can’t imagine idolizing her to the extent Katy does! So while I’m now even more eager to travel to Italy one of these days, I wouldn’t particularly recommend this book.

Mini-Reviews: Neighbors, Cluny, Velvet

Stephanie Burgis, Good Neighbors

Ever since Mia and her father were run out of town by an angry mob wielding torches and pitchforks, she’s tried to appear normal and respectable, hiding her true identity as a metal mage. Too bad her new home is right next door to a necromancer’s castle. Leander has no interest in hiding his own unnatural gifts, and he soon seeks Mia out to form a defensive alliance against the hostile townsfolk. But as Mia and Leander grow closer, the town’s increasing anger toward those with magical powers forces them to take a stand. This is an enjoyable but insubstantial wisp of a book with a heavy-handed message about how society treats those who are perceived as different. The story is a bit sketchy and underdeveloped, and several loose threads are left dangling. I like the author but wouldn’t recommend this particular work — try Masks and Shadows or Congress of Secrets instead.

Margery Sharp, Cluny Brown

Cluny Brown is a young woman who, according to her plumber uncle, doesn’t know her place, so he decides to find one for her as a parlormaid in an English country house. Cluny isn’t a great success as a parlormaid, but she does make several new friends, both upstairs and down. Eventually she decides where (and with whom) she’ll make her true place in the world. This is a quiet slice-of-life novel set just before the outbreak of World War II. It satirizes the English class system but does so in a gentle and affectionate, not mocking, way. The plot centers around romantic complications that all come right in the end, although I did feel sorry for Cluny’s rejected suitor! I also watched the movie starring Charles Boyer and Jennifer Jones, which I didn’t like quite as much as the book (it changed too many things, and I think Boyer was miscast). But I would recommend the book if you like this type of novel!

Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Velvet Was the Night

This novel, billed as “neo noir,” is set in 1971 against the backdrop of the Mexican Dirty War. Elvis belongs to a gang with shadowy ties to the repressive government; he’s tasked with brutalizing student activists and other left-wing demonstrators. Meanwhile, Maite is dissatisfied with her life and escapes through the pages of romantic magazines. When Maite’s neighbor Leonora, a young woman with possible communist ties, disappears, Elvis and Maite cross paths as they both try to track her down. I’m not a big noir reader, as I generally prefer optimism in my fiction, but I found this novel fascinating. I know shamefully little about Mexican history, so I was happy to learn more about an unfamiliar place and time. I also really enjoyed the story and was able to guess some of the twists and turns. The ending isn’t exactly happy (this is noir, after all!), but it is satisfying and arguably hopeful. Overall, this book impressed me, and I’m eager to try more of Moreno-Garcia’s work.

Mini-Reviews: Lonely, Poison, Romancing

Lucy Gilmore, The Lonely Hearts Book Club

Librarian Sloane Parker seems to have a pretty good life — a job she loves, a successful fiancé — but she’s really just been going through the motions ever since her sister’s tragic death. The highlight of her day is when curmudgeonly old Arthur McLachlan visits the library to argue with her about books. So when a few days go by without Arthur showing up, Sloane is concerned enough to check on him — and even more alarmed when he actually seems happy to see her. She knows Arthur needs support and companionship, so she starts a book club with a few friends and neighbors. Little does she know that every member, not just Arthur, will benefit from the book club, and maybe herself most of all. I liked this one; it’s sentimental, but the lively and humorous writing style kept it from being too saccharine for me. I also liked getting each book club member’s POV; it made them all vivid and distinct characters. I would have liked a bit more closure for some storylines, particularly the romance (which is really just hinted at). But overall, I enjoyed this one and am interested in trying more by Lucy Gilmore.

Bridget Zinn, Poison

Potions expert Kyra is on the run after attempting to assassinate Princess Ariana, her former best friend. Her reasons for this betrayal become clear as the novel progresses. Meanwhile, as she tries to evade the kingdom’s pursuing soldiers, she encounters several strange individuals, including a master criminal, a wicked witch, a handsome but exasperating adventurer, and a very unusual pig. Eventually, Kyra teams up with a few crucial allies to save the kingdom and make some important decisions about her future. This is an enjoyable light fantasy novel that skews toward the younger end of the YA spectrum. The plot is very episodic, and the characters are likable but not particularly complex. The book reminds me somewhat of Ella Enchanted — not as good, but if you liked that book, I think you’ll enjoy this one too.

Julia Quinn, Romancing Mister Bridgerton

Penelope Featherington has been in love with Colin Bridgerton for years, but she knows he’ll never return her affections: She’s always been a wallflower and is now a spinster at age 28, whereas Colin is one of London’s most popular and charming bachelors. But Colin has just returned to England after a long trip abroad, and he’s starting to see Penelope in a whole new light. Their fledgling romance is threatened, however, by the secrets they’re keeping from each other, which may cause a huge society scandal. I’m a fan (with caveats) of the Bridgerton TV series, and season 3 is supposed to focus on Penelope and Colin, so I wanted to read their story before the season drops. Unfortunately, this book didn’t particularly work for me, mostly because I found Colin so frustrating. He constantly pouts and sulks and throws temper tantrums, and in the end I just wanted Penelope to get over her infatuation and find someone better! Overall, this one was disappointing, especially after I enjoyed The Viscount Who Loved Me so much.

Mini-Reviews: Seduction, Chalion, Summer

Lauren Willig, The Seduction of the Crimson Rose

Mary Alsworthy has just endured the humiliation of watching her younger sister, Letty, run off with the man she was supposed to marry (as detailed in The Deception of the Emerald Ring). Now she’s faced with the awful possibility of becoming a spinster dependent on Letty’s charity. Fortunately, the enigmatic Lord Vaughn steps in with an alternative: he’ll fund another Season for Mary if she agrees to become a double agent, infiltrating the network of the French spy known as the Black Tulip. But the lines between business and pleasure blur as she and Vaughn become increasingly attached to one another. I remember this as being one of my favorite books of the series, and upon re-reading I’d definitely agree! Both Vaughn and Mary were “villains” of previous books, portrayed as cold and amoral, so it’s great to get a new perspective on them here. Though the mystery isn’t terribly compelling (the bad guy is easy to spot), the romance more than makes up for it, I think because both Mary and Vaughn experienced real hardships before getting their happy ending. So far, this installment of the series is the one to beat!

Lois McMaster Bujold, The Curse of Chalion

Once an honorable soldier, Cazaril is now physically and mentally broken from long imprisonment, torture and illness. He’s making his way back to the noble household where he once served as a page, hoping the lady of the house can find a small job for him. Instead, she makes him secretary-tutor to the princess Iselle, which thrusts him back into the world of court rivalries and political intrigue. There he encounters powerful enemies and calls on the gods for help — with unexpected results. After loving the Vorkosigan saga so much, I was slightly worried that Bujold’s fantasy novels wouldn’t measure up, but thankfully, I absolutely loved this! Cazaril is the opposite of Miles Vorkosigan in many ways (he’s not arrogant or ambitious, and mainly he just wants to be invisible), but he has a similar snarky internal voice, as well as the same surprising competence in a crisis. I also loved the world of this novel, with its detailed politics, history, and theology. Looking forward to the next book!

Anne Gracie, The Summer Bride

This final book in the Chance Sisters series focuses on Daisy, the Cockney girl who dreams not of marriage but of opening her own dress shop for high-society ladies. Her goal finally seems within reach, but she doesn’t have quite enough money or time to take the next step. Meanwhile, roguish Patrick Flynn may not be an aristocrat, but he’s rich and determined to marry the finest young lady in London. He’s even got a particular earl’s daughter in mind — but for some reason he finds himself drawn to Daisy instead. This book was…fine. I liked that Daisy and Patrick are both outsiders trying to figure out their place in the world. I also really enjoyed their first kiss! But I felt like the obstacles to their relationship (career vs. marriage, kids vs. no kids) were legitimate, and the resolutions were a little too pat. Overall, I enjoyed this series, but The Winter Bride is the only standout for me. Still, Gracie is one of the better Regency authors I’ve encountered lately, so I’ll likely keep exploring her work.

Mini-Reviews: Setup, Greywaren, Spring

Lizzy Dent, The Setup

Thirty-something Mara is feeling adrift; she doesn’t trust her own instincts but relies on astrology and fortune-telling for guidance. So when a palm reader tells her she’s about to meet Mr. Right — and she immediately meets Josef, a handsome cellist — she’s ecstatic. She arranges to meet him again at the end of the summer and promptly embarks on a self-improvement project to prepare for his arrival. But as she begins to grow and change, she questions whether Josef is really her destiny. This is a cute summery read with a satisfying romance. I found Mara frustrating at times, with her over-reliance on astrology and her tendency to push people away. But I also thought her indecisiveness and confusion about her life were relatable. So I did like the book overall and would consider reading more by this author.

Maggie Stiefvater, Greywaren

This conclusion to the Dreamer trilogy deals with the aftermath of Hennessy shutting down the ley line at the end of book #2. Now the dreamers are incapacitated, and their dreams are doomed to sleep unless they can be kept awake with sweetmetals. Jordan is working hard to acquire or create one, while Declan desperately tries to hold his family together. Hennessy is self-destructing, as usual, until Carmen and Liliana lend a hand. Also, the apocalypse that’s supposed to be caused by the dreamers is about to happen. I sort of lost interest in this trilogy but still wanted to finish it, and I’m glad I did. This installment does a good job of wrapping things up, explaining the various mysteries, and giving good closure for the main characters. Declan is still my favorite, but I was happy to get more of Adam Parrish in this one. I doubt I’ll ever reread this series, but I am somewhat interested in revisiting the Raven Cycle now!

Anne Gracie, The Spring Bride

Jane Chance is excited for her first London Season, and she’s determined to make a prudent marriage. Though her parents loved each other, they lived in poverty and, when they died, left Jane and her sister Abby with nothing. Jane doesn’t ever want to feel destitute or unprotected again, so she is looking for a wealthy and titled husband. But when she meets roguish “gypsy” Zachary Black, she can’t help her attraction. Zach is immediately smitten with her as well, but secrets from his past may keep them apart. I’m continuing to enjoy this series: Jane and Zach are both likable characters, and their romance is sweet (and not too steamy). But they fall in love a little too quickly for my taste, and there was just nothing particularly unique or memorable about the story. It’s a solid, pleasant read, but I don’t plan to keep it.

Mini-Reviews: Spells, Dream, Distinction

Sylvia Izzo Hunter, A Season of Spells

A few years after the events of Lady of Magick, Lucia MacNeill, heiress to the throne of Alba, is finally traveling to Britain to meet her betrothed, Prince Roland. Sophie (along with Gray) travels with her, officially to be her guide to the British court and unofficially to encourage the relationship between her and Roland. But Sophie is soon distracted, first by her plans to restore Oxford’s defunct women’s college and then by the escape of the prisoners—including her stepfather—who plotted to assassinate the British king in The Midnight Queen. I was apprehensive about this final installment of the trilogy, having loved book one and been disappointed in book two. This book falls somewhere in the middle. As with the rest of the series, the plot is glacially slow, and I was frustrated not to see significant growth or change in most of the characters. However, I did enjoy the development of Lucia and Roland’s relationship, though I wish it had been more of a focus. Overall, I’m glad I finally read this series, but it may not be a keeper for me beyond book one.

Angie Hockman, Dream On

This contemporary romance has an unusual premise: Cass has vivid, detailed dreams about her perfect boyfriend, Devin, while she’s in a coma. But when she wakes up, she learns that he doesn’t exist — or at least, that’s what she thinks until she meets him in person a year later. The real Devin doesn’t recognize her, but she knows things about him she couldn’t possibly know unless they’ve met before. To solve the mystery, they spend some time together and eventually begin dating. But Cass is also having surprising feelings for Devin’s brother, Perry, as well as navigating her fledgling law career. This was a decent but not exceptional read. I liked the premise and was satisfied with the explanation of why Cass dreamed of Devin (though I have no idea whether it’s medically plausible). I also liked that the love triangle is resolved with neither Perry nor Devin being a bad guy. But the writing style was a bit too overblown for me, and I never really bought into the romance. Still, it’s a cute, fast read if the setup interests you.

Hannah March, A Distinction of Blood

Robert Fairfax has just taken a job with wealthy tradesman Samuel Appleton, theoretically to tutor his two young sons but actually to dig into the life of his daughter, Charlotte, who has recently married the aristocratic but rakish Lord Mortlock. Mortlock’s terrible reputation has society speculating that his young wife may be seeking pleasure elsewhere. Fairfax’s job becomes harder when Mortlock is murdered in his own home, while Charlotte is hosting friends in the next room. The killer must be a servant or one of Charlotte’s guests, and as Fairfax investigates them all, he uncovers many motives and secrets. I’m continuing to like this series a lot (this is book #3), both for Fairfax’s complex character and for the setting of 1760s England. This book discusses the evils of slavery and the slave trade, but without preachiness or anachronism. I also thought the mystery plot was relatively strong in this one. Still really liking this series and would recommend it to fans of historical mysteries!

Mini-Reviews: First, Lady, Lease

Robin Stevens, First Class Murder

In this installment of the Wells and Wong mystery series, Hazel’s father has decided to take her and Daisy on a holiday aboard the Orient Express. They’ve been strictly admonished not to do any detecting, but neither Hazel nor Daisy intends to obey, especially when they encounter espionage, theft, and murder on the train. Obviously the setup is an homage to Agatha Christie’s famous novel (which Daisy is actually reading in this book), but Stevens puts her own spin on the plot. One thing I really like about this series is that, despite the unrealistic premise of two 13-year-old girls solving murders, the books deal with the consequences of that premise in realistic ways. The fallout from Hazel and Daisy’s previous case (chronicled in Poison Is Not Polite) continues to matter in this book. There’s also some nice character development for Hazel as her relationship with her father begins to change. I’m definitely planning to continue with the series!

Sylvia Izzo Hunter, Lady of Magick

Two years after the events of The Midnight Queen, Sophie and Gray travel to the University of Dun Edin in the kingdom of Alba, a fantasy version of Scotland. While there, they observe economic hardship and political unrest, which is exacerbated by news of the Alban princess’s betrothal to an English prince. Eventually, Sophie and Gray find themselves at the center of a sinister magical plot that could upset both the Alban and English thrones. Since I loved the first book of this trilogy, I was excited to continue with this installment, but I found it very disappointing. The pace is glacial; basically nothing relevant to the plot happens till beyond the halfway point. The first book was slow-paced too, but because the character development and world-building were so interesting, I didn’t mind. In this book, though, none of the main characters grow or change in a significant way, so it all just felt a bit pointless. I’m still cautiously optimistic about the third and final book, but my expectations are definitely more moderate now.

Falon Ballard, Lease on Love

Sadie is a financial analyst who thinks she’s finally about to get a well-deserved promotion. When her boss gives it to his future son-in-law instead, she reacts poorly and ends up getting fired. Now she can’t afford her pricey Manhattan apartment, so she looks for a new living situation and meets Jack, who’s renting out a room in his Brooklyn brownstone. The rent is ridiculously low, so she jumps at the opportunity, despite the fact that nerdy, introverted Jack is her total opposite. But as they get to know each other better, they find that opposites attract. This is a fun, breezy contemporary romance that’s oddly low-stakes given the main characters’ tragic backstories. I never quite understood why they didn’t act on their feelings much sooner! Also, Jack seems entirely too perfect, and since we only see him through Sadie’s eyes, we never learn what makes him tick. That said, the book is a quick and enjoyable read, but not a necessary one in my opinion.