I loved this book so much it’s hard for me to write coherently about it. The language: dense, rich, vivid musical. The premise: yes, Eurovision in space, played for laughs, but not JUST for laughs, also a glorious, delirious refutation of “rare earth” and “habitable zones,” a dizzying celebration of near-infinite diversity. A plot twist, telegraphed literally from light years away, still deeply satisfying when it materializes. Optimism, not of the Pollyanna fairy-tale-ending variety: gritty, scrabbly, acknowledging the deeply fuckedupness of many things, but proudly declaiming that it can still all be WORTH something, that the chance to pull it off, if slim, is real. The rare trick of writing about music in a way that doesn’t make someone who’s played it cringe, and of paying tribute to Ziggy and the Spiders in a way that does them justice. Standing ovation. Playing the encore in my head.
I very much appreciate how Courtney Milan inverts and subverts familiar romance tropes, and “After the Wedding” is no exception: it literally starts with a wedding, in which the principals are forced at gunpoint to marry, and their efforts to obtain an annulment, coupled with their inconveniently increasing mutual attraction, drive much of the plot. The setting is England, shortly after the U.S. Civil War; the man in the forced marriage is black, the woman is not, and neither of them are exactly what they first appear to be (although Milan plays fair with the reader, introducing her protagonist as “Lady” Camilla Worth) and establishing details of Adrian Hunter’s parentage in his introduction as well).
I found so much to love about this book – Camilla’s indignation on the part of women whose petitions for annulments were unfairly denied, the details of Adrian’s business venture, the large and diverse cast of bit players.
I did have to adjust my expectations a bit in one regard: Camilla and Adrian are both viewpoint characters, and both have complicated thoughts about choices they either made or were not able to make. The noun “choice” and the verb “choose” are both important to their inner monologues, and that initially struck me as a bit repetitive before I realized that their attitudes about choices were shifting subtly as the novel progressed.
(Disclosure: I was provided an ARC of this novel.)
When Naledi gets exaggeratedly polite emails about being a long-lost royal bride of an African nation she very reasonably assumes they’re a phishing/identity theft attempt, but it’s all true, and “A Princess in Theory” unspools like a modern take on a classic screwball comedies, with assumed identities, disastrous coincidences, palace intrigue, and even a bit of skullduggery. It made me laugh out loud frequently. I don’t usually cast books in my head, but the dynamic between Prince Thabiso and his assistant Likotsi put me in mind of T’Challa and Okoye in Black Panther, and then it was hard for me to shake images of Chadwick Boseman and Danai Gurira in the roles. Minor quibble that the resolution of the mystery element felt a bit rushed but I still enjoyed the book thoroughly. This is my first exposure to Cole, but I’ve already pre-ordered the next book in the series.
I’m leaving this rating here unaltered.
I thought I’d written a review when I read this 3 years ago, but apparently I didn’t. I’m guessing that’s because even then, I was uneasy with how this novel portrays drinking – downing the perfect cocktail can give you literal superpowers, what?! – and how my sober friends might react to my praising it. But, damnit, I liked it a lot. There are a TON of monster hunting urban fantasies, and I’ve read my share, and this one felt fresh and fun (and I bought supplies to make the mundane version of one of the featured cocktails, and liked it). I kept hoping I’d see a sequel announced.
I don’t remember the dynamic between the protagonist and the love-interest being particularly problematic, but then, I didn’t have particular reason, 3 years ago, to LOOK for evidence that the author was a bad guy with a long history of behavior that made women uncomfortable.
I’ve recently seen such allegations. I don’t know any of the people personally, so I don’t have anything but second-hand experience to draw on. But I know what it can cost women to come forward with stories like this and I BELIEVE them.
Interesting, if not always compelling, alternate Tudor history tale. sometimes felt like Jenkins was more ingested in showing off research than telling a story, but I still had some problems maintaining suspension of disbelief. Narrator Henry’s voice convinced me, but he’s a bit dry.
I thought this started out very strong, but even though its episodic, aimless nature is explicitly part of the point, I was ready for it to be over well before it was.
I liked this short story collection much better than “Good in Bed.”
Entertaining collision of hardboiled PI and Lovecraft ‘s Mythos, with a dash of a metaphysics/ metatextualism. Already impatient for sequel.
liked this better after I stopped worrying about the geographical inaccuracies and just went with the full-on zany. the framing device didn’t work for me, and some of the backstory digressions seemed a bit OTT, but I did like the alternating chapters from the kids’ perspectives and the chaperones’ perspectives. sweet (if a bit raunchy) and very silly. could easily see this being optioned for film.
Reminds me almost equally of TV’s Deadwood and Angel – impressively researched post-Civil War setting with a complex supernatural ecosystem in a series of nearly self-contained novellas that gradually advance a larger plot. Novel finds some degree of closure, but more seems indicated, and I’m eager for follow-on.