Cover Image: A Restless Truth

A Restless Truth

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Member Reviews

I love the premise of a locked-room murder mystery on an ocean liner (it feels like a historical version of a cruise ship, vibes-wise), and I love the characters and romance in this story. There is a depth of emotional intelligence here that makes that aspect of the book really rewarding. Somehow though, the restricted setting of the story, even though it was appropriate in terms of genre, didn’t quite work for me - I felt like I needed some variation that I wasn’t getting to break up some of the monotony of the plot. I loved A Marvellous Light, and I have been enjoying plenty of cross-genre mysteries lately so I’m not sure what went wrong for me here. Lots to enjoy, but this wasn’t quite the 5-star read I had been expecting.
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This book was an absolutely stellar sequel to Marske's previous book in the series, A Marvellous Light. It was equal parts fun, heart-pounding, and wonderous. 

The book has a relatively simple premise: Maud must find an item key to the survival of magicians across England with only the hazy visions her brother has given her while stuck on a trans-Atlantic ship for six days. Along the way she encounters plenty of wild characters - some new and some old - and lots of twists and turns. 

I really think the highlight of this book lies in the characters. Quite frankly, I adored them all. Maud begins the book quite naive (and at times a bit annoying), but her character really develops into someone fierce and cunning.  Violet was such a fascinating juxtaposition to her, as well as all of the other side characters. 

Overall, it was an exciting romp and I am desperately excited for the next book in the series!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor.com for the free e-ARC in exchange for an honest and fair review.
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3.00 Stars. Have you ever wanted to like a book, even after reading, a lot more than you actually did? This is how I felt about this book. I was really excited about this. I enjoy historic-fantasy books, but I don’t get to read them enough. I thought if this might be like The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry or The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics, then I would be a happy reader. I had not read the first book in this series, so I knew it might be an issue, but I had heard that the main characters from book one was not even in this book, and that this was a mystery that took place on a ship, so it seemed like its own contained story. While I do feel like I missed out on a few things, like not learning enough about the magic system, not reading the first book was not the reason why I didn’t love this like I hoped. This real reason, the reason why I just can’t rate this over 3 stars when I normally have a great track record with Tor books, unfortunately is that the book was just too long, and I was honestly bored at times.

I’m late in doing this review. If you follow my reviews, I’ve mentioned this but everyone around me, including my household, got Covid but me. I had to take care of everyone without catching it, and I was exhausted and not getting a lot of sleep. At night I kept picking this book up and I would get through a few pages but not enough happened to keep my interest over sleep. We all know when a good book makes us chose it over precious sleep and that was not happening here. As Covid started to lift for everyone, I was lucky enough to get the flu. Again, I tried and tried to read this book and I just could not do it and I turned to some audiobooks and some other books that were keeping my attention. Now healthy, I finally powered through this book in the last two days, and it was tough. My Kindle edition says only 400 pages but I’m finding it hard to believe. I guess it is all about the pace. There was 40% of this book that was well done and fun, interesting with even good steamy scenes, but the other 60% was like pulling hair to be honest.

In the end I can’t recommend this one, but I won’t say stay away either and here is why. For one, I read a good chunk of this while sick or exhausted so I can’t be the best judge because of that. And number two, because I did not read the first book, I could be missing out on parts that make this book shine better as part of a pair. So, while I can only give this an okay grade, this may work better for someone who wanted to read this because they loved the first book.
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As someone who completely adored A Marvellous Light, I was so, so thrilled to hear there would be a sequel. I will admit to being a little disappointed when I heard this one wouldn't be about Robin and Edwin. However, I was still super excited cause I loved Maud's character in the first book, and I just knew she'd be a fun protagonist to follow. And I was correct!

A Restless Truth, while continuing the story of A Marvellous Light (just with different main characters), had a completely different tone and feel to it, which I loved. Each book contained a certain mystery aspect, but their settings and protagonists are very distinct to one another. This book felt like a victorian mystery novel with a dash of magic and romance. Because it took place on a ship, it also gave it that locked in feel, which is one of my favorite tropes!

The world of the Last Binding series is so fascinating to me. How they utilize magic is done in a way I haven't really seen before, and since I've read a lot of fantasy books, that's pretty cool. Even though this book did focus on magic, I feel like the mystery aspect took center stage, which I had no qualms against. For Maud and Violet's journey, this just made sense. Even so, there was still a lot of suspense built up around the magicians trapped with them on the ship, and the uncertainty of who they could trust. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.

Having a romance take place over seven days was an interesting choice, but one that Freya Marske expertly executed. The way Maud and Violet's feelings for each other developed was so natural and authentic, while never feeling rushed. Their journey certainly wasn't smooth sailing (hah, puns), but I was rooting for them the whole time.

Violet's character was a lot of fun because of how closed off she is to the world. She hides her true self behind a mask and very rarely allows anyone to get behind it. Maud, of course, begins to peek behind the facade, and that terrifies Violet. Both women are fierce and brave, but approach the world so differently. Maud is trusting, kind, and empathetic, whereas Violet is more cynical, harder to get to know, and more wary of others. This creates a wonderful dynamic between the two. They each push the other out of their comfort zones, but always for the better.

I adored their relationship! A lot of people still seem to think there aren't that many great sapphic books out there, but that is so not true. This is just one example of a fantastic sapphic book. The chemistry between Maud and Violet was electric, but they were also sweet and caring towards the other. While Violet was already secure in who she was and who she's attracted to, Maud had never considered the idea of being with another woman, so it's a bit of a learning experience for her, and one Violet is there to help her through the entire time.

In addition to Maud and Violet's dynamic, I also loved the found family vibes we got from Maud, Violet, Hawthorne, and Ross. I find Hawthorne's character so interesting. There's still a lot we don't know about him, but in this book we got a deeper look behind the gruff and uncaring man he presents himself as. His friendship with Maud and Violet might have been begrudging, but I loved their interactions. Adding Ross created the perfect group. All four are so distinct and varied in personalities and thoughts, so while their opinions may clash from time to time, they all work together really well. It also makes for some really funny moments that I won't spoil, but had me cackling with laughter.

Between the suspenseful plot, electric relationship, and intriguing friend group, A Restless Truth was a wild ride worth every second of my time. I can't wait to see where this story goes in the next book (and I have an inkling for who I think it'll be about!).

The Last Binding is without a doubt one of my favorite series. Historical fiction? Romance? Fantasy? Mystery? What more can a person ask for? Not to mention, Freya Marske's writing style is elegant and clean, making for an engaging and quick read.

If you haven't read A Marvellous Light or a Restless Truth yet, I highly recommend it!

Thank you to Pride Book Tours for providing me with a physical copy of the book, and to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!
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Read this without reading the previous novel. Works as a stand-alone. Perfect for Knives Out or Glass Onion vibes. Glad I got around to it!
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Blog:
A murder mystery on an ocean liner cruising from the US to the UK in the early 1900s being solved by two women – one of whom is a magician. Both of whom are into each other. Things get spicy…and dangerous.

Summary:
When Maud voyages from the US to the UK on RMS Lyric, she finds a dead body, a disrespectful parrot, and a beautiful stranger in Violet Debenham, who is everything—a magician, an actress, a scandal—Maud has been trained to fear and has learned to desire. Surrounded by the open sea and a ship full of loathsome, aristocratic suspects, they must solve a murder and untangle a conspiracy that began generations before them.

Review:
I’m not sure how I ended up with an advanced copy of the second book in The Last Binding series – when I hadn’t read the first. I’m assuming either I requested it, not realizing it was a second book or it was sent to me based on my reading history with the assumption it didn’t matter. The series aspect is less “the story happens in a row” and more “everyone featured is living in these alternate history version of the early 1900s plus magic.” Apparently the first book in the series features a m/m pairing (Amazon, Bookshop.org), whereas this one stars a f/f pair.

I didn’t struggle too much to figure out what’s going on. The author does refrain from explaining much for the first chapter or two. But that’s because the book starts essentially in media res – with the murder happening. After that has occurred we slow down for a minute, and there’s a refresher of the rules of the universe. It didn’t take me too long to catch up and get into it.

One thing that did surprise me was the spice level of this romance. I was expecting very light spice with most encounters occurring off-screen after a fade to dark. That is not the case. Things get very explicit. Let’s put it this way….at least one of the scenes would have had to have been cut to manage to squeak in an R rating for explicitness. There are three scenes total, and each takes up a whole chapter. To me, this much spice feels like erotica jammed into a romance. I prefer the two separately.

The pairing here is grumpy/cheery. Violet is the grumpy, and I adored her. I liked Maud too, but Violet was someone I could see a whole book’s perspective on. Perhaps I’m biased since Violet is bisexual and the quintessential theater geek. I just really enjoyed her. But Maud is nice enough too. I liked their pairing well enough.

The mystery is substantial enough to hold up a plot. I enjoyed the animals and sneaking around the boat. I did think a bit more attention could have been paid to the class and race issues that sort of came up and got a bit glossed over. I don’t expect preaching in a book but it might have been interesting to at least have Maud and Violet see the second or third class areas of the ship on one of their many attempts to outrun their pursuers. (Somehow they always seemed to end up in the cargo hold instead). Maud talks with disdain of her parents only giving charity when others can see it, but Maud herself doesn’t seem to do much giving either. Violet, at least, offers to become the patron of an all-Black opera. (The real history of Black opera.)

Overall, I liked getting to know Violet, and it was an interesting world to visit. But the spice level was far too hot for what I personally prefer in romance, sliding more into an erotica category in my opinion. It also seems to me that the first book may have been quite different from this one, so readers of the first should come in aware of these differences.

Instagram and TikTok:
When it’s more 🌶 than you bargained for…..
If you’re looking for period wlw romance mixed in with three scenes that pack the full heat level, look no further than A Restless Truth.
Thanks to NetGalley for the free copy in exchange for my honest review.

GoodReads:
This is a well-written book, it just wasn't for me.

Overall, I liked getting to know Violet, and it was an interesting world to visit. But the spice level was far too hot for what I personally prefer in romance, sliding more into an erotica category in my opinion. It also seems to me that the first book may have been quite different from this one (I don't know for certain, because I didn't read it), so readers of the first should come in aware of these differences.

*I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.*
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A Restless Truth is a historical fiction LGBTQ mystery set aboard an ocean liner and featuring Maude Blyth, whose brother Robin was one of the MC's in the previous story in this series. I thought this book would be a bit more of a continuation of the previous book, but it could easily be enjoyed without reading A Marvellous Light. I am now solidly a Freya Marske fan and cannot wait for additional titles in this series.  

Maude was sent to America to retrieve both a magician and her powerful magical item, but her companion is found murdered in their cabin after they've barely left port. In her efforts to identify the magical item and the murderer, Maude befriends a menagerie of passengers, forming her own Scooby gang to snoop and perform investigations. This was a fun story, with the appearance of one grumpy aristocrat from A Marvellous Light (I do love grumpy aristocrats) whose sole purpose seems to be the foil for the other characters needling. 

This one didn't pull my heartstrings as much as A Marvellous Light, but it was more of an ensemble cast so it didn't feel as intimate. I hope there are more to come in this series, and specifically would like to see the grumpy aristocrat find his own HEA.
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WHAT AN INCREDIBLE BOOK! Such a fun sapphic fantasy adventure. I absolutely adored the characters new and old. The capers, real and silly were well fleshed out and enjoyable. I have recommended this book for months now!!
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Maud Blythe is accompanying an old woman on a ship crossing to Great Britain when she gets caught up in a murder mystery on board. Once she starts investigating, Maud makes some allies and enemies confined in the ship and risks her life and her heart. Will she and Violet, a passenger who is magical, be able to find the killer before their ship arrives?

This was a fun queer historical fantasy romp – but the magic doesn’t overtake the story, so if you like mysterious books with a bit of magic, but not an overly complex magical system, check it out. I really enjoyed A Marvellous Light, the first book in this series, and I think the writing improved in this one; great dialogue and quirky characters. While it helps to have the first book read before this one, you could read this as a standalone. There is quite a bit of spice in this book, so be prepared for that when you read it. I’m looking forward to the next one.

Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Dot Com for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
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I enjoyed this book!  I'm not sure if I liked it quite as much as A Marvellous Light, but I did like it.

In this one we have Robin's sister, Maud, and the book starts with a murder while on a transatlantic voyage by ship.  There is a lot to like with this, as there is magic and the continuation of the investigation that Robin and Edwin started in the first book in the series, as well as the murder investigation.  This isn't a book that you can read as a standalone, you need to have read A Marvellous Light first, otherwise you will be pretty out of your depths when it comes to the magic system, the ongoing story, and the characters.

The main couple in this book are Maud and Violet, and I loved them.  Maud is exploring her sexuality and figuring out what she likes, which may involve being a wee bit bossy, and I am totally here for it.  I liked how they communicated and how their relationship developed over the course of the voyage, and I liked how Violet called out things that would normally be overlooked/ignored in an insta-love sort of situation, which this was.

Definitely enjoyed this one and absolutely cannot wait for the third book!!!
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I am a huge fan of historical fantasy, so many aspects of series appeal to me greatly! Some of my wishes from the previous book were more female characters and more insight into magical social circles and government. This installment had both of these in spades, which I absolutely loved! 

Other things I enjoyed:

✨ We got hints of what magic might have looked like in other countries and cultures. I hope we get even more of this in the last book, because I loved it.

✨ The characters played off of each other in a really fun way, and I felt like the supporting characters (who I really enjoyed in both books) had more page time than they did in the first book.

✨ The setting being a passenger ship at sea made it feel a bit like a closed room setting to a point. There was forced proximity and no escape, so there needed to be creativity in how different things were handled. I enjoyed this quite a bit!

✨ The tone felt relatively light and fun, considering there were murders and mysteries happening. This kept the book from becoming too maudlin, and I appreciated the playfulness sprinkled throughout.



Some things I wished: 

✨ There are multiple occasions of insta-love happening in this series, as well as a bit more romance and lot more spice than I typically enjoy. But I’m invested enough in the storyline that I came back for the second book and will return again for the third.
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This was such a fun book. I liked it differently than the first one but it was still just as good. I loved every bit of it and I appreciate that the sex scenes were just as explicit as the first book
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A sequel that totally lived up to the first book, A Restless Truth was phenomenal! I had such high expectations because A Marvellous Light is an all time favorite of mine. And while I was sad that I only got to see my dear Robin and Edwin once at the very end of the book, these new characters completely captured my heart. I could not get enough of Maud and Violet, and even the grumpy Hawthorn (I so hope book 3 will be his). 

A Restless Truth begins right after the events of A Marvellous Light end. The book opens with a murder and the theft of a magical artifact (and I won’t get too specific here in case you haven’t read book one) and the rest of the story is a sapphic murder mystery on a ship! We get to explore some new magic, there’s a foul mouthed parrot who keeps everyone on their toes, a whole lot of educational pornography, and an absolutely perfect love story. Freya Marske writes such moving and creative (you may recall the magical *literally* butt stuff from the first book) love scenes. They never feel formulaic, but rather varied and perfectly crafted for the characters she’s writing them for. For Maud, this is an education and exploration of sex and what it can mean, and for Violet, it’s her first real go at a real relationship and making herself truly vulnerable. Marske has written some of the most romantic lines I’ve ever read and I have more than I can count underlined in this book. 

I absolutely loved how much self discovery happened for Maud, Robin’s little sister. She is so brave in the light of so many unknowns and absolutely committed to her mission to help out her brother and Edwin. And I don’t even know where to begin with how much I fell for Hawthorn’s character. He is the surliest, most unhelpful man at the beginning of the book, and by the end he is all in to help with Maud’s mission. The rag tag team that develops between Maud, Violet, Hawthorn, and a few others felt like a family by the end and I cannot wait to see where that goes with the next book. 

I cannot recommend this series enough. A Restless Truth is out now and my eternal gratitude to tordotcom for sending me this beautiful copy to read and review!
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The second book in Marske's series is an irresistible queer magical mystery thriller with Edwardian England details, racy encounters, vulnerability and love, and witty banter on a ship bound for England.

A Restless Truth is the second in Freya Marske's queer fantasy mystery Last Binding trilogy that began with A Marvellous Light.

A Marvellous Light was full of details of life in Edwardian England, gay love, mystery, magic, wonderful dialogue, and plenty of heart. I adored it.

In A Restless Truth, the character of Maud Blyth (Robin's sister, introduced in book one) expects adventure when she agrees to help save the magical world by serving as companion to an elderly magician on an ocean liner. 

By doing so, Maud aims to help her beloved older brother resolve a magical mystery that's been decades in the making. 

But when her charge drops dead on day one, Maud must identify the murderer, try to get her hands on a magical object essential to untangling the mystery at hand--and try to survive the voyage without being murdered herself.

Maud and each of her unlikely allies are fantastic characters. The mystery element kept me hooked, and details of proper Edwardian etiquette and clothing were wonderful. Marske doesn't skimp on presenting multiple magical elements, which I loved--and she includes many detailed, saucy, passionate encounters between our main characters.

I was struck by the drastic manner in which Violet attempted to free herself from the shackles of marriage and the subsummation of a woman to her husband that was expected at the time. (This reminded me of the measures taken by the main protagonist in another book I recently read, A Study of Scarlet Women, in order to secure freedom from a stifling marriage.)

A Restless Truth is fun and quirky yet has depth, an appealingly complicated mystery, and a satisfying version of a resolution that sets up book three.

I received a prepublication edition of this book courtesy of Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tordotcom, and NetGalley.
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I've been a fan of Marske's writing for years - both in a professional setting, and a more low-key setting. A Restless Truth is no exception. It's SO compelling and interesting, the characters are believable, and their story is just soooo fun to read. It's maybe one of the best of the year, I really can't recommend it enough.
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I really really liked this one. I liked it better than the first book. I don't really know exactly why but I struggled with the first book. Not that I didn't end up liking it, but I enjoyed a restless truth much more.

I think it's the badass vibes of all men are stupid that really sold this one for me. It is full of funny and intelligent and conniving (sometimes) women who are just trying to solve a murder. I liked the twist at the end and I liked the little references to Robin and Edwin but Violet and Maude really stole the show for me. Lord Hawthorne also grew on me as did Ross and I could totally see the next book as being about those two.

I don't want to give any spoilers because even though I was told that you could read this as a standalone I don't think you could. It is part of a series and the magic system is kind of a continuous world building that goes from the first book as well and even though the main characters in the first book are not the main characters in this book, it is still really prevalent and necessary to know what happened in the first.
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What a fun sequel. I loved all the action, mystery, romance, and magic. I loved getting to know Maud and Violet, as well as more of Lord Hawthorne. I felt like the characters had good dimensions, there was just enough steamy scenes to keep me invested and just enough intrigue in the mystery of the lost contract item that I read this in a few days. Really loving this series so far and can't wait to see how they retrieve the third part of the contract and if it will be all the characters back together again. It was almost a five star, but not quite there.
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Earlier this year I delighted in A Marvellous Light, by Freya Marske. She wove a finely balanced tale of murder, magic, and intrigue. I was so excited for the sequel and pleased when I received an eARC courtesy NetGalley and Tor. I knew the sequel was going to be good. I was not prepared for it to be this.

A Restless Truth follows Robin’s sister, Maud, on an ocean voyage from the United States back to the United Kingdom. A murder most foul catapults Maud from the role of companion into detective. Out of her depth, Maud nevertheless resolves to rout a murderer and retrieve the piece of the Last Contract that her companion had been protecting. Fortunately, she collects some allies, including Lord Hawthorn from the first book, and a new character/love interest in the form of Violet Debenham, intentionally described socialite-turned-performer. That’s right—after the m/m pairing of the first book, Marske gives us a f/f romance here.

As with the first book, the romance/sex scenes are far steamier/spicier than I tend to seek out in my non-erotic fiction. But I loved the development of Maud and Violet’s relationship every bit as much as I did Robin and Edwin’s. This one is different because Maud is only gradually realizing her sexuality. Violet’s consequent ambivalence—she isn’t sure she is the right person to be Maud’s first, to guide her through this—is sweet and tender. There’s so much discussion of consent, fights over things both silly and significant, and then make-up sex. I love a book that just has some joyously normalized queer romance even though romance is not in and of itself my genre.

Fortunately, A Restless Truth has a lot more to offer than romance. This book presents a mystery, but unlike the first book, it’s much closer to a locked-room mystery. We’re on a boat! In the middle of the Atlantic! So the killer can’t exactly go overboard at any moment, and while magic is a factor, everyone who knows this is also motivated to keep the rest of the boat unaware—to avoid “unbusheling” them, if you will. This gives Marske quite a lot of room to escalate the drama and tension gradually. What begins as a straightforward mystery with a side helping of romance blooms into a tense, explosive, seditious plot that has Maud and her allies making plans, breaking plans, and eventually just fighting for survival. Whether it’s exposition or a climactic confrontation, Marske’s writing is tight and so satisfying to read. I had a busy week, so I did end up putting this book down more than I wanted to, but I didn’t want to put it down!

Maud is a delightful protagonist, though I think Violet ultimately stole the show for me. The way that Marske balances contrasts their upbringing—Maud’s sheltered life, Violet’s more worldly experiences—is beautiful. There’s a scene two thirds of the way through the book where Violet considers opening up and sharing more of her concerns with Maud and ultimately doesn’t, and it’s that withholding, and Maud’s sense of understanding, that is so heartachingly good. Sometimes, no matter how whirlwind a romance is, you just aren’t ready to divulge your most intimate secrets yet.

The supporting characters have so much to offer as well. Marske has a talent for foreshadowing, for laying out the pieces on the board in such a way that you know they are all going to come together before the end of the book, but you can’t quite see the final layout. It’s very satisfying, watching these minor characters who were introduced in the first chapters show up here and there to help nudge the plot along without it feeling too contrived or heavy-handed. Because we’re on an ocean voyage, Marske has the ability to introduce a quirky but limited cast and then work with them to advance the story.

I also love how Marske continues to build this world, its magic, and the mystery around the Last Contract. I had no idea that this book would take us away from Robin and Edwin—and it is a sign of how much I am coming to appreciate Marske as a storyteller that I found myself relishing their absence. Now I’ve met so many other characters I’ve enjoyed, and I can’t wait to see what the third book brings!

A Restless Truth was not the book I was expecting as a sequel to A Marvellous Light—it was better. That’s no mean feat for a second novel. Also, because this book is very “contained”—both in setting and characters—you could dive into this one before you read A Marvellous Light as long as you don’t mind general spoilers for the first book. Nevertheless, I would recommend you read both.
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I received a copy of this book for review from NetGalley. I got half way into the prologue, and then had to go back and re-read the first book. It was definitely worth doing, and I regret nothing. 
 This book is a magical romp that takes place during a closed ship murder mystery. There are many, many shenanigans, and Violet and Maud make the most of them. There is everything you could imagine, including murder, kidnapping, cheetahs, a seance, reading out loud, and a very chatty parrot. Maud is extremely charming, and in need of a good therapist, but she's well matched by the outrageous Violet. They and their somewhat reluctant crew of allies and misfits are trying to protect the magical world from greedy bad guys, and they have a great deal of fun while doing it. 
My only quibble is that the story leaves us on a HFN. I mean, yes, it makes sense for the rapid time frame, but I wanted more. There were a lot of loose ends left dangling, so I really need there to be a third book. (Which I'm hoping involves Hawthorne, and maybe Ross.) In the meantime, I enjoyed myself, and this was a great way to spend a Saturday.
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I wasn’t really able to connect with the characters on this one as easily as the first book. I’m afraid it took me longer than I’m happy about to realize that Hawthorn was the same character that Edwin and Robin went to for help in the first book. There was a kind of summary of what happened between the last book and this one but it came far enough into the book that I had already slotted some things back together.  

Everything happened really quickly in the first chapter or so and then slowed to an absolute creep. I found that things were moving so slow that I was able to forget character names and had to flip back to remind myself which isn’t a great sign.  I did think the scene where she’s reading the erotica aloud to her friends was hilarious and would resonate with everyone who has ever been in a book chat group with me.

So all in all, I'm bummed I didn't click with Maud or Violet in this one but I hope that Hawthorn gets book 3.  I'm interested in where the overall arc is going and I hope Edwin and Robin will make a larger appearance in that book.  Seeing snippets of them being domestic and happy was wonderful.

Thank you to Tor and Netgalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.
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