Tag Archives: romance

Review: Circus Hearts 2 and 3 by Ellie Marney

Almost immediately after reading and reviewing All the Little Bones – the first in the Circus Hearts series – a began reading the second, All Fall Down. Once I finished that I went straight onto number three, All Aces.

If nothing else, that will tell you how easy these books are to read, and how easy is it to want to read them. So here we go, with me telling you why these next two books (and the whole damned series) are so good.

Circus Hearts 2: All Fall Down

While the first book, All the Little Bones, follows trapeze artist Sorsha Neary, All Fall Down is about Fleur Klatsch, who looked set to be Sorsha’s worst enemy in the first book.

The aftermath of the final events of All the Little Bones are infused in the opening of All Fall Down, where Fleur is dealing with the consequences of her actions. There’s also the little matter of the accident that could have killed her.

Fleur is determined to make up for her mistakes and face her responsibilities full on. She is, after all, the ringmaster’s daughter and one day she’ll be running Klatsch’s Karnival.

One day happens sooner than she’d like, when a series of accidents, which are very obviously not accidental, put her father in hospital and the whole circus at risk. In the meantime, she’s confronted with the return of her childhood best friend, Marco Deloren, who against all stereotypes ran away from the circus.

Fleur is hard-headed and domineering. She’s also loves her father, is passionate about the circus and, despite some of her history, has the potential to be a great leader. All of these things are put to the test as she’s thrust into leadership. Marney draws a textured picture of someone who could easily be unlikable, and instead makes Fleur complex, deep and sympathetic.

Like All the Little Bones, there’s romance here, and it’s elegantly balanced and entwined with the story of the dangerous acts of sabotage, the history of Klatsch’s and its rivals, the personal histories of the players and Fleur’s transition from a bossy child to a substantial woman.

Marney’s depiction of Klatch’s is also fantastic – you can damn near smell the greasepaint, the sawdust, the sweat; the smoke and the fire.

None of the books indicate what city, or even what country, Klatsch’s and its rivals might operate in. I think it’s a good choice. Circuses operate as worlds of their own, and the only truly ‘real’ places in these books are within the canvas and wooden walls of the carnivals, and with the people who inhabit them.

Circus Hearts 3: All Aces

All Aces, like the first two books in the series (All the Little Bones and All Fall Down) is written in the first person from the point of view of the young female protagonist. It was a great way to introduce Sorsha and then Fleur and give them great agency.

Getting inside the head of Indonesian-born contortionist Ren Petri is also fantastic, and even more so because Ellie Marney has found a distinctive voice for her. Along with being supremely bendy, Ren is studious, kind, very organised and very brave. She’s sharply observant and has some behaviours that indicate a degree of neurodivergence, which serve to make her unique perspective even more engaging. She’s also surprisingly impulsive: where others run away, she’ll run towards. That impulse prompts some of the best and the worst things that happen to her throughout All Aces.

All Aces, like All Fall Down, begins with events that overlap the previous installment. Circus worker and card sharp, Zep Deal rescued Ren from a fire and she’s still suffering health issues. The repercussions for Zep, whom some believe to have been criminally involved with those events, are different but just as unpleasant.

At the same time, Ren is juggling family obligations and is keeping some secrets, but not as many as Zep, who joined Klatsch’s circus to escape his father and a shady past. Far from keeping them apart, these secrets and their efforts to untangle Zep from his draw the two of them more and more closely together.

Once again, Marney winds the YA romance intricately together with the overall plot so that it’s perfectly balanced. It’s also perfectly charming and delicious. It’s a pretty sure bet that things will work out in the end, but the superbly written trick of it trying to see how on earth it will.

Like Ren’s extraordinary and graceful contortions, the plot bends and loops and provides plenty of surprises – and like Zep’s exquisite skill with a deck of cards, it’s all sharp and snappily paced, with Aces appearing from nowhere with perfect timing.

I’m sad it’s the last of the Circus Hearts stories: the whole world Marney has built is so lively and textured. I’m going to miss it a lot.

Review: Love and other Perils – A Regency Novella Duet by Emily Larkin and Grace Burrowes

It’s always delightful to have a new Emily Larkin story to read, and when Ms Larkin announced this duet novella with Grace Burrowes, both stories with a prompt to include cats, I (naturally) pounced.

Given both novellas contain Regency era manners, cats and a love story, they’re very different while both being very charming!

Lieutenant Mayhew’s Catastrophe by Emily Larkin

Lieutenant Mayhew’s Catastrophe doesn’t contain any of the fantasy elements of the Baleful Godmother series, but it does trip along with all the vivacity and wit I’d expect.

Willemina Culpepper, who grew up around army camps with her family and father, Colonel Culpepper, is on her own now but determined to get back to having an adventurous life, which she’s definitely not getting in the quiet village where she lives with her aunt. She’s meant to be going to Twyford to become a companion for an ambassador’s children, but when she helps a fellow passenger – Lieutenant Mayhew – find the wayward kittens he’s taking as gifts for his niece and nephew, they both miss the coach.

A series of mishaps keeps them in strife as they try to meet the coach, find new modes of passage or just keep from falling in the mud on their way to Twyford. Willemina – Willie to her friends – has an absolute delight in the unpredictable, and Mayhew’s honour, good humour and chivalry make all their trials more of a friendly adventure than anything dangerous.

The escalating ridiculousness of their predicaments and shared laughter are comical, and a final disaster turns out to be perfectly timed for the happy ending. It’s all a confection of fun and fluff, and an adorable read on any day when you need something light and uplifting.

Catnip and Kisses by Grace Burrowes

The courtship of Antonia the prim librarian and Max the unkempt scientist commences when Max brings an unsolicited cat to the library to act as a mouser. But there’s a lot more to Antonia than her perceived spinster primness, just as there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes for Max Haddonfield.

Max, mostly raised by his sisters, is as big as a bear and gentle as a lamb, fostering stray cats and a stray pickpocket as well, as he carries out scientific studies he hopes will improve the lot of his fellow human beings. Antonia is not as isolated a bluestocking as she appears, and is plagued with a cousin who thinks their ‘inevitable marriage’ will keep the money in the family, and seems incapable of seeing that this is not, perhaps, the way to woo.

These two unusual people who defy stereotypes set about falling in love in their own distinctive way, with obstacles (largely but not solely in the shape of the obnoxious cousin) to overcome and wider lessons to be learned.

Their unexpected journey is witnessed by a lively supporting cast, including the two elderly Barclay sisters who haunt the library. Max’s young, thieving protege, Dagger, is a fabulous too, and the scene where he reveals the fears stoking his behaviour is one of my favourites.

Catnip and Kisses contains a lot of both cats and kisses, which is as it should be, made fun and light with a pair eccentric characters whom you can’t help loving, and cheering for.

Buy Love and Other Perils

U.S.-only Grounded Special Offer to 1 July

Grounded is one of the best paranormal romances I’ve read

~ Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Goodreads.

“… a sweet, empowering tale of renewal.”

~ D. Antonio (Amazon)

All this week and next, from 17 June to 1 July 2019, US-based retailers are having a price promo on my spec-fic winged romance, Grounded!

That’s right: if you’re in the USA, you can pick up Grounded (only available in ebook format) for 99c!

The blurb:

In a world where wings give everyone the freedom to fly, an artist born wingless uses her art to show the winged world the wonder of the ground. But when she meets a recently injured police officer who finds himself grounded, they will both learn that there is more than one way to soar.

Read more about Grounded.


The world held me captive and I would love to read more within it!

~ Deborah, Goodreads

The participating US companies that I know of include iTunes, Amazon US, Kobo and Google Play, but other US-based retailers may also be taking part. Let me know in the comments if you find another!

NOTE: The offer is only available in US stores (so if you’re not in the US, geo-blocking may prevent you from accessing the deal).


…romance a beat away from the norm.

~ Kelsie, Goodreads

Cover Reveal: Duo Ex Machina Book 3 – Number One Fan

I’m delighted to reveal the cover for my third Duo Ex Machina novel, Number One Fan.

Duo Ex Machina Book 3: Number One Fan

It’s 2009 and Frank and Milo are in a new phase of their music career. They’re not where they thought they’d be: the violence they’ve witnessed and been subjected to has had consequences.

In spite of the traumas they’re dealing with, they are still making music. A new album has just been released and Frank is cutting his teeth as a producer for former pop princess, Gabriella Valli.

Then they start seeing strange messages from their Number One Fan. The trouble is that there are way too many candidates for the role.

The book is being serialised in fortnightly chapters on my Patreon. Once the final chapter is posted in April, the ebook will be prepared and published in partnership with Clan Destine Press.

I love Willsin’s work – he’s made a lot of my Clan Destine Press novel covers – and he’s created another fantastic cover for the Duo Ex Machina series. Thanks Willsin!

Willsin Rowe’s covers for books 1 and 2 of the Duo Ex Machina series.