The Bargainer Series by Laura Thalassa – Review

Overall Series Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopses:

Rhapsodic by Laura Thalassa

A Strange Hymn by Laura Thalassa

Dark Harmony by Laura Thalassa


I don’t often review whole series in one fell swoop, but I binge read this and honestly I’m not sure I could tell you exactly what happened in each book! I’ve been craving pure, fun escapism fantasy lately and that seems to mostly be taking the form of fantasy romances. Some have been really awful, some have been just plain absurd (couldn’t even bring myself to review one series!), and some like this one have actually been pretty good.

This is the story of Callypso Lillis (what a name) and a dark Fae king called the Bargainer. He deals in favors and for each favor you ask he gives you a tattoo (or in Callie’s case, a bead on a bracelet). As with all bargains, he can collect on the debt at any time, for any reason, and basically ask anything which is quite a daunting piece of knowledge. Callie first called The Bargainer in to dispose of her father’s body and clean up the crime scene because she murdered the bastard after years of sexual abuse. Eventually the Bargainer, aka Desmond Flynn, calls in his owed favors and asks Callie to help him solve a series of disappearances in the Fae realm. Over the course of the investigation they fall madly in love with one another, but all cannot remain sunshine and roses because a big baddie called the Thief of Souls is still kidnapping Fae and returning the women impregnated and in a coma. The plot over the course of the three books focuses on tracking down the Thief of Souls, keeping Callie out of his clutches because he desperately wants her, and lots of spicy scenes with Callie and Des. And some backstory from the time Callie and Des first met to how they were initially separated.

The whole story was  such fun that I binge read all three books in about a week. And it only took that long because I was trying to shuffle in a review book in between all that. Is it going to win any literary prizes? Nah, probably not but I was surprised to find that the characterization and the plot were a lot more solid than I expected. These characters have history, motivations aside from animal lust, and even some solid friendships for good measure. My biggest problem with this book is that Callie and Des began seeing each other when she was only 15, BUT it did remain platonic on Des’s part. NONETHELESS, the author really could have set this up with Callie being a college student with almost no change to the plot whatsoever and it would have been infinitely less perturbing. Like, WHY must authors do stuff like this? The book is most definitely not young adult and is not specifically geared toward teens, so the age change would have made sense in that respect as well.

Overall, despite some apparent flaws this was a good, wickedly fun series with plenty of spicy moments. If you don’t like fantasy romance this will clearly not work for you, so stay far away. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re craving another book that will fill the Feyre + Rhysand shaped hole in your soul, you should most definitely check this out. I loved it and might even read it again at some point. It’s also on Kindle Unlimited, so you can check it out for free if you subscribe to that service.

Gild by Raven Kennedy – Review

Published: October 16, 2020

Publisher: Self Published

Series: The Plated Prisoner #1

Genre: Romance, Fantasy

Pages: 375 (Kindle)

My Rating: 1.5/5.0 

Synopsis:
The fae abandoned this world to us. And the ones with power rule.
Gold.
Gold floors, gold walls, gold furniture, gold clothes. In Highbell, in the castle built into the frozen mountains, everything is made of gold.
Even me.
King Midas rescued me. Dug me out of the slums and placed me on a pedestal. I’m called his precious. His favored. I’m the woman he Gold-Touched to show everyone that I belong to him. To show how powerful he is. He gave me protection, and I gave him my heart. And even though I don’t leave the confines of the palace, I’m safe.
Until war comes to the kingdom and a deal is struck.
Suddenly, my trust is broken. My love is challenged. And I realize that everything I thought I knew about Midas might be wrong.
Because these bars I’m kept in, no matter how gilded, are still just a cage. But the monsters on the other side might make me wish I’d never left.
The myth of King Midas reimagined. This compelling adult fantasy series is as addictive as it is unexpected. With romance, intrigue, and danger, the gilded world of Orea will grip you from the very first page.


I hated this book with almost every fiber of my being. It was utter shite and I genuinely do not understand the numerous high ratings I see (on Amazon especially). Like, it’s really not even good smut, so it’s definitely not good fantasy! Had I not been super invested in my hate-read I would have DNFd this after the halfway point for sure. Why did I stick with it for so long you may wonder?

Well, while it opened with a rather awkward orgy scene I kept hoping that there would be some excellent character or plot development to justify some part of those ratings. It kept teasing a potentially good plot, but it would continually let me down. At the roughly 50% mark, I concluded that there would be no plot development worth my time, but it was a shorter book so I pushed on through for the sake of writing a complete and justifiably negative review. 

This book does not feature healthy relationships AT ALL. Our MC is the King’s favorite concubine and is proof of his amazing ability- turning things to gold- because she is literally completely golden. Talk about economic inflation! She also has wiggly ribbon appendages sprouting from her back, which has honestly got to be the STUPIDEST thing I’ve ever heard and I really try not to judge too hard since SFF can get weird and make it work. Our Golden Girl has Stockholm syndrome like you would not believe, basically giving me hard-core heeby jeebies the whole book. I mean, it was just disturbing and pitiful. She just kept telling herself that life was great and that she was happy, all while downing copious amounts of alcohol to dull her feelings of entrapment.

0/10, do not recommend. It was also super rape-y, with tons of abuse of not only the main character but also the other concubines. And not just by the king! He would pimp them out to other nobles! To be fair, a disclaimer is provided at the end of the synopsis, so I knew it was going to be there… just perhaps not to that extent. Overall, it was SO NOT my cup of tea and I won’t be reading any more of the series despite the oddly attractive cover art. It gets 1.5 stars for a charming side character that gets murdered too soon and the nice cover.

A Dance with the Fae Prince by Elise Kova – Review

Published: August 19, 2021

Publisher: Silver Wing Press

Series: Married to Magic #2

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Pages: 344 (Kindle)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:
She knew her hand in marriage would be sold. She had no idea a fae prince was the buyer.

Katria swore she’d never fall in love. She’s seen what “love” means through the cruelty of her family. So when she’s married off to the mysterious Lord Fenwood for a handsome price, all Katria wants is a better life than the one she’s leaving. Feelings are off the table.

But her new husband makes not falling in love difficult.

As their attraction begins to grow, so too do the oddities within her new life: strange rules, screams in the night, and attacks by fae that Katria never thought were real. When she witnesses a ritual not meant for human eyes, Katria finds herself spirited away to the land of Midscape.

Surviving the fae wilds as a human is hard enough. Katria must survive as a human who accidently pilfered the magic of ancient kings – magic a bloodthirsty king is ready to kill her for in order to keep his stolen throne – and her new husband is the rightful heir in hiding.

The power to save the fae is in her hands. But who will save her from a love she vowed never to feel?


Elise Kova has done it again! I’m absolutely loving these standalone fantasy romances that are set in the same world. This particular tale is described as a mix of Cinderella and the tale of Psyche and Eros and the beginning definitely has strong Cinderella themes. 

Katria is the unwanted stepdaughter and since her father disappeared at sea, her stepmother has only grown more inclined to abuse her. The final straw is when her stepmother springs a surprise marriage arrangement where her family will receive a substantial bride price and she’ll be stolen away to marry a mysterious lord. To her pleasant surprise, Katria finds a beautiful mansion near the woods but it comes with an unusual set of rules – don’t look upon her husband, don’t leave the grounds, and don’t leave her room at night no matter what she hears. All goes well until Katria finds a note from her husband and she follows him into the woods, interrupting a strange fae ritual where she is granted the magic that he had prepared for so long to reclaim. Thus begins Katria’s journey into the Fae lands and she can finally get to know Davien, the mystery man she married as he tries to claim the throne that should rightfully be his.

Katria is quite an easy character to empathize with and Davian, though frustrating at first, ends up being quite likable as well. There’s a nice cast of secondary characters, the evil king is a pretty standard jerk, and the settings were “fairy” cool. This story isn’t revolutionizing the genre, but I do think this series is one of the best in the fantasy romance category. I’ve read some that were ABSOLUTE TRASH (reviews forthcoming!) and Elise Kova is wayyy better than much of the competition! Admittedly, I’m fairly new to the genre but I’ve checked out a few of the more popular series that are garnering attention on TikTok and Bookstagram as well as a few that came recommended from a friend and I can safely say that this is one of my favorites.

My biggest peeve with this is that there are always extra chapters that aren’t in the books – you have to join the author’s mailing list and read them on her website. It’s super frustrating because they’ve been great and absolutely needed to be an epilogue chapter in the book!

A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair – Review

Published: May 25, 2020

Publisher: Scarlett St. Clair

Series: Hades & Persephone #1

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Pages: 358 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 2.5/5.0

Synopsis:
Persephone is the Goddess of Spring by title only. The truth is, since she was a little girl, flowers have shriveled at her touch. After moving to New Athens, she hopes to lead an unassuming life disguised as a mortal journalist.

Hades, God of the Dead, has built a gambling empire in the mortal world and his favorite bets are rumored to be impossible.

After a chance encounter with Hades, Persephone finds herself in a contract with the God of the Dead and the terms are impossible: Persephone must create life in the Underworld or lose her freedom forever.

The bet does more than expose Persephone’s failure as a goddess, however. As she struggles to sow the seeds of her freedom, love for the God of the Dead grows—and it’s forbidden.


OKAY, WOW. Fantasy Romance binge continues, but upon further consideration I may increase the rating of some other books I’ve read recently. This one was… well, it was fun and steamy but the main character is an idiot. There wouldn’t be much plot if she would stop being so disagreeable like 100% of the time and if either of the main characters could hold a conversation that didn’t devolve to idiocy.

Anyway, a summary. This is a Hades and Persephone retelling set in a modern day Greece where the gods have returned to Earth to walk among mortals. Mortals celebrate them and fawn over them like celebrities because, well, they are. Persephone is trying to escape from under her mother Demeter’s thumb and is pretending to be a mortal and attending university. She’s got a sweet journalism internship, an apartment with her best friend, and life is going pretty well. Until she ends up unintentionally making a bargain with Hades in one of his gambling dens. She must bring life to the Underworld and if she can’t she gets trapped there for half the year. 

The plot is largely minor struggles, with her bargain with Hades taking up the lead. She writes an article on how awful Hades is because of these bargains he makes with mortals and has a nasty experience with a co-worker. She also ends up dealing with her mother, who just reminds her that she’s useless without her borrowed magic. Because of course Persephone can’t just be a normal goddess – her powers are basically non-existent. It ultimately culminates with Persephone and Hades absolutely mad about one another and also frequently mad at one another.

Like I said, if they could have a mature conversation there wouldn’t be so many issues. Instead Hades is compulsively secretive and shady, playing up the broody Lord of the Dead aspect very well. Persephone is even worse, wildly jumping to conclusions like it’s an Olympic sport and refusing to listen to a whole sentence from Hades so that he might explain anything. In short, it’s not an example of a healthy relationship but MAN IT’S SO FUN TO READ. 

That’s literally the whole reason this book received the rating it did. Because it was unputdownable and ridiculously entertaining, also, there are some fantastic side characters. Hermes and Hecate and Lexa are brilliant and are by far my favorite characters. The worldbuilding seems really cool, but at this point it was a little shallow. I have tons of criticism about the book, clearly, but it was entertaining, had me emotionally invested in the characters and then I bought the second book and started reading right away.

*Forgive me if I’ve included any books from the second book here – I read them consecutively and they sort of blurred together a bit*

A Deal with the Elf King by Elise Kova – Review

Published: November 6, 2020

Publisher: Silver Wing Press

Series: Married to Magic #1

Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Pages: 338 (Paperback)

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

Synopsis:

The elves come for two things: war and wives. In both cases, they come for death.

Three-thousand years ago, humans were hunted by powerful races with wild magic until the treaty was formed. Now, for centuries, the elves have taken a young woman from Luella’s village to be their Human Queen.

To be chosen is seen as a mark of death by the townsfolk. A mark nineteen-year-old Luella is grateful to have escaped as a girl. Instead, she’s dedicated her life to studying herbology and becoming the town’s only healer.

That is, until the Elf King unexpectedly arrives… for her.

Everything Luella had thought she’d known about her life, and herself, was a lie. Taken to a land filled with wild magic, Luella is forced to be the new queen to a cold yet blisteringly handsome Elf King. Once there, she learns about a dying world that only she can save.

The magical land of Midscape pulls on one corner of her heart, her home and people tug on another… but what will truly break her is a passion she never wanted.


I’ve been in the mood for fun fantasy romances lately and thought this looked like the perfect fit. I had read a few of Elise Kova’s other books, and this in on par as far as quality goes – good fun, good writing, and characters you can quickly begin rooting for! Plus, the cover art is fantastic. 

In this world humans and elves are separated from one another by a magical barrier and a treaty established long ago. The first Human Queen joined with the Elf King to form the treaty and a magical bargain and thereafter, a new human queen is sent to the elves to replace the one who has passed on. This time the human queen cannot be found and the new Elf King comes to search for his bride because the elven lands are trapped in endless winter. 

Enter Luella – her greatest desire is to provide medical care to the people in her town, especially since they contributed so that she might attend school to do just that. When the Elf King shows up and she is revealed to be the Human Queen, her world is shaken. She will be leaving her family and all her patients behind – what will they do without her? How can she possibly abandon her duty to the people she cares for? She is married to Eldas, the young new Elf King and whisked off to the elven lands where she will live for the rest of her life, aside from a brief visit home at Midsummer. Her magic is necessary to sustain the elven lands, so that the seasons might flow as they should and food can be grown and harvested.

Honestly, it was delightful and just a teensy bit frustrating while Luella and Eldas got to know one another. It was quite tense and purely business-like at first and they slowly started to fall for one another. But Luella was also vocally determined to find a way to break the bond tying the Human Queen to the throne, so that created a bit of distance between the two characters as well. Overall, it was just a delightful journey.

I’m so glad I picked up this fun little read. Elise Kova seems to always write such good fantasy romances and this one was a fairly low-stakes read despite Luella’s quest to break her bond to the throne. No terrible wars, no saving the world (despite the drama of the synopsis), none of the world ending melodrama so often associated with fantasy romance (LOL)! If you need a nice lighter read in the midst of all the heavy SFF this might be the book for you. There’s also another standalone book set in the same world coming out in August which I’m VERY excited for! 

**I changed my rating between 3.5 and 4 stars like 4 times… sometimes it’s so hard to decide on a rating!**