Love Burns Bright – Rien Gray

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Another compelling book in the Fatal Fidelity series from Gray. I read this in quick succession after the second instalment – Love Bleeds Deep as I find Campbell so fascinating and captivating as a character.

This book felt slightly different to the other two, in that the relationship between Justine and Campbell never feels at risk like they have both settled into their roles within their relationship. With that brings trust and honesty that sits directly between comfortable and uncomfortable for them both.

We are introduced to Justine’s family and in doing so Gray weaves two narratives together to show us who Justine and Campbell really are. The risk and reward scenarios never seem to get old, and Gray does a masterful job of bringing humanity to Campbell where you might not otherwise see it in such a complicated character.

I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves a high-stakes narrative and their characters with a morally grey viewpoint of the world.

I received an e-ARC directly from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Love Bleeds Deep – Rien Gray

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
I love a morally grey character, and I think Campbell is probably as dark a grey as you can get without being completely in the black. They’ve fast become my favourite non-binary character, and whilst I know the topics of this series won’t be for everyone, I never hesitate to recommend the first book in the series, so I was very glad that this sequel held its own for me.

Following on where Live Kills Twice left off, Campbell is called to France for work, giving us the opportunity to experience more about how Campbell lives their life, and how Justine is now she is out from under her husband’s control. The setting gives lots of opportunities for this exploration, but the thing I loved the most was Campbell coming to terms with their love for Justine.

I often struggle with novellas, wanting more than the work has space to give, but novellas for this series work perfectly. The pace is driven forwards so as to both accentuate the danger in their lives and their relationship, but also serves to highlight the important moments between them in their pursuit for what might be considered justice, rather than focussing on the minutia of their plans.

This was an escape for me in a different way from the other romances I usually read, but I’m thoroughly looking forward to book 3 and the continuation of their journey together.

Love Kills Twice – Rien Gray

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
I was really surprised as to just how much I enjoyed this storyline. At first glance from the blurb I thought I’d enjoy another character on the outskirts of right and wrong (in this case, very wrong) but I was genuinely surprised just how much Gray hooked me into liking this premise.

The story centres on an assassin – Campbell – who has been hired by both a husband and wife to kill each other. The point of view in the book alternates between Campbell and Justine – the wife.

Whilst Justine is an interesting character, and the reasons for the hiring are explored in depth, Campbell is the interesting and intriguing part of the whole narrative for me. I’m keen for more non-binary characters and whilst Campbell is clearly deliberately kept a bit of a mystery to add to the intrigue there was enough here to make things really compelling.

The chemistry between the two of them is very hot, including some light BDSM and breath play.

I liked the addition of the lawyer character so Campbell doesn’t seem so completely out there, and the small glimpses into their past help with seeing why Justine could fall for them. I’m definitely hoping that we get to past more of the mystery surrounding Campbell in the second book.

The storyline does end quite abruptly, but the length of the novella/novel kept the writing really tight and I think it would have felt quite strange to have gone from where we end to the next step. The next part is due later in the year and I’m definitely looking forward to it.

If you’re fond of characters on the moral edge there’s a lot here to enjoy.

As you’d expect from the topic there are some potential triggers and the publisher has these labelled really well, including some past military trauma and some off page domestic abuse.

This does appear to be the first main published work from Gray, but there is mention of other work which I’m definitely eager to find now!

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Becoming Human – Holly Grey

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Fantasy books aren’t normally my thing, but I’m determined to continue branching out and this piqued my interest. It’s a very sweet book with lots of fantasy elements threaded through human interactions, good and bad.

Jack is called into acton protecting Marin, an animal in human form on a month long road trip to deliver Marin safely to a meeting of leaders. Marin is described as the most important leader in the world, and essentially the story tells both their journey in literal terms as they try to stay safe, and their journey in getting to know each other in the strangest of circumstances.

I loved all the interactions with things humans consider to be normality and Marin learning about them. This brought both some sweet and humorous moments. The book has its violent moments, but because they are enmeshed in the fantasy world they didn’t read as particularly harrowing to me, but it is something to be aware of.

There isn’t much romance in the book, it’s very slow burn. It’s more day to day interactions, sweet conversations and how they protect each other from the world.

I liked how all of the secondary characters were written. They were well placed, either to complement the road trip protection aspect, enhance us getting to know Marin and where she is from, or to appreciate Jack’s past.

I found the ending to be a little underwhelming, but I can understand why it was done like this. I still had many questions and would just have liked an extra chapter or two to finish things off.

I can’t really comment as to how this compares to other fantasy books, but I really appreciated the writing and enjoyed the narrative. I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys queer fantasy stories.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.