Self-Made Boys: A Great Gatsby Remix by Anna-Marie McLemore #bookreview #retelling #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

New York City, 1922. Nicolás Caraveo, a 17-year-old transgender boy from Minnesota, has no interest in the city’s glamor. Going to New York is all about establishing himself as a young professional, which could set up his future—and his life as a man—and benefit his family.

Nick rents a small house in West Egg from his 18-year-old cousin, Daisy Fabrega, who lives in fashionable East Egg near her wealthy fiancé, Tom—and Nick is shocked to find that his cousin now goes by Daisy Fay, has erased all signs of her Latina heritage, and now passes seamlessly as white.

Nick’s neighbor in West Egg is a mysterious young man named Jay Gatsby, whose castle-like mansion is the stage for parties so extravagant that they both dazzle and terrify Nick. At one of these parties, Nick learns that the spectacle is all for the benefit of impressing a girl from Jay’s past—Daisy. And he learns something else: Jay is also transgender.

As Nick is pulled deeper into the glittery culture of decadence, he spends more time with Jay, aiming to help his new friend reconnect with his lost love. But Nick’s feelings grow more complicated when he finds himself falling hard for Jay’s openness, idealism, and unfounded faith in the American Dream. 

The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite classic novels, so I was thrilled to came across this LGBTQ retelling.

I listened to the audiobook ARC, and the narrator did a wonderful job with these characters. Prepare for the writing to transport you to the glitz and glamor of the Roaring 20s in a setting of extravagant parties and mansions in East Egg. The author states that she always felt like Nick was in love with Jay, and I also got the same vibes when I read the original Gatsby many years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed her queer and more diverse version of this classic. I also appreciated the content warnings and context notes she gives before the story begins.

Some of these characters are struggling with 20s perceptions of race, sexuality, and status. Nick, a trans Latinx boy, continually has to prove himself in the business world where he’s judged by the color of his skin. When he arrives in New York he discovers that Daisy, his Latinx cousin, has changed her last name and now passes for white. I was never a fan of Daisy in the original version and found her shallow and frustrating. She has her moments in this retelling, but I was in her corner by the end.

The story sticks to much of the original structure – until around the last twenty percent. And I have to say I greatly prefer this ending, but no spoilers here. If you’re a fan of retellings and are looking for a new spin on a classic, you can’t go wrong with Self-Made Boys. It’s a beautiful story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Belladonna (Belladonna #1) by Adalyn Grace #bookreview #YA #gothic #mystery

Orphaned as a baby, nineteen-year-old Signa has been raised by a string of guardians, each more interested in her wealth than her well-being—and each has met an untimely end. Her remaining relatives are the elusive Hawthornes, an eccentric family living at Thorn Grove, an estate both glittering and gloomy. Its patriarch mourns his late wife through wild parties, while his son grapples for control of the family’s waning reputation and his daughter suffers from a mysterious illness. But when their mother’s restless spirit appears claiming she was poisoned, Signa realizes that the family she depends on could be in grave danger and enlists the help of a surly stable boy to hunt down the killer.

However, Signa’s best chance of uncovering the murderer is an alliance with Death himself, a fascinating, dangerous shadow who has never been far from her side. Though he’s made her life a living hell, Death shows Signa that their growing connection may be more powerful—and more irresistible—than she ever dared imagine. 

A restless spirit, mysterious illness, family estate, and Death helping solve the mystery? This checked so many boxes for me.

I love a gothic atmosphere, and it absolutely dripped from the pages throughout this book. I’m also a fan of the 1850s time period. Signa hasn’t had an easy upbringing. Orphaned as an infant, she’s passed around to several guardians, most of them caring more about the allowance that comes along with her than Signa herself. When she’s taken in by the Hawthornes, distant cousins, her dreams of a stable home and the opportunity to be introduced into society are finally coming true. But there’s something she’s never told anyone – she can communicate with spirits. When the ghost of recently deceased Mrs. Hawthorne requests her help, and maybe not in such a nice way, Signa finds herself in the middle of a mystery. Time is of the essence because the family’s daughter seems to be suffering from the same illness that killed her mother.

I haven’t come across many novels featuring Death as a character, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about him at first. He escorts people to the other side, so that can’t be good, right? My perception of him gradually changed throughout the story as I came to understand exactly what he does, and it’s actually kind of beautiful. He and Signa share an unusual bond I won’t spoil. She’s still unsure of exactly where she belongs, but her journey to understanding is wondrous. Signa makes some reckless decisions, but she’s persistent, and I enjoyed watching her and Death solve the mystery. I had part of it figured out, but the final reveal was a shocker. Didn’t see that one coming.

I’d originally believed this to be a standalone, but was thrilled to see another book is coming. If you’re a fan of atmospheric, gothic mysteries interlaced with a bit of romance and magic, you can’t go wrong with Belladonna.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

This Is Why They Hate Us by Aaron H. Aceves #bookreview #YA #LGBTQ

Enrique “Quique” Luna has one goal this summer—get over his crush on Saleem Kanazi by pursuing his other romantic prospects. Never mind that he’s only out to his best friend, Fabiola. Never mind that he has absolutely zero game. And definitely forget the fact that good and kind and, not to mention, beautiful Saleem is leaving L.A. for the summer to meet a girl his parents are trying to set him up with.

Luckily, Quique’s prospects are each intriguing in their own ways. There’s stoner-jock Tyler Montana, who might be just as interested in Fabiola as he is in Quique; straight-laced senior class president, Ziggy Jackson; and Manny Zuniga, who keeps looking at Quique like he’s carne asada fresh off the grill. With all these choices, Quique is sure to forget about Saleem in no time.

But as the summer heats up and his deep-seated fears and anxieties boil over, Quique soon realizes that getting over one guy by getting under a bunch of others may not have been the best laid plan and living his truth can come at a high cost.

Quique has a plan for the summer before his senior year – to get over his long-time crush on close friend Saleem by checking out some other guys. And he has a few very different prospects to accomplish his goal. It might not be the best plan, but Quique is a flawed character who may not make the best decisions sometimes. Some of these prospects aren’t worth his time, but he learns some valuable life lessons the hard way during his journey.

I adored Quique from the first page. He’s dealing with a lot in his life – he’s only out to best friend Fabiola, worried about how his parents will react to his bisexuality, and he’s head over heels for Saleem, who’s spending time with extended family this summer. Family who are interested in an arranged marriage for him. Quique also struggles with several mental health issues, and I loved that he recognized the signs and wasn’t afraid to ask for help. His parents and Fabiola are a strong support system.

He also has a safe, wonderful resource in Mr. Chastman, his teacher. An extremely awkward and unexpected scene between them could have gone wrong in so many ways, but is brilliantly handled. I wish all high school students had someone like this in their corner.

This is a beautifully written story filled with poignant, humorous, and bittersweet moments that shines a light on some very important topics. It’s an incredible debut, and a novel I highly recommend.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones #bookreview #fantasy #YA #LGBTQ #TuesdayBookBlog

Once upon a time, the kingdoms of Wales were rife with magic and conflict, and eighteen-year-old Mererid “Mer” is well-acquainted with both. She is the last living water diviner and has spent years running from the prince who bound her into his service. Under the prince’s orders, she located the wells of his enemies, and he poisoned them without her knowledge, causing hundreds of deaths. After discovering what he had done, Mer went to great lengths to disappear from his reach. Then Mer’s old handler returns with a proposition: use her powers to bring down the very prince that abused them both.

The best way to do that is to destroy the magical well that keeps the prince’s lands safe. With a motley crew of allies, including a fae-cursed young man, the lady of thieves, and a corgi that may or may not be a spy, Mer may finally be able to steal precious freedom and peace for herself. After all, a person with a knife is one thing… but a person with a cause can topple kingdoms.

The Drowned Woods—set in the same world as The Bone Houses but with a whole new, unforgettable cast of characters—is part heist novel, part dark fairy tale.

Having enjoyed The Bone Houses (a unique take on zombies) by this author, I was excited to see this story is set in the same world.

As one of the few existing water diviners, Mer’s skills are coveted and her life has rarely been her own. After she’s forced to work for a power-hungry prince, he used her abilities to help kill hundreds of people. Since escaping, she’s constantly on the run and is seldom in the same place for more than a couple months. She longs for a home and people to call her own. When her old mentor offers her an opportunity at freedom, Mer jumps at the chance. The catch? It involves a dangerous heist. The two of them round up a team with diverse skills and make a plan. Among this team is Fane, a talented fighter with unusual abilities of his own who’s suffered tremendous losses. His furry companion is Trefor, a corgi and possible spy who stole my heart along with plenty of scenes.

Not all of the team survive the mission, and the plot throws in some unexpected twists along the way. Some of the characters’ actions surprised me, and I love it when that happens. I was determined not to like Mer’s ex-girlfriend and thief-extraordinare Ifanna because of a prior betrayal, but she steps up when it counts and won me over. The ending is absolutely perfect, exactly what I’d hoped, and left me with a big smile on my face.

With a magical well and an ambitious prince bent on toppling kingdoms, The Drowned Woods is very much a dark fairy tale that kept me flipping the pages. I finished it in a day. It’s a quiet, standalone novel that will thrill fantasy fans and corgi lovers alike.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

The Art of Prophecy (The War Arts Saga #1) by Wesley Chu #bookreview #epicfantasy

It has been foretold: A child will rise to defeat the Eternal Khan, a cruel immortal god-king, and save the kingdom.

The hero: Jian, who has been raised since birth in luxury and splendor, celebrated before he has won a single battle.

But the prophecy was wrong.

Because when Taishi, the greatest war artist of her generation, arrives to evaluate the prophesied hero, she finds a spoiled brat unprepared to face his destiny.

But the only force more powerful than fate is Taishi herself. Possessed of an iron will, a sharp tongue—and an unexpectedly soft heart—Taishi will find a way to forge Jian into the weapon and leader he needs to be in order to fulfill his legend.

What follows is a journey more wondrous than any prophecy can foresee: a story of master and student, assassin and revolutionary, of fallen gods and broken prophecies, and of a war between kingdoms, and love and friendship between deadly rivals. 

I was invited to read this book and immediately downloaded it. Besides the exquisite cover design, I always enjoy a Chosen One/Prophecy story.

Jian doesn’t check many boxes on the typical “chosen one” list. He’s spoiled, brash, entitled, and not the best fighter – which is a bad thing since he’s prophesied as the guy to defeat the Eternal Khan. When esteemed war artist Taishi is sent to evaluate his training progress, she’s shocked at his lack of preparedness. Being a take charge kind of woman, she fires all of Jian’s current teachers and takes on his training herself. She’s got her work cut out for her and isn’t a person who suffers fools gladly. Taishi is determined to break Jian down to a base level where he’s willing to learn, while Jian the brat is coming up with creative ways to kill her. Their relationship is one of my favorite parts of this novel.

The three main POVs are Jian, Taishi, and Salminde (viperstrike and Will of the Khan). Salminde goes against tradition and destiny in order to find her sister and do what’s best for her people. I didn’t immediately care for her, but she grew on me. There are also several supporting characters who are just as interesting. Even though they don’t get as much page time, they all come with their own back stories, and I felt as if I knew them just as well.

The amount of humor in this story caught me off guard and isn’t something I’d expected. Taishi’s clever quips and exchanges with Jian and her opponents and assassin Qisami’s unconventional attempts at courting had me laughing out loud.

Exquisite fight scenes, complex and detailed world-building, and phenomenal character development make this a must read for epic fantasy fans. It’s a little lengthy at over 500 pages, but you’ll be so engrossed in the story you’ll barely notice.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

#BlogTour The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais #bookreview #urbanfantasy

A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat.

Five octogenarian witches gather as an angry mob threatens to demolish Moonshyne Manor. All eyes turn to the witch in charge, Queenie, who confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments. Still, there’s hope, since the imminent return of Ruby—one of the sisterhood who’s been gone for thirty-three years—will surely be their salvation.

But the mob is only the start of their troubles. One man is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy he claims was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. Then things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle instead of the solution to all their problems.

The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but their aging powers are no match for increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline to save the manor approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.

Funny, tender and uplifting, the novel explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family and unlikely friendships. Marais’ clever prose offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.

This book hooked me with “five octogenarian witches” and “magical heist-gone-wrong”. It was just too tempting, and I was in the mood for a change of pace in my reading. It certainly didn’t disappoint.

I’ve seen several comparisons to The Golden Girls and Practical Magic, and they’re pretty accurate. These five witches may not be blood-related, but they’re most definitely a family and have been together since they were children. With five different personalities, a couple of them very strong ones, the women occasionally clash and go head to head, but love each other unconditionally. Their quips and banter (especially Jezebel’s comments and antics) kept me laughing throughout the book. With multiple POVs, I was never confused, and the recipes for potions at the end of some chapters are nice additions and cleverly written.

When the women are on the verge of losing their home, a magical heist and a dangerous deal seem to be their only solutions to staying off the streets, but it may be more than they bargained for. I was enthralled by the descriptions of their quirky house that included so many rooms – a lab, greenhouse, and very unusual fireproof gameroom among them. Persephone, teen daughter of the mayor and an ambitious young feminist, is a wonderful addition to the story and teaches the witches about the wonders of the internet and social media. She’s accompanied by her Italian Greyhound, Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I loved the way the witches bring her into their circle and become kind of surrogate grandmothers.

This is a light-hearted read I thoroughly enjoyed that also contains a bit of a mystery. I adored each of these women, and this quote from the novel describes them perfectly – “Aging Gracefuly is a bore. Aging disgracefully is something to be proud of.”

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

About the Author:

Bianca Marais cohosts the popular podcast The Sh*t No One Tells You About Writing, aimed at emerging writers. She was named the winner of the Excellence in Teaching Award for Creative Writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies in 2021. She is the author of two novels, Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh, as well as the Audible Original The Prynne Viper. She lives in Toronto with her husband and fur babies.

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Blood Like Fate (Blood Like Magic #2) by Liselle Sambury #bookreview #urbanfantasy #scifi #TuesdayBookBlog

Voya fights to save her witch community from a terrible future.

Voya Thomas may have passed her Calling to become a full-fledged witch, but the cost was higher than she’d ever imagined.

Her grandmother is gone.
Her cousin hates her.
And her family doesn’t believe that she has what it takes to lead them.

What’s more, Voya can’t let go of her feelings for Luc, sponsor son of the genius billionaire Justin Tremblay—the man that Luc believes Voya killed. Consequently, Luc wants nothing to do with her. Even her own ancestors seem to have lost faith in her. Every day Voya begs for their guidance, but her calls go unanswered.

As Voya struggles to convince everyone—herself included—that she can be a good Matriarch, she has a vision of a terrifying, deadly future. A vision that would spell the end of the Toronto witches. With a newfound sense of purpose, Voya must do whatever it takes to bring her shattered community together and stop what’s coming for them before it’s too late.

Even if it means taking down the boy she loves—who might be the mastermind behind the coming devastation. 

The first book in this duology was one of my favorite reads last year, and after that explosive ending I couldn’t wait to see where this story went next.

Voya never expected to be named Matriarch of her family – and neither did her family. At sixteen she’s very young, and the job comes with heavy responsibilities. Everyone wonders if she’s got what it takes to lead her family, and it’s crickets all around when she tries to communicate with the ancestors for help. Voya was forced to make some impossible choices at the end of the first book, and she’s still dealing with the aftermath when this story begins around six months later. Her grandmother is gone, her cousin/best friend hates her, and the boy she loves doesn’t want anything to do with her.

Voya’s family is large, loud, and intrusive, but they’ll defend their own to the death. With this many characters you’d think it would be hard to distinguish between them, but that’s not the case at all. Each is well-crafted and essential to the story. Besides dealing with her own family, Voya has to convince the matriarchs of the other witch families that she’s capable of holding her own. After a terrifying vision of a deadly future for her family as well as the others, she’s determined to find a way to convince the other matriarchs to work together instead of standing apart. And with no shortage of mistrust and old grudges it’s an uphill battle.

Genetics play a big role in the story and the future of the witches. Voya wants to believe she can trust Luc, ex-boyfriend and now CEO of the genetics company responsible for her family’s downfall in her vision. But can she?

Faced with the possible end of the Toronto witches, lack of confidence in her abilities as Matriarch, disappointment from her family, and the pressure of bringing the witches together, the stakes are incredibly high for Voya. She’s a flawed character and makes plenty of mistakes, but isn’t afraid to own them and try to do better. Her character arc is remarkable (and I still drooled over the food she makes).

At over four hundred fifty pages, this is a long novel. Maybe it could have been trimmed, but it’s still a thrilling, intense duology I’d recommend to paranormal, sci-fi, and urban fantasy fans.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Stay Awake by Megan Goldin #bookreview #thriller #mystery

Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers―a stranger who now lives in her apartment and forces her out in the cold. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing, and in its place is a bloodstained knife. That’s when she sees that her hands are covered in black pen, scribbled messages like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.

Two years ago, Liv was living with her best friend, dating a new man, and thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing as she tries to piece together the fragments of her life. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget―permanently.

In the vein of SJ Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Christopher Nolan’s cult classic Memento, Megan Goldin’s Stay Awake is an electrifying novel that plays with memory and murder. 

I still remember watching the movie Memento the first time and being totally blown away by the concept. When it was used as a comp title for this book, there was no doubt I’d request it.

Just like Leonard in Memento, Liz Reese makes notes to herself on her hands and arms – Stay awake, Don’t trust anyone, Don’t answer the phone. Every time she falls asleep her mind resets to two years ago, and the last thing she remembers is answering her office phone on a sunny summer morning. A lot happened in that time span. Imagine losing two years of your life – people you can’t remember, places you’ve lived, things you’ve done. Even worse, losing loved ones during that period and every time you’re told about their death you experience the grief all over again. Maybe you can’t exactly relate to what Liz is going through, but it sure is easy to emphathize with her.

This book had me hook, line, and sinker, and I plowed through it as quickly as I could turn the pages. I rooted for Liz to stay awake and remember the crucial details from her past. She hits one obstacle after another, but is fortunate to have found some compassionate people who are also willing to offer help. Around the halfway mark I was pretty sure of the identity of the culprit (I was correct), but I kept waiting for the motive. Yes, something happened that might make that person angry, but based on the information given about them, it seemed completely out of character. I’d hoped some earth-shattering reveal would be made at the end – but it wasn’t. And I felt cheated.

Judging by other reviews, I’m very much in the minority with this opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. Maybe I even missed some crucial line of detail somewhere along the way. This could turn out to be one of the best reads of the year for someone else. Before the ending I was completely engrossed in this book, so I wouldn’t hesitate to read something else by this author.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Violet Made of Thorns (Violet Made of Thorns #1) by Gina Chen #bookreview #YA #darkfantasy #fairytale #TuesdayBookBlog

A darkly enchanting fantasy debut about a morally gray witch, a cursed prince, and a prophecy that ignites their fate-twisted destinies—perfect for fans of The Cruel Prince and Serpent & Dove.

Violet is a prophet and a liar, influencing the royal court with her cleverly phrased—and not always true—divinations. Honesty is for suckers, like the oh-so-not charming Prince Cyrus, who plans to strip Violet of her official role once he’s crowned at the end of the summer—unless Violet does something about it.

But when the king asks her to falsely prophesy Cyrus’s love story for an upcoming ball, Violet awakens a dreaded curse, one that will end in either damnation or salvation for the kingdom—all depending on the prince’s choice of future bride. Violet faces her own choice: Seize an opportunity to gain control of her own destiny, no matter the cost, or give in to the ill-fated attraction that’s growing between her and Cyrus.

Violet’s wits may protect her in the cutthroat court, but they can’t change her fate. And as the boundary between hatred and love grows ever thinner with the prince, Violet must untangle a wicked web of deceit in order to save herself and the kingdom—or doom them all.

I read some stellar reviews of this book before I started it and hoped my expectations would be met. Not a problem. They were exceeded.

As a devoted fan of flawed, morally gray characters, this book delighted me from beginning to end. Violet is a seer. But she’s also a cunning liar who’s occasionally selfish and harbors a strong dislike for most people. She’s completely unapologetic about it. Charismatic Cyrus is heir to the throne and has women practically tackling each other to garner his attention. He’s also determined not to let anyone or anything block his ascension. Violet may have saved Cyrus’s life when they were children, but their fur bristles in each other’s company. There’s a fine line between love and hate and as the description states, they have fate-twisted destinies. I adored both of these ambitious characters, and their banter (she addresses him as Princey) is witty and amusing.

This is a fairy tale retelling and wonderfully dark. With a dreaded curse hanging over the kingdom, ominous occurrences are afoot and it’s difficult to know who, or in Violet’s case what visions, to trust. The world-building is well-crafted and immersive. Plot points are unexpected. My predictions of the story’s path were completely thrown out the window more than once, and I’m thrilled when that happens. The ending might have twisted my heart, but it stays true to the characters and is perfect. Can you tell how anxious I am for the next book?

Characters like this are few and far between and are always a welcome change for me. Readers may love them or hate them, but there’s no doubt they can certainly toss in some devious plot twists. If you’re a fan of characters who exist in the gray, I can’t recommend this series enough.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Accomplished: A Georgie Darcy Novel by Amanda Quain #bookreview #YA #contemporary

Georgiana Darcy gets the Pride & Prejudice retelling she deserves in Accomplished, a sparkling contemporary YA featuring a healthy dose of marching band romance, endless banter, and Charles Bingley as a ripped frat boy.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Georgiana Darcy should have been expelled after The Incident with Wickham Foster last year – at least if you ask any of her Pemberley Academy classmates. She may have escaped expulsion because of her family name, but she didn’t escape the disappointment of her big brother Fitz, the scorn of the entire school, or, it turns out, Wickham’s influence.

But she’s back for her junior year, and she needs to prove to everyone—Fitz, Wickham, her former friends, and maybe even herself—that she’s more than just an embarrassment to the family name. How hard can it be to become the Perfect Darcy? All she has to do is:

Rebuild her reputation with the marching band (even if it kills her)
– Forget about Wickham and his lies (no matter how tempting they still are), and
– Distract Fitz Darcy—helicopter-sibling extraordinaire—by getting him to fall in love with his classmate, Lizzie Bennet (this one might be difficult…)

Sure, it’s a complicated plan, but so is being a Darcy. With the help of her fellow bandmate, Avery, matchmaking ideas lifted straight from her favorite fanfics, and a whole lot of pancakes, Georgie is going to see every one of her plans through. But when the weight of being the Perfect Darcy comes crashing down, Georgie will have to find her own way before she loses everything permanently—including the one guy who sees her for who she really is.

I’m a Pride and Prejudice fan and a prior member of marching band, so I was excited to come across this retelling on NetGalley.

Georgie is not in a good place. During her sophomore year at Pemberley, she fell into a toxic relationship with long time crush Wickham Foster only to discover by the end of the year that he’d been dealing drugs out of her dorm room. To say brother Fitz was enraged and disappointed is an understatement. She’s lost all her friends since she ignored them and her studies while basking in the glow of Wickham’s attention. Junior year is a fresh start, and she’s determined to set things right.

After the death of their father and abandonment by their mother, Fitz and Georgie are learning how to be a family without them. As her legal guardian, Fitz assumes more of a paternal role, but Georgie misses her brother/best friend even as she continues to disappoint him. She believes Fitz is unhappy because of her, so she schemes with his best friend (and frat boy) Charles Bingley to get Fitz to fall in love with Lizzie Bennet. I loved how this retelling takes characters and places from the novel and reworks them into a modern day setting. In every scene with Fitz and Lizzie I pictured younger versions of actors Matthew Macfadyen and Keira Knightly from the 2005 movie. I couldn’t help it, and their banter was perfect.

Even with the best intentions, Georgie is met with one closed door after another while trying to set things right – her list of friends remains a short one, the honor roll is a distant dream, and the trombone section has all but frozen her out. Band was her happy place and her community, but now she doesn’t fit in there or anywhere it seems.

This is a fun modernization of Pride and Prejudice, and watching Fitz and Georgie redefine their sibling relationship was a high point for me. Georgie may stumble and make mistakes, but she realizes the importance of family and friends by the end. No one should have to go it alone.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.