Lightning Reviews: Cat Sebastian and a Contemporary Thriller

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Hey all! We’re here with some Lightning Reviews. If you’re unfamiliar, these are quick reviews, usually around 500 words or less. We try to run two or three at a time. It’s kinda fun to see how different how reviewers’ tastes are, especially when we group their reviews together.

This time, we have Cat Sebastian’s latest romance and a new thriller!

 

A

The Last Thing He Told Me

author: Laura Dave

I am writing this while sleep deprived, guzzling a cold brew, having stayed up all night reading. At some point I remember my husband telling me he was going to bed and me telling him I’d be right up. The next time I looked up I had finished The Last Thing He Told Me and, aside from my reading light, the house was pitch dark.

The Last Thing He Told Me is an excellently plotted psychological thriller, but unlike many books in that genre it has no violence, gore or abuse. It’s a fascinating book, but not a dark one, and I think it will appeal to a lot of readers who want to wade into the genre without worrying about potentially upsetting themes.

When Hannah Hall marries single dad Owen, she struggles to connect to his distant teenage daughter, Bailey. Two years after their wedding, Owen fails to come home from work and stops answering his phone. Hannah learns the tech start up he’s been working at, The Shop, has been raided by the FBI for fraud after lying about their product and cheating investors out of billions of dollars. Owen’s boss has been arrested, and Owen himself has vanished after leaving Hannah a note that reads, “protect her.”

Hannah begins searching for her husband, only to discover along the way that he was lying about his past. Bailey, traumatized by her father’s disappearance, joins Hannah in the search and realizes that memories from her early childhood don’t gel with the stories her father has told her.

A big part of this book is Hannah and Bailey coming together as a family in order to solve the mystery of Owen’s disappearance. Bailey is very much sixteen, sometimes overtly hostile to Hannah, sometimes desperately needing to be comforted by her. Watching their relationship grow from a place of uncertainty to love was wonderful to read about.

Plenty of psychological thrillers have the theme of “I don’t know who I married,” and this is no exception. However, while the answer to that question is often “a total monster” in other books, that’s not the case here. I don’t want to spoil the mystery for anyone, but while he is guilty of deception and gaslighting, Owen is not a serial killer. In fact the twist at the end of this book is bittersweet, poignant, and deeply satisfying.

If you want a thriller that will keep you reading all night without any violence or scariness, this is the book for you. It’s an engaging mystery, and a story of two women bonding amid a crisis, but it is never bleak.

Elyse

Mystery/Thriller

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The Queer Principles of Kit Webb

author: Cat Sebastian

I confess, I have read almost all of Cat Sebastian’s books. There are so few left that I haven’t read, I’m savouring them and trying to make them last. So when I received an ARC of this book, I was just about ready to plotz. Saying that I went into this book with high expectations would be an understatement. Usually, this doesn’t end well for me, but, dear Bitchery, that is not the case this time around! I loved this book! I delighted in this book! I ravished this book!

Kit Webb used to be a highwayman, but after an injury that left him with a severe limp, he decides to run a coffeehouse instead. This being 1751, coffeehouses are relatively democratic spaces and this setting leads me to one of the things I love most about this book: it’s progressive agenda. Kit is clear that eating the rich is the only moral choice and it made me DREAM about more progressive tax systems and government spending. Not something I anticipated thinking about while reading a romance novel, but something that made my little social welfare heart very happy.

Who does Kit fall in in love with?

Edward Percy AKA Lord Holland is heir to the Duke of Clare. The current Duke is a Horrible Man and Terrible Landlord. The relationship between the two has always been strained, but is about to become much worse. Percy has had a bomb dropped on him: he is illegitimate due to his father’s bigamy. This means the estate and all the money will go to someone else. He finds this out through a blackmailer who revealed the truth to him. Percy is not sure if he will tell the world of his illegitimacy and face the consequences or keep trying to buy off the blackmailer, but he does know that he wants some sort of revenge on his father and the best way to do that is to steal (and possibly ransom) a little book of his mothers that his father always carries with him.

What Percy needs is a highwayman, which leads him right to the door of Kit’s coffeehouse.

And BAM! FIREWORKS! I give Percy 10/10 for banter. Percy’s wit, in particular how he teases Kit, is adorable. Kit’s grumbled responses are more tender than anything and they made my oversized heart squee. Between Percy’s humour and Kit’s reluctant gentleness, I was in love with the pair of them.

The plot is a twisty pretzel that kept me engaged and curious, and their story from meeting to HEA is so original, I am hesitant to give anything away. While there is a secondary plot that isn’t fully resolved, I hold out some hope for a sequel so I can enjoy that HEA as well.

I loved the conflict, the banter, the contrasts and the larger issues Kit and Percy must confront. I enjoyed so much about this book to the point where I don’t want to spoil any of the discoveries for future readers. It was such a richly rewarding read. At a time when I didn’t have a lot of energy, I was gifted with pounds of joy, laughter, intrigue, and suspense. The Queer Principles of Kit Webb was a fresh approach to historical romance that made me fall in love with the genre again.

Lara

Historical: European, LGBTQIA, Romance

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