I received an ARC copy of Under Darkened Skies from the author, in exchange for an honest review.
Disclaimer – This is an Upper Young Adult Fantasy. Triggers include fantasy and magical violence, references to parental death, imperialism, war, gambling, and drug use, alcohol consumption, panic attacks and anxiety, and stalking. Please make sure to be mindful of your triggers.
A librarian with a secret. A prince looking for redemption. A dark discovery that will force them to confront their truths.
Astrea Sovna is destined to die. As a Lightbringer, she’s expected to serve the Helosian government as a battlefield healer. But when the court seer—Astrea’s uncle—has a vision of her being killed in the line of duty, he forbids her to reveal her powers.
Until now, Astrea has gone unnoticed as a junior librarian. But when she gets reassigned to a diplomatic project to strengthen ties between Helosia and one of its neighbors, she finds herself saddled with her past, in the form of returned war hero and her ex-best friend, Prince Varojin Auris.
Forced to work together, Astrea soon learns that although Varojin has been out of her life for years, he’s still the kind, patient friend she remembers. As they navigate old friendships and imperial politics, the pair discovers that the mysterious shadows stalking the city are leaving a trail of murder victims in their wake. And when Astrea becomes a target, a dear friend gets caught in the crossfire…
As Astrea and Varojin begin searching for answers, they realize there is more to the emperor’s project than political niceties. If the shadows aren’t stopped, Astrea’s future—and the security of the entire continent—hangs in the balance.
If you take some royal political drama, elemental magic, secret magic, sloooooow burn romance, and a bit of a mystery and mix it together, you get Under Darkened Skies. UDS is an upper YA debut novel from H.E. Bauman and although I tend to stay away from YA, I can’t wait to read the rest of this series. (The author has also promised us some spice in the future!)
The beginning of the novel did feel a bit slow. However, the pacing of the world building, and learning about the magical and political systems were perfectly timed. Although there was a lot of information to try and grasp, it never felt overwhelming or like the author info dumped it on us.
Our FMC, Astrea, is a junior librarian who is also best friends with the royal family. She has a powerful magic that she’s been keeping hidden her whole life. If the Emperor ever found out about Astra’s secret, it could be the end of the life as she knows it.
The world and emotions were all so vivid. I felt truly immersed into the story even while I was waiting on the action to start. Once I got to about to 40-50% mark, things really started to take off.
We love a good forced proximity story
Jin is one of the royal siblings, and former best friend to Astrea. But after leaving for the war several years ago, without even saying goodbye, Astrea tries to avoid him at all cost when he comes home. (she does have her childish moments, but don’t we all?) But when the emperor assigns Jin and Astrea to work together on a special project, she has no choice but to finally begin addressing her hurt feelings and issues with Jin. (It takes her awhile to get to that point, but she eventually begins to let her guard down and open up to Jin)
The magic system and the relationship between Astrea and Jin were by far my favorite parts of the book. But Cressida’s sass was a close second.
Book 1 was character driven, with plenty of plot points and suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat. Now that we know the characters, and have fallen in love with a few of them, I can’t wait to see how the rest of the series plays out for Astrea and her friends. Book 1 did end on a slight cliff hanger, but thankfully nothing that completely ripped my heart out. If you’re looking for a fantasy novel with a vivid magical system, found family, and slow burn romance, I suggest checking out Under Darkened Skies.
What to expect
✔️ 1920s Vibes
✔️ Elemental Magic
✔️ Unsolved Murders
✔️ Fake Dating
✔️ One Bed
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5 / 5
0 🌶️ – but again, the author has promised spice in future books, so prepare yourself for a slow burn
Don’t forget to check out H.E. Bauman’s website and follow her on Instagram to stay up to date on the entire Under Darkened Skies series.
Be sure to check out the Under Darkened Skies playlist on Spotify to give you all the vibes while you’re reading!
Does the Under Darkened Skies series sound like your jam? If you’ve read it, let me know your thoughts in the comments, but keep it spoiler free! Until next time…
Disclosure – All reviews and opinions, are my own. If you make a purchase through my referral links, I may earn a small commissions from Amazon, and/or other retailers at no extra cost to you.
Last year I had the pleasure of interviewing author, Fay Bec right before the release of her debut novel Hidden Beneath The Embers. It’s been almost 6 months since HBTE was published, and Fay just released an updated version, aka Hidden 2.0! This exciting update includes a new gorgeous cover, added scenes (like 27k words worth of extra goodness, and yes there is some added spice!), as well as some fun interior changes. Check out the follow up interview with Fay to get to know a little more about Hidden Beneath the Embers, as well as the 2.0 version!
Let’s start with getting reacquainted with Hidden Beneath the Embers and the amazing characters!
Which one of your characters are your favorite? And why? Least favorite character, and why? Fay – My favorite character has to be Davyna. But that could be because I see so much of me in her. Ahh, there are a few…but I’d say Persephone takes the number 1 slot there!
What is your favorite scene? Fay – Fallen Court ball. Epecially after the updates to this second edition.
What part of the book was the hardest for you to write? Fay – The The last 10-15 chapters. Those were so emotional, and I battled with how to end the first book. I had a different path I was considering, but when it came time, I went with plan B, which wasn’t easy to do, knowing how it would set up book two.
What is Kade’s favorite thing about Dy? Dy’s fave thing about Kade? Fay – Kade’s: Dy’s determination. Davyna’s: His untamed will to fight for the things he loves.
I loved the sexual tension between Dy and Kade. And when they finally fully gave into each other, it was perfection. Were the spicy scenes hard or awkward for you to write? And did you have a plan on those scenes before you wrote them, or did you just let the scene flow and let the characters take the lead? Fay – So Hidden was my first book and first time writing spice. It felt weird at first, lol, and trust me, that chapter alone was edited many times. But I let them lead it. I knew where it would happen and the lead-up, but other than that, I panstered that scene, much like the bonus chapter in the second edition…which I can say is WAY spicier than the encounters we see in HBTE.
That was one hell of a cliffhanger ending! Can you share a tiny look into what your plans are for Dy and the sequel? Fay – All I can say is we are not done with Dy learning things…there is more out there hiding, and we know Dy. She can’t help but seek out the truth. But can she handle what is coming?
SomeHidden 2.0 Deets!
It’s been almost 6 months since Hidden released, how do you feel having your first novel out in the world? Does it still feel sort of surreal? Fay – Still feels surreal. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I really did it. But authors are typically moving on to the next book soon after publishing. Not all, but I’ve seen it a lot online. And your mind doesn’t focus on the one that is out because there is so much more you want to write, and you go back into writing mode and then editing. It’s a crazy process, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Creating these characters and bonding with them through all their trials is so fun. And at the end of the day, if it touches one person out there to relate to them, it’s worth it.
Now that Hidden is published, what does life as an author look like for you? Do you focus on one WIP at a time, or do you have a few different stories that you’re bouncing between? Fay – Life as an author has been crazy since HBTE came out. But I work most days of the week with writing, organizing things for future books, and marketing. I have been working on two other books, which has been a little hard to manage, but I’m excited about both books.
What was your main reasoning behind relaunching Hidden? Fay – After writing my second book, which is in editing now (Caged in crimson), I learned much more about my writing style. I got to talk to many readers and friends in the bookstagram community about HBTE and took their advice on how I could help make her shine brighter. And I just felt pulled to go back to Hidden. My team and I went through the book, adding over 27k words, new scenes, and more depth that I love! With Hidden being a series, I wanted the first book to reflect more of my writing style and what I have learned since publishing the book the first time back in October.
Did you dive straight back into Hidden or did you start working on other stories? Or did you let yourself celebrate and take a bit of a break before getting back to work? Fay – LOL, so…I was actually writing caged in crimson around the time of the release of HBTE. I wanted to write in a different genre, and initially, it was just supposed to be for practice. But it turned into a book. Shortly after that, I got into book two: seeking beyond the flames, and I am still working on that first draft.
What are you most excited about with the re-release? Fay – The fact that there is more depth in this story now. Along with some scenes that were added. I wanted to play up the emotions in the plot and really bring Davyna’s story to life. And I think my team and I really did that. Also, I’m so in love with the new cover and can’t wait to see the rest of the series in this theme.
I don’t know about y’all, but I can’t wait to start rereading Hidden Beneath The Embers, and diving into those extra scenes! Hidden 2.0 is out NOW on Amazon and available on Kindle Unlimited!
Be sure to connect with Fay on her website and socials below, so you don’t miss out on the fun and of course keep up with any upcoming book news!
Welcome to the world of the Godfathers of the Night.
After four years, I’m forced back to the metropolis of Cebrene and away from the haven I created in Antium City. My safety is now in danger, so I need to bide my time before I can leave this place again.
My baba is the Godfather of the Night of the Kouvalakis family and I am his only child. I know he is keeping many secrets from me, and a past I hardly remember keeps plaguing me.
When two strangers barge into my life, I can’t get them out of my head. But neither would be good enough for a mob princess, a title I would pay good money to get rid of.
One is a mysterious man I met by chance, in a not-so meet-cute. He’s straight up irresistible and everything I shouldn’t want. I know nothing about him but I keep wanting more and more.
The other is an intruder, the embodiment of darkness, a constant shadow. I am drawn to him and he has become my safety net. But why did he choose me?
Three weeks ago, my uncle was brutally murdered by our family’s rival. In the name of revenge, I will target his precious daughter, destroy his operation from the inside out, uncover all his dirty secrets, and rule the entire East side of Cebrene. They don’t call me the Diávolos for nothing.
However, I plotted my vengeance unaware that the pawn, the main piece I need to complete my plan, would be someone like her.
I shouldn’t let my feelings get in the way. Men like me don’t have time to fall in love.
If only I can stay focused long enough to complete my plan…
Ever since I laid eyes on her, I can’t stop myself from thinking about her, watching her, following her. She is my obsession, my Achilles heel, my biggest flaw. And I want her all to myself. She will be mine.
Please check your triggers before diving into this one, because things get dark and twisted. It’s a greek mafia romance with a whole lot of suspense, stalking, and spice. Oh gosh the spice 🥵
Let’s start off by saying that I absolutely loved this book, and ended up barely notating anything because I was so caught up in the drama, the danger, and the spice. (again with the spice? I’m telling you it’s steamy and had me questioning my sanity on more than one occasion)
Angelica is a mafia princess who ran away from home 4 years ago to escape the Greek Mafia life, her father, her forgotten past, and to have a chance at a somewhat normal life in the city. While out for a night of fun with her friends, things take a turn for the worse, and she finds herself stuck back in her hometown, with a stalker, and a mysterious, dangerous, man that she can’t help but feel drawn too.
Angelica, our FMC, is strong, confident, and doesn’t take shit from anyone. She has a smart mouth, can shoot a gun, and handle her own, but also has been through some extreme trauma in her life. The author hit the mental health topics head on, and I loved the character’s inner dialogue. Especially Evan’s 🖤
Evan… what can even be said about this deliciously dangerous, morally gray man? He does not hesitate to do what needs to be done to get what he wants. He is the definition of dangerous, I’m talking about red flags everywhere. And yet he has managed to claim Daddy status. He has a way with words, plays with knives, and has more secrets and trauma than he knows what to do with. And we love him anyways.
The stalker… I have never felt more insane about the feelings I had towards a character and their storyline. Angelica has a stalker, and for some reason, he makes her feel safe, cared for, and desired. Is he obsessed with her? Yes. Does he break into her supposed top of the line, mafia proof security system at her home? Also yes. But he also leaves her favorite flowers, love notes, and cheesecake, and for some reason Angelica is ok with that. Sure, she acknowledges that she’s playing with fire and the way she feels about her stalker makes no sense, but she leans into it anyways.
This story had plot twists that I never saw coming. The people I suspected as her stalker were wrong. Every time I thought I had something figured out, another curve ball was thrown.
And the spice… top notch chef’s kiss (4.5 🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️)
“To know your inner demon is to know yourself”
“It’s the smallest things that take up the most room in your heart.”
“You are a queen—my queen—and I will bow down to you until my last breath.”
“She is not only the sun but the moon, and she came into my life to shine on me even in my darkest hours.”
If you’re looking for something intense and spicy to pull you out of a reading slump, then The Diávolos may be for you.
✔️Revenge Plot ✔️Mafia Romance ✔️Stalker Romance ✔️Forbidden Love ✔️Touch Her and You Die ✔️He Falls First ✔️Hand Necklaces ✔️Amazing Spice
**I received an advance review copy of Daughter of the Underworld for free, through BookSirens, and I am leaving this review voluntarily**
Disclaimer -This is an Adult Greek Mythology Retelling. Please make sure to be mindful of your triggers.
Triggers include profanity, sex, death, and rape
Melinoe, daughter of Persephone and Hades, wants revenge against the god who harmed her family. With unreliable magic and a handsome prince her parents arranged for her to marry, Melinoe must make her way through the Land of the Living to discover who she really is— a goddess unable to protect herself, or someone much more powerful?
Castor, the mortal Prince of Sparta, wishes he hadn’t made a life-altering deal with a vengeful god. When love gets in the way of fulfilling his side of the bargain, will Castor save himself or the goddess he’s sworn to protect?
Hecate, Titan of witchcraft, dreams of reuniting with the god she once loved. As she travels from the island of Crete to Mount Olympus, she finds her strength is a threat to those who would use her as a pawn for power. Her only solution is to hide in plain sight until the time comes to reveal her true intentions. Will she succeed in bringing the past and present together to achieve her end goal?
The Underworld and a gorgeous cover?? I was sold before even reading the blurb. Although this story wasn’t what I expected, it did not disappoint.
Melinoe is a fiery little goddess and I loved her immediately. Although she had some initial moments of brattiness, my heart hurt for her and the struggles she was dealing with regarding her self worth and lack of magic. It even felt like her parents assumed her to be powerless and in need of protection.
Castor… He can handle everything Melinoe and Hecate can dish out. I was honestly holding my breath waiting on him to be a complete jerk, and although he had his moments and unfortunately was forced to choose the lesser of two evils, I think he may be everything Melinoe needs.
Pollux was probably my favorite character due to his carefree attitude and the relationship he forms with Hecate and I can’t wait until Daughter of War and Witchcraft comes out to hopefully get more of him.
I was originally expecting a bit more about Hades & Persephone, but that story has also been done several times over in many different way, so I really enjoyed getting a different perspective of the Underworld than what I was use to.
The one thing that did stand out to me were the spells because they were in Greek (I’m assuming here) and the flashbacks. The spells felt very true and authentic to the story, but at times, they felt a bit much to me and caused me to skim over them. The flashbacks in the beginning had me so confused, but they were also a pretty crucial part in Melinoe finding herself and discovering who she really was and who she was meant to be.
All in all, Daughter of the Underworld was well written, and kept me holding my breath throughout the story waiting to see what happened next. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Daughter of War & Witchcraft when it releases!
“I am the embodiment of Heaven and Hell. Light and dark. Good and evil.”
“Become what you were meant to be—my little witch”
“Keep fighting, even if the chains are stronger than you. You keep fighting. Every. Damn. Day.”
“I’m the nightmare that haunts your sleep,”
Check out Daughter of the Underworld by Jenn Lynn Adams if you’re looking for ✔️Greek mythology retelling ✔️Arranged marriage ✔️Enemies to lovers ✔️Slow burn ✔️FMC discovering her power
Disclaimer -This is a New Adult Fantasy book. Please make sure to be mindful of your triggers.
Triggers include explicit monster-form sex scenes, adult language/cursing, violent/disturbing imagery, murder/blood/gore/death, human sacrifice, illness, loss, & grief of a parent, Non-consent (not between FMC & MMC), flashbacks of sexual assault, and potentially triggering thoughts/depictions of mental health-related topics.
Luciana The forest is my refuge from the lies of my people and the wounds I keep hidden—but the forest is changing and no one is safe. A monster saves me from the brink of death, his midnight eyes promising more than I ever thought to find. When my father falls ill with a mysterious sickness, I have to race against the clock to find the connection between the secrets of Hellhind Wood—or lose him forever. But my beast has secrets too, with the power to ruin everything.
Dorran As the firstborn son of a cruel and greedy lord, my soul was already forfeit. Our crimes enraged an enchantress, cursing everyone I love to a fate worse than death and leaving Hellhind vulnerable. Cursed and surrounded by evil on all sides, I must fight to free my family and right our wrongs. When I save my beauty, she sees beyond the curse, her soul just as broken and lonely as mine. I try to stay away, but our connection refuses to be ignored—and she may be the key to everything.
Although this was a Beauty and the Beast retelling of sorts, the world and the story that the author created was so much more than the original story we know and love.
It took me about 1/3 of the book to really get into it, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down and was constantly wondering if Lu was ok. I admittedly didn’t highlight or annotate much in this story, and it’s largely due to how connected I felt to the story and Lu’s journey. There is nothing like losing a parent, and reliving some of the pain through Lu’s journey was both painful and immensely healing in a way I can barely put into words. ** read the freaking trigger warnings! They are there for a reason! Loss of a parent plays a significant role in this novel and the character’s actions**
Lu’s father was the mayor of their quaint town, and came down with an illness without a cure. Theo was the handsome, reliable, golden boy that the whole town knew and loved. And then there was Luciana, an outcast of sorts in her small town. Whispers and rumors followed her seemingly everywhere she went. But after her mom left, everything Lu did was out of love. Her only goals were to protect her little brother Theo, and take care of him and their father in the only ways she knew how, at whatever cost.
As Lu’s dads health starts to decline and the emotional turmoil her and Theo go through, I felt like I started to connect with her so much more than I could’ve imagined. I love when a FMC has the hard IDGAF exterior and keeps her vulnerable side shoved deep down for so long that the most unexpected person/being brings it out and she feels safe enough to be herself with all of her emotions, vulnerabilities, flaws, etc. Thats’s where Dorran or “Beast” comes in. Their connection was almost instant, and hit Lu hard. Where most would fear the monstrous beast, she felt no fear, and was uncharacteristically comfortable in his presence. Opening up to him in ways that she never could with others, not to mention the incredible spicy moments between them in the forest, it seemed like Lu had finally met her heart’s match.
Some moments did feel a bit predictable, but not enough to affect my overall love for the story. There were definitely unexpected plot twists that I did not see coming.
Heart Sworn was hands down one of my favorite reads of 2022. Cia, you did an outstanding job with this one, and I can’t wait to find out what happens to Luciana and Dorran in Hellhind Woods next!
“You alone have the power to destroy me,”
“I’m not a hero in anyone’s story, I was the villain. I still am.”
“Was it so selfish to seek any glimmer of happiness or spark of pleasure when everything else seemed to fall apart no matter what I did?”
“there was no black or white in our world. Nothing was purely good, and nothing was purely evil.
Check out Heart Sworn by Cia Petrichor if you’re looking for ✔️A Beauty & The Beast retelling ✔️Monster romance ✔️Touch her and you die ✔️A curvy FMC ✔️LGBTQ+ representation