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Blog Tour Review - Second Star to the Left by Megan Van Dyke

  Blog Tour Review - Second Star to the Left by Megan Van Dyke Tinker Bell, banished from her homeland for doing the unthinkable, selling the hottest drug in Neverland—pixie dust—wants absolution. Determined to find a way home, Tink doesn’t hesitate to follow the one lead she has, even if that means seducing a filthy pirate to steal precious gems out from under his…hook. Captain Hook believes he’s found a real treasure in Tink. That is, until he recovers from her pixie dust laced kiss with a curse that turns the seas against him. With his ship and reputation at the mercy of raging storms, he tracks down the little minx and demands she remove the curse. Too bad she can’t. However, the mermaid queen has a solution to both of their problems, if Tink and Hook will work together to retrieve a magical item for her. As they venture to the mysterious Shrouded Isles to find the priceless treasure, their shared nemesis closes in. However, his wrath is nothing compared to the realization that ach

Review - An Agency for Scandal by Laura Wood

 Review - An Agency for Scandal by Laura Wood

Eighteen-year-old Isobel Stanhope is keeping a lot of secrets. There's the fact that she's head over heels in love with a Duke who doesn't know she exists; there's the fact that her family is penniless but nobody in society knows about it; and then there's her job at the Aviary, an investigative agency run by women that specializes in digging up scandal on powerful men.

When Izzy finds herself pulled into a case that involves gaslighting, blackmail, and missing jewels, as well as the Duke who holds her heart, can she and her friends untangle the web of secrets and lies to uncover the truth and protect the innocent? And when the stakes are so high, what happens when the crush she's been hiding begins to turn into so much more?

This is the proof cover. The final cover will come later.

An absolute joy of a book!

❤ masked balls
๐Ÿงก heists
๐Ÿ’› corruption in government
๐Ÿ’š feminist principles
๐Ÿ’™ gay, lesbian and trans rep
๐Ÿ’œ mystery and intrigue
๐Ÿ’— pretending to be married to the person you secretly love
๐Ÿ’˜ only one bed
๐Ÿ’‹ the hottest kisses

This book knows all of the romance tropes and just has so much fun with them! Izzy is in love with a man far above her station, and has no money and not much of a name to win his hand with. But that doesn't stop her looking! From stealing glances across the opera house to accidentally spying more than is perhaps proper in a large garden outside a ball, she keeps coming across Max. Then things take quite a surprising turn and they find themselves spending more time together than she ever would have expected! One of my favourite romance tropes is people having to pretend to be together when they're not, but they're secretly in love. That delicious irony of make-believing something you dearly wish for is played with so beautifully here and fits so well into both the spy narrative and the period drama.

For this book is a coming together of two different genres. There's the historical romance, that Laura Wood always does so gorgeously, with its rigid class structures, the significance of one's income, breeding or family name, the whole formality of the period starting to give way to the oft-scandalous masked balls and costume parties. There's also something here I've never seen Laura tackle before, a spy mystery/thriller. I loved it! There are daring heists, corrupt government figures running off-book spy agencies, and a brilliant, daring band of women looking out for other women and protecting them where the law fails to do so. That feminist angle is key to what makes this book so vital and important. This is a world where women have just barely won the right to not be treated as their husband's property, but where a woman's wealth, security, even her very safety, are entirely in the hands of husbands, fathers or brothers. The law is unable or unwilling to protect them and that's where the Aviary comes in, rooting out secrets and scandals, using blackmail where necessary, to protect women. It ties the spy thriller narrative in so tightly to the historical romance that there's never any sense of them pulling in different directions in the narrative.

There's also some really well done queer representation. Given that Izzy spends a lot of her time disguised as a man, I thought it was really important how, early in the book, Laura clearly showed the difference between how Izzy chooses to dress and how she feels about herself with a trans man of the same period. For Izzy it is a convenient disguise. Joe dresses that way because that is who he is. It is simple and effective. In the hands of a less skilled, or less caring author they might have both been depicted as women dressing as men for societal benefits, but not here. There's also gay and lesbian representation showing different attitudes throughout society, though again always handled in a sensitive and appropriate way, and one of the elements I really loved is how the highest society lady among the charm in the Aviary is a young woman of colour, reminding us that nineteenth century London was, indeed, a very multicultural place but also showing some of the negative, as well as the positive, attitudes towards Sylla.

The Agency for Scandal is gorgeous, romantic, mysterious and thrilling. It would be a scandal to miss it!


The Agency for Scandal by Laura Wood is published on 5th January 2023 by Scholastic.

I was sent a proof by the publisher in return for an honest review.


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