Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Mini-Review: Hammer & Tongs

If you've been reading this blog for any stretch of time you'll know that historical romances not set in overpopulated Dukeville, Regency England are my jam.  So when I was offered an ARC of Hammer & Tongs by Lara Kinsey, set in 1920s Birmingham with its whiff of a Peaky Blinders vibe, I was all in.

This novella is the first entry in the author's series featuring the Chance Brothers and their various enterprises - including but not limited to a horse racing track.  Years prior our hero, CEO (as it were) of the family business, Isaiah Chance was a jockey in a race when his horse went down.  Brighid Bell, picking pockets in the stands, rushes to his aid and picks his pocket. As you do. Now years later, dressed in men's clothing, she comes to Isaiah's race track looking for a job as a farrier.  She recognizes Isaiah as "her jockey" from years earlier and is dangerously attracted to him.  For his part, Isaiah, who has never been attracted to men before suddenly finds himself getting feelings in his pants for this impossibly beautiful "young man."

This wasn't entirely successful for me but there was enough on the page to intrigue me.  The biggest issue I had was definitely with the writing and the decision to go with a novella. I found the writing and chapter transitions disjointed at times and feel like it would have been a bit better to follow a more linear, fluid timeline, add a few more chapters, and beef up the word count to perhaps short historical length (250+ pages).  There's chemistry between the two leads, but happy-ever-after, blissful in love - it never quite got there for me.

However the setting is certainly interesting and Kinsey has crafted an interesting world with interesting characters. The horses and race track aren't merely window dressing, the reader gets the impression that the author spent some time researching this aspect of the story - without losing the reader in a bunch of research weeds. Brighid presents as male but identifies as she/her.  She's got an elderly father she's looking after.  Sex work is portrayed in a positive manner, and both Isaiah and Brighid are into kink.  I wouldn't go so far as to label this an erotic romance (it firmly skirts the edge IMHO), but it's definitely hot and there's some sizzle.

My final impression?  Needs more polish.  But there's enough on the page here, and I'm intrigued enough by Isaiah's older brother, Sidney, to want to pick up the next novella in the series.

Final Grade = C+

Note: At the time of this posting, this book was exclusive to Kindle Unlimited/Amazon

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