Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
I am currently interested in finding and connecting with more independent authors, especially authors newer to the writing world. I think in my mind I can help them find a bigger voice in the community. I’ve seen how impressive romancelandia can be with its strength in numbers. While my blog and Amazon review ranking are still fairly low, I’m working hard reading, writing, and promoting to bring people to authors’ books.
Enter Fiona West.
I received an ARC for her first book in The Borderline Chronicles, The Ex-Princess, and found myself intrigued with that story. In most senses, it is a romance, but it’s more fantasy than romance, and it is clean. There are urges and yearnings between Edward/Parker and Abbie, but there is no contact beyond kissing. Instead, the story is more about the story and the development of the characters than the $ex, and I believe my review of that book suggests that (read it here).
Now, I have just finished reading the the second book in this series, The Un-Queen. It begins where book 1 finished, moving into the long engagement of Parker and Abbie. Unfortunately, their proposed marriage has become complicated by legal matters, and their engagement is much longer than either would like. However, to appease his kingdom, they wait patiently for the legalities to be worked out. In the midst of this engagement, the threat of Parker’s brother, Lincoln, continues, Parker and Abbie struggle with autonomy and couplehood, and Abbie’s former kingdom needs her assistance with her brother. Add to all of that the planning of the wedding. Throughout the story, all of these conspire to derail their happily-ever-after. Will they make it, or are they doomed?
I peeked quickly at another review of The Un-Queen wherein the reviewer made the comment that second books are oftentimes not as promising as the first book in a series, but that this book did not follow that route. And I definitely concur with that sentiment.
In my opinion, I enjoyed The Un-Queen more than The Ex-Princess for a few reasons:
- With the first book, I think I noted in my review that the story and travels of Parker and Abbie overwhelmed the story. There were too many actions and characters who played distinct parts in the story that it overwhelmed the main characters. In this book, that isn’t the case. I’m not sure if West took to heart the feedback from the first book, but she made Parker and Abbie more stable and more present in the story. I mean, it relates to their journey towards marriage so I am thankful for that. We gained more internal insight, more of the “push and pull” of their relationship, and one really big fight. It felt very real in a world that is foundationally fantastical.
- I love the reality of this relationship. With magic as a common element in their world, you would think that West would use it to remedy the differences between Parker and Abbie, but she doesn’t. Instead, she uses the tools of communication to help them navigate their differences and the challenges between them, as a reminder that this is key to any successful relationship. When Parker wishes that he could fix Abbie’s health, she tells him that he cannot and must, therefore, accept it by accepting she can take care of her self. When he talks with her about control, she understands this, even when it frustrates her that he attempts to control her. These are real problems in real relationships set in a world of romantic fantasy. The way West purveys this truth connects both the real and unreal nature of relationships.
- This story stays focused to three lands: Orangiers, Gardenia, and Brevspor. This is much stronger than the first book which took the reader through several lands and lost them there too. With The Un-Queen, we gain a greater knowledge of Parker’s family and culture, as well as Abbie’s. I like this tighter focus than the last book. I didn’t lose myself in the intricacies of the details because there were fewer. And I believe it made Parker and Abbie’s story richer.
Above all, this book carries a stronger emotion to it than the last. Parker and Abbie’s love for each other is clear and is felt strongly especially when they simply want to be together. While this is a clean romance, the yearning between the two is palpable, and you would love to be an observer into their bedroom when they eventually consummate their love. Yet, West withholds that from the reader, focusing more on their chemistry and their emotional impact on each other. When their big fight occured within the story, it broke my heart. I teared up for Abbie (I thought Parker was in the wrong even when she spoke in anger at him), and I worried over their ability to reconcile. West thankfully doesn’t wait too long to bring them back together, but it has the necessary emotional impact for the book. I think this is what I love most about The Un-Queen.
In The Ex-Princess, Abbie spent most of the book denying her feelings and expectations with Parker. In this book, we get the depth of those feelings within the fantasy. I believe it’s why I love it more. Fiona West is quickly becoming a favorite indy author. I’m very much looking forward to the third book, The Almost-Widow, a serialized newsletter story. I want to spend some more time in the world of Fiona West’s imagination.
In love and romance,