Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Anyone who has, for any length of time, read romance knows that not all romances are created equal. What does that mean? You can read the same trope (enemies-to-lovers tends to be my favorite) by any number of writers, and their voices will be so distinct that you can fall in love with any of them (or the opposite). I am currently obsessed with April White. To be fair, I have just finished reading a second novel by her, Code of Honor, her second SmartyPants Romance book, and I can’t seem to get her writing (and this book) out of my mind. I found her with Code of Conduct, her first book in the SmartyPants Romance world. Her booklist looks fairly small, and honestly, I didn’t rush to read it after reading Code of Conduct. Mostly, that has more to do with my constant reading of ARCs. It isn’t that I didn’t want to read her booklist; I simply find myself indulged in other authors’ ARCs at the moment. Yet, after reading Code of Honor, I’m dying to get my hands on her other books. Like Code of Conduct, this book bowled me over. It would be easy to say that it has everything to do with the story and its connection to Penny Reid’s Cipher Security connection. Who doesn’t want to return to the Knitting in the City folks? Honestly, though, it isn’t that. It’s April White’s prowess at writing romance. Truly. I found myself most intrigued by her story development, prose, and heroine than the connection to the Penny Reid universe. Let me explain further…
It’s hard for me to try and elaborate on this next point without using words that cannot relay my meaning. I’m going to try, so bear with me. This book, according to Amazon, is 337 pages. That’s a good-sized book; I’m not sure how that equates out to total words. Why am I talking about this? Because April White’s story reads deep, “filled in,” so to speak. It reads as though there are so many words that swim on the page, and it’s glorious. Her details woo-ed me. I kept thinking wow…the level of research she did on this story is impressive. What’s more impressive is how seamless her research and details add to the gravity and depth of her story. I’ve recently read stories where the details overwhelmed, where there should have been revision, to bring back the levity of the story. With White’s Code of Honor, these details place you more firmly in Darius and Anna’s story. The story blooms under White’s control, and I was hooked from the first page. I remember feeling the exact same way with her first book in this series, Code of Conduct: so many details, so well-researched, and impressively developed that it pulls the reader into the depths of it. When you buy this book, you’re purchasing something weighted and refined. It is quite a remarkable read.
Add to this depth of soul in her book, April White’s prose. I will get to Anna, White’s heroine in this story, next. However, the words of this story, the way that White strings words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs is impressive. I left this note in my ARC: “April White’s prose is exciting. There are so many witticisms and oddities that it entertains beyond the story.” White’s ability to craft story and character while integrating little facts from history and art compels you through her romance. These words find themselves spoken in the voice of her heroine, Anna, which is probably my favorite part of Code of Honor.
The true beauty of April White’s writing is her ability to create heroines who are created from their own mold that seems broken afterward. I felt these same thoughts during Code of Conduct with her craftsmanship of Shane. White writes heroines who own their idiosyncrasies and originality. Anna isn’t like most people. In fact, if you’ve read Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series, you know Janie, Quinn’s wife. Like Janie, Anna speaks her thoughts without a filter. She oftentimes begrudges herself of this habit, but it’s these actions that bring the humor and levity to the story which is underpinned by suspense. Additionally, Anna challenges Darius through this habit of unfiltered thinking. Anna doesn’t apologize for herself. It is this truth that is Anna’s power as the heroine. It also sets up the major conflict of the story and White’s play on the idea of honor. In this story, honor is defined in different ways between Anna and Darius, just as “conduct” finds re-definition in White’s first book in the series. Through Anna, we are challenged to consider the gray lines of honor. For Darius, honor is black and white; while for Anna, honor can be re-defined given the situation. As Anna “teaches” Darius this truth, these two struggle. Yet, it’s Anna’s sense of self that eventually bridges their conflict. I cared so much more for Anna as the heroine than Darius because White gives her dimensions in a way that Darius doesn’t quite have. And I loved this. I loved that the heroine was much more interesting than the hero; that, while she tends towards verbal diarrhea of the mouth, she speaks the most truth; that she seems more astute than our hero. I’m not one to pit the hero against the heroine, but Anna represents the feminism of this book, just as Shane did in Code of Conduct. It is Anna’s characterization that illustrates April White’s true genius: the ability to craft interesting, compelling heroines.
You do not need to have read Penny Reid’s universe of books to read a SmartyPants Romance book. You see its colors when you have, but these SmaryPants authors create their own spaces and find their own fans. I had not read April White prior to this series, and I am thankful to the powers that be behind SmartyPants Romance for including her. White is a writer who manufactures her own compelling world of romance that entraps you in her tales. Code of Honor is no different. Anna and Darius’s romantic journey is one full of intrigue, chemistry, hilarity, and happy endings. Through them, April White demonstrates that opposites can attract and find their compromise as they live lives filled with immense love and passion.
In love and romance,