Friday, March 26, 2021

Book Review: The Noble and the Nightingale by Barbara Ann Wright (romance, lesbian)

Title: The Noble and the Nightingale
Author: Barbara Ann Wright
Publication Date: Nov 1, 2021
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Protagonist Gender: Female
Sexuality: Lesbian

Only Barbara Ann Wright can weave a satisfying romance from nothing more than looks of longing, stolen kisses, and hand-holding. Adella and Bridget, The Noble and the Nightingale of the title, are a delightful couple with unmistakable chemistry, and the way they bring two worlds together is absolutely delightful.

Beneath the romance there's an enthralling political fantasy, a story of ambassadors, spies, thieves, assassins, smugglers, soldiers, and mages, all tied up in that romance. In fact, there are passages where the romance is so powerful, so emotionally engaging, that you can almost forget there's a murder to be solved. In terms of action, this is a rollicking read, surprisingly violent at times, with daring escapes and even more daring rescues throughout.

As always with Wright, the world-building here is superb, especially in regards to the clothing, hairstyles, and jewelry. Everything has meaning, cultural significance, but it's all subtly done, costuming the characters as opposed to defining them. The matter-of-fact acceptance of gender and sexuality is wonderful as well, from nobody batting at an eye at the romance between Adella and Bridget, women from different classes, to nobody questioning the gender fluidity of Serrah Nunez (seriously, if they're not back for the next book, I'll be very disappointed). Oddly, the one place the world-building felt a bit thin is in regards to the tenuous relationship between Sarras and the Firellian Empire, but we get enough to understand that there's a wealth of tension and distrust between them, and I suspect we'll learn more as the story continues.

There is some definite angst to the story, driven by secrets, but with Wright we can trust that all will be okay. That's not to say everything is wrapped up in a tidy little bow at the end, but it's at least a happier-for-now, even if not a happily-ever-after. The Noble and the Nightingale is an entirely satisfying addition to the shelves of Barbara Ann Wright, who somehow finds fresh ways to blend fantasy and romance with characters worthy of their settings. 

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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