Thursday, November 4, 2021

Book Review: The Scout and the Scoundrel by Barbara Ann Wright (romance, lesbian)

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

Earlier this year, Barbara Ann Wright launched The Sisters of Sarras with The Noble and the Nightingale, the story of Adella and Bridget, two women from different classes who fall in love amidst politics and thievery. It was a wonderful book that put the romance first, but it was still a satisfying work of high fantasy. With The Scout and the Scoundrel she switches the focus to Adella's sister, Zara, while nudging the fantasy ahead of the romance, growing the world, and expanding the story.

An unexpected delight, Zara appealed to me immediately because firstly, she appears to be on the autism spectrum, and secondly, neither Wright nor the characters call attention to it. Her preference for solitude, difficulties reading social cues, and struggles to recognize other people’s feelings are just part of her character - precisely as they are my own. I identified with her deeply, and her slow burn romance with Veronique (Roni), the thief assigned to her unit as part of an experimental prison reform program, felt comfortably familiar. In the wrong hands, Zara's uncertainty over Roni's flirting could have been played for laughs or pity, but Wright makes it sweet and endearing, putting a fresh spin on the enemies-to-lovers trope.

Getting back to the fantasy aspect, though, this is a fantastic narrative about scouting the woods, searching for enemy forces and the truth behind rumors of a secret weapon. It's a suspenseful, action-packed tale with environmental challenges and human conflicts. I'm a sucker for traditional, forested fantasy, and when you throw in magic and monsters . . . oh, I am so hooked! There are some fabulous surprises to that narrative that I refuse to share, but the climax aboard a ship that shouldn't be on the river is simply exhilarating.

The Scout and the Scoundrel offers up another happier-for-now romantic ending, even as it leaves more threads dangling to pull the trilogy together. We're left with bigger questions and bigger worries at the end of this book, and that just makes me all the more anxious to see how everything will be resolved. If you're looking for addictive fantasy and engaging romance, then Barbara Ann Wright is well worth a read. 

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 

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

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