Strong Wine by A.J. Demas is third in a trilogy about former solider and all-around mensch Damiskos and his spy/dancer lover Varazda, set in a world reminiscent of Classical Greece. I’d recommend reading this series in order, as a lot of book one, both characters and plot, is revisited in book three. Damiskos has been visiting Varazda in Boukos and wants to move into his household there; Varazda and his household want this too, but they haven’t yet sat down to discuss it. Also, Dami still needs to tie up some loose ends back home in Pheme: give up his apartment there, retrieve his horse, get his army pension, and visit his parents. Dami’s parents have gotten themselves into money troubles again, and are hoping to marry Dami off to his former fiancée, Ino, who in the interim married someone else and was widowed. Ino’s awful parents, who originally broke the engagement for a better prospect, are now hoping Dami will take over the fertilizer business Ino inherited from her husband’s family and make them rich. Ino is only interested in being a silversmith, which she learned from her husband and stepson, though, and Dami is in love with Varazda. After learning all this, a chance encounter leads to Dami being accused of murdering one of the villains from book one. Luckily, Varazda had become worried when Dami didn’t respond to his letters, and makes his way to Pheme to help solve the mystery using his badass spy skills. Also solved are various problems plaguing Ino, Dami’s brother, and Dami’s parents, and the story ends happily. I enjoyed this whole trilogy quite a bit and highly recommend it.
The Missing Page by Cat Sebastian is second in the Page and Sommers series, post-World War Two mystery with a male/male romance. The first one, Hither, Page is one of my favorites by this author so far, which is probably not surprising given my interest in people dealing with trauma after a war. Leo Page is an orphaned former spy and James Sommers is working as a country doctor after his wartime experiences as a surgeon left him with PTSD. In this second installment, essentially a Country House Mystery, James has been invited to the reading of his uncle’s will; however, he hasn’t seen this part of his family in decades, ever since the disappearance of his cousin Rose. His legacy turns out to be a photograph, with the bulk of the estate going to whomever solves Rose’s disappearance. Many family secrets are uncovered as Leo and James investigate, and their romance becomes more settled. I solved the mystery, correctly, fairly early on but still enjoyed the book quite a lot, and am hoping his young relative, an actress, becomes a recurring character.
Aunty Lee’s Delights by Ovidia Yu features the titular Aunty Rosie Lee, a widow with her own restaurant in Singapore and an insatiable curiosity. Aided by her employee Nina and the policeman Salim, and the power of being a well-off and well-liked elder, Aunty Lee solves the mystery of a body found on the beach of the Sentosa resort area. There are some great bits involving Singaporean cuisine; I could have read a lot more of those parts! Content warning: there are several queer characters dealing with homophobia in different ways, and one of the murders results from a person being abandoned without medical care, which I found distressing even though it is not shown directly. This being a mystery novel, justice is served in the end.
Riptide by sergeant_angel is a very long alternate universe story which integrates characters from the Young Avengers comics with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, focusing on Kate Bishop throughout; she ends up in a relationship with Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes, and most elements of the Avengers movie series are altered with Kate and other Young Avengers characters in more prominent roles.
before the door of hell lamps burned by basketofnovas (slashmarks) is the first story in a very, very long Harry Potter AU in which Sirius Black survives and becomes Harry’s guardian; Sirius also takes over as official Head of the extensive Black family, and considerable politics ensue, and the plot diverges wildly from canon. The author seems to have intense interest in just how wizarding, especially pureblood, culture might work on a micro level as well as knowledge of real world English medieval culture and law that could be used to extrapolate wizarding history and cultural practices. The author re-envisions canonical events by considering whether characters could be interpreted as unreliable narrators, and/or creating new backstory to cast a new light on their actions. Most of the focus is on Harry and Hermione throughout. Since I love neepery and alternate interpretations of all kinds, this sort of wide-ranging AU casting everything from a different point of view is catnip to me. After a while the story does get bogged down a bit by the weight of its revisionist worldbuilding, but since I wasn’t reading for a fast-moving plot, I didn’t mind. The author eventually rewrites the entire Harry Potter series with a focus on pureblood culture and the many failings thereof, as well as a great deal of speculation about different types of magic; the story has little in common with its canonical origins, overall, and could easily have been original work.
other plans by MyCupOfTea is a Check Please! alternate in which Eric Bittle did not attend Samwell, instead meeting Jack Zimmerman later, when Bitty is finishing college and Jack is playing in the NHL. Bitty is working several jobs and rushing towards graduation; Jack came out as bisexual a year earlier and is trying to discover what being queer means to him, via his photography hobby. It’s a lowkey, sweet story and I liked it a lot.
My May TBR Challenge book was Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson.