Witch King by Martha Wells only just came out, so I will avoid major spoilers, but it’s great.
The worldbuilding is similar to the Raksura books in that there are different sentient species who interact, but except for the demons while in their home Underearth (possibly another dimension or magical realm?), they are all human in appearance. The different types of people use magic in different ways, some of which harm others, some of which involve working with magical elemental beings. When the story opens, a stable situation has been upended. Alternating chapters, skillfully tied together, show the present problem and how it’s reflected by, and relates to, the past.
The “Witch King” of the title is Kai, a demon who inhabits the mortal form of a dead human, initially through a longstanding treaty with the nomadic Saredi people. Kai, with his magical abilities, had a major part to play when invaders arrived to destroy and colonize. We follow his point of view throughout as he works with old friends and new to find a missing friend and figure out what’s happening back at what seems to be the center of power.
Essentially, the story is about coalition building. It’s about how coalitions require effort, sacrifice, compromise, and attention to make sure they don’t collapse or swing towards authoritarianism as time goes on. I felt resonances between the characters in the story and how activism and coalition-building happen in our world, and seeing this in fiction felt validating and hopeful.
Fete For A King by Sam Starbuck is an extremely charming male/male romance between the elected king of a small imaginary European country and a celebrity chef who is also a Maxtagram influencer. Gregory is nervous about his impending coronation and determined not to rely too heavily on his father Michaelis, who is retiring from the role; he’s also worried that he’ll need to find a husband soon. Gregory’s cousin Alanna, his chief of staff, hires American Eddie Rambler to cater the coronation feast. Eddie is outgoing, friendly, and really excited by all Askazer-Shivadlakia has to offer. Their romance is completely adorable and I loved every minute of it.
Infinite Jes by Sam Starbuck is second in The Shivadh Romances. Non-binary podcast host Jes Deimos and their teenaged son Noah (who has his own podcast!) move back to their homeland of Askazer-Shivadlakia, a fictional European country ruled by an elected king. Recently-retired widower King Michaelis is at loose ends, not wanting to interfere as his son establishes himself as the new king, but deathly bored with dictating the political minutiae of his reign for future generations. However, a podcast might be just the thing; perhaps the charming kid he met on the train can help? This romance is exceedingly sweet and satisfying. I highly recommend this series.
Three Cowboys and a Baby by Kate Pearce is a contemporary romance that begins stressfully with a baby being left behind by his father, to be cared for by three ex-Marines at an isolated ranch, while the father flies to Africa for an unspecified job, trusting his friends will step up. I found this very stressful and had to skim a bit; the flaky father had not informed the mother where the baby was, and after she returns from her deployment she ends up doing a lot of cross-country traveling before being reunited with her son. Jen, the mother, is in the Navy and works on a hospital ship as a midwife; she’s competent and confident except when it comes to romance. Noah, the gruff former gunnery sergeant who took primary care of the baby before Jen arrived, finds it difficult to trust and swears he never wants children, while at the same time being gentle and devoted to the baby. Reluctantly, they begin to respect each other. Then, they get snowed in. For a long time. Jen and Noah are competent at each other and soon their attraction becomes too intense to ignore. Steaminess ensues! I was in the mood for something light, and aside from the anxiety-filled setup, this book filled the bill.
Dionysus in Wisconsin by E. H. Lupton is set in a world very like ours, during the Vietnam War, but with magic as a somewhat mundane and accepted thing. Ulysses Lenkov is ABD (All But Dissertation) in the academic study of magic, from a family of magic users, and can see and speak to ghosts. He earns extra money taking care of magical problems, and keeps in contact with magic users all around Madison, Wisconsin, where he lives. One of those magic users brings him a mysterious warning about an imminent event that might prove catastrophic. Ulysses tracks down Sam Sterling, an archivist who appears to be in the center of the issue. Sam, whose given name is Dionysus, seems destined to become a vessel for the actual Dionysus to enter the world; Ulysses wants to prevent that at all costs. Their romance is lowkey but I found it very satisfying, especially in how it tied into the magical plot. I’d be interested to hear what Madison locals think of it, and I’d happily read another book with these characters. I loved the bits about the academic study of magic, and the practical spells Ulysses performed, that gave a really good sense of how magic works in this world. I would happily read a lot more with this worldbuilding, as well.
Home Like Apple Pie by RabbitRunnah Check Please! alternate universe in which Jack left hockey after a couple of years and isolated himself from his college friends. Years later, Bitty re-encounters him as a restaurant owner and chef. Romance ensues!
Perdition’s Flames by i_ship_an_armada is a “role” crossover, in which the writer has taken two roles by the same actor (Benedict Cumberbatch) in different shows as a connecting factor. I love seeing this done creatively! In this case, genetic experimentation at Baskerville gives John and Sherlock extra-long lives, and they end up on the U.S.S. Enterprise (reboot version) in the midst of a plot to start a war with the Klingons.