I read Stephanie Burgis’ Harwood Spellbook Series before, and I loved them. They were super cozy romances, so when I was offered a review copy of Good Neighbors – all I had to hear was metal mage/necromancer and I knew I had to have it. I picked these up one night before bed and ended up reading the entire collection in one sitting, I just couldn’t look away.
Thanks to Stephanie Burgis for the review copy of this collection, it has not affected my honest review.
About the book:
Mia Brandt knows better than to ever again allow her true powers to be discovered. Ever since her last neighbors burned down her workshop in a night of terror and flame, she’s been determined to stay solitary, safe, and – to all outside appearances – perfectly respectable…
But Leander Fabian, whose sinister castle looms over her cozy new cottage, has far more dangerous ideas in mind. When he persuades Mia into a reluctant alliance, she finds herself swept into an exhilarating world of midnight balls, interfering countesses, illicit opera house expeditions, necromantic duels, and a whole unnatural community of fellow magic-workers and outcasts, all of whom are facing a terrifying threat.
Luckily, Mia has unnatural powers of her own – but even her unique skills may not be enough to protect her new found family and help her resist the wickedly provoking neighbor who’s seen through all of her shields from the beginning.
What did I think?
One of my absolute favourite things about Stephanie’s romances is how easy they are to read. I read this whole collection of four stories in one sitting because once I started it was impossible to put down. The world-building isn’t overwhelming, but neither was I left feeling like I didn’t understand what was going on in the setting. In fact, the balance was really good to make sure readers are anchored in the world without info-dumping – a real skill in a novella. I love the writing in this book because it isn’t over-complicated like some fantasy novellas can be. It’s simple in the best way, highlighting what we really care about as a cozy romance reader – the fantastic character writing. Mia and Leander are everything to me and I absolutely loved the grumpy mage/ostentatious necromancer combination. Talk about opposites attract!
As a collection of short stories and novellas, we saw snippets of their developing friendship and relationship rather than the entire relationship but to me their relationship still felt like it was developing in a realistic and authentic way. It was really satisfying, and I didn’t feel like we’d missed too much in the time skips. Also, it would be remiss of me not to point out that there’s fake married and only one bed trope in one of these stories. Obviously, this was my absolute goddamn favourite of the lot. It hit a lot of my favourite buttons, including the delight that is character A being blatantly in love with character B and character B being totally oblivious to it. The tropes were so good and I was getting the same giddy feeling as when I’m reading a really good fanfiction, the highest praise I can give a romance tbh.
It isn’t just Leander and Mia’s relationship that made me fall in love with this book. All of the character relationships gave me Big Feelings. Mia and her father had the parent/child friendship of dreams and Leander and Carmilla? Found family vibes forever. The latter part of the book was absolutely full of found family vibes, actually, with Leander and Mia’s alliance turning into a community of outcasts that made my little queer heart soar. There are also f/f and m/m background relationships in this book – the latter of which was a delightful surprise to me when it was revealed. The last book had a surprisingly tense plot compared to the earlier ones, and I think it was a nice balance to the fluffy earlier stories; and showed off all the character development that we’d watched flourish as Mia and her gang of magic users came together. I’m really hoping we get a spin-off about some of the characters in this book, because I would love to explore more of their relationships (and, okay, I want more Carmilla in my life.)
Release Date: 2nd February 2022