Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is a super fun book that I just happened to pick up on a whim on a trip to Barnes & Noble (bookstores reopening has been glorious for my TBR, devastating for my wallet!) and I loved it a lot! It’s got a lot of those buzzy tropes that people love, but also queer! In space! And it’s a funny book about some heavy stuff, which I always appreciate.

Content warning: Domestic abuse and physical abuse, mostly in the back story but some (not graphic) depicted on the page. Also, there is some psychological torture.

Winter's Orbit cover

Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell

Prince Kiem is the most disappointing of the emperor’s grandchildren, so when he finds himself summoned to her presence, he’s not quite sure why he’s in trouble. Turns out, he’s not…but there is something the emperor wants, or rather, demands: for Kiem to marry Count Jainan, the representative of his tiny planet to the Galactic Empire. Kiem knows a publicity stunt when he sees one, but there’s no way wiggling out of it, so he goes along with the ploy. But it turns out that Count Jainan is quiet, withdrawn, and grieving the death of his first husband…whom he is suspected of murdering in an “accident.” As the political intrigue heightens, Kiem and Jainan must figure out a way to work together and solve a few mysteries in order to save the empire.

This book ticks a lot of my boxes: Space opera, queer couple, banter, marriage of convenience, murder mystery, political intrigue, and (I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say!) romance! One thing I really loved about this book is that queer characters are the norm and aren’t persecuted in any way, and gender expression is very intentional—i.e. people don’t just assume gender based on biology, it is an intentional expression that varies across cultures, and even still can be confusing and nonbinary. I love books that reimagine cool ways of personal expression that are open, accepting, and nuanced.

The world building is exciting, but of course it’s not all progressive paradise. The empire rules all, and the smaller planets aren’t always happy about this. Political alliances are complicated, and the future of everyone in the empire hangs in the balance. That all provides an interesting backdrop for the story of Kiem and Jainan, two seemingly opposites who are thrown together rather awkwardly at first, but quickly learn that they care for one another. It’s not always clear if they’re just doing their duties, or if there’s something more brewing, which is another great source of tension. Communication is a big barrier for them, but I appreciate that Maxwell always does a great job at showing the legitimate reasons why they struggle to connect at times rather than making it a convenient excuse. Kiem is self-deprecating, personable, funny, and a bit of a goofball. Jainan is focused and intelligent, but reserved and not always very self-confident. Their personalities don’t seem like a perfect match, but when they’re together they just work, and it was a joy to read about them connecting. The romance is a bit of a slow burn, but always an enjoyable one, and their dynamic had me laughing and swooning in equal measure!

The other perk to this book? It’s a standalone novel, so if you have series fatigue this is the perfect book for you! (Although, be warned that it’s so delightful you’ll want more of Kiem and Jainan! Lucky for us, Maxwell is working on another book set in the same universe!)

Happy reading!

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