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Book Review: Bitterwood, by Rowan Speedwell

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Book Review: Bitterwood, by Rowan Speedwell

Book Info

About the Author
An unrepentant biblioholic, Rowan Speedwell spends half her time pretending to be a law librarian, half her time pretending to be a database manager, half her time pretending to be a fifteenth-century Aragonese noblewoman, half her time… wait a minute… hmm. Well, one thing she doesn't pretend to be is good at math. She is good at pretending, though.

In her copious spare time (hah) she does needlework, calligraphy and illumination, and makes jewelry. She has a master's degree in history from the University of Chicago, is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and lives in a Chicago suburb with the obligatory Writer's Cat and way too many books.
Publication Date
September 17, 2016
Available Formats
pdf, mobi, html, epub
They must find their way — through the woods and through their hearts

Outrunning a winter storm in the north, Captain Faran of the King's Guard leads his men and a young mage named Meric to shelter at Bitterwood Manor, the ancestral home of the Daenes. Faran and his troops have been searching for weeks for a mysterious, lion-like beast that reportedly haunts the uncharted northern woods. For Meric, finding that prophesied cat is a matter of life and death.

Though Faran is deeply focused on their mission, the enigmatic Joss Daene, Lord of Bitterwood, fascinates him. Strong and proud, Joss is everything Faran wants in a lover. More, if he were honest. But Joss belongs to Bitterwood, and Faran to his duty.

Together they will need to brave the oldest, darkest part of the Bitterwood in the coldest, deepest snows of winter to find the legendary cat. But time is running out — for Meric, for the kingdom, and for Faran and Joss’s fledgling love.

* * * * * * *

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This is a revised second edition, previously published elsewhere.

Word count: 44,300; page count: 167

Editor reviews

1 reviews

Great Fantasy Adventure
Cover – Perfect.
POV – 3rd person, dual POV
Would I read it again – Yes
Genre – LGBT, Fantasy, Magic, Historical


I've been looking forward to reading this ever since it was a pre-order, so I was disappointed that work and life commitments kept forcing me to push back my reading date. Finally, we had our first date and the prognosis is good. I can see us having a very long, meaningful relationship in the future.

Right from the start, the gorgeous presentation – chapter headings, scene divides and font choices – made this a pleasure to read visually, while the well crafted storytelling and talented writing engaged my mind to the fullest.

It was 19% before we got Meric's POV and his was sparing, to be true, but I understand why and it was a very wise decision for the author to risk it. It worked brilliantly. Meric would have given far too much away with his POV if it had been more frequent, whereas by the time we got round to his first POV we'd already had enough hints from Faran's to figure out bits and pieces.

I loved the mystery of it all and how little tips were given throughout the story to help us make up our own mind, without giving it all away too quickly. The way the plot was so well paced and offered us just enough to keep us interested was perfect. As was the length of the book. It didn't drag or overly explain incidents that we really didn't need to see, nor did it avoid lingering where it needed to, such as at the beginning of the story where there was more character building and exploration than adventure. Yet, by the time the adventure began, it was at a point where we were already captured by the characters and invested in their well being. We worried over their survival.

As for the characters themselves, right from the start I loved Meric and Eissa; they were both young enough to be a little naïve and excitable, while playing, deceptively strong, emotional and entertaining. Daene and Faran were the grown ups who acted like it; strong and opinionated, fiery and feisty. Their chemistry together was scorching hot, adding in the sex scenes that fanned the flames of their relationship. While, on the flip side, Meric and Eissa were pre-18 (17 and 16 respectively) so any intimacy they shared of the physical sort was off page and only eluded to, which suited me just fine. Their chemistry was still sweet, engaging and as adorable as they were, with the innocent flirting, the attention, the shared looks and attraction that was on page providing more than enough proof of their feelings without making me uncomfortable.


Overall, it was a fantastic fantasy story, exploring a little bit of the paranormal during Meric's journey towards his future, along with the romanticism of his other journey into adulthood. Although Faran was the main character and the main POV, it was also quite clear that everything he was doing was for Meric's sake and that the two were about the best of friends as they could hope for in their situation. Their lives changed once they entered Bitterwood, but only for the better.


Favourite Quote

“Joss was waiting in the room, settled in the chair next to the small table by the hearth. The bed was already turned down,t he sheets and thick pillows looking inviting to Faran's weary eyes.
“Gods, could you have been more obvious?” Faran said as he closed the door behind him.
“Do you object to the arrangements?” Joss asked mildly.
“Of course not, but don't you think it would have made more sense for you to bunk with Eissa and me with Meric? Don't you think people will talk?”
“About what? You and me? Or Eissa and Meric?”
“About you, of course. You're the lord of this demesne; you're the one whose reputation is at stake.”
“Reputation for what?” Joss laughed. “In truth, the most anyone will say is that Lord Daene has excellent taste in men.””
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