Book reviews: themes of romance and living houses

Reviews: Lauren O’Connor-May

All these books have a few things in common: romance and living houses.

The Magic All Around

Jennifer Moorman


In this story, Mattie Russel goes back to her magical family home after the death of her mother.

The house and her unacknowledged magical abilities lead Mattie on a path of discovery which includes two second-chance romances, finding her father, and solving the mystery of the house’s best-kept secret – the number of the mysterious landline phone which will reveal the destiny of the person who answers it, if it ever rings.

This book is a sweet slow burn full of charm.

The Lost Love of Akbar Manzil

Shubnum Khan

Pan MacMillan

If you like your romance with a dash of weird and a pinch of horror then you will enjoy this unique book.

Here the living house is the titular mansion on a hill on the Durban coast. This house, however, is somewhat malicious and is guarded about its dark secrets, so when the newest tenant, 16-year-old Sana, starts poking around in places it’s tried to bury, she awakens a few ghosts and uncovers an old mystery.

This slow-paced story is told across two timelines and is full of eccentric characters and entertaining side stories.

The lyrical writing is worth savouring and I think this novel may be a contender for the most interesting and unusual book of the year.

Ruthless Vows

Rebecca Ross


The living houses play a very minor role in this romantasy but they exist in the story because they’ve been strategically built on ley lines, which is a major plot point in this conclusion of the Letters of Enchantment duology.

This story picks up from Divine Rivals after Iris is tragically separated from Roman, who is missing. The war between gods has reached the town where the recently married couple are working as war correspondents and Roman, who is captured by the cruel god Dacre, has no memory of Iris.

Iris tries to use their magical typewriters, which connect the couple across any distance, to help Roman to remember their love, so that he can return to her.

I immediately liked this young adult story because I don’t think I’ve read any other fantasy romances where the romantic leads are rival journalists.

It also has other selling points though, the story will tug at your emotions and the writing is expressive and lilting..