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A Fantasy Duology That Finally Fulfilled the Enemies to Lovers Sized Hole in My Heart: The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen Review

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I mentioned a a few posts back in my review of Radiance by Grace Draven that I was working on a review of The Bridge Kingdom duology and here it finally is!

So I desperately want to love books that are marketed as “enemies-to-lovers” but until now I have yet to find any book that fulfills this trope to the extent that I always hope it will. Look, there’s nothing wrong with a book being considered “rivals to lovers” or even simply “we got off on the wrong foot to lovers” but when I say I want enemies to lovers, I mean enemies. I want my characters to be actively plotting how they’re going to kill each other before they finally realize that they actually don’t want to kill each other. Most of the time, enemies-to-lovers boils down to two characters who had some sort of miscommunication and once they finally talk to each other then they’re fine. Personally, I think that this trope fits in best in fantasy settings so when I was watching a video from Riley Marie about another trope I enjoy (video is hyperlinked through her name) and when she suggested The Bridge Kingdom duology I jumped at the chance to read it. And let me tell you, it was everything I was looking for in an enemies-to-lovers book. If you’re interested in hearing more of my thoughts on the books, keep reading!

The Bridge Kingdom Review

The Bridge Kingdom (The Bridge Kingdom, #1)
Image: Cover of The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen

Synopsis

A warrior princess trained in isolation, Lara is driven by two certainties. The first is that King Aren of the Bridge Kingdom is her enemy. And the second is that she’ll be the one to bring him to his knees.

The only route through a storm-ravaged world, the Bridge Kingdom enriches itself and deprives its rivals, including Lara’s homeland. So when she’s sent as a bride under the guise of peace, Lara is prepared to do whatever it takes to fracture its impenetrable defenses. And the defenses of its king.

Yet as she infiltrates her new home and gains a deeper understanding of the war to possess the bridge, Lara begins to question whether she’s the hero or the villain. And as her feelings for Aren transform from frosty hostility to fierce passion, Lara must choose which kingdom she’ll save… and which kingdom she’ll destroy.

This book was so much fun to read. I’ll admit that I thought the story was slightly outrageous at times but I’ve never read a fantasy romance before and I think that this might be a new favorite genre for me if I’m lucky enough to find more books like The Bridge Kingdom.

From the very beginning I was entranced by the plot, this book threw us almost straight into the action and while it wasn’t necessarily what I expected I was intrigued to see where the story went. Our main character, Lara, has trained for most of her life alongside a number of her sisters in order to one day potentially be chosen to wed the king of Ithicana, or the Bridge Kingdom. Ithicana is seen as a power hold because the bridge that crosses over it is an essential trade route and Lara has been trained to see this bridge as a way to save her homeland from ruin. For her entire life she has been told by her father and her mentors that Ithicana is a selfish kingdom that only cares about gaining riches for themselves and so when she becomes the daughter that will wed Ithicana’s king, Lara knows she will do anything in her power to destroy the Bridge Kingdom and save her home.

The Bridge Kingdom was a delightfully angsty slow burn romance. At times, I genuinely forgot that this was supposed to be a romance because of the way that Lara had been so thoroughly brainwashed by her father and mentors. There were so many moments where evidence showing her the opposite of what she was taught were right in front of her and yet Lara constantly fought against that. It was frustrating but so realistic to the power that being brainwashed can hold on someone. As I watched Lara and Aren dance around each other waiting for one of them to slip up but also both falling for each other I was delighted with their chemistry and the path the story took.

The angst in this duology is honestly next level. As the story went on I enjoyed reading Lara’s inner battle with her duty to her home kingdom, her personal mission, and her conflicting feelings regarding Aren and Ithicana. Aren trusted Lara long before she trusted him despite the fact that everyone close to him still warned against trusting her so much. Lara wants to take down Ithicana because ultimately she wants freedom and that’s the only way she sees a positive outcome for herself. She wants her home kingdom to be taken care of but after being trapped for so long by her father she wants to be free from it all. Seriously, so. Much. Angst. Basically, if you’re not into characters who are prone to the dramatic, this might not be the book for you!

One other thing that I wanted to mention that I really enjoyed about this duology is the setting. I’m used to reading fantasy books that take place in deciduous or coniferous forest biomes with mountains, etc. There are usually oceans and they do often sail in other books but I liked that this duology had such a large focus on water. Lara grew up in the middle of a desert and Ithicana is a tropical grouping of islands. Ithicana has to deal with a storm season that make water travel incredibly dangerous. On top of the storms the waters are also infested with sharks. The islands also have deadly snakes so honestly just loving the danger in these books.

The Bridge Kingdom hit every single mark in my dream enemies-to-lovers book and I rated it five stars.

You can add The Bridge Kingdom on Goodreads here.

And if you’re interested in getting your own copy you can find it at the following links:

Barnes & Noble // Bookshop // Book Depository // Amazon

The Traitor Queen Review

Heads up but this section will contain spoilers relating to the first book! If you haven’t read the first book feel free to skip down to the end of this post for my sign off and some extra links. Otherwise feel free to sign off here and I’ll talk to you in my next post!

The Traitor Queen (The Bridge Kingdom, #2)
Image: Cover of The Traitor Queen by Danielle L. Jensen

Synopsis

A queen now in exile as a traitor, Lara has watched Ithicana be conquered by her own father, helpless to do anything to stop the destruction. But when she learns her husband, Aren, has been captured in battle, Lara knows there is only one reason her father is keeping him alive: as bait for his traitorous daughter.

And it is bait she fully intends to take.

Risking her life to the Tempest Seas, Lara returns to Ithicana with a plan not only to free its king, but for liberating the Bridge Kingdom from her father’s clutches using his own weapons: the sisters whose lives she spared. But not only is the palace inescapable, there are more players in the game than Lara ever realized, enemies and allies switching sides in the fight for crowns, kingdoms, and bridges. But her greatest adversary of all might be the very man she’s trying to free – the husband she betrayed.

With everything she loves in jeopardy, Lara must decide who – and what – she is fighting for: her kingdom, her husband, or herself.

Review

I hopped into reading The Traitor Queen immediately upon finishing The Bridge Kingdom. If anything, these are great books to read back to back. The story is fast paced enough that you almost won’t realize that you’ve read about 700 pages by the end of them. The ending of the first book had me needing to find out what happened next so I devoured this book in about half the time it took me to read The Bridge Kingdom.

This book had so much action in it and I really enjoyed seeing how Lara’s sisters fit into the plot. Honestly all of the characters that we were introduced to in this book were integral to the plot and the way everything came together had me in shock more than once.

Now if The Bridge Kingdom was angsty, The Traitor Queen is on another level entirely. I definitely didn’t hate it but holy cow it was taxing to read at times. I just kept waiting for things to fall into place and stop having more things become something disastrously dramatic. Aren became a bit frustrating in this book because he had trusted Lara so readily in the first book and yet became so wishy-washy. I could understand his thoughts from the perspective of hating Lara but I also felt like he was heavily influenced by the people around him and at times it made me question his ability as a king. Obviously it’s important for him to be able to trust his companions but at the same time, he pushed them to trust Lara in the first book and I found it surprising that he took such a firm stance against her despite the fact that she tried to explain to him what happened.

Now Lara was dealing with the consequences of her actions from the first book and I could understand her feelings most of the time but I wished she had been stronger in her beliefs and her dedication to Ithicana. If this had been the case, I think that this book potentially could have been shorter and by the time I reached the actual ending I found myself thinking how much less taxing it would have been if this book were about 50 pages shorter. It seemed like Lara kept ending up in bad situations because she was in that same wishy-washy mindset as Aren and instead of dedicating herself fully to Ithicana from the beginning she kept getting in her own head. And don’t get me wrong, I loved this book, but again I warn you that if you aren’t a fan of angst or drama, this might not be the duology for you!

In the end, I gave this book 4 stars because it was a genuinely fun read. I think the main reason I ended up knocking off a star was because of the length and the heightened dramatics towards the end of the story. This was such a fun duology though and I can’t wait for the next book in this series to come out!

You can add The Traitor Queen on Goodreads here.

And if you’re interested in picking up this book you can find it at the following:

Barnes & Noble // Bookshop // Book Depository // Amazon

If you’ve read the first (or both) book(s), what did you think of them? Also, if you have any fantasy romance recommendations feel free to leave a comment!

And with that, I’m signing off for the day. If you want to connect with me elsewhere you can find me:

On Twitter: nihilisticactus

On Readerly: sideofadventure

On Goodreads, where you can add me as a friend or follow my reviews. My profile is linked here.

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Books

A Romance Trope That I Hate: Discussing the Lack of Communication in Enemies to Lovers Books

Okay, okay, so hate might be a strong word but this trope always drive me crazy when I read it because I have yet to find a book where it’s actually executed well.

Oh, and as a heads up, this book will contain minor spoilers for:

  • Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

I am desperately searching for an “enemies to lovers” book that actually is a true enemies to lovers. Almost every book that I have read so far that claims this trope can be boiled down to, “We have never properly communicated our feelings and thoughts to each other so we obviously must ‘hate’ each other.” Sometimes I wonder if this is why I find myself drawn to Dramione (Draco and Hermione) fanfiction because they are the biggest enemies ever but always find a way to fit together so perfectly in the stories that they’re written in to.

As mentioned above, two of the books that I’ve read recently that are considered enemies to lovers are Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren. I myself consider neither of these to fit under that category. I mean, in no way shape or form do I think that either of the couples in these books were actually enemies to begin with. It’s just surprising to me to see how little it takes to consider two people to be enemies.

Now in RWRB and The Unhoneymooners both pairs essentially hate each other because of one look, one fleeting moment that apparently made it obvious that one person hated the other. I mean Olive literally hated Ethan because he made a weird face when she bought cheese curds at the state fair and she made up an entire story as to what he must think of her. Like she basically accused him of fat shaming her when he literally didn’t even say a single word to her at that point in time. I can only guess what she must think of people with resting bitch face that accidentally look at her the wrong way once. I don’t want to be that annoying bitch that brings up the good old middle school statement of “you know what happens when you assume…” but I’m going to do it.

And because of the way that Olive feels, she lets herself stew in that anger and unwarranted hatred towards Ethan for absolutely no reason. It would have taken two seconds to say “What the hell kind of a face is that for?” at the time of the incident and they could have gotten that cleared up and squared away before they even left the state fair. From any point forward if Olive or Ethan either decided to act like an adult they could have easily just brought up the fact that they clearly were fighting for no reason but instead just let it stew. And don’t get me wrong, I’m a sucker for flirtatious fighting, it’s one of my favorite things, but when it comes from a source of miscommunication it just really grates on my nerves.

In RWRB it makes a tad bit more sense as to why they didn’t communicate their feelings towards each other. I mean they didn’t even live on the same continent. And the fact that Henry had feelings for Alex just kept him from doing the mature thing and actually talking to him.

To me, this enemies to lovers trope comes from a place of immaturity. It takes hardly any time at all to bring up things that are bugging you. It allows for you to avoid being passive aggressive and harboring anger towards someone that you might have absolutely no reason to be angry at! I mean look at what happened after Olive and Ethan and Alex and Henry actually talked about the inciting incidents that made them “enemies”… They realized that there was no reason to be feeling the way that they were feeling.

And this trope isn’t necessarily problematic but I just get so frustrated at the lack of communication. In both of these situations they really have no reason to begin as enemies. They just don’t talk to each other and let small matters overwhelm their opinions of someone. Does anyone else think this?

This lack of communication isn’t just an issue in enemies to lovers books though, I feel like it plagues all romance and contemporary books. I mean it has to, lack of communication always fuels that climactic moment when everything seems to fall apart before the inevitable happily ever after. And even though I love getting to that happily ever after, the older I get the more frustrated I become when people just get angry or ruin relationships because they don’t want to communicate their real thoughts and feelings. It’s beyond childish and seeing it pop up continuously in new adult and adult books just makes me wonder if ever we will all learn how to talk to each other like “adults” are supposed to.

I have a really hard time considering these books enemies to lovers because they have no warranted reasons to be enemies in the first place. I would hardly consider them enemies anyways, just dipshits who don’t know how to talk about their problems like adults should. It’s taken me years to learn how to talk to people about my frustrations instead of just bottling them up and I have to admit that I still most of the time just bottle it up and try to get along with everyone no matter what. Sometimes it’s just better for everyone involved. But in the books that I’ve mentioned here, that’s really not the case.

So again, I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this topic! And if you have any recommendations for a real enemies to lovers story I’d love to hear it so I can give it a chance.