Welcome to book spotlight where instead of giving you another book review, I’m just going to talk about books I’ve read recently that I enjoyed. Prepare yourself for the fangirl gushing.

We’ve probably all heard the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but I have a confession: I judge books by their covers all the time. A good cover makes the difference between me picking up a book or skipping a book. A good cover makes me excited about reading a book even if I don’t know anything about the plot. But sometimes I pick up a book at the recommendation of a friend or someone else and I’m glad I did, regardless of the cover.

This is the case with Lesley Livingston‘s books. I’ve been told by a friend, over and over, to read her books. That they’re good and fun and smart. But when I look at some of her covers, I’m like… why the heck would I read this? The only ones that I thought I could give a chance were the books in her The Valiant series.

I acquired secondhand copies of the first two books and eventually read the first one for a book club I’m in. And I’m so glad I did.

This series is epic! It’s chockfull of kickass lady characters, swoon-worthy male characters, amazing historical descriptions and details, and exciting plots. Some aspects might come across a bit wish fulfillment, but honestly, I didn’t care so much because they were so fun. Plus, there are loose Shakespeare references that just make it all the better.

After reading The Valiant, I made it my mission to read the rest of the trilogy, instead of waiting months or years to finish a series like I might normally do if it’s not new and shiny. And the other books, The Defiant and The Triumphant, are even better. The characters, now established, grow and shift with new obstacles and adversaries. There are such fantastic “Yes!” moments throughout as well as times that completely gut you as characters die or are lost.

But I really love the historical details mixed with a bit of fantasy. Fallon, the main character, grew up in ancient Britain as a daughter of a Celtic king. She ends up in Rome, meets up with some Amazon warriors, and eventually travels to Egypt, so it was interesting to see the different views and pantheons of gods play a part in the trilogy. There’s always that sense of the gods working but in a way that makes it seem more realistic than pure fantasy.

Also! The romance! There’s a pretty solid romantic relationship between Fallon and a Roman soldier, but it doesn’t take over the main plot or detract from Fallon as a fierce female character. He also doesn’t do typical YA love interest stuff, and it was such a relief. I was so happy with their relationship. It didn’t drag out or leave me hanging or wanting more. It worked. Like, thank you, bless you, Lesley for being so awesome.

Basically, I’ve learned my lesson (I hope) to not judge a book by its cover. To give books a chance, especially if a friend recommends then, and to not just read books with gorgeous covers. (Because let’s be honest, sometimes books with gorgeous covers end up being disappointments. It happens.) So now that I’ve read this series, I’m going to pick up one of Lesley’s other series, whether the cover intrigues me or not!

Waffle recommendation: Look, there is so much good, mouth-watering food in this series. From the Celtic mead to the platters of cheese and meats of Rome to the divine feasts in Egypt. I don’t know what to recommend that would work with this. Something with honey? apples? cheese? All of the above. Do like Fallon and Co. and do what you want! For my book club, we had a cheese, meat, and cracker platter, non-alcoholic mead, and a delicious apple dessert thing (as pictured above).