Assistant to the Villain by Hannah Nicole Maehrer, published 29 August 2023.

BookTok has a lot to answer for. This was so subpar for a supposedly hilarious sunshine-grump-fantasy/romance. It reads like late-middle-grade/YA, but is an adult book. It is full of banter between Mr Villain and Ms Assistant, but hilarious? It has a few quirky secondary characters, including a sentient frog with cue cards, but overall I wish I had spent my time with a different book.

There is no world-building. This might suit the people who followed the original TikTok series, because they know what they are in for, but I expected more information. This could have worked as an Urban Fantasy, yet that would require an explanation of the magic system, too. Or just leave out the magic and sentient animal sidekick and interchange castle with skyscraper, villain with billionaire, king with business rival and this could have been a grumpy-billionaire and ditzy-assistant office romance.

Ms Assistant is the YA heroine archetype: nothing much to look at (wait till she puts on a ‘gown’ and takes out the scrunchie though), only breadwinner in the family, has only one female friend (whose name we learn), has a gorgeous bully as arch-nemesis. Mr Villain is a handsome hunk of evil villain. Why is he an evil villain? Because the story says so, also there are severed heads hanging from the ceiling (bulk order from Villains’R’Us to create some ambience?). The backstory that explains, in part, why Mr Villain is villainous comes too late in the story; a few pages before the cliffhanger ending.

My initial 2/5 Harpy Eagles were too generous. I’m going to change the rating to 1/5 Harpy Eagles.