Reviews > Published on May 1st, 2023

"Legends & Lattes" by Travis Baldree

When it comes to reading preferences, my tastes tend to run a little dark. I love to be scared, I enjoy being challenged, and nothing makes me happier than a book that makes me feel uncomfortable, dirty, or even a little off. However, there’s no denying that routine is a tall glass of heavy, so I’ve been trying to encourage myself lately to read some more lighthearted—albeit still spooky!—books to offset the often disturbing and terrifying narratives I’m digesting day-to-day.

Cue the She Wore Black podcast.

I started listening regularly to Agatha’s show in late 2022/early 2023 and I’ve become such a fan because while her reads center around the gothic—I still need my daily dose of madness, hauntings, and gloom after all!—she also wants books that are cozy, have a happy ending, and on occasion, even include some romance to give her stories a dash of sweetness alongside their screams. I’ve discovered so many new-to-me authors on her show and the podcast has become one of my go-to favorites when it comes to keeping me company on my commute. In fact, that’s where I first heard about Travis Baldree’s book, Legends & Lattes, and as a self-proclaimed coffee addict, fan of the fantastic, and lover of pastries, I had a suspicion this book was going to be right up my alley.

...a heartfelt narrative about trust, self-acceptance, and willpower, and I loved how it spoke to the powers of community and what is possible when women support other women.

I wasn’t wrong.

Legends & Lattes follows Viv, an orc who has handed over her sword in favor of an espresso machine, and who intends to live out the rest of her life as a barista in a small town that has never heard of coffee. While working on making her dream shop a reality, she meets new people, learns the ins and outs of what makes a successful business, and goes on a character-building journey that helps her settle into herself in a way that celebrates not only who she is, but who she is becoming. It is a heartfelt narrative about trust, self-acceptance, and willpower, and I loved how it spoke to the powers of community and what is possible when women support other women.

The novel describes itself as being one of “high fantasy and low stakes,” and after a semester of teaching Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder, The Dangers of Smoking in Bed by Mariana Enriquez, and Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin, trust me when I tell you…I needed those low stakes. We’re talking do-I-want-my-coffee-hot-or-iced, what-filling-should-I-put-in-this-pastry, and do-I-befriend-the dire-cat-that’s-hanging-around-my-shop kind of drama. Don’t get me wrong: it was always enough to keep me invested—and there were moments that were more intense—but the pacing of the book allowed me the freedom to ease into the narrative and soak up the warm, inviting vibes and aesthetic Baldree created for his readers.

Bookshops & Bonedust, the prequel, is set to be published later this year, and needless to say, I won’t be able to buy it fast enough. In fact, Baldree was my introduction to the power of the cozy mystery, and I intend on picking up some others in its likeness, too. Maybe Joanne Fluke’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder? Or perhaps Rebecca Thorne’s Can’t Spell Treason Without Tea? Either way, I’m looking forward to a summer of relaxing with some books that are low-drama, high-entertainment, and that of course, contain just a touch of magic and maybe a ghost or two.

Get Legends & Lattes at Bookshop or Amazon

Get Bookshops & Bonedust at Bookshop or Amazon

About the author

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous venues such as Weird Tales, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year's Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, and most recently, The Apocalyptic Mannequin. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich on her blog at stephaniewytovich.blogspot and on twitter @SWytovich. 

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