Evie Sage is the sole provider for her ailing father and her younger sister so when a chance encounter with The Villain, the scourge of Rennedawn, ends with a job offer, Evie can’t really say anything but yes. It’s not the perfect job by a long shot, with severed heads hanging from the ceiling and sounds of torture coming from the dungeons, and it’s made just a little more difficult by a teeny tiny crush she may or may not develop on her new boss (spoiler alert: she absolutely does). As Evie makes herself comfortable at Massacre Manor (as it’s known across the land), she starts to realize that she might not be able to trust everyone around her.

I’ve got to be honest - I had astronomical expectations for this book. The premise is clever and we know I love a good grumpy/sunshine trope, especially with a morally grey villain attached. It was a bit of slow going at the start with a pace that felt (to me) like it crawled along a bit. But the characters were fun to watch as they went about their mishaps and mayhem and that kept me invested enough to get to the fast paced excitement I crave.

Evie is truly one of the most sunshine characters in existence and I think that is a testament to the character work that Hannah is able to provide throughout. Evie has gone through a lot in her life as we slowly find out through the book and she still has this optimistic and bright nature. And Evie is not the only character with depth! Hannah built up a beautiful cast of diverse characters that aren’t exactly a found family, but I feel like the vibes are there to get them there eventually (and I’m crossing all the things that they do!)

The tension and pining between Evie and The Villain was working overtime to kill me, I’m convinced of it. While this book leans into the “com” in “romcom,” it definitely doesn’t give the same satisfaction as a straight up romcom does. Hannah is gonna make them work for it and she’s got three books to do so (but I’d really like to formally request that it doesn’t take all three books to get there because I might actually expire.)

Also, that ENDING?! Are you KIDDING me?! Hannah has some explaining to do (and a couple sequels to send to my inbox, please and thank you!)

Another also, because I am a good friend, I must inform you that there is a sassy frog character and, while I loved the dickens outta him, I know a certain someone (coughmandycough) is deathly afraid of frogs so this is a formal trigger warning. BUT! I have been given permission to inform anyone who is interested that we are allowed to pretend he’s actually a turtle instead so do with that information what you will.

ASSISTANT TO THE VILLAIN is the TikTok sensation turned book one of a trilogy by Hannah Nicole Maehrer and it hits shelves on August 29, 2023. Pre-order a copy for yourself here so you’ll get the first print run which comes with beautiful sprayed red edges!

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book for free and have voluntarily written this review. If you purchase a copy using my Bookshop affiliate link above, not only will I receive a small commission (which will fuel my coffee and tea addiction and help to keep me up all night reading more books to recommend to you), but you will be supporting indie bookstores as well! If you prefer Amazon, visit my Amazon storefront and click on the list titled "2023 Book Recommendations."