Ocean Light by Nalini Singh (Psy-Changeling Trinity #2)

Yellow backlight cover of NaliniSingh's Ocean Light a man and a woman in profile  superimposed on the skyline of venice_Ocean Light is the second book in Nalini Singh's second Pys-Changeling series, Psy-Changeling Trinity.  While Silver Silence was successful in becoming an accessible new entry point for readers intimidated by the expansive original Psy-Changeling series, Ocean Light is a much more demanding book.  This book deepens the new series central mystery, expanding the players, establishing new relationships and continuing to grow the world, while at same time having to find way to catch new readers up on Bowen Knight's backstory. I am curious to see how successful this was for new readers. As an established reader, I was well acquainted with Bowen Knight, who has been a long-running secondary  POV characters in the Psy-Changeling series. I felt we got to see a whole new side of him as he falls in love with Kaia, especially learning new information about what has driven him to be so passionate about seeking a way to protect Humans from unscrupulous and predatory Psy via technological interventions.

As a romance, I loved how play played a huge part of Kaia and Bowen's courtship. While Kaia starts out deeply suspicious and wary of Bowen, just like the rest of BlackSea, she gets to know him better challenging and teasing him. His natural curiosity pushes him to try to figure out Kaia and make sense of her relationships with other BlackSea packmates.

I loved meeting the BlackSea changelings, and comparing and contrasting their way of behaving as pack and how it differs from the SnowDancer and DarkRiver (both more communal and more individualistic) and exploring the ways the Human Alliance has grown into its own kind of pack under Bowen's leadership.

Once aspect of the story that I am going to have to sit with a bit longer and tease out my feelings about was the way Kaia's long-term anxiety issues was used narratively. While I loved that her anxiety issues were not easy to resolve and were not simply something she could will or power away for the sake of love, I wasn't entirely comfortable about how contained and specific it was.  I wish her struggles with Anxiety had been introduced less obliquely earlier in the novel rather than packed into an already frenetic second-half as an unexpected obstacle to their HEA.

As a long-time fan of Nalini Singh's Psy-changeling series -- I've been reading her books for as long as I have been reading romance -- I love that we are exploring parts of the Psy-Changeling world that had not been previously explored, and that she continues to correct the erasure of queer identities in her previous books by making little mentions here and there.  I really liked the casual way Kaia's mom explicitly acknowledges and accepts that Kaia could fall for a boy or a girl, as she whispers a loving warning to her baby about her family's predisposition for falling hard and fast in love. These little mentions are small steps, but they make feel more welcomed in the world that I've read for so long and it affirms that the changes she made in Silver Silence were not one offs.

 

 

I received a ARC for review consideration from the Publisher via NetGalley.


Shadow of Doubt by Linda Poitevin

44. Shadow of Doubt by Linda Poitvien. (ARC, 5/10) RomSuspense. Started out promising but too much of the emotional conflict was the MCs arguing if it was too risky for the RCMP heroine to keep helping the framed DEA agent hero on the run. #ttr #bkbrk https://t.co/0rfLpBBgLs

— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) June 3, 2018

 

51BEYqNiYELI really loved the start of this book. A RCMP officer find a bullet-ridden man on a rain-soaked back road on a stormy night and is forced to bring him home.  Kate Dexter is all business, practical, wary and very very suspicious. She doesn't have time to ogle the handsome and extremely well built victim.  She worries about how dangerous it makes him.

Poitevin captured the extreme tension within Kate as she tries to decide how to respond to situation. Her instincts are at war with the police procedures and every minute she hesitate the bigger the cost to her career.   Poitevin carries that tension over  to the intense action and suspense scenes.  

However while the action kept Jonas Burke, a framed ATF agent on the run, and Kate ricocheting around Ontario and the Northeast United States,  the romance stalled.  I was frustrated by the repetitive nature of Kate and Jonas arguments.  While Poitevin eventually gives us the backstory as to why Jonas is so fiercely and stubbornly independent, I was too bored with Jonas continued insentience that Kate stop helping him, and his doubts about her abilities even though she consistently proved herself extremely capable.  Jonas's realization of the errors of his ways came much too late for me and while the epilogue was sweet and perfect, I still think Kate should have smacked him and walked away, because she endured too much from Jonas as he tried to push her away. I thought Kate should have hooked up with her ex or her fabulously supportive partner instead.

Shadow of Doubt had a fantastic heroine, gripping action and a frustrating lug of a hero, who tried to pushed away the best partner he could have ever hope to have found.

 

I received a ARC from the author for review consideration.

 

 


Resort to Love by Priscilla Oliveras review over at Love in Panels

I accepted Suzanne's invitation to join the Love in Panels Review team.  I will be reviewing one or two books a month for them. 

Ever since RT announced that it will be closing, I've been trying to figure out it I wanted to join another group venture or just write for myself.  This is the best of both worlds. I have total freedom of what I choose to review for Love in Panels, and I get to support a review blog I respect. 

 

I'll always link to my reviews here too, but I hope you add Love in Panels to your  bookmarks!

 

 


The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz

43. The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz. #RomBkLove rec D17 STEM.(f/f ace)Globe-trotting AI-mechanic Clara falls for Sal, a Tea-shop running robot, one of the last of her kind.Emotional story about grief, trust, routines & new beginnings. #ttr #bkbrk https://t.co/z27avygN0v

— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) June 3, 2018

Meredith Katz The Cybernetic Tea Shop  steaming cup and saucer with a pile of gearsClara is a gifted programmer and AI-tech, whose highly-coveted skills facilitate her nomadic lifestyle. With wanderlust always spurring her to move on and try living and exploring a new place, she never gets too comfortable or attached, always ready to pack up and move on. 

Sal on the other hand has bound herself to her Tea Shop, seeking to live out her beloved owner's wish that it celebrate 300 years in operation.  She is one of the last remaining true AI's, created before the manufacture of sentient and sapient AIs was outlawed.  Having outlived her original owner by centuries, she struggles to remain operational, to adjust to the ever-changing world, to survive the increasingly frequent acts of vandalism and not simply sink into nostalgia and melancholy. Her life is one of routines, and the safety of the familiar.

I loved the gentleness of this story, the time it spends on the quiet moments, the companionship that grows into affection and love.  I was swept away by it and the way they took care with each other, determined as they are not encroach or override each other's wills and desires.

There is plenty of meaty science-fiction content to sink one's teeth into, and I loved the world building but most deeply this story was about all the little things that go into slowly falling in love and wanting the best for our partners.

I am thankful for Ruby Lang's mention of this story on #Rombklove Day 28. I will be looking to read more Meredith Katz in the future.

 


Rome's Chance by Joanna Wylde

Rome's Chance_Joanna Wylde's books are really hit or miss for me usually. I either love them or I hate read them but either way I rarely put them down because they are really emotionally engrossing.  This was a second-chance at love/reunion romance for two minor characters in a book I hate read (Reaper's Fire), yet I really liked it.

Randi has been taking care of her siblings since she was just a kid because of her mom's addiction issues. The warring feelings of love and resentment Randi feels for her mother were very well portrayed as were Randi's creeping awareness that things have been going terribly for her youngest siblings while she has been away at school in a different town.   Despite Randi's complicated feeling for her mother, Wylde was surprisingly compassionate in the portrayal.

Rome is a classic caretaker hero, thankfully without the asshole bossiness qualities that often comes packaged with the caretaker alpha character type in Biker novels. He truly cares for Randi, and put in the effort to be there for her when she can't cope. He understands the ups and downs of her grief and sticks even when she lashes out.  Randi's self-protective, self-denial and a real sense that she just doesn't have the energy for a a relationship, doesn't faze him, because he is there not to get something for himself, but because he wants to take care of her.

“We’ll date later,” he told me, dropping back down in front of me. “Maybe next year. Until then, I’ll be the guy fucking you. And the guy who bandages up your feet. You can cry on me, too, but I’m not gonna let you dump me until we’ve had a real chance. Sooner or later, you’ll be ready to live again. I can wait.” -- Rome's Chance by Joanna Wylde

 

I won't recommend this widely because biker books just aren't for everyone, but if you like biker books, I liked this one.


Peter Darling by Austin Chant

A young person with outstretched arms stands in the middle of clouds. Peter Darling by Austin ChantIn Peter Darling, Austin Chant does something magical. He transforms a story we think we know into something wholly new by translating  the theatrical convention of Peter Pan being played by a young woman, into Peter actually being trans. As someone who had never much liked the Peter Pan story and Peter in particular, this reinterpretation felt incredibly right,  It gave new depth to original and helped me understand Peter like I never had before.  The impulsive imp is not merely a sullen boy unwilling to face growing up but one for whom growing up has real dangers, for growing up means abandoning the freedoms of childhood and having to abide by gendered expectations a family is unwilling to understand him. Fleeing to Neverland is finding refuge from the oppressive nature of that daily trauma.  Tinkerbell is not simply a wish-granting fairy, but a rescuing angel, who saves Peter from soul-crushing despair by providing a way out when he most needs it.

Chant's Peter is still brash, blood-thirsty, and the brazen attention-seeker he is the original Peter Pan but it isn't as effortless as it used to be. As eager as he is to reclaim his throne as the leader of the Lost Boys as soon as he arrives back in Neverland, Peter can't sink into the pure escapist adventure and adoration as he once been able to.  Memories of home increasingly intrude as he tries to distract himself by indulging in aggression against Hook. Although shocked by his return, Hook does recognize in him as his old enemy and worthy rival, shaking Hook out of his own ennui.

"That was it. Everyone else had followed him at best, at worst tried to stop him or change him. Hook had matched him, and had never tried to protect Peter, had always done his worst. That was what felt so good."

pg 141 -- Peter Darling by Austin Chant

Peter Darling is a true enemies to lovers story, as Peter and James move from being the bitterest of enemies to slowly falling in love after being trapped and lost together. I just loved how clearly James saw Peter when Peter didn't quite see himself, let alone recognize the desire that hides under his angry fascination with Hook. I really loved Hook and how Hook slowly became James to Peter. Chant humanizes Hook slowly and believably, peeling back the layers to the romantic, flamboyant, heart-broken man that needed Neverland just as much as Peter did, yet can't stay in it any longer.

I loved how hard it was for Peter to let go of Neverland and how James could not make that choice for him.  I held my breath for the last quarter of the novel, waiting to see when Peter would recognize that he could have a future and a life outside of Neverland. I loved that in this book Austin Chant is able to affirm the both the need for escapism and withdrawal and the need to face hard truths and make hard choices. Leaving Neverland is hard, adjusting to life outside of it isn't simple or easy, but there is also joy and beauty to be found there. 

I am so glad I have all Austin Chant's books in my TBR already, as I relied in the recommendations of trusted reviewers enough to buy them all, even as I hesitated to start Peter Darling. I have so much goodness waiting for me.  I hope you try Peter Darling.

 


#RomBkLove 2018: Thank You!

Rombklove Thank You
Dear , thanks to all of you, For showing up and sharing the books you love.

Finding fellow readers & celebrating the incredible diversity of Romance is what this month was about for us.

I hope you keep using the #RomBkLove tag to share your love for books you discovered this month so we can continue to have these conversations together.

If you missed some of the fantastic rec posts put together by my fabulous co-bloggers, you find them all listed here: along with our daily tweet archives.

I adore the team. They made this month amazing by sharing the load of hosting, and by being incredibly generous with their time and experience. Check out their blogs and TL, as they will continue to share their love of books even as this event end.


Day 31 #RomBkLove: And They Lived Happily Ever After...

Day 31

Reader: Is this book a Romance?

Seller: I think so

R: No I mean is it ROMANCE

S: *waggles eyebrows* yeahhhhh mm hmmm

R: *rolls eyes* No, how does it END? pic.twitter.com/AxccIRVeFd

— Susannah Reilly (@shrewandsnail) May 30, 2018

 

IT MIGHT ROMANTIC AND/OR ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS BUT IT ISN’T ROMANCE IF IT DOESN’T HAVE AN HEA

The most cherished convention of the genre romance is the HEA/HFN -- the promise that whatever the obstacles, angst and turmoil the protagonists have endured they find a way to be together in the end. This is a powerful promise and one that readers and writers should cherish. It gives readers security and confidence to invest in emotional stories and it sets writers a challenging goal to not just tear things apart but to find a way to build relationships we can believe in.  How satisfied we are with the ending, with the way the characters come together and move forward often determines how we feel about the story as a whole. .

 

I read an erotica story today that had a lot of my catnip tropes...only for the end to be of the man standing over the woman's grave. I'm back, romance. I won't leave you again.

— Meka (@mektastic) May 29, 2018



THE PROMISE ALLOWS US TO INVEST EMOTIONALLY IN THE STORIES

 

Many of us have been were Meka was at, reading something that seemingly hit all our buttons and then with no warning, tragedy. For me that book was The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  I read it back when I still read Lit fic, but was developing a taste for Romance. The story was romantic, complicated and beautifully written. The gut blow comes fairly early but the sadness becomes more and more oppressive as the book progresses and as a reader you realize significance of that earlier event.  I had grown to love these characters, to care about their fictional lives and things were not okay in the end, not really. That book helped propel me into the arms of genre romance, because I wasn’t okay with it. After reading dozens and dozens fantasy, YA and Lit Fic novels in life, I needed the promise that I wasn’t going to put down the book sadder than when I picked it up.

 

#RomBkLove That's my rule for angst. You can break my heart, turn me into a sobbing mess, and I'll love you for it but only if you bring an equally amazing HEA to make up for all that angst.

— Lillie (@lillie_80) May 21, 2018



THE HEA CAN’T BE SIMPLY TACKED ON

There is nothing worse than reading a rushed and unearned ending, books that drag you through an emotional wasteland and then try to make it all better with a few punishing kisses and marriage proposal.  Endings need to be organic and make sense for the characters and the world established in it. For HEA to be emotionally satisfying it must fit the tone of the novel, and its characters. I think we have all occasionally felt the disappointment of an HEA that abandons previously established characterization for an epilogue full of babies and sunshine. 

 

Because I've told them a dozen times that a relationship arc ending happily doesn't mean everything was easy or no one died or that readers have forgiven me for Beyond Surrender yet.

But people know what they're convinced they know and everyone knows romance is frivolous. pic.twitter.com/oGonGAUXul

— Bree (& 🐕) (@mostlybree) May 20, 2018

 

HEAs ARE NOT ALL THE SAME

 

Critics and naysayers point to HEAs, and dismiss the genre as formulaic, saying "they all end the same", echoing Tolstoy famous quote:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

But HEAs in genre romance, like happy families in real life are not all alike. As readers we often have differing expectations for just what makes an ending a happy one. Some readers need more than a sense of relational security, some need a firm commitment and others a formal proposal if not a full-blown wedding and baby epilogue  Some also long for physical and financial security to be assured. So our genre provides all kinds of HEAs. Some are full of babies, weddings and long-ass epilogues, others simply full of hopefulness and the determination persevere against life’s challenges together. I find that my preference for certain kinds of endings have evolved, some endings that I loved once upon a time, no longer prove as satisfying upon re-reading and endings that didn’t work for me initially have started to make sense.  Personally I don't need babies or surprise dukedoms although I do enjoy them on occasion, but I always need are sense of community, hopefulness and unity.  What is important is that we have as genre all kinds of HEA for all kinds of people, POC and Queer characters included.  I want us to use our imagination as genre to claim fluffy HEA for everyone not just those traditionally privileged.

 

 I hope you find the HEAs you need in the romances you read, the ones below are HEAs I have loved and ones that have made me reflect what I consider important and necessary in a HEA:

  • Amara Royce’s Once Beloved  When I first read the ending of this novel, I struggled with it.  I was used to historical romances that ended in weddings and Royce doesn’t do that.because one of the characters is unable to marry again. The characters are however deeply committed to each other. It was one of the first historical romance I read that made me re-examine what I considered necessary for HEA and conclude that what I needed was commitment versus marriage.

  • Emma Barry's Party Lines: Rival political operatives slowly fall in love through the course of acrimonious political campaign where only one of their candidates can win.  Barry does not sacrifice or minimize their political ambition and competitiveness or short-cut the time the need for their relationship to mature. Their epilogue is full of happy babies, just not their own, as four years later, they are still ardently pursuing their careers, surrounded by friends.

  • KJ Charles's  The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal’s ending is coy, hidden in hypothetical speculation by the narrator.  I believe in Simon and Robert’s escape from war and tragedy to a secret little Mediterranean cottage because it fits the narrative style of the book and I understand that I am reading a genre romance.

  • Kit Rocha's  Beyond Surrender’s ending is bittersweet. As the final book in a nine epic series about a rebellion, some long-running supporting characters die along the way but I felt they did so without betraying genre expectations. I was heartbroken at points, but I also believed in the community they created, so while I ugly cried at the end for those who didn’t make it, not only was there hope for a better tomorrow for Nessa and Ryder, an the O’Kanes but for all inhabitants of the Sectors.

  • Alyssa Cole’s Duke by Default: This book doesn’t come out till the end of July but it was one of the few books I managed read this month.  In this story a troubled young woman gets an HEA with a secret duke. I was so invested in Portia and Tavish that I had to skip to the end and make sure it all worked out.  I might say that I don’t need secret dukes and financial security for an HEA to succeed but Portia and Tavish’s romance totally did. Because how often is it that the black heroine get to become a duchess?  Not often enough! 

 

What are you HEA non-negotiable? Tell me about some of your favorite endings and why you love them!

 

Did you love #RomBkLove?  Join Ellie Reads, Mary Lynne, Kini, Jen and I for #readRchat each month.  

#readRchat Graphic for June 2, 2018: Reading Romance: New Choices

 

 

 


Day 30 #RomBkLove: Hidden Gems

Day 30 Hidden Gems #Rombklove

It sometimes feels that everyone talks about the same books and authors, yet Romancelandia is larger and more diverse than any top ten or best-seller list can capture and many wonderful books and excellent authors fail to get the notice and attention they deserve. 

This month we’ve had an opportunity to share with you some of our favorite books and authors for dozens of tropes, yet we know we’ve missed mentioning some fantastic books.   What are your Hidden Gems—both authors and books—you love but that no one else seems to talk about? What books or authors do you wish more people would discover? 

Joy, Mary LynneE_BookPushers and Ellie Reads share some of their hidden gems below:

Joy:

Falling Stars Cover by Xio AxelrodThe following are just a smidge of some of my Hidden Gems, authors who I’d love for more readers to get to know. Not that they don’t have fans, but I would love to see their books being buzzed about more. They craft great stories with much heat and with diverse MCs that have given me hours of enjoyment, from contemporary, BDSM, PNRs, and more. These authors will give you so many good reads and have you glomming their backlists:

Melissa Blue aka Dakota Gray, Kaye Blue, Stephanie Burke, Bridget Midway aka Crystal Bright, Aliyah Burke, Xio Axelrod, Shara Azod, Melissa Schroeder, Latrivia S. Nelson, Minx Malone aka M. Malone, Marie Rochelle and Reana Malori.

I also count Harper Kincaid, MK Meredith, Lynda Chance, Virna DePaul, Rhyannon Byrd, Stephanie Julian, Samantha Kane as some of my Hidden Gems, for although they also bring some good romance and burning heat, their books don’t come up on lists or get great buzz. During #RomBkLove, I want to take this opportunity to do so.  

Mary Lynne:

Tell Me something good by Jamie Wesley coverOne of my fave not-buzzed-about authors is Christine Pope. She writes F/SF romance, but within that broad rubric you can find all sorts of different elements: witches, djinn, alien worlds, and more. My favorite book of hers is Breath of Life. It’s the beauty-and-the-beast trope, but the beast is an alien on a human colony planet. Seeing the farmsteading Annika get to know Sarzhin is a treat in this lovely novella.

Another “why doesn’t she get more buzz?” author for me is Jamie Wesley. Her contemporary romances are fun, honest, and moving, and I never feel like I’m reading stereotypes. Instead, I get the sense that I could meet these people tomorrow, they are so genuine. I started with Tell Me Something Good, so I’ll point that out as a great way to begin reading her books.

Becca Jameson writes so many different types of romance--shifter books, military romance, BDSM romance, ménage, MMA fight club, romantic suspense--and I’ve loved them all. I don’t know why she doesn’t have the buzz that other authors do. She’s a great Hidden Gem. Look over her books, find the type that you like, and dive on in.

There’s an old Desire title I love--Just a Little Bit Pregnant by Eileen Wilks. In soooo many romance novels featuring accidental pregnancy, there’s angst, or secret babies, or any number of somewhat far-fetched plot points. But this book starts with the heroine marching into the hero’s workplace, informing him that she’s pregnant, and giving him the paper she’s prepared with probable medical expenses (including insurance coverage estimates), support coverage suggestions, and a schedule of visitation rights. At last, a book that starts with something I might actually expect to happen! But Just a Little Bit Pregnant then builds into a lovely romance of two lonely, wounded people and the steps they take to heal one another, with a risky pregnancy as a pivotal plot point.

E_Bookpushers:

Central Galactic Concordance Book 1-3 box set cover.Carol van Natta writes a lovely complex space opera series, The Central Galactic Concordance, which reminds me of the Foundation Series if you added romance, changed the business language to Mandarin Chinese, included mental powers and cybernetics.  Most of the stories focus on separate couples some of whom have cameos in other installments. I love the sheer contrasts in this series between characters, settings, conflict, abilities, and yet a common thread unites them. Book 1 is Overload Flux.  

Rinda Elliott wrote two partial series which I adore.  The first series, The Kithran Regenesis, is Science Fiction Romance with male/male/female relationships.  One of the branches of humanity is very sexually open so it was fabulous to see the lack of shame or secrecy.  (TW one of the main characters in Book 4 was enslaved and suffered horribly). The second series Crux Survivors, is post apocalyptic and focuses mainly on a small group who banded together years ago and their struggles to survive and find relationships.  Really hoping Elliott will pick both of these up again.

EE Ottoman Doctor's DiscretionEllie Reads:

I’m limiting my hidden gem suggestions to just 5 authors, most of whom are in fact new-to-me authors. Some of them have just a couple of books out and I have read and loved them all, others have bigger blacklists that I still need to tackle.

Al Steward and Claire Davis, are a writing duo creating very moving, emotional m/m romances that speak to my heart. I highly recommend Dear Mona Lisa (I know how vague the blurb is but if you are interested in a romance with where older men find love and finally reach for their happiness, this is the book for you). Oskar Blows a Gasket is YA/NA m/m romance exploring complicated family relationships, forming friendships, discovering love (and sex :), finding one’s place and fighting for it. Al and Claire have a bunch of short stories/novellas out and some of them are already waiting patiently on my Kindle for me to get to them.

Dal Maclean is new author with just two books out and they are both spectacular. Bitter Legacy and Object of Desire are both romantic crime mystery/thrillers, and the second one being darker. They work as standalones and stand out with their perfectly executed mystery plots (I couldn’t figure who the killer was till the very end, they have been real page-turners for me). The romance element is a bit understated, especially in the second book, but it felt very real and moving for me and fitting to the characters. "Bitter Legacy", was a 2017 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for best Gay Mystery and was chosen by the American Libraries Association for their 2018 Over The Rainbow Recommended Books List.

Roe Horvat writes contemporary m/m romances set in Europe. His debut, The Layover, is a wonderful forced proximity romance with strong European feels which I absolutely adore. His latest romance, A Love Song for the Sad Man in the White Coat is a brilliant portrayal of a grumpy, misantropic character dealing with dysthymia (he is a psychiatrist and his self diagnose and treatment does not really go well).

EE Ottoman is a trans writer who writes trans romance and fantasy. He has a relatively extensive backlist and I have only read two of his romances and I quite enjoyed them both. The Doctor’s Discretion is a historical romance set in 19c NY. Both MCs are doctors, one is Black, the other is trans and I liked how much the story focused on kindness and basic human decency as severely lacking both in the past and sadly in the present.

My final recommendation is Rebecca Crowley whose soccer series I discovered following a recommendation on Twitter. Her Atlanta Skyline series is amazing sports romance with hidden depths and really interesting, unusual characters. I loved how she doesn’t shy away for presenting the darker side of professional sports - the injuries, the constant media scrutiny, the transition to ‘civilian’ life after years only being involved in the sport, women in professional sports. She also tackles issues of Islamophobia, gambling addiction and more while still creating complex and emotionally satisfying love stories.