Once Upon a Time is how every good kind of story begins, fairy-tale or not. They start with the Who, What, Where and it seems that we are sometimes hardwired to get hooked on certain kinds of stories.
I have of course loved so many stories that jump to the middle or the end and work backwards building suspense by slowly unraveling how everyone got there, but with so many books vying for my attention it is undeniable to that a story needs to make an impression early or not at all and each of the books I recommend below captured my attention so thoroughly that I could not put the book down till I finished it.
What are the "Once Upon a Time" premises that capture your attention? Is it the protagonist looking for a new start? The family feuding? Is it the hero or heroine running for their lives? What hooks you?
I love stories of survival, of people finding love and community in unexpected people and places. I love stories of people restoring relationships and reclaiming themselves.
Once Upon at Time a young Psy-girl was told she was broken so many times, and if she didn't hide the cracks in her shield someone would find a way to hurt her. In Slave to Sensation, Sasha knows that any hint of vulnerability, anything less than cold emotionless Silence will doom her, but Lucas and his changeling pack tap into those repressed feelings and she finds that what she was told was brokenness is actually her power. Nalini Singh's Slave to Sensation.
"Sascha Duncan couldn't read a single line of the report flickering across the screen of her handheld organizer. A haze of fear clouded her vision, insulating her from the cold efficiency of her mother's office, Even the sound of Nikita wrapping up a call barely penetrated her numbed mind.
She was terrified.
This morning, she'd woken to find herself curled up in bed, whimpering. Normal Psy did not whimper, did not show any emotion, did not feel. But Sascha had known since childhood that she wasn't normal. She'd successfully hidden her flaw for twenty-six years but now things were going wrong. Very, very wrong."
Once Upon a Time Peter returns to Neverland after ten years away trying to live as Wendy for the sake of his family, ready to reclaim his place but Peter and Neverland are not quite the same as they used to be. Unable to runaway from his memories and being just grown up enough to rethink everything, Peter finds an unexpected connection with his long-time enemy Hook. This book catapulted into this list this weekend because I couldn't put it down once I started. Peter Darling by Austin Chant
"Well, hello," Hook said. The stranger was quite handsome in a lanky sort of way -- his face bony and angular, his limbs narrow and long. His hair was curly and as raggedy as if it had been hacked off with a knife. "What have we here?"
The stranger leaned forward. "You don't remember me?"
There was something familiar about this young man's coloring and his clear, arrogant voice. "Now that you mention it, I do believe we've met. Where?"
"Here," the stranger said. "In Neverland." He rose, swaying slightly. Hook watched as he picked his way down the ravine. He carried himself like he was half air, as though a mere breeze could lift him of his feet. At the same time, something about his movements raised the hair on the back of Hook's neck. They were not just familiar -- they were the footsteps of a cat slinking casually toward a wounded bird.
"Who are you?" Hook asked, curling his fingers around the hilt of his sword."
Once Upon a Time a woman outruns the murderer hunting her in the woods but can't outrun the way it changes her and her life forever. Haven by Rebekah Weatherspoon
That's when I hear the screams.
Later, when I wash her blood off in the shower I suddenly remember the day we learned about adrenaline in my AP chemistry class. How it makes you sharp. quick, super human.
I am out of my bed and in my boots before I hear the second shriek. Titus is already off the bed and a bounding out of the bedroom door. Isn't even a full five seconds. My steps are thundering across my hardwood floors. The pounding comes, her shrieks louder and lounder as I retrieve my shotgun. Still loaded. May-Bell has always said, when you're home, boy, keep that porch light on. You never known when a stanger will come calling in the night.
From this point on the first few chapters of this book just flew by. Pulse-pounding and then suspenseful and full of tension, I was hooked on Claudia and Shep's story.
Once Upon a Time a young woman sets off for California, with a carpetbag and a cookstove to find a better life, but robbery & abandonment on the road brings her to a new home, enterprise and the unlikeliest of partners. Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins
"Stop him!" Eddy Carmichael screamed, scrambling to her feet from the mud. The man who'd snatched her purse and shoved her down was running away down the dark Denver street. Taking off in pursuit, she called for help, but there were no policemen about and the few people on the walks nearby gave her no more than a passing glance. Up ahead, the thief turned a corner. Not wanting to lose him, she ran faster, but by the time she reached the spot, he'd disappeared. Frantically casting about for clues as to his whereabouts, she saw nothing. Anger turned to frustration and then to despair. Inside the purse had been her paltry month's pay and the train ticket to California she'd purchased less an hour ago. She'd been saving for the passage for months in hopes of starting a new life in San Francisco. Now, penniless, angry, her skirts and cloak covered with mud, she set out for home.
Eddy dreamed of owning her own restaurant. It was a common belief that women like her, the descendants of slaves, had no right to dream.
Eddy doesn't give up her dreams, after this and other setbacks and I just admired the hell out of her. She is so righteously determined and then Rhine Fontaine turns her head and she knows he is nothing but trouble.
Once Upon a time a very good girl & good daughter, Amara returns home to try to save her parents bakery but falls the bad boy next door. The push and pull of a forbidden liaison and the need to prove themselves push these two places they never expected to be. Delicious Temptation by Sabrina Sol
"What would people -- what would her parents -- say if they knew good girl Amara was thinking of making out with some man in the bakery's kitchen? Although Eric wasn't just some man, and that made it even more scandalous. The chisme police would have a field day.
Who says they have to know?
She'd give up so much over the years in order to do what she was told or what was expected. Stealing one kiss -- one small piece of pleasure for herself -- wasn't only justified, it was well deserved.
One warning I would give it, is not to start this book while hungry, you will be craving delicious tres leches cupcakes among many other delicious Mexican baked treats.
Every so often an author just goes ahead and almost does all my work for me as Alisha Rai did in the first chapter of Hurts to Love You:
Once Upon a time, the Chandlers and the Kanes had been best friends and business partners, each family owning half of a grocery store company, the C&O. Then, ten years ago, a series of tragedies had befallen the two families, starting with Robert Kane and Maria Chandler dying in a tragic car accident on a late winter night...
and in Rai's amazing family saga the Kane & Chandler children are out to reclaim their loves and rebuild the families lies and betrayal have stolen. I adore this series. I bought an autographed set for my bookshelf because if the cloud ever goes down, I still want to be able to visit the Kanes and Chandlers.
All these stories captured my attention from the first chapter. Which ones captured yours?
Authors wondering how you can participate in #Rombklove : 1. Remember this is a reader space, but join in to rec the books you love that fit the theme/trope/prompt. 2. Yes, you can say “I wrote a book with this trope” 3. But please don’t spam the hashtag with generic promo. pic.twitter.com/mfsEmx6XrD— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) April 30, 2018
If you want to wade through all the tweets from #Rombklove Day 1's conversation for recs, you can access it as Google spreadsheet here: https://t.co/E6tv7yTWyO and I am also adding it to the master post on my blog.— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) May 2, 2018