I am so incredibly thankful to everyone who provided feedback, prompt suggestions and encouragement. I look forward to a great month of romance-related conversations. Feel free to respond to these prompts however you want starting on May 1st. It can be a tweet, a blog post, an IG post, just add the #RomBkLove hashtag. You can also comment with a link to your blog and I will post a round-up of everyone participating during the first week. I just want to hear from you and fill my timeline with romance-related chatter!
1: Gateway Romance 2: Tropes, Tropes, Tropes 3: Meet Cute 4: Secondary Characters 5: Romantic Elements 6: Groveling 7: Diverse Romance 8: Heroes & Heroines 9: Category Romance 10: Pets 11: Historical 12: Most Read or Reread 13: Contemporaries 14: Covers 15: Bicker and Banter 16: Dark Moment 17: Dukes, Dukes, Dukes 18: Not a Duke in sight 19: Romantic Suspense 20: Unforgettable Line 21: Auto-buy 22: Adaptation 23: Romancelandia 24: All in a day's work 25: Series Love 26: PNR, SFR, Fantasy 27: Romance Icons 28: Novellas/Shorts 29: Friendships 30: Old School/Classics 31: HEAs
It is a story about finding a safe harbor, working toward self-acceptance, and starting over. There really great depictions of female friendships, a richly drawn small town community and little femdom kink to spice things up.
Uma has been on the run for months, hiding from her abusive ex. She has comes to Blackwood, VA, because the small town has a clinic that offers free laser tattoo removal treatments to domestic violence victims. Her gas gauge is on empty literally and metaphorically when she answers a very odd ad for a living-in-helper to a cantankerous old lady.
Ivan is the ex-con next-door, a gentle giant, that helps teaches self-defense courses along with his sister at the local gym and makes his living as iron-worker/blacksmith. He carries a lot of emotional baggage of his own, but works very hard to make sure he is someone Uma can trust with her body and her heart.
I really liked that while Ivan suffers from white-knight syndrome, in his desire to fix up Uma, he isn't the one that saves her and that he realizes that he can't do that work for her. In the end Uma saves herself and Ivan.
I really enjoyed this and immediately picked up the 2nd book. Under Her Skin is currently on sale for 99 cents, and it includes a seven chapter preview of book 2, so don't be alarmed when Under Her Skin start wrapping up around the 67% mark.
(Uma is a white, despite her Indian name, her mom is a hippie who lives in India at a Ashram).
This book revisits a lot of the same themes present in the first book, self-forgiveness, finding a community and people who see past the marks of violence to see the person underneath.
I don't think this book will work for everyone as it is a Doctor/Patient romance, where ethical boundaries are certainly crossed. There were definitely many moments where my eyebrows almost flew off my face. I
Clay Navarro, is an undercover ATF agent who comes to Blackwood to to hide out and get some tattoos removed while he waits for a big court date against the big biker gang he had infiltrated. He has serious PTSD issues, that he is self-medicating with vodka and is not sure whether his worries about mole in his office are PTSD-related paranoia or a legitimate concern. He has cut himself off his team and is struggling to figure out who he is anymore.
Dr. Georgette Hadley is pumping herself full of hormones as she prepares to be artificially inseminated with her late husband's sperm. She questions her instincts and feelings when she agrees to start treating Clay, off the book and after-hours. Her attraction to Clay, despite his undisclosed but certainly dangerous background, makes her recall her reckless youth, and how her life almost derailed once.
I don't think this book was completely successful at untangling consent issues but I did like that while both George and Clay are fucked up emotionally, they are still worthy of love. They are not over their pains or issues at the end of the book but they have made a commitment to figuring those things out together rather than rejecting each other because they see themselves as too broken.
I am a little disappointed that book three is not about Jessie (Ivan's sister and George's neighbor). She is begging for a HEA.
(Clay is of Peruvian decent and he faces a lot racial and ethnic-based abuse as part of his undercover work in criminal biker gangs)
Haven was a great book to end this mini-binge with. Haven was an emotionally intense and surprisingly fun story about finding an unlikely but deep connection in traumatic circumstances. The pacing through out was fantastic but particularly in the pulse-pounding early chapters. The dynamics of Claudia and Shep's relationship are complex, as they are hyper-aware of how wary everyone is of intensity & of the limited nature of their acquaintance. They honestly wrestle with how fraught it can be to untangle their actual experience of each other from what they have both built up about each other in their heads. They struggle to give each other what they need and things don't go smoothly in vividly believable ways. They are both unabashedly kinky, but that it isn't a cure or a reaction, but still a complication as they try to figure out if they can fit into each other's lives. I wish there had been just a little more grovel at the end, but the reactions were completely within character.
Shepherd Olsen's quiet and solitary life is dramatically disrupted when a bloody and shrieking black woman runs up to his isolated cabin near Federal park lands in Northern California. He springs into action, rescuing her and making sure she gets the help she needs, even as they are separated by the intense investigation.
Not only did Claudia Cade lose her brother Miles on the mountain, she also lost her way. She thought getting back to her job and her home in NYC would help but she can't quite fit back into her old life. Things that were comfortable before chafe, and fail to satisfy. She is disconnected from herself and her friends and her mind keeps going back to the mountain man, who held her and kept her safe on the worst day of her life.
Shep's life has not gone back to normal. Maybe because Claudia was gone before he could say good-bye, his mind frequently goes back to her and the life he hopes she has been able to return to. He is shocked and confused when she shows back up on the mountain needing something from him that is she is scared to articulate.
Claudia and Shep are not perfect people, they fail, struggle and nearly give up. They need help from more than just each other but they find something in each other worth working for.
Rebekah Weatherspoon continues to succeed in crafting stories that are emotionally layered and full of humor. I loved the whole cast, even when they don't love each other.
(Claudia is black woman from the Caribbean, she immigrated from Grenada as a child. I though Weatherspoon did a fantastic job in weaving this into her story.)
I received an ARC of Haven via Netgalley from the author. Haven will be released April 25th, 2017 and is available for pre-order at all the usual places.
I love the RITA finalist day on twitter. It is so fun to see author reacting to getting their calls or eagerly congratulating others. I know it must be hard to send your book out and not get that call but the overwhelming responses seem to be celebration and discovery.
Romance is a huge genre with many niches and it never more evident than when I sit and read through the list and see how many books I haven't even heard of and I read a lot of books and pay way more attention than I should to what is published.
On this year'a list: RWA RITA 2017 Finalists, there are 83 books, I have read 5 all in different categories. I have own several more but just haven't gotten to them yet.
The Breakdown by category:
Best First Book: 0/6
I haven't read a single one. =(
Contemporary Romance: Long: 0/7
I do have Alexis Hall's "Pansies" in my gigantic TBR.
Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length: 1/10
I adored "Fast Connection" by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell. I reviewed it along with "Strong Signal", the first book in that CyberLove series in July.
In this category I plan on tracking down Virginia Kantra and Roni Loren's books. I have enjoyed Kantra's books in the past and I saw a lot of love for Loren's books on twitter from readers I trust.
Contemporary Romance: Short: 0/10
I have Lorelie Brown's "Far from Home" on my TBR. I bought it after reading Jazz Baby (her m/f 1920's set historical). I love the fake relationship trope so a f/f green-card romance should be right up my alley.
Erotic Romance: 0/5
There was a time where I read a lot of ERom, but I have not read any of these.
Historical Romance: Long: 0/4
Loretta Chase is hit or miss with me. I have to be in just the right mood, so I didn't pick up this one. Maybe I should have.
Historical Romance: Short: 1/6
I am saving the Tessa Dare entry, "Do You Want to Start a Scandal" for my next reading slump. The Castles Ever After series has been tons of fun. (It is currently on sale for $1.99, so this is a good time to snap it up).
I did read and enjoy "Duke of Sin" by Elizabeth Hoyt. I loved how Hoyt didn't attempt to reform Val as much as redirect him. He is terrible person with very little empathy, but he does truly fall for Bridget and she loves and understands him, without condoning his past bad actions. There were a couple of thing I didn't love in this book. The one POC character, a young Turkish boy's poor understanding of English is played for laughs, and he adores Val as his white savior (Val rescued him from a terrible situation). That whole storyline was hugely uncomfortable. I was also disappointed that Hoyt teased us with rumors that VaI might be bisexual, and then back away. I didn't ever review it, but talked about it plenty on twitter. I also exchanged enough DMs about it with Elisabeth Lane that she can spot me talking about it without context.
Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance: 0/4
I am sort of surprised I have nothing in this category, since I really enjoy books in other genres that have strong romantic elements.
Paranormal Romance: 1/8
I read the "Leopard King" by Ann Aguirre but I didn't review it because it I didn't get it as an ARC and I didn't love it and I hard time figuring out why. There was a lot of cool things happening in this book, very interesting world building but romance didn't really work for me. It has a lot of tropes I usually enjoy, widower falling in love again, fake relationships, and political intrigue but I didn't like how much guilt played into both their feelings and the whole storyline with her ex's jealousy after stringing her along for years because she couldn't shift and she still struggled with having hurt him was infuriating. I am curious to read more in this world however.
Romance Novella: 1/7
I adore Alyssa Cole and this novella "Let us Dream" appeared in "Daughters of a Nation" a great anthology that reunited her with Kianna Alexander, Piper Huguley and Lena Heart, whose previous anthology, "The Brightest Day" was also fantastic. It pairs a black cabaret owner in Harlem and dedicated suffragette and Muslim Indian immigrant chef. Politics, social action and a love fused into a delicious romance.
In this category I also have "Her Every Wish" by Courtney Milan deep into my TBR. I'm not sure why I didn't read it when I bought it, but I am going to simply thank my past-self for buying it.
Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements: 0/4
I haven't read a single one these, or much of any that would fall under this category.
Romantic Suspense: 1/8
"Mr. & Mr. Smith" by HelenKay Dimon is part of her m/m Tough Love series and I've enjoyed reading reading that series a ton. Great action, conflict and romance.
Young Adult Romance 0/4
None here either!
Best of luck to all the RITA and Golden Heart Finalists. May many readers find your books, this year and in the future.
If you look through this blog you will find a half-dozen reviews for Kit Rocha's Beyond Series. I have huge love for that series and was very pleased and satisfied with the way the series ended in Beyond Surrender.
Bree Bridges and Donna Herren, who co-write as Kit Rocha, are moving on from Sector 4 and the bootlegging & orgiastic O'Kanes to a very different corner of their world. Although many of the characters might be familiar to long-time Kit Rocha readers, this is a great jump on point for new readers, as the status quo has radically changed in the Sectors and Kit Rocha doesn't assume you've spent several years reading their previous novels (like I have).
Ashwin Malhotra is a genetically modified super-soldier, one of the Makhai, brutally trained to act without emotion. He is fearsome, solitary and has been growing increasingly unstable. The source of his instability is his forbidden fixation on one of his former doctors, Kora Bellamy. Ashwin smuggled her away from their base and arranged for the O'Kanes to hide and protect her, even from himself. Fearing he would harm her, he submitted himself to a tortuous process to rid himself of his fixation. Once again considered fit for duty his generals have sent him on a infiltration and reconnaissance mission into the heart of Sector One.
Sector One is run by the Rios Family, descendants of a powerful self-styled prophet, who built a powerful cult around himself. Gideon Rios, a grandson of the prophet is the political leader of Sector One, having given control of their church to his sister Isabela. Despite this the religious devotion and loyalty of the residents of Sector One, still belong almost absolutely to Gideon, which troubles the Generals as the refugees fleeing Eden are walking straight to Rios Family-run temples for help.
Kora Bellamy's whole life has been dedicated to caring and medicine. Trained for infancy by her his distant but over-protective father, she has never shied away from bucking authority and risking her life in order to make sure the people around get the help they need. During the war she found refuge in Sector One with the Rios family, who helped her establish hospitals and accepted her as a sister. But she hasn't really considered it home, till Ashwin walks in after being missing for months. Seeing Ashwin again raises tons of questions for her and throws them both into turmoil.
This romance is all about conflicted loyalties, accepting unexpected welcome & forgiveness and like all Kit Rocha books, about chosen families. Ashwin and Kora have a lot of secrets from each other, lots of fears and insecurities about their mental states, their feelings and their identities. They have long been pawns in other people's grand schemes and they need to figure out who they are and what they want before they can fully claim each other. They must satisfy their longing for each other while trying to unpack what they truly feel and then they will have to figure out how to keep each other safe from those who want to use them.
As Kit Rocha veteran, I am loving all the background political maneuverings and the exploration of the intersection between politics, power and religion in Sector One as the post-Eden world is reshaped. I love seeing this world from a different perspective and I can't wait to get to know the other Riders.
DISCLAIMER: I am unapologetic Kit Rocha fangirl. I pretty much dropped everything else I was reading when Bree emailed me this ARC. I follow and chat with Bree on twitter all of time because I really respect her views of romance, writing and fandom.
But she was Sarah Soon, ob/gyn, maker of lists, taker of names, kicker of asses, and she had gotten over terrible things before. She always got over them. And she did not give a fuck what Jake Li thought of her.
Ruby Lang's books get better and better. I liked her first, Acute Reactions, loved the second, Hard Knocks and I adored Clean Breaks. Each of these romances are fun, emotional and nuanced in their portrayal of families and friendships. They are full of flawed people, and families who persist in loving each other, despite mistakes and disappointments.
Sarah Soon has come a long way from high school, where she was almost removed as valedictorian because she was caught topless with a boy at a party. She left home soon after, worked her way through college and med school on her own. She has just survived a brush with cancer, and is working to regain her strength and confidence again. The last person she wants to run into is Jake Li, her brother's best-friend and one of the many who didn't have her back when she needed them most, even if he has gotten incredibly hot in the meantime.
In the last ten years, Jake Li has lost his faith and most recently ended his marriage after his wife admitted to falling in love with another man. Jake is starting over, to trying to figure out who he is and what makes him happy. Everyone from his friends to his Reverend father have ideas on how he should act and behave after the divorce, but he is not interested in sleeping around or dating for sake of getting out there again. He is interested in seeing Sarah again and getting to know her all over again. He is not about to let idiotic best-friends, disapproving family and ancient history get in the way.
I loved how this romance developed. Jake and Sarah have a common history, growing up close but they don't know each other anymore. They have to re-learn things they thought they knew about each other and about themselves. Their shared history is both a blessing and impediment. They needle each other, they recognize each other and in the end surrender to loving each other.
Lang balances the seriousness of their feelings with great moments of humor. I loved their tense stand-offs over who had the right to bring a date to their sushi bar and the disastrous dinner Sarah, Reverend Li and Jake share at white-run Taiwanese inspired restaurant. Anger, awkwardness and ridiculousness meld deliciously.
All the characters felt knowable, yet unpredictable. I can't wait to read whatever Lang writes next.
Due South by Tamsen Parker: I love Tamsen Parker’s Compass series but this story can stand alone, and I highly recommend it if you have not read any of the others. As I said on twitter it is the sexiest book you will ever read about two people working crazy hours to rewrite a presentation on municipal bonds. Long hours, too much coffee and frustrated mutual attraction boil over one night, changing everything. Lucy and Evans, are both highly competent but not terribly confident, but in each other they find someone to trust, someone with which intimacy & vulnerability lead to empowerment.
Hard Core by Dakota Gray: I did not love this. I adored Perv and was really looking forward to Duke’s story but although I love his friendship with his battle-axe paralegal Gwen, and I thought Kennedy was interesting and fun, Duke was too much of chore. Although his downward spiral and grovel was epic, I wish the POVs had been switched and we would have seen this story from Kennedy’s point of view rather than Duke’s boringly stubborn head. I’ll still be back for Tarek’s story however because I still find the writing fun even if it didn’t sell me on the romance.
A Crown of Bitter Orange (La Vie en Roses bk 3) by Laura Florand A novel about family heritage, about coming home, and finding a home in someone. Malorie tried to walk away from her family’s disgraceful history and make a place for herself on her own. But when her grandmother dies, she comes home to make decisions on behalf of her scattered sisters about what to do with what is left behind. Tristan the youngest of the Rosier cousins, is waiting for her. He in fact has been waiting for to come home for a very long time. Safely grounded in the fertile soil of the Rosier Family, Tristan has to learn how to communicate and love Malorie in a way she understand, to climb the walls of her loneliness and overcome her suspicions. I loved the organic growth of their relationship and how the resolution to their conflict was natural and believable.
Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles: I absolutely loved this book. I reviewed it for RT so I can’t post a full review here or link to the one I wrote for them since it is behind a paywall. However I can say that I loved it. KJ Charles excels at populating her worlds with interesting, complex people. Her Victorian London is gritty and colorful, with visible immigrants & people of color and people of all economic classes are represented. I adored the romance between Clem and Rowley blossomed out of friendship and mutual care. (ARC provided by Loveswept for review consideration, expected publication date Feb 21, 2017)
Reading has always been a refuge for me. Romance the lifesaver I clung to when my family hit a particularly rough patch. Our country and maybe the whole world is in one such rough patch right now. As a reader I’ve retreated to series and familiar authors. To world or words that felt familiar and comforting.
In the days leading up to the inauguration I binge read G.A. Aiken’s Dragon Kin books. I love Shelly Laurenston/ G.A. Aiken’s absolutely bonkers, and bloodthirsty heroines and her arrogant and frequently befuddled heroes under whatever pen name she is writing under.
In Dragon Actually, the heroine, Annwyl the Bloody is the bastard daughter of tyrant, leading a rebellion against her even more vicious brother. Fearghus The Destroyer, is dragon sick and tired of people, not to mention his large and annoying family, who stumbles upon Annwyl as she cuts down soldiers who had ambushed her. Instead of eating her, Fearghus instead uses his magics and that off his sister’s to heal Annwyl. I loved the friendship & hesitant romance that grows between Annywl and Fearghus.
Laurenston/Aiken’s sense of the ridiculous is spot on as she has Annwyl and Ferghus end up in a unlikely love-lust triangle, as Annwyl slowly falls in love with the Dragon while lusting for the Knight, her trainer, not knowing he is Fearghus in his human form. But that storyline is not simply for laughs and hotness, but it helps flesh out Annwyl’s guarded personality. She feels safe with the Dragon, precisely because he is a dragon and not a man. With the Knight, she can explore her desires and wants in a way she has never been able to before, surrounded by either her brother’s villainy and cruelty or her soldier’s admiration and loyalty.
I eventually blew through the rest of the Dragon Kin stories. I was caught up in the multigenerational saga of that unfolded in the series, and the variety of relationships and courtships Aiken she depicted. I love the friendships that unfold over the series as Annwyl reigns, as their family expands in unexpected ways and they are pulled in new and dangerous directions. This was a fun series that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
2016 has been a hard year for a lot of people. For my family it was a year of transitions, and although we’ve come out on the other side of those changes happier and healthier, there were many points in this past year where I’ve depended on books to provide comfort and light into my life when things were particularly hard. I re-read a lot of old favorites this year or turned to reliable authors who were already known to me when I felt the most emotionally fragile.
However one of my greatest joys as reader is when I discover someone new-to-me and learn they have a backlist full of books for me to enjoy. Instead of doing a traditional best-of list or favorite-books-of-the-year list I thought I would share a list of authors who I discovered this year and whose books brought me joy. Many of these authors are not debut novelists, some in fact are legends in the genre, but were simply new-to-me. I hope you to find someone to discover.
N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season completely rocked my world this year. A sprawling time-hoping science-fiction saga about a woman whose world is literally shaken apart. The story’s focus is on her determination to find and rescue her daughter amid the chaos. Jemisin's world building is masterful and the careful development of all the different relationships and small choices that led to that cataclysm was completely engrossing. I loved the second book, Obelisk Gate was just as much. I can’t wait for the final book in this trilogy. Jemisin’s draws a complex world with People of Color at the center of the narrative, and where race, class and gender issues all intersect with incredible skill. If you only read one book of my list this year, read this one but I should warn you that while there are incredible romantic conflicts in this story, it is not a genre romance, HEAs are not guaranteed in any way.
Santino Hassell and Megan Erickson’s Cyberlove collaboration left me squeeing uncontrollably on twitter for days. Emotional, smart, funny, diverse and and scorching hot, these LGBT romances just made me happy. The main characters are quirky, gruff and flawed and incredibly compelling. After reading Strong Signal and Fast Connection, I ran out and bought books off both of their backlists and I continue to be impressed by the quality of their work. Both Hassell and Erickson have sky-rocketed to the top of my must-buy-list.
HelenKay Dimon is a romantic suspense legend, but because I generally avoid books with buff Navy SEALs on the covers and if I am honest most romantic suspense, I had never read one of her novels till this year. I tried several, including some of her older M/F rom suspense novels but the series that made me a fan is her new M/M romance series from Loveswept, Tough Love, featuring deadly dangerous men secretly saving the world. The team dynamics are fantastic and the supporting casts full and entertaining. The romances were full of competence porn featuring witty bickering couples great at their jobs but terrible at feelings.
To my eternal shame I hadn’t read any of Beverly Jenkins’ historical romances until this year. I knew of her, met her at RWA and read books by her literary daughters but I had not actually read one of her books. I read Forbidden with the #notabc, (not-a-book-club) twitter reading group. I was awed by the richness of Ms. Jenkins books, and how she seamlessly layers historical and cultural details while crafting beautiful romantic HEAs for black men and women. If like me you find yourself primarily reading a very narrow slice of historical romance (for example: white m/f regency roms) I urge you to read Ms. Jenkins and see what you have been missing and then check out Piper Hugely, Kianna Alexander, Lena Hart & Alyssa Cole for more awesome historical romance.
I started out the year reading one of Melissa Blue’s contemporary romances, "Under His Kilt" and ended it reading her Dakota Gray erotic romance, Perv about man with a fetish for oral sex and the woman determined to teach him a lesson for the callous way he treated her best-friend. Whether she is writing as Melissa Blue or Dakota Gray her books were a ton of fun, very sexy with strong believable conflicts. I’ve already pre-ordered the next book in her Filth series out at the end of January, Hardcore on the strength of Perv.
I can’t fail to talk about the Kindle Unlimted authors, Anna Carven, Ruby Dixon, TS Joyce & Suzanne Wright that caught my attention this year, since I spent a great part of this year binging on their books. This summer I treated myself to Kindle Unlimited subscription and gave myself permission to declare ARC backlog bankruptcy and read for fun without the pressure to review. It was glorious and just what I needed.
Because of the economics of KU, I was more willing to try books with weird covers, crazier concepts and indulge in a trope-heavy erotic romances that just made me giggle at first and later surprised me with the quality of their worldbuilding. These books are certainly a cut above the average KU book, but I probably wouldn't have read them all had I been buying the books individually and not accessing them via KU. If you have a powerful need for some hot SFR and paranomal romaances and already have a KU subscription check these out:
Ann Carven’s Dark Planet Warriors series is suspenseful and action packed. A space station is taken-over by seemingly hostile group of super-powerful aliens, but the real threat are the giant cockroach-like creatures they are chasing. Complex imperial politics, interplanetary diplomacy and a clash of civilizations is the backdrop in these romances. The stories are far from perfect but I wasn’t bored reading them.
Ruby Dixon’s Ice Planet Barbarians with their big blue hunter-gatherer aliens has grown into expansive family drama, as much about community dynamics as it is about people learning how to love across cultural and language barriers and surviving in a brutal environment with few resources.
TS Joyce’s Lumberjack shifters are funny and trope-heavy, but I got attached to kooky trailer-park inhabiting shifters because of the multi-generational community full of strong friendships Joyce develops.
Suzanne Wright’s books are the most traditional of this quartet, featuring wolf shifters trying to balance pack politics with forbidden or inconvenient attraction. The Phoenix and Mercury Pack series are solidly entertaining.
Make Love not War goes the 60’s refrain but that is not a choice the lovers in these two books can make. War is raging and they can’t retreat or escape it. Their choice is to make love and war.
Beyond Surrender by Kit Rocha is the final book in their dystopian epic series about a band of free-loving bootlegging gangsters that were push too far and too long and refuse to roll-over and die. They tried just carving a little piece of the world for themselves but the world wouldn’t leave them alone, so they had to make their world just a bit bigger.
Nessa in Beyond Surrender is everyone’s little sister, most especially Dallas’ . She has been with him since before there were any other O’kanes. Her skill at making Liquor is the heart of his operation. And no one is more aware of that than Nessa. Life has taught her that only two kinds of men ever make a move on her, thoughtless lunks who don’t know enough to be scared of the O’kanes and manipulative liars who see her as asset to be seduced away. Nessa has been waiting a long time to find someone who will hold her attention and who is worth her time. Ryder terrifies her. He is everything she wants, and she has absolutely no idea what he really wants.
Ryder doesn't either, he has been training and preparing for this war his whole life. The only person that has made him want to consider what comes after is Nessa.
I enjoyed the romance, and I love the dynamics of Nessa and Ryder’s relationship as they both try to figure out what they want and how much they want it. They are deliciously awkward at times and undeniably sexy. However the main draw for me in this book was seeing how Bree and Donna were going to wrap up this war, and series, keeping up the tension and stakes and not destroy a bunch of HEA’s in the process. I was sucker punched at points and just generally impressed at how they were able to really show the cost of this war on the O’kanes while not betraying romance expectations. There was a cost and many tears and scars because to this war. There are many storylines I am eager to follow into their new Gideon’s Riders series but I was also satisfied that I had read something that hung together as cohesive if expansive story. The O’kanes and their struggle have always connected with me deeply and I think this was a good way to end their story. ( I received ARC of Beyond Surrender from Kit Rocha).
Beyond Surrender ended a series but Moonshadow opens one.
Moonshadow by Thea Harrison is the start of a new series in the Elder Races world.
I took refuge in Thea Harrison’s Elder Races novels during the run up to the election. They were a fantastic escape, worth the hefty price tag. However unlike my experience with the Beyond books, where I always wanted to see how things connected and check in with Dallas and Lex, I was way less interested in the political intrigue arcs and the central couple of Dragos and Pia. I wanted less of the meta story and more romance. In Moonshadow, Thea Harrison stays in the same world and mythos of her Elder Races novels but goes in more romance-heavy direction (and much more reasonable price point).
Some things were very familiar, Nikolas, a soldier for Oberon’s Dark Court is powerful, dangerous and unreasonably attracted to the heroine. Despite being overmatched physically by the dark commanding hero, the heroine, Sophie Ross, tolerates zero BS and challenges the hero at every turn. There is tons of delicious bickering, some hate sex and lots of stomping around and trying to ignore inconvenient feelings.
Sophie is at a major crossroads in her life. She is recovering from a terrifying encounter that has left her unable to face returning to her old life as Witch-consultant with the LAPD, when she is offered a piece of her past and given chance to inherit an impregnable magical house, if she can break into it. On her way there she rescues a hurt creature that is not quite what he seems, bringing her to Nikolas’s attention. He and his ever-dwindling fighting brothers has been stranded and on the run for centuries and have almost forgotten what peace feels like. Sophie and her magical house, built on the site of their greatest defeat offers a glimmer of hope and her un-orthodox magical practices an edge they have never had before. Sophie and Nikolas must learn to fight side by side, even when it terrifies them. In the end Sophie and Nikolas have to make a choice to treasure love despite inconvenient timing and their own doubts about their capacity love or give up before they have even gotten started.
I am hopeful of this new direction. The romance still got a bit lost in all the intense action of the last third of the book but it was restored to its proper focus in the closing chapters. I am eager to spend more time in this corner of the Elder Races world. ( I received a ARC of Moonshadow from Thea Harrision via NetGalley).