Romance Feed

Thirsty by Mia Hopkins (Eastside Brewery Bk 1)

Second chances new start (1)When his temporary post-prison living arrangements fall apart, Salvador Rosas need a cheap place to crash, quick.  Chinita, an old lady from the neighborhood lets him crash in her garage for $200 and the labor of cleaning it out.  Chinita's granddaughter Vanessa, loses her mind when she finds out, but lets him stay anyway, on probation. 

Sal was sent to prison at 19, after spending most of his teens stealing cars and running with a Hollenbeck gang in East LA, ever since his family started disintegrating after his mother and sister's death. He knew back then that Vanessa  was too good for him, with her good grades and her drive. But just as he was being sentenced, she was finding out she was pregnant by the first boy she ever kissed, another gangster just like him, Sleepy.

In the 5 years Sal spent in Prison, Vanessa's life changed. Widowed before she became a mother, she didn't get out of the neighborhood, but she did get her degree. She works hard as bookkeeper, studying hard to pass the CPA exam. She let her life get derailed once and is determined not to let it ever happen again.

Thirsty is told exclusively through Sal's POV, his worries, anxiety and tension about what to do next with his life is central and that focus is what makes this story work. Sal is big, dangerously built, charming and super-sexy, but from his POV we also know how he struggles to acclimate to life outside of prison, to figure out what the right choices are for him.  We  know that he is wary, anxious and utterly convinced that he isn't worth taking a risk on.  That contrast between his outward  image from images-na.ssl-images-amazon.comappearance and his inner vulnerability allows me to connect to him.

Hopkins does a wonderful job with depicting the complexity of Vanessa and Sal's connection to their neighborhood and their Mexican American heritage.  While I don't love the fact that Sal and Vanessa's ex, were both gang-members and the centrality of gang life to the story, and I wish there were more non-gang affiliated supporting characters in the story, I still liked it.  Chinita and her gang of elderly chismosas were a ton of fun. I also liked the contrasts Hopkins developed between the two white men who enter Sal's life.  Barry is his boss at the gym, sees someone he can exploit in Sal. He might frame his offer to train him to be a trainer as something that would benefit both of them, but Sal is right to be wary. To Barry, Sal is an opportunity.  Alan on the other hand, recognizes in Sal someone with potential.  He mentors and befriends without in non-patronizing way.  He feeds Sal's curiosity by sharing his passion openly and I wasn't surprised that he was there when Sal needed him most.

If you enjoy stories about second chances, about finding a new path in life despite past mistakes, try Thirsty. Despite my wariness that the story w
ould reinforce the very harmful stereotypes of Latinx criminality, it was a story that was very respectful of the challenges of growing up with few choices and focused on building a better future. 

 

 

 


2018 -- Mid-Year Favorites #readRchat

Mid-Year Favorites
This past weekend #readRchat, a monthly romance reader focused twitter chat, asked us to name of our Mid-year Favorites.  These are mine:

Favorite Books 

This has been such a good year for books. I know authors have struggled more than ever to write stories with HEAs, but as a reader I need HEAs more than ever. So thank you all for keeping your fingers typing and your pens and pencils sharp.

Muscular man in blue plaid, his shirt open, held by a dark haired beauty in a black cocktail dressRai's Forbidden Hearts series is soapy intersectional romance that is super sexy. It has a fantastic overarching family saga plot that is finally unraveled in Hurts to Love You. My favorite book in the series is undoubtedly, Wrong to Need You but I loved how Rai wrapped up the series and seeded her new one in this one. 

Cover of Ivan by Kit Rocha, Shirtless tattooed man, woman in white dressI adore Kit Rocha books, so it should be no surprise that Ivan (The 3rd book in their Gideon Rider's series) made my list. This was a cross-class, bodyguard/princess romance.  Ivan is the son of a martyred hero, who grew up on the streets when he and his widowed mother lost everything because of his uncles's failed coup. He seeks redemption and wants nothing more than to die protecting the Rios family. That is until he fell in love with the Rios princess, Maricela, who he is assigned to protect. 

A couple dancing, man in tuxedo and woman in red dress
It has been thrilling to see a Puerto Rican authors getting  RITA noms and mainstream attention, so I was excited to read Oliveras's Her Perfect Affair. It didn't disappoint. I really loved Rosa's and Jeremy's story, especially the way she didn't a cave under the pressure and compromise herself into a marriage of convenience.  I love the Fernandez sisters and I am looking forward to the third book so much. 

 

I"ll have a review up of the fabulous Duke by Default over at Love in Panels in a couple of weeks.

 

Favorite books read in 2018 published in prior years:

 

Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton 51OkGLhwV+L._SY346_My favorite books of the first half 2018, written in previous years were Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs and Jo Walton's Tooth & Claw.  I had originally skipped reading Fire Touched because my libraries didn't own it in ebook or audio (while they had all the other ones) and Penguin backlist prices are always steep.  However I was shamed by all the other Briggs fans for skipping what they consider one of the best books in the series. They were not wrong to shame me. I really loved how Adam, Mercy and the Pack work together and they dynamics of how their pack shifts to make room for Aiden.

Jo Walton totally committed to her concept in Tooth and Claw. It is fantastic and fully, Austen or more accurately Victorian Fiction starring dragons. Not with Dragons, but Dragons.  The worldbuilding was fantastic from the cannibalistic Lords getting rich and fat off the flesh of their peasants to the politics of honor and power.  As an Austen fan, I adored it.

Favorite New Installment of an Ongoing Series:

image from winterfell.blogs.com image from winterfell.blogs.comIron and Magic is a book I really enjoyed and definitely didn't know I wanted till I read the excerpt the Andrews had posted on their website. I found Hugh a fascinating villain but I was not one of the ones clamoring for his story. However I am fascinated with Hugh as someone recovering from religious zeal and although I don't know a lot about Elara, I do want to know more about her past and the power she carries.

Ocean Light, I really enjoyed Ocean Light, especially Kaia and her clanmates. I was fascinated by seeing the story of Bowen's background and how he became the Alpha of the humans but it was decidedly a middle, set-up book, were the focus was on clicking things in place for the Trinity vs. Consortium fight that has been brewing for several books. 

Favorite Debut Book of 2018: 

I focused this year on new-to-me authors but I didn't necessarily start with their debut books. Some of the New-t0-Me authors I have read and enjoyed this year are Therese Beharrie, whose Surprise Baby, Second Chance, I reviewed this month, Mia Hopkins, whose Thirsty was erotic, emotional and fascinating and Ada Harper's whose Conspiracy of Whispers was fantastic.   Hoping I fall in love with during the second half of the year with a couple of debut books whose ARCs I am over due to read but are both historical which I haven't been reading much of right now, (sorry Jude Lucens and Eve Pendel).

Favorite Author Discovery:

image from winterfell.blogs.comI adored Peter Darling and I immediately checked my TBR to see if I had bought Austin's other books Coffee Boy and Caroline's Heart.  I am saving them for I need something beautiful and moving to read.  

Favorite Underrated Book of the Year so Far:

image from winterfell.blogs.comIn my review in January I wrote the following:

This story was just fantastic, and then you add the fact that O'Keefe and Lang's stories are included in there too, and I can't believe more people aren't reading these. They are just stellar nuggets of contemporary romance. 

Favorite Audiobook :

I was delighted with the narration for this book. It was sly, arch and funny and I really got a great sense of all the characters.

image from winterfell.blogs.comBest Surprise of 2018:

A8/ can’t say I ever go in not expecting to love a book but I was absolutely delighted with how good Katz’s Cybernetic Tea Shop #readrchat really great SFF f/f ace rom. https://t.co/LBfBhagyJl

— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) July 7, 2018


Ruby Lang recommended this book during #Rombklove and it was just a delight to read. The 
worldbuilding was subtle and the story sweet and all about how we make connections.

Favorite Romance Adjacent/Related piece of Pop Culture:

Jane-the-virgin33My 14-year is a big fan of the CW and of television in general. She was shocked to discover that I had not been watching Jane the Virgin, especially since she knows I love romance. My only defense is that I watch TV sporadically, binge watching British murder mysteries series when I am burnt out of reading.   But I have adored what I have watched of the first season and I look forward to spending time with my daughter as we watch the Villanueva family find their HEAs.

 

Most Anticipated book of the 2nd half of 2018:

Duke by Default  beautiful black woman in a colorful dress in the arms of a silver fox man in a grey shirt and black pantsI hope you are all anticipating A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole. I loved what Cole did with Portia ( the difficult best-friend in A Princess in Theory) and the personal  journeys she takes Portia and Tavish on.  On my TBR for this month is Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner's Free Fall from their fantastic Space Race Era historical romance,  Fly Me to the Moon series.   I'm also anxiously awaiting the concluding chapter in the Ilona Andrews's Kate Daniels series, Magic Triumphs.

A Year in Review:

2018 has been a fantastic year for romance. I have read so many fantastic books. If you want to see all I have read so far this year, you can read my bookthread on twitter. I am posting a mini-review for each book I read this year. I have loved keeping track of my reading this way.

I also decided that I should drop all that data into spreadsheet and crunch some numbers. 

I still overwhelming read M/F, 90% of the books I have read so far this year have been M/F, which shocked me until I read through the list again. I have been reading a lot of backlist UF and Contemporaries featuring m/f couples. Just looking at that stat alone, I am glad I decided to log what I am reading.

31% of the books I read were by AOC, so there is still a lot of room for growth there.  The numbers show that I am overwhelmingly reading Contemporary, PNR and Urban Fantasy with a smattering of the other sub-genres. I've only read a handful of Historicals or SFR this year.Genre Breakdown

 

 


Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews (Iron Covenant Book 1)

Iron and Magic cover by Ilona Andrews A woman with long white hair dressed in white and dark haired man dressed in black stand in front of a castleWhen I heard that Ilona Andrews was writing a book for Hugh, I was mystified. In the Kate Daniels novels Hugh was the brutal, remorseless Warlord for Roland, who cut a brutal path through Atlanta, killing many of Kate's near and dear friends and allies. He is not a  heroic figure. He was a capital V-villain. But if we know a character's eye-color you know someone out there in Romancelandia is hoping for their book. I didn't think I was one of those people, and then I read the excerpt and I reconsidered.

Hugh is reframed in this book. He continues to be the fully-committed brutal warrior in the ridiculous over-sized horse.  Having been exiled and cast aside by Roland, he has been un-moored and has spent nearly a year drowning himself in alcohol, until the surviving members of his Iron Dogs come find him.  They are being killed off by Roland's men and they need to regroup for safety.  Starving and down to their last coins, Hugh chooses to accept an unlikely alliance. 

Elara has a castle full of followers and mysterious folks very determined to push her out of it. She needs Hugh and his troops as protection. She offers him a bargain. A marriage of convenience, where she will provide them income and a secure location and he provides protection.  Both are desperate enough to make the bargain without looking to closely at each other's past.

Elara and Hugh's flirtation through mutual antagonism is one of my favorite tropes. Their tit-for-tat battles while putting on a nice face for bystanders just made me gleeful. I love particularly how their hyper-awareness of each other due to their suspicious natures, means they see each other in a way no one else does.  They see past the bluster, and facade of control, to see when they are fearful or hurt.  They are both under incredible pressure as leaders. Although they both have trusted friends on their sides, in the end they are both alone in making the hard choices for their communities. They have a lot of unvoiced feelings and secrets yet to unpack and I am eager to see where things go next for this couple.

I can't wait to learn more about Elara, her past with the Remaining and the reason she left with her Departed and just how Hugh will come to terms with what she truly is. I expect Ilona and Gordon Andrews to continue to unpack the dangers of religious devotion and where the lines are drawn between adoration, love and loyalty.

If you are a Kate Daniels fan already, I hope you pick up Iron and Magic.

 

 

 


Surprise Baby, Second Chance by Therese Beharrie

48. Therese Beharrie ‘s Suprise Baby, Second Chance (eARC, 8/7) forced-proximity, SAfrican-set m/f. Rosa left their seemingly happy marriage without a word & their near reconciliation has consequences.Strong emotional conflict as they face their anxieties https://t.co/BbUvioLYKK

— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) June 23, 2018

A black woman with light brown curly hair is hugged and nuzzeled by a handsome black man in white shirtsleeves.Rosa walked away from what Aaron thought had been a happy marriage. Her surprise abandonment, shattered his confidence and his sense of what they had together.  It is Rosa who is blindsided when she walks into what she expects is her mother-in-law's birthday bash to find herself stranded alone with her estranged husband at his family's vacation home.

Stuck together for the weekend, Rosa and Aaron can no longer avoid talking about the hidden guilt and anxiety that has driven them apart. Despite the fact that they both care deeply about each and still are deeply attracted they find a way to reconcile and overcome the ways they have denied each other trust and intimacy when they needed it most.

Beharrie has her characters unpack  and reckon which whole host of mental anguishes and anxieties that stem from the very particular way they met. Cancer, caretaking and parental abandonment both physical and emotional play a huge role in their relationship dynamics, more than each of them realize at the start of the novel.

The escalation of their confrontations and the very realistic way they spiral off-topic to other sensitive topics felt very real, especially they way to very verbal people can talk circles around each other while failing to understand what the core conflict really is.

The book felt emotionally true, especially Rosa's conflicting desires and questioning of her choices and her deep fear of becoming someone Aaron comes to resent. Aaron's struggles to confront his own anxieties about being someone deserving of love where equally heartbreaking.

And this is all before they have to figure out how to respond at the news of an unplanned pregnancy.

This book packs an emotional wallop that never shies away from the very un-cute downsides of forced proximity scenarios. I appreciate how truly uncomfortable it is not to be able to escape an emotionally intense conversation because you are literally trapped in a the room together and then seemingly trapped in a relationship because of impulsive choice.

Neither of these characters responds in all the right ways. They really struggle which makes their efforts at trying to put together their relationship and becoming more accepting of their own mental health struggles was highly emotional book to read.

 

An ARC of Surprise Baby, Second Chance was provided by the author, Therese Beharrie for review consideration.

Surprise Baby, Second Chance is available for pre-order right now and it due for release on Aug 7, 2018.

  


Recent reading: Urban Fantasy Mini Reviews of Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs and Steel's Edge by Ilona Andrews

 

The Mercy Thompson series is one of the series I depend on the library to read. The sticker price is just so expensive.  For some weird reason all the libraries I have access to did not own Fire Touched, so I skipped over it when I was working on catching up on the series since they did have Silence Fallen.

I scandalized quite a few Briggs fans by doing that, so I decided to use my next Audible credit to buy the audio. And they were right. The book was worth paying for and was full of fantastic Adam and Mercy time.  I can now understand  how Silence Fall felt like setback after seeing Adam, Mercy and the pack working so well together. I really loved the cognitive dissonance Mercy and Adam have to wrestle with as they get to know Aiden. He looks like a child, but is super old and dangerous. He has been abused and alone for a long-time, and in the end he needs Adam, Mercy and the pack just as much as all their wolves do. 

 

This is a rare miss by Ilona Andrews. I usually love their books and while the Edge series has always been grim, dark and gory, I've never needed a Epilogue more. There was just so much wrenching emotionally tragic choices through out this book that just could not be wrapped up by the last page of the final chapter. Without the Epilogue and the extensive period of time in covered  this book would have been a tragedy.

Honestly I regret reading book because it was just so unrelentingly sad. I never quite recovered from the violent end suffered by a beloved supporting character in the series.

Powerful people using power to abuse, regular people letting things happen and good-hearted people making too many of the sacrifices.

CW: Heroine is infertile, her first husband left her because of it. She carries a lot of pain related to that.  There are also lots of references to sexual abuse, past and present to supporting characters.  


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.


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!

 

 


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.


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.