Romance Feed

Not Another Rock Star (Hot Under Her Collar #3) by Amber Belldene

51qVm7EJsDL._SY346_Suzannah's first year as a priest is off to a rocky start. The foodbank project her church called her to spearhead has run into unexpected opposition, she is putting in too many early morning and late nights working on her sermons and worst yet some of her parishioners have noticed. When her organist, Peggy, breaks her arm in the weeks leading up to Easter it is a stress she doesn't need, but the replacement, Peggy's former star pupil, Rush Perez, a troubled rock star, might just the thing that makes her break.

Rush is hiding out in SF, trying to sort through treatment options. Losing his hearing and battling vertigo might not be life-threatening but they are career threatening. His worry and frustration has isolated him from his friends, too worried about the possibility of life without music that he rather let them think he is struggling with addition than tell them the truth about his prognosis. 

I really love Belldene's Hot Under Her Collar Series. First because they are so familiar and feel so right. My husband was a pastor for 15 years, and I find myself nodding along, as her priests tackle church politics, difficult parishioners and crises of confidence. Her priest are smart and passionate, with genuine faith and calling and, so often in romance and fiction in general characters are either one or the other. I believe in Suze's distracting attraction to the brooding rockstar just as much as I believe in her desire to serve God in her community.

I really enjoyed the progression of Rush and Suze's relationship, from antagonistic and prickly to wary and hopeful. They both carry a lot of baggage when it comes to music, faith and how they handle peoples expectations and  work pressure. Their relationship becomes believably unbalanced as Suze tackles her fears and insecurities, trusting in Rush to listen and provide good advice. While Rush comes to trust Suze with his struggles, opening up about his pain, he almost unable to trust himself to let her care for him. I cried big fat tears when Rush finally comes to realize almost too late that the barriers to their relationship's success are almost exclusively of his own making. Those are some of my favorite kinds of resolutions, when a character realizes that they are the ones that need to change, that they need to bend, and that all the external conflicts are secondary and endurable together.

If you like me are hungry for more romance where spirituality, and faith are not antithetical to sexual desire and passion, where couples struggle to be truly vulnerable and intimate with each other, and do a wonderful job at portraying friendships and community give this series by Belldene a try.  The books standalone quite well, so you can start with any of them, but they are all worth reading.

 

I received a ARC via Netgalley from the author.


Protecting their Mate (The Last Pack) by Moira Rogers (previously published under the name Mia Thorne)

51rB0UNOdpLIn paranormal romance particularly shifter romances (but also seen in Alien SFR, for example, Ice Planet Barbarians), finding one's mate is often complicated/facilitated by the triggering of a mating heat, an instinctual and undeniable sexual call, that is often painful to resist (occasionally even fatal). As their bodies cry out for sexual satisfaction, the couples' emotional journey is complicated as they try to figure out what they really feel for each other outside of bed,  the eternal Lust or Love question.  In PNR in particular, a lover's animal side is often more ready to accept the lover than their human side. In Protecting their Mate, Rogers inverts the usual formula.  

Ashley's parents were werewolves who had assimilated into human society after their pack fell apart. They tried to suppress and repress all of Ashley's wolfish instincts, eventually caging her in the basement of the family home. She is abandoned there just as she starts entering her mating heat. She is rescued come by members of one of the last true wolf packs remaining. 

Ashley is sexually inexperienced and largely ignorant of the ins and outs of being a werewolf and living  in a wolf pack and has to shed a lot of her inhibitions, and shame about sex before her wolf is willing to make a choice. Although Ashley quickly forms an emotional bond with her rescuer, Blake, her wolf wants to try out all the other potentials mates in the pack before it settles on just one person. Blake wants to guide her through the process but struggles to figure out if he can put Ashley's needs above his own and let go of his jealousy and insecurity so she can learn everything she needs to learn about being a wolf in and out of bed.

Like any other Rocha/Rogers book there is a lot of sex but possibly as a result of the original serial format when read in a collected form the motivations for the episodic menage (m/f/m) scenes grew repetitive although the sex scenes themselves remained creative. I appreciated how consistently the scenes featured clear consent, something often absent in many mating heat romances. The non-sexual plot heated up in the last half with the introduction of a rival pack, who covets Ashley and might be abusing their own female pack mate.  I was very intrigued by some of the world building choices and I'm interested in returning for more stories in this world as in typical Rocha/ Rogers fashion, the pack is filled with fascinating characters, with teasingly dark backstories. 

"Protecting their Mate" was a secret project previously published as serial on Kindle Unlimited under the name Mia Thorne by writing duo of Donna Herran & Bree Bridges, who also publish under the name Kit Rocha.  They are collecting the serial into three chapters for this re-release but not making any additional changes and will be released as bundle in Sept. 

Expected Publication dates:

 Part 1 – 7/24

Part 2 – 7/31

Part 3 – 8/7

Complete Bundle 9/15

and they will be continuing the series, Defending their Mate

I received  an ARC for review consideration from the authors.


Wildfire (Hidden Legacy Book 3) by Ilona Andrews

51dzRcjNU0LI am a long-time fan of Ilona Andrews's urban fantasy series. Their books have a great mix of action, humor and often feature hard-working, fiercely independent heroines facing terrible odds.

In the Hidden Legacy series, Nevada Baylor is private investigator, desperately trying to hold on to her family's firm. She lives and works in magic-dominated Houston, while hiding her family's own magical talents. She takes difficult cases, and works with her quirky but loving family. Over the course of the series she has fallen in love with Connor "Mad" Rogan, the hugely powerful telekinetic head of House Rogan, feared by the vast majority of the magical community. 

The relationship between Nevada and Connor is difficult, sweet and romantic, as they try to balance Nevada's need for independence and autonomy against Connor's need to protect her from the very dangerous people who are gunning for them both.

In Wildfire, the Baylors and Connor are still trying to track down the members of a dangerous magical conspiracy determined to undermine the current political structure and install their "Caesar"as supreme ruler. The Baylors are also under threat from their powerful and vicious paternal grandmother, who has been looking for them for decades and to complicate matters further Nevada has just been hired by Connor's ex-fiancee to help track down her missing husband.

The Andrews continue to craft stories with multiple-levels of threat, but hang together as a cohesive story line

In this chapter of Nevada and Rogan's romance I loved seeing how their love is maturing. They are learning to trust each other, even as romantic rivals and family obligations place greater pressure on their relationship.  Both of them are putting in the effort to bend for each other and the sexual tension and desire continues to hotter than fire.  

I love this family but I love this world a ton and I hope we continue to see more stories set in this world, with or without Nevada and Rogan at the center.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss +

Expected Publication Date July 25, 2017


Sight Unseen: A Collection of Five Anonymous Novellas

Sight-unseen-b-small-2-377x600Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran, Erin Satie, Emma Barry and J.A. Rock contributed to this anthology/guessing game. I have read multiple books by 4 out of these 5 authors, so it was an easy decision to pick up this book.  Even not knowing who wrote which story, I could count on enjoying the anthology as whole.

The stories cover a gamut of sub-genres, from fantasy to historical. These stories are clearly experiments by the authors to write outside their usual niches and play with settings and tropes they aren't know for exploring and push the boundaries of the genre.

The book opens with "Lost That Feeling" about rebel witch who has erased 7 years of her life & needs to figure next step when she is rescued by her former rebel leaders. I loved the depiction of magic in this story and how it played with the amnesia trope within a magic fantasy setting. Alma is a living "what if" moment, and is conscious of the possibilities, while confused about the reasons that led her to that moment.  I would characterize this story as fantasy with romantic elements because the romance takes a far back seat to the philosophical questions of how to end injustice.

In "A Clear View of You", I adored the angry and cynical fake-psychic grad-student heroine, drowning in college debt. Harmony "Kate" Marsh is estranged from her hippie-magic obsessed mother, Pangaea.  North needs Kate's help to retrieve a magical orb in Pangaea's possession.  It is a fantastic story about truth, trust and family. I loved the interaction between North and Kate, and how he challenges her entrenched beliefs without forcing or coercing.  It had a lot of fun banter and humor through out.

In "Free," Brad is a timid accountant who finally builds up the courage to confront an oblivious biker princess, Wren Masters, about her father's biker club's drug dealing. It is a small town romance about unrequited crushes, growing up and moving on.  Of the novellas this was probably the most conventional in tone and style. The subversion is in how it reworks the the typical Biker romance, rejecting slut-shaming tropes, and elevating the law-abiding hero over well-hung arrogant biker.  I loved Wren was the sexual instigator and that her motivations are not simple or easy.

It is 1983, and CJ Crespo's band DonJon is falling apart. Donny, her creative but not romantic partner of a ten-years, has exchanged the excesses of the road for the strictures of religious conversion. Their careers are disintegrating but they are finally reaching toward each other. "Chariot of Desire" jumped forward and backward in time and it left me feeling pensive about passion & purpose & not terribly hopeful for CJ and Donny.

"The Heart is a Universe", the final novella is epic science fiction/romantic myth. Vitalis and Eleian are heroes to their planets.  Vitalis is the Chosen One, the brightest of her generation, chosen by her people as a child to face a deadly task that assures their ability to remain on their planet.  Eleian pulled his planet from the brink of chaos, facing off against a tyrant and helping them restore democracy, before retreating from public life. What most don't know is that he has been ill since birth, and only experiences brief moments of health and vitality.  He uses one of them to orchestrate a meeting with his hero and inspiration Vitalis.  I cried a lot reading this story, sympathetic frustrated tears, mostly as these two, struggled with anger, duty and doubt.  

As a whole this anthology was very interesting and ambitious. As a guessing game despite having read 4 out of the 5 authors and knowing for sure who wrote one of the stories, I don't feel any confidence in my authorial guesses but it was fun to read a set of stories without knowing who authored what. As a discovery tool, I will definitely try more books by the one author I had not read previously, J.A. Rock.


The Bridesmaid and The Hurricane: A Capital Kisses story by Kelly Maher

30ish White man in white button up shirt and loose tie. Cover for Kelly Maher's The Bridesmaid and the Hurricane About a year and half-ago I spent a whole day reading novellas while keeping my youngest daughter company.  One of the novellas was Maher's Blizzard Bliss.  I found it quite charming and I was intrigued by a lot of the supporting characters.  One of the characters I wanted to know more about was Radhika O'Leary, Rory's older sister who was stranded at downtown hotel during the whole of Blizzard Bliss.

Turns out Radhika had a blizzard fling of her own with Malcolm "Colm" Jones, a national weather reporter in town to cover the storm. Eighteen months have passed with no contact but Colm is about to blow right back into Radhika's life and complicate it in ways neither of them expected.

When I asked for Radhika's story, it didn't expect this one, but that isn't a complaint.  Maher delivered a story about workplace politics, toxic co-workers, relationship baggage and the necessity to taking emotional risks.  I really liked the romance between Colm and Radhika, especially her wariness at getting involved with him, despite how much she liked and still likes him. Neither of these characters are perfect, but they are both trying very hard and they have friends and family to push them the right direction when they screw up.  

One of the things I really appreciate about Maher is her attention to detail and her strong sense of place however there were a few scenes that could have been tighter, as the pacing of the story slowed to accommodate the detail. That is a small nitpick in what was a fresh and interesting take on the return of a rebound two-night stand. 

I received ARC for review consideration from the author.


#RomBkLove Day 21: Auto-buy

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#RomBkLove Day 21: Auto-buy Who or what triggers your one-click finger?

This select group is actually very very small. I have a largish circle of authors whose books I am almost guaranteed to buy, because of their track record with me.  Those are authors are Alyssa Cole, Emma Barry, Erin Satie, Laura Florand, Ruthie Knox, Molly O'Keefe.  I will always look at their blurbs.

However my auto-buy list is quite small.  I could only think of four authors right now whose books I will buy without even bothering to read the blurb.   Those authors are Kit Rocha, whose world-building and vision in the Beyond and Gideon Riders series I am heavily invested in.  KJ Charles whose voice draws me in no matter the time period or genre. Whether it is a book in her long-running psy-changeling series or her contemporaries, Nalini Singh's has won such trust that even when I haven't loved every book, I don't even consider not picking them up.

What does it take to get you to auto-buy?


#RomBkLove Day 16: Dark Moments

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#RomBkLove Day 16: Dark Moments

I often read multiple books at the same time and the worst thing I ever do to myself is when I bail pages ahead of the dark moment, when the protagonist screw everything up, or the conflict seems insurmountable, in multiple books, and I am left with a kindle filled with a half-dozen of impending dark moments and no choice but to face one of them. I know I have the HEA waiting for me on the other side but still I hesitate, because I am so emotionally involved and I don't want to see the pain or hurt, but the HEA is not quite as sweet if there isn't anything to overcome low-angst or not.

One of the most memorable Dark Moments I can recall is from R. Lee Smith's Last Hour of Gann.  This book is absolutely brutal (TW: rape, sexual violence)  but it also did some extremely interesting stuff around faith and religion. I am not sure I can ever read it again, there is only so much rape I can stomach but Meoraq journey was fascinating. Meoraq is a warrior priest for his God, whose once unshakable belief in his God is shaken as he gets to know Amber, whose presence in his world, and her own beliefs start Meoraq on a questioning journey.  When Meoraq comes upon a shocking truth that upends everything he thought he knew, he is almost unable to go on, but in the end he come out of the other side of his belief, away from fundamentalism to a new less militant understanding of his religion and his role in the world, it was extremely satisfying. 

However the dark moment doesn't have to be the culmination of some long brutal journey to be beautiful and meaningful. One of my favorite recent dark moments is from Vanessa North's Roller Girl. In it Tina and Joe are falling for each other and trying to hide it from their derby team. The last time Joe dated another teammate, their breakup had big repercussions for her former team. She wants Tina, to hide their relationship from their friends, so she won't have to deal with their feeling about her dating another teammate. Their breakup wasn't explosive, but teary and emotional, two people who are clearly falling for each other unable to find a way make it work despite wanting each other so much.  It was just a ordinary breakup, but it was so very meaningful because I had gotten so attached to Tina and Joe and their friends. I care because I cared about them. It is just that simple sometimes.


#RomBkLove Day 15: Bicker and Banter

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#RomBkLove Day 15: Bicker and Banter Do you have a favorite bickering couple? Who writes the best banter?

One of my favorite on-screen couples are Nick and Nora Charles. Their constant banter and playful bickering is hilarious to witness in the Thin Man movies.  I love when characters can match wits or tease each other and there is still clearly a layer of love and respect beneath it.

I loved how in Heyer's Venetia Damerel and Venetia sparred in their letters and in person. Their verbal play was delightful and introduced an element of play into their relationship.

Sometimes verbal sparring is a way for more vulnerable characters to hide their insecurity or gain attention. In Fast Connection by Erickson and Hassell, Dominic Costigan is just starting to figure out his bisexuality and when he hooks up with older grumpy Luke, he uses his smart-alecky ways to poke through Luke's persistent cynicism and wear down his opposition to them seeing each other again.  

 

 


#RomBkLove Day 14: Covers

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#RomBkLove Day 14: Covers  What says romance for you? Do they matter to you? Ever bought a book just because of the cover? Any favorites?

Because I follow so many authors on twitter, I know how incredibly hard it is to find even passably useful stock photos, so I tend to be forgiving when I spot the same cover model, on a dozen book covers.  Long-gone are the days of commissioned oil paintings. Although check out this slide show of original Lisa Kleypas covers! I wish I had some of these!

When I look at covers, I am not someone who is looking for a headless set of abs. When I look at couples I want to see tenderness or passion. I like the covers to highlight an element of the book.

Some of my recent faves:

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#RomBkLove Day 13: Contemporary Romance

IMG_7003#RomBkLove Day 13: Contemporary Romance:  Small Towns, Big Cities, and everything in between. What do look for? Who does it best?

When I burned out of HistoRom, I was lost on where to start with Contemporaries. My library at the time didn't have much contemporary romances available that didn't have Adirondack chairs on the covers. And browsing through Amazon seemed like a bad plan. Since I had no idea on how to begin I asked for recs on twitter.  I asked Sarah Wendell, specifically as I was huge listener of her podcast with Jane Litte and I knew she read a lot of them. She suggested I start out with Ruthie Knox and Shannon Stacey.  These were fantastic recs, as they are both authors I still read to this day.  Stacey's Kowalski series, set in a small New Hampshire town is still one my favorite small town contemporary series.

But the first contemporary I tried was actually Ruthie Knox's About Last Night. And to be honest I didn't really like it the first time I read it.  I didn't like Neville a lot and I wasn't quite sure what to make of Cath.  But there was there that when I saw the first novella in her Camelot series, with How to Misbehave was on sale, I decided to try it. Reading Amber was a little like reading about myself 15 years before. Her hesitancy and distance from her sexual self was painfully familiar as was her struggle with her faith and always having been known as a good girl. I eventually feel in love with Ruthie Knox's writing, with her flawed heroines's struggles and I recognized the suburban communities they lived in.  I slowly ventured further and further into contemporaries from there, discovering Cara McKenna, MaryAnn Rivers,  Audra North, Delphine Dryden and other of the Wonkmance writers closely associated with Ruthie Knox.  

My current go-to-authors for contemporary romance are Alisha Rai, Lauren Dane, Kristen Ashley, Farrah Rochon, Emma Barry, Molly O'Keefe, Lucy Parker, Laura Florand, Ruby Lang, Victoria Dahl and  Santino Hassell and Megan Erickson are just some my go-to authors writing contemporary romance.  

So who are your go-to-authors? What makes for a good contemporary romance? Is there anything that defines this broad genre?