I 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 +
Romantic Elements Which ones do you love? How much romance do you need?
I came to romance from other genres. Whether I was reading mystery, fantasy or science fiction I was always drawn to books with a strong romance storyline.
I read a lot of Urban Fantasy with central romantic relationships, one of my favorites is Patricia Briggs' Alpha & Omega series. Charles and Anna's relationship beautiful and powerful and constantly tested but they persevere.
One of the things I love about the Alpha and Omega series is that while the stories are full of great crime solving/detective/action adventure elements, the stories in the end are really about Anna and Charles’s relationship. Briggs does not flinch as she has portrays the many hurdles and difficulties pair have to overcome to be happy together. Briggs strength in these books is that she has balanced the portrayals of conflict, pain, with those of growth and joy.
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
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).
Opening Up (Ink and Chrome #1) by Lauren Dane: I read Dane for her heroines. She also writes complex, sometimes heavy family relationships, hot & interesting heroes but her heroines are just amazing. PJ is the grand-daughter of a racing legend and the black-sheep of her car-parts selling family. At work she is marginalized by her sexist asshole father and managed by her siblings. PJ follows her heart out of the company and launches her own car customizing business. PJ might be young but she is smart, tenacious and knows what she wants, and she wants Asa. Asa is gorgeous and sexy. He respects her work and finds her delightful but doesn't want to saddle her with his demons (abandonment issues & hardscrabble childhood). There was relatively little relationship angst in this book after their initial dance around each other as PJ's family/work conflict dominates but the romance was sexy and satisfying. I can't wait to read more Ink and Chrome books,
Nice Dragons Finish Last (Heartstrikers 1) by Rachel Aaron. Julius's mother is a legendary and powerful dragon. She rules her large family through fear and manipulation. Impatient with Julius's lack of ambition, she drags him out of his room and away from his video games and drops him in the middle of the DFZ (Detroit Free Zone), without his powers and money and tells him he has a month to prove himself worthy of his family name or he dies.
Marci is almost a certified Mage, only a few week away from her degree when her father's vicious employer kills him and sets out to kill her too.
Both Marci and Julius are trying to stay alive in the DFZ and build a unlikely partnership as they team up to track down a runaway dragon.
This is the first book in a fun, imaginative and engaging Urban Fantasy series. I loved the whole thing, from Julius and Marci's fledgling flirtation to Julius large, dangerously unpredictable family.
Ride Steady (Chaos #3) by Kristen Ashley : I devoured this book. I think it is the best of the series so far. As a kid, Carson grew up learning how to take a hit, and keep his head down. He learned to plot, plan and keep his dreams to himself. Eight years after leaving town after one last confrontation with his father, Joker is where he wants to be. He is brother in Chaos, where he turns his art into customized bikes. He thinks he has left his past behind till he runs into his teenage crush Carissa on the side of the road.
Carissa was a cheerleader and the quarterback's girlfriend, but she didn't play the mean girl games and always had a smile for Carson. While Joker's life has been in a upward trajectory, Carissa has fallen far from her high school glory. After the loss of her sister and her mother's death, all Carissa has ever wanted was to have a family. So she held on to her jerk boyfriend for dear life. Eight years later she has been dumped by her lawyer husband who has replaced her with an even younger fiancée, she is desperately trying to make ends meet, working overtime as grocery clerk, caring for her toddler son while trying to figure out how to hold on to custody. Her ex wants to scrape her from his life and take their son with him. While Carissa is initially wary of getting help from a biker, she soon recognizes what a good man Joker is, even if she doesn't realize, this beared, lean and shaggy haired man is her old crush, Carson.
There a great versions of familiar KA motifs, fun cameos by other KA characters, and a surprisingly mature and beautiful romance, where the hero and heroine solve problems and share concerns with each other. It is one of those rare books that at 640 pages I was left wanting more.
Dead Heat is the fifth story in Patricia Briggs' Urban Fantasy series, Alpha & Omega. I discovered the the Alpha & Omega series a couple of years ago when I ran out of her excellent yet heart-wrenching Mercy Thompson books to borrow from my library's audio-book collection. Set in the same universe, the series follows Anna and Charles a mated wolf pair, who track and destroy supernatural threats to shifter and human communities.
Charles is one of the son's of the Marrok, the leader of all the werewolves in North America. He is his father's problem solver and enforcer. Anna is an Omega wolf, a very rare kind of wolf that exists outside the strict hierarchical werewolf pack power structure. She can not be forced to submit to the will of even the strongest Alpha, and has the power to pacify and neutralize the most dominant of wolves.
In Dead Heat, Charles and Anna travel to Arizona to purchase a new horse for Anna. Instead of a relaxing visit with one of Charles's oldest non-werewolf friends, Joseph and his horse-raising family Charles and Anna arrive just in time to intervene when some of Joseph's extended family are attacked . The attack heightens inter-family tensions that threaten to derail their search for the powerful Fae responsible for trying to harm Joseph’s grand-children and the abduction of a preschooler. I really loved this book but I almost didn't make it past the first 20% because children were the targets of the attack. If you are a person who is triggered or other has a hard time with children in peril stories, this might not be the book for you. Through the book there are multiple references to children being abducted and harmed. There is HEA and the good and righteous prevail but there was a lot of suspense, terror and tension before everything is resolved.
One of the things I love about the Alpha and Omega series is that while the stories are full of great crime solving/detective/action adventure elements, the stories in the end are really about Anna and Charles’s relationship. Briggs does not flinch as she has portrays the many hurdles and difficulties pair have to overcome to be happy together. Briggs strength in these books is that she has balanced the portrayals of conflict, pain, with those of growth and joy. One of the major themes in this book is family, what it means, who belongs, and what kind of responsibilities they have to one another. I loved how complicated family was in this book, as we have pack, tribal, legal and emotional bonds inter-crossing and complicating everyone's lives. I was very satisfied with how Anna and Charles come to resolve their tensions over Anna's desire to have children and the roots of Charles' hesitance.
One thing I didn't like was the amount of horse lore packed into this book. Joseph's family raises Arabians and I felt there was a lot of info dumping about horses in general and Arabian's particular. Some of it paid off in the end, but it was overwhelming. But it didn't ruin the book for me. It continues to be incredibly satisfying to read about Anna and Charles falling and growing into love while defeating yet another dangerous supernatural threat.
But I what I would really love is for Ms. Briggs to spin-off Bran and Moira into their own monster-fighting series. I would love to read about the Marrok, rolling up his sleeves and calling in my favorite blind-wolf-mated Witch to hunt down monsters that really need killing. Their odd couple team-up in this book delighted me.
Last summer I listened to the first two books in The Others series, Written in Red and Murder of Crows and I fell in love with the series. The Others series is set in alternate Earth, called Thasia, where humans are not the dominant species. Instead humans are a vulnerable population that lives at the mercy of mysterious and supernatural communities of shape-shifters, vampires, elementals and other even more powerful beings that have control over most of the world's lands and resources. Centuries ago humans and Terra Indigene worked out treaties that allow humans to barter technology, books and other manufactured goods in exchange for access to raw materials, limited land leases and access to water sources, allowing human communities to grow and thrive as long as they do nothing to threaten their Terra Indigene neighbors. After the creation of these treaties, the Terra Indigene for the most part retreated to the interior parts of the vast land holdings, leaving behind only small groups to live near, observe and trade with the humans. These Terra Indigene-controlled tracks of lands, where human law does not apply, at the edges of human settlements were called Courtyards, and are used as headquarters, embassies and trading posts.
Meg Corbyn, is the central character in The Others series. She is a blood prophet who is learning how to live after escaping captivity at the hands of humans who profited from her prophecies. In Written in Red, Meg finds sanctuary among the Terra Indigene when she stumbles into the Lakeside Courtyard and into Simon Wolfguard's bookstore. In Murder of Crows, Meg's continued presence in the Lakeside Courtyard and her prophesies expose a growing anti-Terra Indigene movement in the human communities of Thasia. In Vision in Silver, the tensions between human and Terra Indigene communities continue to grow and it is clear that change, maybe explosive change, is inevitable.
I really loved this book. It was 1/3 political thriller, 1/3 murder-mystery and 1/3 psychological horror story.
When the newly rescued Cassandra Sangue struggle to acclimate to life outside of the sanatoriums, Meg's quest to understand how to manage her prophetic urges while minimizing harm to herself gains new urgency. She is no longer simply trying to figure out how live and use her gifts outside of captivity but intentionally blazing a trail for these young and newly rescued group of Cassandra Sangue.
Lieutenant Montgomery becomes personally involved in trying to identify and stop the human agitators hell-bent on sparking a Terra Indigene-Human war in Thasia, when his daughter Lizzie is nearly abducted and his ex killed. He must try to figure out what humans he can trust while not overly-alarming his Terra Indigene contacts.
Meanwhile Simon is traveling all over Thasia following the clues in Meg's cryptic but frightening prophesies, looking for hope and hoping to figure out some new way to for these two communities to co-exist short of genocide.
Ms. Bishop was able to juggle these ambitious and complicated plot threads, while developing complex emotional relationships within the book's large ensemble cast. I was fully engaged in all three plots, because I was emotionally invested in the lives of the secondary characters, both human & Terra Indigene, not just in Meg and Simon's relationship. But Simon and Meg remain central to the story. Their struggle to understand what their growing attraction and emotional attachment means to them and everyone else serves as both a catalyst and proof of the radically altering state of human & Terra Indigene relations in the series.
I was left wanting to read so much more about this world. I was greatly relieved to see confirmation on Ms. Bishop's website that we can count on at least two more books in this fascinating series. My only disappointment is in having to wait at least another year for the next book.