Favorite SFR, PNR & Fantasy of 2018

Pnrsfrufsf   This is the corner of Romancelandia is where I feel the coziest. I came in to romance after spending years reading Fantasy and Science Fiction for the relationships. The first romance novels I read were by Nalini Singh and Meljean Brooks, so it no surprise that I turn to PNR, SFR & Fantasy romances when I need the comfort of immersive worldbuilding.

    This year was full of great PNR releases including Nalini Singh's Ocean's Light, which finally gave us a peek at the secretive world of the BlackSea Changeling pack. Patricia Briggs's Burn Bright was a powerful book about grief whose controversial revelations about the Marrok long time readers reevaluating everything they thought they knew.  I read a lot of great backlist PNR this year too. The intersection of witchcraft and shifters was were I was happiest this year, inhaling TJ Klune's super-angsty and somewhat problematic Wolfsong and Ravensong novels. I also had the  opportunity to read Lauren Dane's Diablo Lake series about a small town split between covens and wolf packs, with great cross-clan romances. (Carina has also been reissuing a lot Dane’s earlier PNR, which I’m thrilled is available again). I also started reading Holley Trent's interconnected PNR series with the Norsetown Wolves and the Masters of Maria. I am currently being charmed by her F/F novel, The Coyote's Comfort

    My favorite PNR romance of the year was from the always delightfully off-kilter Shelly Laurenston, Hot & Badgered/ (Honey Badger Chronicles 1).  This zany action-comedy is about three part-Honey Badger sisters, who will burn down the world for each other and who find a community for the first time in their lives when Charlie the oldest, meets Berg, a total teddy bear, who refuses to pushed aside, persisting on being by Charlie's side.  Like most Laurenston novels, there are thousands of named recurring characters that waltz in and out of the books and tons of frantic action scenes but the heart of the novel is the  sisterly acceptance and exasperation that ground the wild trio.

     In Science Fiction/Dystopian romance my favorite books were  Ivan by Kit Rocha and A Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper. Both feature cross-class romances and delightfully queer worldbuilding.

    In Ivan,  suitors are oppressively circling Maricela, grand-daughter of the Prophet and instead of falling for any of them,  she finds herself dangerously drawn to the one man she shouldn't have. Ivan is at her mercy, he swore an oath to protect her family with his life, & it risks them both because what he wants most is to live by her side. I loved that this book was packed with dynastic machinations and was essentially a house party romance complete with a murder.

A Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper was a enemies to lovers romance with a complex tangle of loyalties to unravel along with great Queer found family. I loved how hard and fast Galen falls for Olivia and how desperately the heroine tries to deny her feelings for him. The book was thought-provoking, fast-paced and fun. 

A lot of the fantasy and urban fantasy I read this year were backlist titles. I binged my way through Ilona Andrews's the Edge series, and caught up on their Kate Daniels books ahead of the Magic Triumphs. While inhaled the latter on the day it came out, I didn't love it. I liked a lot of things that happened in the book but I ended up resenting too many story choices to love it.

I did love Iron and Magic much to my surprise and chagrin. I hated Hugh in the Kate Daniels books and was truly boggled when the Andrews announced that they were turning their April fool's joke into an actual book. However the Andrews were able to  make Roland's cruel warlord into a fascinating and sympathetic character.  I am very interested in learning more about Elara and her band of followers and can't wait to see where the story goes.

Another of my favorite fantasy books of the year was Lake Silence by Anne Bishop (fantasy/mystery with the slightest of romantic elements). A domestic violence survivor fights to hold on to the unusual property she was awarded by her ex in their divorce. The property is a small resort, Sproing, a small human community covertly managed by shapeshifters.  An unlikely trio of allies, a vampire lawyer,  a human cop & intuit shopkeeper work to help Vicky keep her new home and life. As in the previous series, the Crows are my favorite characters,  as brave Aggie Crowguard steals the show. I'm looking forward to Wild Country, the second book in the World of the Others series to be out next Spring.

 

What SFR, PNR, Urban Fantasy & Fantasy romances did you read this year? What did you love and why?


Favorite Short stories & Novellas of 2018

ShortsAt many points this year novellas and short stories have been just what I needed to read. I am always amazed what authors can do with a limited word-count. The emotional stories that they can cram into small packages. I am huge fan of the Rogue Anthologies project and the range of authors that have participated in them.

Two of my favorite romance short stories of the year came out the same volume, Rogue Acts.

  •  Cover Me by Olivia Dade is a Marriage of Convenience between good friends for insurance purposes that ignites into so much more.  The sweet hero is determined to care for his new wife. Loved the incandescent scene at a town hall meeting were Elizabeth roasts her congressman & opens James eyes.  (mf, contemporary) CW: Cancer scare

  • The Long Run by Ruby Lang is a Gently funny & hopeful story of neighbors who get off on the wrong foot.  It is all about the small efforts toward change & community building that truly make a difference when things seem dire. It is about finding hope & joy even when things are hard. Loved Annie’s too-loudness & Monroe’s chill-hiding shyness. (mf, contemporary)

I've read two very different but truly charming novellas in the last couple of weeks that catapulted on to this list:

  • Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder  Pinky has moved back town to help her parents run their Indian restaurant in small-town Indiana. She has developed an unhealthy attraction to the handsome motorcycle club enforcer who stops in every night and taunts her by mouthing "soon" to her when he catches hers looking.  It is a story of secrets and identity crises, from Pinky taste for wildness despite to the seeming contradictions between Trucker's menacing persona  and their comic book /musical theater fueled banter. It was a rollercoaster full of sweetness and hotness ( mf, contemporary) CW: Cancer diagnosis for parent.

  • Craft of Love by EE Ottoman  I loved the gentle pacing of this sweet novella. Ottaman crafted a satisfying romance that slowly unfolds from Benjamin  & Remembrance's tentative admiration & respect. I loved how Ottoman illustrated the growing attraction & how regard built into  fondness. Both Benjamin & Remembrance has reasons to be anxious and tentative when it comes to love & friendship and Ottoman get it just right.(mf, trans MC, US-set Historical novella)

This year I also read a mystery novella set in a PNR world. I don't know how to catalog it as it didn't have a romance, but it is really a coming of age story. It was a fantastic bridge transitioning the series to a new lead character.

  • In Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews, Catalina is entrusted with finding a Rogan family heirloom before Rogan & Nevada’s wedding. The only way she can solve the mystery in time and make sure her sister and family and safe is to use her powers something she has always been scared to do. Catalina tests herself and find new skills and challenges ahead. (Paranormal Mystery)

What short-stories and novellas gave you just what you were looking for this year?


Favorite Historical Romances of 2018

Historicalfaves2018As I work to whittle down my nomination list for #readRchatawards and Love in Panel's Favorites of 2018 list, I was struck by how  many fabulous yet completely different  historical romances I have read this year.

The four books vying for my three nomination spots are wildly different in tone, style and setting.

  • The Governess Game by Tessa Dare (m/f, Regency historical romance). This delightful sequel to last years fabulously frothy The Duchess Deal was filled with witty wordplay, the most challenging of charges & a pair of resistant romantics. Dare deftly portrayed the pains of racism, abandonment, guilt, grief & PTSD while finding a sweet & fulfilling HEAs for her MCs.  (CW: dubious consent)

  • Free Fall by Emma Barry & G.Tuner. (m/f, US-set, Mid 20th century Historical Romance). A one-night stand has consequences for a pair of near strangers.  Being newly married and expecting is hard enough but throw in a potential deadly space suit and a troop of sorority sisters and you have combustible combination. I LOVED this book.  Vivy, the heroine  is a vibrant firecracker,with no clue how to be a wife. Dean  is reserved & desperately trying to avoid feeling more than attraction for wife.  His desire for compartmentalization runs counter to Vivy determination not to be ignored.

This year I binged through a good portion of Ms. Beverly Jenkins's backlist, something I highly recommend others do.  I love her heroines, the research that goes into her books, and how she gives her characters such interesting careers. 

 Thankfully  Tempest, the final book in her Old West Series was published this year and I can actually nominate it have my binge represented

  • Tempest (m/f, Historical romance, western, audio & e) Colton is a widowed workaholic doctor wants a new mother for his daughter but doesn’t expect to be so drawn to his challenging mail-order bride. It is a miracle Regan didn’t shoot him twice. 
  •  Band Sinister by KJ Charles. (m/m, Fluffy Polyam Queer Regency Romance).  This book was such a treat. A full fas fascinating cast including a sweet secondary m/f romance, full of affirmative consent & a resolution worthy of the best of Heyer’s endings with its double proposals, overbearing aunt & spurned cleric!

Have you read any of these? Are they on your list?


Favorite Contemporary Romances of 2018

Favorites of 2018contemporaryI am working on putting together my best of list for Love in Panels and working on my nomination slate for the #readRchatAwards and the contemporary category is going to be a problem.  I have six 4.5/5 star reads in that category alone.

These are the contenders, and some of my favorite contemporaries this year:

  •  Twice in a Lifetime by Jodie Griffin F/F with BI MCs in their early 50s. Sexy, emotional, a little angsty. I typically back away from office romance but I loved Talia and Eve’s story. Great characterization/tension (CW: violence, guns)
  • Hurts to Love You by Alisha Rai M/F, 3rd book in the Forbidden Hearts series.  Secrets & hidden feelings complicate Gabe & Eve’s affair. Loved the quiet affection in this book: surreptitious supportive touches, quick hand-squeezes, & eyes meeting. (Past Trauma: emotional abuse)
  • Her Perfect Affair by Priscilla Oliveras M/F. Friends to Lovers with complications. Rosa & Jeremy’s night together was hot but morning after awkwardness turns into regrets. Both have guilt/family issues to sort out before they get on the same page. Really lovely romance with a great portrayal of familial tensions.
  • Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole . M/F. Portia upends Tavish’s life when she arrives as his Scottish Armory to be his apprentice. Age-gap, cross-class, completely charming & fun. Portia has undiagnosed ADHD, and a history of problem drinking. Hero is a grumpy child of refugee. The climatic conflict felt a bit abrupt and I had to read the end from the back to the front but I loved it anyway. (CW: problem drinking)
  • Thirsty by Mia Hopkins. M/F.  ex-con, Good girl, friends-with-benefits, hero POV only. Sal anxiety was intense & I got stuck halfway through because of the large emotions. He struggles so much to reach for something better. Feels so trapped by his past mistakes. The only thing I wanted was a couple of POV chapters by Vanessa but Hopkins did a fantastic job creating complex supporting characters even without giving them their own POV chapters. (CW: threats of gang violence)
  • Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon M/F.  Sloan is a doctor who needs an emergency replacement nanny for her twins when her previous one suddenly bails. Great consent, power dynamics, relationship status discussions, with a gentle supportive hero. There is a great friends/family circle for both characters. (CW: Controlling ex, violent outburst)

Have you read these?  Are they are on your favorites list?


After #Rombklove: What is next?

Thank you!
Thank you! Thank you to everyone who participated, signal boosted, read and responded this month.  Every time we do this I want to bring joy and booktalk to romancelandia and I get it back ten-fold. Thank you so much for sharing why romance means so much to you, sharing your loves and peeves.

#Rombklove will be back next May! 

But in the meantime I hope you still use the hashtag to share your reviews and responses to the books you read based on #rombklove recs.  Keep booktalk in our all feeds by sharing how those recs worked out.

The 2nd Annual#ReadRChatAwards open today!

I hope to get back into my regular reviewing schedule here and at Love in Panels. I will also be taking part in #readRchat's 2nd annual #readRchatawards.  Nominations open today and I can't wait to put my list together. Nominate your favorites books published in 2018 (and the last month of 2017).  There are 9 categories, and you can nominate 3 books in each category. Please give us the full title and author name. Please don't nominate a whole series, instead pick a specific book.  If you have an isbn that is super helpful but not required.  Please share your nominations and lets keep the great book talk going.

 

 


#RomBkLove Day 30: Can't Read Just One!

Day 30 #RomBkLoveDo you binge read? What books can't you get enough of?  I tend to binge read series that have extensive world-building. Once I enter the world I hate to leave it. What series have captured your love and attention that you couldn't stop reading them till you got all caught up?

I have a tendency to binge read when I am stressed. I hid from the inauguration by sinking into GA Aiken's bloody and bonkers fantasy  Dragon Kin world. The summer before it was TS Joyce and her werebears. I also relisten to books when I am stressed. Two series that I have listened to multiple times are, The Others by Anne Bishop and the Andrew's Hidden Legacy series. Both the series are very well narrated and tell expansive stories with significant supporting casts.

This year the author I keep returning to is the incomparable Ms. Beverly Jenkins. I love her historicals. Her heroines are undaunted and her heroes are fabulous. Some come ridding in like knights in shining armor and other are rogues that don't know what hit them. I just find her books so soothing, it is hard not read one after and another.

What about you?  Whose books can't you get enough of?

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A list of all the prompts and posts


#RomBkLove Day 29 SFR & Space Opera

Day 29 #RomBkLove Love among the stars or in the far future? Which ones do you love?  Which authors do something surprising and worth exploring in their futuristic, SFR or space operas? What tropes or issues do you wish more SF dealt with?

My favorite SFR series this year was Ada Harper's Conspiracy of Whispers. I just loved how diverse and inclusive the worldbuilding was, how it was centered on a heroine claiming and fighting for bodily autonomy in a world that wants to strip the agency from anyone still capable of reproducing. Olivia is tenacious, unpredictable and give no fucks.  Galen is over-his-head smitten with her and will help her fight the fights she wants to fight to make the world safer for her. It was just so swoony.

This year I also adored reading Meredith Katz's The Cybernetic Tea Shop. Set in the far future were autonomous sentient AIs were briefly built before being discontinued, a sole sentient and sapient AI remains. Sal runs the a small tea shop, in remembrance of her first original owner, rooted in place by grief and nostalgia but she is slowly falling apart. Clara is a nomadic AI-mechanic, who wonders in one day, and is drawn back day after day to get to know Sal.  The romance was incredibly gentle and beautiful.

What futuristic, SFR or Space Operas did you read this year and can't stop thinking about?

An archive of the day's tweets 

A list of all the prompts and posts


#RomBkLove Day 28: Extroverts. Life of the Party/Center of Attention

Day 28 #RomBkLoveWho are the hostsess with mostess, the life of the party, the center of attention in any room?  How does romance portray extroverts? What books and MCs capture what it means to thrive in a crowd? 

Although Gabe from Alisha Rai's Hurts to Love Youcarries around the baggage of too many family secrets and unacknowledged relationships, he loves being around people. His humor and good cheer bridge many an uncomfortable moment. He is a natural extrovert, easy and at ease with people, and preferring to be in a crowd than by himself.

My favorite quote about Gabe comes from Wrong to Need You, when Sadia is soothing a slightly baffled Jackson.

"If it helps, Gabe wants to everyone's friend. He's like a puppy. A large, tattooed, flannel wearing puppy"

Valentin from Singh's Silver Silence is like many of his furry kin, and extrovert that gets energy from being around his clan.  He is touchy, social and revels in being around others. His laughter and charisma attract and fascinate Silver even as she tries to encase her heart in the ice of Silence, but it is his solid unwavering love that brings her back to him.

Vivy from Emma Barry's Free Fall's laugh is always too loud, the clothes she wears too bold or too bright, she doesn't take no for an answer and feels most herself surrounded by a houseful of her sorority sisters.  Her new husband struggles to learn how to open himself up, after too many years of compartmentalizing and boxing away his emotions, but he is thirsty for her chatter.  I absolutely adored Vivy, and her refusal to stuff herself into tight dresses or ladylike behavior just to please her mother.

Who are your favorite extroverts?

 

An archive of the day's tweets

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#RomBkLove Day 27: Introverts: Bookworms, Wallflowers and Recluses

Day 27 #RomBkLoveRomance novels are littered with bookworms, wallflowers and recluses but not all of them are actual introverts. But who gets introverts and what they need in relationships rights? If you are an introvert in whose books do you feel seen? 

I am outgoing introvert and I have to say I don't see a lot of that in romance. I am leader, I am bossy, not shy or retiring,  I love being around people but it is exhausting and I need quiet time to recharge after spending too much time with people.

However I have enjoyed some depictions of introversion in novels recently.

Zoe York's Ambushed by Love, Grace is introverted and independent, which makes her initially hesitant when Frank keeps showing up everywhere she goes around camp after she made the mistake of tipsily crawling into his bed the first night at camp.  I appreciated how he noticed that she needed space and how she firmly but kindly set her own boundaries. 

Jackson in Alisha Rai's Wrong to Need You is very introverted, only really comfortable among people he has known for a long-time and has structured his whole career around not having to deal with too many people directly, instead trusting the peopling to trusted employees. Sadia is one of the people who has always accepted this and other things about Jackson fully. I love how she got him and accepted him

I also loved Ada Harper's depiction of what it means to have to be always one and peopling when one is naturally an introvert.  Sabine in Treason of Truths is flawless in public but needs to withdraw in order to recover each day. Lyre works to ensure that Sabine has what she needs, creating space and privacy for her whenever she can.

Tell me of your favorite introverts? The wallflowers, bookworms, and recluses of romance...

An archive  of all the day's tweets

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#RomBkLove Day 26: Hometowns

Day 26 #RomBkLove

A common romance trope is the "Return to Hometown", where MCs have to grapple with a changing hometown or figure out how to adjust and fit back into a place they once left behind.  Hometowns are sometimes locations full of nostalgic power and in other places the MCs couldn't leave fast enough.  What romances grapple with the idea of home and hometown in a way that fascinated you?

The first two books in Alisha Rai's Forbidden Hearts series both grapple with the difficult emotions, lost loves and unresolved conflicts that await the Kanes upon returning home.   For Livvy in Hate to Want You,  she has to deal with the pain of being so close to her old home, and favorite haunts and not really being able to go to them again. There is also the struggle to relate to people who have grown and changed and figuring out how to related to family and elders when the old relationships don't fit quite right anymore.  I loved the honesty of these portrayals and how it all fit in with Livvy and Nicholas's relationship.

Austin Chant's Peter Darling is a return to hometown romance with a fantastical twist.  Peter is not only returning to Neverland, he is returning to a self that he has had to abandon. He goes around aggressively trying to recapture who he was and what he was in Neverland, reigniting old fights and trying to reclaim old relationships.  But things have changed and he has changed. He is aware of things he never was before and that awareness makes him relate to Neverland and its inhabitants in a different way.  I loved the double homecomings in this book and what they meant for Peter and James.

In Mia Sosa's Pretending He's Mine, Ashley is desperate to avoid going back home but her brother's wedding is not something she wants to miss. She ropes her long-time crush and her brother's best-friend Julian in a scheme to pretend to be an item, so she can avoid all the nagging questions about when she is planning to settle down and have a buffer from difficult relatives. I love that Ashley and Julian don't develop a deep longing to stay in the small-town but their HEA involves escaping back to their careers and opportunities in LA. 

 

What about you? What romances about going back home, do you love?

An archive of the day's tweets

A list of all the prompts and posts