Contemporary

Favorites of 2023

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I’ve read 170 books this year! There were some re-reads, tons of  mystery series, lots of  Urban Fantasy & Romantic suspense binges but the books below were my faves of the year.  The ones in bold are the books published this year or in one case next month!

Special shout-out to Graphic Audio for their fantastic dramatization of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels and The Innkeeper Chronicles series for allowing me to revisit some favorites in a fresh way.

I’ve either borrowed from the Library or bought all these books with the exception of the ones marked as ARCs which I received for review purposes.

 

 

1.  Magic Tides by Ilona Andrews (UF, KDWY #1)

This sequel series was a delight. It was fabulous to reconnect with Kate and family.  They have new place looking for a new start but you always bring yourself.

CWs: child abductions, violence, gore, murder, past traumas.  ARC 1/17

 

23. City of the Lost by Kelly Armstrong (Rockton/Casey Duncan #1, WW/WM, Mystery/Thriller series).

Hidden city, hidden agendas & hidden murders.

I loved this whole series and I’m loving the follow up series.  Just loved the unfolding of the mysteries and the development of the relationships.

CWs:  Guns, murder, mutilation, medical procedures, sex work, slut-shaming, kidnapping, rape, beatings, abandonment, drugs, cop MCs. 1/17/17 

 

48. Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood  (Mystery, Queer & disabled MCs, found family, late 1940’s NYC)

Pentecost & Parker are both super fascinating and the voice is fun despite the dark topics.   I loved each book in this series, especially the way Spotswood explores this time period in queer culture. CWs: murder, blackmail, queer phobia, beating, domestic violence, alcoholism 8/3/21

 

55. The Verifiers by Jane Pek (Mystery, Taiwanese-American Lesbian MC) Really engaging & engrossing. Loved Claudia and her wry geeky voice & how excited she is to be caught up a in mystery. 

CWs: murder, references to suicide, gaslighting, toxic family dynamics, 2/22/22

 

58. The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths (WW/WM, Mystery with Rom Elements, final book in series). Whew! As this book barreled to the end I didn’t know where things would land for our central characters, Ruth, Nelson and Cathbad but I’m deeply satisfied.  I read nearly the whole series this year and it was a fantastic rich journey. I still find myself thinking about some of the relationships and dynamics all the time.  Also top-notch big gesture CWs: murder, abduction

4/25/23

 

66. The Brightest Star in Paris by Diana Biller  (WW/WM, Paris set HR 1878) Biller’s prose is clever, smart, funny & heartbreaking angsty.  I loved how Ben & Amelie have to let go of so much before they can hold on to each other!  CWs: sex work, grief, murder, past trauma: war

10/12/21

 

77. Chick Magnet by Emma Barry ( WM/WW, contemporary, chicken influencer & vet). I love the craft in Barry’s romances, the balance of lust, awkwardness, vulnerability & silliness.  Just awesome sauce. I have to catch up on her other releases for this year but this is a book I find myself recommending in person al, the time. Cw: grief, depression, bullying, past trauma: gaslighting

1/24/23

 

83. A Marvelous Light by Freya Marske (Fantasy, WM/WM, magical mystery, 1st in trilogy )

THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING.  So excited to as this author straight into autobuy category!  Beautiful and engrossing! I loved the other two books in the series. Deeply fascinated by the magical world and the way the characters moved through it.

CWs: murder, torture, toxic siblings, toxic parents, bullying)

10/18/22

 

90. All Systems Red by Martha Wells (SF, Murderbot Diaries #1). Ooooh I love Murderbot already, so sympathetic and confused!  Great audio narration too by Kevin R. Free. This is will be adapted soon and wow I hope some of the magic of these books translate to the screen. I’m so deeply invested into the emotional journey of SecUnit and the impact they make on others. Every single book…worth your time.

CWs: murder, gore, slavery.

5/2/17

 

92. Wild Life by Opal Wei (eArc: Jan 24, contemporary rom, rom com in the right way!, Taiwanese-Canadian MCs,MMC has anxiety/panic attacks)

I loved Zoey, how grumpy, snarly and vibrant she is.  I fully agree with Davy that she is radiant! This author is long time fave under other pen names and I hope I get read more fun books from her 

Cw: sister had bone cancer, addiction

 

99. Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q Sutanto (Mystery, AW).

When a terrible man in found dead in her tea shop, Vera is determined to find the killer,  unfortunately she grows quite attached to her suspects. This book I almost read again, immediately after finishing it. Just a warm hug of a book, it the hugger is bony and nags you in a loving way while poking you in the heart.

CW: murder, emotional abuse, ref. to violence.

3/14/23

 

106. Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn (Thriller/heisty, 60+ assassins). When their retirement cruise turns into kill zone, they need to figure who is gunning for them & take them down! 4 women against the agency that turned on them. This is a book begging for movie adaptation. Cinematic and fun.CW: murder, violence, sexism.

8/15/23

108. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna (AW/WM, UK set, Cozy Fantasy Rom)  Fantastic, funny, surprising & tender book. Great found family, confronting traumas & looking for a way to make things better.  Hoping we get a lot more books from this author. This is how you do secret magical societies. (CW: toxic childhoods, abandonment, loneliness).

8/23/22

 

139. The Buried Hours by R.S.

Grant (Mystery with Rom, WW/WM, ARC, 12/5/23)

Intense & gripping twisty mystery. Desperate for answers she won't be deterred. Writing as RS Grant, Rachel Grant takes a darker turn while keeping a ton of the things that made me love her previous work.

CWs: murder, abduction, brutal rape, gaslighting, coercion, human trafficking, betrayal, suicidal ideation, violence, PTSD

144. Death Below Stairs (WW/WM, London UK-Set, Victorian Era Mystery series with romantic elements)Mrs H is a very good cook but she might be an even better sleuth! She can’t help but get involved when her assistant is found dead in the pantry!  I flew through the backlist of this series and I’m now caught up and it terrible to have to wait to March to see what is next for Daniel & Kat.

CWs: imperialism, discrimination 2/2/2018

 

166. Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree (Fantasy with queer found family) This book was sweet, surprising and really enjoyable to listen to as Viv, Cal, Tandry & the crew buildup a cafe and community from scratch.  My only disappointment with the series that the next book is a prequel and not just more of Viv & Tandry! Cws: sexual harassment, extortion,secrets, arson, betrayal

8/8/22

I wish you a fantastic new year of reading!


July in Review

Blue Sea Moodboard Photo collage Greece
92. Wild Life by Opal Wei (eArc: Jan 24, contemporary rom, rom com in the right way!, Taiwanese-Canadian MCs,MMC has anxiety/panic attacks)
 
Mini-Synopsis:  A cancer researcher bullies her way on to the private island of former C-pop star-aspiring wildlife rescuer after he accidently ends up with a slide crucial to her researcher. Hi-jinks ensue!
 
I loved Zoey, how grumpy, snarly and vibrant she is.  I fully agree with Davy that she is radiant!
 
CW: sister had bone cancer, addiction
 
93. Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells (SF, Murderbot Diaries 3)
 
Mini-Synopsis:  While trying to find more evidence against the corporation that tried to kill him original team,  Murderbot ends up trying to keep another group of hapless humans and their pet bot from being killed.
 
Murderbot just can’t help getting involved and saving people! It is so intense and emotional and comforting!
 
CWs: betrayal, violence.
 
94. Exit Strategy by Martha Wells (SF, Murderbot #4).
 
Mini-Synopsis: While returning to Dr. Mensah and the Preservation crew with evidence against the villanous GreyCris corporation Murderbot realizes that Dr. Mensah is missing!
 
Reunion/rescue mission, more deadly battles! Love it… did I say was going to space them out… CWs: kidnapping, violence, gore.
 
95. Network Effect by Martha Wells SF, Murderbot Diaries 5).
 
Mini-Synopisis: Finally on Preservation, Murderbot is trying to figure out themselves and their relationships and what role they can have or should have in Dr. Mensah's life, when an old frenemy needs their help.
 
I just love all the sulky growth Murderbot continues to experience and how it doesn’t just transform their life but that of all others around them!
 
96. Capture the Sun by Jessie Mihalik (SFR, bk3, thief/teleporter)
 
Mini-Synopsis:   Lexi a retrieval expert (thief) is used to working for terrible people but her latest job has lured her back to Valorian space and the betrayals come fast and hard and she has no choice but accept the help of Nilo, who once betrayed her himself.   But things get complicated when they realize the Empress might be about to restart the brutal war they sacrificed so much to end.
 
I think I was in the wrong mood for this. But the tension seemed weak.
 
Cw: kidnapping, betrayal past trauma: war
 
97. A Most Agreeable Murder by Julia Seales (Mystery with Rom elements, AM/WW).
 
Mini-Synopsis:  When a most eligible and wealthy bachelor is murdered in the midst of a ball, Beatrice Steele has no choice but to attempt to solve the murder especially since the inspector present is all set to blame her sister.
 
With a light yet satirical tone, a plot bordering on farce, & diverse cast, it’s MCs charm, amuse & detect! CWs: murder, violence, betrayal, abelism & misogyny
 
98. Resonance Surge by Nalini Singh (SFR/PNR WW/AM, Bear Changeling/ mentally scarred Psy)
 
 
Mixed feelings…wasn’t enjoying the book…took a 3 week break & enjoyed the ending? Wrong mood? Hmmm. CWs: murder, child abuse, serial killer, non-conventual medical procedures, ableism.
 
 
Cw: abductions, medical procedures, violence, gore.

June in Review

Brown Geometric My Family Photo Collage
73. Twisted by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, cop/FBI agent, co-workers, age difference, past trauma: parental loss, child abuse)

Allison’s friends actually check on her!
Cw: serial killer, assault, guns, knives, grief, workaholism, mentions of rape, pedophilia, stalking.

74. Scorched by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, SEAL/Bone expert, on-the-run & 2nd chance).

More girlfriends checking in…still weird little things getting dropped like her possessive assistant! Skimmed some of goose chase parts.
Cw: grief, abandonment, murder, terrorism.

75. Exposed by Laura Griffin ( RS, WM/WW, age difference, CSI photographer/FBI agent)

When she inadvertently photographs suspects in an abduction she gets caught up in much larger mystery.
CWs: torture, abduction, grief, workaholics, past trauma: death of child

76. Beyond Limits by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, FBI agent/Navy SEAL)

Terrorist threats on US soil & long simmering attraction that can no longer be denied.
CWs: grief, guns, violence, references to torture, rape, beheading. Past trauma: loss of parent, assault.

77. Chick Magnet by Emma Barry ( WM/WW, contemporary, chicken influencer & vet).

I love the craft in Barry’s romances, the balance of lust, awkwardness, vulnerability & silliness. Just awesome sauce.
Cw: grief, depression, bullying, past trauma: gaslighting

78. Shadow Fall by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, security consultant/ FBI agent, serial killer)

CWs: murder, racism, misogyny, references to child sexual abuse.

79. Deep Dark by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, cop/hacker, age difference, serial killer)

I really liked the dynamic between Reed and Laney, with her push/his immovable object dynamic
CWs: rape, murder, stalking, past trauma: abandonment, infidelity, assault
 
80. At Close Range by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, cop/ballistics tech, brother's best friend)

Interesting to read all these books back to back in an earlier book there was a set up scene with different LI
CWs: murder, stalking, guns, arson, explosions, infidelity, infertility, pregnancy: former MCs
 
81. Touch of Red by Laura Griffin ( RS, WM/WW, CSI tech/cop).

Brooke’s motivations made little sense at points but I really liked Sean/Brooke together.
Cw: murder, child endangerment, abuse, alcoholism past trauma: coercion, sexual exploitation.
 
82. Stone Cold Heart by Laura Griffin ( RS, WM/WW, anthropologist/cop)

Both need to overcome mistrust and wounds from disastrous past relationships.
CWs: serial killer, misogyny, murder, rape, abduction, references to child abuse.
 
83. A Marvelous Light by Freya Marske (Fantasy, WM/WM, magical mystery, 1st in trilogy )

THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING. So excited to as this author straight into autobuy category! Beautiful and engrossing!
CWs: murder, torture, toxic siblings, toxic parents, bullying)
 
84. Her Deadly Secrets by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, bodyguard/PI)

Strong-silent type & chaotic talker collide and solve a series of murders, while he struggles to keep her alive.
CWs: assassins, crime syndicate, murder.
 
85. Far Gone by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, FBI agent/cop)

Andrea's life is already in a tailspin when she learns her brother might be aiding a terrorist! Tied up to the Tracers
CWs: terrorism, abuse, officer involved shooting, Past trauma: abandonment & death of alcoholic parent.
 
86. Heartbreaker by Julie Garwood (RS, WM/WW, FBI agent, Priest BFF's sister)

I've enjoyed Garwood's bananapants funny HRs, so I don't know why I waited to read her RS. Awkward/funny seduction, sexual tension up to 10, so much denial.
CWs: Serial Killer, murder, stalking.
 
87. Mercy by Julie Garwood ( RS, WM/WW, super toxic FATPHOBIA)

Bayou doctor saves burned-out atty & he is in the right place/right time to save her from coverup plot.
CWs: murder, guns, assassins, stalking, grief, references to suicide, past trauma: traumatic birth/maternal death
 
88. Killjoy by Julie Garwood (RS, WM/WW, virulent fatphobia)

I had to skim most of this book. It was a mess and I’m not sure if I should keep trying these books. 2 out 3 have been meh!
CWs: murder, misogyny, ableist, fatphobic, past trauma: assault, abuse, abandonment
 
89. A Restless Truth ( WW/WW, fantasy/mystery, 2nd in trilogy, ADHD rep).

Secret objects lost and found & relationships forged. Hints of House Party trope as most of the book is set on a transatlantic cruise ship.
CWs: murder, misogyny, past trauma: assault/abandonment/toxic parents.
 
90. All Systems Red by Martha Wells (SF, Murderbot Diaries #1).

Ooooh I love Murderbot already, so sympathetic and confused! Great audio narration too by Kevin R. Free.
CWs: murder, gore, slavery.
 
91. Artificial Condition (SF, Murderbot Diaries).
I just want to squish! This series is just so fantastic, hard-cynical Murderbot keeps getting attached and saving people who need saving, and saving a bit of themselves along the way.
Cw: murder, coercion, abuse of power.
 
 
 

 

 


May Reading in Review

Beige Pastel Minimalist Boho Live in the Moment  Photo Collage Instagram Post56. The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman (Regency, Mystery,).

Widowed Lady Adler has returned to town, and promptly discovers a body.

CWs: murder, racism, sexual harassment, guns, grief.

57. Ana María and the Fox by Liana De La Rosa (1860’s UK Hrom, Mexican FMC/Black-Scottish MMC)

Loved the sisterly bonding away from their dictatorial father & complex feelings AM has over falling for a UK politician like her father.

CWs: coercion, abduction, violence, harassment

58. The Last Remains by Elly Griffiths (WW/WM, Mystery with Rom Elements, final book in series).

Whew! As this book barreled to the end I didn’t know where things would land for our central characters, Ruth, Nelson and Cathbad but I’m deeply satisfied.

CWs: murder, abduction

59. Deep Tide by Laura Griffin (WM/WW, FBI agent MC, small town)

When her employee is murdered, Leyla gets caught up in an larger investigation that has brought Sean into town.

CWs: murder, abductions, secrets.

60. Hidden by Laura Griffin (WW/WM, investigative reporter/ police detective)

When a story is bigger than she could have imagined the one person she trust is the one that fears trusting her.

(CWs: murder, stalking, secrets).

61. Flight by Laura Griffin (WW/WM, CSI/Detective, trauma, serial killer)

Miranda has left it all behind, looking for a new start but when she find a body, she knows she will always be a CSI, Joel just helps her back to it.

CWs: murder, arson, guns, stalked.

62. Midnight Dunes by Laura Griffin (WM/WW, cop/filmmaker)

She lives in the dead woman’s house 😱. Finally a mc who makes sure to eat! All her MCs are always hangry missing meals.

CWs: murder, abduction, blackmail

63. Last Seen Alone by Laura Griffin (WW/WM, cop/lawyer)

Might need to pause this binge. Skimmed to the end, although I did love how it dealt with revenge p r n

Cw: harassment, stalking, assault, guns, grief.

64. Magic Claims by Ilona Andrews (UF/PNR, arc 6/13)

aaahhhhhh love it. So many threads coming together, excellent antagonist & direction. Love these characters so much. Felt familiar and different!

CWs: death, gore, blood, coercion, enslavement.

65. Vanishing Hour by Laura Griffin (RS, WM/WW, cop/lawyer with SAR dog)

Ava gets caught up in searching for missing women, seeing connections the cops have ignored.

(CWs: murder, abduction, abuse, Alzheimer's, grief -- parental loss to cancer)

66. The Brightest Star in Paris by Diana Biller (WW/WM, Paris set HR 1878)

Biller’s prose is clever, smart, funny & heartbreaking angsty. I loved how Ben & Amelie have to let go of so much before they can hold on to each other! CWs: sex work, grief, murder, past trauma: war

67. Hotel of Secrets by Diana Biller (WM/WW, 1870’s Vienna, super competent MC, MMC virgin researches sex!)

I missed the Biller’s usual ghosts but this had so many fun tropes!

CWs: assassinations attempts, guns, blackmail, toxic parents, past trauma: parental abuse, abandonment

68. Desperate Girls by Laura Griffin (WM/WW, bodyguard/lawyer).

The title doesn’t match the book at all but I enjoyed it. FMC has a case she doesn’t want to drop while an escaped serial killer threatens her.

CWs: murder, threats, references to rape, guns, betrayal.

69. Untraceable by Laura Griffin (WM/WW, cop/PI)

Alex helps desperate women disappear but when one returns & goes missing, Alex turns to Nathan for help…but no body & the suspect is another cop!

CWs: guns, arson, murder, misogynistic violence, police corruption, jealousy.

70. Unspeakable by Laura Griffin ( WM/WW, RS, true crime writer/FBI profiler, bad boy/straight arrow)

Troy was classic sequel bait in the last book so I was rooting for him the whole time.

CWs: serial killer, stalking, murder, violence, drug use, assault.

71. Unstoppable by Laura Griffin (RS Novella, WM/WW, SEAL/Archeologist)

A favor for his CO & an assignment that becomes unexpectedly dangerous. Bones, tunnels abd misding grad-students!

CWs: terrorism, grief, guns, bones,

72. Snapped by Laura Griffin (WM/WW, receptionist/detective)

This was undercooked…lots of dropped beats/threads in the romance & odd friendship fails. Toxic dynamics.

(CWs: mass shooting, assault, controlling, past trauma: assault )


April Reading in Review!

Grey Minimalist Photo Collage Polaroid Your Story40. Wild Things by Chloe Neill (UF, 9, WM/WW)

Magical threat to shifters and hidden magical peoples. Shifters are so messy emotionally.

CWs: murder, violence, gore, magical coercion, kidnapping, prejudice

41. Blood Games by Chloe Neill (UF, 10, WM/WW)

Oof, past allegiances & choices are tested as big political changes occur here.

CWs: murder, violence, kidnapping, psychic torture

42. Dark Debt by Chloe Neill (UF, 11, WM/WW)

Loved the care Merit had taken to rebuild her relationship with Mallory and how it comes into play here.

CWs: murder, violence, SA, magical coercion, past trauma: emotional abuse, gaslighting

43. Midnight Marked by Chloe Neill (UF, 12, WM/WW)

Finally the much hinted at proposal. Also the RG gets a much needed kick in the pants.

CWs: murder, violence, threats to family, magical coercion, sex work.

44. Phantom Kiss by Chloe Neill (UF, 12.5, WM/WW)

Loved the return of a side character in this.

CWs: violence, serial killer, prejudice.

45. Blade Bound by Chloe Neill ( UF, WM/WW, 13)

Climatic end to Ethan & Merit’s saga. Big Wedding, honeymoon interrupted and fulfillment of prophecy.

CWs: murder, mental illness, magical coercion, pregnancy

46. Slaying it by Chloe Neill (UF, WM/WW, 13.5)

Jonah and Margot finally break through the heartbreaks to give each other a chance, after dealing with Margot’s abusive ex.

CWs: kidnapping attempt, pregnancy, childbirth, past trauma: intimate partner violence

47. High Stakes by Chloe Neill ( UF, WW/WM, 8.5)

Lindsey faces her past and her commitment phobia

CWs: guns, murder, threats to family.

48. Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood (mystery, Queer & disabled MCs, found family, 1940’s NYC)

Pentecost & Parker are both super fascinating and the voice is fun despite the dark topics.

CWs: murder, blackmail, queer phobia, beating, domestic violence, alcoholism

49. Murder Under her Skin by Stephen Spotswood (Mystery, queer MCs)

Double heartbreaking homecoming that unearth difficult secrets as Parker seeks rescue an old mentor from a murder charge

CWs: drugs, alcoholism, murder, violence, racism, mentions of SA, medical procedures.

50. Payback is a Witch by Lana Harper (Bi WW/WW, Magical PNR, small town, vengeance pact).

I wanted to like this more than I did but the world building was weak & occasionally problematic. MCs sometimes felt YA

CWs: violence, magical possession, past traumas: betrayal, gaslighting, bullying

51. Secrets Typed in Blood by Stephen Spotswood (BI WM MC, Mystery, 1940’s NYC).

Crime fiction, real murders & a suspicious client with deep secrets.

CWs: murder, child in peril, mentions of child death, kidnapping, serial killer, stalking, misogyny, past trauma: parental abuse

52. Alaskan Christmas Escape by Juno Rushdan (BW/WM, CIA fugitive/injured SEAL)

Zee is hiding after her team was framed & disavowed. But they’ve tracked her down & sent her evil ex after her. He won’t let her run alone.

CWs: gun violence, child in peril, past trauma: coercion, DV

53. Disavowed in Wyoming by Juno Rushdan (WW/LM, RS, second chance, CIA)

When Kate gets helps a pregnant woman she uncovers a lot more darkness in her home town.

CWs: murder, forced sex work, childbirth, maternal death, PT: DV, estrangement, grief, Cancer/Alzheimer’s

54. An Operative’s Last Stand by Juno Rushdan (Harlequin Intrigue, WM/WW)

Team Topaz’s last-ditch attempt to clear their name uncovers the true traitors.

CWs: guns, violence, murder, assassination, torture, sexual harassment.

55. The Verifiers by Jane Pek (Mystery, Taiwanese-American Lesbian MC)

Really engaging & engrossing. Loved Claudia and her wry geeky voice & how excited she is to be caught up a in mystery.

CWs: murder, references to suicide, gaslighting, toxic family dynamics.

 


Chloe Neill and Chicagoland Vampires mini-reviews

The Heroic Hearts Anthology series reminded me of how engrossing it can be sink my teeth (heh) into a new urban fantasy universe.  Based on the short story I read I wanted to read more.  The short story:

 

Silverspell by Chloe Neill. A Katana wielding Vampire princess & An Alpha shifter prince team up to track down a coven of witches looking to stop or start the apocalypse. Intrigued CWs: murder, kidnapping, magical coercion.

 

It featured characters from Neill's second series featuring vampires in Chicago, The Heirs of Chicagoland series.  I quickly read the first two, before wanting to go back and read the original series.  I then proceed to read about the original couple,  Ethan and Merit, who have a hot and cold relationship through the early books.  I am not sure I am going to read all  of the original series, but I know have enough context to really sink into the second series.

Min Reviews for the Heirs of Chicagoland Series:

Wild Hunger by Chloe Neill (UF with Rom elements, WW/WM, Chicago-set) Elisa, the only vampire born not made, returns home to Chicago to grapple with secrets, new love interest and try to keep fairies from derailing peace talks. (CWs: murder, kidnapping, betrayal).

Wicked Hour by Chloe Neill (UF with Rom Elements, WW/WM, Road-trip). Elisa keeps growing into her power, coming to terms with her monster and falling deeper in love with Connor. (CWs: murder, betrayal by leadership ignoring a sexual predator) . Highly enjoyable cast.

Shadowed Steel by Chloe Neill (PNR/UF WM/WW, Heirs of Chicagoland #3). Consequences of choices push Elisa to claim her ground & independence and forge a stronger bond with Connor (CWs: stalking, murder, kidnapping, mentally ill antagonist).

Devouring Darkness by Chloe Neill (Heirs of Chicagoland 4, UF /PNR, WM/WW)I’ve really enjoyed how Neill has had the heirs grow in power, experience & independence from their parents while still loving them! (CWs: prejudice, blood magic, betrayal) .

I really love how Connor and Elise talk through their conflicts and set boundaries with each other and their parents.  A lot of the series focuses on this second generation finding their place and their own identities while trying to keep loving relationships with their powerful parents.  Learning how to ask for help and learning when to go it alone.

 

Mini Review for Chicagoland Vampires:

Some Girls Bite by Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires 1, UF with Rom WM/WW) Turned without her consent, Merit must overcome her resentment to work with her new Liege to unconver who is targeting and killing women. CWs: violence, murder, toxic parents, HP references.

Friday Night Bites by Chloe Neill (Chicagoland Vampires, UF, WM/WM)  Merit's romantic entanglements prove a flashpoint in her relationship with her best-friend Mallory who is dealing with her own monumental life change.  Neill doesn't hesitate to show Merit make mistakes in dealing with people she loves and care about, including being unfair to Morgan, Mallory and Catcher. CWs: murder, betrayal, violence, HP references.

Twice Bitten by Chloe Neill (UF, WM/WW, Chicagoland Vampires series). Ethan is an ass but he is 400 yr vamp.  Merit and Ethan consummate their attraction but Ethan immediately backtrack when he is unsettled by the strength of his interest. CWs: murder, betrayal, violence, HP references.

 

I am not a huge fan of hot/cold relationships and unilateral decision making so  I am not sure if I am going to sign on for the rest of this series, but I do enjoy the politics, especially the tensions between groups that public versus those who are closeted.  The major themes revolve around solidarity and mutual aid which have strong queer undertones.

 


Reckless by Lauren Dane

RecklessMiles Brown is a second-generation rockstar who falls hard for the lead singer for their new opening band.  Harlow Martin's band is on the verge of breaking out and stepping out of her Metal-God Dad's shadow and the last thing she needs is to have people thinking she sleeping her way into the top.

BiWM/WW,  Nepo-baby Rockstars 

Cw: Toxic Parent, references to past drug use, Past Trauma: Child Abuse

 

While I deeply enjoyed seeing glimpses of all my favorite Brown Family and Hurley boys faves, seeing their kids all grown up, I liked the outline of this book a whole lot more than I enjoyed reading it.  While the Brown Family books that were formative in my erom reading days, were brimming with sexual tension, confrontations and conflicts, this book was just muted in comparison.  While there are fights, confrontations, and emotional moments...they just didn't back the same punch...distanced by well-reasoned and well-intentioned inner voices of the protagonists, who process their feelings in the best ways.  I still read any following books, but I'll wait for the library copy like I did with this one.


The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

3. The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny ( CIGM #5 WM Québécois detective) Utterly wrenching.  Greed, fear and secrets combine to into an evil brew that tears into the fabric of Three Pines (CWs : murder, homophobia, past trauma: wars, genocide, war crimes)

This book was heart-wrenching and painful as Gamache has to hear a friend repeatedly lie to him and to keep uncovering their unsavory and unsettling actions.  The book is about self-awareness, guilt regret.  Up to the very last minute I hoped like Gamache did that the truth wasn't what it was and instead one of the many other options considered was indeed the truth.

I loved the continuing secondary storyline featuring Clara and her art.  I loved the choices Clara has to make, and how messy they are.  She is not brave or resolute, but instead hesitant, scared and shocked and all the better for it.

I'll keep coming back to Three Pines as long as they will have me, much like Armand Gamache.

I read the book via KU and listened to the marvelous audio via Scribd (Referral code)

Kindle Unlimited ( affiliate link)


Mini-Reviews 2022: December

December reading is like much of the past year. Full of romantic suspense and books by much trusted authors like Nora Roberts, Ilona Andrews and Molly Harper.  I have also begun what will likely be my next binge author, Louise Penny whose Armand Gamache mysteries have completely  charmed me.

 

111. Nightwork by Nora Roberts (WM/WW, thief, Cw: cancer)  the first 1/3 of this book is all about Booth and his journey into larceny as a child to support his mother dying of cancer.  It is super compelling and I cried so hard. Romance is 2nd chance. Cw:crimes,lies, betrayal.

112. Carnal Innocence by Nora Roberts (WM/WW, violinist, Mississippi delta, serial killer, CWs: murder, depictions of racism, racist violence & slurs)

 

I should have quit this. I guessed the murderer early on & the rest was just a mess. Might do good for this to go out of print.

113. Hidden Riches (WM/WW, cop/antiques dealer, grumpy neighbor/sunshine landlord).  A shipping mishap, an auction & obsessed collector’s minions combine for an engrossing story. Cried buckets at the end. (CWs: grief, rape attempts, guns, murder, past trauma: child abuse )

114. Sweep of the Heart  by Ilona Andrews (UF, WM/WW, intergalactic spouse selection competition!) the innkeeper books are a non-stop roller coaster and this one was a fantastic ride ( CWs: grief, murder, betrayal, violence and shenanigans).

115. Witches get Stuff Done by Molly Harper (audible audio original WM/WW, witch/librarian) When Riley inherits a ghost-stuffed manor, she finds purpose, community & romance. 1st in series (CWs: grief, murder, harassment, secrets) .

116. Bleeding Heart Yard by Elly Griffiths (Harbinder Kaur #3, contemporary mystery series, lesbian Anglo-Indian DI) A death at a school reunion with ties to a long-ago death of student, untangles memories and relationships (CW: murder, betrayal, buried memories).

117. Still Life by Louise Penny (WM Québécois Detective, small town murder mystery) this has long been on the TBR but finishing the tv series spurred me to meet the real characters. Really rich storytelling (Cw: murder, homophobia, bullying, kidnapping, fatphobia).

118. A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache 2, WM, Québécois detective) the first two ep of the book are based on this and wow there is just so much that doesn’t make it in!  Would you know God? Cw: emotional abuse, fatphobia, mental illness, past trauma: abandonment

119. The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny (WM Québécois detective, IGM #3) the murder takes a backseat to the machinations of those looking to force Gamache out.  (CWs: fatphobia, murder,betrayal, guns).

120. A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny (IGM #4, WM, québécois Detective)

 

A rich estranged family gather and soon one in murdered.  Vastly different than the TV adaptation. 

 

CWs: murder, child endangerment, emotional abuse, slut-shaming, name-calling.


#RomBkLove 2021 Day 1: Survival

#rombklove 2021 DAY 1 SURVIVAL
As we begin this 2nd Pandemic #RomBkLove, we've all had to grapple how life-changing this experience have been. Some have left jobs, relationships, communities in order to do what they need to survive.  Even from positions of comfort and privilege (able to work remotely, access to vaccines, etc.)  I have witnessed the gaps communal safety net, how social isolation can leave people unprotected and how so many live on a razor's edge.  In times like these romances that grapple these issues, which stark stakes, remind me of our human resilience and the power we have to help those arounds us, strangers or friends when they are in need.  I find comfort in these exercises of hope that are happily ever afters even after trauma and disaster.

WILD-RAIN-final-252x400Beverly Jenkins writes survivors.  So many of her MCs have survived traumatic pasts, including enslavement, abandonment & abuse, defiantly flourishing despite the many obstacles racism and bigotry place in their ways.  Be it Hester & Galen in Indigo, Maggie & Preacher in Night Hawk, Rhine & Eddy in Forbidden or Spring & Garrett in Wild Rain  her MCs, stand their ground, face down bullies and oppressors and do more than simply survive, they thrive, building families and communities.  US Based Historical Romance, (CW: Racism, abductions, guns, violence, threats of bodily harm, grief, Past trauma: Enslavement, sexual assault, emotional & physical abuse) (Rep:  cis BM/BW, Black author) 

Rebekah Weatherspoon is another author I turn to when I want to read survivors in a contemporary setting. Her MCs face everything from financial insecurity (Sugar Baby Series), family rejection (Xeni's Angus) to attempted murder (Beards and Bondage series)!   Her MC's creative solutions, devotion to found family and persistence in the midst of traumatic events are inspiring and comforting to me as a reader.  I love how the rejected and abandoned find home in others, how trauma is overcome and fails to define them. IR Contemporary romances  (CWs: attempted murder, betrayal, familial abandonment, secrets, kink, grief past trauma: biphobia.)( Rep: cis BW/WM, Queer Black author)

I started out 2020 by reading Anna Zabo's Reverb, little knowing how much it themes of authenticity and survival would come to mean to me. In Reverb, a when Mish, a certifiable Rock Goddess is being stalked and despite her desires to ignore it, she finds her life, band, and voice threatened,  she must come to trust David not just with her safety but with her heart and David must figure out how protect and love Mish.

David and Mish are both survivors. Both have made many sacrifices and endured much to live authentically and are able to navigate power imbalances, career demands to find love in each other.  Contemporary romance with RS tinge, bodyguard / rock queen, (CWs: stalking, grief, loss) (Rep: trans WM /WW bi, White Trans author)

In Olivia Waite's The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics,  Lucy and Catherine have survived different kinds of intellectual stifling due to sexism and abuse at the hand of the men in their lives.  In each other they find enthusiastic support, and unexpected attraction.  They are able to reclaim their intellectual and social agency, and strike blows against sexism in science, reclaiming their confidence, art and work.  Sexy and full of longing and pining.  They are stronger for what they have endured and will strive to make room for others. UK-Based Queer Historical (CWs: betrayal, intellectual theft Past trauma: domestic abuse) (Rep: bi WW/WW, Queer White Author).

 

What kinds of survival stories draw you?  What do you find compelling? Do these high stakes stories comfort you?

Archive: Day 1's Tweets

For a full list of prompts visit: https://www.anacoqui.com/2021/04/rombklove-2021.html