Fantasy

Mixed Feelings: Resonance Surge by Nalini Singh

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

Mini-Synopsis:  The tortured and skittish sister of powerful Psy, Theo Marshall, has gaps in her memory and a deep conviction that she is a destructive and dangerous monster. Yakov Stepyrev of the StoneWater bears has been dreaming of a woman who looks just like Theo since his adolescence and while he is mistrustful of anyone from Marshall Group,  he is willing to help Theo figure out how her family was involved with a secret installation where non-compliant Psy were tortured and "rehabilitated" during the Silence era.

A Nalini Singh book is almost always one of my most anticipated books of the year, so anticipated that I am willing to read it in print with my eyes! (I am mostly an audiobook readers now).  As I struggled through reading Resonance Surge I wondered at myself why I was having a hard time. Was it my mood, the format or (gasp!) the text.  I struggled so much that I didn't hesitate to leave the book behind when our departure for vacation was unexpectedly accelerated and I was only a handful of chapters from the climatic conclusion.  The feeling I felt at the time was relief, I could stop trying to love it.

After weeks of ignoring it, yesterday I finally picked up the last few chapters and finished it, and found myself moved and gripped at the ending.  What had changed, I again wondered.  In discussing my mixed feeling with some fellow readers I realized what had changed when I returned and my discomfort reading the book clarified itself.  The secondary storylines had resolved and all I had left to read were the main storyline's resolution.  The book lacked cohesion much like the Psy-Net does.

While I had issues with the swiftness of Theo and Yakov's attachment, when she is so deeply traumatized by the abuse wrecked on her as a child, it is not a new relationship pattern for Singh.  My discomfort with the book was how fractured it was.  There were at least 4 or 5 different threads tangled in this book: the fracturing of Hien and Denu's sibling relationship at the dawn of the age of Silence, the fracturing of the PsyNet and  rising threat of Scarab Syndrome, the brutal serial killings of young women in Moscow,  Pavel and Arwen's deepening relationship and Theo and Yakov's quest to unearth the role of the Marshall family the abuse and experimentation of Psy on Pax's request.  That is a lot of threads for one book, and while some of these threads will I am sure will have payoff in later books, they dragged and distracted.

Nalini Singh is one of the foundational authors in my romance journey.  Reading Slave to Sensation, the first Psy-Changeling book back in 2010 or thereabouts opened up a world of paranormal speculative romance, where SF/Fantasy and romance combined into a deep and heady mix full of intrigue, expansive worldbuilding and swoony romances. Over the years though as my romance reading tastes changed and my self-identity broadened, I became dissatisfied with the erasure of LGBTQIA folks from Singh's future-set world. I welcomed when Singh over the last decade has  not 0nly started featuring visible minorities (not just white-presenting mixed peoples) as main characters has started peppering LGBTQIA characters in supporting roles.

In her second Psy-Changeling  Trinity series,  Pavel and Arwen have been slowly moving from flirtation to committed relationship in the background of several books.  Arwen is an empath and he often referred to as the heart of the Mercant family, a powerful and sometimes ruthless Psy family whose members have featured in nearly all the Trinity series books.  Pavel is key member of the StoneWater Bear clan, one of the central changeling packs in the series.    As I grew invested in Pavel and Arwen, I also grew dissatisfied with their secondary and in this case nearly superfluous role in this book. This is a far cry from how their story is billed in the official synopsis

"A point of irrevocable change. For Pavel . . . for Arwen . . . for Yakov . . . and for another pair of twins whose bond has a far darker history." 

In a series where the central relationships are often tested in dramatic fashion, theirs has been a quiet and placid romance.  I felt shortchanged.  While Pavel and Arwen's story would have made for a sweet novella, it felt disappointing in the midst of this book. I didn't believe the conflict that supposedly kept Arwen from accepting their mating bond.

I know understand my mixed feelings, this book had to many discordant notes smushed in, short-changing the secondary storylines and not hanging together cohesively.  I'll stick around to see where Singh is going next but with less anticipation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher as part of the reviewer program.


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.

 


March Reading in Review.

Thank god for authors with rich backlists and lots and lots of audiobook offerings.  In march I finished the Rockton/Casey Duncan series that I have previously reviewed and then moved on to catch up on the audios of Haley Edwards Black Hat Bureau series.  I read a ton of Haley Edwards last year and I love Rue, Asa and the rest of her motley crew of magical crime fighters/found family.  I also sank deeper into Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampire series.  I always love a heroine that loves the Cubs (see my love-affair with Kitty Pryde), I rode the rollercoaster that is her relationship to Ethan and her complicated relationship with Vampiredom.  I didn't love every book but I loved the series as a whole, especially how Merit has to rebuild her friendship with Mallory and work to define herself and her role as Sentinel of House Cadogan and champion of Chicago.
Minimalist Sweet 2020 Memories Scrapbook Photo Collage  (1)
 
 
 
24. A Darkness Absolute (Rockton #3, WM/AW — Chinese/Filipino heroine Mystery/thriller with Rom Elements) gripping, emotional and invested in this little town. Cw: murder, abduction, rape, torture, guns, violence, harassment.
 
 
25. This Fallen Prey by Kelley Armstrong (AW/WM, mystery/thriller with rom elements). So much running around in the woods! CWs: murder, serial killer, betrayal, mentions of molestation, torture.
 
26. Watcher in the Woods by Kelley Armstrong (AW/WM, mystery with rom elements) yay for complicated small town dynamics and lots of theories coming home to roost! Casey’s sister! Cw: murder, toxic parents, past trauma: child death, drug use, medical procedures
 
27. Alone in the Wild by Kelley Armstrong (AW/WW, mystery with rom elements) HUGE revelations and complications as Casey and Eric try to find the parents of foundling child. CWs: murder, homophobia, racism, medical procedures, kidnapping, brainwashing.
28. Stranger in Town by Kelley Armstrong ( AW/WM, Mystery/Thriller with Rom Elements) a massacre in the woods, big pharma & decades old plot. Finally resolution to one of the big mysteries and the start of the end game. CWs: murder, kidnapping
29. The Deepest of Secrets by Kelley Armstrong (AW/WM, mystery thriller with Rom Elements). With council decided does anything still matter? Of course it does to Casey & Eric and the Rockton crew. CWs: murder, blackmail, alcoholism, betrayals.
30. Murder at Haven’s Rock by Kelley Armstrong ( Mystery/Thriller with rom elements, AW/WW) new town, new residents and a murder! Ooh and the new neighbors will bring complications for sure! CWs: murder, guns, abduction, medical procedures, drug use.
 
31. Black Wings, Grey Skies by Hailey Edwards (UF/WW/Demon/Elf M, #4) big twists, close calls and Rue & Asa’s fascination intensifies (child murder, gore, betrayal)
 
32. Gray Witch by Hailey Edwards (UF, #5) sent on a series of troubling murders, Rue and her team set in motion moves that will lead to the final confrontation ( murder, gore, mentions of past sexual assault).
33. Gray Tidings by Hailey Edwards (UF, #6) whoops I thought this was the last book…but it’s not but some heart wrenching confrontations nonetheless! CWs: murder, gore, gaslighting, coercion.
34. Hard Bitten by Chloe Neill (UF #4) I really wonder how I would have felt about some of surprise twists in this book if I hadn’t already read the 2nd series! Because wow! CWs: murder, grief, drug use, coercion, violence.
 
35. Drink Deep by Chloe Neill (UF, #5) I really enjoyed this book, Merit expanding her trust circle, dealing with her grief and making incredibly hard choices. CWs: grief, violence, magical addiction.
 
36. Biting Cold by Chloe Neill (UF, #6). The showdown over the magical book spills over and a bigger bad revealed. Questions of forgiveness atonement, restoration. CWs: violence, magical addiction, arson, possession.
 
37. House Rules by Chloe Neill ( UF, #7) I had to name search this book to see how long the Ethan/Merit would be dealing with mutual jealousy. CWs: serial killer, abduction, demagoguery, violence, murder, jealousy, blackmail, secrets, past trauma: coercion & abuse
 
38. Biting Bad by Chloe Neill (UF, #8) loved seeing some more worldbuilding re vampire life. CWs: betrayal, arson, hate crimes, medical procedures, demagoguery, violence, murder.
39. Midnight Bites by Chloe Neill (UF, shorts stories) Howling for You: Fallon finally makes her choice. CWs: betrayal, prejudice, family pressure, legacy, sacrifice, references to miscarriage Lucky Break: Ethan/Merit vacation ruined. CWs: grief, murder, feud, infertility.

Unseelie by Ivelisse Housman

1E82C1BF-4553-40A0-9A81-FFD4B7C835C3Ivelisse Housman is the daughter of my childhood best-friend.  It has been a joy watching her pitch this story on Twitter to holding her book in my hand. I loved noticing little way Housman included hints of her Puerto Rican  that heritage in a fantasy setting like the way she refers to her mother as Mami.  Housman like Seelie, the main character, is autistic. I loved how Seelie is loved and accepted by her family, while others struggle to understand her differences. 

 11. Unseelie by Ivelisse Housman (YA Fantasy, authentic Austistic Rep, White Latine author, First book in series) Sisters caught up in caper, kidnapped by magical compass. Cw: violence, bigotry, murder, enchantments (non-consent). Cw: violence, bigotry, murder, enchantments (non-consent). 



#Rombklove 2020 Day 2: Space Romance / Romance espacial

ES_Day2_Romance espacial

Day2_Space Romance (1)

RomBkLove  2020 Day 2: Space Rom/Romance espacial

#Rombklove 2020 Day2: Space romances are out of this world! What are some of your favorites? What makes this setting unique?


Rombklove 2020, día 2: ¡Los romances espaciales son algo de otro mundo! ¿Cuáles son tus favoritos? ¿Qué hace que sean únicos?

Day 2: Archive

GR BookLists:

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/147762.RomBkLove_2020_Space_Romance_1

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/147762.RomBkLove_2020_Space_Romance_1

 

How to participate?

Readers: Respond to the prompts! Share your favorite books, characters, scenes, or thoughts on tropes.  Make sure to include the #RomBkLove hashtag with your tweet! If you have read and loved a book by LGBTQIA+, Disabled, and/or  Authors of Color that fits the prompt please, please mention it.  You might think everyone has heard of the book but I can guarantee you there are lots of people who still need to hear about it.  

Authors: You are welcome to participate too, as fellow readers. The tag is not meant for self-promotion. Boost fellow authors, celebrate the community but do so in a way that respect reader spaces. Respect the conversation.   Join in to rec the books you love that fit the theme/trope/prompt. Yes, you can say “I wrote a book with this trope” but please don’t spam the hashtag with generic promo. 

For a list of all of these month's prompts and archives go to: https://www.anacoqui.com/2020/04/rombklove-2020-celebrating-inclusive-romance-during-a-pandemic.html



 

 

 

 

 


Love in Panels Post: Looking Back -- 15 Favorites from 2005 to 2019

I put together this list for Love in Panels:

 

Sometimes the urge to do something is so strong you just have to go with it. I’ve been reading romance for close to a decade and as we close this decade I felt a great necessity to look back at the Romance novels that marked me as a reader. Although I only started reading romance seriously during 2010, I started with what my library collection had, so my first romance novels were really books that had been out for years (Balogh, Kleypas, Quinn, Garwood, Dodd, Krentz and Chase). They were an excellent crash course on romance, if Romance is only for white, cis, straight historical ladies. I don’t regret reading them, I just regret thinking they were the only things out there.

This list is not some prescriptive list of the best books in the last decade but a survey of the books I’ve read over the past decade that I can still look back at fondly and that I think still have something to say to romance readers.

This post contains affiliate links (in the book titles).

twilight2005 -- Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Much maligned and mocked I still have a special place in my heart for Twilight which I read in that transitional time where I learned that I loved reading about relationships and I wanted happy endings. Full of classic PNR and gothic elements, and found family feels, I can happily admit that Twilight sucked me in and I enjoyed the journey, especially the more bananas it got.

(CW: Violence, murder)

slave-to-sensation2006 -- Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh (Psy-Changelings #1)

This was one of the first romances I ever read. Singh’s intricate world building appealed to my SF/F reader heart. I still love the core story, that of a MC who thinks they can’t feel or that they are broken beyond helping, finding their power and community. I still love romances where the MC not only find each other but find their people and a new way to live.

(CW: Violence, murder)

the-mane-event2007 -- The Mane Event by Shelly Laurenston ( Pride #1)

I love Laurenston’s madcap adventures and feral heroines. I love her sense of the ridiculous whether she is writing as G.A. Aiken or Shelly Laurenston. Although I discovered this series as the 11th book was coming out, I immediately went back and read the rest. No one piles up more supporting characters, over top aggression and ridiculous fights into her novels than Laurenston and that is 100% an endorsement. (CW: Violence)

cry-wolf2008 -- Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs (Alpha and Omega #1)

I still remember what I was doing when I listened to Anna and Charles’s first encounter. They are still one of my favorite romantic pairings, as they are so very different but they bring out the best in each other. Romances frequently put MCs through the wringer, but I love that Briggs has built Anna back up slowly and carefully, honoring the work that trauma survivors have to put in to heal while always being true to the hopefulness of their love together.

(CW: Abuse, violence, murder, Past trauma: Sexual assault, abduction, forced turning)

not-quite-a-husband2009 -- Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas

This polarizing second chance romance blew my mind with its conflict and angst when I first read it and I still think about it. Thomas always challenges me with her romances, with the obstacles she places between her MCs and with the pain she deals them.

(CW: non-consensual sex)

the-forbidden-rose2010 -- The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne

Marguerite, wily, flinty and fierce is one of my favorite heroines. Doyle’s respect and devotion are swoon worthy and Hawker’s acidic commentary is the best. I think of these novels as Historical Romantic Suspense, they raised my expectations of all Historical romance through their fabulous plotting, sublime characterizations and settings.

(CW: torture, incarceration, murder attempts, political oppression)

dragon-bound2011 -- Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison

The most unequal of power dynamics, the alpha-iest alpha to ever alpha and a little thief who outsmarts him, when she should be the one outmatched. Harrison’s Dragos is deliciously overbearing, a dragon who only looks like a man and Pia a delight, as she waltzes into his life and truly overturns it. I loved the world, and all the different supporting characters.

(CW: dubious consent, violence).

beyond-shame2012 -- Beyond Shame by Kit Rocha

I picked up this novel expecting darkly erotic biker club energy and instead I found a series that had darkness and eroticism but so much more. The O’Kanes grow from a scrappy band of bootleggers into world-changing revolutionaries working to make the world safer for love and family. The books are supremely queer and kinky, full of loving constructive community and belonging. They hold up to multiple re-readings, as I find deeper connections each time I do a re-read.

(CW: guns, violence, attempted sexual assault, BDSM, Past trauma: repression, banishment)

[Editor's Note - Remember that Ana has a podcast dedicated to this series!]

the-lotus-palace2013 -- The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin

By 2013 I was burning out on Historical Romance. I had read pretty much all I could bear about overheated ballrooms, weak ratafia and reformed rakes. I thought I was done with Historical Romance. But when I picked up The Lotus Palace, I realized there were a whole lot of historical romances to discover. My World History loving heart loved immersing itself in a new environment, with different strictures and conventions and MCs who don’t give up when things seem hopeless.

(CW: murder)

sweet-disorder2014 -- Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner

If The Lotus Palace showed me how rich historical romance could be when it stopped centering White Brits, Lerner’s Sweet Disorder showed me that I could love UK historicals again, if I looked for books where the rich and perfect are not in the center. Lerner’s flawed, grumpy, fat heroine, and war-ravaged disabled hero find love and the wrong time and in the wrong person, and their love is irresistible.

(CW: Grief, Poverty, Past Trauma: War)

seditious2015 -- A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles

KJ Charles is one of my favorite writers and A Seditious Affair is one of her best. This enemies to lovers story is full of layers of complication, as class, politics, loyalty, and kink mix into an explosive brew. The resolution is a jaw dropping, roller coaster and it made me so happy to read.

forbidden2016 -- Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins

Forbidden was the first Jenkins novel I read and it is still one of my favorites with its indomitable heroine (she is determined to carry that cookstove with her through the desert), conflicted hero (who has a huge choice to make) and its deeply researched history. I loved the tension between Rhine and Eddy and how Jenkins captures the rich and complicated stew of relationships people of color, Latino, Asian and Native American had in the West, reclaiming book by book that history from all that want to whitewash it.

wrongtoneedyou2017 -- Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai

Everything about Wrong to Need You worked for me. I loved Sadia, her love for her sisters, her feelings about her family expectations for her, her regrets about Paul, her love for her son and both her anger and her love for Jackson. I loved how Jackson and Sadia work out those feelings and face up to the pain of disappointing family and the power of standing with the people you love.

thirsty2018 -- Thirsty by Mia Hopkins

Starkly realistic, Hero only-POV, and super steamy, Thirsty is a lot of things I don’t usually read anymore, but Sal’s story of building a life, when everything seems orchestrated to drive him to despair and not only finding an unexpected passion and someone who convinces him that he is worthy of love was frankly astounding. Sal journey is one that inspires empathy and gives hope while not ignoring stark realities, and that is something romance does when it is at its best.

get-a-life-chloe-brown2019 -- Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

I was so surprised by this book. It did everything I wanted a book to do this year. It was hopeful, true and is showcased a world full of intersecting identities. It is wit and fantasy just added to the trueness of core story. Of people screwing up royally while learning to reach for love and letting others truly know them and love them back.

Ten years of Romance reading and fifteen years of books that have helped me through many hard days, weeks and years. Books that celebrate love in all its many incarnations, books that let me see in to more intimate moments of other people’s lives and help me process my own. These books are worth celebrating, reading and loving. I hope you love them as much as I do.

Topics: list


Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

I finished up Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse in the early hours of the morning.

 

I had delayed starting this because I was under the mistaken impression it was YA. It is not. It is full on adult fantasy/Urban Fiction that would greatly appeal to fans of Ilona Andrews’s  Kate Daniels series and Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson books.

 

Maggie is a Navajo/Diné monsterslayer alone since her immortal hero mentor abandoned her.  Lured out of her isolation by disturbing reports of vicious monster attacks, she gets caught up in the mystery and unwillingly acquires a charming but secretive partner, Kai, a medicine-man-in-training whose clan powers might be as dangerous in their own ways as her own. 

 

Creatures and gods of Navajo mythology populate the story, set in post-Apocalyptic future, The Sixth World,  where the Big Water has drowned most of the US. 

 

The Intense story will keep you guessing. Loved the tension/heartbreak between Maggie/Kai and their secrets and the past they both must reckon with. 

I loved the Audio and was happy to see that book two, Storm of Locusts  is out and available on KU and audio, so I can immediately start it. (cw: past trauma (violent death of loved ones), violence, sexism, guns)

 

 

 


Spellbound by Allie Therin

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Debut Latinx (Cuban-American) author, Allie Therin’s Spellbound is the first in a projected three book series set in Prohibition era NYC, where smuggled magic-infused objects threaten the lives of all magically-gifted paranormals and non-magical alike. Therin draws on the era’s post- war clandestine counter-culture scene and anti-immigrant to develop a cohesively tense backdrop for her action-adventure, where her wildly diverse characters can find acceptance a community in a black run speakeasy in Harlem, but also fear exposure and persecution elsewhere.  Therin also explores class and generational tension throughout the novel, as Arthur, the son of a wealthy political family, exploits his privilege to try to protect the younger and poorer Rory.

 

While the world-building was engaging, the secondary characters richly developed and the heist plot intriguing, the romantic beats were somewhat repetitive. I loved how soft and smitten Rory and Arthur become with each other but the dual insecurity about the realness of each other’s interest or the depth of feelings became tiresome. However when the romance was clicking it was delightfully sweet. I loved the little details about younger and smaller Rory tucking himself next to the taller and athletically built Arthur and Arthur who is the bossy caretaker of his friend group, soaking up the open-hearted affection.

 

Tropes:

First Love

Virgin Hero

Opposites Attract

Age Gap

 

Content Warnings: Homophobia, Torture, War, Past Trauma: Child Abuse, religious shaming,