Ronelle’s Favorites of 2016

I can’t believe we’re already looking at the closing act of 2016! It feels like just yesterday I was lamenting my lack of suitable swimwear and then the literal yesterday, I was dressing up as The Grim Reaper and escorting a Witch Doctor, Mavis from Hotel Transylvania, and a little Rainbow Dash around the neighborhood to collect candy. As for books, it’s been an…interesting year; I joined the ladies here at Red Hot Books, published my first novel, started my own blog, and got a whole new perspective on the weirdness that exists in the literary world. I found some new authors I’ll be following and read some passages that were just downright strange.

So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are my Favorites of 2016:

Master of Crows by Grace Draven
Adult Gothic/Dark Fantasy Romance

No, this isn’t a new release and no, I didn’t just read it for the first time this year, so why is it on this list? Because if it were a human man, I’d put my husband out on his ass and marry it in a heartbeat!

I love everything about this book and have lost track of how many times I’ve reread it. Ms. Draven has penned an epically beautiful dark fantasy romance that has all the elements of a masterpiece. Silhara, Martise, and Gurn were complex and had the depth of actual, real-life people. The world jumped off the page and the plot had me hooked from the jump. Silhara and Martise have become one of my favorite fantasy couples of all time.

Click to purchase: Master of Crows

Lord of the Fading Lands by C.L. Wilson
Adult Paranormal Fantasy Romance

I wasn’t sure about this one at first, but I’m so glad I gave it a chance. A little slow to start and occasionally bogged down in world-building, what emerged was an excellent start to what I hope will become a favorite series. I loved Ellysetta’s strength and determination to have what her heart desired, in spite of all the cultural obstacles. As for Rain Tairen Soul, I don’t normally go for the tortured, broody type, but he did it so well and his character evolved so much that I couldn’t help but love him.

And the scene towards the end? *fans self* Not intended for young audiences and reader discretion is advised.

Click to purchase: Lord of the Fading Lands

Fletcher by AJ Adams
Adult Dark Erotic Fantasy

Here is another one I’d leave my husband for if it were a person. Ware and Lind set fire to the pages from their very first meeting and I simply could not put this down to do functional adult things, like eating, sleeping, and interacting with others. (Apparently, “Go ‘way, reading!” doesn’t count as functional interaction.) This is very much erotica rather than romance, but the plot was solid and just as enthralling as the sex—and that isn’t something I can normally say about the genre.

Read it. Right now. No, seriously, put down whatever you’re doing and get this book. You can thank me later in the comment section.

Click to purchase: Fletcher

Her Demigod Complex by Abigail Owen
Adult Paranormal Romance (Shifters)

When I saw the first line of the description “In love with her demigod billionaire boss”, I was pretty sure I was about to read some 50 Shades of Grey knock-off. I went into this expecting plotless, mindless, cotton-candy fluff, but since I was looking for a literary palate-cleanser before going on to something more serious, I figured that might not be so bad.

Wow, did I get so much more than I was anticipating!

There was a surprising amount of plot here and the characters were quite likable. So much so, that other books in this collection are on my TBR list.

Click to purchase: Her Demigod Complex

Red Winter by Annette Marie
YA Fantasy Romance

This is one of those books that will leave you breathless, hopeful, and completely devastated in the best possible way. You’ll be yelling at the author to just “hurry up and finish the next one already!” so you can find out what happens to Shiro and Emi. Or at least, I did. This book ripped my heart out at times, but then somehow managed to kiss it better and put it back. I do not usually enjoy YA, but Red Winter is very much an exception to that rule. I highly recommend this to lovers of contemporary romance with a realistic fantasy setting (you think that’s an oxymoron now, but just wait). Actually, scratch that. I just highly recommend it.

Click to purchase: Red Winter

Here are a few more ‘favorites’:
Favorite squicky line: “Today, Dugald’s cock was like a tasty roasted sausage, hot and thick in her mouth. Would it steam if she withdrew?” –Alice Derwent’s ponderings in Desire in Tartan
Favorite squee line: “Lie with me, Martise.” –Silhara of Neith
Favorite expletive by a character: Pretty much everything out of Lind’s mouth, but “Go lick Tyr’s hairy balls, fat-gut!” stands out.
Favorite couple: This one was a tie between Silhara/Martise and Ware/Lind. Both have chemistry that’s almost electric and the sparks fly from their first meetings.
Favorite cover: Challenging Destiny by Cherie Colver

Review: Wilder by Rebecca Yarros

Reviewed by Joanna

Leah Baxter has signed up for a year studying on a cruise ship with the Study At Sea program. I’ve never heard of this, but I think lots of rich kids for a year on an ocean cruiser, partying at each port whilst doing a little studying in between.

Our girl is no party animal, nor is she rich. She has hidden herself away for the past two years because of a Bad Event, but wants to get into a graduate course in International Relations, and the study program will do nicely to help towards that. [Read more…]

Review: Willing Victim by Cara McKenna

willing-victimReviewed by Joanna

This is a novel which carries a bit of shock value to it, in that it’s a story about a kink. A rape fantasy kink to be exact. Bear with me whilst I walk you through it.

Girl sees big handsome guy defend someone in the street, fancies him, asks him out, he says no because he’s into stuff most women don’t like. So far, so intriguing. But when he tells her what he likes, or actually, his current lover does most of the explaining, our heroine doesn’t run screaming. Which is good, as otherwise there would be no story. [Read more…]

Review: Chasing Lady Amelia by Maya Rodale

chasing-lady-ameliaReview by Janell

Did you see the movie Roman Holiday, with Audrey Hepburn? This book is totally Roman Holiday, only set in Regency England, and wackier, and with sex and a happy ending. Other reviews have pointed out how much of the dialogue and activities aren’t exactly period-appropriate, and I agree. This is not the book to read to learn about proper drawing room etiquette, because the drawing room scenes made even my easygoing head spin. [Read more…]

Review: Someone to Love by Mary Balogh

someone-to-loveReviewed by Jen

I generally enjoy Mary Balogh books, so much so that she is an auto read author for me. And while this book was a hit for many other readers, for me, it just did not measure up to some of her other work.

The premise sounded pretty good. Anna grew up in an orphanage, having no idea her father was an Earl. It wasn’t until he died and she was left a massive fortune that the truth came out. The story follows her as she learns the ways of the ton and decides how much of herself she wants to transform in order to fit in. The Hero, Avery, falls for her as he helps her navigate the new waters. [Read more…]

Review: Centerfold by Kris Norris

centerfoldReviewed by Shelly

I’ve not had great success with this publisher in the past so I’ve not read any of their stories in years, but I thought what the heck, the season is right, and I was feeling particularly generous. I have to give you a back story before I start with the review because the purchase transaction unfortunately set the tone of my reality. I bought the book electronically and it took me 3 days (purchased on a Friday, downloaded on a Monday) to be able to access the file from the site. Argh! [Read more…]

Review: Fast Connection by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

fast-connectionReview by Janell

In this second installment of the Cyberlove series, we follow Dominic Costigan home from Afghanistan to his family’s deli on Staten Island. Dominic was introduced in the first book as kind of a prick, but now we understand that it was just him learning to accept his bisexuality.

Dominic is bored and depressed. He works for free room and board, and can’t figure out what kind of career he wants that doesn’t involve guns, because he is over carrying a weapon, so he’s kind of stuck. He decides to join Grindr because, basically, he’s horny. [Read more…]

Review: Eternal Hunger by Ainsley Evans

eternal-hungerReviewed by Ronelle

Malcolm MacRoyce has lived a long, long time. Longer than any man should. And he’s passed the centuries as a bitter, lonely creature of the night bent on vengeance. The year is now 1860 and Malcolm finds himself in London on the night of the Masked Ball, feeding on the sick and hunting a killer.

Emily Adams is a dead woman walking. In spite of that, she’s determined to accomplish two things before she dies, to visit her mother’s grave in Florence and to be kissed by a man. The night of the Masked Ball seems the perfect opportunity to accomplish the latter while pretending she is someone she can never be. [Read more…]

Review: Sasha: The Wallflower by RJ Fletcher

sashaReviewed by Shelly

From what I can tell, this is a debut story by RJ Fletcher. I’m not 100% sure because I didn’t dig too deep. And somehow I missed the part that this is a part-1 story, so if you expect an HEA or even HFN for your time and dollars spent, you’re wasting both.

Sasha Harmon is in her early/mid 20s and works at a diner while attending graduate school. She’s going for a degree in International Relations, not sure what she’ll do with that when she graduates. She lives with Teagan who is one of her three good/best friends. The other two are Jaelynn and Faye. As the plot develops, by chapter 2, it turns out that both Jaelynn and Faye have their own passive aggressive hatred/dislike of Sasha. Interestingly enough, Sasha deemed them good friends and was part of their inner circle. But I digress. [Read more…]

Review: The Viscount and the Vixen by Lorraine Heath

viscount-and-vixenReviewed by Jen

I enjoyed this third installment in the Hellions of Havisham series where we finally go inside the home of the Mad Marquess of Marsden. This is his son, Locke’s story, but Marsden plays a pivotal part. The old Marquess arranged a marriage for himself with a total stranger. The only way his son can get him out of it is to take his place.

Portia is a woman with a secret. We know that from the very beginning, but the particulars take time to unfold. She answered the Marquess’s ad because it was the only way to protect herself from her past. She didn’t reveal everything about herself, but she tried to be honest when she could, and she really did plan to be a good wife to the old man. At least he wouldn’t beat her like her father did, or repeat the experience she had with the last man in her life. He couldn’t break her heart if she never fell in love with him. [Read more…]