Archives for December 2017

Jen’s Favorites of 2017

For me, 2017 meant a lot of writing, moving (again!), and some new responsibilities at work. When you put all of that together, it equals less reading time for me than ever before. I came across a few stinkers (which I had to mark DNF despite my best efforts,) but I also added a few awesome books to my keeper-shelf.

Every year, Ilona Andrews tops my list. Part of me is embarrassed that I must be so predictable by now, but it’s not my fault. I swear if she ever writes something I don’t love, I’ll tell you the truth. In this case, it’s a two-fer in her Hidden Legacy series. White Hot and Wildfire came out really close together and that was a huge win for fans who had to wait an age after Burn For Me. These books feature such fantastic world building, awesome characters, and an exciting enemies-to-loves romance that hit all my happy buttons. If you’re a Kate Daniels fan or heck, if you like UF/PNR at all… jump into this series with both feet. I promise you won’t regret it.

Since I’m talking about Urban Fantasy, I have to give a big shout-out to The Turn by Kim Harrison. I was always a fan of the Hollows, but I didn’t realize how much I missed it until this book came out. I was skeptical at first that it didn’t center on the characters I knew and loved, but in the end, it didn’t matter. This one stood up wonderfully on its own, though we do see some familiar faces. If you’re new to the Hollows, I wouldn’t start here even though it’s a prequel. It will give away too many surprises. But hey, there’s no time like the present to give yourself the gift of this fabulous series. (The first few books took me a while to fall in love with, but the series ends up ridiculously good.)

Another killer UF I read this year was the latest Mercy Thompson book, Silence Fallen, by Patricia Briggs. First of all, it’s amazing how Briggs continues to churn out such awesome books in this long running series! I loved this one especially because it was split in Mercy and Adam’s POVs and it had such a surprise twist at the end.

One last long running series favorite comes with Darynda Jones and her latest Charley Davidson book, The Trouble With 12th Grave. Not all books in this series have been equal hits for me, but this one was one of the best. It was super-Reyes-centric and divulged lots of nuggets about the series arc and character origins. Plus super-sexy and uproariously funny bits.

Sliding over to Paranormal Romance, Silver Silence may now be my favorite Psy-Changeling book. I thought for some reason Nalini Singh was breaking away from the core characters, which I mean, we’re nowhere near the changeling cultures we’ve known so long. But Kaleb is here and ohmygod the bears!! The bears are everything!!! I loved this hero and almost everything about this book.

On the Fantasy-Romance front, I really enjoyed Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet. Not quite as much as A Promise of Fire, but it was close. This sequel picks up right on the heels of book one, so you really need to read that one first. (And you totally should.)

It was a great year for historical romances, like Tessa Dare’s The Duchess Deal which plays off a Beauty and the Beast trope and has all of the magic and humor I’ve come to expect from this author. It features a seamstress and a scarred, jilted duke who offers her marriage in exchange for an heir. It was my favorite historical of the year.

Another great one in this category was a novella, Lorraine Heath’s When the Marquess Falls. It’s actually the prequel story of the Mad Duke’s romance with his wife. Their time together is short and it gave me a million feels.

Honorable mentions for me go to Sarah Maclean’s Day of the Duchess, a historical romance that’s a second-chance at love story that made me ache for what the characters endured… and Bayou Born by Hailey Edwards, a PNR that got off to a slow start, but eventually got me so tangled up in the story, I am already desperate for book two!

What are some of the books you loved this year??

Review: Cottonwood by R Lee Smith

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve been on a sci-fi romance kick lately and this one showed up in my Goodreads recommendations with a pretty high average rating. I was intrigued because this the same author who wrote The Last Hour of Gann, which I found riveting. The only thing holding me back: roaches. (DON’T CLICK AWAY!!)

If you’re familiar with Gann, you know the alien hero in that book is a lizardman and that was enough to swallow. Here, the alien hero is a roachman and that might be the single unsexist thing I’ve ever heard of in my life. So I read a bunch of reviews. I stewed on it, then I bought the book. And it was so very good.

The roach thing is real, and the author never lets you forget about it. The thing is, even though I find no living thing as disgusting as a roach, I not only adored this hero, I rooted for the romance 1000%. That is some pretty amazing character building, folks. [Read more…]

DNF Review: A Deep Dark Call by Rose Vane

Reviewed by Jen

I was really excited about this book. It was supposed to be a gothic style PNR, with an English-governess in Wallachia who falls for her enigmatic employer. The blurb promised a sinister manor house, a possible curse, and questionable circumstances surrounding the death of the hero’s first wife. I was expecting Rebecca meets Dracula or something. What I got was a story I had to put down three times in eye-rolling frustration before I finally walked away for good around the halfway point. It should tell you a lot that I couldn’t get any further, since the book was only about 43,000 words.

It started out with a lot of scene setting, which ok, the author was trying to set the mood. Wallachia is very different from London and wolves howl a lot. Lucy, the heroine, has some kind of Past which forced her to leave her home and strike out somewhere entirely new. At first, I figured someone must have deflowered her, especially since she wondered if her new employer was going to ravage her the first time they met (an idea she was clearly not adverse to) but since we later discover she’s a virgin, I can tell you that wasn’t it. [Read more…]

Review: Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Elizabeth Hoyt

Reviewed by Jen

Elizabeth Hoyt gives us one more Maiden Lane story to love in this short holiday read. The heroine is Sarah St. John (younger sister to Godric for those of your familiar with the series.) At 27, she is a bit old to be an unmarried miss, but a house party courtesy of her mother might find her the perfect husband. Then Adam, Viscount d’Arque, shows up at the front door. His carriage has had an accident with his grandmother inside and they need a place to stay. Of course, the St. John family can’t say no even if Godric would love nothing better than to send the man packing… after all, he flirted shamelessly with Godric’s wife back in the day and the memory is still irksome. [Read more…]

Review: Amid the Winter Snow by Grace Draven, Thea Harrison, Elizabeth Hunter & Jeffe Kennedy

Reviewed by Jen

This anthology was a great mix of new worlds and familiar favorites for me.

In the Darkest Midnight is set loosely in the world of Grace Draven’s Wraith Kings, though this story stands up completely on its own. It follows young Jahna, a nobleman’s daughter with a sizable birthmark, who falls head over heels for her brother Sodrin’s instructor in swordsmanship. Radamir is a swordmaster of Ilinfan, a line renowned for its skill. He has committed to four years training Sodrin, but he is quickly taken by the intelligence and fortitude of the young woman derided by others for her appearance. It isn’t romantic between them, at first, as Jahna is only 15, but over time, they form a friendship and much later, it develops into something more. This is a very slow burn and I was a little put off at first by how long Jahna was too young for their relationship to take off. But Draven does a fantastic job crafting the longing Jahna feels for Radamir. By the time they got together, not only did I want it, I needed it to happen. Now that’s over, I’m still wanting more. [Read more…]

Review: Man Hands by Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby

Reviewed by Joanna

As a long-term Sarina Bowen fan, I look forward to the author collaborations she does, and this story, co-written with Tanya Eby, featuring a sex tape, a TV Mr Fixit and a larger lady, is another winner. It’s heavy on the comedy to make you giggle-snort, alongside a sexy angst free romance that I’ve come to expect from this author. I needed the light relief this week, and it delivered.

Brynn is an unhappy divorcee. She’s glad to have left her passionless ex behind, but she lost her job in the process and feels like a failure. What better to do than go to a fancy party with your friends, and run and jump (literally) on the first handsome guy you see?

Tom is on a lady-hiatus after an unpleasant ending to his last relationship. He’s a big, tall, TV celebrity, with nine seasons of a house renovation show under his (tool) belt, and he’s very good with his sizeable hands. Helpful for when a woman flies through the air at him, and super useful for helping her take off her wrap dress when a kiss leads to explosive passion and a quickie in the boat house. [Read more…]

Review: Poison and Mercy by EC Elvedeane

Reviewed by Ronelle

It’s 1885 and NOT the London we’d expect to find. Clouds of acidic fog fill the air and body-melting rain could fall at any time, while the Thames is perpetually aflame. Anyone who sets foot outdoors without the proper protective gear is either mad or suicidal. To make matters worse, the world at large is restless: nothing has been seen or heard from within the borders of Germany for several years, the Mediterranean is plagued by the pirate airships of the Corsair Queens, and foreign plots to take control of the British Empire abound.

It will take a particular type of woman to save the day. Or rather, pair of women.

Enter Poison and Mercy d’Avalon, orphans raised by a man with a bent for poisons and a hand in entirely too many pies. These adventuresses dabble in extortion, assassination, and every other vice imaginable (some more steamy and illicit than others). Hired to eliminate a blackmail threat to a Very Important Person, they think it will be a simple—and profitable—task…but it isn’t long before simple becomes complicated. [Read more…]

DNF Review: Christmas at Hope Cottage by Lily Graham

Reviewed by Joanna

Ah, my first Christmas read of the season. Do you like to get in the spirit with seasonal books? I do, though I’m not exactly feeling extra festive, having read this… how to categorize. Not romance, not quite. Women’s fiction, maybe?

Emma is a writer in London, producing a food blog and working a number of writing jobs to make ends meet. On the day she gets dumped by her bland, beige boyfriend, she also gets hit by a postal truck. To add insult to injury? The postie was delivering her family’s ancient recipe/spell book, sent by her grandmother who wants to tempt her back into the fold.

With broken bones and other injuries, there’s only one place for Emma, and the book, to go – back to Hope Cottage, her family’s Yorkshire Moors home in the village of Whistling.

Now, Emma is in a rough way. She’s also a little brain damaged by the accident, causing her to lose her sense of taste, smell and giving her weird vision and touch. It takes a fair amount of time in the bosom of Grannie’s home to aid her recovery. [Read more…]

Review: Crazy in Love by Crystal B. Bright

Reviewed by Shelly

Oh how I wanted to like this story. The blurb read like a promise of good romance between the R&B world and the Country music world. Plus, it’s IR. Come on… doesn’t that sound like it would be awesome. The chemistry potential in such a fast driven industry with a very fickle audience just screams – YES, tell me all about it!

Sorry, I got excited for a second there.

So what really happened was…

I’ve read this author before and although I wasn’t thrilled with the story telling for what I previously read, I thought, heck it’s been two years surely there’s been some changes. So now I’m thinking it’s me because the writing didn’t change. [Read more…]

Review: Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair

Reviewed by Jen

I’ve been on the hunt for a good sci-fi romance and this 10 year-old stand-alone from Linnea Sinclair absolutely hit the spot. Not every element was perfect, but it was sexy and angsty and hit all my happy buttons with a virgin cyborg hero that falls in love despite the restrictions of his programming.

Tasha “Sass” Sebastian is a hotshot pilot with a unsavory past she is trying to leave behind. Her latest assignment puts her under the command of Admiral Branden Kel-Paten, her long-time  sparring partner and not-quite nemesis. The buttoned-up, icy commander is mechanically enhanced, and she enjoys matching wits with him. She has no idea that he’s secretly been in love with her for years. [Read more…]