Welcome to the start of a new feature! The last Monday of every month, I’ll be talking about the, well, the 5 best books I read that month. They may be re-reads, they may be new, most will be romance, but don’t be surprised to see mystery, straight sci-fi or fantasy, or even a non-fiction recommendation slip in sometimes. They’re not listed in any particular order, either, so let’s get started!
- AMID THE WINTER SNOW. A holiday anthology by some of the best fantasy romance authors writing today. Grace Draven, Thea Harrison, Elizabeth Hunter, and Jeffe Kennedy. If you’ve followed me at all, it should come as no surprise that I’m a Grace Draven fangirl. I’ve been reading her work since she was writing for Amber Quill, lo, these many years ago. The story she contributed to this anthology only raises her stock. “In the Darkest Midnight” is a beautiful and moving tale about a girl who has to learn to stand up for herself, despite the cruelty that surrounds her. I especially loved that, while the hero provided a base, she grew into a strong heroine independently. Their love works because they’re both on solid ground. “The Chosen” by Thea Harrison has a fantastic hero and heroine, both strong and competent, both called by duty, and still always trying to do the right thing. Elizabeth Hunter wrote “The Storm,” which is set in her Irin Chronicles world. It’s still easy to read, even if you’re not familiar with the series, and it’s a heart wrenching story of growing past great loss. The last story, “The Snows of Windroven” by Jeffe Kennedy, is also attached to her ongoing Twelve Kingdoms/Uncharted Realms series. A little more embedded in her already established fantasy world, I still enjoyed this story of getting past real difficulties in a relationship.
- THE MIDWINTER MAIL ORDER BRIDE by Kati Wilde. I bet you can’t guess what the trope is in this one. *gg* It was part of a four-author simultaneous release of mail order bride stories, but this was my favorite of the lot. Another fantasy romance, this one also featured strong and competent characters. The heroine is smart and determined, and the hero is a warrior alpha who respects the heroine’s brains and abilities. My favorite kind of hero!
- THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE by Jennifer Ashley. This one was a re-read. I’ve always thought that Jennifer Ashley did a really credible job of showing us what it might be like to fall in love with a partner on the autism spectrum. The iron control of some aspects of their lives, and their inability to control others. It would take a person of great warmth and depth to fall in love with someone who doesn’t process information or emotions the way many of us do. Heartwarming and beautiful.
- HEART OF THE FAE by Emma Hamm. The first part of a fantasy romance series that’s a genuinely original twist on Beauty and the Beast, which is my favorite fairy tale. You may be able to work this out by now, but I do love a smart heroine who figures out how to get things done. She has a goal, and she’ll do what’s necessary to get there, even if the hero is standing in her way. The hero is a truly damaged soul who lashes out in pain, but it’s not hard to find the core of honor he still hangs onto. I have the second in the series, Veins of Magic, in my TBR pile for February reading. I’ll let you know how it goes!
- ROGUE by Anna Hackett. Anna writes one of my favorite SFR series, Galactic Gladiators. Humans are taken by aliens and transported to another planet to be sold as slaves, but the members of a gladiator house rescue them and, well, they are romances. 🙂 This book contains two novellas set in that world, and I do think you need to be familiar with the series or it would be more difficult to immerse yourself in the stories. The first story, “Information Rogue,” finally gets to one of the heroes I’ve been waiting for, the hacker, Zhim. He’s been fun to watch, and it was no surprise that his match would be the human computer genius, Ryan (girl Ryan, not boy Ryan, this is M/F) Nagano. Watching them trade witty banter and strike sparks off each other is as entertaining as I’d hoped. The second story, “Desert Rogue,” features Neve, who is willing to risk everything to rescue her sister, and Corsair, the man who leads caravans into the dangerous desert areas of the planet. The secrets she discovers about the dirty-talking Corsair are beyond sweet, and as a bonus, both stories move the series forward. If you’re already a fan, don’t miss this collection, and if you haven’t fallen yet, you can get “Gladiator,” the first in the series, for only 99c.