Continuing my lazy ways, I am posting reading summaries at the end of each month. And yes, this one’s late. I have been trying to keep track of my reading so that I have a list to use for updating Goodreads; I try to rate each new book I read over there, even if I don’t get around to writing an actual review.
Most of these books deserve longer consideration, and I fully intend to post some longer reviews. But even with the best intentions, I won’t review more than a handful of books each month, so a list of brief impressions seems like a good thing to continue.
My master list shows that I read 15 books and one novella in July. It felt like more than that, but there are a few still in progress into August and maybe I forgot some. Or maybe it’s age….anyway, here they are, rated on the win/pass/fail system.
As usual, this is the biggest category. No excuses offered.
Twice Tempted By a Rogue and Three Nights With a Scoundrel by Tessa Dare. The middle and final books of The Stud Club trilogy were both very good. Dare’s characters are always unique and believable; her heroines are among my favorites of authors writing today. The murder mystery plot arc that tied the three books together worked out with a twist that I almost didn’t see coming and that I wasn’t sure about until it happened. WIN
Jazz Baby by Lorelie Brown is set in the 1920s during Prohibition. I wrote about it on the old blog. WIN
Tempting the Marquess by Sara Lindsey. This book was a disappointment for me. I may give it another shot in the future, but this attempt to read it was unsuccessful. I enjoyed Lindsey’s debut novel Promise Me Tonight, because the writing was good enough and the characters fun and interesting enough to get me past the plot points that hit some of my “oh no you didn’t” buttons. I was looking forward to Olivia’s story. But while the quality of the writing is still good, I couldn’t handle this one. Reading it gave me emotional whiplash; the reasons for the main characters’ sudden shifts in their feelings about each other felt contrived, and I didn’t really like them as a couple. Maybe if I’d kept going I would have felt differently by then end, but this time the result was DNF.
My Lady Notorious by Jo Beverley. This was my first book by this author — I know, but hey, I missed the 90s, and I’m still catching up. I received this book at RomCon at the historical authors’ tea event, and I put it right at the top of my TBR pile. Partly because so many readers I know LOVE Beverley’s work, partly because she’s such a significant figure in the genre, and partly because I just fell in love with the woman at RomCon. She was warm, gracious, funny and inspiring. I loved reading this book, too — I’m a sucker for cross-dressing when it plays up issues of gender and identity, and in this book both the heroine and the hero spend time playing “other.” WIN
Untouched by Anna Campbell. This was another RomCon acquisition, both the book and the personal connection with the author. Anna is a bundle of energy and laughter in person; this was a real contrast with what I head heard about her books, which always seem to have the word “dark” in the description. This one reminded me of one I couldn’t finish last year, Laura Kinsale’s Flowers From the Storm, but I not only finished Untouched, I liked it. A lot. WIN
I Kissed an Earl by Julie Anne Long. This is the fourth book in the Pennyroyal Green series, and I have only read one of the others, but it was the one where this heroine features as a prominent secondary character. I was really curious to see how Violet would develop once she found a man who was her match, and I wasn’t disappointed. I just love when strong characters fall in love without losing their strength. Towards the end of this book I really began to fear either an out-of-character concession or a lame deus ex machina ending, so I was pleased when Long pulled off a resolution that required neither. I’m going to have to read books one and three now, because I think the overall story arc will conclude in book six (book five is scheduled for a February release, and it builds on the characters in the books I haven’t read). WIN
Aftershock and Slow Heat by Jill Shalvis. Here we have another author who I’ve heard raved about, and I can see why. Her books are funny and sexy, and she writes well. I generally prefer longer, meatier books, but these were fun shorter reads with smart twists on some pretty standard romance devices. The two books are not connected, and in fact were first published quite a few years apart, but I read them almost back-to-back. Aftershock pulled a twist on the sekrit baby that worked better for me than I expected it to. WIN Slow Heat wasn’t as easy for me to relax and enjoy — there’s an “adorable troubled kid” plot that pushes all sorts of buttons for me, and there’s baseball. Which I love, but I had trouble with some aspects of how it was used here. PASS
Crazy For Love by Victoria Dahl. This book is all kinds of sexy, crazy fun, which is what I’ve come to expect from this author. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable read; it’s funny, but also heart-warming. As in all of Dahl’s books, both hero and heroine have to grow and acknowledge some truths about themselves in order to be able to commit to each other. I wanted just a little more of the secondary romance (it was a little too easy), but I was glad that those characters got their happy ending in this book rather than serving a sequel bait. WIN
Demon Night by Meljean Brook. Meljean is one of those authors whose books I’ve been meaning to read for quite a while. Lots of readers whose taste I share LOVE her books, plus she’s smart and funny online (and, as I found out in Denver, in person). I have issues with the idea of vampires as central characters in romance, but a good writer can make it work for me. This book was amazing, and I’m only torn trying to decide whether to read forward from this point or go back to the start of the series. WIN
A Love Neverending by Rowan Larke. This is a LooseId release, and it really is erotic PNR. It is a difficult book in some ways, since it is about death and redemption, but the emotions are powerful and the writing just sucked me in. I read it late at night and stayed up far too late finishing it, because I knew I wouldn’t sleep if I didn’t know how it ended. When a book does that? WIN
Warrior, Scoundrel and Rebel by Zoe Archer. These are the first threebooks in a series that I have been looking forward to ever since I first heard about it, The Blades of the Rose books. These books are a terrific combination of magic, steampunk science, adventure and romance. They are the books I desperately wanted when I was younger, when I had gotten too old for Nancy Drew but got frustrated by the gender stereotypes in most of the more complex adventure fiction available. Strong heroes and heroines working together, dealing with their feelings for each other while simultaneously defeating evil — those books were few and far between. (Not that these are YA books; they are adult romance, although I think my teenage daughter is going to love them.) The books are fast-paced and full of action, the locations are exotic and well-researched, and the romance and adventure plots are beautifully balanced/intertwined. Each of these will be showing up in an individual review closer to its release date, because they are full of WIN.
Burning Up, an anthology:
“Here There Be Monsters” by Meljean Brook. This novella introduces the world and characters of the upcoming Iron Seas books — steampunk, REAL steampunk. I love paranormal steampunk, and books with a steampunk aesthetic, but this is hardcore alternate history/alternate technology, and it is fan-freaking-tastic. I cannot say enough good things about this novella, and I can’t wait for the first full-length book in a few months. WIN
(This was actually the only part of the anthology that I read in July. But I’m putting the rest here as well, so they won’t get forgotten.)
“Shifting Sea” by Virginia Kantra. This is well-written and involving, but I was left a bit dissatisfied at the end. It seemed too easy, with overtones of “The Little Mermaid” that I couldn’t dismiss (the Hans Christian Andersen version kept popping into my head, which really undercuts a happy ending). PASS
“Blood and Roses” by Angela Knight. I couldn’t get through to the end of this story. The main characters were just too messed up, and what was happening between them didn’t work for me. DNF
“Whisper of Sin” by Nalini Singh. I met Nalini at RomCon, I know lots of readers who love her books, but I just hadn’t gotten to them in my limited reading of paranormal romance. (Sense a theme here? Me too.) This short story is set in her Psy-Changeling world, which intrigues me. I’m not sure this author is at her best in short form, but I am definitely going to read more of her books. WIN