Wot I Read in March

Looking back at last month’s reading, I think I must have forgotten some books. The list is unusually short. Of course I had my daughter here for a week (better than a book!), but I also had a week of spring break. I did start several books that I didn’t finish, too; not Did Not Finish, but haven’t finished, which is a big difference. And then there was that whole NetGalley thing; it was a worthwhile, discussion, I think, but it did take up a lot of my “free” (ha!) time.

So, the totals: I finished and remembered eleven books, of which five were historical (three romance, two mystery with strong romantic elements). Then there were three contemporary romances (one of which is technically literary fiction, but whatever), one fantasy novel, one science fiction romance, and a crime fiction short story. Five of the eleven were digital (two ARCs, one loan and two purchases), four were borrowed from the library, and two were purchased mass-market paperback. (One of the library loans was also a paperback, and I’ll be buying my own copy of that to keep.)

Historical

The Forbidden Rose, by Joanna Bourne. This was a DABWAHA book, so I wrote about it here.

An Unlikely Countess, by Jo Beverley. This one started out a little slowly for me, and there were some dimensions of the premise that strained credence a bit, but that’s typical of Jo Beverley. Once the main characters got together (it’s sort of a marriage of convenience story), it really picked up for me. By the end I couldn’t bring myself to put it down to refill my teacup. WIN.

A Marriage of Inconvenience, by Susanna Fraser. I worried that I might be doing this book a disservice, reading it in proximity to Beverley’s book, but for the most part it held its own. Both books deal with marriages between aristocratic men and women who are below their station; this really interested me, since many “married beneath him/her” romances are marriages for love, but these two are closer to marriages of convenience/necessity. In Fraser’s book, the main characters must marry because they are found in a compromising situation, but then there are numerous obstacles for them to overcome regarding sexual intimacy and trust. Through most of the story it is the heroine, Lucy, who needs to learn to trust her new husband James and, even more, herself in order to find sexual fulfillment. However, almost as soon as that is achieved, there is another issue of trust and communication that comes between the couple. While I thought that issue was a little too heavily foreshadowed, and I thought James’ reaction was overblown and slightly out of character, I was able to look past that to consider the larger picture. The book juxtaposes the idea of sexual trust and personal trust within a relationship in an interesting way, in spite of the somewhat melodramatic highs and lows to which both protagonists are prone. I look forward to reading Fraser’s earlier connected novel, which follows this one chronologically. WIN

When Gods Die, by C.S. Harris. The second book in the Sebastian St. Cyr series was as fascinating as the first; I’m really going to have to pace myself not to gobble this series up. The continuing characters are delightful. WIN

Dark Road to Darjeeling, by Deanna Raybourne. This was another DABWAHA book, and also my TBR Challenge book for March. I talked about it here before I had finished it. The rest of the book pretty much lived up to my early expectations. WIN

Contemporary

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson. I waited a long time to get this book from the library, but it was worth it. It was nominated for DABWAHA; I wrote about it here.

A Lot Like Love, by Julie James. This was a great read, definitely my favorite James so far. (Congrats to her on winning DABWAHA, too, for last year’s Something About You.) I enjoyed the real tension and slowly growing connection between the main characters, and the suspense and action elements fed but didn’t overpower the romance. The elements of the story having to do with wine and the wine business were handled well (a pet peeve of mine in contemporary fiction). WIN

Willing Victim, by Cara McKenna. This is an erotic short that got great buzz during DABWAHA; having read it, I now see why. It’s hot and sexy, but also very romantic; it deals with rape fantasy and rough sex, but it goes beyond that, too. McKenna has the sense not to try to bring the story to a happy-ever-after ending; happy for now, with the potential for more, was a good resolution for these complex characters. WIN

The Lost Coast, by Barry Eisler. This short piece, featuring a character from one of Eisler’s longer novels, was a very difficult read for me. It is very violent, including a forced sex act, which I found very troubling. The plot and narrative devices used to justify the violence bothered me, because there is no hint in the writing that what happened isn’t okay. There was no character I could like in this story, and that’s just not my thing. FAIL

Fantasy/Science Fiction

The Bards of Bone Plain, by Patricia McKillip. I started and stopped this book a couple of times before finding myself in the right frame of mind to read it. McKillip is a brilliant writer, lyrical and layered, particularly when she’s writing about music, as she does here and in The Riddlemaster of Hed. (That’s my favorite of her books and one of my most frequent re-reads.) This reminds me of that masterpiece more than any of her other recent books, and yet it is a completely fresh world and story. I particularly loved the character of Princess Beatrice. McKillip has a subtle hand with romance, and she’s very careful about each couple being equals in the relationship. This book gave me joy. WIN

Song of Scarabaeus, by Sara Creasey. This was a DABWAHA book, but sadly not one I finished before it was eliminated from the tournament. I am pretty picky about science fiction romance, and too often I find that the science fiction part doesn’t work for me. This book was a terrific exception, and I’m eager to read the sequel. I’ve been recommending this book to many people; Jane at Dear Author wrote a great review of it. WIN

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