Saturday, September 2, 2023

On the Shelf: August 2023

This was a month where small press and indie published romance ruled my TBR. I found several new-to-me authors — and even met one! Chloe Angyel was at Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston recently to talk about ballet and her books, Pas de Don't and Turning Pointe. Both she and her debut romance novel proved to be a delight! On the other end of the romance spectrum was Zoey Draven's space vampire fated mates book. I'm not generally into alien and monster romances for various reasons, but Desire in His Blood hooked me and kept me turning pages. (She gains agency and he has wings.) 

There is so much more space (heh) for experimentation and innovation and variety outside of traditional publishing. You can really find just about anything, and it doesn't have to fit in a neat little box that somebody has to pitch to a committee as marketable. You can hop from Liz Lincoln and Cat Giraldo's queer athletes to Elliot Fletcher's whisky distiller with anxiety to winged alien vampires and kinky Tristan & Isolde retellings. It's a gorgeous cornucopia of hidden gems and breakout stars and massive WTFery out there. 

The Reading Rundown
Pas de Don't by Chloe Angyal (contemporary romance)
Mrs. Peabody and the Unexpected Duke by Grace Callaway (historical romance, novella)
Desire in His Blood by Zoey Draven (sci-fi romance, paranormal romance)
Whisky Business by Elliot Fletcher (contemporary romance)
The Notorious Lord Knightly by Lorraine Heath (historical romance)
Scoring a Spouse by Liz Lincoln (contemporary romance)
Salt in the Wound by Sierra Simone (contemporary erotic romance, novella)

Backlist titles and rereads: I had a major hankering for Jennifer Crusie reread, so I dove into Faking It and Fast Women. I finished up my Blue Blood Conspiracy reading with You Only Love Twice, Dukes Are Forever, and From London With Love by Bec McMaster. I popped into Grace Callaway's backlist, as I periodically do, for The Duke Redemption.

Currently reading: Wild Pitch by Cat Giraldo.

On the TBR/wish list
The House of Last Resort by Christopher Golden
Blood Betrayal by Ausma Zehanat Khan
There Should Have Been Eight by Nalini Singh
Business or Pleasure by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

On the Shelf: July 2023

It's always strange to me when I end up reading more backlist titles than brand-new books or advance copies. Well, not so much "strange" as telling. It tells me that I really needed a particular sort of comfort, where I look to the familiar instead of the unknown. Beverly Jenkins and Julie Garwood definitely delivered on that front. I will admit seven paranormal steampunk books in a row was a lot. As were four books involving questionable crime-solving and astral projection. But clearly I needed to go away someplace for several books at a time, to inhabit those worlds instead of mine. 

That's not to say I didn't thoroughly enjoy being here in the present, with the two new contemporary romances I read — Cathy Yardley's Role Playing, and When Grumpy Met Sunshine by one of my dear friends, Charlotte Stein. Both writers have authentic, entertaining, voices and capture complicated women in a way that makes you feel so very seen. With the way I've been feeling, I definitely needed to hear the message that messy people deserve love, and they were loud and clear about it! Be prepared to alternate between laughing and crying on your way to two well-earned HEAs.  

The Reading Rundown
What Never Happened by Rachel Howzell Hall (suspense, thriller)
The Duchess Takes a Husband by Harper St. George (historical romance)
When Grumpy Met Sunshine by Charlotte Stein (out 2/6/24, contemporary romance)
Role Playing by Cathy Yardley (contemporary romance)

Backlist titles/rereads: I very appropriately finished Topaz by Beverly Jenkins on the first day of Jenkins July, Romancelandia's now-annual celebration of all things Ms. Bev. I also went diving into Julie Garwood's backlist for another new-to-me read, The Bride. Yeah, I know. These are classics and I'm late—but the wonderful thing about books is that there's no expiration date. I also did a reread of all six of Bec McMaster's London Steampunk books as well as the first book in her Blue Blood Conspiracy spin-off series, Mission Improper. While I still enjoyed the stories, I definitely read them with a more critical eye this time. Less critical eyeing went to the utterly bonkers Dr. Charlotte Stone quartet by Karen Robards, of which I had only read the first title. I'll just say four words about that series: serial killer ghost sex. 

Currently reading: I started a reread of Faking It by Jennifer Crusie.

On the TBR/wish list
The Notorious Lord Knightly by Lorraine Heath
Blood Betrayal by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Sunday, July 2, 2023

On the Shelf: June 2023

How am I already reading books due out in January of 2024? Say it ain't so! But we are indeed halfway through 2023, and publishing's schedules do go on. Still, I've kept to my habit of relaxing and reading more titles from an author's backlist and doing more rereads. Books are a comfort. They shouldn't stress us out—unless they're trying to stress you out. Like The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins or Johnny Compton's The Spite House. Give me a creepy house and a gothic feel, and I'm in! Both authors delivered and then some—with extremely different but equally compelling voices. Also, there are shoutouts to Hawkins' previous books in hers, and I was totally that Leonardo DiCaprio-pointing-his-finger GIF. As for calling the twists...? Wellllll, I wasn't quite as on the ball there. But it was fun to be wrong!  

Oh, speaking of it being fun to be wrong...Lady Viper and the Bastard by a perennial fave Eva Leigh is all about two villains who fall in love while trying to break up a young couple at the behest of their parents. It was so satisfying to watch them hoisted by their own passionate petards. I also tried a few new-to-me authors this month. And one old friend under a new name! If you've enjoyed Ruby Lang's contemporary romances in the past, be sure to preorder Wild Life by Opal Wei! It's so entertaining. I was wary because there's an element involving cancer research, but it's inspired by a relative who had it in the past and is fine now! Nobody dies! But two tightly wound people—one a former pop idol and the other a harried MD/PhD—learn to let go while holding on to each other. Also, there are attack geese. 

The Reading Rundown
The Spite House by Johnny Compton (horror)
The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins (out 1/9/24, thriller/suspense, contemporary gothic)
The Footman by S.M. LaViolette (historical romance)
Melissa and the Vicar by S.M. LaViolette (historical romance)
Lady Viper and the Bastard by Eva Leigh (historical romance)
How to Steal a Scoundrel's Heart by Vivienne Lorret (historical romance)
Runaway Rogue by Cassie Mint (romantic suspense, novella)
Wild Life by Opal Wei (out 1/23/24, contemporary romance)

Backlists and Rereads: New to me but not quite new to shelves were Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Ann Long and Not Quite a Lady by Loretta Chase. And I read Lorraine Heath's The Last Wicked Scoundrel novella despite not having read any of the previous Scoundrels of St. James books. Then I did a quick reread of Grace Callaway's Her Husband's Harlot. After that historical foray, I came back to the present for a reread of Molly O'Keefe's Burn Down the Night.

Currently reading: I am on track to finish Topaz by Beverly Jenkins during the first week of Jenkins July! Whoo-hoo!

On the TBR/wish list
The Notorious Lord Knightly by Lorraine Heath
What Never Happened by Rachel Howzell Hall
Blood Betrayal by Ausma Zehanat Khan
The Duchess Takes a Husband by Harper St. George
Role Playing by Cathy Yardley