Friday, December 30, 2016

The Romancies - Part 7: Best Contemporary, Best Historical, and Best of 2016

I say this every year but I can't believe how fast it all goes by and how busy the last couple weeks can get. This will probably be the first year I don't make my reading goal but I still look back on the reading year fondly. As always, I have enjoyed chatting, sharing love, and disappointments about books with all of you. Every single one of you, whether we chat often or infrequently make my reading experience richer. I can't wait to discover books with all of you in 2017 :)

The following are my top ten contemporary and historical (because they should be separate categories! Listen up Goodreads) books I had the privilege of reading this year. 
(In no particular order)

*The books eligible could be published in any year, they simply had to be read by me in 2016.
Clicking on book cover brings you to my review if I wrote one or Goodreads page if I didn't.


Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid  23398817  A Midnight Clear by Emma Barry

Irresistibly Yours by Lauren Layne  25125233  The Right Kind of Trouble by Shiloh Walker

The Darkest Hour by Maya Banks  When All The Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz  Heated Pursuit by April Hunt

Deception Island by Brynn Kelly


Heated Pursuit by April Hunt

This wasn't my highest rated but I can't deny the enjoyment I got out of it. The first in the Alpha Security series, this romantic suspense may recycle a lot of the sub-genres favorites but it was full of fun, heart, and charm. It was one of my nominees for Best Couple and Rafe won for Best Hero. The characters and the hero's charm is why I love reading about the good bad boys. As a debut, this has me super exited for future books in the series.


Claiming Her by Kris Kennedy  The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne  A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh

Wicked Intentions by Elizabeth Hoyt  True Pretenses by Rose Lerner  Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner

How to Rescue a Rake by Jayne Fresina  To Lure a Proper Lady by Ashlyn Macnamara  Forevermore by Kristen Callihan



Claiming Her by Kris Kennedy

This was such a close race with The Highlander and To Lure a Proper Lady trying to sneak in there. However, I often bemoan missing the feeling of the time period in historicals, this author nailed it. The heroine and hero were strong, smart, and brave and together provided some amazing push and pull chemistry. The focus was on the couple but the outer story was also incredibly historically rich with Elizabeth I making appearances and strategic maneuverings. This was brilliantly historical, emotional, hot, and engaging. So, it should come as no surprise that it is also my pick for, 

A nominee in Best Scene and winner for Best Couple, this will definitely be one I reread for years to come. 

Agree or disagree with me? Let me know your favorites from the year.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy New Year!

The Romancies - Part 6: Best Couple

*The books eligible could be published in any year, they simply had to be read by me in 2016. 
Clicking on book cover brings you to my review if I wrote one or Goodreads page if I didn't.


Maximum Exposure by Alison Kent  A Gentleman's Game by Theresa Romain  To Lure a Proper Lady by Ashlyn Macnamara

Claiming Her by Kris Kennedy   The Dimple of Doom by Lucy Woodhull Axel by Grace Burrowes 

The Right Kind of Trouble by Shiloh Walker  Heated Pursuit by April Hunt  Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett  

When All The Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz

1. Finn and Olivia - Maximum Exposure by Alison Kent
"Who hurt you?" Finn asked his voice pitched low and coming from just behind her. 
She kicked at a cloud of bubbly foam. "A friend of my father's. He said I invited his advances. Told me I'd asked for it with the way I flounced around half undressed."
"You know you didn't. No woman asks for a sexual assault."
She tried to shrug off his words. "He didn't really hurt me---"
"Of course, he did. If not physically, then emotionally. How old were you?"
"Fourteen. Old enough to know better."
"He was right. About that much, anyway. I'd seen him looking at me. I knew what he was thinking." She lifted her face, letting the breeze cool her. "But he wasn't going to have any say in what I wore. I had the right to wear anything I wanted to, damn him, to expose as much of my body as society said was decent. I'd show him. And I did. Until he showed me." She wanted him there. Wanted the comfort he offered when he stood behind her and wrapped her up in his arms. She closed hers on top of his and held him there, sinking into him, needing the support of his body, but needing even more the emotional rock he offered. 

These two built each other up, calmed each other's demon, and had hot chemistry.

2.  Rosalind and Nathaniel - A Gentleman's Game by Theresa Romain
"You push back every time I come close, but not so hard that I think you want to break. Just hard enough that I think you want to see if I'll stay." He lifted his head to press a kiss to her temple. "I'll stay."

The best part of this book was our couple's relationship and their slow growth. Their relationship forms from a friendship and had a wonderful gentleness to it.

3.  Elizabeth and Dysart - To Lure a Proper Lady by Ashlyn MacNamara
To hell with the fact that she was a lady and he was hardly a gentleman.

What was this story's strong point and worth the price of admission was Lizzie and Dysart's chemistry. When they first meet, there is an instant spark but their coming together was gradually moved along in some pretty perfect steamy scenes.

Sweet God in heaven, she'd never known a kiss like this. Any of the gentlemen who'd tried had been just that---gentleman. Not Dysart. He'd learned the hardness of the world, and it came through in this intimate moment. But she drank in every last drop of the darkness he offered her and thirsted for more.

4.  Katarina and Aodh - Claiming Her by Kris Kennedy
Then, soft and menacing, he whispered by her ear, "You want to fight, Katarina?"

If you want sizzling chemistry, push and pull, and desire spilling off the pages, you'll get it in spades from this couple. I also loved the inclusion of a lighter side to the couple that were living and going through a fairly dark time; they were playful.

She leaned her head forward until her forehead touched his. "You are mad. I do not know what to do with you."
"Aye, mad. Join me."

5.  Samantha and Sam - The Dimple of Doom by Lucy Woodhull
"Did you just say to me that you kidnapped me as a favour because evil men were after me because you caused them to be after me?"

This couple's back and forth was delightful but you're going to have to like your humor a bit left of center to enjoy the ride; it's a bit comparable to Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer's Agnes and the Hitman.

"You wouldn't hurt me, you're a nice boy from North Carolina."
He flipped me over and licked my nipple, peeking through the lace of my bra. Deft fingers peeled the cup back so he could take me in his mouth. I whimpered and held his head there.
"I'm a boy from North Carolina who went bad, and don't you forget it."

6.  Abby and Axel - Axel by Grace Burrowes
To blazing hell with what ladies did and did not do. With Axel Belmont, at least, Abby need not be a lady. She need only, finally, be herself.

The emotion between our hero Axel and heroine Abby, felt so incredibly real; I was swept away into their lives and relationship. They were both widowers who found a commonality with each other. Their relationship from budding to longing to inseparable will warm the coldest of hearts.

"His hands, warm and callused, traced the sides of her neck, his thumbs brushing over her cheeks. "You are daft if you think I was avoiding you, Abigail. I had to walk past your door to leave my room. A drunk forgoes his gin, a lotus-eater his opium, more easily than I passed your door."

7.  Moira and Gideon - The Right Kind of Trouble by Shiloh Walker
He could hear the threads of his control snapping---only these weren't threads. They were tension wires, holding back the weight of his need and hunger, one that had been building for years.

Y'all, if you want tortured depths, this couple and the hero's 20 year wait for the heroine to work through her issues will deliver more than you could ever ask for. The word soulmates is often bandied about in terms of hearts and puppies, but the author gives it to us here in all its soul crushing glory; soulmates where life, pain, love, and human frailty get the best of it.

She held out her hand. For the longest time, he didn't move. Then he did---toward her.

8.  Penny and Rafe - Heated Pursuit by April Hunt
She looked seconds away from blowing steam out her ears. Rafe was lost, completely. "Let me make sure I'm following you here. You're pissed off at me for being nice...and for caring about you? Is that right?"
"And it would make you feel better if I started acting like a sexist asshole?" What in the actual hell?
"Now we're getting somewhere."

I loved these two together, whether they were engaging in back and forth dialogue, running for their lives, or having trouble keeping their hands off each other, their chemistry was always front and center.

9.  Aida and Winter - Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett
He stuffed his hands into his pockets as he lowered his head and spoke to her conspiratorially in a teasing voice. "Let's just pretend that you needed my help. It will make me feel useful."
A thrill flowed through her like an electrical current. "Would you have actually hurt him?"
"In a heartbeat."
"How foolish of me to find that exciting."

While the first half may have felt a little more like insta-lust between the couple, they had a really fun back and forth that made them a delight to read. The second half improved with their emotional connection with Aida sharing more of herself and Winter acting out an incredibly moving and romantic gesture.

10.   Charlotte and Max - When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz
He caught her chin on the edge of his hand. "I'm not good with the subtle approach. I need to be sure. I need a yes or no."
She was still in free fall, she realized, about to spread wings she didn't know she possessed. "Yes," she whispered. "But only if you want me, too."
He smiled a slow, intimate smile that left her breathless. She could have sworn his eyes got a little hotter.

Even with their past hurts keeping them cautious, it was obvious from the moment they met, our couple had chemistry. They weren't so much a hot and cold drama, angst couple but a cool, calm, and sexily belonging together partners. 


Katarina and Aodh
Claiming Her by Kris Kennedy

You think I have no choice," she said to his back.
He turned, his painted hand curled around the edge of the door. "If I wanted what came from a woman with no choice, Katarina, we would not be having this conversation."
"Come to me willing, or do not come at all."

Frankly, he wouldn't have been able to finish his sentence and I would have been on him like white on rice but I digress. I loved how the hero valued and respected the heroine and how they challenged each other while still giving and taking. This couple was heartrending and hot.

Lilias and Alistair

What couple was your favorite from the year?

Next time the final installment, Best Contemporary, Best Historical, and Best Book of 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Romancies - Part 5: Best Heroine and Hero

Sometimes characters standout on their own, separate from the story or romantic relationship. Other times a character doesn't fully shine until they are paired with their partner who brings out their best. And on rare occasions, a character becomes lost when they are paired up. Thus, you'll find, maybe I really liked a heroine/hero but not when they are part of a couple and maybe I really like a couple but not separately.

*The books eligible could be published in any year, they simply had to be read by me in 2016.
Clicking on book cover brings you to my review if I wrote one or Goodreads page if I didn't.

Best Heroine Nominees:

Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan  Something Wicked by Jo Beverley  Kiss Me While I Sleep by Linda Howard

Deception Island by Brynn Kelly  The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress by Victoria Alexander  The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne

Mad for the Plaid by Karen Hawkins  Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett  Duke of My Heart by Kelly Bowen

The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes

1.  Judith Worth - Once Upon a Marquess by Courtney Milan
"It isn't all my fault," Judith said. "It's just all on my shoulders. Try it, sometime, and see how well you do."

Of course a Milan heroine is going to make this list. Judith gets a rude and loud wake-up call and shake-up in life. She becomes the one responsible for her siblings after her family is disgraced.

"If I'd married," she said softly, "I would never know what I was capable of doing. It turns out that when you take away my kid gloves and my morning dresses, I can do quite a bit. This may sound ridiculous, but I'm proud of myself." 

I loved her strength, resolute, angry, weakness, and heart. 

2.  Elfled Malloren - Something Wicked by Jo Beverley
Of course, probably few women went abroad well-armed.
Which raised the interesting question of why not? Men always thought women needed protection. Would it not be rational, therefore, to ensure that women could protect themselves?
Against men, she thought with a wry smile. Doubtless, therein lay the catch.

This heroine was just awesome with her damn the torpedoes attitude. 

"What?" Elf stared between her brothers. "Do you mean to tell me there are things a woman can do so as not to conceive a child and I don't know about them?"
"What use would they be?" Bryght demanded. "They're whores' tricks!"
Elf picked up a large, valuable Chinese vase and hurled it onto the floor. "The world needs changing."

I loved how Elf questioned societal and gender norms and called out the hypocrisy of them all. I also loved how she did have some shy vulnerability but didn't let it stop her.

3.  Lily Mansfield - Kiss Me While I Sleep by Linda Howard
If you've been wanting a heavier focus on the heroine story, then this would be for you. The story centers around Lily, a CIA assassin bent on revenge. She's smart, she's capable, and she kicks ass. 

4.  Holly Ryan - Deception Island by Brynn Kelly
Holly came from an abusive home, learned different ways to physically defend herself, and served six years in prison; she's not your average heroine. She's a character that initially you will have your guard up around, thinking she overplays her feminine wiles but as her background and personality is flushed out more, your respect for her will grow. She's a fighter.

5.  Lucy Merryweather - The Daring Exploits of a Runaway Heiress by Victoria Alexander
"Have you ever kissed a woman with a mustache, Mr. Fairchild?" She fluttered her lashes at him.
"Not that I can recall. And certainly never deliberately."
"What a shame that you missed your opportunity then." She smirked and turned toward the dorr. 
"I do hate to miss an opportunity." He grabbed her, pulled her into his arms, and stared down at her. "Miss Merryweather." Before she could protest he pressed his lips to hers.
For a moment she hesitated, then kissed him back, hard and with a great deal of fervor. 
At last she pulled away and gazed up at him.
"If that is how you intend to chastise me in the future, Mr. Fairchild"---her voice was breathless and she made no move to leave his embrace---"I cannot promise to restrain from activities you find objectionable."
"You are driving me mad, Miss Merryweather."
"Then I have accomplished more than I expected this evening."

With a sort of bucket list to complete, I loved and greatly enjoyed Lucy's adventures. This heroine was a compelling force and the way she befuddled and intrigued the hero was a delight to read.

6.  Philomena St. Vincent - The Highlander by Kerrigan Byrne
It had started gradually, her hell within the St. Vincent household. And before long, when Gordon had thought her broken, when his jibes and torments no longer seemed to effect her, her husband became violent. Acts that would land a man in prison should he enact them out on the streets were all perfectly legal if he perpetrated them on his wife.

Our heroine escapes from an asylum that her abusive husband placed her in and trades the title of Viscountess for governess. Her story is heartbreaking, the author gives us a poignant look into Mena that encompasses her inner strength, vulnerability, pain, fear, and will.

7.  Ailsa MacKenzie - Mad for the Plaid by Karen Hawkins
This heroine had wonderful depth, she wasn't feisty and head strong simply to relay "strength" but wonderfully smart, capable, and willing to listen. I enjoyed how Ailsa challenged the hero and how that intrigued him and I loved how she beautifully showcased the calm strength of a woman.

8.  Aida Palmer - Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett
Aida was a strong independent woman but her past involving her family had clearly made her emotionally vulnerable and the author did a great job showcasing both sides of her. This ying and yang of her personality made her endearing and engaging.

9.  Ivory Moore - Duke of My Heart by Kelly Bowen
Plainly said, this heroine was strong and awesome. She runs a...unique business and though life has thrown some obstacles in her way, she more than rises to the challenges.

10.  Megan Windham - The Trouble with Dukes by Grace Burrowes
If you were ever a little girl in glasses, Megan will steal a piece of your heart; her hurt and anger over her folly as a youth, her passion, and her quiet strength. Our heroine definitely gets handicapped by the time period she is living in but her personality in the face of it shines even brighter. 


Something Wicked by Jo Beverley

I have the right to vote because of women like Elfled, so she gets mine :)

2015 Winner

Jane Burke

2014 Best Heroines 

Best Hero Nominees:

Thirty Nights with a Dirty Boy by Shiloh Walker  Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid  The Cajun Cowboy by Sandra Hill

Maximum Exposure by Alison Kent  To Lure a Proper Lady by Ashlyn Macnamara  Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt

Deception Island by Brynn Kelly  Forevermore by Kristen Callihan  Heated Pursuit by April Hunt

A Midnight Clear by Emma Barry

1. Sean Lachlan - Thirty Nights with a Dirty Boy by Shiloh Walker
As this is a serial, there was a bit of lack to Sean's full backstory and point of view. Instead, the reader learns and becomes endeared to him with how he treats the heroine Ella. The sexual tension, push and pull between the two is hot and Sean will make any reader want to take a walk on the wild side.

2.  Quinn Sullivan - Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid
We don't get Quinn's pov but the author does an amazing job of writing the hero and heroine's interactions so that the reader can tell how much Quinn is fascinated and attracted to the heroine. Quinn didn't merely tolerate the heroine's quirks, he generally liked them and engaged with her.

3.  Raoul Lanier - The Cajun Cowboy by Sandra Hill
With scuffed boots, tight wranglers, snap button cowboy shirt, and a beat up cowboy hat, I'll never tire of reading descriptions of Raoul. This hero was frustrating, annoying, sexy, funny, and tough but really, I first described him as "sex on a stick". I couldn't leave him off this list.

4.  Finn McLain - Maximum Exposure by Alison Kent
There were so many little but immensely powerful moments from the hero Finn in regards to healing the heroine. He emotionally strengthened the heroine, that in my eyes is what makes a hero.

5. Dysart - To Lure a Proper Lady by Ashlyn Macnamara
But put him in a dark blue topcoat, buckskin breeches, and Hessians, and he looked nearly dashing, if rough about the edges. But that slightly ragged quality---the hair a bit too shaggy, the coarse shadow of reddish beard on his chin and cheeks---hinted at adventure. Perhaps even danger.

Hello! Dysart starts off as a chameleon to the readers as he adopts many personas to mask his true identity. He's the bad boy from the other side of the tracks that is more hotly honorable than bad. I was instantly intrigued by him and probably more attracted to a fictional character than is proper.

6.  Asa Makepeace - Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt
"Lily of the valley." He made her feel exotic, still dressed in her sensible gray frock, only her hair loose about her shoulders.
"Lily of the valley," he murmured. "I'll remember that scent forever now, and whenever I smell it again I'll think of you, Eve Dinwoody. You'll be haunting my tomorrows forevermore."
She gasped and turned, looking up at him. She'd thought that he'd be smiling teasingly at his words but he looked quite serious and she stared at him in wonder. Had he always carried this part of himself inside? This wild poetic lover? If so, he'd hidden it well underneath the aggressive, foulmouthed theater manager.

Asa was darkly erotic in the most sweet way. He recognized that his approaches to the heroine had to be gentle (emotionally) and all on her terms, which he then executed in scorching hot ways. The way he suspected about the heroine's issues but refused to treat her any different as a woman, acknowledged and encouraged her desires, and then when he finds out her issues, how he gives her agency and power while still feeding her desires and his own, make him more than deserving to be on this list.

7.  Rafe Angelito - Deception Island by Brynn Kelly
Our hero is the first of his kind that I have ever read, his character was intense in the compelling story of his life.  His childhood was horrific and because of that we can see why he's guarded but he also had a great sense of humor with some sarcasm and edge to it. Rafe's story was heartbreaking and a riveting tale of how the human spirit endures.

8.  St. John Evernight - Forevermore by Kristen Callihan
Readers of the Darkest London series have seen Sin forged in the fire and his broody, moody, and not feeling good enough for Layla had real roots, which made his character heartbreaking and darkly sexy.

9.  Rafe Ortega - Heated Pursuit by April Hunt
He was bravery, loyalty, and a kick-ass attitude wrapped up in a six-and-a-half-foot mass of hard muscle.

This hero had heart and charm in spades. He's the risk his life but never his heart alpha male that over saturates this sub-genre but crushes and kicks to the curb any cardboard cut-out notions. Rafe had personality, wit, and magnetism; he felt real to me and I found myself lusting right alongside the heroine.

10.  Joe Reynolds - A Midnight Clear by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner
Midshipman Joe, y'all. Seriously. The way he pursues the heroine, gifts her books, and reads them, will swoon you to death. The way he stands up to her Admiral father will have you cutting in line to have his babies. He's the hero we all read romances for.


Heated Pursuit by April Hunt

This was a close race between three but the pleasant surprise of this being a debut and hitting all my loved tropes, pushed this one to the front. Rafe's charm didn't hurt matters either.

2015 Winner

Duke of Avendale

2014 Best Heroes  

Who captured your heart this year?

Next time, Best Couple....