Each month, we ask our bloggers to share the best thing they’ve read (or things, plural, if our bloggers declare a tie ’cause they just can’t choose). It doesn’t have to be a new book, as evidenced below; just something that made the month sparkle a bit more.
Without further ado, here’s the installment for June 2014 (and if you’ve missed any, be sure to check out past recs via the Related Posts section at the bottom of the post):
My best of June is a reread, Broken Wing by Judith James. This is the lush, epic, exquisitely emotional sort of historical that keeps me crazy in love with historical romance, and provides not only an unusual premise but a hero and heroine truly worthy of the names. Gabriel is a male prostitute, servicing both women and men, believing himself trapped in a living hell. Sarah is an unconventional widow, part gypsy, and the older sister of the boy whom Gabriel has gone to extreme lengths to protect. When Sarah comes to rescue her brother from the brothel, the boy won't go without Gabriel, and there begins a truly legendary romance of two broken people who find healing and wholeness in each other. A true classic of the genre.
My two picks are Fat by Sarrana de Wylde and Wingman (Woman) by Bella Jewel. Fat is a great take on the plus size girl loves sexy man with an excellent twist. Wingman is really about a heroine fighting for what she wants and a great friends-to-lovers story.
When I heard that Molly O'Keefe was self-publishing a historical western romance, I couldn't one-click it fast enough. Seduced is my favorite sort of western, abandoning frontier small town settings in favor of the gritty, lawless frontier. Marrying for security, the former Southern belle heroine discovers the Civil War is not over for her husband who is bent on revenge. Living in fear, desperate for safety, she finds herself in the sights of the bounty hunter hero, a man who has spent the last several weeks tracking her husband.
I have a feeling I'm not going to be alone in this, but I have to go with Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon, even though it's technically not a romance but part of an ongoing science fiction or fantasy series. Reading it was like taking a master class in juggling multiple storylines and characters. And the love story of Jamie and Claire continues to be deeply satisfying, so it's all good.
If I'm going with a romance that builds to a HEA, I'd pick Shield of Winter by Nalini Singh. Excellent characterization and story. I'd expect no less from Ms. Singh, and I got what I wanted, a great deal of reading satisfaction.
My top read of June has to be Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo. The end of the Grisha Trilogy, it wraps up the journey with very few loose ends left. I didn't love the ending BUT I understood it. I loved this series and the last book gave me all sorts of feels. The entire trilogy is a must for YA fantasy fans, especially Harry Potter fans. It's filled with witty banter, a hodge-podge of characters and an epic love story. I was both crying and laughing at times with the plot. I could not put it down, I was glued for two days. This story will haunt me for a very long time. I foresee lot's of future re-reads.
The best book I read in June was nonfiction: They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War by DeAnne Blanton. The researchers found evidence of at least 250 women who fought in the American Civil War while dressed as men; and given how many were documented, it made me wonder how many escaped detection altogether. The women had a wide range of reasons for hiding their gender and fighting; some went with husbands or lovers, others were patriots, still others just needed the army pay. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in history.
Elin Hilderbrand has long been on the top of my list for summer reading. She is my go-to author for complex and heroines and love stories that are a intricate and unpredictable. And it doesn’t hurt that every novel is set on the bucolic island of Nantucket. The way she writes, you can feel the sand and smell the ocean. But I was hesitant to read The Matchmaker because I knew the lead character is diagnosed with terminal cancer (made all the more intense by Hilderbrand’s announcement during pub week that she was undergoing a double mastectomy for breast cancer.) Ultimately, I decided to trust Hilderbrand to deliver another book I would love. And she did. In The Matchmaker, we meet forty-eight year old Dabney Kimball Beech. Dabney is a matchmaker dozens of happy couples to her credit. But now her beloved daughter is headed for disaster, engaged to a much older, controlling billionaire sports agent. Dabney’s own marriage to her Harvard economist husband is growing cold, and the man she thought she’d never see again – her high school sweetheart and father of her child, has returned to the island after two decades overseas. Passions collide in the most delightful way. Hilderbrand has a way of setting up her characters one way, then pulling the situation apart until everyone is facing a disaster, then putting it back together for unbelievably satisfying endings. The Matchmaker was emotional without being depressing – yet another magical feat of writing from an author who has become my favorite.
As a Samantha Young On Dublin Street junkie I was excited to read about Hannah, the baby of the bunch all grown up, and her hot-as-Hades long time love Marco. This one took me up, down, and around and I loved every bit of it...but I have to say it might have been edged out by Unbeloved by Madeline Sheehan if I hadn't just started it!
Erika Marks' Guest House is the perfect summer beach read. Idyllic Cape Cod. Family Secrets. Scandal. Social Status. Former childhood friends who shared a stolen kiss are reunited along the shores of their youth only to find out they've always shared more than just that one lip lock. It's heartwarming, heartbreaking, and the ha cha cha moments will make you sigh and swoon.
I haven't read all of Eloisa James's Desperate Duchesses, but number seven in this series, Three Weeks with Lady X, stands alone and is delightful. I love those character-driven romances and this is it in spades. It makes me want to delve into the earlier books in the series.
And... if you're up for two and speaking of character-driven romances, no one does it better than Loretta Chase, Vixen in Velvet is no exception. Loretta combines meticulous research and characters you want to hang out with and always crafts a great love story.
I wasn't one of those anxiously awaiting Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner,
but am so glad I listened to my tweetstream and read it. I loved this very
different take on the overly familiar setting of Regency England, which
focuses on the middle and working classes and their experiences with local
politics, as well as on the upper class people who do the governing. The
romance, and the complex family relationships, are beautifully developed.
Make it Count is a New Adult contemporary romance that manages to feel fun and flirty while also addressing serious issues. With a Brazilian-American heroine that struggles with learning and a nerdy hero that just wants to be with her, Make it Count portrays a very real image of someone living with a learning disability in a college setting. There's also a healthy dose of sexy times and blockades regarding the heroine's not-so-nice boyfriend, who is the hero's best friend. Megan Erickson writes a brilliant romance that will make readers cheer for Kat and Alec to reach their HEA.
A huge Lauren Dane fan and a big lover of her Petal series, I was really looking forward to reading her latest, Count On Me. I’m happy to say it didn’t disappoint. In fact Count On Me is now my most favorite Petal book yet. Caroline Mendoza, the heroine, is a is a petite, but strong, ball of fire that is the perfect foil for the mostly laid back but still, simmeringly sexy enough hero, Royal Watson. The story is takes you on an emotional ride dealing with deep issues of love, race and tolerance in a small town.
Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan hits all my summer reading buttons. Hot family of brothers: check. Fantastic arm-chair vacation setting: check—we’re back at the Snow Crystal Resort, nestled in the mountains, on the shores of an idyllic Vermont lake.
French chef Élise Philippe and surgeon Sean O’Neil (the brother who got-away to Boston) have a fabulous one night stand in their past, but neither one is in the market for a full-time relationship. But Grampa O’Neil’s heart attack brings unresolved family issues to the surface—and while Sean attempts to mend fences with his family when he rushes to his grandfather’s side—he comes to realize that the beautiful, loyal resort chef has some wounds too that she’s concealing from the world. Maybe there’s an HEA in this couple’s future after all. I’m such a fan of Nora Roberts’s family trilogies and this book is right up that alley.
My vote is for Rachel Grant’s Withholding Evidence. OH MY GOD, I read this book in one sitting. Grant was an archaeologist in her previous life, and her romantic suspense’s are full of super-interesting details. The plots are adventurous, the characters admirable and smart, and the pace is quick. I love everything about this story!
Think of England by KJ Charles wins my vote for best of the month because of the two heroes, who are familiar sorts if you read historicals set in Regency/Victorian England. They’re interesting on their own, but together they’re even better. Their unlikely pairing is perfect.