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.
It's the end of the year now, and so we've asked them for their top three books that made the year in reading so memorable. Without further ado, here's Part 2 (of four parts) of our bloggers best reads of 2015—and don't forget to check out Part 1, and stay tuned for Part 3 and Part 4:
My number one pick for Best of 2015 is Radiance by Grace Draven. I've re-read this book numerous times since purchasing it and have recommended it to anyone who stands still long enough to listen. It's the story of an arranged marriage between two different species - Brishen Khaskem is a prince of the Kai, a second son whose only marital worth is to secure an allegiance. Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, is valuable only as a pawn in a strategic marriage. To the Kai, the Gauri look repellent with their round eyes, square teeth and mollusk colored skin. To the Gauri the Kai look like monsters with their razor sharp claws, fang like teeth and eel like coloring. But brave hearts and compassionate souls are the makeup of our hero and heroine and they forge a bond that transcends cultural boundaries and resonates with love.
Dark Horse by Michelle Diener is sci-fi romance at its very best. When we meet Rose she is escaping a Tecran ship where she has served as a sample of Earth life for the last three months. With the help of Sazo, the ships AI, she is now free but far from safe. The two are hoping to ally witht he Grih, a humane group of aliens who look like humans. Capt. Dav Jallan of the Grih is everything Rose and Sazo hoped for but will his support be enough when they find themselves at odds with his superiors? A slow, sweet romance, lots of space opera and an intriguing mystery make this a wonderful read.
It was hard to choose a third title since I have at least five contenders for the spot but I finally went with Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist. This is a detailed historical that captures what it was like for young working women at the start of the 20th century. The heroine Flossie was by turns irritating, lovable, zany, immature and brilliant. Reeve Wilder, her hero, learns a lot about love, laughter and life from the impetuous Flossie. Their love affair is set against the backdrop of the stained glass industry and the World's Fair. A lovely tale that shows the ups and downs of falling in love.
Naturally, my first reaction was “Noooooo! How can I only narrow it down to three???” However, by keeping it to romance only, and picking three different subgenres, I survived. Whew! Here are my choices:
Only a Kiss (Survivor's Club #6) by Mary Balogh—When I read a top-notch Mary Balogh novel I feel like I'm getting the additional bonus of a class in “How To Write Really Good Romance With All The Feels”. Balogh's use of subtle body language, spare description, slow builds and real, adult characters makes reading her books not only deeply, emotionally satisfying, but also illustrates what a good romance novel can be in the hands of the right author. It's a slow build to true love and a HEA, but the story will have you staying up late into the night or phoning in sick so you can finish. All of the Survivors' Club stories have been outstanding, and this is one of the best of the series.
Shards of Hope (Psy-Changeling #14 ) by Nalini Singh—I loved this book, and am in awe of Ms. Singh's ability to continue to craft a complex and involving universe in her long running Psy-Changeling series. Too many paranormal franchises lose steam after a while, running out of original material. Not Psy-Changeling. The characters and society evolve and change in the finest science fiction fashion, and the world building continues to be a major part of the joy of reading these books.
This Gun For Hire by Jo Goodman—I don't know who I liked better in this excellent novel, the hero or the heroine, but I thought they were both fabulous. Goodman hits all the right marks with her snappy writing, wonderful story, and characters that linger long after the last page is turned. It's also great fun to read a Western historical romance again. Too few really good ones get published today, so this was a treat. I look forward to Goodman's next book with great anticipation.
Wendy the Super Librarian:
Just as I was despairing that erotic romance was on an endless rinse and repeat cycle of motorcycle clubs and abusive heroes masquerading as wannabe Doms, along came Sweet Agony by Charlotte Stein to remind me of what makes the sub genre tick. Passion. Need. Tension. Oh good heavens the sweet, sweet tension! Heroine looking to escape poverty and a problematic family becomes live-in housekeeper for a hero who, literally, does not like to be touched. At all. And trust me, that little foible turns out to make for some very, very hot scenes.
Having largely moved away from inspirational to a more secular “gentle” romance existence, Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist reminds romance readers that sometimes the hottest, steamiest books are the ones where the characters keep their clothes on. Looking to pay for art school and become a true modern woman, our heroine moves into a boarding house where she runs afoul of our hero, a disapproving newspaper reporter who thinks a woman's place is in the home.
The joy in category romance is that you get a quick, intense read that delivers on what I want most as a reader—the romance! The Nanny Plan by Sarah M. Anderson is a reminder that not all category is fluff and it's a format that can pack an emotional wallop. Heroine spent a childhood raising half-siblings while Mom went off looking for love in all the wrong places. She's determined to not repeat Mom's mistakes, but ends up saying yes to the hero when his newly orphaned niece lands on his doorstep. The author makes the characters and the reader run an emotionally draining gauntlet to get to the happy ending and the deft handling of class issues is not something readily found in a lot of genre fiction. One of Anderson's best.
These are my #1 favorites in the three romance subgenres in which I read most extensively.
Long delivered all that I wanted in this book that I have anticipated since the Pennyroyal Green series began in 2008. For those of us who have hungered for more of Lyon and Olivia’s story, Long gave us their past, their present, and even a bit of their future.
Rise by Karina Bliss
I had doubts that Bliss could redeem Zander Freeman, but she made a believer out of me. That she redeemed him while leaving him credibly flawed and paired him with a college professor/Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who did not lose her intelligence when she lost her heart made me love this book eve more.
The Color of Light by Emilie Richards
I have been adding Richards’ books to my keeper shelves for more than two decades. I rank this tale of a deeply human woman pastor, a priest with a vocational crisis, and a flawed congregation who learns to do a better job of being the church her best since Prospect Street (2003).
Radiance by Grace Draven
Radiance is a wonderfully sweet, and dynamic fantasy. Two kingdoms (and species) are merged through a marriage of convenience that turns to love as the couple gets to know one another. What made this for me is the maturity of the couple and their romance. No over the top dramatics or emotional angst is added to merely increase the conflict of the story. Interesting world building, a well-plotted storyline, and fabulous dialogue made this a joy to read
The Highwayman by Kerrigan Bryne
An utterly delicious and heart-wrenching historical romance that encompasses star-crossed lovers, second chances, revenge, hope, and redemption. A dark brooding hero whose past has damaged him and a strong intelligent heroine who refuses to give up find one another again years after they were brutally separated as children. Now they must find a way to let go of the past if they want the future they always dreamed of. Passionate, heartbreaking, and overflowing with action, suspense, and addictive dialogue. Perfect for fans of Jenifer Ashley's Mackenzie series and/or Elizabeth Hoyt's Maidan Lane series.
Maybe Maby by Williow Aster
Willow Aster has such a wonderfully poignant voice that speaks directly to the reader. Maybe Maby tells the story of a young woman whose life seems to be at an impasse. Diagnosed with depression and OCD, Maby has been caught in a whirlwind since her mother passed away. I loved, loved, loved this book. Unique and crazy, Aster's honest observations coupled with her witty characters and engaging story lines made this a treat to read. Married to someone who is OCD and manic depressive, it was very enlightening to see it from the source so to speak. Aster doesn't sugar coat the heroine's issues nor does she make her a victim to be pitied. She is strong, intelligent, snarky, and self-deprecating. She's a survivor.
Learn more about the books mentioned in this post: