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 February 2016 (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 choice last month was Act Like It, and this month's is another contemporary romance by the same author under a different name: Artistic License by Elle Pierson. It's not a perfect book, but the characters are original and delightful–a plain, warm-hearted hero with poor self-image, and a sensitive, introverted artist heroine. I loved the fact that her needs are taken seriously, and not seen as something she has to change in order to be in a relationship. Please write us some more books, Lucy Parker, but stick to one name so we can find you.
My pick is going to be Courtney Milan's Trade Me.
What I love about this book are the themes she tackles that highlight the structural barriers still in place that perpetuate the gap between the haves and the have nots. Race, class, nationality, interracial relationships, and addiction are all highlighted. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the chemistry is fabulous between the two leads.
My best of February is going to be a tie between Maybe Maby by Willow Aster and Sticks by T. Gephart. They are both contemporary romances but very different books. Maybe Maby looks at Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with an attention to detail that is incredible and well represented. Maby, the main character does a lot of things other heroines in romance who have a mental illness don't do: she takes medication, she goes to therapy, she has to help herself because there is no expectation that love is going to make everything better. Sticks by T Gephart continues her Black Addiction series. I loved Joey, he is pretty much the most clueless father to be on the face of the planet which makes the whole novel worthwhile. The book is a lot lighter in tone and is a fun contemporary rock n' roll love story with a surprise pregnancy.
It was a good reading month. I raced through Lois McMaster Bujold's Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen, her new “Vorkosigan” SF romance. It's different...very different...focusing on love later in life, second chances, fluid sexual dynamics, and technology that changes everything in terms of child rearing options. I especially enjoyed it because I've followed Cordelia Naismith's story from the beginning in Shards of Honor, but I believe the book could stand on its own as well.
In historical romance I discovered a new-to-me author, Alissa Johnson's A Talent For Trickery. Victorian setting, a family with a criminal background and the special investigators who interact with them, excellent writing and characterization. I'm eagerly looking forward to the next installment in The Thief-Takers series.
My favorite read this month is My Demon Warlord by Carolyn Jewel. It’s full of her usual angsty, powerful characters who don’t want to fall in love. Unlike most of the others in the series, this one is less standalone, mostly because the hero and heroine have a past together touched on in other stories and new readers might feel pitchforked into a confusing (but interesting!) world. Those lucky readers can look up the backlist and start from the beginning.
I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish Act Like It by Lucy Parker this week. If you are over your quota of small town contemporary romance, but want that close knit community, take a look at this one. It's set in the West End London theater scene, with the grumpiest of grumps for a hero and a sweet ingénue who is not always that sweet. The place setting, the characters and the community make me want more and I loved the fact that she fought for him and for their relationship.
I was in the mood for a cop romance and I stumbled onto Lauren Layne’s Steal Me. I might be in the minority but I will take a cop over a billionaire any day – particularly if the cop is a grumpy and sexy like Captain Anthony Moretti. There’s no insta-love between the Captain and waitress Maggie, instead he’s kind of annoyed that she keeps dumping coffee on his lap. Thankfully their relationship manages to progress beyond that point!
Wicked Sexy Liar, Christina Lauren: They weren't part of the original trios that met up by chance in Vegas and had whirlwind weddings only to find their happily ever afters one-by-one, but Luke and London have their own complicated history come to light after what they thought would be a simple one night stand. And Christina Lauren prove that everything they put their hands to turns to gold. A hero willing to commit, a heroine running scared, and enough between them to make it all worth it, it's a sexy, sultry, beachy read with all the heart Christina Lauren has come to be known for.
Level Up by Cathy Yardley - Yardley crafted a contemporary romance with a heroine in Tessa that speaks to the nerd girl in me who is way more comfortable binging shows and searching for gifs and fanfiction than anything that requires me to put on pants and leave the house. The romance with Adam just made Tessa's journey that much sweeter. I love when nerds find each other.
This may be technically cheating, as I'm not done-done reading Angel in a Red Dress, by Judith Ivory, but when you know, you know. Originally published under the title, Starlit Surrender (much better, IMO) and her Judy Cuevas name, this lush romance set during the era of the French Revolution has so much that I love about historical romances with a healthy dose of each that it's my clear winner.
We first meet our heroine when she's young and giddy with the power that comes from being young, beautiful and in demand. There's an electric encounter with our enigmatic hero, brief, but important. Flash forward several years later, when our heroine, now proven infertile, seeks shelter in the home of a friend of a friend during her divorce. Our hero, involved with rescuing French nobility (he has a personal stake here) comes to the wrong conclusion, and events transpire. Ivory's prose sings like the Vienna Boys' Choir here, lyrical and emotional, grounded in the spirit of the time. Readers wondering what's so special about Judith Ivory, read this, and you'll find out.
My favorite book of February 2016 is Rosie Nixon’s The Stylist. I love Rosie’s social media bio: she’s the “Editor of HELLO!, Londoner, mother, palm tree enthusiast.” If you love well-researched gossip, complete with fabulous pictures, HELLO! is a fantastic magazine. So who better to write a Devil Wears Prada style book about the crazy, incredibly high stakes world of celebrity styling than Rosie Nixon?
Heroine Amber Green is so adorable—resourceful, resilient, perhaps a tad klutzy and wide-eyed for the fashion world she’s abruptly thrust into (in a Bridget Jones sort of way) but we love her all the more for it. Amber rockets between two high fashion epicenters: London and Hollywood, scrambling to be the perfect assistant to “the” stylist of the moment, Mona Armstrong. There’s a sprinkling of romance but the story is best enjoyed as a roman à clef—you’ll be racking your brains to figure out which real-life stars are amusingly and accurately portrayed in The Stylist. Read it to keep the award show feeling going after yesterday’s Oscars.
Learn more about the books mentioned in this post: