When I’m looking at the books I read in the last year and trying to compile a list I tend to go for the most memorable. If I’m still thinking of some aspect of a book, or better yet, rereading it on occasion, then surely it was among my personal “Best of” list.
I’m a pretty voracious reader, and I read books in a lot of genres besides my own science fiction romance. I never have time to get to everything on my list – doesn’t everyone have a giant To Be Read pile these days? And of course I’m busily trying to get my own novels written and released (five this year, plus several new stories for anthologies).
With that as introduction, here’s my memorables SFR list for 2016, in no certain order.
Michelle Diener’s Class 5 Series: Dark Horse, Dark Deeds, Dark Minds. Although the first book was released in 2015, the other two came out this year and the series as a whole is excellent. I’ve talked about the books at length (hopefully not to the point of becoming boring!), most recently here on Heroes and Heartbreakers. Three smart Earth women, kidnapped and far from home, ally themselves with the highly unpredictable and much feared Class 5 Artificial Intelligences. Through their efforts and with romance along the way – did I mention brawny spacegoing soldiers who look like sexy Tolkienesque elves? - the ladies find a new home, settle interstellar wars and reach a Happily Ever After.
Lindsay Buroker’s Fallen Empire series—eight books of science fiction with romantic elements (growing into a solid romance over the course of the series), Fireflyesque goings-on and characters I really grew to care about deeply. The seventh and eighth books were recently released: Perilous Hunt and End Game, although I would start with the first book in the series, Star Nomad, so you can experience the pleasure of getting to know and care about the central characters as their adventures take them around the galaxy.
I guess you can see a trend here? I like nothing better than finding an entire new-to-me series so that I can read more than one adventure set in the same universe, and revisit the characters in the early books while enjoying the new adventures as succeeding books are released. If the author can create a place I want to spend time in over and over, and people who feel genuine and fully developed, I am so there. Add believable romance developing along the way, not too much instalove, and I’m completely satisfied.
Continuing with the 2016 retrospective, Dark Planet Warriors by Anna Carven is the beginning of another series and yes, I’ve read and enjoyed the other books but this first one really stayed in my mind. I loved Tarak, the fierce alien general (more sexy pointy elflike ears, hmmmm, do I detect a trend in SFR?) and Abbey the plucky human scientist he falls in love with, to his own surprise. The plot took some nice, unexpected twists and turns. Under Abbey’s influence Tarak makes serious changes in his own worldview and the ripples affect both his civilization and the humans. There was a lot of action, a good romance and then more books in the series to read.
Further expanding my addiction to series, Anna Hackett has her Galactic Gladiators, the first of which is entitled—wait for it—Gladiator. I’ve always loved stories about this type of fearless fighter, whether set in ancient Rome, like the STARZ series Spartacus or in outer space, and the strong women who love them, so how could I resist this concept? (Or the amazingly hot cover art?) Bonus points for the fact that the human heroine, Harper Adams, is a space marine and a tough, kickass woman from the beginning of the story. Once she gets some training on the high tech weapons she’s expected to wield as a captive gladiator (gladiatrix?), there’s no stopping her. And of course she ends up partnered with Raiden, the Champion of the Kor Magna Arena. How can they not fall in love?
Uh oh, down to my fifth and final choice and the anxiety is spiking because there were so many good scifi romance books this year! How about a four way tie between Champion of Baresh by Susan Grant, Warrior Wench by Marie Andreas, Trapped with the Cyborg by Cara Bristol and Breathing Vapor by Cynthia Sax? A scrappy and smart woman beating the men at the toughest game in the galaxy. Another tough female spaceship captain, ready to take on the universe. Two excellent cyborg novels by skillful authors who totally ‘get’ the genre.
Switching gears, to talk about some promising new releases in November and early December. The Chaos of Luck by Catherine Cerveny has elements I relished, especially the fact that the heroine Felicia has an actual ‘luck gene’ in her DNA, which causes her endless problems, as it interferes with the smooth running of her life in order to ensure its own survival. I’d never paused to consider the question of how lucky IS luck before. Additionally, she can do Tarot card readings like nobody’s business and give accurate advice on anything from your dog’s future to whether a colony on Venus needs to be relocated now to escape disaster. (I can read tarot cards, but I wouldn’t want anyone relocating an entire city on my say-so.) I enjoyed the author’s somewhat whimsical worldbuilding—Mars and Venus have been terraformed with varying degrees of success and she upgrades a lot of current tech in a believable, fun manner. The heroine is madly in love with Alexei, a devastatingly handsome, genetically enhanced and powerful figure in the criminal Consortium…at times the heroine is a bit Too Stupid To Live for my taste (blame it all on the luck gene) but overall I really enjoyed the tone and the reunited lovers at the end.
I enjoy Vi Voxley’s novels featuring the Brions, a tough race of interstellar warriors, with a deep and abiding belief system that rules their behavior. Her latest is Alien Warrior’s Wife, a novella, and one thing which appealed to me greatly is that the heroine and the hero are Brions. No humans in this tale, but the situation is one easy to relate to. Healer trainee Urenya loses her fated mate before she ever really gets to know him and instead of mourning and moving on, she’s frozen in denial of everything, including whether she really cared for him. During healer training, the Elder in charge of her class finally gets Urenya to acknowledge her loss and her emotions, and then she can live a more successful life. Enter Narath, a huge and good hearted warrior stationed on the ship Urenya is assigned to. Turns out there can be a second chance at fated love for a Brion. Awww. Just a sweet story with some scifi battles against the aliens and a lot of steamy lovemaking at the end.
I’m going to finish with the Baby It’s Cold In Space anthology, featuring eight scifi romance stories by well known SFR authors. There’s an excellent variety of stories, from an alien stepbrother situation to a clone searching for a chance at love to a country sheriff tracking down an alien criminal in rural West Virginia…and five more. Grab a cup of hot cocoa, take a break from the holiday activities and curl up with these fast paced tales, combining the themes of outer space and cold.
Happy Holidays to everyone!
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Amazon best-seller Veronica Scott is a three-time recipient of the SFR Galaxy Award, and has written a number of science-fiction and fantasy romances. Her latest release is Trapped On Talonque. You can find out more about her and her books at veronicascott.wordpress.com