The Complete Reading List by Author

Short Version: Recommended books are in bold, reviewed books are linked, these are ruthlessly streamlined recommendations lists –

So You Want to Read a (Historical) Romance
Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started
Plus just for funsies: The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read

I have more content based lists over there on the right  –>

Annual Reading Tallies & Author Commentary 2012 – 2017
On reading romance: Emotional Version and Pseudo-Intellectual Version.

My AUTOBUY List (Links Will Take You to a Summary of the Author’s Catalogue)
Tessa Dare (on double-secret probation right now actually)
Laura Florand
Lisa Kleypas
Julie Anne Long
Courtney Milan – The. Very. Best.

-A-
Albert, Annabeth Waiting for Clark (Bryce/Clark)
Alexander, R.G. Ravenous novella (Declan/Trick/Jennifer)
Alexander, Victoria Love with the Proper Husband (Marcus/Gwen)
Alexander, Victoria Lady Amelia’s Secret Lover novella (Robert/Amelia)
Alexander, Victoria The Prince’s Bride (Rand/Jocelyn)
Alexander, Victoria The Importance of Being Wicked (Winfield/Miranda)
Alexander, Victoria Lord Stillwell’s Excellent Engagements novella (Winfield/ Felicia&Lucy&Caroline)
Alvarez, Tracey In Too Deep (West/Piper)
Andre, Bella The Way You Look Tonight (Rafe/Brooke)
Ashe, Katharine In the Arms of a Marquess (Ben)
Ashley, Jennifer The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie (Ian, not surprisingly/Beth) – GENRE OUTLINE
Ashley, Jennifer Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage (Mac/Isabella)
Ashley, Jennifer Many Sins of Lord Cameron (Cameron/Ainsley) – GUILTY PLEASURE
Ashley, Jennifer The Duke’s Perfect Wife (Hart/Eleanor)
Ashley, Jennifer Mackenzie Family Christmas: The Perfect Gift (Ian, Mac, Cam, Hart)
Ashley, Jennifer The Seduction of Elliott McBride (Elliott/Juliana)
Ashley, Jennifer The Untamed Mackenzie novella (Lloyd/Louisa)
Ashley, Jennifer The Wicked Deeds of Daniel Mackenzie (Daniel/Violet)
Ashley, Jennifer Scandal and the Duchess novella (Steven/Rose)
Ashley, Jennifer Rules for a Proper Governess (Sinclair/Roberta “Bertie”)
Ashley, Jennifer A Mackenzie Clan Gathering (Ian/Beth)
Ashley, Jennifer Bodyguard (Shifters Unbound) novella (Ronan/Elizabeth)

The list has gotten SO VERY LONG, please click on the jump.

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Author Commentary & Tallies Shameful

Shortcuts:    

I have more lists over there on the right—>

My AUTOBUY List (Links Will Take You to a Summary of the Author’s Catalogue)
Tessa Dare (on double-secret probation right now, so not an autobuy, but still an autoread)
Laura Florand
Lisa Kleypas
Julie Anne Long
Courtney Milan – The. Very. Best.

2017 READING LISTS:

Recommended books are in bold.

The (Shamefree) Tally 2017

  1. Remini, Leah Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology – enjoyable read and I am fascinated by Scientology

The (Shameful) Tally 2017

  1. Butler, Eden Thin Love (Kona/Keira) – 1st DNF of 2017, a dubious honour
  2. James, Julie It Happened One Wedding (Vaughn/Sidney)
  3. Satie, Erin The Secret Heart (Adam/Caro)

2016 READING LISTS:

Recommended books are in bold.

The (Shamefree) Tally 2016

Last year, this list had only one book and it was an Outlander graphic novel. I am proud of that, although I do have two glorious historical costume books to read and review.

The (Shameful) Tally 2016

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Bridgewater Menage Series Book 1: Their Kidnapped Bride by Vanessa Vale

Make no mistake, this western historical romance was the worst book I had the displeasure to read in 2016, has a place on my online list of The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read, and Vanessa Vale is on the Avoid at All Costs list I maintain in my noggin.

Emma James is sold to a brothel by her evil step-brother. Given a choice between paying off the cost of her purchase by working as a prostitute or being auctioned off as a bride, she chooses the latter. I’ll let Amazon take it from there: One look at Emma James and Whitmore Kane and Ian Stewart know she would belong to them. Marriage was the only way to truly claim her… they return to the Bridgewater Ranch and teach her the ways to please not one husband, but two.

Not just badly written, Their Kidnapped Bride is one of the vilest, most offensive romances I have had to draw on an iron will to finish, and I’m pretty sure it was actually just a novella. Never mind the threesome aspect of the plot – that’s a “to each their own” element – the story itself is a bizarre alt-right, meninist fantasy entrenched in patronizing, misogynistic notions of “female empowerment” wherein so-called female power derives from gladly subjugating herself completely to the husbands who know best what she needs and what will fulfill her.

Kane and Ian served together in a fabricated Middle-Eastern-sounding country based on ethnic stereotypes, Mohamir, and learned from their way of life that women are most satisfied in plural marriages in which all authority and obedience is given to her husbands. Contentment and happiness come from her acceptance of subservience to the men and their roles, in turn, of providing protection and sexual gratification. With constant refrains of “good girl”, Emma is treated like a child, humiliated, and physically punished to learn her place and soon she is a desperately begging for sex and seeking to keep her men sated. Nothing belongs to Emma, not her body, not even her pleasure. It is theirs to command and control.

Conveniently for the ongoing series, the threesome lives in a community in which all of the men served in the same unit as Kane and Ian and their relationships are also based on the sharing of a wife. At her first meal, Emma meets Ann and learns what awaits her. For an acquiescent woman, even eating supper is an opportunity for to prove her worth and joy by deciding she needs sex too badly to concentrate on eating.  Her men reward her with what she needs. In this way, the story alternates between erotica, shards of plot, and discomfiting juxtapositions of carnal relations and submissiveness.

I did read another menage a trois romance this year, Home for Three, and it was awful as well, but in a completely different way. Links to my other reviews (including books worth reading) can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

Sidebar: For once, I approve of the limited WordPress dictionary. It doesn’t recognize “meninist” as a word.

 

Kulti by Mariana Zapata

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When I wrote “barring a dark horse in December, I am quite sure this is going to be the best romance I read all year,” about The Hating Game, I didn’t honestly expect there to be challenger. What a pleasure it is to be rounding out the year with Kulti which is a fantastic contemporary romance and one that is on theme for 2016 with a difficult hero, c.f. Dukes Prefer Blondes, Hold Me (review to come), and Act Like It.

Correctly described to me as “terrible and magnificent” by my friend and fellow reviewer, the hero of the book is the eponymous Reiner “King” Kulti, a world-renowned, retired soccer superstar. Arriving in Houston as an assistant coach for the Women’s Professional League franchise, he’s ambivalent about his presence there and soon so is everyone else. Kulti was Sal Castillo’s childhood hero and teenage crush, the man who helped inspire her to relentlessly pursue her goal to play soccer for a living and to excel at her chosen sport.

Told from Sal’s perspective, Kulti is a longer than average romance that moves really well and is also a slow burn. Practicing in the morning, and running her small landscaping business in the afternoon to make ends meet on her meager player salary, Sal is perplexed by her brooding and silent coach whom she often refers to simply as “the German”. When she does finally get a better sense of him, it’s not a good start, but the two stumble towards friendship. Thirty-nine to her twenty-seven, Rey is terse, tough, uncompromising, and frequently tactless. What to some extent, but not completely, balances out Rey’s tendency towards being difficult is the decorum with which he treats their budding relationship out of respect for their professional roles and the fact that, while often frustrating, he is generous and willing to learn from his mistakes.

There aren’t a lot of romances in which both the hero and heroine are elite athletes. Sal and Rey are very physical people and complete jocks. They eat, sleep, live, and breath sports. Neither one was secretly bookish or nerdy.  I loved it. She just wants to play and be the best she can. Rey, retired and perhaps a little lost, is well aware of Sal’s potential and wants to help her fulfill it. He knows she could be one of the greats of their sport, despite the recognition limitations for women.

Rey can be a hard person to like at times, but the glee and directness with which Sal stands up to him compensates for a lot. He may not be the nicest man in the world, but, honestly, very few men in these books are. Steadfast and honourable, yes, but arrogance is a frequent element in romantic heroes and Zapata has the integrity to write one who remains true to himself throughout. What Kulti lacks in a soft touch, he makes up for in fierce loyalty, devotion, and willingness to have his faults brought to his attention.

Kulti is one of the best romances I’ve read this year and I’ve added it to my romance recommendations list. I will be keeping an eye on Mariana Zapata for more stories that take their time and have beautifully paced character development.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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I Will by Lisa Kleypas

An addendum to Lisa Kleypas’s Capitol Theatre series, I Will is a very bad Christmas novella that my friend suggested had been lying in a drawer at the author’s house for years. Dated in many elements, I had at first suspected it was ghost written, but a long abandoned manuscript makes more sense. Shortly after I began reading, I found myself wondering how I would feel about the book and quality of the writing if it didn’t have the Queen of Romance’s name on it. Admittedly, Kleypas’s last couple of historicals have not lived up to her very high standards, but I Will is a mess.

From Amazon: Andrew, Lord Drake, has been cut out of his father’s will because of his dissolute manner of living. To be reinstated, Andrew decides to pretend that he has changed his wicked ways. As part of his plan, he wants to convince his father that he is courting a respectable woman with the intention of marrying her. The problem is, he doesn’t know any decent women, except for his friend’s spinster sister, Miss Caroline Hargreaves. He blackmails the reluctant Caroline into helping him, and so the charade begins …

In addition to the extortion plot, which is disappointing, the rest of the story feels either cobbled together or shoehorned in. It’s as though significant gaps that were to be filled in later were never revisited. I’ve read virtually all of her books and the writing doesn’t even come across as Kleypas’s style, it has almost none of her spark or smolder. But these shortcomings pale in comparison to issues I had with the love scene late in the book. After a period of estrangement, the hero is delivered to the heroine handcuffed to a bed. In order to convince him they should be together, this completely inexperienced, naive young woman decides she will seduce the hero back to her. It’s an attempted rape and I found it extremely distasteful to read. Had it been written by anyone else, I would have stopped reading then and there, if I had not given up on I Will already.

Despite this effort and since she is indeed one of the best romance writers in the business, please visit my complete summary of Lisa Kleypas’s catalogue for recommendations, including two classics and a few of my personal favourites.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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Rock Kiss Series : Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh

Inspiring a list of The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read, I think sums up my opinion of the first book in Nalini Singh’s Rock Kiss series, but the long version is below anyway.

From Amazon: Molly Webster has always followed the rules. After an ugly scandal tore apart her childhood and made her the focus of the media’s harsh spotlight, she vowed to live an ordinary life. No fame. No impropriety. No pain. Then she meets Zachary Fox, a tattooed bad boy rocker with a voice like whiskey and sin, and a touch that could become an addiction… Fox promises scorching heat and dangerous pleasure, coaxing Molly to extend their one-night stand into a one-month fling. After that, he’ll be gone forever, his life never again intersecting with her own.

There are a lot of hackneyed, poorly written elements in Rock Addiction, such as telling instead of showing us how the leads feel, the hero thinking of the heroine like a child that needs to be trained, but do you know what really bothered me? The hero uses his hand on the back of the heroine’s neck to steer her, and this…

“Gripping her jaw, he said, “You don’t get to treat me as disposable.””

“He gripped her chin to turn her back toward him.”

“He watched her close the door, then imprisoned her against it by slamming his hands palms-down on either side of her body.”

“Grabbing her wrists, he pinned her arms above her head with one big hand. He gripped her chin with the other, the green of his irises violent and his breath hot against her skin…His fingers tightened on her wrists, his other hand curling around her throat…”

GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF HER!

It’s not sexy, it’s not passionate, it’s not romantic. The hero uses his physical strength to control and intimidate the heroine.  Take your rock star clichés, your trite writing, and your “BUT EVEN IN HIS ANGER, HE HADN’T HURT HER” and never darken my Kindle again, Nalini Singh.

Links to my other reviews (including books worth reading) can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read

I just hated them so much! I recommend none of them.

There can be no doubt, Kresley Cole would have more entries had I had continued reading her novels.

  1. Barrett, Jo Nothing to Commend Her (Magnus/Agatha)
  2. Bennett, Sawyer Alex: A Cold Fury Hockey Novel (Alex/Sutton)
  3. Blair, Annette Jacob’s Return (Jacob/Rachel)
  4. Blake, Jennifer The Tuscan’s Revenge Wedding (Nico/Amanda)
  5. Bliss, Chelle Throttle Me – Men of Inked Book 1 (“City” Joey/Suzy)
  6. Cole, Kresley A Hunger Like No Other  (Lachlain/Emma) VILE
  7. Cole, Kresley Macrieve  (Uilliam/Chloe) VILER
  8. DiPasqua, Lila Undone (Simon/Angelica) *Worst of 2013*
  9. Evans, Bronwen To Challenge the Earl of Cravenswood novella (Henry) *Worst of 2012*
  10. Foster, Melissa Sisters in Love (Blake/Danica) a. God b. Awful
  11. Garvis Graves, Tracey Heart-Shaped Hack (Ian/Kate) – Worst of the Year 2016?
  12. Goodger, Jane When a Duke Says I Do (Alexander/Elsie)
  13. Harber, Cristin Sweet Girl (Cash/Nicola)
  14. Hawkins, J.D. Insatiable 1 and 2 (Jax/Lizzie)
  15. Jackson, A.L. A Stone in the Sea (Sebastian “Baz”/Shea)
  16. Kell, Amber Attracting Anthony (Silver/Anthony)
  17. Lilley, R.K. In Flight (James/Bianca)
  18. Lindsey, Johanna The Heir (Duncan)
  19. Long, Andie M. The Alphabet Game (Gabe/Stella)
  20. Mabie, M. Bait (Casey/Blake)
  21. Merrow, J.L Muscling Through (Al/Larry)
  22. Pamfiloff, Mimi Jean fugly (Maxwell/Lily)
  23. Phillips, Susan Elizabeth This Heart of Mine (Kevin/Molly) WORST HEROINE OF 2014
  24. Reid, Penny Elements of Chemistry (Martin/Kaitlyn)
  25. Reid, Penny & L.H. Cosway The Hooker and the Hermit (Ronan/Annie)
  26. Roberts, Holly S. Play: New Adult Sports Romance (Killian/Rebecca)
  27. Schone, Robin The Lady’s Tutor (Ramiel, The Bastard Sheikh/Elizabeth)
  28. Singh, Nalini Rock Addiction (Fox/Molly)
  29. Stewart, Nicole Home for Three (Selwyn/Jack/Kess)
  30. Vale, Vanessa Their Kidnapped Bride (Kane, Ian, Emma)
  31. Ward, JR Dark Lover (Wrath/Beth)
  32. Wylde, Anya Penelope (Charles/Penelope) *Most Inept of 2013*
  33. Who Cares The Wallflower *Also Worst of 2012*

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Brooklyn Bruisers: Rookie Move by Sarina Bowen

“His heart said, This. This right here.”

I read my first Sarina Bowen title, The Year We Fell Down, a little over a year ago and since then I have both eagerly recommended and awaited for her new novels. She has two concurrent contemporary romance series at the moment, True North and Brooklyn Bruisers, as well as two M/M books co-written with Elle Kennedy, and more on the horizon. Such is Bowen’s output that I have given her a catalogue post.

Readers familiar with Bowen’s Ivy Years series may remember hockey player Leo Trevi as a really nice guy. Picking up his story when he is brought up from a farm team to join the Brooklyn Bruisers franchise, he is eager to succeed and excited to discover that his high school girlfriend, Georgia, is the team Public Relations manager.They had been entirely devoted to one another until she experienced an assault and they lost their way. Breaking up six years ago when they went off to university, she is the one that got away.

Georgia Worthington is trying to put her best professional foot forward. The Brooklyn Bruisers is a fledgling NHL franchise acquired by a Tech billionaire and she has been working around the clock to take care of the PR responsibilities. To complicate matters, her father has just been named head coach, not to mention the aforementioned arrival of Leo Trevi. During the first press conference she runs, Leo arrives and is heard on a mic threatening someone when Georgia is spoken of disrespectfully, and we’re off to the races.

I enjoyed Rookie Move while I was reading it and my recollection of Leo was correct. He’s the nicest guy in the world. A bit impulsive sometimes, but very straightforward, and he absolutely adores Georgia and I am a sucker for a smitten hero. Despite that, I am not sure that Georgia and Leo had as much dimension as they could have as balanced against her personal and professional successes, Georgia’s love life seems to have been in stasis waiting for Leo to reappear and release her from it:

“In either case, she hadn’t had a boyfriend since Leo.”

“I asked her out a couple of times and got the brushoff. Didn’t know she was waiting for you.”

Leo at least had girlfriends in university. Not nice ones though because that would mean his love for Georgia wasn’t as true somehow. I guess. I never understand it in these books when people were together when they were young, break up, and then no other person is real to them until they meet again. Georgia and Leo’s separation was not a product of inherent issues in the relationship, but of youth conspiring with trauma to drive a wedge between them. They could simply have come back together older and wiser, even if they had had serious relationships with other people.

There are two more books coming in the series and I will, no doubt, read both of them.  The Ivy Years series caught lightning in  bottle and included a classic novella, Blonde Date. I haven’t had as much luck with the True North books, but the two I tried were still worth the read, and she is a really good writer and that will keep me coming back.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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Sarina Bowen’s Catalogue

Recommended books are in bold.

Bowen’s books are all contemporary romances and the new adult works are so noted.

Ivy Years Series – New Adult
The Year We Fell Down (Hartley/Corey) – start with this, buy the set
The Year We Hid Away (Bridger/Scarlet)
Blonde Date novella (Andy/Katie) CLASSIC
The Understatement of the Year (Graham/Rikker) – LGBTQ
The Shameless Hour (Rafe/Bella)
The Fifteenth Minute (DJ/Lianne) – skip this one, seriously

With Elle Kennedy
HimLGBTQ, New Adult
Us LGBTQ, New Adult
Wags Series
Good Boy – not yet published, I will buy it
Stay – not yet published, I will buy it

The Brooklyn Bruisers Series
Rookie Move – review pending, pretty good, not great
Hard Hitter – not yet published, I may buy it
Pipe Dreams – not yet published, I may buy it

The True North Series
Bittersweet – good not great, down-to-earth plot
Steadfast – skipped it, didn’t like the idea of the story
Keepsake – nice, gentle, okay

The Gravity Series
Coming in from the Cold – shows potential, but not strong
Falling from the Sky
Shooting for the Stars