Tag Archives: Ivy Years Series

So You Want to Read a (Historical, Contemporary, New Adult, Paranormal) Romance …

Alternatively: The Worst Romance Novels I Have Ever Read

This recommendations list is gleaned from at least 80 authors and over 500 books.

Ten Great Romance Novellas to Get You Started

Looking for something specific? Here’s a list of authors I’ve read enough to see thematic consistencies and it’s hard to go wrong with these writers:

Tessa Dare – FUN, bring your willing suspension of disbelief, on double-secret probation right now
Laura Florand – contemporary romances set in France, great intensity
Carla Kelly – lovely Regency romances, often military-themed
Lisa Kleypas  – the gold standard, also writes contemporaries
Julie Anne Long – extremely clever and funny
Courtney Milan – The very best currently publishing, one for the pantheon.
Julia Quinn – An excellent place to launch your reading. Start with The Bridgertons.

I lovehate Jennifer Ashley’s sincere romance mired in tortured heroes and overwrought plotting.

This list is an edited version of my Complete Reading List by Author. Reviewed books are linked.

Mallory, a frequent commenter, asked me to make a personal Top 5 list. I tried. I couldn’t do it.

CLASSICS

  1. Balogh, Mary Slightly Dangerous – historical
  2. Bowen, Sarina Blonde Date  – new adult novella
  3. Chase, Loretta Lord of Scoundrelshistorical
  4. Gabaldon, Diana Outlanderhistorical
  5. Heyer, Georgette Venetia (Dameral/Venetia) – historical
  6. Jenkins, Beverly Indigo  – historical
  7. Kinsale, Laura Flowers from the Storm old school, historical
  8. Kleypas, Lisa Dreaming of Youhistorical
  9. Kleypas, Lisa The Devil in Winter  – historical
  10. Long, Julie Anne What I Did for a Duke – historical
  11. Milan, Courtney A Kiss for Midwinter – historical novella
  12. Milan, Courtney The Suffragette Scandal  – historical
  13. Montgomery, L.M. The Blue Castle – historical now, but not when published
  14. Quinn, Julia Romancing Mr. Bridgerton  Bridgerton Book 4 – historical
  15. Thorne, Sally The Hating Game – contemporary

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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. She started out really strong with the Ivy Years books and I have not enjoyed her later work nearly as much, except for Wes and Jamie.

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 – I can’t decide if I recommend it or not.
Stay – S’alright.

With Sarah Mayberry –
Temporary (Callan/Grace) – meh

The Brooklyn Bruisers Series
Rookie Move – review pending, pretty good, not great
Hard Hitter – decent
Pipe Dreams – didn’t bother to read 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

New Adult Romances

I’m not sure I had heard of the New Adult subsection of the romance genre this time last year, but I have embraced it wholeheartedly.

Based on what constitutes a grown up in different historical periods, this list by default includes only contemporary settings and is somewhat subjective. The novels often feature folks who are in university, have just finished university, or are athletes.

Recommended books are in bold, reviewed books are linked.

Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Years Series – Recommended, except where noted.
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

Kristen Callihan’s Game On Series:
The Hook Up (Drew/Anna)
The Friend Zone (Gray/Ivy)
The Game Plan (Ethan/Fiona) – wonderful

Christina Lauren’s Wild Seasons Series:
Sweet Filthy Boy (Ansel/Mia)
Dirty Rowdy Thing (Finn/Harlow)
Dark Wild Night (Oliver/Lola)
Wicked Sexy Liar (Luke/London) – best of the series
A Not-Joe Not-So-Short Short (Not-Joe/Perry)

Elle Kennedy’s Off Campus Series:
The Deal (Garrett/Hannah)
The Mistake (Logan/Grace)
The Score (Dean/Allie)
The Goal (Tuck/Sabrina)

Everyone else, series or no:
Banner, Darryl Dog Tags (Brandon/Jesse)
Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Him (Wes/Jamie)
Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Us (Wes/Jamie) 
Butler, Eden Thin Love (Kona/Keira) – 1st DNF of 2017
Falkner, Tammy Tall, Tatted, and Tempting (Logan/Kit)
Falkner, Tammy Smart, Sexy, and Secretive (Logan/Emily)
Grace, Aria More Than Friends (Ryan/Zach) – LGBTQ
Harber, Cristin Sweet Girl (Cash/Nicola)
Ivy, Alyssa Rose The Hazards of Skinny Dipping (Reed/Juliet)
Lyons, Kathy Two Week Seduction (John/Alea)
March, Meghan Beneath This Mask (Simon/Charlie)
Milan, Courtney Trade Me (Blake/Tina)
Milan, Courtney Hold Me (Jay/Maria) LGBTQ
Roberts, Holly S. Play: New Adult Sports Romance (Killian/Rebecca)
Schurig, Rachel Ransom (Daltrey/Daisy)
Ward, Tracy Rookie Mistake  (Trey/Sloane)

LGBT romance recommendations, including New Adults, can be found here.

As always, recommendations are welcome.

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

LGBTQIA Romances (Exclusively GB)

Most of these romances feature gay and bisexual men. I have read a lesbian romance, but, for me, it don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that schwing. Unless otherwise noted, everything on this list has a contemporary setting. Reviews are linked, recommended books are in bold.

  • Albert, Annabeth Waiting for Clark (Bryce/Clark) Hallelujah, both gay the whole time!
  • Banner, Darryl Dog Tags (Brandon/Jesse)
  • Bettencourt, Rick Marketing Beef (Evan/Dillon)
  • Bowen, Sarina The Understatement of the Year (Graham/Rikker) – New Adult, part of the fantastic Ivy Years series, I really liked it.
  • Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Him (Wes/Jamie) – New Adult, it’s steamy AND heartfelt.
  • Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Us (Wes/Jamie) – Not-as-new adults, finding their way.
  • Calmes, Mary A Piece of Cake novella (Jory/Sam) – Light and fluffy, mid-series novella
  • Charles, KJ A Seditious Affair: A Society of Gentlemen Novel – (Silas/Dominic) Historical, strong political elements and period details.
  • Dee, Cara Noah  (Noah/Julien) – squicky dynamic
  • Ford, Rhys Sinner’s Gin (Kane/Miki) – Overshadowed by the background story and over-the-top main plot.
  • Frank, Ella Try (Logan/Tate) – Too much sex? Is that even possible?
  • Frank, Ella Trust (Logan/Tate) – It’s possible.
  • Frank, Ella Finley (Daniel/Brantley)
  • Frank, Ella Devils’s Kiss (Jordan/Derek)
  • Gale, Avon Power Play (Misha/Max) – Contemporary hockey romance, quite enjoyable
  • Grace, Aria More Than Friends (Ryan/Zach) – New Adult
  • Hart, Riley Collide (Cooper/Noah) – Decent, I meant to review it, but never bothered.
  • Jaymes, River Brad’s Bachelor Party (Brad/Cole) – Not good
  • Jaymes, River The Backup Boyfriend (Alec/Dylan) – Decent
  • Jaymes, River The Boyfriend Mandate (Memphis/Tyler) – Meh
  • Hawk,Jordan Widdershins (Percival/Griffin) – Paranormal, very entertaining
  • Kell, Amber Attracting Anthony (Silver/Anthony) – Paranormal, weird daddy/son tone
  • Kennedy, Sean Tigers and Devils (Simon/Declan) – Charming, a novel with romance more than a romance novel
  • Klein, K-Lee Lazy Sundays (Devon/Scott) – Very quick read
  • Merrow, J.L Muscling Through (Al/Larry) – Big and stupid (really stupid) meets small and smart
  • Milan, Courtney The Suffragette Scandal (Edward/Free) – It has a small lesbian subplot and a unacknowledged but clear gay partnership in addition to the main M/F romance, but this book is SO GOOD I am including it anyway.
  • Milan, Courtney Her Every Wish (Crash/Daisy) – It’s a M/F historical romance, but the hero identifies as bisexual.
  • Milan, Courtney Hold Me (Jay/Maria) – Contemporary new adult romance in which the hero is bi and the heroine is transgender.
  • Northcote, Jay First Class Package novella (Jim/Patrick) – quick, light read
  • Riley, Sierra Guardian (Titus/Alex) – If you like big, tattooed men, this could be for you.
  • Stewart, Nicole Home for Three (Selwyn/Jack/Kess) – A gay man, a bisexual one, and a straight woman.
  • Walker, N.R. The Weight of It All (Henry/Reed) – Contemporary, enjoyable, sweet, funny
  • Walker, N.R. Learning to Feel (Nathan/Trent) – Contemporary, mostly pretty standard.
  • Walker, N.R. Sixty Five Hours (Cameron/Lucas) – Contemporary, pretty good.
  • Walker, N.R. Imago (Jack/Lawson)- Contemporary, very good
  • Walker, N. R. Imagines (Lawson/Jack) – follow up story only
  • Walker, N.R. Twelfth of Never (Mark/Will)- follow up story only
  • Walker, N.R. Red Dirt Heart (Charlie/Travis) – good, not great
  • York, Sara Pray the Gay Away (A Southern Thing Book 1) (Jack/Andrew)- high school, drama, sweet, the start of a series.

As always, recommendations are welcome.

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

The Ivy Years Series: The Fifteenth Minute by Sarina Bowen

The final book in Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Series is a bit of a head scratcher and one in which the author’s intent seemed clear, but I don’t think she managed the very delicate balancing act she had decided to undertake, but first let me praise the other five books in the Ivy Years series and emphatically recommend buying all of them immediately:

  1. The Year We Fell Down – BAM! This book got me right in the feels.
  2. The Year We Hid Away – That’s a lot for two such young people to have going on.
  3. Blonde Date novella – Perfect novella: Short, sweet, adorable, and added to my classics list.
  4. The Understatement of the Year – Surrender. Lying to yourself is exhausting.
  5. The Shameless Hour – “You don’t get to tell me who I am.”

As to The Fifteenth Minute, let me sum up my response with a picture of a word and its synonyms:

ambivalent

Lianne Challice is a child star whose fame comes from an ongoing series of movies about a character called Princess Vindi. Striking out on her own and trying to grow up by attending an Ivy League school, she first appeared in The Shameless Hour and I was happy to learn she was getting her own book. Happier still was I when I started reading and it was mentioned that Lianne, who is no bigger than a minute, would have logically proportioned beloved in DJ Trevi, who I took to be of average male height. Great start. Lianne wants her independence and to grow as an adult in her career, DJ just wants that false date rape accusation to go away.

Were you able to spot where the ambivalence came in? Are you, like me, AMAZED at the ovaries on Sarina Bowen for taking up a false rape accusation plot after dealing so beautifully with slut-shaming in the previous novels? I mean DJ’s not guilty, right? Sometimes, the guys aren’t guilty, right? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? I don’t care if he’s not guilty, or that he’s a nice guy. I don’t care because I spent the ENTIRE book wondering what on earth Bowen’s intention was. Was it to spotlight the relentlessly inept way that accusations of sexual assault are handled on university and college campuses? Was it? Because, to me, it was all about how much some people claim that women make false sexual assault accusations, although the statistics on reported rapes tell a very different story, and this was an entire subplot about that very thing.

I didn’t even mind DJ. He had wrestled with the accusation and was keeping himself sane by clinging to what he knew to be true.  It was the center of his existence and he was persevering until he got his day in college court. Lianne continued to delight. They had great chemistry and made sense as a couple. Too bad I couldn’t pay attention to that part because having a story line in which a young, vulnerable woman makes false accusations to preserve her reputation is EXACTLY THE THING WOMEN ARE OFTEN ACCUSED OF and we don’t really need a book reinforcing that notion, least of all in a genre written almost exclusively by and for women. All those poor helpless guys who just thought they were getting their rocks off and then some witch turned around and accused him of a horrible crime because she was embarrassed. Why, Sarina Bowen, why?

Sarina Bowen’s catalogue can be found here. Bowen has also co-written two very enjoyable and steamy M/M romances with Elle Kennedy called Him and Us. Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy who have each published good new adult romances, collaborated on a new one called Him that manages to be enjoyable, well-written, and

blanche

To be honest the

may have overshadowed the story a bit, but I can’t decide how much I mind.

Jamie Canning and Ryan (Wes) Wesley were best friends from the age of thirteen to eighteen after meeting at an elite hockey camp in Lake Placid. One night that last year, things got a little out of hand after a night of drinking and their friendship imploded. Canning never understood what had gone wrong to make Wes cut him out of his life. Four years later, after they meet again at a college hockey tournament, Wes tries to rekindle the lost friendship and ignore the fact that he has always loved Jamie, but good luck with that, Wes. For his part, Jamie has some unexpected feelings for Wes that he decides he needs to explore. They take summer jobs coaching at the hockey camp where they first met.

Jamie and Wes are both amiable, engaging characters, but they could have been more fleshed out.  Wes in particular is presented as a fun, insouciant guy, but this characterization is not followed up on. Jamie is simply a nice, grounded person from a good family. He’s really likeable, but it doesn’t make for much excitement,  but there was some compensating excitement for the reader. Having read a few romances featuring two men, I was really happy that neither of heroes was struggling with his sexuality. Often, like, almost always, there’s a moment of, “I’M GAY and I WANT to WHAT my FRIEND?!” and Him nicely sidesteps it and throws in a couple more clever little twists on standard tropes as well. Ultimately, the challenges Jamie and Wes face are of location and striking the right balance between with their new professional and personal post-college lives.

There is a second book with Wes and Jamie called Us.

Sarina Bowen’s The Ivy Years Series – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, buy the box set

Elle Kennedy:
The Deal – great
The Mistake – pretty good
The Score – no

New Adult romance recommendations can be found here.

LGBT romance recommendations can be found here.

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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