Tag Archives: New Adult romance

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 You  historical
  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.

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

 

 

Off Campus Series: The Goal by Elle Kennedy

In the fourth, but hopefully not final, book in Elle Kennedy’s enjoyable Off Campus contemporary new adult romance  series, another university student hockey player and lovely young woman find a future in each other as they move inexorably towards adult lives.

Sabrina James has been surviving on ambition, overwork, and very little sleep as she drives herself through her final undergrad year. Determined to make a better life for herself and gain distance from her grinding family life, she is going to go to law school if it kills her. Her upbringing in an unpleasant, complicated family has made her self-reliant to the point of leeriness and incredibly driven. It’s been a long time since I wanted to see a heroine to escape as much as I wanted a better life for Sabrina. Show me a capable woman fighting dream crushers telling her who she is and you have my full attention.

Letting off steam one evening, Sabrina meets John “Tuck” Tucker. He’s a charming member of the men’s hockey team at her university. While she likes athletes, she has sworn off hockey players after a bad experience with one. Tuck’s a temptingly engaging and unassuming guy though, so she makes an exception for him just for one night. Laid-back Tuck finds himself smitten with tough, but sweet Sabrina and he pursues her until – WONDER OF WONDERS AND MIRACLE OF MIRACLES – she tells him she’s not interested and he backs off. (Let’s pause to thank Elle Kennedy for a hero taking no for answer.) When Sabrina realises she’s pregnant, she finds herself seeking Tuck out and things move forward from there.  Tuck is all in.

It’s been three years since I asked this question, but I still don’t have the answer. Should a hero be a perfect guy or the perfect guy for the heroine? Is there a difference? Tuck is pretty amazing. He’s grounded, patient, an enthusiastic and attentive paramour, hard-working, calm, rational, responsible, patient again plus synonyms for it, mature, kind, sensible, fun, good-looking, protective in a non-overbearing way, bearded (to start off with and, admittedly, that may only make him perfect to me), supportive, and financially secure. Tuck gives Sabrina time and space, he participates as much or as little as she wants him to with her pregnancy and its ramifications, and bides his time while she comes around to the same conclusion he did the night they met.

Tuck and Sabrina face almost insurmountable odds in succeeding with the stresses of their relationship, school, baby, and getting established in adult lives and all, I thought, with virtually no sacrifices. I guess that’s where the wish-fulfillment part of these books comes in. Young people having an instant family plot is not my favourite, but Kennedy did a good job with the story and she continues to be very good at writing friendships in addition to the love story. I will be buying all of the other books in the Off Campus series as they are published.

Off Campus Books 1 – 3:
The Deal – very good, I have re-read it
The Mistake – good
The Score – Entitled, privileged guy gets everything he wants. Granted that describes a lot of romances, but it’s annoying here. He’s a dick in The Goal, too.

More New Adult:
Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen: Him – smoking hot
Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen: Us – very good

Adult Contemporary:
One Night of Sin – meh
One Night of Scandal – meh
Elle Kennedy and Vivien Arend: All Fired Up – skip it

Other New Adult 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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Do you ever wonder if its the same three or four guys on all these covers?

Titan Series: Sweet Girl by Cristin Harber

Cristin Harber’s Sweet Girl is a prequel to her Titan series and its raison d’être is setting up a reunion plot in subsequent entries. Those books will feature a CIA operative and a black ops team member. They are introduced as university students in this contemporary new adult romance, but don’t be fooled. Sweet Girl is the opposite of all those tough-as-nails professions impy. I plan to spoil the story below.

From Amazon: Nicola Hart grew up under the heels of her older brother and his sexy best friend, Cash Garrison. Years of ignoring her spark with Cash has transformed their friendship into a slow burning sizzle.One night with him could ruin everything. Or it could be more than she ever dreamed. They play. They flirt. But they haven’t crossed the line because too much is at stake. Family. Friendship. And the deepest kind of love that she’d have to be crazy to walk away from.

Guys, they TOTALLY cross the line and I read this book weeks ago, but I’ll do my best to remember what I can.

  1. The characters are co-eds in a very 1980s movie way
  2. There was judgement of sexually active women who are not the heroine.
  3. There was non-judgement of sexually active men who are the hero.
  4. They play. They flirt.” includes Cash throwing Nicola over his shoulder and carrying her around, being overprotective, and quiet longing.
  5. They get busy by a camp fire.
  6. Hearts, hearts, hearts.
  7. MEANWHILE, Nicola has an internship at a local company of whom she immediately suspects malfeasance; APPARENTLY, they are a criminal organization and they hired the unsuspecting co-ed specifically to frame her for their financial shenanigans so she would take the fall while they went on with their evil deeds, BUT Nicola figures  out all by herself that they are up to no good, so they change plans and try to have her killed before she can testify against them; HOWEVER, the FBI intervenes and tells her she has no choice but to fake her own death and enter the Witness Protection program; OBVIOUSLY, everyone who knows and loves her is totally bummed, especially Cash after all the campfire sex.

I’ll let Bertrand Russell comment on the kind of criminals who hire an intern to blame for their ongoing activities: My fellow-prisoners seemed to me in no way morally inferior to the rest of the population though they were on the whole slightly below the usual level of intelligence, as was shown by their having been caught.

In the next book, Nicola works for the CIA because, in this world, going into the witness protection program and working in a professional, clandestine capacity for your government are not mutually exclusive. I find that unlikely, but Cash is going to be so stoked that she’s alive.

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4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. This is why you shouldn’t trust online reviews!

New Adult romance recommendations, of which this review is not one, 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.

In Too Deep by Mara Jacobs, and Kathryn Shay, and Tracey Alvarez, and Lucia Jordan

There are at least fifteen kissing books called In Too Deep on Amazon and it seemed to me that my ones of readers deserved to know how they stacked up. My criteria were simple. First, the title, second, it had to be gratis. With these rigorous investigational standards, I was able to acquire four In Too Deeps in three minutes.

The Freshman Roommates Series: In Too Deep by Mara Jacobs – Young adult contemporary

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Lily is a college freshman giving swimming lessons to local children when she meets Lucas. He has custody of his young brother, a criminal past, and is a recovering addict. Lily and Lucas fall in love as she is starting her life and he is trying to rebuild his. Things go sideways when he does something stupid and her privileged connections help save him. They recover and move forward with their relationship (as her parents, no doubt, have fits in the background).

This In Too Deep wins for most appropriate use of the phrase as Lily is almost unfathomably out of her depth in Lucas’s world. He’s a nice enough young man, but simultaneously extremely mature for his age and too young for what he has been asked to handle.  One of my reading notes simply said, “18.” I could say that I have learned Lily’s age is my line in the sand for the new adult genre because, as a Woman of a Certain Age,  18 is a child to me, but I have read really good romances with heroines that young (never the hero, I note),  so it all comes down to believable and interesting characters. This In Too Deep is not that book.

For the benefit of the doubt and what I assume is the target audience, I suppose that the plot was meant to appeal to the good girl/bad boy combination in which the hero’s ill-advised behavior is actually mostly in the past and adds a veneer of danger, but Lily is incredibly sheltered and a recovering addict charged with the care of his younger brother is a lot to believe she could cope with. Old enough to be her mother, I was horrified at the suggestion she would become involved with this young man, no matter how conscientious he was. Lily has neither the sand nor maturity to deal with the situation and Lucas’s sh*t is insufficiently together for him to be a good choice for her.

America’s Bravest Book 1: In Too Deep by Kathryn Shay – Adult contemporary novella

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Amazon: Kathryn Shay spent five years riding fire trucks with a large city fire department, eating in their firehouses and interviewing hundreds of America’s Bravest. Read the novellas that resulted from her intense relationship with firefighters!

The research may have been excellent, but this In Too Deep was a non-event. The Captain and one of his firefighters have the hots for each other, they fight the attraction to maintain professionalism, and then they get it on while trapped in a rubble filled basement.  I repeat: After a cave in and while stuck in debris and running out of oxygen, they make sweet, sweet love. Sure. Afterward, they pretend nothing happened, try to go on with their lives, but cannot fight what they had been repressing. It’s a non-problem and easily solved. More of a gesture than a novella, there was so little going on and so little at stake, even when they were going to die, that I didn’t understand the point of the book.

For a subplot, this In Too Deep has a local reporter trying to influence budget cuts by reporting on the firefighters on- and off-duty activities like some overzealous Hall Monitor. The firefighters respond by starting their own blog to highlight how hard they work, instead of, you know, ignoring her completely. Would the town they work for not have more oversight and influence than an ambitious reporter?

Since it’s not clear from what I wrote and that cover with only one person on it, this is a M/F romance, so I don’t even get to make any “firefighters and their hoses” jokes, or only half as many as I might have hoped to.

In Too Deep by Lucia Gordon

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Not a standalone novel, but a teaser volume, this In Too Deep was ridiculous. Rayne — her name is RAYNE, not “Rain” because that’s not quirky enough –, is tasked by her loathsome new corporate boss to attend a costume party for which he provides an obscene French maid costume, including undergarments, which she actually agrees to wear because that is the way large, successful companies treat their employees. Never mind ridiculous plotting, the former administrative professional in me rolled her eyes so hard, I sprained my optic nerve. If the rest of this review is erratic, blame the eye patch.

Bored at the party she has been obliged to attend dressed like a “whore”, Rayne meets a mysterious man, she calls him Crasher (my eye!) and the romance commences. Of course, by “romance”, I mean they get busy and, as is so often the case in contemporary, post 50 Shades of Grey books, he’s immediately very dominant and she loves every minute of it. So I have to ask for the umpteenth time: Doesn’t this kind of relationship require some kind of negotiation before one of you starts giving orders, slapping the other’s tushie, pulling hair, and biting? Moreover, why do all these billionaire corporate types (SPOILER) want power in the bedroom? Is being a rich, white, privileged guy at the top of the entitled heap not enough for these men? Why is it never the “this world was made for me” guy who wants to be slapped around and humiliated? Can you imagine what an enormous asshat he must be to crave more dominance? What absolute twaddle.

If you are still with me at this point in my TL:DR review and you feel compelled to read an In Too Deep, this next one is what I would recommend.

Due South Series Book 1: In Too Deep: A New Zealand Enemies to Lovers Second Chances Romance by Tracey Alvarez

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What a lovely cover!

In Too Deep had an exotic setting, unusual leads, and a reunion plot. Piper Harland has taken a break from her kick ass job as a police rescue diver and returned to her remote, island hometown in New Zealand to help out with her brother’s boat charter and diving business. She strikes a bargain to work at her ex-boyfriend’s family restaurant in exchange for his help with the charters. Ryan “West” Westlake is the man she left behind when she went to the mainland to become a police officer.

In addition to the love story, this In Too Deep is about life in a small New Zealand town which was, for me, a unusual location and while people are people everywhere you go, the setting counted to me as romantic. West and Piper both live for their time on and in the water, he is a competitive free diver, but while she loves it, her own personal trauma is making it hard for her to continue. Unbeknownst to her family and West, her work triggers memories of a personal loss that both inspired her choice of profession and complicates it.  The story struck a good balance between the heightened reality of a love story and the down-to-earth elements of their island life.  West and Piper (two great names) have to get over their past relationship mistakes and their own issues to find a way to move forward together. I liked the novel, but not enough to continue the series.

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

 

 

 

 

Rookie Mistake by Tracy Ward

I found Tracy Ward’s new adult contemporary sports romance, Rookie Mistake, in the “multicultural and interracial romance” section on Amazon. Wanting more diversity in my favoured genre, I have been making a point of seeking it out.  Please note that in this same “multicultural and interracial romance” section, Amazon also lists shape-shifter romances such as Alpha Rancher Bear: BWWM Bear Shifter Paranormal Romance which, correct me if I’m wrong, qualifies as neither multicultural nor interracial but may, depending on their retrospective corporeal forms during consummation, qualify as inter-species, so it’s an inaccurate AND offensive category. A for effort there, Amazon.

Trey Domato is finishing up his college football career and gearing up for the Draft and joining the NFL. He knows where he wants to be and is hoping to find an agent to help him get there. Sloane Ashford is the junior agent in her father’s sports management firm and she has been watching Trey’s career for years. She wants to represent him and will do almost anything, including taking a backseat to her selfish and self-interested father, to get Trey signed. Her dad might not be sure about Trey’s potential, but Sloane is.

Rookie Mistake follows Trey and Sloane as they grapple with the professional worlds they have each chosen. Imprudently, they fall in love along the way and, unrealistically, they think they can fight their attraction The novel struck a good balance between young people finding their way, while also acknowledging that to get to where they are, each of them has also had to be mature and focused. I liked Trey and Sloane, but the writing had some issues and wasn’t compelling enough to get me to continue with Ward’s Offensive Line series. There are occasional awkward word choices (“I watch her swallow. Watch her thin neck constrict under her perfect skin that leads down over her collar-bone, Over her breastplate.”) and things I wasn’t quite sure what to make of, such as this –

I met her last year at a frat party, shared a bottle of Jack with her on the roof of the place, and by morning we were buddies, of each variety. She’s chill. Laidback and always down for a good time, but she’s not easy. She’s not one of these groupies running around in the wake of the team giving it up for anyone with a jersey on their back. I’m the only guy she’s sleeping with on the team, though not the only guy at the school, but the team is what’s important. I share a lot with these guys. Probably too much. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to not dip my wick in the same well.

Where do I start with that paragraph? I feel like it’s going seven directions at once and several of them make me uncomfortable.

New Adult 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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The Hazards of Skinny Dipping by Alyssa Rose Ivy and Ransom by Rachel Schurig

To be clear, I am phoning it in so much with these two that I am putting two unrelated contemporary romances in one review, borrowing plot summaries from Amazon, and giving myself the personal challenge of reacting to both as succinctly as possible. I thought I had purchased new adult romances, but it turned out I had purchased young adult romances. It’s apparently a very fine line and I suspect down to tone as much as anything else. The Hazards of Skinny Dipping and Ransom are more coming of age stories than people starting out in life and finding each other tales.I have learned this is of no interest to me. I will be continuing to avoid of young adult books no matter how highly recommended they are.

The Hazards of Skinny Dipping by Alyssa Rose Ivy (Reed/Juliet)

From Amazon: This isn’t a deep book about first loves or self-discovery. If you want a book like that, I’d be happy to recommend one, but I don’t have that kind of story to tell. Instead my story is about rash decisions and finding out that your dream guy is bad in bed. It’s the story of when I finally went skinny dipping, and how my life was never the same again. Oh, and it’s also the story of my freshman year of college and realizing Mr. Right might have been there all along.

Except that it is a book about those things. A boring one about a young woman, maybe even technically still a  girl, who makes some bad relationship decisions before figuring out how to make good ones. The writing (originally mistyped that as “writhing” which will be the highlight of this review experience for me) was fine, the characters simple, the coming age welcome and necessary. It’s the girl’s story from start to end and I have no interest in characters who aren’t really themselves yet. I have read heroines this young before, just not this immature. I like a little more emotional mileage on my lead characters.

Ransom by Rachel Schurig (Daltrey/Daisy)

From Amazon: Daisy Harris has no reason to suspect that her day will be any different than usual. She’ll get through it the way she always does—alone. She won’t speak or make eye contact. She’ll do her best to go completely unnoticed. That’s what life is like for Daisy now—an endless cycle of loneliness and fear. A life lived hiding behind the walls she so faithfully maintains. It’s been a year since she’s seen Daltrey Ransome. A year since he and his brothers left town to pursue their dreams of rock and roll superstardom. A year since he left Daisy behind—left her to watch as everything she knew crumbled around her. And now that Daltrey has found her—the girl he’s loved his entire life, the girl he’d give up everything for—he’s determined never to let her go again.

First things first, all the boys in this family are named after rock stars and Daltrey is a totally cool moniker. His brothers are Cash, Lennon, and Reed, also funky and nicely justifiable from a “romance novel names are ridonkulous” perspective.

I liked Ransom much better than the naked swimming book, but again the characters were younger than I could relate to. They were sweet and sympathetic, the supporting characters good friends to them. Everything ticked along in their new , crazy-successful and a pretty good coming of age story even if it was more than a might tropey and I can only imagine what that much success at that young an age would do to people.

Daltrey had brothers and each of them has a book, but I’ll be giving them a miss. These darn whippersnappers are going to be staying off my lawn.

Last things last, the family/band name of Ransom sounded too much like Hanson and I had that damn MMMBop song stuck in my head while reading. Maybe you do now as well. You’re welcome.

New Adult 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.