Whatcha Reading? March Madness Edition

Open book with tree and road going through the pages with sky in the backgroundIt's time! Hide your wallet and your giftcards, because it's the most excellent comment thread wherein I ask what you're reading, and we start giving recommendations and mini reviews and then BAM. The most expensive book order happens. Or the librarian is all, “No, you cannot borrow the hand truck to wheel in your Inter Library Loan request list.” 

Book Carolina Home Right now, I'm reading some contemporary. I read Carolina Home by Virginia Kantra on vacation ( A | BN | K | ARe) – I stayed up past midnight to finish it, too. I think, if you're a fan of the Chesapeake quartet by Nora Roberts like I am, you'll probably like this book, too. It's set in the barrier islands of North Carolina, and there's a summer population and a year-round population, with class differences and perspective differences that make for a unique and interesting tension across the communities. The story also gets deeply involved in the lives of several characters, and continues over the next few books, so if you like a good saga with longer story arcs, you'll probably like this a lot. 

I'm currently reading Carolina Girl ( A | BN | K | ARe), the sequel – which I bought at 1am right after finishing the prior book because I could and, well, at that hour, I have zero impulse control, especially when it comes to books. The day I figured out how to drop the brightness and increase the text on my Galaxy Note so I can read in the dark without my glasses was both a wonderful and terrible day.

Anyway, I'm not as into this one, in part because the heroine, the sister of the hero in Carolina Home, has to stay somewhat stubbornly ignorant about some very obvious things for some of the romantic tension to be maintained. And while I understand her struggle, I also think she's too smart to remain that dumb for so many pages. But I love the rest of the cast and will definitely keep reading to find out what happens to them. 

What about you? What are you reading? Looking for a recommendation? Any books you think romance readers would love?

Come share – whatcha reading?

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  1. 1
    Bona says:

    I’m nowadays well into my ‘Top 100 AAR challenge’ – I’m reading books from the list of Best 100 romance novels according to the 2013 All About Romance Poll. They are mainly old books published in the 1990s or 2000s. So, now I’m reading oldies but goldies. For instance, next books in my TBR list are two Mary Balogh’s novels: The Secret Pearl (1991) & More than a mistress (2000), Patricia Gaffney: To Have and To Hold (1995),  and one of the few Courtney Milan’s stories that I haven’t read yet: Unveiled (2011)…
    So I have my hands full with this challenge that will keep me entertained for the next months -or years! But if there’s anything new that is really really good, I will give it a try, of course, so recommendations will always be very well received.
    In these challenge I’m reading -or re-reading- and reviewing books that I really think any romance reader would love. Certainly, Kinsale. Georgette Heyer is wonderful, with subtle English humour and a very good literary quality. Lisa Kleypas’ historicals are still charming no matter how many times I read them. And Susan Elizabeth Phillips has usually great great humour.

  2. 2
    Jennifer says:

    I just finished So Tough to Tame by Victoria Dahlia which I can recommend.  I have read all of Virginia Kantra’s Dare Island series.  Enjoyable, although I preferred Carolina Home and Carolina Man to Carolina Girl.

  3. 3
    Laine says:

    I read Night Broken the latest by Patricia Briggs in one sitting on tuesday night. Loved it. But now I’m in the frustrating between-books phase. I’ve started four new books and am waiting to see which of them sucks me in first. Or, I suppose, which one I’ll happen to be reading when I come down from the Briggs-high enough to get involved with something else. So currently I’m a few pages into Under the Wire by Cindy Gerard,The Armies of Daylight by Barbara Hambly, Cry No More by Linda Howard and Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth. I’m sure I’ll enjoy every one of them once I actually get going.

    My current audiobook is Spider’s Bite by Jennifer Estep.

     

  4. 4
    Miranda says:

    I recently finished Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. It’s urban fantasy with not much romance at all, but it was really good. The heroine is funny and smart, and surprisingly issue-free for an 18-year-old (she’s an American at boarding school in England).

    She likes her parents. She’s not ashamed of where she came from or her nutty Louisiana relatives. No one at the school is abused, bullied, or in need of Learning a Life Lesson.

    Rory gets a boyfriend, but it isn’t the greatest romance of all time and no one is defined by it.

    It’s the start of a series, and a more serious romance may develop, but if you want a book that’s pretty cheerful overall plus a REALLY good plot, I recommend this unreservedly.

  5. 5
    Shannon says:

    I have discovered Blythe Gifford who write for Harlequin Historical through her indie novel The Witch Finder.  While I enjoyed the match of a woman who’s mother is charged with being a witch and her duel with the witch finder, I really have liked Secrets at the Court, for its villain and Innocence Unveiled for its location in Flanders with a weaver heroine and Edward’s courtier.  Each just has a element that is different or surprising.

    I have no idea how I found it, but I’ve started in on Maljean Brook’s Iron Seas series with the Iron Duke.  The love story is disturbing at points, but the hero slowly gets it, on two different times which is quite satisfying, allowing me not to write him off as a jerk because he is a duke and all alpha male.  Yes, the very wounded heroine heals, but so does her very damaged England.  The world building is intense in opening chapters; I plowed on figuring I would understand it all eventually.  So now I’m into Lady of Steel.

    I also found Renee Bernard’s final book in her jewel series, Desire Wears Diamonds.  It was satisfying to see all of the Jaded finally able to put their captivity behind them and grasp the life they’ve been given.

  6. 6
    StarOpal says:

    Well I was in a bit of a stress induced slump last Whatcha Reading? post so I decided to go with something light and shorter and pulled Beastly by Alex Flinn off the TBR pile. 1) Having already watched the movie when it came out to rent, way better than the movie. That was one of the reasons I never got around to actually reading it, the movie is not good. I found myself sooo confused over the things that got changed. Anyway, a light read dealing with the Beauty and the Beast story and I enjoyed it.

    Currently reading an ancient Rome set inspirational The Gladiator by Carla Capshaw. It’s a book my mother and I picked up for $0.25 a couple years ago (you know people donated books to be sold for a charitable cause kinda thing). Well for her birthday she wanted to see Pompeii, and while that movie had issues, I walked out wanting to read an ancient Roman Empire set romance so I asked if I could borrow it.

    Anyway. So the hero, Caros, is a former gladiator turned lanista and the heroine, Pelonia, is a former wealthy lady who got sold into slavery by her EBIL uncle. The beginning was rough because Pelonia started out a little TSTL (which in the circumstances actually they’re reasonable for that character’s choices, but as a reader it was like “Don’t trust that chick!!!”), but she’s starting to wise up. And while I don’t usually do inspirationals, this one is actually working in the faith issue as part of the plot instead of just being wallpaper and I respect that. And the H/h are sexually attracted to each other! I’m about halfway through, while the beginning was a little meh I actually like where the book is at right now, let’s hope it can keep it up.

  7. 7
    Mims says:

    Just finished Night Broken and now I’m reading the second book in Anne Bishop’s newest series “A Murder of Crows”. It’s interesting but not really for the faint of heart. The terra indigenes (vampires, shapeshifters and other supernatural creatures) eat people. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with a potential hero who eats people even if he doesn’t consider himself human.

  8. 8

    I just finished Death Sworn by Leah Cypess. Next up, I’m going to read Hexed by Kevin Hearne.

  9. 9
    Emma says:

    I just read The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, which was phenomenal. (It was recommended by Kristen Cashore, who wrote Graceling and Fire, for fans of those.) It’s a romance across class divisions, which is one of my favorite things; in this case, it takes place in a society where a military-oriented ruling class (loosely modeled on the Romans) has conquered and enslaved their creative and artistic former ally (loosely modeled on the Greeks). Years later, the daughter of the conquerers’ general meets a slave who poorly conceals his anger and resentment. The book follows their unlikely friendship and romance, all across a backdrop of a slave rebellion and her own decisions about marriage versus military service. It’s a page-turner, and Rutkoski plays with power dynamics in a really skilled way. Can’t wait to read the next one!

  10. 10
    Rhonda says:

    I’ve started the latest Bridget Jones, ‘Mad about the Boy’. Yes, I’m late to the party there, and while I hate that Mark Darcy is gone, I am really enjoying it.
    Just finished ‘Amore and Pinot Grigio’, by Veronica Bell, which, to my great surprise, I loved (I saw the cover and thought ‘hmmm. I don’t know’). It was terrific, funny and also a short read if you just have an afternoon (a novella). A friend recommended it to me because it is about a Canadian cat rescuer and I work for both a vet and a cat rescue (and am a Canuck). Since reading it, I’ve discovered it got great reviews at The Romance Studio and on its Amazon page. Don’t judge a book by its cover, as they say.
    Next up, after I’m done Bridget Jones, is ‘The Rosie Project’, which I am really looking forward to, largely due to the great reviews it has received and Miranda, I also have Name of the Star in queue.

  11. 11
    LG says:

    I’m currently reading four things, only one of which could count as romance.

    My e-book reading is As the Crow Flies by Robin Lythgoe. I won it in a giveaway. It’s self-published and I was a little nervous, because a review posted a few months ago noted that there were lots of errors in the text. I think the author might have corrected those, because I haven’t noticed any yet. The book is fantasy, and the main character is a thief who has been forced to agree to steal a dragon’s egg. I’m moving through the book at a good pace, but Crow, the narrator and main character, comes across as thinking he’s more clever than he really is, and I’m fairly certain that’s not what the author intended.

    In paper form, I’m reading Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer and Cinderella: Ninja Warrior by Maureen McGowan. Eighth Grade Bites is spending far more time on the main character’s eating habits than on the plot – yes, yes, I know, all his food has blood in it in one way or another. Cinderella: Ninja Warrior is supposed to be a “choose your own adventure” book, but, no matter which route you choose, it only has one ending. I am a bit disappointed. The story itself is okay, although Cinderella is overly perfect (and yet not smart enough to figure out that Ty the hunter is Tiberius the prince). She taught herself ninja skills from a book and became good enough to best every other would-be ninja wizard in the land. The prince thinks that’s awesome. :)

    In audio, I’m listening to The Collected Public Domain Works of H.P. Lovecraft, a Librivox recording with over a dozen readers. It is not working out well for me, and I’m considering calling it quits and trying again with text or more experienced readers later.

  12. 12
    HollyS says:

    I’m reading Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare. I was on a book buying freeze (yeah we see how well that worked). Then I went to this romance book club meeting last weekend (in Brooklyn, no less) and this is next months selection. I had been slogging through the first few pages of When the Duke Was Wicked but I had a hard time getting into it, which is surprising since Lorraine Heath is one of my absolute fave authors.

  13. 13
    ppyajunebug says:

    Right now I’m working through Jill Shalvis’ backlist and desperately checking my mailbox for issue 2 of the Firefly/Serenity follow-up comic.  SO FREAKING AMAZING YOU GUYS.

  14. 14
    Jess says:

    My mom has been in town so I’ve had less time for longer reads.  The past few nights, I’ve found great novellas to enjoy before bed.  Cake by Lauren Dane was a fun Cosmo Hot Read.  It wasn’t my favorite of those but I still enjoyed it.  The Nekkid Truth was a Dear Author rec (and it’s FREE right now) that I really enjoyed.  The heroine has face blindness after a terrible accident but she still manages to fall in love with a detective while they solve a murder.  Last night, I read Apples Should Be Red by Penny Watson, another Dear Author rec.  The heroine is 59 and the hero is 62.  It was really great and only 99 cents.  It’s been a great reading week and I’m looking forward to digging into some longer things this weekend.

  15. 15
    DonnaMarie says:

    I’m buffeting again. Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett which was rec’d a few posts back. I had to have it cause, well, family history.  Really enjoying it so far.

    Sure he’d been thinking about her a lot – too much – but he thought a lot about bacon, too.

    What’s not to love?

    Also working through the Dangerous Women Anthology. Full of short stories by people like Carrie Vaughn, Diana Gabaldon and Jim Butcher.

    And then there’s the arc of Mystic Tea I won on Goodreads. Kind of a good fit as it takes place in a religious order, and you know how us Catholic school graduates are about our nuns.  I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be a comedy or a story of redemption. Guess we’ll see.

  16. 16
    Jessi Gage says:

    I love Virginia Kantra. I am a sucker for her selkie series starting with Sea Witch. It has the perfect blend of small-town contemporary feel (set in coastal Maine) and fantasy with her selkie shifters. She has an amazing way of using beautiful language to build setting. Superb writer!

    Right now I’m reading True to the Highlander by Barbara Longley. It’s a well-written time-travel romance. The heroine has a nice blend of strength and vulnerability. I get a little tired of kick-ass heroines and occasionally like one who is a little uncertain, a little in need of developing some strength throughout the story. This one fits that bill nicely.

  17. 17
    Lostshadows says:

    Currently in the middle of July’s People by Nadine Gordimer and am being driven nuts by the use of — instead of ” around the dialog. It also is reading as more of an “important” book than a interesting one. (paper)

    Also reading Lord of Wicked Intentions by Lorraine Heath. So far I like it. The heroine seems a bit inconsistently written at times, but I like the hero and it seems to be handling the iffy consent issues as well as can be expected.  (ebook)

    I’m also listening to The Twelve by Justin Cronin. Right now I’m kind of frustrated by the fact it has skipped back in time to near the beginning of the first book to introduce a whole new group of characters, who’ll have died of old age by the time it gets to the point the first book ends. (audio)

  18. 18

    I am re-reading Candace Camp’s Willowmere series, with the exception of the 1st book, which i wasn’t crazy about.  I love this series because it is so cheesy.  Hell, there’s a virgin widow in the 2nd book!

  19. 19
    Algae says:

    I’m reading Code Name Verity. It’s fascinating, but heavy. I can only read 50 or so pages at the time and then I take a Facebook break.

  20. 20
    Anne says:

    One of my New Year’s resolutions was to clear out some of my TBR shelves by actually reading some of the backlog of books.  In that spirit, I’ve been reading 1 or 2 books each month that are on the TBR list and wishlisted at Paperback Swap.  One of those books was Nightengale Wood by Stella Gibbons.  I finished it last weekend.  Not romance, but set in a small town in England in the 1930s.  Since it was written in the 30’s, there is social commentary that is a little hard to read, but overall, I enjoyed it.  Another PBS book that I read earlier this month was The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Not romance, but interesting premise and lots of enjoyable anecdotes about her search for happiness. 

    As far as romance is concerned, thanks to the many recommendations from Sarah, I’ve also started the Kowalski series after getting books 5 & 6 thru Paperback Swap.  I just finished book 4 and book 7 is on its way (again thru PBS), so I have plenty of Kowalski reading ahead of me.  Today, however, because I need a change from small towns and contemporary settings, I think that I’m going to start Joey Hill’s Vampire Trinity.  Talk about a palate cleanser….

  21. 21
    Mikaela says:

    I am re-reading the Chronicles of Elantra by Michelle Sagara. No romance, but I just love reading about Kaylin and her adventures.  It is basically fantasy police procedural, so if you like Urban Fantasy, I recommend this series.

  22. 22
    LenoreJ says:

    Stayed up way past bedtime last night with Julie James’ Just the Sexiest Man Alive. I grew up in Aspen, so the clueless self absorption displayed by the hero going into this story was so perfectly displayed I was hooked. The heroine is tenacious and great at her job and so not impressed with the movie star bs. Ms James makes the evolution of their feelings for each other very compelling and the HEA works. Next up an historical, I think probably the new Jeanne Lin:  Jade Temptress….love weekends!

  23. 23
    Rosa E. says:

    I just finished the latest in Laura Resnick’s Esther Diamond series, The Misfortune Cookie. If I had to sum it up in one sentence, it would be “screwball paranormal,” though the books have a strong romantic thread too. I actually picked up the series with the last book, Polterheist, and that turned out to be the book where a long-running romantic plot paid off, so now I’ve been reading the whole series to find out where it all began.

    They’re good books for unwinding after a long day at work. The opening scene of Misfortune Cookie, a raid on a mob-run Italian restaurant that devolves into a fight between Esther and her erstwhile cop boyfriend, had me laughing out loud. Scared the hell out of my cat.

  24. 24

    Been on a fairly long contemporary romance reading jag too. Thanks to some of the recent podcasts, I ended up reading several new-to-me authors: Ruthie Knox (Ride with Me; About Last Night), Kristan Higgins (The Best Man; The Perfect Match), Jaci Burton (Paradise Awakening; about to start second in series Paradise Revival) and have dipped into but not passed the midpoint of R. Lee Smith’s The Hour of Gann (shoring up emotionally for what readers have called brutal events) and Rebecca Zanetti’s Forgotten Sins. Loved Zanetti’s titles in the Entangled Brazen line and have started reading more of her work. Also, really enjoyed Jessica Clare’s Games series, and the recent interview with her prompted me to pick up her Billionnaire series. Enjoyed titles 1, 2, and 3.

    Feeling the itch to get back to either historical or paranormal though. Several waiting for me on my immediate to-read list.

  25. 25
    gloria says:

    I’m taking a break from Romance. I’m reading Death of a Red Heroine by Qiu Xialong, a mystery set in the early 90s in Shanghai. I really recommend this series.

    Also I’m reading something, that while not a Romance, surely has the most romantic cover I’ve seen this year (well, in my opinion!) My Beloved Brontosaurus by Brian Switek I mean, just look at this cover!

    When my Romance break is over I’ve got a couple by EE Ottoman lined up, Song of the Spring Moon Waning and Selume Proferre, both of which feature trans* main characters.

  26. 26
    Heather S says:

    I got an old Irene Hunt (YA) book called “Up A Road Slowly” – it has that wonderful quality of feeling like you’re sinking into the story that I recall the books I loved as a kid had (“Island of the Blue Dolphins”, “Zia”, “Moccasin Trail”, “My Side of the Mountain”, “Rifles for Watie”, etc). Best of all? No witches, wizards, ghosts, goblins, vampires, werewolves, or any other sort of tiresome, overused paranormal creature. It’s just a slice-of-life coming-of-age story.

    @HollyS: Don’t say that! I just picked up Heath’s newest because the cover is STUNNINGLY GORGEOUS. (I have an addiction to beautiful book covers.) I read the sample on Amazon and liked what I’d read to that point. I think I’m going to branch out after (or before?) that one and read an American historical romance – probably “Pieces of Sky” by Marianne Willman, since it’s been many years since I last read it.

  27. 27
    Dread Pirate Rachel says:

    I’m reading Laura Florand’s Snow Kissed, and it’s wrecking me.

  28. 28
    Vasha says:

    What have I been reading? Lots.

    To start with the awesome, A Gentleman Undone by Cecelia Grant is one of the best romance novels I’ve ever read. Amazing deep characters, who aren’t idiots in the least: they’re naturally reticent and have trouble talking to each other about their feelings and traumas, but they say as much as they can and, when in the dark trying to understand each other, come to a lot of right conclusions and are quick to discard false assumptions—it’s heartwarming because it’s really a dark story, and best of all the ending is not overly positive, hopeful rather than just erasing all the dark stuff. Its predecessor, A Lady Awakened, is quite good too.

    On recommendations from this site, I’ve tried a couple by Mary Balogh; they were pleasant, but no more than that. I probably will read the rest of the Bedwyn Saga now that I’ve started it. Interesting that Slightly Married starts with pretty much the same premise as A Lady Awakened, but with utterly different characters, and they go very different places. I must say that, comparing their two do-gooder heroines, I much prefer Grant’s steely martinet to Balogh’s nurturing angel!

    K. J. Charles & Jordan L. Hawk just put out a free crossover novella between their “Casebook of Simon Feximal” and “Whyborne & Griffin” series. When I heard they were working on that I was excited because it just had so many possibilities. Didn’t really live up to it. Very fun, indeed, but short on plot and substance, and not even taking full advantage of the character interactions. A trifle. I was hoping, really, for some serious horror on the level of Charles’s short story “Butterflies”—now I know she’s capable of that, I’m still waiting for her to keep it up.

    Jordan L. Hawk offered the first of her SPECTR stories for free and suckered me into paying too much for the rest of them—interesting and entertaining, they had potential, but again they should have been more than they were.

    Non-romance: currently tearing through Tamora Pierce’s Beka Cooper books. Pretty awesome, though I’d like it better without the talking magical cat, which is just a little too much sweetening, too much help for Beka; she could do fine with her wits and human friends, honestly!

    About to start a binge of reading DABWAHA nominees. Checked out Libriomancer & Codex Born from the library, have requests in for others. Woohoo!

  29. 29
    Gry says:

    I’m reading the Sea of Time eARC by P C Hodgell

  30. 30
    elianara says:

    I’m on a Kevin Hearne binge. Someone recommended his books, and a couple of weeks ago I started with the Iron Druids series book one, Hounded. It was quite good, so I continued, and by book three it actually got really interesting and really good. A few books and a couple of novellas later, I’m currently diving into book 5, Trapped. Those and the new Thief game has taken all my time lately.

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