Whatcha Reading? March 2020 Edition, Part One

Open book with light and sparkles floating up from the pages.It’s our first Whatcha Reading post of March 2020.

All I can say is wow; it’s been a weird couple weeks and I have a feeling it’s only going to get weirder.

Please look after yourselves, your friends, your families, you furry loved ones, and your neighbors. Oh, and make sure you have some good books on hand.

Tara: I’m reading Kate Daniels Book 9, Magic Binds, ( A | BN | K | G | AB ) right now and made the mistake of starting it before bedtime. I bought Iron and Magic ( A | BN | K | AB ) when it was on sale last week, realized I’d read up to KD8, and decided to rectify that. I forgot how much I love this world.

Lara: I’ve just started Alpha Night by Nalini Singh and I’m loving it (so far… each time I announce I love a book, something scuppers it. Fingers crossed that’s not the case with this one!)

Alpha Night
A | BN | K | AB
Maya: All I’m seeing all over twitter is how much people love Alpha Night, Aarya included!

Lara: Yes please! Hooray!

Sarah: I am curious and want to hear what you think of it! Also – how much violence is there?

Elyse: I just finished First Comes Scandal by Julia Quinn. ( A | BN | K | AB ) I liked it better than her prior Rokesby books but the conflict was weak.

Sarah: I’m reading An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upton, ( A | BN | K | AB ) and then A Stroke of Malice by Anna Lee Huber. ( A | BN | K | AB ) MURDERBOOKS AHOY.

Uncovering the Merchant’s Secret
A | BN | K | AB
Claudia: I’ve had a couple of pleasant surprises lately — books that gave me more than I had expected. One was Uncovering the Merchant’s Secret by Elizabeth Hobbes, which featured pirate heroine in Brittany, France, in the 1300s (based on a true story.) Setting was unusual, and so were the main characters (pirate heroine was older and twice widowed, commoner hero)

Carrie: I just finished Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg ( A | BN | K | AB ) – a wonderful graphic novel about Charlotte Bronte’s relationship to the imaginary world she created with her siblings when they were children. Review pending! All the deets!

Catherine: I’ve just finished American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera, which I liked for its portrayal of family and community and for protagonists who behaved like grownups and used their words. I’ve also just read and loved the ARCs of two books that don’t come out for months – so here’s a heads up that Marry in Scarlet by Anne Gracie and Drowned Country by Emily Tesh will definitely be worth waiting for. I’m really looking forward to rereading them both slowly for review purposes.

When the Body Says No
A | BN | K | AB
And I’m halfway through Ariel’s Island by Pat McKee, ( A | BN ) which is a Tempest retelling with corporate law and a few murders and I was hoping for brilliance or for crazysauce, but alas, my hopes have not been realised. I don’t know if the problem is me or the book, but I’m finding it surprisingly slow going for a story that opens wth a body impaled on a fountain.

Sneezy: I’m diving into some feel-good noms with A Big Surprise for Valentine’s Day by Jackie Lau ( A | BN | K | AB ) after getting my ass kicked in When the Body Says No by Gabor Mate. To anyone working on their traumas and digging in to the work they need to do: Mate said we can only look for what we know is there. MEANING WE’LL GET THERE! BECAUSE WE ARE THERE, (sort of). I’M CHEERING FOR YOOOOOUUUUU!

Aarya: Like Maya mentioned above, I read and loved an arc of Alpha Night (June 9). Re: the violence, it’s on par with the rest of the series (which is standard PNR violence but not gory). People die on page, there is ruthless justice, the Psy have uncontrollable martial mental abilities, etc. Nothing struck me as out of the norm.

I also DNFed an arc of Suzanne Park’s Loathe At First Sight (August 4). ( A | BN | K | AB ) It wasn’t for me: 1) I struggled with the misogynistic/racist harassment storyline (it’s so painful in real life; I can’t enjoy it in fiction!), 2) the comedic aspects didn’t appeal to my sense of humor, and 3) it’s women’s fiction and not romance as I originally assumed. YMMV since it was well-written. Just not for me.

Badger to the Bone
A | BN | K | AB
Honestly, I am exhausted from the real world right now (I’m sure that I’m not the only one). I need my fiction to be happy and light-hearted. Up next is Shelly Laurenston’s Badger to the Bone (March 31) because Shelly never fails to make me laugh. My resolution this week is to browse the news less and laugh more. I hope y’all are staying safe and healthy.

EllenM: I just read House of Earth and Blood ( A | BN | K | AB ) and I enjoyed it a lot but also had some Qualms and Quibbles (review forthcoming!) I’m also reading the josei manga series You’re My Pet by Yayoi Ogawa ( A ) which I’m so far LOVING. I was not originally intending to review it but it’s so bizarre and delightful that I think the bitchery NEEDS TO KNOW.

Also Aarya I COMPLETELY feel you on being exhausted from the real world. I think I need to read only the fluffiest books & comics right now.

Undead Girl Gang
A | BN | K | AB
Maya: I’m reading Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson! I saw Alexis Daria talking about it on Twitter and the cover was AMAZING, so I grabbed it from my library. So far its pretty wonderful. The best friend of the MC has just died and she just knows that it was murder, even though everyone around her tells her that it was suicide. The MC and her bestie were dabbling in the occult before her bestie’s death and so the MC turns to magic to both process her pain and help her honor her bestie’s memory by finding her murderer. YA with a Latinx MC and zombies!

Carrie: OMG

PUT IT IN MY EYEBALLS

Maya: The MC is so angry because everyone is dismissing her feelings and I loved every misunderstood teen moment.

Misunderstood and marginalized!

Charlotte B: I also read House of Earth and Blood and although, like Ellen, I had Qualms and Quibbles, I really liked the fact that the great epic love that really drives the story is the heroine’s relationship with her best friend.

Susan: I’m reading The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics! I love it a lot because both of the protagonists are trying so hard to acknowledge their own skill and force the rest of the world to acknowledge it, but it is so stressful

I don’t trust a historical romance about misogynistic men and culture refusing to allow women to be acknowledged for their work to end with catharsis, basically.

What have you read or are currently reading this month? Let us know!

Comments are Closed

  1. Alex says:

    Ditto-ing the exhausted by real world sentiment. I’ve been rereading a lot of comfort reads, including Ilona Andrews entire backlist and all of Terry Pratchett’s City Watch books. I’m also trying to avoid buying books, which is HARD. I’m a substitute teacher in WA, so I’m going to lose out on at least 6 weeks of pay. My current plan is to take advantage of my library and TBR, but so many books look good!

    Also finally read Get A Life, Chloe Brown! and I loved it so much. I literally laughed out loud, multiple times, and cried a little during the final conflict. Not all of Talia Hibbert’s earlier works worked for me, but her last several have been instant hits and it’s taking all my will power not to preorder the next book in the series.

    Read Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid and I can see how it’s a book many people will love. I think part of my issue was reading it right on the heels of Get A Life, Chloe Brown (like, the same night). The characters in both books are very similar. Super organized, type A heroines and very laid back, happy and hot heroes. But in GAL,CB the issues between the couple were related to their baggage and could be overcome together, and in Hearts on Hold the issues between the couple were pretty much all the heroine’s issues and a lot of them were caused by external factors. I think my takeaway was that the heroine had to work on herself and deal with her baggage by herself to be able to be happy with the hero, and I like it better when both people in the couple figure stuff out together. Again, it was a good book! But like 4 stars for me after GAL,CB’s 10/5 stars.

    Read Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstor and We Sold Our Souls as well. Both were fantastic! I was a little worried about reading We Sold Our Souls as I haven’t ever really listened to metal, and it was definitely a love letter to metal interwoven with an amazing plot and fantastic characters. It made me want to add Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden to my Spotify playlists. I didn’t because it’s loud and I’m a folk-rock lover, but it made me appreciate music that I don’t personally enjoy. I bought it for my BFF, who has tried numerous times to introduce me to the joys of Metal. Horrorstor was great as well, but whereas the love of Metal was huge in We Sold Our Souls, a hatred of American Consumerism/Capitalism was an underlying theme throughout Horrorstor and it left me with a good book glow, but didn’t push me to seek out anything new to add to my life.

    Also been falling back into kinda dark YA fantasy. Devoured Holly Black’s works, The Queen of Nothing (a stunning end to a trilogy), Modern Faerie Tales (a set of 3 books/novellas; the first, Tithe, is in KU), and The Darkest Part of the Forest. Loved all of them. Read The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo, a book of short stories from the Grishaverse. Haven’t read any other Grishaverse books, just knew I loved The Ninth House and that was the only book that didn’t have a 12+ week waiting list from the library. It’s a book of stories from the verse and it felt like reading fairy tales, familiar yet new. I loved it and am impatiently waiting for my holds on all her other works to come available. Also read The Deep by Rivers Solomon and it was beautiful and sad and amazing. Like a mermaid-y The Giver that’s more real and poignant. Not a good book for a tired brain though, I had to put it down once and come back to it after a good night’s sleep.

    And last, mysteries. Read the latest in the Ruth Galloway series and Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths. Both were very good, but the romance subplots in both left a lot to be desired. I also reread a few of Karin Slaughter’s books then caught up with the Will Trent series. Those are mysteries with a fantastic romance sub plot, but over the course of several books, not just one or two. Many trigger warnings though. Also read I Can See In The Dark by Karin Fossum. Not necessarily a mystery, but in that vein, told from the killer’s point of view. I guess the mystery is whether or not he’ll get away with it, and it was written in a very talented way, excellent use of first person, because the entire time you’re rooting for everyone but the narrator. I loved it and am going to check out everything else by the author.

    And I guess that’s it! I thought I hadn’t read anything this month so far, but looking at this list it looks like I’m not doing too bad!

  2. Jill Q. says:

    Yay, for Whatcha Reading! Always one of the bright spots in my month and definitely now. I have been pretty good about doing a few sun salutations and morning stretches since the new year, I think since we won’t be in a hurry to get anywhere for the next few weeks, I may try and build on that especially with some savasana and meditation at the end. Maybe some long runs with audiobooks or podcasts. And try to quit online news. Again! Ugh. It’s my worst habit and my hardest one to break. I feel like even too much time on respected, serious news sites really affects my mood/anxiety level.

    So reading wise it has been a pretty good month

    The Best

    BECOMING by Michelle Obama. I really, really loved the stuff about her growing up and her family life and meeting Barack (and her thinking “who does this hotshot think he is?”) The political stuff interested me less, but still probably an A+ read for me. A lot of moments got me very emotional and weepy (in a good way).

    The Good

    TIKKA CHANCE ON ME by Suleikha Snyder. I mean, I did feel like the hero in this one was almost too good to be true, but I get that he was based on Chris Evans and sometimes it’s nice to just read pure wish fulfillment. It worked for a novella it might not work for me for a whole book.

    POPPY REDFERN AND THE MIDNIGHT MURDERS by Tess Arlen. I did enjoy this one even though as usual for cozy mysteries, I get annoyed by love interest drama. There were enough twists in the mystery to keep my happy. I liked the WWII small town setting, although it sounds like that’s changing for the next book.

    BRYANT AND MAY AND THE LONELY HOUR by Christopher Fowler. This is really not a good jumping in point to the series for new readers, but as someone who has read all of them, I did enjoy it. Main mystery did not hold a lot of suspense (I think it was supposed to be more like a Columbo plot where you know the murderer all along?), but lots of interesting side stories going on. Not one of his best, but I’m very loyal to these characters.

    DEATH BY DUMPLING by Vivien Chen. This was cute and I really loved reading about Cleveland, but I feel like the cop/love interest was so clearly a direct ripoff of procedural David Caruso. Red hair, blue eyes, slow drawl. He didn’t quit break out the corny puns while whipping off his sunglasses, but I kept waiting for it. But I think being a romance fan generally has me kind of spoiled when I read romance in other genres (see above about Poppy Redfern). Honestly I was hoping for maybe an Asian love interest for her? Just because I haven’t see a lot of non white guys as love interests in cozy mysteries. But I don’t think the series will go in that direction.

    The Bad – Long rant ahead!

    And finally, I try not complain about DNFs on here b/c I can be a very picky reader and I follow my whimsy from moment to moment . . . but. I can’t help but complain a little bit about THEN CAME HEAVEN by LaVryle Spencer. In my current search for “quiet” ungimmicky romances I decided to try LaVryle Spencer since she is someone I remember hearing a lot about her growing up. And guys, this was so close to A an read. It mostly even held up considering it’s got be about 25 years old. But! But!
    There was a minor character (the widowed hero’s sister-in-law) and we get in her POV just to see how lonely her life is and then she’s not given any kind of real narrative resolution 🙁 I can’t be 100% sure of that b/c I started to anxiously skim looking to see what happened to her and there’s just a brief mention that she just doesn’t show up when the hero marries the heroine in a big wedding. She’s been pining for the hero from afar for years and I get that she wasn’t going to end up with him (I mean, I know how to read book cover), but I was hoping for something for her.
    The character clearly yearned for a traditional home and family life, but I would have been happy with anything that left her in positive direction. Maybe she starts her own business, or runs away to San Francisco to be a Beatnik (this was set in 50s), buys a puppy. Something! To put the reader in her head and show that she is so sad and yet so kind and thoughtful towards others and then give her no real joy at the end was wrong. Particularly since the book makes a big deal about how she’s an “overweight spinster” and she’s expected to stay on the farm and take care of her parents while everyone else gets to live their own lives. Maybe that was supposed to be realistic? I found it really cruel and unnecessary to put us in her head and then deny her any real happiness. It put a bad taste in my month about what was otherwise a really well-written book. I want to try to read a Spencer book again, but I’m not sure I trust her now.
    Anyways, in my version of the ending, she came out as a happy lesbian and she and some really cute lady have turned her parents farm all organic and maybe they have some goats. This is why I have to write fanfiction, guys. B/c too much “realism” is a downer.
    Anyways rant over, but i feel like if you can’t write about a disappointing book on Smart Bitches, where can you?

  3. Vår says:

    Greetings from Norway, where society has totally shut down. No school, work, church service, restaurants, movie theaters, visiting grand parents…

    I have stacked up on coffee, red wine, toilet paper and books, so all should be well, though.

    I read GIRL AT HEART by Kelly Oram, and thought it was sweet. So now I’m in the mood for som YA, but have trouble finding ones I like. I tried CINDER & ELLA by the same author, but I DNF.

    Then I found THE MOTHER ROAD by Meghan Quinn. Also a DNF. The idea had potential, but the humor was too juvenile. Or childish, even. We’re talking shit/ piss/ fart. I mean… seriously… And there was so, so much of it! Yuch!

    So now I’m on sports romances. I did a re-read of Sara Ney’s HOW TO DATE A DOUCHEBAG series. Or… The first three of them, at least: THE STUDYING HOURS, THE FAILING HOURS and THE LEARNING HOURS. Book 2 and 3 are the best, with THE LEARNING HOURS as a favorite. So, so sweet! *sigh*

    I had to follow up with Sara Ney’s JOCK HARD series: JOCK ROW, JOCK RULE and JOCK ROAD. Also sweet, but not quite douchebag-level.

    Now I’m on book 4 of the FACE-OFF SERIES by Jillian Quinn. I liked the first to books; PARKER and KANE. I didn’t read the third book, because I really didn’t like the h (she had some appearances in book 2), but book 4, JAMESON, has some hot geek vibes, so this should be good 🙂

    Oh… Also: I listened to HEIDI’S GUIDE TO FOUR LETTER WORDS by Tara Sivec and Andi Arndt. So, so funny! Highly recommended.

    Hope you all are fine. And any good YA suggestions are welcome to get me through this isolation! Or sports romances… Have a nice week end!

  4. Ren Benton says:

    Almost the whole front page of my Kindle menu is DNFs. *sigh*

    I finished Myke Cole’s THE KILLING LIGHT, the conclusion of the Sacred Throne trilogy. Young lesbian in power armor saving the world from both demons and religious zealots. The opposite of feel-good stories, but there’s satisfaction in exposing lies and injustice and getting change as a result.

    Also finished Corey J. White’s KILLING GRAVITY, mostly because it’s only novella length. Voidwitch being hunted through space by the corporate lab that created her. She’s ridiculously overpowered, knows how to use the power, and experiences only the teeniest consequences for doing so, so there’s no question of losing, no stakes, no growth, no dilemma. Perfect example of a whole lot going on with very little tension.

    Last night, finished AN ILLUSION OF THIEVES by Cate Glass. Magical heist that took way too long to get to the part about the heist. (I don’t have it in front of me to check, but it seemed like the actual plot didn’t start until after the midpoint.) Also has another dude I think I’m intended to think fondly of who I actually think is an emotionally abusive, manipulative piece of trash who remains, at the end, just as willing and able to kill the heroine to keep up his image as he was at the beginning, but she’s going to stick around and help him because Reasons™.

  5. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    For some reason, the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” keeps playing over and over in my head: “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no foolin’ around/No time for dancing, or lovey-dovey, I ain’t got time for that now.” Oh, but surely there’s always time for lovey-dovey—especially in Romancelandia!

    Rachel Van Dyken’s lovely and melancholy FINDING HIM is about two people, both struggling with loss and the grieving process, who find solace and eventually love with each other. The hero of FINDING HIM is the twin brother of the hero of STEALING HER (and I do think you need to read the earlier book first to get the full arc of the story); he was in a coma for much of the first book and now he’s grieving the loss of his mother (who has recently died of a chronic illness) and the loss of his fiancée (who has married his twin—their romance is told in STEALING HER). In a favorite Romancelandia set-up, the hero goes to a cabin in the mountains only to discover that the cabin has already been rented out. The renter is a young woman who lost her fiancé to cancer less than a year before and is trying to write a book about their relationship. And then, of course, a blizzard leaves the h&h snowbound together. One thing leads to another and the hero offers to help the heroine write her book. I loved, loved, loved everything about FINDING HIM: the premise, the slowly-developing love affair, the snippets of the book the heroine is writing, the way the heroine’s late fiancé becomes a full-fledged character in the story, the discovery of the ways the h&h had been connected even before they met each other, the h&h both coming to grips with their losses and preparing to love again, even the idea that if you’re beloved on social media, with followers who are really invested in your life, one misstep in their eyes can quickly turn them against you. One of my favorite books of 2020 so far. Highly recommended.

    I loved Molly O’Keefe’s beautifully-written, incredibly angsty HOME TO THE RIVERVIEW INN, the third and final book in her trilogy about the fractured Mitchell family and their paths to healing and love at the title inn. In HOME, the youngest Mitchell brother, raised by his mother and unknown to the rest of his family until recently, must learn to forgive and be forgiven if he is to heal and have the relationship he wants with the woman who runs the neighboring organic farm. When I say this book is angsty, I’m not kidding: there is pain from leaving, pain from staying, pain from trying to protect your heart, and pain from being vulnerable. Key quotes: “How was it possible that it took more courage to choose to be happy,” and, “It takes sacrifices to be happy and being in love is hard and complicated and messy and sometimes requires more from us than we are ready to give.” I highly recommend all three books (WEDDNG AT THE RIVERVIEW INN, SECRETS OF THE RIVERVIEW INN, and HOME TO THE RIVERVIEW INN) in this wonderful series—but a word of caution: apparently all three books are reworkings of books O’Keefe published under different titles in 2006. I haven’t read the original books so I can’t say how significant the updates are, therefore read the books’ descriptions carefully to be sure you’re not buying something you’ve already read.

    CD Reiss’s CROWNE OF LIES is the second book in her series about the large and wealthy Crowne family. (The first book, the very sexy, antagonists-to-lovers IRON CROWNE, was one of my favorite reads of 2019.) In CROWNE OF LIES, Reiss puts her own spin on the marriage-of-convenience trope. The hero must marry to convince his family that he has found a good life-work balance. The heroine needs money to buy back her late father’s haute couture business from her manipulative step-mother. The h&h agree to a year-long, no-sex marriage—an agreement that they manage to break with some regularity. The themes that runs through CROWNE OF LIES include what makes a good marriage and how can married partners (especially married women) be good, supportive spouses while maintaining their own identity and interests? The hero’s parents have a strong, loving marriage—but the hero’s mother shares a story with the heroine that lets us know the marriage hasn’t always been a bed of roses. The heroine then learns some things that place her hated step-mother in a different light. As usual with Reiss, the characters in CROWNE OF LIES are smart, educated people—and they talk and act that way—but being intelligent and self-aware doesn’t stop anyone from experiencing pain and heartbreak. Although I didn’t like it quite as much as IRON CROWNE, I did enjoy CROWNE OF LIES and look forward to reading future books about the other Crowne siblings (each of whom gets a cameo appearance in CROWNE OF LIES). Recommended, but read IRON CROWNE first.

    Kelly Hunter was one of my favorite “finds” of 2019—and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by her so far. I like the maturity and thoughtfulness of her characters, and how they talk and, just as importantly, listen to each other. Last month I read THE COURAGE OF ELI JACKSON and this month I read the two other books in the Jackson Brothers series: THE HEART OF CALEB JACKSON and THE DOWNFALL OF CUTTER JACKSON. THE HEART OF CALEB JACKSON is a second-chance romance between Caleb and a woman he knew in his teens who has since achieved fame as a photographer. This isn’t a storyline that hinges on the h&h being stuck in their teenage personas—they’ve had other experiences and relationships since then; they reconnect as older and wiser people, but one thing is hanging over them: the heroine was the casual girlfriend of Caleb’s brother, Cutter, when she and Caleb got together years before—so secrets must finally be revealed and forgiveness sought (and obtained) before the couple can begin afresh. In THE DOWNFALL OF CUTTER JACKSON, the Jackson brothers discover they have an older half-brother (the result of their father’s pre-marriage affair with a local woman who left town before he knew she was pregnant). It’s as well-written as all of Hunter’s books, but I had a problem with one aspect of the plot: the heroine (the foster sister of the newly-discovered brother) falls for Cutter Jackson even though he looks just like her foster brother (with whom she has always had a completely platonic relationship). The idea of falling for someone who physically resembles one’s brother—even when their personalities are completely different—just felt all kinds of icky to me and made it a bit harder for me to get into the story or root for the h&h to find their HEA. Hunter also said she was going to write a book about the older half-brother, but I can’t find it if she did—does anyone know if it was ever written and, if so, the title?

    [I should also note that, like Molly O’Keefe’s Riverview Inn books, the three Jackson Brothers books were originally published with different titles, so check the books’ descriptions to be sure you haven’t read them before.]

    Although Caitlin Crews has become an auto-buy author for me (and, as with Kelly Hunter, I’m gradually working my way through Crews’s enormous back-catalog while still keeping up with her on-going new releases for the Harlequin Presents and Dare lines), I haven’t read much of the work she’s published under her alternate pen name, Megan Crane. But after I read Crane’s PLEASE ME, COWBOY in the HIS ONLY VALENTINE anthology, I knew I’d have to start making inroads on the Crane backlist too. Here’s a snippet of dialogue from PLEASE ME, COWBOY where the hero, very much a ruthless billionaire CEO type, man-splains about women to the heroine (who has agreed to be in a fake relationship with him): “Debating is what complicated women do when what they really want is to get naked…They want a man who can keep up with them verbally. They think it means he can do the same in bed. They want to be convinced…I’m more straightforward.” To which the heroine deliciously cuts him down with: “Are you? Or is it that you’re one of the ones who can’t keep up?” I knew right then I was going to like this book about a man (determined to break up his brother’s relationship with a woman he assumes is a gold-digger) and his fake girlfriend (a woman who returns to her home state of Montana after being away for a decade). Both h&h have to face uncomfortable truths about themselves and change their outlooks and the way they live their lives if they are to be worthy of a shot at an HEA. What I really liked about the book is that Crane finds a way to make us root for two initially rather dislikable people by peeling back the layers of their histories, emotions, and motivations, making them sympathetic and relatable. But why should I be surprised? I’ve been reading Caitlin Crews’s books for these very things for years. It makes sense that the same writer, using an alternate name, would have the same skill set.

    So, of course, after reading PLEASE ME, COWBOY, I had to read Crane’s companion book, TEMPT ME, COWBOY. The heroes of the two books are twin brothers—and the hero in TEMPT ME, COWBOY has sold a billion-dollar company and is opening a microbrewery in a mid-sized Montana town—the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else. He falls for a local teacher—a woman born and bred in the town and still living, at 30, with her judgmental, family-history-obsessed mother. I loved how Crane showed that there are both positives and negatives to living in a close-knit community—and how, when you decide to put down roots, you have to accept both elements. I recommend both books, but chronologically, TEMPT ME, COWBOY comes before PLEASE ME, COWBOY, so read the books in that order to get the full effect of the story.

    Tamsen Parker’s HIS CUSTODY reminded me in some ways of Skye Warren’s OVERTURE. Both books are about transgressive guardian-ward relationships involving an (initially) underaged young woman—but Parker’s book takes the story in a far more kink-centric direction. The h&h of HIS CUSTODY have both lost family members in a boating accident (their families were close friends) and the 17-year-old heroine is placed in the care of the much older hero—who does his best to keep his bdsm lifestyle under wraps while she is in his charge. But one thing leads to another and elements of a dom/sub dynamic begin to seep into the relationship, at first in ostensibly non-sexual ways (choosing her clothes, scheduling her day, etc.), but then—especially after the heroine turns 18—in far more overtly-sexual ways. While I agree that HIS CUSTODY will not be a book for everyone, Parker excels at showing how safe & consensual bdsm can be a pathway to peace and self-acceptance for some people. Key quote: “I’m not sure it’s right, but I’m damn sure it’s not wrong.”

    Skye Warren’s CAGED and LEASHED are two m/m erotic sf novellas set in a dystopian landscape of war and brutal captivity. There’s not much romance in these two stories—lots of sex, certainly, some of it quite violent, and lots of violence without sex too. Of the two stories, I liked CAGED the best—a battle-hardened soldier and a younger man (trained to be a pleasure slave) are imprisoned together in a grim cell, each—unbeknownst to the other—must try to obtain secret information, while still seeking companionship and comfort, from the other.

    I haven’t read all the stories in the AUSTRALIA Anthology (all proceeds going to support organizations fighting the Australian wildfires), but, of the ones I have read, Sierra Simone’s SANGUINE is my favorite: a very sexy (but also quite sweet, tender, and spiritual) m/m romance between a vampire and a former priest. A lovely story.

    NON-ROMANCE

    In N.R. Walker’s solidly-written TALLOWWOOD, two cops—one older and based in Sydney, the other younger and based in his hometown of Tallowwood in the Australian rainforest area—team up to solve a series of murders targeting gay men (the crimes are not described in overly explicit detail, but cw/tw: this is a murder mystery and readers are provided with information about the condition of the victims’ bodies and how the murders were committed). Both cops are openly gay and the older one has suffered a terrible loss. The younger cop is Aboriginal but I didn’t notice any “otherizing” (in fact, a thoughtless comment by the older cop—for which he is very contrite—is slammed back by the younger one with the response it deserves). The developing feelings between the two cops (in a very compressed time-frame) run parallel to their investigations as they uncover more information about cases that go back over a decade. I enjoyed TALLOWWOOD very much—but would definitely classify it as a murder-mystery with romantic (and even hints of paranormal) elements as opposed to, say, romantic suspense. Highly recommended.

  6. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @JillQ: LaVyrle Spencer was one of my favorite writers in the late-1980s/early-1990s, but, I hate to say it (as someone for whom MORNING GLORY was a comfort read for years), her work has not aged particularly well. Even back in the day, I noted a certain “you’re not like other girls” quality to the heroes (whether in historicals or contemporaries) and it seemed as if every book had to have a villainous female or a pitiable female (or both) to contrast against the romance-worthiness of the heroine.

  7. Stacey says:

    It’s definitely comfort read season! I’m finding solace in T. Kingfisher’s PALADIN’S GRACE, which is exactly the right mix of heartfelt and sweet and slightly snarky. I also have RED, WHITE, AND ROYAL BLUE lined up next.
    Like others of you I expect I’ll be rereading some Terry Pratchett and Robin McKinley as well.

    I work from home already, so not much will change for me personally, but my daughter is coping with the anxiety of having school closed in the last semester of senior year. Will Prom be canceled? Will she even get to take those AP tests? What about her college for next fall? Needless to say we are a little anxious!

    I’m grateful for this online community, among others I frequent. We are lucky to live in a time where social distancing and self-isolation are not nearly as lonely as they could be!

  8. Jill Q. says:

    @DiscoDollyDeb, thank you for the honesty on LaVryle Spencer. I kind of suspected as much. Some things are just of their time. I was reading romance in the 90s and maybe it wouldn’t have bugged me then, but I will just go ahead and pass on her. I don’t feel like one character should have to be torn down, or belittled, or made miserable to highlight someone else’s happy ending. Thanks again and happy reading!

  9. DiscoDollyDeb says:

    @Stacey: I work in a high school. Our prom was scheduled for last night—and the school board permitted the prom to go ahead, but all other proms (there are eight public high schools in our district and the proms are staggered throughout March and April) are cancelled. All senior trips are cancelled; graduation ceremonies are still up-in-the-air (our school’s graduation was scheduled for April 30). My heart goes out to the seniors who will be missing so many of those senior year events. In our district, all students are out until April 13, but employees are on stand-by and may have to report to work to assist with on-line classes, paperwork, lunches (schools are still trying to provide meals), etc. Meanwhile, my two youngest children are supposed to graduate from college in May—one is getting two undergraduate degrees and the other will be getting her Master’s—and their university has gone to on-line classes but one daughter still needs access to the campus library for her thesis and the other is working full-time in addition to going to school—so needless to say we’ve had some stressful phone calls and FaceTimes in the last few days. Life during wartime, indeed.

  10. I’m currently reading WHITEOUT by Adriana Anders. The Antarctica setting is really interesting.

    After this, I’ll probably read some lighter books, like MAYBE THIS TIME by Kasie West; ALEX, APPROXIMATELY by Jenn Bennett; and CHRISTMAS WISHES AND MISTLETOE KISSES by Jenny Hale.

    I’m also seeing a rom-com binge in my future. I need a break from all the bad news. Take care, everyone!

  11. Rachel says:

    I just finished A Study in Scarlet by Sherry Thomas, and I love the different take on Sherlock Holmes! Can’t wait to read the rest in the series.

    Also, I enjoyed Nalini Singh’s new mystery, A Madness of Sunshine. I’ve only ever read her paranormal books, and it’s definitely time to add mystery/thriller romances to my TBR pile! Recommendations?

  12. DonnaMarie says:

    I’m currently about half way through the latest Veronica Speedwell mystery, A Murderous Relation. As Veronica’s relatives are either royal or revolutionary, you can probably guess which side produced the titular character. The slow burn continues, so if you were thinking Veronica and Stoker would be acting on newly acknowledged attraction, think again. Veronica’s thoughts are constantly drifting to admiration of Stoker’s physique, so there’s that new element to the story telling, but no actual acting on it so far, also Stoker seems a little uncomfortable with some of Veronica’s more forthright behavior/comments. Will the course of true love be derailed by differing expectations?
    And, oh yeah, who’s trying to take down the future king of England?

    Earlier this week The King’s Justice by Susan Elia MacNeal had me punching in late a couple times this week. The latest installment has Maggie Hope confronting her first nemesis, the serial killer Nicholas Reitter, as a new murderer starts targeting conscientious objector population. Maggie has left the SOE in the face of her treatment in the last book. The wear and tear of war, espionage, loss and betrayal have taken their toll. She’s smoking and drinking too much and has taken on the much less stressful job of disarming unexploded bombs left from the blitz. She tries to keep herself removed from both Reitter’s execution and the investigation into the new monster in their midst – not any easy task when your current love interest is the detective in charge. And she is Maggie Hope after all. By far my favorite historical mystery with romance elements series.

    Other highlights: Hollow Kingdom. It has bee rec’d more than a few times by The Bitchery, and deserves every one of them. S.T. and Dennis are the dynamic duo every zombie apocalypse has been missing. I had a big quibble about the end, but overall an excellent read. Was it weird finishing a story about an apocalypse set in Seattle while they were announcing all those deaths in the nursing home there? Yes. A bit too much verisimilitude.

    Was there any romance? Yes. Having let my KU subscription lapse, I have started once again working my way through the dozens of books I already had downloaded, specifically Ruthie Knox’s Camelot books: two shorts and two novels. She is always a delight.

  13. Carolyn M says:

    @Rachel:

    I like the I team books by Pamela Clare. Investigative reporters in Denver, Colorado, a combination of romance, action and lots of thrills. First book is Extreme Exposure.

    I also recommend the Tracer series by Laura Griffin. These books follow police detectives and forensic scientists. extremely addictive. First book is Untraceable.

    Hope this helps. 🙂

  14. Darlynne says:

    Rosario’s Reading Journal turned me on to Dervla McTiernan’s THE RUIN, a Galway-based detective series. A complicated plot and great characters finally ended my reading slump. THE SCHOLAR is the next book.

    Really enjoyed:

    ALONE IN THE WILD by Kelley Armstrong, fifth in the Rockton series
    THE FLAT SHARE by Beth O’Leary
    SLAY by Brittney Morris

  15. AmyS says:

    I am currently reading several ARCs due in the next few weeks, but I did finish and enjoy a couple of M/M books this month.

    THE PATHFINDERS by Geoffrey Knight is my favorite trope of childhood-friends to lovers, with a twist of them also being first cousins. It was a little slow to start for me, but once I was in to it I didn’t want to put it down. It was my first GK book and I liked the writing.

    ASSIST by LA Witt is a M/M/M hockey book with some good parts, but was a bit too long and there was some annoying repetition that could have been easily edited out.

    SWEPT AWAY by Keira Andrews is a short book about a surfer and a lifeguard. It introduces the two characters for a book coming up.

    On the M/F front, I finished THE ROAD HOME by Jill Shalvis that is a novella with a cute premise of a Veterinarian in a small town where the Hero keeps bringing in animals in order to see her.

    EVVIE DRAKE STARTS OVER by Linda Holmes is an audiobook I listened to and liked for some of it, but was mostly disappointed because it was not enough of a romantic story for me and I am always disappointed if I don’t know going in that the sexy times are fade to black. I need warning for that.

    Our libraries are closed as of today. So yesterday I went to get some books for my mom to have to read; but I have enough ebooks to last me for a long, long, long time.

  16. Kate says:

    I am having a terrible time focusing on any books right now and have started and set aside several in the past two weeks. Instead I’ve been watching Taskmaster, a hilarious British show on YouTube in which comedians are given very silly things to do, and I just downloaded a Harry Potter cross stitch from Etsy–I’m more of a knitter but struggling with tennis elbow and really need something to do with my hands. My hold on the audio of The Lady From the Black Lagoon just arrived yesterday so hoping that will be a winning ticket.

  17. Another Anne says:

    I am currently reading and enjoying Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley. I had bought the prequel novella several months ago and just bought Death Below Stairs when it was recently on sale. I love Jennifer Ashley’s books and her Captain Lacey series which is written as Ashley Gardiner, but I’ve learned to take it slow with new series by existing writers. So far, this is great and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

    I also re-read/listened to Deborah Crombie’s mystery series about Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James. I’m finding mysteries satisfying because at least the main problem is solved at the end and the murderer is caught. I read both The Haunted Season and Devil’s Breath (books 5 and 6) in the Max Tudor series. These were mysteries set in and around the Village of Nether Monkslip and are delightful. Max is a vicar and former MI5 agent. There is a book 7, which I’m saving for another reading slump.

  18. Katie C. says:

    Whatcha Reading is always a bright spot, but especially in this time of stress and uncertainty.

    Alas, I only have one book to talk about since the last WAYR.

    Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside is a dual timeline mystery – the first part of the book takes place at a house party in the English countryside in the 1920’s where the host is found murdered in the garden. The second part take places in 1990’s England – the main character’s adopted aunt passes away and leaves her a house in the country along with money. Soon after the adopted aunt’s death, the MC finds out that the aunt had been accused (and acquitted) of murdering her husband at the garden party and had since changed her name. The MC decides to investigate to determine whether or not the aunt was truly innocent or guilty because she feels her guilt would taint the inheritance she received. At the same time, the MC is also having an affair with a married MP. Unfortunately, my summary makes this book sound much more exciting and intriguing than it really was. I found almost all of the characters unsympathetic, unlikable AND boring which is a terrible combination. And the ending was completely unsatisfying. AND the writing was unnecessary florid and wordy. So basically, I disliked it intensely. CW for abuse, suicide, cheating.

  19. scifigirl1986 says:

    I’ve read so much this month–I guess it helps when you’re trying to ignore the crazy panicking people in your house. Since 3/1, I have read:

    The Good:

    1. A Gentleman’s Position by KJ Charles.
    2. The Turner Series by Cat Sebastian
    3. Red White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
    4. The Princess Problem by Christi Barth (picked up from the sale last week)
    5. Headliners by Lucy Parker
    6. Between Me & You by Kimberly Kincaid
    7. ARC of An Heiress to Remember by Maya Rodale (so good)

    The Meh:

    1. Better Than Me by Kimberly Kincaid
    2. Knowing You by Maureen Child (re-read from about 10 years ago. IDK if it was a thing not to include oral in romances back then, but the sex was all P-in-V.)
    3. Misadventures with a Time Traveler by Angel Payne

    DNF:

    1. Proper English by KJ Charles I just couldn’t get into it. I have a feeling this was more a me problem than the book’s problem. I’ll probably try to read it again in a few months.

  20. Heather C says:

    I’m in a reading slump. Every night, instead of reading a book I’m rereading all my bookmarked fanfiction, over and over.

    The only new story that broke through was
    A Dream of Daisies Lemi Young (a/b/o, m/m) Chamomile is a sweet, helpful omega who has always wanted a baby, but realizes if he waits for the common path to have that happen, it may not happen at all. So, he puts out a signal on his doorstep that he’s looking for, I guess, a baby daddy. Among the responses he gets is an older alpha who’s been in love with him for years but thought their age gap was too much. It was so low angst and sweet.

    @DiscoDollyDeb Tallowwood has been on my TBR, but the page count was higher than I wanted to commit to. But I guess now is the time to try out the longer books.

  21. Big K says:

    I love WAYR and definitely needed it today! Thank you for all your recommendations- and if you are on the fence about whether you should add yours to the list, please do!
    Also have a stressed out high school senior and a couple of other worried kids, which is hard, but am thankful my husband and I can work from home.
    Excellent – I TEMPORARILY DO by Ellie Cahill Modern marriage of convenience, friends to lovers novella.
    Very good – THE MRS. MCKINNONS Jayne Davis Very slow, though def. renovation porn, historical. Two problems – H and h spent very little time together for most of book, and why didn’t we get to hear about other Mrs. McKinnon’s parallel HEA?
    Satisfying rereads – GOING POSTAL Terry Pratchett (a truly perfect book), BROOKLYNAIRE Sarina Bowen, WALL OF WINNEPEG Mariana Zapata (two strangely satisfying, slow, strangers who work together forced proximity/marriage of convenience, though Zapata’s is better)
    Not good – CURIOUS, R.G. Alexander, m/m friends to lovers that I just didn’t believe. SPIRIT CALLER, Krista D. Bell Really poor prequel. I will not bother with this series.
    – IVORY – Lola Dodge I love superheroes, but I thought this prequel was really wooden and poorly written. I will not be reading the series. Very disappointed.
    Hope you are all safe and staying sane with some good books!

  22. EC Spurlock says:

    Like everyone else I’ve been sticking with the comfort reads. THE SECRET DIARIES OF MISS MIRANDA CHEEVER by Julia Quinn was not her best but still very much a comfort read and enjoyable. Apparently I have read that entire trilogy out of order so I will need to read them in the right order at some point.

    Followed this up with MY FAIR DUCHESS by Megan Frampton, which I found reasonably delightful. I kind of had issues with the cheerful blind grandmother who did not seem to have a purpose in the plot beside the occasional utterance of blind-person jokes; I felt that was kind of gauche and could have been dispensed with. Also there was no real sense of time period; it’s supposed to take place in the 1840’s but was written more like a Regency. Particularly in terms of clothing; Frampton does not seem to take into account how much more complicated clothing, particularly women’s clothing, became in that twenty-year span. But I did like the main couple and their slow burn, and the role-reversal of the heroine inviting the hero into an illicit relationship while he insists on maintaining his virtue was a marvelous subversion. All in all I may have found another auto-buy – if I ever get to buy books again. Sigh.

    I have just finished posting a notice on my Etsy shop to assure my customers that everything I sell is as COVID-free as possible, and to just discard exterior packaging and wash your hands afterward. (A lot of it is PDF downloads and so as safe as possible anyway.) My sister, who is currently depending on reading for her sanity (she’s going through a rough patch of panic attacks)was just faced with a library closure, but then they haven’t pressed her to return the books she has, so… I’m pretty much in isolation both at work and at home; I’ve got one kid who works at a grocery store and the other works a Target so they can bring home pretty much anything we need without me going out. I guess now’s the time to binge-watch the online series I’ve been wanting to see.

    Stay safe everyone.

  23. Katie C. says:

    OK, I am back because I was wrong – I thought I only finished one book (Death in the Garden) since the last WAYR, but taking a better look at my records, I finished three!

    The Good:
    Murder Most Howl by Krista Davis – The third in the small-town cozy mystery series Paws & Claws. Even the though the writing and plot tend toward the cliche, I like the books because they are set in a small resort town that caters to people who want to vacation with their animals (I am an animal lover) and I enjoy the setting and all of the food mentioned in the books. The end of the actual mystery came out of nowhere too. But for the warm coziness of the Inn at the center of the story and all that food, I will keep reading.

    The Meh:
    Wolf Trouble by Paige Tyler: The second in the Special Wolf Alpha Team (SWAT) series about werewolf shifters who work for the Dallas PD (very few people outside the team know they are shifters). I enjoyed the first book, but this one fell really flat for me. This series uses the Fated Mates trope, but just like any romance novel, even though I know the couple will end up together in the end, I still need to believe there is a real chance it won’t happen otherwise there just isn’t enough of a story arc/conflict to me. The only highlight of this one was that both the hero and heroine are werewolves. I read the description of the next book in the series which seemed pretty meh to me too, so I think I will drop this series.

  24. K.N.O’Rear says:

    Greetings from retail hell( I work a grocery store, thankfully it’s small and obscure so it’s slightly less crazy than say WalMart, but still..). Thankfully books are always there to keep me sane.

    Read:
    KISS CARLO by Adriana Trigiani
    This was a historical fiction book set in Philadelphia shortly after WWII. Because there are so many subplots and characters it’s hard to write a summary of the book, but basically it’s about the crossroads you reach at all points of life and moving on from grief. The characters are all wonderfully flawed and there was a really good sense of place. However, do not read while hungry, the food descriptions are wonderful, so wonderful in fact that I tried a recipe myself and it was awesome.

    WITH HOPE by Dorothy Garlock
    Garlock is one of my favorite authors because she writes American historicals with unique settings like The Great Depression which I always appreciate. However her characters are also great and her stories while a little soapy at times, are always compelling.

    This story follows a young woman named Molly whose family own a convenience store in Kansas circa 1935. One day her parents are gunned down by gangsters robbing the store and a “Federal man” named Hod is sent to protect her after she’s volunteers to use herself as bait to catch the gangsters. I do have to issue a content warning for off screen child abuse ( the kids get a happy ending don’t worry) . Furthermore , I have to mention something that’s is also a spoiler.

    Okay if you are still with me I will warn that the gangsters eventually prove to be a red herring and the real villain of the story is far closer to home and also obvious. If that sort of thing bothers you maybe give this book a skip. Otherwise it really is a good story and I adore all the characters including some of the important secondary ones. Lastly the romance is very sweet and satisfying even if part of the conflict comes from adults not using their words.

    Reading:
    BREATH of MAGIC by Teresa Medeiros

    This book is both exactly what I need right now a straight up bonkers. Imagine a cheerful, but clumsy witch from 17th century America being suddenly brought into the world of 1996, which was present day at the time the book was published. There she meets a cynical business man who doesn’t believe in Magic and hilarity ensues. That is basically all you need to know about the book to get interested. It is full of old skool nineties cheese and it’s pretty awesome so far. Highly recommended if you just want a fun, brainless read.

  25. K.N.O’Rear says:

    Sorry the title of the Dorothy Garlock is WITH SONG not WITH Hope, that’s another book in the Sam series

  26. Karin says:

    I’ve lost track of what books I’ve previously mentioned, so apologies for any repetition. I read “Hearts on Hold” by Charish Reid and it was adorable. A very feel good story. I’m now reading “Chasing Cassandra”, and although it is not Kleypas’s best ever, it may end up being my favorite of the Ravenel series. She does know how to write a business tycoon who starts off just caring about money and gradually learns how to get in touch with his feelings. There is something about her writing style that makes it go down very easy like ice cream.
    I’m reading an historical mystery, “The Richmond Thief” by Lisa Boero, enjoyable so far.
    I read “Love and Let Spy” by Shana Galen, which was an obvious takeoff on the Bond series(the heroine’s name is Jayne Bond), so I was expecting something lighthearted. Although wallpapery, it turned out to have more depth than I expected, especially the hero’s arc.
    One of Michelle Diener’s sci-fi/space opera books, “Breakaway”, is free on Kindle right now, in case anyone wants to grab it.
    Lastly, as a comfort read I used my Paperbackswap credits to get 5(yes, five!) Betty Neels books. If that doesn’t stave off anxiety, nothing will! The first one I read is full of food and clothes porn; also the hero and heroine are snowed in and having to eke out food supplies, which is my jam.
    I feel very lucky right now to be retired from my job, and safe at home with plenty of supplies.

  27. Maureen says:

    I really do need to get more organized about documenting my reading, so I can be better able to answer the Watcha reading question!

    First, I did a lot of re-reading of books, and for some reason-all hockey romances. Kelly Jamieson’s Chicago Aces Hockey series, Brenda Rothert Chicago Blaze series, Sawyer Bennett’s Arizona Vengeance series. The problem with reading a bunch of novels like this in one month-I totally lost track of what stories belong in what series, so I was like “wait, isn’t Alex in S. Carolina? Or is he in Chicago?”. I got myself totally confused.

    New to me author Pamela Clare-saw where @DiscoDollyDeb mentioned her as being similar to Kari Lynn Dell (whom I love) so I tried her Colorado High Country series. First book is a free one from Amazon-and I was hooked! I’m on the 6th book right now, Holding On-I LOVE this series. Series takes place in a small town in Colorado, centering on Search and Rescue volunteers. Lots of competent people, both men and women-and it has really touched a chord with me right now, people who risk their lives, for no pay-to save people they don’t know. Also lots of rock climbing info, which I haven’t really read much about. A big thumbs up on this series.

    Started reading Soulless by Gail Garriger for my book club, liking it very much so far!

    Rosalind James-I love her so much that I started purchasing her books, even though most of them are on Kindle Unlimited. I actually was nervous to read her second book-Stone Cold Kiwi- in the New Zealand Ever After series, because the first one struck such a chord with me. I bought it, and it sat there on my Kindle for almost a month, I think I was afraid I would be disappointed. WHY I thought that I have no idea, I’ve loved all her books. This new series just seems so deep and beautiful, it is hard to describe. I love her rugby books, I’ve read them all numerous times-but these new ones? Wow! She has such wonderful characters, and you feel like you are RIGHT THERE with the events that are happening. I don’t want to spoil anyone, but the first few chapters are like a roller coaster ride. I am wondering how much of my love is because I know these characters, I’ve read every book of hers and there is definite crossover-but I do think it would stand on its own. I feel she is an author who is only getting better the more she writes. Truly beautiful phrasing that sticks with you. Cannot recommend her books enough!

  28. Scene Stealer says:

    I have been loving Kate Canterbary’s Walsh Family series on KU. A sexy, serious series with imperfect heroes and heroines. She’s a new writer to me and I’m glad I found her.

  29. Joy says:

    If you’ve spent too much on bottled water(why!?! my faucets are still working) and want to pick up on Aayra’s suggestion of reading Shelly Laurenston’s honey badger series, the first of the series Hot and Badgered is for sale on Amazon for $1.51. I mean a book that starts with a beautiful naked woman falling on the face of a hot grizzly shifter will certainly get your mind off things.

  30. AlliK says:

    I’m about 1/3 of the way through Sarah Maas’s “House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City Book 1)” and so far it’s great. A half-fae, half-human woman who works in an antiquities shop is forced to work with a fallen angel to find out who killed her best friend (and others). (The author and book were featured in SBTB podcast 395 on March 6.) The book is exciting but without anything remotely smacking of the real world. Just what I want right now.

  31. BellaInAus says:

    I’m using my ultra cheap Kindle unlimited deal while it lasts so I’ve been reading a bunch of REALLY trashy books, but something I’ve just finished that Elyse probably wants to know about. Either to read or to avoid.

    Susan Stoker has written three books set on the sets of reality television – the Beyond Reality series. Starts with Outback Hearts, which happens in Australia. All three are gloriously unkind about the usual contestants and the producer.

  32. Kareni says:

    I wish everyone well in these crazy days.

    Since last time ~

    — Stars Beyond (Stars Uncharted Book 2) by SK Dunstall. I enjoyed this; however, the Linesman series is still my favorite Dunstall work.
    — the historical romance A Wicked Kind of Husband (Longhope Abbey) by Mia Vincy; this had some amusing dialogue that had me laughing aloud. I’ll definitely be happy to read more by this author.
    — enjoyed reading/browsing Drawing and Painting Beautiful Faces: A Mixed-Media Portrait Workshop by Jane Davenport though I did not do any of the projects. I did take away some ideas.
    — a new book Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis. This was an interesting and relatively quick read; it had many dysfunctional characters and an abundance of merlot … much merlot … megaliters of merlot.
    — Hello Forever by Sarina Bowen which is a contemporary male/male romance; I enjoyed it.
    — enjoyed the historical romance novella Transformation by Kim Fielding though it was far less gripping a story than some of her longer books.
    — slowly read Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence Book 1) by Max Gladstone over two weeks. The world in the book is complex with magic, gods, gargoyles, and law firms. It’s definitely not this world which made the presence of vodka, cigarettes, and business cards rather anachronistic. I may continue on with the series at some point.
    — enjoyed Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore which is a historical romance set in Victorian era England. I’ll happily read more in the series.

    — Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn. It’s a contemporary romance which I quite enjoyed. I think those with an interest in calligraphy, design, fonts, or New York City might find this a fun read. I’m likely to reread this.
    — the contemporary romance Team Player by Julianna Keyes; I quite enjoyed it and will likely reread it. I also look forward to reading the follow on book about two different characters that were introduced in this book.
    — Evergreen: An M/M Sci-Fi Novella by Cari Z. which I enjoyed.
    — Murder in Deep Regret: Doyle & Acton #11 by Anne Cleeland is the newest book available in one of my favorite series; I bought it and finished it in one day. I enjoyed it but not as much as some of the earlier books in the series.
    — False Value (Rivers of London) by Ben Aaronovitch. I enjoyed it, but I’d forgotten details of the prior books. It would probably help to start with book one and do a reread of the entire series.

    — Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson is a collection of three linked novellas; it was an unusual read that I enjoyed.
    — 12:23 by Patrick F. Johnson was a pleasant read that had a Twilight Zone vibe.
    — How to Draw without Talent by Danny Gregory was an enjoyable and approachable book.
    — Mindtouch (The Dreamhealers Book 1) by M.C.A. Hogarth which I quite enjoyed. As a bonus, this book happens to be currently free for Kindle readers. I would definitely like to read on in the series. This book would be fine for teen readers as well.
    — Plus a boatload of samples.

  33. Janice says:

    I’m finishing up Penny Reid’s Winston Brothers series, so I’m on “Beard Necessities” and it’s pretty good but the angst-level is a little tough to manage. I’m nearly finished reading Amanda Weaver’s late Victorian “A Duchess in Name” which has been sitting on my Kindle for a while – it’s a little more gentle in the angst-levels. I’m also working through “A Dangerous Collaboration” by Deanna Raybourn to be ready to pick up the newest Veronica Speedwell.

    In the last two weeks, I finished “The Richmond Thief” by Lisa Boer which charmed me more as a mystery than as a romance, but I will still happily read the next. And I also loved Jennifer Estep’s “Spider’s Bite”. Christi Barth’s “The Princess Problem” was pretty fun but for me it had a few pacing problems. I also re-read “Kulti” by Mariana Zapata because I really love her kick-ass heroines and slow-burn storylines.

  34. Pre-Successful Indie says:

    Finally finally finally finished The Priory of the Orange Tree, worth every one of the billion hours it took me. For a bit I was worried that it was going in the “tragic end for all of the queer characters” direction, but no! whew!

    And then I started to stress-read too much news/Twitter and not enough books. I was just put on paid leave at the day job for 2 weeks thanks to *gestures around*, so it’s time to get cracking.

  35. StarlightArcher says:

    I’ve been re-reading the first book in the YA duology “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo. It’s a nice time going along with the teenage Dregs gang and their nefarious ways of thievery, murder, and general teenage moral bankruptcy. Considering how helpless I feel these days, slipping in among the Dregs…it makes me feel a little less helpless, which is just what I need.

    The other book is an audio book I’ve been listening to on Libby. I’m telling you guys, if you haven’t checked it out Libby is great for staying home but still using your library card. I’ve been listening to “An American Spy” by Lauren Wilkinson. It’s interesting so far, and I’m about 3/4th of the way through. I find myself slowing down my listening though. Because of the way the story is told, I just know something sad is coming and I don’t know if I have the emotional bandwidth for that right now.

    Not sure what’ll be on the docket next, but something. Hopefully something happy.

  36. MaryK says:

    @Karin – What is the title of the snowed in Betty Neels book? I’ve always meant to read her and that sounds like a good one to start with.

  37. Emily B says:

    Just started Jill Shalvis’ LUCKY IN LOVE, in the Lucky Harbor series. With all the craziness going on right now in the world, Shalvis is like comfort food. I was wondering how Shalvis would set up the next trio of books in this series, since the first trio about three sisters was neatly wrapped up and there wasn’t a ton of focus on other characters, but Shalvis immediately sets up another trio of female friends for the next three books.

    I also read some YA, which is another comfort food I turn to in rough times. HOW TO SPEAK BOY by Tiana Smith was a cute You’ve Got Mail type setup between two enemies on the school debate team. It wasn’t my favorite, but it was an enjoyable afternoon. It’s also set in Idaho, which I feel like isn’t very common and good to keep in mind if you’re playing some sort of Romance scavenger hunt.

    STARRY EYES from Jenn Bennett was fantastic – Bennett has become one of my favorite authors. This one is about two teens who used to be best friends growing up and had a brief almost relationship before some traumatic things happened in their lives and now their families are feuding. They find their way back to each other on a camping trip after being abandoned by their friends. Catnip for everyone! Second chance romance, enemies to lovers, forced proximity. Bennett writes lovely, sweet believable teen romance, always very sex positive in an age appropriate way, and her secondary characters are always wonderful. She has a new one coming out soon and I can’t wait.

    Finally read WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon and can’t believe I waited so long. What a charming, wonderful way to spend an afternoon. Menon’s heroine’s are the type of female characters I want young girls everywhere to read, and her heroes are always sensitive, thoughtful, and completely devoid of toxic masculinity. Comfort food indeed.

    BLACK HILLS was a Nora Roberts suspense that I mostly enjoyed. I loved the South Dakota setting and the wild cat/animal sanctuary the heroine runs, and the heroine was your usual Roberts suspense badass, but there was some Native American mythology, especially around the villain and his motivation, that I found a bit icky.

    LOVE LETTERING by Kate Clayborn. I found the romance in this one a bit weak, but I still loved the book for the way Clayborn wrote about design, calligraphy, typefaces, and New York. The heroine’s journey to figure out how to have healthy confrontation vs avoiding it at all costs deeply resonated with me.

    UNSPOKEN and UNDONE, by Kelly Rimmer, the follow ups to UNEXPECTED, which make up her Start Up in the City series about 3 friends who founded a tech startup. I really enjoyed Unexpected last year. UNSPOKEN is a marriage in trouble plot where the characters are all but divorced, but end up back at their vacation home together (accidentally of course) for one last weekend. Forced proximity (and a lot of healthy communication) brings them back together of course. The hero recently was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and I find the idea of people discovering this diagnosis as adults really interesting – think Ray Romano’s character on Parenthood. UNDONE is a second chance romance about the badass female CEO of the startup. I liked the idea of a heroine who knows she doesn’t ever want children, but I wish she didn’t need to have a traumatic pregnancy backstory. The hero in this one also felt almost too perfect, and I couldn’t quite see how they paired up. It felt a bit like too much telling, not enough showing. This one should also come with a big trigger warning for any pregnant readers or anyone with pregnancy related trauma.

  38. Karin says:

    @MaryK, the Betty Neels book where they get snowed in is “An Old-Fashioned Girl”. Neels wrote over 130 books, so I HIGHLY recommend checking out The Uncrushable Jersey Dress website for synopses and reviews of all of them before buying. The reviews are in some cases better than the books! You have to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate these totally anachronistic and unbelievable stories, but this might be the right moment. She specializes in doctor heroes and very often nurse heroines, so there are lots of medical emergencies that are handled calmly and competently by both of them. http://everyneelsthing.blogspot.com/

  39. Jeannette says:

    About Betty Neels – there was a short story by Mercedes Lackey set in the 1632 universe ( where a West Virginia town suddenly moved to 1632 Germany ) where the romance readers found they could sell Betty Neels books to be republished in 1632 Holland because their subject matter and descriptions of the houses/ food went over well. The story was about more than that, but the idea of Betty Neels being popular 300 years before they were written always intrigued me.

    As for my monthly reading – I’m headed into quarantine while working full time, so I’ll either be reading a lot or nothing. Hoping for some good books to come out in the next few weeks.

    Great

    Kingfisher, T. – GRACES’S PALADIN (M\F Fantasy) As the others have said – a lovely read with grown up characters and done laugh out loud funny moments.

    Very Good
    Phoenix, Nora – IGNITE SERIES (M/M/M YA post-apocalyptic). I generally don’t like post-apocalyptic things, but this series was truly character driven with both adventures and growth.

    Good
    Alexander, R.G. – CURIOUS (M/M contemporary. Mentioned in the friends to lovers list. It was ok, but not great.

    Anderson, S.E. – STARSTRUCK (YA sci-fi). girl who discovers there are aliens among us. Unevenly good- there were pacing issues.

    Breene, K.F. – Magical Midlife Crisis. (F/M Fantasy). Beginning of a series, but not so sure I want to read the next book when it. Ones out.

    Derr, Megan – MIDSUMMER MOON SERIES (M/M paranormal short stories). Popcorn. Not deep but nice to read,

    Wells, K.C. – OUT OF THE SHADOWS and BROMANTICALLY YOURS (M/M contemporaries) . Relatable characters and a kitchen renovation- who could ask for more!

    Re-Reads are comfort reads in this uncertain time.
    Fielding, Kim – Brute. (M/M fantasy) a love story and epic tale with a touch of magic. It gets better with each re- reading.

    Foner, Eric – Date Night on Union Station (light sci- fi) the trials and tribulations of living and dating on a space station.

    Laurens, Stephanie – The Edge of Desire (M/F historical). I was worried this would not stand the test of time. Apart from some occasional winces, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the characters and the story.

  40. Crystal says:

    :::slides in to the sounds of Two Black Cadillacs, because my reading has been murdery and why shouldn’t my tunes be too?:::

    This is so weird, you guys. SO WEIRD.

    I’m a Gen X introvert, so this really isn’t terrible for me and mine, but watching everything close down and the rapid spread of pandemic is chilling. Plus, we had plans to take a trip to Atlanta to take my son to his first NASCAR race, and we were going to take the kids to the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola, and yeah, that got fully torched. Ah, well. Kind of like everyone, there’s been a lot of reading in this time. And buckle up, because it’s been a lot of murder. We left off on Golden In Death, which was one of the better Robbs in a bit. I followed that up with The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. I can’t really add to what the site review said. Got your female rage right here. So cathartic, my dudes. I then followed up with another St. James, The Broken Girls, which was more female rage, a very well-done mystery. It had a similar conceit, where you’re dealing with two different time periods, and someone in the present trying to solve the disappearance of someone in the earlier period. Also, the female rage I mentioned? It’s quality. Then I tried to read something non-murdery and my brain refused it, so I went instead with Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, which was very fun, in an absurdist apocalypse kind of way. After that, I eased my brain back into non-murder by retrying the book my brain previously rejected, which was The Sea King by C.L. Wilson. It has this gorgeous colorful cover, and it is a lovely and colorful book. I like the theme of the heroine accepting and learning to control her power, the hero and how much he loves her and how that love makes them both infinitely stronger. Plus, nice fantasy world-building. That said, uh, guys? Major content warning. The heroine is subjected to a pretty protracted and descriptive mental and sexual assault. It made me have to put the book down and go do something happy, and I’m not someone likely experience heavy triggers, so please, take care of yourselves. I’m almost done with it, and have absolutely no idea what I’m reading next, because things are weird and I don’t know where my brain will go next in response. Until next time, folks, sing while washing your hands, and find a good lotion in case they feel dried out (I go with Hempz). Stay safe.

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