This one gets its own post because DUDE.
- Title: The Duke’s Match Girl
- Author: Lila DiPasqua
- Genre(s): Historical, Holiday
- Publisher: Self-Published, December 2013
- Source: Purchased (99¢)
- Length: 99 pages
- Trope(s): Smartass Heroine, Arrogant Aristocrat, Forgiveness & Redemption, Angry Sex, Makeup Sex,
- Quick blurb: Recently widowed duke goes on campaign to woo back his first and only love
- Grade: A (maybe an A+, need to read it again, might be lacking a big slobbery dog)
Your man has informed me of your offer. He was quite uncomfortable about relaying my response. It is for his ease that I put it to you here in writing. As to your offer — and say this with the utmost sincerity — you may take it, and insert it into your exalted posterior.
Drop whatever you are reading and READ THIS INSTEAD. No, really. Yes, the description says it’s a retelling of the Danish fairy tale, but trust me. I would never recommend a romance where the titular character freezes to death in a doorway.
Instead, it’s hilarious (the excerpt above is a mere hint) and madly sexy (as in angry makeup sex in a carriage) and breathtakingly romantic (I almost used “speechlessly” as the adjective but it sounded weird, which is kind of ironic when you think about it) with just the right amount of holiday seasoning.
Let’s just put it this way: The hero is a SMARMY ALPHA-HOLE AND I LIKED HIM ANYWAY. Christmas miracles, indeed.
I am now wishlisting books by narrator. I am officially addicted.
That would be “highly recommended” as in “read this NOW, dammit, your life is meaningless without this book.”
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Narrated by Allan Corduner
I avoided this for years because it’s told from Death’s point of view. I was a dumbass. It’s stunning. From start to finish. I can’t even begin to count how many times I nearly drove off the road trying to bookmark a “holy SHIT, that was good” passage.
It’s one of those books that uses language in an entirely unique way. I kept thinking the title should be “The Word Thief” instead, because Zusak somehow manages to turn seemingly simple words and phrases into characters in their own right. Just read the prologue in the sample, you’ll see what I mean.
Yes, I’m still here. More or less.
I’ve been struggling with the anxiety and depression stuff the past few weeks, for which I prescribed myself a LOT of comfort reads, but I did manage to knock down a bit of my TBR. I’m too scatterbrained right now to do anything more coherent than ratings and drive-by comments, so here goes….
- Title: Flowers from the Storm
- Author: Laura Kinsale
- Narrator: Nicholas Boulton
- Series: N/A
- Genre(s): Historical
- Publisher: Avon, 1992
- Source: Purchased ($2.99 ebook, $3.49 audiobook)
- Length: 565 pages (19 hours)
- Trope(s): Sheltered Spinster, Dukish Duke, Evil In-Laws, ANGST ANGST AND MORE ANGST (did I mention the ANGST?)
- Quick blurb: Sheltered Quaker woman feels called to help a notorious (but brilliant) duke when she finds him wrongfully imprisoned in her uncle’s asylum.
- Quick review: Go away and leave me alone. I’m still swooning.
- Grade: A- for story, A+ for narration
“It was an Opening,” she whispered.
“It was…you,” he said.
OH. MY. GOD. You people weren’t kidding about this book. Good lord. It’s going to take me months to recover my equilibrium, and god help whatever books I’m reading and listening to next.
The minus on the story grade is for the slight lag in the pacing after the [NO SPOILERS], and I wondered about Maddie being called “Duchess” instead of “Your Grace,” and I couldn’t figure out why her father didn’t play more of a role in her spiritual conundrum, but then I had to replay the last chapter three times because, you know, OH. MY. GOD.
[Gimme a sec, I need to swoon again: *~*SWOON*~* <thud>]
Sorry, where was I? With the wrong narrator, this audiobook would have been a disaster of epic proportions. Nicholas Boulton captured Jervaulx’s anger and anguish — and Maddy’s longing and confusion — so bloody brilliantly I had my headphones on all night for four nights straight. And I stayed up until 3 o’clock this morning and I don’t care if I fall asleep at my desk and drool on my keyboard.
These characters, and all their lovely, glorious angst, will live with me — and I can’t think of much higher praise for an author than that.
- Title(s): The Bronze Bow
- Author: Elizabeth George Speare
- Series: N/A
- Genre(s): Historical, Young Adult
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 1961
- Source: Purchased ($1.99 ebook promo, $1.99 audio)
- Length: 256 pages (7.5 hours)
- Trope(s): Coming of Age, Angry Young Man, Revenge and Redemption
- Quick blurb: Young blacksmith’s dreams of avenging his father’s death are disrupted by the unwanted responsibilities of adulthood — and his encounters with a charismatic traveling preacher.
- Quick review: Now THIS is how to write historical fiction.
- Grade: B+ for story, A for narration
He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
This book won the Newbery Medal in 1962, and I can’t believe I’ve never read it before. The historical world-building is utterly enthralling, and narrator Pete Bradbury made the complex characters vivid and unique — I was there every minute, and there were more than a few times I lingered in the parking lot when I arrived at work to listen just a few minutes longer.
The plot went in directions I never expected, and I loved how the secondary characters grew and changed — even more so than the main character. Just when you think Daniel has finally gotten his head out of his nether regions, he has another hissy fit about something and must begin his spiritual and emotional journey all over again. My frustrations with his self-centered cluelessness lowered the grade a bit, but this book might just have a place on the DIK list.
- Title(s): Ice Blue, Blue Murder, Something Blue
- Author: Emma Jameson
- Series: Lord and Lady Hetheridge Mysteries
- Genre(s): Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
- Publisher: Lyonnesse Books, March 2011
- Source: Purchased ($3.99 for Kindle)
- Length: 170-200 pages
- Trope(s): Age Gap, Smartass Heroine, Repressed Hero, Cops, Misogyny & Racism, Murder & Mayhem
- Quick blurb: Veteran (and titled) Scotland Yard inspector’s world is turned upside down when he brings a foul-mouthed young female onto his team.
- Quick review: Hooked by the brilliant characterization, stayed for the bloody stuff.
- Grade: A- (for the series so far)
The first book in this series popped somewhere in my Amazon recommendations soon after it was published, and I LOVED it without even realizing I’d read the author before. Emma Jameson is a pseudonym of Stephanie Abbott, aka edgy m/m author S.A. Reid (Protection, Something Different). I’m always blown away by writers who can successfully switch genre and voice, and Abbott/Jameson/Reid appears to be phenomenally good at it.
The author labels the Lord and Lady Hetheridge books as “cozy” mysteries, but with the metro London setting and the prickly, smartass professional detective heroine, these books don’t have that Miss Marple/Jessica Fletcher vibe I associate with cozies. There’s just enough blood-and-guts gore and police procedural stuff to sustain the “cynical urban cops” atmosphere, with a few suspenseful gun-in-the-face moments and a charming serial killer to keep everyone from getting too jaded. Book two, Blue Murder, has a particularly good twisty bit at the end.
For me, however, this series is all about the characters.
- Title: Skin in the Game
- Author: Jackie Barbosa
- Series: Play Action, Book 1
- Genre(s): Cntemporary
- Publisher: Entangled (Brazen), May 2013
- Source: Review copy provided by author
- Length: 250 pages
- Trope(s): Lady Football Coach/Math Geek, Injured Superstar, Lust in the Workplace
- Quick blurb: Pro quarterback gets involved with hometown high school coach.
- Quick review: Another one written JUST FOR ME.
- Grade: A-
In fact, she doubted anything could make him less hot, short of a restraining order from an ex-girlfriend.
Heroine is a prickly math geek and football coach. Hero is an angsty athlete who can do the dirty talk. Author knows her football — and her dirty talk.
- Title: Any Duchess Will Do
- Author: Tessa Dare
- Series: Spindle Cove, Book 4
- Genre(s): Historical
- Publisher: Avon, May 2013
- Source: Edelweiss
- Length: 384 pages
- Trope(s): Smartass Heroine, Brooding Duke, Marriage-Obsessed Mama, Bad Knitting
- Quick blurb: Duke’s mother declares she can turn a barmaid into a duchess in one week.
- Quick review: Shut up and quit bugging me, I have to read the whole series again.
- Grade: A-
Her. I’ll take her.
The only other time I’ve used a gif in a review was the previous book in this series. So…yeah.
- Title: Against the Tide
- Author: Elizabeth Camden
- Genre(s): Historical, Inspiration
- Publisher: Bethany House, October 2012
- Source: Publisher
- Length: 362 pages
- Trope(s): Enigmatic Loner Hero, Tough but Nearly Desperate Heroine, Villain With a Fatal Weakness, Kidnapping, Addiction
- Quick blurb: Naval translator gets drawn into a former opium smuggler’s quest for redemption.
- Quick review: Another one for the “Written JUST FOR ME” category.
- Grade: A-
I’m always on the hunt for new and different in romance, and when it comes in the form of an inspirational historical suspense story centering on the opium trade in late 19th-century Boston – with a gorgeous cover as a bonus – I am helpless to resist.
I’ve read Against the Tide three times now, and I’ve been sitting on this review for months because I’m both enthralled and a bit conflicted. The characters are complex and memorable, and the setting and suspense had me in a full-on book trance even on the second and third reads. Only one element in the narrative bothered me enough to add a minus instead of a plus to the letter grade, but it’s one that’s central to the story.
- Title: After Hours
- Author: Cara McKenna
- Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotica
- Publisher: Penguin/Intermix, April 2013
- Source: NetGalley
- Length: 281 pages
- Trope(s): Loners, Annoying Siblings, Tragic Pasts
- Quick blurb: A rookie psychiatric nurse gets involved – very reluctantly – with her enigmatic coworker.
- Quick review: Just add me to all the other “holy shit wow” reviews.
- Grade: A-
“What we have between us is strong and stupid.”
When I beg for “something different,” THIS is what I mean. Difficult, dark characters in a desperate, almost desolate setting, and McKenna makes it all subversively romantic.