For last year’s “award winners” TBR Challenge, I read three RITA-nominated inspies, and found a new auto-buy author (Stacy Henrie). I tried the one historical inspie on this year’s RITA list, but DNF’d it because it was sugary wallpaper — and OF COURSE it won.
Here’s this year’s rundown….
Historical Romance: Long
Bella and Beast by Olivia Drake
Not available at my library in any format, not available on Scribd, and I couldn’t justify paying $7.99 for a new-to-me author — ESPECIALLY when the mmpb is priced lower than the ebook. Get your shit together, St. Martin’s Press. I want to read your books, make it easy for me.
Earls Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen
Library. Fluffy fluff and blatantly unbelievable hist-rom wallpaper with no outstanding qualities. But damn if I didn’t read the whole damn thing in one sitting.
To quote myself:
“I…grudgingly admit that I was maybe slightly charmed in a grumpy sort of way.”
If the Viscount Falls by Sabrina Jeffries
I adore Sabrina Jeffries. I own and frequently re-read her entire backlist, and there’s not a dud in there. The Duke’s Men series is a great mix of drama, suspense, angst, snark, and swooniness. Viscount wasn’t my favorite in the series (Lady Zoe in How the Scoundrel Seduces for the win), but it’s a great second-chance romance.
NOTE: If Jeffries’ The Study of Seduction isn’t a finalist next year, I will be VERY PUT OUT. One of my top reads this year.
Tiffany Girl by Deeanne Gist (winner)
I had a major case of Book Anxiety over this one. The ARC sat on my Kindle for months and months and months. I finally got the audiobook earlier this year and kicked myself for waiting so long. It was beautiful.
“Gist can take a tiny thread from a historical newspaper article or, in this case, a Chicago World’s Fair brochure, and spin it into glorious layers of character and relationship building. And then she surrounds it with an almost touchable sense of place.”
Tremaine’s True Love by Grace Burrowes
I downloaded it from the library. Twice. Still haven’t read it. The blurb just wasn’t compelling enough to compel me to un-break-up with Burrowes.
Historical Romance: Short
Falling into Bed with a Duke by Lorraine Heath
Library again. I tried. I really did. But…no. Just…NO. The heroine’s name was MINERVA DODGER and I still couldn’t do it. I think I made it to about 60% before I gave up.
The summary from this review capsulizes my dismay:
“The manwhore hero, Ashebury, develops a leg and foot fetish after his parents die in a train crash, an event for which he wasn’t present. His PTSD is then miraculously cured after he sees the legs of the heroine, Minerva, once.”
NO LIE. What. The. Ever. Loving. Hell.
It Started with a Scandal by Julie Anne Long (winner)
I read it when it first came out. And when I saw it on the RITA finalists list, I couldn’t remember anything about it. And I didn’t feel like reading it again because I’d rather re-read To Catch a Thief and Like No Other Lover for the umpteenth time.
Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare
I have this gif for permanent exclusive use with Tessa Dare reviews:
I read Marquess when it first came out and was charmed, and then I got the audiobook and was charmed all over again.
I did not buy into the wedding-planner plot device AT ALL, but WHO THE HELL CARES because Dare makes me love all her characters unreservedly. Every time.
Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress by Theresa Romain
I am now a Theresa Romain auto-buy fangirl. I have one more ARC I’m hoarding and then I will have read all her books and then I will start all over and wallow in them again.
Yes, the titles are of the wallpaper variety. But these are not Romance-O-Matic stories. Heiress was set in Bath and had intriguing main characters with Deep Dark Secrets and I WANT THIS ON AUDIOBOOK PLEASE AND THANK YOU.
The Secrets of Sir Richard Kenworthy by Julia Quinn
I suppose a Quinn nomination is obligatory for the RITAs. But this one was just dreary. I wanted to punch Sir Richard in the face and tell him to just STFU already. My second-least favorite Quinn. Bleah.
Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt
When I saw this on the RITA list, I realized how far behind I was on the Maiden Lane series and I didn’t even own this one. So I bought it. And then I had to binge-read all the previous Maiden Lane books and now I’m all caught up and it was kind of exhausting.
I liked Scoundrel because it gave us a break from the often-eyerolling Ghost of St. Giles schitck, the theatre setting and villain(s) were vividly memorable, and the chemistry between Eve and Asa was…feral.
I haven’t decided where I’d rank it in the series or among Hoyt’s full backlist, but it’s definitely RITA-worthy.
A Noble Masquerade by Kristi Ann Hunter (winner)
Yawn. Did not hold my interest in any way — ditched it around 20%. Grade: DNF
Contemporary Romance: Long
Brokedown Cowboy by Maisey Yates (winner)
This was the only Yates I’ve liked. Her style or voice or something just rubs me the wrong way and I have no idea what it is or why. I enjoyed this one, but I’ll probably never re-read it. Grade: B-
Redemption Bay by RaeAnne Thayne
I DNF’d the ARC of this. I think I requested it because Grumpy Brooding Hero, but the squishy holiday goo was just the typical Small-Town Schlock from the HQN imprint. They’re all exactly the same. Grade: DNF
Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length
Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
It’s really good, in the straight-girls-writing-new-adult-m/m-for-other-straight-girls kind of way. It wasn’t Riptide Good, but I’m a little biased. Grade: B
Contemporary Romance: Short
One Night with Her Bachelor and Three Nights Before Christmas by Kat Latham
I love love love Kat Latham and I will read anything she writes. Bachelor was a typical rom-com, but Christmas deserved the category win for Latham’s fantastic ex-con heroine. Grades: B, A
For Real by Alexis Hall (winner)
Yeah. All that hype and squee? All of it 100% earned. Read this. If you don’t think it’s utterly effing brilliant, we can’t be friends. Grade: Can’t because of conflict of interest so you’ll just have to trust me.
Toward the Sunrise by Elizabeth Camden
This prequel is soooo much better than the novel it’s prequeling. There are goats. Lots of goats. I haven’t re-read it since the scathing SBTB review pointing out some egregious romanticizing of colonialism, but from what I remember the surface was enjoyable. Grade: TBD
Nada. But Must Love Chainmail is purchased and queued up at the top of the list.
Nada. But I bought the category winner Flash Fire because I love Dana Marton.
Young Adult Romance
Nada. But I moved The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett out of whatever “Someday/ARC Guilt” folder it was lingering in and moved to the PROBABLY SHOULD READ THIS SOONISH list.