My reading speed has slowed considerably over the last couple of years but 2015 has been an awesome year in terms of reading more (yay) great books. While I didn’t hit my Goodreads challenge, a lot of my reads were C+ and upwards in grading (more yay). After seven years of blogging and reviewing, I’ve finally reached the stage where I don’t want to spend time on books that don’t work for me.
Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
A wonderful historical fantasy read bursting with magic and sorcery, with two protagonists I loved. This is one of two of my most memorable reads of 2015.
From my review: “I thought Zen Cho created a wonderful and magical charming world while digging into the racist and sexist ugliness of English society against Zacharias and Prunella, who the latter was so confident and fearless in achieving what she wanted.”
Magic and mayhem collide with the British elite in this whimsical and sparkling debut.
At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, freed slave, eminently proficient magician, and Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers—one of the most respected organizations throughout all of Britain—ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up.
But when his adventure brings him in contact with a most unusual comrade, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, he sets on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large…
Uprooted by Naimoi Novak.
The second of my most memorable reads. A magical story also featuring magic and sorcery, with a malevolent forest that oozes fantastical evil creatures. A fantasy read with romantic elements that ends on a HEA.
From my joint review: “Agnieszka is a wonderful heroine who goes on her own personal journey from scared young woman to a powerful and confident witch. While I think the dark and twisted Woods plot is sometimes overused, I loved Novik’s take. The dark and evil presence of the Woods lended itself to a very dark and tragic read at times.”
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
This Gun for Hire by Jo Goodman.
This book was such a wonderful surprise. A kick-ass heroine and a swoon-worthy hero.
From my review: “This Gun for Hire is a wonderful romance with one of my favourite heroines of this year. It made me want to read all of Goodman’s backlist titles. If you love a kickass bounty hunter heroine with a quiet but self-confident and humorous hero, then go read this book.”
He’s got a job to do…
Former army cavalryman Quill McKenna takes pride in protecting the most powerful man in Stonechurch, Colorado: Mr. Ramsey Stonechurch himself. But the mine owner has enemies, and after several threats on his life, mines, and family, Quill decides to hire someone to help guard the boss’s daughter. Only problem is the uncontrollable attraction he feels toward the fiery-haired woman who takes the job.
…but she’s a piece of work.
Calico Nash has more knowledge of scouting and shooting than cross-stitching, but she agrees to pose as Ann’s private tutor while protecting her. But between her growing attraction to Quill and the escalating threats against the Stonechurches, Calico will soon have a choice to make—hang on to her hard-won independence or put her faith in Quill to create the kind of happy ending she never imagined…
Radiance by Grace Draven
Draven is one of my favourite fantasy romance authors. Her talent for worldbuilding is immense. Radiance is the first of a new series of the Wraith Kings, with a wonderful and slow-burn romance featuring a hero and heroine in a marriage of convience trope set in a fantasy world that left me wanting more.
From my review: “The romance was utterly romantic. Low on angst and tension and yet it worked so beautifully. It was very tender and I really can reread Grace’s books over and over again and never tire of her characters. I loved that it was the external plot and worldbuilding that helped bridge Brishen and Ildiko together.”
THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE
Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.
THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light.
Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.
Rock Hard by Nalini Singh
T-Rex is one of my multiple book boyfriends of 2015! He was so fucking awesome and rawr. Probably one my favourite contemporary romance of Nalini Singhs.
From my review: “I adored this book. I adored the romance. I adored T-Rex in his bossy alpha way. I adored Charlotte who roared up at the big lion and managed to tame him. This is one of my favourite ever boss/secretary romances and it’s going to become a reread of mine for many years to come.”
Wealthy businessman Gabriel Bishop rules the boardroom with the same determination and ruthlessness that made him a rock star on the rugby field. He knows what he wants, and he’ll go after it no-holds-barred.
And what he wants is Charlotte Baird.
Charlotte knows she’s a mouse. Emotionally scarred and painfully shy, she just wants to do her job and remain as invisible as possible. But the new CEO—a brilliant, broad-shouldered T-Rex of a man who growls and storms through the office, leaving carnage in his wake—clearly has other plans. Plans that may be equal parts business and bedroom.
If Charlotte intends to survive this battle of wits and hearts, the mouse will have to learn to wrangle the T-Rex. Game on.
The Taming of the Billionaire by Jessica Cat. (I had a brain fart typo and Jessica Clare has now become Jessica Cat ?)
Cats! Lots of them. With a cat lover heroine and a hero who turns from douche into hero material. Loved this one.
From my review: “Edie’s love and care for her animals was a big part of her life. Her cats were the ones nobody wanted–elderly cats with illnesses who needed lots of medicine and puffs of their asthma pumps. I’m a sucker for a hero or heroine who has a big place in their heart for animals.”
Edie’s an overbearing cat behaviorist who’s not big on people. Magnus is a newly-rich game developer who likes to be in control. When the two of them meet at Gretchen and Hunter’s masquerade engagement party, the loathing is mutual. Unfortunately for them—and everyone else—they’re in the wedding party together and must deal with each other for the next few months.
But when Magnus’s younger brother falls for Edie’s sister, he begs for his brother’s help in concocting a plan to win her over. If Magnus can keep the prickly Edie occupied, his brother will have time to woo Edie’s sister. Of course, Magnus isn’t interested in the slightest, but Edie is…intriguing. And stubborn. And smart. And sexy. And they might have more in common than they thought.
Before long, it becomes a challenge between the two of them to see who will be tamed first. But how’s Edie going to react when she finds out that Magnus is using her? And how’s Magnus going to handle the fact that he’s fallen for a cat lady?
Misfits by Garrett Leigh
One of my favourite menages reads of all time!
From my review: “When I read the blurb for Misfits I knew straight away I wanted to read this badly. I loved this book. Not only does it have a believable HEA where I totally believed that all the heroes were 100% committed in their relationship but never once did I believe anyone got shafted in the romance department. The HEA left me a very happy reader because of the equal footing. I’ll have to label Misfits one of the best menages out there.
Restaurant owner Tom Fearnes has loved his partner Cass for as long as he can remember, but their work often keeps them apart. When he meets a striking young man named Jake on the vibrant streets of Camden Town, their heady first encounter takes an unexpected turn.
Jake Thompson can hardly believe his luck when he wakes up in Tom’s bed. Tom is gorgeous, kind, and . . . taken. Tom’s explanation of his open relationship leaves Jake cold, but Tom is too tempting, and when hard times force Jake to accept Tom’s helping hand, he finds himself between two men who’ve lost their way.
Cass Pearson is a troubled soul. He loves Tom with all he has, but some days it feels like he hasn’t much to give. Jake seems like the perfect solution. Cass risks everything to push Jake and Tom together, but Jake resists, wary, until the darkness of Cass’s past comes to call. Then Jake finds himself the last man standing, and it’s time to dig deep and shine a light for the men he’s grown to love.
Glimmer by Beth Kery
One of my favourite erotic romances of 2015. The passion these two shared was delicious and it reminded me of early Linda Howard romances!
From my review: “Glimmer is an erotic romance with a gothic feel which took me by complete and wonderful surprise. Glimmer sort of reminded me of early Linda Howard. Dylan is rawr. Alice is rawr. Both combined = RAWR. Sometimes I can get bored with umpteen sex scenes but Beth Kery managed a story where the sex scenes build up the gothic atmosphere. Not to mention the plot worked perfectly in time with Dylan and Alice’s romance.”
After graduating from her M.B.A. program, Alice Reed is surprised when she’s recruited for the management training experience at legendary Camp Durand, owned by Durand Inc.’s young, billionaire CEO, Dylan Fall. The company usually recruits from Ivy League schools, not insignificant colleges like Alice’s.
Alice enthusiastically accepts, but she still wonders why Dylan would choose a girl from the wrong side of the tracks for the prestigious program. But after a passionate encounter one night, she discovers exactly why—Dylan wants her, and Alice can hardly resist his fierce sexual appetites, though she is amazed that she could appeal to an experienced, sophisticated man like Dylan.
As Dylan introduces her to thrilling, erotic territory, Alice discovers a delicious new part of herself. Night after night, she steals away to find ecstasy and escape in Dylan’s arms. But behind her lover’s powerfully magnetic facade, Alice senses darkness, secrets from Dylan’s past lurking in his beautiful, lonely mansion—secrets that are starting to haunt Alice. And the ghosts of the truth might tear Dylan and Alice apart forever . . .
Asking For It and Begging For It by Lilah Pace
An intense and deeply psychological romance that had me enthralled but from a distance.
From my review: “Asking For It goes much deeper into the psychological, especially with Vivienne being disturbed about her own fantasies of rape. No matter how much she tried to deny, her sexual fulfilments always turned back towards forced seduction. In the beginning of the book when Viv had her first encounter with Jonah during a potential dangerous situation, she had a scene with her therapist afterwards discussing and arguing over why she kept having those fantasies. And Jonah. Holy moly, Jonah. He was such a striking and forceful character with the sexy (but scary) rawr vibe going on. Viv and Jonah made me so uncomfortable at times with how deep their role-play went. Asking For It was an engaging, dark and emotional read that left me glued to the pages until very early in the morning.”
“This is who I am. This is what I want. Now I need a man dangerous enough to give it to me.”
Graduate student Vivienne Charles is afraid of her own desires—ashamed to admit that she fantasizes about being taken by force, by a man who will claim her completely and without mercy. When the magnetic, mysterious Jonah Marks learns her secret, he makes an offer that stuns her: they will remain near-strangers to each other, and meet in secret so that he can fulfill her fantasy.
Their arrangement is twisted. The sex is incredible. And—despite their attempts to stay apart—soon their emotions are bound together as tightly as the rope around Vivienne’s wrists. But the secrets in their pasts threaten to turn their affair even darker…
Reader Advisory: Asking for It deals explicitly with fantasies of non-consensual sex. Readers sensitive to portrayals of non-consensual sex should be advised.
Other fantastic reads (I would have formatted them but I must admit defeat):
Silver Bastard by Joanna Wylde
Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon
The Friend Zone and The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan
Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop
Dark Horse by Michelle Diener
Luminous by A.E. Ash
Sustained by Emma Chase
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Shadow’s End by Thea Harrison
Dragos Goes to Washington, Pia Does Hollywood, and Liam Takes Manhattan.
Everything I Left Unsaid by Molly O’Keefe
Shards of Hope by Nalini Singh