Josh Copeland is looking for a new start. After realizing that his long-time girlfriend was not changing her mind about having children anytime soon, he has ended that three-year relationship and moved across the country to work in the same firehouse as his best-friend. He has an empty apartment full of boxes, bills for appliances he no longer owns, and guilt and frustration over the relationship in equal measure. The last thing he should be doing is falling in love with a unavailable woman like Kristen, but the more time he spends with her the more he is convinced she is his “unicorn”.
It is hard to jump into a long-running series, especially one with a dozen interconnected books, but Nalini Singh’s Wolf Rain makes it easy. Although there are a lot of familiar characters for long-time readers to enjoy, the story focuses tightly on Memory and her journey to learn how to live outside of captivity. While Singh continues to develop the current Psy-changeling Trinity arc, primarily through alternate POV chapters peppered throughout the novel, it doesn’t distract from the central romance. Long-time readers however will be pleased by a return to the SnowDancer Wolf Den, and its playful and vibrant pack. Alexei’s grumpy and protective personality is the perfect foil for Memory’s fierce but fragile fury.
While I really enjoyed American Dreamer, I adored American Fairytale. I loved the angst, and the sources of conflict between Tom and Milo. I particularly appreciated how Herrera contrasted the various complicated caretaking relationships in the book. Dinorah’s mental health struggles were compassionately depicted, Herrera is able to skillfully present the worry, guilt and occasional resentment Milo carries, while still presenting Dinorah as sympathetic and frankly fascinating character in her own right. Her history, choices and reactions are her own, and not simply something Milo has to respond or is able to solve for her. Likewise Tom has to learn how not swoop in and try to throw money at problems and instead learn to listen and do the harder work of being present in order to have Milo feel like a partner to a problem to be solved.
Chastised for being unable to cry at his best-friend and cousin’s funeral, Khải comes to believe that he is unnaturally unfeeling, unable to love. Khải is actually autistic, a diagnosis his immigrant Vietnamese family mostly ignores, instead thinking him as simply a little strange. In Vietnam, My/Esme is just a bit strange too, but in her Khải’s mother sees the perfect bride for her son - humble, hard-working and honest.
While The Bride Test is at points quite funny, at its center it is a deeply emotional story about familial bonds and an immigrant's desperate striving to make a better life for herself and her family. Hoang parallels My’s experiences as a new immigrant trying to figure out the rules of a new culture as an outsider to Khải’s autism and his efforts to navigate the feelings and reactions he doesn’t fully understand. Both My and Khải have to work very hard to decode each other’s feelings and intentions, working to overcome their differing cultural expectations and learn each other boundaries.
Five years ago, Pat and Fen almost stole the spotlight from Curtis and DaSilva in Charles’s Think of England. Their mismatched charm, and utter competence save the day and left readers begging for their story. Proper English, a delightfully dark house party mystery, is that story, set two years before Think of England. While the focus in Proper English is firmly on the central quartet of Jimmy, Billie, Pat and Fen, Charles continues to excels at creating with fascinating secondary characters who love to steal scenes. From the loyal and serious Victoria Singh, to the tart and savvy Travers, Charles fills this novel with women who are not to be underestimated, not even brittle and bitter Lady Anna.
In the Austen Playbook, Parker delights with a clever opposites-attract romance.
I was late to pick up Charlie Adhara’s first two Big Bad Wolf books and I was rewarded with that lateness by being able to read all three in short-succession. The books are a cross between police procedural mysteries and paranormal romance. They are suspenseful and character-driven stories with slowly unfurling worldbuilding that builds on itself with each book. I loved seeing Cooper and Oliver’s story unfold, and getting caught up each mystery.
The bonkers adventures of the McKilligan sisters continue in the second book of Laurenston’s Honey Badger Chronicles. Stevie, the baby sister of the chaotic trio and a musical and scientific prodigy, is struggling. Her meds aren’t working to control her panic disorder anymore, her good-for-nothing father and her dangerous uncles seem headed toward a confrontation, and at the same time The Group needs her help to figure out who is targeting shifter hybrids.
One of the very first ways I connected to Romancelandia was through romance podcasts. I was an avid podcast listener in those days, so it was natural to look for a romance podcast to listen to. I listened to dozens of episodes of Sarah Wendell & Jane Litte’s DBSA podcast, when I was a baby romance reader, hearing about new books, learning about publishing and being introduced to romance fandom.
Although I’ve filled up a lot of free time I used to listen to podcasts with audiobooks since then, my interest in romance podcasts has not diminished. It has been fabulous to see the number of romance related podcasts grow, almost exponentially over the past few years, even if I can’t keep up with all them anymore.
The first series of Anne Bishop’s The Others ended two years ago with Etched in Bone. Since then Bishop has written two additional books in that world for her World of the Others series. In this spin off series Bishop revisits familiar themes, while expanding the world, by introducing new types of characters and introducing new perspectives. The first book in that series was Lake Silence. It took place in an Others controlled human settlement, and it takes place a little bit after Etched in Bone. That book followed new but familiar characters and could be read as a standalone, as it only lightly references prior books.
Wild Country, however, takes things a completely different direction. As a long-time fan of the Others series, I couldn’t put it down, but it suffers from and magnifies a lot of the problematic issues from the original series - chiefly, sexualized violence against women - this time, extending beyond the exploitation of the cassandra sangue. A large of percentage of the women in this book experience some sort of violence or sexual harassment at some point in the novel and one character suffers a gratuitously explicitly violent death.