First off, I found my first “cracktastic” read — books you can’t stop reading even though you don’t exactly LOVE them or even like them. I read all of the Club Shadowlands books by Cherise Sinclair and while they started off as a sorta weird “intro to BDSM” (which I appreciated), they turned into this weird human trafficking sex slave helping the FBI because the FBI doesn’t know any “real” submissives and what what what. But I read the hell out of them all and mostly enjoyed them in a dissociated sort of way, and they definitely got weirder and way more problematic later in (the only black sub is only paired with black men, there’s a lot of creepy racial stuff in some places like a character that acts like a ~stereotypical latina~ but is half-norwegian so she looks 100% white, just weird stuff like that. And of course she runs a cleaning service.
The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan – This is by far my favourite Milan, and that’s hard to say because they are ALL my favourites. I’ve recommended her to friends before as someone who rights lovely feminist romances, and this time the gloves were off and she did not hold back, and I LOVED it. The hero was adorable and such a great character, and Free’s book turned her from slightly frustrating teen in the last book involving her to just a brilliant lady with a core of steel and is the bravest person I’ve ever read about. I liked the parallels between then and the same reactions women get today, I LOVED the “not ALL men” timely references, and her description of emptying the thames with a thimble (or sea with a teaspoon) really worked for me. I know I will re-read this one a lot. A lot lot.
A Demon and His Witch by Eve Langlais – I like Eve Langlais, no matter how weird stuff gets. It was a good candy fluff read with plenty of good banter, and her worldbuilding is weird, but that’s part of what I really like about her stuff.
Never Deal With Dragons by Lorenda Christensen – This was definitely an interesting read, as I was fascinated by the idea that there were human go-betweens to basically work as diplomats and translators (and occasionally lawyers and notaries) between dragons and humans. I had to hand-wave the “and SCIENCE” bit of dragon creation (I would have liked something more meaty than whoops science) and there were some bits that were a little problematic, but overall I enjoyed it as a fun romp through dragonland and definitely will be looking to read more in this world and by this author.
Life Support by Tess Gerritsen – I am still definitely liking Tess Gerritsen’s medical thrillers, as they don’t feel quite so out-of-date as Robin Cook’s do on re-reads (it happens) and they are less “cram this ideal even if you agree with it down your throat” and more… thriller. While this didn’t suck me in like Gravity, it kept me interested in a period where very little is working for me, and I am reading more of her books as I find them.
Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo – I enjoyed these books a whole lot, but that enjoyment was lessened a little by finding out the author had every opportunity to do some research and put some realism in her worldbuilding, and instead just appropriated every vaguely-Russian-sounding-thing and mixed them all together. When called out on it she just shrugged. The difference would have meant me going after a lot of Russian lit, especially folklore, on a glom afterwards, to realizing that none of it is probably actually in there. Still, fun story.
Archer’s Sin by Amy Raby – So this short story was set in Amy Raby’s Hearts and Thrones series but works as a complete stand-alone, although I enjoyed it a bit more because I had read the first book and was told it would contain no spoilers for the second or third (it kinda does but nothing you didn’t see coming). I loved the characters and their interplay, the choices they had to make and their personal honour warring with keeping food on the table. Definitely was satisfied with the ending, too. I think this was a great “women can’t” story that realistically showed what would happen to a woman in a man-dominated area even today, and it’s as bullshit now as it is in this world, hah. I am going to finish out this series and keep looking for more books by this author.
The Wallflower series by Lisa Kleypas – I’ve had her recommended over and over, but never really got into Lisa Kleypas until I started this series, and it was right on the money. I enjoyed all four books, and unfortunately they all kind of blur together as I read them so close together, but enemies-to-lovers is my catnip x1000 so #2 was fantastic for it and I think I will read it again, and #3 was totally surprising and fantastic. How something was handled between the end of #2 and the start of #4 was actually something I really enjoyed as well, because it wasn’t just shrugged off but had serious consequences through the series.
Transcendence by Shay Savage – Okay, so this was… different. It involved a prehistoric human and was from his POV, and a woman from the future… except he is missing the segment of his brain (it sounds like all of the people of that time are) that processes speech and has it recognize patterns, so his understanding of words-meaning-things are about on par with a dog or a cat, without dehumanizing him or making him any less complex. It was WEIRD at times, my skin crawled at times, but I did manage to suspend my disbelief for a lot of things. Finding out how old the heroine was at the end where there’s a little blurb from her POV skeeved me out and I was glad I did not read that part first. I also found her remarkably useless, but this might come from someone who spent their entire childhood+ in Scouting and Guiding and other wilderness camping adventures (to the point where I forget I have to append the wilderness part, because that is “camping” in my mind, traditional camping is fun but still weird for me). So, a really interesting book in terms of non-vocal communication.
Sunshine by Robin McKinley – I re-read this book once a year or so, and it gets better every time I read it. It is a WONDERFUL example of stream-of-consciousness writing that you will either love or hate and oh my gosh I love it. The world-building is subtle and unique, the characters stand alone and are fabulous, and I want to eat baked goods the entire time I read it. It’s not really a Romance but then again kinda is, but these vampires are in the scary range, not sexy.
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge – This was a recommendation from Jess, and she knows what I love. It was FANTASTIC in a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast, although I would have liked the Beast to have been even more Beastly (I had seen some great drawings of a librarian and her demon right before reading it, so red-skin-cloven-hooves-horns-and-tail were very much in my head at the time) but oh man it was amazing in terms of emotional punch, self-sacrifice, family guilt and well, love.
The Summoning, Book 1 (Bloody Mary) – I read it. I… what. OK so if Bloody Mary actually did appear for me, I would be running and screaming my head off, not doing it again. It was seriously good and creepy at the start, but I felt that the character responses were weird and wooden throughout the book, and Mary went from OH MAN SCARY to kind of a pain in the ass like a mosquito bite you can’t scratch in public. The story was mostly predictable (and I generally don’t mind, so if I notice and complain, it’s SUPER predictable) and Mr. Bear read a few pages aloud and I told him what would happen next and, sure enough, it did. Weird. I did like that it was localized to a small town instead of referencing the… actual Bloody Mary, but maybe it’s the whole demons-as-ideas, stories-as-parables thing.
All Fired Up by Vivian Arend and Elle Kennedy – This is on my list of favourite seduction scenes of ALL TIME. The tequila shots, OH MY GOODNESS. I have read just that section a dozen times and it is going to stay in my memory forever, it is so sexy. I really loved this book, I loved the idea of a bunch of manly men (ex-military) making a service for hopelessly-unromantic people to give their significant others a wonderful time and a way to show they loved them without knowing how to express themselves, and it was perfect. I want to read the rest in the series and they aren’t even written yet!
Marrying the Royal Marine by Carla Kelly – Honestly? Carla Kelly. It was fabulous. I am going to get this one confused with Miss Whittier Makes A List, because boats.
There have been a few others including a TON of DNFs or books I am partway through and have put down because it’s taking a lot to grab me right now (I went through a boxed set of 10 full-length novels and tossed NINE of them because the writing was atrocious or the characters were immediate dickheads, and I TRIED, like 40 pages in each, but ew no).