I’ve been working hard in the past month to wrangle the TBR folder on my Kindle under control again. I’m embarrassed to admit how many unread books I have–had!–on there (*whispers* It’s significantly north of 200.), but I’ve made progress! I swear I have. Mostly because I’m not allowed to buy anything new until I get this sucker down to reasonable proportions. Anything under a hundred books will do. I’m also about to dive into a diverse romance reading challenge, so I figure now’s a good time to clear the decks with a book rec post. I read all kinds of great stuff! Have a look, and enjoy. 🙂
Adulting 101 – Lisa Henry’s voice is what made this book work for me. I haven’t been in the mood lately for books about 18-22 year olds, probably because I read so many of the in the past couple of years and my reading tends to go in phases. But I love it when an author nails a particular character’s voice, and that was what sold this book for me. I also maybe over-identified with Jai just a tiny bit (self-sufficient loners FTW, y’all), even if it’s true I’ve never been blown by a no-filters kid in a porta potty.
FIT – Loved it! This Rebekah Weatherspoon book made me want to go to the gym, which is not my normal state of being, tbh. 🙂 I knew this one would be dirty, and it is. Deliciously so. What I didn’t expect was how funny it would be. I was cracking up while reading it, and THAT is a gift. Humor is hard to write. If you can work humor and hot sex in the same book? I am 100% sold. Plus, the heroine is big and curvy and I loved her. I’ll be reading the rest of the trilogy, for sure.
Play On – This prequel novella to the Glasgow Lads series is super angsty. These university boys are all kinds of messed up in their heads, but the caretaking they give each other is sweet and lovely. Fergus and John’s story in Playing for Keeps was more my speed, tbh (lots of fabulous religious and sports Glaswegian history!), but this definitely sets up the rest of the series.
The Devil’s Doorbell – This anthology of erotic short stories includes some of my favorite authors under possibly the best title ever. I’ve read the Anne Calhoun, Jeffe Kennedy and Megan Mulry stories so far and I loved all three. Megan Mulry’s story is f/f, yay! (With, um, bonus players. *winks*) I’m always happy when collections mix up their gender pairings. More please! I also particularly enjoyed the mix of role-playing, dirty sex with strangers, and theology in Jeffe Kennedy’s story “Exact Warm Unholy.”
Between Hearts – I’ve only read one story so far from this anthology of debut authors, and “Snapback” by Keller Ramsay was ultimately pretty damn charming. Also, there’s kissing in the rain, which always gets a yes from me. This story is framed as a look back from the present day (and that won’t work for everyone as we’re left with only the beginning of the story in the present), but the heart of “Snapback” is about how Jamie realizes he’s in love with his best friend Adam the summer before they go off to college. And that story is sweet as hell.
Everything I Left Unsaid – Molly O’Keefe is a favorite of mine. This book has a whole lot of dirty phone talking, some physical labor that made me tired just reading it, a woman on the run, and one helluva cliffhanger. The sequel is already out, so if you loathe cliffies, you don’t have to wait to read the next book! I really liked how this book takes place almost entirely in a ratty trailer park, without any glamour and with boxed wine and cheap booze. The people and the place were earthy and real. Did I mention the dirty talking?
Rite of Summer – If you don’t like open relationships in romance novels, this one is not for you. I loved Tess Bowery’s story of two boyhood friends who have been making their way in the world as a composer/violinist partnership and somewhat rocky romantic pairing too, until they meet an artist whose temporary addition to their bed changes everything. Bowery does a terrific job up ratcheting up the tension by including news of a real-life police raid that resulted in the arrests of dozens of gay men, and the deaths of several. I was freaking out for chapters on end, terrified someone I loved was going to die. I’m a fan of pretty much anything historical that either focuses on people who aren’t lord/ladies or manages to convince me of a realistic HEA for LGBTQ MCs. That book did both! Top notch.
Waking Up Alive by Emma Shortt – I mean, HELLO. DAT COVER. I didn’t even know what the book was about when I ran to Amazon. But it’s a zombie apocalypse story, so I damn near peed my pants in excitement. This book is terrific. The heroine is a scientist, holed up and science-ing her way through the hordes. The hero is a cop who has a super competent, zombie-fighting female friend. Who’s not a bitch or competition or killed! I really like how these two negotiate their relationship as it develops from cautious friendship to love, and there’s some cool zombie lore too. Loved it.
Beauty and the Blacksmith – Somehow I haven’t actually read Tessa Dare yet, I think because she came to my attention after a years-long Regency binge, when I’d gotten burnt out on the genre. I realized I had four of her books on my Kindle, but hadn’t opened any of them yet. So I’m diving in. The Beauty and the Blacksmith was delightful. I totally enjoyed this story of two adults who realize they’re more than interested in each other despite being of different classes and (somewhat) calmly figure out a way to make it work. Competence is one of my turn-ons, and this story had it in spades. Also, sex in the smithy. Dirty, dirty blacksmith sex. Yup. Gimme more please.
Uncovering Ray – Genderqueer romance for the win! I really enjoyed Edie Danford’s NA romance about an idealistic, scholarly frat boy and the diner server he meets and convinces to move into the frat house’s garage apartment. Lots of unexpected sweetness mixing with the tough choices of a young person who’s stuck and lost and trying to figure out how not to be. Ray is a great character, but the frat boy Wyatt is the one who stole my heart.
Never Loved – If Charlotte Stein writes it, I read it. I loved this story of two misfits, the giant, burly, tattooed guy who scares himself more than he scares the heroine, and the woman whose trying to figure out what to do with all her newfound freedom after a childhood of controlling abuse. It’s Charlotte, so these two are super hot and super messed up, and I loved every minute of it.
Love Me Tenor – I’m an Annabeth Albert fan. This is book two in her series about all kinds of singers. Book one (Treble Maker) took place at an a cappella competition and this book follows a secondary character from that story on to a reality show about competing boy bands. Interracial romance between two guys who start getting all protective of each other even while each guy is still pretending he can’t stand the other one. They’re sweet as hell.
So Sweet – I’m not normally drawn to the “sugar daddy” idea in m/f romance, because the power dynamics of that set-up trip too many of my this-is-not-okay buttons. (Oddly enough, straight-up sex work doesn’t affect me in the same way at all.) But I enjoyed the way Rebekah Weatherspoon’s heroine draws a bunch of boundaries right off the bat, and the hero pays attention to every one of them. They’re hot, they’re emotional, and I’m ready for book two.
Winter Kill – There are a handful of writers whose mastery of atmospheric setting just slays me. Harper Fox and Josh Lanyon are at the top of that list. This murder mystery/FBI-cop romance set in the Pacific Northwest just oozes rain and pine and frost at midnight. Lanyon’s a terrific writer and hits a lot of spot-on notes about the complications of colleagues getting involved with each other and the nature of small town life here. The story behind the rapidly multiplying dead bodies was perhaps a little bit too complicated for the length of the book, but I rolled with it because, well, it’s Lanyon. I just love reading her books.
Skin Game – Cara McKenna is one of my favorite authors ever. Skin Game is an odd book, but I really like it. Not a traditional romance, in that there are sex scenes taking place between all kinds of different people during the course of a Survivor-like psychological experiment in the wilds of Alaska, I was nonetheless totally sucked into the weird competitions and the behind-the-scenes shenanigans. Plus, I honestly wasn’t sure who the main characters of the story were meant to be until pretty close to the end. I knew who I was rooting for, of course, but even then, McKenna surprised me by managing to make me root for people I didn’t think I liked. Twisty, strange, and definitely hot, if you’re up for something different, I rec it.
Rag & Bone – KJ Charles is another autobuy author for me. I usually try to hold off on reading her books when they release (although I always buy them immediately) because I know as soon as I read the latest one, I’ll be back to waiting impatiently for the next new Charles book. Rag & Bone takes place in the Magpie Lord universe, although you don’t have to have read those books first to enjoy this one. I do recommend reading the short story “A Queer Trade” about how Ned and Crispin first met however. And if you’ve read the Magpie series, you’ll enjoy the glimpses you get of some of your favorites in this one. As always, Charles’s words are exquisite, her magic both clever and loathsome, her worldbuilding magnificent, and her characters break your heart. I loved the interracial couple in this book and the differing awarenesses of the challenges that brings to their relationships. Plus, Ned’s paper trade, and his rag & bottle shopkeeper neighbor totally fascinate me. All around highly rec’d, as always.
A Gentleman Never Tells – My first Eloisa James! How is that possible? I am slower than I look sometimes. This book was witty and sexy and delightful. Lizzie Troutt’s husband died in his mistress’s bed, a humiliation which leaves her 100% determined never to go through that nonsense again. This book made me want to play cricket indoors with a smoking hot Regency gentleman. *fans self* A 99 cent novella!
Launch the Hunt – Book one of a shifter series, with all kinds of remote wilderness wildlife showing up in this one, I’m pretty sure. I really liked the idea that all these different shifters interact as humans in a small community that hunts and fishes, meaning they need to be aware of where the different shifter species are at all times to avoid their hunting (as humans) harming their friends in animal form. Plus, both heroes in this book are in their thirties or forties (I don’t remember their exact ages & I’m avoiding going to check so I don’t end up rereading the whole thing!) and I’m really in the mood lately for grown ups. I’ll be reading the whole series, thank you.
I’m almost afraid to ask, since I’m trying desperately to shrink my TBR, not blow it up, but…what are you reading? Gimme your best recs in the comments!