Books read in November

Inarticulate by Eden Summers *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Enemies Like You by Annika Martin and Joanna Chambers *Star**Star**Star**Star**Star*

Tell Me by Abigail Strom *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Highland Spring by Elizabeth Rose *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Twin Passions by Miriam Minger *Star**Star**Starw**Starw**Starw*

Chase by Candice Blake  *Star**Star**Starw**Starw**Starw*

Lachlan by Hazel Hunter *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Locked in Silence by Sloane Kennedy *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Royally Screwed by Emma Chase *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Enemies Like You by Annika Martin and Joanna Chambers
Seriously, if you like m/m romance, read this book.  Don’t read it for the spy theme or the ‘enemies to lovers’ trope.  Read it because it’s unique and hilarious and sweet and easy to read.  A perfect book to get lost in or to lounge by the pool with or to read on a rainy day.  Okay, whenever.  Ha ha!  I enjoyed it, can you tell?  The very beginning had me thinking ‘Wait, is this the book I thought it was?’ and then I was like ‘Oh damn!  That’s different.  Love it!’  From then on, I was in.  Let me know if you read it, and if you do, if you enjoy it!

Twin Passions by Miriam Minger
I didn’t have particularly high expectations of this book, but I did come away with a few grumbles.  If you can believe that a man can’t tell that the stable lad is actually the same lass he’s sleeping with, when the only thing to change is the clothes, then that’s fine.  I had my doubts, but you suspend your disbelief with books like this, don’t you?  I did feel the ‘disguise’ needed a little more substance, but whatever.  The thing that really bugged me was the head hopping – literally different points of view from paragraph to paragraph, and the fact that the author kept referring to things from a character’s point of view that the character couldn’t or didn’t know.  For instance, we’d be in the hero’s point of view, and the author would refer to him calling out to the girl working in the stables, but the hero didn’t know it was a girl and so it should have been referred to as the hero calling out to the boy working in the stables.  That makes sense, right?  I think if the book was written so we stayed in one character’s point of view completely for a whole chapter at a time, the book would be a decent three star and have potential for a fourth.  I think it would be a light, easy read.

 

Books read in October

Finally got a chance to post this.  Didn’t read as many as I normally do.  Stupid real life getting in the way of escapism and my virtual life.  *roll eyes*

 

Jagged Edge by Jo Raven *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Blade of Darkness by Dianne Duvall *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Static by L A Witt *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

The Theory of Attraction by Delphine Dryden *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Hot Head by Damon Suede *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Alpha’s Temptation by Renee Rose  *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Saved by Lorhainne Eckhart *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Force of Law by Jez Morrow *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

 

Tropes

I’ve finally had a chance today to go through my emails today and I’m checking out the books recommended to me by the sites that send me ebook deals.  It made me think about the tropes that I do and don’t like to read.

I should clarify, I read romance novels almost exclusively.  I occasionally read fantasy or science fiction novels, but mostly romance.  Within romance though, I read in a wide variety of sub-genres.  It’s just that I demand my happy ending, and romance is the only genre that will guarantee that for me.

So, tropes.  I’m no expert on tropes, so I Googled some.  Here are the ones I have strong(ish) feelings about:

  • Anti-hero.  Aw, come on, we all love reformed bad boys, right?  😛  My husband was a hard drinking, fast driving, tattooed loud mouth when I met him, who was lucky not to have been behind bars.  Who’d have guessed he was also super sweet and romantic, and very good with babies?  Ha ha!  So yeah, I guess I like these ones.  He’s still tattooed and still loud, by the way.
  • Athlete.  I hate heroes who are sports stars.  Ugh.  No thanks.  It’s worse too when it’s an American sport that I’m totally clueless about.
  • Consanguinity.  No, no, no.  Stepbrothers and stepsisters, stepfathers and stepdaughters (it was this trope that actually led me to write this post in the first place), etc.  No.  No, no, no.  And while I don’t mind menage stories, I hate it when they involves siblings, for the same reason.  Or worse, twins.  Ack.  Nope.
  • Danger.  I’ve seen this written elsewhere on the net as ‘Heroine in danger’ or ‘Heroine needs rescuing’, etc.  It doesn’t matter to me if it’s the hero or the heroine (and I don’t just read m/f books, so gender sterotyping is a bit redundant anyway), but danger definitely adds spice to the mix.  I’ve said before that I don’t care how much torture my characters have to go through, as long as they’re guaranteed a happy ending.  I guess, I like to believe that no matter how hard life gets, it’s all going to work out in the end.  This is the extreme version of that.  Maya Banks does this trope really well, to the point that it’s become a kind of cliche in her books, but that’s beside the point.
    Whispers in the Dark (KGI, #4) Whispers In The Dark was a brilliant example of this trope.  Both the hero and the heroine go through some fairly extreme ordeals over the course of the book, and it’s a fantastic read.
  • Disguise.  I know it’s silly, but I really like the ones where girls dress up as guys and win over the hero as a male first.  I don’t know why I like them.  Maybe because I was a tomboy and often mistaken as a boy even well into my teens (I think I was 17 the last time it happened).
    Morganna (The Brocade Collection Book 4) by [Ivie, Jackie] Morganna by Jackie Ivie is one of the best books I’ve read with this trope, and I especially love how the hero falls for her while still thinking she was a boy.  He is attracted to her while he thought she was a male (and even kisses her, thinking her a man), instead of respecting or befriending her and then being attracted once her gender was revealed.  For a historical romance, that’s pretty cutting edge.  I was very impressed.
  • Fated mates.  This can work really well, but only if the author avoids the instalove pitfall of death.  Ugh.  I hate instalove.  If the match is fated, and they fight it, but eventually realise all the great things about each other and slowly fall for each other despite themselves, it can be a great read.  But no instalove!
  • Impairments.  This is probably very un-PC of me to say, but I love these.  I actually did a Writing.com site newsletter on this topic. Both physical and mental disabilities, so long as the characters are equal.  I read one where I felt the character with the mental disability was not in any way equal to the other main character, and there was a HUGE power disadvantage.  It felt…kind of pedophilic.  Ugh, no thanks.
    The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Mackenzies Series Book 1) by [Ashley, Jennifer]
    Song for Sophia (A Rougemont Novel Book 1) by [Densley, Moriah] The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley and Song For Sophia by Moriah Densley both have great male heroes who have Asperger’s Syndrome.  Both are excellent reads.  I’m sure Cole from Jaime Reese’s A Restored Man is on the spectrum too.  It’s never said, but I think his inability to know what is appropriate for a particular conversation or situation is a good indication.
    Never Seduce a Scot: The Montgomerys and Armstrongs by [Banks, Maya] Moon Craving (A Children of the Moon Novel Book 2) by [Monroe, Lucy] Never Seduce A Scot by Maya Banks features a fantastic heroine who is deaf.  That’s a great book too.  Moon Craving by Lucy Monroe features a deaf heroine as well, and I’ve re-read that book a number of times too.
    Speechless by [Fielding, Kim]Love Comes Silently (Senses Series Book 1) by [Grey, Andrew]Love Comes in Darkness (Senses Series Book 2) by [Grey, Andrew]I’ve read some great m/m books that use this trope too.  Speechless by Kim Fielding features a hero with aphasia which I’ve read multiple times.  And there’s Andrew Grey’s Senses series too which is built around the trope.  It’s starts with Love Comes Silently, with a mute hero, then Love Comes In Darkness, with a blind hero.  I enjoyed both those books (but warning, they’re tear-jerkers).  There are six books in the series, but the first two are my favourites.
  • Military.  I used to really enjoy these, and Maya Banks’ KGI series is a great example of this done well, but having now worked for two ex-military bosses, I no longer see military guys as a romantic ideal.  Nope.  And what’s more, I will no longer be recommending that my son signs up for the military.  The military changes you, and now I think it’s not for the better.
  • Second chances.  I’m not a fan of this one.  If it didn’t work out the first time, it wasn’t meant to be.  Not to say it can’t be done well, but you’ll have to have something really special to tempt me.
  • Time travel.  I’ve read books where this trope has been done really well, and I’ve really enjoyed them, but I’m always leery of them.  It’s so easy to turn this into a sad ‘been there, done that, got the t shirt’ cliche.
  • Ugly duckling.  I really enjoy these ones, regardless of which character is the ugly duckling and why.  Probably I enjoy them because I have pretty low self-esteem when it comes to my physical appearance, but never mind.

What are some tropes that you like or dislike?  They don’t have to be romance ones.

Books read in September

When You Dare by Lori Foster *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Savor the Danger by Lori Foster (audible version)  *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Ghost by J M Dabney *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Joker by J M Dabney *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Head Hunter by Alexis Angel *Star**Starw**Starw**Starw**Starw*

Found at the Bookstore by Christi Snow *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Rule Breaker by Lily Morton *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Grasp by E Davies *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Family Man by Devyn Morgan *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

All the Way Home by Devyn Morgan *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Friendly Fire by Cari Z *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Pegasus in Flight by Anne McCaffrey *Star**Star**Star**Star**Star*

What Chris Wants by Lori Foster *Star**Star**Starw**Starw**Starw*

Murphy’s Aurora

Apparently New Zealand is in the middle of a ‘super massive’ Aurora. The Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, are supposed to be the brightest they’ve been in two years. Photographing the Aurora is one of the items on my photography bucket list, so when they said that visibility would be better from the east coast, I headed to my mother and sister’s house. They live about an hour away from me, on the east coast, whereas I’m on the west coast.

I headed up straight after work, and while Mum was making dinner, I did some research on how to photograph Aurora. I found this article really useful.

My mother and sister had a yoga class to go to after dinner, so I sat and read my book while I waited for them. When they came back they informed me that the cloud cover hadn’t dispersed as predicted, and so we might not be able to get a clean shot. I figured I might as well make the most of the two-hour round trip, so I suggested we head out and take some photos of the Auckland city lights at night. Well, we set up our tripods and snapped some shots, but the wind kept buffeting our cameras and ruining the shots. Then it started to rain.  It clearly wasn’t meant to be.

As it turns out, we were never going to see the Aurora. Firstly, it was only going to be visible ‘as far north as Wairarapa’. Ugh. That’s nearly 8 hours’ drive south of me. Secondly, there was a full moon. Thirdly, it was delayed and didn’t arrive until 6am which means it was only there at daylight when no one could see it anyway.

My sister was laughing at me, and pointed out that I had driven all that way to read my book in their house while they went to yoga. #fail

Then, in the way of Murphy’s Law, the motorway was closed for roadworks and it took me longer to get home than it should have. *facepalm*

I’d say that the moral of the story is to do your research first before leaping into action, which would have saved me the trip, but I actually don’t agree with that sentiment. Yeah, if you’re spending a lot of time or money on something, definitely do your research first. But spontaneity has its place. So, it cost me a couple of hours of my time. No big deal. We had a laugh, and learned some stuff.

My kids love it when my husband and I surprise them with spontaneous silliness, like driving to Pokeno (an hour’s drive) for an ice cream, or deciding that each person in the car in turn can decide which direction we turn at the next intersection. Ha ha, that last one saw us driving in circles around Blockhouse Bay. The kids thought it was hilarious though.

While I was at Mum’s, she asked me what I was reading at the moment. We share an Amazon account, as we both read romance ebooks. She reads more historical romance than I do, and she doesn’t read my m/m books, but there’s a lot of overlap. Anyway, I said I was in the middle of a m/m book (Found At The Bookstore by Christi Snow) and she said she was reading a Lori Foster book. She’d read When You Dare, the first book in the Edge of Honor series, then moved on to Bare It All, which is the second in the Love Undercover series. I asked her why she wasn’t reading them in order, and she said that because it wasn’t obvious by the title, she had no way of knowing the reading order. So I looked them up on Lori Foster’s website and made a list for Mum of the correct reading order for the two series. I also thought she might like the Buckhorn Brothers series, so I wrote down the order for that one too. So see, I did accomplish something. Ha ha!

Books read in August

Depth of Field by Riley Hart *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Revealed to Him by Jen Frederick *Star**Star**Starw**Starw**Starw*

Entangled by Jessica Sorensen *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Entranced by Jessica Sorensen *Star**Star**Star**Star**Starw*

Enchanted by Jessica Sorensen

Blind Faith by N R Walker *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Finding His Place by Nic Starr *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Tanner by Sarah Mayberry *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Hold Me by Talia Ellison *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

Unfold Me by Talia Ellison *Star**Star**Star**Starw**Starw*

 

Revealed to Him by Jen Frederick
I have to say, I got the audio version of this book, as well as the ebook, and it was awful.  The narrators were so bad.  There was no emotion, no feeling…  It really put me off the book, and I was struggling with it as it was.

The heroine suffers from crippling anxiety and agoraphobia, and yet when she’s outside and totally freaking out, a kiss from the hero overcomes all her fears and they end up having sex in the car.  Um, what?  She’s so agoraphobic that she passed out and threw up just trying to walk to the lift on her floor of her own apartment building, but she’s in a condition to have sex in a car, as they drive to his house?  Whatever.

The worst part for me was after she had a major freak out and had thrown up from sheer fear, and he put his fingers down her pants and commented on how wet she was for him.  Of course, then they had sex.  She hadn’t even brushed her teeth after throwing up.  Ugh.  It was such bullshit.  I’m sorry, but when people are in a state of extreme fear, they’re not thinking about how hot you are, or about sex.  No.  That is not realistic.  It’s ridiculous.  I struggled with her letting him into her apartment and them having sex, when she has such a fear of strangers and meeting new people, but I overlooked it, but the sex at times of extreme anxiety and fear?  Nope.  I almost put it down as a ‘did not finish’ but I detest not finishing a book, so I struggled through.  Kinda wish I hadn’t bothered now.  Maybe I can save you the time though.  There are definitely better books out there.

Enchanted by Jessica Sorensen
I really struggled to rate this.  I enjoyed it, and I would love to read more, and what I read I’d probably be happy to rate as four stars, but….  It wasn’t finished.  It was an incredibly short installment in the series and it didn’t even really feel like a cliffhanger so much as it felt unfinished.  I was very disappointed in the length.  Not the writing, which was fine, but the length.  I’d read more by this author, for sure, especially in this series, but I know now to be aware that I may not be buying a whole novel or even novella.  It’s more like a serial installment than a novella.

Blind Faith by N R Walker
Predictable but sweet.

 

Roses Are Red (short story)

But violets are definitely more interesting…

“Surely it’s not true. Imagine the scandal. He’d never be able to show his face again. He’d be ruined.”

The scandalised whisper crept around the edges of the potted plants to reach the interested ear of Mr James Devon. He straightened from his lean against one of the pillars edging the small country ballroom and strained to hear more of the conversation.

“Of course it’s not true,” snapped a matron’s deeper tones. “He’s a duke. And imminently eligible. Such gossip does not become you, girls.”

There was only one duke in attendance tonight, and indeed he was the only peer to grace the ball with his presence. The fact that he lived a mere stone’s throw away (if one had a very decent throwing arm) was neither here nor there. Tonight’s ball commemorating Saint Valentine’s Day hadn’t even drawn a baron, but the attendance of the Duke of Wiltshire had certainly sealed the host’s social status among the gentry.

James felt a sudden chill despite the warmth of the overcrowded room. Society did not take kindly to anyone who deviated from their expectations of what was proper, and they were so careful to maintain appearances. For a man, being ostracised from society would be difficult and inconvenient, but it was the young women like the sister who had dragged James to tonight’s function who would truly suffer the consequences. Her chances of finding of a good husband would be utterly destroyed if scandal broke out and James was at the center of it.

“How can they even tell?” The young lady’s voice was breathless with curiosity. “It’s not like someone caught him kissing another man.” A gasp, and then, “Or did they?”

James narrowed his eyes and swept his gaze across the ballroom. Taking only cursory note of where his younger sister was dancing decorously with another member of the local gentry, he searched for the duke. Tuning out the sound of the matron berating her charges for their indiscreet comments, he watched the duke do the rounds of the ballroom, sending all the other guests aflutter with every dip of his head and polite smile. Unlike the matron, he knew rank and privilege were no guarantee of a man’s preference.

There were no affectations in Wiltshire’s mannerisms, no hint of effeminacy. He wore stark black formal wear, relieved only by the blinding white of his starched shirt and a single violet in his boutonnière. Of course, the same could be said for any of the men in the room, although to a man they all wore red roses to match the ludicrous abundance of draped red silk and velveteen hearts that passed for decoration. James looked down at himself, where he wore the twin to the duke’s boutonnière. It was also a convenient match to the pastel-shaded gown his sister wore.

James monitored the duke’s progress, careful to avoid being too obvious. The last thing he needed was to fan the flames of gossip. He even made a point of taking his sister out on the floor for a dance when the duke’s circuit of the ballroom brought him near. It wouldn’t do for anyone to put two and two together and make four.

It was nearly 11pm when James tapped his sister on the shoulder as she stood in line at the refreshments table, and indicated he was going outside for a smoke. At her nod of understanding, he strolled out into the crisp air. Spring had yet to really show herself this season, and the chill was a marked contrast to the stuffy heat of the overcrowded ballroom.

James withdrew a cheroot from his waistcoat pocket and held it to his lips, the brief light of the flame flaring bright in the darkness as he lit it. The smoke trailed gracefully into the still night, delicate wisps against the vast array of stars strewn across the sky. James enjoyed the view for a moment, glad he didn’t live in London where the smog was so thick one never saw the stars of an evening.

James ambled round to the stables, stopping to pet a horse here and there. The duke’s curricle was ridiculously easy to identify; no one else at the ball could afford such an exquisitely matched pair of horses. He nodded at the groom who had been given the tasks of overseeing them for the duration of the ball, and reached out to rub each horse between the ears.

“Beautiful, aren’t they?”

The deep voice came from behind him as James ran his hand down one horse’s long, velvety nose. He spun to see the duke standing behind him. James withdrew his cheroot and smiled.

“Your Grace.” James bowed in deference to the duke’s status, mindful of the groom who was listening intently. “What a splendid matched pair. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the like.”

The gas lamps weren’t sufficient to clearly see the expression in the duke’s eyes, but James fancied that there was a relaxed warmth to his smile that had been missing all night.

The duke gave a light chuckle as he stepped forward. “I saw them at Tattersalls, and had to have them. Cost a pretty penny, but they are a joy to drive. I often take them out myself, much to my coachman’s disgust.”

James brushed his hand down the neck of the nearest horse in long strokes. He heard the crunch of gravel as the duke moved, then he felt the heat of the duke’s body as they stood shoulder to shoulder. The duke reached out and stroked the horse, his hand sliding over James’ hand which was frozen in place. James hardly dared to breathe. Then, as if nothing had happened, the duke stepped back, and the cold crept back in.

“Perhaps you might like to come and view my stables, Mr Devon. I recently purchased a rather magnificent stallion which I hope will see some new foals born of my mares next year.” The duke turned away, tugging on one cuff and speaking casually over his shoulder. “Would tomorrow afternoon suit?”

James couldn’t help the smile that lifted his lips. “Tomorrow afternoon would be splendid, Your Grace. I shall look forward to it.”

The duke turned back to face him, and lifted an eyebrow. “Perhaps your sister would care to accompany you? The Dowager is frightfully bored these days, and would love some company.”

James knew that was for the benefit of listening ears, as the duke knew very well that his sister was otherwise occupied the following afternoon. “Unfortunately, she and my mother are attending an afternoon tea. I know she’ll be sorry to have missed the opportunity.” In truth it was his mother who would be heartbroken to know that her daughter had come so close to dining with the dowager duchess at the ducal estate. That would certainly have been a social coup.

“Never mind, another time perhaps. Still, you should come and see the horses. Come prepared for a good, hard ride. It’s been too long since I’ve had one, and I’d enjoy the company.” The duke made eye contact, and James couldn’t resist a smirk at the double entendre, relieved the horses’ large heads hid his expression from the groom. It was rare for the duke’s clever wit to come out in public, and James was delighted to know that he was enjoying himself despite the game of cloak and daggers they were forced to play.

As James took his leave, and the duke made preparations to depart, there was nothing to suggest that anything untoward had taken place. By tomorrow the conversation would have travelled on gossip’s swift feet, and ladies all over the region would be hearing it from their maids as they dressed for their afternoon calls. All would be assured that the Duke of Wiltshire and Mr James Devon had behaved with the utmost decorum, and the proprieties had been observed. Indeed, the duke had invited the man’s sister to dine with the dowager duchess, and surely he wouldn’t have done that if there had been any hint of inappropriateness about the meeting.

James returned to the ballroom and his duty as chaperone for his sister, relieved to see that she was still mingling with the other guests despite his absence. Nothing in the ballroom had changed in the few minutes he’d been gone, but somehow the music seemed livelier and the candlelight seemed brighter. Dresses sparkled and laughter caused his own lips to lift. Even the profusion of red roses and the ostentatious pink champagne didn’t offend to the same degree. Like a child with a secret, the wait for tomorrow afternoon would be both interminable and full of wondering delight. In the meantime, he would daydream of violets and one particular duke.