Totally forgot to post this on Sunday, whoops!
My first book for this week was Chasing Death Metal Dreams by Kaje Harper ★★★★, a contemporary romance starring a transgender PoC protag with a death metal band and a wannabe artist with a history of bad boyfriends. It’s got super hot sexytimes and a slow-burn emotional connection, and you can read it for free! I very much enjoyed it, despite how prickly all the characters were.
Dead Man and Lustful Spirit by Lou Harper ★½ is a short story in her Dead Man paranormal mystery-romance series, which I hadn’t realized before starting it. And it’s not a good intro. Definitely don’t read this if you haven’t read at least the first book, as you probably won’t like it. I haven’t read the first book, and I didn’t like this short story, so much so that now I don’t even wanna read the rest of the actual series. Which is sad, because it seems like something I’d like! A fantasy mystery with paranormal dudes in love? But I just really hated the writing in this, so. idk.
Next up I read Hunting the Spy by Tyler Flynn ★★★½, a historical mystery-romance, set during the French Revolution (in England) and starring two recently-broken-up lovers who both have massive communication problems. One’s kind of emotionally repressed from a traumatic experience, and the other gives up too easily. It’s got spies and smugglers and lots of running around trying not to get caught. A fun, action-packed story, for sure.
I got For Real by Alexis Hall ★★★★★ from my grad school library1 and it was SO EFFING AMAZING I CAN’T BELIEVE IT. It’s a contemporary romance starring two dudes who’re really into BDSM. Not something I’d usually read! But I loved AH’s other books and he writes SUCH compelling characters that I knew I’d enjoy it regardless. And it’s not even really about BDSM (although there’s still plenty of it). It’s about emotional connection, and trust, and navigating tricky things like a pretty large age difference, and getting over former (crappy) boyfriends, and also really hot sexytimes. And there’s a little bit of humor, too! Loved it!!
Continuing onward in my Whyborne & Griffin readings, I finally get to a new-to-me book: Bloodline ★★. It’s set back in Widdershins, and more heavily involves Whyborne’s family than in recent books. There’s some stuff about the history of Widdershins, too, and we’re introduced to some creepy cousins, and W&G’s arguments about magic use finally come to a head. All good stuff! Except. Um. I didn’t like it. I’m not sure why! Maybe I didn’t click with Whyborne’s increasingly pig-headed personality? The cousins seemed too over the top and obvious evil? The thing with the secret [spoilers]mermaid society and then Whyborne’s sister shows up immediately after his other sister dies[/spoilers]? Idk. I do think this’ll grow on me with rereadings, like maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for some of the things that happened in the story, and it messed up my enjoyment of it. And I DID like some of the new characters introduced, and the ending was enormously sweet. [spoilers]W&G got married![/spoilers]
The One He Wants by Hollis Shiloh ★★½ is a paranormal romance! with werewolves! I’ve previously read several of HS’s short stories, and this one is basically one really long short story. The narrative style still feels like it’s condensing a whole heap of plot to fit in a short amount of words, and it comes off very bland and (emotionally) unfulfilling. Kind of info-dumpy, like “Kase felt this and he went and did this and meanwhile Jody did this and started a bakery and thn six months later closed it because it was failing.” I was hoping for more, I guess, especially after how good the first few chapters were.
Old Loyalty, New Love by Mary Calmes ★★★ is a…shapeshifter romance. Okay, fine, after years and years of saying I don’t care about werewolves and I don’t want to read any books about them, I guess I’m into them now. Ha! But this one really isn’t a werewolf romance– the protag is a jackal shifter, it’s a totally different thing! 😛 But for real, it’s a very sweet story about family and love (and jackal pack dynamics), and it has some interesting character thingies. For instance, the protag’s romantic interest is horribly scarred from a car accident; he is also snarky af and completely heads-over-heels in love with the protag, and it’s adorable. The protag, meanwhile, is super competant and everybody loves him, though he realizes neither of these things.
It strongly reminded me of MC’s book Frog, which had a protag who everybody loved and he didn’t realize it. It’s cute, but can get tiring after a while. Luckily OLNL was a little more loose-goosey with the overwhelming affection for at least the first half of the book. I really liked the first half in particular! While the second half wasn’t bad, it had a lot of plot threads tied up almost too neatly. Like, protag hasn’t spoken to his family in 17 years after coming out as gay: meets back up with family and surprise! they’re all totally fine with him 2. I’m not saying I want characters to get shit on for 300 pages before getting a happy ending, but going from “pining lonely guy” to “getting everything you ever wanted and you just have to stand there looking cute and giving people hugs to get it” is a little jarring. Maybe it was a tone thing? The first half of the book had a very different feeling than the last half. idk.
Would definitely read this again, though. It’s kinda smoopy, but I liked it!
Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Albert ★★★ is a short story that you can download here for free! It’s a contemporary romance, starring two dudes with (again) major communication problems. They’re totally into each other, but missed an opportunity to start something and have pined (from separate countries) for five years. But now they’re on the same continent, stuck in a house together, and Things Happen. It was cute, especially with the setting of a comic book convention. Not my favorite AA story ever, but cute nonetheless.
I’ve had Lessons in Love by Charlie Cochrane ★★½ on my TBR since something like 2013, so it’s high time I got to reading it! It’s a historical mystery with romance, set in early 1900s England in a college. The two protags are college fellows, the mystery is a serial killer, and it wasn’t terrible at all. I didn’t find the stilted narrative style particularly thrilling, but the characters were so adorable3 and the mystery was fairly good, so I stuck with it. I would read more in the series for the characters alone!
Among the Living by Jordan Castillo Price ★★ is the last book I read this week, and it’s the first in her PsyCop series. It’s also actually a novella, something that I didn’t realize before starting it. I’m kinda getting tired of these novella-length books. On the one hand, I end up reading a lot more. On the other, it’s very hard to get into a story when it’s only 89 pages long and there’s barely any time for worldbuilding, let alone character development. So it’s not a huge surprise that I was left fairly unsatisfied with this, despite the excellent creepy atmosphere and the intriguing setting of a world where psychics work in the police force and ghosts totally exist. Did not understand the protag’s dynamic with his romantic interest, also. Will probably end up reading the rest of the series, if only to find out more about the protag and his world.