Adjunct to January 8 At the Back Fence...Reader Buried Treasures for 2006
|| One of the few keepers I found this year is definately a buried treasure; it's an Ellora's Cave ebook. "The Claiming of Moira Shine", by M.A. Everaux. It's a SF/AR setting, and the author does a nice job of world building without overshadowing the story. The relationship between the h/h grows gradually, and as the hero is the king's spymaster and Moira one of his spies, the suspense plot works. I'm doing a mish-mash job of describing this one, but if EC romantica works for you, do take a look at this one.
Maybe I missed it, but I was surprized that The Sharing Knife, Lois McMaster Bujold's newest book, made so few waves. She's been written up here for her straight up fantasy and sci-fi because they always have challenging and interesting romantic subplots. This October she came out with a straight up romance (even if it was shelved in sci-fi/fantasy) that focused on nothing but the deepening relationship between a man and a woman from two different societies.
Fawn is a farmer girl running away from home for all of the usual reasons. Dag is a Lakewalker from a race of poorly understood magicians that the farmers treat with mistrust and fear. When they unexpectedly save each other's lives a new and complex relationship begins to unfold between them. Soon Dag is off to meet Fawn's family and must deal with hostile in-laws, dowries and marriage ceremonies, and trouble from Fawn's past. Book two, due out later this year, will cover Dag and Fawn's trip to meet the other set of in-laws.
All in all, though, the action takes a quiet back-seat to issues of cross-cultural marriage and the development of an unexpected but solid love between two interesting people. Family, friends, and society are featured, especially in the last two thirds of the book.
Lois McMaster Bujold is my favorite author of all times and this might be the best book for romance readers to jump into her work.
A Reason To Live by Maureen McKade will be getting my vote for 2006 buried treasure. Set at the conclusion of the Civil War, this story reminds us that we humans are really amazingly resiliant despite seeing/experiencing the worst that life has to offer. The heroine of the story was a nurse during the war and charged herself with the mission of passing last words to the families of some of the Confederate soldiers she treated. The hero is seeking confirmation that his only son really did die in the war. They meet and slowly (i.e. realistically) a relationship builds between them despite his grief and her mental and emotional exhaustion.
Normally I avoid books that deal with the Civil War because of all of the death and destruction. While McKade didn't overtly dwell on these aspects of the war, she didn't ignore them either.
I'm honestly surprised this book hasn't garnered a little more attention. Yes, it has some bittersweet moments, but it also has a thoroughly believable HEA.
SEX AS A SECOND LANGUAGE: was recommended to me by AAR readers, as I had never heard of this author before (Alisa Kwitney), but was intrigued by the title. It comes across as "chick-lit" and may be marketed that way, but the romance in it is well-done and prominent. I think what I liked most about it was the divorced mom with "geeky child" scenario who is struggling to work after being dumped by her movie star husband. The characters, even the secondary ones, were so well-written that I never grew tired of them. It was an unusual setting: the contemporary classroom for non-English speaking American adults, hence the title. I loved the hero, who was Icelandic (!) and reminded me of Viggo Mortensen's quiet strength...sigh. I rooted for all of the characters to have happy endings except for the creepy ex-husband. It was different, well-written and enjoyable, IMO.
THE THIRTEENTH TALE: It was an A here, and also is being hailed around the world as a superlative gothic book. It took awhile to get into it, but once the story of the strange and possibly diabolical TWINS began, I was hooked. I kept trying to guess what was wrong, what had happened, who was who, etc. and was STILL surprised at the end. It was definitely a GOTHIC MYSTERY, though, with no romance (to my regret), but still a good story.
||My normal reading was down quite a bit in 2006 but I still managed to find some wonderful buried treasures:
The Panther and the Pyramid - Bonnie Vanak
The Raven and the Prince - Elizabeth Hoyt
The Gate to Eden - Cathy McDavid
Surrender - Pamela Clare
Hope's Captive - Kate Lyon
The Dark One - Ronda Thompson
True Blood - Patricia Waddell
This is a charming book by Jennifer Greene. I think the two things that drew me in were the chocolate facts and the pregnancy (I'm a sucker for an unexpected pregnancy story as long as it isn't a secret baby thing.) Greene handled the pregnancy in an upfront manner that I really enjoyed. ARR's Lea Hensley reviewed this book and gave it a "B". For me it was a keeper. And it left me wanting some really fine dark chocolate. Here's the book summary:
Lucy Fitzhenry didn't just wake up one morning and decide to do something stupid...but when an experimental strain of chocolate that she'd developed needed testing, someone had to do it. Who knew that overindulging in her creation would turn an introverted plant lover into a wild nymphomaniac? Or that a celebration with Nick, her boss, would lead to a shocking kiss and a whole lot more.
She blamed it on the chocolate. Her new discovery was supposed to have made her career. Not turn her practical, logical, normal life upside down and get her pregnant with her boss's baby! Though she and Nick butted heads at work, if their one night together was any indication, they were a great match in bed. With a little luck (and chocolate!) maybe they could turn their one-night stand into the chance of a lifetime.
||I second Hope Tarr's Vanquished. I thought the book was well written and historically detailed. The best word to to describe her work is LUSH.
Another buried treasure for me would be Patricia Waddell's True Blood. I thought it was different because it was romance set in the science fiction genre. It was interesting and the author has potential.
My last pick is a very well-known author in the blog world - Nalini Singh's Slave to Sensation. Paranormal romances are done to death this year but she definitley brought a fresh voice to the genre.
These authors are my favorites this past year, and I definitely look forward to reading them more in 2007.
My biggest buried treasure of the year was a Beverly Jenkins book, but not the one mentioned on the column. The one I'm talking about is a contemporary Romantic Suspense title, Sexy/Dangerous, which I don't think I've seen discussed anywhere. It's about a scientist who finds himself in danger because of a discovery he's made, and about the female bodyguard who's hired to protect him.
What made this book so wonderful was the character of Max, Maxine Blake, the bodyguard in question. This is a totally kick-ass woman who's tough and competent and wonderfully confident, both in her professional abilities and in her femininity. She's confident without being arrogant, straightforward without being abrasive, decisive without being stupidly stubborn. And at the same time, Jenkins managed to make her not this perfect, cold robot, but a real, very human woman, and all without compromising any of her strength.
I also loved the hero, Adam, especially because of his reactions to Max. I was half afraid when I started the book that Jenkins would turn Adam into some kind of superhero, just so that it wouldn't seem that Max was stronger than him in a physical sense, but she never does. Adam remains just a regular guy scientist until the very end; a regular guy who, as a man, finds it hard to stand back and let the woman he's half in love with deal with physical danger, but one who's smart enough to accept that he's got absolutely no experience with this kind of thing, while Max is a pro.
I'd highly recommend this one to anyone who's been burned too many times by those supposedly kickass heroines who end up being emotional messes and burst into tears at the slightest provocation.
My buried treasures from 2006:
MAJOR CRUSH, by Jennifer Echols. YA romance set in a small-town Alabama marching band. It appealed to me personally because I *was* a band geek in rural Alabama back in the day, but it's very well-written and engaging.
MAIDENSONG, by Diana Groe. Viking romance that departed from the usual patterns and was well-written and AFAICT well-researched.
I must agree with the selection of Hope Tarr's VANQUISHED, which will likely get my vote for Buried Treasure in this year's poll. Frankly, it was one of the best reads of the year for me. Lush, se xy, full of period detail and atmosphere, just terrific.
Though it's gotten some attention here, Elizabeth Hoyt's THE RAVEN PRINCE was a delightful read with some wonderful characters, most particularly an endearingly gruff, gumpy hero and a calm, self-possessed heroine.
A LADY'S PLEASURE by Renee Bernard was also a pleasant surprise for me. Though flawed, it has a rather brooding atmosphere with a very brooding, but se xy hero and a heroine who wants to finally live for herself, on her own terms.
THE SEA KING by Jolie Mathis was refreshing for the time period alone! Can't recall the last time I read about a Danish marauder and a Saxon princess (probably not since Josie Litton's Viking stories!). An interesting and well developed plot with a twist that many may not have expected.
Given that three of these four are also debut novels, I think I'm going to have a tough time choosing in that category in the poll!
||I would consider Shiloh Walker's Hunting the Hunter to be a buried treasure. The heroine is a vamp., paired with a human hero. Pretty much equals in the relationship and action--which is a plus. The last quarter did get bogged down in plot and away from the relationship, came this close to being a keeper.
Radical Cure by Olivia Gates was a keeper and definately a buried treasure. I hadn't heard of this author before-even tho she had several other category books published. I loved the heroine of this book(and from the previous book Strong Medicine), strong, independent, a contemporary heroine. We know that she can survive without a man in her life...but there is still room for one. And Damien DeLuna manages to be an alpha human man who knows he has met his match. He has to be my favourite hero of the year. They are equals and have to learn to give and take.
||My pick for buried treasure will go to Veiled Desires by Tracy MacNish. I loved this story for its emotion and its romance, and fell totally in love with the hero. I haven't seen much buzz for this book, but I did notice that Mrs Giggles gave it a keeper status. It definitely was a keeper for me, and I think a true buried treasure. Anyone else read this one?
I read a lot of books published before 2006 this year, including Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels, which I really enjoyed and can't believe I never got to that one before!
||I just finished "My Wicked Pirate" by Rona Sharon last night. For those of you who have bemoaning that they don't write them like they used to, well you might just change your mind after reading this book. It starts in the early 1700s Caribbean and then the characters travel to Morocco, Italy and France along the way. It's a fun book to read and only $3.99!
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