I spent this month reading continuing to read novellas from my favorite authors, including a sprinkling of some leftover Christmas stories I didn’t quite get to in time for one reason or another. I also discovered a few gems, including some by a new-to-me author, who I hope to read more from in the future.
1/1-The Spy Wore Blue by Shana Galen (eBook), 4 stars: I loved the character of Blue in the Lord and Lady Spy series, and I was pleased to find out there were stories about him finding love…or in this case, rekindling it. The premise does feel a bit too similar to one of the actual books in the series, but the overall execution works and makes for a fun, action-adventure romance.
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1/1-All I Want for Christmas is Blue by Shana Galen (eBook), 4 stars: A great holiday-themed addendum to the aforementioned title. While that title sees his work come between them, this one is much more personal, with his aristocratic family’s machinations getting between them. The way they prove their love is ultimately wonderful, and I’m glad they can finally get their well-deserved HEA.
½-Once Upon a Moonlit Night by Elizabeth Hoyt (eBook), 4 stars: I fell out of love with the Maiden Lane series after the bitter taste of Duke of Sin and its villain of “hero,” Valentine, Duke of Montgomery, and while I always planned to return to the other books, I never did. So, the novella immediately after it was a great way to get back into it, and I am reminded why I love the series, with its juxtaposition of the whimsical fairy tale with the darker world of Georgian England. Hipployta and Matthew’s relationship is darkly passionate, but one of mutual love and respect, and makes for a great re-entry point back into the series.
½-Miracle Workers by Simon Rich (Paperback), 5 stars: I don’t typically like books that does weird stuff with religion, but I watched the first episode of the tv show, because it has Daniel Radcliffe, and was intrigued, then happened upon a copy of the new tie-in edition of the book at the library. It has a fun take on the world and Heaven itself, what with the idea of God being a CEO of a company, and I like the idea that God is a little jaded about the state of the world, going against the common depictions of Him. And while the story remains relevant today, I like how, when it originally came out, it tied in super well with the reflection on people’s fear that the world would end in 2012, and making fun of that in hindsight.
⅓-Once Upon a Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Boyle (eBook), 5 stars: Pure sweetness. This book plays with a lot of tropes, like the arranged marriage turned love and “lost princess” type tropes in a new way. Also, it provides an HEA for the character of Mary Whitsun, a mainstay of the series early on. While there is nothing conclusive gained about her background, she does gain more family of the heart, as well as find her soulmate in the absolutely adorable Henry.
⅓-Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Elizabeth Hoyt (eBook), 4 stars: I enjoyed this one, between seeing D’Arque’s softer side (he loves his grandmother! Awww!) and the dynamic where he and Sarah fall in love as she begins to see past his rakish exterior. And while the little fairy tales always complement the story really well, I quite enjoyed this one in particular and its fun take on The Frog Princess.
¼-The Second Time Around by Ella Quinn (eBook), 5 stars: An installment of Ella Quinn’s Worthingtons is always great fun, and I’m glad I went back and caught up on Patience and Richard’s story. The focus on family is there, of course, and I love the exploration of the conflict of a mother making a choice regarding giving up the perks of widowhood, particularly concerning her parental rights, and pursuing a relationship “the second time around” with a former lover.
⅕-Night of the Scoundrel by Kelly Bowen (eBook), 5 stars: At last the notorious King gets his story! And while it seemed unjust at first to relegate him to a novella, I feel like this was the perfect length to hit all the beats of his backstory and how it impacts him in the present day. The revelation about who he was and his quest for vengeance was well done, which is saying something, given that I’m not a fan of broody, revenge seeking heroes. And he meets his match in the assassin Adeline, and I enjoyed seeing his walls come down through his romance with her, even if he did try to detach at first.
⅙-Artemis by Jessica Cale (eBook), 5 stars-The Southwark Saga is one of my favorite series, and I was so excited to finally be able to read the Regency-set spinoff novella. Jessica Cale never lets me down in terms of letting me know about the real historically accurate but bits of history that the pearl-clutchers like to pretend doesn’t exist, and this is no exception. Her portrayal of the articulation of the idea of what it feels like to be trans in a time period before this was fully understood is well done, and I adored the fall into love between Apollo and Charlotte. It’s great to know that, even a few generations down the line, the Somertons still delight in the unconventional, and given the series numbering, here’s hoping there are more stories in this subseries along with a continuation of the original.
1/7-Hawaii Magic by Beverly Jenkins (eBook), 5 stars: I hadn’t yet read any contemporary Beverly Jenkins, but if they’re all as charming as this one, I’m excited to try more. I picked this one up because of the setting, because there need to be more romance novels set in Hawaii. And even though this is another one from a tourist perspective, it is well done in feeling true to the “feel” of the place. Jenkins also presents two likable leads in lawyer Anita and pilot Steve. I enjoyed seeing Anita fight back against her mother’s expectations that she settle down with someone who hurt her in addition to already being successful professionally, as well as the exploration of her first time experiencing sexual pleasure, which she’s always been taught was wrong.
1/7-Be Not Afraid by Alyssa Cole (eBook), 5 stars: Reading an Alyssa Cole historical is usually a learning experience, and this one is no different. Cole provides context to the lives of Black Americans during the Revolutionary War years through Elijah’s fervent patriotism and Kate’s cynicism, leading to them growing together and finding lasting love.
1/7-One Bed for Christmas by Jackie Lau (eBook), 5 stars: I picked this up when it was free (and it technically still is, as it’s also a gift for new newsletter subscribers), and I decided to give it a go. It has my favorite trope, friends to lovers, and the dynamic is one I absolutely love, with a female CEO and a guy with a bit of imposter syndrome due to his lack of success. I rooted for them as they initiated the physical part of their relationship, leading them to figure out how to navigate the emotional ones.
⅛-A Right Honorable Gentleman by Courtney Milan (eBook), 4 stars: An adorable, sweet short story about a man who doesn’t want his governess to leave. A good palate cleanser between other longer books.
⅛-Butterflies: The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles (eBook), 3 stars: A fun historical airy a dash of paranormal. A great story to help me get a feel for Charles’ style.
1/9-Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan (eBook), 5 stars: While I haven’t yet read the novels in the Worth Saga, I had no issue picking this novella up and diving in, in part because of its awesome premise. I’m a sucker for f/f romance, and this one has a lot of fun humor, which is cutting without going too far. Commenting indirectly on Judge Kavanaugh and #MeToo, Milan imbues her heroines with high spirits and strong personalities, enough to take down the worst form of men in the form of the Terrible Nephew.
1/10-Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder (eBook), 5 stars: I had heard this book talked about in the context of how it handles the motorcycle-club archetype, and that’s one facet I liked, with the characters openly discussing the white supremacy of such groups not prevalent in romantic fantasies of them. But there’s also a great romance at its core between the initially unlikely pairing of Trucker and Pinky. And it’s got a great punny (and culturally relevant) title!
1/11-The Lawyer’s Luck by Piper Huguley (eBook), 4 stars: I loved this novella and how it highlights the story of slavery and the ways of fighting for freedom. I came away from this book with the knowledge about the price of it all, financially (for the abolitionists) and on one’s soul (for the enslaved). Not a ton of substance to the romance itself, but I did enjoy it overall.
1/12-A Duke to Remember by Eve Marie Perry, Anne-Marie Rivera, Liana de la Rosa, Susannah Erwin, and Cheryl Tapper (eBook), 3 stars: Ok story, but not overly engaging. Also, the fact that the story was written by five people is obvious, even without the notations of who wrote what, as it does feel fractured, as opposed to feeling seamless.
1/13-Grumpy Jake by Melissa Blue (eBook), 4 stars: A cute and sexy romance. It does play on some familiar tropes, a bit too much for my liking, but ultimately, I did like seeing Jake trying hard in his role as adoptive father and working to be a good guy for Bailey.
1/14-Unlocked by Courtney Milan (eBook), 4 stars: A fun “companion” story to the Turner series, although I admit the connection was a little foggy, due to having read the first book a while ago. Mostly enjoyable, with a great take on friends to lovers and a hero who genuinely atones for his past trespasses.
1.15-His Forbidden Lady by Nicola Davidson (eBook), 5 stars: I love the Tudor period, and I still lament the fact that romance set in this era is thin on the ground. But Davidson’s novella did the trick in satisfying me (at least momentarily) by showcasing exactly what I love about the time period, with all the danger that comes with it, somehow making love in the face of great odds even more appealing. She manages to recreate a perfect portrait of Henry VIII’s court, with the added stakes of Annabelle being chosen as the temperamental king’s next wife. The fact that it takes place shortly after the demise of his fifth wife, and her connection to the Seymour family evokes comparisons to his beloved Queen Jane is wonderfully done too. And while I still tend to prefer my romances on the sweeter side, I enjoyed seeing Annabelle and Rafe’s relationship play out, including their reawakening passion.
1/16-18-Tales from the Gunpowder Chronicles by Jeannie Lin (eBook), 4 stars: I enjoyed the main books in the Gunpowder Chronicles thus far, so getting this novella collection was a no-brainer. And while some of the stories are more enjoyable than others, it’s just fun to spend more time in the world again and see some familiar faces. I particularly liked how “Love in the Time of Engines” gave us the love story of Soling’s parents!
1/20-Let it Shine by Alyssa Cole (eBook), 5 stars: In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I read this novella by Alyssa Cole set during the Civil Rights movement. She does a great job of touching on the issues going on in the era with all the push for change going on on multiple fronts, including racial equality. In the midst of it, there’s a beautiful interracial and interfaith relationship between African American Sofie and Ivan, who is the son of Jewish refugees. Cole deals with the tensions due to the prejudices against them and them fighting back in such a wonderful way, culminating with them and their families coming together against the odds.
1/21-Viscount of Vice by Shana Galen (eBook), 4 stars: I enjoyed the Covent Garden Cubs series, so I was excited to go back and read the novella prequel that started it all. It’s kinda tropey, but I enjoyed the exploration of grief through Henry’s reckoning with the loss (and reunion) with his brother, and, in turn, touching lightly on Robbie’s life living at the mercy of the villainous Satin, including developing a dependency on drugs.
1/22-Wanted, A Gentleman by KJ Charles (eBook), 4 stars: I enjoyed this novella, touching on some pretty intense topics, including the complex relationship between a formerly enslaved person and the enslaver, in the relationship between Martin and the Conroy family. I enjoyed how the racism Martin faces, both in terms of this toxic relationship and in terms of the broader racism in society, is shown through both Martin’s and Theo’s perspectives. But while the romance does feel a little rushed, especially given some of the twists along the way, there is still some charm to balance the book.
1/23-Love is in the Airship by Catherine Stein (eBook), 4 stars: Cute and fun slice of her Sass and Steam world. While I still lament not enjoying the full novel more, these shorts are so much fun.
1/24-One Forbidden Knight by Nicola Davidson (eBook), 5 stars: Yet another conspiracy-filled, passionate Tudor tale! I was invested in Catherine and Brand’s story from start to finish, from the mystery surrounding her father’s death, to the questions surrounding his origins, to their positions in the court of Mary I. Once again, Davidson perfectly captures the tense nature of the court of a tyrannical monarch, while showing both the dynastic and human sides to Mary I, including her, like her father in Davidson’s prior Tudor novella, realistically providing the leads with the means for their HEA, even after they’ve crossed her.
.1/25-The Year of the Crocodile by Courtney Milan (eBook), 4 stars: A nice short to tide readers over while the next book is in development, also teasing some developments for the succeeding books, particularly where the lovable asshole Adam is concerned. It’s also great to see Tina and Blake celebrating Chinese New Year with their families.
1/31–The Earl’s Christmas Pearl by Megan Frampton (Mass Market Paperback), 5 stars: An absolutely adorable Christmas novella wrapping up a series that I more or less enjoyed. Pearl and Owen play off one another well, including a particularly funny scene where, after cracking eggs to make food, they exchange a series of egg-xcellent puns. Amd while you can read it at any time of year, the Christmas cheer radiates off the page, both in the preparations in-text and the plays on other tales and tropes, like the “12 Days of Christmas” and Home Alone.