(Title links will take you to full-length reviews)
- Oh-So-Sensible Secretary and Juggling Briefcase & Baby by Jessica Hart - contemporary series romance, Harlequin Romance line. These books are connected by heroes that are brothers, but they couldn't be more different as characters. OsSS's hero is laid-back while JB&B's is a driven workaholic. Hart has a writing style and voice that just seems to click with me. I also think she's quite skilled at what I call "gut-punch" moments. Both of these knocked the wind right out of me, and in the case of JB&B it elevated the book for me.
- Surrender to a Irish Warrior by Michelle Willingham - historical medieval romance, Harlequin Historical line. I've read several books by Willingham and have enjoyed them to varying degrees. This last book in her MacEgan brothers series (yes, it does stand alone - says me) is a departure for her thanks to the Holy Angst Ahoy Batman! storyline. It's the kind of book that sucks the light right out of the room as you're reading. It's dark, it's heavy, and in the end it makes the happy ending that much more uplifting. If you're an angst junkie, dig this one up pronto. Says me.
- Scoundrel's Kiss and Song of Seduction by Carrie Lofty - historical medieval romance, Kensington Zebra and historical Regency era Austria romance, Carina Press (Harlequin). Lofty hit two homeruns in one year. SK featured a deeply wounded hero, so determined to repent for his past that he wants to become a monk. Her heroine is a opium-addicted not-so-nice girl who played a slightly villainous roll in a previous story. SoS was a bit of a slow starter for me, but oh how I loved the passion in this book! You'd think passion would abound in the romance genre, but it doesn't always, and Lofty writes this romance in a such a way that your heart aches. I also really appreciated the historical feel of this story - having her widowed heroine behave and worry about things that one could imagine 19th century proper ladies worried about.
- Irish Warrior by Kris Kennedy - historical medieval romance, Kensington Zebra. I originally graded this one a B, but looking back, it so should have been a B+. A great road romance with a sweeping saga feel. An Alpha warrior hero who falls hard for the heroine and will do anything to protect her. A heroine with gumption and brains who finds her family's past coming back to haunt her. If you like medievals, read this now. And even if you don't normally gravitate towards the time period but are desperate for a good, meaty historical? Yeah, look this one up.
- Wild Oats by Pamela Morsi - historical Americana romance, Berkley Jove. I love historical romances that feature "regular folks," so it's no surprise that this is now the third Morsi historical to land in my keeper stash. A dreamy beta virgin hero, a heroine with a "bad" reputation, and a "scandalous" romance that defies a town full of disapproving fools.
- "The Reluctant Hero" by Lorraine Heath (My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys anthology) - historical western romance short story, Kensington. I'll admit that I may have graded this one higher partly on the nostalgia of Heath writing a western again (I really think she "belongs" here - don't try to convince me otherwise), but it really is a very good story. Yes, it's a short story. And yes, it's not going to have the same heft to it as a full-length novel. But Heath uses this story about a dime novel writing heroine and a town sheriff to tackle the idea of "hero worship." And in a romance novel? I find that a very interesting theme to tackle. Hell, as romance readers don't we all "suffer" from hero worship in one form or another?
- Holding Out for a Hero by HelenKay Dimon - contemporary romantic suspense, Kensington Brava. I read a mess of books by Dimon this year, but this was the first one and dang, it knocked my socks off. I loved the adversarial relationship between the hero and heroine. I loved the dark (holy cow, dark!) romantic suspense platform. I loved the sexy, sizzling banter. This book reminded me of how great the Brava line can be when there's a good writer delivering the story.
- Ice Cold by Tess Gerritsen and The Night Season by Chelsea Cain - contemporary mystery/suspense, Ballantine and St. Martin's Minotaur. I didn't read a lot of mystery/suspense this year (::sob::), but what I did read was really quite good. The Gerritsen and Cain novels were the clear standouts. Gerritsen delivers a wonderful entry to her long-running series, includes a creepy plot thread that could be straight out of a horror movie, and even wraps up some personal baggage for one of her characters. The Cain book doesn't release until March (so yeah, review won't happen until then!), but this entry proves that the author doesn't need her female serial killer character, Gretchen Lowell, to write a compelling creepy read.
Next up? My final post on my reading year that was 2010. A general summary, observations and final thoughts.