Friday, January 4, 2013

Year In Review 2012: The A Reads

I'm notoriously finicky with A grades.  Books that get an "A" rating from yours truly have to have what I call an "A-Ha!" moment in them.  That moment in the story that knocks the wind out of me, makes me marvel at the author's storytelling abilities, and just all around sucks me in.  I also tend to only slap A grades on books that I want to take with me to my grave and/or reread one day.  You know, in the event that I ever get through my TBR (Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!). Here are the six books that got either A or A- grades from me last year.  Oh, and no - I don't believe in A+.  Scrooge that I am.

Title links will take you to full reviews

Conor's Way by Laura Lee Guhrke (1996) - Historical romance
  •  KristieJ has been nagging me forever to read this book, and I finally did this year as part of the TBR Challenge.  Not my favorite of Guhrke's early work, but still so very good.  Adored the wounded Irish hero and the slightly faded Southern belle heroine determined to hang on to the family farm in the aftermath of the Civil War. 
We'll Always Have Paris by Jessica Hart (2012) - Contemporary category romance
  •  Jessica Hart writes fun books.  Bubbly, light-hearted, almost chick-lit-in-tone books, although she has a sneaky way of introducing doses of emotional angst into her stories.  Stuffed shirt hero meets his match in eccentric, free-spirited heroine.  Will it change the world?  OK, probably not.  But it's a fun, satisfying read and the very definition of why so many of us read romance.
Restraint by Charlotte Stein (2012) - Romantic erotica short story digital-only
  • In a year that saw me getting bloody well sick of BDSM and annoyed with seemingly every erotic writer on the planet jumping on that bandwagon, this short story by Stein was a wonderful reminder of WHY I read erotic-anything.  In short?  It's about the heroine stupid.  Great heroine.  A hero who is the antithesis of the current Horny Wounded Mommy-Didn't-Love-Him Billionaire Dom trend.  Whatever Stein is selling, y'all need to be buying it.
Foxfire Bride by Maggie Osborne (2004) - Historical romance
  • There's just something about the way Maggie Osborne wrote historical westerns, even when I'm not enamored with a particular book (yes, I've DNF'ed Maggie Osborne).  This one?  Was a very solid, very good read then WHAMO!  It hit me like a ton of bricks how amazing this road romance was.  How fantastic the characters were.  How invested I was to the point where I actually CRIED over the ending.  I pulled this book out of the TBR during a low-ebb in my reading, and it was just what the doctor ordered.
The Rebel Rancher by Donna Alward (2012) - Contemporary category romance
  •  This is a very good story, but I'll be honest - part of the my A- grade on this one was given to reward Alward for writing such satisfying, angsty Harlequin Romances.  She's very, very good in that line.  I've read over half a dozen of her books and have never graded her below a B-.  With this story, I admired the way she took plot devices that I normally loathe, incorporated them into this story, and made me BELIEVE in them.  In other words?  They worked for this story.  For these specific, particular characters: A wounded hero who has been acting his way through life to hide who he truly is, and a heroine picking up the pieces after an abusive relationship.
The Space Between Us by Megan Hart (2012) - Romantic erotic fiction
  •  I saw more than a few "um, it was OK I guess" reviews for this one, but once again Hart's characters knocked the wind right out of my sails.  She writes SUCH amazing, believable, full-realized characters.  I believe these people really exist.  In a lot of cases, I want to meet these people.  Hell, if only to give them a hug.  Hart isn't a whiz-bang thrill-ride sort of plotter, and this story of a aimless 20-something who enters into a menage relationship with a married couple is certainly very quietly plotted.  But damn, it packs a punch.  If I were a fiction writer I think I would make myself a Lil' Megan Hart voodoo doll just out of sheer jealousy.
And that's it for the A grades!  Honestly, six of them in the same year is pretty dang good for me.  Next up?  The honorable mentions!


Hilcia said...

Wendy, Conor's Way! What a wonderful read! I read it as a result of everyone's oohs and ahhs during the Challenge and it was worth it for me too. I stuck to 2012 releases for my "best of" list this year, otherwise Conor's Way would have been included in my list also.

I have The Space Between Us in my list of books to read by Hart. Definitely. And, We'll Always Have Paris is also on that list. :)

Wendy said...

Hils: My "Best Of" lists are typically pretty heavy on new releases too since I'm crap for reading out of my TBR. But ooooh, I love including the older books - especially nowadays because digital has made it easier to get our hands on backlist titles.