Read in January

A Breath of Fire – Amanda Bouchet

I’m not going to bother to tell you how much I loved this book. Cause you probably already know I’m a sucker for this series. I love seeing couples “after the HEA” but I wasn’t as crazy about the first half of this one. The second half and the gladiator team Olympics was more fun than I’ve had in a book in a while…and (no spoilers) the final showdown was a boss battle for the ages.

The Prague Sonata – Brandon Morrow

I really, really wanted to love this one (and maybe that was my first problem). I’ve loved ‘found the object of historical and/or magical significance’ since the movie ‘The Red Violin.’ This trope often combines a past and current timeline, and I love reading fictionalized accounts of historical periods. They’re also almost always set in interesting places. So, yeah…catnip.

This book has it all: a mysterious sonata broken into pieces and scattered by circumstance and geography, a truly fascinating historical period (post WW2 central Europe) and PRAGUE. You know I love me some Prague.

And yet…

I just couldn’t get into the “present day” storyline, which I found myself skimming to get back to the history, and found only mildly more interesting once the two timelines began to collide (no spoilers, but it’s not via magic). But the tacked-on romance and the clumsy mayhem caused by a comic book academic antagonist were eye rollers. Go for the history, the details of the city and THE MUSIC.

Once an Angel – Theresa Medeiros

Oh, what can I say? This was January’s pick for the Old School Romance Book Cub, so part of me wants to hold up my hands and say, “this wasn’t my idea!” and the other part of me wants to own the cray cray and roll with it. I mean, I grew up watching soaps while my grandma folded laundry, watered the houseplants, and talked on the phone all day. I saw a LOT of drama.

This book. Oh, this book. All improbable twists, and turns and, gasps! of shock and horror as characters pulled multiple 180’s and reacted to each other with lines like:

“‘So this is what it’s come to between us. You think you can waltz in here after you’ve made it clear what you think of me…Do you think me so desperate I’d take any scrap you’d care to throw my way?…Do you think I have no pride? Well, you’re right,’ he shouted. ‘I don’t!'”

and scene.

And it went ON. And on. England, New Zeland, England, back to New Zeland. From orphanages to aristocratic homes to ballrooms to bawdyhouses… My lord. My head still hasn’t stopped spinning.

This is considered old school romance for a reason, people. Once I stopped fighting and just surrendered to the cray, I was much better off. But please, hand me a Tessa Dare.

Speaking of…

A Lady by Midnight, Spindle Cove #3 by Tessa Dare

I have decided, that as much as I love the OSRBC and community within, I like my historical romances new school. And it’s totally splitting hairs to declare that while Spindle Cove isn’t my favorite of Dare’s series (Castles Ever After, hands down) it ticks all my boxes. Particularly with lines that make me laugh out loud in public places.

“Everyone stared at [the mace], rapt. The image was transfixing — this instrument of death swinging faster and faster through its drunken orbit. Evan’s face told her even he was wary of what he’d unleashed — and uncertain how to control or stop it. He shot Kate a bewildered look. His eyes seem to say, Did I truly do this? Fight your betrothed with javelins and broadswords and then lift a bloody medieval mace over my head and start swinging it recklessly about in a room full of people?

Yes, Evan. You truly did.

I’m also fond of how the Spindle Cove men are dealing with some real issues: PTSD, war, childhood trauma. They have good reasons for shying from love.

Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence – Lisa Chron

The thing about writing is that it isn’t  a science, and while I love a good memoir with tips (Anne Lamott, Elizabeth George, Stephen King) I’m always skeptical of any prescriptive writing book. What I loved about this one was the application of modern brain science to techniques in fiction as a “here’s why this works.”

In February, I’m hopefully knocking a few off my backlogged SFF stack (Red Rising, Prey of Gods and Daken vs X-23), working my way slowly through another from the dare Dare backlist (Spindle Cove, I’m coming for you), and catching up on some new things that hit my radar (two dance based romances: On Pointe and Take the Lead…heaven!)

What are you reading now? Reading next?


*full disclosure: most of the links are affiliate links, which means if you purchase after clicking, I make a little scratch.