Random (but not really)

Thursday, December 23, 2021

The Books of 2021: Romances

I read a lot of romance this year, because I desperately needed the HEA to help me escape reality. Although I did nothing but reread for seemingly four months, I did squeeze in some new and new-to-me books.

 

The Charm Offensive

The Charm Offensive (2021) Alison Cochrun  9/10

Contemporary, LGBT, Closed Door

I initially didn’t want to read this. I mean: reality TV dating show? Ew.

But It kept popping up as something I’d like, and so I decided to borrow it from the library. Then I all but devoured it in one sitting when it came in. Now I own it and have been holding off rereading, because it’s only been, like a month.

Charlie is a disaster. A famous disaster. After getting fired from the company he founded, he is in desperate need of an image rehabilitation.

Dev wants to call bullshit. A reputation of being difficult isn’t enough to blacklist you from any industry when you’re as white and male and traditionally handsome as Charlie, not to mention a certifiable genius.

And for some reason his PA and best friend thinks a reality dating show will do the trick.

“I have only drunkenly proposed to you twice, and I assumed you rejected my offers of a marriage of convenience because you intend to fall madly in love with a former Miss Alabama.”

“That… will not happen.”

“Because there is no former Miss Alabama on this season? Seems unlikely.”

This book ends up dealing with so many important subjects, from asexuality to mental health to casual homophobia and just how awful the TV industry can be.

It’s sweet, it’s affirming, and it was one of my favorite books of the year.

 

Best Laid PlansGarnet Run series by Roan Parrish : Best Laid Plans (2021) 8/10, The Lights on Knockbridge Lane (2021) 8/10

Contemporary, LGBT, Boinking

When I read Better than People last year, it was just what I needed. So I had high hopes for the rest of the series.

Best Laid Plans is Jack’s brother)’s romance. Charlie gave up his dreams to raise Jack after their parents died, and he ended up making a small success of the family business and generally being nearly everyone’s favorite person.

Rye is a mess, and when he inherits a house from a grandfather he never knew, he packs everything up and moves to Garnet Run. This does not seem to be a good decision.

“You need any help with…” Charlie gestured at the hardware equivalent to marshmallows, cheese, and spaghetti before him.

Like all Roan Parrish books, this is a good deal of focus on mental health, with it being treated as something that is simply a part of being alive. Although it can be read as a stand alone, the glimpses of Charlie you got in Jack’s book make the story all more poignant. It’s really just lovely.

The third book, The Lights on Knockbridge Lane is good, but wasn’t quite as good as the two stories that went before for. Neither character appeared in the earlier books–although characters from previous books did appear in this story.

This story also had a slightly different feel from the previous books in the series. Although Wes did have his own issues, most of the focus of the story was on Adam and Gus (his daughter) and how Gus wheedles her way into Wes’ house to see his exciting pets.

The kid parts were well done, which is always a plus, and Adam was written like a real parent, rather than someone with an adorable plot moppet.

It was a good story, I just didn’t love it as much as the previous two books.

 

Rosaline Palmer Takes the CakeRosaline Palmer Takes the Cake (2021) Alexis Hall (Winner Bakes All) 8/10

Contemporary, LGBT, Mostly Closed Door

Another story with a single parent, Rosaline has been (mostly) making ends meet but she wants more, and hopes that winning THE big baking show will give her the push she needs to escape her current job and be more.

“I don’t want to be famous. I just want… enough money to pay for some things and enough people to think I’m good at baking that I might be able to get a slightly better job.”

“Truly. Yours is a hubris of Homeric proportions.”

As one expects with Alexis Hall, so tropes are subverted and things don’t go at all as you’d think they would.

Also, as one expects with Alexis Hall, there are complicated friendships and parental relationships, and things aren’t perfect, but that’s kinda lovely because life isn’t perfect.

Additionally, he was spot-on writing Amelie. I actually love kids in stories, except that so many people just get them wrong, with the kid sounding both too old and too young for their stated age. This story felt like he’d actually spent time around 8-year olds.

 

Sweetest in the GaleSweetest in the Gale (2020) Olivia Dade (There’s Something About Marysburg) 8/10

Contemporary, Boinking

This is three novellas, all set in the town of Marysburg: “Sweetest in the Gale”, “Unraveled”, “Cover Me”

Although these are romances, they are also about the struggles of life, including grief, and dealing with a health crisis while not having insurance.

Which is a lot, but it’s well done and lovely.

Why couldn’t he seem to feel the same about his own fracture, his own pain? Why couldn’t he greet his own healing with uncomplicated relief?

So although two of the stories covered deep and painful subjects, it was done with care and concern, and ended up being soothing.

 

Grumpy Bear (2021) Slade James (Bear Camp) 8/10

Contemporary, LGBT, Boinking

This story ended up being a surprise.

I was pretty sure that I had no interest in reading a story set in a men’s gay nudist camp that seems to be a good deal about casual sex, but yet–it was actually sweet, and one of the characters read as demi-sexual. So there is a lot of the two getting to know each other–including a discussions about science fiction.

He was just… hugging me like he’d been missing me for ages. And I thought it, I sent it out to him with my mind and my body, without saying a word, I’ve missed you too.

It was much sweeter than I was expecting it to be, and quite enjoyable. (Even with the boinking)

 

The Queer Principles of Kit WebbThe Queer Principles of Kit Webb (2021) Cat Sebastian  8/10

Historical, LGBT, Boinking

I tend to be hit and miss with Cat Sebastian stories–I love some and others don’t work for me at all.

This is one of the stories that worked.

After retiring from being a highway man and instead running a coffee shop, Kit is not pleased when a young nobleman wants him to help in a heist.

Of the young lord’s father.

One of the things I liked about this story were the little details that Percy noticed about Kit.

This time part of the web caught in Kit’s hair— which, given the state of Kit’s hair, was hardly surprising— and Kit carefully disentangled it. Then he murmured something that looked awfully like “beg pardon” to the spider.

There was a mystery as to what Percy’s father had been doing, and there was a lot of strategy and planning for the heist, which I enjoyed. Because who doesn’t love a good heist story?

 

The Gentle Art of Fortune HuntingThe Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting (2021) K.J. Charles 8/10

Historical, LGBT, Boinking

Robin Loxleigh and his sister Marianne have come to London to seek their fortunes through marriage. But the young woman Robin has set his eye on has a protective uncle who seems to see through Robin and doesn’t trust him in the slightest.

“Wins fifty or sixty pounds a night.”

“That’s not huge.” It was vast amounts by normal standards, of course, entire sections of the annual accounts to John Hartlebury the prudent brewer, but mere tokens to a gaming baronet.

“It’s not breaking the bank, no. It’s the kind of money you can win at a gaming hell without attracting too much attention. The question is how many gaming hells he’s winning sixty pounds a night at, and how often.”

I don’t like enemies-to-lovers, so that made the story much harder for me to get into, but I did adore how much Robin and Marianne obviously cared for each other–and would do absolutely anything for each other, including give up their own happiness.

Not that there was anything wrong with Hart, but how Robin and Marianne would manage their own happiness as they tried to move beyond what they were was my favorite part of the story.

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