Have you ever tried to read for 24 out of 48 hours in a single weekend? It’s not as easy as I assumed it would be! This is the second time I’ve participated in the 24 in 48 Readathon and I haven’t yet managed to hit the 24 hour mark. I managed 18 this time, which is pretty impressive considering I played Dungeons & Dragons for six hours on Saturday.
It’s a great concept for me as a reviewer though. There are any number of books that I just never manage to get to in the course of my normal reading. Anthologies, novellas, books of short stories and books I’m not sure I’ll like are hard to prioritize because I know I probably won’t review them for the blog. So this is a great opportunity just to take a weekend and plow through a bunch of stuff all at once. And, what do you know? There were some gems! So I thought I’d just do a round-up of everything I read with some quickie reviews.
Darling Infidel by Violet Winspear
I actually only had a chapter of Darling Infidel left, but since it’s my TBR Challenge book for the month, I wanted to finish before I started anything else. This is a 1970s Harlequin and has all the typical features: alphahole hero, heroine who lacks agency, very little sexual contact, a tidy helping of thinly veiled racism. There’s just something about Winspear though. Even when she’s problematic she works for me. I’ll be talking more about this book on Wednesday in time for TBR Challenge.
Sport of Baronets by Theresa Romain
A free novella introducing Theresa Romain’s new series about Regency horse-racing, Sport of Baronets features a hero and heroine both fighting to find their place in their families and the world. A family feud has kept them strangers, but when a horse is stolen and they must work together, they find they have quite a lot in common. This novella is not as subtle as some of Romain’s other work, but it’s also shorter than anything else I’ve read by her so that’s easily excused. There’s one quite deliciously sexy scene and the banter and humor is perfection. I’m very much looking forward to the first full-length novel about the heroine’s older brother and her father’s new secretary, A Gentleman’s Game. There’s a teaser in the back of the novella that bodes well for the future of the series.
Angel by Victoria Dahl
A bittersweet story of a prostitute who falls in love with a customer, I wasn’t totally sure what to think of Angel. Dahl is an unapologetic feminist and I think she’s trying here to offer a sympathetic view of sex work in historical New Orleans. There were a few issues though. The heroine is black and the hero is white and I was uncomfortable with the level of self-loathing the heroine displays, both as a result of plying her trade since the age of 13 and for being black in a mixed race relationship. She has a very low level of trust and doesn’t quite believe in the idealized hero until the very end of the story. It’s not totally resolved, but this is a novella and we’re promised glimpses of their future life in the rest of the series. Unfortunately, this came off more like women’s fiction than romance as the hero is a bit of cardboard cut-out nice guy. It’s not really erotic either. The sex is hot, but doesn’t particularly move the needle on the relationship. Still, it’s a free novella and not a bad introduction to a series that seems interesting so I’m unwilling to judge too harshly.
One Week in December by Alexis Anne, Audra North, Julia Kelly and Alexandra Haughton
A collection of short stories set near the holidays, One Week in December follows four couples as they experience varying types and degrees of alienation as they navigate family issues and new situations. All the stories were charming, well written and had just enough conflict to keep from being saccharine. It’s a great introduction to any of these authors. I’d read North in the past, but none of the others and based on this collection, I’d be willing to pick up more by any of them.
One Week in Wyoming by Alexis Anne, Audra North, Julia Kelly and Alexandra Haughton
Another collection by the same authors as One Week in December, One Week in Wyoming was actually the more interesting of the two I read, as the stories are all interconnected. Four female friends on a writer’s retreat and four male friends on a reunion trip find love during a ski trip. The story also feature a marriage in trouble that threads through all four of the other stories. It’s an intriguing concept and I enjoyed the longer format of the stories.
Bonds of Earth by GN Chevalier
Bonds of Earth was my favorite read of the weekend. This post World War I New York set historical follows a veteran of the war and former medical student who takes a position as a gardener at a rural estate in order to placate an uncle who doesn’t approve of his status as a gay man and work as a masseur in a bath house. This brings him into contact with another veteran who could use his physical therapy expertise. It’s a fascinating exploration of a time we don’t see a lot of historical romance, filled with details about the advent of modern medicine and gay culture in the early 1900s. Everything about this book was perfect. If you’re at all intrigued by historical m/m romance, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I can only hope the author continues to write as this is her only book!