I read just as many books in February as I did in January, but I didn’t have as many stand-outs. Most of the ones that were seriously excellent were highly anticipated and managed to deliver on some really high expectations.
Beyond Ruin by Kit Rocha
This is the latest in the long-running dystopian future romance Beyond series. I reviewed the book in full, but tl;dr if you’ve been by-passing this series, I really must beg you to reconsider. The first few books were delightfully dirty with just enough intriguing world-building to keep me engaged. This latest installment is actually brilliant, but won’t make much sense if you haven’t read the previous books. It features Jade, Doc, Scarlet and Mad bringing an f/f relationship and an m/m relationship into a foursome. The way the romance develops is fascinating, unlike anything else I’ve ever read in a ménage context. And the continuing political turmoil in the Sectors and Eden takes a dramatic turn. I’ve been obsessed with Mad, the prince of Sector 1, from the beginning, but interestingly it was Jade who captured my love in Beyond Ruin. Her story may prove to be the pivot on which the series’ thematic whole turns.
To One Hundred by Melissa Blue
This geeky, Firefly-inspired contemporary romance was also on my much-anticipated list thanks to Mel teasing it on social media for months. Even with all the teasers though, I didn’t realize it would be an age-gap romance between a man and a woman who originally meet in a Firefly chatroom online only to find out that the hero is the heroine’s professor. I know this will be a no-go for some people thanks to the taboo nature of that relationship, but I thought it was handled stunningly well. Like Rebekah Weatherspoon’s FIT, another semi-taboo relationship book, the ethical considerations are frequently discussed and resolved to my satisfaction. The only downside to this book was that it could have used another round of copy editing. It was so geekily charming and spectacularly hot that I couldn’t not include it.
Set in the paranormal Victorian world of the Charm of Magpies series, the m/m novella A Queer Trade was out in an anthology last year, but I never read it. Another book I reviewed in full last week, Rag & Bone is the follow-up novel to that story and takes the two heroes to a much more solid place personally and professionally. After a series of positively fraught pairings by Charles, the less intense, but still action-packed Rag & Bone made for a nice change. There are also cameos by all our favorite Magpies characters, which will be fun for those who have read the rest of the books.
Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon
Yep. The whole series. All six of them. I read them all in like two days. This was the surprise of the month, the recommendation coming as it did from a Heroes & Heartbreakers post about “breeder romances”, a term and concept that I find offensive on several levels. But I do like to try out trends, often just a book or two, to see what all the fuss is about and this series delivered big-time. The premise is that Earth girls are kidnapped by aliens and dropped for future retrieval by their captors on a cold planet after an attack or technical difficulties or something. That’s not important. What’s important is that they find themselves needing food and shelter in an inhospitable environment and set about making plans to survive. They are eventually rescued by a different breed of alien that has adapted to survival on the cold planet by means of a parasite that also chooses their mate and compels them to couple. If I haven’t lost you yet (which I hope I haven’t), what was so surprising about these was that the women are treated with utter respect by their rescuers, the rescuers are, uh, built for their performance and comfort one might say, and that even though each woman and couple are in the same straits, their romantic arcs are all quite different. Plus the “breeder” angle was over-sold, I thought. There was none of the hero monologue (internal or external) about needing to put a baby in the heroine that I feared there would be. It was decidedly not creepy at all. What it adds up to is what seemed like an alien kidnapping/rape backstory/fated mate/must-impregnate-my-woman series that I should have HATED, but actually loved because it flips all those awful tropes on their heads. Seriously, try it. You can join Amazon Kindle Unlimited for a 30-Day Free Trial if you haven’t already and check them out. So much better than they should have been.