For the second year in a row, Seattle Public Library’s Marlene Harris has been tasked with selecting LJ’s list of Best Ebook Romances. Her mission was to pick her ten favorites from 2013. And it was still a difficult decision! This list should have something in it to pull at any romance reader’s heartstrings.
Archer, Zoë. Skies of Gold. Avon Impulse. (Ether Chronicles, Bk. 5). ebk. ISBN 9780062241443. STEAMPUNK ROMANCE
The first four books in Archer’s alternate history steampunk series made LJ’s list of the best ebook romances of 2012, and this fifth and final title lives up to the glorious standard of adventure set by the earlier volumes. Skies of Gold tells of a world war, set in the late 19th century, fueled by steam power and tellurium, informed by the climate and mores of the time of the Great Game of Empires. We have spies, naval battles, and airships, but we also have stalwart heroes and amazingly brave heroines fighting with everything they’ve got to bring peace and sanity in a world gone power mad. Steampunk lovers will be sorry to see this series end.
Buroker, Lindsay. Forged in Blood I. ebk. ISBN 9781301493357.
Buroker, Lindsay. Forged in Blood II. ebk. ISBN 9781301349876.
ea. vol: Lindsay Buroker. (Emperor’s Edge). FANTASY ROMANCE
Strictly speaking, the “Emperor’s Edge” books are action-adventure novels in which a romance eventually occurs, but the romance isn’t the main focus. The plot revolves around how a fired military policewoman refuses to stop saving the Empire, or how she recruits a band of misfits even more dysfunctional than the A-Team to help her. Or perhaps it’s about how she manages to convince the world’s best assassin not to kill her but instead recruits him into her merry band of do-gooders and then doesn’t have anything with which to pay them—not even after they kidnap the Emperor for his own good. Is the Emperor her love interest? Nope. It’s the assassin—eventually. If you like your romantic encounters with a slice of adventure and a barrel of snark, try “The Emperor’s Edge.” The series also includes The Emperor’s Edge (ebk. ISBN 9781458015808), Dark Currents (ebk. ISBN 9781458059642), Deadly Games (ebk. ISBN 9781466147379), Conspiracy (ebk. ISBN 9781476098548), and Blood and Betrayal (ebk. ISBN 9781476458014).
Croft, Nina. Bittersweet Blood. Entangled. (Order, Bk. 1). ebk. ISBN 9781622669592. PARANORMAL ROMANCE
Croft’s (Losing Control) new paranormal series mixes up traditional paranormal species like vampires and demons and takes a blender to our standard definitions of what those names trigger when they appear in a story. Here, the vampires are actually peacekeepers because the fae need to be kept from laying waste to Earth (that means us) in order to wipe out the demons. Not that the demons are exactly innocent, but they’re more of a “live and let live” group compared to the fae. The romance in Bittersweet Blood features a young woman who just wants to find out who she really is and discover her true origins. It seems she is ground zero in the fae/demon war, and the only person standing between her and her own personal Armageddon is the vampire who loves her. This is one hot “fish out of water” paranormal romance, with impressive world-building.
Ford, Rhys. Black Dog Blues. Coffee Squirrel. (Kai Gracen, Bk. 1). ebk. ISBN 9781301668625. M/M PARANORMAL ROMANCE
This book is for those who like their world-building on the dark and gritty side, their heroic journeys stuck in the middle, and their romance slightly indeterminate. What is truly fascinating is how many ways the story turns your expectations on their heads. You should feel sorry for the hero, bartered as the prize in a poker game, yet that is the best thing that happens to him. His own clan, the elves, are far from noble and treat him much worse than the human underclass among whom he lives. This near-future dystopia is both dangerous and fascinating. The idea of dragons mating over the Mojave Desert is simply awesome. But it’s Kai Gracen who keeps the story interesting. Several people here care deeply for him, but whether he’ll be ready to accept that concern is likely the stuff of future series installments.
Grey, Jeanette. Take What You Want. Samhain. ebk. ISBN 9781619213746.
NEW ADULT ROMANCE
College student Ellen Price is stuck on campus for senior year spring break while her rich friends go to the Bahamas. Instead of moping, Ellen takes a vacation from herself. She goes shopping in her closet and dresses to be sexy, take-charge Ellen instead of fading into her books. New Ellen goes to a bar and picks up the hottest guy present, not recognizing him as one of her classmates, without his trademark glasses. He thinks they’re playing a game, she thinks she’s done something wicked. He wants a real relationship, she wants to be “New Ellen.” Then real Ellen discovers she wants this terrific guy for keeps. How does she end the charade? This sex-into-love romance is about the power of positive thinking, or at least the power of turning lemons into very wicked lemonade.
Kindred, Jane. The Armies of Heaven. Entangled. (House of Arkhangel’sk). ebk. ISBN 9781620611067. FANTASY ROMANCE
The House of Arkhangel’sk is a “fantastic” retelling, reimagining, and remixing of the story of the fall of the House of Romanov in 1917. Except that in Kindred’s version, the Romanovs have already fallen as a trial version of the fall of the angelic House of Arkhangel’sk in the Courts of Heaven. But this is a fantasy after all, and angels are merely powerful beings with strengths and weaknesses similar to those in any other paranormal universe, and the rulers of such beings are subject to the same corruptibility as any other noble court. This is a tale of the corruption of power, the redemption of love, and the ease with which innocents can be deceived. The best man here is a demon, and the biggest fool, an angel. This is ultimately a love story for those who are willing to journey through the same dark and twisted paths as those encountered in Jacqueline Carey Kushiel’s Dart. The series includes The Fallen Queen (ebk. ISBN 9781620611036) and The Midnight Court (ebk. ISBN 9781620611081).
Knox, Ruthie. How To Misbehave. ebk. ISBN 9780345545305.
Knox, Ruthie. Along Came Trouble. ebk. ISBN 9780345541611. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 1/11/13)
Knox, Ruthie. Flirting with Disaster. ebk. ISBN 9780345541703. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 6/28/13)
Knox, Ruthie. Making It Last. ebk. ISBN 9780345549297.
ea. vol: Loveswept: Random. (Camelot). 4-vol. set. ebk. ISBN 9780804180436. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Knox’s Camelot, OH, books showcase just what this author does best, create love stories that feature real people in situations that readers can understand and with which they can empathize. The problems that occur in her romances don’t rest on crazy “misunderstandamnits” that stretch the suspension of disbelief; instead, she relies on the type of challenges that fracture relationships in the real world. Additionally, she writes absolutely smoking-hot love scenes! Her heroes and her heroines redeem and save each other. Love doesn’t conquer all, but it makes life a whole lot sweeter.
Osborn, Stephanie. The Case of the Displaced Detective Omnibus. Twilight Times.
It’s been said that every generation reinvents Sherlock Holmes to suit itself. Osborn’s The Case of the Displaced Detective offers a variation that applies the concept of Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair to the theory of parallel universes and results in an alternate world in which Sherlock Holmes is a real person. Mix well with a scientist who experiments with a device to travel among those universes and a long-standing interest in the Holmes stories, and we get an experiment to see exactly what happened when Holmes met Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls. When the scientist intervenes, Holmes is now in our universe, trying to adapt to the 21st century, with no way to return to a world in which he has died. The relationship that develops between Holmes and Dr. Skye Chadwick, the very same scientist responsible for both his exile and his second chance at life, turns out to be a fascinating partnership and a surprising but creditable love story. For readers who like their romance combined with a mystery to solve, as Holmes is very much still on the case in the 21st century.
Rivers, Mary Ann. The Story Guy. Loveswept: Random. ebk. ISBN 9780345548740. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
When you look back and talk about a relationship, the “story guy” is the one who will make a great story, even if the relationship didn’t work out. When librarian (!) Carrie West answers a personal ad for one hour weekly of kissing in the park, her friends tell her that the surprisingly hot guy behind the ad will at least be worth a good story. But Brian turns out to be so much more. Digging for the reasons why this good man is willing to reduce any possibilities of a real relationship to so little make this a beautiful and affecting contemporary romance.
Scott, Jessica. Anything for You. Loveswept: Random. (Coming Home, Bk. 2.5). ebk. ISBN 9781301165766.
Scott, Jessica. I’ll Be Home for Christmas. Forever Yours: Grand Central. (Coming Home, Bk. 2.6). ebk. ISBN 9781455554249. (LJ Xpress Reviews, 10/11/13)
Part of what makes this series so marvelous is that Scott is a career army officer and writes about military life in a way that comes from more than just research—and it shows. This series doesn’t glamorize the experience of war, or romanticize loving a man or woman in uniform. Instead, the stories are about the cost of loving someone on deployment and how hard it is on a family when one parent shuttles in and out of their lives. What happens when an individual comes back from the front with a career-ending injury and doesn’t know what to do when the purpose they’ve lived for seems to be at an end? Each installment in the series deals with how these families face a life-changing event and whether they push the ones they love away or pull them closer. Every single story is a gem. The rest of the series includes Because of You. (Loveswept: Random. ebk. ISBN 9781448111411) and Until There Was You (Loveswept: Random. ebk. ISBN 9780345533890).