We have reached the end of our journey, folks, the final choices for our Top Reads of 2014. In case you’ve missed the others, check out Sammy’s and Tina’s selections HERE; Jackie’s, Lana’s, and Jules’ HERE; Lynn’s and Chris’s HERE; and Kim’s and Kathie’s HERE.
Rena and I are the last to go, and I paired the two of us together because we each, by coincidence, themed our lists just a bit. Rena’s choices are not only all selected from the Historical sub-genre, but they are also unique to the genre, each in their own ways. For my selections this year, you’ll find some among them (and yes, I listed two series because I’m a big cheater) are self-published, one falls under the Historical sub-genre, two of them are Alt U/Alt History, and one of them is a chronologized serial set in the 1980s world of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. And one features a group of some of the most charming and twisted killers I’ve ever read.
As we’ve reached the end of the line and are now looking forward to discovering some of the best books of 2015, The Novel Approach is offering you the chance to win a $25 Gift Card to Amazon or All Romance eBooks, winner’s choice! Just click the Rafflecopter image to enter before Midnight Pacific time on Saturday, January 3, 2015.
And now, here are Rena’s and my selections for the best of the best this year had to offer.
Flight of Magpies by KJ Charles: “Flight of Magpies is another brilliant addition to KJ Charles’ magnificent A Charm of Magpies series. Reading the book was one of those instances where I was so deeply immersed in Lucien and Stephen’s world that I actually got upset when I realized how far I’d gone and how little I had left to read. It’s an experience that’s not new to me; it began with The Magpie Lord, and it had yet to show signs of fading or slowing down. That said, I don’t want it to happen, considering how much I adore this series.”
Bloodline by Jordan L. Hawk: “Fans of Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne and Griffin series are in for a pretty dark treat with Bloodline – with a generous dose of tragedy, at that, but in ways that are a lot more complicated than simply death. As an installment of the series, Bloodline is perhaps the darkest and grimmest so far, but it does end in bittersweet hope that marks a new era, so to speak, for the characters involved.
The stakes in this book are significantly higher because everything becomes personal for Whyborne. We get to see his family’s history, which is intricate and bizarre and is steeped in magic.”
Prosperity by Alexis Hall: “The first thing you’ll notice when you crack open Alexis Hall’s Prosperity is that the book’s written in some pretty heavy vernacular. Piccadilly, an orphan and a guttersnipe, narrates the story with so much sass and attitude to spare that his language, if at first a little challenging to get into if you’re not expecting it, almost serves like an emphatic exclamation point to his hilarious commentary. As he’s grown up in the streets of London, he’s illiterate and is sadly hardened for a boy his age (eighteen, he reckons, but isn’t sure), and his interactions with so many different characters – mostly adults who’re educated in varying degrees – are a never-ending source of delight. He’s alternately exasperated, mystified, resentful, contemptuous, and childish in his dealings with his fellow adventurers. And from a hardened urchin who thinks lowly of himself, Dil gradually develops into a cautiously hopeful young man who starts to believe that, hey, he’s got some worth, after all.”
Junior Willis by Richard Natale: “Richard Natale’s Junior Willis is a beautifully subdued account of a man’s sexual maturation during some of the most tumultuous decades in the 20th century. The novella begins in the 1950s, when Tom Larson’s first tour of duty in the Korean War places him in the path of Colonel Philip Dore, a married and closeted gay man who awakens Tom’s true nature. From here on, the story follows Tom through the years as he not only falls in love, but also gets himself hurt again and again, the miserable laws of the times compounding the pain by forcing him to suppress his needs and lose himself in work, if not seek comfort and questionable companionship in brief and unsatisfying liaisons.”
Mending Him by Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee: “There’s no emotional wallowing in this book, which can be the downfall of historical gay romances, given the outlaw nature of same-sex relationships. Part of the book’s strength lies in the authors’ masterful use of restraint in laying out the complications and the triumphs not only of the lovers, but also of the Chester family, whose loving relationship with the two men shapes painful choices they all make along the way. The resolution to the problem of gay lovers in the 19th century is also plausible; modern readers might grieve over the lack of an out and proud relationship, but in their practical and emotionally rewarding way, Robbie and Charles prove to us that men in their position can carve out a happy life together, regardless of society and, especially, family. There’s defiance tempered by prudence and vice-versa, and one can’t ask for anything more.”
Chance Assassin: A Story of Love, Luck, and Murder by Nicole Castle: “I’m in awe of this author’s ability to write a story starring not one but two characters who should be unappealing in every way. Nicole Castle has made Frank and Vincent loveable to a degree that has left me obsessing over this book. It’s a hallmark of truly brilliant storytelling I haven’t experienced since reading Maria McCann’s As Meat Loves Salt and I fell for the insane Jacob Cullen. This author’s writing style is fresh, her characters funny and vibrant, her version of romance refreshing, and this book is one disturbing, endearing, horrifying, and sexy surprise after another.”
Wicklow’s Odyssey by R. Cooper: “The timing of this book couldn’t be more perfect, and you don’t have to be a Civil War history major to appreciate the events that build up to one of the more tension filled and action packed climaxes I’ve ever read in a book. You need only know the motives for the war, who fought it, and its outcome to understand how beautifully R. Cooper has twisted it to suit this clockwork, steam driven adventure, where a great iron beast is the Trojan horse that, if not lamed, could bring victory to the South. Every single anachronism purposefully woven into this novel does nothing but add to the sense of intrigue, every single character introduced along the way not only adds to the adventure but also exposes more about Wicklow Doyle, revelations that are sometimes frustrating, sometimes heart-tugging as he tries to understand what he’s feeling, but each and every one is a new layer peeled away from this complex man’s prickly exterior.”
Turnbull House by Jess Faraday: “With its (The Affair of the Porcelain Dog) brilliant and stunning sequel, Turnbull House, the continuing story if former rentboy, Ira Adler, and his ex-lover Cain Goddard (the infamous Duke of Dorset) Jess Faraday has done nothing more than secured her place on my must-read-authors list, and did it in little more than the opening paragraphs of this book.
With characters who are layered with charm and complexity, settings that play out visually like a full color series of daguerreotypes on the mind, a mystery that reveals how far apart Ira and Goddard have grown since Ira walked out two years before, and a fluid prose that draws the reader into the lives of the characters and the time of the story, Turnbull House is as flawless a historical novel as I’ve ever read.”
Daron’s Guitar Chronicles (Volumes One thru Five) by Cecilia Tan: “As addictive as any books I’ve ever read, as heart-rending as any series I’ve ever loved, Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is, if not perfect, the quintessential compilation of music, drugs, sex, love, lust, and pain. My one fear as I got farther along in Daron’s saga was that the author would fail in her effort to keep this storyline fresh and vibrant and emotionally encompassing through its hundreds of chapters. I’m happy to report she damn well did. Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is a brilliant feat in fiction, far too luminous for this simple 5 star rating.”
Baal’s Heart (Caged and Sacrificed) by Bey Deckard: “Bey Deckard has written a book that’s a study in contradiction and a sublime characterization of three men who will eventually become one, introducing two characters in the dominant Baltsaros and the submissive Tom, two men who should be difficult, if not impossible, to love, but then makes it entirely impossible not to love them. When Jon comes between them, through no fault of his own, and then falls in love with both his captain and with Tom, becoming the foundation upon which both men will anchor themselves, Jon risks not only losing his heart but his sense of self, in the process, and it’s an evolution that’s a glory to witness.”
“As impressed as I was by Bey Deckard’s debut, Sacrificed has exceeded any and all expectations I might have had for the follow up to Caged. It’s a grand adventure the author is taking us on, a journey of heart, soul, and imagination that promises, at the end, even more to discover as this extraordinary series continues.”