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Romance / Erotica

  • The Ash Gardeners

    by J.Ember Hintz

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: The author crafts a creative, complex storyline, rich with detail and intriguing characters. The reader starts off puzzled but slowly becomes enlightened as the work progresses. The pace of the work is perfect, making it an easy and pleasurable read.

    Prose: The author is an extremely strong writer, able to detail this strange new world in a way that makes sense to the reader without oversaturating the work with exposition.

    Originality: This is a truly unique work that cleverly depicts a fresh, new world and distinctive characters.

    Character Development/Execution: The author does a superb job with characterization, particularly with Renae as she works through her issues; her torment feels quite real, and readers will be quick to empathize.

    Blurb: Readers looking for a creative and talented new author need look no further. J. Ember Hintz's The Ash Gardeners is clever, fun, and guaranteed to captivate.

  • William Through Time

    by Harmke Buursma

    Rating: 9.25

    Plot/Idea: This is a creative, multilayered work with several intersecting plot lines, all of which work seamlessly together and engage the reader's emotions and intellect. There is much here to savor from the first page to the last.

    Prose: The author is a wonderful writer: engaging, articulate, and concise. The story flows along smoothly thanks to skillfully crafted prose that steadily uncovers William's story.

    Originality: This is a unique and highly distinctive work that will no doubt engage readers, but the title may want to be reconsidered. 

    Character Development/Execution: The author does an excellent job with characterization, particularly with William, whose story is told initially through letters and later through a first-person narrative, both greatly effective in depicting his loss and struggles.

  • The Moonstone Girls

    by Brooke Skipstone

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: Each queer person's experience is unique, and Skipstone has highlighted this well in her newest novel, The Moonstone Girls. Showcasing the personalities, lives, emotions, and young love of multiple gay folks in the late sixties, Skipstone has written a work that not only is delightful to read for its pure teenaged romance, but also because it lends much-needed representation to those who suffer from living in homophobic households.

    Prose: Skipstone knows how to write romance, and writes it well. Skillfully avoiding the cringeworthy in her prose, she is able to feature plenty of steamy scenes that perfectly capture the intense, hormonal feelings of young love.

    Originality: The Moonstone Girls is a classic coming-of-age story with a handful of large twists. Working with common themes, such as the trope of the abusive, homophobic father, the suffering and sensitive musician, and the brash tomboy, there are definitely some stereotypes present. However, Skipstone is skilled at character development and delving into the complexities of these figures' inner workings, which makes the relative tropes function well.

    Character Development/Execution: The relationships between characters, along with their motivations, feelings, and desires, are beautifully clear. The characters in this book spring to life, feeling like friends with whom the reader would love to go on a raucous adventure.

  • A Lady's Finder

    by Edie Cay

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: Cay’s story is well plotted, with even pacing throughout most of the novel, which results in a very enjoyable reading experience. The final conflict does wrap up a little too quickly and neatly, taking away from the overall plausibility of the story.

    Prose: Cay’s beautiful prose is expertly crafted with the perfect mix of colloquial speech and humor reminiscent of the classic British Romantic style. The sophisticated and delightful language transports the reader to nineteenth-century high society London.

    Originality: Cay’s twist on a standard nineteenth-century marriage plot story is a fantastic change of pace. A Lady’s Finder explores the complex and fascinating underground movement of queer society during the 1800s. The depiction of Molly Houses gives the reader a unique look at a much overlooked aspect of history.

    Character Development/Execution: Cay’s unique and interesting cast of characters subvert what is commonly associated with a marriage plot novel. Lady Agnes and Jack About Town are both complex characters that perfectly showcase the struggle of not only being queer in an unaccepting society, but also the challenges that can come from not fitting into stereotypical gender roles.

  • Sixty Positions with Pleasure

    by Sahlan Diver

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: Sixty Positions with Pleasure is unexpectedly delightful. Written with humor, grace, and plenty of puns, Diver has done an excellent job at pulling together what could be a messy plot to craft a sexy and silly murder mystery, filled with interesting characters, beautiful settings, and lots of steamy bedroom scenes.

    Prose: The prose is playful, easy to follow, and even verges on the poetic. Diver is an expert at setting a scene--the settings of the book are spectacular, and the worldbuilding is quaint. Diver creates a compelling near-future that thoughtfully integrates climate change.

    Originality: This will likely be the first murder mystery/climate thriller/love story/erotic romance novel that many readers will have encountered.

    Character Development/Execution: The most developed character is the protagonist, Charlie, whose primary fault is that he has few discernible flaws, lessening his relatability. Additional characters are somewhat more flat, serving more as tools or foils for Charlie. Nevertheless, they adequately serve and enhance the story.

  • Hidden Agenda, The Eller Series Book 2

    by Kathryn Halberg

    Rating: 9.00

    Plot/Idea: The author is a skilled writer and storyteller. Information is doled out evenly and subtly throughout, providing background but also moving the story forward. The plot is engaging and sophisticated, with an empowered protagonist.

    Prose: The author is able to craft believable, likable characters with plausible dialogue and interactions. Description and action are also handled exceedingly well here.

    Originality: This is a distinctive and refreshing work with memorable characters and an original premise.

    Character Development/Execution: The author effectively handles characterization, particularly with Carlie but also with a host of secondary characters. Dialogue is particularly enlightening as the reader attempts to figure out who these people really are at their cores.

  • Good To Be Home

    by Leah Dobrinska

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: This novel explodes with charm and second chances, being the second novel in a series of romances set in a small town in Wisconsin. Told in alternating perspectives, the author uses dramatic irony and foreshadowing as effective tools to engage the reader. In the beginning the plot feels repetitious, but it eventually catapults forward and moves at an engaging speed.

    Prose: Well-written and easy to follow, the author has written an uplifting novel and applied foreshadowing at the end of each chapter. Even though the characters and situations are idealistic at times, the writing is endearing and definitely adds to the small-town feel of the book.

    Originality: Mixing the romance with a home television show is a unique approach, while rekindling lost love is not. However, because of the home design and remodeling background of the main character, this novel will resonate with a broad audience.

    Character Development/Execution: Both main characters are mature and avoid any drama that could ensue. They manage to work through their differences. The problems and characters in the novel are relatable and mostly probable. The reader will want both of the likable characters to be successful.

  • Lilly of the Mountains

    by D. L. Yoder

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: Lilly of the Mountains features an intelligent, hapless protagonist who has decided no longer to put up with men mistreating her, and packs a punch with Western-themed excitement and action that keeps the reader intrigued, page after page.

    Prose: Yoder knows how to write a complicated, chaotic scene in a very descriptive and clear manner, while the imagery throughout the novel is engaging and vivid.

    Originality: The unfortunate widow who sets out to make a better life for herself can be a tired trope. However, with the humor and action Yoder puts into their writing, Lilly of the Mountains feels fresh and entertaining.

    Character Development/Execution: Yoder brings all of their characters to full life, ranging from a dopey policeman to an ornery hillbilly to a stately lady and a town gossip. These players all feel authentic while also having an air of caricature, which makes them even more entertaining and intriguing to the reader.

     

  • The Good Wine

    by Amy Schisler

    Rating: 8.75

    Plot/Idea: This work uses a clever narrative device, told in flashbacks through first-person diary entries intertwined with present-day third-person storytelling techniques. The switching between the two helps keep the reader engaged and offers insight into who Marta is and who she ultimately becomes.

    Prose: The author is a clear and concise writer, able to keep the story moving at a steady pace which makes for an easy and enjoyable read.

    Originality: This work feels original in theme, with a memorable plotline and likable characters.

    Character Development/Execution: The narrative here is especially helpful in learning about Marta, her past and her present. It's an integral part of how the reader views her, seeing the world through her eyes.

  • Seeking Tranquility

    by Amy Schisler

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: Evenly plotted and set in Chincoteague, Virginia, this compelling mystery will leave the reader wondering who people really are below the surface. The reader is drawn into the story as the main character uses her instincts and faith to help the reader see the other characters through her eyes.

    Prose: Easy to read and with an evenly-paced build, the author uses dialogue that feels organic and realistic. Schisler effectively develops the setting and climate of the town through postings from the local newspaper between chapters.

    Originality: Developing the setting and happenings of the town through local newspaper postings between chapters is an original way to help the reader understand the setting and set the tone of the story.

    Character Development/Execution: Sincere characters that take care of each other dominate this story. The villain is gruff and unlikable, and enters the book with a harsh tone, causing the reader to wonder about his backstory. 

    Blurb: Sincere characters with strong instincts and devoted faith carry this evenly plotted mystery. 

  • Secrets and Truths (Otherside Heat 1)

    by Whitney Hill

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot/Idea: Secrets and Truths features an interesting and intricate plot regarding vampires, elves, humans, and the general magical world depicted. With danger at every corner and sexy moments in between, it will keep the reader hot and interested.

    Prose: Hill has a talent for describing people and scenery. She can place the reader into a setting and make it feel very real and tangible. The dialogue can be a bit cheesy, but this is also charming. The sex scenes are naughty enough without being overtly raunchy.

    Originality: While the vampires and werewolves tropes are pretty tired, Hill has been able to make them feel new and interesting with her dark world of bounty hunters, clubbing, and intricate storytelling arcs.

    Character Development/Execution: Hill's main characters are sexy with dark backstories. The reader will be compelled to find out more about them as the story goes on.

  • Bilongo

    by Brian Ray Brewer

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: Readers may initially struggle with Brewer's writing style and its surrealistic forms of narration. However, as the reader acclimates, they become accustomed to the cinematic storytelling, with scenes of sexuality intermingled with religion, death with life, love with hate. It's fun, it's sexy, and it's well done.

    Prose: Written with quirks, such as beating drums, hyper-focus on character traits, and palpable descriptions of the environment, the reader becomes readily immersed in the story. 

    Originality: The idea of a sailor going to sea, cheating on his wife, and then returning home unsure of the road forward is recognizable. However, the unique setting in Brazil, the unusual writing style, and the thrilling surreality of the work allow it to stand out.

    Character/Execution: The characters can occasionally feel flat. Lil, the lusty other woman; Rawley, the intrepid and flawed protagonist; and his wife, the desperate to be loved, doting partner. Despite this, they are written well, and their interactions come across as fully authentic.

  • Bellini's Mimosa

    by Annette G. Anders

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: Anders mixes a romantically realistic plot set against a beautiful location. Told in alternating perspectives, the reader understands both characters while engaging in a grand setting where the wine flows easily.

    Prose: Anders uses a laid-back tone throughout and saves the intensity for serious situations. The chatter among the female characters is authentic and fun. Tension is created between the chapters with the drop of just the right word to keep leading the reader forward.

    Originality: The author uses typical romance themes throughout the novel but manages to create a realistic partnership and lively dynamics between the characters.

    Character/Execution: Both main characters are smart, distinctive, and focused on family. The male character is quick in his thinking and makes an impressive move out of the gate leading the reader to want to know more about him. The female lead is witty and unafraid to take charge. Together, their chemistry flows naturally and readers will root for their happiness and success. 

  • One Clear Shot

    by RA Ferrell

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot/Idea: In a strong plot filled with action, adventure, and light romance, the author has created a smart thriller. There are many unexpected turns throughout One Clear Shot, with a main character caught between two worlds and with plenty at stake. The fast-moving narrative has lots of tense moments as well as romantic ones, making this novel appealing to a broad audience.

    Prose: The narration feels easy and flows well. Even though the time line shifts rapidly, the reader is able to keep up with the pace and understand that the main character is torn between two worlds.

    Originality: Despite the presence of familiar tropes, the author offers a dynamic blend of romance and sniper action.

    Character Development/Execution: A strong, female character who must decide between her two lives creates strong tension throughout the storyline. The characters have strong connections, making the reader hopeful for the preferred outcome.

  • Mr. Dale and The DivorcĂ©e

    by Sophie Barnes

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot: Taking place during the Regency period, 1818 London, the author tackles a topic that is considered taboo for the time period: divorce. When a husband seeks a divorce, his wife is willing to sacrifice her reputation in order for it to happen--even though he is the one that is involved with another woman. The plot is finely developed and the circumstances unfold organically.

    Prose: Although the prose does not always reflect the time period, the writing is smooth and engaging.

    Originality: The focus on divorce and its historical impact on women--paired with the romantic storyline--leads to a fresh and alluring story. 

    Character/Execution: The author creates well-rounded and appealing characters whose internal desires and conflicts convincingly drive their actions.

  • The Dishonored Viscount

    by Sophie Barnes

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot/Idea: Barnes has written a highly charming tale about two hapless souls falling in love. Harkening back to the forbidden love of Romeo and Juliet, along with a serious commentary both on reputation in society and the frequently bigoted treatment disabled people experience, The Dishonored Viscount is as socially and politically poignant as it is romantic.

    Prose: Barnes is skilled at worldbuilding, thrusting the reader into a frilly, music-filled, luxurious environment. She brings to life the scenes at hand, while effortlessly revealing the true feelings of her characters. Occasionally the dialogue can become confusing, especially when characters are referred to by different names, including their title, their first name, or their last name.

    Originality: Barnes has found a strong niche. However, she manages successfully to breathe new life into the tried and true tropes of the genre, bringing in intriguing topics, such as nuanced depictions of disability and social isolation.

    Character Development/Execution: The Dishonored Viscount is put together exactly how it intends to be in order to portray a romantic period piece. The book begins with a frilly title page, and ushers the reader into a well-formatted book that looks as pleasant as it is to read. The characters also come to life, freely expressing their feelings of awkwardness along with their love. 

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