Winged Reviews A young adult book blog for those a little bit older.

Favorite Romance Authors

Favorite Romance Authors

 

Today I am excited to highlight three of my favorite romance authors!

I  live for fantasy. I read tons of it. Romance is what I turn to when I need to detox. The time always comes when I need a break. I want to be free of magic, special snowflakes, and worlds that need saving, so I can come back refreshed.

So here below are some of my favorite authors to turn to. Do I love every book they have ever written? No. I can’t name a single author with a decent size body of work who I can say that about. Nor do I think  it’s realistic. But these ladies are very consistent for me.

 

 Historical Romance: Lisa Kleypas

secrets-of-a-summer-night

Once upon a time I had historical romance firmly in the category of Things-Only-Old-Ladies-Read. The fact that I can remember my mother laughing as she discovered boxes of them when cleaning out my Great Aunt Leah’s house may be partly to blame. I gave Kleypas a try after reading how much another blogger, Kelly , loved them. Obsession ensued.  I started with The Wallflowers series, which I read in under a week. I then moved directly on to The Hathaways, which I finished in about the same time frame.

At once sexy, charming, and free of the problematic themes common in earlier decades, they are good example of modern genre (post 2000’s) historical romance. Kleypas is currently two books in to her new historical series, The Ravenels. She also has an excellent contemporary series and some other historicals.

While I would read these in order, my favorites from each series are:

The Wallflowers: It Happened One Autumn and Devil in Winter

The Hathaways: Tempt Me at Twilight and Love in the Afternoon

The Ravenels: Still to come! She’s only two books into this family-based series and my favorite’s haven’t had their own book yet. Book three, Devil in Spring, comes out March 2017 and the hero is the son of the couple from Devil in Winter, so that should be fun.

 

 Contemporary:

#1. Cara McKenna 

after-hours

In spite of all the beefcake on McKenna’s covers (which just make me laugh for some reason), I really love her books. Her voice is unique and the focus is on ordinary people with more realism and less wish-fulfillment.

Kelly (yes, that’s his name) from After Hours lives in a run down city outside Detroit and works as an orderly in a mental hospital. That’s right. Not one of the doctors or therapists. Not even someone with a college degree. The orderly. Cause he huge and good at calming residents having a meltdown. Two favorites from other books are a prison inmate and an agoraphobic ex-alcoholic with a submissive kink. I don’t think McKenna is deliberately giving a giant  middle-finger to the ‘billionaire bachelor’, but as one who loathes that particular trope, I am delighted. Her stories are also characterized by satisfying HFN (happy-for-now) endings. While there are exceptions, I generally prefer that contemporary novels not end with weddings and babies.

A Few Favorites:

After Hours

Unbound

Hard Time

 

#2 Christina Lauren

sweet-filthy-boy

Christina Lauren are best known for their Beautiful Bastard series. I like Wild Seasons better. In fact, it is one of my all-time favorite series in the romance genre. They are fun, sexy, and swoony.  Sure, the titles are a bit goofy. But I appreciate the lack of beefcake on the cover. Best of all, the stories rock and avoid many of my most hated/over-used tropes. It’s nice to take a break from the athletes, man-whores, and alpha-holes. However, if you happen to love those you can find a few of them in the Beautiful series.

Favorites:

Wild Seasons: I love the first three almost equally. If I had to choose, Dirty Rowdy Thing is probably my favorite.

Beautiful Bastard: I love Beautiful Stranger, but am pretty ambivalent about the others.

 

In Conclusion:

The stories and writing styles of these authors are very different from each other. I hope you enjoyed and find one that works for you!

 

 

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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted
Author: Naomi Novik
Publisher: Tor
Date: 19/05/2015
438 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy
Buy the BookGoodreads

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

This is a spruced-up version of a review I wrote on my old blog last year for Uprooted. This book instantly became an all-time favorite of mine and even won the Nebula Award last spring!

Uprooted was scary, fun, and even at times romantic. It’s similar to Patricia McKillip’s novels in that it has a pastoral fairy tale feel, but is longer, with a more complex plot.

When the Dragon (an ageless wizard) chooses Agnieszka as a tribute of sorts, she begins to study magic with him. The two are very different and their dynamic is one of my favorite things about this book. I love that Agnieszka remains a snarly-haired wild thing with dirty clothes through to the end. Heroines are commonly written as viewing themselves to be average while actually being described as anything but. It’s a pet-peeve of mine and I am so glad it didn’t happen here. Agnieskza’s oddness suits the nature-focused, intuitive, right-brained style of magic that flows through her (all the while mystifying and infuriating her teacher!). Her value lies in her abilities and her loyal tenacious nature, much of this is highlighted via her relationship with her best friend Kasia.

The Dragon (whose name is Sarkan), is like wizardry’s answer to Henry Higgins, though there are some key inner and outer differences. He appears young and his attitude comes from isolation and social ineptitude rather than selfish vanity. Ultimately the Dragons life work has been one done in service to protect others. But regardless of how his feelings for Agnieszka evolve over time, he is grouchy and combative more often than not. This made scenes where he reveals either passion or tenderness that much more surprising and satisfying.

Agnieszka however is no Galatea, and remains the opposite of Sarkan in most ways. Sarkan practices a very left-brained precise style of magic with powerful results. He admires both beauty and order. There is very little about her that suits his sensibilities, but as they work through various crises with the wood, Kasia, and members of the royal family, a mutually beneficial and stimulating dynamic develops through the embracing and joining of opposites. Novik never allows this to overshadow the larger story, but it continually simmers in the background.

I don’t want to give away much about the plot. The Wood, which is sentient and capable of devouring whole villages, is the nemesis of the story. But as I got closer to understanding why, it all felt more sad than it did evil or frightening. The connection between man and nature is important to this story which I love. A combination of lovable characters, charming world-building, and an exciting and creepy plot has earned Uprooted a place on my list of all-time favorite fantasy novels.

5 Stars

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Hashtag Reads!

Hashtag Reads!

HASHTAGREADS logo + tagline

Just a heads up, Simon and Schuster are launching the the first ever newsletter for Hashtag Reads! Hashtag Reads is home to some of the best-loved YA authors including Cassandra Clare, Gayle Forman, Paige Toon, Morgan Matson and Darren Shan. It’s a great place for readers to find out about the latest YA reads, hear more from their favourite authors, read exclusive material and enter the hottest competitions.

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The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. PearsonThe Kiss of Deception
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Series: The Remnant Chronicles #1
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Date: July 2014
489 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy
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A princess must find her place in a reborn world.

She flees on her wedding day.

She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor's secret collection.

She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father.

She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan.

The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can't abide. Like having to marry someone she's never met to secure a political alliance.

Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.

The Kiss of Deception took me 10 months to read. Yep, that’s right. I began reading it in September 2015 but only just finished it July 2016. This wasn’t because it was a bad book at all, slow but not bad. The reason why it took me so long is because I have been in a big reading slump since September 2015. I’d read a book and then be in a slumpy mood again and it has been the worst but I think I’m really beginning to come out of it now!

By November, I’d got half way through this book (about page 200ish I think!) before putting it down, however little did I know that once the book hits page 300, that’s when it really gets interesting! After seeing my friend Christine was reading, I thought I’d join her once she’d got up to the page I was on. She sprinted ahead of me, but told me how much better it got throughout, and this really spurred me on to read it!

To give you the general jist of things, The Kiss of Deception is about a girl who is to marry a prince, which is more of a political alliance than anything else between two kingdoms. In short, the princess does not want to marry the prince, whom she has never met, and so she runs away, but an assassin is sent to kill her, and the prince goes off to find her.

This story is quite unique as we have Lia who is our main character, the assassin and the prince. We are given two names; Rafe and Kaden. These are the names for the assassin and the prince but have fun trying to guess who is who because you don’t find out until towards the end. I kept thinking I knew who was who but in the end I just gave up as I had no clue!

Lia is a fab leading lady and is such a strong character throughout this book. In fact, there were quite a few strong, independent ladies in this book which was so great. I liked having Lia guide us through this book, however at times the story was quite slow and so I did then find her a bit boring, oops. But other than that, I thought she was great to follow. What I liked about Lia which I have mentioned is her independence, this girl does not need a man, though there is a bit of friendship and love thrown into the mix with this book. As a girl who has grown up with all brothers and no sisters, I feel that this really contributed to her character, making her a lot stronger.

The plot is one that flows really nicely and is a pretty great idea. I do really like the uniqueness that this book has with the not knowing of who is the prince and who is the assassin – I think that’s a great touch. Though I did find this book was quite slow and steady, I suppose it makes sense considering it is part of three-book series. As I mentioned earlier, the slowness of it in parts really was a bit of a killer for me, as I was already slipping into a slump and the pace of this book didn’t really help. But thinking about it, the slow pace between the middle of this book almost reflects the sort of life the princess is living after running away. Personally, I think that if I’d just kept reading, I probably would not have found it so slow, but unfortunately I did. In comparison to the middle of the book though, both start and finish were pretty fast paced!

The romance, friendship and family aspect in this book were not too heavily done. The friendship between Lia and one of the ladies, Pauline was really lovely to see. The connection that Lia had with her brothers, especially her brother Walther was great to read about, I enjoyed having this family element to add to this book. The romance as well wasn’t too bad either – there was a slight love triangle I felt, but not too much of one. The romance wasn’t too pushy and I didn’t feel like it really overpowered the story itself.

All in all, though I put it down half way through and didn’t return back to it for literally months, I liked it, but really began to enjoy it after hitting the page 300 mark. I do think that this could probably have been condensed just a slight bit more, however you never know what bits may become important to the future books. I’m looking forward to making a start on the next book in this series, The Heart of Betrayal and finally finishing it with the newly released The Beauty of Darkness.

4 Stars

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His Royal Secret Duology by Lilah Pace

His Royal Secret Duology by Lilah Pace

His Royal Secret Duology by Lilah PaceHis Royal Secret
Date: July 19th, 2016
185 pages
Source: NetGalley
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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James, the handsome, cosmopolitan Prince of Wales, is used to being in the public eye. But he's keeping a king-sized secret...James, next in line for the throne, is gay.

He’s been able to hide his sexual orientation with the help of his best friend and beard, Lady Cassandra. Sometimes he feels like a coward for not coming out, but he daren’t risk losing the crown. If he did, the succession would fall on his deeply troubled younger sister, Princess Amelia. To protect her, James is willing to live a lie.

While on holiday, he meets Benjamin Dahan—a rugged international reporter with a globe-trotting, unattached life—who catches far more than James's eye. And when Ben is transferred to London, it seems fate may finally be smiling on James.

But what began as a torrid fling grows into something far more intimate and powerful. Soon James will have decide who he is, what he wants from life and love, and what he’s willing to sacrifice for the truth...

This is quite the fairy tale m/m romance! I first read His Royal Secret back in July but waited to review it and His Royal Favorite together as it really is one story. The main focus is on James, Prince of Wales, who is unhappily in the closet due to his concerns regarding how much of a tailspin his sexuality would throw both the monarchy and his family in were it to be known. He has a number of decent reasons for this, ranging from a mentally ill younger sibling who does not want to inherit, a scheming uncle who does, and worries over what kind of stance The Church of England will take and how that will affect public support. Beyond all that, James as lived a very privileged but undeniably controlled and limited life in preparation for becoming king, loss of the crown would make the loss of a normal youth feel a waste in so many ways and he is a both tender and steely young man who takes the duty he was raised for seriously. On a trip to Kenya is encounters globe-trotting reporter Benjamin Dahan and their clandestine affair is the center of the first book. Since their coming together was with the original understanding that no one was to ever know, and that it would have an end date, the relationship in the first book is more physical than emotional. Especially on the part of Ben, as he typically avoids relationships after having a very negative, but impactful, one in his youth. Everything changes when James makes the decision to come out publicly and Ben has to either accept that the affair is over or face the limelight. The only real drawback I felt the first book had was that it did feel almost entirely sexual at times, but that was also a reflection of the fact that, at that point, out of necessity on the part of James (who knew he wished he could have a real relationship) and unwillingness for more from Ben, it was all they agreed to.

his royal favorite

His Royal Favorite (book #2) by contrast is all about making a relationship work and I absolutely loved it! Here we go on a journey with two men who, it can be fairly said, have never been in a real relationship before. Throw in that one of them is a member of the royal family and the other has never had any interest (and in most cases respect) for said institution as well as a media, family, and  public reacting in their own ways and you have a recipe for tension that runs fairly high for most of the book. While poor Ben is fairly miserable during a lot of this,  probably my biggest surprise was how funny I found this half of the story to be! Lilah Pace has another duology plus a novella that came out last year that I loved, but that was much darker and didn’t really have any laugh-out-loud moments for me. His Royal Secret didn’t either, then all of a sudden I start reading book two and wonder when this woman got so funny!!!! I literally laughed out loud at least a dozen times during this book, mostly just funny turns of phrase and ways of describing things, but it really helped ease the tension as well as fit tonally with how absurd aspects of royal life would come across to someone previously on the outside. I also felt genuine emotion of a very high degree when James gave his coming out speech to the press. I wanted to jump into the book and hug him for how perfect it was. *sniff* The epilogue is a good length and one of the most satisfying I have read (bonus points for that Freddy Eynsford-Hill reference! :))

This duology is perfect if you are looking for a romance that is heart-warming and charming while also taking the reader on an interesting modern what-if  scenario.

 

5 Stars

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