2012 Reading Roundup
Posted by Nancy Northcott Dec 31 2012, 1:10 am
Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! Sven has canapes and hot punch ready, with champagne chilling for midnight. So grab a seat, make yourself comfortable, and let’s talk about books and authors we discovered this year.
The beauty of books is that a reader can discover an author’s debut long after the author has released many, many other books. And that’s part of the joy of discovering such an author. If I like one book, I can go out and find more without having to delay that gratification for months. It’s kind of like having a first date with someone and instantly connecting.
These are a few of the books that made me a their authors’ fan this past year.
For Christmas last year, I got Jillian Hunter’s A Bride Unveiled. I saw it in a store and was curious but didn’t happen to read it until January. I fell in love with it. The hero and heroine were childhood friends, she a girl from a well-heeled family and he a lad from the workhouse. They met by chance and became very close but ultimately drifted apart. Now he’s a swordmaster, his instruction highly sought after by the upper crust. She’s engaged to an enterprising but dull and oh-so-proper shopkeeper.
When they meet again, the connection is instantaneous. And, y’know, actual fencing and swordplay. It’s a wonderful book.
Later in January, I picked up Bride by Mistake, my introduction to Anne Gracie. The hero was a dispatch rider in Spain when he rescued a young woman from bandits. To protect her from a forced marriage she dreaded, he wed her, placing her in a convent and intending to return and have the marriage annulled.
As the story opens, his petition for annulment has been denied. In need of a wife, he returns to Spain for his bride. The attraction between them takes both by surprise and fuels their efforts to form a true bond despite the scars each carries.
I’m now working my way through both these authors’ backlists. I don’t only read historicals, though. I also like contemporary romance, and I can get into a sports-based story if it’s a sport I understand.
Donna had Regina Hart on the blog in 2011, and I bought Regina’s first Brooklyn Monarchs book, Fast Break, from her at the RWA booksigning in New York. I didn’t get it read, though, until February.
It’s great. When a former NBA All-Star becomes head coach of a team in serious decline, sparks fly between him and the owner, a lawyer who has set aside her practice to revive the team her grandfather helped found. There’s basketball action, sure, and team tension, but it never gets in the way of the attraction between the hero and heroine. I’ve read all the Brooklyn Monarchs books now and am waiting for Hart’s next.
The other sports-oriented story I discovered this year was The Long Shot by Ellen Hartman. Ellen was Beth Andrews’ guest in the Lair in May. Several of the commenters raved about this book, which also happens to be a basketball story. It’s high school basketball, though, so the circumstances are very different.
A local boy who became an NBA star retires to his hometown, only to have the girls’ basketball coach rope him into helping her team. Of course there’s a strong attraction, but their involvement also makes him to face the ugly parts of growing up in that town.
On Barbara Vey’s anniversary blog in the spring, I won an ARC of Jill Shalvis’s Lucky in Love. She was one of those authors I kept meaning to read but never got around to (like Lois McMaster Bujold, whose Vorkosigan series sucked me right in once I started). This is the 1st book in Shalvis’s second trilogy set in the town of Lucky Harbor.
A local nurse, the kind of woman who’s always there for everyone else and never looks after herself, meets the town’s hunky mystery man, and the air between them sizzles. But he’s an ex-SEAL in town only until he recovers from injuries while she’s firmly rooted there. They agree on a no-strings affair, and the result takes them both by surprise.
A change of pace came from Lisa Jackson’s Left to Die. Jackson was another author I’d been meaning to read for a while. I chose the Grizzly Falls series, featuring police detectives Selena Alvarez and Regan Pescoli, because I liked the idea of the two women as continuing characters.
Someone in the town of Grizzly Falls is killing women out in the snow. The two detectives investigate. Pescoli has kids and a remarried ex complicating her life, while Alvarez is single and in an off-and-on relationship. There’s another relationship also going on in this book. Some readers expressed displeasure on Amazon that the killer wasn’t nailed in this book. While I found that curious, I liked the characters enough to come back and so wasn’t bothered by that. I mention it only in the interests of fair disclosure.
I also happened across Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder thrillers. Kate is the sheriff of a rural Ohio county. Because she grew up Amish but left the faith, the county’s sizeable Amish population sees her as a outsider. In Sworn to Silence, the first book, a serial killer strikes among the Amish. The murder method echoes one from four unsolved killings 16 years ago.
Investigating, Kate finds an unexpected ally and an hint of romance in John Tomascetti of the state police, a man with demons of his own to fight. These books are unusual in that they incorporate both 1st person and 3rd person points of view. I liked that.
I’ll conclude with another historical, a mystery, Carol K. Carr’s India Black, Madam of Espionage. India is, in fact, a “madam,” the proprietress of a brothel in Victorian London. When a government minister inconveniently dies in her establishment, she learns both British and Russian agents want the secrets the man carried. Her reluctance to become involved isn’t seen as relevant. A British agent named French blackmails her into helping recover the important documents the minister carried. There’s a hint of romance between India and French but only a bare hint. We know little about him.
There were quite a few other books that held me enthralled this year, but these are most of the ones introduced me to new authors I loved.
Which authors or books did you discover this year, and what made you a fan? I’ll give one commenter today either a paper copy or a Kindle or Nook download of Renegade (download subject to its availability where the winner lives) and a copy of Christmas in Lucky Harbor by Jill Shalvis, which I got free at a conference.