One of the best ways to discover a great book is to hear it recommended by a friend or acquaintance. The Violet Femmes read quite a bit between us, so I thought it would be fun to take a look back at our two favorite non-Femme books of 2014. (Shameless Plug: If you want to check out the Femmes releases, visit this page.)
Note: not all of these are 2014 releases. The requirement was just that it was a book we read this year.
Maria K. Alexander
Unleashed by Rachel Lacey (Contemporary Romance)
This is the first book by debut author, Rachel Lacey. I met Rachel at RWA Nationals in San Antonio and found her to be sweet and perhaps a little overwhelmed by the craziness of a publishing house book giveaway. Cara Medlen fosters rescue dogs and gets into trouble with neighbors and potentially the law when she tries to save one too many. Matt Dumont is Cara’s mysterious and sexy PI neighbor who will be leaving town to return to his hometown once he wraps up one final case. Although the timing is off, he gets caught up in helping Cara in her rescue attempts and ends up getting more attached than intended. It’s a light and fun story. There are several funny moments with the animals plus a sexy hero with a good amount of chemistry.
One in a Million by Jill Shalvis (Contemporary Romance)
I couldn’t end the year without geeking out a little about Ms. Shalvis. I love her books and this series. This is book #12 in the Lucky Harbor series, which, sadly may be the last. Callie Sharpe is a virtual wedding planner who has set up shop in Lucky Harbor to keep tabs on her grandmother. She moves into an old warehouse that’s near the dock where her high school crush works. Tanner Riggs is co-owner of Lucky Harbor charters with a lot of baggage. He’s trying to build a relationship with his teenage son and is drawn to the sexy-but-slightly hot mess of a woman he used to go to high school with.
Tempt Me, Cowboy by Megan Crane (Contemporary Romance)
This is a novella from Copper Mountain Rodeo, Book 1. I’m not normally one to read cowboys or novellas. This was sent to me as a judge in the RITA’s and I loved it. Expertly written with emotion, depth and humor. Jasper and Chelsea (I LOVED his nickname for her) were so well drawn and REAL. I loved everything about their romance from their first meeting to their final moments and everything in-between. The chemistry between them was FAN-MYSELF-HOT without needing to be graphic. I don’t normally read stories this length and was surprised to find such a complete and compelling story in a novella. This story stayed will me long after I completed it, prompting me to look for more books by Megan Crane. I’m forward to reading all the installments in the anthology.
Perfect You by Elizabeth Scott (Young Adult)
This book was published back in 2010. I stumbled upon it at my favorite secondhand bookstore, Booktrader. Years ago I read another book by Scott call Bloom. That book, and her writing style, stayed with me so I decided to give Perfect You a try. I’m so glad I did. I found the cast of characters and set up unique. While there is a romance, there is so much more to this book than boy meets girl. Kate’s life is crumbling around her. Her family is falling apart financially and emotionally due to the inability to communicate and selfishness. I found the relationship dynamics unique. I also enjoyed watching Kate learn to communicate/extend a hand in order to move beyond/learn from her circumstances and discover not to always believe everything you hear.
When the Duke was Wicked by Lorraine Heath (Historical Romance)
I loved this book. Lady Grace looks like she has it all. She’s beautiful, her father is a duke, and she has the largest dowry of the Season. But she’s hiding an “imperfection,” and she wants to make certain any suitor truly loves her and not her dowry. In comes the handsome Duke of Lovington, a notorious rogue, and long-time family friend of Grace’s. He agrees to help Grace find a proper husband who loves her by teaching her how to look out for scoundrels like himself. Soon the attraction between Grace and Lovington sizzles and they have to take a chance on love.
Edge of Sanity by Shannon K. Butcher (Contemporary Suspense)
This was a faced paced, exciting read. Clay Marshall works for a private security firm called the Edge. But Clay has been having blackouts and when he wakes, he’s covered in blood with no memory of what happened. He goes like this for a while until he has no choice but to accept the help of Leigh Vaughn, a beautiful doctor. They soon learn that Clay is being used in a horrific experiment as an assassin. Despite everything, the attraction between them is undeniable and strong. The pace quickens as they try to stop a deadly villain and save themselves.
Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles (New Adult)
A heroine who plays football. A new, bad boy stepbrother who gets thrown out of boarding school for a prank and ends up moving in with her. And author Simone Elkeles perfect characterization make this my favorite New Adult/YA read of the year.
The Professional by Kresley Cole (New Adult/Erotic Contemporary)
What’s not to love about a book that features a big brute of a Russian hero named Aleksandr “The Siberian” Sevastyan, who is so damn hot, he positively jumps off the pages? The heroine is on a quest to find her birth parents and ends up in a Russian palace where her father rules as mob boss. His employee, Sevastayan, assumes the role of her protector. And protect her he does, along with seducing her over and over again. If you like spicy, this book will blow your socks off. Kresley Cole is a phenomenal writer and she holds nothing back.
Why Kings Confess (A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery Book, Book 9 by C.S. Harris (Historical Mystery)
This is the ninth book in the series, which came out this year, and I devoured the first eight as well. The stories center on Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, heir to an earldom, disillusioned army officer, and a man with a very tangled personal life, who happens to investigate murders. Harris creates a compelling hero, there is more than one heroine, and the supporting cast is also excellent. The writing is splendid — intelligent and thoughtful. C.S. Harris is now on my auto-buy list.
Murder in Grosvenor Square (Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries, Book 9) by Ashley Gardner (aka Jennifer Ashley) (Historical Mystery)
I’ve read and enjoyed Jennifer Ashley’s historical romances but I am obsessed with her Captain Lacey series. Book 9 came out this year but I also read all of the other books in the series in 2014. Like Devlin, Captain Gabriel Lacey is also a former army officer, but unlike the viscount, he has no fortune to fall back on. He lives a sparse lifestyle as he mingles with compelling characters from all walks of life — from Seven Dials all the way up to the top of the ton. As Ashley Gardner, the author’s writing is even richer and more evocative, with compelling historical details that make this series a pleasure to read. Here again is an excellent supporting cast that we enjoy visiting with in each book.
Jaye Marie Rome
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain (Fiction)
This book is a fictionalized account of Hadley Richardson’s marriage to Ernest Hemingway, and their years in Paris. Hadley, in her late twenties, is doomed to be an old maid until she meets and is swept away by Ernest. Flamboyant, fun, handsome and game for anything, Ernest convinces Hadley that Paris is the place to be in order for his writing to really take off. Paris in the 1920’s is where all the great writers, including Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, have all found inspiration and success.
But success doesn’t just fall at your feet. As volatile Ernest battles to find a foothold with his writing and his voice, Hadley also struggles to figure out just where she fits in. Independent, but still trying to uphold society’s expectations of a “good wife”, she fights desperately to hold onto her marriage and the incomparable man she loves.
Marrying Daisy Bellamy by Susan Wiggs (Contemporary Romance)
Wedding photographer Daisy Bellamy had loved juvenile delinquent Julian Gastineaux since high school, when they had met one summer at her family’s camp on Willow Lake in Upstate New York. After he returned home to California, they kept in touch through letters and phone calls. But life goes on, and Julian went to college on an ROTC scholarship, while Daisy had a child with a boy with whom she’d shared a drunken one-night-stand.
Now a single mom, Daisy is raising her son, Charlie while trying to build her wedding photography business. Charlie’s dad, Logan, stable and upstanding, wants them to be a family, but Daisy knows her heart is with Julian. Against all odds, he is now an officer in the Air Force, and he wants to marry her. Their time has finally come…until Julian is deployed and he goes missing. Presumed dead, Daisy has to make the choice to move on with her life and do what is best for her, and for Charlie.
As with most things in life, what seems to be the best thing can turn out to be the most costly mistake.
Written In My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander Series #8) by Diana Gabaldon (Historical Fiction)
What can I say? The eight book in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series is just as amazing as earlier books. After all this time, I am still completely enthralled with Jamie and Claire and their relationship, and I so enjoyed following Brianna and Roger more this go round. Also really coming into his own (finally) is William. I love the realistic peek into our nation’s history (what research must have gone into each of Gabaldon’s books!), and am simply in awe of how well Gabaldon handles it all. Stellar.
My Lady, My Lord by Katharine Ashe (Historical Romance)
One of the most refreshing historicals I’ve read in a while, due to the super-fun twist element in this book. I absolutely adored this. It was both laugh-out-loud funny and heart-wrenching, depending. Beautifully written and entirely delightful, I tore right through it!
Lead by Kylie Scott (Erotic Contemporary Romance)
This is definitely in my top 5 contemporary romances of all time. Misunderstood jerk hero…who has a dark past…who happens to be a rock star? Oh yes, please. This is told in the heroine’s first-person POV, and I loved her voice. She’s sassy and strong, which is why she’s perfect as his sobriety companion, a person hired to live with him and keep him on the straight and narrow. We saw Jimmy unravel in books 1 & 2 of this series, so it was nice to see him get his act (somewhat) together in book 3. This was my 2014 crack and comfort read rolled into one.
The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles (Male/Male Historical Paranormal Romance)
First let me say that paranormal is not my thing, so I was initially hesitant about this series. But the writing is so strong and the characters so sharply developed that I was hooked. I loved this story about an exiled earl returning from the Orient and a Magician who fights evil in the Victorian underworld. Both are likable yet flawed in their own ways. The romance sizzles and I laughed out loud at several points. It was unexpected and fresh and everything I love in a story.
Now tell us, what were YOUR favorite stories of 2014??
One lucky commenter will win an official VIOLET FEMMES MUG! We’ll announce the winner next week.