Here are some reading recommendations from the last month (well a bit more than that). I will be updating on occasion about my recommendations.
First up is Jennifer Apodaca‘s The Baby Bargain (Contemporary Romance). I adored this book. The Baby Bargain features a hidden baby (well actually toddler) plot, a damaged hero (Adam), a strong woman (Megan), and a mystery of a kidnapped show dog. First, I will admit that I have a love/hate relationship with hidden baby plots. I find them intriguing, as I am never certain how people “get away” with this type of deception. They are excellent for throwing our strong heroes into unknown and challenging circumstances and ruffling their alpha feathers. We also get to see fierce strong women, who challenge our commonly held stereotypes about single mothers. I do find the inherent deceit troubling though and generally find this a shaky and not terribly believe ground on which to build a relationship. Adam and Megan find their way through a morass of difficult emotions and rebuild, albeit on tenuous ground, their friendship and love from their younger days. Apodaca’s writing of this alpha male and this determined woman is keen and also engages the reader in Adam and Megan’s strained relationship as “real” people not merely cardboard fictional stand-ins. The Baby Bargain is a funny and intriguing exploration of how a couple can not only overcome their own emotional baggage but also how they can build on that baggage as a solid foundation for the future. Adam’s struggle to deal with his losses and his fears were heart wrenching, difficult, and totally engrossing. I found myself wanting to give him a hug throughout (not that he’d accept that by-the-way). Frequently as a reader, I found myself being frustrated with Adam and Megan in the best ways because we could see these individuals more clearly than they were able to see themselves or each other, making this a story to grip your heart and make you feel for them. If you are looking for a couple to touch you with their ability to eventually get it together and to do the right thing for the people they love, this will be a great read for you.
I will also say that if you haven’t checked out Jennifer Apodaca writing as Jennifer Lyon, then you absolutely should. I absolutely love the Wing Slayer Hunter series (a paranormal romance series), start with Blood Magic. Her recent The Proposition (contemporary romance and self-published) is fabulous. Sloane and Kat are two wounded souls who are not looking for anything particularly deep and romantic in their lives, but they are the products of that old saying life gives you what you need and not always what you want. It is a compelling story, and I can’t wait for the chapter in their story, Possession (coming May 28, 2013). These characters all demonstrate Jennifer Lyon/Apodaca’s stellar ability to write compelling characters who draw you into their emotional triumphs and tribulations but also write a story that keeps you turning pages and unprepared to leave because you just want more, which to me is the hallmark of a wonderful story and great writing.
My next recommendation for the month is Shiloh Walker‘s Wrecked, which in many ways feels like a departure for this long-time reader of Walker’s work. This is a straight-up contemporary romance, not a paranormal or romantic suspense. The story is just adorable. Zach and Abigale are life-long friends, who have a beautiful friendship on which they can base their romantic relationship. I would bet that most of us readers felt Zach’s pain of loving Abby from the role of friend while she never sees his love, as many of us can likely relate to this type of unrequited love. Walker navigates the plot with an easy and compassionate hand. As easy as it would be to dislike Abby for not seeing Zach’s love of her as more than friendship, Walker’s writing allows the reader to like her and understand why she might not see herself or Zach as they really are. I would recommend Walker’s Stolen, her If You . . . series, and her paranormal FBI series (starting with The Missing). In so many ways, Zach and Abby are Walker’s most well adjusted characters. As someone who is drawn to damaged characters, I found myself a bit surprised as to how connected I felt to Zach and Abby. I wanted to see them figure out how to be together and build a stunningly beautiful relationship based on a strong and caring friendship.
In long-term series, don’t miss Lara Adrian‘s Edge of Dawn, which is a novel to kick off the next generation in her Breed series featuring fan-favorites Mira and Kellan. Also I would recommend Nalini Singh‘s Wild Invitation, an anthology of short stories in the Psy-Changeling series that includes entries Tamsyn and Nate (previously released) and Lara and Walker (previously unpublished) as well as two others.
In other genres, I would highly recommend Patricia Briggs‘s Frost Burned, the seventh installment of her Mercy Thompson series. Mercy is one of the greatest protagonists currently in the sci-fi/fantasy/urban fantasy worlds. (Mercy and Anita Blake are two of my absolute favorites, just FYI.) The series is going strong, and the intrigue surrounding Mercy is ever complicated and changing.
Since this is my first post of this type I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a shout out to Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain Trilogy, which has been an excellent addition to the recent spate of vampire fictions. The course of this vampire apocalypse narrative is full of social commentary and contemporary global political issues. I appreciate the turns of the final novel of the trilogy, The Night Eternal. If you are looking for an apocalyptic vision of vampires and what happens when the world goes mad, then check out this series.