I haven’t done a currently reading type post in a while, but I’ve been reading up a storm this past week or so in some VERY different genres, so I thought it’d be fun to talk about it some!
For starters, now that it’s December, I have started reading alllllll the Christmas romances! I made a list of all the Christmas romances I’m hoping to read this holiday season, and I’ve made a decent dent in it so far!
The standout has easily been The Mistletoe Motive by Chloe Liese. I was not prepared for how adorable I wound up finding this romance and how swept up I got in the whole thing. I thought she executed the rival co-workers thing really well and showed how easy it was for them to start off on the wrong foot and continue to miscommunicate. And I really liked how every time it seemed like she was going to lean into traditional romance misunderstandings or competitions, she took the trope and turned it on its head. It was delightful, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I can’t wait for the print version to be published so I can add it to my shelves!
Another delight is Jackie Lau’s Her Pretend Christmas Date. I really liked how this took a completely out-there premise and somehow made it work for me! It was so fun seeing how two people who seemed to have a disastrous first date were able to give each other the benefit of the doubt and another try, only to realize they’re perfect for each other. The whole thing was a lot of fun, and this is one of my new favorites from Lau!
Alas, not all of the Christmas romances I’ve read lately have been winners. Merry Inkmas by Talia Hibbert was a miss for me, as was A Navy SEAL for Christmas by Zoe York. The second one was a spur-of-the-moment purchase from Twitter that sounded fun (he’s a SEAL who agrees to be a life model at her art class), but ultimately did not work for me at all. It was just very dramatic and rushed and too much happened in such a short story for me.
The other thing I’ve been reading a lot of lately is fantasy romance. I’ve been really enjoying the new Wheel of Time tv show even though I’ve never read the books. In fact, I can’t get enough of it, so I’ve been debating whether to pick them up. Jenica at Firewhiskey Reader is highly encouraging me to go for it, especially since Rosamund Pike narrates the first book, but I’ve been reluctant because it’s such a time commitment (the series has more than a dozen massive books!) and I’m not sure things will end well for all of my favorite characters.
With that in mind, I wound up going on a fantasy romance binge at my library and checked out a whole slew of books I’ve been meaning to read or discovered while looking up new fantasy romances. I started with Radiance by Grace Draven since the first chapter really hooked me. I liked how this royal couple discovered that the other is kind when forced into a marriage to cement an alliance, and while the book didn’t give me the fantasy vibes I was looking for overall, I did enjoy seeing their marriage of convenience play out. I was kind of happy to just end it there, but Brishen and Ildiko’s story stuck with me, and I wound up reading the sequel, Eidolon. In hindsight, I probably should have skipped that one since it was a lot more about political machinations than their romance and I wasn’t that intrigued by the magic, but it was a quick read.
I also picked up From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout, which didn’t sound super interesting to me (a pure Maiden as the central part of the plot is just off-putting to me), but did win the Swoonies for fantasy romance last year and had another great first chapter. Alas, the magic of the first chapter did not continue throughout this super long book. I wound up skipping ahead to the scenes with the hero since I was really bored without him, but the foreshadowing for the end of the book was pretty heavy-handed, and I had a lot of issues with that and the hero’s role as Poppy’s bodyguard. The plot twist at the end where she learns the (presumably) real history of her world and what she’s going to be used for really as well as the incredibly questionable nature of the romance by the end killed any interest I had in continuing this series. Reading reviews of the sequel only sealed the deal.
The last category of books I’ve checked a bunch out from the library for is potential nominees for the Swoonies! After this year’s nomination round opened, I went back and found all of the 2021 releases that I suspect could be potential favorites and that I’d like to read before nominations close on January 7. Those books include:
- The Devil and the Heiress by Harper St. George
- Make it Sweet by Kristen Callihan
- For the Love of April French by Penny Aimes
- The Perks of Loving a Wallflower by Erica Ridley
- Hang the Moon by Alexandra Bellefleur
- The Brightest Star in Paris by Diana Biller
I actually started The Devil and the Heiress after being underwhelmed with a series of lackluster Christmas novels, but was getting a little annoyed by how naive the heroine was and how manipulative the hero was, so I put it down and decided to embrace the fantasy lifestyle for a little bit. But now I’m circling back to finish it and am overall enjoying it, though I’m skeptical I’ll wind up wanting to nominate it for a Swoonie.
It’s kind of hard balancing all of these different categories, especially when two of them kind of have deadlines of the end of the year (yes, I totally think the Christmas season basically lasts until New Year’s). But I’m trying to just enjoy it and go with the flow, especially since I’m just coming off a few weeks where I barely read at all. It feels really nice to want to read all the things again!
What’s next, you might ask? Well, there’s the five other potential Swoonies nominees, for starters. I think I might read Hang the Moon next since it’s a library book? But we’ll see how I feel! I also want to make my way through the remaining four Christmas books on my Christmas reading list. Plus I checked out A Mistletoe Affair by Farrah Rochon, which someone had recommended last year and that I forgot to include on my list this year. And then there’s all the fantasy! I checked out a whole slew of things from the library that I could see myself reading, plus I own a ton that I’m kind of surprised I haven’t gotten to. I actually made a temporary kindle collection to keep track of what I want to read, and it includes:
- A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane (I’ve heard LOTS about this one!)
- Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (I’ve been meaning to reread this series for ages)
- Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews (this would be a reread; it has much stronger epic fantasy vibes than any of their other books)
- The Orchid Throne by Jeffe Kennedy (one of the big fantasy romance authors I haven’t tried yet)
- The Awakening by Nora Roberts (idk if I’ll get to this one, but it sounds interesting)
- Lord of the Last Heartbeat by May Peterson (I enjoy following the author on Twitter and have been meaning to try her books)
- The Bridge Kingdom (this sounds like it has a lot of potential!)
- The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri (I’m afraid this will lean more fantasy than what I want right now, but I’m very excited to read this)
- His Secret Illuminations by Scarlett Gale (Courtney Milan raved about this on Twitter, which I rarely see)
- House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas (I’ve been itching to reread this one since it really stuck with me and the sequel is coming out soon)
- The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix (this is not romance at all, but I love Nix’s Old Kingdom series and think this one sounds really cool)
- A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna (I bought this book YEARS ago and can’t believe I still haven’t read it yet)
- The Blacksmith Queen by GA Aiken (another fantasy romance author I’ve been meaning to read)
- Red Sister by Mark Lawrence (this is another one that’s not romance, but I’ve heard such great things about these books. My sister read and loved them on my recommendation, but I still haven’t read them myself!)
- Jade City by Fonda Lee (another fantasy book; I’ve been meaning to read these books for years because they sound awesome)
So yeah, lots of great reading on the horizon! Plus I have a couple of arcs I’m really excited about and a few more library books on hold (some fantasy, some not). I’m enjoying this intense reading binge so much because it’s been such a long time since I’ve read so voraciously! I imagine it will ebb eventually and I’ll lose steam, but I’m trying to enjoy it while it lasts, especially my interest in fantasy. I love fantasy books, but since the pandemic, I’ve barely read any; it’s been all romance all the time. Even fantasy romance hasn’t been able to tempt me until now, but I’m glad that’s changed!
What have you been reading and enjoying lately? Let me know in the comments!