I went out of my way not to win this time — being such a fast reader gives me an unfair advantage, not to mention all the short old category romances — but I discovered it’s fun to use the BINGO card to comment on my reading for the month.
“Gotcha!”: Daughter of Hassan by Penny Jordan. Hero gotchas the heroine but good. Rapey old skool sheikh story, with nothing original to make it worth reading, and several layers of ick.
“It’s All Greek to Me”: Baby of Shame by Julia James. Reader of shame. This is so wangsty, I’m seriously embarrassed by the fact that I reread it for the gut punch several times a year. Greek hero, of course.
“Or so s/he thought”: The Dirt on Ninth Grave by Darynda Jones. Since the narrator has amnesia, there’s lots of mystery and secrets.
I admired how the author set this up, plotwise. Like the “In Death” series, the overall suspenseful awfulness is mitigated by the coziness of the repeated characters and jokes, and she managed to make that happen despite this situation she left Charley Davidson in in the previous book. At one point, I thought she’s overdone it (the new ghost in the new corner.) and even that turned out to work narratively in the end.
But as in the last several books, the pacing really irritated me. For example, at one point Janey (Charley) discovers a neighborhood man is probably in serious danger and she just futzes around pondering about it for days, if not weeks, while a whole bunch of other weird shit is also going on. I’m also finding Charley tiresome as a character. There is a gorgeous moment of sacrifice and and of course some huge ending tension so I’ll probably keep reading, like the sucker I am, but I may switch to print for the next one so I can skim.
“Marriage of Convenience”: Hostage by Madeleine Ker. Hero blackmails the heroine into marriage — but why? Seriously, why? I was confused all the way through.
“Dog Howling”: Midnight’s Kiss by Thea Harrison. Because it’s full of wolflike feral vampires. Good suspense, good reunion passion (even after 20 years, which isn’t as painful as usual since they’re immortal characters.) Really dumb plot point though — seemed like a weird leftover from the author’s previous category romance career — and I just never cared all that much about the characters.
“Family Disunion”: Artistic License by Elle Pierson. To give you an idea of the hero’s family, his best friend calls his parents “Darth and Cruella.” This is by the same author as Act Like It, and though it had some plotting issues and the humor isn’t as polished, I just loved the characters. The heroine is a shy, introverted artist, possibly on the Autism spectrum (though it’s never mentioned,) definitely “highly sensitive.” The hero is physically tough but emotionally insecure. They have a lot to navigate. Very sweet, endearing relationship.
“Lust”: The Morning After by Michelle Reid. One of the more sensual Harlequin Presents, and pretty romantic, too.
“Love to Hate You”: Kinked by Thea Harrision. This is one of the squares I contributed. I usually use it to mean an epic rollercoaster sort of romance, where the hero and heroine keep going back and forth about their feelings for each other, but it fit this fierce enemies to lovers story too well not to use. Great power dynamics in the relationship between two alphas.
“Bounty Hunter”: The Seduction of Samantha Kincaide by Maggie Osborne. Female bounty hunter, no less! This was synchronicity… I’ve waited for ages to listen to this audiobook, and just happened to finally do it in February.
“A Flower Amongst Flowers”: Night’s Honor by Thea Harrison. I wasn’t really sure what this square meant, but I used it to signify that the hero thinks of the heroine as special and wonderful while I thought she was a royal pain in the ass. Lovely, gentlemanly vampire hero though, and I wound up liking this one quite a bit anyway.
“Reading Flagellation”: A DNF — but I did struggle through half!
“Green”: Desire Never Changes by Penny Jordan. Many mentions of the hero’s green eyes. An odd title, since the heroine is engaged to, and very attracted to, another man at the book’s opening. And oh my, what a bundle of confused 18 year old hormones she is, too. The hero is one of Penny Jordan’s classics, who goes from Madonna to Whore in under 60 seconds. Twice! A lot of fun.
“Lemon and Lime: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker. Yellow and green cover was the best I could do for this square. A long, leisurely fantasy with a romance so slow-burning it’s barely a simmer. Ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.
“Book Boyfriend”: Bound by Flames by Jeaniene Frost. I don’t generally use the term book boyfriend for myself, so my interpretation here is that it’s a hero who’s only allowable because he’s in a book. (Which would actually explain a lot of the otherwise inexplicable “book boyfriends” I’ve seen…) Decent paranormal adventure, on the grisly side.
“Free to Be a Family”: Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins. Another square contributed by me — it signifies family bonds other than those of blood. Some more cool history in the follow up to Through the Storm, though not as intense a read.
“Gazillionaire”: A Ruthless Proposition by Natasha Anders. Would also have fit well in “Love to hate you.” Interesting because the characters really have negative feelings towards each other, but are forced together (for the usual reason.) Has more depth than her previous Harlequin Presents-y storys and gets pretty sad.
“Letters”: Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas. It’s not episotallary, unfortunately, but there are quite a few rather charming letters. This was an okay read, but it felt a little off to me. Things that happened didn’t seem to be properly linked to other things that happened. Like just about everyone else, I was more intrigued by the secondary romance and hope their book will be better.
“Road Trip”: I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest. Several small road trips, really. This would also have fit excellently under “Wow.” Super suspenseful and exciting, also a lovely friendship story. No romance at all and it’s not missed.
“Netflix & Chill”: Dear White People by Justin Simien. Fairly funny, but I thought the movie made the same points in a less didactic way. I placed it in this square because I’d just read an article about the origin of the term, and it was mentioned as being one of the terms first used by blacks and then taken over by whites, which is a point that comes up in the book.
“Wow!” Volume 1-3 of “Ms. Marvel.” Awesome! Where were the comics like this when I was a kid?
“Ethically Iffy”: Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh. To say the least. The hero is prepared to destroy the world for the heroine, among other things.
Squares not used: the second “ethically iffy.” (Rules.) “Wildcard.” (Rules — that was my handicap because of winning last time.) “Yeeha Cowboy.” “Verse” — The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic would have fit nicely (the main character literally recites poetry to save her life) but I chose to put it elsewhere.
Also in February:
Lonely Hearts by Heidi Cullinan. DNF. Good depiction of disability, as with the previous books in the series, but I got bored with the constant drug use. Skipped to the end and it was so sickly sweet I couldn’t even read it.
A Queer Trade by K.J. Charles. Promising beginning to the “Rag and Bone” series. An interracial across-the-tracks gay couple practicing magic in Victorian England…. should get pretty hairy!
Is This Tomorrow? by Caroline Levitt. Lovely narration by Xe Sands kept me listening when I might not have finished print. I enjoyed the characterizations, period setting, and many evocative moments, but it reminded me of one of the reasons I read genre fiction — because I almost never finish a genre book going, “what the hell was that even about?”
Dragos Goes to Washington by Thea Harrison. Fan service up the wazoo. Lots of sex, a little banter, a pointless mystery, and a set-up for the next book. That’s pretty much it.