Okay, we’ll see how this mirror posting here and at LJ goes.
The books I read in July were a pretty mixed bag.
1. When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James. European historical. James gets a lot of positive press and reviews in Romancelandia, in part because her books appeal to a broad spectrum of readers but also (and this is just my opinion, folks) because she’s an English literature professor who writes genre fiction, thus lending the genre respectability. Anyway, I bought a copy of this book because it was mentioned in one of the panels at the IASPR conference and read it early in the month. Thirty days later, the only lingering impression is that the heroine’s sensibility was very modern/21st century and that the book was more a fantasy historical.
2. Dirty Kiss by Rhys Ford. M/m romance. This book has a Japanese-American hero who falls in love with a Korean-American boy. The mystery was interesting and I loved the conflict drawn between one hero who is very bound by tradition and another who has abandoned it. Given the conflict between the two competing views on how to deal with their cultural backgrounds and families, I’m not sure how convincing the lovey story was but it was a quick read.
3. The Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn. Victorian-set mystery. Wrote about Lady Julia here.
4. The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn. Next in the series, another Victorian-set mystery. DNF. The plot seemed very convoluted yet somehow also predictable. How’d the author manage that?
5. A Night of Scandal by Sarah Morgan. Harlequin Presents category. This was well-reviewed at Dear Author, which prompted me to pick up a copy. Quick read, very good within the HP/category parameters. Would check out the related books in the series.
6. A Change of Tune by J.M. Cartwright. M/m romance, trope abuse written about here.
7. Muscling Through by J.L. Merrow. M/m romance, written about here.
8. Khyber Run by Amber Green. M/m romance. I haven’t written about this book yet, because I’m still mulling it over. Had a longish twitter conversation with @sunita_d about it. The background of the hero (displaced Afghan American) is different and a little risky; the plot is very briskly paced and kept me turning pages (metaphorically, since this is an ebook). The romance was the weakest part of the book. And yet, after finishing and then actually thinking about a great deal of what happened, plot-wise, there are gaping plot wholes and a series of extremely tenuous, unlikely connections that string together to advance the plot and then to try to give the narrator his HEA. The book failed as a romance, but it prompted a fair amount of thought and conversation.
9. Spin Out by James Buchanan. M/m romantic suspense, second of a series. Set in rural Utah with a Mormon hero. Really like James Buchanan’s voice and style. Struggled with this book, primarily because the narrator was a giant jerk through a large part of the book, acting paternal and withholding information from his partner/lover. Liked the mystery portion, but it wasn’t as well integrated into the what was going on with the relationship as with the first book.
10. Night Season by Chelsea Cain. Mystery. At last, Gretchen the Beauty Killer is fading from center stage for Archie Sheridan and this series! She’s still there, visible out of the corner of Archie’s eye if he squints just right, especially when he looks at the scars he bears. Enjoyed the execution of this murder mystery and manhunt.
11. Half Pass by Astrid Amara. DNF. Whiny hero + closeted potential hero + way too much exposition about horse training.
12. Between Sinners and Saints by Marie Sexton. M/m romance. Another book that prompted a twitter discussion with @sunita_d, this book was really not a genre romance novel. It was more gay inspirational fiction with some therapy thrown in on the side. The narrator seriously creeped me out at the beginning of the book, reminding me of this article at Big Think. Even though the narrator realized later that he’d crossed the line, he didn’t get that it was a general line, he only thought he behavior was inappropriate in that particular instance because of his dating target’s sexual history.
13. The Pharaoh’s Concubine by Z.A. Maxfield. M/m romance. A third hot mess of a book, it started well and then derailed. Where to begin? The manufactured attraction/relationship between the heroes? Or the serious squick of the narrator’s high school lover eventually marrying his twin sister? Or the ridiculous ending?
Interestingly, 9, 12, and 13 all involve gay men whose Mormon families or communities have either sanctioned, badgered or disowned them because of their sexuality One book deals with that censure through a professional filter (risk of job loss or demotion) but with family being silent on the issue; another is disowned by his parents; the third is constantly being pestered about being reprogrammed or choosing not to be gay or to not engage in sex acts. What’s up with the Mormon focus? Are other churches being used similarly in the m/m arena and I’ve not noticed? Or is there something special about LDS?