Friday, July 5, 2024

More of My Favorite Re-readable Romances

I'm genuinely curious, if you are a reader are you also a re-reader? I've been both since I was a young child. For myself, it all began with my total commitment to the fictional lives of Alec Ramsay and The Black in the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley. There was no way a single reading could suffice. I sought out the wondrous feelings I experienced within their pages by revisiting those stories over and over until I finally got my own horse(s). Once that life-altering event happened, I mostly left behind fictional reading for reference reading as my chosen fields required I be a walking encyclopedia of knowledge. 

I remained a casual fiction reader until 1992 when I got my first taste of romantic fiction. Oh, I read other genres and continue to, but with the introduction of the romance genre came the insatiable desire to reconnect with my favorite characters, their indelible chemistry, their captivating lives, and know that their stories all end happily. I don't know how many books I've read more than once but it's substantial. I have almost all of those re-readable favorites in Kindle and Audible formats. When possible, I have also acquired the trade paperbacks, preferably signed by the author, but even when not.  

This entry is a follow-up to My Top Twenty-One All-Time Favorite Romance Reads post from August 2021. These books (listed alphabetically by author's last name) are supplemental to that list of favorites, as I have felt keenly compelled to reread them several times.

Soul Deep (I-Team 6.5) by Pamela Clare. Kindle & Audible.

Soul Deep is a 210-page (5 hours and 39 minutes audiobook) third person novella in the suspenseful I-Team series by former investigative reporter and newspaper editor, Pamela Clare. It has become a favorite reread of mine for several reasons, including the tropes: age gap (mature couple), enemies to lovers, scarred character, forced proximity (snowed in), and small town (large ranch). The hero, Jack West, is a 63-year-old widower and father of a grown son. His impressive Colorado mountain horse and cattle ranch makes for a captivating setting. The heroine, 45-year-old Janet Kileen, is an FBI agent who didn't exactly get along with the normally gracious Jack the first time they met. While not a true second chance romance, they end up with a second chance to become "deeply" acquainted when Janet is rescued from a snow drift and is forced to stay at Jack's ranch throughout a blizzard. Jack and Janet are recurring characters in the I-Team series and Janet suffered a life-altering injury in the previous book (Striking Distance). There is a dangerous threat on the ranch that adds mystery and intrigue, while the passages featuring hospitality, conversation, and physical intimacy warm my soul. In addition, there are HORSES! The entire arc of the story is much more fulfilling than the majority of novellas I have read and the conclusion is beautifully emotional. I've enjoyed reading and listening to this book as both the author and narrator (Kaleo Griffith) are exceptionally talented. I also found the author's dedication to be admirable and worth sharing. "This book is dedicated to all the women—and men—who know that the human desire for romance, love, and sexual passion has nothing to do with age."

Don't Kiss the Bride by Carian Cole. Kindle & Audible.

Don't Kiss the Bride is a 518-page (13 hours and 28 minutes audiobook) dual point of view standalone. It is an age gap, marriage of convenience, and slow-burn romance with 18-year-old high school student Skylar Timmons and 34-year-old construction worker Jude "Lucky" Lucketti. One of the reasons I appreciate this particular age gap romance is that even though there is a 16-year age difference Jude and Skylar have a significant number of things in common, as Skylar is an "old soul." Carian Cole wrote Jude as an exceptional average guy, which means that besides his long hair and tattoos, he's a regular kinda guy. Not wealthy, not flashy, and not a superhero. However, he is a decent and respectful hardworking man with honorable white knight tendencies. And then there is Skylar, who even though she is mature, intelligent, courageous, and goal-oriented, has a hideous home life and serious health issues. Jude's awareness and eagerness to help her leads to their marriage of convenience so that Skylar can have health insurance and a decent home. There are numerous real-life issues represented in this sweet, slightly tragic, emotional story and I "read" them all up! It is a fully rewarding experience whether read or listened to.

Books 1, 2, & 3 of the Quantum Series by Marie Force. Kindle, Audible, & Paperback.

Virtuous, Valorous, and Victorious are books 1, 2, and 3 in the 8-book Quantum series by Marie Force. Even though I have enjoyed all eight books, these first three are my go-to favorites by far. These three books feature the romantic arc of a single couple: Natalie Bryant and Flynn Godfrey. After several years and numerous rereads I still feel they deserved three books. (The remaining books feature one couple per book with cameos from the other couples.) For many years after I began reading romance, I avoided stories featuring Hollywood types (mainly actors). I'm not clear as to why, but at some point, I started trying them and found a number of them I truly enjoyed. These are three of those books, as Flynn Godfrey is a world-renowned second-generation actor. Where the character of Flynn brings fame, wealth, and other, rather, um, salacious elements to the books, Natalie grounds the story with her simple, quiet, and pure nature. Their introduction is an ideal example of a meet-cute brought about by Natalie's ancient little dog biting Flynn and he is immediately taken with Natalie, and she is gobsmacked by the appearance of the famous Flynn Godfrey during her walk. He pursues her with determination, but Natalie is beyond hesitant to even go out on a date with Flynn and thereby begins Flynn's dazzling courtship of Natalie, and we are along for the swoony ride. The road to their happily ever after is rocky though—particularly after the brutal event in Natalie's history is disclosed—but Flynn does everything possible to alleviate Natalie's distress. His actions more than prove his affection, respect, empathy, and ultimately love for Natalie. She learns that she can trust Flynn wholeheartedly, and their relationship's progression makes for giddy reader feelings. The narrators' performances are inspiring in the next-level quality of the audiobooks, as well.  

Blood and Sand (Elemental World 2) by Elizabeth Hunter. Kindle, Audible, & Paperback.

Blood and Sand is a 309-page (11 hours and 52 minutes audiobook) third person paranormal suspense in the Elemental World series by Elizabeth Hunter. I honestly believe I am missing whatever component it is that induces the love of fantasy in readers. For the most part, I don't connect with paranormal stories enough to read without much scoffing and eye-rolling. However, I've found something about Elizabeth Hunter's otherworldly writing that inspires me to levels of story investment like no other author to date. Her Elemental Mysteries books were the only paranormal books in my top twenty-one all-time favorites but there is something about Blood and Sand that stirs my blood! Baojia and Natalie's story is full of suspense, danger, excitement, humor, sarcasm, and sizzle! For being a water vampire, Baojia is smokin' hot! Natalie is a journalist driven to uncover the culprits in a string of murders. It's also partially set in my hometown of San Diego....YES! Baojia has a fascinating human story and is a fierce warrior of a vampire, but the positive human traits he retained make him an excellent preternatural hero.

Jacked (Trent Brothers 1) by Tina Reber. Kindle, Audible, & Paperback.

Jacked is a 495-page (18 hours and 33 minutes audiobook) dual point of view romantic suspense in the Trent Brothers series. Romantic suspense is my top trope in the romance genre and Jacked by Tina Reber is a crackerjack of a story. Every time I read (or listen) to Jacked, I'm impressed with how authentic feeling it is. Every description, bit of dialogue, and scene feels genuine. Whether to do with Adam’s career, Erin’s career, or their attraction and chemistry (emotional and physical), it all feels 100% authentic. I have never felt a hint of the unbelievable or that-would-never-happen or that’s ridiculous. It is 100% realistic fantasy escapism with smarts and soul!

Black Hills by Nora Roberts. Kindle & Paperback.

Black Hills is a 545-page third person standalone romantic suspense by Nora Roberts. It remains one of Nora's most popular suspense books for a reason. It was in consideration, along with three other books by Nora, for my all-time top twenty-one favorites list. The character interaction and dialogue are top-notch, as usual. I was enthralled with the story and captivated by the people. Cooper, Lil, their friends, and their family are all amazing characters! Chapter 11 had some of the most witty and delightful female banter I've ever read. Lil and Tansy are the truest of friends. Their relationship is the best. This is one of my go-to rereads.

The All-in Duet by Alessandra Torre. Kindle & Audible.

The All-in Duet (Even Money and Double Down) is a 544-page romantic suspense series (14  hours and 25 minutes combined total for both audiobooks) by Alessandra Torre. When I first read and finished Even Money, I was engrossed until that gasp-inducing cliffhanger. I was instantly relieved knowing I had Double Down available to start immediately. This series had me constantly on edge, anxious, conjecturing, and indecisive about my feelings toward the main characters, Dario Capece and Bell Hartley. The fast-paced story was kept intriguing by multiple nefarious happenings: adultery, rape, kidnapping, organized crime, murder, and human trafficking. Amid all this chaos and corruption was the unexpected and risky relationship between Dario and Bell. Sheesh, these two stirred up a heap of trouble with their mutual attraction and affair. Even with all the morally black and gray doings, my time within this dark story is always so satisfying!

The Bourbon Kings Series by J.R. Ward. Kindle, Audible, & Hardcover.

The Bourbon Kings trilogy by J.R. Ward is a series I first read via my library’s digital collection. I  purchased the audiobooks (because, gimme!), but I wanted to be able to reread them anytime. Hence, the acquisition of these pristine used hardcover editions.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a fan of soap opera-style stories. I have no tolerance for greedy, whiny, entitled people (characters). I detest much of what is done in the name of building businesses and perpetuating traditions that in all good conscience should become obsolete. Oh, and don’t get me started about detrimental alcohol consumption, or adultery, or any of the other despicable things these Bradfords/Baldwines, et al. do. Even with all those nasty bits, I devoured this series and remain poised to perpetually reread. (Ah, the joys of reading well-written fiction!) The little glimpses into genuine empathy and concern saved it, I think. The respect and love Lane exhibits toward Miss Aurora and Lizzie and vice versa shine a much-needed positive light on this otherwise bleak family.

This series is addictive, dramatic, complex, clever, and during several scenes, extremely poignant…and I love it!

The Reapers MC Series by Joanna Wylde. Kindle, Audible, & Paperback.

I guess I had to have one series featuring men of dubious character; and truthfully, these Reaper MC dudes are_the_worst! They do all the bad stuff, including not always treating their women respectfully. Since we're talking fictional jerks, I can read about their shenanigans, be appalled, and still be entertained. And entertained I am! I've read and listened to this series so many times; and each time, I scold them and curse them but keep on reading. I've read other MC books, and so far the Reapers are the most, um, intense. They do have some honor, and they are loyal to each other. Occasionally they are even downright loving to their women too. The few positive qualities they present make reading this series a helluva fun ride!


Honorable Mentions (I enjoy them enough to have read them at least three times) 

Tasha Boyd
Eversea and Forever Jack (Butler Cove 1 &2)

Cara McKenna
Lay It Down & Give It All (Desert Dogs 1 & 2) 

Beverly Preston
Lucy Score 
Kylie Scott 
Lick, Play, Lead, & Deep (Stage Dive Series)
Dirty, Twist, & Chaser (Dive Bar Series)

Have you read any of these books? What makes certain books re-readable to you? I'd love to know your thoughts. Thanks!