By now, I’m sure you’ve noticed: 2016 SUCKS.

Don’t worry, we have you covered here at BoB. This week, I’m reading books that will take you far away: an enchanted city under the sea, a world of mechanics and magic, and a secluded Texas ranch…

What’s Erin Reading? 

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Priddy’s Tale, Harper Fox

What doesn’t kill you sometimes makes you wish it had…

Priddy’s a lost soul in a part of Cornwall the tourists don’t get to see. He’s young, sweet-natured and gorgeous, but that’s not enough to achieve escape velocity from his deadbeat village and rotten family life. He’s a drifter and a dreamer, and self-preservation isn’t his strong suit. An accidental overdose of a nightclub high leaves him fractured, hallucinating, too many vital circuits fried to function in a tough world. When a friend offers him winter work in a lighthouse – nothing to do but press the occasional button and keep the windows clean – he gratefully accepts.

His plans to live quietly and stay out of trouble don’t last very long. A ferocious Atlantic storm washes a stranger to Priddy’s lonely shore. For a shipwrecked sailor, the new arrival seems very composed. He’s also handsome as hell, debonair, and completely unconcerned by Priddy’s dreadful past.

Priddy has almost given up on the prospect of any kind of friendship, and a new boyfriend – let alone a six-foot beauty with eerily good swimming skills – out of the question entirely. But Merou seems to see undreamed-of promise in Priddy, and when they hit the water together, Priddy has to adapt to Merou’s potentials too, and fast. His lover from the sea might be a mere mortal from the waist up, but south of that line…

Far-flung west Cornwall has a hundred mermaid tales. Priddy’s loved the stories all his life. Now he has to face up to a wildly impossible truth. Merou’s life depends upon his courage and strength, and if Priddy can only find his way in the extraordinary world opening up all around him, all the ocean and a human lifetime needn’t be enough to contain the love between merman and mortal.

I love Harper Fox’s writing, and she’s typically an auto-buy for me. However, I was a little hesitant about this book. Mermen? I just wasn’t sure.

I had no reason to worry. Even when she’s writing straight contemporaries, Harper Fox has a way of making every day life sound like a fairy tale. There is always a little touch of magic in her stories…Priddy’s Tale has just a touch more magic than most. Priddy has been through hell and people want to treat him like he’s a child, but he’s very much a man trying to find his own way. Merou is a creature of magic, but has very real worries and fears that explain his seemingly capricious actions.

There are bits that are a little predictable — the bad guy is a compilation of 5 different Romance Villain stereotypes — but you can’t help being completely swept along by Fox’s haunting, beautiful writing and the fairy tale setting. She’s just so consistently stunning and lyrical. I shouldn’t have ever doubted her! If you need a vacation to a fantasy world under the Cornish sea, this is the story for you.

A Matter of Disagreement, E.E. Ottoman

The rise of mechanical animation and its popularity at court, is threatening to end Andrea’s scholarly pursuits of spell craft and literature – and force him to let go of his assistants who depend on him to support their families. In retaliation against the field that’s ruining his life, Andrea begins to campaign against it. The efforts gain him notoriety but don’t solve his financial dilemmas.

When he’s dragged to a party by his brother, he comes face to face with the man who pioneered mechanical animation: Leon Gregory de la Marche VI, Marquis de la Marche. And he’s not at all what Andrea expected.

This was delightful! It’s a short, sweet story about two rival academics in a feud who meet one fateful night, unaware of each other’s identities. (It’s a romance novel, you can guess what happens next!) The book is set in an alternate fantasy world, where mechanics and magic mix in a historical setting. It’s not really steampunk, but I’ve seen this book categorized like that elsewhere.

Our hero, Andrea, Lord Ashcroft de Bourbon, is a shortish, roundish academic who turned his back on his family’s fortune to study the science of magic. He’s content with his simple life, but wishes desperately for more funding so he can support his research assistants. The man standing in his way? The handsome, dashing, wealthy Marquis de la Marche. Gregory, the Marquis, has funding, his own wealth, is the leader of the mechanical/magical sciences movement, and represents everything Andrea is fighting against. Gregory is also trans, and was the first in this world to undergo experimental treatments to align his biology with his gender. This is touched on in one conversation, focused on the legal/scientific precedence that it set, and is just one part of what makes Gregory who he is.

But for me, the star of the book is sweet, shy, angrily determined Andrea. I cheered when he got his man, I loved how he was the little academic in the corner until you poked him and he lost it…repeatedly. (Andrea, you precious muffin with an awful temper. You’re the best.) I’d be remiss as a reviewer if I didn’t mention the typos/editing errors that can be found throughout the book, but the writing quality is overall high enough that I’m guessing they bug the author ten times as much as they bugged me, so we’ll just mention it and move on.

So if you’re in the mood for a book celebrating men we don’t see enough of in romance, with nifty worldbuilding and a very lovable hero…check out A Matter of Disagreement!

Love and Protect, (Heroes of Evers, Texas Book 1) Lori Ryan

Laura Kensington is a desperate woman. She knows that if she doesn’t flee, not only is her life in danger, so is the life of her unborn child. With everything to lose, she flees to Evers, Texas with a new identity, taking refuge on the ranch of Cade Bishop, a man who firmly believes in second chances. Drawn to Cade, Laura finds comfort in his passion and his love, yet she fears he sees her as merely another needy case. But when her past resurfaces, bringing grave peril into her world once more, Cade is Laura’s only hope. Relentless enemies, ones both anticipated and unexpected, are drawing closer by the day, ensnaring her in a deadly web of deception, betrayal, and murder. And her only chance to break free lies in Cade’s powerful will, unrelenting protection, and loving heart.

NOTE: This book was previously published as Ever Hopeful

This book was exactly what I needed to pull me out of a reading funk. It is, in some ways, a very typical small-town romance with romantic suspense elements. Or is it a romantic suspense novel with small-town elements? We have Laura Kensington, pregnant and on the run from her abusive ex-husband’s rich and powerful family. She makes her way to this magically peaceful ranch that miraculously has tons of money, and meets Cade, the rancher/animal rescuer who helps heal her heart. Reading that, it’s like Romance Trope BINGO.

Let me tell you, I freaking love Romance Trope BINGO.

And you know what else I love? I love Lori Ryan’s writing. I’m womanfully restraining myself from immediately buying the rest of the series, because I have a book budget, damn her. She manages to hit the satisfying tropes without making the book or characters feel tired. Cade doesn’t “save” Laura by immediately boning her with his amazing healing cowboy cock — he treats her respectfully, keeps his distance, and they don’t actually have sex until they’ve known each other for months. I also love that she doesn’t ignore actual laws and technology when considering how someone could go on the run in this day and age.

In other words, she doesn’t stretch the fantasy too far. Is it unrealistic that an entire town would band together to hide one woman? Totally, but it’s a satisfying fantasy. But having the town Sheriff in on it would be too far. He’s willing to help, but he has to operate within the law and his own limits. I appreciated that, and other touches that grounded the book in reality.

This is a pretty light romantic suspense as these things go, but there are references to past domestic violence and rape. If those things trigger you, you might want to give this one a pass.

However, if you’re otherwise looking for a well-written, un-put-downable book, read this one and glory in the fact that there are two more books in the series!

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