The reviewers at Fiction Vixen will be posting the favorite reads from 2011 this week. Our picks are not necessarily books published in 2011, but books we read in 2011.
Amy’s Top Picks for 2011
Wow, it’s hard to believe we are at the end of another year of amazing reads and I have already set a record reading over 150 books to date! Once again it was extremely difficult to narrow down the top favorites but I will list my top five with honorable mentions. Some I have reviewed and some left me speechless and feeling inadequate to attempt a review. From erotica, romantic suspense, historical romance and more, I hope you will pick your favorite genre and try one of my recommends.
Anne Calhoun creates a sizzle to erotic romance that few can touch. Ms. Calhoun’s gift is in her character development, creating a perfect balance of storyline, intimacy and scorching hot sex! Her writing style is beyond comparable and the evolutionary journey she takes with her characters leaves the reader transported into a love story that you don’t want to end. Hunter and Lacey are no exception and this older woman/younger man pairing is probably my favorite erotic romance to date. While Liberating Lacey is currently her only full length novel, Ms. Calhoun has written several shorts that are every bit as intense and emotional providing the reader with more satisfying moments of her incredible voice.
When he slid his fingers under the hair at the nape of her neck, still careful, still watching her face, her heart flip-flopped in her chest. Then he bent his head and brushed his lips over hers. She stiffened, shocking electricity arcing through her body at the whisper-light sensation. Yes, oh yes. This was how it was supposed to be. A faint sound escaped her throat into the sliver of air between their mouths. His fingers tightened on her nape and like a gasoline-fueled fire, the heat combusted between them. He stepped into her body, pinning her against the counter as his tongue stroked over hers and his other hand came up to cup her cheek and hold her for his mouth.
He wasn’t seducing. He wasn’t asking permission. This was pure possession, a territorially staking his claim as the last man she’d ever kiss.
Anyone who knows me is aware of my insatiable love for Larissa Ione. Sin Undone was her final book in the Demonica series and made my top five list of 2010. When I discovered her new Lords of Deliverance series was a spin off of her Demonica world I squealed with joy and knew Ms. Ione would once again land a well deserved spot on my favorites list! Immortal Rider encompasses everything that Larissa does best; dark and gritty world, fierce action, memorable characters, snarky humor and sizzling sex like only Larissa can deliver! She will forever remain one of my top favorite PNR authors and anyone who has not read her work is seriously missing out!
He stepped back from her just enough that he could rake his gaze down her body. “Oh, yeah. I want to take you in every way imaginable and keep you so sexed up that when you aren’t in bed, all you’ll be thinking about is getting back in it.” He took in her lush curves, imagining how well they’d buffer his thrusts. “And that’s just tonight’s itinerary.”
Another favorite author that made my list for the second year is Cynthia Eden. Although she is recognized more for her PNR series, when it comes to romantic suspense with a psychological killer to the likes of Hannibal Lecter, Cynthia Eden has mastered the genre! I’m talking edge-of your-seat action with FBI agents fighting crimes in the field and intense desire in the bedroom! Providing a stellar balance of emotionally charged action and scorching chemistry with her characters, this is the kind of writing all romantic suspense authors should strive for. I can only hope that Ms. Eden will listen to her many fans that confirm she has a phenomenal voice for this genre and in turn will provide us with more in the future!
“I’m not in an easy mood, baby,” he warned. Had she asked for easy? Ever? “I need you,” Max said gruffly, “so damn bad, but-” She kept walking. When she reached him, she put her fingers to his lips. “I need you, too.” More than she could say. She was desperate for him. She needed to feel him against her, in her, needed to be certain he was safe. Alive. Hers again. Because that was how she thought of him. Mine.
My final top favorites are by two authors that have made the greatest impression on me this year with regard to fictional romance. What I would give to sit with Paullina Simons and Pamela Clare over coffee while listening to their own personal stories. I believe their lives would be every much as enthralling as their gift of writing stories that stir the soul. While both series are not new releases, their intensity and history of creation is what speaks to my heart and provides me with stories that I hope to re-read for years to come.
The Bronze Horseman Trilogy by Paullina Simons (Amazon)
Where to begin? This has to be the most beautiful work of fiction I have ever read. I’m talking an epic mind blowing love story of two souls that are so beautifully and tragically captured from the brilliant mind of Russian born author, Paullina Simons. Penning a vivid and raw image of communism during Hitler’s invasion of Russia in the 1940’s, Ms. Simon’s core of the story is an unforgettable couple of surmountable proportion. Tatiana and Alexander (Shura) are the most heroic and selfless couple I have encountered in fictional reading embracing every essence of the meaning of “love” and all its facets. All three books take you on an amazing journey of their lives, through war, starvation, hopes, dreams, tragedies, sorrow and joy. I have never had an author stir my emotions more than Ms. Simons did with the all consuming love of Tatia and Shura. When people name epic “must read” books before you die, this tops my list and I hope to re-read numerous times throughout my life.
There are so many wonderful quotes from all three books. This one is from the final book, The Summer Garden:
“I love you. I’m blind for you, wild for you. Sick with you. I told you that our first night together when I asked you to marry me, I am telling you now. Everything that’s happened to us, everything, is because I crossed the street for you. I worship you. You know that through and through…”
I-Team Series by Pamela Clare (Amazon)
I had many friends tell me, “Amy, you HAVE to read Pamela Clare’s I-Team series.” Well, I finally did and as a romantic suspense lover, I confirm that Ms. Clare can pen some of the best multi-faceted characters in the most intriguing action packed settings. I’m talking swoon worthy I-can’t-pick-just-one heroes that will melt you heart and your panties! From politics to prison cells, Ms. Claire tackles real issues that have been a part of her everyday life as a former investigative journalist. When Ms. Clare directed me to her website and specifically to “author’s notes” that accompany her outline of books, I realized how important each issue is that she tackles in her stories and how each takes on a personal meaning. What sets Clare apart from other authors is she has been a true spokesman in the field of journalism bringing awareness to human trafficking, women’s rights in prison, and was a strong advocate in passing a bill in the State of Colorado that bans the shackling of pregnant inmates in labor. Each fictional story Clare creates has pieces and threads of her own life intertwined which I believe makes her work all the more brilliant and engaging. I have the greatest respect for Pamela Clare and recommend the I-Team series to any reader that enjoys romantic suspense with authentic issues and hot sexy heroes!
There are many memorable quotes from the I-Team books, however, Pamela Clare’s dedication in Breaking Point left a lasting impression in my mind of the person she is beyond the pen:
“This book is dedicated to the memory of the hundreds of murdered and missing women of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. You were brutalized and discarded like you didn’t matter. But the earth received your tears, your blood, your bones and, like a bereaved mother, the earth itself cries out for justice. May the violence end and those who stole your bodies and your lives be held to account.”
Curio by Cara McKenna– (Amazon) This was a surprisingly beautiful story that takes you on a journey of discovery and hope in the lives of two distinctly unique characters. Ms. McKenna’s gift of authentic erotic prose provides a memorable story of life transformation in this raw and captivating read.
The Renfield Syndrome by J.A. Saare– (Amazon) Book two in Riannon’s Law and man oh man did it pack a punch! For me this is Urban Fantasy at its best with edgy, dark action and a heroine you are constantly pulling for. Ms. Saare really stepped it up with this second installment and left me breathless and dying for the next book!
Beyond Eden/Finding Eden by Kele Moon– (Amazon) If you are looking for “fluffy erotic smut” you will NOT find it here. Instead, you are sucked into a dark, graphic, and emotional, push-your-limits erotic fiction that takes you out of your comfort zone and leaves a lasting impression. Danny and Paul are extremely sexy and flawed characters that will resonate with you long after you have finished their story.
Out of the Blue by Annamarie Hartnett– (Amazon) This is probably one of the most believable ménage stories I have read to date. Ms. Hartnett delivered amazing characterization and created a witty, sexy threesome that was honest and genuine with real issues and insecurities. Oh, and did I mention sizzling hot sex? The ending proved to be authentic without the typical “wrapped in a bow” HEA. I will definitely be reading more of Ms. Hartnett’s work!
In Death Series by J.D. Robb– (Amazon) I need only to say one name…Roarke. Anyone that knows the name knows why the In Death books continue to be such a success. I am trying to savor them at a steady pace as I’m on book twenty one and there are now over thirty. The In Death series is my comfort read audio book series providing crime solving at it’s best and a couple to die for. Narrator Susan Ericksen captures the true essence of Lieutenant Eve Dallas, Roarke, Peabody and more with her flawless and distinctive accents of each character. I will only read the series in audio due to the brilliance of Ms. Ericksen.
And there you have it. My 2011 top favorites. I hope you will give any or all a chance on your bookshelf. I guarantee you will find some of the best of the best here! Happy New Year and happy 2012 reading everyone!