The unputdownable read…  it’s kind of the holy grail of books, isn’t it? That book that hooks you in on the first page and doesn’t let you go until the last; the book you enjoy so much that you can’t stop turning the pages even as you wish you could read more slowly because you don’t want it to end, and the book you immediately have to shout about to all your friends – whether in person or on Social Media.  We’re all lucky enough to come across THAT BOOK from time to time, and the AAR team got together to talk about the book we read most recently that we simply couldn’t put down.

Anne

I Joined a Teen-age Sex Club (Yes, that was an actual title from a story published in 1951!)

This is a compilation of essential romance comics from the 1950s to the 1970s. Most are ‘pre-code’ comics, so the writers and artists had more leeway. And the women could be anything from weak and sappy to aggressive, even transgressive. These women did everything from joining a teenage club where unsupervised kids were making out and drinking, getting a circus tiger to attack and partially blind her sister, running away with a hippie guru, turning up the gas in her elderly boss’ kitchen so people would think he was suicidal and sent him back to the rest home and selling antibiotics on the black market during the war!

I know… What!? I was going to start a new psychological thriller, but this book is like 20 psychological thrillers in one. To think I didn’t bother to buy romance comics when I was growing up (except one issue of Haunted Romance). Then again, by that time, the romance comics were on the wane. Most collectors probably ignore them, unless an issue was illustrated by their favorite artist or unless they specialize. But there is some interesting stuff out there…

Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Kobo

BJ

Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall

This book is an almost hidden gem. It isn’t long, so you don’t need to feel guilty about reading it all in one go. The language is poetic without being flowery and the story, which has no dialogue, speaks to a part of the heart that we all keep hidden and protected from the harshness of everyday life. You could even say it speaks to the soul. The first time I read this story I thought I wouldn’t read another book because they would all disappoint by comparison.

It is a romance, not between two men but two males. It is romantic if that means having your heart wrenched. It is sad, but hopeful and it makes you think long after you have finished the last word.

Currently Unavailable

Caroline

The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh

Last night, I started Mary Balogh’s The Secret Pearl, about a desperate woman who sells herself as a prostitute to a married duke, who then tracks her down and hires her to be the governess to his daughter. I stayed up too late to read it. I have a child who gets me up at night, and when my husband took the morning shift so I could go back to sleep… I read it. Today, my child fell asleep in the car, and I sat in a parking lot and read it. And the kicker? I have already read this book twice. I know the plot twists and I know how it ends, and I still could not put the book down. Thank goodness I finished it while eating my dinner so I can get some sleep tonight.

Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Kobo

Caz

Flight of Magpies by K.J. Charles, audiobook narrated by Cornell Collins

The most recent book I absolutely could not put down is actually an audiobook – Flight of Magpies by K.J. Charles (book three in the A Charm of Magpies series) that was so utterly compelling that I listened to all six-and-a-half-hours of it in one sitting.  The story is simply wonderful; an old enemy is out for revenge upon our heroes, Lucien, Lord Crane, and Stephen Day, and as well as dealing with a crazed warlock who is out to get them, the couple has to deal with the cracks beginning to surface in their relationship.  Secrets come to light, dark deeds are afoot, and our wonderful twosome face untold danger, but their bond is unbreakable and their love for each other unquestionable.

Cornell Collins has narrated a number of K.J. Charles’ books, and he’s at his very best here; the principals and supporting cast are superbly realised, he hits every emotional cue perfectly and he delivers a flawless performance.  In fact, it’s so good, I think I’m going to have to go back to the beginning and start all over again.

Buy it at: Amazon

Em

Bitter Legacy by Dal Maclean

Shortly after I was asked to name a book that I simply couldn’t put down, I started reading Dal Maclean’s newest romantic suspense novel Object of Desire.  I was quickly reminded of my experience reading her debut, Bitter Legacy, and my compulsion to finish it as quickly as I could.  I started it and then looked for any excuse I could to avoid going to the grocery/out for a walk/starting dinner/going to sleep… you get my drift.  Ms. Maclean writes supremely complex and intricate mystery novels with principal characters you love and loathe in equal measure. Bitter Legacy stars Detective Sergeant James Henderson.  Henderson finds his professional career intersecting with his personal life as he searches for a serial killer.  He falls hard for photographer Ben Morgan – but struggles to reconcile Ben’s casual promiscuity with his own desire for a monogamous relationship.  There are red herrings, murders and romance… and the whole thing is a tremendously entertaining head trip. The line between good and bad is deliberately blurred, and it’s a bit scary to admit much I loved this dark and disturbing book.  Bitter Legacy is my most memorable binge…but folks, I’m at 50% of Object of Desire and I don’t want to put it down either. Big props to Ms. Maclean.

Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Kobo

Hollis

Dawn on a Distant Shore by Sara Donati

You know that feeling when you first discovered Outlander and the story, the characters, the writing, the uncertainty of what would happen after each page consumed you? Well, Donati’s Wilderness series is much the same. I chose the Outlander comparison deliberately because it’s not only the best hook to get you looking twice at this series but it’s also… related. In a way. Sort of. And that’s all I will say. Dawn on a Distant Shore is the second book in this series, which takes place in a small colonial town called Paradise, set in the eighteenth century, and features a spinster newly arrived from England and a white man raised in, and by, the Mohawk Nation. I am recommending this book, this series, even though I haven’t read further than this installment. Why? Because like Gabaldon’s books this is one you want to savour even more than you want to binge it. But it’s a pretty fine line and holding myself back is only possible because it’s not like I (or any of us) lack other things to read. These are big, epic, family-focused sagas that are so real and so raw and so compelling and yet I still managed to devour this story in one day. The books are brilliant, exhausting, diverse, full of hardship and reflection on identity, ridiculously swoony, and so much more. Highly recommend.

Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Kobo

A Charm of Finches by Suanne Laqueur

This is yet another second-in-a-series but I cannot recommend this author or the Venery books enough. Laqueur has crafted stories that are a mix of historical fiction, contemporary romance, coming-of-age, complicated family dynamics, and sexual discovery. In A Charm of Finches much of that same mix of elements are set around horrendous circumstances that still manage to build the characters (and the readers) up from the lowest of lows. This book is not for the faint of heart and yet I could not tear myself away. I would definitely recommend starting with book one, An Exaltation of Larks, because it gives backstory on one of the main characters, as well as some of the supporting cast, and it’s a fantastic, and devastating in different ways, but a beautiful story in its own right, too. This is a perfect time to discover this series because this incredible author is currently working on book three and I absolutely cannot wait for more from this world and these characters.

Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Kobo

Keira

The Hampshire Hoyden by Michelle Martin

How I love this book! I have read and re-read it until my copy has fallen apart. Michelle Martin’s writing sits solidly in the traditional Regency milieu with a lot of witty repartee thrown in. She wrote scarcely a handful of such books, and while they’re all superb, The Hampshire Hoyden is the best. From the moment the characters are introduced, they never cease to entertain. There’s not a dull moment to be found in the midst of hilarity, silliness, dueling bookish quotations, an outrageous plot, and a slow-developing, heartwarming central romance.

Out of Print – available only as a used paperback

Kristen

Brooklynaire by Sarina Bowen.

As the culmination of a relationship I had been following for several previous books, I could not find out about how it was all going to end fast enough. Combine that with the fact that Ms. Bowen is one of my favorites writing at the moment and the fact that I received the book in the midst of a dry spell of truly mediocre books, I was a moth to a flame. A one sitting read.

Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes and Noble/iBooks/Kobo

Lisa

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

I’ve had that happen to me multiple times, but this was the most recent. 500 plus pages and I read it over the span of a weekend and carried it around with me like it was an infant.

Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Kobo

Lynn

Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig

This has happened to me quite a few times, but this was the most recent. Honestly, the entire series (except the first book) has seized my attention like that. I had read the first three books, but recently I went back to reread and hopefully then finish the series. Night Jasmine was the most recent one I’ve read, but all of them from Book Two onward have sucked me right in. The writing is witty and polished, the stories just seem to flow, and I love the characters.

Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Kobo

Maggie

My most recent unputdownable read was the first three books of the Dream Healers series by M.C.A. Hogarth.(Mindtouch, Mindline, Dream Hearth) I fell in love with Vasiht’h  and Jahir, the community they lived in, the adventures they had. A gentle, very loving m/m friendship/love story is developed in the three book arc and the lovely writing compliments the gentle domesticity of the pair. I was completely obsessed until I finished book three.

Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Kobo

Shannon

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

I absolutely flew through this book. I would classify it as women’s fiction with strong romantic elements, and I loved every single bit of it. It was one of those books I wanted to hurry up and finish so I could see how things turned out for the characters, but another part of me yearned to be able to savor the novel slowly. It takes place in 1970’s Alaska, and is the story of one troubled family’s search for redemption in an untamed, unforgiving land. This is definitely a book I won’t forget anytime soon.

Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Kobo

Dabney

Famous by Jenny Holiday

I love this book. I’m a pop culture person and this book’s heroine–a Taylor Swiftesque star–is so perfectly rendered, I found myself humming Wildest Dreams as I read. When people ask me why I read romance, I usually start talking about how hard life is and how I feel we should all mainline as much joy as we can. This book is a joy from start to end. Emerson and Evan are the sorts of leads you can’t spend enough time with and their love story is my favorite I’ve read this year.

Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes and Noble/iBooks/Kobo


So there you have it – the books that have captivated AAR’s staff over the last few months or so.  What have you read lately that you were unable to put down?