It’s a running joke here at TSR that when Ingrid reads a book, she remembers it for as long as she’s reading it, and then it’s gone from her head. This came up recently when we all decided to put together a list of Old School romances we barely remembered (here and here) and Ingrid didn’t remember anything. So, without further ado, here’s a list of books that Ingrid does remember.
This one’s formatted a little differently than usual because Ingrid actually remembered something first and then went hunting for the book.
Ingrid Remembers: She’s a newly divorced mom living in a beach house and the guy next door has a hammock she can’t keep her kid out of?
Ingrid Remembers: It’s a really buttoned-up, recommend it to your Grandma series but then this one involves a woman who’s doing something that stirs up the townsfolk (but I don’t remember WHAT?? Maybe she’s just a redhead) and he’s trying to be Frank Lloyd Wright in the smallest pioneer town ever?
Halloween is the perfect time to read a spooky gothic romance featuring a spooky gothic haunted house, siblings who are probably up to no good, ghosts, rats in the walls, a one-handed cook, and lesbians. I loved that our heroine, Kit, is pragmatic about trying to solve her spooky gothic problems. Weird noises coming from the walls? Let’s buy some rat poison. Weird ghosts wandering around? Let’s take some pictures and see if we can get proof. The first two-thirds is very atmospheric and absolutely chilling. However, the end doesn’t quite hold up to the promise of the premise: the romance felt kind of rushed and the resolution of all the spooky gothic happenings is absolutely bananapants bonkers.
If you want spooky gothic vibes without the creepy Victorian stuff, then this book might be just what you’re looking for. After all, Mercy is being haunted by La Llorona, and what is more spooky and gothic than a ghost who wants to drown you? There are also magic turnips, and since turnips were the original jack-o’-lanterns, this really does seem like the perfect Halloween read.
Full disclosure: The story is definitely more centered on Mercy and her place in the world than on the burgeoning romance between her and her hot farmer neighbor, so it may not be the best choice of you’re a genre romance purist.
This book is bananas but in a charming way? Dani is pretty sure her apartment is haunted, but she’s made friends-ish with the ghost in the year that she’s lived there. Then this dude shows up in her apartment, tells her his name is Zack, that they only have this one night when the veil is super thin, and they have alllll the sex. For his part, Zack has been pining for Dani for a long time. He doesn’t know how he became a ghost or came to be in the apartment, but he is going to take advantage of his one night of…corporeal-ness. I have to say I was wondering just how their romance was going to work out because—hello—ghost + alive person? But then the ending was delightfully clever.
This book is off the rails. In a good way. At least, good enough that I’m talking about it here. I didn’t read book one of this duology, and I really don’t think you need to if you want a short(ish), ghosty, romance story that is…very creative. Griffin is trying to figure out how to manage his friendship with his ghost roommate once he’s married, and in the doing, he ends up with a grave illness. (I am hilarious, am I not?) As Griffin and Byron try to figure out how to save both Griffin’s life and their relationship, many things happen, some of which are definitely not #RelationshipGoals, but Griffin and his ghostly roommate find their ways to come to terms with the changes that are occurring whether they’re ready or not.
For those interested in the “cozy fall” vibe rather than the “spooky” Halloween stories, this rom-com is a super playful combination of charm and absurdity. Best suited to those who enjoy potty humor (Ingrid) and don’t get frustrated by youthful foibles. After all, the narrator, Theo, impulsively quits her job to go live her dream across the country in Connecticut. You might expect things don’t go to plan when she buys an old house, sight-unseen, for about as much money as I’d have to spend on a shed (I might exaggerate, but not by much)…and you’d be right. Luckily, there’s a hot neighbor who’s in the construction business, and he’s exactly Theo’s vision of her Romance Hero. Unluckily, real men often don’t measure up to fiction’s standards.
If you’re interested in those cozy vibes but also don’t want to invest in a full-length novel right now, Mr. October has some hijinks and small-town charm. Everybody in town has been pranking Sabrina every October for her entire life, including her best friend, Adam. Me, I would never speak to him again after being scared out of my wits repeatedly, but Sabrina is apparently made of sterner stuff. The besties are mutually pining but are also too scared to do anything about it, until Sabrina turns the tables and they decide to prank the whole town this year as revenge. It’s cute, it’s super short, and it ends with some sexytimes. What more do you need?
Well, I decided to do a hockey round-up for the beginning of hockey season, but apparently most of the hockey books I’ve read are college sportsball, or I’ve already talked about them on the blog in a review or a listicle, and obviously I wanted to talk about new-to-us books. So I’m left with a M/M pro hockey romance list. There will be teammates. There will be coaches. There will be celebrities, and some normal people, too. Mostly, it’ll be fun.
Nothing to see here but sweetness. After winning the Stanley Cup, Daniel wonders what’s next for his career, so when an offer comes to be an influential veteran for the struggling Miami team, he takes it. His risk is rewarded: it turns out that his childhood bestie still lives in Miami (he works with the marine mammals at the aquarium!), and Micah isn’t opposed to picking up where they left off—first kiss and unrealized romantic dreams finally realized?—now that they’re back in the same city. But Daniel’s career is dependent on his team winning, and Micah can’t find aquarium jobs just anywhere. Bonus points: If you’re looking for an MC with an amicable divorce, I found one for ya! (Daniel’s ex moves with him so they can keep co-parenting equally.)
Sergei and Alex have been best friends since Sergei was billetted in Alex’s house for juniors. Alex is a retired olympic medalist figure skater who’s floundering and broke. Sergei is an extremely successful professional goalie. When Alex finds out he’s the other man for the jerk who turned out to be a controlling sugar daddy, he has nowhere to go but to Sergei until he figures out his next move. Meanwhile, Sergei, who is giving off many demisexual vibes, realizes that, in fact, he’s interested in more than friendship with Alex. Fun story, though! Just when they’re thinking they might be able to do this relationship thing, they get the curveball of becoming parents as well. Definite domestic bliss fantasy wish fulfillment in this one. This book would be better with more editing, but I found it enjoyable nonetheless.
So, look, I started this series at the beginning, and I enjoyed it all; however, the last two books in this series were added after the planned three because the characters just really needed their stories told. Which is likely why they’re my favorites. Soren is the first out player in the NHL. He came out in Deke (#3), which is also a hockey romance (FYI). But now he’s getting old. He’s getting slower. There might not be much hockey left in him, but he’s going to enjoy being the 5th wheel on his Fijian vacation and play next season refreshed. Then Jet comes back in need of some TLC. Jet is the little brother of Trick Play’s (#2) hero. He’s a spitfire. He’s a rock star. But when he and Soren hooked up three years before, he was just getting started. And he’s still ten years younger than Soren. Their relationship has “bad idea” written all over it, but they just don’t care anymore.
Can I interest you in some angst? The first…half(?) of this book is an emotional roller coaster. It’s followed by some lovely, calm sweetness like snuggles under the blanket by the fire when the snow is falling outside. And then someone almost dies. Me, I am a sucker for an “Oh my God, you almost died, and then I would have died!” moment, but I feel I should warn readers that this one was particularly, er, graphically terrifying. Pucks are no joke, folks. And then the ending is really lovely. Broadly speaking, I liked this book. Bryce is the biggest player in the league, and he’s closeted, but it doesn’t matter because he’s never interested in anybody. He and Hunter hit it off immediately, but Hunter’s convinced he’s straight. Mixed signals ensue. Enter the angst-fest.
The quantity of absolutely bananas stuff in this book (I mean, just Rupert’s background alone) is one thing that’s extremely entertaining if you roll with it. But the primary draw of this is probably going to be that it’s 100% playing house, we-made-a-family fantasy wish fulfillment. Callum and Rupert get off on the wrong foot when professional goalie Callum buys into the minor-pro (CHL-type) hockey team Rupert manages, but when Rupert’s 4yo brother needs rescuing, one thing leads to another. And another. And sharing a bed. And a hotel room. And coordinating childcare. And making decisions together. And why is Callum going back to his pro-hockey career in a different country, again?
Y’all, I cannot resist a coach romance. If it’s coach-player, so much the better. It’s so naugty. And Gabriel and Lance know they’re being naughty. The one thing they have going for them is that Lance coaches the forwards and Gabriel plays defense. They’re both living their second chance—a TBI ended Lance’s pro career and his marriage, and it took him many years to rehabilitate himself until he was able to coach; Gabriel’s only outlet for his personal woes has been sex and fighting, so his last chance at a pro career after being put on waivers is to toe the line in Evanston. If you’re into a wholeheartedly caring and supportive friendship as a romantic foundation, this one delivers.
Well, shoot, I wrote up this whole Saturday Smutty Six and then started making the graphics and found I had seven! Plus my bonus down below! Whatever. More romance is better than less romance! Enjoy this Saturday Smutty Seventh and the Taylor Fitzpatrick it’s-technically-not-genre-romance-but-it-slayed-me bonus below.
Why have one coach when you could have two? I don’t know. And I didn’t try to resist, honestly. Max is the new assistant coach for an ECHL team, and he is very surprised to discover that his head coach is none other than Misha, the guy who caused the accident that ended Max’s pro career. You’d think the conflict would center on this one injury that so significantly impacted both men…but it doesn’t. Instead, Misha has a lot of baggage about a lot of things (among them is Max’s injury, but it’s by no means the biggest), and both men are fighting for the health, wellbeing, and success of all their players. If you’re into scenes involving holidays that bring people together, I found a book for you!
It’s not *technically* a genre romance, but oh my gosh it was such a beautiful love story. I wouldn’t typically recommend a book that’s not a romance because I get super ragey when I go in thinking something is a romance and it’s not, but there are a couple things about this book that made it really worthwhile. If you want a good cry with a lifelong love story between a veteran D-man and a rookie forward that has so, so much heart, I do recommend this one.
Got any hockey recommendations for Erin? Please let her know. Seriously. She needs them all.
In honor of our Old School reading this month, we decided to look at our reading archives and see what turned up. Unfortunately, we read these books so long ago, we don’t remember much. Luckily, this week we found some books that at least two of us read, so you’ll have just a little more information. Maybe we can interest you in these books based on what we do remember?
Erin: …Oh. My. God. Holly and I read this book twenty years ago and still remember all the highlights. Skye gets married and then ends up in a harem and then somehow gets back to England but then Niall is married and I have no idea how they manage to finally get married but I think Niall’s sex addict wife dies of the pox?
Holly: …there is so much sex in this book. The bit that stands out to me is Neil’s wife (who looks like Skye) (also, this is probably the only book in which I remember the MCs’ names, including books that I read last week) is a nymphomaniac who can’t get enough luvin’ from her husband so she starts working in a brothel and has a book of sex positions. Men come in, pick a position, and she’ll do them. She and another whore have a sex-off one night. She dies of syphilis. It’s very convenient because now Neil is free to finally marry Skye as husband #4.
Also the scene where Skye’s amnesia goes away is very striking. Husband number #3 and Neil get in a fight at court and when Neil falls down she remembers *everything.* So much drama!!!!
Also also, Skye’s nails are always buffed to a beautiful pink.
Erin: …they have an interlude at a masquerade party and are parted for years. When they’re reunited, she remembers him, but he doesn’t recognize her, though they do fall in love and marry. When she says that the wedding night sex is better than before, he gets all ragey that she’s 1) not a virgin and 2) apparently had sex with his twin brother (she didn’t). Also the climactic moment is YIIIIIIKES because even though he said he was over the whole her sleeping with his brother thing (she didn’t and he wasn’t), when he gets home from a trip he finds out she’s pregnant, assumes it can’t possibly be his, and sends her off to the country where she nearly dies. It’s a lot.
Holly: …I REMEMBER THIS ONE. Just that he gets all ragey, and then finally recognizes her when she appears at a ball in her masquerade outfit from the very beginning and he realizes it was her the whole time because of course he’s really been looking for his mystery whore for years.
Holly: …I was horrified at how *old* the heroine was (she’s 30). She hires a sex worker for a 30th birthday present to herself. (It seems, from the blurb, that there’s some mistaken identity stuff that happens, but I don’t remember that part.) She was curvy and had red hair so I pictured my high school principal and was horrified and did not enjoy the reading experience. Might like it better if I read it now that I’m not 16 anymore.
Erin: …I read this one, too! All I remember about this one was that she hired herself a delicious man treat because she was so old and things did not at all go the way either of them planned.
Ingrid: …he’s real hot at nighttime and during the day he’s disgusting and pompous.
Erin: …the hero returns to town and gets himself out of a pickle by pretending to be fat, stuffing his clothes with pillows, and has to keep up the charade whenever he goes out. The heroine thinks he’s ridiculous and disdains him, but he’s secretly a dashing spy attacking the British. Also something happens at a bucolic lighthouse-y spot at the dramatic climax.
Holly: …the reading experience stuck out to me more than the actual book. I distinctly remember the chair I was sitting in when I read it (the blue armchair that used to be by the fireplace). My sister got it from her sister-in-law, who was a McNaught superfan. And my reaction was: what even is this utter rapey garbage? The titular Whitney is a doormat and the hero is terrible and leaves her in his country house and then thinks she’s cheating on him but she loves him anyways.
Erin: …OMG he’s so sexy on the stairs! OMG, she’s so daring standing on the horse! OMG, her dad is terrible. Something about chess. OMG, WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS MAN?! OMG, HOW IS SHE GOING TO FORGIVE HIM? I guess the baby scene at the end was kinda sweet?
Holly: Of course she stands up on her horse. That’s like, bodice ripper heroine behavior rule #23.
In honor of our Old School reading this month, we decided to look at our reading archives and see what turned up. Unfortunately, we read these books so long ago, we don’t remember much. Maybe we can interest you in these books based on what we do remember?
Erin: …they meet when, on her first night as a (virgin) prostitute, he hires her and they have extremely uncomfortable sex in the alleyway outside a theater. Then she unexpectedly (but very luckily) gets hired as his governess. Awkwardness and angst ensues. I’m not sure if it was just the beginning, but I recall the overall mood of this one as morose.
Erin: …this exiled Russian aristocrat who is somehow related to the heroine of the first book in this duology gets the stink eye from the hero of the first book in this duology because he just knows that he’s somehow fated to be a part of that hero’s daughter’s life. Because what dad doesn’t want to hear that a grown man is fated to be with his not-yet-grown daughter? Anyway, then there’s this book where she is grown and all of that prediction of the future pulls together with, I believe I recall correctly, maximum angst. And Russian stuff.
Erin: …they’re not really equals because she’s a country gentlewoman and he’s a duke, but he’s taken by her when they meet and marries her out of hand. Then on their way from the wedding to his estate, he is kidnapped and shipped off to parts unknown while she is left a naive widow at the mercy of people she doesn’t really know, unaware that they may not be acting in the best interests of either her or the lost duke. Needless to say, when the duke gets home, he’s really mad.