Romance plays a starring role, as do THREE Australian authors (all RWA members!)

I am always fascinated by the huge variation in best-selling and most-applauded books that occurs across the three primary English-language book markets: America, Great Britain and Australia. While there is usually an overlap between the UK and the Australian markets, the American market is quite often so different that I am left metaphorically scratching my neurons and wondering why I am not familiar with titles many of their readers love. You would think that a great book would be a bestseller in all the markets given the language and cultural similarities. Yes, I do know there are differences, but let’s face it, they’re not that challenging. If you were the victim of a time-travel experiment gone wrong that landed you on the set of a contemporary American reality TV show, and you were asked to change a baby’s diaper while riding the elevator, you’d know instantaneously what the task involved!

The differences in reader preferences are front-of-mind for me at the moment because I just downloaded Publishers Weekly’s Best Books 2014. In the general fiction section, I only identified one title I was familiar with – All the Light We Cannot See – before I skipped over to the romance section where I am happy to say I did recognise more titles even although there were still more that I did not know. I spent a happy few hours compiling reading lists and visiting author websites, fortifying myself against life’s daily grind.

Did you know that every year PW receives over 9,000 books to review including self-published titles? Last year, their reviewers gave starred reviews to 1,011 of those books. It sounds like a lot, but it is actually just over 10% of the total, which makes the stars a precious gift for publishers, authors and readers.

Their Best Books 2014 contains all 1,011 starred reviews. It is a whopping 238 pages long. Books are divided by genre and subject matter. Best of all, it’s free! You can download your copy of the full book here or pick up my shortened version starring romance and erotica titles only here.

Overall, seventy-eight romance and erotica titles received a starred review; six of these titles also made PW’s cross-genre Top 100 List – proof, if needed, of the high quality of the writing in our genre.

Aaaaand, ta-da, DRUM ROLLL PLEASE, two Australians (and RWA members!) feature in the starred reviews! Kylie Scott for Lead in trade paperback and Kelly Hunter, whose ebook The Honeymoon Trap not only received a starred review but also made the Top 100 List. (I’ve extracted the reviews of Lead and The Honeymoon Trap at the end of this blog).

OOH: UPDATE! Just realised (thanks to Keziah Hill) that another RWA member, Bec McMaster, is also among the starred reviews with the fourth in her ‘London Steampunk’ series, Forged by Desire.  I’ve reproduced her review at the bottom of this post as well.

The other Top 100 romance titles are:

  • Bitter Spirits written by Jenn Bennett and published in paperback by Berkley Sensations (historical, roaring twenties);
  • Craving Temptation written by Deborah Fletcher Mello and published in paperback by Kensington/Dafina (contemporary, cultural and political conflict);
  • Somebody Like You written by Beth K. Vogt and published in paperback by S&S/Howard (contemporary, inspirational);
  • The Submission Gift written by Solance Ames and published as an ebook by Carina Press (contemporary, erotica); and
  • Sweet Disorder written by Rose Lerner and published as an ebook by Samhain (historical, Regency romance).

Do you like discovering new authors, or do you prefer to stick to old favourites?

PW Review of Lead by Kylie Scott

Scott’s third Stage Dive contemporary far outclasses the other two with a surprisingly delicate look at the underbelly of American rock and roll. Jimmy Ferris is the lead singer of a rock band; his brother, David, was the protagonist in Lick. Throughout the series, Jimmy has been a source of worry as he battles substance abuse. Lena Morrissey was quietly introduced in Play as a tough-as-nails lady with the thankless full-time job of keeping Jimmy sober. Scott has hinted that the answer to Jimmy’s trouble would come

through love, and here she delivers on that tantalizing promise. Instead of avoiding the tedious and heartbreaking work of sobriety, she goes deep into the isolation and private pain, showing how the cruel kindness of firm-handed love can save a life. While retaining her mischievous and wisecracking signature style, Scott has also brought a tenderness and honesty to the material that is truly delightful.

PW review of The Honeymoon Trap by Kelly Hunter

Hunter tells this tiny jewel of a tale with an unabashed gusto that matches her heroine’s sparkling panache. One of Eli Jackson’s best friends is Fuzzy, a fellow gamer he hangs out with online on Friday afternoons for an hour of role-playing games and light chatter. When Fuzzy, also known as Zoey Daniels, shows up in the irrepressible flesh (and a delectable purple gown) at a gamers’ convention on Australia’s Gold Coast, Eli is shocked by their instantaneous sexual connection. But the obstacles to romance are significant: Eli still isn’t over the death of his previous girlfriend, and Zoey has a few issues about which she’s being uncharacteristically discreet. The emphasis is on startlingly direct communication and the headlong rush of impulse, leading to a marvelous, funny whirlwind of a romance.

PW review of Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster

McMaster’s fourth Steampunk London novel (after My Lady Quicksilver) once again captivates readers with evocative and sensual imagery with exquisite descriptions of life in a lush and intoxicating alternate Victorian London. Perry Lowell was once a thrall, a human blood slave to a member of the vampiric aristocracy known as the Echelon. She escaped her captor and found safety in employment as a Nighthawk guard. A female Nighthawk is rare, but Perry insists that everyone ignore her gender. Nonetheless, Garrett Reed, her partner, finds her staggeringly attractive. When two of the Echelon’s debutantes are murdered, Perry is struck by strange recollections of her past. As more macabre discoveries are made, Perry starts to wonder whether they are connected to the horrors she suffered. McMaster outdoes herself with this strong installment. The heady romance and dark suspense keep the pages turning, and a cliffhanger finale sets the stage for book five.

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  1. Thank you so much, Laura, for posting the Romance summary. I found some great sounding books there. And heaps of congratulations to Kelly, Kylie, and Bec.

  2. Reblogged this on In the lair of the Biest and commented:
    Go, Aussie romance writers!

  3. Thanks Rhyll. We appreciate the reblog!

  4. Actually, I got a PW starred review in November for Montana Actually which is a 2015 release so perhaps that’s why I wasn’t on the list. Who knows!

  5. Hi Fiona, I think you must be right about why your review isn’t in the Best Books 2014 catalogue. I checked and Montana Actually is definitely not featured. However, there is no reason why we have to wait a WHOLE YEAR to celebrate your starred review! Watch this space …


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