A Labor of Love: Picking the Best Ebook Romances of 2012

It looks like an annual tradition. Well, I’ve done it two years in a row, so I’m hopeful.

One of the pleasures of being a book reviewer and a librarian is that I review ebooks for Library Journal, one of the trade publications that serves, well, of course, libraries. For the past not quite year and a half, Library Journal has been doing their damnedest to bridge the gap between the sheer number of ebook romances being published and the desire to get some reviews into libraries’ regular workflow. Ebooks are a hot topic in libraries all the way around, but figuring out how the library should spend limited dollars is still not easy.

I applaud the effort, and I’m very proud to be a part of it. In sort of a reverse of full-disclosure, no, I’m not paid to say this. I’m not paid for my reviews at LJ. It really is a labor of love. Sort of like book blogging.

The Library Journal Best Ebook Romances of 2012 column was published last week. With a much better picture of me and everything. It still looks cool. (Even my mom was impressed). But LJ always has to alphabetize everything. Librarians do that. My original list went this way:

Knox, Ruthie. About Last Night. Loveswept: Random. eISBN: 9780345535160. EPUB $2.99. Contemporary Romance

About Last Night was my starred review in LJ all the way back in April, and I never forgot it. Ruthie Knox’s contemporary romance is funny and charming (also gloriously hot) about a bad girl trying to be good and a good man who needs to let his bad side out to play a little more often than his straight-laced upper crust family can tolerate. Cath, the good-bad girl, also has one of those dream jobs, assistant to a curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Knox had me at “hand-knitted straight jacket”. Knox writes a terrific “sex into love” romance that will make readers laugh out loud. And finish in one sitting.

Vane, Victora. The Devil DeVere series: #1 A Wild Night’s Bride, #2 The Virgin Huntress, #3 The Devil You Know, #4 The Devil’s Match. Breathless Press. EPUB $3.49 each Historical Romance

The Devil DeVere series is a variation of the Rake’s Progress, or the Rake’s Reformation, except that is doesn’t start with said Rake as the main character. A device that was amazingly clever on Vane’s part and allowed her to circle in on DeVere without revealing too much initially. In the first two books, he’s the puppetmaster, re-arranging his friends’ lives. But in the background the reader catches hints that there’s more to him than the debauched reprobate we see. By the time we find out his story, we’re invested. The series is erotic and sexy and sometimes the reader wants to shake various characters until their teeth rattle, but it is absolutely marvelous. This one should be read with bonbons. And a fan!

Archer, Zoe and Rosso, Nico. The Ether Chronicles: #1 Skies of Fire (eISBN 9780062109149), #3 Skies of Steel (eISBN 9780062109156) by Zoe Archer, #2 Night of Fire (eISBN 9780062201089); #4 Night of Steel (eISBN 9780062201102)by Nico Rosso. Avon Impulse. EPUB $1.99 each Steampunk Romance

A world war, in the years just before we fought ours, but different. Because this world war uses a metal named telumium, and a fuel made from soya called tetrol. But oddly enough, some of the same players as “our” world war. So typical of steampunk, familiar, yet not. Airships, but also air-bikes, air-trikes, and air-horses. Air-horses! And something that’s unique to this steampunk world, the Man O’War, which is definitely not a horse, but a cyborg controlling an airship, and seemingly vice-versa.  But because we have a world war, we have spies, and secret ops, and all the romantic suspense possibilities that go along with that. Because it’s a “world” war, also all the options for world-spanning action. So far it’s been military operations in Europe, town-killers and ether-powered cowboys in the U.S. West, and rogues bringing “modern” technology to the Middle Eastern tribes. Indiana Jones had nothing on that one.

Pape, Cindy Spencer. Moonlight & Mechanicals. (Gaslight Chronicles, Bk. 4). 176 pages. eISBN 9781426894527. EPUB $4.99. Steampunk Romance

Spencer Pape’s Gaslight Chronicles (Steam & Sorcery, Photographs & Phantoms, Kilts & Kraken) are set in a steampunk world that deviates from ours at two key points; Charles Babbage’s difference engine was built (and worked!) and the Knights of the Round Table were not only real, but their descendants are still defending the monarchy, and by extension the realm, in this alternate Victorian England. In Moonlight & Mechanicals, we have possibility the ultimate steampunk romance, between a werewolf police detective and a female engineer who grew up fighting vampires. The detective, is, of course, a member of the Knights. And the heroine has had a crush on him ever since he saved her life. He just believes that he isn’t capable of being a family man. She’s just planning to tinker with him until she proves different. And they save the Queen!

Heldt, John A. The Mine (Northwest Passage Bk. 1) John A. Heldt Publisher. 290 pages. EPUB $0.99 TIME TRAVEL ROMANCE

The Mine is one of those stories that sneaks up on you and sweeps you off your feet. It reminded me a lot of Jack Finney’s classic Time and Again, in its sense of a man falling in love, not just with a woman, but also with a time, a place, and a way of life. Joel Smith starts the story as a cocky boy/man on a last adventure before college graduation. He bumps his head in an abandoned mine and wakes up in 1941, in America’s last golden summer before Pearl Harbor. He’s afraid to change things, but he has to find a way to survive in a world he only knows from history books and baseball statistics. Thinking he can’t go back, he falls in love and makes a life. Then he discovers that he can go back, and is faced with a terrible dilemma. He can leave behind all that he has come to love, or stay, knowing that if he does he may change history. This one haunts.

As usual, I started out by picking five, and snuck my way into choosing eleven! Way to go! And since you could say that Spencer Pape’s entire Gaslight Chronicles are included, a case could be made for calling this list fourteen. But who’s counting?

The fun part of creating this list is looking back at everything I reviewed for the year, at Reading Reality, at Book Lovers Inc., and at Library Journal. The difficult part was not being able to include anything that wasn’t at least sort of a love story, and that wasn’t an ebook, or primarily an ebook (there are print versions of Archer and Rosso’s Ether Chronicles, but most people will get the ebooks).

I’m just going to have to do a less restrictive “best of the year” list in December.

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