The 5 Romance Novels Readers Picked in April 2020
Romance novels never go out of favor, and this April subscribers to Hidden Gems received invitations to read and review some really fantastic romantic reads. We rounded up the numbers – the readers who picked each book, and the reviews they left for it – and decided to share the five ‘Hidden Gems’ as selected by our subscribers.
Pioneer Dream by Ramona Flightner
Dozens of 5-star reviews attest to how popular Ramona Flightner‘s historical romances are, and with Pioneer Dream she weaves a tale that hits every note. This is the tale of tough, down-to-earth frontiersman Kevin O’Rourke – who never expected to plunge into the cold waters of the Missouri River in pursuit of a woman overboard, or to fall just as deeply in love with her when she’s pulled from the water. Likewise, the waterlogged Aileen O’Keefe had very specific reasons to travel to Fort Benton, Montana – but falling in love wasn’t one of them. It’s a terrific read, deftly written, and an outstanding example of its genre.
“I love the closeness of this large Irish family, the caring and the love they give to each other,” writers reviewer Arlene Judy Esposito in her 5-star review. “They welcome strangers to their table and embrace them into their family. This book brought me many happy hours of reading, along with a few sad moments, and like all of Ramona Flightner’s books, she wrote a very satisfying and happy ending. Recommended!”
Reviewer Bonnie K had similar things to say in her own 5-star review. “I love the O’Rourkes. They’re a delightful blend of strong personalities that have settled in the Montana Territory in the 1800s. Hardship and tragedy haven’t dulled their spirit nor taken away their joy for life. I’m already emotionally attached to the characters, which is a testament to Ramona’s wonderful writing. If you enjoy good stories about life in the early west, filled with a healthy dose of romance, I heartily recommend this book, and I believe you’ll be just as hooked as I am with the series.”
Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater
The author describes this book as “Pride and Prejudice meets Howl’s Moving Castle” and it’s difficult to argue with that assessment. This is the tale of Theodora Ettings – who was cursed by a faerie to feel no fear, embarrassment, or happiness – in essence, to have only half her soul. The strange, intriguing Lord Elias Wilder might hold the key to lifting Dora’s curse; but she realizes if that were to happen, she might be fated to fall in love with the handsome, brilliant man.
“I save five-star reviews for works at the level of Shakespeare (always leave room at the top!) so a four-star review represents a very high mark on my personal scale,” says reviewer GioGio in a 4-star review. “I so enjoyed this story, as its characters and concept were both novel and engaging, and the entire reading experience was satisfying and pleasurable. I also applaud the author’s ability to sneak in many deeper areas for contemplation along the way, without making a detour to climb onto a soapbox and derail the unfolding of the plot. The heroes and heroines (yes, there are more than just the two primary characters) have breadth and enough flaws to make them human, and the less-heroic (other than the actual villain) have redeeming features, or at least understandable motivations. On finishing this book, I immediately checked to see if there was more available from this author (alas, not yet), as I’m looking forward to seeing what next she produces. In the meantime, I’m planning on re-reading this one the next time I have another bout of virtue-fatigue from all the cleaning and studying that’s been going on while sheltering in place.”
“I gobbled this up like a slice of cake,” writers Jacquelyn Benson, who was unhesitating about granting this book 5-stars in her own review. “Atwater’s premise is clever. After a fateful confrontation with a faerie lord, Dora is left with half a soul, an affliction that leaves her incapable of feeling sharp and immediate emotions. Dora is not passionless, but everything she feels comes through water – slowly and a bit distant. The setup could leave you with a dull heroine, but not in Atwater’s expert hands. Dora is clever, fearless and dynamic. Her emotions run deep and are all the more poignant for their distance.”
Tempt by Marie Tuhart
It’s difficult not to make comparisons with Fifty Shades of Grey when you read this red-hot tale of BDSM-fueled romance – but I’d argue the relationship between curious Sierra and guarded Max is a lot more realistic and positive, and the erotic scenes are surpassed only by the sizzling emotions which are brought to the surface as each character faces their own insecurities. It’s nice to see the BDSM lifestyle portrayed in a way which isn’t as… challenging as Fifty Shades, and the conflict raised by the reintroduction of Max’s ex-wife is handled really well.
“In Marie Tuhart’s first book of A Wicked Sanctuary Series, you can expect drama, angst, adventure, danger, suspense, humorous situations, surprising twists, sexy BDSM scenes, and romance,” warns VINE VOICE reviewer Margie. “I thought this book was wild! Not that I’m a stranger to reading about BDSM elements and such, but it’s a wild ride. Follow along, and try to keep up!”
“BDSM & Love,” is how Maru describes this book in her 5-star review. “This is the first book of Ms. Tuhart’s that I have read, and it definitely won’t be my last. Tempted introduces the reader to the BDSM world. I have read many books with BDSM theme, and I have to say that Ms. Tuhart explains many unanswered questions in this book. It is a erotic romance book, but it stays true to the BDSM lifestyle. The chemistry between Sierra and Max is intense and freeing. I loved how Max was able to help Sierra become a stronger and more confident woman.”
IN WALKED SIN by Stoni Alexander
Author Stoni Alexander has earned a loyal following for her Touch series, and In Walked Sin is perhaps the ultimate revision of it. It’s the tale of a ruthless ‘fixer’ in Washington DC, who finds himself drawn to FBI agent Evan when their paths cross in a human trafficking investigation. Sinclair ‘Sin’ Develin is a truly brilliant alpha character – devious and intriguing – and it’s fantastic to see him slowly open up to Evan, even as their investigation leads them deeper into danger.
“Evocative enigmas exposed and emotionally invested,” writes VINE VOICE reviewer Ksd, in a 5-star review. “An amazing and awesomely well written romance that ticked all the boxes for me. Topping the list of those boxes are the captivating characters Sinclair and Evangeline. These two have buried themselves in their work, built up protective walls and essentially held themselves apart from all others. Though their reasons for being this way are completely different, it’s part of what brings them together, making each unforgettable to the other and leads them to the potential for a life full of love if only they can be brave enough. ”
“Stoni Alexander, you outdid yourself! You pulled out the all stops for this one!” Diane writes in her 5-star review. “It’s got all the feels, suspense, intrigue, danger, mystery, some hot steamy passion, humor, twists that make this one thrill exciting roller coaster ride you can’t get off of! I love the chemistry between Sin and Evan they were scorching hot such captivating engaging characters their journey was very fascinating and pulled you right into all drama. This is absolutely one of the best series and this story had you on the edge of your seat from page one. So much happens in this story! It’s a mind-blowing read you definitely don’t want miss!”
Mean Crush by K. L. Bryce
The bullies-to-lovers genre of romance is a tricky one to get right – but K.L. Bryce does a remarkable job in the first installment of her Unbroken series. By showing sexy bad-boy Reed’s motivations for treating Tabitha the way he did, you realize that her preconceptions had caused her to misjudge him; and you can’t help rooting for him when they end up trapped and alone in a remote cabin.
“I found Mean Crush to be full of innocence, angst, love, friendship, and betrayals,” writes Maru in her 5-star review. “Tabitha and Reed’s relationships together and apart are extremely complicated. I loved the way Ms. Bryce was able to capture not only their budding feelings through out the years, but also how it has helped shape them in to who they became as adults. There were many moments in the book where I wanted to slap both Tabitha and Reed, but there were also many times that I wanted to envelop them in a cocoon. I absolutely adored this book. The story line was engaging and kept me reading to find out what would happen next. The characters were extremely well written. It’s rare when an author truly is able to capture the innocence of youth that develops in to maturity without making it seem as if the character had to entirely lose themselves. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series.
M. Olsen also gave the book a 5-star review, writing: “I loved this book. I loved the characters. We are given dual points of view so as readers we have insider information as we see the romance between Tabitha and Reed play out from the time they are kids growing up and into adulthood. The story gets frustrating at times when they are so close to both being on the same page only to have it not be their time – yet. This story was well written and very believable. I loved the quotes from books that were woven into the story as well. Well worth picking up, and I will be recommending.”