Black Heart’s 2016 Year End Wrap-up

Whew! 2016 has been quite a year, right? This year will definitely go down in the record books as one of the most memorable. Through all the highs and lows, the one constant thing that has brought us joy this year is reading. Our love for reading has really helped us escape from all the real world problems and brought us closer to other readers like you. We read some really great books this year (and some not so great) and we wanted to share with you our Best of 2016 list. *Note: not all books listed were published in 2016.

 

2016 Favorite Covers

 

Favorite Heroines

Feyre from A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (Debbie)
Charley Davidson from First Grave on the Right (Ali)
Nora from The Original Sinners Series by Tiffany Reisz (Tiffany)
Lady Isabel Townsend from Ten Ways to Be Adored When Romancing A Lord by Sarah Maclean (Leah)

 

Favorite Heroes

Rhysand from A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (Ali & Debbie)
Soren from The Original Sinners Series by Tiffany Reisz (Tiffany)
Joe from You by Caroline Kepnes (Leah)

 

Favorite Young Adult

Mark of the Mage by RK Ryals (Ali)
The Hard Count by Ginger Scott (Tiffany)
Ghost Bird Series by CL Stone (Leah)

 

Steamiest Reads

Dirtiest Secret by J Kenner (Ali)
The Boss Series by Abigail Barnette (Debbie)
Turbulence b Whitney G. (Debbie)
Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas (Tiffany)
Corrupt by Penelope Douglas (Debbie & Leah) 
Golden Dynasty by Kristen Ashley (Leah)

 

Favorite Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Reads

Halfway to the Grave by Jenienne Frost (Ali)
Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (Tiffany)
The Beast by J.R. Ward (Debbie)
Alexa Montgomery Saga by HD Gordon (Leah)

 

Favorite Historical/Regency Reads

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah Maclean (Ali)
My American Duchess by Eloisa James (Ali)
I’m disqualified. >.< (Tiffany)
One Good Earl Deserves A Lover by Sarah Maclean (Leah)

 

Biggest Ugly Cry Reads

Harley & Rose by Carmen Jenner (Ali & Tiff)
Unbreak My Heart by Nicole Jacquelyn (Ali)
A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole (Tiffany)
Say You Want Me by Corinne Michaels (Tiffany)
Forgotten World by Kate L Mary (Leah)
Soaring by Kristen Ashley (Debbie)
Desperately Seeking Epic by BN Toler (Debbie)

 

Best Therapy Inducing Reads

Darken the Stars by Amy Bartol (Ali)
Deep Redemption by Tillie Cole (Tiffany)
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult (Leah)

 

Favorite TV Shows

Game of Thrones
Vikings
Stranger Things
True Blood
Sons of Anarchy
Making a Murderer
NOT Gilmore Girls (LOL)

 

Biggest Letdowns

One With You by Sylvia Day (Ali & Debbie)
Twisted Palace by Erin Watt (Ali)
The Goal by Elle Kennedy (Ali)
Sparrow by LJ Shen (Debbie)
Gilmore Girls (not a book but still, Tiffany)
Balance by Lucia Franco (Leah)
The Story of Us by Leslie Jones (Leah)
Invisible Love Letter by Callie Anderson (Leah)

 

Ali’s Top Reads of the Year

Corrupt by Penelope Douglas
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas
Beard Science by Penny Reid

 

Debbie’s Top Reads of the Year

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Golden Dynasty by Kristen Ashley
Corrupt by Penelope Douglas
Unwanted Wife by Natasha Anders

 

Leah’s Top Reads of the Year

Everything by Sarah Maclean. (Seriously. I read every single book of hers.)
Broken World Series by Kate L. Mary
Corrupt by Penelope Douglas
Wait for It by Mariana Zapata
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

 

Tiffany’s Top Reads of the Year

The Fall by T. Gephart
Say You Want Me by Corinne Michaels
First Step Forward by Liora Blake
Elastic Hearts by Claire Contreras
All of Tillie Cole’s books!
Breaking Her by RK Lilley
The End of ME by Tara Brown
Four Letter Word by J. Daniels
Sweetest Venom by Mia Asher
Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
Still Surviving by A.M. Johnson
In Pieces by Gia Riley
Closer by Mary Elizabeth
The Yoga of Max’s Discontent by Karan Bajaj
The Original Sinner Series all of The Red Years by Tiffany Reisz

 

Talk to us! What were some of your favorite reads from 2016?

 


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Review: The Unwanted Wife by Natasha Anders

Review: The Unwanted Wife by Natasha AndersThe Unwanted Wife Series: The Unwanted Series #1
Published by Montlake Romance March 25, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 249
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Amazon US
Goodreads

No one had ever looked at her and seen perfection—until now.

Delicate, titian-haired Theresa Noble has met her father’s associates in the past, but the gorgeous, Italian-born Sandro De Lucci leaves her speechless. Eighteen months into their marriage, however, Sandro has turned to ice. Desperate to escape a relationship that has proven to be as stubbornly passionate as it is cold and hateful, Theresa summons up the courage to ask for a divorce. But before he’ll grant her request, Sandro demands something from Theresa: a son.

The stalemate sickens her. Never mind that Sandro has yet to introduce Theresa to the large family that means so much to him. Or that Theresa overhears her husband on the phone with a mystery woman. Most damning is that Theresa senses, in Sandro’s treatment of her, the behind-the-scenes machinations of Jackson Noble, her cruel father. From the depths of her anxiety, Theresa must seek an empowering truth about the husband who calls her, with such cold affection, his cara, his beloved.

Revised edition: This edition of The Unwanted Wife includes editorial revisions.

For days and days, Debbie was telling the rest of us that we needed to read this book. She specifically told me that it gave her similar feels to Unbreak My Heart by Nicole Jacquelyn, a book I really enjoyed and cried at while reading. Something I just don’t do often. Well, I picked it up and she was absolutely right. It broke my heart in much the same manner.

Theresa married Sandro for love. What she didn’t realize was that he did not have the same motives for marrying her. While his cold demeanor towards her surfaced rather quickly, it took her a year and a half to finally realize that she is more than the nuisance Sandro treats her as. In their shared bed, he’s an attentive and giving lover. Outside the bedroom, he wants little to nothing to do with her. When she gets the courage to ask for a divorce, he gives her one condition. She can have her divorce, after she gives him a son. Now she must navigate a life with no purpose aside from being a brood mare and an unwanted wife to the man she once loved. 

Theresa is somewhat of a doormat, but when you get her history, you understand why. Normally, I am not so much a fan of this type of character but it works perfectly for this story and you do see her will to fight for herself.

Sandro, on the other hand, starts the story off as such a dickhead. You do eventually get an understanding of why he acts as he does, though there were still times that I was not very sympathetic to his plight. He does come through at pivotal times. I think I would have enjoyed an occasional trample through his brain, however.

I was on the verge of tears from start to finish, while reading this book. You cannot avoid feeling for Theresa. It’s such a depressing existence and Anders writes it in a way that each time you think there might be a little relief for your heart, you’re wrong. A new barb gets thrown and you are right back to feeling the sadness. I never, actually, cried but my eyes were welling with tears for much of the story. Which, I could not put down. Reading this over the holiday was a bad idea, I was ready to kick all my family out of my house so I could get back to reading.

I think Anders has cemented herself as one of my go to authors when I’m in need of some super-angsty-all-the-feels type reads. Well done.


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Some book trends, practices and tropes are timeless, but others we’re happy to see disappear. Here are some trends in our indie community we hope to say good-bye in 2017.

Click Baiting    

Dear Click Baiters,
Fuck you.

Sincerely,
The Rest of The World.

No, but seriously. Why. For the love of all things holy, WHY. If you’re a blogger, I get that you want people to click your link and buy shit off of them. But, you have fans on your page, and it is seriously the biggest fuck you to them when you click bait with all of your “Oh Em Gee! This book ROCKED MY WORLD! Click here to find out what I’m talking about!” ‘s but never give the book’s title or author. Just don’t. Tell your damn followers specifically what book you’re spazzing about. And if you’re good at blogging, and can say more than “OH MY GOD” with a million explanation points, they will click the link. I promise. They will. So please just do us a favor and tell us the title and author and stop the click baiting, you dicks.

Step Everything Books  We feel like this was a trend that really took off in 2015 and unfortunately decided to continue in 2016. Don’t we have enough step brother, sister, father, mother, cousin, uncle or aunt twice removed romance books out there? Can we PLEASE move on to a different taboo? This trope is played out. Move on, please

Woe is Me SyndromeIs anyone else tired of seeing all the “Woe is me” FB statuses, tweets and posts? Woe is me I made USA Today but not NYT. Woe is me people aren’t seeing my FB posts. Woe is me I bought so many books last week that I can’t buy anymore till payday. Woe is me I have 400 5-Star reviews but this one 2-Star review will ruin my career.  Thousands of innocent people are dying around the world. A reality television star was elected President of the United States. There are thousands of homeless people living on the streets. People are fighting cancer and other deadly diseases. There are bigger issues other than being on top or the most popular. If you step back and take a look at the big picture, your life doesn’t suck if you’re still able to do your dream job, have a roof over your head, food on the table and fans who will continue to buy your books.

Photographers Hiring “Models” from the gym or GNC – It’s been said before, but it could be said again: JUST BECAUSE HE HAS MUSCLES AND TATTOOS DOES NOT MAKE HIM A MODEL! Yep, we called out the shouty caps on that one. We won’t even apologize for it. Models should be photogenic, they should look good in all kinds of situations and from many angles. They should even be able to make the most awkward of situations, say standing in a bathtub – wearing a cowboy hat – holding a towel over their junk, look like an excellent idea. It may appear to be an easy job, but it’s not. We’d love to see a tad (by tad we mean heaps) more discrimination. We get it, “hot” is subjective, yada yada yada…but let’s be honest, some of the cover photos we’ve seen pop up the past couple of years are just plain silly. And before you go commenting with things like “Hey, they are really nice guys!” – we aren’t saying they are douchebags. Well, not all. We’re simply stating that cover models should be able to actually model.

Models Turned “Authors” – While we’re on the topic on male models, lets talk about models turned authors. Now, we’re not saying dudes can’t write romance, but it’s a little suspect seeing a model all of a sudden become an author. To us, it feels like they’re trying to tap into a market that they have no business in and are only in it for dolla, dolla bills y’all. They aren’t writers and have probably never read a romance book before jumping into the indie book modeling business. To us, you’re exploiting the women that find you attractive for money. We see what you’re doing and we’re not fans of it. And keep your shirts down, too. Your abs have nothing to do with how well you can construct a story, and if you want people to take you serious as an author, write more and flaunt less you silly little peacocks.

Authors Who Write for Sales Figures and Not Their Art All the books we have loved for more than a hot minute, are books that were written with thought and with a labor of love. This trend of thin plot, thick sex bullshit, in our minds, degrades the romance genre as a whole. It plays into the “mommy porn” stereotype. Yeah, great, you are making a quick buck – pumping out ‘book’ after ‘book’. Good for you. But at what cost? Really? We won’t call it art, we probably won’t call you authors either.

Violence, rape, etc… – All four of us have enjoyed Dark Romance reads in the past. But, it is really beginning to feel like a competition between authors on who can come up with the most degradable and horrific situation to put their heroine in. Or hero, as the case may be. Do some stories call for violence? Yes, absolutely. Is it necessary for your girl to be raped and beaten repeatedly throughout the book? Maybe not. Sometimes a single incident can be more profound. Here’s to hoping for the idea of ‘less is more’ in this genre’s future.

The Celebrity Syndrome – Some of us have been around for a hot minute. Some of us knew you when you were just another struggling debut author or blogger. Some of us remember how nice and humble you were. Some of us saw your rise in the industry. Some of us saw how that changed you. Some of us think you should remember what it was like for you a few years ago. Some of us don’t really like this new you. Some of us think that it’s great you are selling more books now but aren’t sure why that turned you into a raging asshole. Some of us think that you just write book reports and kids in grade school can do that, too. Some of us think you should at least try to remain a little humble and appreciative. Some of us want less pictures of your LV bags and more about your work, please and thank you. Some of us would like to remind you that, unless TMZ is buying photos of you, you ain’t shit honey.

Reviewer Attacking – You had to know this was coming, right? We fully agree that reviews that personally attack an author are bad form. If a review says anything along the lines of this author is a horrible person and should just kill themselves, that sucks. However, if the review or rant is strictly criticizing the product, based on said reviewers opinion – it’s sort of fair game. It’s a product, just like any other. Say you go to a coffee shop and order a peppermint mocha (mmm, yummy), the barista is as cute as a fucking button with a great personality and you love her. But, when you take a sip of that minty goodness, it tastes like diarrhea drip – you have every right to say “my coffee tastes like shit and this is not what I was expecting.” It doesn’t change the fact that the barista is a great person. It doesn’t change the fact that yesterday, and probably tomorrow, she’ll make your candy cane coffee perfectly. Today though, that PRODUCT, didn’t fulfill your needs. Next time you think you need to incite a mob over a bad review, don’t make it personal by calling the reviewer a jackass. That’s making it personal. Besides, quite a lot of people buy books based on bad reviews. We’re bloggers, not promoters and not book sellers. We don’t love everything we read and that’s okay. 

The Mob Mentality The definition of a bully: noun – a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. verb – use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants. <– Got that? Therefore, when something in life isn’t going your way and instead of handling it like a big girl you post about it on Facebook, essentially opening the door for your minions to attack the source of your problem, you may be a bully.

DRAMA, DRAMA, DRAMA – So. Much. Drama. Get over yourselves. Also, if you constantly say you hate drama yet, it continues to find you – YOU are the drama.

 

So there you have it! For the love of books, we’re hoping these trends disappear  after this year. BUT, we do have a list of things we’d love to see more of in the coming years.

 

Single Dads We love them and we’d be so happy to see more. Especially if they are not just the weekend warrior types. We want the burly beasts to be in the diaper changing trenches, full time!

Good Parents – While we are on the subject of parenting, let’s ask this question. Why are there so many bad parents in books? Let’s have some good ones, we like good parents. We ARE good parents. We want more of those. They make us warm and fuzzy!

Fantasy – There is few better experiences in the world, than a book submersing you into a fantastical land. A world of dragons or faeries or goblins or whatever your imagination comes up with. While most really good Fantasy seems to come from the YA authors, we would really enjoy seeing more adult versions too.

Underdogs – Nerds, Geeks, Beta Males. Give us a guy who flies under the radar but still manages to find a way to win the girl. Not all hot guys have to be an in your face Alpha. Don’t get us wrong, we love a good – true – Alpha. But we like options, too!

Anal – Clarification: Good and careful anal. ‘Nuf said.

Blue Collars – We would absolutely love to see more blue collar heroes. They don’t all need to be CEO’s. A lot of us readers are married to the loves or our lives and they happen to be electricians or machinists or, you know, real life jobs. More down and dirty boys, please!!

Romantic Suspense – With maybe a little bit of a heavy hand on the romance. We are all for some thrills in bed and out of it!

Quirky Heroines – This goes along with our the underdogs. Not all heroines have to be Barbie doll perfect. Our favorites tend to be the ones a little left of center.

Realistic Drama – Life is hard enough, we don’t need to add the whole bag of drama dealing chips to it.

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Rapid Reviews: Captive Prince Series by C.S. PacatCaptive Prince by C.S. Pacat
Published by Penguin Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Amazon US
Goodreads

Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos, but when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative and deadly, his new master Prince Laurent epitomises the worst of the decadent court at Vere. But in the lethal web of Veretian politics, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen is caught up in a dangerous play for the throne, he must form an alliance with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: he must never reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else . . .

We’ve been slacker bloggers lately, but hey – life sometimes gets in the way. Ali’s got a few minutes to dedicate to this awesome series though!

Shiiiiiiitttt…this series! It has so many things I love. Male/Male romance, it’s fantasy, it has action and intriguing twists and turns and secret plans and shiiiiiiitttt, just so much goodness.

Damon is basically an exiled prince, sold by a usurper as a slave to a rival kingdom. Damon finds himself slave to Prince Laurent, his enemy in all things.  Damon’s true identity is a secret he holds close, for his own survival. Survival that relies on becoming a vital tool for his new, extremely calculating, owner – who happens to be in a fight for his own crown.

I love a good slow burn romance but I’ve never read any like this. If you’ve read Mariana Zapata and thought that was slow, you don’t know anything. The Captive Prince series is slower. But please, please, please don’t let that deter you. Pacat’s writing is so strong, the plot so thick and the world so interesting that you won’t mind it. Well, some of you will (probably a lot of you), but I sure didn’t. I loved every excruciating  minute while waiting for Damon and Laurent to give in.

Be warned, they don’t give in for quite some time. Like…book two. Half way through. You might get a kiss then. This is not erotica. It’s molasses slow, slow burn romance without extremely gratuitous sex. I’ve read historical romance with ankle touching that is more erotic. If you’re expecting the typical M/M smut, this isn’t it.

Book one was probably my least favorite. In fact, I’d say the books got progressively better as the series goes on. I look forward to future titles from Pacat, as I really enjoyed her voice. 

 

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