Next up on the Badass Best of 2013 are our favorite Mystery, Romance, and Historical novels! Take a look below for our seven favorite novels from each of these genres and be sure to let us know what we missed in the comments.
Synopsis: After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office. Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man. You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this.
Why We Love It: The Cuckoo’s Calling is an excellent mystery with intense characters, beautiful imagery and an intricate plot that expertly melds the consequences of fame, psychological issues and questions of race. The plot is intricate and very well-developed but the characters are by far the stronger part of the story.
Synopsis: Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever. Joyland is a brand-new novel and has never previously been published.
Why We Love It: The story of Joyland is youth. The story is remembering. And the story is nostalgia. The setting is the summer of 1973 and a southern amusement park and this provides Stephen King with an opportunity to create a unique world that almost seems fantastical and is populated by a cast of interesting characters.
Synopsis: Ella Mae LeFaye’s Charmed Pie Shoppe is wildly popular in Havenwood, Georgia–which is not surprising since Ella Mae can lace her baked goods with enchantments. The shop’s extraordinary success seems destined to continue when Ella Mae meets an engaged couple who hire her to handle the dessert buffet at their wedding. But Ella Mae has a lot on her plate. She is also searching for the origin of her magical powers–and hoping to determine if the spark of attraction she feels for the handsome Hugh Dylan is authentic or just her new abilities gone awry. Then Ella Mae discovers a high-standing member of the community dead, and a wedding guest becomes seriously ill at the event she’s catering. Now she’ll have to use all her sleuthing skills and culinary talents to prove her pies don’t contain a killer ingredient .
Why We Love It: The Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries do follow traditional cozy mysteries standards, but Ellery Adams has also written a world-building treatment that is more likely to be found in fantasy novels. This series would be great for paranormal readers that want to put a toe into the mystery pool, but we would tell any reader to give Peach Pies and Alibis a try. Reading these books feels like coming home to good friends and family and we look forward to every visit we can get.
Synopsis: Human Remains is a deeply disturbing and powerful psychological thriller that will have you checking the locks on your doors and windows. When Annabel, a police analyst, discovers her neighbour’s decomposing body in the house next door, she’s appalled to think that no one, including herself, noticed that anything was wrong. Back at work, she feels compelled to investigate, despite her colleagues’ lack of interest, and finds data showing that such cases are common – too common – in her home town. As she’s drawn deeper into the mystery and becomes convinced she’s on the trail of a killer, she also must face her own demons and her own mortality. Would anyone notice if she just disappeared?
Why We Love It: We hated how deeply Human Remains embedded us in the mind of a narcissistic sociopath that we could predict his reactions. What does that say about us when we know how a sociopath is going to react (or in this case, not react)? It says nothing about us, and everything about the author and her brilliant writing. Elizabeth Haynes is a master at creating memorable characters in a terrifying but thought-provoking story.
Synopsis: Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions. But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens. Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past. Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.
Why We Love It: When Kelley Armstrong announced she was ending the Women of the Otherworld series and beginning a new one, we were a little worried. We loved Elena, Clay, Jeremy, Jaime, Paige, Lucas, Eve, and the rest of the gang. How could a new series compare? Well, we shouldn’t have worried because Omens, the first in Kelley’s new Cainsville series, was fabulous! Kelley has created another series filled with lush world building and intriguing characters. We can’t wait to learn more about Cainsville and its inhabitants and to see how Olivia continues to grow.
Synopsis: Detective Joe Bashir enters the glittering world of San Francisco society…and what he discovers will shatter three families. The discovery of a murdered teenager disrupts a fundraiser given by Napa Valley vintner Hale Francesci at the Montair Country Club. While Hale and his wife entertained their guests, their seventeen-year-old daughter Courtney was the last person to see her best friend Ashley Cole alive in a nearby strip mall parking lot. When Detective Joe Bashir begins interviewing Ashley’s friends, neighbors, and teachers, suspicion splinters in every direction. Courtney hints of an affair with an older man; rumors fly of a missing sex tape; and Joe discovers troubling details about Ashley’s relationships with her addict mother and absentee father. Meanwhile, the Francescis threaten to disrupt the investigation, and Joe struggles to navigate the waters of their elite circle all while fielding his mother’s attempts to fix him up with a nice Pakistani girl. Will he bring a killer to justice, and peace to Courtney at last?
Why We Love It: We’ve really enjoyed both novels in Sophie Littlefield’s Joe Bashir series, but we have to say that Shattered Bond has been our favorite. We really love the character of Joe and, though we enjoyed seeing his struggle between how he sees himself and how his family wants him to be in the first book, we liked seeing him more secure here. It seems like he is getting better at balancing the more traditional aspects of his life with the modern ones and this make for a fascinating read. The character development coupled with strong mystery plots makes this series one not to be missed!
Synopsis: When Emily Page and her husband move from Manhattan to the wealthy enclave of Clairmont, Texas, she hopes she can finally escape her haunted past—and outrun the nameless stalker who has been taunting her for years. Pregnant with her first child, Emily just wants to start over. But as she is drawn into a nest of secretive Texas women—and into the unnerving company of their queen, Caroline Warwick—Emily finds that acceptance is a very dangerous game. It isn’t long before Caroline mysteriously disappears and Emily is facing a rash of anonymous threats. Are they linked to the missing Caroline? Or to Emily’s terrifying encounter in college, years earlier? As the dark truth about Caroline emerges, Emily realizes that some secrets are impossible to hide—and that whoever came for Caroline is now coming for her.
Why We Love It: Lie Still presented a complex set of issues including gender, rape and social status. We thought we had this novel figured out five or six times – but nope, we were wrong at every turn. A great suspense novel!
Synopsis: A former football star and one of Chicago’s top prosecutors, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cade Morgan will do anything to nail a corrupt state senator, which means he needs Brooke Parker’s help. As general counsel for a restaurant company, she can get a bug to the senator’s table at one of her five-star restaurants so the FBI can eavesdrop on him. All Cade has to do is convince Brooke to cooperate—and he’s not afraid to use a little charm, or the power of his office, to do just that. A savvy businesswoman, Brooke knows she needs to play ball with the U.S. Attorney’s office—even if it means working with Cade. No doubt there’s a sizzling attraction beneath all their sarcastic quips, but Brooke is determined to keep things casual. Cade agrees—until a surprising turn of events throws his life into turmoil, and he realizes that he wants more than just a good time from the one woman with whom he could fall terrifyingly, irresistibly in love .
Why We Love It: Love Irresistibly is full of the trademark Julie James humor, with great chemistry between the hero and heroine, some emotional depth, awesome best friends, and believable & well-researched business situations.
Synopsis: Alexa Parrino escaped a life of servitude and survived danger on the streets to become one of the most trusted, influential people in Sector Four, where the O’Kanes rule with a hedonistic but iron fist. Lex has been at the top for years, and there’s almost nothing she wouldn’t do for the gang…and for its leader. Lie, steal, kill—but she bows to no one, not even Dallas O’Kane. Dallas fought long and hard to carve a slice of order out of the chaos of the sectors. Dangers both large and small threaten his people, but it’s nothing he can’t handle. His liquor business is flourishing, and new opportunities fuel his ambition. Lex could help him expand his empire, something he wants almost as much as he wants her. And no one says no to the king of Sector Four. Falling into bed is easy, but their sexual games are anything but casual. Attraction quickly turns to obsession, and their careful dance of heady dominance and sweet submission uncovers a need so deep, so strong, it could crush them both.
Why We Love It: The chemistry between Lex and Dallas in Beyond Control was smoking hot and Dallas definitely enjoys pushing Lex to her limits. Once he collars her, all cards are on the table and nothing is taboo. There is one particularly steamy scene that involves Dallas satisfying one of Lex’s fantasies and includes about four other people. Woo buddy! The sex in the Beyond books is not for the faint of heart, but the people involved are always enjoying themselves and are not forced into anything. The O’Kane gang truly cherishes their connection to each other and they don’t mind showing that off with a little slap and tickle.
Synopsis: Erin Coffey has been a nurse for years, but nothing’s prepared her for the physical and emotional demands of her new position. Needing to move closer to her dysfunctional family, she takes a dangerous job at Larkhaven Psychiatric Hospital, where she quickly learns that she needs protection—and she meets the strong, over-confident coworker who’s more than willing to provide it. Kelly Robak is the type of guy that Erin has sworn she’d never get involved with. She’s seen firsthand, via her mess of a sister, what chaos guys like him can bring into a woman’s life. But she finds herself drawn to him anyway, even when he shows up at her door, not eager to take no for an answer. What Erin finds even more shocking than Kelly’s indecent proposal is how much she enjoys submitting to his every command. But he can’t play the tough guy indefinitely. If they want to have more than just an affair, both will have to open up and reveal what they truly need.
Why We Love It: After Hours is categorized by Cara McKenna as erotica and it definitely is that. There are explicit and beautifully detailed sex scenes. Readers looking for this will not be disappointed. But it is also more than that, it is a romance. It is a romance without store-bought roses; it is a romance without courting; it is romance with very detailed and dominating sex scenes. After Hours tells the story of a real life romance, it isn’t idealistic or fantastical.
Synopsis: There’s punishment-and then there’s vengeance. Nora Sutherlin is being held, bound and naked. Under different circumstances, she would enjoy the situation immensely, but her captor isn’t interested in play. Or pity. As the reality of her impending peril unfolds, Nora becomes Scheherazade, buying each hour of her life with stories-sensual tales of Søren, Kingsley and Wesley, each of whom has tempted and tested and tortured her in his own way. This, Nora realizes, is her life: nothing so simple, so vanilla, as a mere love triangle for her. It’s a knot in a silken cord, a tangled mass of longings of the body and the heart and the mind. And it may unravel at any moment. But in Nora’s world, no one is ever truly powerless-a cadre of her friends, protectors and lovers stands ready to do anything to save her, even when the only certainty seems to be sacrifice and heartbreak….
Why We Love It: The Original Sinners is not a series for the faint of heart or for the squeamish. If you are easily offended, have strong religious beliefs, or are uncomfortable with graphic sex scenes, then The Mistress is not the book for you. Walk away now. If you read these books with an open mind, or perhaps even a bit of curiosity for this particular lifestyle, you’ll be treated to an engaging read. You’ll find yourself genuinely caring for the characters and hoping that they too will have their happily ever after.
Synopsis: Lanie Heron isn’t looking for love—no surprise, considering her last serious relationship nearly got her killed. So when Lanie propositions Hop Kincaid, all she wants is one wild night with the hot-as-hell biker who patrols with the Chaos Motorcycle Club. For Hop, Lanie has always been untouchable. She’s too polished and too classy for his tastes. But when she gives Hop the once-over with her bedroom eyes and offers him a night in paradise, he can’t say no. And he doesn’t regret it when he finds that Lanie is the best thing that’s ever happened to him—in or out of bed. Now the trick will be to convince her of that.
Why We Love It: Fire Inside was a great followup to the Chaos series debut, Own the Wind. We really like Hopper and Lanie and thought that their story came together well. We also liked that the timeline of this story fell within the first book and we got a more insider look at some situations that were only briefly mentioned in Tabby and Shy’s story. Though bikers have never been a particular fantasy of ours, we have to say that Kristen Ashley has us hooked on this series and we are seriously anticipating the release of the next book.
A Firm Hand by Fallon Blake || Published June 26th 2013 by Ellora’s Cave || || Review
Synopsis: After a painful past, Brian Donovan can’t afford to get close to anyone, especially a submissive. His growing lust for a certain mouthy bartender has been easy to keep under wraps, at least until he catches her snooping through his files. Spanking her senseless was not one of his better ideas. Even worse, he entices her into a relationship based on power exchange—no sappy sentiments, no messy emotional entanglements, strictly dominance and submission. He doesn’t count on Genevieve being the one submissive who makes him want to feel again. Gen Hawthorn’s life is a mess. She’s always late for work, can’t keep a boyfriend and has a closetful of family secrets. When her gorgeous boss offers her a kinky no-strings arrangement, she can’t say no. Being dominated by the star of all her dirty fantasies sounds like what she needs. She just has to remember his most important rule—don’t fall in love. As their affair heats up, lines are crossed, tears are spilled and they discover just how difficult sticking to the rules can be.
Why We Love It: Fallon Blake is an author that needs to write outside erotica. While she writes incredible erotica stories, we want more from her because she is such an incredible writer. Until then, we’ll keep enjoying her badass sexy books!
Synopsis: Angel Ramirez left the safe cracking game five years ago, and she’s worked hard to make amends and build an honest life. But when a beloved aunt is kidnapped, she must reunite with her girl gang to acquire the unique ransom: Walter Borgola’s prized diamonds. It’s a simple job that turns into a nightmare, thanks to a surprisingly clever—and searingly sexy—security guard named Cole Hawkins. Cole is one of the Association’s most brilliant agents, under deep cover investigating a ruthless killer. He’s also running out of time: hundreds will die if he doesn’t stop the plan Borgola’s set into motion. Catching Angel is the break he needed–he promises not to turn her in if she poses as his lover and uses her unique talents to unlock the sociopath’s dungeon vaults. But as pretend passions turn real, Cole regrets drawing Angel into his deadly game…and danger is closer than either of them could ever imagine.
Why We Love It: Against the Dark was a solid book with an interesting premise, sexy love scenes and a really creepy villain. The action was very exciting and we loved the whole idea of badass brainiacs.
Synopsis: Paris, 1923. The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even amongst Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather’s savannah manor house until gossip subsides. Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society. Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming-yet fleeting and often cheap. Amidst the wonders-and dangers-of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for-and what she can no longer live without.
Why We Love It: A Spear of Summer Grass was an enchanting novel and we enjoyed everything about it. Delilah and Ryder were wonderful characters and their tentative love was a thing to see. Set against the lush African background, it made for a vivid and moving novel. We would expect nothing less from Deanna Raybourn!
Synopsis: For fans of Jacqueline Winspear, Laurie R. King, and Anne Perry, whip-smart heroine Maggie Hope returns to embark on a clandestine mission behind enemy lines where no one can be trusted, and even the smallest indiscretion can be deadly.World War II has finally come home to Britain, but it takes more than nightly air raids to rattle intrepid spy and expert code breaker Maggie Hope. After serving as a secret agent to protect Princess Elizabeth at Windsor Castle, Maggie is now an elite member of the Special Operations Executive—a black ops organization designed to aid the British effort abroad—and her first assignment sends her straight into Nazi-controlled Berlin, the very heart of the German war machine. Relying on her quick wit and keen instincts, Maggie infiltrates the highest level of Berlin society, gathering information to pass on to London headquarters. But the secrets she unveils will expose a darker, more dangerous side of the war—and of her own past.
Why We Love It: His Majesty’s Hope really took the Maggie Hope Mysteries to another level. Maggie is deeply and personally involved with the British war effort now and she doesn’t come out of it unscathed. The trademark humor and witticism are still found throughout the story, but events that unfold and their effects on Maggie are much darker in this newest outing.
Synopsis: For Callie McFay, a half-witch/half-fey professor of folklore and Gothic literature, the fight to save the enchanted town of Fairwick, New York, is far from over. After a hostile takeover by the Grove—a sinister group of witches and their cohorts—many of the local fey have been banished or killed, including Callie’s one true love. And in place of the spirit of tolerance and harmony, the new administration at Fairwick College has fostered an air of danger and distrust. With her unique magical abilities, Callie is the only one who can rescue her friends from exile and restore order to the school—a task that requires her to find the Angel Stone, a legendary talisman of immense power. Propelled on an extraordinary quest back to seventeenth-century Scotland, Callie risks her life to obtain the stone. Yet when she encounters a sexy incarnation of her lost love, she finds the greater risk is to her heart. As the fate of Fairwick hangs in the balance, Callie must make a wrenching choice: reclaim a chance for eternal passion or save everything she holds dear.
Why We Love It: We probably enjoyed the atmosphere The Angel Stone created more than anything. This is a book that transported us to wherever the main character was: modern-day Fairwick College, Faerie, and 17th century Scotland. We loved that even in the present, The Angel Stone had a lovely Gothic feel to it. We also enjoyed how the author used myth and folklore in her book.
Synopsis: Hungry for vengeance, Cherry St. Croix is forced to the fog-ridden streets of Victorian London. My rival, a collector of bounties like myself, has murdered one of my own. In consequence, I have been removed from my house, my staff, and all who would support me. I have nowhere else to turn, so I beg asylum within the Midnight Menagerie, London’s decadent pleasure garden. Micajah Hawke’s dominance there will not tolerate my presence for long. I am fixated on revenge, but I walk a razor’s edge under his scrutiny His wicked power is not easily ignored, and I must not allow myself to submit—no matter how sweet the sacrifice. Challenging my rival to a race is the only way to end this, no small task when the quarry is the murderous Jack the Ripper. As my enemies close in, I fear the consequences of this hunt. I am trapped between two killers, and what doesn’t kill me may leave its scars forever.
Why We Love It: After the heartbreaking ending of Gilded, the St. Croix Chronicles’ third book, we couldn’t wait to find out what happened in Corroded. We were a little wary at the beginning because the story seemed a little slow and it was very, very dark but Karina Cooper didn’t disappoint and we think this will be a very interesting direction for the series.
Synopsis: Four years after the horrific events in Leadville, a young woman from England, Victoria Dawes, sets into motion a series of events that will lead Cora and herself out into the New Mexico desert in pursuit of Anaba, a Navajo witch bent on taking revenge for the atrocities committed against her people.
Why We Love It: Lee Collins took a risk with She Returns to War and gave us an entirely new narrator. We’re still treated to Cora’s brand of wit and snark, but we see the story through the eyes of young Victoria Dawes. While it took a little while to settle into Victoria’s head, we think the change was ultimately successful. Having an outside perspective gave new weight to Cora’s actions and decisions. It allowed us to see her as the legend that she is without the self-depreciation she tends to attribute to her deeds.
Synopsis: Eleanor “Elle” Chance, that is—a high-flying dirigible pilot with a taste for adventure and the heroine of this edgy new series that transforms elements of urban fantasy, steampunk, and paranormal romance into pure storytelling gold. It is 1903, and the world is divided between light and shadow. On the side of light is a wondrous science that has transformed everyday life by harnessing magical energies to ingenious new technologies. But each advance of science has come at the expense of shadow—the traditional realm of the supernatural. Now two ancient powers are preparing to strike back. Blood-sucking immortal Nightwalkers and their spellcasting Alchemist allies have a plan to cover the whole world in shadow. All they require is the sacrifice of a certain young woman whose past conceals a dangerous secret. But when they come after Elle, they get more than they bargained for. This enterprising young woman, the daughter of a scientific genius, has reserves of bravery and determination that even she scarcely suspects. Now she is about to meet her match in more ways than one: a handsome yet infuriating Warlock named Hugh Marsh, whose agenda is as suspect as his charms are annoyingly irresistible.
Why We Love It: We adored the world created by this author. Set in both France and England at the turn of the 20th century, the story follows a young woman named Eleanor (Elle) Chance. Elle has the unlikely occupation of an airship pilot (we love her already!). Elle is quite the heroine: she is feisty, street smart, has excellent mechanical skills, and she has quite an interesting family tree. The world of A Conspiracy of Alchemists combined magic, steam punk, the fae, alchemists, secret brotherhoods, and even pirates for an exciting, page-turning read.
Synopsis: Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound. Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price. After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.
Why We Love It: We really loved the story behind The Ghost Bride and the main character of Li Lan. This book had beautiful detail and writing and a tale that will definitely appeal to fans of the Studio Ghibli films and the books they are based on.
Other Badass Best of 2013 Lists:
Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror
YA & NA Fantasy, Paranormal, and Science Fiction
YA & NA Dystopian, Horror, and Mystery
YA & NA Contemporary, Historical, and Romance
Our Best Discoveries
Our Literary Slambook
Our Most Anticipated Books of 2014
© 2013 – 2014, Badass Book Reviews. All rights reserved.