What was the best M/M romance book you read in 2020? The best book all categories?
I had set 200 books as my goal in my Goodreads challenge, and I ended up reading 220 books in 2020. I read in total 27136 pages (the shortest was 8 pages and the longest 762) with the average length being 123 pages/books. The average rating was 3.4 stars with 11 one-star reads and 29 five-star reads. On top of this, I’ve also read a lot of fanfiction, albeit a bit less than last year. I’ve also read a few text books for my university courses I took this summer, but I haven’t added those to my reading challenge.
But enough with the statistics already.
The best book all categories I read in 2020, is a Swedish book called Ædnan by Sàmi-Swedish author Linnea Axelsson. It’s a novel-in-verse, telling a gripping and heartbreaking story about two Sàmi families. Gawd, it was so beautiful and heart-wrenching and it left me reeling for days. I’ve never read anything like it and I wish it was available in English so you all could read it.
But since it isn’t, let’s instead talk about the top ten gay romances I read last year. The criteria is that I read them in 2020, but they don’t have to be published in 2020. And they can’t be re-reads.
Without further ado, I present to you my ten favorite reads of 2020:
I read three of them for Holidays at Nell’s; Coming Out On Top, Gingerbread Dreams, and Nobody’s Butterfly. Two of them are written by two of the three members (we’re four if we count me) morning writing crew: Pine Tree Mary and Taking Stock. One is the first in a three-part series, In the Name of the Father, and I actually read all three of the books despite them being about the same couple. One, The Bake Sale, was a super-short story that hit me right in the heart. Alfie Adams Comes at Life Sideways was called Everybody in the Place when I read it, but I adore the new name. Granddad’s Cup of Tea was a delightful surprise featuring two mature characters, something I’ve craved more and more lately. And then there’s A Worthy Man, that I crowned as one of the most romantic books I’ve ever read.
I’ve written about all of them on my blog before (the links are the names above) except for In the Name of the Father. Only one of ten is a non-contemporary, Pine Tree Mary, but Hush makes up for it by being the best paranormal/fantasy character ever. K.L. Noone and writing duo Claire Davis and Al Stewart made my top ten last year, too. Matthew Robbins was a new-to-me author, and A Worthy Man is the ultimate proof that a book can be absolutely fantastic even if the blurb doesn’t speak to you.
All in all, a good reading year. I look forward to seeing what 2021 will bring.
Today’s book recommendation is so very British, I think it’s impossible to read it without a cup of tea. So go make a cuppa of your favorite tea, light a couple candles, and curl up on the couch with this book. It’s also one of the few books that have gripped me from the first page lately, so it deserves extra credit for that.
Fifteen years ago, teenage Laurie Henshaw came to live at Webber’s Farm with his elderly uncle and settled in to the farming life. Now, age thirty-two, he has a stroke in the middle of working on the farm. As he recovers, he has to come to terms with the fact that some of his new limitations are permanent and he’s never going to be as active as he used to be. Will he be able to accept the helping hands his friends extend to him?
With twenty successful years in the City behind him, Phil McManus is hiding in the country after his boyfriend set him up to take the fall for an insider trading deal at his London stockbroking firm. There’s not enough evidence to prosecute anyone, but not enough to clear him either. He can’t bear the idea of continuing his old stagnating life in the city, or going back to his job now everyone knows he’s gay.
Thrown together in a small country village, can Phil and Laurie forge a new life that suits the two of them and the makeshift family that gathers round them? Or are they too tied up in their own shortcomings to recognise what they have?
Taking Stock is a lovely, lovely book. It’s slow and gentle and quiet, and everything that I love in a story. It has found families and hurt/comfort, two of my favorite tropes. But most of all, it’s full of the kind of romance I love the most. There are no grand gestures or the cliched over-the-top things associated with romance. No, it’s a quiet kind of love. It’s two men sitting at a kitchen table, one massaging the other’s hand and arm, and they talk. It’s one man being there for the other when he’s needed, whether the other man wants to admit he needs help or not.
Very carefully, very gently, he put his hands on the curved knobs of Laurie’s shoulder, warm under his shirt. Laurie could shake him off easily if he so desired. Phil didn’t say anything. He just offered silent support.
Laurie was thin under the soft cotton. They stood for a while, doing nothing but breathing and looking out the window. Gradually Laurie relaxed and as he did, he swayed back, just a little, until some of his weight was resting on Phil. It felt nice, to take the weight for someone else.
Eventually, Laurie dashed his good hand over his face. Wiping his eyes, Phil thought. “Tea’s getting cold,” Laurie said.
Quote from Taking Stock by A.L. Lester
Taking Stock is about ordinary people overcoming extra-ordinary circumstances. Dealing with whatever shit life throws at them the best way they can. It’s full of warmth and friendships and support, and most of all, it’s a quiet, wonderful romance.
This is a definite re-read for me. This is five glorious stars and a heart full of love for Laurie and Phil. Buy this book, read it today. You won’t regret it.
So when I stumbled upon Lucasby Elna Holst, also a F/F Jane Austen fanfic, I thought Why not? I downloaded a sample and liked what I read, so I bought the whole thing, and I’m really glad I did. Lucas is Pride and Prejudice fanfic, and it’s about Elizabeth Bennet’s friend, Charlotte Lucas, who’s been married to the dreadful Mr. Collins for three years at the start of the book. Then a new lady, Ailsa Reed, moves to the neighborhood, and the connection between Charlotte and Ailsa is instant.
Lucas is written in epistolary format, as letters Charlotte addresses to Lizzy but never sends (if you read the story, you’ll understand why) and I love epistolary novels. There’s cheating in the story (which didn’t come as a surprise considering Charlotte is married at the start of the book) but although I usually don’t like cheating, I didn’t mind it here, because let’s face it: Mr. Collins is awful! But it is a romance after all, so there’s a HEA. A very interesting, unexpected HEA.
The story was very well written and I enjoyed it immensely. I warmly recommend it.
After I finished Lucas, I was in the mood for more Jane Austen fan fic, so I went on Goodreads and searched. (Also, I’ve learned the very useful acronym JAFF, meaning Jane Austen Fan Fiction. Much quicker and easier to write 🙂 )
And OMG, there are a lot of JAFF out there. A lot of it isn’t so great, but there are good stories to find if you have the patience to look, which I had.
Mr. Darcy in Through a Different Lens is on the autism spectrum which explains his behavior. Lizzy recognizes it because she has a cousin (one of the Gardiner children) with the same problem, and she teaches him techniques that are meant to help him, that she learned by being around her cousin. The story is not a modern version, it’s still set in the regency era, so the words autism or Asperger aren’t used in the story itself, instead they are described as “different.” Through a Different Lens starts during Lizzy’s visit to Charlotte and Mr. Collins, before the disastrous first marriage proposal, and it follows all the plot points in the original novel, but altered to fit the idea of Darcy on the autism spectrum. It’s a lovely story and an interesting way to look at Darcy.
Mr. Darcy’s Vice tells the story of Mr. Darcy and Mr. Elias Bennet, because I had to read a M/M adaptation, didn’t I? It follows the plot points of the original novels pretty faithfully, but adapts it so the story fits a male Bennet. The story is told from Mr. Darcy’s POV, and I loved following his thought processes and his character development after this version of the disastrous marriage proposal (which isn’t a proposal ofc, because gay and regency). Elias Bennet is a delightful character and I thought the author had done a good job at adapting Elizabeth Bennet to Elias. I loved how the whole Lydia-Wickham situation was handled considering Elias being a man instead of a female without agency like Lizzy in the original. This, too, is a romance with a HEA, and a clever and believable one at that. I was very happy when I finished the story.
Finally, I read a couple short, free fanfics over at AO3 that I wanted to share. They are both Sense and Sensibility variations, one M/F and one M/M, and neither of them were about a canon couple.
An Unexpected Attachment by umbrafix is the story of Elinor Dashwood and Colonel Brandon falling in love, which in my mind makes much more sense than Marianne and Brandon. Besides, I’ve always found Edward Ferrars a bit boring, so I’m definitely shipping Elinor and Brandon. It starts when Marianne is ill after having her heart broken, and tells a lovely story about their connection, about Colonel Brandon being attentive toward Elinor, and they live happily-ever-after, of course, since this is a romance after all. And yes, I imagined Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman as Elinor and Brandon from the 1995 movie the entire time I read the story, hence the picture above. Because, hello, Alan Rickman!! 😍
The last story is about an even more unexpected ship than the one that got me started on this whole journey; Mr. Willoughby and Edward Ferrars. It’s called Heart of Stone and is written by user Lessandra. The story starts after Mr. Willoughby has broken Marianne’s heart, and I never expected I’d like to see him redeemed because he really is an ass to Marianne, but this was a great little story about him and Edward Ferrars connecting and falling for each other. I found the way the story progressed very believable, and how being around Edward made Willoughby better himself. If you like redeemed scoundrels, this is definitely the story for you.
Phew. That was a long blog post. And I admit to having lots of more JAFF samples in my Kindle app, so who know, maybe there’ll be a part 2 of this blog post one day.
Tell me: have you read any JAFF? If yes, anything you’d like to recommend? 🙂
Oh, and of course I had to watch Pride and Prejudice on Netflix, too.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I’ve been crazy about autumn this year. It’s never been my favorite season before, but now I can’t get enough of it. I cook autumnal food, overdose on hot drinks, burn a million candles, and of course read. Because what’s better than curling up on the couch underneath a cozy blanket with a good book and a nice cup of tea?
So today, I thought I’d recommend three books I’ve read that all take place in fall.
I asked my dear friend Kris T. Bethke if she had any suggestions on books taking place in fall (because she’s a falloholic, too) and she promptly said Pumpkin Rolls & Porn Sounds with a chuckle. I’ve read it before, of course. It was the first book I read by Kris, and I bought it back when it was new because I loved the name so much. The book lived up to its name, and just like that I’d found a new favorite author. Full disclosure, though: I’ve never had a pumpkin roll. I’ve never had pumpkin spice anything. Am I still allowed to call myself a fall-lover? 😁
I’ve written about October Spice on the blog before and it was a given re-read for October. I love KL Noone and this short little nugget is no exception. A word of warning, though: make sure you have a snack when you read this book, because you will be tortured by “vanilla-orange petit fours” and “apple spice cake pops,” and I need an apple spice cake pop right this minute! Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 🙂
Pine Tree Mary by Ofelia Gränd was a new read for me. I bought it last year when it was released because have you seen that cover, but hadn’t gotten around to reading it yet. But when I asked my morning writing buddies if any of them had a fall themed book, Ofelia had a handy list and I picked Pine Tree Mary off it. And oh my gaaaaaawd, you need to read this book. It has one of the greatest MCs of all time, Hush. Hush is a forest spirit, a hulder who traditionally are female, but Hush is male. This means trouble for poor Hush whose family never lets him forget that he’s different and freakish. What’s so great about Hush as a character is that he’s really believable as a forest spirit. He doesn’t know much about the human world, he doesn’t understand human behavior and when he comes in contact with it interesting things happen.
It’s a lovely story about learning to accept yourself for who you are, and yes there’s a second character, yes there’s a romance, there’s even a crime-solving plot, and all that is great. But Hush steals the show. I love him. I claim him as my book boyfriend, hollow back and all. And it would be so cool to ride a moose.
I hope you’re having a great Sunday, everyone. Sundays are meant to be lazy days and I love spending them with a cup of tea and a good book. So I thought I’d recommend two awesome books I’ve read lately, if you need inspiration on what to read today.
The Bake Sale by Matthew Robbins is a wonderful short story, only 2419 words, but oh what wonderful 2419 words they are.
He leaned his head toward Scott at an angle that invited Scott to kiss Miles in that sweetly innocent place that was not fully on the mouth but also not quite on his cheek.
Miles and Scott is an established couple and this is a little slice of life in their lives. It’s emotional and romantic and sweet, just the kind of story I love the most. It’s perfect if you only have a couple minutes but still want to read something good. Matthew Robbins was a new-to-me author and I’m really glad I took a chance on him. It was so worth it.
Best Friends by J.M. Snyder is also a short story, albeit longer than the above one at 5599 words. It’s about two best friends; Todd has been secretly in love with Riley for ages and his heart is breaking now that Riley is about to leave for the military.
He’s all that exists to me, in me, of me. His hands and mouth bring me to life.
Snyder has a way with words that gets to me. Not everything that she writes has a happy ending, but everything is freaking awesome. This book is no exception