For heroines, we got:
- 1 heartbroken widow who actually loved her husband
- 1 ditz who believes she's deathly allergic to the ocean
- 1 Tall Bookish Brunette (who naturally comes accompanied by a Prettier, Blonder, Boring-er Sister)
- 2 tough gals who don't need no help from no man, no how
- 2 boring and occasionally shrill single mums
For heroes, we got:
- 1 romantic highwayman with inner ear problems
- 1 bookish translator who prefers independent life
- 1 southern boy who don't take kindly to people who organize with electronic devices
- 1 star football player/underwear model
- 1 shiftless rake hiding a heart of gold
- 1 merman prince
- 1 heartless businessman who simply must have sex with hookers twice a week or else his junk will explode
In the Romantic Obstacle department we got:
- "My heart/the world/society/certain appendages are too hard for love to be anything but a fairy-tale."
- "I must obey the rules and the rules say I must not bang the beautiful woman who speaks to the deepest secrets of my soul, so too bad for me."
- "She's my dead best friend's wife, dude - even Regency Bucks have a bro code!"
- "She's my fiancee's sister, dude. Bro! Code! Pay attention!"
- "I'd like to bang this hot southerner but some crazy-ass ghost keeps haunting my children."
- "My dad told me he took money to annul our marriage."
In Miscellaneous Oddities, we have:
- Grieving Widower Bird Mercenaries
- Rock Star DILFS
- A Crazy-Ass Ghost Mum
- Equestrian Sex (by which I mean sex on, rather than with a horse)
- Hot Cult Babes
- Sweaty Beaver Costumes
- Psychic Children
- Fake Annulments
- Several Evil or Otherwise Shamefully Negligent Parents
*October Pick* Prince of Midnight, by Laura Kinsale A+
Winner of the Best Hero EVER Award. Hoo boy, S.T. is a hot hot hero. We have an older, scarred swashbuckler who just wants to swash buckles again, no matter whose buckles need the swashing. Romantic and sentimental, he's a teddy bear - a dashing sword-wielding, cult-babe-saving teddy bear.
Natural Born Charmer, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips A+ (yes, same grade as Prince of Midnight, but it just missed out on being the top pick - why? Because S.T. Maitland could kick Dean Robillard's ass ANY DAY)
Winner of the Superb Characterization Award. That's the most of what I come away with from this wonderful book - no one in this novel is precisely a villain, even though if written by a lesser writer, this book could have had, like, six or seven baddies gunning for our hero and heroine. Honestly, you think you're going to hate a character - give it a few chapters. You'll change your mind.
When He Was Wicked, by Julia Quinn B+
Winner of the Most Interesting Gender Reversal Award. The Bridgerton series picks itself back up with this story where (gasp!) we have a heroine who's afraid of commitment being chased by a romantic hero who wants marriage and babies! How quaint!
Compromised, by Kate Noble B
Winner of the Most Surprisingly Poignant and Complicated Daddy Issues Award. Romance heroes who hate their dads are a dime a dozen, so Max's tug-of-war problems with his stick-in-the-mud father really contributed to the complex layers of his character. The scene where Gail helps him come to terms with his true feelings for his father was one of the most powerful things I've read in a long time.
Three Little Secrets, by Liz Carlyle B-
Winner of the Perpetually Second Best Award. Seriously, if you have to choose between this book and Mary Balogh's "Spellbound" from the It Happened One Night anthology, choose the latter. Exact same story, all-round superior execution, half the page count.
Blue Dahlia, by Nora Roberts C+
Winner of the M'eh Award of Excellence in the Field of Adequacy. While this was my first Nora, in the words of the esteemed fellow Canadian Shania Twain, this book didn't impress me much. Obvious plotting. Boring and selfish characters. Contrived single mother plotline. However, there was lots of detail, and none of the characters acted too much like cartoons (although the pregnant lady who didn't tell the father of her child that he'd, uh, fathered a child because she didn't want to be a bother is a headscratcher), but nothing really to interest me.
*October Dud* Wild Blue Under, Judi Fennell D-
Winner of the Highest Puns-to-Plot-Development Ratio. Yeah, instead of doing actual worldbuilding or creative explorations of what an underwater society might actually be like, Judi Fennell decided to make her Atlantean inhabitants just like us, using North American colloquialisms with ocean-themed words shoehorned in. Lame lame lame.