I thought I’d do a post today about diamonds in the ruff – those books and authors who seem to fly underneath the radar and have a smaller fan base than their brilliance demands.
The idea germinated from an author interview with Marta Acosta, who struggled to find an audience for her wonderful ‘Casa Dracula’ series after it was incorrectly categorized as being paranormal romance.
So the following list is comprised of books that I love, and think should have a bigger readership. I hope I’m not insulting any authors by listing their books – any offence is entirely unintentional, I promise you. I’m not saying the following books aren’t brilliant, or are without a devoted readership – I’m saying that they’re popularity should be more in accordance to their fabulousness. . .
'Casa Dracula' seriesI must confess that when I read first book ‘Happy Hour at Casa Dracula’ I was under the misimpression that Acosta’s series was paranormal romance. It’s not. Many Amazon tags have labelled it as such – whether because of the fun and flirty front cover, the promise of ‘vampires’ (and all the blood-lust that that implies) or due to the fact that the series’ heroine is a buxom Latina beauty. The ‘Casa Dracula’ series is not paranormal romance. Yes, there is a love triangle, a deliciously dark bad-boy to tease our heroine and sexy/bloody foreplay. But Acosta’s series is more unique than the banal tag of ‘paranormal romance’ implies.
by Marta Acosta
by Marta Acosta
The ‘Casa Dracula’ series is a comedy-of-manners and errors, an enlightened situational comedic series of Oscar Wilde-esque proportions and brilliance. The series is about a lowly Latina novelist who gets bitten into a family of vampire socialites and how she copes amidst the fanged and fabulous.
If you don’t want to read another same-old, same-old vampire book then give Marta Acosta’s series a read. You will not be disappointed, but you will be in stitches.
'Dark Swan: Eugenie Markham' series
by Richelle Mead
by Richelle Mead
I know what you’re thinking – ‘Richelle Mead is ridiculously popular! Her “Vampire Academy” series is selling like hotcakes and a movie deal is in the works. . .’
Very true. Richelle Mead has become one of the reigning queens of urban-fantasy alongside Charlaine Harris, Jeaniene Frost and Patricia Briggs. Her ‘Vampire Academy’ books are New York Times bestsellers and her adult ‘Georgina Kincaid’ series has a devout, rabid fan-following. But her third series, ‘Dark Swan: Eugenie Markham’, always seems to be eclipsed by Georgina and Rose. But to be honest, I can’t choose which series is my favourite out of the three. I love them all for very different reasons, and each series is very unique. ‘Georgina Kincaid’ and ‘Dark Swan’ have an adult readership in common, but that’s about it. Richelle Mead’s penchant for writing messy, heart-breaking lovelife’s for her characters is there in all three series. . . but the romance’s and leading men are vastly different.
The ‘Dark Swan’ series is all about Eugenie Markham, who has spent the majority of her young life sending supernatural creatures back to their natural, magic habitat. Until the day that Eugenie discovers she is part fae (fairy). . . in fact, she is fairy gentry and fated to produce a child-King. Now all the royal fairy’s want a piece of Eugenie – whether to prevent her from producing a Kingly heir, or to try and impregnate her themselves. . .
I love this series, and I’m always a little frustrated that ‘Vampire Academy’ and ‘Georgina Kincaid’ have stolen the spotlight (to the point that Mead’s publishers decided not to release ‘Dark Swan’ #3 this year for fear that the VA and GK release’s would overshadow!).
'Harper Connelly' series
by Charlaine Harris
by Charlaine Harris
Charlaine Harris is another ridiculously successful author who’s most popular series, ‘Southern Vampire: Sookie Stackhouse’ has unfortunately overshadowed her other equally wonderful series. Just go onto the Amazon discussion boards and scroll through the many posts asking if ‘Lily Bard/Aurora Teagarden/Harper Connelly is in any way similar to Sookie Stackhouse?’
I’m going to make a big call and say that, in many respects, I prefer the ‘Harper Connelly’ series over ‘Sookie Stackhouse’. Charlaine Harris is first and foremost a mystery writer, but that’s sometimes easy to forget in the Sookie books where the crux of the series revolves around Sookie sinking deeper and deeper into vampire politics. I think Harris marries paranormal and mystery much better in the ‘Harper Connelly’ series.
Harper is a young woman who was struck by lightning as a child. . . and as a result she can sense the dead. Don’t go imagining ‘Sixth Sense’ though; Harper’s technique is a little trickier. When she comes near a dead body she can ‘sense’ the corpse – pinpoint its location and even glimpse the last moments of the person’s life before death. Harper and her step-brother, Tolliver, travel across the country helping out cold cases, missing persons and the flat-out bizarre. But Harper’s sole motivation for using her ‘skills’ is the hunt for her little sister, Cameron, who disappeared when Harper was a young girl. She and Tolliver scour the country looking for other people’s missing persons in the hopes that they’ll stumble across one of their own. . .
I love this series. Harper is a very tricky character who had a horrendous childhood and is now coping with her adult freakdom. There is a romance, but to mention it would be giving away a HUGE plot twist and delicious tension. . .
If you need any more reason to read the ‘Harper Connelly’ series, you should know that CBS is developing the books into a TV show. It’s all very early stages, but a screenplay is being written (headed by Kam Miller) and fans should know around January if the show has been picked up. Oh, and I should mention that Scott Free is producing - that’s Ridley Scott and Tony Scott. Yeah. . . this series just got awesome(r)!
'Monere: Children of the Moon' series
This is a paranormal romance/erotica series of epically delicious proportions! The series is all about Mona Lisa – orphaned as a child she has never felt as though she fits in. . . Until one day a beautiful man comes into the hospital where she works as a nurse. Mona Lisa is drawn to him, and he to her and they have a combustible night together. The stranger, Gryphon, explains their strange intensity – telling Mona Lisa that she is a Monere (moon) Queen. She is descendant of a strange, fae-like race who has so few females that their women are revered and crowned royalty – and encouraged to consort with all the men they want in order to keep the Monere race growing.
This series is somewhat similar to Laurell K Hamilton’s ‘Merry Gentry’ – insofar as a royal woman has to take multiple lovers for the good of her race/kingdom and in order to produce heirs. But Sunny’s series is far superior to Ms. Hamilton’s.
For one, the book-covers beautifully encapsulate the elegance and beauty of the series. Sunny never loses sight of story and character in the face of smut and sex (which there is a lot of, consequently). And in fact, the ‘Monere’ series covers a lot of themes and storylines – from power-struggles and corrupt politics to immortal love. This series is very much about the characters with sensual sex scenes as a side-benefit.
'Void City' series byAs a seasoned reviewer and reader of urban-fantasy I really didn’t think there was any vampire ground I hadn’t read/tread or a vampire book left that could surprise me. I was wrong. So, so wrong. Enter J.F. Lewis and his anti-hero protagonist, Eric.
This is a series full of antagonists and morally-bankrupt characters. . . and it’s wonderful.
Throughout the books you will cringe, scoff, yell, say ‘eew’ and have generally violent emotional reactions. But you’ll also be incapable of putting the books down. For one thing, a male protagonist in an urban fantasy is refreshingly unique. For another, an antagonist protagonist in urban fantasy is a tornado of fresh air.
The character’s and their actions are often deplorable (i.e.: sleeping with your girlfriend’s sister) but if you wade through the moral muck you will find some redeeming qualities in these despicable characters and discover that half the fun of investing in this series will be rooting for the bad-guy, hoping they make good and waiting to see if any sort of redemption shines through.
The moral bankruptcy is often balanced out and smoothed over by J.F. Lewis’s quick-wit. His is a very dark humour, and while reading you will find yourself slack-jawed and saying “Oh my God, he just went there!” Brilliant, in a ‘so-wrong-it’s-right’ kind of way.
'Texas Vampires' trilogy
by Diane Whiteside
by Diane Whiteside
Vampires and desperados – oh my! I love this paranormal erotica trilogy so, so much. But I've read some negative and ‘wtf?’ reviews.
To be honest, the trilogy is very unique for Whiteside’s perspective storytelling. The first book is ‘Bond of Blood’ (‘The Hunter’s Prey’ was published first, but is a collection of short stories featuring characters, but unrelated to the trilogy itself). ‘Bond’ tells the story of Don Raphael Perez, a vampire and former Spanish knight who mourns his human wife who died decades ago. Don Raphael is given a second chance when his wife is reincarnated in the body of Grania O’Malley, a beautiful young veterinarian who is new to Texas (which is consequently Don Raphael’s vampire ‘territory’). But before he and Grania can live happily ever after and get their second chance, Don Raphael must quell a potential take-over from a rival vampiress.
The unusual perspective is due to the fact that book #2 ‘Bond of Fire’, and book #3 ‘Bond of Darkness’ are all centred around the same plot point as ‘Bond of Blood’. What changes however, is the character perspective, as the 2nd and 3rd books are about two of Don Raphael’s vampire lieutenants and their own tricky romantic loves.
So, essentially the same story is being retold from three different perspectives. And like I said, I have read some negative reviews – but one person’s unique is another person’s frustrating, I guess.
I personally love this series. The romance is epic; the sex scenes are H-O-T and Whiteside writes very elegant (but smokin’!) paranormal erotica.
'World of the Lupi' series
by Eileen Wilks
by Eileen Wilks
In Wilks’s universe, werewolves are celebrities. They are hounded by the paparazzi, lusted after by groupies and gossiped about in tabloids. None more so than Rule Turner, whom the San Diego media have labelled ‘werewolf prince’ for being the son to the area’s alpha.
But things change for Rule when he is implicated in the murder of one of his mistress’s husband’s. On the case is San Diego detective Lily Yu - a unique individual who can ‘feel’ magic. What neither Rule nor Lily counted on when they meet one another is a powerful mating bond joining them together – they are literally each other’s soul mates. The series is all about Rule and Lily adjusting to their romance and mateship, amidst tabloid prejudice and werewolf society.
I love this series – it is one of the most unique urban fantasy’s out there. Wilks’s werewolf mythology is wonderful for hitting so close to home. And the romance between Rule and Lily is lust-worthy. As much as each book is a magical ‘whodunit’, it’s Rule and Lily’s unlikely coupling that keeps me coming back for more. These two are so romantic – a wonderful case of opposites attracting and a relationship thriving under impossible odds.
The series is currently six books deep, with a seventh due for release next year. A series you can sink your teeth into, for sure!