Heidi’s Favorite M/M Books of 2011

I registered these votes here in the poll at Goodreads, where it gave me an option to explain the reason I included each one, but I decided to make that part a blog post. And so, in the traditional reverse order, of the books I read last year which were published in 2011, here are my favorites.

*****

#10: Blind Items by Kate McMurray

I loved this book! Very fun opposites attract and family-centered story. Made me think and made me nervous and made me cheer at the end. You totally need to read it right now.

Once again, though, title and cover didn’t grab me, just that I liked the author and wanted to read it. I wish the cover would have given me more. I still don’t really know what a blind item is, but the cover made me think this book would be sleepy and emo. It was not. It was upbeat and fun and full of awesome conflict. And it was funny! Very much so.

Try it. Call it KATE’S FUNNY BOOK and imagine a reporter wooing the shy, closeted son of a domineering bigot of a Presidential candidate.

*****

#9: The Boy Next Door by Kate McMurray

This book has a lovely tossed salad of tropes mixed up with some new twists, excellent storytelling, and a refreshing voice. The Boy Next Door was my first Kate McMurray, and I quickly went out and read everything else she’d written after reading this.

It’s a book about family, about coming out, about coming home, about hard decisions and falling in love. The characters are real and distinct but allow a reader to insert herself into the scene a little and feel resonances in her own life. The situations are that of everyday life and yet are presented in a way that feels unique.

Best of all this book makes a reader feel safe and intrigued and anxious in all the right ways, all at the same time. I’ll be reading this one again and again.

*****

#8 Outcast Mine by Jaime Craig

Dark and sometimes creepy, I didn’t initially peg this book as a contender for the best-of list. But the rich world, complex characters, and suspenseful story quickly changed all that.

I have this book on my mental list to re-read, but I think I’m still pondering the story, to be honest. It’s not weighty, but it resonates well, this prison mine world. And I love the complicated relationship between the prisoner and his jailer, but I also love the whole prison system. The intrigue never stopped but also never became overwhelming, not to me. At the end it all tied together quite neatly and in a way that was both believable and pleasing.

The sex was hot, yes, but this one I loved most for the characters and for the way it made me think.

*****

#7 Song of Oestend by Marie Sexton

Yes, Marie Sexton is my BFF, and yes, I beta’d this book, but I still love it and it’s still going on this list.

What’s not to love here? Alternate universe western setting: check. Cowboys: check. Subtle, spooky ghost native spirits: check. Reversing roles against trope: check. Understated and yet smoking hot BDSM: check.

Emotional journeys, hidden secrets, self-empowerment, and oh yeah, a love story.

Just read it already.

*****

#6 Breaking Cover by Kaje Harper

The best testament to this book is that I don’t like mysteries and am always reluctant about sequels that only further explore an established relationship, and yet I loved this. Lots. It was an awesome exploration of a relationship, and I even liked the mystery. I was totally caught up in this from end to end. I started it last night, thought I’d read “a little” before I laid down for a nap this afternoon, and I never napped.

Excellent characters. Great story. Harper’s got some chops. She just went on the auto-buy list.

(I don’t like this cover. AT ALL. Just ignore it and read the book, but start with the prequel.)

*****

#5 Arabesque by Hayden Thorne

I did not in any way expect the artistry I found in this book. It is sophisticated without being complicated, and it has no artifice because it does not need it. The sex is almost sweet, and yet it is there, subtle and understated. The book is dark as well, and Thorne pushes her characters to the limits.

The writing in this book is extraordinary. Honestly, I was completely blown away. Voice, pacing, tone, character, setting–everything is here.

And I was incredibly humbled by this book because I think it was the Snow White retelling that I wanted to write in Sweet Son, but then my damn dirty muse went mucking about, and we got something else. Not that it’s bad. But I read this and sighed because I really wished I’d written it.

*****

#4 Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost by Z.A. Maxfield

I’ve already re-read this book three times, and I love it more in each sitting. Whimsical, heartfelt, and yes, cute, Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost gave me that most coveted of all reader reactions: the urge to sigh, “Aw!” while clutching my Kindle to my now mushy heart.

The ghosts are subtle and have their own story, and I love the underscored idea that true love will always live on no matter what. The still-living lovers are absolutely adorable, both in their earnestness and their cluelessness. It reminds me ABSOLUTELY of Jane Austen’s Emma and in all the best ways. It’s a fall-in-love-with-your-best-friend story.

And did I mention it was cute? As a BUTTON.

*****

#3 Bad Boyfriend by K.A. Mitchell

I had waited for this book FOREVER it seems like.

This book was fun, fast, and made me feel good. I spent the day in a chair with this book, and it was my best damn day the week I read it. I’d had a lot of good days that week too, so that’s no light praise.

The emotional journey of both characters was just delicious. Their kinks fit so well, but their out-of-bed lives were what they had to work on meshing, and that’s why this book was so wonderful. It was also a delightful tangle of roles and expectations: in some cases they fit the twink/bear stereotype, but in others they switched. And eventually it all snarled in a perfect blend that catches the reader into the story’s heart.

Fun. Kinky but not weird. Sexy but not gratuitous. My only complaint was that I wish it were longer because I wasn’t done with them yet.

Read it.

*****

#2 With a Kiss by Kim Dare

I got a pile of amazon cards at our early Christmas, and this was one I bought from that loot. Actually, I tried this as a sample first and it was the one I went back and finished because it I was up in the middle of the night and it was so cute.

A friend called Dare “BDSM lite” and that’s really the truth, but it’s okay. The book is actually sweet as all hell. Dare is always just what you expect, no real twists or sudden turns, but that’s a lot of the draw for me. Very much a snuggle-into-your-chair read.

AND it’s a vamp book. I really don’t like vamps, but this one is just fine. It’s incredibly non-traditional vamp, which is part of why I liked it (nobody sparkles, don’t worry).

I’ve already re-read this book twice, which is noteworthy since I read it first in late December.

*****

Best M/M Book of 2011

 Between Sinners and Saints by Marie Sexton

I have a Thing about books revolving around abuse. In theory I like to read them, but they’re so often poorly done, and a poorly done abuse book is a terrible, terrible thing. The balance is as delicate as a spider’s web. It can’t be too angsty, but it can’t be too glib. Most authors think the way to deal with abuse is for the character to wallow directly, which I have to tell you, I’ve never seen a real abuse victim do in real life. The stories are also often so heavy you can’t stand to read them without antidepressants.

Not so Between Sinners and Saints. The story has humor, to start. Sexton manages the balance of an abusive past by showing us not only Jamie’s weaknesses but also his strengths. It’s also not primarily a story about abuse. It’s a story about past and pain, and most important of all, it’s about family. Between Sinners and Saints is a story of what it means to be broken, what it means to be saved, and how no matter what has happened to you and no matter who you are, everything can be healed by love.

In my not at all humble opinion, this is the best book Marie has ever written, and even if she weren’t my favorite person on about a zillion levels, this book would still have been number one. Even if she were a complete stranger. It rocks.

Go buy it today.

7 Comments on “Heidi’s Favorite M/M Books of 2011

  1. Thanks for this. I’d read most of the books on your list and agree with your assessments so I’m downloading samples of the ones I haven’t read now. Have you read Kaje Harper’s new werewolf book? Werewolves are . . . not my thing, but I liked it quite a bit.

    • I’d been eyeballing it, but I concur with the werewolf opinion. However, I’d suspected I wouldn’t mind them from her, given her track record.

  2. I loved your #1 and #2, #3 is in my tbr pile, and the rest are all new to me! I absolutely loved Between Sinners and Saints, it was my second favorite read last year 🙂 Now I have to check out the rest of the books on your list.

  3. Thanks for the recs. there are so many poorly written (and some just plain awful) m/m novels, that I am often hesitant to buy ones without a recommendation first.

  4. Ok, ok, I obviously need to read your #1 book – I have it, but it keeps getting pushed down the tbr pile as new shiny books comes out…

  5. Thanks Heidi for the list. I always enjoy these lists at the end of the year. There are lots I haven’t read and need too obviously.

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