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Near the edge of Devlin, Washington, just before the road dead-ends at an ominous chain-link gate that reads “PRIVATE PROPETY – DO NOT ENTER – WARNING!!” sits an unassuming little 2 story house connected to a single story cedar-shake sided building. On a weathered strip of wood above the door, hangs a sign that reads, “Mystic Books.”
Within the warm, well-lit interior of the shop, walls lined with tall, golden oak bookcases surround the shopper, and a lithe, middle-aged woman sits behind the counter, her fingers flying over the keys. Auburn curls tumble down her back, liberally shot through with silver.
You came because you felt called to the bookstore by some unknown urge, but now that you stand within, you aren’t sure exactly what you are looking for.
Lucky for you, the proprietor, Astra Myst, has a knack for helping you find just the book you need.
I’ve enlisted Astra’s help in curating periodic lists for my readers — books I’ve enjoyed, books I find useful, books I desperately needed — for quarterly collections to pass along. This quarter, we settled on our top 5 favorites from small press and indie authors.
Many of these books are romances of one subgenre or another, but not all. Check them all out, find one that teases your curiosity, and support an indie author.
1. The Guardians series by Tessa McFionn
We love romances with kick-ass heroes and equally kick-ass heroines. Tessa’s immortal guardians stumble, one at a time, upon lovely, sometimes snarky, always-heart-touching heroines. Sometimes, the heroines really do need a kick-ass cohort to pull them through the worst messes, often, the heroines are just as likely to drag their heroes to a brighter future. Tessa packs her love of the paranormal into every chapter and infuses heavy doses of action. These books aren’t populated with damsels in minor distress. Tessa takes on heavy problems. Ancient warriors. Women who’ve given up freedom for others. Women who are stuck in deep, severe grief.
If you’re a paranormal romance fan, buckle up and hang on. Tessa’s Guardians will take you for a pulse-pounding ride. (She has a second series, as well. The Rise of the Stria is a science fiction romance with a heroine who saves the day, and her hero. The two series are a close call in my book, but I believe I read her Guardians series first.)
2. Wishes and Dreams series by Allie McCormack
Another paranormal romance series, Wishes and Dreams takes a different path than Tessa McFionn’s Guardians. Allie infuses her deep love of Middle Eastern culture into a series populated by djinn, shifters, and mages living right under our noses. I had the pleasure of watching this series take shape when I was still just starting my writing journey, and have enjoyed every one of them.
Allie’s characters have deep-seated struggles, but she brings a lightness to the page with mischievous, playful, and colorful characters. These are also a good choice for the reader who prefers sweeter romance without explicit sexual scenes. (Trust me, though, there’s no lack of chemistry here.)
3. Two Hearts, One Stone by Leslie Scott
Two Hearts, One Stone was one of the first books we reviewed for a small publisher a few years back, and it was the book that brought Mrs. Scott into my writing community. I absolutely adore her work — strong characters with deep, rich emotional worlds set in vibrant backdrops abound — and her style. Two Hearts is a novella, but it doesn’t lack for plot or story. And it’s bound to get you hooked on Leslie’s flowing, energetic style.
4. Fire’s Kiss by Brittany Pate
It breaks my heart that Fire’s Kiss is out of print (you can still buy the Kindle format, however). Brittany presented an outstanding romance between deeply conflicted characters that I hoped to read more of. I mean… demon hunter falling in love with a demi-demon? Literal heat on the pages. When these two quit snarking at each other and all-out fighting, they were an unstoppable force. This book made the finals in at least one writing competition, and I was so disappointed for the author when the publisher went under, just as the author was really building a following. If you can get your hands on a copy of this book — READ IT! It’s just… amazing.
5. Girl of Glass series by Megan O’Russell
This is probably the only book/series in this list that isn’t strictly a romance. It’s YA Dystopian, and the protagonist does have a love interest or two over the course of the series, but the love story isn’t central. Instead, it’s the journey of a young woman who’s chosen to go against the grain, open her eyes to the truth of what’s going on in her privileged life, and actively do something about it. Megan gives the vampire theme a spin in a different direction, throws her heroine to the wolves, and, for the most part, everyone comes through it — albeit battle-scarred and less healthy than they started. I don’t recommend reading this series out of order, and I believe Megan has followed up with at least one spin-off series set in the same world, different location if you find you just can’t get enough of the Domes.
The indie book market is HUGE – this list is by no means comprehensive. These are just some of the fantastic authors (and just a few of the books) that we discovered through owning a bookstore and meeting authors and publishers. The best way to support indie authors and bookstores is to purchase and review.
In the comments below, share which of these books or series most intrigues you, let us know if you bought one, and help us plan future editions of Astra Reads by telling us what genre you’d like us to tackle next.