Title: Perfect Beautiful Good by OnYourMark
Fandom: White Collar
Pairing: Neal/Peter/Elizabeth
Categories: romance, drama
Length: ~16,000 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
From the author: "Neal Caffrey doesn't know it, but he's probably the best thing that ever happened to Peter and Elizabeth's sex life."

Sometimes you just want a straight-up, well-written story where three people figure out that they love each other, and then figure out how to make it happen (though, strictly speaking, most of the latter work is done by Elizabeth). If you are in the mood for a slow burn romance with a dash of trust issues and some rather smoking sex scens, give this one a shot.

Perfect Beautiful Good
Title: Beauty by Elizabeth Culmer
Fandom: Fairy Tales
Pairing: Grace/Ricky
Categories: romance, friendship, family
Length: ~11,500 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
From the author: "A retelling of 'Ricky of the Tuft,' with a greater focus on what a curse of stupidity might have done to the princess's family, and an attempt to make the ending seem more something the characters earn and less a predestined result of the fairy godmother's meddling."

I'll be honest, I'd never even heard of Ricky of the Tuft before reading this story, and I think that made it even more enjoyable to read, because I had no idea what to expect. Based on this fic, it's a very interesting fairy tale, one which explores the value of beauty and intelligence and family. I love both Ricky and Grace and I really enjoyed their (very fairy-tale-esque) romance, but what I love most about this story was the way the author fleshed out the characters more than most fairy tales bother to do, giving them motivation and feelings and complexity.

If you like fairy tales in general and/or Ricky-of-the-Tuft specifically, this is the story for you!

Beauty
Title: Behavior Modification by bendingsignpost
Fandom: Sherlock BBC
Pairing: John/Sherlock
Categories: angst, romance (sort of), hurt/comfort(ish)
Length: ~23,700 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
"Never theorize before possessing the facts. One inevitably twists the facts to suit the theory rather than the theory to suit the facts." Sherlock theorizes that he and John are dating, and starts ambushing John with handjobs. John is really, really confused. Whoops?

Fair warning, my summary makes this story seem a lot more fluffy and lighthearted than it really is. The reality is, Sherlock is a very messed up individual with absolutely no idea how human beings really interact. Since this story is from his POV, the end result is absolutely fascinating to read. I also love how the author portrays John through Sherlock's eyes -- his reactions all make sense, but you have to work your way backwards through Sherlock's filter before you really get what's going on.

There are a ton of asexual!Sherlock and sexual!John making it work stories out there, but this is one of the best (and not only because the story doesn't end on the ridiculous idea that John will okay with never having sex again). If you like stories that feature complicated relationship dynamics and/or negotiations, this is definitely the fic for you.

Behavior Modification
Title: Everingham by Katharine T
Fandom: Mansfield Park
Pairing: Henry Crawford/Fanny Price (side pairing of Edmund Bertram/Mary Crawford)
Categories: AU, romance, drama, angst, favorite
Length: 46,500 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
When Henry decides to skip the dinner party that, in canon, was the first step in the path that led to his elopement with Maria, it changes the entire course of his relationship with Fanny. An extremely clever what-if that takes a tiny decision on Henry's part and shows how it could have a far-reaching impact on the entire cast of Mansfield Park.

I have to be honest: for a long time, I really, really didn't like Henry Crawford, which meant this fic was a very tough sell. However, I'm one of those rare folks who doesn't care for canon pairings in Austen fanfic and this fic came highly recommended, so I decided to give it a shot.

Man am I glad I did. Everingham completely sold me on the pairing of Henry/Fanny (to the point that I don't really ship Edmund and Fanny anymore) and has become one of my absolute favorite and most reread fanfics of all time. Both Fanny and Henry grow enormously as people in this fic (far more so than they did in canon, in fact), resulting in a very slow-burn romance that somehow manages to take the antagonistic relationship Henry and Fanny shared in canon and realistically turn it into affection and romance. There are no shortcuts, either, and definitely no "hate turns into lust" moments. Every step of the romance is hard-earned and plausible, resulting in a very powerful story.

Of course, none of the above would be possible without superlative writing. Katharine does a brilliant job in that regard with the same light but formal language that Austen herself used and the same fluid POV (though, despite the summary, the story is most often told in Fanny's POV). Her dialogue is especially impressive; she has the same knack Austen did for taking formal language and occasional monologues and somehow making it sound like something people would naturally say. Mix in spot-on characterizations for absolutely everyone and a surprising (and, it must be said, brilliant) bit of character byplay in the final chapters of the fic and you have one of the best Jane Austen fanfics of all time. Very highly recommended.

Everingham (pt. 1) (pt. 2) (pt. 3)
Title: Horseshoe Nails series by Dyce
Fandom: Firefly
Pairing: River/Jayne
Categories: AU, angst, romance, action, hurt/comfort, humor, virgin, favorite
Length: 200,000 words
Warnings: amputation

Review:
Thanks to a couple of mishaps, everyone is gone from Serenity for two days except for River and Jayne. Shocking everyone (including themselves), they bond. The resulting friendship subtly but significantly alters everything that follows, most especially everything to do with Miranda.

At one point in this series, Inara explains why she likes the idea of River and Jayne being friends: "There's something about a man who really believes that what an attractive, vulnerable young girl really needs is to learn to shoot everyone who tries to hurt her in the head." This statement neatly sums up why this series is far and away my favorite Firefly story and why I come back to read it over and over again. I love the fact that, while Jayne will protect River if she needs it, both of them agree that the best thing for River is for her to be strong enough and prepared enough to protect herself. It's beautifully in character for both of them, and while the path to self-sufficiency for River is a long and at times bloody one, it's also immensely satisfying.

Making things even better is Dyce's characterization, which is nothing short of brilliant. Every canon character, from Firefly crew down to the Operative are pitch-perfect, both in their actions, their thoughts, and (most impressively) their dialogue. Her River is especially good; she juggles River's coherence and craziness with a deft hand and never falls into the trap of making her speak actual nonsense. Mix in phenomenal writing, slow-building romance, fast-paced action scenes, and a perfect balance of humor and drama and you have one of the most engrossing, satisfying series I've ever read.

Two Gorram Days
Kinship
Bank Job
Miranda

NOTE: there appears to be a fifth story in the series, but as it's not finished and (as it hasn't been updated in three years) likely never will be, I haven't read it and won't be listing it here. You can find it easily enough on Dyce's FF.net profile page (accessible from the top of the page on all of the stories linked above)
Title: My Fine Feathered Friend by Lixxle
Fandom: Labyrinth
Pairing: Jareth/Sarah
Categories: crack, humor, romance
Length: ~80,000 words
Warnings: lots of author's notes and review responses

Review:
When goblins steal Sarah's feather duster (and a pair of pink stilettos), the Goblin King sends her a letter of apology (with a replacement duster and some leather boots). Thus begins a series of letters and gift giving that might just lead to something more.

I should start by saying that I don't often use the 'crack' tag. So many concepts that were labeled crack when I first got into fanfic (mpreg, genderswap, bodyswap, deaging) are now treated as Serious Business that I have become jaded as to what constitutes crack. That said, I think (hope?) that rabid assassin chickens and kleptomaniac cross-dressing goblins are always going to be cracky.

Set ten years after the movie and featuring a hysterical collection of OC goblins, My Fine Feathered Friend is one of the funniest, wildest, weirdest fics I've ever read. The best part of the fic is Lixxle's collection of wacky (but surprisingly endearing) goblin OCs and their adventures; Jareth and Sarah are at their most entertaining when they're responding to yet another crazy goblin-initiated disaster and the heart of the story lies less in Jareth's attempts to make Sarah his queen and more in the way the goblins antics make Sarah want to be their queen.

I do have to admit that the story drags a bit when it focuses on romance instead of humor and the fact that the inner voices of Sarah and Jareth are characters all of their own makes the two leads come across as schizophrenic. Still, Lixxle does an excellent job of making Jareth both mostly in character and still likable, while the grown-up Sarah is all around awesome. Mix in a boatload of innuendo, some wished-away pro-wrestlers, and a positively vicious chicken named Rosalinda, and you have just enough craziness to guarantee a laugh or eight.

My Fine Feathered Friend
Introducing the '*favorites' tag. Stories with this tag not be the best written or most lauded fics that I recommend (though many of them are both), but they the fics that I come back to again and again, either as comfort reads or if I've hit too many crappy fics in a row and just need something that I know I'll enjoy. Most of these fics have already been recced at Epic Recs, but I'll be posting them here as well, because no recs collection of mine can be complete without my favorite stories. Each one will be getting a whole new review; if you'd like to see what I originally said about them check out the memories section of Epic Recs on LJ.

Title: Cambiare Podentes by Jordan Grant
Fandom: Harry Potter
Pairing: Harry/Snape
Categories: angst, bonding, romance, action, au, hurt/comfort, virgin, marriage of convenience (sort of), slavery (technically), BDSM (technically), favorite
Length: 600,000 words
Warnings: graphic rape, dubcon (the author adds about a zillion others, but these are the only ones that are actually present enough in the story for me to warn about)

Review:
Another prophecy comes out, this time stating that Voldemort's going to kill Harry on his first post-Hogwarts birthday. The only way to prevent his death is an arcane ritual known as Cambiare Podentes, which will exponentially increase Harry's power. The downside? It would mean becoming Severus Snape's (sex) slave.

I'll be honest, this particular post is about 25% of the reason why I started this community. Cambiare Podentes was originally recommended by meishali over in Epic Recs a few years ago and while I'd resisted the Harry Potter fandom up to that point, her recommendation was good enough for me to give these fics a try.  I was simply blown away. The intricacy of the plot, the depth of the character development and interactions, the sheer *size* of the story (at the time, this fic was about six times longer than my previous long-story record) -- all of them were so much more than I'd ever thought I'd find in the Harry Potter fandom. The novel was an instant favorite for me and I have since reread it more than any other fic. Unfortunately, because it had already been recced at Epic Recs I never had the opportunity to post my own review of the story, which is something I've always regretted. Now's my chance.

First, the premise, which I was hesitant about when I first started reading, but which completely won me over very quickly thanks to the author's deft handling of the matter. The idea of Harry becoming a slave to save the world isn't a unique one, but Jordan does a brilliant job of delving deep into how that slavery would actually play out, without ever skipping past potential emotional minefields or glossing over the unpleasant bits. In the end, I consider this fic to be less of a story of slavery and more of a story about how two people do everything they can to *subvert* that slavery; to me the most fascinating aspect of this fic is how much time and effort Severus (and, to a lesser extent Harry) puts into meeting the technical definition of slavery while at the same time working so very hard to ensure that Harry never actually feels like a slave.

Which brings me to the characterization of Snape, one the most vital parts of the fic. Turning Snape into a decent human being while still keeping him in character is a challenge for any Snape-centric HP story and I think Jordan's Snape is one of the best. On the one hand, he's still acerbic, poor with people, and often cruel. At the same time, he's not a monster and, in the name of enlightened self-interest, can sometimes even be kind. It's a thin line to walk, but is handled so subtly and deftly in this fic that it looks easy.

It helps that Harry's characterization is equally well done. He's still brash and impulsive and at times immature, but at the same time he's someone who has lived a life under siege and who has many times had to behave older than his years. The end result is a consistently inconsistent character who reads very much like a teenager stuck in a crappy position and while there are times that I want to smack him (especially during a section of the novel that cleverly draws a comparison between Harry and Snape's behavior in a specific circumstance), in the end he's deeply sympathetic and his personal growth is fascinating to watch.

It's the relationship between Harry and Severus that is what makes this book so compelling. The plot has enough unexpected twists and turns to keep you reading, but the awkward dance of Harry and Severus learning to cope with each other and with their unwanted bonding is what kept me glued to the page. If you like marriage of convenience type fics with slow building romance, plenty of moments of intense emotion, action and angst, and the occasional flash of melodrama, you should check this one out. If you're like me, you'll find Cambiare Podentes one of the most epic, involved, entertaining stories you've ever read.

Cambiare Podentes: Invocare
Cambiare Podentes: Madurare
So I totally lied when I said I was done for the day. Enjoy!

Title: Miss de Bourgh in Bath by SwordSwallower17
Fandom: Pride and Prejudice
Pairing: Anne de Bourgh/OMC
Categories: romance, drama
Length: 125,000 words
Warnings: n/a

Review:
After Lady Catherine's planned marriage between Darcy and her daughter falls apart, she takes Anne to Bath in search of a prospective husband. Out in the world for the first time, Anne finds that there's a lot out there to see and to love.

I never thought of seeking out fic about Anne de Bourgh; honestly, she wasn't the most interesting of Austen's secondary female characters and I don't think she actually said a word during the course of the book. That said, I love stories about minor Austen characters and wanted to take a break from the endless variations on the Elizabeth/Darcy theme so I gave this fic a try. And wow, am I glad I did.

Sheltered to the point of reclusiveness while at the same time raised with a highly elevated view of herself and her class, Anne is an intriguingly complex character and SwordSwallower does a brilliant job of delving deep into her psyche. Anne's growth from a snobby but uncertain wallflower parroting her mother's beliefs into a thinking, interesting woman capable of interacting with the world around her is a slow and fascinating process and just by itself is enough to warrant this rec.

Of course, Austen fic wouldn't be Austen fic without romance and this fic delivers in that regard as well. SwordSwallower does a tremendous job both with all of her OCs and while I really like Anne's love interest, I love his family even more. With miscommunication and high drama, but also with a firm foundation of friendship and family, it's a realistic and satisfying romance.

(As a side note, can I just state how happy I was to see a fic where Colonel Fitzwilliam is *not* the male love interest? As one of the very few Austen bachelors who doesn't turn out to be a villain, I think he's been married off to every single second-string Austen female.  Multiple times. He's a nice guy and all, but really, I think he deserves a break.)

With a writing style very reminiscent of Jane Austen's; a layered, complex leading lady; and an elaborately researched world fully populated with interesting OCs, Miss de Bourgh in Bath is a long, engaging, and very satisfying story.

Miss de Bourgh in Bath
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