If all romance books were like these, I might consider myself to be a fan of romance novels in general.
The 'Samaria' series is primarily romance - but it's balanced with enough other plot elements that it doesn't get too tedious. They're even frequently... romantic!... in a way that doesn't (usually) make me want to strangle the characters! (They're never explicit/erotic, though.)
I did read all five books back-to-back, which meant that some of the elements did get a little repetitive. Obviously, to a certain degree, Shinn found a formula and stuck with it. It wouldn't have bothered me at all if I hadn't been doing a Samaria marathon, though.
They are undeniably wish-fulfillment-based books. These are designed for women who think that having a drop-dead-gorgeous, preternaturally strong, winged lover who can pick you up and fly you through the sky is a super-sexy idea.
In tone and feel, I thought these were actually very similar to Anne McCaffrey's Pern series. They've got the nominally sci-fi setting, the fantasy 'feel,' and the character-based plot elements, with a similar mix of action, politics and personal drama.
All of the books are fully stand-alone stories.
The angel Gabriel is set to become the next Archangel, as decreed by the voice of Jovah. However, before he ascends to his position of leadership, he must find the wife determined for him by his god - a woman named Rachel. Without an Angelica (the female counterpart to the Archangel), the complex acappella musical concert known as the Gloria cannot occur, and Jovah will rain destruction upon the land.
Being named Angelica is an honor that all girls dream of - so what could possibly go wrong? Plenty, if your destined bride belongs to a persecuted ethnic group, and has been sold into slavery - and bears no love toward angels.
Set around 100 years after the first book. In a dramatic beginning, the well-respected Archangel Delilah is crippled in a storm, her consort killed, and Jovah names a most unlikely successor to replace her: a shy, studious angel named Alleluia (or, informally, Alleya). Like in the previous book, Alleya must find her predestined mate - but Jehovah does not know his name, identifying him only as "son of Jeremiah." Things are further complicated by Alleya's growing feelings for the inventor Caleb (who makes a bunch of steampunk-y stuff). But Caleb cannot be her destined mate... can he?
Meanwhile, Delila must deal with her feelings of resentment, and learn to live without flying. But of course, she'll find someone too - a man of the Edori (an ethnic group that resemble Jewish gypsies.)
Meanwhile - a big issue is going on. When the angels sing the songs that control the weather, often nothing happens. Climate change is leading to disaster.
I didn't like this one quite as much as the first in the series, mainly because I wasn't thrilled by the theme of industrialization going on in Samaria. Also, all the technological/sci-fi elements that were alluded to in the first book are made very clear in this story, and some of the mystery is lost. It won me over, after a while, though.
The Alleluia Files
A few hundred years have passed... The Archangel at this time, Bael, is cruel and harsh. He rules with a strong hand, and is secretly committing genocide against the Jacobites, claiming their heresies threaten the land. But - does he secretly know that their heretical stances regarding the god Jovah are true?
Far more than the other books, this one has a clear villain (Bael). However, the clear hero, the upstanding and just Jared, will make things right, if he can ever stop being too lazy to bother. He'll be helped out by the angel Lucinda, who has grown up on an isolated island, far from the politics of the angel's Aerie, and the strong-willed Tamar, a member of the heretic Jacobites.
The Archangel Gaaron has his life mate picked out for him by Jovah. Never before has an Edori woman been picked to be Angelica - but although Susannah has the implant that allows Jovah to track the people of Samaria, unlike the Edori, she has been raised by the Edori and identifies with them. She's also only just broken up with her long term lover. (He was a big jerk though, so the reader is sure she will get over him.) She's not at all sure she wants to be Angelica. (Sound familiar? Yeah.) This one is set far before all the other books. Like in the other books, there's also a social problem to address while the romance is given time to develop: mysterious, disappearing invaders are attacking and burning the caravans of both Edori and Jansai, as well as isolated villages.
The day will be saved, and love will triumph.
After finishing the previous book in the series, I was thinking: "Hey, are we ever going to get to see the point of view of one of the oppressed Jansai women? Pretty much all the other ethnic groups in Samaria have been covcered by POV characters." And, ta-da, here we are. Rebekah's charcter is very well done, actually. She's a rebellious girl in a repressive culture, but even after she falls in love with an angel, her ties to family and tradition hold her in a frighteningly realistic way. She also horribly underestimates her fate, if she's caught...
Meanwhile, the title character, Elizabeth, becomes an angel-seeker - a woman who desires more than anything, to bear an angel child, and will do pretty much anything to further that goal. Again, the motivations here were really well portrayed.
Both women grow as individuals over the course of the book - and, of course, find love.