As we head into the last few days of the year, I wanted to talk about some great books from this year.
I have a hard time saying “best books” because to be honest, I don’t get to read or listen to all the books I want. I don’t get to choose most of the books I actually read, and I don’t have access to the audio for all the books I’d like to listen to, that I don’t get to read.
Before I say anything else, let me first tell you that if you ever wanted to search Kirkus romances reviews, you can do that here: www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/romance/
You can also check out all the starred reviews, here:
The starred reviews for 2017 included some of my picks, but I didn’t review all the ones in my list—I just want to be clear on that. Also, that list doesn’t include things like Kristan Higgins’ On Second Thought, I guess because it wasn’t published as a romance, but as women’s fiction (my guess anyway).
Below are some books I loved this year, which I think you should check out, in no particular order. These aren’t synopses, but my views on the books, but if they were reviewed by Kirkus, I’ve linked them and you can find out more about the books there
Sonali Dev’s A Distant Heart- Every book Dev has written is eloquent, such and breathtakingly romantic, and she’s become a must-read for me. I couldn’t pick a favorite if I tried, but this one is perhaps the most layered and intricate. Lovely and smart, with fascinating characters that linger in your thoughts long after you’ve finished the book
Kristan Higgins’ Now That You Mention It - KH is another of my not-to-be-missed authors, and this is my favorite (so far) of her more women’s fiction than romance titles—though I love everything she writes. She a master of the art of combining humor and pathos, and she truly shines in this title
Beverly Jenkins’ Breathless - There are many great things about a Beverly Jenkins title. You’ll always get a great romance, but since she steeps her books in real nuggets of history, that highlight true stories of success and empowerment, her true glory is as a storyteller who manages to shine the light on forgotten history that reshapes our understanding of the past in positive, empowering ways, especially for women of color. (This is the second installment of Jenkins’ Old West series. The third, Tempest, releases at the end of Jan.)
Alisha Rai’s Hate To Want You - Most of Rai’s recent work has been on the more erotic side of the romance genre, so I was thrilled when I heard she’d signed with Avon for a contemporary series. This book was phenomenal, with a multi-ethnic cast, a feuding families back story and a second chance at love trope, all of which satisfied at every turn. (The second title, Wrong To Need You, came out the end of November.)
White Hot by Ilona Andrews - The husband and wife writing team known as Ilona Andrews know a thing or two about paranormal romance, and this book, the second in a trilogy featuring Nevada Baylor and Connor Rogan, heats romance and danger up to epic proportions, while making magical creatures indelibly human in a society that doesn’t really value those pesky emotions. A cracking, non-stop adventure as well as a lovely commentary on honor, family and love.
Last Christmas In Paris by Heather Webb and Hazel Gaynor - I simply loved this book that was almost entirely epistolary and gave us fascinating peeks and historical tidbits of World War I from the trenches and from the home front, while building a believably romantic storyline through the letters. A truly captivating read.
Nora Roberts’ Year One - I found Nora’s new direction mesmerizing and breathtaking and can’t wait to see where she takes the series.
Lisa Berne’s You May Kiss the Bride - I adored this stunning debut that was a delightful combination of heart-warming and heart-wrenching. (Berne’s second book, The Laird Takes A Bride, also came out this year, and it was also terrific, definitely making her an author to watch in the future.)
Breath of Fire by Amanda Bouchet The amazing Kingmaker Chronicles series comes to an end on Jan 2, when Book #3, Heart on Fire, releases. Which still gives you crazy speed readers time to catch up before it does. And I recommend it! (start with #1, A Promise of Fire) This was a non-traditional High Fantasy trilogy that was beautifully crafted in a world fashioned on Greek mythology—sort of. It’s a little complicated to explain but plays out stylishly and brilliantly on the page, and I am still amazed that it was the first effort by the author.
Something Like Happy by Eva Woods - The write-up says “A deeply moving, wildly uplifting tale of two strangers with nothing to lose and an unlikely friendship that will grab hold of your heart and never let go.” Agreed. I loved it.
Suzanne Brockmann’s Some Kind of Hero - Brockmann’s ability to tell huge stories that would sound outlandish in other hands is remarkable, and this short book by Brockmann standards still manages to go large, and twine around a number of subplots and perspectives while making us contemplate problematic issues without sounding preachy or screechy. I couldn’t put the thing down.
Elinor Oliphant Is Completely Fine - A funny, brilliant, achingly beautiful book. You should read this one. Really.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn - Historical fiction that follows two women as they track a french Nazi sympathizer from post World War II London. One was a British spy in WWI, the other the American cousin of a French spy in WWII. Compelling, fascinating history with a quiet romantic arc and a tribute to the power of connection and friendship.
Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt - Holy smokes, can this lady get any more intense, yet still manage to infuse her books with humor and light? Love her, love Maiden Lane, very sad it’s (mostly) over. What next for this terrific author?
This Is How It Always Is - Laurie Frankel A fascinating look at one fictional family’s dive into transgender issues when their son wants to wear a dress and carry a purse to Kindergarten, and the wild conversations and experiences they have from then on. Touching, funny, heart-breaking, eye-popping. A wonderful and thought-provoking read.
Kit Brisby’s Rogue Magic - I didn’t see this on any other lists or major mentions, which is a shame, because this is the kind of romance the genre should really stand up for, along with all the other great writers on this list. The book is wonderfully set up, with a world where magic beings are the scapegoats of a fearful society that has been rocked by decades of violence. But the villainy of the situation is so perfectly angled that society itself has no idea how horrifically they’ve been conned, and how evilly genius the next step is. A gay romance that is at once dystopian and redemptive, this is a book that everyone should read, especially people who wonder how we got to America 2017.
Some quick mentions of some authors & books I read this year and highly recommend:
Mariana Zapata - The Wall of Winnipeg and Me I inhaled this book.
Eloisa James - She had two books this year - Seven Minutes in Heaven and Wilde in Love - and they were both wonderful!
Lisa Kleypas - The Devil In Spring One of the most lush and elegant romance writers ever.
Stuck Up Suit - Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward I’ve heard so much about these authors, and this was a really fun read.
Carolina Dreaming - Virginia Kantra She’s amazing. If you haven’t read her yet, get on that.
Fast Connection - Santino Hassell & Megan Erickson Serious chemistry indeed!
Under Her Skin - Adriana Anders Moving and powerful.
A Most Extraordinary Pursuit - Juliana Grey - Love the author, love the series, when can I have more?
Cocoa Beach - Beatriz Williams - A modern gothic that is smart, surprising and totally entertaining
I gobbled up The Queen’s Thief trilogy by Megan Whalen Turner. Fantastic.
I LOVED The Devil’s Cut, the last title in JR Ward’s fabulous Bourbon Kings trilogy. Read them in order.
The Seven Husband of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Fascinating and fabulous.
So many #GreatBooks! What were your faves this year?
(By the way, in case you’re interested, we’re hosting a New Year’s Day author bash - a great way to kick off a new year of reading & romance! Check it out at the Romance of Reading FB page.)
Happy New Year! #HappyReading