When I went back to see which books I'd enjoyed most this year, I had to look at the archives of my site sorted by grade because (a) I have a terrible memory and (b) I have no concept of time. I might remember very clearly a book I read in 2010, but have no memory of a book I read last month. My brain can be a very foggy place—though it's also quite happy, since I read some terrific books this year.

My favorites of 2012 include three books that I do recall nearly perfectly, because I'm still thinking about them months after I read and reviewed them.

A Lady by Midnight by Tessa Dare

I schedule my books by month of release date so I don't read any advance copies too early. I like to talk about books as soon as I've finished them, and alas, if I do that long before the release date, it makes me feel like a jerkwaffle because people can't go buy and enjoy what I'm cheering about.

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I broke that rule for this book because I was so eager to read Kate and Thorne's story. This is the final book in a trilogy, and their story built quietly in the background of the first two, and it is one of my most favorite tropes. It is, honestly, Sarah Catnip: "I don't want to like you, I can't reveal that I like you, you drive me insane and I can't stop thinking about your hair DAMMIT." (le sigh).

The best thing about this book is that it not only satisfied the slow build of the relationship that appeared sparingly in the first two books but it also created their courtship in a very clever and intelligent way. Dare doesn't take any easy exits to the conflict her characters find themselves in. It is a wonderful plot for two intelligent characters.

The Marrying Kind by Ken O'Neill

This book is a bit of an oddity for me: It's not a romance. It's about the repair of a relationship. Steven is a newspaper cThe Marrying Kindolumnist for The Gay New York Times and Adam is one of the most admired wedding and event planners in New York. Adam is the guy who creates weddings and receptions that people talk about for months—and his client list is filled months, if not years, in advance.

When Adam gets sick of planning weddings for people when he's not allowed to marry Steven, he decides to go on strike, and takes every other gay wedding vendor with him in solidarity. No waiters, hairdressers, makeup artists, bartenders, musicians, bakers, florists—all on strike to protest the obstruction of gay marriage. This does not go over well, especially for Steven, who inadvertently caused the whole thing with a well-meant but (he thought) little-read column he wrote. The conflict created by their decision is touching and honest, because Adam and Steven both love their families, and to announce they won't attend or even plan weddings for them creates a lot of painful drama, particularly for their own relationship.

Steven narrates the story, and his voice is incredibly funny—and I realize telling you something is funny doesn't always translate to actual humor. Telling you about the humor doesn't really communicate how hard I laughed while reading this book.

The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

Courtney MThe Governess Affairilan has become one of those “clear the calendar” authors for me. I have to schedule time to read her books when I know I won't be interrupted and can enjoy the entire story start to finish without distractions. Her books and novellas are so absorbing and emotionally powerful, I know I will not want to stop reading. What if it's at a painful or wrenching scene and I have to carry that feeling around with me until I can get back to the book? Not an option.

The Governess Affair is a novella that sets up her Brothers Sinister trilogy, the first of which, The Duchess Wars, came out this past week. The setup is simple: Serena wants something from a duke who did something horrible to her, and Hugo's job is to protect the duke. When Serena becomes more important to him than his own future, which is tied intrinsically to his job, he is damned either way. If he helps her, he loses. If he doesn't, he loses. It's painful at times, but a wonderful reading experience. Plus, now that The Duchess War is on sale, you can move right into the full-length novel, the foundation of which is set up in The Governess Affair.

 

I hope the books you discovered this year have been wonderful, and I wish you many excellent hours of reading in 2013.

Sarah Wendell is the co-creator, editor and mastermind of the popular romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.