Well, it’s December already, and this year has gone by so quickly. It’s hard to believe I have been reviewing for Joyfully Jay for eleven months, now. I’ve enjoyed it so much, and I’ve gotten to read a TON of amazing books. This is why I had such a difficult time coming up with a list of my favorite books for 2016. I had originally come up with the idea of doing a top five because I only gave five stars to five books (see a pattern there?), but I wound up going with a top seven because I read two awesome series and discovered a new favorite author and was fortunate enough to get to read two books he’d written. SO, I decided to combine those entries because I didn’t want to separate them.
Ok. Without further ado, here is my list of favorites of 2016.
1) The Prince’s Psalm by Eric Shaw Quinn – I put this one at number one because it is, by far, the best book I’ve read all year. I began my review with this Bible verse:
1 Samuel 18:1 & 3: “And it came to pass… that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.”
What if the relationship between King David and Prince Jonathan was more than a deep and abiding friendship? Eric Shaw Quinn has written a detailed and absolutely gorgeous book about just that. It’s the kind of sweeping, epic story that comes once in a lifetime. I refuse to call it fiction, although there are those out there who were angered by this depiction. I found The Prince’s Psalm to be fascinating, and even though I knew how it would end, I was captivated. I experienced so many emotions as I read, and by the time it was over, I’d cried buckets of tears. I shouted. I sobbed. I wailed, and I was emotionally exhausted.
I can’t praise this one enough, and I think it will appeal to a very wide audience as it’s not just a gay romance. It’s a perfect novel.
2) Everyday History by Alice Archer – Another emotional powerhouse of a book. I chose it because the blurb made it seem like it would be a relatively simple teacher/student romance, and I love that particular trope. WOW! I got so much more than that. In my review, I called it an odyssey, and that’s the only word I could have chosen for it. Henry and Reuben practically walk through fire to be together. I hung on every word Alice Archer wrote. There was a lot of tension, and I felt like a taut wire that would break at any moment. My husband can attest to that. After the tenth time I screeched and walked away from my Kindle, he just stayed away from me until I reached the end. It’s rare that I feel so strongly about two characters. I loved both men with all my heart, and it tore me apart that it took so long for them to finally be together. This was not an easy journey to a Happily Ever After. There was a lot of crying and anxiety, but God it was so worth it in the end. Henry and Reuben’s will stay with me for a long time to come.
3) My Busboy/Two Pet Dicks by John Inman – I had never read anything written by John Inman, so these books were real treats for me. Both of these stories were right up my alley. My Busboy was a sexy mystery about an author who has hit an impasse both in his personal life and his career. He just wasn’t feeling it anymore until one night at his favorite Mexican restaurant. He orders the chimichanga platter and links eyes with a handsome young busboy. This book has a bit of everything. It’s a whodunit that kept me guessing to the end. It’s a hot romance between two men who need each other desperately. It’s also a tender love story…perfection all around. I’m going to give anything else away. You are just going to have to read it to see how fantastic it is.
Two Pet Dicks is also a mystery, but it’s the total opposite of My Busboy. It’s freaking hilarious, and I mean that. I haven’t laughed that much while reading in a long time. There were several times when I woke my husband because the bed was shaking with my giggling. Two men are running a pet detective agency…think lost dogs, wayward gerbils, and an escaped (and mangy, foul mouthed) parrot. Even though it’s a total farce, John Inman managed to write an excellent mystery. I was completely caught up in this book. The characters are pitch perfect, the situation was unlike any I’ve ever come across, and the San Diego setting is awesome because it’s one of my favorite places in the world. Oh, and I should mention it’s smokin’ hot! The MC’s have an amazing chemistry, and I loved them both so much. Please, oh please, read this one. You won’t be sorry.
4) Vespers by Irene Preston and Liv Rancourt – Southern gothic? Check! A vampire chock full of Catholic guilt? Check! A mistaken “personal assistant”? Check! A badass chick? Check! Scary demons? Check! Check! And double check! Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? It is a lot, and it’s hard for me to sum up the whole book in such a short medium. Let me just tell you, I loved this story. I’ve been a fan of vampires since I first read ‘Salem’s Lot in the sixth grade. Thaddeus is my kind of vamp. He’s got a tortured soul, but he’s incredibly sexy. He’s gay, and the church has told him that’s unforgivable sin, but they use the offer of redemption if only he keeps hunting demons for them. It’s the ultimate dangled carrot. His life is turned on its ear when he meets Sarasija (Sara) Mishra, his new personal assistant. There is a reason Sara has been chosen, but I’m not going to give it away. Combine Thaddeus and Sara with Nomeah, Thaddeus’s other assistant, and you get a fantastic, multifaceted (and sexy) supernatural powerhouse.
5) Eight Seconds by William Davrick – Oh. My. God. Right off the bat, I’m going to tell you this book is not pretty. It’s not a fluffy romantic romp. It’s agonizing. It’s heartbreaking. It’s disturbing. It’s really fucking amazing. There are so many triggers in Eight Seconds, I can’t name them all. Let me just say a lot of terrible things happen, and no one person deserves to have such horror put upon them. Dustin has had just that, and I wept for him from beginning to end. Also, Dustin isn’t easy to love, but after you read everything he’s gone through, you can understand that. When you throw in his counselor, her mentor (who happens to be an ex of Dustin’s), a wonderful old woman who tries to rescue Dustin, and a whole lot of background characters, you are thrust into the mind of a man who has experienced so many tragedies, it’s a wonder he’s even lived to tell his story. Please don’t let this description put you off Eight Seconds, though. It’s a book that changed me, and I can’t even really tell you how. I just know I haven’t been the same since I read it. I know it’s made me look at strangers differently. Now, instead of just taking them at face value, I find myself wondering what they’ve gone through in their lives to make them into the person they are now. Eight Seconds is a beautifully written, epic novel that will make you believe anyone can have a happy ending.
6) As You Wish/Illuminate the Shadows/Return to Zero by Isobel Starling – These are the stories of Declan and Sam. They are two infinitely lovable characters who meet cute (that means they couldn’t stand each other at first, but…) and captured my heart from the get go. It begins with As You Wish and a wedding. Sam is the bride’s brother, Declan is the groom’s. Once the story gets going, our boys discover a mutual love for the movie The Princess Bride, and their love story takes off like a rocket. Their chemistry is off the charts hot, and the sex scenes are panty melting, but what’s really special is the actual love they feel for one another. Throughout all three books, Declan and Sam are put through the ringer. They’re spies, you see. I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but I’ll tell you each book are individual stories with complete plots. I don’t recommend you read them as stand alones, but I do recommend you read them! Isobel Starling writes smooth, endearing characters who will touch your heart. The mysteries are great too. They’re engaging and intricate without being overwhelming. Trust me on this. You won’t be sorry.
7) Like No One is Watching/Like You’ve Never Been Hurt/ Like Heaven on Earth by Jaime Samms – Here we have three separate stories about three separate couples, but they weave together into one large, gorgeous canvas. Conrad and Dusty, Adam and Peridot, and Colbalt and Preston (actually Malory Preston, but everyone calls him Preston), are three vastly different couples, but they do have one thing in common. Their lives revolve around a dance studio. Conrad owns and runs it. Peridot and Cobalt are Conrad’s friends, and they’re dancers/instructors. Dusty, Adam, and Preston are the men who complete them.
Since there are three books in this series, I’m not going to go into detailed summaries of them. What I want to do, though, is tell you how Jaime Samms wrote such wonderful characters, and I’ll never forget them. They’re achingly real, and all of them have such diverse lives, but they still come together perfectly. Also, along with the six MCs, there are a lot of background characters, the friends and families of these remarkable men, and they all play important roles. There is not a single person who doesn’t belong. I was amazed that I never once skimmed a passage out of boredom. There’s a lot of material to digest, but every detail is written to perfection.
All of the books build upon each other, and by the end of Like Heaven on Earth, the entire Dance, Love, Live cast has united, and it was bittersweet because I didn’t want this series to end. My fondest desire is for Jaime Samms to continue these stories with new characters. You’ll fall in love with these six troubled, sweet, sexy men, and you’ll want the same thing.
So, there you go. I hope you’ll take a look at this list and find something you’ll love. Each of these books is awesome in their own right. I’ve tried to include something for everyone, and they’re all so entertaining and engaging. Happy reading!