This has once again been a great reading year for me, and after completing 204 books, I had lots of memorable ones. It is always interesting for me to see what books stick with me throughout the year, which stories still make me emotional or excited just thinking about them. I find it isn’t always the mostly highly rated books, but ones that leave a connection behind even after they are done. Here are my top 10 favorites of the year, along with a handful of honorable mentions I just couldn’t leave out. If you haven’t tried any of these, I can highly recommend them all!
Rule Breaker by Lily Morton
I picked up this book knowing nothing about it, but wanting something to read for Self Published Book Week for our Reading Challenge Month this September. Little did I know I would get a story that total blew me away. The chemistry between Gabe and Dylan and the crackle of energy throughout the story are just amazing. I particularly loved the way Morton balances the humor with the more serious moments here. Because there are parts that are laugh out loud funny, but also really poignant moments while Gabe works to figure himself out. And I’ll share a secret… I just read the sequel, Deal Maker, and it is even better! Sadly it doesn’t release until Friday so it just misses this list, but you guys, OMG! I didn’t think it could beat Rule Breaker and I think Morton has outdone herself, so keep your eyes open for that review.
By the Currawong’s Call by Welton B. Marsland
If you were anywhere my social media this fall, you probably heard me talking about this one. They had me from the pitch (“cross between Thornbirds and Brokeback Mountain“) and I was totally blown away by this debut story. A historical set in a tiny town in the Australian bush, this book is so romantic and sexy, with just a epic sweeping feeling to it. I fell in love with Matthew and Jonah and they are such well developed and fascinating characters. Marsland’s writing is beautiful and evocative and I was completely captivated by this story. Just seeing the cover still makes me swoony.
Kidnapped by the Pirate by Keira Andrews
With its pirates, virgins, kidnapping, and enemies to lovers elements, this story could have been a big old tropey mess. Instead Andrews creates something fabulous in this old school romance, really elevating it above its individual parts and giving us a book that is fun and entertaining, but also has some nice depth and character development. I feel in love with both Nathaniel and Hawk and loved the way Andrews develops their romance. Each of these men ends up being more than you expect and I was caught up in their adventure as they fall in love and try to figure out a way to make things work together.
Hemovore by Jordan Castillo Price (audio by Joel Leslie)
I love a good vampire story and Jordan Castillo Price created something amazing here with Hemovore. The world building is so creative and unique, with vampirism the result of a contagious virus. It sets up such a fascinating premise that sets the stage perfectly for this boss/employee romance with a suspense twist. I was totally captivated right from the start and loved all the twists and turns as Mark and Jonathan struggle to escape the bad guy intent on seeing them destroyed. It is exciting and romantic and clever and with just the right bit of humor overlaid. I listened to this in audio and Joel Leslie does an amazing job narrating this story. He brings Mark to life in such a way that just elevates the entire book. While I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this in novel form, I really think the audio version takes the story to another level.
I am an enormous fan of K.J. Charles so I jumped at the chance to read this series and absolutely loved all three books. Charles creates three wonderful romances between these really interesting men, while at the same time carrying an overarching mystery across the trilogy. I found each of these couples engaging and fascinating and Charles builds such wonderful historicals, really bringing the reader into the time period with great details. And at the same time, I was engrossed in following the larger story, uncovering the mystery that builds from the first book and seeing how it all resolves at the end. I loved reading about this group of friends and watching them lean on one another and fall in love. All three of these books were among my favorites of the year, and I can highly recommend this trilogy.
Heart of the Steal by Avon Gale and Roan Parrish
I was drawn to this story right away by the thief/FBI storyline, but what really sold this book for me was the fabulous character development. I fell in love with Will and Vaughn and loved seeing the way these two very different men navigate their relationship. The dual POV really lets us inside both of their heads and the little details that make up their personalities are able to shine through. The chemistry between the two is palpable from the very beginning and I found myself completely engrossed in this story. Total love.
Hush by Tal Bauer
In Hush, Tal Bauer manages to combine a wonderful and rich coming out story with a fabulous suspense. The first portion of the book focuses on Tom, a federal judge, and Mike, the Marshal assigned to protect him. We get a really engaging development to their relationship as Tom reflects on his closeted past and the way the world has changed since he was a young man, finally now able to take those steps to be public with his sexuality. Then the suspense that has been slowly building just takes off and the story becomes an intense thrill ride that kept me completely caught up in the excitement. Bauer is fabulous at romantic suspense and the combination of that with the romance and the court case make for a wonderful treat.
Heels Over Head by Elyse Springer
This story about competitive divers has so many of my favorite elements: enemies to lovers, opposites attract, virgin hero, elite athlete, and young love. Springer does a wonderful job with the details of Jeremy and Brandon’s lives as divers, in particular the incredibly driven Jeremy. We can really feel what his life is like and the dedication it takes to succeed at that level. Then you add in the enemies to lovers connect between these very different men and watch them slowly fall for one another. The character development here is great and I loved the sense of family we see with their diving community. I couldn’t put this one down.
Lord Mouse by Mason Thomas (audio by Joel Leslie)
I am not usually a fantasy reader, but when I heard about the rave reviews for Lord Mouse, I eagerly picked it up when it came out in audio. Mason Thomas creates a fabulous story here as the street smart Mouse is hired to rescue Lord Garron who is being held prisoner for unknown reasons. I loved the incredible world building here, as well as the little details about life in the castle that really bring the rescue operation to life. The characters are well developed and the enemies to lovers vibe adds a nice touch. I listened to this in audio and Joel Leslie really gives us an incredible narration. His skill with accents particularly shines through here in this story and enhances an already wonderful book.
Wolfsong by T.J. Klune (audio by Kirt Graves)
One of the things that most impresses me about T.J. Klune’s writing is the way he is able to move so masterfully between hysterically funny stories and ones that are intense and emotional. Wolfsong is one of the latter, a story that kept me captivated from start to finish with this paranormal tale of a young man named Ox and the shifter family that brings him into their lives. The world building here is wonderful and the story is both heartwarming and heart wrenching at once. The romance between Ox and Joe is slow to grow, but you can feel it intensely from the very start. This is a story that makes me emotional just thinking about it and I know many readers feel the same. I listened to this one in audio and Kirt Graves does an amazing job narrating this book and bringing it to life. There is a quiet intensity to this story and Graves captures that feeling just perfectly in his performance.
Switched by N.R. Walker
So N.R. Walker pretty much had me at “switched at birth,” but what makes this story really work so well is that it moves beyond the sensational to something really deep and well developed. I love the way the story combines both the dramatic events that are taking place in Israel’s life as he learns the truth about his parentage, along with the realization of his feelings toward his best friend Sam. As Israel deals with all this emotional upheaval, his connection with his best friend turned lover is what really holds him together. There is a slow burn, friends to lovers element here that has a really rewarding payoff. I totally loved this one!
Ok, so picking a handful of books out of so many is incredibly hard, so I know you won’t fault me for throwing a few more in that really grabbed me in different ways this year. Definitely check these out if you haven’t read them:
- Slow Heat by Leta Blake
- Liar, Liar by T.A. Moore
- How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall
- It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian
- Hexslayer by Jordan L. Hawk
- Necromancer’s Dance by S.J. Himes (audio by Joel Leslie)
- Shift by Shelley Grayson
- Bonfires by Amy Lane
- Off Base by Annabeth Albert
So those are my favorite for the year! I hope you all have a chance to enjoy them as well!