This is always an exciting time of year as a blogger as we get a chance to look back on our year of reading. This year I had a chance to explore new authors and genres, as well as to pick back up with favorite authors and series. I reviewed over 200 books this year, which makes choosing favorites quite difficult. I find when I look back, it isn’t always books rated the highest that end up on my Favorites list, but the books that have really stuck with me over the year and made a big impact.
This year I tried to limit myself to a top ten, but of course, I have some honorable mentions thrown in as well. I have been lucky to have had a fabulous reading year, so a huge thanks to all the authors out there who wrote so many wonderful books. So with that, my Best of 2018 in no particular order (and yes, Lily Morton and N.R. Walker each made it on here twice):
Oz by Lily Morton – I was lucky enough to discover Lily Morton last year during our Reading Challenge Month when I picked up Rule Breaker for one of the challenges and totally fell in love. This latest book by Morton is everything that I adore about her writing, namely rich, well developed characters and a story infused with lots of snarky banter and humor, plus a huge dose of heart. I just adored Oz and Silas, laughed out loud throughout the story, but also had all the feels as these two very different men realize they are just perfect — and perfect for each other.
Evolved by N.R. Walker – I was lucky enough to get to experience this story twice last year, once in book form and a second time in audio, with fabulous narration by Joel Leslie. I am not usually a big futuristic romance reader, but something about this book just grabbed me and I totally fell in love with Shaun and Lloyd. There is a vulnerability to both of these men and I loved seeing how their connection to one another gives them both strength and support and a feeling of being totally loved. Plus, there is some nice suspense and intense emotions at the end (so much so I totally teared up at the end, even the second time around). Joel Leslie really takes this story to the next level in his narration. As much as I think Leslie is a master of accents and creating unique voices, this story may be my favorite Walker/Leslie collaboration as he just bring such life to this already fabulous story.
Band Sinister by K.J. Charles – This is an old school style historical that I totally loved. The first portion of the book really establishes the connection between the members of the “Murder,” a found family formed of Phillip, his best friends, and other assorted artists and intellectuals. They are of a variety of races and classes and I loved seeing how they all interact and following along with their discussions. Then we get the relationship between Phillip and Guy overlaid with that and I just adored these men together. Guy is just beginning to find himself and Philip helps him learn more about his desires, both sexual and otherwise. This one is fun, romantic, sexy, and so clever.
Whisper by Tal Bauer – You know you are enjoying a book when you can read 900 pages in 48 hours and that is what happened to me as I sank down the rabbit hole of this amazing story. It reads almost like a non-fiction account of post-911 as Kris and David are on the advance team in the hunt for Bin Laden. Bauer gives us so much incredible detail, much pulled from real life accounts of events, that I felt like I was right there on the front line. I loved the relationship between the men and all the incredible twists and turns things take for them. But through it all, you can feel their connection and it just elevates the story to another level. Of all this books that I read this year, this is one of the stories that stuck with me the most.
A Destiny of Dragons/The Consumption of Magic by T.J. Klune – The Tales from Verania series is one of my all time favorites and this year I got to listen to books 2 and 3 in audio (and am currently finishing up listening to the fourth). This series is not only side-splitting funny, but also intense, poignant, and romantic. The journey these characters go on is epic and Klune manages to make their adventures both fun and harrowing. What impresses me most is that as light and funny as these books are (and trust me, I laugh out loud on the regular while listening), they also have incredible depth and emotion. I have listened to the series in audio and narrator Michael Lesley is full of amazingness. His array of voices makes listening to this book like watching a one-man play. It is incredible how he brings these characters to life and I consider this series a crowning achievement in audio.
Death and the Devil series by L.J. Hayward – This series is a fabulous romantic suspense, combining an intense thriller with what turns out to be a quietly swoon worthy romance between a spy and an assassin. Hayward gives incredible twists and turns and the way all the pieces come together makes these books just so exciting. But what makes this series really stand out is the masterful way Hayward crafts the stories, seamlessly flowing back and forth between two timelines that integrate perfectly. The fact that it all flows so smoothly is amazing, but the way the two timelines enhance the suspense makes it all the more impressive. Fans of romantic suspense need to be reading this series.
A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian – Sebastian writes such wonderful historicals and A Gentleman Never Keeps Score is no exception. This second book in the Seducing the Sedgewicks series introduces us to Hartley, a man who once stood at the top of society and has now experienced a fall from grace. He teams up with Sam, a free black man, to help retrieve a missing painting, and the two fall hard for one another in the process. I loved that these two very different men from different backgrounds somehow worked so well together. And I especially loved Hartley’s journey as he recognizes his own worth and really grows over the course of the book. There is such a lovely tenderness between these two kind men, I fell hard for both of them.
Deal Maker by Lily Morton – This is a book I read at the very end of last year so it just missed by Best of 2017 list and I couldn’t help but bring it back this year. I think this is my favorite of Lily Morton’s books as the combination of humor, romance, and heart is just off the charts. I laughed so hard at this story, particularly at Jude’s antics as he tries to drive Asa nuts. I still giggle thinking back at some of the scenes. And seriously, Asa is the dreamiest dream you ever dreamed. You will go crazy for him. If you are looking for humor, romance, and great characters, you can’t go wrong with Deal Maker.
Nova Praetorian by N.R. Walker – I’ll admit that on paper, this one doesn’t seem much like me. I am not a big reader of Roman era historicals and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this one. But I totally fell for this book. I loved the way Walker gave us a sense of the history and politics of the time, mixed with a plot that had some nice suspense. But really what sold this for me was Kaeso and Quintus. Whenever you are dealing with a master/slave dynamic, it takes a deft hand to make the romance believable and make the characters feel like equal partners, and Walker does a great job with that here. If you are a historical fan, definitely check this one out.
Salt Magic, Skin Magic by Lee Welch – I am always excited to find a new-to-me author and I was so impressed by this novel by Lee Welch. I loved the mix of historical and paranormal and the world building here is fabulous. The story combines mystery and magic and romance and I was totally swept away in trying to discover the truth about what was keeping Thornby magically tied to this father’s property. Things start off with a bit of an enemies to lovers vibe, but soon these men band together and I was totally caught up in the excitement. This is a fabulous story and I really look forward to more from this author.
Honorable Mentions – Ok, it wouldn’t be me if I could successfully narrow down 200+ books into only ten favorites, so I am throwing in some other books that I really loved and I couldn’t leave out:
- How to Bang a Billionaire (audio by Joel Leslie) and How to Blow it with a Billionaire by Alexis Hall
- Badlands by Morgan Brice
- Balefire by Jordan L. Hawk
- Big Bad Wolf series by Charlie Adhara
- Strait Laced by Kate Aaron
- High Lonesome by Tanya Chris
- Shaker of Earth by Jordan L. Hawk
- The Bones Beneath My Skin by T.J. Klune
- In the Wreckage by Hailey Turner (audio by Greg Boudreaux)