Joyfully Jay Best of 2022 badgeHappy Holidays to one and all (and everyone in between)! It’s been cold and rainy here, and I’ve been in the mood for baking so — because I’m easily swayed by my own brilliant thoughts — this year I’ve decided to do a baker’s dozen of my favorite reads of 2022. The list is in no particular order, with number seven being just as worth reading as number two. Since you’re here for the books and not my babble, let’s get going!



#13 – Book Boyfriend by Kris Ripper is my one and only contemporary! It’s as much a comedy as a character study, with an almost textbook perfect performance of a voice-heavy character in first person POV. Preston (PK) is neither smart nor clever enough to predict the path his story takes; instead, he’s all heart and emotion, making mistakes again and again, but always learning from them. The author never cheats and never gives PK an unfair advantage in the story. Everything is earned, from the heartbreak to the happily ever after.

#12 – A Conspiracy of Ghosts by Tricia Owens. It’s a ghost story featuring two paranormal investigators with a history between them, a murder mystery, and a good balance of side characters, action, and romance. It walks a fine line between being predictable, while still keeping the focus of the story on the growing new relationship between Dane and Michael, and I’m really hoping for a sequel or twelve.

#11 – Maiden by J.L. Robertson is a fairytale retelling that’s equal parts gothic horror and lyrical love story. Sylvia is trapped in a castle, her heart being torn in a tug-of-war between the evil fairy king and Sasha, the headstrong and honest huntress. It is, however, a dark and sometimes heartbreaking book with trigger warnings for rape, gaslighting, and a toxic, abusive marriage. However, I did very much love this story (which has a planned sequel coming soon!)

siren queen cover#10 – Siren Queen by Nghi Vo can be read as magical realism or a memoir told with great, florid exaggeration by Luli Wei. It’s a story of the silver screen and faerie kings, of losing one’s name in exchange for great wealth, of being trapped by your own pride and arrogance, and winning your freedom through the power of luck, courage, and love. The writing is so, so good and all I wanted, when I finished this book, was more of it. More of the world, more of the characters, more of Luli’s story. (And just look at that cover!)

#9 – Devil by Joel Abernathy. Where to start with this one? It’s a dark mafia romance with pet play, a sadist who cheerfully gaslights his victim — er, with the young man he’s ostensibly protecting — and all the possessive, domineering posturing you expect. This is a dark romance in shades of black, dark grey, and blood red. It’s everything I wanted in a mafia romance book, and while it’s not for everyone, it was exactly what I wanted it to be.

#8 – War Games by Daniel May is the second book in the Hanged Man series. It’s another mafia romance, but where Devil is dark and bloody, War Games is honor, declarations of love and devotion, and good guys with guns. (And man eating horses, the true stars of the book.) Joseph thought he’d lost everything, but given the smallest thread of hope, he’s come crawling his way back home to Nerva, his husband, his heart, his everything. There is second chance love, reconciliation, vengeance, and a fallen king reclaiming his throne. The character work here is perfect and a third book in the series should be coming out soon.

reforged cover#7 – Reforged by Seth Haddon is a more complex love story than most on this list. The relationship between King Zavrius and Balen, the High Paladin and king’s protector, is a bit lopsided, which makes it feel less like a romance and more like an ongoing and developing relationship — which I really enjoyed. Balen turned his back on Zavrius when he was a prince, only to come back to his side now that he’s king. Zavrius has always loved Balen, but he will never forget that for Balen, their love was secondary to Balen’s rank and position. It’s about trust and forgiveness, about making the choice to love someone … and even the choice to let someone go. And the writing is so, so, so good. I would read a telephone book by this author.

#6 – Third Front by E.M. Hamill is the end of the Dalí Tamereia Mission series, and the whole series is worth reading. This book shows Dalí at their best, balancing the fate of the world against a single being’s right to exist; balancing who they are with who other people want them to be. Dalí has always, always been who their partner wanted to be, and what gender their partner wanted them to be. Rion, though, just wants Dalí. Dalí, and no one else. Dalí and nothing else. The honesty of their relationship, the journey they’ve gone on to earn the right to be together … it’s just so good.

#5 – Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk is a noir detective story with angels and demons, witches and warlocks, and so much atmosphere. The world building is a delight, the story is entertaining, and there is unquestioning love between Helen and Edith. Edith never asks Helen to be anything other than she is, knowing that changing Helen would be changing the woman she loves. And Helen trusts Edith with all her heart, knowing that no matter how dark it gets or how heavy the weight of the world, Edith will be right there with her to shoulder the burden.

A Rake of His Own cover#4 – A Rake of His Own by A.J. Lancaster is a standalone in the Stariel series, and it’s just so much fun. Enemies to lovers is one of my favorite tropes; add in witty banter, fake dating, whimsical world building, good writing, excellent pacing … it’s as if this was written for me. Marius is snarky, Rakken is snarky, together they are the snarkiest things in the room. The chemistry between them was amazing and I loved them. The murder mystery in the background was also nice, but really, I just wanted Rakken and Marius to kiss. (Which they did. A lot.)

#3 – Perfectly Imperfect Pixie by M.J. May. Found families. Children who hit the right notes of being both cute and charming. Faithful friends, vampires who actually feel like they have bite, gnomes — again, I love the gnomes. I want my own gnomes — and Phil, who is just the best example of a sunshine character I’ve read all year. He’s giving, loving, and yet knows how to stand up for himself. The romance is a slow burn and it’s sweet and genuine and … just go read this book. For me, if not for yourself.

#2 – Hourglass Throne by K.D. Edwards is the final book in the first trilogy of the Tarot Sequence series. It’s not necessarily an easy series with easy to define characters and couples. The world building is great, the writing is amazing, yes, yes, all that, but really, it’s Rune. This book, this whole series is about Rune, about the journey he’s gone through, his growth, his acceptance of himself, and the fact that he deserves love. If there was one series on this list — one book I wish I could read for the first time all over again, it would be this one.

Scum Villain's self-saving system vol 1 cover#1 – Scum Villain’s Self Saving System by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu is a story about a young man who hate read a book for years … only to find himself trapped inside of it in the role of a random villain meant to be killed by the hero, the hero who is Shen Qingqiu’s favorite character. With cleverness, some cheating — after all, he knows the book practically by heart — Shen Qingqui has to survive with his arms and legs intact, and end up changing the story for the better. He lives, he dies, he laughs, he loves … and, as with every damsel, he gets the hero in the end. Scum Villain (SVSSS) was my first danmei, and having the English translation in my hands, on my bookshelf, is just a really nice feeling. I’m a little biased with this series, but it really is just that good and deserves to be on this list.


I hope that you give some of these books a try. I promise you, they’re each of them worth the effort. And with Christmas around the corner … do a bit of shopping for yourself.

And, on a personal note, I have one more thing to be thankful for. The Husky and his White Cat Shizun by Meatbun Doesn’t Eat Meat (called Erha in the danmei fandom) now has an official English translation! Erha is my favorite danmei, and is easily in my top 10 of all time favorite books. It’s a redemption story of a man who knows himself to be a monster who is given a chance to relive his life and atone for the horrible, vile things he’s done … and it’s just so good. I will never not sing Erha’s praises.

Thank you to all of the authors for sharing your worlds with us. Thank you to Jay’s blog for letting me read these books, and thank you to Seven Seas Publishing for helping bring danmei (especially Erha) to the rest of the world. Merry Holidays to everyone!

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