Joyfully Jay Best of 2023 badgeHi all! Today I am so excited to share my favorite books of 2023! I always have so much fun going back over my year and looking at all the wonderful books I have read. I also love getting a chance to share some of these once again with you, in case you missed any the first time around.

This year my list contains all books that I have rated 4.75 or 5 stars. If you read my reviews regularly, you know that I don’t give out these top ratings too often. In fact, out of 181 books I reviewed since my 2022 Favorites, I only had 15 rated that highly. So you know these are the cream of the crop of what I read this year and stories I adored and that have stuck with me. I hope you will check them out and that you love them as much as me!

Here they are in no particular order…

charles audio coverCharles by Con Riley (audio by Cornell Collins): It seems impossible to believe that I was only introduced to the magic that is Charles Heppel earlier this year — or that this was my first Con Riley book! (I have since rectified that by reading 6 more, with still others in my TBR.) I can literally think of few characters who I adore more than Charles, or couples I love as much as Charles and Hugo (aka His Holy Hotness). This book was a revelation to me, opening me up to Riley’s fabulous Cornwall extended world. And Cornell Collins is the perfect voice of this series. I couldn’t love this book or these characters more.


a power unbound coverA Power Unbound by Freya Marske (and really the whole Last Binding Trilogy): This story concluded this fabulous trilogy focused on an attempt to steal magic and the heroes and heroines who worked to stop them. The first two books set the stage and the final story brought them together with a new couple in Jack and Alan. The story is a wonderful historical with great world building and this conclusion brought it all together so perfectly. I just adored this last book and can highly recommend the entire series.



solstice coverSolstice by R.J. Scott and Eli Easton: This first installment in the authors’ Lake Prophet Mysteries series was such a twisty and clever thrill ride. The mystery was just fascinating with new layers continually uncovered. Every time I thought I knew how it was coming together, something new was revealed. Yet, by the end, it all worked so perfectly. I loved Tiber and Gabriel, and particularly loved how the dog was a witness to the crime and Tiber’s “dog whisperer” skills let them work with the dog to find the killer.



beholder coverBeholder by Ryan La Sala: This story is a fascinating combination of horror, paranormal, mystery, and young adult. I don’t read much horror, but this one drew me in and kept me at the edge of my seat form the first moments when Athan is attending a party and comes out of the bathroom to find everyone else has been slaughtered. Uncovering the mystery of what happened — and how to stop it from continuing to happen — is a twisty, entertaining, and horrifying ride. This isn’t a traditional romance, but there is a romantic connection that evolves between Athan and Dom over the course of the book. This one is great for folks who like stories with a darker edge.


first and last adventure of kit sawyer coverThe First and Last Adventure of Kit Sawyer by S.E. Harmon: This story takes readers on such a fabulous adventure as we follow the tale of Kit Sawyer, an academic in a family of famous archeologists. When Kit finds himself having inadvertently unleashed the power of an ancient relic, the only way to solve the problem is to take a trek of his own deep into the jungle in search of a lost city. Along the way, he reconnects with his nemesis, Ethan, and learns that the man he thought was his enemy is, in fact, the one he cares most about. This was a book I couldn’t put down and I truly hope the title was wrong when it said this is Kit’s first and last adventure!


once a rogue coverOnce a Rogue by Allie Therin: I was so excited when this book released, a follow up to Proper Scoundrels in Therin’s Roaring Twenties Magic series. Proper Scoundrels was meant to be a standalone set in the Magic in Manhattan world, so I was delighted when we got another adventure for this grumpy/sunshine pairing, Sebastian and Wesley. As with the other books set in this world, this story has an exciting magical mystery for our heroes to uncover. But my favorite part is really getting to spend time with Sebastian and Wesley, as I just adore them together. Therin has created something fabulous with these series and this one is not to be missed.


bad dogs coverBad Dogs by Riley Nash: This is an intense story about two young men who have both had very hard lives, but find happiness with one another. Roman is a shy, gentle giant with an almost feral side that comes from years of abuse by his brother. He meets Scout, poor and struggling, who is trying his best to take care of himself and his two best friends. When the two meet, Roman is so shy he can barely talk to Scout, but soon the two find a connection that brings happiness to two men who really deserve it. This one is heart wrenching and intense, but just so lovely and rewarding. The second book in this series comes out soon, so this is a great time to check this one out.


secret lives of country gentlemen coverThe Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen and A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel by K.J. Charles: I only had a very few 5-star reads this year and both books in this Doomsday series earned that rating. The books introduce us to the fascinating world of Romney Marsh and the Doomsday family of smugglers. In The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen, Gareth inherits the family estate in Romney Marsh, only to find his regular and anonymous sex partner in London is the head of a smuggling family in his new home. When someone is out to get Gareth, Joss is determined to protect his man. A Nobleman’s Guide to Seducing a Scoundrel then jumps us ahead 13 years to focus on Luke, who appears as a young man in the first book. Here, Rufus has just become the new (and unexpected) Earl of Oxney, and the family who thought they were set to inherit are determined to do all they can to prevent Rufus from becoming Earl. Luke is his new secretary with an agenda of his own. But before too long, the two are teamed up to work together. This series is just incredible with rich world building, a fascinating setting, and some wonderful characters. I could read about the Doomsdays and their adventures all day long.


resurrection reprise coverResurrection Reprise by Hailey Turner: This story is a spinoff from Hailey Turner’s incredible Soulbound series, focusing on Spencer, a soul breaker who has been assigned to investigate the disappearance of an important magical artifact. In his quest, he finds an unlikely ally in Takoma, master vampire of the Seattle Night Court. This story has all of the excitement and great world building of the original series and creates a great follow up story and romance for Takoma and Spencer. We get to see some of the others characters from the original series here as well, and I love that Turner is continuing this world with spin-off stories. (Bring on Wade’s story, which is coming next!)


finding mr. fabulousFinding Mr. Fabulous by Con Riley: I really could put so many of Riley’s stories in my Favorites list, and this was another one that I just adored. Rex Heligan is a sexy playboy who has appeared as a background character in Riley’s Learning to Love series and here we really get a chance to know him. He gets involved in a fake relationship setup with Dev, a historian, in order to have someone look after his grandfather while he is away. What starts out as a convenient way to have some help with his grandfather ends up turning into an unexpected real connection between Rex and Dev. This one is sweet and sexy and warm and all the things I love about Riley’s writing.


consecrated ground coverConsecrated Ground by Virginia Black – This book by a new-to-me author was such an engaging and exciting urban fantasy. Joan left town years ago to become a war witch, and now has returned to bury her father. It gives her a chance to reconnect with her one-time love Leigh and rekindle that relationship. But the town isn’t as Joan left it, with the vampires no longer being held at bay by the witches. We get lots of intensity and great battle scenes as Joan tries to stop the vampires from destroying the town and, of course, along the way make things right with Leigh. This one is so exciting with really creative world building, a great lovers reunited storyline, and a fun urban fantasy.


ocean's echo coverOcean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell – This science fiction story really blew me away, and even as a long book, it kept me eagerly turning pages throughout the story. It’s an opposites attract story between Tennal, who has always pushed the boundaries, and Surit Yeni. the model soldier. The two get caught up as pawns in a political plot that threatens their lives and many more. Soon, they are fighting for their lives in this twisty, exciting, and really entertaining story. I absolutely loved it and found Surit and Tennal a great pair.



liar city coverLiar City by Allie Therin – I love Therin’s writing (see Once a Rogue above), but I am so used to her historical/paranormals that I was really surprised by this super twisty, really clever contemporary suspense. It features empath Reece who gets called to the scene of a murder, only to come face to face with Evan Grayson, the so-called Dead Man, someone Reece thought was just urban legend to scare empaths. The two end up on an unexpected and whirlwind adventure, with their lives on the line. I just loved this story and was thrilled to find out more is to come for this series. If you enjoy twisty, clever suspense, definitely check this one out.


Honorable Mentions:

These stories didn’t quite make my top list, but they are all so excellent and definitely worth your reading time.

And that was it for my favorites of the year! I hope you have a chance to check these out if you missed them the first time around. They are all excellent and worth reading!