In my usual slacker style, here’s my belated 2016 wrap-up. Nothing kicked off an emotional and obsessive spate of full-snark bitchery last year, so that change in meds must be working. There was that one (see below) but that was only one post that I throw at everyone who put it on their Best of 2016 list so it really doesn’t count.
Also a quick note: as usual, no LGBTQ titles because of the side job with Riptide, but I read a few absolute gems. Mostly from Riptide or Riptide authors, of course, because I’m completely spoiled and snobbish like that. Shoot me an email or DM if you need recs!
My absolute favorite reads of 2016:
I think the number one slot has to be a tie:
To quote myself on Earth Bound:
I loved the others in the series, but this one KILLED ME DEAD <dead>. Good lord, this was utterly fan-freaking-tastic. Definitely one of my top reads this year, and it’s poking at my DIK shelf. I need a moment to recover just remembering that telephone call scene in the restaurant *swoon*.
To quote myself on The Study of Seduction:
…a marriage of convenience between a grumpy hero who makes lists and a secretly-smart social butterfly, and adds in a truly creepy stalker who cooks up some creative blackmail over Deep Dark Secrets, and just put that crack in a bowl and give me a spoon, OK?
I can’t say more without spoilers, but Seduction was especially memorable because of the social butterfly heroine’s Deep Dark Secret, which made the consummation of the marriage…heart-wrenching.
Jeffries is a romance veteran who just keeps giving me everything I need in ways I never expected. Barry/Turner are relative rookies who keep giving me things I never knew I needed.
It’s a three-way tie. Or would it be a five-way tie? Who the hell cares, because YOU NEED TO READ THESE TRUST ME:
Must Love Time Travel series by Angela Quarles, narrated by Mary Jane Wells
Breeches has Ada Lovelace as an important secondary character. Chainmail has a kick-ass heroine and a stunner of a climax (the story kind, not the other kind, you pervs). Kilts has a charmingly-dopey-but-secretly-complex-and-vulnerable hero. And the narration was perfection. READ THESE TRUST ME HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO SAY IT.
More great historicals:
Gambled Away anthology by Rose Lerner, Joanna Bourne, Isabel Cooper, Jeannie Lin and Molly O’Keefe
I mean, seriously, people. It’s obvious they all wrote this ♥♥♥JUST FOR ME♥♥♥.
Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne
I never ever ever want this series to end. I want Crimean War spies and Civil War spies and Boer War Spies and Cold War spies.
The Farmer Takes a Wife by Genevieve Turner
I’ve read this novella at least eleventy-five times. The chemistry and longing is just…*swoon*.
His Christmas Countess by Louise Allen
I tried Allen a few times before, including one set in India that was…ill-advised, but this one completely sucked me in from the first chapter.
Forbidden Nights with the Viscount and Stolen Encounters with the Duchess and Scandal with the Rancher by Julia Justiss
Have I mentioned how much I love Julia Justiss? Remind me to tell you how much I LOVE JULIA JUSTISS *flail*.
The Scoundrel and I by Katharine Ashe
Another worthy addition to my Nearly Perfect Novellas list.
The best inspies:
Reclaiming His Past by Karen Kirst
Miss Bates and I are both fangirls, and I’m just going to refer you to her fantastic review. You will never need another Cowboy with Amnesia story after you read this.
The Express Rider’s Lady by Stacy Henrie
Henrie is an auto-buy, and this was everything I wanted it to be — and it completely spoiled me for others titles in the Pony Express series (see below).
More inspies worth a read:
- From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden
- The Sheriffs of Savage Wells by Sarah M. Eden
- Dawn at Emberwilde by Sarah E. Ladd
The best contemporaries:
Everything I Left Unsaid series by Molly O’Keefe
I binged all these and O’Keefe wrung me out but good. To all the hacks writing “dark romance”: just give up and go home. You will never approach this level of writing.
Good Time Bad Boy by Sonya Clark
To paraphrase myself: Hometown celebrity gone wrong gets his shit together enough to make amends and there’s an HEA and a crap-ton of angsty-yet-fun goodness in between.
More contemporaries worth a read:
- All I Am by Nicole Helm
- Boston Fire series by Shannon Stacey
- Level Up by Cathy Yardley
- Fly With Me by Chanel Cleeton
- Off the Grid series by Alyssa Cole (yes, I know they’re post-apoc, but I needed to pad out my contemp list and they aren’t futuristic post-apoc so they totally count as three contemps)
Best Mystery/Suspense-Type Things:
A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
Dear god, I love me some Sherry Thomas. I was enthralled from beginning to end.
A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
I overcame the Book Anxiety and now I am anxiously awaiting the next one (see “Anxiously Awaiting” section below).
And…I just now realized how similar those covers are.
Best of Why The Hell Didn’t I Read These Before?
Ravished by Amanda Quick
I finished it and said — out loud — “Goddammit, that was FUN.” Storified live-tweets here.
Guilty Pleasures and His Every Kiss by Laura Lee Guhrke
Oh, look: Kelly’s Book Crack.
Undecided (mostly liked, but…)
- Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt
- Flirtation Walk by Siri Mitchell
- The Heiress of Linn Hagh by Karen Charlton
- Our Own Country by Jodi Daynard
Someone to Love by Mary Balogh
Beyond the ridiculous (and completely unnecessary) Ancient Chinese Secret bits, I found this soooo boring and repetitive.
Pony Express titles by Rhonda Gibson
Bland and completely lacking the tension and chemistry of Henrie’s entry.
Devices and Desires by Pamela Sherwood
Once I figured out what the inspiration piece was, I could not keep my head in the story – I kept looking for bits to match up with the original.
Penniless Lords series by Sophia James
I keep trying James because I’ve read her entire back list, but nothing stands out.
Marrying Winterbourne by Lisa Kleypas
Legend of Lyon Redmond by Julie Anne Long
Lady Darby mystery series by Anna Lee Huber
WTF Did I Just Read:
The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons
Jaysus, what a slog. Nine hundred and fifty thousand pages of Russian misery porn. Just hit yourself over the head with the hardcover, you’ll get the same emotional impact.
The Eight by Katherine Neville
Dan Brown on steroids. And estrogen. Before Dan Brown was even Dan Brown.
Moon Dreams by Patricia Rice
Chapter one: Heroine runs away. Chapter two: Heroine runs away. Chapter three: Heroine runs away. You think I’m exaggerating but I’m not.
Playing It Cool by Amy Andrews
So was the hero supposed to be Beavis or Butthead? I don’t know, because I couldn’t make it past page three and that is not an exaggeration.
The Unexpected Marriage of Gabriel Stone by Louise Allen
So. This is the one where the spy-hero-who-is-also-an-earl assigns himself an undercover job protecting the heroine by posing as a scholarly hermit on her father’s estate. No one recognizes him because of the beard and the cowl and his totally not-fake Welsh accent. I had a full-on head-tilt during most of the book. WTF in a good sort of way.
Dangerous Joy by Jo Beverley
Can we talk about that ending? With the cats? Because WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK DID I JUST READ AND WAS JOBEV SMOKING SOMETHING IFFY WHEN SHE WROTE IT? Because WTF.
Hated It. Hate Fest. Hate-O-Rama.
Until the Dawn by Elizabeth Camden
I’m just going to pretend this one from my all-time favorite inspie author doesn’t exist. It was dreadful.
The Bride by Julie Garwood
So. What am I missing with this beloved novel? I hated this heroine. I wanted to push her down a well every time she opened her mouth. Maybe I’ve read too many bad Garwood rip-offs.
The Hating Game by Sally Thorn
Speaking of HATED IT HATE FEST HATE-O-RAMA . All the cutesy banter in the world isn’t enough to make up for the fat-shaming in this book. And it’s a full-on HR nightmare of unprofessional and immature behavior that’s painfully familiar to anyone who’s been forced to witness someone else’s “office romance.” Open your eyes people; there’s a lot more under the surface here then the sexytimes, and it isn’t pretty.
- Erin Satie (all of them)
- Piper Huguley (all of them)
- Beverly Jenkins (all of them)
- Secrets of a Soprano by Miranda Neville
- The Danger of Desire by Sabrina Jeffries
- The next Susanna Kearsley
- An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
- A Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn
- Star Crossed by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner
- To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden
- Wait For It by Molly O’Keefe
- Someone to Hold by Mary Balogh
- The Outlaw’s Secret and Renegade’s Redemption by Stacy Henrie
- Convenient Proposal to the Lady by Julia Justiss
- The Girl with a Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn
- The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
- Stealing Mr. Right by Tamara Morgan
Author Binges For Which I Regret Nothing:
- Joanna Bourne (again)
- Kate Noble (again)
- Jo Beverley (new to me)
- Marion Lennox
- Elizabeth Hoyt
- C.S. Harris
- Joan Wolf
- Betty Neels (I hate you people)
- Louise Allen
- Meljean Brook
- Elizabeth Essex
- Eva Ibbotson
Upcoming Author Binges:
- Betty Neels (I hate you people. So. Much.)
- Barbara Metzger
- Amanda Quick
Audiobooks in the Queue:
- The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart (see Wish List below)
- Radio Girls by Sarah-Jane Stratford
- The Undesirables by Chad Thumann
- Lost Among the Living by Simone St. James
- Night Hawk by Beverly Jenkins (see Book Anxiety section above)
All the Mary Stewart in digital and audio. WHO DO WE HAVE TO ..BRIBE…BLACKMAIL…BLOW…WHATEVER…TO GET THIS TO HAPPEN.