In 2013, self-publishing was mainstream, social media allowed authors more specific ways to publicize their work, and everyone had a strongly held opinion about what constituted a great romance novel.  This environment makes the idea of a “buried treasure” more difficult to define. So, let’s agree to accept this definition: a buried treasure is a book you loved you think isn’t as well known as it should be.WHiS
When I asked reviewers here at AAR for their buried treasure nominations, many said it was a difficult thing to pick. Several asked if a novel is still a buried treasure if more than one reviewer lauds it. A few demurred to choose at all, saying there wasn’t a book they felt met the criteria.

Here are the picks our staff ultimately made:

Melanie: “The only book I have that I’d consider to be a buried treasure was Swept up by the Sea by Tracy and Laura Hickman. I read it for review back in July, and I love the humor mixed with the fantasy elements. I don’t get to read a lot of books like that anymore, and it was just really fun. I did read a very short m/m novella at the end of the year, Something Real by Julia Alaric that was quite wonderful. It’s a sci-fi romance novella. The characters were spot-on, and I was surprised how lyrical such a short novella could get.”

Pat: “Just about everything I read is buried since I’ve been reading and reviewing gay romances, so which is the most buried of the treasures is difficult to pick with so many good choices.  However, my favorite would be Sex & Sourdough by A. J. Thomas which is structured around hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Some of the book is poetic in its descriptions.  My two runners-up would be Beyond Duty by SJD Peterson which looks into the lives of two retiring gay soldiers who wonder if they should come out to family and friends, and Something Like Autumn by Jay Bell, the third in the series, this one an in-depth look at one of the minor characters in the first two books.  While the romances in each of these books is strong, it’s the bigger issues and the authors’ discussion of these issues that makes these books stand out.

Lynn: “Sins of a Wicked Princess by Anna Randol – I’m not sure why her books don’t get more buzz, but Randol writes fabulous historical adventures. The characters in this one were a treat and I was sad to see this trilogy come to an end. Since I often get series fatigue, that’s saying something. Also, Trancehack by Sonya Clark – I loved the world building in this novel, and also liked that the author wrote this book in such a way that it can really be read on more than one level.”

Mary: “The closest I have to a buried treasure for 2013 is Alice Clayton’s Wallbanger. It’s laugh out loud funny.”

Heather: “Tessa Bailey’s Protecting What’s His. It’s fun, sexy, and still sweet. Protecting What’s His was a keeper for me.”

Blythe: “I think mine is a little bit borderline, but I would pick Jennifer McQuiston’s What Happened in Scotland. It was a good debut and had a different structure than most European Historicals – and I place a pretty high value on novelty.”

Alexandra: “I’m not exactly sure how “buried” mine is, but the only title I can think of that might fit the bill is The Turncoat by Donna Thorland. It was her debut novel last year, and as I recall it got a good review at AAR, which is why I picked it up. I generally like any book set during the American Revolution, and this book brought the history to life so well that I just fell in love.”

Lee: “One of my favorite buried treasures from last year was Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson.  Last year, Ms. Donaldson wrote her second book, Blackmoore, and I enjoyed it just as much as her first book.  A little darker in tone and beautifully written, I highly recommend it for historical romance readers.  Another new author to me, is Sarah E. Ladd, and last year she released two books, The Heiress of Winterwood, and The Headmistress of Rosemere.  Both are historical romances but with little bits of mystery.”

Caz Owens: “I really enjoyed Moriah Densley’s Song for Sophia from EsKape Press(which I reviewed for us). It was an entertaining story with two very well characterised protagonists – the hero was especially compelling – and lots of great dialogue. Alyssa Everett is a relatively new author who I think deserves to be more widely known – her Lord of Secrets (Carina Press) was an excellent read (if on the angsty side) featuring a lovely beta hero with a shameful past.  It was very well written and the romance was charming. In terms of books that didn’t seem to generate the buzz they deserved, I loved Caroline Linden’s Love and Other Scandals – it was one of my favourites of last year.  It’s funny and sexy – full of sparkling dialogue and didn’t rely on spies, pirates or convoluted plots to maintain interest.  It’s a story of two unlikely people falling in love and it was superbly done.”

Maggie: “This year my Buried Treasure was found in a brand new location! For the first time all three books are ebooks. When I was looking (desperately and not very successfully) for new romantic suspense I stumbled across Frozen by Kate Watterson. It deals with a serial killer in Minnesota and since I had at one time lived near the area being discussed I was intrigued and took a chance on the book. I loved it and went back to Amazon for more which led me to Buried by Kendra Elliot, a spooky tale about a kidnapped bus full of children, and Forbidden by Lisa Clark O’Neill about an FBI agent whose vacation leads him to a new love – and a chilling mystery. I’m so glad ebooks have opened the market to those genres which are not currently at the top of publishers “to buy” lists. And I am so glad the quality of these books equals – and sometimes surpasses – the quality of whatever is being published by the print people.”

Rike: “My Buried Treasures are two titles that were also on my list of best reads of 2013: New Life by Bonnie Dee, which is self-published, and An Invitation to Sin by Sarah Morgan, which is a Harlequin Presents romance. Everyone expects Harlequin Presents to be fluff – I do! – but occasionally they are extremely well-written romances with both depth and fun that just happen to be set among millionaires – as is the case here. As for New Life, it is an equally moving and gripping story about a janitor who is mentally handicapped after an accident, and the smart lawyer he falls for.”

Dabney: “2013 was a great year for buried treasures. Out of my top ten list, six would meet my definition. I suggest Untamed by Anna Cowan, Glitterland by Alexis Hall, Unteachable by Leah Raeder, After Hours by Cara McKenna, Maybe This Time by Joan Kilby, and Take What You Want by Jeanette Grey.”

Have fun digging!

Dabney Grinnan