2017 has not been a good reading year for me. So far, I have read only 110 books, while I typically average about 150.  The majority of the books I read that were published in 2017 were Women’s Fiction and mystery titles; romances comprised probably a quarter of what I perused. Adding to my woes is the fact that several of my go-to authors published downright lackluster fare this year. But there is some light at the end of this tunnel. Easily the most impressive, scintillating and addictive of the novels I read was Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner. If you haven’t read it yet, rush out and buy it. It’s absolutely fabulous. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a drop of romance. Not one teensy-tiny little bit.  Fortunately, I can recommend a few other books which are romantic, if not always romance, and which are well worth reading.

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I Found You by Lisa Jewel (Suspense, Contemporary) Technically this is a mystery novel, but it delivers a heartfelt romance that is central to the story. When single mom Alice Lake sees a man sitting on the beach outside her home, in the cold for hours on end, she invites him inside to let him warm up. Learning he has no memory of who he is or why he is there, she sets out to help him discover his identity. Along the way they will solve a decades long mystery, catch a killer and fall in love. An explosive, addictive must read for fans of romantic, suspenseful stories.

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Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer (Inspirational Romance, 1890s Texas) I loved this book for its unique premise and the charming writing style of the author. Amos Blesdoe and Grace Mallory are both telegraph operators. During their long shifts manning the wires the two ‘chat’ back and forth and become friends. Then Amos overhears a conversation that marks Grace as the target of a killer for hire and rides to the rescue – on his bicycle. Funny, quirky and with a sweet love story at the heart, this is a wonderful read even for those who don’t love Inspirationals.

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A Dangerous Legacy by Elizabeth Camden (Inspirational Romance, New York, Early 20th Century) The core of Ms. Camden’s romances is the incredible history they convey, and this book is no exception. I learned a lot about the development of both the news industry and the infrastructure that makes New York the incredible city it is today while reading this novel. A story of love amid the intrigues of politics, this book has a to die for hero in Sir Colin Beckwith and a plucky, stalwart heroine in Lucy Drake. While the Inspirational message comes on a bit strong at times, the author lets her mystery and romance take center stage for most of the book.

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Wildfire by Ilona Andrews (Fantasy Romance, Alternate Reality, Contemporary) I’ve re-read this book at least twice since its release. This is book three in the serialized story of the romance between Connor ‘Mad’ Rogan and Nevada Baylor and delivers the HEA fans have been eagerly anticipating. In this final (or not) installment, Mad Rogan and Nevada battle a conglomerate bent on world domination and an evil granny determined to enslave Nevada and her sisters. Fast paced, exciting and engrossing this conclusion is definitely worth the three-book commitment it takes to get the whole story.

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An Uncommon Courtship by Kristi Ann Hunter (Inspirational Romance, Regency) I loved this lighthearted, incredibly sweet story of two people who find themselves married due to an unfortunate compromising situation. When Lord Trent Hawthorne brought the house down – literally- with Lady Abigail Bell standing beside him, the two were forced to spend an uncomfortable night together. He does ‘the right thing’ and proposes the next day. This lands the two in a marriage of convenience with a complete stranger and watching them work through that is a complete joy for the reader. The Inspirational message here is prevalent but light enough that even those who aren’t of the Christian faith can enjoy the book.

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The Captivating Lady Charlotte by Carolyn Miller (Inspirational Romance, Regency) Lady Charlotte Featherington is richly dowered, titled, pedigreed and beautiful, and expects to marry brilliantly during her first season. William Hartwell, Duke of Harrington, knows he is no lady’s dream man. Slight, with bland features and a less than scintillating personality he has only his earnest sincerity and genuine faith to recommend him. Well, only that if you discount his enormous wealth and prestigious title. William falls hard for Charlotte and his position and fat pocket book assure him an easy victory for the lady’s hand. But not for her heart. Young and romantic, Charlotte dreams of a far more dashing, elegant and handsome suitor. Finding their way to true love won’t be easy but it will be worth it. What made this book stand out from the crowd was the author’s adept handling of Charlotte’s youthful dreams – written in such a manner that Charlotte came across as neither immature or selfish – and the skillful approach to the faith factor. The author shows us how in a period known for excess and extravagance, genuine Christian faith among the nobility was rare, yet she paints a convincing portrait of genuine belief and conversion in an era when the upper classes were known to play far more than pray.

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Goodnight from London by Jennifer Robson (WWII, Women’s Fiction) A sweet, engaging romance weaves in and out of this story about young reporter Ruby Sutton and Captain Charles Bennett who fall in love as war rages around them. What made this novel stand out was the excellent depiction of life in an active but not militarized war zone.

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Seeing Red by Sandra Brown (Romantic Suspense, Contemporary) Ms. Brown is the grand dame of romantic suspense; a consummate professional who hits it out of the ball park nearly every time. This high-octane thriller featuring Kiera Bailey and John Trapper, two people caught in a mess resulting from their own curiosity, is sexy, riveting and utterly intriguing. A must read for fans of this genre.

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Christmas at the Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan (Women’s Fiction, Contemporary) This is another serialized set of books, telling the story of Polly and Huck’s romance over the course of three novels. In this last installment of the saga, Polly and Huck tangle over weddings, children and money before finally arriving at an HEA. Ms. Colgan’s stories are always gently witty tales which deal with life’s everyday problems with veracity and humor. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

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Someone to Wed by Mary Balogh (Regency Era Historical Romance) This is the third book in the Westcott series and for me, the best of the bunch. Wren Hayden needs to buy a husband; she has been a recluse much of her life due to a disfigurement and can think of no reason why any man would marry her aside from her money. Alexander Westcott, Earl of Riverdale, needs money but refuses to be purchased outright like some prize bull. He insists on a courtship, to which Wren reluctantly complies. Naturally, a genuine, beautiful love emerges from their fortuitous relationship. I love Ms. Balogh’s ability to write a heart-touching romance and she delivered that with this charming book.

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This is the first year that forty percent of my top reading was Inspirational Romance. I think that was due more to the lackluster offerings in other sub-genres as opposed to brilliance in this one, but it does speak to how the Inspirational market maintained its quality this year. This is also the first year two serialized novels (one story told over the course of two or more books) made my list. I’ve been noticing this trend in the genre and don’t know how I feel about it. No, I take that back. I know how I feel: a bit cheated. Why should I have to pay for three books to get to my HEA? I know it is not a popular view, but I really do appreciate stand alone novels.

Did any of my novels make your list this year? What absolutely outstanding reads have you found published in 2017?