I do my best to keep up with new releases, but my library, my secondhand store, and Kindle bargains slant heavily towards older books. During the year, I love this. I have enjoyed so many wonderful books I missed when they were new. It’s only when “Best of the year” time rolls around that I find myself grumbling that I don’t get to bang the drum about so many of my favorite reads just because they weren’t published this year!

Last year, I collected a Best Belated Reads column of the books our reviewers loved in 2018 that were published in prior years. In 2019, I had so many great BBRs that I could fill a column by myself (I had 3 DIKs of historical romances by authors named Elizabeth alone!) – but special thanks to AAR’s Charlotte, Em and Maria Rose for sharing their great finds.

And please join us in the comments with your own Best Belated Reads!


Caroline:

Inevitable Conclusions by Christina C Jones

After a disastrous attempt at dating in their twenties, Kora Oliver and Tariq Evans firmly shoved their relationship back into friendship – a decision which now seems impossible to maintain.The decades-long intimacy of this couple and their intense, unwavering loyalty to each other will spoil you for any characters who have just met. Holy smokes, this book was good.

Buy it at: Amazon/Indiebound

The Dark Knight by Elizabeth Elliott

Venetian exile Dante Chiaveri masquerades as Avalene de Fournay’s escort to her new husband. In reality, he’s been sent by the king to prevent Avalene’s royal Welsh ancestry being used to rally rebels – by killing her, if necessary. Dante is a great dark hero, and Avalene is that rare medieval heroine who is neither a sword-swinger nor a loose-tressed hellion but a practical woman of her time.

Buy it at: Amazon/Indiebound

A Scandal To Remember by Elizabeth Essex

Conchologist (shell scholar) Jane Burke misrepresented herself as a man to join a scientific expedition to the Pacific. The trip turns out to be highly ill-fated, as the captain is a drunk, the purser is a thief, the bosun is power-hungry and vicious, and the first lieutenant, Charles Dance, can barely keep the dilapidated ship afloat. Loved the realistic shipboard setting and its naval details, and the tension of the two being completely unable to touch during their journey. Watching the competence of Charles and Jane in the face of endless waves of trouble is a delight.

Buy it at: Amazon/Indiebound

Sunstone by Stjepan Sejic

Ally and Lisa met online and are now exploring their love of bondage together, but neither is sure what to do when they start crossing the line into love of each other. It never ceases to boggle me that a man attracted to women could write and illustrate a BDSM romance about two women without ever once coming across as prurient and exploitative. The pure sweetness of this book had me grinning like a dork for the entire fifth volume.

Buy it at: Amazon/Indiebound

Earth Bound by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner

A female PhD computer scientist building the code for the space program, and the brusque, impatient engineer running Mission Control – it’s the workplace romance of my nerd dreams. Bonus points for the exceptional sex scenes, when buttoned-up passion bursts free.

Buy it at: Amazon/Indiebound

Sugarplum Surprises by Elisabeth Fairchild

This Cinderella-inspired Regency Christmas story was an unexpected delight! The heroine works as a seamstress, and when she’s left holding the bag on the trousseau of a duke’s jilted fiancee, she goes after the duke for payment. He realizes immediately that the middle-aged French seamstress is actually the young woman who asked him to pay up, and can’t shake his curiosity about who she really is. This one definitely put me in the holiday mood.

Buy it at: Amazon/Indiebound

Forget Tomorrow and Remember Yesterday by Pintip Dunn

In the dystopia of Eden City, teens receive a memory from their future selves to guide them. Callie receives a nightmarish vision of herself murdering her beloved younger sister, and immediately begins challenging Fate and space-time itself to figure out how to prevent this from coming true. I blitzed through this duo in about 48 hours. They’re gripping, clever, and yes, romances.

Buy Forget Tomorrow at: Amazon/Indiebound

Buy Remember Yesterday at: Amazon/Indiebound

Maria Rose:

The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by K.J. Charles

If you’d have asked me if I’d want to read a romance with ghosts in it before this year, I’d have said that they weren’t of particular interest to me.  But I had picked up the audiobook of this one when the ebook went on sale,  and was in the mood for something different to listen to on my work commute. From the very first few pages narrated by Gary Furlong, I was hooked! The story is told by Robert Caldwell, explaining his association with paranormal investigator Simon Feximal over a twenty year period and discussing some of the cases they get involved in. Along the way, a special relationship develops between Simon and Robert. It’s wholly engrossing and memorable and I knew right away that it was going on a ‘best of’ list for me this year.

Buy it at: Amazon/Indiebound

Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews: What an exciting read! For a newcomer to this particular urban fantasy world (as I haven’t read the Kate Daniels series) the authors have done a great job of explaining some of the backstory of the characters without letting it bog down the spinoff tale. The worldbuilding is thorough and detailed and there are plenty of action scenes ( a little more violent and gruesome than I’m used to in a romance but not a dealbreaker). The romance is slowly built in an enemies to lovers fashion between a very interesting couple who’ve forged a marriage of convenience for the sake of the people loyal to them. I can’t wait to read more of Hugh and Elara’s adventure in the next Iron Covenant book!

Buy it at: Amazon/Indiebound

Ocean Light by Nalini Singh

I bought the audiobook of this latest romance in the author’s Psy-Changeling Trinity spinoff series because I had so enjoyed the narration by Angela Dawe of book one, Silver Silence (which I’ve now listened to twice). Once again, the story and narration are both excellent. I love the environment and world building of the Black Sea changelings and Bowen’s story lives up to my expectations. Kaia’s anxiety issues are dealt with honestly, and there are some interesting plot developments that continue the story arc of this spinoff series. The author always leaves you wanting more which ensures that the next in the series will end up on your TBR.

Buy it at: Amazon/Indiebound

The Arrows of the Heart by Jeffe Kennedy

I’m such a big fan of the Uncharted Realms series and The Arrows of the Heart is another fascinating and delightful adventure – a road trip fantasy romance. Karyn and shapeshifter Zyr are on a quest to find a forgotten land, one that may hold the answers they seek or could lead to more death and destruction. The only way to find out is to take the quest through to the end. There is lots of action, detailed worldbuilding and while the story arc of the series continues, this definitely has a separate sexy romance with a well deserved happy ending for this quite opposite couple. I love seeing how Zyr gets Karyn to acknowledge her strengths, throw off her old habits and learn to live for herself. At the same time the wise cracking and flirtatious Zyr has a serious side and hasn’t had an easy life either so it was good to see him find a partner who accepts all of him, including his animal forms. While some answers are found, the danger is not over for the inhabitants of the Twelve Kingdoms. There’s clearly more to be told in this world and I can’t wait to read whatever comes next.

Buy it at: Amazon/Indiebound

Charlotte:

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid

I’m ashamed to say I once avoided this series because I was laboring under the delusion that all the facial hair = hipster heroes. The brother of book one, Truth or Beard is Duane Winston, full-time car mechanic and part-time car racer in Green Valley, Tennessee, who has a thing for the sheriff’s daughter, Jessica James. I’m a huge fan of heroes who worship the heroine in a quiet and ardent “damn, honey, I just love you” way (save me from a slick man!), and Duane fits that bill wonderfully.

Buy it at: Amazon/Indiebound

The Knocked Up Plan, by Lauren Blakely

The Knocked Up Plan is about co-workers who turn into co-conception partners when romance columnist Nicole Powers asks Ryder Lockhart to father her child. I’m like Goldilocks when it comes to finding a book where the characters’ relationship is both absurdly hot and equally emotionally invested. I’m delighted to say that The Knocked Up Plan is just right.

Buy it at: Amazon/Indiebound

Em:

Thrown Off the Ice by Taylor Fitzpatrick

Thrown Off the Ice is nothing like I expected.  It is a romance…but unlike any other I’ve read.  Mike is a veteran hockey player and enforcer for his NHL team (if you aren’t super familiar with hockey, an enforcer is the tough guy, the ‘goon,’ who uses his fists to deter opponents from messing with his teammates). He is a reluctant mentor of sorts to a talented new, young player on his team – Liam. Mike’s kept his own bisexuality under wraps for years, so when Liam signals interest in Mike, Mike tells him to back off. Friends, he fails. Spectacularly. Thrown Off the Ice is surprising and sweet and frustrating and gut wrenching, in equal measure.  I loved it and hated it, but it’s absolutely one of the best sports romance novels I’ve ever read, and it’s stayed with me long after I finished reading it.  That ending.  Holy shit, friends, it’s powerful.

Buy it at: Amazon

~ Caroline Russomanno