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Best Belated Reads

When we do our annual Best of posts every year, we limit our choices to books that were published that year – so our Best of 2023 posts included only books that were published in 2023.  But we also read books last year that were published before 2023, and this is our opportunity to share our “Best Belated Reads” with you.  Maybe one of us has read one of your old favourites – come and join in the squee! – or perhaps there are books here you’ve been meaning to get to and haven’t managed to, and this will prompt you to bump it up your TBR.  So do have a look, and drop by to tell us about YOUR Best Belated Reads.


Caz

I probably say this every year, but the vast majority of the books I read and listen to every year are for review and I don’t have a lot of time to catch up with backlists (apart from the books I read for the TBR Challenge), so my Best Belated list is always short!

Imperfect Illusions by Vanora Lawless

This is one of those books that grabbed me right away and kept me absolutely glued to it right to the end. It’s a superbly written and extensively researched historical adventure/fantasy romance set amid the horrors of World War One; the stakes are high, the historical and fantasy aspects of the story are really well done, and the romance is nicely developed in an unusual way.  I also gave a DIK to the sequel, Twisted Tome, at the end of 2023, and am eagerly awaiting the release the final book in the trilogy later this year.

Buy it at Amazon

To Melt a Frozen Heart by Fearne Hill

I realised, at the end of last year, that I hadn’t actually read all the books in Fearne Hill’s excellent Rossingley series, so I picked up this novella from 2021 just to round it out and happily discovered it to be one of the best books in the series!  It’s a kind of two-in-one story in which Freddie (from To Catch a Fallen Leaf) is trying to find the right time to propose to his boyfriend, and Freddie’s dad, Charles – who was not a particularly likeable character in that book – is shown to be trying to do better by his son while also fnding love in the unlikeliest of places.  It’s a warm, funny story about finding love later in life and also a lovely tale of a father and son finally becoming friends and part of each other’s lives in a way they haven’t been before.

Buy it at Amazon

Anchor Point series by L.A. Witt, narrated by Nick J. Russo

I’ve listened to all eight books in this series (and re-listened to some, too) over the past year and enjoyed them all.  The stories are based on and around NSA Adams in the small (fictional) coastal town of Anchor Point, and at least one of the characters in each of the main couples is serving in the Navy. One of the things the author does incredibly well is to write about the challenges of military life and the toll it takes on relationships (she writes from experience as her husband was or is currently serving), and no two stories are the same.  Book one features an age-gap romance between the base chief and the son of one of his officers (which they don’t realise until too late!); another looks at the issue of “fraternisation” – a relationship between two serving members of different ranks; another at the price paid in mind and body by those in the service.  Nick J. Russo is one of those narrators who delivers time and time again – I’ve never heard him give anything less than an excellent performance and he’s absolutely terrific in these stories, finding a wide variety of different character voices and always hitting all the right emotional beats.  If you enjoy military romance in audio and haven’t yet given this series a try, I strongly recommend it.

Find the series at Amazon


Dabney

The Maiden Bride by Rexanne Becnel

I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I loved the historical context—Henry II is a player here and is integrated into the storyline well. The romance is fiery and well-done. Becnel does a smart job of showing how women, with no real political power of their own, found ways to have their voices heard. This is close to a DIK for me.

Buy it at Amazon

Night in Eden by Candice Proctor

The author C. S. Harris has also written historical romance as Candice Proctor, and her Night in Eden, is a justifiable DIK at AAR. The heroine, a grieving woman who has been sentenced to seven years in New South Wales penal colony, is turned over—the rights of women prisoners in colonial Australia were beyond non-existent—to a man who needs her as a wet nurse. And while this set up sounds grim, their love story and the history of that time in Australia are both wonderful. This was one of my favorite romance reads of the year and I recommend it to anyone who likes heft and history in their romance reading.

Buy it at Amazon

The Local by Joey Hartstone

I love mysteries as much as I do romance and Joey Hartstone’s The Local is very good. The story is set in Marshall, Texas which is—both in the book and in reality–the unlikely patent litigation capital of America. Hartstone’s story centers around the murder of a client who is suing a giant tech company for patent infringement. Before being murdered, the victim strongarmed James Euchre, a local hot shot lawyer, into taking his case. As is often true in crimes set in small Southern towns, the citizens of the Marshall have lots to hide and as Euchre tries to figure out who killed his client, his own life increasingly is in danger. The book is both a crackling good time and an interesting immersion in patent litigation. Those who enjoy a good, suspenseful legal thriller will enjoy The Local. I certainly did!

Buy it at Amazon


Dolly

Crazy Hot by Tara Janze

I’m a romantic suspense fangirl, so I figured I’d point you in the direction of an oldie, but a goodie.

This book made me nostalgic for my teenage years, when my best friend’s brother, who was four years older than us, used to bide his time rebuilding old muscle cars. My favorite was the ’68 camaro he restored, that you could start with a screwdriver. The car, like the boy, was sexy AF to my teenage heart. Janzen’s whole Steele Street Garage series is sexy and built around muscle cars, the sexy heroes who drive them, and the intelligent women who tame them. The pacing is lightning fast, the desert setting welcomed during this winter vortex, and the characters larger than life. Crazy Hot focuses on Regan McKinney, whose grandfather is missing. She seeks out the one man guaranteed to find him: Quinn Younger. Quinn is a bonafide military hero and People Magazine most beautiful person, and undercover for the government in the middle of the desert. Regan met Quinn when they were teenagers, and he was doing time over the summer at her grandfather’s archaeological dig. All the heroes in this series drive hot rods, and the hot rods all have personalities. They grumble and growl along with the men, provide the safety and getaway from danger, and race across the page like the literary equivalent of Steve McQueen’s famous chase scene in Bullitt. At the time, this series was the first of its kind, and every garage-cover undercover ops series since has paled in comparison for me.

Buy it at Amazon


Jenna

Seven Days in June came out a couple of years ago, but the writing and story are so magnificent I highly recommend it as my belated read. Author Tia Williams gives us two damaged characters who work through their dark histories to find each other again in a love story that gave me all the feels.

Buy it at Amazon


Maggie

I didn’t have any belated reads in 2023 – not even bad ones!  But I can share my best re-reads.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Every few years I re-read this gem and am amazed all over by the outstanding story. A fantasy retelling of Rumpelstiltskin that is full of adventure, wit, dangerous fey, and clever queens, it is everything, EVERYTHING that a fairy tale for adults should be. I read it most on Kindle but for those who like audio books, narrator Lisa Flanagan does a fabulous job with really bringing our three heroine narrators to life.

Buy it at Amazon

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

If you like fantasy romance I strongly recommend the Innkeeper series. In a universe where vampires are warrior aliens, werewolves are the refugees of a genocidal war, and even scarier things exist in the depths of space, the Inns of Earth protect humanity from destruction. Dina has just opened her inn and is still struggling to make a name for herself when she encounters a dangerous enemy and meets the being who might well be the love of her life.

Buy it at Amazon

Radiance by Grace Draven.

Idilko is the niece of the Gauri king. Human and beautiful, she is an important pawn in marital alliances, which is how she winds up engaged to Brishen, the second son of the Kai king.They are ugly to each other – he is gray, with long fangs and a predator’s yellow eyes.  She is pink to him (think fair to us) with her horse eyes and blunt teeth. But they have gorgeous souls and form a union so lovely that after close to ten years of re-reads this remains a favorite of mine.

Buy it at Amazon


Maria Rose

The Long Game by Rachel Reid

I was only a year late to read this one and that’s because I wanted to re-read Heated Rivalry first, so it took me a while to get to it. Had I read it in 2022 when it was released it would have been on my best of the year list (though it was covered there by other AAR reviewers). It’s a beautiful finale and happy ending to the series and to Ilya and Shane’s relationship. Hockey romances continue to be among my favourite types of contemporary sports romances.

Buy it at Amazon


His Haven by Con Riley

I’ve been reading this series out of order but I absolutely loved Mitch and Keir’s opposites-attract romance! Watching the cynical Keir learn to connect – after a broken heart – with Mitch, and seeing Mitch’s real self behind his happy-go-lucky demeanor was a delight to read. It was one of my favourite reads of 2023.

Buy it at Amazon

A Seditious Affair by K.J. Charles (yes, finally!)

I know, I know! How could I have taken THIS long to read the second (and then the third) books in the Society of Gentlemen series?! I have no defense except they kept getting buried under Mt. TBR, and I knew I would want to read the first book (A Fashionable Indulgence) again to get my bearings. But what a treat to read all three books in quick succession and really get a feel for these characters and the complicated relationship between Dom and Silas. There’s a reason that K.J. Charles is a comfort author for me. Incidentally, the audiobooks are fabulous too.

Buy it at Amazon

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen

I had heard a lot about this very different, dystopian romance and decided to read it. I loved it! I thought it was fresh and original and I had no idea what was going to happen and the whole concept and worldbuilding was really unique. Our AAR reviewer Caroline found similarities in the romance setup between Hart and Mercy to The Shop Around the Corner (and You’ve Got Mail) but as I’ve not seen either of those, it was new to me, and truly delightful. If you’re looking for a romance read that is really unique (and you’re not squeamish about an undertaker heroine), this definitely fits the bill.

Buy it at Amazon

The Siren of Sussex and The Belle of Belgrave Square by Mimi Matthews

I just discovered this author in 2023 and read both of these, finding them to be equally delightful, top-notch reads. The author shows some really unique sides of London society compared to other

romance books dealing with the Victorian era, and the series features unconventional equestriennes which is a first as far as I am aware. I am looking forward to continuing the series this year (and therefore being on time if they turn out to be favourites of 2024)!

Buy The Siren of Sussex at Amazon

Buy The Belle of Belgrave Square at Amazon


So those are some of the AAR team’s favourite Belated reads and re-reads.  Drop by and tell us about yours.

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