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Best of 2022 – Our Best Belated Reads

Best Belated Reads, which describes favorite reads of a year published in a different year, is always one of my favorite posts to write. Romance has such a deep backlist, and so many excellent works are released every year, that it’s impossible not to have wonderful stories pass me by. It is always a joy to uplift some of my favorite discoveries, and to hear from readers and fellow reviewers about other great reads still out there.

These are the books we read and loved in 2022 that were published before 2022.


Alexandra

This fall I rediscovered the joy of borrowing physical books from the library, and my best belated reads are a product of that new (old) pastime.

I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

A perfect meet-cute in a coffee shop leads to one high-powered investment banker CEO owing a favor to a woman who runs her family’s general store. Fixie Farr is often overlooked and overruled by her impressive older siblings, but Sebastian Marlowe knows a good person when he sees one. Hilarity and growth ensues as Fixie and Sebastian trade IOUs and help each other fix up their lives. I particularly enjoyed seeing Fixie’s siblings get their comeuppance – and how finally owning up to what they were doing wrong deflated the tension in their family like a popped balloon.

Buy it at Amazon

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

I’ve put off reading some of Allen’s backlist because I enjoy her books so much and like knowing there’s more in store for me someday. But this year I broke down and read The Peach Keeper. As expected, it was a charming story woven with her mystical style. I loved seeing the friendship grow between Willa and Preston, and the overall philosophy that you have to make room for new things in your life before they can appear.

Buy it at Amazon


Anne

These Hollow Vows by Lexi Ryan

This is a YA fey book that has been compared to A Court of Thorns and Roses. However, while there are similarities, it has its own twists and turns. I was wondering how a certain male character would fit into the plot, and that turned into a new twist. (I haven’t read the sequel, These Twisted Bonds, yet.)

Buy it at Amazon

This is the year I decided to rediscover Sherlock Holmes — and especially Sherlock Holmes pastiches. I was steeped in these stories throughout high school, and I have started to get back into them. I bought The Seven-Per-Cent Solution because I want to rediscover it with adult eyes. Also, I picked up In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon, edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger – two people who have clashed with the Doyle estate. (Now that the Sherlock Holmes stories are all in the public domain in the U.S., and the estate can’t sue because an adaptation showed Sherlock Holmes smiling too often or whatever, I’m excited to see what pastiches come out next.)

Buy it at Amazon

On the What in the World? front, I just started reading Ensnared (The Spider’s Mate, #1) by Tiffany Roberts. I was curious about it because of the recent controversy. This is never something I thought I would say, but I truly admire this arachnid hero.

Buy it at Amazon


Caroline

Bass-Ackwards by Eris Adderly

A sizzling hot but also incredibly human boss-employee erotic romance with nary a billionaire in sight.

Buy it at Amazon

A Counterfeit Betrothal by Mary Balogh

The fake engagement of a young couple gives the “bride’s” estranged parents a second chance at love.

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Bountiful by Sarina Bowen, Extra Credit anthology – Blonde Date novella

I binged Bowen’s entire backlist this year and loved all of it. Two standouts: Bountiful, one of the only secret baby plots I’ve ever loved, and Blonde Date, about an awkward basketball player and the bubbly blonde recently-jilted heroine who discovers he’s loved her all along.

Buy Bountiful at Amazon

Buy Extra Credit at Amazon

A Charm of Magpies series by K.J. Charles

All of Charles’s backlist is terrific, but this sets itself apart with its perfectly mismatched main couple, the aristocratic and elegant Lucien Vaudrey and the scrappy, powerful Stephen Day.

Buy it at Amazon

 

Renegade by Justine Davis

Science fiction, an older couple, enemies to lovers, realistic parenting – so much of this book checks off tags I adore. Last in the Coalition Rebellion: Ziem series and full of spoilers, so be aware before you choose it.

Buy it at Amazon

What You Need by Lorelei James

A businessman-former wild child romance set apart by the well-developed Minneapolis and corporate settings.

Buy it at Amazon

Sweetheart by Sarah Mayberry

In this spin-off of Bowen’s series, a barista and a coffee roaster fall in love – but the hero was previously dated, and was abused by, the heroine’s mentally ill sister.

Buy it at Amazon

Wild Oats by Pamela Morsi

A charming historical with an unusual setting (1907 Oklahoma), an unusual heroine (divorced), and an unusual occupation for the hero (undertaker).

Buy it at Amazon

Reel by Kennedy Ryan

An actress with lupus struggles to maintain her health while completing the biopic of a neglected should-be-legendary Black musician. The hero is the director.

Buy it at Amazon

Scoring Off the Field by Naima Simone

Best friends to lovers with a football player and a social worker.

Buy it at Amazon

 


Caz

As is almost always the case, I find myself better able to catch up with older releases in audio than I do in print, so my two Best Belateds are both audiobook series.

Life Lessons series by Kaje Harper

The four books in this series came out in audio format in 2021/2, but were originally published between 2012 and 2014, so I think they count.  High school teacher Tony Hart and deeply closeted cop Jared Maclean (Mac) meet when there’s a murder at the school Tony works at and the possibility he may be able to identify the killer makes him a target.  We then follow them through a secret relationship, through Mac’s agonising over whether and how to come out, through their making a family and facing potential tragedy.  Each book contains a well-written, fascinating mystery/procedural in addition to the romance, which is heartfelt and beautifully done.  In the audiobook version, the narration by J.F. Harding is absolutely outstanding throughout; the whole series is now high up on my list of comfort listens.

Buy it at Amazon

Criminal Intentions series by Cole McCade

This is a (very) long-running romantic suspense series that was conceived as a kind of TV show in book format. There are two complete “seasons” of thirteen books each and a third is underway.  Again, it’s one of those series that’s been on my radar for ages, so when the first three books came out in audio last year I pounced – and was so completely hooked that I switched to print after I’d finished those and have just recently completed the second season.  It’s a same-couple series featuring Malcolm Khalaji and Seong-Jae Yoon, two detectives from the Baltimore PD with clever, overatching plotlines as well as individual cases to be solved in each book.  The stories are intricate and absorbing but they do go to some dark places (in S2 especially); the two leads are fascinating, complex, flawed individuals and their sloooooow burn romance is superb. If you like gritty romantic suspense, you should definitely give this series a try.

Buy it at Amazon


Dabney

Float Plan by Trish Doller

I was late to Doller’s work–whoa! Can the woman write! I loved this story of a woman trying to find herself on her dead fiancé’s boat. This is a Valentine to travel, to the strangers you meet along the way, and to finding the love of your life in the last place you’d ever have looked. I loved it.

Buy it at Amazon


The Worst Guy by Kate Canterbary

Readers have mentioned Canterbary a bunch over the past year so I thought I’d give her a whirl. Though not without its flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed this love story between surgeons. This is a very sexy book and the writing is smart and flows beautifully. If you like smutty talking, grumpy heroes, this book is your jam.

Buy it at Amazon

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I cannot believe I’ve made it this far in life without reading Bardugo. She is a fantastic writer–her world building is divine. In 2022, I read all nine books in her Grishaverse and, while I love them all, the best is Six of Crows. I can’t praise it enough. It’s a DIK for me and one I’ll be recommending for a long long time.

Buy it at Amazon


Maria Rose

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

I happened upon the review for this when looking through some older #DIK reviews at AAR, and the premise, a time travel department at Oxford that sends people back into the past to observe historical events as they happen was too good to pass up. I was hooked within the first few pages as graduate student Kivrin travels back to 1320, a decade before the black plaque sweeps through Europe. It also deals with a present day pandemic (very prescient for our times). This historical fiction/science fiction novel entranced me, and in quick succession I also read Blackout and All Clear which see the same department involved in sending folks back to WWII, in particular to London and the surrounding countryside. So many twists and turns in these as well! I can’t recommend this author’s Oxford Time Travel books highly enough for gripping, unforgettable reads.

Buy it at Amazon

Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid

Slow to the hockey party, but I finally got into this sexy sports romance series by Rachel Reid with Heated Rivalry, an enemies to lovers romance of two rival NHL players on opposing teams. I know this is a favorite of several other AAR reviewers and I can see why! I still need to read this couple’s sequel The Long Game; good odds it ends up on my best belated reads next year.

Buy it at Amazon

Thirsty by Mia Hopkins

Before reading the last book in Mia Hopkins Eastside Brewery series, Tanked, which was released in 2022 (and ended up on my best of the year list), I needed to catch up on the earlier books starting with Thirsty. And boy, was that a treat! I was kicking myself for not having read Thirsty when it was released because it’s a prime example of everything I want in a contemporary romance. A vivid setting, interesting and imperfect characters, and sexy heat written in an authentic and believable story -highly recommended!

Buy it at Amazon

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