As time approached for this year’s annual AAR Reader Poll, I found myself thinking more and more about my favorite romances published in 2014. As one of the three AAR pollsters – along with Cindy and Lee – I get to look at all of your selections each year. But my favorites? Some years it’s harder than others. For most of 2014 I was in a huge reading slump so read far less than normal. But I still have a few favorites. I tend to think of them in terms of the categories available in the Reader’s Poll, so for better or worse, my favorites are:
It Happened One Wedding by Julie James – This wonderful contemporary romance gets my vote for Best Romance, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Romance hero, Best Romance Heroine, and Best Romance Couple. I gave the audiobook an A here. Sidney and Vaughn are a wonderful heroine and hero, and the dialog sparkles throughout.
That Summer by Lauren Willig – This gets my vote for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements. Like Ms. Willig’s Pink Carnation series, this standalone switches between a modern story and a historical story (set in 1850s London). While not a straight romance, there’s a strong romantic element, with a definite HEA, in the contemporary portion of the book.
Santa’s Playbook by Karen Templeton – I read this holiday romance late in the year, and it immediately jumped over every other category romance I’d read to be my choice for Best Category Romance of 2014. I’ll confess that Karen Templeton is a comfort read for me. I don’t love every book she writes, but there’s something about her voice that speaks to me, and this one is a real favorite.
Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger – This third in the author’s steampunk series gets my vote both for best Young Adult Romance and Best Paranormal Romance. Sophronia and her friends are now in their second year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality, a school located in a dirigible in which the girls learn how to be intelligencers (I read it as spies). Sophronia and her friends get into all kinds of trouble as they board a train to take their classmate back to a werewolf pack in Scotland. This gets my vote both for Best Paranormal Romance and Best Young Adult Romance. I found the book to be a lot of fun, and am very curious to see what happens in the next.
River Road by Jayne Ann Krentz – I’m happy to pick as my Best Romantic Suspense Ms. Krentz’s latest book. The author’s early books – in particular Trust Me (DIK review here) – are what led me into the romance genre. For years I bought her books – in hardback – on the day they were released. But years of paranormal elements had me abandoning that practice. I was delighted when the author announced that this would be a non-paranormal, straight romantic suspense, and wasn’t disappointed. I agree with Maggie’s assessment of the main characters, as being a key to this book: “A large part of what made this book so fun to spend time with is the characters. Mason and Lucy are terrific. You’d want to sit next to them on a plane or be stuck near them in a long line. The author does a great job of fleshing them out and letting you experience them as real life human beings. They’ve had money concerns. There have been -and still are – family issues. But both of them are nice, solid, kind people.”
Rock Courtship: A Rock Kiss Novella by Nalini Singh – I owe many thanks to the AAR readers who suggested this as a possible read for Best Short Story of 2014. I tend to avoid New Adult romances, and generally dislike romances featuring movie stars or rock stars, but this sounded intriguing. I’ve read a few other short stories, but this gets my vote for the Best Short Story of 2014 and also for Best New Adult. Part of the author’s Rock Kiss series, this features David, a member of a hit rock group and their publicist Thea. David is sweet and in love with Thea (and definitely in lust as well). Thea values her career and wants to just be friends. David’s pursuit of Thea is sweet, funny, and deeply romantic. I intend to pick up more in the series.
Dead Romantic by Ruth Saberton – If we still had a chick lit category this would get my vote for best chick lit of 2014. The author is new to me, but my friend and AAR colleague LeeB recommended it as she knows I like all things Egyptian as well as chick lit. Cleo Carpenter, is an Egyptologist who works at a fictional London museum. After a major accident Cleo sees ghosts everywhere, including a dead rock star who needs her help with his brother, Rafe Thorne. While parts of the book are funny and light, there’s also a darker side focusing on how a number of characters – including the heroine and hero – deal with the death of major loved ones. I adore this book, and will definitely read it again, and Rafe Thorne gets my vote for Most Tortured Romance Hero.
The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan – This gets my vote for Best European Historical Romance. Caz gave this an A here and it’s definitely an A for me. I no longer read a lot of historical romance, but this year discovered, and have enjoyed, some books by Ms. Milan. With only a few exceptions I have voted for Eve Dallas as Best Kick-Ass Heroine in the AAR Reader Poll. This year my vote goes to Free, whom Caz describes as a “passionate activist and campaigner for womens’ rights, who continually places herself in danger because while the world is a terrible place – she refuses to be cowed and is determined to make it better.” I loved Free and Edward, and they’re a close second for my favorite romance couple of 2014.
Okay. I just don’t think of books with people who are almost 30 as being new adult, but if that’s what people think it is. Most of the new adult I’ve read was about college students. Or where one of the characters (usally the hero) is in the mob somehow. Not sure why, that’s just been my admitedly limited expierience with the genre. It’s not really the genre for me due to the very high angst factor.
Hope you are feeling better!
Oops, I had meant to hit reply not quote.
Thanks, still not 100% but definitely much improved.
Santa’s Playbook by Karen Templeton was also my choice for Best Category Romance of 2014!
Oh nice. I really enjoyed it so much!
Glad to hear you enjoyed Rock Courtship.
Can I just ask how AAR is defining New Adult? I don’t believe that either book in the Rock Kiss series qualifies as New Adult. The characters are mostly in their late twenties, they are not in college or newly working. In Rock Addiction the hero is 27 and the heroine is 24. She’s been out of college and working as a librarian for two years already when the story starts. In Rock Courtship, the hero is 27 and the heroine is 29. The two heroes have been in a wildly succesful rock band for a decade.
I thought New Adult was about adults who were college-aged and/or living on their own for the first time. Or maybe you could stretch it to just past college with them starting their first job. But I just don’t see either book as fitting in the genre. And the author has not marketed them as New Adult, but as straight contemporary.
Sorry, I’ve been sick for most of the last week and am just actively getting back online again. I saw this described as New Adult in several locations online so decided I had one to vote for. Basically we’re defining New Adult as what the readers select.
It’s sort of what happened numerous times in the past when we had the Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction category. Inevitably people voted for books in that category that many thought were actually contemporary romance, but we went with them, and we accepted the votes.
That being said, there are some things we would reject. If someone voted in the Historical Romance set outside the UK category for a book that occurred completely in the UK, we wouldn’t accept the vote. Likewise, if someone voted in the Historical Romance set in the UK category for a book that took place in 2014 we’d reject it. And as silly as those examples may seem, we get such votes each time we do the Annual Poll. And don’t get me started on “”Debut Author”” votes for authors who have been published for over 20 years. :)
I am really surprised That Summer gets such strong recs from a romance book site. I read it and it fell into wallbanger territory for me. I felt the historical romantic portion was much more compelling romance wise……and well, you know!
I’ve been wanting to read That Summer but haven’t had the time so I’m glad you endorsed it. More reason to move it up the TBR pile. And I am grateful that you mentioned Waistcoats and Weaponry. I didn’t like book two in this series and was thinking of just quitting. You have me intrigued enough that I will give it one more shot. I’ll try Dead Romantic too. That sounds right up my alley.
I highly recommend Dead Romantic. It surprised me with how much I enjoyed it. Actually after I finished I checked at Audible to see if there’s an audio version as well (there isn’t).
So glad you enjoyed my recommendation LinnieGayl! And good choices for the other categories. I will definitely check out the ones I haven’t read.
Make that first sentence “”As time approached for this year’s AAR Annual Reader Poll….””