What constitutes a DIK/5 Star/Best of romance? For me, a DIK romance is a book that delights me, with characters I at least like (but normally, I love them) and a romance that leaves my heart a little gooey. I thoroughly enjoy reading it, don’t want to put it down, am sad when it is over and it normally sends me on a glom of the author’s back list. Or at least it sends me to Amazon to check when the next novel is coming. A good book is a good experience; it’s an event that you want to repeat and most of the time, repeat as soon as possible.
This year I read approximately 165 books, 18 of which are DIKs. Four of them – the fabulous Mark of the Tala by Jeffe Kennedy, Rachel Hore’s charming A Place of Secrets, Leila Rasheed’s Downton Abbey-esque Cinders and Saphires and Francine River’s Redeeming Love – were published prior to 2014. Two of them – Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson and A Cowboy Unmatched by Karen Witemeyer – were novellas. Two of them – Fear Nothing by Lisa Gardener and Precious Thing by Colette Macbeth – are not romances. Here are the romances that were on that list:
Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok – I loved the Cinderella nature of the tale, the unique look into Chinese-American culture, the heroine Charlie and her irrepressible spirit and generosity and the gentle, hopeful nature of the love story. So few books do a good job of capturing what it’s like to be a first generation American but this novel captured it perfectly.
Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh – I fell a little in love with hero Flavian Arnott, Viscount Ponsonby while reading this novel and am glad I found his heroine, Agnes Keeping, worthy of him. I liked that they brought out the best in each other. I always love Balogh’s depiction of the Regency period and I loved that the book is a love story between adults. So often romance novels depict love stories between 30 year old juvenile delinquents – I am always delighted when I read one about grown-ups.
It Happened One Wedding by Julie James – It had me at the opening scene in the coffee shop. When Sidney Sinclair shoots down pick up artist Vaughn Roberts it is just priceless. When they meet again later it is completely delicious. The book had a lot of LOL moments for me as well as just being a completely charming romance. Easily my favorite funny of 2014.
This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner – Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac are fighting on opposite sides of a vicious revolution. Adding to the fun is the fact that there is something seriously wrong with the planet they are on. When they meet they should hate each other but somehow that’s not at all what happens. They feel a strong physical attraction, sure, but beyond that there is a sense of shared values – both Flynn and Jubilee are big picture people and it is that ability to see a world of possibilities and responsibilities beyond themselves that draws them to each other.
Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin – I love how Lin is able to capture the essence of a culture and make it both true to itself and relatable to the audience. That brilliance is in full force in this novel. Adding to the charm is the lovely, slow paced romance intertwined with court intrigue and daring adventure.
The Jade Temptress by Jeannie Lin – Lin is the only author to appear twice on this list and both times it’s for the same reason. She writes fabulous romances, interesting characters, intricately plotted mystery adventures and detailed, fascinating history. In short, Lin is a master of her craft. This love story between courtesan Mingya and Constable Wu Kaifeng is both sweet and multi-faceted and an absolute delight to read.
Hour of Need by Melinda Leigh – Leigh’s last few books were at best B reads for me but this book was an eye opener, a complete surprise and joy. Major Grant Barrett is called back from Afghanistan when his brother and sister-in-law are murdered. As guardian to his young niece and nephew Grant feels over whelmed but neighbor Ellie Ross steps in to help. Then both of them find themselves caught in a killers cross hairs. An interesting mystery and a delightful romance made this a top read for me.
Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews – Kate Daniels and her mate, Curran, the Beast Lord, continue their romance amidst a world gone horribly, magically awry. Because they are unable to control their beasts, many shapeshifter children can’t survive to adulthood. There is a medicine that can help but the recipe is closely guarded by the European packs, with whom Curran most assuredly does not get along. When the opportunity arises for the Pack to get their hands on some of the elixir, Kate and Curran do their best to make it happen. But is there really a pot of magic, golden cure at the end of the rainbow – or a trap? Excellent world building places this terrific romance at the top of the paranormal pack.
Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James – No one does as fantastic a job on the eerie, spooky atmosphere needed for the gothic romance as Simone St. James does. In this offering we meet Kitty Weeks and Jack Yates, a nurse and patient at a haunted hospital.
Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White – Jessamin is attending school in Albion and missing her island home of Melei. Her brown skin and low status have made her an outcast but that doesn’t bother her; her interest is in the education. An encounter with the gorgeous, enigmatic Finn, an aristocrat with powerful magic, sets her life on a new course. But Finn has an enemy, the vicious Lord Downpike, who will do anything to steal information Finn possesses. Will the thoroughly unmagical Jessamin be a help or hindrance to Finn? This book combined two great loves of mine: the first is people without magic being an important part of a magical battle and the second is a Regency-esque fantasy novel. Along the line of Patricia C. Wrede’s The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, A Matter of Magic (also by Wrede) , and the novels of Gail Carriger, this is a delightful mix of magic and manners .
That is my list of DIK reads for 2014. So how many books did you read this year? How many were DIKs?
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More mystery/suspense reading for me last year than romantic fiction. However, I am in total agreement with two romance novels you listed: Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh and Julie James’ It Happened One Wedding. I’m unfamiliar with the rest of the titles, though. When I want to read, I seem to be drawn mostly to suspense these days; if none are available, then there are only a few romance authors who remain on my go-to list and you’ve named two of them.
Hour of Need by Melinda Leigh is very good. I would strongly recommend you try it from the library. It’s not as chill inducing as Die Again or even Cold, Cold Heart but it is romantic suspense and does a nice job of blending the two.
Thanks, I just may do that.
Regarding Goodreads, I enjoy the site too but more for looking at all of the lists of books with various themes that I have found so interesting and helpful for finding possible new reads. Keeping track of my own reading though? I’ve always had a good memory for what I have and haven’t read and how much I enjoyed what I read (or not), which is what matters more to me than a grade or what year I read a book. For instance, I’ve loved Jude the Obscure for a long time but I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve read it or in what years. Still, I’m grateful to those of you who do post online lists or make handy reading suggestions. I also understand that list-making can be fun and entertaining. Different strokes…
I like the lists on goodreads too. I didn’t think I’d like keeping track of my reads but I’ve done so for three years now and it’s given me a different perspective on my reading habits. But I understand it’s not for everyone.
I didn’t do a good job on keeping my list accurate at Goodreads but I know I read at least 100 books – to be honest I don’t classify my books the way you do either – I did read a lot of good books last year but don’t know that any were really DIK types….lol
Without goodreads I wouldn’t keep accurate track at all. I am very happy to have access to them.And I appreciate how it helps me look up books too. If I can’t remember a title but remember what shelf I would have put it on or the year I read it I can re-locate it. Very helpful for forgetful folks like myself.
I have Mark of the Tala and Silence for the Dead in my TBR. I’m going to add several of the others since you never steer me wrong. :)
Mark of the Tala is truly awesome. I am truly looking forward to Talon of the Hawk in May. And you can never go wrong with Simone St. James. She is awesome!
According to Amazon, Mark of the Tala was published in 2014. And I don’t recall seeing it earlier than that…..
Oops! I don’t know why I thought it wasn’t a 2014. My apologies. Then it definitely makes my list of top reads for last year.
Not many of the books I read are published that very same year. (That’s why I have to sit out the annual readers’ polls.)
I read 42 books last year. Nine of them received an A or A- from me, so that’s pretty good! I think the reason I tend to like many of the books is that I peruse multiple reviews/reviewers, and I don’t stray too far from my personal tastes. (Of course, that may make me a boring, unchallenged reader!)
Besides that, since I’m not as fast as some of you, I’ve collected a lot of books over the years which other readers have labeled DIKs. In other words, I have the advantage of speedier readers feeding me DIKs over time, ensuring that I’m never without a great book. ;-)
I am determined this year to read all the top picks of my AAR co-workers (the ones they picked as their book of the year). I’ve already read two and thought they were smashing!
Yeah, I tend to follow other peoples DIK reviews too. I read Transcendence because of Melanie’s top ten list and thoroughly loved it. I also added Dead Romantic, Waistcoats and Weaponry and Beautiful Wreck to my kindle all thanks to top 10 lists.
Well, I read Mambo in Chinatown based on your recommendation and really enjoyed it. I even gifted a copy to a friend and a family member, one who likes dance and the other a young girl just trying to decide what she wants to do in life.
Oh, I am so glad to hear that! I thought it was a really great book but it is always nice to learn that others enjoyed it too.
I read 323 books in 2014 and had 31 DIKs (14 I gave an A and 17 an A-). But not all of those were publised last year as some were older books.
Wow! You’ve got some really impressive stats there. I read about half of what you did. Quite a few of my reads last year were older books too – by the time I learn about a great book, buy it and move it up the pile it tends to have aged a bit.
I should say my reading total includes rereads if I reread the entire book and not just parts. So my new books were somewhere in the 270-280 range. Getting over 300 books read was a first for me and I seriously doubt I will be able to do so again in 2015.
I liked Silence of the Dead, too. Simone St. James is an auto-buy for me because I have a weakness for atmospheric Gothics. Early 20th C setting is an added bonus. I have several others that are on your list in my TBR (Jeannie Lin, Amie Kaufman, Julie James).
As for my stats:
170 books read. 35 % were in the 4-5 star range. 54 % were romances.
Forgot to add that only 17 percent of them were new releases.
Simone St. James is an auto-buy for me too. I’m anxiously awaiting The Other Side of Midnight which comes out in April. I hope her success inspires others to publish gothics.
Goodreads has really made a difference in my ability to track books. I won’t say I’m perfect at it but I have a clearer picture than I did before when I was just guessing.
This is so true for me. I am dreadful at spread sheets–Goodreads keeps track of what I read, what I thought of it, and when I read it plus it gives the pub date. I, for one, am a grateful user.
I only read about 30 books last year. I keep meaning to join goodreads and really keep track of what I am reading but haven’t done so yet. I am a big fan of Julie James so I agree with you on It Happened One Wedding. I fell out of love with the Kate Daniels series awhile ago but couldn’t really say why. I will check out the other books on your list – some of them look like books I would enjoy.
I’ll have to check out Mambo in Chinatown. It sounds good!
It’s a very sweet story. Hope you like it.
Oh, I’ll have to track down A Week in Paris. I didn’t realize she had one out last year. I am slowly working my way through her back list and have enjoyed her blend of one story in the past, one in the present.
Excellent list. I’ve read the Simone St. James’s book and that won was spooky and I very rarely do spooky. And I really enjoy Rachel Hore’s books; I’ve read them all including her latest which was published in 2014 (A Week in Paris).