Are you always behind in your reading? Making a Best Books of The Year list is always a source of frustration for me, because so often, the best reads I had in any given year aren’t from that year at all. I want to celebrate them and shout about them, but if they’re not from 2018, they aren’t eligible for so many of our official posts!
I asked our staffers: what was your best belated read (BBR?) of 2018? Was it a famous book for which you’re really, really late to the party? A buried treasure you want to share with other readers?
Here’s what we came up with.
My BBR is Jeanne Lin’s The Jade Temptress. It’s the sequel to The Lotus Palace and contains many spoilers for that book, so I recommend starting with Lotus Palace. Lotus is good, but The Jade Temptress blew me away. The Tang Dynasty courtesan’s quarters setting is richly developed. The heroine, Mingyu, is attracted to the power and influence of her courtesan’s life and reluctant to trade it in despite her attraction to Kaifeng, the working-class investigator hero. A heroine who likes being powerful??? Add in a twisty mystery and I had a new DIK.
I had one other, too – Meljean Brook’s The Kraken King, which I picked up while trying to handle Nalini Singh withdrawal. I enjoyed The Iron Duke, the first in The Iron Seas series; actively disliked the second book Heart of Steel, and flat-out adored The Kraken King. The hero is marvelous. The heroine is clever. Their chemistry is great. The adventure is sweeping, with creative and coherent worldbuilding. This book has quickly shot up to the top of my paranormal/steampunk list.
I read Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows for the first time this year and was blown away by it. I’m a huge fan of Meredith Duran’s but hadn’t read it yet (I ration her books for when I need something I KNOW is going to be good!). It’s in my “all-time favourites” list now. Also, the entire Charm of Magpies series by K.J. Charles came out in audio format recently, and audio is pretty much my preferred format for catching up with books I’ve not managed to get to in print. The three Magpie books and the spin offs are fantastic – sharply observed, brilliantly characterised, cleverly plotted and expertly narrated – I was in audio heaven!
For me it’s Bec McMasters’ Kiss of Steel. I loved everything about this book. The leads, the world building, the smouldering desire, and the pulse-raising plot. So. Good. Since reading this, I’ve glommed the rest of the series. I’m on book seven and still think McMasters’ storytelling is riveting. The last series I thought was this strong is Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green so, there you go.
It takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian. I have loved every one of Sebastian’s books that I have read. She really knows how to write emotionally-charged, tender romances. In this book, the eldest son, Benedict, of a ramshackle, unconventional family is the vicar of the parish of St. Aelred’s in Cumberland. He is compassionate and sensitive and keenly feels the loss of a kindred companion in his life. He also wants a conventional life that he never had growing up. But when a grumpy naval captain used to command takes up residence at nearby Barton Hall, sparks fly between Philip Dacre and Benedict, and Benedict sees his image of a safe life go up in smoke.
Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase – Yep, I think I’m the last person on the whole staff to read this charmer, and it was well worth the wait! A lovely, bantery, light-hearted legend, it was well worth the wait it took to get to it on my TBR pile!
Mine is Mindtouch by M.C.A. Hogarth (2013). This is an asexual-m/m romance which is as soft, delicate and slow as a lazy summer. Seersana University is worlds-renowned for its xenopsychology program, a line of study which produces therapist, and researchers capable of treating and studying the myriad species which make up the Alliance. Jahir is an oddity among his people the Eldritch, a reclusive and xenophobic species, which holds deeply to its privacy. He is deeply curious about the other species in the galaxy and so to Seersana and their xenopsychology program he goes. As a touch telepath, deeply responsive to any physical contact, he quickly learns how overwhelming being in a vast multicultural society can be. Fortunately, one of the first people he meets is Vasiht’h, also a telepath but someone far more used to steering his way through a bustling world full of people who like to touch and be touched. The two become roommates, then friends, but can they move past their differences, their doubts and insecurities to develop an even deeper relationship? They can and do and it is a beautiful, touching story that perfectly highlights what it truly means to fall in love.
I’d heard lots of good things about Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale (it consistently appears on AAR’s top 100 list, usually at or near the top) but what actually inspired me to pick it up was learning that the audiobook was narrated by Nicholas Boulton. He’s voiced some of my other favorites (The King’s Man by Elizabeth Kingston and Glitterland by Alexis Hall) so I used an audible credit to pick it up and it turned out to be the best of both worlds – a fabulously unique story (now I know why people rave!) and the talent of a narrator who can voice a man who has suffered a stroke regaining his sense of self and falling for a woman clearly from circumstances very different from his own. I found myself snatching even ten minutes of time to listen to the story (standing in line at the grocery store, waiting to pick up kids at a friend’s home), honestly having no idea how it would work out in the end! It’s definitely one of my favorite reads this year.
Readers, please join us with your best belated reads in the comments!
~ Caroline Russomanno