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
I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.
This is always so hard. I can’t name just one so I have to give several that rocked my 218 reading world
Fall by Kristen Callihan is wonderful. It’s the 3rd in her KillJon series
Lennon Rebuilt by Scarlett Cole is another fantastic book. It’s the fourth and final book in a series about a heavy metal band. (and I don’t even like heavy metal). All the books I’ve read a few times now.
My author of the year is Julie Kriss. I’ve read every book of hers this year and I’ve given every one the highest marks. Can’t narrow down a single book as they are all so very good
KristieJ: So with you on Julie Kriss! I just finished the last Riggs Brothers book, MAKE ME BEG, and I was bittersweet because I knew I’d finished the series. Imho, I think Kriss is a very underrated writer who deserves a wider audience.
My #1 of all time!!!
Loving all these alternate reality suggestions!
I’m glad a post like this has been created. I never participate in best -of-the-year stuff because almost all of the books I read are published before the current year. My 2 faves so far are The Hostage by Susan Wiggs and Burning Sky by Lori Benton.
Alyssa Cole’s Let It Shine. Oh my God.
Also a second for Stepbrother Dearest, which I thought would be a guilty pleasure and was instead basically ruined by, and the last half of Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series (read the first six when they came out and then got behind).
This is such a great idea for a post — I hope it becomes an annual tradition.
@Anonymous: If you haven’t read NEIGHBOR DEAREST, a sort of sequel to STEPBROTHER DEAREST, I strongly recommend it. It has the same angst and heart as the first book. The heroine is the woman the hero left in STEPBROTHER DEAREST. We follow her recovery from heartbreak, finding a new love, and there’s also a catch-up with the h&h of STEPBROTHER.
I think my favorite 2018 discovery was Bad Judgement by Sidney Bell. ALL her books are terrific. though.
I binged Meljean Brooks last year and I have to agree with you – The Kraken King is amazing. The covers are beautiful, the serialized stories are terrific, and I compulsively one-clicked the next book as soon as I finished the last. I absolutely dreaded reaching the last book! I think I might put it in my top 10 romance novels of all time. It’s that good.
I read the first two in that series and then stopped for no good reason. Now that I’m reading the McMasters’ steampunk series, I’m thinking about picking the Brooks back up.
Thanks for the McMaster rec, Dabney! I just read the first and enjoyed it. Interested to see where the second goes – I often get bored of paranormals/alternate realities where characters can become immortal since that seems to be the resolution to every story. Hope it stays strong.
Nutmeg, have you read the spin-off “Alpha and Omega” series, or the Mercyverse anthology “Shifting Shadows”?
Have you tried her “high fantasy” yet? Not any of the HF is a ‘series’ per se; there are one or two ‘singles’, a couple of ‘duologies’, and about 4 books that loosely go together under the “Sianam” ficton. Her humor sparkles in those.
You may fall in love with Ward of Hurog in the Dragon Bones/Dragon Blood duology.
I’ve been moving cautiously out of the “Dream” sequence by M.C.A. Hogarth into the associated novels, some of which are quite dark. If that worries a person, they should check her website, she gives pretty clear indicators what kind of potential triggers you might be exposed to with each book.
I’ve finally gotten through all the currently in print “Others” books by Ann Bishop. Looking forward to “Wild Country” coming next spring.
Lisa, I haven’t read Lord of Scoundrels yet! I started it as audiobook in December 2017 on Hoopla and then my library discontinued their Hoopla subscription while I was in the middle of the book! I’ve since bought a paperback, but haven’t started reading it again. Maybe it’ll end up on my belated reads for 2019.
A few years ago, (and before I read it) I thought I was the only one on the planet who hadn’t read LoS! :P The audio is well worth picking up again if you can though – Kate Reading is superb.
After seeing Mariana Zapata’s surprising showing on the recent top 100 AAR poll with two of her books in the top 10, I read both The Wall of Winnipeg and Kulti and fell in love. Kulti is my favorite book I’ve read this year, though it was written in 2015. I’m hooked on Zapata’s writing and cannot wait to read more.
I read all the so-far available books in the series by Aleana Alder that starts with My Commander.
I’ve been reading a lot of series fiction this year. I devoured all of the Kate Daniels books by Ilona Andrews. I also enjoyed The Thorne brothers trilogy by Jo Goodman. I’ve mainly been concentrating on catching up on my fantasy TBR, which included Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders trilogy— which may now edge out Farseer and Tawny Man as my favorite—and Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest.
My absolute favorite read of 2018 (so far—who knows what I might read before December 31st?) is Sierra Simone’s PRIEST which was published in 2015 I believe. It’s an erotic romance about a priest who falls in love with a woman when she joins his church. The secular and the sacred side-by-side.
Other “read in 2018 but published earlier” favorites include: Eve Dangerfield’s ACT YOUR AGE (Daddy role-play done right); A. Zavarelli’s TAP LEFT (addiction/co-dependency/enabling and the long shadow of the past); Audra North’s GIVING IT UP (an inexperienced woman tries her hand, so to speak, at being a domme); Annika Martin’s MOST ELIGIBLE BILLIONAIRE (wonderful, just utterly wonderful); Penelope Ward’s STEPBROTHER DEAREST and NEIGHBOR DEAREST (angsty but sweet interconnected love stories); Cara McKenna’s WILLING VICTIM/BRUTAL GAME (“consensual non-consent” perfectly done); Ainsley Booth’s HATE F*@K (“curvy” heroine and her bodyguard—and that is the correct typography of the title); and Julie Kriss’s TAKE ME DOWN (ex-con and a counselor he once visited for help adjusting to post-prison life).
I started Patricia Briggs “Mercy Thompson” series at the beginning of April and devoured all 10 books before the month was over. Sometimes it’s great being late to the party! Having 10 books available to read back to back is a beautiful thing! I’m just bummed that I have to wait for the next in the series with everyone else.