Each year, the AAR staff picks their favorite Buried Treasure–a book that ran under the radar or that we think many readers may have missed. Last year’s list–which you may read here–featured books by Tessa Bailey, Caroline Linden, and Jay Bell, just to mention a few.
This year, several staff members felt they hadn’t encountered a Buried Treasure, so our list this year is a little shorter than last year’s. Here are the picks from the staff who did indeed find unheralded gold.
Caz: I’ve already mentioned my Buried Treasure as being one of my favourite books of 2014 – The King’s Falcon by the British author, Stella Riley. She’s been a favourite author of mine since the first book of hers I read back in the 1980s and A Splendid Defiance is still one of my all-time favourites. Ms Riley wrote a handful of novels set in the 17th and 18th Centuries back in the 80s and 90s, and had finished the second book in a projected series of novels set during the English Civil War when she stopped writing and just… disappeared!
But now she’s back, and if one didn’t know any better, would have no idea that she’s had a gap of more than twenty years in her writing career. Having spent the last couple of years revising and digitally republishing all her novels, this year she published a new book – the very long-awaited third book in her Civil War series, The King’s Falcon. The end of the previous novel, Garland of Straw saw the execution of King Charles I, and Falcon follows the exiled King Charles II to Paris with his rather disparate group of courtiers and soldiers. The hero is Colonel Ashley Peverell, soldier, spy and doer of the king’s dirty work. While in Paris, Ashley becomes smitten with a talented young actress, and although he has nothing to offer her, their mutual attraction proves impossible to fight. Ms Riley’s attention to historical detail is fantastic, and she creates the most wonderful romantic tension between her two leads while at the same time skilfully weaving together a number of different plot-threads which culminate in the uncovering of a nefarious scheme which could have potentially explosive consequences.
She has already said that she plans to continue with this series, and that there are more books in the offing. I, for one, can’t wait!
Rike: My favorite Buried Treasure in 2014 was An Heir of Uncertainty by Alyssa Everett. Everett is an autobuy author for me: She writes Regencies but always with a unique set-up, and she is never afraid to putting her protagonists in (for a historical romance) most unusual situations, and through the emotional wringer. In , the hero is to inherit an earldom from a distant cousin – if the cousin’s widow does not bear a male child. Both hero and heroine of this novel have experienced poverty, and the fortune at stake may make all the difference to them. As a result, they are torn between their worries about the future and their liking for each other. As with all Everett novels, I love the “real” problems that the characters have and the fact that they are people who are mostly good persons but also struggling how to find their way.
Lee: I always check the category “On Order New Fiction” on my library’s website to see if there are books that might appeal to me. I read the summary for Making Marion by Beth Moran and from looking at the cover thought it would be a light hearted story set near Nottingham, England. But it was a story of a young woman who had a not very wonderful childhood with her mother and was searching out what really happened to her father.
Another mom book is the sweet and funny Mother of the Year by Karen Ross. A daughter is trying to make her way in the world but who can’t compete with her tv star/journalist mom’s life.
Dead Romantic by Ruth Saberton (one of my favorite chick lit authors) was very entertaining. An Egyptologist in London is applying for a promotion at a museum with mummies but doesn’t know that she was the inspiration for a huge Christmas song written after she kissed a young man at an out of the way train station in England ten years ago.
Dabney: I was heartily surprised by how much I loved Personal Geography by Tamsen Parker. An author friend on Facebook was raving about the book but when I read the blurb–high powered sub who can’t commit finds a beta dom she can’t resist–I didn’t think it would do much for me. I’m not the right reader for most BDSM works. But I loved this novel not only for its delicate and nuanced story of how two strong people balance the scales of love and power but also for the insight it gave me into why BDSM works so strongly for those who seek it.
Amy Andrews’s No More Mr. Nice Guy was a close second for my favorite book of the year. It’s practically perfect in every way. The heroine, newly single after a long-term unsatisfying relationship, makes a sexy to-do list which her best friend’s utterly adorable older brother finds and decides its his job to fulfill. The book is one of the best combinations of sweet and oh so sexy out there and the hero has made it to my top ten list. It’s a joy from start to finish.
I rarely read paranormal romance but a friend recommended Meljean Brook’s novella Frozen and for that I thank her. This is a stand-alone love story about a woman and the cursed man she falls for. Ms. Brook is highly acclaimed for her world-building in her Iron Seas and Guardians series but that’s not on display here. Here the focus is on the two leads, the tough choices they face, and the strength of the love they have for one another. It’s well-written, suspenseful, and satisfying.
Maggie: Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok is a fabulous Cinderella story that did not receive nearly the buzz it should have. Heroine Charlie is marvelous – you can really root for her.
The Jade Temptress and Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin. I was stunned when Lin was moved to e-book only – she’s clearly not getting the buzz she needs and deserves.. She writes beautiful, poignant novels filled with characters that are wondrously alive and easily transcend cultural barriers. Both of the books she published this year were outstanding reads for me.
Lynn: What a Lady Most Desires by Lecia Cornwall. The Napoleonic Wars get lip service in more than a few early 19th century-set historicals, but this book was one of the better romances I’ve read that actually deals with the war and makes it an integral part of the story. The plot held my attention, and the author captured the emotional upheaval of the characters quite well.
If I get a runner up, it would be: Code Runner by Rosie Claverton. This second book in the Amy Lane mystery series really hit its stride, and I’m starting to really look forward to the adventures of the agoraphobic computer prodigy and her ex-con assistant. These books deserve to be more widely known and I can’t wait for the next installment.
Did you read any books this year that you loved but no one seems to be talking about? If so, please share them with us.