I’m finally coming out of a nearly two-year reading slump, but to do it I had to read a lot of old favorites (Julie James, Lauren Willig, Karen Templeton, Sarah Mayberry to name just a few) and also a good many mysteries and non-fiction works. This means that the number of romances first published in 2015 that I read was somewhat limited, but amongst those, my favorites are as follows:
Rise by Karina Bliss: I’ve raved about this book both in a Pandora’s Box and a DIK review. It’s my favorite romance of 2015 and also my favorite contemporary romance. In this follow-up to What the Librarian Did, Ms. Bliss manages to turn Zander Freedman from a despicable man into a thoroughly engaging, and intriguing hero. In the intelligent Elizabeth Winston, she produced the perfect heroine for Zander; together, the two stimulate each other’s emotions and intellects. We were also introduced to a host of intriguing secondary characters, and I can’t wait for most of them to get their own stories.
Rock Hard by Nalini Singh: I gave the audio version of this a DIK at AAR, and it’s also one of my favorite contemporary romances. I loved this tale of seeming opposites, the meek Charlotte Baird (Charlie Mouse) and the sexy, rich, former rugby star Gabriel Bishop (T-Rex). While both Gabriel and Charlotte are dealing with issues from the past, the book is filled with humor, most notably the hilarious chapter titles such as “Charlie-Mouse Meets T-Rex…and Things Happen” and “In News That Surprises No One, Anya is a Bitch.” While part of the author’s Rock Kiss series, this would definitely work as a standalone.
Act Like It by Lucy Parker: I discovered this fun, witty romance very late in the year and quickly wrote a DIK review. Set in the London theatre scene, this is one of my favorite contemporary romances of 2015, and Ms. Parker will definitely get my vote for Best Debut Author of 2015. I’ve taken to checking the author’s website weekly to see if there’s any news about upcoming romances, as I can’t wait to see what she writes next.
Rock Redemption by Nalini Singh – In this third entry in the author’s Rock Kiss series, Ms. Singh returns to the rock band Schoolboy Choir, featuring Noah St. John, a seriously troubled member of the band, and actress Kit Devigny. (Our DIK review is here.) It’s a credit to Ms. Singh that I love this as well as the earlier Rock Hard, since it has a completely different feel. This is an emotional, often draining read, featuring a truly dark hero who behaves despicably. While out of my normal comfort zone, I not only enjoyed, I’ve reread it. And Noah St. John gets my vote for Tortured Hero in AAR’s Annual Poll.
The Lure of the Moonflower by Lauren Willig – This final entry in the Pink Carnation series was one of my three favorite audio books of 2015 and it’s also one of my top romances of 2015. I had such mixed feelings about the end of the series, but both Jane – the Pink Carnation – and Eloise and Colin (the modern couple) definitely get their HEAs. (Our B+ review is here.)
A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn. This will get my vote in the category of romantic elements. Like many other readers, I despaired when Ms. Raybourn’s Lady Julia mystery series ended. I was a bit skeptical when I heard about this series, but decided to give it a try. Thank goodness I did! Caz gave it a DIK review at AAR and that would be my assessment as well. Veronica Speedwell and Stoker are intriguing characters. They’re each intelligent, independent, and have a number of secrets. While reading the book, I realized that the two remind me most closely of my favorite mystery couple, Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody and Emerson Radcliff; from me, that’s high praise indeed. (Our DIK review is here.)
Prudence by Gail Carriger: Okay, this may be a bit of a stretch, but while there are only hints of potential romance in this first entry in The Custard Protocol series, I absolutely adored it. This was also one of my favorite audiobooks of 2015. (The book is narrated by Moira Quirk.) This series also takes place in Ms. Carriger’s steampunk world, and follows up her earlier Parasol Protectorate series by skipping ahead about 20 years to feature the daughter – Prudence – of the earlier series hero and heroine. My DIK review is here.
The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James. I’ve read each of Ms. St. James books, and she seems to keep getting better with each one. I love the gothic feel to her books, combined with a bit of paranormal, and always a romance. Mary gave the print version a DIK; I listened to it in audio and actually felt chills at a few points. I found spiritualist Ellie Winter an intriguing heroine; it took me longer to warm to James, but by the end I knew they belonged together. If you’ve liked her other books, you’re going to love this one.
Manners & Mutiny by Gail Carriger – I can’t begin to say how much I enjoyed Ms. Carriger’s Young Adult Finishing School Series. I recently re-listened to all four books and picked up many things I missed on the first listen. This fourth entry was also one of my favorite audiobooks of 2015, but the story, with a definite HEA for our plucky heroine Sophronia, is also one of my favorite romances and gets my vote for Best Young Adult Romance of 2015. While I love this book, if you have any interest at all in a steampunk Young Adult series, please start at the beginning, with Etiquette & Espionage. Both the main and secondary characters change and grow over the series, and in this fourth installment, we learn that some characters weren’t quite what we thought they were before.
So for me, my favorites of 2015 include four contemporary romances, two steampunk novels (one a young adult), one time slip (combining contemporary and European Historical), one gothic/paranormal/romance, and one – A Curious Beginning – that I’m unsure how to classify.