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.
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I also voted for Lucy Parker as 2015’s Best Debuting Romance Author in the annual poll, though I don’t know if she qualifies since she has been published under another name before 2015.
What was her previously published name, do you know? might be worth checking out her earlier books.
One previous self-published book, Artistic License, under the pen name Elle Pierson.
I loved the audio of The Other Side of Midnight – Mary Jane Wells is one of my favourite narrators and she did a fantastic job.
And I am a huge Amelia Peabody addict, so that’s saying something for me :)
Have you listened to the audobooks narrated by Barbara Rosenblat? They are so much fun to listen to!
I have the Raybourn on my Kindle and haven’t read it yet. I think I’ve just been worried that I wouldn’t love it as much as the Lady Julia books. Now that you say they are like Amelia Peabody and Emerson Radcliff, well, off to read immediately! (Crocodile on the Sandbank was an Amazon Daily Deal not too long ago, and even though I’ve read it a million times, I had to snatch it up!)
As a Lady Julia fan I had the same concerns about Raybourn’s new series. Have no fear – it’s good. It’s different enough too that I found I was not comparing. Really looking forward to the next one.
That’s exactly my feeling. As soon as I started reading I did not compare to Lady Julia. It has a completely different feel.
I didn’t like Rock Hard but I really enjoyed Rock Redemption. She’s such a versatile writer.
Her versatility does astonish me. That’s why I’m now thinking I should give her paranormals a try. Just need to figure out which one to start with.
Her “”Kiss of Snow”” in the Psy-Changeling series is one of my top ten favourite romances.
Although they each could work as stand-alones, the books in the Psy/Changeling series work better if read in order as there are several subplots which develop over the course of the series. I don’t love every couple in the series, but there are none that I dislike and I thought each book was worth reading. I have several favorites from the series and think Heart of Obsidian will probably be at the top of my list for the next AAR Top 100 poll.
(Note that I had discussed the series with several friends over the years and I actually started with Kiss of Snow thinking I had enough background on the various characters. But then I went back and read the first 9 books and all the novellas in order and am so glad I did. I only started with KoS because it was the only one my library had at the time.)
I haven’t read her Guild Hunter series because I don’t like vampires, but I did read Archangel’s Enigma with no issues. So I can vouch that it works as a stand-alone. I think there’s a prequel novella which was published first, but I know plenty of the series’ fans who started with the first full-length book, Angel’s Blood.
Her earlier Silhouette titles are more angsty than her paranormal books, but I enjoyed them. Craving Beauty is probably my favorite.
I loved Rock Hard and liked Rock Addiction, though I also voted for Noah as tortured hero. Rock Hard and Rock Courtship are by far my two favorites in the series.
Thanks, LibraryAddict. Sounds as if I should start with the first in the series.
Rise was also one of my favorite reads this year. Rock Hard was the first book I’ve read by Nalini Singh and I really enjoyed it. I have Rock Redemption and Act Like It on my tbr pile. I have found so many good books and new authors based on reviews on this site. Thanks to all the reviewers. I appreciate and benefit from all your hard work.
Thanks, Deann. I hope you enjoy Rock Redemption and Act Like It (two VERY different books).
I’m looking forward to Simone St. James’ next novel. Her books are always so fabulous and you are right, The Other Side of Midnight was one of the best from last year.
I can’t wait for her next either. This one was positively scary in audio :)
Fun list! I agree with you about the Willig, Raybourn and St. James’s books. I did read Rise based on your recommendation and it was quite good.