othersideofmidnight 2015 was a strange reading year for me. For starters, I have a toddler, so I read more picture books than usual. Going back over books I read for myself, I did read a good number of current year releases in 2015 but an unusual quantity of them were C-grade reads. Most of my highest grades for the year were for older books that had been marinating in my TBR pile for a while. There were definitely 2015 gems to be found, though, and here are mine:

The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. James – I’ll admit that I picked this book up solely because St. James wrote it. Stories about spiritualists/mediums tend not to grab me, but this one was just irresistible. It’s a creepy and very well written mystery with more than a touch of romance to it. Highly recommend.

Heat Exchange by Shannon Stacey – Wowza. This book pretty much knocked my socks off. I gave this book a DIK review here on AAR, and it was easily my favorite contemporary romance of the year. This romance between a Boston firefighter and his mentor’s daughter is both sweet and hot at the same time. And what really sets this book apart? Not only does Stacey give us well-crafted characters, but she does a fabulous job of making their frends, family and world come to life.

desperatefortune A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley – Oh, this was such a fun read! Things get moving slowly, but as all the pieces start to pull together, the reader starts to fall into an amazing world. As many readers are aware, Kearsley often uses timeslips in her books, so we have both a modern-day storyline and an historical one. In this case, the modern-day storyline focuses on a young woman with Asperger’s who is skilled in decoding. She uses this skill to untangle a coded diary – and along the way, falls into a wonderful romance. And the historical story? Set in 1730s Europe, it’s a Jacobite adventure packed with action and emotion. Good stuff.

Pursued by the Rogue by Kelly Hunter – Hunter writes reliably good category romance, and this book is no exception. This “second chance at love” story featuring a heroine with a devastating secret and her high school love is a treat. And then there’s the fact that the hero is the older brother of one of her best friends. For a relatively short novel, this book features complications galore, and ending is truly satisfying.

beyondalldreamsBeyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden – Camden is fast becoming one of my few auto-buys in the inspirational subgenre. Her stories often give windows into interesting little niches in American history. I also love that Camden tends to feature strong, independent heroines. Anna O’Brien in this book is no exception. As an orphan, Anna must support herself, and throughout this novel, she works for the Library of Congress as it prepares to move from the Capitol to its new home. The story covers Anna’s adventures working with a dashing young senator as they try to solve a mystery Anna has uncovered in her records.

Beyond Limits by Laura Griffin – I’ve said it many times before, but Laura Griffin is one of those authors who keeps getting stronger and stronger. This romantic suspense novel featuring a Navy SEAL and an FBI agent is unusually well-plotted. It’s an action-packed thriller of a book, and the author keeps the tension going throughout the book. And unlike many action-packed thrillers I’ve read, the romance didn’t feel like an undeveloped afterthought.

twoweekturnaround Two Week Turnaround by Geneva Lee – This is one of those books that falls somewhat outside what I usually read but it was a refreshing change of pace. Set in the glitz and glamour circles of Hollywood, this story features both a steamy romance and an interesting backstory. The heroine in this novella may be trying to turn the hero’s life around, but as it turns out, they both find themselves reevaluating their lives and finding a new path.

Whispers at Court by Blythe Gifford – As I said in the opening line of my review of this book, “It’s always a pleasure to read a historical that truly feels, well…historical.” This novel, set during the Hundred Years’ War, definitely had a real sense of time and place. I enjoyed the characters and their romance, and it was a pleasure to spend a little time lingering in their world.

leadmenot Lead Me Not by Ann Gallagher – I think it’s safe to say that there aren’t too many m/m inspirational romances out there. However, this tale, which explores the intersection of orientation and religious belief, made quite an impression on me even if it wasn’t a perfect DIK read. This romance between a bartender and a fundamentalist preacher forced to re-examine his beliefs made me think and the best parts of it were pretty unforgettable.

Intensive Care by Nicki Edwards – This one gets my vote for favorite debut of the year. This story of a nurse starting over at a hospital in a rural Australian outpost made me smile. At its best, it’s a sunny, feel-good story with a real sweetness to it.

And there you have it. My list this year is fairly eclectic, and I was thrilled to find some great treats in 2015. I hope that you did, too. I’d love to hear what books made your 2015 special, so please let me know below. And I hope we all read our way through a wonderful 2016!

– Lynn Spencer

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I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.