Best-of lists are always hard for me because I don’t read tons of new books. This is actually the first year I’ve had enough reads of the year to have any kind of meaningful list of “best books of the year.”
The Love Experiment by Ainslie Paton
My top read of the year was a funny, realistic, honest, sexy, and deftly written contemp about two Chicago journalists falling in love while pursuing their careers. I’ve called it a hybrid of The Hating Game and a Julie James novel, and I hope that convinces more people to give this less well-known author and e-only release a try. I just loved it.
A Lady’s Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran
A spin on the amnesia plot in which the hero’s memory loss gives him a chance to entirely reboot his personality – which turns out to be a good thing, since the man he was before was awful. But can he keep it up? And will he want to when he finds out the heroine who’s helping him change has been lying all along? Original, with Duran’s signature wonderful prose and fantastic historical detail.
Silver Silence by Nalini Singh
Finally, a new changeling species! For me, this book was all about the hero, Valentin, and his marvelous pack of hard-drinking, hard-partying, hopelessly romantic Russian bear changelings. Finally, a changeling species for those of us who prefer a family-first, funny snuggler to a possessive predator with masculinity issues. I had a lot of fun reading this, and I’m on pins and needles for Singh to resolve the cliffhanger for a secondary character.
Beauty Like The Night by Joanna Bourne
I never miss a Bourne. It’s amazing how she keeps her world and its stories going strong, with characters who blaze intelligence and competence in every scene. In one classic Bourne sequence, the heroine mulls over all of the scenarios which could have resulted in her ransacked office: inept villains, professional villains trying to look inept, the hero trying to look like an inept villain, the hero trying to look like a professional villain trying to look inept… it’s four steps further than the spies ever think in books by any other author.
Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai
A lot of people have put the first book, Hate to Want You, on their best-of-year lists. That one was a DNF for me – protagonists who hate each other but can’t stop having sex drive me crazy. Fortunately, I had already requested the sequel from the library, so when it came in, I gave it a try anyway. This one was much better. Jackson Kane, the chef fleeing a past mistake that maybe wasn’t even his, and Sadia Ahmed, the perfectionist workaholic concealing a near-breakdown, find themselves honest for the first time with each other. I loved the details in this one (for instance, Sadia’s observant Muslim sister trying out new water-permeable nail polish, a requirement for performing ritual cleansing before prayers) and the sex was hot. It’s the weakest on my list (I’d give it a B+) but definitely worth a read.
The New York Trilogy by Ruthie Knox
Though she’s been around for a bit and has a sizeable backlist, Knox has been my best new discovery of the year. In 2017, she released the second two books in her New York trilogy (Madly and Completely; the first book is Truly), and I’ve enjoyed them all. Knox’s books have introspective adults, developed settings, and strong physical chemistry. They’re just great reads.