I read a lot of romance in 2018.  My list of favorites is shorter than in years past, but I liked my favorites so much, I read most of them more than once – and I thoroughly enjoyed each of them all over again!

Happy reading!


Salt Magic Skin Magic by Lee Welch

Friends, I hate that cover too.  But look beyond it!  Salt Magic Skin Magic is magical. Romantic. Suspenseful. Mysterious. Sexy. It’s all those things and a tremendously engaging story.  Featuring a pair of opposites – Soren, Lord Thornby, magically entrapped on his family’s rural estate, and John Blake, a magician who specializes in inanimate magic – this enemies to lovers romance is compelling and engrossing from start to finish. The principal characters are terrific, the story is wildly imaginative and clever, the writing is excellent… and there’s magic!  Salt Magic Skin Magic is historical romance at its best.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Best of Luck by Kate Clayborn

While I loved the first two Chance of a Lifetime books, Best of Luck is the best and my favorite of the three.  Alex and Greer are an unlikely pair:  he’s a world-renowned photographer who never stays in one place for long or forms attachments to the people he meets; she’s completing her long-postponed college education at a school close to her family and friends and already has a position at the local hospital waiting for her after graduation.  Their relationship shouldn’t work, but it does.  Brilliantly.  Alex and Greer have great chemistry, and their romance had me riveted from the first page to the last.  Everything about this novel sparkles.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

The Prince  by Katharine Ashe

In The Prince, author Katharine Ashe elevates two minor secondary characters featured in earlier Devil’s Duke novels to principal roles; the combination is electric.  Ziyaeddin is an exiled prince biding his time until he can return home, Libby is a clever and intelligent feminist ahead of her time.  It’s a slow and torturous burn as these two flirt and challenge each other from the moment they meet.  The romance is swoon-worthy, the writing is crisp, clever and confident, and The Prince is one of the best novels of the year.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient is smart, special, and wonderful.  From the odd (extreme) opposites pairing, to its shades of Pretty Woman premise, it doesn’t seem like The Kiss Quotient should work – but it does!  Magnificently.  The novel treds familiar ground – a socially awkward woman falls hard for a handsome and confident man – but there’s nothing formulaic about it.  Our heroine, Stella Lane, has Asperger’s.  But she refuses to allow it to limit her life experiences and she hires Michael Phan, a professional escort, to teach her physical intimacy.  Michael is a masterful lover but he also seems to ‘get’ Stella almost from the moment they meet.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to understand himself very well.  The writing is fresh and engaging, the story is wholly original, and the romance is passionate, sexy and nothing like you expect.  Everything about The Kiss Quotient – the clever cover, the wonderful story, the terrific writing -adds up.  (that’s a little math humor for you).

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Melt for You by JT Geissinger

Melt for You made me melt for it.  Funny, bittersweet and delightful, I read it from start to finish one rainy weekend afternoon.  Joellen Bixby is a modern day wallflower.  Overworked, underpaid, secretly in lust for her boss, and lacking in self-confidence and love for herself, Joellen finds herself at odds with her (temporary) next-door neighbor.  Cameron McGregor, the Scottish rugby team captain, moves into the apartment across from Joellen after fleeing a fake news story splashed across the european tabloids.  Confident, brash, big and beautiful, he’s everything Joellen isn’t – so he decides to teach her everything he knows after she agrees to feed him.  Their relationship is hysterically funny and lovely, the opposites pairing is brilliant, and I loved it – and them! I wasn’t as fond of the plot contrivance that ensures they spend time together, but this story is simply so charming that barely detracts from it’s many pleasures.  Melt for You is, by far, Ms. Geissinger’s best work to date.

Buy it at: Amazon

The Henchmen of Zenda by K.J. Charles

Every time I start a K.J. Charles book I’m convinced it can’t possibly be as good as the one that preceded it, but happily, every time Ms. Charles proves me wrong. Told from an alternate point of view and substantially queerer (Ms. Charles’ words), The Henchmen of Zenda is loosely based on the classic The Prisoner of Zenda, and the author packs A LOT into its short page count. There are villains, double crosses, kidnappings, sword fights, a princess, intrigues and doppelgangers, and a sexy May-December, opposites attract love affair. The story is complex and features a large cast of memorable secondary characters – and it demands all of your attention as you read it. But it’s worth your time and focus, friends. The Henchmen of Zenda is the wonderful, swashbuckling story you hoped for when you glimpsed that lovely cover, and I loved every single thing about it.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Long Shot and Block Shot (Hoops 1 & 2) by Kennedy Ryan

Although very VERY different, the first two books in the Hoops series by Kennedy Ryan (a new to me author) are fantastic.  In Long Shot, Iris DuPree meets star college basketball player Augustus West at a bar the night before the college basketball national championship.  Something intense flares between them – but when Augustus presses her for a kiss at the end of the night, she reluctantly turns him down.  Iris is already in a relationship.  That fateful decision reverberates through the rest of the novel.  Mesmerizing, harrowing and lovely, this book will absolutely break you.  Block Shot re-introduces readers to Jared Foster,  step-brother, agent and business partner to Augustus.  Ten years ago, Jared fell hard for Banner Morales.  When he confessed his feelings, he happily discovered she felt the same.  Unfortunately, their one-night stand ended in disaster, and she’s avoided him ever since.  When Jared relocates to LA, he finds himself vying with Banner for clients, and decides it’s time to take his shot with her again.  Jared doesn’t care that Banner is already in a committed relationship; he wants Banner and he’ll do whatever he can to win her.  Steamy, sexy, smart and completely addictive, Block Shot is nothing like the novel that precedes it, but every bit as good.

Buy Long Shot at: Amazon                   Buy Block Shot at: Amazon

Object of Desire by Dal Maclean

Much as she did with Ben Morgan in her loosely linked first book, Bitter Legacy, Dal Maclean took a character I actively disliked and had me totally invested in his story anyway.  Tom Gray is the titular object of desire – he lives life on his own terms and doesn’t like anyone or anything to threaten his independence or freedom.  He’s mostly oblivious to his effect on the people around him (and a supremely unreliable narrator), and finds himself in a heap of trouble when the estranged wife of his lover is found murdered and evidence suggests he killed her.  When his lover hires a private investigator to clear his name, he’s relieved…until he discovers the PI is Will Foster, his former partner – the man he abruptly and brutally dumped two years ago.  Oh Tom.  You’re such a dick!  (I rooted for him and Will anyway).  Sexy, suspenseful and dark, Object of Desire is my favorite romantic suspense novel of the year.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

The Duke I Tempted by Scarlett Peckham

After the death of his wife and infant child, Archer Stonewell, the Duke of Westmead, needed an outlet for his guilt and pain.  He found it submitting on his knees at Charlotte Street.  Only there can Archer be his true self; outside of Charlotte Street, he ruthlessly suppresses all emotion in his personal and business life.  Only, he can’t seem to control himself once he meets Poplar – Poppy – Cavendish, an ambitious, self-taught botanist, with whom he suddenly and irrevocably, falls in love.  Poppy wants Archer and his secrets; Archer wants a wife to beget an heir – and nothing else.  Their marriage of convenience doesn’t quite work out the way either expects.  The Duke I Tempted tempts with it’s oh, so beautiful cover, and then lures you in once these two flawed and lonely souls find one another.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

This year saw the start of several new series that I absolutely fell in love with, and it’s impossible to tell you which one I like best.  A few standouts:  Sidney Bell’s, The Woodbury Boys is simply wonderful, and I’m completely invested in the Big Bad Wolf series by Charlie Adhara, one of the smartest and most unique shifter series I’ve had the pleasure to read.  The characters are compelling, the individual mysteries are clever, and overarching storyline will keep me coming back for more; and finally, the Riven duology by Roan Parrish.  This pair of books are lush, romantic and deeply affecting.

I also enjoyed the continuation/ending of several other series I’ve grown to love and want to recommend them once again:  Bec McMaster fans were treated to TWO new novels in the amazing London Steampunk:  The Blue Blood Conspiracy in 2018, and both books – You Only Love Twice and To Catch a Rogue – earned DIKs here at All About Romance.  I was disappointed by book 5, Squared Away, in Annabeth Albert’s Out of Uniform series – but after the tremendously good Tight Quarters, I have my fingers crossed that the last book, Rough Terrain, will end the series on a high note.