Humans learn through stories – the ones we tell ourselves, the ones we’re told, the ones we tell about others. This year, Netflix gifted us all with Hannah Gadsby’s brilliant Nanette (which you must watch if you haven’t!) that makes that point achingly well. After watching it, I spent a lot of time thinking about the stories romance tells – especially the ones I needed to hear this year. Hence, my list. The following – in no particular order – are the ten books released this year that brought me joy, immersed me in another story, celebrated love, and centered women.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I have bought approximately five copies of this book to give to friends, sent with a post-it that they must read this. Count this as my post-it to you: this is making appearances on ‘Best Of’ lists for a reason.

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

Brooklynaire by Sarina Bowen : I am a sucker for hockey romances and I read tons of them. Many of them are middling to poor, which means ones like Brooklynaire stick strongly in my mind. This was my first DIK of the year and it has stayed with me since. Nate and Becca are just the freaking best.

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

Hello, Stranger by Lisa Kleypas

Garrett Gibson is a heroine who has stayed with me since the cold day in March when I devoured this book. The only female physician in England, we had spent the past three Ravenel books getting glimpses of her. That Ms. Kleypas centered her in this one made me so happy. I adored the way Garrett took her work as holy, which meant she had no concept of giving herself grace to pause and enjoy and savour life. Enter, Ethan, who is just the man to help her learn those things. Along the way, of course, she reveals parts of him that he never really knew and I just sighed happy book noises when I was done.

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

Dr. Strange Beard by Penny Reid

My full summary of why it’s on this list can be found in my AAR review. I loooooove childhood friends to lovers trope when it’s done well, and this is one of the best examples I’ve experienced in a long time.

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

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Any review of this book carries the dangers of revealing too much about the enigmatic titular character and I have no desire to do that. What I can say is this – Evelyn’s story took my breath away. I finished this book on a plane and gasped several times. My seatmate made the comment that it must have been a good book. I finished it, put my business card in the front flap, and handed it to them. “Just tell me what you think”, I replied. Two days later I got an email that simply said “Thank you for Evelyn. She’s on to her next home.” I hope she finds home with you.

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

A Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe

This is the first book by Ms. Shupe that I’ve read. (*pauses for the aghast shock of some of my colleagues*) and I was simply in love. Since this one, I’ve devoured her entire back catalogue. I loved the Gilded Age setting, for one, but also the pragmatic explanations of how Oliver navigates public life with his deafness. I fell down a serious nerd rabbit hole after this book, reading about the deaf community in the U.S. and their internal debates over cochlear implants versus not, the development of braille, and more. (For our U.S. readers, PBS has a great documentary called Through Deaf Eyes that I highly recommend for some more context.) Beyond the great education, I also loved the romance between Oliver and Christina and the combo of all of these factors is why this book is on here.

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

Royally Yours  by Emma Chase

I want to move to Wessco immediately. Thank you.

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



Muffin Top by Avery Flynn

Books about “curvy” heroines tend to be marmite books – they either completely work for someone or they’re DNFd and abhorred. I think this is because our bodies are such personal entities and how we view them and interact with others about them is an emotional thing. Muffin Top is such a book. It completely worked for me because I saw myself in Lucy. There were pieces of dialogue that have come out of my mouth and I felt, to be frank, very seen. The book is not perfect, but on my list of stories I needed this year – this is on the top.

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

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght & Sarah Breen

This is an entirely selfish recommendation, I think, because I have zero idea if anyone who hasn’t lived on the island of Ireland would enjoy this at all. However, for me, it was joy. Ridiculous, and fluffy, and grounded, and authentic, and it felt like I was back in my wee house over there with a cuppa and a plate of custard creams. The sequel is winging its way to me now and I cannot wait.

Buy it at: Amazon/Kobo

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

From the second page of this book, I knew I would love it. If you like contemporary romances, complete with fake engagement and serious sexytimes, then get this one and thank me later.

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

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