Since I’ve been discovering series I missed the first time around, a lot of my happy 2018 reading experiences have been of the backlist variety. However, this was a good book year for me in current releases as well. One book I had long been anticipating turned out to be a DNF bust, but I found plenty of other treasures. I’ve listed my favorite first, but otherwise my picks are in no particular order.


Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley

I’d been looking forward to this book for over a year, and it was probably my favorite 2018 read. It’s romantic, and there is so much meat to the story that I find myself thinking about it months after having read it. This tale of a French prisoner of war assigned to board with a family in  New York can be read on so many levels. It’s a dual timeline tale, so in the modern day story we find ourselves led to ponder the ways in which our minds fill in the gaps in a historical record. Meanwhile, back in eighteenth century colonial New York, we have a heartfelt tale of star-crossed lovers unfolding. And all of it is beautifully written.

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A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole

This was such a delightful fairytale read. 2018 marks my fifteenth year of reviewing, and folks who have read my reviews have probably figured out by now that I love stories with a romantic, fairytale-ish mood to them. This tale of a prince from the imaginary African land of Thesolo and his grad student heroine was just lovely. I enjoyed the smart characters and I loved how the idea of spam emails from overseas turned into the start of a romance. And that cover!

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The Bride of Ivy Green by Julie Klassen

I’ve been enjoying the Ivy Green series, and the finale came out at the beginning of December, so I rushed to read it just in case it might be Best of 2018 worthy. And it definitely is. The series centers on the lives and love stories of several women in the English village of Ivy Green. Each entry in the series wraps up at least one of the romances, but there have been some plotlines (including one of the main romantic ones) that have stretched out across each book. Not only was I pleased to see how each of my favored characters would end up, but I was happy to see all the twists of plot Klassen had put into this particular installment. The trilogy as a whole is fairly strong. Klassen does a good job of telling heartwarming stories while also working in interesting details about changing women’s roles, the advance of industrialization into the countryside and other historical issues of the early 19th century.

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The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

I know this one isn’t a romance, but it’s a very well-written story and I suspect a lot of us who jump back and forth between the worlds of romance and mystery will like it. I was initially turned onto this book after seeing Dabney rave about it, and it definitely lived up to the hype. The story centers on the apparent suicide of a young man in Ireland. However, his fiancee and his sister both believe otherwise and the resulting investigation dredges up memories of one of the very first cases the lead detective, Cormac Reilly, had taken on as a brand new recruit. The writing in this book is quite evocative, and I flew right through it.

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The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I know everyone and their dog seems to have this book on their “Best of 2018” lists. However, it really is that good. All the hype surrounding this book made me initially a little wary of picking it up. I also went into this knowing that the heroine was on the autism spectrum and so I had some worries about how she might be portrayed. I ended up really liking Stella, the heroine who felt so much more comfortable with math than people, and enjoyed rooting for her to find happily ever after. There was a sweetness to this story that really got to me and judging from reviews I’ve seen, I’m not the only one.

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Frost Fair by Edith Layton

This mystery really captured my heart. It’s light on the romance, though it does contain some of the most powerful depictions of yearning that I’ve seen in quite a while. The story brings three people, from disparate segments of society, together to solve the mystery of a man found mysteriously dead outside a fishmonger’s shop. Layton’s understated observations and fantastic characterization elevate the novel, and the result is so much more than a plot summary would lead one to expect.  There certainly is a mystery to be solved, but at least as important are the glimpses into different segments of society and the emotional landscapes of the three leads.

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If I Live by Terri Blackstock

This romantic suspense novel is the grand finale of what has been a good trilogy. I was obviously much better about actually finishing series this year than I usually am. This trilogy has focused on Casey, a young woman very convincingly framed for the murder of her closest friend. In the first book of the series, If I Run, Casey flees town and through some impressive quick thinking, manages to dodge pursuit. This novel brings readers to the endgame, both of the mystery and of the romance that has been running through the series and gradually heating up. The hero in this book is the bounty hunter hired to find Casey, and as they navigate through various strands of mysterious doings and police corruption looking for answers, things start to click into place on the personal front as well. I would definitely recommend reading this series in order, but be prepared for a strong finish with this volume.

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Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

This dual timeline story of love, loss and family in Cuba is a beautiful read. There are bits of romance, both happy and bittersweet, woven throughout the story and I found it very effective on an emotional level. This is also one of those rare books where the setting can almost be considered a character in its own right. The author makes Cuba come to life for the reader and I closed the book feeling just a tiny bit nostalgic over a place I’ve never been.

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The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

This is another dual timeline tale. I found the 1950s tale more compelling than the present day, but the book still worked well for me overall. St. James is a master at creating an ominous, forbidding mood in her books, and that was present in spades here. This tale of a possibly haunted boarding school for girls caught my imagination and at times the suspense was positively chilling. Good stuff.

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

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