Like many of my fellow reviewers, I’ve had a decent – if not outstanding – reading year.  A quick look through my reviews shows a good number of B and B+ grades and a handful of DIKs, although my favourite genre – Historical Romance – made a pretty poor showing (again), with many of my previously “must-read” authors failing to deliver the sort of engrossing, emotionally satisfying stories I’d hoped for.  Like last year, I’ve looked more and more often to other genres to feed my reading habit (!), and happily have found a number of other authors to add to that list.

It’s not been too difficult to narrow my ‘best of’ list down to ten, although I must confess I’ve cheated a little bit by including two series on this list; in my defence, all the books in each series were published in 2019, and it was impossible to pick favourites!

Here, in no particular order, are the 2019 books I most enjoyed.

Any Old Diamonds by KJ Charles

This fabulously entertaining and deftly plotted tale of murder, betrayal, mayhem and suspense was my first DIK of 2019.  The story of a duke’s son who hires a pair of notorious jewel thieves to help gain revenge against the cold, callous father who disowned him and his siblings is a real page-turner with a wicked twist, superbly-drawn, memorable characters and a lovely slow-burn romance.  KJ Charles is, without doubt ,one of the best writers of historical romance out there, and long may she continue to be so!

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

Dukes are Forever by Bec McMaster

My Best of 2018 list included the two previous books in Bec McMaster’s London Steampunk: The Blue Blood Conspiracy, series, so it’s probably no surprise to see this final entry on my 2019 list.  The whole series has been consistently good, and Dukes Are Forever delivered everything I was hoping for; a fast-paced, action-packed and intricately constructed story featuring a dynamic and engaging central couple who are clearly each other’s perfect match, while also bringing the whole ten-book saga to an immensely satisfying conclusion.

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

Not Dead Yet series by Jenn Burke

I had never read anything by Jenn Burke before, so wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I picked up Not Dead Yet. But the unique premise – the central character Wes Cooper is an immortal “not-ghost” who can move between different planes of existence – the excellent world-building and the terrific mix of poignancy and humour, together with Wes’ quirky, distinctive voice, the sexy second-chance romance and the superb characterisation made this entire series an absolute joy to read.

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

The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker

When I reviewed The Austen Playbook back in April, I was pretty sure it would end up on this list – et voilà!  Lucy Parker is probably my only go-to author when it comes to m/f contemporaries, and she didn’t disappoint in this tale of the romance between a popular West-End actress and London’s grumpiest theatre critic.  It’s got all Ms. Parker’s trademarks; two wonderfully appealing principals, a well-drawn secondary cast, snappy dialogue – and most importantly, the depth, emotional resonance and soul-deep connection between the leads she’s so good at creating.

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

The Rational Faculty by Gregory Ashe

The first of two appearances on this list for Gregory Ashe, who has rapidly become one of my favourite authors.  The Rational Faculty is the first book in his second series to feature detectives Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset, two men with a complicated and painful history who – after much pining and angst – are finally a couple and are now adjusting to that fact while continuing to work as detectives (albeit Hazard is no longer with the police), dealing with some extremely difficult and unpleasant cases and still unpicking the thornier issues relating to their shared past.  This particular story sees Hazard and Somerset working the same investigation from different angles and dealing with the fallout and potential damage to their relationship while also – quietly – setting up what I suspect is the overarching plotline for the series.  The writing is top-notch; Mr. Ashe really knows how to craft a complex and twisty plot, and his continued exploration of Hazard and Somers’ past is clever and incredibly insightful.

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

Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid

This is one of those books I picked up on the off chance – and then couldn’t put down. It’s a kind-of-but-not-quite enemies-to-lovers story that takes place across the span of almost a decade as readers follow the development of the relationship between two players from opposing teams.  It’s not without faults (some aspects of the plot didn’t quite work for me) but when I came to compile this list, I realised the book had obviously made a bigger impression on me than I’d thought and I couldn’t not include it! The chemistry between the two leads is off the charts,  and I loved the structure – the story is told in a mixture of present day scenes and flashbacks – the humour and the way the author balanced that with the more poignant aspects of the tale.

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

American Love Story by Adriana Herrera

This is the third book in Ms. Herrera’s series of novels about four Afro-Latinx friends who live and work in and around New York, and is my favourite of the set so far.  American Love Story is complex and romantic while remaining grounded in reality; the romance between two men from very different worlds is intense, angsty and tender and the author tackles some difficult topics in the course of the story, taking a long, hard look at the immigrant experience in the US so skilfully that the reader is completely drawn into the world she has created. This is a damn good story that isn’t afraid of telling some unpleasant truths while also telling a tale of love, friendship, shared experience and shared ideals.

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

Borealis Investigations series by Gregory Ashe

Gregory Ashe’s second appearance on this list comes with his Borealis Investigations trilogy about two friends who run a detective agency in St. Louis.  North and Shaw have been friends since college and have loved each other just as long, although of course, neither of them has ever admitted it – to themselves, or each other.  The case they take on in the first book brings those long-buried feelings to the fore in a way neither expected and also sets up the storyline that runs throughout the next two books. The mysteries are complex and well-executed, the characters are compelling, and while the slow-burn romance here isn’t quite as much of a slow-burn as Hazard and Somerset’s, there’s still plenty of angsting and pining as North and Shaw circle each other while trying to get to the bottom of the crime that’s haunted Shaw for the best part of a decade.

Buy it at: Amazon

A Beastly Kind of Earl by Mia Vincy

Mia Vincy’s début, A Wicked Kind of Husband, proved to be an all-round winner last year, and like many fans of historical romance, I was eagerly awaiting the follow up, A Beastly Kind of Earl, and delighted to discover it was every bit as good as its predecessor.  The story of a young woman determined to salvage her reputation after two so-called gentlemen maliciously ruin it, and a reclusive earl carrying a whole shedload of guilt is funny, charming and deceptively insightful, featuring two wonderfully rounded protagonists, an engaging secondary cast and a beautifully developed romance that just oozes sexual tension and chemistry.

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

In the Dark by Loreth Anne White

This riff on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, is an utterly compelling read and one that pulled me in from the very beginning.  It’s perhaps a little different from Loreth Anne White’s other books in that it’s more suspense than romantic suspense (there is a romantic angle, it’s just pretty low-key) and it’s an ensemble piece; but all in all, it’s a superbly constructed ‘locked room’ mystery and a tense and exciting detective story as the author shifts between timelines and narrators to keep the story moving and the suspense high.

Buy it at: Amazon

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