2019 was a strange reading year for me. On the one hand, I did read a lot of books I enjoyed. However, they tended to be of the backlist variety. Something about packing two new babies and two job changes into four years took something out of me. This was the year I started getting myself back, and digging into my boxes of TBR books from the past really did it for me. We tend to review current releases here at AAR, but I’ve been keeping up with my backlist adventures on my Goodreads account, so if you’re interested, you can find me there as well.  And in the midst of all this, I also managed to get my hands on some great 2019 reads – and then there are the ones waiting for me to read them in 2020.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill  by Abbi Waxman

This quirky tale of a book-loving woman who finds a family she never knew she had just enchanted me. If I wanted to be thoroughly critical in my reading, I could pick out flaws in this book. However, I really didn’t want to. The plot is more than a bit over-the-top, but I adored the characters. Seeing Nina develop as a person made me happy because she was a lead I really liked and identified with. There was also something in here that might be a small thing to some readers but which felt big to me. In so many books, the bookish, introverted characters come off as having only an interior life. While not a very explicit story, Nina is both an introvert and a person who appreciates sex and relationship. Seeing this on the page both made me feel seen and helped me realize how frequently this is missing in other books.

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

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

This seems to be my year for books with great heroine character arcs. I went into this novel expecting a light, breezy rom-com. I did get some of that, but there was a lot more depth to this story and in the end, that made it stand out for me. I’ve seen some reviews taking issue with Rhiannon as a heroine, and I have to admit I disagree strongly with those. Rhiannon was betrayed and hurt very deeply both personally and professionally, and given that history, I did not expect her to be all sunshine and rainbows. To come back from a blow like that, she would need to learn to trust again and that journey is well portrayed in this novel. I’m not sure Samson is the perfect guy, but he was definitely perfect for Rhiannon, and I loved their story.

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

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

While enemies-to-lovers isn’t my very favorite trope, it’s one that can be very fun to read when done well so I do pick it up fairly often. And DeLuca did it very well here. I loved the Ren Faire setting of this book, and the chemistry between the leads was just spot on. There’s just enough angst and conflict to make everything work, and overall this was one of my most fun reads of the year. I can’t wait for the sequel in 2020!

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

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston – This book was recommended to me by trusted friends both online and offline, so I picked it up even though I normally avoid royal romances such as The Royal We or the multitude of imaginary kingdoms that populate the Harlequin Presents line. I’m glad I did because Alex and Henry were a delight in this book. The story is sweet, and just achingly romantic in places. It wouldn’t exactly score points for realism, but then again, if you’re reading a royal romance, is that really what you’re going for?

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

Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long

I’m way behind on my Julie Anne Long reading, so I was excited to see that this was Book One in a new series. I always admire a strong heroine and I love plots that let characters have a second chance at finding happiness, so I adored this book. Watching Delilah build her life after all she discovers about her husband upon being widowed makes for a good story, and this is a book about the heroine coming into her own as a person as much as it is about a romantic relationship. I was so happy to see her have a chance to finally find true love.

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

All Made Up by Kara Isaac

Technically, this is a 2018 book, but since it was self-pubbed in New Zealand in the latter part of 2018, it didn’t pop on my radar screen until well into 2019, so I’m going to count it. Also, this author is my new favorite inspie discovery and I think other readers will enjoy her work, too.  This book is a second chance at love story involving a makeup artist who reconnects with an old love while filming a reality TV show on his farm. As with the other Isaac book I’ve read, the characters are complex and not the artificially squeaky-clean folks that come up when we mention inspie stereotypes. This may be at least in part because the author is from New Zealand so while her characters are people of faith, they are not of the American fundamentalist evangelical world. Caleb and Kat grapple with real relationship issues, and while there’s some humor, this book really stuck in my mind because of the compelling, raw emotion Isaac writes so well.

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I enjoy spending as much time as I can between the covers of a book, traveling through time and around the world. When I'm not having adventures with fictional characters, I'm an attorney in Virginia and I love just hanging out with my husband, little man, and the cat who rules our house.