Every year when it comes time to make a ‘best of the year’ list, I find that there are two criteria that help me decide what should make up my top ten: 1) Do I still remember the plot and the characters? I read an average of 200-300 books a year and something I read early in the year may end up in a ‘best of’ folder at the time of reading but lose some of its luster as it gets surpassed by other books and 2) Would I enthusiastically recommend it to someone now?

With those things in mind, here are my favourite books of 2019.

Well Met by Jen DeLuca

The unique premise of this medieval fair set enemies-to-lovers romance, combined with the many laughs are what propelled it into my top ten. The author captures perfectly what its like behind the scenes for the actors as they prepare for their visitors and Emily and Simon’s fake courtship becoming the real thing makes for a delightful reading experience.

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Teach Me by Olivia Dade

Reading about two perfectly ordinary high school teachers falling in love is a thing of beauty when its paired with the author’s realistic, heartwarming and emotionally uplifting style. Both divorced, each with their own relationship baggage, Rose and Martin’s tentative steps to friendship then more kept me rooting for them from start to finish.

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Fumbled by Alexa Martin

Since Intercepted, the first in the author’s Playbook series made my Best of 2018 list, the second in the series had a lot to live up to – and the author delivered. Fumbled is a secret baby romance, a trope that isn’t my favorite but in Alexa Martin’s hands is elevated to a believable and thoroughly enjoyable story. I love the inside look at the NFL, from the player and partner perspectives and that the author doesn’t shy away from the health controversies inherent in present day discussions of the sport.

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Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole

All of the Reluctant Royals series have been excellent reads, but I chose this novella about a secondary character, Regina, sister of Portia from A Duke by Default, for my list this year because of how the author shows a character’s disability in such a positive and life affirming light. Reggie is a no nonsense woman who knows what she wants and what she needs and in Gus she finds a partner who sees all of her and accepts her as she is. A sweet and sexy romance with current popular trends in anime and escape rooms makes for a winning combination.

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A Match Made for Thanksgiving by Jackie Lau

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With a dessert-themed series (Baldwin Village) followed by a holiday one (Holidays with the Wongs), Jackie Lau made it a challenge for me to pick only one of her 2019 releases for my list. I decided on this one for a couple of reasons. Number one is the Wong family themselves and the setup for the series. The fact that the siblings main characters have a mother and Ah Ma (grandma) who read romance novels and have decided to set the children up with a partner based on some of their favorite romance tropes is beyond funny. In A Match Made for Thanksgiving, the blind date they plan for Nick’s brother Greg turns out to be the woman with whom Nick had a one night stand. Talk about awkward! But it makes for lots of laughs, and the nanaimo bar dessert featured (a favourite for a Canadian like me) is the icing on the cake.

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The Prince of Broadway by Joanna Shupe

Just in the nick of time, The Prince of Broadway makes it onto my best of the year list! I’m embarrassed to admit that this is my first time reading this author and am deeply regretting the books I’ve missed! Fortunately, that means a healthy backlist for me to catch up on. What made this historical romance stand out for me is the combination of a unique setting (1890s New York City) with a fabulous heroine who is willing to buck conventions to fulfill her dreams and a hero who struggles with the desire to protect her without compromising his own plans. A conundrum for him indeed! Super sexy love scenes top off a truly delightful and engaging read.

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Desire Lines by Elizabeth Kingston

Once again, Elizabeth Kingston finds a spot on my best of the year list. The author’s Welsh Blades series, if you’re anything like me, will have you reading the author’s notes, her website resources, and going down google/Wikipedia rabbit holes to find out more about the Welsh people and their lives under England’s Edward the First. With an accurate and unflinching look at the challenges of the times, the author weaves a compelling story for Nan and Gryff in Desire Lines, an unconventional road trip romance. I have high expectations now for every book from this author and so far, she has delivered every time.

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Not Dead Yet by Jenn Burke

If you’d have asked me a year ago, I would have said the odds of a ghost/vampire romance showing up on my ‘best of’ list would be pretty low. But clearly I hadn’t counted on Jenn Burke, co-author of one of my favorite science fiction romance series (Chaos Station – I’ll never pass up an opportunity to promote it) trying her hand at this paranormal second chance romance series. With a murder mystery to be solved, not-quite ghost Wes and his vampiric former lover Hudson have their hands full, not to mention figuring out if they can reconnect on the physical plane. It’s a really interesting, totally engaging story and rest of the series published this year is equally good and could make this list too.

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Forever Wolf by Maria Vale

If you think you’ve read all the kinds of shifter romances available, I guarantee that Maria Vale’s The Legend of All Wolves introduces something new and exciting to the paranormal genre. With Forever Wolf, the focus is on the Great Wolf Pack and how it can survive enemies both human and not. But it also captures a unique romance for Varya and the solitary Eyulf who embodies the prophesy that could destroy them all. I hope that this isn’t the end of the series.

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Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau

Kingdom of Exiles is an exciting début romance and highly deserving of a place on my top ten list. It’s one of those books that will keep you reading late into the night, with a familiar enemies-to-lovers trope in a totally unique setting.  An assassin’s guild leader and a beast charmer combine forces while keeping some vital secrets, making for some edge of your seat scenes. The imagination of the author in creating the characters (including the beasts) is part of her excellent world-building and after finishing it, I immediately wanted to read it over again.

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

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