Best of the Year lists are always a challenge for me, so I’ve restricted myself to books we’ve reviewed here at AAR. With that caveat out on the table, here goes. Interestingly, three-quarters of my list is composed of debut titles.
Love at First by Kate Clayborn
Clayborn’s next standalone after Love Lettering, Love at First is about a heroine who is trying to defend her beloved Chicago apartment building from the Airbnb fantasies of the new doctor in the place. Clayborn delivers a story that has sensual heat without turning up the explicitness burner (always a hard balance to achieve), reasonable levels of relationship conflict, and a memorably cute friendship between the hero and his boss.
Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local independent retailer
Shipped by Angie Hockman
Walking – or should I say sailing – the line between romance and women’s fiction, Angie Hockman’s debut is a solid opener for a writing career. The chemistry is a highlight in this story of two (accidental, unintentional) enemies who end up trapped together on a cruise for work.
Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent retailer
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
Marske’s debut is an historical fantasy (Edwardian England) with romantic elements strong enough to build a bridge with. Sir Robin Blyth, new baronet and a sweetheart of an Oxford jock, takes a government position which introduces him to the magical side of life. But things go awry when the goons who eliminated the last holder of his new post come after him. Robin needs the academic magician Edwin Courcey’s expertise and determination if he’s going to survive his job. Satisfying on its own but packed with tantalizing suggestions about how further books will play out, it works on both levels as a romance and a fantasy and has a writing style that is both breezily enjoyable and snappily observant.
Buy it at Amazon, Audible or your local independent retailer
Heart on a Leash by Alanna Martin
If you’re like me and you still have affection for reading in print, and mass-market paperback romance that’s not more than $7.99 and small enough to fit in a roomy coat pocket, then allow me to refer you to Alanna Martin’s Heart on a Leash. Despite the fact that is it, as I wrote in my review, “an inn-trope, animal matchmaking, Shakespearean, Alaskan romance” it somehow manages to avoid becoming convoluted.