I am a voracious reader, and while I love biographies and thrillers, romance is my go-to. Specifically, romantic suspense followed by contemporary romances. This year has been a good one, literatively speaking.

Just Not That Into Billionaires by Annika Martin

My mother always wanted to have dinner with Weird Al Yankovic because she just loved the way he thought about things. I feel that way about Annika Martin. I love the way her mind works and the way she writes narrative, and the quirky characters who grab you by the lady balls from the get-go and have you cheering for the underdog. Just Not That Into Billionaires is the sixth book in the Billionaires of Manhattan series, and it is so fun. SO FUN. When I reviewed it earlier this year, I said it was charming and fun and sexy, and I stand by that opinion. It’s the story we all need in this pandemic. It’s the lighthearted feeling we all deserve.

Buy it at: Amazon or your local independent retailer

Mine By Design by Becky Moore

I know Becky and she’s a great gal. She had a head injury eight years ago, which forced a break in her publishing career, but in February her first book in seven years published. Mine By Design is a political romantic suspense that is a cautionary tale for power and corruption. It’s set in the south and follows the story of an artist who finds herself on the wrong side of a cop killer and corrupt US senator.

Buy it at Amazon

The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan

This is the second book of Danan’s but the first book I’ve read of hers. It was charming and unusual and celebrates the notion that a healthy emotional relationship is as important as a healthy physical one. The feminist protestant in me enjoyed the sex-positive rabbi in the story who fell in love with the intelligent former sex worker-turned-educator. Like I said, unusual.

Buy it at: AmazonAudible, or your local independent bookstore

Uncharted by Adriana Anders

I’ve had wanderlust as long as I can remember, and as many countries and UNESCO World Heritage sites and U.S. National Parks and states I’ve visited, I’ve never had any inclination to adventure in winter wildernesses. That could be one of the biggest draws to Adriana Anders’ Survival Instincts series. Last year’s Whiteout was set in Antarctica, and its follow up, Uncharted, was set in Alaska. She did a solid by peppering in beautiful descriptions of a winter wonderland into a sexy, nail-biter of a romantic suspense, so I never have to step foot on that tundra in the winter. Isolation and self-sufficiency are big themes in this adventure, and it’s intelligent in its telling. Leo Eddowes is a pilot and former soldier who’s capable and brave. When she’s sent in to the remote wilds of Alaska to evacuate Elias Thorne, she has no idea who she’s risking her life for. Turns out he’s wanted for the theft of a bioweapon, but we as we learned in the first book in the series, the mega corporation Chronos is the reason Elias is on the run. Everything is not as it appears, and in addition to staying out of Chronos’ crosshairs, this duo must fight the elements if they’re to survive. So exciting!

Buy it at: AmazonAudible, or your local independent retailer

Dangerous Ground by Rachel Grant

Rachel Grant never fails to hit all the feels in her romantic suspense novels, and her newest book is a step in a slightly new direction. She’s had several exciting series in the past (I’m looking at you Flashpoint and Evidence), but I’m thinking Dangerous Ground, first in the Fiona Carver series, is going to have a recurring heroine. She brings us back to comfortable ground with an archaeologist all young people dream of being, helping to track down a missing volcanologist in the Aleutian Islands. All of the hallmarks of Grant’s canon are present: perilous journeys, intelligent characters, shocking science, and a breakneck pace. I can’t wait to see what Fiona gets into next.

Buy it at: AmazonAudible, or your local independent retailer

The Love Con by Seressia Glass

I feel like the romance genre leads the charge for shifting perspectives in the world of publishing, and it definitely leads the charge in celebrating unexpected heroes and heroines. Glass is an author after my own heart, with her plus-size, nerdy, anime-loving, cosplay heroine, Kenya Davenport. And the fact she wrote a handsome, hunky hero BFF who’s loved Kenya for years, who isn’t a cosplay, nerdy, anime fan, but joins the cast of the reality show she wants to win, just because he’s her ride-or-die? Cameron Lassiter is Kenya’s Person. She’s Black, he’s white. She’s heavy, he’s fit. There are a handful of micro aggressions both face for sort of obvious reasons (race, weight, interracial relationship), but the way the characters deal with them — and, by extension, the way Glass deals with them — normalizes the conversation. Neither Ken nor Cam slow their rolls to deal with the opinionated bullshit; rather, they thrive because they have each other. Their friendship and their love gives them strength and confidence, which is very sexy in this sweet contemporary romance.

Buy it at: AmazonAudible, or your local independent retailer

Last Seen Alone by Laura Griffin

Laura Griffin writes a terrific suspense that typically includes journalism in some fashion. It’s no surprise, really, because she’s an investigative journalist who proves repeatedly how important truthful, factual coverage of the world is. Last Seen Alone focuses on Leigh Larson, an attorney for victims of sexual extortion and harassment, and Brandon Reynolds, a homicide detective whose latest case intersects with one of Leigh’s. Griffin’s journalistic training presents itself in the precise, meticulous details in the sexual harassment case that could’ve been ripped out today’s headlines.

Buy it at AmazonAudible or your local independent retailer

Neon Gods by Katee Robert

I’ve loved mythology since elementary school and when I took up gardening twenty years ago, I loved to attribute the coming of spring to Persephone’s departure of the Underworld. Now, though, after a modern crop of excellent retellings of the greatest myths, I root for her to stay in the Underworld, because that’s where Hades is. Neon Gods was the first book in Katee Roberts’ Dark Olympus series, and it’s a doozy. It’s dark and sexy and moody … and addictive. She’s built a fascinating world where the characters are recognizable in name only, with a regenerative mythology that’s ten times sexier than the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Buy it at: AmazonAudible, or your local independent retailer

Cold As Ice by Toni Anderson

Toni Anderson’s latest installment of her long-running Cold Justice series, Cold As Ice, is another tense nail-biter. And fifteen books in, the storylines and characters are still interesting and fresh.  In looking at my list of favorites for the year, was surprised to see that this is another book set in Alaska. Anderson created two formidable female leads in this story – main character and murder suspect Darby O’Roarke and secondary character Detective Signy Torgerson – who prove that strength comes in different fashions.

Buy it at AmazonAudible or your local independent retailer

Walk on the Wilder Side by Serena Bell.

I’m finishing with this sexy, lighthearted romance from Serena Bell. It’s the second book in the Wilder Adventures series, about the Wilder family who owns an adventure company in a little town of Rush Creek out west. Brody Wilder is the black sheep of his family, and a man who everyone is happy to keep in the bad boy box. But he’s tired of being the hookup guy for women in town and the undependable guy in his family. Rachel Perez is the textbook good girl and the BFF to Brody’s sister. Rachel is a librarian with a life plan in Boston, and when she finds her fiancé banging some other girl in their bed the very day she’s supposed to meet his family, it throws her into a tailspin. So she heads home to Rush Creek to regroup and help host parties for her abuela. Chief among Brody’s effort to become dependable is using his boat to help the family business, but his efforts prove disastrous until Rachel books a party on the boat. For her grandma’s sex toy business. So many funny things come out of the unexpected situation, but best of all are the opportunities for Brody to be resourceful and dependable, and Rachel to be uncomplicated and spontaneous. They’re good for each other, and their path to each other is satisfying and sexy.

Buy it at Amazon or your local independent retailer

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Dolly Sickles
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