I had a more than decent reading year in 2022. Looking back through my reviews I can see I’ve been lucky enough to read a lot of good books, but when I came to put this list together, I realised that while I’ve given a lot of B/B+ grades, I haven’t given all that many DIKs, which are the books I usually base my lists on. At least that has narrowed the field a bit and meant I haven’t had to struggle to whittle the list down, so I suppose… clouds, silver linings and all that!
Pack of Lies by Charlie Adhara
Charlie Adhara’s Big Bad Wolf series is one of my favourites, so I was really excited when she announced a spin-off was in the works. Pack of Lies is the first book in the Monster Hunt series, and it’s every bit as good as her previous books, a compelling combination of clever, intricate mystery and expertly crafted slow-burn romance featuring two very different but compelling characters. The story picks up not long after the end of Cry Wolf, with the enigmatic Eli Smith moving to Maudit Falls to run the retreat for pack runaways set up by Cooper and Park. It’s not long before Eli finds himself enmeshed in something far more complicated than the hunt for a murderer, something which could reveal the truth about werewolves and threaten their very existence – while also trying to fight off his attraction to Julian Doren, who has come to the retreat to investigate the death of his younger brother. It’s all very tense and exciting and sexy and romantic – and I can’t wait for the next book in the series to arrive in Spring 2023!
Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop
A Fault Against the Dead by Gregory Ashe
It wouldn’t be a Caz “Best of “without at least one mention of Gregory Ashe, who continues to put out several excellent books each year. In 2022, he completed his third Hazard and Somerset series and published the final two books of The First Quarto series, and as always, it’s hard to pick just one from that lot to include on this list. I’m going to go with A Fault Against the Dead, book four of The First Quarto – not because it’s ‘better’ or because I enjoyed it more than the others, but simply because it finally gives Theo and Auggie – two of my favourite Hazardverse characters – their long-awaited HEA. In this story, they’re up to their necks in danger once again when a friend who has been accused of murder asks for their help to clear him and find out what really happened – which brings them (again) into the sights of dirty cop Al Lender and the local drug gangs. On top of it all, their romantic relationship is foundering because of issues on both sides that keep getting in the way. Mr. Ashe’s insight into what makes these two tick and the way he makes you love them while wanting to bang their heads together is masterful, the mystery is clever and meticulously planned, there’s plenty of humour amid all the chaos and all the relationships – friendships, familial and romantic – are superbly written. (Although I can’t say I like the new covers – it’s really hard to make out the text.) With these two major series wrap-ups under his belt, Mr. Ashe has promised us some new characters and situations in 2023, and I’m really looking forward to whatever he comes up with next.
Buy it at: Amazon or your local bookshop
The Gentleman’s Book of Vices by Jess Everlee
This is an impressive début historical romance set in Victorian London, in which hedonistic Charlie Price wants to meet the author of his favourite erotic novels as a kind of last hurrah before he has to get married and settle down. Said author is actually the very secret pseudonym of bookseller Miles Montagu – and although his identity is a fiercely guarded secret, Charlie knows people who know people, and is able to find out. The romance between these two opposites – one lively and outgoing, the other somewhat staid and tightly controlled – is very well done; the chemistry crackles and the emotions leap off the page, there’s a strongly written secondary cast and despite a few inaccuracies, the author evokes her setting of late Victorian London well. I’m looking forward to the next book in the Lucky Lovers of London series.
Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop
Two Tribes by Fearne Hill
This is a funny, touching and heartrending romance set across three decades in which we follow two teenagers from the Midlands as they fall in love, are separated by circumstance and reunite twenty-five years later. The two leads are beautifully written, one a prickly smart-arse from a dysfunctional family who hides his sexuality behind a thick veneer of “don’t give a fuck”, the other popular, from a loving, middle class family and not sure he’s completely straight. (In my review, I said “think Heartstopper but with class differences and a lot more snark and swearing!”) It’s a great read – full of humour and geniune warmth and the two leads are endearing and wonderfully written; it’ll make you smile, it’ll make you sniffle and it’ll make you feel as though your heart is going to break, but the HEA is all the sweeter for everything the guys have to go through to get there.
Buy it at: Amazon
In Step by Jay Hogan
This is the third book in Jay Hogan’s Painted Bay series, three books which, IMHO, comprise her best work yet. In Step is an absolutely beautiful story of love, redemption and forgiveness that combines warmth, humour and powerful emotion in a gorgeous romance between a man whose life has been haunted by a poor choice made when he was a teenager, and a visitor to Painted Bay who helps him to see that he’s not that guy any more and that he deserves to be happy. The characters are fully three-dimensional and relatable, the romance is gorgeous and the familial relationships are superbly written. For my money, this is Jay Hogan’s finest book yet.
Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop
The Valor and Doyle Mysteries by Nicky James
It’s impossible to choose just one book in this fantastic romantic suspense series – it’s a same-couple series in which the central relationship develops across all three books (so far), so if you were to read just whichever one I could have picked it might not be very satisfying. The premise: two Toronto-based detectives work in departments that have a rivalry so long-standing that not many of them around now can actually remember what that rivalry is about! Quaid Valor of the Missing Person’s Unit and Aslan Doyle of Homicide (and yes, the author does explain the unusual names!) end up working together on a missing person case (Temporary Partner) and a murder investigation (Elusive Relations) and despite the fact that Valor is a tightly-wound by-the-book type and Doyle is his complete opposite, they’re somewhat disturbed to find they work extremely well together. Their sizzling chemistry and the intense attraction that underpins their working relationship is extremely well-written, the cases are clever and tightly-plotted and the character and relationship development is simply outstanding. Book three, Unstable Connections, brings together a number of different storylines the author laid down in early books and brings a major story arc to a conclusion, but thenkfully, it’s not the last we’re going to see of Valor and Doyle, as a fourth book is out at the end of January. If you’re a fan of romantic suspense, this is a series you really won’t want to miss out on.
Buy Temporary Partner at Amazon
Buy Elusive Relations at Amazon
Buy Unstable Connections at Amazon
The Doctor by C.S. Poe
The first entry by C.S. Poe on my 2022 list is book three in her steampunk Magic & Steam series, a real edge-of-the-seat read full of thrills, spills, action and romance in 1880s New York City, with our heroes Gillian Hamilton and Gunner the Deadly on the trail of the creator of a new kind of illegal magic that poses a huge threat to the magical community. The author combines a cleverly constructed plot with a tender, deeply emotional romance, lots of intriguing backstory and fantastic worldbuilding. I can’t wait for the next instalment!
Buy it at: Amazon or Audible
Subway Slayings by C.S. Poe
C.S. Poe’s Subway Slayings (book two in her Memento Mori series) is an oustanding read and only the second book to have received an A+ grade from me in the whole of the time I’ve been reviewing for AAR – it’s really THAT good. New York based Cold Case Detective Everett Larkin is one of the most unusual protagonists I’ve ever read, due to a unique memory condition that is more often a curse rather than a blessing. He’s called in when a body is discovered in a closet on a subway platform, and although the victim was recently killed, and thus not a cold case, a bagged photograph from the 1980s is found on the body with a note on the reverse – “Deliver me to Detective Larkin”. Running alongside the clever, twisty mystery is the achingly tender slow-burn romance between Larkin and forensic artist Ira Doyle, two misfits who perhaps shouldn’t work but who are a perfect fit for each other, the emotional connection the author has created between them so strong it just leaps off the page.
Buy it at: Amazon or your local bookshop
The Long Game by Rachel Reid
One of my most highly anticipated reads of the year, The Long Game met every one of my expectations and then some. Rachel Reid does an absolutely fabulous job of bringing Shane and Ilya’s love story to a wonderfully romantic and emotionally satisfying conclusion while showing that their journey has been far from easy and their HEA is hard won. Full of genuine poignancy and emotion – from the deepest love and affection to heartache, and everything in between – charming moments of domesticity, scorching sex scenes, and the humour, good-natured competitiveness and snarky banter we’ve all come to love.
Great list! The Long Game absolutely lived up to expectations and I liked that it leaned a little more towards Ilya’s story as Heated Rivalry leaned a little more towards Shane. In Step wasn’t my favorite of the Painted Bay series (that would be On Board) but it was really good. Two Tribes is on my TBR and I will have to move it up.
I started reading the Memento Mori series and Valor and Doyle around the same time and it’s been an interesting comparison as they are both mystery series where the main characters are cops who work in different departments. The language in Memento Mori feels more elegant and the books more thoughtful (cerebral?) although still very emotional. Valor and Doyle has a more earthy feel and I think more humor. I love them both but I think I like Valor and Doyle just a little bit more.
ITA on the Poe & James series – they’re equally good, but very different.
I find it an interesting coincidence that not only are there detectives named Doyle in both series, but they are the (seemingly) “sunshine” to their other leads’ “grumpy.” The Doyle in both series works to provide a supportive place for their counterpart to land.
Great observation and I totally agree!
Great list Caz!! I will repeat Wendy: Five of these are on my Best of 2022 list too – I haven’t read the others.
Subway Slayings sucked me in…appreciate the rawness and vulnerability of Larkin’s and Doyle’s characters. Eagerly awaiting Broadway Butchery tbr May 23, 2023.
My Best of 2022 list also includes Egotistical Puckboy (Puckboys #1) by Eden Finley & Saxon James and The Prince’s Poisoned Vow (Infernal War Saga I) by Hailey Turner.
Hailey Turner is a great writer and has produced som terrific action/adventure stories – I enjoyed her Metahumans and Soulbound series – but the latest one didn’t appeal to me. I’ve listened to quite a few Eden Finley books, but not that series – I know Puckboy is available in audio, so I might give it a go – thanks for the rec!
Thanks. Turner’s Soulbound series looks vg…adding to my TBR!
I like Eden Finley and Saxon James’ books individually and have also enjoyed their collaborations. I am up to date on reading the Puckboys series but I don’t think I like it as well as their CU Hockey series. Have you read it? It is NA genre so if you like that, I think you would like CU Hockey. Of the Puckboys, I did like #1 the best so far.
Haven’t checked out CU yet but maybe I will do. Thanks for the rec! Agree Puckboys #1 of Puckboys is the best so far.
Thanks for sharing your list, Caz. I read and enjoyed a number of them. The Long Game was my absolute favorite of 2022. I 100% agree with DiscoDollyDeb’s comments on that book. Rachel Reid achieved a difficult feat by successfully writing a long-term love story which takes place over multiple years (and books) while preserving the characters’ unique personalities and the integrity of their relationship. Filled with passion, angst and humor, I absolutely loved it, even the parts that were hard to read.
Jay Hogan’s Painted Bay series was a real pleasure, and In Step a lovely finale. C.S. Poe’s Memento Mori series is so original and fascinating, I had trouble putting it down.
The only one I did not enjoy was Nicky James’ Unstable Connections. I am so over Valor and his unending sneers. After 2 books and the incredibly hot and understanding Doyle in his bed, Valor really needed to get over himself, but he didn’t, he just got worse. Hopefully he got better by the end, but I DNF’d before I found out.
Ah, but Doyle loves Valor’s sneers, and delights in causing them! :-)
I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy Valor and Doyle – the mysteries are terrific and there’s a LOT of relationship and character development going on. Valor is certainly uptight, but there are good reasons for it, and as Carrie says, Doyle loves provoking those sneers ;)
I really enjoyed the first two, it’s just the third that left me cold. Maybe I would feel differently if I’d read them further apart? Maybe Valor will sneer less in the fourth book?? That would be some nice character development to see. Let me know in your review!
Nope, he sneers in book 4 – but he almost always does it because he knows Doyle likes it!
Agree – I think at this point in the series, he is doing it deliberately!
Pack of Lives and Long Game are both great; Gentlemen’s Book of Vices is coming up soon for me.
Five of these are on my Best of 2022 list too – I haven’t read the others.
I think I would also pick A Fault Amongst the Dead as my favourite Gregory Ashe of the year, mainly because I veer between Auggie and Theo or Jen and Tean being my favourite of Ashe’s couples. The third Hazard and Somerset series was really good but I just find Hazard a bit much sometimes! I agree with you about the new covers – I thought the original, very cartoony covers fitted the characters really well. The new ones just look like black splodges to me, and I can’t read the titles either. I looking forward to the final two books coming out in audio, as JS Harding’s narration of the first two was so good.
Two Tribes is absolutely terrific, particularly the first half. I also enjoyed Fearne Hill’s, Dipped in Sunshine, which had a lighter tone. Love Otto! I see she has a new book due in her Rossingley series – I haven’t read any of them yet.
I think In Step is Jay Hogan’s strongest book too, and I loved learning more about Kane. I’m a sucker for romances with a dance theme too…..
I found Subway Slayings by CS Poe a riveting read and am looking forward to the audio of this one too. Do you know when the next Auden and O’Callaghan mystery by Poe and Ashe is due?
The Long Game was a great ending to Rachel Reid’s series. How on earth is she going to follow Shane and Ilya’s story?
To complete my list I would add books by three other authors:
Tramps and Vagabonds by Aster Glenn Gray, which is another highly original book by this very talented author. The history in this was so interesting. I don’t understand why she doesn’t get more attention.
Con Riley completed her Learning to Love series with Luke, Austin and Heppel Ever After and wrote the best, IMO, Christmas book of the year with His Last Christmas in London, so it’s fair to say that she had a good year!
And, finally, Alexis Hall gave us four books that are all completely different to each other: The ridiculousness of Something Fabulous, the swoony angst of A Lady for a Duke, the next part of Luc and Oliver’s story in Husband Material and the very angsty, but very funny, Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble. I can’t choose one of these as I enjoyed all of them in different ways. I love Alexis Hall’s writing and I love the way he pushes the boundaries of the romance genre.
I did have a fairly large list of “also rans” – books that didn’t quite make the list simply because I enjoyed others more. Alexis Hall’s output didn’t wow me this year, tbh, although I remain a big fan. I haven’t yet read the Gray, but I have my eye on it for a reading challenge prompt this year :)
I agree about the Riley being the best Christmas romance of 2022; again, there were just other books that slightly pipped it to the post.
Someone did mention the Auden & O’Callaghan books at one of the authors’ FB groups – I think it’s really just a case of their being able to find the time to get together and get writing!
I think it’s Alexis Hall’s sense of humour that does it for me. He’s able to make such dark subjects so very funny. Plus all the very British cultural references. Glitterland is still my absolute favourite of his though!
As a fellow Brit, ITA about the humour – AH’s humour and the cultural references are always refreshingly familiar, but none of his books this year reached DIK level for me.
Auden & O’Callaghan would make my list of favorites. I hope they can find time to continue writing together!
Subway Slayings absolutely tops my Best of 2022 list! And the audio with Kale Williams at the helm makes it even better. In this series, C.S. Poe is using Larkin’s position as a cold case detective, his condition due to TBI, and Doyle’s loss of his daughter to frame a discussion of grief in American society. It’s a tall order, since the theme of grief is woven in around the superb mysteries and excellent character development, but she succeeds. I didn’t notice it as much in the first book, but in the second the musings on grief hit a personal chord with me so I started paying more attention. I had a brief exchange with the author on FB and she confirmed that delving into how our society deals with grief (not very well) is a purposeful choice by her. This series is so good that I gave the books to my husband to read. he loves them and we’ve had some wonderful discussions about them.
Hogan and C.S. Poe are on fire right now, as is Nicky James.
All the rest of your list is on my Best of list as well, except for The Everlee (on my TBR), the Ashe books (too angsty for me :-) ), and Two Tribes. I got about 25% into Two Tribes and wasn’t clicking with it. Fearne Hill’s books often seem to have some plot choices that bring the grade down for me. I may give it a try again.
To your list I’d add Farview by Kim Fielding (beautifully written, A), Seducing the Sorcerer by Lee Welch (A-), and Proper Scoundrels by Allie Therin (A-). All of these were audiobooks, and coincidentally, all by the same narrator, Joel Leslie
I’m still pondering my Book of the Year – we’ll be posting those in a few weeks!
Fearne Hill’s books are so very British that they’re like welcoming old friends – the language and idioms are so familiar. I didn’t click with the first book of hers I read, but I’m glad I persevered, because everything of hers I’ve read since has worked well for me.
For these lists, books have to have been first published in 2022, and none of those last three were. (As you know audiobooks often lag behind e and print, especially if they’re self-published).
So I guess may last three listed don’t technically belong here, although Proper Scoundrels was released on Dec 28, 2021 so I’m keeping that one! Lol!
Maria Rose included Proper Scoundrels in her Best of post – I was kind and let her have it :P But the pub. date is why I didn’t include it.
THE LONG GAME was my favorite book of 2022: a lovely conclusion to the Game Changers series (after reading all six books, you can see how brilliantly Reid plotted out Shane & Ilya’s decade-plus story arc, even in the books where they make only minor appearances). The book also gives Ilya his well-deserved place in the spotlight. TWO TRIBES also made my favorites of the year list—I loved the snarky, pop-culture-centric voice of one of the MCs and how so much of the book is saturated in late-1980s-to-mid-1990s New Wave/Alternative music.
Picking a favourite book from this lot is a tall order and I still haven’t managed to do it! We’ll be posting a “Best of the Best” in a couple of weeks, so I’d better get my skates on!