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The Best of 2022 – Caz’s List

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.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop

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