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The Best of 2022 – Dabney’s List

2022 was not my best year for romance reading. I read only three DIKs published in 2022 and, when I look at my Goodreads list, there isn’t a single five star read from books out last year–almost all the books I adored are from earlier years. That said, the year did offer books I enjoyed enough to happily recommend them to others. This is THAT list.

The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell

I’ve never read a bad book by Lisa Jewell – she’s received only high marks here at AAR. This one is one of her best – and I say that as someone who didn’t read its prequel, The Family Upstairs. The Family Remains is suspenseful but not at all scary or violent. It’s more an explanation of a stressful time rather than a real time thriller. I liked that about it. Like good mysteries – really like all good fiction – The Family Remains shows you the why behind people’s actions. It was one of the best mysteries I read last year.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop

Girl, Forgotten by Karin Slaughter

I read everything written by Slaughter. Girl, Forgotten is not my favorite of the author’s work – that’s a tie between False Witness and Criminal -but it’s a strong book and I recommend it. As usual, Slaughter does a superb job of melding her stories and the final chapters are compelling. And though the violence inflicted on women – a hallmark of Slaughter’s work – is present, it’s less on the page than usual and has less of a torture porn vibe. Indeed, if you love smart, compelling mysteries, this fits the bill.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop

Big Wild Love Adventure by Julianna Keyes

I don’t watch reality TV, but if all find your true love/best snog shows are as funny and warm as Keyes’ book, I might have to reconsider. Big Wild Love Adventure made me laugh aloud almost every chapter – this, I assure you, is rare. This is a story with so much heart for all its characters – full of warm, smart, funny people–in general–who routinely care for one another more than they do the cameras! It’s frothy and hasn’t a whiff of preaching to be found anywhere in its pages. Light reading? Absolutely. Some times that’s the perfect match.

Buy it at Amazon

Fool Me Once by Ashley Winstead

This is a unique, snark-filled romance that, though flawed, still made my top ten reads of 2022. Winstead knows politics and she’s remarkably generous to both sides of the aisle. (Her venom is reserved for those powerful people who abuse the system.) I enjoyed the banter between the leads – the hero is to die for – and I cheered the idea that good people go into politics because they want to make the world a better place. If you like your romances smart and firmly set in our times, this one should work for you.

Buy it at Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop

The Suite Spot by Trish Doller

Doller’s work is just so good. I read three of her books in 2022 – the fabulous Float Plan, this one, and one coming out in March. I enjoyed them all–The Suite Spot is my favorite. Doller makes her characters’ emotions–their sadness, joy, passion, wonder, and confusion–palpable and moving. In this story, Mason and Maisie have real tragedies and struggles to overcome and watching them to so, with humor, compassion, and generosity is just the best.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop

The Deepest of Secrets  by Kelley Armstrong

I’ve written at the ask@AAR about how difficult it is for me to stay with a series past five or six books. One seven book series I had NO problem inhaling is Kelly Armstrong’s Rockton series. The final book in THAT series, (she’s started another with several of the same characters but NOT in Rockton) The Deepest of Secrets, was a worthy conclusion to the Casey Duncan series. As I wrote in my take on the series:

The final book in the series, The Deepest of Secrets, answers all the questions the series posed. The story about the hostiles is especially well resolved as is the true motives of the Council. It’s also an interesting story about privacy and our pasts–Armstrong wants the reader to consider who we are: The person in our worst moments or the person in our everyday actions? What happens, in a small town where secrets are necessary in order for the community to function, when those secrets all spill out? And who would we ally with? Those who’ve had our back recently or those whose backstories we feel the safest with?

If you are looking for a smart, addictive, romantic suspense series, the Rockton novels are for you. While not every book in the series is a DIK, the overall experience the series is superb. I recommend it highly.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop

Wilder With You by Serena Bell

Bell’s series about five absurdly hot brothers who live in a small town in Oregon is a very good time. This one is not my favorite Wilder book–but Bell’s writing makes it more than worth a read. Her work here is light and full of kindness–2022 was a rough year in many ways, and Bell’s humor and belief in the innate goodness of humanity was just what I needed. Wilder with You is a sexy book with a strong supporting cast–if you’re missing Jill Shalvis’ community based romances, you’ll enjoy the Wilder boys!

Buy it at: Amazon

Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young

Spells for Forgetting is my favorite book of 2022. It’s a tale of magic, mystery, passion, and true love–I couldn’t put it down. Our leads, adults given a second chance at the teenage love that almost destroyed them both, are complex and compelling. August Salt has returned to Saoirse Island, after an absence of fourteen years. When he left, he shattered Emery Blackwood’s world and, many think, escaped prosecution for the murder of Lily Morgan, Emery’s best friend.

Spells for Forgetting shares its secrets slowly. No one, including Emery and August, has ever told the truth about what happened fourteen years ago. Every character in the novel–the story is told from multiple perspectives–lied to those they loved and those to whom they wished harm. The answers to the past and the present are masterfully presented. The love story is luscious. It’s safe to say I can’t wait for Young’s next work!

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop

The Dark King  by Gina L. Maxwell

The Dark King, Gina Maxwell’s urban fantasy romance, invokes the rockstar Meatloaf‘s immortal words: “Two out of three ain’t bad.”

The novel has a delicious love story, satisfying plot, and skimpy world-building. Given that this is fantasy – in this imaginary world, the Dark Fae rule Las Vegas – a fictional world with a gossamer thin context is a botheration. That said, if you’re looking for a fervently libidinous love story with very seductive fairies, you’ll enjoy The Dark King.

I did and I can’t wait for book two–I’m hoping Maxwell adds depth to her fae run Vegas!

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop

Flirting with the Beast by Jane Porter

This was such a pleasant surprise. I’d not read Porter before but I’m always on the hunt for romances with older leads. I’m so pleased AAR readers recommended this one!

Flirting with the Beast was one of my three favorite DIK romances of 2022. Both leads are around sixty and their romance is everything I look for in love stories: hot, moving, and genuinely interesting. It’s a delightful, steamy read that had me cheering for Andi’s and Wolf’s HEA even as I mourned the end of the book. It’s a gem.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop

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