The Best of 2023 – Dolly’s List

I’ve always loved how my mother tells people, “I read for escapism.” The older I get, the more I understand what she’s saying. The world is a hectic place nowadays, so thank god for books. Romance is more cathartic than ever, because whatever grandiose events unfold on the page, there’s a happy, hopeful ending. Huzzah!

You Can Die by Rebecca Zanetti

This third book in tue Laurel Snow series, You Can Die, was  published in late July, just in time for the snowy landscapes of Genesis Valley to cool off the ‘hotter than the hinges of hell’ weather in the southeast, where I call home. Everything about this series has been intriguing, starting with Snow, who is a female FBI profiler on the spectrum. Huck Rivers is the man who loves her, and his job as the captain of Washington Fish and Wildlife intersects with her office regularly, and even that’s intriguing. Zanetti weaves an intricate web of death and deceit that pulls you in from the first page, compelling you to race to the finish to see who’s still standing at the end. Her turn of phrase, her character development, her motivations are all so on point.

Buy it at Amazon

Unforrunately Yours by Tessa Bailey

Unfortunately Yours came out this summer, and it was a sheer delight to read. It’s the second book in the A Vine Mess series, and as much as I enjoyed the first installment, I loved this one even more. I love a vulnerable hero, and August Cates is a giant ex-Navy Seal with PTSD and a penchant for being such a good person. He never loses sight of his purview of honoring his fallen friend, but manages to woo Natalie Vos, whom he’s loved from afar, by wrapping her in his trademark goodness. Both Natalie and August are equally flawed, equally vulnerable, and equally taking a chance on love. These are adult characters with adult problems and adult solutions they risk. Very smart, and very satisfying.

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What Happened Last Night by Julie Kriss

I mentioned last year that Julie Kriss is my guilty pleasure, and I find myself re-reading a handful of her books when I want to unwind and let my brain rest. I don’t know about you, but I can re-read books like I can re-watch movies. What Happened Last Night is the fifth book in her Road Kings series, and rather than being about one of the musicians in the band, this one’s about the band manager. But read between the lines when I say “band manager,” because that’s like saying “tigers are part of the feline family.” If you never look past the basic sentiment, you’ll miss the big stuff. Will Hale is a nerdy gazillionaire who discovered as an adult that he has a half-brother who’s the drummer for The Road Kings – and thus kicks off the whole series, though you don’t know the connection until later. Hale is not to be underestimated, because he knows that nerds rule the world. He’s hot in his own right, so happy to be part of his brother’s life, and making a difference in the lives of a worthy band. I loved the first four books, and, honestly, was surprised I enjoyed Will’s story just as much.

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Cold Snap by Toni Anderson

And finally, in a busy year that condensed my free time for reading, Toni Anderson rounds out my favorites for one reason – secret identities. OHMYGOD, I hope there is somebody in my life who’s part of WITSEC. Really, a whole cadre of people in witness relocation would be even better. Anderson writes a great suspense story that’s a nail-biter from cover to cover. Her characters are robustly developed, the situations are always high-stakes, and the resolution so hard-earned. She could write a masterclass on motivation and goals, y’all. Cold Snap is part of the Cold Justice – Most Wanted series, and my only note here would be that most long-running series, even those that have connections to other long-running series, run a little long in the tooth because I get tired reading about the same characters over and over. Fortunately, Anderson manages to pepper in past characters so they don’t dominate the current plotline.

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