The Best of 2023 – Rachel’s List

I read so many good books this year, but here, in no particular order, are my favorite books of 2023.

The Nanny by Lana Ferguson

Cassie Evans is finishing her masters when she loses her job and faces eviction. Fortunately, she is able to find a well-paying, live-in nanny position with a single father, Aiden. He’s a busy chef, and needs someone he can trust with his daughter. Sure, he’s hot, but Cassie can be professional. It’s only after she moves in and gets settled that Cassie is hit by the realization that she and Aiden know each other. He was a client of hers online, when she was a digital sex worker.

I really liked the conflict in this book, because a lot of it is just dealing with internalized emotional issues. Aiden and Cassie are both really well-written and complex, and I always appreciate when a kid in a book actually acts like a kid! I gave this book an A in my review, and I stand by that. I think the writing is top-notch, so much so that I was on tenterhooks for her next book, The Fake Mate, which was also one of my favorites this year.

Buy it at Amazon

The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen by K.J. Charles

I adore K.J. Charles so I was really looking forward to this book! It did not disappoint me. Gareth Inglis is an oft ill-used young man who was abandoned by his father at a young age and hasn’t had much luck since. Gareth has found some joy in a casual relationship with an enigmatic stranger, though that too is interrupted by the news of his father’s sudden death. Suddenly, he is Sir Gareth, and has a half-sister as a dependent and a house on Romney Marsh.

Joss Doomsday has long been the head of his family of smugglers on the marsh, taking on the joint responsibilities and stresses of leadership. His only escape is in rendez-vous with Gareth in London, though neither is initially aware of their slim connection. When Gareth attempts to testify to a crime, Joss blackmails him into silence. This isn’t an auspicious reunion, but the two men live on the same marsh, and they can’t avoid each other forever. A mystery regarding the death of Sir Gareth’s father draws Joss back into his orbit, and might force them to see how much a lonely baronet and an overwhelmed smuggler might share.

Gareth is (forgive the pun) a good straight man to the rest of the wackier characters, and it’s great fun to see him have his convictions shaken. I enjoyed the mystery, but my favorite part of the book is definitely the quiet moments between Joss and Gareth, where they connect emotionally. They have both had difficult lives in different ways, and seeing them move past their differences to focus on their commonalities really makes the love story.

Buy it at Amazon

A Power Unbound by Freya Marske

This is the final installment in The Last Binding trilogy, and best read in order, but it is by far my favorite of the three. Marske’s writing is, for lack of a better word, magical. The world is teaming with interesting characters, both fair and foul, and has strong themes that resolve satisfyingly. I cannot give a higher compliment than saying it is a strong conclusion to a whimsical and exciting series. Jack and Alan are both compelling protagonists, and it’s easy to get invested in them both as a couple and as individuals. While it is fun to see all of the pieces of the puzzle come together, the romance is not neglected. Despite all of the world-building, the characters carry the emotional resonance of the story.

Buy it at Amazon

A Witch’s Guide to Fake Dating a Demon by Sarah Hawley

I am not a big fan of the Reylo (Rey/Kylo Ren) derived fiction that has been such a hit lately, but I did really love this book! Mariel is a witch from a long line of powerful witches, but the only thing she’s really taken to is plants. Frustrated at the constant demands of her mother, a spell gone wrong results in Mariel accidentally summoning a soul-bargaining demon. Ozroth arrives in her little house for one purpose: to offer Mariel something in exchange for her soul. Mariel has no interest in handing over her soul, but once summoned, Ozroth can’t depart without making his bargain. The situation is complicated further when, in an attempt to hide her humiliating mistake from her family, Mariel claims that Ozroth is her boyfriend. The longer the witch and the demon are forced to spend time together, the more they actually like one another. However, there is a ticking clock on Ozroth’s bargain, and no matter the outcome, there can be no happily ever after for the fake lovers.

I really enjoy a conflict that seems impossible to get around; it gets me invested and makes me root for the characters even more. I also love a ‘wife guy’, and Ozroth stands up for Mariel even when he doesn’t get why he’s doing it. The setting is compelling, though I think the world-building leaves something to be desired, that’s my only gripe! I can’t wait for further books in this series.

Buy it at Amazon

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments