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Our Favorites: The Best Romance Novels of 2019

We call this annual column The Best Romance Novels of a given year and it is, but with a caveat. Each reviewer picks a single book she thought was the best – defined as excelling all others. Thus this is a list of individual choices rather than a voted on list by the staff.

Our choices vary. We’ve queer love stories (4), contemporary love stories (4), historical romance love stories (3), fantasy love stories (2), as well as a romantic suspense love story, a YA love story, and a love story in women’s fiction. But all, are love stories, and (almost) all offer you, our readers, the deep-seated satisfaction of a happy ending you can believe in. Enjoy!


Queen of Ruin by Tracy Banghart

The romantic elements are not the central part of this dystopia. They don’t follow the insta-love tradition found in many other YA books. The two heroines even doubt if their relationships will work in the context of the changes they plan to make to their society. That is befitting a story with strong feminist themes.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo


A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

Hero-has-secretly-loved-heroine-for-years-but-she-is-oblivious is one of my favorite tropes. As his country votes in a referendum on whether or not to keep the monarchy, Johan von Braustein asks Nya Jerami to pose as his fiancee to distract the paparazzi from his struggling younger brother. Cole balances a limelight story with truthful, complicated family issues (for both characters) and never falls into cliches. Also, this is probably my favorite cover of 2019, because I have a thing about hands, and dang…

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo


The Rational Faculty by Gregory Ashe

I had about five contenders for this ‘top slot’ and I confess I put off making the final choice for as long as I could! In the end, I asked myself “which of my Best of 2019 books was I most excited to read?” and the answer to that was The Rational Faculty by Gregory Ashe. The first in a new (second) series of novels featuring detectives (and now romantic partners) Emery Hazard and John-Henry Somerset, it’s a gripping thriller as well as a wonderfully insightful exploration of the  relationship between two characters with a difficult and complex past, who are now finding their way as a couple while they adjust to a big change in their working lives. I discovered the Hazard and Somerset series back in 2018, and was instantly hooked on the characters and their screwed-up, angsty, slow-burn (God, was it slooooow!) relationship, as well as Mr. Ashe’s ability to craft clever, compelling and gritty mysteries. Book two in the series, Police Brutality, is out at the end of January, and I can’t wait!

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo


Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

My favorite 2019 romance is Tessa Bailey’s Fix Her Up. I was super excited for this book, which got a DIK review on AAR, and showed up at my local bookstore on release day before they even had a chance to put the copies on display! This is what a “Hot” level book should be: smutty in the best way, but also an actual love story with actual dialogue and actual characters. I love when contemporaries showcase heroines for whom independence and modernity do not have to mean just being super into one night stands (not that there’s anything wrong with being into them). Fix Her Up‘s heroine, Georgie, a small-business and homeowner at twenty-three (!!), adores her childhood crush and only wants him and I was here for it. I’ve read it twice this year already.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo


Circe by Madeline Miller

I thought my favorite romance of the year would be Dukes are Forever by Bec McMaster and it was until a few weeks ago. But then I read – OK, listened to – Madeline Miller’s Circe

I’ll share again what I wrote in my Best of 2019 column,

One wouldn’t think it a romance, however, Circe by Madeline Miller is not only a love story (of sorts), it is the most extraordinary book I read last year. I listened to this book and, when its last words were uttered, I found myself sobbing. It was such a glorious beautiful thing. I felt as though I had been given some extraordinary gift, that the experience of listening to this book was a rare joy. I regret I’ll never again be able to hear it again for the first time.

We live in a time of great rage. Many believe the worst of us will prevail and that the horrors of the world outweigh its wonders. I have never held that belief tightly to my heart or to my mind. Life is a gift and there is so much to cherish. Even mourning, in its own way, is a blessing.

This book is a celebration of humanity, of womanhood and, yes, even manhood, with all of our flaws and glories. I hope you all will read it.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo


Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid

Talk about a game changer!  I didn’t love the first book in the Game Changers series, and wasn’t planning to read Heated Rivalry.  And then everyone on earth (well, in my small corner of Romancelandia) gave it glowing reviews.  I resisted reading it until it finally just seemed dumb not to at least try it, and once I started reading, I hated to put it down.  I read it and then I read it again!  Opposites attract is one of my favorite tropes, and Heated Rivalry absolutely nails it.  Plus, hockey!  Ms. Reid loves the sport – and her principal characters – and proves it on every page.  Shane is the NHL’s golden boy and fans love him; Ilya is its bad boy and fans love to hate him.  When they face off on the ice, it’s electric.  But unbeknownst to fans (and fellow players), it’s electric when they’re alone together, too!  Their love story unfolds in flashbacks from their first meeting as juniors nearly a decade ago, up until their furtive meet-ups no longer satisfy either man.  It’s sexy and funny and tender and hilarious and everything in between.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo


The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas

Sherry Thomas is one of those writers who keeps you glued to your reading chair and The Art of Theft was no exception. She brilliantly weaved a story that included a delightful ensemble of characters – all of whom were necessary and fascinating in their own way. And, of course, Charlotte’s brilliance was a delight. I love puzzling things out alongside Charlotte. And Lord Ingram…just the best match for Charlotte!

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo


Trashed by Mia Hopkins

Trashed is an emotional journey with melt-your-ereader scenes that left me breathless. I’m excited to continue the Eastside Brewery series with its multi-dimensional characters and complicated family relationships.

Buy it at: Amazon/Indiebound


Angel in a Devil’s Arms by Julie Anne Long

I’ve moved away from historical romance more and more in the past several years, but Ms. Long is one author who brings me back to the genre time and time again. This book is no exception – the only book I’ve re-read out of the many I read in 2019, and one I recommend highly to anyone who loves their romance to come with corsets and dancing slippers.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo


The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

This year was The Year Lisa Felt Seen By Mainstream Romance Publishers, and Cried a Lot over it.  After years and years of dreaming about big sweeping romances between two women, this book delivered with its story of a asthmatic and an astronomer who fall in love.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo


Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Tessa Bailey’s rom-com Fix Her Up delivers a heartfelt love story complete with steamy sex and laugh-out-loud humor. A supportive group of gal pals adds to the novel’s overall charm.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo


The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

The sometimes whimsical tone of this novel belies the emotional journey taken by the narrator. I adored Nina, enjoyed following along on her adventures, and I loved that she ended up with a guy who really did complement her well. I was charmed  by this book, and I’m so glad I found it.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo


Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

What made this my favorite romance of 2019 was the humor, not just found throughout the story via Jack’s amusing take on the world but in the banter between Jack and Kate. These two flirted so joyfully, their repartee was so witty, their connection so playful that I fell in love with them even as they fell in love with each other.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo

Maria Rose

A Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau

It’s always hard to narrow down the books that I really enjoyed over the year to a top ten, and to choose just one seems an insurmountable task. But this year, while I happily and enthusiastically would recommend any on my top ten list, the one book that I finished and immediately want to start all over again was Kingdom of Exiles. There are so many things that appealed to me about it, starting with the fantastic and unique worldbuilding that anchors this fantasy romance, followed by the enjoyable often conflicted characters and a plot that gets its hooks in you so that you want to pick up the pace and simultaneously slow down so you don’t miss anything. Plus, the enemies-to-lovers trope is a favourite of mine so it already had a leg up over the competition. All of the secondary characters are equally as interesting as the main couple Noc (an undead assassin) and Leena (a beast charmer) and I will be eagerly awaiting more in the series.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo


The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood

My favorite book of 2019 has to be The Reckless Oath We Made. It’s a dark and gritty contemporary tale about two of society’s outcasts who form an unlikely alliance that eventually turns into something much deeper. It’s the kind of book that pushes readers to examine each and every facet of the people in our lives, and it urges us not to discount those we view as different from us. It’s fast-paced and evocative, and I read it in one day.

Buy it at: Amazon/Apple Books/Barnes & Noble/Kobo


You can see (and buy!) all our choices on our Best of 2019 Amazon storefront!

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