This year the AAR staff posted 16 Best of 2016 Lists. We chose books from every genre and, in romance, from every sub-genre. And while it’s safe to say we don’t all share the same taste in books, there were some books that appeared on more than one list.
As will surprise no one who has been reading these lists, Sally Thorne’s debut novel The Hating Game is AAR’s Book of the Year. (Our DIK review is here.) Eight of us put it on our list. We call it: charming, witty, sexy, smart and refreshing. It gives the enemies to lovers trope new life and reveals paintball for the dangerous game it truly is. We loved it.
Duke of My Heart by Kelly Bowen was on four of our lists. (Our DIK review is here.) The first in Ms. Bowen’s A Season for Scandal series (the second in the series, A Duke to Remember, is a DIK as well) enchanted those among us who love historical romance. Ms. Bowen’s series features unconventional women partnered with intriguing and open-minded heroes. No other historical romance author wowed AAR this year as did Ms. Bowen.
The Soldier’s Scoundrel by Cat Sebastian was on three of our lists. (Our DIK review is here.) Readers of queer fiction were justifiably thrilled when Avon released this book in the same manner it does big selling hetero romances. Ms. Sebastian’s book manages to be both searing social commentary and a heart-pounding romance.
A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas is the first in Ms. Thomas’ new series featuring Charlotte Holmes. (Our DIK review is here.) This book got fabulous reviews from many this year and three AAR reviewers put it on their Best of List. As Caz wrote:
The pacing is excellent, the characters are superbly drawn and the mystery is intriguing and suitably complex without being completely impenetrable; but the real highlight is the way Ms. Thomas so brilliantly introduces her main characters throughout the first half of the story without subjecting the reader to info-dumps and improbable coincidences. It’s a masterclass in How To Do It Right.
I Let You Go by Clare MacKintosh
Dabney and Kristen both rave about this thriller. It’s an intense read–be prepared to be unable to put this book down once you begin it. It’s been a long time since we gasped out loud while reading (OK, it was in Gone Girl)–there’s a scene part way through this book that shocked us so much we startled those around us. Ms. MacKintosh’s second book I See You comes out next month. We’ve already ordered it.
Unmasking Miss Appleby by Emily Larkin made two of our lists. (Here’s our DIK review.) Caz calls it an emotionally satisfying, quirky and sensual romance. The heroine cross-dresses but here it works. Ms. Larkin’s Baleful Godmother series gets high marks from all our reviewers here. We look forward to seeing what she writes next.
The Earl Takes All by Lorraine Heath is on Caz and Shannon’s lists. (Our DIK review is here.) Ms. Heath has been writing excellent books for so long and this one is no exception. In her review Caz wrote:
The Earl Takes All is an angsty, gorgeously sensual and beautifully developed romance, the chemistry between the leads is scorching hot and the emotions are real and leap off the page. It’s definitely going onto my keeper shelf.
The Earl by Katharine Ashe is on two lists. (Our DIK review is here.) This story features a heroine and a hero readers of Ms. Ashe’s Devil’s Duke series have been longing for. Colin and Emily begin the novel deeply estranged and by the story’s end are lovers whose HEA brought many to tears. It’s a lovely read–Ms. Ashe just keeps getting better and better. The next books in this series (a novella and a novel) don’t come out until this summer. We are counting the weeks.
Fovevermore by Kristen Callihan got nods from Sara and Emily. Readers called the book a phenomenal end to an exceptional series. (Our DIK review is here.) This is a story of two deeply troubled souls who’ve loved each other, fruitlessly, forever. The book shows a satisfying enough of the couples from the other books. Ms. Callihan is a brilliant world builder and many, including us, will miss her London.
Bitter Legacy, a debut novel, by Dal MacLean made two of our lists. (Our DIK review is here.) BJ wrote:
This is a superbly plotted crime novel where the romance is cleverly integrated rather than an obvious add-on and both elements have equal importance and are written with equal intensity. I could hardly put the book down; I was hooked by the murder mystery and totally absorbed by the romance.
The prose is vivid and assured and Ms. French’s pacing and plotting expertly done. Her characters are among the realest I’ve read and oh how I hope to encounter all of them–Moran, Conway, Breslin, O’Kelly and the rest of the Murder Squad–again.
Beard Science by Penny Reid was Janet’s pick for Book of the Year and also landed on Maria Rose’s list. It’s a gem–had more of us read it, I suspect it would have been on more lists. (Our DIK review is here.) Cletus, the bearded, rather odd, sneakily brilliant hero in this very funny love story will steal your heart just as he does that of Banana Cake Queen Jennifer Sylvester. Ms. Reid’s books sell like hotcakes and this one shows why. It’s adorable without being saccharine, just sexy enough, and has leads worth reading about. We are all now eagerly awaiting Beard in Mind due out this year.