I was late to pick up Charlie Adhara’s first two Big Bad Wolf books and I was rewarded with that lateness by being able to read all three in short-succession. The books are a cross between police procedural mysteries and paranormal romance. They are suspenseful and character-driven stories with slowly unfurling worldbuilding that builds on itself with each book. I loved seeing Cooper and Oliver’s story unfold, and getting caught up each mystery.
The bonkers adventures of the McKilligan sisters continue in the second book of Laurenston’s Honey Badger Chronicles. Stevie, the baby sister of the chaotic trio and a musical and scientific prodigy, is struggling. Her meds aren’t working to control her panic disorder anymore, her good-for-nothing father and her dangerous uncles seem headed toward a confrontation, and at the same time The Group needs her help to figure out who is targeting shifter hybrids.
One of the very first ways I connected to Romancelandia was through romance podcasts. I was an avid podcast listener in those days, so it was natural to look for a romance podcast to listen to. I listened to dozens of episodes of Sarah Wendell & Jane Litte’s DBSA podcast, when I was a baby romance reader, hearing about new books, learning about publishing and being introduced to romance fandom.
Although I’ve filled up a lot of free time I used to listen to podcasts with audiobooks since then, my interest in romance podcasts has not diminished. It has been fabulous to see the number of romance related podcasts grow, almost exponentially over the past few years, even if I can’t keep up with all them anymore.
The first series of Anne Bishop’s The Others ended two years ago with Etched in Bone. Since then Bishop has written two additional books in that world for her World of the Others series. In this spin off series Bishop revisits familiar themes, while expanding the world, by introducing new types of characters and introducing new perspectives. The first book in that series was Lake Silence. It took place in an Others controlled human settlement, and it takes place a little bit after Etched in Bone. That book followed new but familiar characters and could be read as a standalone, as it only lightly references prior books.
Wild Country, however, takes things a completely different direction. As a long-time fan of the Others series, I couldn’t put it down, but it suffers from and magnifies a lot of the problematic issues from the original series - chiefly, sexualized violence against women - this time, extending beyond the exploitation of the cassandra sangue. A large of percentage of the women in this book experience some sort of violence or sexual harassment at some point in the novel and one character suffers a gratuitously explicitly violent death.
Ernesto Vasquez might have been born in the Dominican Republic but he is a die-hard New Yorker at heart. His food truck, OuNYe’s menu expresses the special fusion of his New York city childhood, where the Afro-caribbean flavors of his heritage and that of his Puerto Rican, Cuban, Jamaican and Haitian best-friends, nourished and united them. Making his food truck a success is his driving objective because Nesto can’t live on passion alone, he needs his truck to turn a profit. Willing to try anything, Nesto has given himself six months Upstate in his mother Nurys’s new town of Ithaca, in a last ditch effort to keep his dream aflot. If he fails to find customers, he will pack it in and head back to NYC and find new dreams.
After spending several lifetimes trapped by the lusts of her succubus soul and the will of her vampire maker, Lizzie Adams did all she could to sever ties, moving halfway across the country, abandoning the satisfaction of live feedings and limiting her demon’s sexual indulgences to producing webcam porn.
Polaris Rising is the first book in a new SFR series by Jessie Mihalik, and this SFR adventure is full of action, fascinating secondary characters, and interesting world-building. There's lots of sexual tension, mutual mistrust, wall-banging sex and lots and lots of med-bay visits for the space faring duo.
With a short stay in NYC ahead of her, all Likotsi, Prince Thabiso’s head advisor & planner supreme, was simply looking for an enchanting woman to pass the the time with and instead fell hard and fast for Fabiola. But their whirlwind affair is derailed abruptly by a single phone call. Months later, their lives on vastly different tracks than before, their paths cross again.
In her black leather, heavy lined eyes and dark cloak, Diana, a coyote shifter, exudes confidence and primal energy but there is one human who can fluster her like no other - her ex, Laine. Laine never believed Diana’s reasons for their break up with her and is back to see if Diana is ready to admit they should still be together and put them back on track.
Despite my feelings and worries about current events that have so often bled into my reading this year, making me crave a certain kind of book or hyper-aware of problematic conventions and tropes in old faves, this was a fabulous reading year. I read lots of books by new-to-me authors that I can’t wait to read more from including Austin Chant, Holley Trent, Talia Hibbert, EE Ottoman, and Ada Harper. As always, there are even more books and authors whose books I didn’t get time to read, which makes writing a Best Of list so fraught.
These are the books that came out this year, that I would press into the hands of another reader without hesitation because I loved them so much.