Before we get to my Top 5, a note:
As with any "Best Of" list, this is a highly subjective selection, limited by my own tastes and time. I read over 245 books this year, but not all of them came out in 2018, which limits the group further. Nevertheless, this was a hard list to compile!
With that said, here are five books that had significant meaning or impact for me this year. I've also tossed in a few runners up and non-romance picks at the end, because I read a lot of good stuff this year. A lot.
Mr. Hotshot CEO, by Jackie Lau
This one makes the list because of stellar mental health (cyclical, treatment-resistant depression) rep. Lau matched up a workaholic CEO with a subverted manic pixie dream girl. There's a phallic cactus, lots of food, and an ending that made me hug my Kindle. You can read my full review here.
Iron and Magic, by Ilona Andrews
How? How did Ilona Andrews manage to make a very violent book about two monsters in a marriage of convenience one of my favorites of the year? It's a mystery, even to me. All I know is that I couldn't put it down, and that I've never loved reading about two anti-heroes in love so much. Ana loved it, too!
One and Only, by Jenny Holiday
This was a complete surprise, as it was my first by this author and not something I would have picked up based on the cover alone. I'm not a big fan of wedding romance, but this was more about friendship, being who you are vs. who people think you are, and vibrators.
A Duke by Default, by Alyssa Cole
Despite the fact that the audiobook narrator doesn't do well with the Scottish accent, I adored this story. Portia is truly a hot mess, and the fact that I didn't care for her in A Princess in Theory but loved her in this is a testament to Cole's characterization. In APiT, she's kind of a terrible friend, flaking out, getting blackout drunk and requiring Ledi to take care of her, etc. In this, she deals with her alcoholism, learns about her ADHD, and uses her strengths to help Tavish. I loved that the "big reveal" in this one isn't kept a secret from the other love interest, like in APiT, and I loved many of the secondary characters. We even got to see Ledi again! These books are tropey and fun, but heartfelt and hopeful while being grounded in place and history. Ana reviewed it here and Margrethe also put it on her list.
Last Night with the Earl, by Kelly Bowen
I didn't read an abundance of historicals this year, but Bowen's Devils of Dover novels both stand out as faves for me. The first was weighed down a bit by being the first in series, but the second was angsty and full of pining... but also two characters who, after years of misunderstandings (and a believed death), tell each other the truth over and over. It was refreshing, and I'm still not sure how Bowen kept the will-they-or-won't-they suspense going when both of them communicated so well. My review is here.
So, now that you have my "Top 5," I'm going to tell you about a bunch of other books I read this year that I LOVED! Some of them aren't romance, but I just have to praise them.
In no particular order, my other faves of 2018:
Rafe, by Rebekah Weatherspoon - This was the book I needed in 2018, AKA The Year of Men in the News for Being Awful. My review is here.
Josh & Hazel's Guide to Not Dating, by Christina Lauren - More fluff. Hazel is a bit of a manic pixie dream girl, but it's the sort of thing where the author makes it into an insecurity of hers, rather than something that helps her to "fix" the hero. Their relationship grows slowly, awkwardly, and humorously. More fluff for 2018.
Luck of the Draw, by Kate Clayborn - Margrethe already put this on her list, but I adored it as well. Clayborn is going to be one of my auto-buy authors now.
Pride, by Ibi Zoboi - This is a YA romance set in a Dominican neighborhood in NYC. It's a modern take on Pride & Prejudice, and it's juuuust familiar enough to hit the same beats, but still be fresh and relevant. It takes on gentrification, code-switching, religion, identity... Such a good read. Elizabeth Acevedo does the audio narration and she's stellar. (I immediately hopped over to The Poet X afterward, just to hear her words in her voice. Also recommend!)
Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland - I LOVED this book. I keep trying to get everyone to read it. It's about zombies and Reconstruction after the American Civil War except like, the Reconstruction doesn't happen because ZOMBIES. I don't usually read zombies, but this has a lot of historical references to things like the horrible experiments on Black Americans because they were considered better able to withstand pain. Except in this case, the heroine is a Black teen. She's so great. We're introduced to her when she's lying to one of her classmates about stealing, and then it just goes on. She's unapologetic and principled, but she also makes mistakes like any real person. There's a short f/f romance in the YA anthology Three Sides of a Heart that's also set in this world, and when I say it made me think the anthology was worth my money, I mean it.
Pulp, by Robin Talley - Two teens discover lesbian pulp fiction, one in 1955 and one in 2017. This isn't a romance, but there are SO MANY QUEER FEELS. I loved this book, couldn't put it down. There's definitely some tricky stuff in 1955 (Lavender Scare, McCarthyism, homophobia, racism) but the whole thing comes together in a way that left me both appreciative of how much work previous generations did and how far we have to go. If you're a woman who likes women, I think you'll like this book.
American Panda, by Gloria Chao - I read this book twice. I don't reread books. That's how much I liked this one. I read it once in print and then again on audio. I'm sure part of this is because it's set close to my home and because, like Mei, I also skipped a grade and grew up being excluded for being younger... but! The Taiwanese-American rep is challenging and lovely at the same time. Mei's family is complicated, and I don't want to give stuff away, but Chao did a great job creating this community and family. I also loved the romance with her Japanese-American classmate. (He's kinda swoony if you like dorks like I do.)
The Hollow of Fear, by Sherry Thomas - This is the third in the series, and DO NOT start here. This book felt like the big payoff we've been working up to for three books and the big reveal (this is a mystery series) had me texting two friends with a bunch of !!!! and emojis. Thomas is a flipping genius. I'm going to reread the series before the next one comes out so that I can unravel the threads again. I also recommend the narration on this one. Kate Reading is excellent.
Into the Mystic, Vol. 3 - This anthology was so good that I ran out and bought the previous two. The stories run the range from sweet to steamy, and if you like paranormal f/f romance? This is the book for you. My full review is here.
Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft - This book channeled all my female rage into 15 stories about WITCHES. I f*cking loved this book. Some content warnings for assault, but then the witches get revenge SO THERE. Everyone I've recommended this to has loved it. It's also diverse as hell, so you get everything from brujas in NYC to historical fiction in Salem, Mass.
Becoming, by Michelle Obama - This book lives up to the hype, y'all. I listened to the audio because Obama narrates it, and it's as if you're sitting down with your good friend Michelle and she's telling you the story of her life. I laughed, I cried, I screamed about gun control and redlining... Michelle is a skilled writer and orator and I feel blessed to have her in the world.
And that's my list! What were your favorite reads of the year?