The bloggers have had their fun, and now Team H&H is here to give you their top picks in all things romance—books, movies and TV, and music.
Let us begin....
Heather Waters, Site Manager
Regency England. Modern college campus. The magical world of Ravka. Post-apocalyptic Earth. Rest assured, falling in love is possible anywhere, anytime, and no one exemplifies this quite so well as the 8 couples I've chosen as my favorite fictional relationships for the year, all of whom remind me how lucky I am and what a joy it is to write about romance for a living.
Top 8 'Ships of 2015:
Hannah/Garrett in Elle Kennedy’s The Deal — If you'd asked me late last year, I'd have told you I needed a breather from New Adult romances. They brought the angst I craved, but not enough of the froth I needed. My scales felt tipped too far into darkness when I depend on a fair share of sunshine in my escapist reading. Then I discovered The Deal. Hannah and Garrett charmed my socks off with their delightfully well-worn path to love (girl asks popular jock to teach her how to woo another man, only to find—gasp!—she's fallen for her tutor, and he with her) that nevertheless contains a few surprises.
Lady/King in Pamela Cayne’s The Fighter and the Fallen Woman — Don't let the familiar setting (London, 1883) fool you: The Fighter and the Fallen Woman is a rarity. Featuring not one but two low-born protagonists, the book tells the story of prostitute Lady and her master's best fighter, King, who know nothing good can come of feelings for each other given their bleak circumstances, but find themselves risking life and limb at the chance for happiness anyway. I'd be hard pressed to name a hero and heroine more deserving of a happy ending than the noble King and his Lady.
Kaz/Inej in Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows — You don’t catch many breaks in a world as cruel as the gang-run city of Ketterdam in Ravka, yet Inej owes her freedom to Kaz Brekker, returning the favor he once did her by serving as his eyes and ears as “the Wraith.” While neither can bring themselves to say the words “I love you” (yet), readers are left in no doubt as to the devotion and love between Kaz and Inej. Six of Crows kept me on the edge of my seat, and the cliffhanger is no joke. I need the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, nowwwww.
Clarke/Bellamy in The 100 — On the one hand, slow-burn romances are, without a doubt, my favorite kind, because the payoff is phenomenal. On the other hand, they could try the patience of a saint, and I'm no saint. Clarke and Bellamy of the TV series The 100 got a shoutout in my 2014 best list, and damn if they didn't drive me crazy this year too. You know you're looking at a pairing with a potential for greatness when even a glance or a touch of the hand or a hug à la Mulder/Scully can reduce you to haunting Tumblr for an entire hiatus, reblogging #bellarke gif sets, playlists, fic, fan art, you name it. The tenderness and restraint with which Bellamy and Clarke's deepening relationship has been written fills me with (possibly misguided, to be sure; hello, Battlestar Galactica) hope that we're witnessing the slow-but-steady rise of an epic romance.
P.S. Are you rooting for Clarke/Lexa? Look for an article devoted to their relationship from a fellow Clexa shipper in January ahead of Season 3.
Max/Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road — I've already made my case for Mad Max as a shipper's paradise, so I'll merely add that months after first seeing the movie, I can still perfectly picture Max cradling an only-mostly-dead Furiosa's head in his big hands at the emotional climax of the film. Guh. Whether or not they ever become a canon relationship, Furiosa/Max is it for me in the universe. OTP for sure.
Piers/Clio in Tessa Dare’s Say Yes to the Marquess — Nothing left me with a smile on my face like Say Yes to the Marquess this year and it's all because Piers and Clio were utterly right for each other. I could not believe it when they talked through their black moment together, and I mean that in the best way possible. The way they handled obstacles together (and it must be reiterated: they used their words! like old pros!) throughout the book filled me with glee, not to mention confidence that a Happily Ever After is indeed in the cards for them.
Jonah/Vivienne in Lilah Pace’s Asking for It — I don’t read much BDSM and had never read rape fantasy before, but after hearing rave reviews, I decided to check out Asking for It. And I’m glad I did, because the characters navigated consent so carefully and clearly that I felt totally secure in following Jonah and Vivienne wherever they wanted or needed to go.
Corey/Harley in Sarina Bowen’s The Year We Fell Down — I'm cheating a bit here, as this book was released in 2014, not 2015, but it was new to me and I couldn't, in good conscience, include a newer Ivy Years installment when Corey and Harley's love story stole my heart but good. Like Kennedy's The Deal, which reignited my enthusiasm for New Adult, The Year We Fell Down is set on a college campus and beautifully balances intense challenges (heroine Corey was paralyzed from the waist down in an accident her senior year of high school) with an effervescent courtship.
Jennifer Proffitt, Associate Community Manager
Top 10 Romance Novels of 2015
Ryker by Sawyer Bennett
Single dad + hockey player? Yeah, I'm all over that. What could have just been a fun romp, ended up being a sweet reflection on a father's relationship with his daughters. Add in the struggles of our heroine being the first female general manager of a very male-dominated field, and Bennett gives you a sweet, sexy, thoughtful read that you won't want to miss.
Searching for Beautiful by Jennifer Probst
Aubrey Gross encompassed all of my feelings about this book into one beautiful post. So I'll let her do the heavy lifting. Suffice it to say, I laughed, I cried, I raged—Jennifer Probst made me feel literally every emotion. Brava!
Dark Wild Thing by Christina Lauren
Christina Lauren secured my undying devotion with Beautiful Player, and they have continued to deliver book after book. Dark Wild Thing is no different. As a geek, introvert, creative-type, and Aussie-lover, I needed this book in my life. It filled every nook and cranny of my soul. It's an amazing thing when a single book can change you—even if that change is simply to walk into a comic book store for the first time as an adult. Lola and Oliver (Loliver) will make you want to do that, too. Trust me.
Sweet Ruin by Kresley Cole
Ok, badass love story aside, this book had a ton of Nix in it, one of my all time favorite characters. Another sweet but sexy read by Kresley Cole that I just couldn't make myself put down!
The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan
As Lime Cello said in her review of The Game Plan: Let's all take a moment of silence for that cover. Umph! I want a Dex, where can I get him? If you haven't read Callihan before, the Game On series is a great place to start, especially if you're busy reading Elle Kennedy's Off-Campus series too.
The Mistake by Elle Kennedy
As I said above, reading Kennedy's Off Campus series, paired with Callihan's Game On series is a delight—look for Easter Eggs! The Mistake, in particular, is a joy to read because of the groveling. Now, usually I'm not a fan of “a good grovel,” it's necessary, but I don't search it out. Logan of The Mistake needed to grovel and his heroine totally brought it. She. Made him. WORK. For it. It's a great read on its own, but you'll love seeing the hoops Grace makes Logan jump through to get back into her good... graces.
Hyde and Seek by Layla Frost
This was a pure popcorn read and sparked a binge read of any mechanic hero that I could get my hands on. The hero will definitely appeal to any Kristen Ashley fans, and the heroine gives enough push back that you'll love to see them argue—and make up!
Rock Hard by Nalini Singh
I put off reading this series for reasons I cannot explain. I immediately fell in love with this rough and tumble world of rock stars and athletes. Plus, it offers up a sexy boss-secretary dynamic that I just loved. And you know, it's Nalini Singh, so she can do no wrong!
Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl
I have a thing for librarians—maybe it's my years as a page in my local library, but male or female, I love a good librarian protagonist! Especially when he's a bearded, sexy, lumberjack librarian. Paired with a shy advice columnist, Gabe made this book for me!
Roommates by Erin Leigh
On a complete whim after talking with a blogger about our mutual love of roommates-to-lovers, I searched on Amazon for just that and found Roommates by Erin Leigh. In just a short amount of time, we get to see a manwhore become a one-woman man, and a slut-shaming heroine become a sexually liberated young woman. We will ignore the fact that roughly half of my top picks this year feature hockey heroes!
These might interest you:
Teddy Pierson, Community Operations
Top 7 Romance Novel Covers of 2015
Fragmented by Stephanie Tyler
This cover falls under the classic bad ass theme, at least in my mind—guns, motorcycles, explosions, and. What's not to love?
Hannah and the Highlander by Sabrina York
I enjoyed the intense passionate colors of the fiery sky that adorns them from above. It captures the emotion of the embrace.
Heartsong Cottage by Emily March
This made me all fuzzy, as if the cover itself had slipped wool socks on my feet and topped me off with a hat. A cozy cottage enveloped in snow, a wood fire burning, winter berries and a dog playing in the snow.
Mate Bond by Jennifer Ashley
I like this cover mostly because it reminds of when my dog and I would just stare at each other for no reason... which often time would last well over a minute. Also, wolves.
Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep
I find this cover to have an air of mystery which mirrors the twilight hues of the forest. The mere mention of magic intrigues me. It does not hurt that the trees shrouded in mist bring to mind so many episodes of the X-Files.
Passion Ignites by Donna Grant
This guy has a red dragon on his chest with flames that are hugging him. This, to me, makes for a rather brutal cover for any type of book.
Wild Cat by Christine Feehan
Any book cover that has this many cats will always equal a great cover. Not much more can be said. I have said everything.
There you have it. These are my top 7 romance book covers from 2015. What are you top covers?
J. Patrick, Production Associate
J. Patrick's Top 5 Female-Driven Books, Movies, and Music
All my picks have the theme of the women remaining true to themselves at their core.
Loving Leah (Hallmark Movie)
I do not claim to know much to anything about Hasidic Judaism or have any Jewish friends, but I love, loved this movie. It was sweet, sensual, sacrificing, and everything a good romance movie is suppose to be. It felt real and had me longing for a love like Leah and Jake's. And what put the icing on the cake - Leah remained Leah. She didn't have to change her true self. I am a romance movie lover. I cry in between most of the scenes. Yep. I surely do.
“Hello” by Erykah Badu, featuring Andre 3000...
No, it isn't Adele. These are two former lovers, who share a child, reuniting as artists. If I could sing I would, but my heart is beaming. I love the song! I love that the past is the past. And now is all we have, so let's create. P.S. They sample Todd Rundgren's Hello It's Me (1972).
Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler
I am still searching for a book that can take me places this book took me this year. It's an oldie, but goodie. I laughed and smiled all the way through. The characters felt so real. Breeding. Check. Paranormal. Check. Sci-fi. Check. Romance. Check. 500 year-old-lovers. Check. If I say I had dreams about this book, would you believe me? I spent weeks feeling like I had closed a chapter in my own life. I was not ready for the story to end. Any recommendations just drop in the comments below.
Love and Other Scandals by Caroline Linden
Picked this up at a book sale, and it grabbed me after the second chapter. I admire a heroine who can hold her own at any age. It drew me in just like my first historical romance read—Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas.
Tie: Currently I'm reading Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, which I do consider romance. Self-love and reflection is the best love we can give ourselves. It shines both inward and outward and in return we give our best love. Oh and I'm reading The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev. So good so far.
I may be new to romance, but not books! I look forward to reading many many more. Enjoy your holidays and Happy New Year! 2016, I await you...
Learn more about the books mentioned in this post:
|The Deal by Elle Kennedy|
|The Fighter and the Fallen Woman by Pamela Cayne|
|The 100: Season 2|
|Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare|
|Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo|
|Mad Max: Fury Road|
|Asking for It by Lilah Pace|
|The Year We Fell Down by Sarina Bowen|
|Ryker by Sawyer Bennett|
|Searching for Beautiful by Jennifer Probst|
|Dark Wild Night by Christina Lauren|
|Sweet Ruin by Kresley Cole|
|The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan|
|The Mistake by Elle Kennedy|
|Hyde and Seek by Layla Frost|
|Rock Hard by Nalini Singh|
|Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl|
|Roommates by Erin Leigh|
|Fragmented by Stephanie Tyler|
|Hannah and the Highlander by Sabrina York|
|Heartsong Cottage by Emily March|
|Mate Bond by Jennifer Ashley|
|Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep|
|Passion Ignites by Donna Grant|
|Wild Cat by Christine Feehan|
|Wild Seed by Octavia Butler|
|“Hello” by Erykah Badu, featuring Andre 3000...|
|Love and Other Scandals by Caroline Linden|
|Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes|
|The Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev|
Teddy loves two things: peanut butter and technology. You can either find him eating the former or exploiting the latter. Oh… he's also a sucker for puppy noses and kitten whiskers.