Mon
Dec 29 2014 2:00pm

H&H Bloggers Recommend: Best Reads of 2014, Part 2

The Lotus Palace by Jeannie LinEach month, we ask our bloggers to share the best thing they’ve read (or things , plural, if our bloggers declare a tie ’cause they just can’t choose). It doesn’t have to be a new book, as evidenced below; just something that made the month sparkle a bit more.

It's the end of the year now, and so we've asked them for their top three books that made the year in reading so memorable. Without further ado, here's Part 2 (of three parts) of our bloggers best reads of 2014—and don't forget to check out Part 1 and stay tuned for Part 3:

Willaful:

I'm so pleased to have an opportunity to highlight great books that weren't necessarily published this year — especially since it allows me to choose The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin. Although I greatly admired both books in this series for their beautifully realized settings and intricate themes, The Lotus Palace was also achingly romantic in a way I cherish.

I read three older books by Carla Kelly in 2014 and could choose any one of them as a best read. I'll go with Libby's London Merchant, for its freshness and surprises.

To make a break from historicals, Fire by Kristin Cashore was the fantasy romance I wish every young adult reader would try. Not only does it seriously explore the moral dilemmas caused by unusual powers, but the heroine completely owns her own sexuality, and understands the difference between sex, affectionate love, and romantic love. She rejects possessiveness and chooses unconditional love.

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen TessaroLynne Connelly:

Kathleen Tessaro's  The Perfume Collector

A new to me author. The story of a woman in an unsatisfactory marriage in the 1950’s, learning about herself and her past by investigating an unexpected legacy was a lovely read with a satisfactory, but understated romance. And the cover was utterly gorgeous!

Sarah M. Anderson’s Not the Boss’s Baby

Anderson uses well-worn tropes (boss and secretary, unexpected pregnancy) and crafts a fresh take with characters I really rooted for.

Nalini Singh’s Heart of Obsidian

I really wanted to know more about the Ghost and wanted to find out how he could possibly find love. This was a long-expected book in a much-loved series, but Nalini Singh really delivered on expectations, and took the Psy-Changeling series into a new era.

Beyond Pain by Kit RochaChelsea Mueller:

Beyond Pain by Kit Rocha

The Beyond Series from Kit Rocha has long been an auto buy for me. The dystopian erotic romance series is high on heat, worldbuilding and badassery. Really, all things I love. This third novel in the series features my most favorite heroine, Six, and her tough-but-understanding man Bren. So hot. Also, the most crazy-hot scene in the book has Bren in what would seem like a submissive position, but calling all the shots. It's impressive and, well, you'll want to read it more than once.

Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead

This is a book for every person who loves Adrian Ivashkov. Wanted him to get an HEA back in the Vampire Academy series? Rose wasn't right for him, but Sydney is. This book is everything a Sydrian shipper could want. Bonus: Twist-y plot. It goes to dark places, but the bright spots burn hot. So good.

Hard Time by Cara McKenna

This book should have been all kinds of wrong. It's about a woman who works at a prison (librarian/teacher) who ends up with one of the prisoners. See? That can't be okay, but in the hands of Cara McKenna: It's a sweet and filthy romance. It's about expectations and fantasies and what happens when those things become reality. Set aside a whole day for this one, because you will not be able to put it down.

Seduced by Molly O'KeefeMiss Bates:

I love reading end-of-year best-of lists; I have a love-hate relationship with writing them – oh, the agony of whittling and weighing. Nevertheless, it is a great way to assess my year-in-reading, think about, consider, and re-evaluate what I loved, why I loved it, and if it’ll have staying power.

I decide the year’s best by contemplating which books resonate in me still and I’ll likely be re-reading. While reading romance is all about my comfort zone and respite from care and stress, it’s often books that surprise, delight, or see me reconsider the genre’s conventions that end up on my year-end best-of list. In no particular order, my three best-reads romance novels of 2014 are:

Molly O’Keefe’s post-bellum Western historical, Seduced, is a daring and smart novel(la). Hero and heroine are broken, spot-lighted by metaphors of death and resurrection. How they achieve healing is shocking, devastatingly convincing, and rocked the foundations of romance conventions. “Blood will have blood” (from Shakespeare’s Macbeth) gives way to earthy images of sowing, reaping, new life and growth. Of all of my favourites (there are fifteen, but I tried to keep it short here), O’Keefe’s novel challenged my notion of what the romance in romance fiction is about. 

Margot Early’s category “super-romance” from 1996, Mr. Family, steeped in Hawaiian culture and customs, is the most convincing contemporary marriage-of-convenience narrative I’ve read. Hero and heroine seek companionship, ostensibly for pragmatic reasons, holding up grief and fear as shields against love. “The heart has reasons that reason knows not of” (thanks, Blaise Pascal). And the body tells: the hero’s celibacy and heroine’s frigidity melt before the Hawaiian sun and shared tenderness, friendship and commitment of two good, hurt people.

Maisey Yates’ most baroque of the baroque category romance, Harlequin Presents’ Pretender to the Throne, is all about wearing masks that protect hero and heroine from the world and its hurts. Yates has penned two of the most damaged and spitting-mad characters I’ve read and I loved them. They hate so well: it’s that much more jolting and interesting when they succumb to love and passion.

Rogue Spy by Joanna BourneDarlene Marshall:

Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne

When a book keeps me up past my bedtime (because who needs sleep when there's a rockin' good romance?), it's likely to turn up on my “Best of” list. Rogue Spy is such a book. Bourne is the queen of Regency spy novels, and she brings an air of authenticity and excitement to them that builds her fanbase and keeps the awards coming. Can't wait for the next one!

The Songbird's Seduction by Connie Brockway

I love a classic screwball comedy, and Brockway delivers with The Songbird's Seduction. It's reminiscent of the Cary Grant and Preston Sturges movies of the early 20th C. with smart, sassy gals and the befuddled guys who fall for them. The book is also delightful for giving us a different historical setting, the Edwardian period.

Poison Fruit (Agent of Hel #3) by Jacqueline Carey

If this is the final book in the “Agent of Hel” paranormal series I will be quite satisfied. Relationships were resolved, character development occurred, there were epic doings, a lawyer was a total cliche, and much meta referencing happened. When Daisy thought of herself as a “Mary Sue” in a piece of bad fan fiction I nearly chortled with glee. Carey's a multifaceted author and an autobuy for me, no matter what genre she's writing.

The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney MilanJane Kriel:

The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan

A beautiful relationship develops between a cynical scoundrel and an unapologetic suffragette.  There is powerful social commentary here, the book is worth reading just for the empowering thimble speech - but there is also humor, wit, lust and chemistry. Huzzah!

Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover can do no wrong! This is an utterly captivating and very unique story of two characters connecting to each other through music.  Go in spoiler free for an addictive, emotional read.

My Skylar by Penelope Ward

This is a deliciously heart wrenching friends-to-lovers story. It’s definitely not a fairy tale but if you like that angsty, intense YA/NA, vibe then this one will stay with you long after you have finished it.

Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha YoungTiffany Tyer

Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young

The best “lessons in seduction” theme I've ever read, but what really makes this third book in Young's excellent On Dublin Street series so wonderful is the total sum of a friends-to-lovers story and a lovable heroine with realistic body image issues. And who doesn't love a player who's brought to his knees? This is a triumph of swoony true love. 

Beyond Addiction by Kit Rocha

Kit Rocha's fantastic dystopian erotic series gets better and better with Trix and Finn's - former lovers and former addicts who get a second chance in Sector Four. This is the most romantic O'Kane story yet. 

Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren

Christina Lauren prove their Beautiful series wasn't a one-hit wonder with the start of a brand-new series about a quickie marriage that leads to a glorious summer abroad. It's thoughtful, mature, and so romantic, and its Frenchman hero Ansel is one for the ages.

The Highwayman by Judith JamesAnna Bowling

The Highwayman by Judith James

A new historical by  Judith James is always drop-everything-else-and-devour time for me, and the third entry in her Rakes and Rogues of the Restoration series is no exception. Ms. James never fails to deliver a compelling romance between two complex protagonists wrapped in you-are-there history, a winning combination.

Rings of Anubis by E. Catherine Tobler

Romance, fantasy, mythology and steampunk mashed up with ancient Egypt, an enterprising heroine and tortured werewolf hero in Victorian era Paris. Expect the unexpected, and as this is the start of an ongoing series with the same protagonists, the adventure is only beginning.

Scarlet Ribbons by Judith E. French

This recently reissued Revolutionary War era classic is proof positive that American history has a wealth of material for deeply moving historical romance. With a fiercely determined heroine and resourceful hero, each with their own inner battles to wage, this unique love story will linger in readers' memories.

***

To find out more about each book mentioned:

The Lotus Palace by Jeannie Lin  
Libby's London Merchant by Carla Kelly  
Fire by Kristin Cashore  
The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro  
Not the Boss’s Baby by Sarah M. Anderson  
Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh  
Beyond Pain by Kit Rocha  
Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead  
Hard Time by Cara McKenna  
Seduced  by Molly O’Keefe  
Mr. Family by Margot Early  
Pretender to the Throne by Maisey Yates  
Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne  
The Songbird's Seduction by Connie Brockway  
Poison Fruit (Agent of Hel #3) by Jacqueline Carey  
The Suffragette Scandal  by Courtney Milan  
Maybe Someday  by Colleen Hoover  
My Skylar  by Penelope Ward  
Before Jamaica Lane  by  Samantha Young  
Beyond Addiction  by  Kit Rocha  
Sweet Filthy Boy  by  Christina Lauren  
The Highwayman by Judith James  
Rings of Anubis by E. Catherine Tobler  
Scarlet Ribbons by Judith E. French  

 

 

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7 comments
Kahintenn
1. Kahintenn
What a great post! Thanks for the recommendations...there are several books here I will now go find!
PhoebeChase
2. PhoebeChase
My fingers are itching to add all the books to my TBR list on Goodreads. I guess the silver lining is that I already have a lot of them?
Kahintenn
3. andrea2
When I click on the link for Expecting the Boss's Baby by Sarah M. Anderson, I get a sent to As You Desire by Connie Brockway at both Amazon and B&N. I couldn't find that title by Sarah M. Anderson at Amazon. I can find the following titles by Sarah M. Anderson: Not The Boss's Baby and Expecting the Bolton Baby. Do you know which one Lynne is reviewing? Or is the book not available at Amazon? I also can't figure out what the two asterisks before that title in your listing mean. Help?
Thanks
willaful
4. willaful
I think that might have been meant to be Anderson's Not the Boss's Baby, which came out a few months ago. Amazon link:
http://www.amazon.com/Bosss-Baby-Beaumont-Heirs-Series-ebook/dp/B00JIH8ZVM
Heather Waters
6. HeatherWaters
@andrea2 @willaful -- Sorry, guys, this is my fault! Lynne sent me the correction but I didn't make it in time. The book is Not the Boss's Baby by Sarah M. Anderson, as you guys already pointed out. Apologies for the confusion!
TanyaLK
7. TanyaLK
@TiffanyTyer -- I LOVE Samantha Young too. Narrowing down to 3 was just tormenting ;) Which of her On Dublin Street series is your fave? I think Jamaica Lane is mine thus far...
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