Dec 23 2015 2:00pm

H&H Bloggers Recommend: Best Reads of 2015, Part 3

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne

Each 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 3 (of four parts) of our bloggers best reads of 2015—and don't forget to check out Part 1Part 2, and stay tuned for Part 4:

John Jacobson:

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne - Byrne’s new historical is lush and provocative, with the deep language and drama of older historicals and the escapist spunk of newer historicals. Her characters are entrancing in their emotional depth. I was taken away by the narrative - there’s no other book like it out there today.

What a Devilish Duke Desires by Vicky Dreiling - Dreiling writes sweet historical romances with a sexy zing. This book hits all of the high notes with strong threads of dramatic action and romantic longing. The hero and the heroine are fundamentally good people caught up in bad circumstances, and the way Dreiling unveils their happily ever after is expert. Dreiling’s added homage to popular reality television in a Regency-garbed setting creates a humor that makes it the perfect sweet confection.

Flirting with Disaster by Victoria Dahl- Solitary artist with a past and a rigid, law-following hero that finds her oddly fascinating. A cast of feminist, well-developed secondary women and a mystery that will keep readers on their feet. This book has everything. Not to mention Dahl knows how to write a sex scene that will leave you breathless. By far the best contemporary romance this year. 


A Taste of Heaven by Penny Watson

A Taste of Heaven by Penny Watson

This story was just delightful. The way the author uses food and a cooking competition as a metaphor for the central romance was brilliant. Genuine characters, perfectly set cooking scenes that are so well-written you'll swear you can taste the food, and a charming love story put A Taste of Heaven in one of my top spots. 

Viking Warrior Rising by Ava Maria Bradley

What do you get when you mix a band of ancient Viking warriors with modern government conspiracies and fantastic worldbuilding? Viking Warrior Rising, that's what. Debut author Ava Maria Bradley gives readers a fast-paced story where putting the book down was met with much resistance from me. Reminded me of early Black Dagger Brotherhood and I'm eager for more in this series. 

Forever Your Earl by Eva Leigh

Witty and smart. Those are the first words that pop into my mind when I think about the first book in Eva Leigh's new series The Wicked Quills of London. I was totally smitten with our main couple from the moment Lord Ashford stormed into the offices of Eleanor Hawke's gossip paper. What follows is one of the smartest romances I've ever read that is also seamlessly paired with a swoon-worthy courtship. My favorite read of the year. 

Lucy Dosch:

Eighth Grave After Dark by Darynda Jones

Just to be contrary, I don’t have three favorite books this year.  In 2015, I indulged in catching up on three series. 

I am a late comer to Darynda Jones’s Charley Davidson series.  The main character, Charley, is the Grim Reaper and Private Investigator.  She helps her Uncle solve crimes and helps the departed cross over.  But a better description of Charley would be to liken her to an over-caffeinated toddler with ADD.  If you tell her not to touch something, she won’t stop until she’s touching it.  Especially if that something is the dangerous and delectable son of Satan, Reyes Alexander Farrow.  This series holds the record for the most times I have laughed out loud.  Lorelei King does such a wonderful job with the narration that even in the last book which I read all the voices in my head were hers. 

Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series has been on my list of Urban Fantasy series to try and I finally took the time to see what the excitement is all about.  I absolutely loved the creativity of the world building presented.  The characters quickly become important to you and I found myself stressing several times since Ilona doesn’t pull punches and everyone is at risk.  This is the only series I could not catch up with by audiobook since I found the obscure myths presented to be a little too complex to be concentrated on while driving and I definitely followed along better when I read the hardcopy.

My last choice this year is more Urban Fantasy than romance.  The first book was Drew Hayes' Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant. I had to have it. How can you not give in and read it with a title like that? Only a year prior to the beginning of the story, Fred was a mild mannered accountant.  He was attacked, turned and abandoned by his maker.  Fred might no longer need his glasses or his sweater vest, but he’s more comfortable with them.  And with no one to introduce him to his new life, he didn’t see the need to abandon his old life.  He just needed to work nights.  The stories are broken into five diary entries and like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Fred collects new friends on his journey of tax codes and juggling his new supernatural world.  While not technically a romance, Fred does win the girl in the end.  This is one series I would highly recommend the audiobook version of since Kirby Heyborne truly breathes life into Fred. In fact, I had to wait weeks longer for Undeath & Taxes because I had to have it in audiobook.

Anna Bowling

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, begins when bookish teen, Dash, finds a red notebook hidden in the shelves of a favorite bookstore, and a series of dares, should he be up to the task. The darer turns out to be Lily, a girl he's never met, whose streak for adventure leads him throughout New York City, and his own heart's desires. Can Dash and Lily's romance exist outside the pages of a shared Moleskine? With a dash (pun intended) of holiday spirit, a secret Jewish rave and a night locked in a bookstore, this YA love story is one for the books.

Call Back the Dream by Barbara Hazard, is a romance in the grand tradition of epic love stories. Set in Georgian England this is the tale of Camille, a vicar's daughter, and Alexander, a viscount and son of an earl. Their love is deep and true, but forbidden, due to their different stations in life. Despite hideous lies concocted by disapproving parents, marriages of convenience to other partners, and fifteen years that separate them, Camille and Alexander's love cannot be erased. When the truth comes out, get ready for fireworks, because what happens next is spectacular. Ms. Hazard is a grand mistress of emotion and historical detail, the love story rooted in the mores of the time.

Autumn Rain by Anita Mills, rekindled my love of 90s romances. This Regency-set historical delves deep into both the luxury and darkness of the era. The story starts with two scandals. Beautiful Eleanor Ashton's father sells her into marriage with an elderly peer, to settle his gambling debts, while Lucien de Clare is embroiled in a divorce from his adulterous wife, a deeper scandal still hiding behind that. Readers will want to settle in for this one, as Eleanor and Lucien do a slow burn, complicated by war, family drama and Eleanor's husband's desperate scheme for an heir to bear his name. These two lovers truly earn their happy ending, and what an ending it is.


Maybe This Time by Joan Kilby

Maybe This Time by Joan Kilby

In addition to being a well written, thoughtful romance, this addresses the usually taboo subject of post-partum depression. I found it very validating to read about a romance heroine who isn't a perfect mom.

For Real by Alexis Hall
(Disclosure: Alexis is an online friend, and also contributes to Heroes and Heartbreakers.)

I deeply enjoyed this layered opposites-attract romance, and its nose-thumbing at all unwritten rules and expectations for BDSM themed stories.

I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

This is a YA coming of age story about the complicated relationship between two siblings, but there's also plenty of romance. It combines gorgeous writing with a clever narrative structure in order to punch you in the gut and make you love it. 

Tiffany Tyer:

Lord Savage by Mia Gabriel

Lord Savage: Mia Gabriel's erotic historical gem that celebrates sex, extreme desires, an unapologetic alpha, and a country orgy. This is what the genre is all about, and thankfully, the sequel is finally right around the corner. 


Asking for It: Lilah Pace's rape fantasy debut lives up to the hype. It breaks out of the romance mold, with a truly gorgeous on the inside and out hero, a complex, damaged heroine, and writing that comes off the page. It is worth it!


The Professional: Kresley Cole's foray into BDSM erotic romance hits every possible trigger when it's a bodyguard/mob princess match. Innocence and honor with a heavy dose of suspense heat up the Russian winter backdrop, and it's a ride from start to finish. Here's hoping for many more from Cole exactly like this!

Dolly Sickles:

1. Covert Evidence by Rachel GrantThe universe already knows Rachel Grant’s romantic suspense’s kick up my heart rate, but I really enjoyed her latest installment of the Evidence series. While I’m typically not a big fan of long-running series, Grant writes them my favorite way: with little overlap of past characters. And she certainly doesn’t install the starring characters from the first ten books into the newest edition to save the day … again. I continue to admire the intelligence that’s always apparent in her characters, the equal footing she provides both male and female characters, the exotic (and exciting) locations, and the science. Always the science! Covert Evidence takes place in Turkey, and even alludes to the real deal Lawrence of Arabia.

2. A Shot of Red by Tracy March: Tracy March was new to me prior to reading this exciting suspense in February, and man am I glad I took a chance. Could be I felt a kinship with the biotech company heiress Mia Moncure because I worked in pharmaceutical advertising years ago and enjoyed revisiting the lingo and environment. Maybe I find it intriguing that the man she had to rely on to help uncover subterfuge that could destroy her family and get her killed is the same man she had a one-night stand with (and has been avoiding). Or maybe it’s just that March has crafted a really well-written, exciting, romantic story. Whatever the reason, I loved this book.  

3. Total Surrender by Rebecca ZanettiWhat an excellent way to close out this four-story series about a set of genetically-engineered brothers raised in a lab. There’s just enough fiction peppered in with the science to make it all G.I. Joe-ish, and just enough of Zanetti’s patented sexy badass boys to keep it really spicy. The action throughout the series is high-octane, the brothers heartbreaking in their desperation to create a family out of sketchy laboratory overlaps, and the women admirable in their strength and loyalty to the men who earn their love. This finale definitely didn’t disappoint! It also cemented Zanetti into my romantic suspense author hall of fame.


Learn more about the books mentioned in this post: 

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne  
What a Devilish Duke Desires by Vicky Dreiling  
Flirting with Disaster by Victoria Dahl  
A Taste of Heaven by Penny Watson  
Viking Warrior Rising by Ava Maria Bradley  
Forever Your Earl by Eva Leigh  
Eighth Grave After Dark by Darynda Jones  
Never Gonna Desert You by Ilona Andrews  
Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes  
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan  
Call Back the Dream by Barbara Hazard  
Autumn Rain by Anita Mills  
Maybe This Time by Joan Kilby  
For Real by Alexis Hall  
I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson  
Lord Savage by Mia Gabriel  
Asking for It by Lilah Pace  
The Professional by Kresley Cole  
Covert Evidence by Rachel Grant  
A Shot of Red by Tracy March  
Total Surrender by Rebecca Zanetti  























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Christine Maria Rose
1. Christine Maria Rose
It always amazes me to read these best of 2015 lists and realize how many books are out there that are completely new to me! Lots to add to my tbr. I really enjoyed The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne and For Real by Alexis Hall as well. I read and enjoyed Asking For It, though I don't think I could read it again - I found it very intense. Flirting with Disaster and A Taste of Heaven are on my ereader already - I look forward to them!
2. willaful
Ack! Through poor record keeping, I missed one of my very favorites: The Understatement of the Year by Sarina Bowen. I'll do better for 2016, I promise!

I'm looking forward to trying The Highwayman.
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