Best of 2012, Romance edition

>> Saturday, January 05, 2013

2012 was a fantastic year for reading -for starters, I read some 150 books, about 30 more than in 2011! But it was great in quality, as well, and I really had to whittle down my list below, because there were plenty of candidates. I was so spoiled for choice that all the 10 books below are titles I gave A grades to, and I'm not even counting rereads!

My Romance - non-Romance ratio is now standing at about 60-40, so I'm doing 2 lists: the Romance one below, others in a few days. So, in no particular order:

Top 10 Romance Novels

1 - A Lady Awakened, by Cecilia Grant (2012)
review here

The heroine, a recent widow, needs to urgently get pregnant, and hires a ne'er-do-well neighbour as stud. One of the freshest romances I've read in a while, very subversive in what it does with the sex and relationship, but at the same time beautifully romantic. It was so good that I will now buy anything Cecilia Grant writes.

2 - Real Men Will, by Victoria Dahl (2011)
review here

The 3rd in a really strong trilogy, which got better with every book. The hero was the overbearing older brother who'd spent the first couple of books being all straight-laced and disapproving. Turns out a while back he'd had an amazing one-night-stand with the heroine, but giving her his brother's name. I loved this one as much for the family stuff as for the romance. BTW, another Dahl, Lead Me On, almost made the list.

3 - The Witness, by Nora Roberts (2012)
review here

The heroine witnessed something as a teenager that has put made her a target of the Russian mafia. She's been on the run ever since, and her reclusive, prickly personality attracts the attention of the sheriff in the small town she moves into. The reason this one's such a standout for me is the ending, which is precisely what most people dislike about it. To me, it's not anticlimactic, it's refreshing for how it avoids the cliched final confrontation and does so in a way that's completely right for the characters.

4 - A Week To Be Wicked, by Tessa Dare (2012)
review here

A bluestocking heroine, a rakish hero and a madcap dash to Scotland with a trunkful of dinosaur bones. It's a preposterous setup and the plot has no pretense of historical accuracy, but I loved this frothy, sweet, but very emotional book.

5 - Her Best Worst Mistake, by Sarah Mayberry (2012)
review here

Violet has never liked her best friend's fiance, and the feeling was mutual. But then the best friend dumps him, and it turns out that dislike wasn't dislike after all. Loved, loved, loved this, and not just because the premise of a stuffy hero thawed out by the "wild" heroine is one I like. This had that, plus characters I loved. I also loved Mayberry's Suddenly You, which had a not-dissimilar premise (it was the hero falling in love with his friend's ex, in this case).

6 - Beguiling The Beauty, by Sherry Thomas (2012)
review here

The hero, a powerful duke, has long been obsessed with the heroine's legendary beauty, but has the wrong idea of her character. This leads him to unwittingly humiliate her when he refers to her obliquely (but clearly to anyone who knows her) and unflatteringly in public. Which, in turn, leads to the heroine plotting revenge, the old "I'll make him fall in love with me and break his heart". Bits of these sound trite, but it's all in how it is done. The way Thomas writes this story makes it absolutely gorgeous.

7 - Riveted, by Meljean Brook (2012)
review here

I adored the story of Annika, a young woman who's left her hidden village in Iceland to find her sister, and David, a man searching for his mother's mysterious birthplace. I don't want to say too much, just that 1) Annika and David are characters unlike any I've seen Brook write before, but just as good, and 2) There are some amazing, really cinematic scenes that left me with my mouth hanging open. Fantastic.

The next 3 are all December reads, so they're in my December summary already, and I probably don't need to say much!

8 - The Duchess War, by Courtney Milan (2012)
review here

I especially don't need to say much about this one, as I posted the review just yesterday! Milan is firmly in my autobuy list now.

9 - Easy, by Tammara Webber (2012)
review here

I was surprised at how much I loved this New Adult story, especially after an iffy beginning. It's got a lovely romance, but also a really strong message of female empowerment.

10 - Restraint, by Charlotte Stein (2012)
review here

Erotic romance where the eroticism comes from the emotions involved, not the variety and kinkiness of the sex acts. Short, but very, very satisfying.


Brie 7 January 2013 at 02:41  

You know what this list needs, right? Pushing the Limits! *grins*

Victoria Dahl is one of those authors I want to like, but as much as I try, her books never work for me. You make me want to give her a second chance, though, and the book on your list sure sounds interesting. We’ll see.

I’m glad you enjoyed Restraint. When/If you read her other books, you will see just how different they are from each other. It’s impossible to be bored by her.
I see Fire by Kristin Cashore on your sidebar. Are you reading it? I just finished the series and was completely blown away by Bitterblue. It would have made my Best Of list had I read it before posting it. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on Fire.

Li 7 January 2013 at 20:01  

I'm seeing that Sarah Mayberry pop up on various Best of lists - must get around to reading it. Same with the Cecilia Grant IIRC - it's been a while since I've gone for a new-to-me author, but there have been raves...

It's nice that you finished the year on a run of good books!

Rosario 7 January 2013 at 21:31  

Brie: Never! :D

I used to feel that about Dahl's historicals, but then I tried one of her contemps, and her voice is much better suited to them. This one and Lead Me On are my favourites. Which ones have you read?

I've now read Deep Desires, and I see what you mean. Abbie and Mallory couldn't be more different, and neither could Ivan and Artie. The one thing in common is how much the eroticism relies on emotion, rather than kink and sexual variety. I can't wait to keep exploring her backlist, but I might have to pace myself!

I have just (literally, about 5 minutes ago) finished listening to Fire, and I adored it. It was the first one I read (I think someone mentioned it was the first one chronologically?) and I'm listening to the other two as soon as they get to my library. Soooo good!

Rosario 7 January 2013 at 21:34  

Li: That Mayberry was one of her strongest, IMO. Quite angsty, in a very good, not heavy way. Definitely one to try, as is the Cecilia Grant. It was one I admired as well as loved. I liked it intellectually AND it punched me in the gut!

December was weirdly good, it's usually a crap month for reading, and I was actually pretty busy. Guess I was just very lucky with the choosing! :)

Anonymous,  8 January 2013 at 00:01  

I agree with you on EASY having an iffy beginning. I never got past it but I think I may give it another shot. This is a good list and one that I needed now that I am reading romances again. Timely post.

Oh and Victoria Dahl, love her writing but not necessarily the characters she writes about. Does that even make sense?


Rosario 9 January 2013 at 06:22  

Keishon: Do, it gets much better quite quickly!

Victoria Dahl does write characters who are difficult to like, especially her heroines. Which is exactly why I like them, actually! I love difficult female characters!

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