When I wrote 2017's Top 5 Romances to Read When You Need To Believe In Love Again last December, I was coming off the worst year of my life. I'd been diagnosed with ADD which sent me spiraling without the constant noise and distraction in my head. My mom's cancer spread from her breasts, lungs, and bones, to her brain, and she'd lost full mobility twice. Add to it all spine and jaw problems, the mortgage issues that were on year five, I was ready for the year to end. And so grateful for the books that had gotten me through the worst twelve months of my life.
I started 2018 optimistic. My ADD was under control. Mom was kicking butt. The chiropractor got my jaw and spine re-aligned. Our mortgage was settled. Things were finally freaking looking up.
Turned out, things could get worse. (I won't go into detail here, but if you're curious, I started a mental health blog, Squeezed Too Thin halfway through this year, to chronicle just how much of a mess I was. Am. It's basically my journey to mental health as a romance author trying to live out loud as much as possible, so no one feels like they're facing crap alone.)
The good news is, I read a lot this year. As of today, 12/20, I've read close to 100 books. Not all of them new reads. I re-read my favorites at least once every couple of months*. The shorter ones, like Jessa Kane's Pound of Flesh, sometimes get read monthly. I even kept track of how many times I re-read each book this year, because I may have slight OCD tendecies when it comes to making lists.
*For the favorite re-reads, check out last year's list.
I didn't change the criteria for this year's favorites, I may even include some of the books from my favorite author's in last year's list. Because while my year was worse, what I look for in a favorite romance read hasn't changed.
These criteria are:
* Characters that I could re-read over and over and over again. Even if I knew it by heart, or just read it a week before, I'm the kind of reader who enjoys diving back into a familiar story sometimes more than trying a new book or author.
* No stupid, bitchy heroines. Clueless can be fun, snarky is awesome, but there needs to be a solid reason, and it can't be all the freaking time. She has to get over it at some point. I started a book last month by a pretty famous romance author who was new to me. I'd read great things about her books, and the Goodreads and Amazon rankings for this particular book were spectacular. The plot and trope hit a couple of my favorite buttons--hot, alpha cop. Slightly out-there heroine. But. The <gag> heroine. I just couldn't. She was so unlikable from the very first page. A Look. I get making the hero work for it a little. And I can understand building up walls over a lifetime and using bitchiness as a defense mechanism that the hero has to work to get past. I can understand suffering a trauma or experience that hardened their exterior and left them bitter. But, Jesus, explain that to your reader. Let them understand. Make us want to see the patient hero tackle her defenses one by one. Otherwise, this is not a "cute" trait. It doesn't make her a firecracker or strong. And just like the TSTL heroine who deliberately puts herself in dangerous situations without listening to the people who tell her not to, that there are safer solutions, this just makes me think the hero has an undiscovered masochistic side. (Again, I'm totally chill with that if so, but for the love of God, explain that.)
*As for the hero, alpha is definitely a great, big HELL YES for me. Command the space, be commanding in the bedroom (or kitchen, or bathroom, or on the stairs), but he has to have a heart. Even if it's reluctantly there (cough cough, Dallas, cough). He can be an ass, even, but it needs to be for a good reason, and he needs to have a soft spot for his heroine.
* And, as always, Happily Ever After is a must. Mandatory.
Eden's note: Some of these may be a series, so I'm linking to the first book. I'll put my favorites below. Also, as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Okay, one: LOOK AT THAT COVER. Those arms. If you've looked at my Pinterest page or my Facebook page, it's no secret that I like my men big. Big, big. And grumpy. Silent. With a filthy mouth. (No, I don't care that filthy mouth doesn't go with silent. They do in my head.) Blake doesn't just hit all those boxes, he embraces the ever-loving hell out of them. For her.
Secondly, Autumn. Sweet, slightly lost, funny-as-hell Autumn, with the ginormous heart and dickhead ex-boyfriend who left her stranded halfway across the world after cheating on her.
Absolutely nothing about these two should fit together. Until Blake sees a drawing Autumn had made. Of him. As her captor. Yup, turns out sunshine-and-sweetness Autumn has a shockingly dirty, dirty mind. And Blake will be damned before anyone but him helps her make those fantasies come true.
This is Tessa Bailey and Eve Dangerfield's first book together. I really hope it isn't their last. Their brand of dirty just works so well together. There wasn't a single second of this book I wasn't obsessed. Autumn was as perfect as all of Tessa's heroine's (and I mean that in the BEST way possible, because she writes my favorite heroines), and Blake was the absolute perfect hero. Rough, gruff, a little bit broken, and so completely head-over-heels for his Fun-Size, you couldn't help but swoon.