This year has been such a roller-coaster. Back in May, discouraged by the increasingly negative news and the loss of romance conversation on twitter I was inspired and encouraged to launch a month of book discussions. #RomBkLove was a crazy amount of work (daily posts & moderating the online conversation) but it was also incredibly rewarding. It was wonderful to see such fantastic people as Jennifer Porter & Dabney Coleman take it on and give it their own spin in July & September. Through #RomBkLove I met so many new-to-me romance readers and authors and replenished by TBR. Then Irma & Maria hit Puerto Rico and my reading mojo vanished. But the support of my Romance twitter reader friends remained. I want to thank you all for your encouraging notes, your boosting of Puerto Rican news and your donations to Puerto Rican Relief.
As I adjust to life with an additional family member (my mother has been living with us since early October), I am slowly getting caught up on ARCs. I apologize to all the great writers whose books I've had to turned down over these past few months. I look forward to reading your books and wish you great success!
One of the things I am very proud to still be involved in #readRchat. It is a monthly romance reader chat, and this year Ellie, one its founders was inspired by a terrible 2017 Best of list she encountered to see if we could do a better job. We are gathering nominations right now for the #readRchatawards, and it has been incredibly fun to see what books other readers loved this year. If you haven't yet submitted any nominations, what are you waiting for??
In the coming weeks I'll go through my ballot, sharing which books made me swoon this year.
Ana's Best of 2017 list, Part 1: Best Contemporary & Best Short/Novella
I read a lot of fantastic Contemporary Romance this year, but three books stood out as giving me all the happy sighs.
My favorite book of the year is Alisha Rai's "Wrong to Need You". It came out this week. And I need everyone to finish reading it so they can also nominate it. While I loved "Hate to Want You", the first book in Rai's Hidden Hearts series, the emotional core of this books is so much stronger. I loved the conflict between Sadia and Jackson, the depth of the family tensions and the HEA left me happily wrung out.
Jackson and Sadia grew up together, each other's most trusted and true friend. But it was Jackson's big brother, Paul, who stole her heart. Ten years later, Paul is dead, Sadia is struggling to keep the cafe they ran together afloat, when Jackson, now a chef with global-following unexpectedly arrives back in town after a decade of ignoring her emails to insist on helping her.
They have a ton of deep unspoken issues to resolve, secrets to discover and so much sexual tension to work out. As Jackson and Sadia rediscover each other, learn how life has changed them and marked them, they also have their individual issues to resolve with their own families, which deepen rather than distract from their romance.. It was a delicious sexy angst-fest that doesn't feel manufactured in any way.
I almost always fall in love with Rai's heroines and Sadia is no exception for I adored her, bisexual,widowed mother & cocktail historian. While Jackson has the more dramatic family drama to resolve, Sadia's complex relationships with her sisters, her parents, who love her & judge her and how they cause her to defend and questions her life choices gripped me.
All I can say is GO READ IT. (I received a ARC from the author for review consideration).
My second nomination in the Best Contemporary Romance category was Lucy Parker's "Pretty Face". I loved Parker's first West End-set novel, Act Like It, and this turned me into a full-blown Parker fangirl, as there is just such great backstage intrigue, full of gossip and melodrama.
Lily Lamprey dreams of escaping the vampy TV roles that have made her a household name for serious career on the stage and in film. But her new director, Luc Savage, nearly refuses to cast her, worried that she is nothing more than a pretty face. Their relationship starts out adversarial and there is no one more surprised than they when they start acknowledging a mutual attraction. Like in Wrong To Need You, Luc and Lily's contrasting family relationships add some much depth to romance. This book has a great big Grovel and it was wonderful and well earned.
I rounded out my nominations in Best Contemporary Romance, with a nod to Laura Florand's A Kiss in Lavender. Lucien is the long-lost cousin, who struggles to believe that he belongs in the Rosier Valley and Elena is the much shuffled and abandoned foster child, who idealizes a homecoming for Lucien and struggles to understand how he might not long to stay in their welcoming arms. The real meat of their conflict however is about identity and how much they value their careers.
I loved watching The Rogue Desire anthology move from idea into reality in the days after election. The collection as a whole was quite strong and at one point I intended to review it all but sadly life intervened.
My favorite story in the collection was Emma Barry's. Her story, Kissing and Other Forms of Sedition is about two VA legislative staffers, who when the President seems determined to trigger nuclear war via twitter finally confess their mutual desire and then set out on a road-trip to DC so they might attempt to persuade a Federal Cabinet official to consider evoking the 25th amendment. It is nerdy, funny and incredibly sexy.
I read Glassman's fluffy and colorful short with the rest of the "Not-a-bookclub" crew. In it indie yarn dyer is inspired by the colorful paintings of a local artists and reaches out to her so they might collaborate on project. It is a story about creativity, inspiration, and falling in love, full of nerdy knit-culture and fan-culture details and crammed full of interesting supporting characters. It was just the dash of sweetness and hope that I needed in midsummer.
Have you read Shira Glassman? I thought her recent f/f which was sweet was incredibly tender. It was all courtship.— Ana Coqui (@anacoqui) September 11, 2017
I'll be back with my nominees for the next two categories, Best Historical and Best Romantic Suspense in the coming days.