While I lamented how little I read this year in my 2020 recap post, I still read a fair amount overall, so there’s a lot to choose from for my favorites! I enjoyed a number of books immensely this past year (and will give them a shoutout in this post!), but there are a few that standout as some new all-time favorites that I’m sure to reread.
Here they are, in no particular order:
Alpha Night by Nalini Singh
Latest installment in the Psy/Changeling series involving the female alpha of the Russian wolf pack and an Arrow who mate at first sight.
This book! I’ve been obsessed with Psy/Changeling for a while, but I think Alpha Night is a new favorite! Like, I have three that I previously considered the best of the series, but this one immediately joined them! I just really loved how different the dynamic was with the mating-at-first sight element, and I’m obsessed with how completely Ethan adored and supported Selenka. They’re such an amazing couple together, and I love everything about this book! It was also cool seeing how the larger Psy/Changeling plot was developed in this book, and I’m excited to see what else Singh has in store for this world.
I received an arc of Alpha Night from the publisher via Edelweiss and plan to buy my own paperback copy. Read my original review here.
40-Love by Olivia Dade
Contemporary vacation romance in which the hero rescues the heroine after a mishap with her bathing suit.
Wow, this book was also beyond excellent. I had the stupidest grin on my face the entire time I was reading 40-Love because it was just so great and funny and adorable. I really loved Tess and Lucas together and seeing her force him to open up to her, and him making the effort because he knows their relationship has the potential to be so much more than a summer fling. The way he takes care of her is amazing, and I love how she challenges him to really value his abilities outside of tennis. This book just makes me want to squish something because I love it so much!
Also shoutout to Dade’s short story Unraveled, which I first read in the He’s Come Undone anthology! It’s a short story involving an uptight hero, hangman, and murder dioramas, and it’s amazing. It’s the first thing I ever read from Dade, and it’s what catapulted her to one of my new favorites in 2020!
I received an arc of 40-Love from the author, and then bought my own physical copy. Read my original review here.
Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid
Enemies to lovers m/m hockey romance between two hockey rivals.
I decided to pick up Heated Rivalry after hearing a lot of great things about it from a number of different sources in a really short time period, and wow. I read it in one sitting, and then spent days going back and rereading my favorite scenes. This book was so, so good! I just really loved seeing Shane and Ilya slowly realize that their relationship meant more to them than they knew, and then allow themselves to think about what a relationship between the two of them would actually look like and figure out how to make it happen. It was so incredibly sweet and romantic, and the two of them are adorable together. I am completely obsessed with this book (and this series, to be honest), and I literally cannot wait for Shane and Ilya to get a sequel, because this book just isn’t enough! Oh, and I think it’s the only book I read for the first time this year that I’ve already reread, so if that doesn’t tell you how much I loved it, I don’t know what will.
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
Epic/urban fantasy in which the protagonist is trying to find out who murdered her best friend.
Despite being a huge fan of Sarah J. Maas, I took a long time to pick up House of Earth and Blood. I was in the middle of completing a coding bootcamp when it first came out, and then covid hit and I was only interested in reading historical romances, so I didn’t really have the time or inclination to read it. And when I did start it at one point, I was kind of bored with it. But then I sat down with it one day and only meant to read a few chapters, and I wound up spending the entire day reading. I couldn’t put this down! It has very similar vibes to her other books, though the first 100 pages are pretty slow and the book as a whole probably could have been trimmed down. But I was obsessed with Bryce and Hunt and figuring out who killed Bryce’s friend Danika. I’m beyond excited for the sequel to this book, even more so than A Court of Silver Flames. Bryce and Hunt better be end game in this series!!
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Contemporary romance between a professor and a security guard who start fake dating after accidentally going viral.
I always enjoy Talia Hibbert’s books and expected Take a Hint, Dani Brown to be no different. But wow was I not prepared to be so completely blown away! I loved this book so, so much!! Zaf is sweet and adorable, and I can’t tell you how much I love that he listens to romances on audio. And Dani (in addition to have an excellent name) is so prickly and determined not to fall in love. The two of them were absolutely perfect for each other, and I loved seeing them go from fake dating to real dating and dealing with their feelings for each other. What an excellent read!
Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews
The latest Hidden Legacy book in which Catalina must investigate a death with the help of Alessandro, who broke her heart in the previous book.
Emerald Blaze was quite possibly my most anticipated books of the year, and I’m so glad that it lived up to my sky high expectations!! I just love Catalina so much, and I really enjoyed watching her navigate being head of her house and a Warden. She’s just so incredibly competent and strong, but in a much different way than Nevada. Which reminds me, Nevada is back in this one! It was so great to see her and Catalina together and have them talk about what were rather shocking events in book one! And then there’s Alessandro. He’s just such an incredible hero, and I loved seeing him share his secrets with Catalina and win her back after breaking her heart in Sapphire Flames. I still need to see more of these two together, but wow, what an excellent installment in the series! I literally cannot wait to see how Catalina’s story is revolved in Ruby Fever. Why is 2022 so far away??
Honestly, this should really stand in as an Ilona Andrews appreciation spot in general. In 2020, I reread The Hidden Legacy series in anticipation of Emerald Blaze and fell even more in love with the books than ever. I also read The Innkeeper Chronicles, which I am now obsessed with. I hope they write more books in this world, because I really love it.
The Hidden Moon by Jeannie Lin
Historical romance set in Tang Dynasty China between a scholarly young lady and a former street criminal who helps her brother in his spying.
All of the books in the Pingkang Li trilogy are amazing, but The Hidden Moon completely blew me away! Lin just has such a beautiful writing style, and this book has so many things I love to see in a romance. I really liked that Wei-wei and Gao were so different from each other, but couldn’t stay away from each other and still found a way to fall in love despite their relationship being forbidden. I’m really bad at further articulating why I love this book so much, but I was completely swept up in it and invested in Wei-wei, Gao, and their romance. It’s such a beautiful story, and I can’t recommend it enough!
I received an arc of The Hidden Moon from the author and a special print edition from the author in exchange for leaving an Amazon review. Read my original review here.
The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan
Historical romance featuring childhood friends to lovers, a heroine who loves making lists, and a hero who forgot to tell his friends he’s a duke.
I was not prepared for how wonderfully fluffy The Duke Who Didn’t was and how much I enjoyed it! Yet it still contained so much depth and modern commentary. It was such an amazing read. And it featured a prickly, rather uptight and very determined heroine and a hero who likes to tease her and get her to lower her guard, which is one of my most favorite pairings ever! I really loved Chloe and Jeremy and seeing them fall in love, and I absolutely adored their only-one-bed moment! Seriously, this is such an amazing book and easily my absolute favorite from Courtney Milan. I can’t wait to see what other stories she sets in Wedgeford!
Also, I made it through most of the Brothers Sinister this year! I’ve been enjoying the series as a whole, but special shoutout to The Heiress Effect, which has definitely been my favorite so far, as well as the novellas! I’m not normally much of a novella reader, but I really, really liked The Governess Affair and A Kiss for Midwinter!
I received an arc of The Duke Who Didn’t from the author, bought a finished digital copy (I preordered it as soon as I heard about the book and before receiving an arc), and bought a signed print edition from Romancing the Runoff. Read my original review here.
As I said, there are a lot of books that I really enjoyed this past year and have been sure to add to my shelves (I think I read digital copies of all of these and then bought physical copies), though they’re not quite at the same level as the ones above. Still, I can’t not mention them, so here’s a quick overview of these other favorites!
Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas — This was such an excellent fluffy read. There’s something about Kleypas’ writing that I love so much. I especially enjoyed seeing Tom slowly unleash himself and admit that he’s falling in love with Cassandra. And their contract negotiation when they got engaged was such an amazing scene! I received an arc of Chasing Cassandra from the publisher via Edelweiss; read my original review here.
First Comes Scandal by Julia Quinn — This was the perfect delightful fluffy read I needed it to be. There’s very little plot, which won’t work for some people, but I loved the banter and watching these two slowly realize they were perfect for each other as more than friends. It just made me really happy to read and I loved every second of it. I received an arc of First Comes Scandal from the publisher via Edelweiss; read my original review here.
His at Night by Sherry Thomas — Sherry Thomas is such an incredible writer. I know My Beautiful Enemy is her seminal book, but I think this one is my favorite of hers. I just really enjoyed seeing Vere keep up his scheme and Elissande uncover it, and I loved seeing the two of them gradually start to trust each other and fall in love. It was so beautifully done!
Say Yes to the Duke by Eloisa James — This is another book that’s lighter on plot, but Eloisa James just writes such great banter and fun stories. I really loved seeing Viola stand up for herself and Devin being completely bowled over by her. It’s another pairing I love to see in romances, and I thought this one executed it so well! I received an arc of Say Yes to the Duke from the publisher via Edelweiss; read my original review here.
Beach Read by Emily Henry — This wasn’t on my radar until Jenica at Firewhiskey Reader recommended it. I knew I’d enjoy it because it sounded like such a fun setup, but I wasn’t prepared to love it so much! January and Gus just had such great banter, and I loved seeing them be vulnerable with each other and learn how to be in a relationship. It was so well done, and I completely adored it. I received an arc of Beach Read from the publisher via Edelweiss; read my original review here.
A Duke in the Night by Kelly Bowen — I don’t remember what made me pick this up, but this book completely blew away my expectations! I read this one pretty early in the year, so I don’t remember a lot of the specifics about what I loved, but I thought August and Clara were so well matched and had so many great conversations. I immediately went out and bought a physical copy of this book as well as the next two in the trilogy, I loved it so much!
The Earl I Ruined by Scarlett Peckham — This isn’t a Pride and Prejudice retelling, but I think it perfectly encapsulates one of my favorite things about Pride and Prejudice: the misunderstandings and misinterpretations that prevent the two leads from realizing they’re perfect for each other. It’s so heartbreaking to see where they both went wrong with each other, but also so completely understandable, and I love seeing them work through what they think they know of each other and their own actions in order to be together. This was really an incredible read for me. And I don’t want to give anything away, but I love how sex positive this book is!
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite — I’m so late to the bandwagon on this book, but wow was it amazing. This is another one that I read pretty early in the year, but I remember finishing it and being blown away. It’s just such a special book, and I adored watching Lucy and Catherine fall in love and find their place in the world. The hype for this one is very real!!
Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats of Toxic Tech by Sara Wachter-Boettcher — I picked this up on a whim after my sister recommended it since I was in the middle of a coding bootcamp, and wow. I knew the industry was fairly sexist and racist, but I didn’t fully appreciate the depth and impact of it until reading this book. It’s a pretty short and easy read, and I highly recommend it to pretty much everyone. The lack of diversity in the tech industry has serious consequences for everyone, and this book does an excellent job highlighting all of the ways it can fail us. I’m especially glad I read it as I enter the tech industry as it’s an excellent reminder to be aware of my own blind spots and demonstrates how to build more inclusive products, but as we’re all consumers of technology products, I think we should all read it and demand more of these companies. I listened to an audio copy from my library, but I bought a physical copy before I even finished it because it was that impactful.
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall — I read this one on Jenica’s recommendation as well, and I’m so glad I did! This book really helped widen my perspective of feminism and get me thinking about things I don’t immediately think of as feminist issues, like access to food and housing. Kendall did an amazing job with this book, and I can’t recommend it enough to everyone who considers themselves a feminist.
Lady Derring Takes a Lover by Julie Anne Long — I’ve read a Julie Anne Long book before and thought it was just ok, but one of my friends absolutely raves about her and especially liked the second book in this series, Angel in a Devil’s Arms, so I decided to start at the beginning, and wow am I glad I did! Both books are excellent, and now I’m very excited to go back and read more of Long’s works. They were such great romances to get swept up in, and I can’t wait for the third book to come out this spring!
Two Wrongs Make a Right by Cat Sebastian — Cat Sebastian writes such excellent romance novels. I tend not to be the biggest fan of friends to lovers, but she did this one so well. I loved seeing Will take care of Martin and gradually realize that his best friend was in love with him and that he loved Martin back. And Martin is so prickly and determined not to be taken care of or make a big deal out of his love for Will. I also love that there’s just one bed for the majority of the book! I received an arc of Beach Read from the publisher via Edelweiss; read my original review here.
Also, shoutout to the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas, which I reread this year! I just randomly felt the need to reread A Court of Mist and Fury, so I did. I love this book so much. I love seeing Feyre deal with the aftermath of the first book and come into her own strength, and of course I adore her romance with Rhys, who is such a perfect hero. A couldn’t read just ACOMAF, so I wound up flying through A Court of Wings and Ruin and A Court of Frost and Starlight, and I’m all ready for A Court of Silver Flames to come out next month!! I also reread and loved Sabriel by Garth Nix and Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn.
I was a little shocked I only had eight top favorites and eleven runners up, but then I realized I mention way more books in here than that! Ilona Andrews alone accounts for six books I read for the first time last year plus five rereads, and there are a lot of Courtney Milan books I read and loved this year, plus lots of other authors had multiple books I had to mention. So the reality is more like a top 40 or so, which sounds about right!
Did you read and enjoy any of these books in 2020? Let me know in the comments!