I cannot believe another year has ended, and another pile of books is in our pasts. Listed below are 14 of my top favorites, ones that really stuck with me long after the last page was turned; they made me cry, pulled at my heart, or simply affected me in a way that I fell so very much in love. I read so many amazing books over the year that it was difficult to narrow them down to list that was just under 10% of what I read over the year (and you’ll see that a couple of authors stole more than one top spot), but I think you’ll see why these made the cut though. And please tell me yours in the comments! Mine are listed in no particular order.

An Ex for Christmas by Lauren Layne — I’m not one for holiday-themed novels, usually, but when LL does it I apparently go gaga over it. It read like a Hallmark movie (a steamy one) with a young woman going back to all of her exes, over Christmas break, after a woman with sight tells her that she had already met her one true love. The heroine had such flare with her superstitions and love for mistletoe that she was truly wonderful to connect to, and all of the angst with the one who got away was titillating and downright delicious.  LL writes great chemistry with her characters in all of her books, but there was truly something special about these two that hit me in the gut and still, quite honestly, hasn’t left me.

Read my Review of An Ex for Christmas

The Hot Shot by Kristen Callihan — This book was top-notch friends-to-lovers romance. Everything about it ticked every little box to make it great in every aspect. The dynamic between Chess and Finn was orchestrated perfectly, making that escalation of friends to more wholly believable. Add the aspect of roommates and you’ve got the angst factor up by a thousand points. I spent a majority of this novel with butterflies in my stomach and a buzz all over my body watching them slowly circle around what’s lurking between them. And let me tell you, you’ll swoon hard for quarterback Finn’s sensitive side because it was the only side he had when it came to the woman he was desperately falling for.

Read my Review of The Hot Shot

The Darkest Sunrise & The Brightest Sunset (a Duet) by Aly Martinez — This fast-paced and heart-pounding duet completely blew my mind when I first read them. The twists were aplenty and they ripped me to shreds with each word. To see the devastating long-term effects of a mother whose child was kidnapped was brutal, but watching her finally find love in her life was sorrowfully sweet. I’ve never read two books so fast, and it’s all because of Martinez’s method of relaying the story to us; perfectly pacing each element and miring it all in heartbreak and irony and pain and sorrow. Probably one of the most emotionally devastating reads of the year.

Read my Review of The Darkest Sunrise
Read my Review of The Brightest Sunset

Royally Matched & Royally Endowed (Royally Series Books 2 & 3) by Emma Chase — I can’t say it’s a surprise that Chase followed the greatness of the first book, Royally Screwed, with equal greatness in the next two books of the series. Matched had a very big Prince Harry vibe to it that just absolutely did it for me. Prince Henry’s playfulness and wit, when mixed with bookish Sarah’s matching wit, was both hilarious and incredibly angsty. I loved the idea of a Royal Game Show to find him someone special, and what he would do if he found it early in someone he never expected. And to shake things up, Endowed went in a bit of a different direction and gave us the royal family’s loyal bodyguards’ love story, Logan and the younger sister of the heroine from the first book, Ellie. Their romance had the wonderful angst of a man who repeatedly denies harboring feelings for her because of her age until it hits a beautiful crescendo of two people who cannot pretend any longer. Chase does it again.

Read my Review of Royally Matched
Read my Review of Royally Endowed

Follow by Tessa Bailey — I’m constantly wondering how Tessa can write such provocative stories and not tell the same sort of story twice, but I won’t wonder too hard because I’m just happy she keeps pulling it off. Follow was her first self-pubbed novel, but it felt like pure Tessa Bailey. The characters were engaging, the plot had depth, and the raw, guttural nature of attraction and sexual connection were ever-present. Two characters coming together under fall pretenses, both whom are unwilling to trust but also unable to deny the extreme chemistry they share, led to an explosive romance that pulled heavily on steamy but also delved deep into the wells of emotion. I was a hot mess reading it, and I can still remember every moment of them showing their true selves, just in the slightest bit, to each other and how each crack in their walls led to a wonderful bareness of self.

Read my Review of Follow

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare — The only historical romance on my list, The Duchess Deal instantly became a favorite of the year even before I finished it. I can’t seem to let the story go, I can’t seem to stop telling my friends to read it even if they say they don’t like historical, and I could honestly re-read it already. Yes, it’s a historical, but the beauty of Tessa Dare is that she feels very contemporary in her writing and she blends the two genres so well that even for someone who doesn’t read a lot of historical, such as myself, can be easily sucked into it. With a marriage of convenience between the Duke of Ashbury, a scarred and broken veteran, and Emma, a skilled seamstress, one would think it was like any other with this trope, but it was so much more. Emma had so much gumption and conviction that Ashbury truly had no chance of keeping things to the pre-specified contract, and watching their hilarious back-and-forth’s along with his late night adventures, oh it was fun and steamy all the way through. Probably the best historical romance I’ve read in a long, long time.

Read my Review for The Duchess Deal

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren — I loved this book so much I based an entire 8-page literary essay on it. This is a story based on seventeen year old Tanner’s life of moving with his family to Provo, Utah, a city very much inhabited by those of Mormon faith, and his struggle with putting his bisexuality back in the closet. But his falling for the college-aged Mormon prodigy Sebastian, who tutors his novel writing class, is met with contention due to Seb’s religion and the pressures of society. What was most awe-inspiring about this novel was that Christina Lauren created such strong pillars of support with the way that Tanner’s family accepted his bisexuality. With so many teens struggling to accept their true selves, this is the kind of novel that all parents should read because it touched on how important love and support from your family and friends is to mental stability and sense of self. The romance between the two, often tumultuous, played out with just the right amount of resistance and tension, never once feeling shallow or predictable. Truly a powerfully hard-hitting novel that everyone should read.

Read my Review of Autoboyography

Disorderly Conduct by Tessa Bailey — Again, Tessa Bailey hit it out of the park with the first book in this new series. And it may have the best meet-cute I’ve ever read. Charlie was unlike any of Bailey’s heroes in that he was a more bit sensitive, for lack of a better word. He wasn’t one to hide behind bravado or worry about appearing a certain way, he just was who he was. And he was a man desperately in love, without actually knowing it, with the woman who only allowed connections with a guy for a very short amount of time. His antics to find a way back in with her are beyond hilarious and heartwarming that you can’t help but lovingly shake your head at him. And Ever was so powerfully unapologetic with her needs and views on things that her uniqueness pulled at me. Altogether it was an amazing story and went so much deeper than expected.

Read my Review of Disorderly Conduct

The Farthest Edge by Kristen Ashley — In a series that goes beyond the typical nature of erotica, The Farthest Edge bridged the gap between erotica with Domme’s & submissive alphas and the typical beauty of a KA love story. I loved the first book, but what stuck with me about this one was that it felt entirely more personal. Branch and Evangeline’s story was steeped in personal hangups and emotional setbacks that ignited their coming together. It was such a delicate love story to be told and I felt everything deep in my gut, and it was just so damn beautiful. It took me forever to find words for why this novel hit me so hard, and I still don’t think they do the book justice. This felt like vintage KA, just with a very kinky side to it that somehow made it even more like what I know and love from her writing.

Read my Review of The Farthest Edge

The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre — One of my only non-romances of the list, The Ghostwriter was an unbelievably emotional novel. With a dying author who has one last story to write, her own, Torre builds a story around Helena’s journey to finding a ghostwriter to help her pen the novel before she passes, and the harrowing tale she has to tell. The words to describe this novel are limited simply because of how much of a presence it has. The sadness, the loneliness, the irony and despair in this story are starkly vivid and I sobbed. I sobbed so hard, and felt so deeply for this woman and her story. Torre beautifully captured a pretty unlikable character with glaring flaws and many shortcomings and made her so real, so possible, that readers could become her, feel loss for her, and accept her for who she is. The mystery of her past and the effects it had on her were perfectly fit into the story and made it an absolute page-turner. I couldn’t put it down and I can still feel it, everything it brought up in me, and I don’t think that’ll leave me for a long time.

Read my Review of The Ghostwriter

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry — Lost Boy is not a re-telling but an origin story for why Hook is the way he is, and why he and Peter Pan have the rivalry they do. I have a soft spot for Hook, mainly because of the television series Once Upon a Time and Colin O’Donoghue (who wouldn’t, I mean look at him), and couldn’t open this novel fast enough to explore a unique perspective on an oft-hated character. Henry’s story is brutal and vicious but so skillfully portrayed the characters to their end points. Based around Hook and Pan being as close as brothers after the years that had passed since Pan brought him to the island, there’s a slow but steady descent into the tyrannical madness of Pan, and Hook’s eventual inner conflict of protecting the other Lost Boys or blindly following a boy he once deeply cared for. While there is little romance in the traditional sense, the love between these non-blood brothers of the Lost Boys and Hook’s friendship with Pan is in abundance. Both adventurous and unputdownable, I adored this origin story.

Read my Review of Lost Boy

The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren — While this is technically a 2018 release (January 2nd, to be exact), I figure it’s close enough to the end of 2017 that I can slip it in to my favorites of this year since I read it in December. It’s been a few short weeks since I finished this book, but I can’t seem to let it go. Based around a small group of survivors from a school shooting, they’re all brought back together again years later to be a part of a documentary based on their ordeal. As a second-chance romance, it hits every emotional point regarding chemistry and tension that it should, but the added layer of such a traumatic situation connecting them brings a sharper point to their connection. It’s more raw, more powerful, and equally as emotional considering their falling apart was not on the best of terms. What I loved most was that Loren made this more than a romance by easily capturing the true, long-term effects of trauma on a person’s psychological and mental states. How do two people who’ve experienced something harrowing find that connection when the people they were before have vanished? Their journey to living again, to loving again, was magnetic and I couldn’t put it down. I already know it’ll stick with me for months to come.

Read my Review of The Ones Who Got Away


And that’s my list. Let me know if any of these affected you in the same way, and tell me know your Top Reads below or tag me in your posts on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

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