This (rather belated) post gives a list of my favorite books I read in November and December 2018.
I had a lot of disability flares in November and December, including a lot of brain fog, and that in combination with my bent for holiday romances makes this list full of novellas and novelettes, mostly.
This list definitely shows my bias towards contemporary romance, but also includes paranormal and historical romance, and erotica. II link to reviews where I have written them; and also where I have only posted trigger warnings, so you can easily find those.
I’m listing rep at the end of my descriptions. If you spot something incorrect, please do feel free to let me know. Also, I am not intending to out anyone; I get author info from the web and the book bio. If an author would like me to remove any info listed, please do let me know. I want to note that I use the word fat as a neutral descriptor when listing rep, and use the word queer when a character or author identify that way or when I am unclear about their identity but know they fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella.
For folks looking for stories with no on-the-page sex, I am putting three asterisks*** at the end of the description.
- Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder (contemp m/f romance novella) I absolutely loved this romance novella. I’ve been a Snyder fan for years and I think this is her best work yet. (Rep: Desi woman MC. Queer desi woman author)
- Rogue Nights (romance anthology) There were some really lovely stories in this anthology. I especially liked the romances by Talia Hibbert and Hudson Lin (Rep: see review for rep)
- His Cocky Cellist by Cole McCade (contemp m/m romance novel) This D/s romance blew me away. It’s easily one of my most favorite kink romances ever, with beautifully complex characterization, a deeply compelling arc, and gorgeous language. I highly recommend it. (Rep: Bisexual man with chronic illness. Moroccan-American femme gay man with chronic pain. Native AmeriBlAsian POC demibisexual queer man author.)
Everything else I read that I enjoyed was holiday romance. Since I didn’t do a holiday romance post this year, I’m going to break this into categories for you, as I might on a post like that.
- The 8th Gift by Karen Sandler (contemp m/f romance novella)*** I enjoyed this novella about a widowed single mom falling for her deceased husband’s best friend. It’s a very classic Chanukah romance. (Rep: Jewish MCs. Jewish author.)
- Eight Cozy Nights by Julia Wolf (contemp m/f romance novella) This neighbors to lovers romcom has a lot of humor and a lot of heart, and was my fave new Chanukah romance I read this year. (Rep: Jewish MCs.)
- The Holiday Hoax by Skylar M. Kates (contemp m/m romance novella) This NA romance centers an interfaith home for the holidays situation between two gay college students, and includes Chanukah and Christmas celebrations. I appreciated that it didn’t include reconciliation with bullies and I adored the gentle giant love interest. (Rep: Gay Jewish trauma survivor MC. Gay MC.)
- Knitting a Broken Heart Back Together by Ari McKay (contemp m/m romance novella) I really enjoyed this one, the slow quiet pace of it, all the dancing and knitting details, the family moments. It goes from Christmas to Christmas with this slow evolution and courtship, still has lovely holiday moments but not your usual Christmas romance arc. I liked that the MCs first build a friendship before there is a courtship/dating element, and that the dating moves slowly. It’s not a slow burn in the classic sense of sexual tension building, if anything it’s romantic tension that builds. (Rep: Gay MCs.)
- Homemade from the Heart by Bru Baker (contemp m/m romance novella)*** This centers a guy who runs a crafts shop who’s got a crush on a man who brings an awesome 7 year old girl in to make Christmas gifts. Yes, its exactly as adorable as it sounds. (Gay MCs. Asian American author.)
- Christmas Lane by Amy Aislin (contemp m/m romance novel) I enjoyed this age gap former teacher/student romance, and I generally am not a fan of the trope. I loved how much of it was about building floats for the parade and quiet domestic details. I liked the way the a-spec rep was handled in the story, & it felt right that we see him questioning, & that he doesn’t choose a label but is more focused on navigating the relationship & negotiating stuff around sex with his LI. (Rep: Gay ace-spectrum and aro-spectrum questioning MC. Gay MC.)
Christmas Romance with an Established Relationship
- Merrily Ever After by Jenny Holiday (contemp m/f romance novella) This was my favorite book so far in the Bridesmaids Behaving Badly series. I loved the way the central couple work to resolve the conflict in the story, and really appreciated the endometriosis representation. (Rep: Heroine with endometriosis. Trauma survivor hero.)
- Wrapped Up in You by Ceillie Simkiss (contemp f/f romance novella)*** I enjoyed getting to revisit one of my favorite couples and to see how they navigate a family Christmas together, along with some lovely Christmas surprises. (Rep: Panromantic asexual woman MC with ADHD. Fat Puerto Rican lesbian woman MC with anxiety. Panromantic asexual woman author with ADHD and anxiety.)
- Her Christmas Cookie by Katrina Jackson (contemp m/m/f romance novella) This book was exactly what I needed from a queer polyamorous holiday story, as it centers the way all three partners support each other through the complexities of going home for the holidays, and shows a range of family experiences. (Rep: Fat Black woman MC. Black bisexual man trauma survivor MC. Latinx pansexual man MC. Black queer woman author.)
Meet Cute Holiday Romance
- Holiday Homerun by Priscilla Oliveras (contemp m/f romance novella)*** I adored this meet-cute forced proximity Christmas romance between a baseball player and a woman who was glad to finally rid her life of baseball. (Rep: Puerto Rican heroine. Mexican American-Puerto Rican woman author)
- A Wedding One Christmas by Therese Beharrie (contemp m/f romance novel) This beautifully rendered fake relationship romance has two very guarded people thrown together over the course of a day trying to fight off their instant connection and attraction, and it’s one of my most favorite holiday romances I read in 2018. (Rep: Black woman MC. Black woman author.)
- A Dance for Christmas by Reina Torres (contemp m/f romance novella)*** I enjoyed this single dad widower dance-themed meet-cute Christmas romance quite a bit. For the most part it’s light, and swoony, and low-angst, with a lovely slow fall. (Rep: Asian American disabled heroine. Latinx woman author.)
Holiday Rom Com
- The Trouble with Elves by Therese Woodson (contemp m/m romance novella) This was a delightful fun romance between a Grinch and a mall elf musician, with a classic rom com mix-up. (Rep: Gay MCs.)
- Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis (contemp m/f romance novel) I really enjoyed this rom com between two guarded folks who were not looking for each other but could not stay away. I especially liked the chosen family feel. It felt very much like a Christmas rom com movie.
- One Bed for Christmas by Jackie Lau (contemp m/f romance novella) This brought a lovely mix of humor, heat and heart and made me want to devour the author’s backlist. (Asian MCs. Biracial woman author.)
Second Chance Holiday Romance
- Boyfriend for Christmas by J. Nichole (contemp m/f romance novella) I enjoyed this Christmas second chance romance between childhood friends. I liked the moments between the heroine and her niece; they were sweet. (Rep: Black MCs. Black woman author.)
- The Coyote’s Comfort by Holley Trent (paranormal f/f romance novella) I loved this book so much! It has a light touch with the holiday aspect and this lovely intensity of a second chance romance with a prickly survivor MC I completely adored. This series is wonderful! (Rep: Lesbian MCs. Black woman author.)
- Red Envelope by Atom Yang (contemp m/m romance novella) I enjoyed his Lunar New Year romance between family friends who had a one night stand last Lunar New Year and now are meeting again and need to contend with what that means. (Rep: Queer Chinese American MC. Queer trauma survivor MC. Chinese American author.)
Friends to Lovers Holiday Romance
- Carolyn for Christmas by Lucy Carey (contemp f/f romance novella) I really enjoyed this childhood friends to rivals to lovers romance centering two women competing for a solo in the Christmas choral show. (Rep: Lesbian MCs.)
- Christmas at the Wellands by Liz Jacobs (contemp m/m romance novella) This is a beautifully rendered rather intense and angsty romance between two BFFs/college roommates, one of whom is in recovery from psych crisis and dealing with grief, who goes home with his BFF for Christmas. (Rep: Black gay man MC with depression. Bisexual man MC.)
- Noelle the First by Nicole Falls (contemp m/f romance novella) Friends to lovers Christmas romance where he’s pined for her since middle school & promised to de-Grinch her. This was lovely. (Rep: Black MCs. Black woman author.)
High Heat Holiday Stories
- Frostbitten by Charlotte Stein (paranormal m/m/f romance novella) This vampire polyamorous erotic romance is full of angst and heat and I found it delicious. I loved the perspective on fated mates, and the slow burn is delicious. (Rep: Bisexual heroes.)
- Kinky for Christmas by Sommer Marsden (contemp m/f erotica stories) This was a joy, something that is not at all a surprise given that Sommer Marsden writes wonderful erotica. This one is Christmas themed, though the title is a bit misleading, as the most this offers kinkwise is mild Santa roleplay. Fun, light erotica with a humorous slant!
- Forbidden Rendezvous by Mel Blue (contemp m/f romance novella) I read this on New Years Eve and really enjoyed this erotic romance between characters who have a lot of emotional armor and get under each other’s skins as they have what’s intended to be casual anonymous sex, but clearly is anything but. Plus a heroine who works at a sex hotel? How could I resist. (Rep: Black woman author.)
- Ménage à Troys by Holley Trent (contemp m/m/f romance novella) This takes place at the same sex hotel in Forbidden Rendezvous and is a love triangle turned triad erotic romance where a couple in a marriage of convenience try to save that marriage through a threesome but end up in a much more complicated situation. (Black woman heroine. Bisexual men MCs. Black woman author.)
New Years Romances
- Dance All Night by Alexis Daria (contemp m/f romance novella) I loved the premise and set-up for this story, it’s a classic set of tropes, and perfect for a holiday novella. Daria delivers on tropetastic goodness in so many ways, and this story has wonderful pacing, complex nuanced characterization, MCs I fell hard for, and an approach to holiday romance that I really appreciated. It was all about what Christmas meant to each of them as specific people, and the traditions they created together. (Rep: Immigrant man MC. Black woman MC. Puerto Rican woman author.)
- One Night in Vegas by CM Stone (contemp m/f romance novella) This was a cute childhood crush/brother’s best friend romance! It centers a New Years Eve date, and I enjoyed that aspect of the story.
- A Midnight Kiss by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner*** (historical m/f romance novella) My favorite New Years romance ever. Such a satisfying arc, lovely swoony moments and a heroine I completely adore.
- Wrapped by Rebekah Weatherspoon (contemp m/f romance novella): I loved this just as much the second time around. It was also lovely to revisit these characters after reading Rafe. I adore the heroine in this book so much. (Rep: Fat Black heroine. Black queer author.)
- The Engagement Game by Jenny Holiday (contemp m/f romance novel) This was a great fake relationship romance and I enjoyed rereading it a lot, but even though it includes a rather fateful Chanukah dinner that is intensely anticipated by the MCs, it didn’t feel like Chanukah romance to me because there is next to no celebration of the holiday. (Rep: Jewish man MC. Indian American woman MC.)
- Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole (historical m/f romance novella) Beautiful historical romance between two civil rights activists with a childhood crush to lovers trope. I adore the heroine’s arc in particular. Worth reading for the Chanukah scene alone. (Rep: Black woman MC. Jewish man MC. Black woman author with ADHD.)
- A Great Miracle Happened There by Kim Fielding (contemp m/m romance novella) A latke surprise meal for the first night of Chanukah, a baker love interest who is more than a one night stand after all, a m/m romance that was just the kind of sweetness I needed. (Rep: Gay Jewish MCs.)
January TBR (I likely won’t get to all of these, but it’s nice to have goals.)
- The Wolf’s Joy by Holley Trent
- Rend by Roan Parrish
- Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
- Abroad by Liz Jacobs
- Private Eye by Katrina Jackson
- Wicked Sweet by Chelsea M. Cameron
- His Until Midnight by Reese Ryan
- Possibilities by Nicole Field
- Stroke of Midnight by Andie J. Christopher
- Happy New You anthology
- Debauching the Virgin by Mel Blue
- Cut Short by Julia Wolf
- A Tale of Two Cities by Alexandra Warren
- Once Upon A Bride by Jenny Holiday
- American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
- On the Ice by Amy Aislin
- Fumbled by Alexa Martin
- Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon
- The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo
- Some Girls Bind by Rory James
- Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau
- Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 4 ed by Rachel Kramer Bussel
- This is What It Feels like by Rebecca Barrow
- The Prince and Her Dreamer by Kayla Bashe
- This is Kind of An Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender
- What Happens at Con by Cathy Yardley
- Unveiled Attraction by Chelsea M. Cameron
- Rebel Hard by Nalini Singh
- Hiding in Plain Sight by Bru Baker
- Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older