Best Reads January 2019

This post gives a list of my favorite books I read in January 2019.

This list definitely shows my bias towards contemporary romance, but also includes YA fantasy, romantic suspense and paranormal romance. I am separating the audiobooks into their own section. I 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.

New reads

All my new reads were romances this month, so I organized them by trope.

Fake Relationship

 

  • Marriage of Unconvenience by Chelsea M. Cameron (contemporary f/f romance novel) I really liked this friends to marriage of convenience to lovers book, it was exactly the kind of comfort read I needed. I appreciated that the MCs love interest set the boundaries she needed to figure stuff out, and got help sorting through things. (Questioning woman MC. Lesbian woman MC. Queer non-binary demigirl author.)
  • Private Eye by Katrina Jackson (contemporary m/f romance novel) This is the sex worker/client romance of my dreams. I adore Maya, & love the way so many of the characters also adore her. Kenny deeply respects her and her work in a way that was a pleasure to read. Both MCs had my heart. This spy m/f romance was delightful all the way through. I loved the sex worker & fat representation, particularly. (Fat Black bisexual woman sex worker MC. Asian American man MC. Black queer woman author.)
  • Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau (contemporary m/f romance novel) I loved this fake relationship brother’s best friend romance a lot. I esp fell for the grumpy introvert hero and how much he was gone over the heroine. I am definitely going to be reading more Lau this year. (Rep: Chinese-Canadian heroine. Chinese-Canadian woman author.)

Foodie Romance

  • The Best Worst Holiday Party Ever by Olivia Waite (contemporary m/f romance novella) I really loved this short about a woman who wants to be a sommelier getting stuck serving wine at a party where she thought she would be a guest, and having a meet cute with one of the guests while she pursues her dreams.
  • An Offering of Plums by J Emery (paranormal m/enby romance novella) I adored this short romance that starts off quite dark and ominous but ends up being more of a thing where the MC courts the enby demon with fruit offerings. I found myself caring about both the MCs quite a bit, and really enjoyed their dialogue. (Rep: Queer man trauma survivor MC. Non-binary MC. Queer author.)
  • Wicked Sweet by Chelsea M. Cameron (contemporary f/f romance novel) I enjoyed this NA f/f romance quite a bit. It’s a cute college-set romance with childhood rivals to friends to lovers & neighbors to lovers tropes; a foodie romance with an emphasis on baked goods. ( Rep: Queer women MCs. Queer non-binary demigirl author.)

Friends to Lovers

  • Imaginary Lines by Allison Parr (contemporary m/f romance novel) This childhood crush to lovers story was so compelling. I could not put it down. It felt very culturally Jewish in a way that really resonated for me, and I loved the chemistry between the MCs, who are stuck with a bunch of internal and external obstacles that seem kind of impossible to navigate. And oh the pining; I love it when there is so much pining. (Rep: Jewish MCs. Jewish woman author.)
  • His Until Midnight by Reese Ryan (contemporary m/f romance novel) I liked this! It’s a mix of ugly duckling trope (tomboy dresses up variety), brother’s best friend, and friends to lovers tropes. I wasn’t sure they worked hard enough for the HEA, but I think readers are likely to vary on that. This was exactly what I needed on a hard day; Ryan consistently delivers the kind of category romance that works for me. (Rep: Black MCs. Black woman author.)
  • Daniel’s Dare by Sasha Devlin (contemporary m/f romance novella) I enjoyed this friends to lovers romance that was driven by a long-running game of truth or dare where both MCs were basically playing chicken with each other, neither wanting to take the risk of declaring their feelings. (Rep: Black woman author.)

Holiday Romance

  • Conversation Hearts by Avon Gale (contemporary m/m romance novella) I loved this romance between a sex worker and the assassin who breaks into his hotel room and might actually be a client. It has wonderful dialogue and I liked the way they built connection. (Rep: Queer man sex worker MC. Queer man MC. Bi/demirom/grayace woman author.)
  • New Year, New We by Katrina Jackson (contemporary polyamorous romance novella) This is one of my most favorite polyamorous romances ever. It made my queer polyamorous heart sing! It great to revisit chars I adored, & this book was so resonant w/my own experience of polyamory, in a way I rarely find in polyamorous romance. I’m so glad its out in the world! (Rep: Bisexual Puerto Rican woman MC. Bisexual Black woman MC. Bisexual Black man MC. Bisexual man MC. Black queer woman author.)
  • Talk Turkey by Bru Baker (contemporary m/m romance novella) I thought this meet-cute over the turkey hotline Christmas romance was adorable; I especially liked the way they both were awkwardly trying to connect and fumbling it. It was a cute fun read with great dialogue. (Rep: Queer men MCs. Asian American woman author.)
  • The Hook Up Before Christmas by Phyllis Bourne (contemporary m/f romance novella) This was delightful. A great mix of humor & heat & I really enjoyed the characters. This is my first read by Bourne and it made me want to seek out more of her work. (Rep: Black MCs. Black woman author.)

Meet Cute

  • Love, Marriage and a Baby Carriage by C.S. Poe (paranormal m/m romance novella) This queer penguin shifter meet-cute at Waddlecon surprise baby instamate romance was utterly delightful and hilarious and I’m so glad it exists.
  • A Tale of Two Cities: A New Year Novella by Alexandra Warren (contemporary m/f romance novella) I really enjoyed this! It cracked me up multiple times and delivered serious heat. This was my first read by this author and I definitely will be checking out her backlist. (Rep: Black MCs. Black woman author.)
  • Rush Me by Allison Parr (contemporary m/f romance novel) There was a lot I liked about this hate to love romance, despite struggling with the way the MCs fought with each other. I loved the chosen family aspect, the heroine’s personal arc around his job, the complexity of the characterization, the way it felt very much like an NA in a lot of ways. I was engaged and could not put this down.. (Rep: Jewish woman MC. Jewish man secondary character. Jewish woman author.)

Second Chance Romance

  • Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole (contemporary f/f romance novella) My comfort read to kick off 2019 was this second chance butch/femme romance. It was wonderful & just what I needed on a hard day. I highly recommend this book; it’s one of my most favorite f/f romances ever. (Rep: Black immigrant butch queer woman MC. Black femme queer woman MC. Black woman author.)
  • Good Boy by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen (contemporary m/f romance novel) This brother’s best friend second chance romance between two MCs who had a one night stand a while ago and now need to deal with being around each other a lot had a really endearing heroine who I adored, and a hockey playing hero who grew on me over time. While I could have done without the evil ex, I liked the heroine’s arc around her career and grappling with the way others saw her as flighty.
  • Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Albert (contemporary m/m romance novella) This second chance romance between old friends who have been estranged for years since they kissed is delightfully geeky and full of pining and angst. (Rep: Gay men MCs.)

Workplace Romance

  • Unveiled Attraction by Chelsea M. Cameron (contemporary f/f romance novel) This was the most compelling of the 3 Cameron titles I read this month. I couldn’t put it down. The MCs were so into each other, and making terrible choices because of it and I couldn’t look away. (Rep: Queer women MCs. Queer non-binary demigirl author.)
  • Running Back by Allison Parr (contemporary m/f romance novel) This was my favorite of the series, though it was definitely the one that was the least about football. I fell hard for both MCs, who were drawn with a lovely complexity and had great chemistry. I especially enjoyed the heroine’s personal arc. (Rep: Jewish woman author.)
  • Stay by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen (contemporary m/f romance novel) I enjoyed this quite a bit! The heroine was great, I really loved how competent she was & how flustered she got around him. It has a good mix of heat & humor. This made me seek out the other connected books, though this remains my fave after trying them.

Rereads

  • Possibilities by Nicole Field (fantasy m/genderfluid romance novella with trans man hero) I adore this romance between a trans man new king and his genderfluid service jester. The lyrical prose is lovely, the D/s dynamic is wonderful, and I fell especially hard for Drel, the jester character. (Rep: Trans man MC. Genderfluid MC. Polyamorous queer multigender author.)
  • Mr March Names the Stars by Rivka Aarons-Hughes (contemporary m/m romance novella with a trans lead)*** Cozy romance was just as cozy the second time around. It felt like a hug. I really liked the trans and enby rep, the ace rep, the pagan rep. I loved the epistolary nature of the romance. It’s one of the only ace/ace pairings I’ve read and my fave so far. (Rep: Homoromantic asexual pagan man MC. Black panromantic asexual pagan trans man MC. Non-binary secondary character.)
  • The Year of the Crocodile by Courtney Milan (contemporary m/f romance novella) I really enjoy Blake and Tina in this story, and the family gathering/clashing has some of the best dialogue ever. (Rep: Hero with an ED. Chinese American immigrant heroine. Chinese American immigrant secondary characters. Bisexual hapa woman author.)

Audio Books

I embarked on a Tamora Pierce reread on audio this fall after learning that Sandry has been named ace  by the author and Kel aroace. Here are a few I especially liked in January:

  • Lady Knight (YA fantasy) This is the culmination of my favorite Pierce audiobook quartet. The performance is wonderful, and the story is compelling, though I find the plot about the killing devices quite creepy and sometimes skip this book when I reread. This feels to me like the most clearly aroace book of the series. (Rep: Aroace heroine.)

I embarked on a major Nora Roberts reread on audio this summer, and it’s still going. Here are a few I especially liked in January:

  • Captive Star (m/f romantic suspense) I remember this book being the most compelling one in print, and it was the same with the audio. This is very much a reluctant alliance against the bad guys instalove story, with a heavy dose of enemies to lovers before that alliance is cemented.
  • Vision in White (contemporary m/f romance) This is the first book in a quartet that is my #1 go-to comfort read, primarily for all the details about the wedding business and the chosen family aspects, and despite some of the classic problematic aspects of Roberts work. I love the romance arc, and it was exactly what I needed, but the arc with the heroine’s mother is one I fastforward through.

February TBR (I likely won’t get to all of these, but it’s nice to have goals.)

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