This list contains the best romances I read in 2019 that were not released in 2019. I read 228 romance novels and 59 were 2019 releases so that leaves… 169 romance novels that I read that were not published in 2019. Which is a whole lot of books. So narrowing this category down to ten? Yeah, it was a challenge, but I think I’ve got it.
Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
The world seems full of men who are initially infatuated by our eccentricities, but who ultimately expect them to be temporary.
Y’all, I fell in love with this book so hard. I’ve made three people read it since that happened. I now own it in two different formats and almost made it three the other day, but I restrained myself. This book has one of my least favorite tropes in it and I STILL loved it. So, what is this magical book? Hazel is my beautiful beloved eccentric heroine of the year in my heart and she used to embarrass herself horrendously in front of Josh, who she always had a bit of a crush on in college. Now, it turns out that he’s her best friend’s brother and Hazel is resolved that they too will be best friends. So they eventually start setting one another up on blind dates, which are always double dates, and somehow they keep going home together instead of with the dates. It’s… I mean, it’s so good. It’s funny and charming and just…. great. I love this book with my whole heart and it brought me so much joy. Easily my favorite Christina Lauren novel and one of my new favorite contemporary romances of all time.
Block Shot by Kennedy Ryan
“I don’t give a damn about odds. Odds don’t tell me what I can’t do. Odds just tell me how hard I’ll have to work to get what I want. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel less.”
Speaking of books I adored with my whole heart, yet there was something about it that should have kept me from loving it, Block Shot involves Jared going after Banner hard even though she’s dating another man. And yet? I absolutely love this book and if you want to hear someone smarter than me talk about why this book is so good, listen to the episode about sports romance of Fated Mates with Jenny Norback. She’s brilliant. Anyway, essentially this is about two sports agents who have a HISTORY from college and now that Banner is on the West Coast, Jared is going no holds barred after what he wants, Banner. I loved, loved this book so much. The problem is I literally do not have the vocabulary available to explain to you why I love it. So, really, go listen to Jenny talk about it.
Best of Luck by Kate Clayborn
This is the shit no one understands about panic until it happens to them. That sometimes you’re panicking about panic, about the thought of panic, about the memory of panic. It fucking sucks.
I’ve said it about Kate Clayborn’s writing before, but really, truly, I love the way she writes about anxiety and how it really is so specific to the characters she crafts. In this case, Alex is a photographer who has gone to a lot of really devastated places and has photographed some of the worst and best of humanity, but mostly the worst. He’s back in town for Kit’s wedding festivities and is feeling overwhelmed by pressure to be Kit’s brother when he doesn’t feel like he can. Greer notices what everyone else seems to have ignored or not seen and the two strike up an arrangement where Alex is going to help Greer get her art credit taken care of so she can finally have her degree. This romance is so poignant and beautifully written. I love Alex and Greer so much as characters. It was just a really, wonderfully done story.
It is real, and real is so rare, you can’t ignore it when you find it. You don’t give up on it.
I think this is probably one of the books I’ve written about the most on my blog since I’ve read it and there is still a post to go that will be up on Dani’s Bookshelf! But essentially, this is the year that I discovered Kennedy Ryan and what a blessing to my reading life that has been. Kennedy Ryan weaves social issues into her books with a deftness that’s really admirable. This book is so hard to talk about because in so many ways it shouldn’t work. Bristol pushes Grip to be with someone else so hard in the first part of this book and we have to see scenes of Grip with Qwest and it’s like… Not easy to read about. The stuff with Bristol and Parker? Awful to read about. But Bristol and Grip are so compelling and explosive together. The emotions are so real and raw in this somehow. I have no idea how Kennedy Ryan is able to make you feel this deeply about fictional characters, but y’all, she does. And then in Still, Kennedy knocks it out of the park. Every hard part of reading about Bris and Grip not together is just washed away by the reality of the two of them together. And it’s not easy, obviously, but it’s so, so worth it. Kennedy shattered my heart in Still, but then put it back together and I was, am, better for it. Bris and Grip have not left me and I don’t think they’re going to. (Please get a CW for Still before you read it just in case. I have one in my Goodreads review or you can message me!)
Sinner by Sierra Simone
“I don’t want to miss any parts of you,” she says. “Even the parts other women haven’t wanted.”
Oh wow, y’all. I, um, really wasn’t thinking I would love Priest and Sinner as much as I did, but after loving Priest, I REALLY wasn’t thinking Sinner could beat it for me. And yet… And yet. This book made me cry (CW death/grief) and it gave me hope and faith. It’s about Sean and Zenny. Sean is a womanizer, self-proclaimed, and Zenny, his best friend’s younger sister who is also about to become a nun. Zenny was encouraged to experience all of life before taking the habit and so, when she happens to run into Sean at a charity gala, she seizes the moment. And y’all. I was smitten. I loved this book so much! Writing this is making me want to reread it so… That might need to happen soon.
Into the Blue by Chanel Cleeton
“I dated, but there was never anything other than casual, because that was all I had room for. And maybe, because I didn’t have anything left to give. I’d already given you my heart, and even if I’d wanted to, there was no way in hell I could get it back.”
The angst in this book was so good. It’s a second chance contemporary romance about Becca and Eric who dated in high school and college before Eric decided he really wanted to be a fighter pilot and joined the Navy. Becca had dreams of becoming a lawyer and that’s not really a compatible path with a partner in the Navy, or at least that’s what Eric decided a decade ago. When they have a chance encounter, all of those feelings come rushing back and when Eric winds up spending his first R&R at home in years, he decides to see if they could have a second chance. Everything about this book was perfect for me. The angst, the fear, the fact that the Navy was still hanging over their relationship… The stakes felt so realistic and I really, truly loved every page.
Gone Too Far by Suzanne Brockmann
“I’m not going to sleep with Sam Starrett,” Alyssa said. But how many years had it been since she’d uttered those very words to Jules, and then gone ahead and done just that? She could hear his skepticism now, in his silence. “I really mean it this time. I didn’t mean it the last time I said it.”
I debated HARD which Troubleshooters book to put on here because as much as I love Sam and Alyssa, I adore Max and Gina and Jules and Robin just as much. But this was the first time I got to see how masterfully Suzanne Brockmann can weave together a story that she’s been building for five books and she delivered so well. She does the same with Max and Gina and Jules and Robin, but this was the first. I can’t say I recommend the series for their books because I hated book five in the series and it’s really difficult to skip around because then you miss important relationship development. But if you’re looking for a romantic suspense series to binge read, this one is a whole lot of fun! Plus, Suzanne Brockmann is pretty damn awesome.
Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai
“I love you, you know. I don’t say it enough because I assumed you knew I love you. But that’s the problem. Sometimes we think a person doesn’t need to hear something because it’s obvious, because they know what’s in our hearts. But that’s not how the world works. Wee have to say the things.” He cleared his throat. “So, I love you. I want you to be happy.”
I love that the point of this list is to talk to y’all about backlist titles and then I talk about a book that comes out on April 21st of THIS year, but you know, that’s just how the cookie crumbles sometimes and Girl Gone Viral was too good to sit on so I have NO REGRETS. You just saw me talk about this book in my Quarterly Favorites and my December Wrap Up, Part Two, so I’m just going to say that if you love how Alisha handles friendship and family dynamics, those shine in this. And if you like mutual pining?? Oh honey, get this book preordered because this book will set you on fire. I loved it and I hope you will too.
Lover Awakened by J. R. Ward
Sometimes your whole life could hinge on a fraction of an inch. Or the beat of a nanosecond or the knock on a door.
What to say that I didn’t already say in my Quarterly Favorites post… Zsadist and Bella’s story is incredible. I mean, it’s just so full of angst and for good reason. I think seeing Zsadist try to really come to life, like to fully live again, was really, really well done. He was so deeply traumatized and some part of Bella spoke to him, but it’s clear that he was doing the work and that Bella couldn’t love him enough to fix him. I really, really appreciated that portrayal. Also, Bella herself. She’s so strong and impressive in her own right. She’s a fantastic heroine and I really loved her.
The Duke I Tempted by Scarlett Peckham
It was a trap, this business of being a woman. The simple truth of it was that after all her efforts to secure her independence, she was still stuck. To accomplish what she ought, she need not have bothered with years of being single-minded and industrious. She needed only to have been born a man.
Poppy is not interested in marriage. She is interested in getting her nursery off the ground and starting a company where she could ship plants and seeds all across the world. When she gets roped in to doing the most extravagant display of flowers for the Duke of Westmead’s party thanks to his sister, neither she nor Westmead are expecting the attraction they can’t seem to avoid. When a scandal happens… Well, there are things that must be done, aren’t there? I just adored the angst in this book. It reads so deep and it is just truly such a well done book. I can’t believe I didn’t cave to the hype sooner. But now I have read and loved it, am eagerly anticipating book three in this series, as well as Peckham’s first traditionally published book, The Rakess, via Avon out this Spring!
Y’all, this list was so hard to make, but I did it! Please share with me your favorites romances you read in 2019 because I really do want to know. Also, I could have added so many titles to this list so if you’re looking for more recommendations, feel free to check out my Quarterly Favorites of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall posts.