So last year, Books Like Whoa did this series on her channel where every three months she talked about each of the books she read that were published in 2019 and ranked them. Then each quarter those rankings were updated. I loved those videos and I’m not sure how well it’ll translate into writing, but I’m excited about it so I hope you’ll enjoy! I’ve read 30 2020 releases so far and for the most part I’ve really enjoyed them all. In fact, of these 30, the only one I would try to discourage you from reading unless you’re REALLY sure you want to try it is the one I ranked 30th. I gave all 30 of these books at least 3 stars. I’m going to try and explain what did and didn’t work in each of these in a few sentences. If you want more information about any particular book, there are ARC reviews of a lot of these and otherwise, you can find them in a monthly wrap up. Also, I read Girl Gone Viral last year so it’s not on this list, but it would be toward the top! I’ll try to re-read it before the next post like this so I can actually slot it in appropriately.
30. In Five Years by Rebecca Serle (ARC)
A women’s fiction novel that keeps getting categorized as romance that is tragic and emotionally manipulative, In Five Years just made me mad. The writing is beautiful, but it’s hard to look past the emotional manipulation that felt extremely plot motivated. For real, read the synopsis and check other reviews if you think you might be interested because I really didn’t like this one. My review is here though, if you’re interested in more thoughts. MOST IMPORTANTLY, please check CWs. You really might need them.
29. Seduced by a Steele by Brenda Jackson (ARC)
Seduced by a Steele is a category romance between a billionaire playboy who gets guilted into helping the woman who unknowingly bought his stolen car. They fall in love. This book wasn’t bad, it just was not for me in any way shape or form. Plus, reading about billionaires while the world is falling apart was probably not my smartest move. My more full review can be found here.
28. The Love We Keep by Toni Blake (ARC)
I’m honestly not sure if this belongs here or in the 29th spot, but this book just didn’t work for me. It’s the concluding novel in a trilogy that didn’t work for me, tbh. It follows Zach and Suzanne while Suzanne is taking care of Zach as he recovers from a pretty serious injury and they’re trapped on Summer Island for the winter. I feel like this is a HQN that’s written in a more women’s fiction style in the way that it pulls in additional perspectives and I just don’t always love that.
27. Secret Heir Seduction by Reese Ryan
If we’re honest, as a person who doesn’t love second chance romances most of the time, I should not have requested an ARC of this book. It is not bad, by any means, but it’s a second chance love story and I’m a person who needs a whole lot more pages to come to terms with a second chance romance on a good day. That said, if second chance is your thing, I would definitely encourage you to pick this one up! My full review is here.
26. Temporary Wife Temptation by Jayci Lee (ARC)
Honestly, I preferred the premise of this book to the execution (not to mention that cover!). It was well-written, but I think some incredibly important scenes to the execution of the trope were cut for the sake of brevity based on category length. That said, I’ll definitely be reading more from Jayci Lee in the future, and not only because I have an ARC of her debut full-length novel, A Sweet Mess still to read.
25. Starbreaker by Amanda Bouchet (ARC)
This feels low for this book, but I really was rather disappointed in the book. It’s still fun and adventure filled, but with several really slow points and a lot of repeated conflict that got a little annoying. That said, if you want a space adventure romance, I would still recommend the Endeavor series! I have more thoughts in my ARC review here.
24. Blame It on the Billionaire by Naima Simone (ARC)
Naima Simone can write anything and make me love it, though it’s probably good I read this billionaire romance early in the year and pre-pandemic. I’m currently salty about medical debt and PPE. ANYWAY, this is another fake relationship category and one I thought was done super well. My only real quibble is that it has the evil ex trope and the matchmaking mother and I tend to find the combination really aggravating as you’ll see in a couple of spots…
23. Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras (ARC)
This fake dating book kicks off with a bang in the sense that you’re off and running with the set up pretty soon into the book. Since I love fake dating so much, that was 100% fine with me. In fact, I enjoyed the entire book and then it just ended and I was like… Excuse me, where is the epilogue? Where is another chapter explaining to me how this relationship is going to work?? But there wasn’t one. And that is why this is where it falls on my list. For more thoughts, you can check out my review here.
22. Not That Kind of Guy by Andie J. Christopher (ARC)
As I alluded to in my description of Blame It on the Billionaire, this is another book with a rich guy who has a crappy ex and a matchmaking/devious mother and the combination annoyed me. However, this book is quite enjoyable despite that. I really liked Matt Kido as a hero and I was pleased with how the consent was handled given that Matt is Bridget’s intern at the beginning of the book. And I liked Bridget too! For more thoughts, check my ARC review.
21. The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa (ARC)
Do not read this book without food handy, preferably Brazilian food because it shines in this book! The Worst Best Man was a really fun read, but one where I didn’t ever reach that emotional connection I look for in a romance novel. It’s about a wedding planner who is left at the altar and her brother-in-law to be takes the blame for it. So, of course, a few years later she has to work with him in a professional capacity and sparks fly. I can’t really explain what felt like it was missing, but honestly, it was probably that the ending felt too abrupt because I’m starting to think that’s always my problem. Anyway, my ARC review can be found here.
20. Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire (Borrowed from Library)
This was the fifth book in the Wayward Children series and we return to two of my favorite early characters. It’s dark and atmospheric and very interesting. It’s just that as usual, the novella length for these books feels too brief for me because the world is so complex. However, I think if you want a short fantasy book, this series is really great for that.
19. More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn (ARC)
The last 2020 release I read in April! This is also the first YA book I’ve read all year. I really enjoyed it, but I also felt like it was doing a lot and if one subplot had been removed, it would have been stronger. But I do love books about music so I’m really glad I read it. My Goodreads review is already posted, but the book itself isn’t out until July 21, 2020.
18. The Rakess by Scarlett Peckham (ARC, but my preorder came in early and so I physically read the last half)
This book could easily change positions as time marches on because my feelings on it still feel too complex to really articulate. I think this book hunts big game in its exploration of “the rakess”, which really feels more like a Madonna/whore style trope exploration. It’s a really smart book and I think that reading it when I did was part of the problem. So I can recognize that it was objectively really well done, but I didn’t emotionally connect with it the way I usually do Scarlett Peckham’s books. There are a LOT of content warnings, which I tried to flag in my review, but you should also check other reviews if you may be sensitive to topics that could arise around sex.
17. Whiteout by Adriana Anders (Purchased)
This romantic suspense is one I picked up because Jen of Fated Mates raved about it on twitter. It’s a survivalist romance that’s labeled romantic suspense (which is a fair label) about two people who don’t necessarily like each other that much trekking many, many miles across Antarctica on foot to safety. (Don’t worry, there IS danger banging, but only in a way that mostly makes sense.) The reason it’s a little lower on the list is because I just wasn’t 100% sold on the romance, but I am really looking forward to the next book in the series, which still hasn’t been announced, I don’t think.
16. Flying Gold by Vanessa North (ARC)
I was so pleasantly surprised to sit down and read this in one sitting because that feels so rare right now. But Flying Gold, despite being a second chance romance, sucked me in right away. Tiffani is angry with Matt in a way that I totally understand and I think some of her grief finds an outlet through being mad at him too. Meanwhile Matt knows he messed up and is just patient and good and kind the whole time and that doesn’t always work for me, but it really worked here. I really enjoyed this one and would definitely recommend. My ARC review is here.
15. Heartland by Sarina Bowen (Purchased)
I love Sarina Bowen’s writing and I usually fall right into her stories. It took me a few chapters to really warm up to Heartland though, despite it taking place with characters I already knew. However, by the end, Dylan and Charity and their new adult weirdness had won me over and I still wound up enjoying this one quite a bit.
14. One Last Chance by Therese Beharrie (ARC)
This book was told in alternating timelines where we switched back and forth from present day to seeing the history of the friends to fake dating to lovers that happened between Zoey and Sawyer. I really loved this one and I’m still so excited to read the rest of the series (which is out already so I have no excuse). A more full review can be found here.
13. He’s Come Undone by Emma Barry, Olivia Dade, Adriana Herrera, Ruby Lang, and Cat Sebastian (ARC but also had preordered)
My review for this will be out on Tuesday, which is also release day! I really loved this anthology. Olivia Dade’s brilliant novella writing skills were on full display in this anthology and it was incredible. This was also my first, but definitely not my last, Cat Sebastian! I really enjoyed her historical 50s set m/m novella. Honestly all of the authors did a great job and I would recommend this collection to everyone.
12. Forbidden Promises by Synithia Williams (ARC)
This book is the most soap opera-y goodness that I’ve read in a long time, without going so OTT that it becomes less enjoyable. It’s about a woman who returns home for what’s supposed to be a quick stop, but she gets dragged into helping her brother with his campaign and falling for her brother’s best friend/her former brother-in-law. I really loved this one and am definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.
11. A Cowboy to Remember by Rebekah Weatherspoon (ARC)
I’m not much for an amnesia trope book, but Rebekah Weatherspoon proved me wrong. I really enjoyed this book. That first chapter was one of the most intriguing I think I’ve ever read and I really loved watching Evie discover herself again. Zach is a great hero too. I also thought the book was really masterfully crafted, which I hopefully talked about more in my review. Highly recommend and I can’t wait for book two, If the Boot Fits!
10. If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane (ARC)
While I do think this book leans more toward women’s fiction than romance, I personally found both aspects of the book satisfying. It’s a fake dating book after the man Laurie had been dating for half of her life leaves her. I loved her journey toward personal growth and really enjoyed Jamie too. I’m definitely going to read more from Mhairi McFarlane in the future! My ARC review can be found here.
9. Dear Enemy by Kristen Callihan (ARC)
As a lover of Callihan’s writing and hate to love, this book and I got along like two peas in a pod despite the fact that if my brain had ever wanted to pause and analyze what I was reading, I may have found Macon’s actions unforgivable. As is, I found the book compulsively readable and did not stop to think about anything besides exactly what was happening on the page. Callihan is really remarkably skilled in that way and I think she really committed to the trope here. Also though, there’s a bit of a stalking side thing happening and then it just kind of… resolves without anything really happening on page and that was a bit odd. My full review is here.
8. American Sweethearts by Adriana Herrera (ARC)
Herrera’s writing always delivers a socially conscious narrative with a steamy romance and her conclusion to the Dreamers series was not an exception. I liked Priscilla and Juan Pa quite a bit, but just be prepared for some angst. Pris and Juan Pa have tried to work things out between them time and time again and now is the time to either get it right or call it quits forever, essentially. I really love Juan Pa and his ability to support Priscilla through a really tough time professionally. She’s a detective who works child sex cases and as a DV prosecutor, I can tell you there are many days where I want to hang it up and I’m not seeing nearly as much as a detective. So I really empathized with Priscilla in this book. I would recommend the whole series, as evidenced by this post.
7. The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren (ARC)
This is another Christina Lauren book where they really straddle the line between women’s fiction and romance and although I found the romance really satisfying, I do think I loved it more for the women’s fiction side of things. The end was a little too abrupt as far as the romance goes for that to really win me over entirely. But the HGTV style storyline? I was all in. If you love HGTV and have always wanted to know more about the behind the scenes relationships, this book is really a great one for that. A more full review can be found here.
6. Chasing Cassandra by Lisa Kleypas (Purchased)
This book isn’t perfect, but it was perfect for me when I read it, which makes me remember it a little more fondly than it maybe deserves. This book is Lisa Kleypas at her most compulsively readable even though nothing much really happens. But the thing is, I love Tom and his discovery of emotions and I love Cassandra and her fierce desire to be loved. I think that it’s bold to want that and to not be willing to settle for less even when it would be easier to settle. CW for unwanted sexual advances
5. House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas (Purchased)
If you’re wondering about the fact that I’ve already shifted my top books of the quarter around on this list, same. Listen, I’m really not good at picking between books that I love SO much. But here we are. Today it feels more right to put Love Hard higher than House of Earth and Blood. Anyway, this book is urban fantasy that still reads a little like high fantasy for me, just with modern technology type stuff. There’s a murder mystery and a slow burn romance and I cried so much reading the last two hundred pages. I loved this book a whole bunch and I can’t believe we’ll probably have to wait two years for the next installment. (Do not read if you don’t like SJM’s writing. This is not really that different.)
4. Love Hard by Nalini Singh (ARC and purchased in ebook and physical)
First of all, I love Nalini Singh so much and this book smashed my every hope and expectation. I just absolutely adored it. I can’t even tell you. Don’t read this until after you’ve read Rock Hard though because the first little bit of the book takes place at Gabriel and Charlotte’s wedding and it’s beautiful. I think I actually cried multiple times reading that section. And then Jake and Jules are adorable and little Esme. Oh my heart. It just melted, honestly. I’m like the most biased person though when it comes to Nalini so… For more thoughts, you can find them here.
3. Open Book by Jessica Simpson (Purchased)
I am honestly shocked to tell you that Open Book by Jessica Simpson is one of my favorites of the year. First of all, it’s a nonfiction title, which is already a surprise and secondly, I literally picked this up on a whim. I had heard a couple of people mention enjoying it, but it’s a memoir so it didn’t really register. But pandemic me is a mood reading diva and when I decided I wanted to try this, I got it using my Libro.fm credit and did not look back. This was INCREDIBLE. She gets so vulnerable and I cried probably a dozen times reading it. I didn’t want to stop listening ever. So, so good.
2. Alpha Night by Nalini Singh (ARC, but I’ll preorder it on Audible as soon as it’s up)
The only surprising thing about Alpha Night‘s ranking is that it’s not in first place. Psy-Changeling is my favorite series and when I got this ARC, I made a noise that was in that decibel only dogs can here and also I may have cried. (I’ve been doing that a lot though, so no worries.) Ethan and Selenka are such a different dynamic for Nalini and I loved every page of this book. It was surreal reading it this early and also reading it with my eyeballs. I can’t wait to listen to it like I normally do so I’m still as eagerly anticipating it’s release as everyone else, I assure you.
- Beach Read by Emily Henry (Purchased from Book of the Month)
Shout out to Chelsea Dolling Reads for raving about Beach Read because it’s thanks to her recommendation that when I saw it on Book of the Month, I not only grabbed it for myself, but I actually picked it up right away when it arrived. And then I texted EVERYONE I knew that reads (and a couple people that don’t) and informed everyone that this book was amazing and I needed them all to read it. When I finished it, I sent one of my best friends the link to Book of the Month and was like, ORDER IT NOW because it doesn’t actually come out officially until later this month. It perfectly straddles that women’s fiction/romance line for me and has Taylor Swift references and January feels so much like me in college that I fell head over heels and haven’t stopped thinking about it since. This is my favorite book I’ve ever bought from BOTM (I didn’t get Daisy Jones from them.) and I just really, really love it. There’s a lot of grief content and stuff about cults so just be forewarned if you do pick it up. But mostly just know that this book is everything to me and I love it a whole lot.
Wow, that is a LONG post and if you stuck around to this paragraph, you’re amazing. Have you read any of these? Let me know what you thought of my ranking if so! What’s been your favorite 2020 release so far?