Booklover's (me) Favorite Romances of 2012

Thursday, February 28

First, I totally know it's practically March and this should have been posted in January.  Somehow January and February just flew by, but I can't let another month go by without sharing my Favorite Romances of 2012.  They were all just too good not to share.  So if you haven't read the books that were my favorites, add them to your wishlist.  I don't think you'll be sorry!!!

Before I get to the good stuff though, I think it's important to reiterate that we're not trying to say that these are necessarily the "Best" books published in 2012, but instead were my favorite romance reads that I read in 2012.  In addition the books considered did not have to be published in 2012, but could have been published before last year.

And in case you missed the previous favorites posts outlining how the favorites were selected here are the guidelines that were used:
  • A book had to receive a 4.5 star or above rating to be eligible for "Favorites" consideration, then they were separated out by sub-genre (historical, contemporary...).  
  • Not all of the books that received a 4.5 or above rating made the favorites list.  The stories that made the final lists are ones that "stuck" with each of us throughout the year...in other words were memorable (the story was special in some way).  
  • You may also notice that not all of the subgenres of romance are represented for each person's favorites list....that's because the books in those categories didn't score a high enough star rating to qualify for the status of "favorite", or isn't a subgenre that was enjoyed by that reviewer.
  • End result, these are the books that we would highly recommend even if it was a book that you normally wouldn't be drawn to. Long story short...We LOVED LOVED LOVED these romances and thank our lucky stars that we read them this past year!
  • Also good to note, not all of the books that made the list were published in 2012, some were published prior to that, but all were read by each person in 2012. 
~~~***~~~

Contemporary Romance:  
  • Anything You Want by Erin Nicholas 4.50/3.50 I loved that the heroine had the dilemma of going for the sure thing relationship with a friend who was a safe love, and risking a true love with someone that she's wildly attracted to, but never really got along with.  I loved the dynamics of all of the relationships between the characters and the not so easy choices each one of them has to make.  I'm so glad I read this one and will definitely be looking for more by Ms. Nicholas!
Summary: 
I only read 7 contemporary romances last year, and Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor and Animal Magnetism series made up about half of those.  What can I say I love Jill Shalvis, so it's kind of funny that she didn't make my list of favorites this year.  I didn't read as much contemporary romance last year as I wanted to...something I will definitely like to correct in 2013.   

Honorable Mention:  Rescue My Heart by Jill Shalvis 4.25/3.50


~~~***~~~

Historical Romance:
  • The Duchess War by Courtney Milan  (4.50/3.50)  I absolutely love Courtney Milan's historical romances. Her romances are smart, and sexy and always tug at my heart strings.  I never know what to expect from her stories, except that it will be well worth my time and money.  She's an auto buy for me and rarely disappoints!
  • Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks (4.50/3.50) I love Maya Banks contemporary erotic romances, but I think her historical romances are even better.  I just loved the heroine in this book.  There were parts that actually made me cry several times.  If you love highland historical romances, then I think this one is a must.  The books in this connected series just keep getting better.  Maya Banks historical romances are an auto buy for me.
  • Defiant by Pamela Clare 5.00/3.50  OK, I will just say this, I I love Pamela Clare's I-Team series, and is actually how I discovered her....but honestly I LOVE her historical romances even more.  Defiant was the third book in the MacKinnon's Rangers series and I read all three books in the series in 2012.  This third one was entirely new, whereas the first two were re-releases with new content.  All I can say is it was AMAZING.  Even though it got 5 stars from me, it wasn't my favorite of the year.  I know, that's kind of hard to believe.  One thing I know is true, if it has the name Pamela Clare as the author, then I'm so there.  Seriously, you must read this series... all three of them!  She is an author that I buy in print for my keeper shelf, and I rarely add to my keeper shelf anymore.
  • A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare 5.00/3.75  This is part of the Spindle Cove series, and I can say that I knew I would love this book pretty much from the first page.  The characters were just so real to me.   I loved the humor, banter, wit, along with some serious sexual tension.  In fact I thought this was one of the hottest historical romances I read in 2012.  Loved the hero, who was extremely charming, but it wasn't all light-hearted either.  This was one of the books that I considered for my favorite read of 2012, but in the end I selected another one.  However it could easily have been "THE" pick of the year.  I also think this is the best Tessa Dare book that I have read.  I have some serious love for A Week To Be Wicked!  It's worth every one of those 5 stars.
  • A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean 5.00/3.50  Oh, this is another one that almost made my overall pick for favorite book of the year.   It seems readers either really hated the hero, or loved him in the end.  It's true, he's completely awful in the beginning, but I just loved the heroine so much that I was able to see what she saw in him.  He's dark and brooding, and vengeful, but through her he was redeemable. And I loved the tension at the end. Then there was the use of the word "more" throughout the story.  I can't remember ever reading such a simple word used in such a variety in ways that contained so many meanings.  I thought it was brilliant!   This is one of my favorite Sarah MacLean novels ever! Before I read my favorite pick of 2012, this is the one that I thought would be the overall favorite.
  • To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield by Bronwen Evans 4.75/3.50  I loved the plot of this one, and the wagers that the hero and heroine dare each other with.  I loved it all the way up until the end, when I thought everything ended just a little too neatly and sweetly.  What, you say?  How can a romance be too sweet?  In this case there was a tragedy, that I felt fit the story really well, and would have loved for the love story to have dealt with that issue, but instead the story ended with almost a reversal of fortunes negating the beautiful possibilities.  I think the choice was made to make it end on a super happy note, but I thought it shortchanged the story.  Some readers may prefer it the way it ended.  I don't want to give the impression that the ending ruined the story...but it kept it from being a 5 star read for me.  Regardless it was the beginning of the Wicked Wagers trilogy that I really enjoyed.
  • Sins of the Highlander by Mia Marlowe & Connie Mason 4.50/3.50  Sins of the Highlander is exactly what I like to read in a highland romance.  Everything.  I can't even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed reading this book.  I wish Ms. Marlowe & Ms. Mason would team up and write more Highland romances.  Much like Never Seduce a Scot...if you love Highland historical romances, then this is a must read for you!
  • Surrender by Pamela Clare 5.00/3.75   Surrender is the first romance hero that has ever given Jamie Fraser from Outlander a run for his money as my all time favorite hero.  Surrender is like Outlander and Last of the Mohicans in one.  And let me tell you, if you like your romances hot, then this is it!  The hero, the heroine, the villian...and the setting.  You don't see too many historical romances set in colonial America, and normally I'm all about historical romances set in England and Scotland, but I loved the new landscape and challenges.  This is my favorite Pamela Clare novel to date!
  • Sweet Release by Pamela Clare 4.50/3.50   I loved the overall sweep of this story.  I loved that it was again set in America, but had a touch of England as well.  I actually owned a used copy of this book in print, but held off on reading it when I found out the author was going to re-release it digitally in more of an "author's cut".  But it was worth the wait, and buying it again, LOL.  Some authors are just worth having it multiple formats and Pamela Clare is one of those authors for me ;)

Summary:  This was an amazing year for historical romances!  There were so many fantastic reads, and clearly Pamela Clare is a force to be reckoned with whether she writes romantic suspense or historical romance.  She was on my list multiple times last year too but she made the list three times this year.  To put that in perspective, I have 15 books on my favorites list this year, and three of her books are in that number (about 20%).  And of the nine historical romances that made the list, her books made up 33%.  That's a seriously large percentage.  Another interesting point was that three of the nine historical romances were self published.

Honorable Mention:  Master of Sin by Maggie Robinson 4.25/3.5  & Untamed by Pamela Clare 4.25/3.50


~~~***~~~

Paranormal Romance:

N/A
    Summary:  I only read a couple of paranormal romances last year...to be exact I read two, and DNF'd a third.  The two I read were OK, but neither were worth mentioning in the favorites :(


    ~~~***~~~

    Erotic Romance:
    • Fall Into You by Roni Loren (4.75/4.50)  Looking back at this book I have to wonder why I only gave it 4.75 stars.  The hero in Fall Into You was one of my favorites of the year.  Roni Loren was a new find for me in 2012 and many of the books she wrote last year are mentioned here in my favorites list, this one being my favorite.  The entire tone of this BDSM romance worked for me.  It had the Dom/sub relationship, but it wasn't extreme, nor was it a featherlight either.  The connection between the characters, the emotional baggage, and the small suspense plot worked well for me.  Really tugged at my heartstrings on this one, not to mention it was seriously hot.  Fantastic read!
    • Leave Me Breathless by Cherrie Lynn 4.50/4.25  I found Cherrie Lynn with Rock Me which I thoroughly enjoyed, but Leave Me Breathless was even better.  I love me a bad boy hero who's actually a good guy beneath the tattoos and piercings.  I will be following this author into 2013.
    • Because You Are Mine by Beth Kery 4.50/4.25  Count me as one of the biggest sceptics of the serial novel.  I honestly probably wouldn't have read this story as a serial if I wouldn't have been hooked with the first installment.  I've been a fan of Beth Kery for as long as I have been blogging.  Love her books.  I thought that Because You Were Mine was brilliantly written in that I was OBSESSED with this story for SIX weeks.  No other book can say that.  I love how she crafted each installment that kept you hooked until the very end.  I'm curious to read the book again since it will be out in print very soon to see if I have the same reaction to it reading it all at the same time...it may be even better.  In the end this book changed my mind about giving serial novels a chance.  Beth Kery has a new serial novel starting in March and you can bet your last dollar that I will be reading that one too!
    • One Night Rodeo by Lorelei James  (4.50/4.00)  This is the fourth book in her Blacktop Cowboys series, which I think keeps getting better with each book.  In fact one of her books from this series made my favorites list last year too.  The best way I can describe it is that it is the romance that you expect from Lorelei James (heat, heart, and a good story), but instead of it revolving around a family like her Rough Riders, this involves more of the town and has some colorful characters much like I love from Jill Shalvis's Lucky Harbor series.  And I like that about it.  Can't wait for the next one!!!
    • Double Down by Katie Porter 4.50/4.25  Katie Porter was a new find for me in 2012, and after reading the first one, I've bought all the other novels in the series, I've even pre-ordered the next one.  But the first one is my favorite.  This is one seriously hot book.  I loved that it has fighter pilots and is set in Las Vegas.  One of the best erotic romances I read in 2012 and worth every penny I've spent on the.  This is one that I might actually re-read....and I practically never re-read.  This might become my "Hot" comfort read.
    Summary:  Other than historical romances, Erotic romances consisted of most of my favorite reads.  Roni Loren & Katie Porter were new finds for me, and they fast became major players in my buying.  Matter of fact both authors are auto buys for me.  Lorelei James and Beth Kery were already auto reads for me, and they will continue to be in 2013.


    Honorable Mentions:  Still Into You by Roni Loren 4.25/4.25  & Crash Into You by Roni Loren 4.25/4.00

    ~~~***~~~


    Romantic Suspense:

    N/A

    Summary:  I only read a couple of romantic suspense romances last year...to be exact I read three.  They were all average, or better than average, but none of them were fantastic.


    ~~~***~~~


    My Favorite Romance Read of 2012:

    Now that I've shared all of my favorite reads, I'd like to share my favorite of all of the favorites.  The book that if I could only recommend one book to you from 2012 it would be this one.  Surrender by Pamela Clare.


    Don't let the cover fool you.  This isn't historical fiction, this is historical romance at it's finest!  When I read it I was blown away.  It's been a while since I've read a romance that has a really good villain.  One that you absolutely loath.  But that's only one of the reasons I loved this book.  The hero, the heroine, the story, the history, the suspense.....I read this book in one day because I just could not put it down.  And I thought about this book all year long.  As I mentioned earlier in the  post the hero in Surrender is one of my all time favorite heroes ever.  And when I thought about it in those terms, it was clear to me that there was no other choice for my favorite read of 2012.  Surrender had it all in spades, and then some.  This is a quote from the front cover....now normally I don't hold much stock in cover quotes because I rarely find them true after reading the book in question, but this one is hits the nail on the head:

    "Astonishing....Surrender is nothing short of genius, a work of art, written by a master storyteller." — Fresh Fiction.

    All I can say is Amen to that!   It's all true.  When preparing this post I looked back at my favorites of 2011 and even in that post, while praising the I-Team series by Pamela Clare, I mentioned that Surrender would make my favorites list.  This book stood the test of time...literally since the 2012 edition that I read was a re-release from a previous version.  Even if you don't like historical romance, Pamela Clare is such a superb story teller that I think you would love it.  For historical romance fans who haven't read this one....it is an absolute MUST!  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE! 


    And in case you want to see the pretty that goes along with the great stories referenced in this post, here they all are in one place ;)



    Like numbers? Here are some stats about what I read in 2012:
    • Total books read: 91  (25 fewer than last year) comprised of :
      • Historical:  44 (48%) 
      • Erotic:  35 (39%) 
      • contemporary: 7 (8%) 
      • paranormal: 2 (2%)
      • romantic suspense:  3 ( 3%)
    • Ratings overview : 
      • 5 stars: 10 (11%) 
      • 4 stars: 41(45%) 
      • 3 stars: 39 (43%) 
      • 2 stars: 1 (1%)
      • 1 star:  0
    • 59 of the 91 books I read in 2012 (65%) were print the other 35% were in the form of digital books.  This is basically the same as last year, which just goes to show that there are still a lot of print books being read, even though all you hear talk about is going digital.

    Well there you have it.  I apologize for taking so long to share my list of favorites with you, but I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless.


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