The beginning of a new year is a time both for looking forward and looking back, and the RHR team has put together our list of our favourite reads from the last year. It’s a varied selection, but they’re all stories that our reviewers have enjoyed and rated very highly, so perhaps you’ll find something here that you missed out on to add to your TBR pile.
I’ve had a really good year, book-wise, so selecting just a handful of titles as the best of 2014 was really difficult. There are so many I could have chosen, but here are the ones which have really stuck with me throughout the year.
The King’s Falcon by Stella Riley. A new book from one of my favourite writers after a twenty-year absence – Christmas came a few months early for me this year! This is the third book in a series of interconnected stories set during the English Civil War. As with the books which preceded it, Ms Riley has created a superb love story, rich in historical detail, this time set in Paris, whence our hero has followed the exiled King Charles II. It’s a beautifully written, hugely enjoyable read, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The Traitor (Captive Hearts #2) by Grace Burrowes
Others have mentioned Ms Burrowes’ Captive Hearts trilogy among their favourites of the year, and for me, it was the second book which was the standout among three already exceptionally strong stories. This is the story of a man who, through no fault of his own, found himself in an impossible situation and yet managed to help many others. It’s heart-breaking yet ultimately uplifting, and Sebastian St. Clair earned himself a place on my list of favourite heroes.
Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne
To say that I was eagerly anticipating the release of Rogue Spy is probably the understatement of the year! I’ve enjoyed every book in this splendid series, and this instalment more than lived up to expectations. There’s plenty of fast-paced action, a tender romance, lots of humour, and a shocking denouement which had me on the edge of my seat. It’s intelligently and beautifully written – and in Thomas Paxton, Ms Bourne has created another multi-layered, compelling (and sexy!) hero.
The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan
This, the final full-length novel in Ms Milan’s Brothers Sinister is a real tour-de-force. I can’t imagine that anyone picking it up could fail to be drawn in by the story, which is, as one would expect from Ms Milan, splendidly written, full of warmth and humour, possessed of a wonderful grasp of the social issues of the time, and which boasts two complex and very well-rounded central characters.
The Heart of the Phoenix by Barbara Bettis
This is a wonderful and sometimes heart-breaking love story with a strong central relationship and great characters.
Passion and Propriety by Elise de Sallier
This is a beautifully simple story that focuses on the development of the relationship between the central couple, William and Hannah. The romance is very well-written and deeply felt, a perfect blend of strong characters, interesting story and a passionate relationship.
Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
For me the Outlander series comes as close to perfect as possible, with a blend of history, romance, action, adventure and family saga, and a near-perfect weave of fact and fiction. This is the 8th book in the series, and my second favourite after the original, Outlander. With mature, intelligent prose, historical facts and details, believable characterisations and dialogue, gripping story-telling and touches of humour, this whole series makes compulsive reading.
Without Words by Ellen O’Connell
Ms O’Connell always writes memorable couples. Her heroines are as likable and as memorable as her heroes…no mean feat. For readers who love a true western, a slowly-building romance, realistic characters, believable dialogue in an authentically-rendered setting, and action and adventure aplenty, Without Words is highly recommended.
An Heir of Uncertainty by Alyssa Everett
An Heir of Uncertainty is yet another beautifully-written romance as well as an engrossing mystery from Alyssa Everett. Lovely prose, two likable leads, a gentle, slowly-building romance and a captivating whodunit. For those who enjoy more depth to their historical romances, a clever mystery and well-researched plot.
My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas
Though more action and adventure, than ballrooms and boudoir, My Beautiful Enemy is everything you’d expect from a Sherry Thomas novel. An incredibly entertaining and enjoyable historical adventure, delivered with Ms Thomas’s usual lush prose and a beautiful romance.
Lady Blue’s Picks
Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh – a wonderful story of a wounded warrior who is enchanted by a down-to-earth widow who makes him feel safe. The widow falls head over heels for the first time in her life, and decides to take a chance on love.
The Captive by Grace Burrowes – a tortured prisoner of war who suffered great losses tries to pick up the pieces of his life. The love and care of a good woman heals him, but doesn’t stop his need for revenge. Grace Burrowes’ exceptional writing was kicked up yet another notch in this amazing trilogy, which includes The Traitor and The Laird.
When the Duke Was Wicked by Lorraine Heath – a young duchess by birth being pressured to marry asks the man she has loved for years. He has suffered such painful loss, that he refuses to ever love again. This is a beautiful and emotional story of two people wounded in different ways who manage to find love and happiness. This epilogue is worthy of winning awards.
Lady Wesley’s Picks
I’ve selected three novels and one series that I can unreservedly recommend to lovers of historical romance.
Sherry Thomas, whose writing is impeccable but whose plots are sometimes hit-or-miss for me, hit it out of the park with The Luckiest Lady in London, a clever variation on the story of the gorgeous, perfect man marrying the impecunious, plain girl. And then falling in love. This is a deep and complex story, but I could not help but enjoy the subtle humor. Louisa is stunned beyond belief to find the London’s “Perfect Gentleman” is paying attention to her, and Felix is annoyed that Louisa, unlike every other lady of the ton, doesn’t like him.
Despite its annoying modern movie-inspired title, Laura Lee Guhrke’s How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days features an American-born duchess who is perfectly happy for her husband to continue his explorations in Africa. Permanently. When he returns after five years, she is horrified to learn that he wants to be a real husband. Despite Edie’s reservations, Stuart persuades her to let him try to win her over, but she has booked passage back to America on a ship that leaves in ten days. Stuart must be the most patient and understanding romantic hero I’ve ever read, as he tenderly, but determinedly, tries to help heal Edie’s wounds. It is a lovely love story, and nothing feels contrived or trite.
Since her debut in 2012, Alyssa Everett has become a favorite author of mine. Her stories are well-crafted and beautifully written. In An Heir of Uncertainty, she deftly mixes romance and mystery. When a distant relative dies, Colonel Win Vaughan unexpectedly inherits a wealthy earldom. Upon arriving at his new estate, however, it turns out that the widowed countess is pregnant. If she has a boy, he will be the earl, and Win will once again be a struggling farmer. Win finds himself falling for Lina, but he is also the prime suspect when someone tries to kill her. Can Lina trust him with her heart and her safety?
Finally, I am recommending the entire Captive Hearts trilogy by Grace Burrowes, because it’s impossible to pick a favorite. In this series, which is rather darker in tone than her other books, the author is simply at the top of her game. These are the stories of three men profoundly affected by their experiences in the Peninsular Wars. Christian, Duke of Mercia, hero of The Captive, was imprisoned and tortured by the French. His captor, British-born French officer Sebastian St. Clair, is the unlikely hero of The Traitor, and St. Clair’s major domo, half-Scots half-Irish Michael Brodie, is featured in The Laird. Their relationship does not end with their post-war return to Great Britain, and there are elements of espionage, betrayal, and shock as they each explore what happened to them in France. As they rebuild their lives, each man finds that forgiveness, encouraged by the unconditional love of the right woman, can free their imprisoned hearts.
My Lady, My Lord by Katharine Ashe
Freaky Friday meets the Regency era in England in this breathlessly romantic and original historical. Frenemies and neighbors Ian and Corinna find fate offering them an unexpected chance at a romantic truce. This is one of the most charming, clever, intelligent, and entertaining romances I have read this year.
The Bride Says Maybe by Cathy Maxwell
I listened to this, the second book in Maxwell’s lovely Brides of Wishmore series, set in Regency era Scotland, narrated in a lovely Scottish brogue by Mary Jane Wells. This is a truly joyous romance about Tara Davidson, a spoiled and ruined heroine with a broken heart, who learns to love the rough around the edges Breccan Campbell, known as the “Beast of Aberfeldy,” and the one man who won’t fall for her histrionics. Their love story is beautiful to listen to as they navigate through the early days of their arranged marriage.
One Bite Per Night by Brooklyn Ann
Vincent, Lord Vampire of Cornwall, is a kind and honorable man who finds everlasting love with Lydia, a compassionate mortal who only sees the good in him, not the monster he believes himself to be. This is the second book in the tongue-in-cheek Scandals with Bite series by Brooklyn Ann, who describes her works as “supernatural smut.” But it’s so much more than that. Ann really knows how to tell a story, and a very, very romantic one at that.
The Other Harlow Girl by Lynn Messina
Lynn Messina has created another enchanting historical Regency romance with this utterly charming and beguiling sequel to The Harlow Hoyden, which I reviewed earlier this year. Lavinia Harlow is the good sister (and also an amateur botanist with aspirations to be a member of the British Horticultural Society) but where has that got her? She’s a pitied spinster who lost her loser of a fiancé, but when she meets the good and kind Felix, a very proper gentleman, they both throw caution to the wind in the quest for true love. A sweetly sexy romance by an author to watch.
Secrets in Scarlett (The Rookery Rogues, Book 2) by Erica Monroe
Sergeant Thaddeus Knight of the Metropolitan Police is tough on the outside with a gentle soul inside. Poppy O’Reilly is a woman with many secrets, all of which Thaddeus embraces the challenge of discovering. The pair make for a enthralling read.
Lord of the Shadows by Kathryn LeVeque
Sir Sean de Lara is the Lord of the Shadows, performing the deadly deeds which King John requires to be done. Lady Sheridan St. James rises to head the House of St. James, a company intent on dethroning King John. Circumstances draw Sean and Sheridan together, not as foes but as friends. Friends whose attraction runs deep. They battle a world that is determined to keep them apart but in true knight-in-shining-armor fashion love prevails.
Knight Storm by Ria Cantrell
Lady Rhianna du Montefort dreams of a maelstrom sweeping across Montefort Keep. She soon realizes that the storm comes is in the form of a brooding knight, Sir Erik Ragnorsen, who has been ordered by his liege lord to take Rhianna for his wife. The friction between the two is magnetic and takes readers along their tumultuous ride to opening up their sensual desires to the audience‘s delight.
The Wandering Harlot by Iny Lorentz
This may very well be the best book I read 2014. What an amazing book. There is tons of history interwoven through the story in a masterful way. Marie is an incredible character rising above tremendous hardships most women could not endure. I was so glad when she got her HEA! I can’t wait to read the next book in this series. I can understand why this book sold over two millions copies in Germany. I am so glad it is available in English.
A Matter of Grave Concern by Brenda Novak
What an amazing and unique story. It kept me glued to my seat from the first page to the last. I just love Brenda Novak’s writing style. It’s so smooth and flowing. I immediately fell in love with Abigail, an easy character to love. She’s feisty and determined, yet innocent of the dangers of the world. This is a story of overcoming adversity and danger, filled with deep emotion and passion.
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Those are the books we particularly enjoyed in 2014. What about you? Have we missed out on something really good that you are just bursting to tell us about? Please let us know in the comments what were your favourite reads last year.