The AAR staff has weighed in on our favorite books of 2010, and this is one of those years without much consensus. Only two books received more than one vote, and the clear winner was the book chosen by three of us. The good news: If you need to catch up on your reading, we have lots of suggestions for you. What did I notice this year? Lots of historical choices, with a handful of contemporaries and paranormals (and even a little steampunk) thrown in. Here are our picks for top book of 2010, in our own words.
Tess: My favorite of 2010 was Sugar Creek by Toni Blake. It’s the second in the Destiny series and it’s a great story about a hero and heroine who come from two feuding families in a small town. I thought that Mike and Rachel were great characters because they were not “over-the-top” tortured but had their problems and character that they had to resolve. It was a pretty light read but never boring and the love scenes were excellent (as usual for Toni Blake’s books).
Heather S: My favorite 2010 release was Rachel Gibson’s Nothing But Trouble. I loved the deeply flawed characters of Chelsea and Mark. How they coped with upheaval in their lives and yet found it within themselves to care about each other gave this one a spot on my keeper shelf.
A close second for me would be Kresley Cole’s Demon from the Dark. I felt deeply for Malkolm and all that he had endured and adored the way Carrow interacted with him.
Rike: My favorite book of 2010 was The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook. I adored the fabulous world-building, and the romance, while it was not an easy one, had me on tenterhooks throughout the whole novel. I can’t wait to see more of this series!
My historical runner-up is The Sergeant’s Lady by Susanna Fraser, an across-the-tracks historical romance with a gorgeous lower-class hero and a lovely heroine. Add to this an unusual plot and a Spanish setting, and you have me! My favorite contemporary was Tyler O’Neill’s Redemption by Molly O’Keefe, which was very atmospheric and featured a fascinating role-reversal of hero and heroine: small-town boy returns after many years to encounter his first love, who is the sheriff now.
Lee: I’m choosing Carla Kelly’s Marrying the Royal Marine. It had action, adventure and wonderful characters. Just when I think Ms. Kelly can’t write another heart-wrenching story, she does. My runners up are Walking Back to Happiness by Lucy Dillon, Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn and The Mischief of The Mistletoe by Lauren Willig.
Jane: My vote went to Three Nights with a Scoundrel by Tessa Dare. There was a bit of a mystery to the story about the murderer of the heroine’s brother, but what I remember about the book is the wonderful, romantic, heartfelt relationship between Julian and Lady Lily. Their trust, affection, and casual intimacy were remarkable. I already regret lending it to a friend… as much as I want others to experience the wonderfulness of this story, I also really want to reread it.
Dabney: I’m picking The Forbidden Rose by Joanna Bourne. This book has it all: a hero and heroine that are complex, vivid and extraordinarily appealing, an interesting plot, and a perfect sense of place. So often in romance the process by which lovers fall for each other is either too facile or too obscure. Maggie and Doyle slowly discover each other and their love in ways that are both gorgeous and subtle. Every time they make love, it feels that they are doing that: making love. The plot, which nestles nicely into Ms. Bourne’s complex historical series, is compelling and, in the very best ways, unpredictable. Ialso relished her depiction of 18th century France. Much of the story takes place in Paris and her renderings of that city are brilliant. I have reread this book–and the other two in the series–several times now and each time, I discover wonderful small things I’d missed the other go-rounds. I am waiting for the next book–the story of the tale of Adrian and Justine–with great anticipation.
Reckless by Anne Stuart, Seven Secrets of Seduction by Anne Mallory are my runners-up. It was a great year for historical romance.
LinnieGayl: My book of the year would have to be Deanna Raybourn’s Dark Road to Darjeeling. This was a wonderfully complex read, with a strong sense of place (India). The book evoked all kinds of emotions, and many of the scenes still stick with me. Although technically a mystery, Julia and Brisbane’s romance — a very adult romance — is definitely at the heart of the book.
My second place book would be Money, Honey, a fantastic debut novel by Susan Sey, featuring witty dialog, and a truly dreamy hero.
And despite all my rave posts on FB and twitter about the Flavia de Luce mysteries, I didn’t pick the 2010 release here (although I was tempted), though Flavia, the 11-year old heroine of these books does have a truly wonderful romance with chemistry and poison.
Lynn: My best book this year was Libertine’s Kiss by Judith James. I pretty much said it in my review, but the language in this book is absolutely exquisite. This was one of the more complex and beautiful dark historicals I’ve read in a long time, and I found the characters and their world unforgettable.
My runners-up: Countess of Scandal by Laurel McKee – Though not so dark as Libertine’s Kiss, this is another heartfelt emotional historical. I loved the Irish setting, and the characters enchanted me. Add in conflict that isn’t contrived and a romance both hot and beautiful, and I was hooked!
Butterfly Swords by Jeannie Lin -This book pretty much had me with its Tang Dynasty China setting, but it really reeled me in with good storytelling and a heroine that I really adored. Ai Li has her naive moments, but she’s a strong and very definite character, and I liked that about her. Most importantly, the storytelling in this book was solid and what could have been an improbable romance worked well.
Blythe: My clear winner this year was Meredith Duran’s Wicked Becomes You. I was completely blown away by the characters, the originality of the setting, and the marvelous love scenes. I feel like I spent the better part of a year raving about how fabulous this book was to anyone who would listen. This is the second year in a row I’ve picked one of Duran’s books, and I think she just keeps getting better.
My runners up were also historicals: The Mischief of the Mistletoe by Lauren Willig, and Marrying the Royal Marine by Carla Kelly.
Two authors received two votes – albeit for different books. Cindy and Heather B both went for a Kresley Cole release:
Cindy: For me it was hands down – Pleasure of a Dark Prince by Kresley Cole – this is a book I can be barely coherent about. He’s a werewolf without all that ‘alpha asshole’ crap going on, and he wasn’t whiny or over bearing or illogical, which I have come upon with many paranormal characters. Lousha (Lucia) was also a gem with a soft heart, although she didn’t believe she had one. Nothing went according to anyone’s plan and it was thrilling and exciting to see how these two people were going to find a way to even be together, let alone love each other.
Heather B: My favorite book of 2010 is Kresley Cole’s Demon from the Dark. I usually always enjoy her characters and stories for thier emotion as well as action. While reading Demon from the Dark, my heart ached for both Malkom and Carrow and felt their HEA was completely worth the angst.
Similarly, Ellen O’Connell got two top nods:
Lea: Mine is clearly Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell. Her writing is fresh without the usual romance clichés. The communication between Cord and Anne has such a feeling of realness. Not only is Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold my best romance of 2010, Cord and Anne get my vote for best couple as well.
Pat: My vote is for Sing My Name by Ellen O’Connell, a historical Western. I chose it because when I think about it I can visualize parts of it, recall dialog from it, and still feel I “know” the characters even months after I read it. All my DIKs are like that – books that live on in my mind for months and years after I read them. They are the shining moments in my memories when I think about the good books I’ve read. At the time I was reading books like Sing My Name I couldn’t put them down, often reading late into the night or all day, and “lived” in their world while I read and long after the last page was done. Sing My Name was that kind of book for me in 2010.
Sarah Addison Allen’s The Girl Who Chased the Moon was chosen by two reviewers:
Maggie: My pick is The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. She is such a fantastic writer and I love how she combines magic, love and life lessons all in one neat little volume. It’s been almost a year since I read it and I can still remember so many little snippets of imagery from that book. She really is one of the best authors out there.
Leigh: Ditto for me. . . I was hoping that one of her books was released in 2010. . It is unique, heartfelt, with lyrical writing.
And our winner, chosen by three reviewers….drumroll, please….
Ruthless by Anne Stuart.
Jean: My choice is Ruthless by Anne Stuart. Just thinking about it makes me speechless, even though I did write five paragraphs on it. It would probably be easier if I bowed down before Anne Stuart’s genius.
Several options for runner-up, but I really want to acknowledge The Summer of You by Kate Noble, who writes fine prose, and Seven Secrets of Seduction by Anne Mallory, which is a melting pot of pleasure.
Jacqueline: I’m putting in one for Ruthless by Anne Stuart as well. I love, love, love her heroes.
Sandy: 2010 was an historical year for me. I loved Meredith Duran’s Wicked Becomes You and Sherry Thomas’ His at Night. I was also blown away by Deanna Raybourn’s Dark Road to Darjeeling and by Loretta Chase’s Last Night’s Scandal, which ranks as one of my very favorite books by one of my very favorite authors.
But the book of the year for me was Ruthless by Anne Stuart. In this first book of an incredible trilogy, Ms. Stuart proves once again that she is a masterful writer at the very top of her game. The prose is wonderful, the setting fresh (France, believe it or not), and the love story one that touched my heart — and my fantasies. I have kept an Anne Stuart traditional Regency (though there isn’t much “traditional” about it) called Lord Satan’s Bride since I was a teenager. In some ways Ruthless is a big girl, grown up version of a book I’ve treasured for so many years. Brava, Ms. Stuart.
Our annual poll results will be released soon, so you’ll find out how our choices compare with our readers. Until then, we hope you found some new reading inspiration.