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Best Romances of 2015



As I look back at all the marvelous romances that were published in 2015, I have to say that this was a pretty great year if you like to read about people falling in love despite a whole bunch of obstacles that talented yet sadistic authors throw at them. Contemporary romances continue to absorb readers, especially those back-to-your-roots tales that flourish in small-town love stories. But there are fantastic historical romances for readers who prefer to see love stories set in different time periods, and some super-sexy romances are revealing emotions as raw as the bed play.

The Bourbon KingsPicking the top twenty romances of the year wasn't easy, but selecting the #1 romance was: The Bourbon Kings, by J. R. Ward. Ward describes wealthy southerners and their eccentric habits with the clear-eyed affection that only an outsider brings, evoking memories of John Berendt's spot-on details in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The Bourbon Kings is a compelling roller-coaster ride through the lives of the moneyed and monstrous (though note they aren't actual monsters) social elite of the South. Secret babies, shocking affairs, fiery racehorses, battling bourbon empires, a despicable family patriarch, and an unfortunately-timed suicide (or is it murder?) are just a few of the wild cards Ward throws into the mix, delivering mayhem among the moneyed crowd in this tremendously fun read. Several story lines will keep you entranced, but it's Lizzie and Lane's rekindled romance that drives the story and captures your heart.

 

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A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White – The best romantic thriller I've read all year, White's tale delivers chills galore as a serial killer's only living victim sets up a new life for herself on a remote ranch only to discover the killer might be stalking her anew.
 

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Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis – So sharp with details that you'd think Cedar Ridge was a real place filled with real people, Shalvis' first book in her new series has Lily Danville reluctantly returning to her hometown, where tragic memories await—but so does handsome Aidan Kincaid, who vows that he won't let his heart be broken by Lily again.
 

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Everything I Left Unsaid by Molly O'Keefe – To focus on the uber-hotness of this novel risks ignoring that the emotional backbone of O'Keefe's story is Annie's growth from an abuse victim to a woman willing to risk her heart again. The ending is a humdinger, but book two is already available, so your torment will be short-lived.
 

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When a Scot Ties the Knot by Tessa Dare – Tessa Dare is one of my favorite historical romance authors, and I always await her new books with delicious anticipation. This tale of a woman who fakes a Highlander soldier fiancé (conveniently off at war) in order to avoid social situations for, oh, a year before deciding to kill him off suffers a shock when he arrives at her door, holding in his hand all the letters she penned him and outraged by his untimely death. Hilarious and heartwarming at once.
 

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Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz – Krentz masterfully melds her trademark romance between two strong protagonists with bone-chilling suspense, adding a layer of darkness and grit that brings a new edge to her marvelous storytelling. When boutique hotel owner Madeline learns that her grandmother might have been murdered, she returns to her childhood home to unearth family skeletons, guarded by security specialist Jack Rayner, who has secrets of his own he wants to keep hidden.
 

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The Hotter You Burn by Gena Showalter – Showalter conquers the challenge of writing a love story that is both scorching hot and inspiring in this tale of local girl Harlow Glass and transplant playboy Beck Ockley, who always says no to a second date. As Harlow and Beck negotiate their relationship, the residents of Strawberry Valley offer a helping (if not always helpful) hand in this marvelously fun contemporary romance.
 

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All Played Out by Cora Carmack – Carmack is one of the best at capturing the raw collision between self-discovery and falling in love. "Girl genius" Nell decides to check off items on her college bucket list before graduating in a few months, and "hook up with a jock" is top of the list. But football player Matteo doesn't want to be just one item on her list—he wants to be all of her "firsts." 
 

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Put up Your Duke by Megan Frampton – One of my favorite historical romances of the year, this funny and touching story of naive Lady Isabella Sawford married to a newly minted duke who is out of his social depth combines laughter, boxing lessons, and the gentle yet fierce build of true love.
 

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Grey by E.L. James – Is Grey a book I'd recommend to readers who disliked Fifty Shades? No, probably not. But for those millions of readers who enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey or even had mixed feelings about the book, Grey is a confident and complex retelling from Christian's perspective that makes the overall story richer.
 

See the full list of the Best Romances of 2015.

 

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