Just over a year ago, Mandi decided she didn’t want to run Smexy anymore and Angela and I jumped at the chance to do so. I have learned so much about running a blog. The biggest thing is that my relationship with books has changed. I am no longer “just reviewing” books. Now not only am I looking at them for potential review but also is it something we might want to spotlight in some other way to Smexy readers. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love it. But it has just changed things for me. I still love reading romance but I find myself talking about romance more than I ever have before. It isn’t better or worse, just different.
I opened just under 100 books so far this year with the intention of reading them. I DNF 17 of them for a variety of reasons. I didn’t read as widely or diversely as I had wanted to.
There is no shortage of lists of best/favorite books of the year. I’ve been thinking for weeks about what books I wanted to include on mine. I tried to include a mix of books that were different and maybe needed some extra year-end love as well as some non-bookish/Romancelandia-adjacent things that I loved. This is my year end wrap-up and I will do what I want with it (I feel like I say that every year)
I feel like the first half of 2019 offered up a ton of books that I really enjoyed and since I already wrote about those, I will just link to it here. Of the 12 books I was really excited about for the second half of the year, I read 5 and really loved 2.
The Mysterious Stranger by Ainslie Paton– The main characters and love interests in this book infiltrate a doomsday cult and go from friends to lovers. Zeke is a caretaker and this is in an interesting setting to see it play out. There is some suspense and there were a few moments where I needed to take a break while reading this book. If you’ve read and enjoyed Roni Loren’s The Ones Who Got away Series, I think you will enjoy this book.
(disclosure- I am friendly with Ainslie and a long time reader of her books and loved them long before I started getting ARCs from her)
Sidelined by Suzanne Baltsar– The heroine is the head coach of a high school boys football team. And she takes no shit. I read this book in two sittings, that almost never happens to me anymore. I thought the pacing was near perfect. The conflict was not as strong as I would have liked but everything else about this book was really good. If you like football romances but maybe wished they were a little more feminist, I think you would enjoy this book.
White Whiskey Bargain by Jodie Slaughter– Y’all I am going to keep talking about this book until every single one of you has read it. (Just kidding) I had never read Slaughter before and I thought she penned an engaging story about warring moonshine making families. The heroine is African American, the hero is Mexican-American and it takes place in Appalachia. If you like Kristen Ashley’s Chaos series, I think you would enjoy this book.
The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller– Prickly heroine, swoon-worthy hero with an amazingly supportive family made this a great story for me. The hero was so kind and supportive the heroine, I just loved this. If you are looking for a rom-com that is slightly different, I think you would enjoy this book.
Trashed by Mia Hopkins– I know I included this on my list of favorites for the first half of the year, but I read it months ago and still haven’t forgotten how good it is. To me, this book is exactly what I think this genre is about. That ANYONE who wants love, deserves that love. It is not a super sunshine story, but it is hopeful. Regardless of background, criminal history, bank account, education, job status etc. Eddie, the hero of this book, is so much more than the things he thinks he isn’t. If you only take one recommendation from me this year, I hope it is this one.
Favorite Things that are not Books, but no less enjoyable
RomanceSparksJoy– I think they officially launched this year and this group of folks is absolutely fantastic. They are doing the work and what they can to lift up the voices of underrepresented authors in Romancelandia. Earlier this month, with the help of benefactors, they were able to pay the entry fee for the RITA awards for 18 authors. If you haven’t already, consider giving them a follow on social media.
(disclosure- I am friends with Elizabeth and Melinda and friendly with the rest of their crew)
#RomBkPod: Inclusively Yours– This is a podcast that is a spin-off of Ana Cocqi’s very popular #RomBkLove. I have been a participant in the last couple of years. I can’t speak for all reviewers, but I think many of us find so much joy in recommending books to others. The team at #RomBkPod are all fantastic and doing amazing work at talking about and recommending books by and about marginalized people.
(disclosure- I am friends with Danie, Ana, and Melinda and friendly with the rest of the crew)
Indie Romance Friendly Bookstores– I’m not saying that every indie bookstore everywhere started carrying romance and having a better attitude towards romance readers, but I think that there are more romance friendly independent bookstores than ever and I LOVE it. Roseann and Marissa Backlin opened Love’s Sweet Arrow in Chicagoland and I hope to visit one day. In the DC area there are four indies that are romance friendly. Two of which hold events fairly regularly. Shout out to One More Page and East City Books, where I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in events at each place.
The Citizens of Romancelandia– I have met (online and in real life) so many new romance friends in the past year, it has been absolutely amazing. I love chatting with readers and romance lovers online and in person. Every bookish event I go to renews my interest in this genre and my desire to keep blogging and to keep advocating for it. There is some shitty stuff happening in Romancelandia and we’ve been struggling with things for a whole, but I am encouraged by things I see/hear/read. I think the tide is shifting and I am proud to be part of this community.