It’s been a very, very good year for romance and true love and finding soul mates and all that jazz, even through we’re only halfway through 2017.
As you pack your bag or load up your Kindle for a fun trip to the beach, the campsite, or your backyard, don’t forget to include these books that we think are the best romances published so far this year.
Thirteen of our favorites are listed below. Click here to see all 20 titles.
Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren – The romantic geniuses behind the Beautiful and the Wild Seasons series deliver a standalone and standup-comic-funny contemporary tale of an office romance gone wrong. Really, really wrong. The accelerating romantic relationship of two talent agents in Hollywood hits the skids when a new boss tells them they have to compete for the same job. As Carter and Evie bounce between courtship and combat, this hilarious, sexy novel will make you gasp and giggle.
Wild Ride by Julie Ann Walker – So, who’s been following Walker’s Black Knights Inc. series and waiting impatiently for Ozzie to find just the right woman who can go toe-to-toe with his humor and his need for action? Well, wait no longer. Samantha Tate, a Chicago newspaper reporter, is at once Ozzie’s favorite person to hang out with and also the one person he fears will uncover the true mission of BKI. When Samantha gets a tip that BKI is the source of illegal guns implicated in a grisly murder, she decides that she has to take down Ozzie and his pals. Walker’s novel is the perfect cocktail of sharp wit, white-hot action, and sexy lovin’. You don’t need to read the other BKI novels to jump in here…but you’ll want to after finishing
The Undateable by Sarah Title – I think I snort-giggled all the way through Title’s contemporary romance set in the dating landscape of San Francisco. Wise, funny, and spot-on in its gleeful puncturing of male and female stereotypes, this tale of a librarian who unwittingly becomes the face of a "Disapproving librarian disapproves" meme will have you cheering Bertie on as she agrees to go on thirty dates in thirty days to prove to herself that she’s not undateable. Bertie is helped/hindered by Colin, a staff writer for locally based fashion magazine
Glaze, who is sponsoring Bertie’s makeover as a publicity stunt. You might think that Bertie is being set up for a
My Fair Ladyish ending, wherein conforming to society’s expectations of how a Woman Should Be/Look/Talk allows Bertie to Finally Find True Love. Pish. Though Colin has bro tendencies, he’s fairly enlightened and aware, making him Bertie’s perfect sparring partner as he briefs her and then debriefs her for her dates. It’ll be no surprise that eventually Bertie debriefs Colin as well, but it’s supremely satisfying. Easily one of my favorites this year.
Toughest Cowboy in Texas by Carolyn Brown – Brown’s second addition to her new Happy, Texas, series hinges on a youthful romance that ended almost before it got started. Brody’s family is well respected in town; Lila’s…not so much. Twelve years after Brody refuses to publicly acknowledge Lila as his girlfriend, they are reunited, but many of the things that kept them apart in the first place still remain—and now Lila doesn’t trust Brody to man up with her. Brown’s warm and wise contemporary western romance shows that being tough means letting your heart, not your head, lead the way.
CONTEMPORARY WITH ABS FEATURED ON THE COVER
On Broken Wings (Wild Aces) by Chanel Cleeton – Not too many people are tackling grieving widows in romances these days (widowers, yes—wives die off before the story opens as often as mothers die off before Disney’s princess movies), and Cleeton handles it with a beautiful slow build. Dani Peterson has always been the love of Alex’s life, but when she was married to his commanding officer, she was way off limits. Now, a year after Dani’s husband’s death in a training accident, Alex is still keeping Dani at arm’s length. What Dani needs, though, is arms wrapped around her. A graceful exploration of the devastation of a spouse’s early death, the remnants of grief, and the ways we can heal…plus a bunch of sizzle.
Shacking Up by Helena Hunting – Beloved for her hilariously hot contemporary romances, Hunting puts an actress who can’t make her rent into a catastrophic lip-lock with a former rugby player at their first encounter. When Bane passes his cold onto Ruby right before a life-changing audition, her life changes…for the worse. At least, until he tries to make it up to her by offering her the job of pet-sitting his unusual pets. Slow-burn sexual chemistry and conversational zingers wrap Bane and Ruby in a net they can’t—and ultimately don’t want to—escape in this charming, sizzling urban-set romance.
A Merciful Death (Mercy Kilpatrick) by Kendra Elliot – Elliot is a master of romantic suspense, and this January title sets a rural community of preppers (people preparing for disaster) in the sights of a killer. Because large caches of guns were stolen from the victims’ homes, FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick is sent from the Seattle office to investigate further. But Mercy herself has a fraught history with the town of Eagle’s Nest, and police chief Truman Daly exerts patience and persistence to unstopper the secrets Mercy has kept packed deep inside. Elliot expertly interweaves the current murders with the damage that past crimes have done to Mercy and Truman’s souls, and she lays out convincing tracks to a number of possible culprits in Eagle’s Nest. Fascinating details about prepper lifestyle give extra flavor to this mystery, adding to its memorability. And if you love this book, pick up the second Mercy Kilpatrick story,
A Merciful Truth.
The Drowned Girls by Loreth Anne White – White’s
In the Barren Ground was our #1 romance pick for all of 2016, and she adds an extra layer of grit, darkness, and damage to her new romantic thriller,
The Drowned Girls. Police detective Angie Pallorino works in sex crimes and sees horrific things daily, and the sporadic hallucinations she has of a young girl speaking in another language makes her worry that her mind is buckling under the pressure. But when Pallorino gets assigned to assist the homicide squad after a serial rapist turns into a serial killer, she refuses to let her visions or her attraction to the investigation leader get in the way of her chance to permanently join Homicide. Tense and mesmerizing, and not for the faint of heart.
Getting Inside (Seattle Grizzlies) by Serena Bell – I know I said in
at the beginning of 2017 that I wanted to see more female billionaires in romances this year…but after reading
Getting Inside, I realized I was aiming too low. Female professional football coaches are rarer than political civility on Facebook, and this forbidden romance between a new linebacker coach and the Seattle Grizzlies’ top—but struggling—defensive linebacker had me glued to every word. Iona Thomas has to not only excel at her job but represent women in the professional league, and Ty Williams is the very last person she should be getting involved with. Both of them realize the stakes are too high for a relationship between them, but, hey, love can’t be denied. Tense, heart-scalding, and emotionally riveting.
Hard Hitter (A Brooklyn Bruisers Novel) by Sarina Bowen – One of the league’s top defensemen and the team’s go-to guy for fighting, Patrick suffers some of the worst damage a professional hockey player can handle. Popping a few pills made it better for a while, but what really seems to do the trick is the team’s massage therapist and yoga instructor, Ari Bettini. Ari recognizes pain when she sees it, and it takes all her skills to get past Patrick’s well-honed defensive moves to see what’s in his heart. Hockey romances are among my favorites, and Bowen’s follow-up to
Rookie Move (also excellent) is a winner for those who like stories in which even the toughest professional athletes show their softer side. (And I don’t mean their abs.)
Wanted and Wired by Vivien Jackson – Ever since starting Rebecca Zanetti’s
Scorpius Syndrome series, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a romance novel that gleefully sets its hero and heroine in the near future and gives them a storyline that couldn’t work in any other setting.
Wanted and Wired does all that, with sniper Mari Vallejo and her sometime business partner, Heron Farad. Texas has split off from the Union, mechs are built to be indistinguishable from humans, and it’s up to individuals to determine how organic or how tech they want their bodies to be via augmentation. When Mari is set up to take the fall for a murder, she and Heron go on the run, forcing them to figure out where to draw the line in their partnership…or if a line should be drawn at all. If your pulse rate accelerates at the thought of sexy sci-fi, give this action-filled romance a try.
Breath of Fire (The Kingmaker Chronicles) by Amanda Bouchet – Bouchet’s sequel to
A Promise of Fire (one of our picks for best romances of 2016…and unofficially among the top five) starts with a bang as Griffin discovers who his beloved Cat really is. I’m not going to include any spoilers here, because you really should read
A Promise of Fire if you haven’t already. The action in
Breath of Fire is electric, the monsters and family drama are terrifying, and the humor is quick and sharp. Authors often have trouble with second books in series, but Bouchet, if anything, delivers an even better read. Sequester yourself from your friends and family for a few days and let yourself be absorbed in this top-notch fantasy romance.
White Hot (Hidden Legacy) by Ilona Andrews – More than two years after publishing
Burn for Me, about Truthseeker Nevada Baylor and powerful magic user Conner "Mad" Rogan, the Andrews writing team finally follows up with
White Hot, and it is a doozy. Like Andrews’ Kate Daniels books, this series is best started at the beginning, as the build up in romantic tension between Rogan and Nevada is half the fun, and the other half is delving into the paranormal world Andrews has created. High-octane action gives this series a kick, and the best news of all is that the final book in the trilogy,
Wildfire, releases in July. So now you have three great paranormal romances to read, not just one!
Want a peek ahead? As we get deeper into the year, more books from heavy hitters in the romantic suspense area, such as Sandra Brown and Christina Dodd, will make their appearances. And the queen of romance, Nora Roberts, will publish a genre-busting postapocalyptic thriller called Year One at the end of 2017. The second half of the year is looking just as delicious as the first half!
You might also like:
- When Workplace Romances Go Hilariously Wrong: Talking with Christina Lauren on "Dating You/Hating You"
- The RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards for the Best in Romance
- Julie Ann Walker: "I’m a Feminist and I Write Romance"
- Courtney Milan: 9 Historical Romances "for Those Who Want Something More Than a Little Different"
- Score! Binge-Reading Sports Romances
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