Looking back at the first half of the year, a few things stand out for me: The small-town romance is still going strong, like a brawny contractor determined to get the job done right. Billionaires and dukes remain on top (but don’t mind being on the bottom either). Sports-focused romances continue to have a strong grip on readers’ hearts. An increasing number of romances are using only first-person point-of-view from the heroine’s side, mainly in the bit-older-than-New-Adult subgenre. And I’m seeing beards…lots more beards.
Below are ten of my picks for the best romances of of 2016 so far. I hope you find something you love!
Hot in Hellcat Canyon by Julie Anne Long – Long’s small-town contemporary made it to the top of my list because 1) it’s not schmaltzy small-town, where everyone has a quilt shop or cupcakerie, and I needed that breath of fresh air; and 2) JT and Britt complement each other so perfectly in their flaws that they are the most complete couple of the year.
Cuff Me by Lauren Layne – Layne’s will-they-or-won’t-they-admit-their-love? story of two NYC police detectives showcases Layne’s humor and deft emotional touch. Longtime partners Vincent and Jill clearly care deeply for each other, but is it just friendship or something more? Neither is quite sure, heightening the tension. And in the meantime, they have a killer to find, too.
The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata –
Dirty author Kylie Scott mentioned that she loved this book, and, man, it sucked my heart out of my chest. Told in first-person, Zapata’s story of the personal assistant to a huge, standoffish Canadian (and vegan) defensive end for an NFL-like team builds a new romantic relationship from the turf up. When Vanessa quits after two years of being taciturn Aiden’s assistant to start her own graphic design company, Aiden chases her down with an almost unthinkable bargain that will help her pay off her enormous student loans.
Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt – I can’t rave enough about this historical romance in which the duke who was the merciless villain in the last few books becomes the hero—or at least as heroic as he’s able to be, which isn’t much. Still, Hoyt writes a story that has you rooting for the duke to turn himself around and learn to love again.
Mercury Striking by Rebecca Zanetti – A disease has struck down most of the population in this near-future apocalyptic romance. Zanetti’s alpha rebel leader Jax matches wits with scientist Lynne Harmony as she tries to convince him to help her find a cure even while they are under fire from other gangs.
Troublemaker by Linda Howard – A rural police chief is blackmailed by her brother into bringing a former special ops soldier into her home to recover from an assassination attempt. Howard slowly weaves the emotional chain between Bo and Morgan, giving it an authentic grip, even as danger continues to prowl around the edges.
Heart Breaker by Erin McCarthy – Former lovers and current country-music stars Jolene Hart and Chance Rivers have to create one more album together to fulfill their contract, but they can’t do anything but fight. And kiss, too, when they can get past their differences and trust each other again.
A Girl’s Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber – Macomber’s heartwarming story of a woman and her former mother-in-law who leave their husbands to find men more worthy of their love straddles the line between romance and women’s fiction. Macomber shows off what she does best as she dives into the significant details that make or break relationships—and make or break who we consider ourselves to be.
Wicked Sexy Liar by Christina Lauren – In the fourth Wild Seasons book, Lauren puts the reader so deep in Luke’s and London’s heads and souls that the pain of every wrong word and the pleasure of every right one are like sweetly sharp arrows to the heart. And if you drop the word "Liar" from the title, you get a good sense of the sizzle level of the sex involved.
A Lowcountry Wedding by Mary Alice Monroe – Wedding bells are ringing for not one but two weddings, but a surprise visitor upends all plans. Still, family ties—the ones that bind as well as the ones that support—are Monroe’s specialty, and this contemporary romance delights in exploring the complexities of relationships born into and made.
To see the full list of all twenty books, please click here.
Sign up for the Book Store PD: Best books of the month * author interviews * the reading life * and more