SOME OF MY FAVOURITE PICKS FROM 2016
I have never been a great fan of “best of” lists, but I am allowing myself to have some fun selecting top favourites among the books I have enjoyed the most in 2016 by making each pick according to a very particular criterion. It has been a truly extraordinary year for new releases, with some of the best books I have ever read all coming out in the past year, but what I love the most about this list is that so many of my top picks are by authors that were new to me at the time. Hope you find your next great read on this list!
Happy reading, book junkies! ♡
Greatest Series Finale
“I’m that guy for you, Eva. Every milestone, angel. Every rite of passage . . . everything. And you’re that girl for me.” —One With You by Sylvia Day
There has never been a love story that has piqued my interest and held it so consistently and so unreservedly as the Crossfire series, becoming the gold standard by which I compare all others and forever shaping my expectations of this genre as a whole. A turbulent love affair from the very start, and one that has only gained in intensity and fervour as their tale slowly progressed, Gideon and Eva are two characters whose visceral need for one another has driven their story forward over five unforgettable instalments, over hundreds of pages of mouth-watering exchanges and heart-wrenching confessions, and their grand finale is nothing less than breathtaking. Sylvia Day has given these characters the ending they’ve always deserved, the ending I’ve always hoped for, the perfect conclusion to a story that remained poignant and electrifying until the very last page.
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Naughtiest Sex Scenes
“I go to the fridge and take the bottle of champagne, with its bright yellow label, from the door. It’s ice cold. It’s been in there for a year at least. Taking my place between her legs again, I part them just a little more. I put the bottle midway between her spread thighs, a few inches between her and the glass on each side. Slowly, I push the bottle closer, closer, closer to her, until it’s almost touching…” —Hail Mary by Nicola Rendell
I think every piece of clothing on my body caught fire more than once while reading this crazy wonderful book. A true gem in every possible way, this was an addictive, well-written, impassioned love story that I simply could not get enough of, making it one of my top reads of the year, and most decidedly, one of the best sports-themed romantic comedies I’ve ever read. And, oh Lordy, the sex scenes…I will never look at another champagne bottle the same way!
Most Thought-Provoking Story
“I like that way you’re looking at me, Swan.”
That nickname. Hot damn it gets sexier every time he says it in the way that means he wants me naked.
“Yeah? How is that?”
“It’s the way I’ve imagined you looking at me my entire life, Maverick.” —Black Swan Affair by K.L. Kreig
Within the sticky walls of a love triangle, we find a most persuasive exploration of the very state of being in love, of its limitations and its endless possibilities, and of how adaptable the human heart can be. I was pushed my mind to live this story with the characters, to travel this tortuous journey with each one of them, and to lose myself in the many what-ifs a story like this cannot help but spark. Not other book this year has provoked so many discussions with fellow readers about the storyline, the characters, the meaning of true love, as much as this story has.
Most Intriguing Premise
“I want you to know that I’ll never ask you to choose. I’ll never ask you to tell me I’m your one true love.” —One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
With confident, intelligent, highly refined prose that never stops morphing as the story changes, adjusting its tempo and style to the storyline itself, Taylor Jenkins Reid leaves us breathless with the tale of a woman whose life forces her to learn the meaning of loving truly, no matter how many times it comes her way. I couldn’t stop thinking about this story, these characters, the situations they found themselves in, for weeks after first finishing it, and I still return to it often, reconsidering the scenario from other viewpoints.
Most Romantic Storyline
“What’s with the weird eyes? Relax.”
“I was thinking how big you are.”
I look at our joined hands. He carefully strokes the length of my palm with his thumb. When we look at each other again, his eyes are a little darker.
“I’ll fit you just right.” —The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
A perfect Romantic Comedy in my eyes, this story hooked me in from the start. Cover to cover, this was by far one of the most enjoyable and charming books I’ve read this year—funny, romantic, sensual, and even deeply touching at times, I loved this delicious enemies-to-lovers romance a ridiculous amount.
Greatest Slow Burning Romance
“It was him. A man in faded jeans and a white tee at a chain link fence in a biker bar in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming, sucking back a beer, laughing with his bud. And I didn’t know his name. What I knew was that I wanted him to take me wherever it was he lived his life, plant me in it so deep I could never pull at the roots, flourish in the life we built together, and wither to dust by his side.” —Bounty by Kristen Ashley
Part of one of my most revisited series to date, this slow burning romance percolates our senses unhurriedly but steadily, giving us time to bond with the characters and to feel the growing connection between them. My heart felt like it would burst out of my chest on so many occasions, during so many gut-wrenching scenes, making this story one of my most emotional reads by this remarkable author.
Most Heart-Clenching Scenes
“Just tell me this. Will you ever be able to forgive me?”
“You broke up with me when we were eighteen. It would’ve been nothing if I could’ve walked away as easily as you did.”
“But you stood by your heart. Your feelings.”
“So? You meant more to me than I did to you. You can’t help that.”
“I listened to the wrong people, Phoenix. I loved you. I want you to know I did love you.” —This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak
With the whole premise of a heroine who has spent almost two decades of her life in prison for a crime she did not commit, coming back to her home town only wishing to get to know a son she never even got to hold in her arms, my heart was in knots even before I started reading the actual book, and it ended up being one of the most emotional reading experiences of my life. A heartfelt and truly gripping tale of second chances, of forgiveness, of two people finding their way back to one another and learning how to trust each other again—my heart was in my throat from beginning to end and I adored every gut-wrenching moment of it.
Most Heart-Warming Romance
Georgie, have you gone insane?”
I smiled. “No, brother. All is well.”
“Then why on Earth are you in Italy?”
“To find love, of course.” —A Place in the Sun by R.S. Grey
From the moment I finished this book, all I wanted to do was go back to the very first page and read it in its entirety once more. There was simply not a single aspect of this story that I did not love, these characters and their story capturing my heart over and over again, and making me only greedier for more. R.S. Grey is a master at crafting tales that speak to the heart, but with this story, she sang to mine, making it an absolute joy to read.
I jerk my head up at Killian’s question. “What?”
He waggles his dark brows. “Your job. Still trying to figure it out. You a spy?”
“You found me out. Now come with me.” I incline my head toward the house. “I have something to show you inside.”
White teeth sink into his plump lower lip. “Unless it involves spanking, I’m not going.”
I snort, despite myself.
“Why are all the options suddenly sex-related?”
“Because hope springs eternal.”
“Better hope I don’t accidentally, on purpose, nut you.” —Idol by Kristen Callihan
This book was my complete and utter undoing beginning to end. I giggled, I swooned, I even fist-pumped the air a few times, because I never delight in such a story this much, yet I found myself relishing every single thing about this book. With her seemingly effortless flair for delivering humorous dialogues for both comedic purposes as well as more dramatic ones, Kristen Callihan captivates the reader with playful exchanges that end up revealing a lot more about the characters than one would expect. Engaging, witty, sexy as all hell, I absolutely adored this story.
“Jack, this might not be the greatest idea.”
Jack slid one finger along her folds, then inside her, her inner flesh clamping around him. Sweet Jesus. So f*cking tight.
He wrapped his other arm around her, supporting her and keeping her trapped. “You haven’t been f*cked that much, have you?” Elle was such a tease. So brazen, so in-your-face, but it was a big, false facade.
She licked her dry lips. “Why do you say that?”
“You’re f*cking tight, pet. You can’t be giving it up too often.”
At his words, he felt her pussy contract around him. Her spine straightened, her whole body radiating offense.
“You’re wrong. I f*ck everything that moves, the bigger and the rougher the better and once a year, for Christmas, I get a vaginal reconstruction and start all over again.”
He chuckled softly. F*ck but she was funny. —Jacked Up by Elle Aycart
Known for her strong, smart-ass heroines and her dirty-talking alpha males, Elle Aycart’s stories never fail to make me blush top to toe, and I simply cannot get enough of them. But it is not just the mouthwatering chemistry between her leading characters that has me hooked on every word, or the wicked stuff that comes out of their mouths—brilliantly written, hilarious, with an engaging storyline beginning to end, I simply cannot tell you what I loved the most about this story because I adored it all. Every last dirrrty word in it.
Greatest Plot Twist(s)
“You really think if we get married, I’m going to be content to not f*ck you? If I marry you, I fully intend to f*ck you.”
“Do it, then.”
“You really mean it, don’t you? You really want us to get married.”
“I do.” —The Bourbon Thief by Tiffany Reisz
An alluring tale of revenge and deceit, set against a century-old legacy of family secrets and lies, this was such a magnificent page-turner. As we slowly climb the wicked branches of the Maddox family tree, we also discover a shocking tale of love, loyalty, and absolution, a story so full of unexpected turns of events that we find ourselves left breathless until the very last page. My mind was blown away right from the start, and then the twists and turns just kept coming and coming.
Most Poetic Writing
“I have loved you every moment of every day, and I will love you until I cease to be. Bird, man, or king, I love you, and I will always love you.” —The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon
From the spellbinding, truly poetic writing style, to the depth of emotion present on every single page, this mesmerising, fantastical tale captivated me instantly and then gently filled my heart with childlike joy and wonder. This book was sheer beauty in every possible way that left me stunned for days, incapable of parting with this magical world.
Most Refined Prose
“Can’t stop thinking about you. Can’t stop watching you. Can’t stop wanting you. What is it you think you’re trying to do to me?” —Where Lightning Strikes by A.L. Jackson
I was besotted by this story, by the devastating beauty of this author’s prose, and by the compelling complexity of these characters. Every time my mind returns to Tamar and Lyrik, I feel the urge to revisit their story, to re-read the countless passages I found myself highlighting page after page, to lose myself in them once again. But more than anything else, this book shows how much A.L. Jackson’s voice can transform from one book to the next, how her seductive prose continually morphs to perfectly match the tone of each story, as her words quite literally add their own pulse to the pages.
Most Epic World-Building
“They had no idea what they did when they gifted me with you.” —Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat
Once in a blue moon, you come across a game changer. A story so mind-blowing that it only takes you a few sentences to know in your gut that you are about to embark on an epic journey that will leave a profound mark on your soul, because from the moment you open that book, from that first shiver down your spine, you can tell you are in the presence of greatness. This was that story for me. In an epic feat of world-building and flawless character development, C.S. Pacat delivers an extraordinary tale of love, courage, loyalty, that pulls us in with its sophisticated prose and painstaking attention to detail, and holds us captive through an intricate love story that is nothing less than breath-taking in its beauty.
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Greatest Character Development
“What would it feel like to let go of the guilt, let go of the pain, let go of the fear? To look forward, and not back? What would it feel like to be happy again? To believe that I deserved it? To think that it could last?” —After We Fall by Melanie Harlow
A poignant but very sexy tale of a woman finding the man of her dreams, only to realise he’d given his heart away a long time ago, never wishing to have it back—this is a story that was unexpected in its depth and intensity, perfectly sprinkled with just the right dose of humour and eroticism to counterbalance some of its more sober themes. The author uses open and honest communication between the characters to resolve most of the conflict situations, offering no quick fixes to accommodate the storyline, but only meticulous character development that continually pushes the story forward.
Most Compelling Characters
“I’m a grown woman. I can take care of myself.”
“Maybe you can take care of yourself, but have you thought for one single fucking second that maybe somebody else might want to take care of you too?” —Wait for It by Mariana Zapata
I never expected to find this perfect of a story, never even hoped I would connect with it so profoundly and adore its characters so much, but this book ended up being one of the most beautiful, poignant stories I have ever read. The author writes with such emotional intelligence, with so much heart and wit, it is impossible not to fall in love with these characters to the point of willingly losing ourselves in their every interaction. The story remains emotionally driven beginning to end, with no great highs or lows, but rather a constant stream of heartening moments that warm our souls from the inside out.
Greatest Sexual Chemistry
“I will fix us, Elisabeth. Mark my words. I will not spend my life without you.” —Retrieval by Aly Martinez
This two-book series blew my mind, everything I thought I’d find in it infinitely better than I first expected, and every page revealing a new, exciting layer to a story that I could not have even conjured in my wildest dreams. The duet is composed of two very distinctive romances, illustrative of two very different couples and the emotional and sexual dynamics within them. But the more we delve into their respective stories, the more we uncover all the ways they would forever be tied to one another by an unexpected twist of fate. They are flawlessly intertwined and perfectly paced in their own right, but the sexual chemistry within each couple is absolutely scorching.
Greatest Alpha Hero
“That’s twice now I’ve made you scream, sweet cheeks, without even laying a finger on you.” His gaze, searing hot, travels down the length of my naked body. His voice grows husky. “Imagine what I could do with all ten.” —Wicked Sexy by J.T. Geissinger
A spicy, highly amusing game of cat and mouse between a former Marine, now self-employed commando and cyber-security expert, and a quirky, Hello-Kitty-obsessed computer genius who outsmarts him every chance she gets, this was one of the sexiest books I’ve read this year, and with one of the most protective alpha heroes I have come across this year. And with their every exchange loaded with enough sexual tension to set the pages on fire, the hilarious banter between the characters was an added bonus to this instant fave of mine.
Most Provocative Storyline
“I liked it rough and dirty. I liked to be debased and humiliated and commanded. Liked to be manhandled like a doll with no apology for how the sharp wood edge of the desk dug into my back or how the unbridled thrusts of his cock felt like they were ripping me apart. How could someone do those things to me and still gaze at me with appreciation? With something akin to affection? How could I let someone do those things to me and feel better about myself than I ever had? Feel more for him than I had for anyone I could remember?” —First Touch by Laurelin Paige
The story of a young woman who receives a cryptic voicemail from her former friend indicating she is in trouble, and determined to track her down, the heroine follows a chain of clues that leads her to a gorgeous and equally dangerous hotelier known for his power games and shady dealings. In order to find her missing friend, the heroine must return to her playgirl ways and seduce the man she believes holds the answer to her friend’s whereabouts, but nothing prepares her for her visceral attraction to him from the moment she lays eyes on him, or her uncontrollable desire to please him. Incredibly well written and thrilling until the very last page, I was absolutely obsessed with this duet.
Most Evocative Setting
“Come and spend a summer with me.”
“A summer in Rome?”
“Wasn’t that a movie?” —Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina Bocci
A tale of second chances, set in one of the most breathtaking cities in the world—Alice Clayton and Nina Bocci take us on an evocative multi-sensory journey across the Italian landscape, following a woman’s quest for a new direction in life. I was taken by every single scene, enamoured with these characters from the get-go, and utterly enchanted by all the ways the authors wove a charming love story into the full tapestry of Rome’s rich gastronomy and architecture. This book is not only a love story between two people who find each other again after many years, but also a loving homage to the city of Rome.
Greatest Second Chance Romance
“It will be okay, Clara. They can’t ruin your life twice.”
“That won’t stop them from trying.”
“Well, I won’t let them ruin my life twice.”
“It won’t stop them from trying.” —The Fable of Us by Nicole Williams
I loved every single word of this splendid story, genuinely connecting and understanding these characters even when their actions would not have been my own, and letting go of them in the end was sweet agony. The mere premise of a second chance romance between two teenage sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks had all the makings of a compelling read in my eyes, but in Nicole Williams’ hands, it was guaranteed to become an epic one. And it was just that.
Most Well-Rounded Storyline
“One day, fate’s going to fix this. Bring us back together. I believe that.” —Wicked Heart by Leisa Rayven
This was truly one of the most well-rounded, complete stories I’ve had the pleasure of reading, with the perfect balance of humour, steam and angst, and absolutely impossible to put down. This book is a true delight for all the romantics at heart seeking stories that won’t compromise on strong heroines or resonant plotlines, all the while delivering a tale of never-ending love that will somehow make your toes curl and your skin tingle as your heart grows tenfold.
Most Relevant Storyline
“How do you tell your friend—your best friend—that you’ve been right here, under her nose, playing with her like a puppet?” —Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas
The story of a young woman desperate for acceptance and admiration from her peers at a time in her life when social anonymity seems like a troubling prospect to most teenagers. counterposed with the story of a young man who learns that the true strength of a person’s character lies in their ability to correct their mistakes and learn from them–this book truly resonated with me, and I attribute that entirely to the characters, to the many fascinating facets of their personalities, and this author’s incomparable way of telling a tale that is captivating and relevant in equal measure.
Most Multilayered Storyline
“Now you have two choices: we can sit down and eat this awesome spaghetti I just made . . . clothing optional, or we can go to bed . . . clothing not optional.” His eyebrows snapped low over his mesmerizing eyes and a muscle twitched in his cheek under his beard. “I’m good with either one as long as you realize the second option is happening regardless.” —Built by Jay Crownover
The perfect balance of steamy romance and engaging plotline, I never stopped feeling while reading this book, and could not put it down even for a second. From the impeccable characterisation of its key players—fascinating, realistic, and perfectly imperfect—to a heart-warming, multi-layered storyline that tugs at every last one of our heartstrings, I rarely find myself enjoying a book so completely, so fervently, and with such abandon, but everything about this story ‘got to me’, and made me fall in love with this author’s competent writing style.