Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Janga's Top Ten Romance Novels of 2014



Those of you who know me personally or through my now-defunct blog Just Janga know that I am almost as addicted to list-making as I am to romance fiction. It thrilled my list-making heart when PJ asked if I’d do a top ten of 2014 list. I’ve read less this year than I usually do, but I still read well over three hundred books—about 80 percent of them romances. Since I generally don’t finish books I don’t like, most of what I’ve read I consider good reads, books that left me feeling that my time and my money (sometimes) were well invested. But even among good books, there are those that stand out, that earn not just a spot on my keeper shelves and highly-recommended raves but, if you will pardon me for waxing sentimental, a multi-starred place in my memory and in my heart.

One final explanatory note: Since it would probably take me until this time next year to complete this post if I ranked these books 1-10, I present them in their order of publication, indicating only my #1 book of the year.


1.      Sweet Disorder by Rose Lerner (March 18)

This novel, with its cross-class romance, party politics plot, and not one but two bad mothers who seem disturbingly real, is a treasure.  Phoebe Sparks, widow of a newspaper editor and printer, and Nick Dymond, a war veteran and the middle son of an earl, are likeable and flawed, their meeting is credible, and their relationship is based on more than libidinal urges. Set in the town of Lively St. Lemeston, the story offers a portrait of ordinary life in the second decade of the nineteenth century and shows the extraordinary relationship between two complicated people who earn their HEA. And I love that the title is taken from a Robert Herrick poem which Nick quotes at a meaningful moment.





2.  Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James (March 25)

In 2009 when A Duke of Her Own, the concluding book in the original Desperate Duchesses series was released, I longed to know more about what happened to the illegitimate children of the Duke of Villiers, especially Tobias, the oldest of the group. When I asked if EJ would ever write Tobias’s story, she held out the tantalizing possibility that she would. Five years and the Fairy Tale series later, she gave readers Tobias’s story in what many think is her best book yet. Tobias, now Thorn, is more than his father’s son. He is a self-made man who earned his fortune, who accepts his bastardry, and who refuses to disguise a roughness that is natural to him but foreign to the polished Villiers. And he is matched with India, a designing heroine who uses her natural ability to turn chaos into order to buy her own diamonds and choose her own husband. She is perfect for him. This is, hands down, my best book of the year, one that I have already reread several times.



3.   Home to Stay, Terri Osburn (May 13)

I loved Anchor Island from my first glimpse of it, and I have only become fonder of it with each book in the series. But Home to Stay is my favorite. Will is a phenomenal heroine who demonstrates that love can heal even the deepest wounds and give the wounded warrior the strength to fight and win the necessary battles. But Randy is the reason this book is my favorite. A giant beta with a heart to match, he is my #1 book boyfriend of the year.










4.      To Scotland with Love by Patience Griffin ((June 9)

I owe this one to a recommendation from PJ. “Read it,” she said. I did and found it just as wonderful as she said. The title may suggest this is just another Scotland-set historical, but it is a contemporary romance with a journalist heroine, Cait Macleod, who retreats to Gandiegow, Scotland, her childhood home, after the death of her faithless husband and discovers Gandiegow is also the place to which Graham Buchanan, a reclusive movie star, has retreated. Cait is confronted with her own past, a complex hero who challenges her at every level, and a test of her morality. This is a beautifully written debut novel, easily my top choice for debut of the year.



5.     The Game and the Governess by Kate Noble ((July 29)
Noble gives her readers an intricate plot and a sizeable cast of characters in a story that is part romantic romp, part moral tale. Her hero Ned is totally unprepared for the realities of life without the privileges that he takes for granted. The taciturn, introverted Turner is no more prepared for the social responsibilities and lack of solitude that comes with Ned’s title than Ned is for the lack of status his secretary is given. Both men learn from the experience. Phoebe is a wonderful heroine who has a rare wholeness in that there is little distance between the beliefs she espouses and the way she conducts her life. However, it is the hero’s growth that is central to this story. Ned grows into a man with a keener mind, a sharper conscience, and a larger heart—and I loved watching his growth.



6.      A Love to Call Her Own by Marilyn Pappano (August 26)

I think it is impossible to read A Love to Call Her Own and not be moved by the experiences of these characters and root for them to find happiness again. Perhaps most significant is a new awareness of all the stories that lie behind the media coverage of casualties and memorial services and of the price paid not just by those who serve but by their families as well. Although this novel may move you to tears, it is more than a sad story. It is also filled with laughter, the warmth of friendship, the endurance of memory, and the resilience of the human spirit. It is also one of the best portrayals of stages of grief that I have encountered in fiction.



7.   Not Quite a Wife by Mary Jo Putney (August 26)
One of the things that I appreciate most in Putney’s fiction is that she is unafraid to create characters who have bodies, minds, and spirits. In a genre that typically ignores the spiritual (except for the Inspirational sub-genre), Putney has long woven stories with characters who tackle issues of faith and belief, most notably in The Rake, Thunder and Roses, and Twist of Fate (the third book in her contemporary trilogy, retitled An Imperfect Process in a 2013 reissue). She does it again with skill and insight in this book. The religious beliefs of the heroine Laurel are at the heart of this book, and there is nothing simplistic about her struggles.





8.     The Songbird’s Seduction by Connie Brockway (September 16)

An Edwardian-set romance that pairs a chanteuse and a professor in a romance that reminded me of The Lady Eve, My Man Godfrey, or Bringing Up Baby, and other romantic comedies from the Golden Age of that genre in film, this is another Brockway gem. Lucy Eastlake and Professor Ptolemy Archibald Grant have joined a long list of Brockway characters I adore. And, as usual, this author’s secondary characters are richly drawn and memorable. Every Brockway book I read serves to remind me why she has a long-established, permanent spot on my auto-buy list.




9.      In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins (October 5)

The fourth book in the Blue Heron series, this book is filled with the things that make Higgins’s books perennial favorites: hold-your-sides funny moments, families with their quirks and kerfuffles and myriad manifestations (and sometimes failures) of love, and protagonists readers want to add to their circle of friends—plus, of course, puppy love for canine fans. Emmaline is a heroine in whom independence and insecurity are blended in fascinating measure, but it is Jack, who is saved from perfection by a twenty-year-old, life-altering wound, that makes this book a standout in the work of an author who has the knack for crafting keepers.






10.   Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover by Sarah MacLean (November 25)
It’s now official: Sarah MacLean is brilliant. This book is sweet, sexy, poignant, intelligent, and funny. Chase’s triple identity is smart, artful writing that makes this story distinctive from other disguise plots, and the fact that Duncan West is caught up in protecting bits of his own identity is a wonderful touch. I don’t believe the perfect book exists, but this one comes very close. It is a superlative conclusion to an outstanding series.





I have a difficult time cutting my list off at ten. If I had been doing a top 15, I would have included The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie (March 25), Between the Devil and Ian Eversea by Julie Anne Long (March 25), I Adored a Lord by Katharine Ashe (July 29), My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas (August 5), and What a Duke Dares by Anna Campbell (August 26). Each is an extraordinary book that helped to make this year a memorable one for this reader.

~Janga

(Some of my comments are self-plagiarized from my reviews of these books.)

PJ here! I love your lists, Janga. Thank you so much for sharing them with us here at TRD. 

Readers, I'm giving away a package of books that includes Janga's top book of the year, Three Weeks With Lady X by Eloisa James and her top debut, To Scotland With Love by Patience Griffin. (U.S. addresses only) So tell me:

What are your top books of 2014?

Top Historical Romance?

Top Contemporary Romance?

Top Romantic Suspense? Paranormal? Womens Fiction?

Have you read any of the books on Janga's list?

Do you keep a list of the books you read?

Let's dish about our best of 2014!




53 comments:

  1. Loved Three Weeks with Lady X, To Scotland with Love, Tessa Dare's was good too,Carolyn Brown had a good one, ....like Janga the list could go on. I record the books on goodreads, Was going to start a notebook and record all I read, but that didn't work out. Virtue Falls was good I thought. Oh, The Arrow Monica Mccarty, Grace Burrowes, Victoria Alexander

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    1. Those are some good ones on your list too! I loved Virtue Falls. I think it's one of Christina Dodd's best.

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  2. I read contemporary - Love Susan Mallery, Robyn Carr, Sherryl Woods - anything they write, I read and am never disappointed. Loved Swan Point and The Christmas Bouquet.

    The only book I read from the list was Marilyn Pappano's - I do love the military themed books. I do occasionally read some suspense books - LOL. I don't keep a list of what I read.
    Patty B43

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    1. I like the military themed books too, Patty. And I adore Robyn Carr!

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  3. I read all types of books, contemp, non fiction but love historical romance.

    I don't keep a list of the books I read. Too many to name to pick a favorite.

    LIMarie

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  4. ah, one I didnt get to but will now...and I agree with To Scotland With Love. Grace Burrowes suggested Patience to me and I never regretted it. In fact, I agree, the top debut novel this year.
    I love your lists Janga....

    I have few others to add except on that I found very difficult to read but so good, Grace's The Captive....the entire series is very different but this book...wow, so good and what a take on abuse, captivity etc. I loved the heroine and the hero equally.

    Thanks for sharing!!

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  5. Janga has such wonderful, brilliant taste in books...mostly because we read the same books and those I haven't read, when I do, I realize, "Damn, I should have read this sooner!" BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND IAN EVERSEA would have made my 2014 list; as would Monica McCarty's books, and I need to catch a few on Janga's list I haven't read yet...but I gotta say, THIS has been a great year for romance. Brilliant, just brilliant.

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    1. Janga has such wonderful, brilliant taste in books

      I completely agree, Hellie and for the same reason! *grin*

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  6. I keep my list on Goodreads. My favorites this year included:
    He's No Prince Charming--Elle Daniels
    The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane-- Elizabeth Boyle
    Forged by Desire--Bec McMaster
    The Truth about Leo--Katie MacAlister

    Good year for readers!

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    1. I have the Boyle and Daniels books on my tbr. I agree, it was a wonderful year for readers!

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  7. never read any of those; don't keep track
    liked the king by JR Ward and Rush too far by Abbi Glines

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    1. Not familiar with Glines. Off to check out. :)

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  8. I agree with MsHellion, it was a great year for romance. For me, part of it was the Kindle I bought back in January which gave me easier access to more books, especially from smaller publishers or self-published. In the past, I read historicals almost exclusively, but this year I discovered contemporaries in a big way, judging from the counts in my Contemporary folder on my Kindle. My ten favorite contemporaries of this year, in no particular order are: When We Met by Susan Mallery, The Vixen and the Vet by Katy Regnery, Home to Stay by Terri Osburn (which Janga listed), Carolina Man by Virginia Kantra, Worth the Fall by Claudia Connor, Southern Fried Blues by Jamie Farrell, Shelter Me by Catherine Mann, Country Roads by Nancy Herkness, Wind Chime Café by Sophie Moss and Mistletoe on Main Street by Olivia Miles. Hands down, my favorite, most memorable historical read was The Traitor by Grace Burrowes. That book slayed me.

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    1. Isn't the Kindle wonderful, Laura? Okay, maybe not so wonderful for my bank account but for reading convenience? Oh, yes! :)

      Carolina Man was one of my favorites books of 2014 too. I love Kantra's Dare Island.

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  9. My favorites I read this year:(not all new but new to me:(no particular order)
    1. The Christmas Bargain by Shanna Hatfield
    2. Skin by Lydia Michaels
    3. Chaste by Lydia Michaels
    4. Conveniently Wed by Angela Moore
    5. Walking on Air by Catherine Anderson
    6. Love With a Proper Husband by Victoria Alexander
    7. The Gentling by Ginna Gray

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    1. Interesting list. I've only read one of them. Thanks for the recommendations!

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  10. I read so many wonderful books this year, it's hard to pick just one. I read a lot of contemporary books and woman's fiction and one those books I read this year was Somewhere between Luck and Trust by Emile Richards...
    Monica McCarty is always one of my fav Historical writers and her book The Arrow was one of my fav reads this year.
    A couple of new finds of authors for me this year was Jane Porter and Linda Francis Lee.. I will be reading lots of their books in the coming years.
    Of Janga's list the only book I got the chance to read was In your Dreams... LOVED IT.. And I have a few more of these books on my tbr shelves..
    I keep a list both on my computer and Goodreads and Fictfact...
    Merry Christmas and wishing all a Happy reading year.

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    1. I'll have to check out the Richards book. I discovered Linda Francis Lee this year too, Kathleen. Love her book, The Glass Kitchen.

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    2. @ Kathleen O - I just read Christmas at Copper Mountain by Jane Porter this month and plan to search out more of her books. I also like Monica McCarty and The Arrow is in the TBR collection. Janga's post and the responses are going to be tough on my library card and Amazon account!

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  11. More books for my tbr pile. I know all these authors but haven't read any of these yet. It's so hard to pick a favorites. I'll name one book that wasn't my usual reading but I really enjoyed it - The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker. I'm waiting for the sequel.I started keeping a list just last year. I read 39 last year and it's going to be 38 I think this year. I am hoping to improve on that. Although lists can be misleading as to the size and kind of reading one does but it at least helps me keep track. I definitely read more historicals with a smattering of other genres.

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    1. That sounds like an interesting book, catslady. I enjoy a well-written fantasy novel. Adding it to my list.

      Thanks!

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  12. A few of my favorites this year:
    Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James
    Suddenly Last Summer AND Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan
    It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

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    1. Love your list, Cheryl! I haven't had a chance to read the Julie James book yet but I have it on my tbr.

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  13. I do keep a log of my reading during the year. That's why I can answer these end-of-the year questions about the 190+ books I've read.

    My top read of the year is My Beautiful Enemy, by Sherry Thomas. It is a very non-traditional historical.

    My top contemporary of the year is Betting the Rainbow, by Jodi Thomas.

    My top mystery/thriller is Lisa Gardner's Fear Nothing.

    My top PNR/UF is Burn for Me, by Ilona Andrews.

    Rounding out my Top 10 list are, in no particular order, The Suffragette Scandal (Courtney Milan,) Romancing the Duke (Tessa Dare,) It Happened One Wedding (Julie James,) The Hidden Blade (Sherry Thomas,) The Witch With No Name (Kim Harrison,) and Three Weeks With Lady X (Eloisa James.)

    I've read several from Janga's list. Three Weeks is on my list, too. Both True Pretenses and Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover would be on my Honorable Mention list. I enjoyed In Your Dreams. Honestly, I didn't enjoy The Game and the Governess that much--I found it a bit mean-spirited, though there's plenty of redemption in the end. Not Quite a Wife (love that series) is next on my TBR list. Thanks for a fun post.

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    1. More books to add to my tbr list! Thanks, LSUReader!

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  14. A wonderful post filled with great books. I enjoy historicals by Jennifer Donnelly, and Jacqueline Winspear, as well as captivating novels by Natasha Solomons. Your interesting posts bring me great enjoyment.

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    1. Your interesting posts bring me great enjoyment.

      Thanks, petite! We do our best!

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    2. Petite, love Jacqueline Winspear. I'm wondering where she's going to take Maisie now!

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  15. Janga's list is a great selection since historicals are always appealing more now than ever before for me. It used to be suspense and contemps but my tastes have evolved to fascinating historicals. Wishing you the best of health, happiness and a wonderful holiday and great new year.

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    1. There were some wonderful historical romances published in 2014, traveler and based on the advanced copies I've read so far, it looks like 2015 will be just as good!

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  16. There are so many wonderful books out that I can't read fast enough to read all of the. I have so many authors that I love to read I like several genders of books, Michelle Willingham, Michelle Styles, Victoria Alexander, Bj Daniels, Dana Mortan, so many I can not list them all Merry Christmas

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    1. I haven't read Michelle Styles, Donna but the others are all on my 'buy' list. Thanks for stopping by to visit with us!

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  17. I always love to read Janga's lists because our tastes are so similar. I am a huge EJ fan so, of course, I loved Three Weeks With Lady X. It has my vote for best book of the year. Sadly, I haven't read any of the other books on her list although they are all on my Nook. I am so behind in my reading! Love reading the other suggestions -- more books to add to my list. Thanks for the great post.

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    1. I'm the same as you with Janga's list. Our tastes are very similar yet I know that she will always have one or two books that are new to me. I've found many of my favorite authors through her recommendations.

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    2. I find my tastes chime with Janga's too - some of my current fave authors are thanks to her recommendations.

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  18. Very excited about another Janga list!!! I’ve read a couple on your list, Janga, and a couple more are on my TBR pile. And now I’ve got another couple to add to my TBB pile. :) I agree with the Terri Osburn and Kristan Higgins – both awesome reads and on my keeper shelf. For some reason I can’t seem to fathom, I don’t think I’ve read Eloisa’s yet! I know… shocking. I know I have it I just can’t recall reading it. I’ll have to remedy that!

    A few others I’ve read this year that stand out for me are IT HAPPENED ONE WEDDING by Julie James, CAROLINA MAN by Virginia Kantra, SATISFACTION and HER KIND OF TROUBLE by Sarah Mayberry, WITHOUT WORDS by Ellen O’Connell, WHERE THE HORSES RUN by Kaki Warner, and BEYOND JAMAICA LANE by Samantha Young. The one I’ve been anxiously awaiting that I was hoping would be out by the end of 2014 is THE KITCHEN CHARMER by Deborah Smith, but that seems to be taking longer to get out than originally thought.

    I do keep a list and after having sorted it to find all the 2014 books I’ve read, it has become pretty clear to me that I don’t read a whole lot of books as soon as they’re released. Most of my 2014 reads were published over a year ago. Very interesting!

    I also wanted to say thanks again, PJ for your Christmas book recs yesterday. I’ve already finished Anna Campbell’s and loved it! I’m in the middle of Terri’s and having a hard time putting it down to get some much needed wrapping and last minute shopping done! LOL

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    1. I'm always excited about a Janga list, Irish! :)

      I loved WHERE THE HORSES RUN by Kaki Warner. In fact, I've loved every book she's published. I'm so excited that we'll finally get Thomas and Pru's story in 2015!

      So glad you enjoyed Anna Campbell's novella and are enjoying Terri's. I had a hard time putting them down too. :)

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    2. Irish, thanks for picking up my earl. So glad you enjoyed it!

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  19. Janga, so enjoy your recommendations (and thank you for putting Duke in the top 15 list - delighted and grateful!). Would you believe I haven't read ANY of these? Although I've got the Connie Brockway on my new (two weeks old) Kindle) for my Christmas break. I always love her books to death and this one sounds like it might be a bit like Bridal Season and Bridal Favours, two of my faves of hers. I've had a funny year with reading, not at all my usual. I've read LOTS of older books, and I've had a craze on Nora Roberts. With hardly a historical romance (unless you count a couple of Georgette Heyers) in the mix. My picks of the year would include The Witness by Nora Roberts, The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley, the travelling matchmaker series by M.C. Beaton/Marion Chesney, The Outcast Dead by Elly Griffiths, Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer Fleming, and This Is Your Afterlife by Vanessa Barneveld (which would win my debut of the year award).

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  20. I couldn't possibly pick just one favorite! I continue to enjoy Susan Mallery's Fools Gold stories and just started reading the latest in Jennifer Ashley's MacKenzie-McBride series ' Rules for a Proper Governess'. I haven't read any of the books in Janga's list yet, but have read several of the authors so expect that I will get to them all eventually.

    I don't keep a chronological list of books as I read them, but have lists & index cards by author so I can check them off. Then I update them as I see that favorite authors have put out new stories.

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  21. Oh I want to read Three Weeks with Lady X so bad. I have heard so many good things about this book and its on my wish list.

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  22. I already own the books you are giving away, so don't enter me! I have read all of Terri's and Kristan's books & love them all! I keep track of my books on Goodreads. Hard to pick favorites! For historical romance, I like Samantha Graces' One Rogue Too Many and In Bed With a Rogue, Catherine Anderson's Walking on Air, The Dark Affair by Maire Claremont & Sabrina Jeffreys' How the Scoundrel Seduces. For contemporary, I like Terri Osburn's More to Give, Carolyn Brown's How to Marry a Cowboy and Somebody to Love by Lori Wilde.

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  23. I do keep a list of books read.
    From your list have read the Pappano book; love military themes. I have the Higgins book on my tbr.

    Prefer Contemps, but did love Catherine Anderson's Walking on Air. Loved the hero.

    Other fav reads I Want to Hold Your Hand by Marie Force and Susan Mallery's and Sherryl Woods Christmas stories.

    Patoct

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  24. I thought giving myself an extra day would help me decide my favorites. Didn't help much. I am going to have to start keeping a book diary. Thanks for your list, PJ. Everyone has been or still is on my Wish List.

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  25. Still a few mentioned above in the TBR that might make my best for the year. So far, Three Weeks with Lady X is at the top of my list, other favorites for the year: It Happened One Night-Julie James, Rules for a Proper Governess-Jennifer Ashley; Shield of Winter-Nalini Singh; Magic Breaks-Ilona andrews; Rogue Spy-Joanna Bourne; The Unexpected Duchess-Valerie Bowman.
    Merry Xmas!

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  26. I have been enjoying the Julie Ann Walker books. Basically love supsense books.

    I don't really keep a list of what I read.

    My favorite reads have been Sandra Brown's suspense books this year.

    Karen T.

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  27. Oooh let's see...Dark Skye by Kresley Cole and Burning Dawn by Gena Showalter for sure! I also liked Cynthia Eden's whole Phoenix Fire series!

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  28. I too have been following Janga for a long time, finding I too am often on the same page, and relying on her suggestions for books I haven't read. I'm behind in my reading this year and yet about to get even more behind by adding to my list from hers--again! Especially the Patience Griffith book. In no order, some of my favorites this year were...
    Written in My Own Heart's Blood, Diana Gabaldon
    Rules for a Proper Countess, Jennifer Ashley
    Darling Beast, Elizabeth Hoyt
    The Witch of Clan Sinclair, Karen Ranney
    Three Weeks with Lady X, Eloisa James
    The Game and the Governess, Kate Noble

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  29. Your list is in my TBR already and I feel terrible that the year is almost over and I didnt read a single one of them!! Life was a bit hectic for me and I didn't read as much as I'd have liked but this upcoming year should be better for me ;)
    Romancing the the Duke by Tessa Dare
    Rules for a Proper Governess by Jennifer Ashley
    Triumph and Treasure by Collette Cameron
    Reveler series by Erin Kellison - UF/ PN
    Red Stone Security Series by Katie Reus - Suspense romance
    The above are a few of my favorite reads from 2014. I'm a super fan of historical and PN but slowly transitioning to contemporary ;)

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  30. I don't write down the books I've read. I think that will be one of my New Year's Resolutions. Due to health related issues with my daughter's high risk pregnancy, my mom's fall and F-I-L's poor health 2014 has not been a productive year for my reading count. My resolution from last year was to write more reviews and I have tried. I'm going to continue with that resolution in 2015 too.

    This year I discovered contemporary authors Shannon Stacey, Marie Force and Bella Andre. I've glommed on to their books. The only books I own of the one's on Janga's list are Kristan Higgins' and Anna Campbell's books.

    I'm also reading Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages.

    Favorites:
    Contemp- Shannon Stacey- ALL HE EVER NEEDED
    Historical- Linda Lael Miller- A MCKETTRICK'S CHRISTMAS in THE CHRISTMAS BRIDES 2/1
    Suspense- Cindy Gerard- KILLING TIME

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