Friday, December 29, 2017

Favorite Romances of 2017


This year we were blessed with some outstanding new books which made 2017 a great year for reading but sure didn't help Janga and me whittle our "best of" lists down to ten titles. I'm adding a few bonus books to my list because there were titles that, while they didn't make the top ten cut, still needed to be mentioned. There were just so many good books! 


PJ's Top Ten for 2017

Between the Devil and the Duke by Kelly Bowen (Jan 31)

One of the things I most enjoy about 2017 RITA award winner Bowen's books is her skill in creating complex, intelligent, fascinating characters who are outside the norm. Alex and Angelique, hero and heroine of Between the Devil and the Duke are perfect examples of that skill. Gifting them with sparkling dialogue, sizzling passion, family secrets, heartwarming emotion, and a mystery with twists and turns aplenty showcases this brilliant match, landing Alex and Angelique on my list of all-time favorite couples. Secondary characters, both good and bad, shine vibrantly in their respective roles, moving the story along without taking the focus off the hero and heroine. Readers of the series will delight in catching up with characters from the first two books while those new to the series will have no difficulty reading Between the Devil and the Duke as a standalone.





STOLEN:A Cassidy & Spenser Thriller by Carey Baldwin (Feb 14)


Baldwin is an expert at crafting intricately-woven psychological thrillers filled with twists and turns that always keep me reading late into the night and guessing until the very end. Just when I think I have everything figured out, she throws in another twist that leaves me gasping. I love that! Her skills as a medical doctor, a psychologist, and a gifted writer are put to good use in the creation of complex, compelling characters - especially villains - and the perilous circumstances in which she places them. I eagerly look forward to every book she writes. STOLEN is part of a continuing series but can easily be read as a standalone.  




My Kind of You by Tracy Brogan (Apr 18)


I had so much fun reading Brogan's first book in her new Trillium Bay series that I was still awake reading at 2:30 am and laughing so loud I thought I was going to wake the people in the condo next door. It's a funny, heartwarming tale with a wonderful cast of characters, intriguing family dynamics, and Brogan's signature humor. If you're looking for a contemporary romance that will touch your heart and tickle your funny bone, I highly recommend My Kind of You







White Hot / Wildfire by Ilona Andrews (May 30 / July 25)

The magical universe Andrews has created within present-day Houston and the characters that populate it are so vivid and realistic that they, their magical abilities, and their fictional world seemed normal as I lost myself within these two books, the second and third in Andrews' Hidden Legacy series. These characters stayed in my mind for weeks after reading these books. The suspense! The action! The romance! Andrews reeled me in hook, line and sinker and I went willingly, captivated from beginning to end.






Day of the Duchess by Sarah MacLean (June 27)


I laughed, cried, winced, sighed, and cheered as I traveled this unexpected journey of MacLean's creation. Sera and Mal (Haven) are flawed, complex characters who won my heart and I assure you that before starting this book, I was absolutely certain "won my heart" and "Duke of Haven" could never coexist in the same sentence. If you enjoy historical romance rich with humor, deep emotion, complex characters, and hard-earned happy endings, give this one a try. 

  





Devil's Cut by J.R. Ward (Aug 1)


The third and final book in Ward's Bourbon Kings trilogy was all I had hoped for and more. Filled with love, lust, murder, betrayal, mystery, and more, this saga set within the rich and powerful Kentucky bourbon-making Baldwin family is complex, compelling, fast-paced, and supremely satisfying. Also addictive. I turned the final page at 4:30 am after reading all - night - long. If you enjoyed TV's Dynasty or Dallas then you'll want to get your hands on Ward's Bourbon Kings trilogy. Read the books in order: The Bourbon Kings, The Angel's Share, and Devil's Cut






Dirty Dancing at Devil's Leap by Julie Anne Long (Aug 29)

Julie Anne Long continues to hit my 'best of' lists with the third book in her Hellcat Canyon series. It's funny, endearing, emotional, and oh, so romantic. The final chapter had me sighing, crying, and sighing some more. Long's command of the English language is breathtaking while her characters are exquisitely drawn, beautifully flawed, continually evolving, and vividly realistic. I'm in love with this series and eagerly anticipating the next installment: The First Time at Firelight Falls, due out May 29, 2018.






Montana Heat: Escape to You by Jennifer Ryan (Aug 29)

If you're looking for riveting romantic suspense with a western flair that grabs hold and refuses to let go, you need to be reading Jennifer Ryan. Montana Heat:Escape To You is a truly chilling tale that I could not put down. I lost count of the number of times I gasped, ached, sighed, and, finally, cheered as I read this book. The twists and turns kept me engaged, the action had my pulse racing, and the emotional intensity of complex, multi-layered characters Beck, Ashley, and Adam's journey captured my heart. I can't wait to see what Ryan brings readers next. 






Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt (Oct 17)

This darkly emotional historical romance brings Hoyt's Maiden Lane series to a conclusion and, in my opinion, is one of her best books. Raphael, one of my favorite Hoyt heroes, is also one of her most tortured with a past that is complex, compelling, and heartbreaking while Iris, his heroine, has the tenacity, intelligence, sensitivity, and heart to not give up in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Hoyt breathes life into these complex characters, creating a harrowing story with danger around every corner, a heart-wrenching, emotional journey that affected me at a visceral level, and a hard-won triumph of love over evil that filled me with hope and joy. This is not an easy story to read but is one that is exceptionally well written and destined to stay with me for a long time.  




Wilde in Love by Eloisa James (Oct 31)  

You know that feeling you get when you discover a fictional family that is destined to find a special place in your reader's heart? It's how I felt when introduced to Julia Quinn's Bridgertons, Johanna Lindsey's Malorys, and, now, to the Wildes of Lindow Castle. James brings readers a smart, witty, romantic story with an eclectic, blended family that piqued my interest, engaged my emotions, and is well on its way to capturing my heart. I'm excited to find out what adventures James has planned for all of them. If Wilde in Love is any indication, I should probably start clearing off more space on my keeper shelves. 
    




Bonus Titles: The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare, Scandalous Ever After by Theresa Romain, Marry in Haste by Anne Gracie, The Woman Who Couldn't Scream by Christina Dodd, The Highlander's Princess Bride by Vanessa Kelly, Starlight Bridge by Debbie Mason 


Janga’s Top Ten for 2017

Note: My list is in chronological order according to publication date. If I had had to number these wonderful books 1-10, I would still have been deciding, second-guessing, and reordering on January 1, well past PJ’s deadline. I should also mention that there are another couple of dozen books that I ranked 4.5-5 stars. Each one helped make 2017 a glorious reading year for this romance reader.

       On Second Thought, Kristan Higgins (Jan. 27)


Kristan Higgins always makes me laugh. In this one, she also makes me cry. I think the wake scene shows her genius as well as anything she has ever written. Her description of grief is so real and powerful that reading a passage like this one—"And every day takes you further from the time he was alive, slicing you with the razor-sharp realization that these days would never be celebrated again. . . . All those dates that held no meaning for anyone on the outside, but were slashed into the hearts of those of us who’d been left behind.”—hurts and heals my heart.





  A Lady’s Code of Misconduct, Meredith Duran (Feb. 28)


Compelling characters (an intelligent heroine and a hero ripe for redemption), tropes I like given a twist, and conflict (internal and external) demanded my attention from beginning to end—all these plus Duran’s lovely, lucid prose made this one a winner. I called it “a novel as close to perfect as any historical romance in my memory” when I reviewed it. Ten months later, I still feel that way.







         Lady Be Bad, Megan Frampton (July 25)


I love Frampton’s humor, and I found the combination of physical humor and witty dialogue a real delight. I also loved the realness and the complexity of the sisters’ relationships. Alexander and Eleanor are so good together—funny and vulnerable, sweet and sexy, smart but without all the answers.This was a wonderful first book in a series that left me highly anticipating the books to come.

       






      Map of the Heart, Susan Wiggs (Aug. 22)


Wiggs made Bethany Bay, Delaware, and Sauveterre, the Palomar farm in Provence, real to me. Not only Henry, Julie, Camille and Finn but also other characters in both the twentieth and twenty-first century sections of the novel come alive in these pages. I have a special place in my heart and on my bookshelves for books that show the past impinging on the present, that deliver a big, multilevel emotional punch, and that conclude with happy resolutions for characters I love. This one qualified on all counts.






       Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap, Julie Anne Long (Aug. 29)


I can’t get enough of this series! I especially loved Avalon and Mac’s first conversation about their past (intense), their first kiss as adults (Julie Anne Long writes great first kiss scenes), the first consummation scene (which sent the sizzle meter soaring), the Grand Gesture that precedes the HEA (totally sigh-worthy), and of the declaration: “Three words that contained worlds and the past and the future. They were as beautiful and intricate as the house...” Dirty Dancing at Devil’s Leap left this reader with a blissful smile and increased eagerness for the next Hellcat Canyon book.





       The Summer That Made Us, Robyn Carr (Sept. 8)


“Dysfunctional family” has become a cliché, but Carr shows how dysfunction happens—and the results are anything but cliché. This story of women and their relationships to one another and how these relationships define, balance, support, wound, and heal these women made me cry and left me thinking about these characters and the truths their story holds. This was another Robyn Carr book that left me grateful I’m a reader.






       Chasing Christmas Eve, Jill Shalvis (Sept. 26)



Spence and Colbie are likable, intelligent characters, a bit battered by life but loyal to those they love, passionate about their work, and possessing a keen sense of humor. Spence’s tribe all have parts to play in this story, and I loved their interactions. This is my favorite book in this favorite Shalvis series. And it’s a Christmas book that deserves that description.










       Wilde in Love, Eloisa James (Oct. 31)


I'm a huge fan of intelligent romance. I love humor done with wit and style. I love meeting characters that interest me and charm me and earn a spot in my heart. All these are reasons enough for this book to earn a place on my list. Then there is the fact that reading it was such fun—and getting the literary allusions makes me feel smart. I loved this book from the Darcyesque cover to the Caribbean island epilogue. I am wild about the Wildes of Lindow Castle!







       Someone to Wed, Mary Balogh (Nov. 7)


After all these years, Mary Balogh can still surprise me. She did with the pairing of Alex, an almost perfect beta hero, and Wren, as uncommon a romance heroine as her name suggests. But I loved them as individuals and believed in them as a couple and became more engaged than before with the Westcotts and their world. It does not surprise me that this Balogh book left me superlatively eager for the next one.








     A Duke in Shining Armor, Loretta Chase (Nov. 28)


A runaway bride and a difficult duke and Loretta Chase’s inimitable wit and heart—how could this story fail? Olympia and Ripley are smart and funny and perfect for each other and for this Chase fan, who thinks everything this author writes is amazing but found this one required reordering my top favorite Loretta Chase books. 









Special Mention: Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate (June 6)



This book is not a romance, but it is a haunting, heartbreaking read with a sweet ending that leaves enough questions to keep the story credible. I read it in August, and I’m still thinking about it. I think it is Wingate’s best work, and I have to include it on any list of my best reads of 2017.








What were your favorite books of 2017?

Four people who leave comments before 11:00 pm (Eastern), December 31st will each receive one print book from my conference stash. (U.S. only)


53 comments:

  1. I've read all of the historicals you've listed bar Loretta Chases. I have to agree with you that they were all wonderful. I just finished reading The Viscount Who loved Me" by Julia Quinn, which made me laugh and cry. I would give that book 5 stars. I've also read a few other 5 star books this year. I'm also looking forward to Mary's new book about Viola in the Westcott series. Thanks for all your lovely posts this year, and Happy New Year to you all.

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    1. Happy New Year, Diane! The Chase book is on my tbr. I'm excited to read it!

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  2. Always so many books to catch up on but what a wonderful problem to have. I've just added some of these to my tbb and tbr pile.

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  3. I'm listing just a few books that really grabbed me this year. As you see, some authors are repeated as they never fail to please me with their books. I have a long Wish List for 2018 and cannot wait to get started on those. I'm proud to say that I have read and reviewed over 200 books each year for several years now. Nothing makes me happier than a good book and a kitty (or two) on my lap.

    IT'S HARD OUT THERE FOR A DUKE - Maya Rodale
    THE DUKE WHO CAME TO TOWN - Sophie Barnes
    THE EARL WHO LOVED HER - Sophie Barnes
    THE GOVERNESS WHO CAPTURED HER HEART - Sophie Barnes
    WITH THIS CHRISTMAS RING - Manda Collins
    A GENTLEMAN NEVER SURRENDERS - Lauren Smith
    WHEN THE SCOUNDREL SINS - Anna Harrington
    THE DUCHESS DEAL - Tessa Dare
    DO YOU WANT TO START A SCANDAL - Tessa Dare

    I enjoy The Romance Dish and learning about new books and the great reviews you post. Thanks so much for all of your hard work in providing a great blog. Happy 2018!

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    1. Thanks for hanging out with us, Connie. Several of the books on your list are waiting for me on my tbr. Never enough time. ;-)

      Dare's Do You Want to Start a Scandal was one of my top three books from 2016. I adored that story!

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  4. I think I forgot to hit publish, post did not appear. I have not read any on your lists. I am a contemp romance gal and have 2 on my tbr. So many fav romance reads this year, but really enjoyed JS Scott's Sinclair Billionaire series, am finishing up the latest, The Billionaire's Secret. Touching Series.

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    1. I'll have to check out that series, Patoct. I love contemporary romance too. Do you read Kimberly Kincaid? I love her Cross Creek trilogy.

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  5. Map of the Heart was memorable as is any of Mary Balogh's captivating romances. Happy New Year. Your posts are always special.

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    1. Thanks, petite! I have Map of the Heart on my tbr. Janga always gives me great book recommendations! :)

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  6. The Romance Dish gives me enjoyment. Wonderful books, reviews and features.

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  7. Agree with several. Wilde in Love, Montana Heat(love this series), Loved Before we were Yours awesome book. My brain is on overload trying to think of titles for the year. Cowboy it's Cold Outside Lori Wilde, Alex Mackenzie's Art of Seduction Jennifer Ashley, okay I haven't read it, but I love all of this series

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    1. I love Ashley's Mackenzie family too. I'm looking forward to Art of Seduction!

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  8. I had a year filled with college text books, YA, and the classics preparing for my high school English teaching days . With that said, I spent my time off catching up and using PJ’s lists and blog for my touching point as well as recommendations from Janga and others . Thank goodness I found many of your faves but now I check the lists over twice to see what I missed. Thanks for the heads up. My addition had to be Grace Burrowes ... I like her foray into the Windham cousin stories , so far 2 of them have given me room to smile but the Trouble with Dukes was so much fun as those Windham boys I have grown to love were around to muddle up the cousins seasons . Happy New Year PJ and all the readers and authors

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  9. I've read some of the books on your list, but my favorites were A Lady's Code of Misconduct; The Thing About Love by Julie James; Beauty Like the Night by Joanna Bourne; and The Devil's Cut by J.R. Ward. Honorable mention goes to A Conspiracy in Belgravia, Someone to Wed, Dirty Dancing at Devil's Leap and Day of the Duchess.

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    1. I have The Thing About Love and Beauty Like the Night on my tbr. I'm looking forward to catching up with all the books I didn't get read in 2017!

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  10. When the Scoundrel Sins by Anna Harrington and Dragonsworn by Sherrilyn Kenyon were my top reads for 2017.

    Paula Heinemann-Halteman

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    1. I've heard good things about Anna Harrington. I need to read her books.

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  11. Great books, have read many of the contemporary romances that you picked. Not a historical girl

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    1. There were lots of good contemps in 2017. Have you read Jenn McKinlay? I'm really enjoying her Bluff Point series!

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  12. All great reads listed. I read all your list PJ except for Tracy Brogan. Putting it on my TRL. I loved The Bourbon Kings. Wilde In Love sand a book by Hazel Gaynor & Heather Webb, Last Christmas In Paris. An amazing read.so many other favorites.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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    1. You can't go wrong with Tracy Brogan, Carol. I love everything she's written!

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  13. great reads, thanks
    I liked
    a hot December-tffany reitz
    irrestiable you-kate meader
    scandal-shayla black
    Kim H

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  14. I have just been reading Christmas stories since mid-November, but up to that point these were my top reads:

    TO MARRY A TEXAS OUTLAW by Linda Broday
    THE DUKE by Kerrigan Byrne
    DEVIL IN SPRING by Lisa Kleypas
    THE GIRL WITH THE MAKE-BELIEVE HUSBAND by Julia Quinn
    BEAUTY LIKE THE NIGHT by Joanna Bourne
    NEW YORK ACTUALLY by Sarah Morgan
    A CONSPIRACY IN BELGRAVIA by Sherry Thomas

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  15. Some of my favorites were: Brenda Novak - Finding My Forever
    Deb Macomber - If Not For You
    Susan Mallery - The Tulip Sisters
    Melody Carlson - he Christmas Angel Project

    Karen T. (Natty's Mama)

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    1. I haven't read Melody Carlson. Thanks for the rec!

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  16. Some of my favorites were:
    RaeAnneThayne - Serenity Harbor
    Jennifer Probst - Everywhere, Everyway
    Jill Shalvis - Lost and Found Sisters (a bit of a different type for Jill)
    Jessica Lemmon and also any of Bella Andre's Billionaire series books.

    PattyB43

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    1. I'm a long-time fan of RaeAnne Thayne's books.

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  17. I've read 5 of the books on Janga's top 10. Brenda Novak's new series were so emotional to read. Then Debbie Mason also makes my list.

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    1. I just got an ARC of Debbie Mason's next book. I want to toss everything on my to-do list aside and dive in! :)

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  18. WOW - lots of good ones this past year - A few-

    Someone To Wed - Mary Balogh
    No Perfect Magic - Patricia Rice
    Forever in Good Hope - Cindy Kirk
    A Duke in Shining Armor - Loretta Chase
    Wilde In Love - Eloisa James
    The Lady Travelers Guide to Larceny - Victoria Alexander

    I could name about 20 or so if I wanted to go on and on. I read a great number of Good Books this past year. I was blessed this year to find new to me authors who are wonderful as well as my favorite authors who wrote treasures this year.

    And your lists have given me more to find - you should be ashamed of adding to my list of tbrs.

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    1. I've enjoyed Cindy Kirk's Good Hope series. She really tugs the heartstrings.

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  19. Wow! Guys I am so humbled by this. Thank you so much for including STOLEN in the favorites. This is a wonderful surprise and GREAT company!

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  20. Mary Balogh's 'Someone to Wed' (I always love her stories, but this was a particular favorite) and JD Robb's 'Echoes in Death' & Secreat's In Death'. Lot's on your favorites list above are on my tbr list for 2018 - so many good books to try to keep up with.

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    1. Someone to Wed is another book patiently waiting on my tbr.

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  21. Read Carey Baldwin's and loved it. Been reading a lot of Christmas stories. Will have to check some of these out.

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  22. Some of my favorites include Kristan Higgins' book, above, Jeannie Moon's Then Came You, Jennifer Bernard's Coming in Hot, and Sonali Dev's A Distant Heart. There are some on your list that I have but haven't had a chance to read yet.

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    1. I love Kristan Higgins' books! I'm really looking forward to meeting Jeannie Moon at this year's Barbara Vey Weekend. I'm sitting at her lunch table. :)

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  23. Four of my 2017 favorite books made your lists--the ones by Mary Balogh, Loretta Chase, Eloisa James, and Elizabeth Hoyt. Thank you for all you do here, and Happy New Year!

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    1. Thanks for hanging out with us, Eliza! I'm looking forward to the Chase book. I have it. Now, I need to find some reading time!

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  24. I have been reading just Christmas stories since mid-November, but my favorites up to that point have been these:
    TO MARRY A TEXAS OUTLAW by Linda Broday
    THE DUKE by Kerrigan Byrne
    DEVIL IN SPRING by Lisa Kleypas
    THE GIRL WITH THE MAKE-BELIEVE HUSBAND by Julia Quinn
    BEAUTY LIKE THE NIGHT by Joanna Bourne
    NEW YORK ACTUALLY by Sarah Morgan
    A CONSPIRACY IN BELGRAVIA by Sherry Thomas

    Quite a few of your favorites are in my towering TBR pile!

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    1. Good books, Cheryl! I adored the first half of Devil in Spring but the second half of the book kept it off my favorites list. Still a good book though.

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  25. Great to have your 'Best of year' list.

    I picked several that are available in audio to add to my TBR for 2018: Kelly Bowen,Ilona Andrews, Sarah Maclean and made a note to watch out for the Balogh when it is available in audio.

    My favorite new to me authors for 2017 were Laura Landon and Jodi Taylor ... I'm currently immersed in the chronicles of St Mary's series with those intrepid time traveling historians.

    Many thanks for all of the inspiring book reviews over the past year ... keep up the good work ... its much appreciated! 😊

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    1. Hope you enjoy the books, Q! I love, love, loved the Ilona Andrews trilogy. The first book, Burn for Me came out a few years ago (and was the weakest of the trilogy for me, though still good) but White Hot and Wildfire were both released last summer. I couldn't turn those pages fast enough!

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  26. The best books I've read in 2017 are:
    The Good Daughter--Karin Slaughter, On Second Thought--Kristan Higgins, Wildfire--Ilona Andrews, The Day of the Duchess--Sarah MacLean, The Ultimatum--Karen Robards, The Marsh King's Daughter--Karen Dionne and A Duke in Shining Armor--Loretta Chase.

    Honorable Mentions are:
    A Conspiracy in Belgravia--Sherry Thomas, White Hot--Ilona Andrews, Dirty Dancing at Devil's Leap--Julie Anne Long, The Duchess Deal--Tessa Dare, Right Behind You--Lisa Gardner, Devil in Spring--Lisa Kleypas, Say Nothing--Brad Parks, Don’t Let Go--Harlan Coben, A Darkness Absolute--Kelley Armstrong, and Secrets of the Tulip Sisters--Susan Mallery.

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    1. A few more titles for me to check out. Thanks for sharing your favorites, LSUReader!

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  27. Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser

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