by Adrian Liang,December 06, 2017, first appearing on Omnivoracious
In 2016, shelves and Kindles were stuffed to bursting with small-town romances. This year saw a slow shift from small-town to contemporary cowboy, at least as seen on the cover. (The stories inside remained fairly similar.) A larger switch was the surge in urban-based romances, signaling that readers and writers are looking to the big city for excitement. On the emotional side of things, angsty new adult started getting eclipsed by screwball comedy.
What will 2018 bring to romance readers? I can’t wait to find out!
Below are 10 of our favorite romances of 2017. You can find the list of all 20 here. From dukes to FBI agents, and from football coaches to librarians, we’ve got you covered.
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.
Getting Inside by Serena Bell – 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, this had earned a spot on my best of the year list when it hit shelves in January.
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.
A Lady’s Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran – For years, heiress Jane Mason has been at the mercy of her horrible uncle, who has been siphoning off her funds even as he strives for power in Parliament. The last person Jane expects to help her escape her situation is Crispin Burke, a handsome but morally blackened confederate of her uncle’s who appears to care only about ruthlessly accumulating power. Burke gives Jane the initial helping hand, but it’s his fall that will allow her the ultimate opportunity to seize her destiny. To say more would ruin a deliciously intriguing plot. Just trust in Duran to dig into the dark corners of this complex relationship between two stubborn people who will discover unwelcome truths about how far they will go to get what they want, even as they learn to rely on each other. Love blooms here in rocky ground, but it becomes all the stronger.
A Merciful Death by Kendra Elliot – Elliot is a master of romantic suspense, and her latest 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 Eagle’s Nest, and it takes police chief Truman Daly 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.
On Broken Wings 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.
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.
The Woman Who Couldn’t Scream by Christina Dodd – Dodd concludes her Virtue Falls series by finally giving police chief Kateri Kwinault her own story even as she weaves in a perplexing mystery centered on a mute millionaire’s widow who brings death with her to the small coastal town. You don’t need to start the Virtue Falls series with Virtue Falls—each book stands strong on its own—but it was a special joy to watch Kateri overcome the mountain of obstacles thrown at her through four books and finally find peace with her own choices at the end.
The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare – Scarred in face, body, and heart by an explosion on the battlefield, the Duke of Ashbury has been a bit of gloomy gus since his return from war, but he still knows his duty: find a wife and make an heir. But with his ruined face, social events–and especially wooing–seem an insurmountable barrier. Luckily, down-on-her-luck seamstress Emma Gladstone comes straight to his house and pushes her way into his study to demand payment of the intricate (and awfully ugly) wedding gown she hand-sewed for his former fiancee. Ashbury’s marriage proposal seems a farce, but his persistence–and her imminent eviction–convince Emma to accept. So begins a delightful story of tiptoeing through emotional minefields toward true love that I think is among Dare’s best and at times made me laugh out loud. Perfect for readers of Megan Frampton, Julia Quinn, and Courtney Milan.
Dating-ish by Penny Reid – Those seeking a perfect friends-to-lovers story need look no further than Dating-ish. Marie and Matt’s first meeting could not be more inauspicious for the beginning of a friendship, but less a romance. Marie is expecting the good-looking guy she agreed to meet via an online dating site; instead she gets Matt, a nerdy scientist seeking data on what single women are looking for. When Marie decides to incorporate Matt’s study into a piece she’s writing about compassion and whether it can be outsourced, she (and the reader) starts to see past his awkward and literal-mindedness to the guy inside. Complex and smart, fueled by a fierce will-they-or-won’t-they? tension, Dating-ish might have a slow start for some but will delight all with its glorious finish.