Hi everyone! Today I am sharing my favorite books of 2020. I always love doing this post as it is so much fun to look back over the books I read this year and remember so many that touched me in various ways.
This year, I read 217 books, so as always, choosing my favorites wasn’t easy. There are so many books that stand out to me, and not only because they are ranked the highest. This is such a wonderful, rich genre and I am lucky to have an opportunity to read so widely and experience so many great authors. But from this fabulous group of books, I narrowed it down to my top favorites of the year, plus as always, a handful of honorable mentions. This year I am also highlighting some of my favorite audio books, many of which made this list the first time around when I read them in ebook form.
Ok, so buckle up and here are my Jay’s Best of 2020!
It is fitting to start with this book because this was my year of E.M. Lindsey. I first discovered this author last year when I was looking for a Chanukah story and Lindsey reached out to offer up a review copy of To Touch the Light, a holiday novella featuring the characters from their Irons and Works series. I absolutely fell in love with Lindsey’s writing and, starting with that Chanukah story and ending with this year’s (Heartbeat Repeating), I read FIFTEEN books by Lindsey this year. After To Touch the Light, I went back to read most of the Irons and Works series, as well as forward to grab everything new that I could get my hands on. Lindsey writes such rich, well developed characters, many of whom feature differing physical abilities. Their stories just capture me and I can’t get enough.
I chose The Edge of Heaven to feature specifically because I just completely fell in love with Julian and Archer. This book features one of 2020’s most common tropes — the fake relationship — but Lindsey somehow manages to make it feel fresh and unique. Both of these men have adapted to meet what others want from them and here we see them find a partner who puts them first, who wants the best for them, and who helps them really find themselves. It is incredibly romantic and such a beautiful, rich story. I found myself totally swept away and with a massive book hangover when I was done. This book is one that I know will stick with me for a long time. Plus, there is a great cast of side characters, some of whom we get to enjoy in future books in the rest of the Love Beyond Measure series.
Royally Screwed by Lynn Van Dorn
I absolutely adored this enemies to lovers story about two princes from neighboring lands who were contracted to marry before their parents realized they would both be boys. Angelo and Yuri grow up together, sharing many of the same circles. At first, there is nothing but conflict, particularly as Yuri is gay and has fallen for Angelo, and Angelo has no interest in men. But even at odds, there is a bond between these men that carries them through their early years and into adulthood, when they being to fall for one another and explore their connection. There is such a sweet sense of sweeping romance here, the idea that these men are bonded together (sometimes whether they want it or not) and that even when they are at odds, the connection between them never breaks. It is romantic and sexy, and a bit kinky, and found myself totally captured by this story.
After Felix by Lily Morton
It is no real surprise that Lily Morton has landed back on my annual favorites list this year; I am pretty sure I have had one of her books on this list every year since I first started reading her work. I pretty much adore everything I read from Morton, but After Felix really made a big impression, partly based on the unique structure of this story. The book starts with the men first meeting and starting to date (despite both of their determinations to keep it casual). What really makes this story so interesting is that we know from the start that there will be a rift between them, as the table of contents divides the book into “before” and “after.” So there is a nice tension as we follow the first part of the story, knowing trouble is coming. Then the book shifts to “after” and picks up in the timeline of the rest of the Close Proximity series as we see the men find their way back to each other. The character development here is so rich and I was completely captivated by this relationship and watching Felix and Max find their way back to one another.
Slippery Creatures by K.J. Charles
K.J. Charles is another of my favorite authors and so I was delighted at the start of Charles’ new Will Darling Adventures series. The book features a war veteran in the 1920s who returned home to find the world a changed place and himself adrift. After inheriting a bookshop, Will leads a mostly quiet life until he meets the charming Kim Secretan and finds himself amidst a host of political intrigue. Someone wants information from Will, information he doesn’t think he actually has, and they are willing to go to great lengths to get it. The story is twisty and exciting and quite suspenseful, particularly as we don’t know right away who is on which side. Kim, himself, is also a complicated character and all sorts of secrets unravel throughout the story. There is a great balance between the men, both strong and clever, and they make a great pair. This book just starts the adventure for Kim and Will and I greatly enjoyed the second book, The Sugared Game, as well.
The Fantastic Fluke by Sam Burns
I found myself on an urban fantasy kick this year and the Fantastic Fluke was my favorite of the group. The book features Sage McKinley, a bookstore owner with seemingly modest magical abilities. His father was constantly disappointed in Sage and now haunts him and the bookstore from beyond the grave, continuing to point out Sage’s flaws. Then two big things happen. First, Sage rescues a fox being beaten in an alley and the fox pretty much adopts Sage from then on. Second, a handsome ghost of an old time gunslinger named Gideon appears in the shop, telling Sage that he has far more magical ability than he ever knew. The story has a great sense of adventure as Sage learns more about his abilities, as well as facing off against those who want to stop him. But the heart of this book is really about a sense of belonging, as we watch Sage go from lonely and alone to surrounded by those who love and care about him. I absolutely adored this story and it is one of the books that has stuck with me most over the year.
Just My Luck by Alice Winters
Alice Winters is another perennial author on my annual favorites lists, as well as a regular on my monthly favorites. I chose Just My Luck as I really enjoyed the balance it offers between the humor and suspense. One of Winters’ hallmarks is her skill at banter and humor and she truly excels at both. But in Just My Luck, the author delves a bit deeper into the suspense side of things and I found myself totally drawn in by this story. Here we meet Killian, the son of a violent, abusive man who also happens to be the chief of police. When Killian is kidnapped to get to his father, he knows his dad doesn’t care enough about him to bother trying to save him. The one bright spot is one of Killian’s captors, Shepherd, who ends up being an unlikely ally. The two end up on the run, trying to evade recapture, as well as Killian’s dad. This one is so exciting and suspenseful, romantic, and with plenty of Winters’ trademark humor. I just loved it.
Virgin Flyer by Lucy Lennox
Lennox is probably best known for her popular Forever Wilde and Made Marian series, but my favorite of hers this year was Virgin Flyer. The story starts off with a steamy one-night stand between Jack, a commercial airline pilot with hookups in every city, and Teo, a virgin in love with his best friend. Teo worries that his lack of experience will hinder things with his friend Chris (if and when Chris is ready for a relationship with Teo), so he sets up a night with Jack to get rid of that pesky virginity. While the men plan to never see each other again, a chance encounter brings them back into each other’s lives and the men end up deciding on a casual arrangement, which of course turns to more. Virgin Flyer is just one of those sweet, yummy stories where both men are dreamy, the story is romantic and lovely, and everything ties up nicely without too much angst.
When Death Frees the Devil by L.J. Haywood
This story ties up L.J. Haywood’s incredible Death and the Devil series (at least for now) and is a wonderful conclusion to a standout series. Honestly, I can’t say enough about these books, as they are romantic and fabulously suspenseful, as well as totally unique in their time jumping story structure. The series pairs law enforcement agent, Jack, with assassin, Ethan, as they get in and out of trouble. The books are incredibly thrilling and in this story we see Ethan trying to finally break himself free of his past for good. Of course, the organization that has owned Ethan for years has no desire to let him go. As with the other books, Haywood plays with the timeline, this time starting us off with Ethan captive without the reader knowing where or why. Then the story unfolds in both real time and in the past, as we learn what brought the men to this point. As I said, this is an incredible series full of high-octane suspense, but at its heart is a lovely romance between Jack and Ethan. Haywood ties it all together so well and this series is a must read for romantic suspense fans.
Ok, so those eight books made up my favorites of the year, but after reading so many wonderful stories, I can’t help but throw in a few honorable mentions. These books all are great in different ways and well worth your time.
I also want to give a shout out to some of my favorite audiobooks this year. I love listening to audio and we are lucky to have so many fabulous narrators in romance land. Some of these books were new to me this year, and others made my favorites lists when I first read them in ebook. But all are standout audiobooks and wonderful for both the stories and the narration. If you are an audio fan, definitely check these out.
- Brothersong by T.J. Klune (narration by Kirt Graves)
- In the Requiem by Hailey Turner (narration by Greg Boudreaux)
- Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (narration by Ramon de Ocampo)
- Want Me by Neve Wilder (narration by Kirt Graves)
- Mate by Piper Scott and Virginia Kelly (narration by Michael Ferraiuolo)
- Oz by Lily Morton (audio by Joel Leslie)
- Be Fairy Game by Meghan Maslow (narration by Greg Boudreaux)
So there we have it! My favorite books of 2020. This may have been an awful year in a lot of ways, but reading helped make it just a bit sweeter. I am always grateful for the escape good books can bring and so appreciate the chance to read and review so many wonderful stories. I hope you have a chance to check some of these out!