As one of the newest reviewers for The Lesbian Review, I’m thrilled to be able to make a list of my favorite books of 2018. It wasn’t easy because I read so many great novels this year. The books on this list all speak to my own tastes and they are varied. First of all, who knew I was going to fall in love with Speculative Fiction? I certainly didn’t. I thought I was mainly a romance reader, but reviewing has allowed me to read books that are way outside my normal lane and I am so grateful! (A big hug to Sheena)

Compass Rose by Anna Burke1 Compass Rose by Anna Burke

Published by Bywater Books

Check out my full review here 

Compass Rose is a: Dystopian, post-apocalyptic pirate novel with a side order of romance.

What it’s about

In the year 2513, the only thing higher than the seas is what’s at stake for those who sail them.

Rose was born facing due north, with an inherent perception of cardinal points flowing through her veins. Her uncanny sense of direction earns her a coveted place among the Archipelago Fleet elite, but it also attracts the attention of Admiral Comita, who sends her on a secret mission deep into pirate territory. Accompanied by a ragtag crew of mercenaries and under the command of Miranda, a captain as bloodthirsty as she is alluring, Rose discovers the hard way that even the best sense of direction won’t be enough to keep her alive if she can’t learn to navigate something far more dangerous than the turbulent seas. Aboard the mercenary ship, Man o’ War, Rose learns quickly that trusting the wrong person can get you killed—and Miranda’s crew have no intention of making things easy for her—especially Miranda’s trusted first mate, Orca, who is as stubborn as she is brutal.

Why I love it

This book is masterful in its world building and character development. From the first page, I became completely immersed in the story and I felt just as overwhelmed, excited, and wary as Rose. This is a fast-paced adventure that made me put my life on hold for a couple of days, so I could luxuriate in every single word.

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The Smell of Rain by Cameron MacElvee2 The Smell of Rain by Cameron MacElvee

Published by Bold Strokes Books

Check out my full review here 

The Smell of Rain is a: Literary love story about the redemptive power of love.

What it’s about

Air Force Lieutenant and military interpreter Chrys Safis lost her leg fighting alongside Kurdish forces in Syria. Once back home in DC, her fiancée leaves, her military career ends, and her faith in humanity evaporates. With prescription drugs and alcohol, her only relief from the pain, Chrys is on her way to becoming a statistic. 

That is until the State Department calls and offers her an important assignment—to serve as a diplomatic liaison and interpreter for a Turkish national living in exile. Reyha Arslan, a wise and elegant woman with a tragic past, shows Chrys that there’s still beauty to embrace and reason to hope despite the world’s cruelty. With Reyha’s help, Chrys’s broken spirit starts to heal and she learns that the most significant love is often the shortest lived.

Why I love it

I don’t think I have ever read a book that touched my heart so poignantly. It highlights the struggles that many women face all over the world. The bittersweet ending left me with so much hope for the characters. This book made me laugh and cry in one sitting and I felt drawn to reread it again just a few months later. I never doubted that this would be one of my favorite books of the year.

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Unconventional Lovers by Annette Mori3 Unconventional Lovers by Annette Mori

Published by Affinity Rainbow Publications

Check out a full review here

Unconventional Lovers is a: Friends to lovers romance showing that every woman deserves her own happily ever after.

What it’s about

Bri and Siera are young women with huge hearts and strong wills; they want nothing more than to find a peaceful and secure space to be, a place that fulfills their needs and gives them the freedom to be themselves. But the world is a harsh place for anyone who is different. 

Bri’s Aunt Olivia is a vet with a thriving practice. She is set in her ways, single and surviving, channeling her emotions into her work and her love of Bri.

Siera has a supportive but silent father, an overpowering helicopter mom, plus her Aunt Deb who adores her.

Despite their individual battles against hurt, prejudice and rejection, can these four women find love against the odds?

Why I love it

I have a personal attachment to books about neurodiverse women and this book portrays two young women with Down’s Syndrome with complete respect and integrity. The romance is deeply touching and hits every note that I want in this genre. Every supporting character is just as compelling as Bri and Sierra and when I finished the book it left me with a bucket load of feels.

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Reverie by Eliza Andrews4 Reverie by Eliza Andrews

Check out a full review here 

Reverie is an unconventional love story with elements of mystery, suspense, and the paranormal.

What it’s about

Lucinda Hamilton settles down in sleepy Reverie, South Carolina, because she’s running from the troubles of her past. But when her dangerous ex-husband evades law enforcement, she fears that no amount of running will ever make her safe again.

Two women are determined to keep Lucinda’s past at bay — the mysterious young nurse living on the other side of Lucinda’s duplex, who won’t even tell Lucinda her name, and Ardie Brown, an ex-marine who’s recently moved back to Reverie herself. It’s hard for Lucinda to trust either one of them; it’s even harder to admit to herself that she’s falling for both of them.

What will happen when Lucinda’s ex-husband finally catches up to her? Will the girl next door or Ardie have the power to stop him?

Or will Lucinda finally have to face her past all by herself?

Why I love it

This book was dripping with mood and the prose was absolutely sumptuous. I savored every word. I adored the characters with their imperfections and the twists and turns were wonderfully unique. I don’t need the conventional happily ever after when the story telling is this good.

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The Sex Therapist Next Door by Meghan OBrien5 The Sex Therapist Next Door by Meghan O’Brien

Published by Bold Strokes Books

Check out a full review here 

The Sex Therapist Next Door is an erotic romance showcasing fantastic character development.

What it’s About

Diana Kelley is a couple’s sex therapist with a problem: it’s her job to convince her clients of the importance of sexual and emotional intimacy, but after surviving a toxic relationship with an abusive ex, she’s sworn off love and can’t fathom ever making herself vulnerable again. When her best friend Avaa is injured the night she is scheduled to assist with a hands-on sexual education workshop, Diana is forced to find a short term replacement. The last thing she wants is a new lover, even a paid one. 

After a year of living in the apartment next door, all Jude Monaco knows about her neighbor Diana is that she’s a gorgeous, older woman and the inspiration for more dirty fantasies than she cares to admit. So when Diana knocks on her door with a shockingly delicious favor to ask, Jude seizes the opportunity to learn more. 

Their professional relationship is supposed to be a clinical erotic arrangement between a sex therapist and her assistant, but at the intersection of sex and intimacy, anything is possible. Even love.

Why I love It

I have no problem saying that the sex scenes in this book are some of the best O’Brien has ever written, but I also feel like this novel was so much more than said sex scenes. The journey Diana and Jude embark on is steeped in very layered backstories and the complexity of their relationship has just the perfect amount of drama for me.

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In Development by Rachel Spangler6 In Development by Rachel Spangler

Published by Brisk Press

Check out a full review here 

In Development is a celebrity, fake relationship romance.

What it’s about

From a young age, Cobie Galloway made a career of playing the girl-next-door on the silver screen. Only, she’s not a teenager anymore. Ready to challenge herself artistically and earn the part she’s always dreamed of, she’s forced to face the realization that in order to win the roles afforded to edgier actresses, she might first have to audition by playing someone edgier in her day-to-day life.

Pop star Lila Wilder built a multimedia empire by always having her finger on the pulse of what’s hot. However, as she struggles to produce her next smash hit record, she’s finding it hard to keep her name in the public eye, and a string of tumultuous relationships with Hollywood boy-toys no longer captivates anyone’s attention.

Both women tentatively agree to a headline-grabbing fauxmance, with two simple rules: Always stick to the script, and never forget that on the stage of public perception, nothing is real. Can two women find love in a world of carefully crafted illusions, or will a successful charade mean the potential for something more gets left on the cutting-room floor?

Why I love it

This book is so darn fun! It’s got all of my favorites things. I love the fake relationship trope and I adore celebrity romances. The added bonus here is that Lila is one heck of an ice queen. The character development is gorgeous. I laughed, I cried, and I stayed up way too late to finish this beauty.

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7 Charming Memory by EL Bossert

Check out my full review here 

Charming Memory is a: Sweet, small town romance.

What it’s about

Jamie Jordan, a well-known actress and single mom of four-year- old Max, plans a quiet summer in her hometown of Crestwood. Her serenity is shattered when a delivery truck barrels toward Max on a wet summer morning. He is rescued at the last second by a passerby. No one knows the identity of Max’s savior, who is knocked unconscious and cannot remember her name or her past.

Jamie invites the mystery woman, temporarily named Boo, into her home while Boo recovers and they search for Boo’s real identity and family. As the paparazzi close in, Jamie and Boo try to manage their growing mutual attraction and track down the one name Boo remembers – María Garcia.

Can Jamie and her family trust that Boo is just an innocent hero? Is Boo married or is she available for romance? And, can Jamie and Boo resist each other long enough to find the answers?

Why I love it

This is the kind of traditional romance that I always make a point of reading, but Charming Memory was the stand out for me this year. Bossert created two main characters that were absolutely perfect together. When you add an adorable little boy and a dog full of personality, all I need is a cozy blanket and a cup of hot chocolate to make this the perfect reading experience.

Get It On Amazon

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A Heart To Call Home by Jeannie Levig8 A Heart To Call Home by Jeannie Levig

Published by Bold Strokes Books

Check out a full review here 

A Heart to Call Home: Workplace Romance set in a small town

What it’s about

Dakota Scott has spent her entire adult life trying to outrun her past, but even the privilege and reputation her family name affords her haven’t helped her forget. Her mother’s mental illness and the memory of the night that haunts her from so long ago won’t release her. When the one woman with the power to set her free shows up, Dakota is drawn to her, but she is a painful reminder of everything Dakota has been trying desperately to escape. 

When Jessie Weldon returns to her hometown after thirty years of avoiding it, she knows she has demons to face and a conflicted past to resolve, but she has no idea love awaits her. Can she give her heart to Dakota with the tragic past that lies between them?

Why I love it

This was more than a great romance novel. It delves into Jessie and Dakota’s backstories in more detail than I find in a lot of romances. It takes a look at family history and how unresolved events from the past can cloud a person’s perception of themselves and color more than just their romantic relationships.

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Chosen by Brey Willows9 Chosen by Brey Willows

Published by Bold Strokes Books

Check out my full review here 

Chosen is a: Science fiction romance set in a post-apocalyptic future.

What it’s about

Climate change moved faster than anyone anticipated and the Earth, along with many of its inhabitants, is dying. When a military convoy arrives to pick up Devin Rossi and Karissa Decker, along with dozens of other bewildered people, the two have no idea they are part of a group selected by the government to be transported to a space station preparing for the colonization of another planet. They are members of the Chosen. 

On their way to the military base, their convoy is attacked and Devin and Karissa learn the real reason behind their selection. Their attraction grows as they struggle to survive and wrestle with the decision to continue on to the base as part of the Chosen, which means leaving millions of others behind to die. 

Will they face an uncertain future together, or will the cost be too high?

Why I love it

This book kept me on the edge of my seat and I couldn’t predict how it would end. Both Devin and Karissa are wonderfully layered characters and neither one of them felt like a cliché. One of the many reasons the book is so compelling is that it shows the end effects of climate change on the earth and it is eerily plausible.

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Room Service by Fiona Riley10 Room Service by Fiona Riley

Published by Bold Strokes Books

Check out a full review here 

Room Service is a: Workplace romance with a slow burn.

What it’s about

Olivia Dawson is in a personal and creative rut when her interior design team nets a contract that could change everything. Olivia grabs the chance to reignite her passion, to step outside her comfort zone, and to achieve national exposure if she delivers everything the client expects. 

Savannah Quinn fled a broken heart and started fresh in a new city, at a new job, without any of her past in the rearview. Her new position as corporate liaison to Olivia and her team is exactly the distraction she’s looking for. She doesn’t have to settle into her empty apartment if she’s never there, right? And she can’t be betrayed if she never asks for forever. 

Long days in strange cities bring Olivia and Savannah closer, but keeping their growing attraction separate from their professional relationship feels impossible. When Savannah has to choose between Olivia and her career, she makes a choice that could change both their lives.

Why I love it

This romance wins the award for best “slow burn” of the year. My goodness, the sexual tension between these two characters was crackling off the pages like little lightning bolts. At times I was cursing Riley for dangling the promise of a sexy encounter right in front of me only to snatch it away, leaving me frustrated yet glued to my Kindle.

Get It On Amazon

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