I know it’s February and we’re well on our way to solidly being part of 2019. (I’ve almost written the date correctly every day this week.) But I love to start the year by reading some of the bests from last year. There are just so many good books that, even as a librarian, I miss out on when I’m focused on my day to day, especially since my day to day is children’s literature. Therefore when I find some “Best _____ of 2018” lists in December, I put them on hold and I’ve usually got them read and out of the way by February. This list, by Entertainment Weekly, popped up in my Facebook feed back at the end of 2018 and it seemed like the perfect combination of pop culture and romances, so I didn’t hesitate to dive in. I will say that there were a few books that did not interest me at all, so they didn’t make this recap. Since The Wedding Date, The Kiss Quotient, and A Princess in Theory had ALL THE HYPE, I feel like you won’t need me to talk you into reading them. I’m going to focus on the few that delighted me and made me go “How did I miss this?!?!” The few that made me want to write a whole blog post tell you all about how amazing they are.
Sarah MacLean is pretty much romance writing gold. I don’t think there’s a book that she’s written that I haven’t enjoyed. While I wouldn’t say this was one of her stronger books, I did love the heroine and am a huge fan of having characters in a regency romance that aren’t the nobility. Spoiler alert: they usually always are. While there were some plot points that made me scratch my head (how many times can a girl sneak out before you wonder if chaperones even existed?), but over all the “I shouldn’t love you, but I do” trope worked really well. Is it bad that this book made me more excited in the potential of the series than the book itself? Maybe? But I’ve definitely got book #2 on my list of To-Read’s for 2019.
The premise of this series made me very hesitant to pick it up. Having a romance plot set anywhere near a school shooting seemed like a disaster, but I can honestly say that this book surprised me. It felt genuine and real in a way many romances do not. The main characters are survivors of a school shooting and while there are flashbacks and mentions of the actual event, there isn’t a page for page re-hash of it. Dealing with PTSD and the fallout of such a tragic event happening in your formative years made the leads for this story feel more real and rooted than some of the backstories that romantic couples are typically given. There was a little bit of me yelling “You guys this isn’t that complicated!” but I was super pleased with this entire book. If you’re skeptical, try it out. You won’t be disappointed.
Ooooooh man. This book was the dark horse that won my heart. Duchess by Design was good enough that I want to check out Maya Rodale’s entire back catalog. It starts with an adorable meet-cute that morphs into a case of mistaken identity, which culminates in a swoon worthy romance with two main characters who felt more fully realized than many contemporary ones. Period romance heroes and heroines can feel more like storybook characters since many of the situations they are dealing with just aren’t part of most peoples’ lives. But Brandon and Adeline probably had one of the more adult and straightforward romances that really connected with me as a modern reader. What happens when you have to choose between love and the life you’ve created? What happens when you start a relationship with someone knowing at the outset that circumstances are not going to change? Add in some revisionist history, a treatise on the importance of pockets, plus perfect banter and you have a total winner on your hands. If you’re going to pick up one book from this list, Duchess by Design is the one you do not want to miss.
-Lauren Taylor is a Youth Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library.