Best & Worst of 2010

Since The Hope Chest Reviews is not dedicated to the latest book releases, the majority of the books on this list were not published in 2010. Instead the list is compiled from the books that were read and reviewed during the 2010 calendar year. If you would like to view our Best & Worst picks for past years, please visit the archive.

Author of the Year - Winner
Lisa Kleypas (5 - 4 ½ to 5 star keepers this year)

Author of the Year - Runner-Up
J. R. Ward (4 - 4 ½ to 5 star keepers in a row)

Best Overall Romance
Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas (5 stars)

Best Alternate Reality Romances
The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide by J. R. Ward (5 stars)
Lover Avenged by J. R. Ward (4 ½ stars)
Lover Mine by J. R. Ward* (4 ½ stars)
Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon (4 ½ stars)
Seize the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon (4 ½ stars)

Best Contemporary Romances
Meant to Be Married by Ruth Wind (5 stars)
For the Love of God by Janet Dailey (4 ½ stars)
Rio Grande Wedding by Ruth Wind (4 ½ stars)

Best Erotic Romance
Maverick's Black Cat by Maggie Casper & Lena Matthews (4 ½ stars)

Best Historical Romances (American)
Fire and Rain by Kathleen Eagle (5 stars)
Wild at Heart by Patricia Gaffney (4 ½ stars)

Best Historical Romances (Britain & Other Countries)
The Guise of a Gentleman by Donna Hatch* (5 stars)
Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas (5 stars)
The Duke and I by Julia Quinn (4 ½ stars)
It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas (4 ½ stars)
My Lord Jack by Hope Tarr (4 ½ stars)
Secrets of a Summer Night by Lisa Kleypas (4 ½ stars)
A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas (4 ½ stars)
Where Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas (4 ½ stars)

Best Romantic Suspense
Don't Tell by Karen Rose (5 stars)

Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Romance
White Tiger by Vijaya Schartz* (4 ½ stars)

Best Time Travel Romance
Voyager by Diana Gabaldon (5 stars)

Best Romantic Short Stories
Father Mine (from The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide) by J. R. Ward (5 stars)
The Ice Princess by Elizabeth Hoyt* (5 stars)
Scandalous Lord Dere (from the anthology Secrets of a Perfect Night) by Stephanie Laurens (5 stars)
The Story of Son (from the anthology Dead After Dark) by J. R. Ward (5 stars)
A Blue Christmas (from the anthology Jingle Bell Rock) by Alison Kent (4 ½ stars)
Forever Enslaved (from the anthology Sandstorms) by Ann Jacobs (4 ½ stars)
Love Slave (from the anthology Sandstorms) by Ann Jacobs (4 ½ stars)

Best Young Adult Books
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling (5 stars)
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene (5 stars)
Love on the Lifts by Rachel Hawthorne (4 ½ stars)

Best Non-Fiction Books
Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms by Ralph Keyes* (5 stars)
Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton (5 stars)
President Obama Election 2008: A Collection of Newspaper Front Pages Selected by The Poynter Institute by The Poynter Institute (5 stars)
Twilight Director's Notebook: The Story of How We Made the Movie Based on the Novel by Stephenie Meyer by Catherine Harkwicke (5 stars)
A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (4 ½ stars)

Best Children's Books (Fiction)
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (5 stars)
Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien (5 stars)

Best Children's Book (Non-Fiction)
My Body, My Self for Girls by Lynda & Area Madaras (5 stars)

Most Surprising Winner
Fire and Rain by Kathleen Eagle (5 stars) - This little gem had been sitting on my TBR pile for over two years before I finally got around to reading it. I had never heard a great deal about this author from fellow romance readers, but I was absolutely blown away by the amount emotional depth and historical significance it contained. A fabulous read for sure.

Biggest Disappointment
Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas (4 stars) - It might seem odd that I would name a book to which I awarded 4 stars as my most disappointing read of the year, but after so much hype, I was expecting the best story (and hero) ever to be penned by a romance author. IMHO, this book and it's male protagonist were far from that, but before readers start throwing rotten tomatoes at me, please have a look at my review. It might help everyone to understand my extremely complex feelings about it.

Funniest Read
There's Always Chocolate! by Abby Irish (4 stars) - A fun chick-lit about a 40-something widow trying to find her way in life. The book is filled with humor that alternates between slap-stick and snark.

Biggest Tear-Jerkers
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (5 stars)
The Reindeer Keeper by Barbara Briggs Ward* (4 ½ stars)

Best Christmas Stories
The Christmas Blessing by Donna VanLiere (5 stars)
The Reindeer Keeper by Barbara Briggs Ward* (4 ½ stars)
A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas (4 ½ stars)

Sweetest Romance
The best romance I read this year that has milder content.
The Guise of a Gentleman by Donna Hatch* (5 stars)

Steamiest Romance
For me, the steamiest romance doesn't necessarily have the most erotic content. Instead it is the book(s) that best combine hot, sexy scenes with a deep emotional connection that really make the pages sizzle.
Lover Avenged by J. R. Ward (4 ½ stars)

Worst Reads
The books/short stories I had the hardest time finishing, and/or found to be the most underwhelming.
Baby It's Cold Outside (from the anthology Jingle Bell Rock) by Donna Kauffman (2 ½ stars)
Dark Prince by Christine Feehan (2 ½ stars)
Night Storm by Catherine Coulter (2 ½ stars)
Nightcap by Kathleen O'Reilly (2 ½ stars)
Sex, Straight Up by Kathleen O'Reilly (2 ½ stars)
Sugar on Top by Leigh Ellwood (2 ½ stars)
The Wedding Bargain by Emily French (2 ½ stars)
Winter's Kiss by Meg Allison (2 ½ stars)

Most Impressive Debut
These weren't 2009 releases, but they were the debut novels for each of these authors and quite impressive for a first effort.
Don't Tell by Karen Rose (5 stars)
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene (5 stars)

Best Overall Hero
Matthew Swift (Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas)

Best Overall Heroine
Daisy Bowman (Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas)

Most Tortured Heroes
John Matthew (Lover Mine by J. R. Ward*)
Rehvenge (Lover Avenged by J. R. Ward)

Most Tortured Heroine
Caroline Stewart (Don't Tell by Karen Rose)

Most Frustrating/Annoying Hero
Alec Carrick (Night Storm by Catherine Coulter) - Quite possibly the most condescending, arrogant, chauvinistic, lust-crazed jerk of a hero I've ever read. He's so full of himself as to be completely insufferable.

Most Frustrating/Annoying Heroine
Raven Whitney (Dark Prince by Christine Feehan) - A too-passive heroine who acquiesced to pretty much every one of her too-dominant hero's wishes and had a couple of TSTL moments to boot.

Hottest Heroes
I simply couldn't narrow it down to just one, so these two luscious men...errr...creatures will share the honor this year.
Vane Kattalakis (Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon) - This gorgeous alpha were-hunter is a total sweetheart with his heroine, making him just about perfect in my book.
Rehvenge (Lover Avenged by J. R. Ward) - I never would have thought I could even like a character in Rehv's "profession" much less be crazy about him, but I fell hook, line and sinker for this half-vampire male. He can woo me any day.;-)

Most Perfect Couple
Matthew Swift & Daisy Bowman (Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas)

Most Memorable Child Characters
Patty Bergen (Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene)
Dexter Terrell (The Nerd Who Loved Me by Vicki Lewis Thompson)
Rose Taylor (Where Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas)

Most Memorable Animal Characters
George (Lover Avenged by J. R. Ward)
Rascal (Red Leopard by Vijaya Schartz*)
Jack's menagerie of animals (My Lord Jack by Hope Tarr)

From one romance novel to another, there can often be a lot of similarity in characters, plots and settings, so this year I've created three new categories to honor those authors who dared to write something truly out of the ordinary and their ingenuity, as a result, left a big impression on me. 

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Leads
Jack Campbell (My Lord Jack by Hope Tarr) - Hangman
Michael McNeil (Wild at Heart by Patricia Gaffney) - Wild Man
Rehvenge (Lover Avenged by J. R. Ward) - Drug Lord/Pimp
Xhex (Lover Mine by J. R. Ward*) - Assassin

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Plot
Fire and Rain by Kathleen Eagle (5 stars) - Two romances, one in the 1870's leading up to the Battle at Wounded Knee and one in the 1970's during the Vietnam era, both mirror each other and are intertwined. Also contains some wonderful Native American history.
Wild at Heart by Patricia Gaffney (4 ½ stars) - The heroine's anthropologist father is studying a "wild man" found in the wilderness apparently without speech. She teaches him to read and write and all about the social graces while falling in love. Also has some great scenes at the Chicago World's Fair.

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Setting
Longing by Mary Balogh (4 stars) - Small industrial village in Wales
The Wildest Shore by Lisa Cach (4 stars) - The high seas and the tropical islands of the Indian Ocean

*This book was published in 2010.

Best and Worst Archive

 2016

2015

 2014

2013

 2012

2011

 2010

2009

2008