Best & Worst of 2011

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 2011. Instead the list is compiled from the books that were read and reviewed during the 2011 calendar year. If you would like to view our Best & Worst picks for past years, please visit the archive.

Author of the Year - Winner
Elizabeth Hoyt (3 - 4 to 5 star reads in a row)

Author of the Year - Runners-Up
Bette Greene (2 - 4½ to 5 star keepers)
Janette Oke (2 - 4½ to 5 star keepers)

Best Overall Romance
Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt* (5 stars)

Best Alternate Reality Romance
Covet by J. R. Ward (4 ½ stars)

Best Contemporary Romances
Whispering Rock by Robyn Carr (5 stars)
Honey and the Hired Hand by Joan Johnston (4 ½ stars)
One More Knight by Kathleen Creighton (4 ½ stars)
The Player's Club: Scott by Cathy Yardley* (4 ½ stars)

Best Erotic Romances
Friends with Benefits by Lena Matthews & Maggie Casper (5 stars)
Soul Deep by Lora Leigh (4 ½ stars)
Tucker's Claim by Sarah McCarty (4 ½ stars)

Best Historical Romances (Britain & Other Countries)
Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt* (5 stars)
The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh (5 stars)
How to Marry a Duke by Vicky Dreiling* (4 ½ stars)
Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt* (4 ½ stars)

Best Inspirational Romances
Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke (5 stars)
Loves Enduring Promise by Janette Oke (4 ½ stars)

Best Male/Male Romances
The Christmas Throwaway by R. J. Scott (4 ½ stars)
Soldier by AKM Miles (4 ½ stars)

Best Romantic Suspense
Have You Seen Her? by Karen Rose (4 ½ stars)

Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Romance
Victorian Scoundrel by Stephanie Burkhart* (4 ½ stars)

Best Romantic Short Stories
User Friendly by Erin McCarthy (5 stars)
Hard Drive by Erin McCarthy (4 ½ stars)
The Kandy Shoppe by Debora Dennis (4 ½ stars)
Second Chances by Sherrilyn Kenyon (4 ½ stars)

Best Young Adult Fiction
Morning Is a Long Time Coming by Bette Greene (4 ½ stars)

Best General Fiction
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (5 stars)

Best Fantasy Fiction
Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman (4 ½ stars)

Best Non-Fiction Books
The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us by Sheril Kirshenbaum* (5 stars)
A Lion Called Christian: The True Story of the Remarkable Bond Between Two Friends and a Lion by Anthony Bourke & John Rendall (4 ½ stars)

Best Children's Books (Fiction)
Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe. by Bette Greene (5 stars)
Sounder by William H. Armstrong (5 stars)
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis (5 stars)

Best Children's Picture Books
Abe's Lucky Day by Jill Warren* (5 stars)
Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine (5 stars)
Mubu & Mu-Mu: The Little Animal Doctor by Peter Alexander (5 stars)
The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss (5 stars)

Most Surprising Winner
The Player's Club: Scott by Cathy Yardley* (4 ½ stars) - After reading the cover blurb, I was thinking this story was going to be about a bunch guys who were adrenalin junkies which didn't exactly appeal. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was so much more than that. The characters were genuine and the plot had some depth, making it a really fun read.

Biggest Disappointment
Pirates by Linda Lael Miller (2 stars) - Based on numerous recommendation from my fellow romance readers, I had purchased probably more than a dozen of Linda Lael Miller's books, but this first foray into her stories left me less than impressed. The author's writing style was too passive for my taste. I felt no real connection to her characters, and the numerous plot holes and unexplained occurrences left me with many unanswered questions and simply feeling bored.

Funniest Read
Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe. by Bette Greene (5 stars) - Beth Lambert is such a cute and funny protagonist, she had me chuckling throughout nearly the entire book.

Biggest Tear-Jerker
Across Eternity by Aris Whittier* (4 stars)

Best Christmas Stories
The Christmas Hope by Donna VanLiere (5 stars)
The Christmas Throwaway by R. J. Scott (4 ½ stars)
Christmas with Tucker by Greg Kincaid (4 ½ stars)

Sweetest Romance
The best romance I read this year that has milder content.
Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke (5 stars)

Steamiest Romances
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.
Friends with Benefits by Lena Matthews & Maggie Casper (5 stars)
Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt* (5 stars)
User Friendly by Erin McCarthy (5 stars)

Worst Reads
The books/short stories I had the hardest time finishing, and/or found to be the most underwhelming.
Pirates by Linda Lael Miller (2 stars)
Awakening by E. D. Beale (2 ½ stars)

Most Impressive Debut
Some of these weren't 2011 releases, but they were the debut novels for each of these authors and quite impressive for a first effort.
Abe's Lucky Day by Jill Warren* (5 stars)
Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke (5 stars)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (5 stars)
Bad Boys Online by Erin McCarthy (4 ½ stars)
How to Marry a Duke by Vicky Dreiling* (4 ½ stars)

Best Overall Hero
Mickey O'Connor (Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

Best Overall Heroine
Silence Hollingbrook (Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

Most Tortured Hero
Adam Kent (The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh)

Most Tortured Heroine
Isabella Fleur Bradshaw (The Secret Pearl by Mary Balogh)

Most Frustrating/Annoying Hero
Trevor Whitlatch (Fair Game by Diane Farr) - I'm not sure what Trevor's heroine saw in him. He was stubborn, arrogant, and impulsive, never really taking her seriously. I didn't feel like he had any honorable intentions toward her and spent the entire story trying to make her his mistress. He also needed some serious lessons in romantic gestures and courting technique.

Most Frustrating/Annoying Heroine
Cynthia Jenks (Bridge of Hope by Pam Champagne) - I really wanted to sympathize with this widowed heroine through the pain of loosing her husband and nearly attempting suicide, but her consistently stubborn, antagonistic attitude about nearly everything made her seem too combative.

Hottest Hero
Sebastian Emerzian (Friends with Benefits by Lena Matthews & Maggie Casper)

Most Perfect Couple
Mickey O'Connor & Silence Hollingbrook (Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

Most Memorable Child Characters
Beth Lambert (Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe. by Bette Greene)
Gom & Tommy (Soldier by AKM Miles)
Mary Darling (Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

Most Memorable Animal Characters
Dog (Covet by J. R. Ward)
Lad (Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt*)
Sabbath (Leaping Hearts by Jessica Bird)

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Leads
A. J. Sutherland (Leaping Hearts by Jessica Bird) - Equestrian Show Jumper
George "The Saint" (George & the Virgin by Lisa Cach) - Professional Wrestler
Griffin Remmington (Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt*) - Gin Distiller
Marie-Terese Boudreau (Covet by J. R. Ward) - Prostitute
Mickey O'Connor (Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt*) - River Pirate

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Plot
Fallen Angels series by J. R. Ward - A bad boy biker must save seven souls from the seven deadly sins.

George & the Virgin by Lisa Cach - An amalgamation of several different romance sub-genres in which a present-day professional wrestler travels back in time to rescue a medieval village that is being terrorized by a dragon.

How to Marry a Duke by Vicky Dreiling* - A historical spoof of The Bachelor.

Medicine Woman by Kathleen Eagle - A Harvard scientist/naturalist pairs up with a Lakota healer, and they must eventually work to save her people from the smallpox. A book that is steeped in Native American culture and history.

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Setting
Budapest Moon series by Stephanie Burkhart* - Early 20th century Hungary.

Leaping Hearts by Jessica Bird - Set almost entirely in the world of modern-day equestrian show jumping.

Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt* - The entire series is primarily set in the London slum of St. Giles, a very unusual locale for British historical romances.

*This book was published in 2011.

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