Best & Worst of 2012

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 2012. Instead the list is compiled from the books that were read and reviewed during the 2012 calendar year. If you would like to view our Best & Worst picks for past years, please visit the archive.

Author of the Year - Winner
Robyn Carr (4 - 4 ½ to 5 star keepers in a row)

Author of the Year - Runner-Up
Lisa Kleypas (3 - 4 to 5 star reads in a row)

Best Overall Romance
Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt*

Best Alternate Reality Romances
The Dark One by Ronda Thompson (5 stars)
Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward* (5 stars)
How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks (4 ½ stars)
Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione (4 ½ stars)
Vamps and the City by Kerrelyn Sparks (4 ½ stars)

Best Contemporary Romances
Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas (5 stars)
The Player's Club: Finn by Cathy Yardley* (5 stars)
Second Chance Pass by Robyn Carr (5 stars)
Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas (5 stars)
Temptation Ridge by Robyn Carr (5 stars)
Blue Skies by Catherine Anderson (4 ½ stars)
Compulsively Mr. Darcy by Nina Benneton* (4 ½ stars)
Having Her Boss's Baby by Susan Mallery (4 ½ stars)
Last Resort by Rebecca L. Boschee (4 ½ stars)
Paradise Valley by Robyn Carr (4 ½ stars)

Best Erotic Romances
Riding the Storm by Sydney Croft (5 stars)
Susie's Choice by Barbara Elsborg (5 stars)

Best Historical Romances (American)
Prince Charming by Julie Garwood (4 ½ stars)
A Rogue in Texas by Lorraine Heath (4 ½ stars)
The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuel* (4 ½ stars)

Best Historical Romances (Britain & Other Countries)
A Deal With the Devil by Liz Carlyle (5 stars)
Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt* (5 stars)

Best Inspirational Romances
Give Us This Day by June Foster* (5 stars)
Love's Long Journey by Janette Oke (5 stars)

Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Romance
Animosity by Linda Andrews (4 ½ stars)

Best Time Travel Romance
Drums Of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (4 ½ stars)

Best Romantic Short Stories
Drive Me Wild by Lori Foster (5 stars)
The Forgotten One by Ronda Thompson (5 stars)
The Gift by Susan Squires (5 stars)
Indulge Me by Lori Foster (5 stars)
The Kiss by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss (5 stars)
KLT23 by Missy Welsh (5 stars)
Love Is In The Title by R. J. Scott (5 stars)
Satisfy Me by Lori Foster (5 stars)
Fuzzy Logic by Erin McCarthy (4 ½ stars)
Under the Christmas Tree by Robyn Carr (4 ½ stars)

Best Young Adult Fiction
The Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (5 stars)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (5 stars)
The Drowning of Stephan Jones by Bette Greene (4 ½ stars)

Best Chick-Lit
Indian Maidens Bust Loose by Vidya Samson* (5 stars)

Best Historical Fiction
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (5 stars)

Best Inspirational Fiction
The Shack by Wm. Paul Young (4 ½ stars)

Best Non-Fiction Books
The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed by Judy Shepard (5 stars)
Night by Elie Wiesel (5 stars)
A Mother's Wisdom by Cathryn J. Lombardo, Editor (4 ½ stars)
One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Afghanistan by Pen Farthing (4 ½ stars)

Best Children's Picture Books
The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss (5 stars)
Pansy at the Palace by Cynthia Bardes, Kim Weissenborn* (5 stars)
Rosa by Nikki Giovanni, Bryan Collier (4 ½ stars)

Best Series
The best series I finished or read in its entirety this year.
The Players Club by Cathy Yardley* (4 ½ stars)

Most Surprising Winner
Truth or Dare by Lori Foster (5 stars) - In spite of Lori Foster being a huge romance fan favorite, the first couple of stories I read by her were just OK for me. I went into reading this anthology of three novellas with very low expectations and was shocked that I ended up loving not one, but all three stories. The last novella, Drive Me Wild was particularly surprising, because I hadn't cared for the heroine when she was a secondary character in the previous two. Bravo to Lori Foster for reinvigorating my interest in her writing when I was very close to giving up on her!

Biggest Disappointment
Where Have all the Cowboys Gone? by Kate Pearce (3 stars) - A lot of erotic romance fans seem to love Kate Pearce, so I was really looking forward to reading this book. The story premise had good potential, but the execution was definitely lacking, in my opinion. I tired very quickly of all the secret-keeping and game-playing the hero and heroine were doing with one another. Even the steamy scenes fizzled for me. Overall, it was a lackluster read that left me feeling disappointed.

Funniest Read
Indian Maidens Bust Loose by Vidya Samson* (5 stars) - A suitor meeting that ends in a family feud, the family's poor abused little car, the heroine's father's penny-pinching ways, and a "magical" cow made for an uproariously funny cross-cultural read.

Best Christmas Stories
Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas (5 stars)
The Christmas Promise by Donna VanLiere (5 stars)
Under the Christmas Tree by Robyn Carr (4 ½ stars)

Sweetest Romance
The best romance I read this year that has milder content.
Love's Long Journey 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.
Riding the Storm by Sydney Croft (5 stars)
Susie's Choice by Barbara Elsborg (5 stars)
Truth or Dare by Lori Foster (5 stars)

Most Impressive Debut
Most of these weren't 2012 releases, but they were the debut books for each of these authors and quite impressive for a first effort.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (5 stars)
The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed by Judy Shepard (5 stars)
Night by Elie Wiesel (5 stars)
Riding the Storm by Sydney Croft (5 stars)
Compulsively Mr. Darcy by Nina Benneton* (4 ½ stars)
One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Afghanistan by Pen Farthing (4 ½ stars)
The Shack by Wm. Paul Young (4 ½ stars)

Best Overall Hero
Winter Makepeace (Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

Best Overall Heroine
No'One (Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward*)

Most Tortured Hero
Tohrment (Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward*)

Most Tortured Heroine
No'One (Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward*)

Most Frustrating/Annoying Hero
Brandon Birmingham (The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss) - Brandon begins the story as quite possibly the most insufferably arrogant jerk of a hero I've ever read in a romance novel. He gets off to a terrible start by raping the heroine and then spends the majority of the book waffling back and forth between nicer moments and pure bluster. If it hadn't been for him threatening to rape the heroine again, I could honestly say that he was almost an ideal hero for the last quarter of the book, but by then it was too little, too late for me.

Most Frustrating/Annoying Heroine
Lauren Redstone (Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? by Kate Pearce) - I didn't entirely dislike Lauren, but the way she kept playing games with her hero, including enlisting her best friend to tempt him to cheat, and keeping secrets from him made me want to roll my eyes in exasperation at her childish behavior.

Hottest Heroes
Joel Cooper & Christian Harris (Susie's Choice by Barbara Elsborg)

Most Perfect Couples
I couldn't narrow it down to just one, so these two couples will share the honor this year.
Tohrment & No'One (Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward*)
Winter Makepeace & Isabel Beckinhall (Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

Most Memorable Supporting Characters
Celia Foote (The Help by Kathryn Stockett)
Xcor (Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward*)
George Kemble (A Deal With the Devil by Liz Carlyle)
Annika Svenson & Creed McCabe (Riding the Storm by Sydney Croft)
Wraith (Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione)

Most Memorable Child Characters
Holly Nolan (Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas)
Carrington Jones (Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas)
Joshua Lionel (Toy Soldiers by Dahlia Rose)

Most Memorable Animal Characters
Renfield (Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas)
Ebenezer (The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuel*)
The Lynuktars (Animosity by Linda Andrews)

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Leads
Remy Begnaud (Riding the Storm by Sydney Croft) - Has the ability to control the weather
Haley Holmes (Riding the Storm by Sydney Croft) - Parameterologist
Payson Daley (Zombies for Breakfast by Rebecca L. Boschee*) - Pharmacist
Sean Bell (Zombies for Breakfast by Rebecca L. Boschee*) - Zombie
Lucy Marin (Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas*) - Glass Artist
Sam Nolan (Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas*) - Vintner
Shanna Whelan (How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks) - Dentist
Carter Wessex (Heart of Gold by Jessica Bird) - Archaeologist

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Plot
The Sleeping Night by Barbara Samuel* - An interracial couple (a black man and a white woman) love each other against all odds in post-WWII Texas.

Zombies for Breakfast by Rebecca L. Boschee* - A pharmacist is being pursued by a Zombie drug cartel for unintentionally cutting in on their business and is rescued by a handsome newborn Zombie.

Pleasure Unbound by Larissa Ione - A demon doctor is chief of staff at Underworld General, a hospital for creatures of the night. He must team up with a demon slayer to find out who is brutally murdering demons and selling their body parts on the black market.

Captive Bride by Bonnie Dee - A lovely young Asian woman is brought to America under false pretenses and narrowly escapes being forced into prostitution. She meets a kind shopkeeper who hides her from the unscrupulous man who is after her.

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Setting
The Gift by Susan Squires - Morocco, Casablanca, Africa in the 1800's

Best Overall Quotes
"Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, 'Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?'"     - Constantine Bates (The Help by Kathryn Stockett)

"You is kind. You is smart. You is important."     - Aibilene Clark (The Help by Kathryn Stockett)

"Many times in life I've regretted the things I've said without thinking. But I've never regretted the things I said nearly as much as the words I left unspoken."     - Liberty Jones (Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas)

Most Romantic Quotes
"I would do violence for one glimpse of your naked breasts. Bleed for one taste of your nipple on my tongue."     - Winter Makepeace (Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

But he placed a gentle palm under her chin and turned her face back to him. "I'm privileged to see you like this," he said, his eyes fierce. "Wear you social mask at your balls and parties and when you visit your friends out there, but when we are alone, just the two of us in here, promise me this: that you'll show me only your real face, no matter how ugly you might think it. That's our true intimacy, not sex, but the ability to be ourselves when we are together."     - Winter Makepeace (Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

"You are my courage, as I am your conscience," he whispered. "You are my heart---and I your compassion. We are neither of us whole, alone. Do ye not know that, Sassenach?"     - Jamie Fraser (Drums Of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon)

Prettiest Covers

Rainshadow Road

 Rainshadow Road
by Lisa Kleypas*

Compulsively Mr. Darcy

Compulsively Mr. Darcy
by Nina Benneton*

Thief of Shadows

Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt* (step-back)

*This book was published in 2012. 

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