Best & Worst of 2014

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 2014. Instead the list is compiled from the books that were read and reviewed during the 2014 calendar year. If you would like to view our Best & Worst picks for past years, please visit the archive.

Author of the Year - Winner

J. R. Ward/Jessica Bird (3 - 4 to 5 star reads in a row)

Author of the Year – Runner-Up

Susan Squires (4 - 4 to 4 ½ star reads in a row)

Best Overall Romance

Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone

Best Alternate Reality Romances

The King by J.R. Ward (5 stars)*

Wet & Wild by Sandra Hill (5 stars)

One With the Darkness by Susan Squires (4 ½ stars)

One With the Night by Susan Squires (4 ½ stars)

Best Contemporary Romances

Dragonfly Moments by Kathy Bosman (5 stars)

Father to Be by Marilyn Pappano (5 stars)

Tender Persuasion by Jean Hackensmith (5 stars)

Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr (4 ½ stars)

An Irresistible Bachelor by Jessica Bird (4 ½ stars)

Best Erotic Romances

Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone (5 stars)

Voyeur by Lacey Alexander (5 stars)

Best Historical Romances (Britain & Other Countries)

The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley (5 stars)

Simply Unforgettable by Mary Balogh (5 stars)

Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt (4 ½ stars)*

Best Male/Male Romance

Bless Us With Content by Tinnean (4 ½ stars)

Best New Adult Romance

Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia (5 stars)

Best Romantic Suspense

I'm Watching You by Karen Rose (5 stars)

The Witness by Sandra Brown (4 ½ stars)

Best Time Travel Romance

The Fire by John A. Heldt (5 stars)

Best Romantic Novellas & Short Stories

Compromising Prudence by Marguerite Butler (5 stars)

Do Over by Mari Carr (5 stars)

Midnight Kiss Goodbye by Dianna Love (5 stars)

Hired for Her Pleasure by Bonnie Dee (4 ½ stars)

Shadow of the Moon by Sherrilyn Kenyon (4 ½ stars)

Best Young Adult Fiction

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling (5 stars)

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (5 stars)

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (4 ½ stars)

Best Fantasy Fiction

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher (4 ½ stars)

Best General Fiction

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult (5 stars)

The Sliammon Escudo by Geoffrey R. Tigg (5 stars)*

Best Historical Fiction

Follies Past: A Prequel to Pride and Prejudice by Melanie Kerr (5 stars)

The Outlandish Companion by Diana Gabaldon (4 ½ stars)

Best Women's Fiction

The Main Ingredient by Margo Wilson (5 stars)

Best Non-Fiction Books

No Buddy Left Behind: Bringing U.S. Troops' Dogs and Cats Safely Home from the Combat Zone by Terri Crisp, Cynthia Hurn (5 stars)

My Life with Snoopy: How One Shelter Dog's Love Changed a Man's Life and Other Tails of Adventure by Joey Camen (4 ½ stars)

Best Children's Picture Book

The Diary of Stuffles B. Snippet by Kathie Brown (5 stars)*

Best Christmas Stories

The Christmas Journey by Donna VanLiere (5 stars)

Bring Me Home for Christmas by Robyn Carr (4 ½ stars)

Most Surprising Winners

This year I'm giving this distinction to two romance novellas that couldn't be more different from each other if they tried, but which equally enthralled me.:-)

Compromising Prudence by Marguerite Butler (5 stars) – I knew absolutely nothing about the author when I picked up this story, and oftentimes novellas leave me with a somewhat unsatisfied feeling because of their brevity. Imagine my surprise when I found a fully self-contained story that was witty, charming, and best of all, truly romantic, an absolute joy to read.

Midnight Kiss Goodbye by Dianna Love (5 stars) – I hadn't really heard much about Dianna Love prior to reading this novella. She only came to my attention, because of her writing partnership with Sherrilyn Kenyon, an author who I count as a favorite. Ms. Love wrote this first prequel story to their best-selling Belador series on her own, and I have to say I was thoroughly impressed with the uniqueness of the world-building. It was also deeply romantic with some smokin' hot love scenes. Another thoroughly satisfying shorter story.

Biggest Disappointment

Accidentally in Love with... a God? by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff (3 stars) – I requested this book from GoodReads FirstReads, because it sounded interesting. I thought it might be the start of an exciting new paranormal romance series. Unfortunately, it was bogged down by a plethora of issues – too many to list here – not the least of which were irritating characters and a lack of any actual romance. The only thing that kept me from dropping the rating lower was some intriguing world building, but I doubt that alone will be enough to make me continue with the series. Without that, this book probably would have only gotten two stars from me, so overall, I count it as a pretty big disappointment.

Funniest Read

Wet & Wild by Sandra Hill (5 stars) – The witty word play and misunderstandings that arise from the man out of time aspect made this story LOL funny to me.

Biggest Tearjerkers

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (5 stars)

The View From A Rusty Train Car by DeeJay Arens (4 stars)

Sweetest Romance

The best romance I read this year that has milder content.

Compromising Prudence by Marguerite Butler (5 stars)

Steamiest Romances

For me, the steamiest romance doesn't necessarily have the most erotic content. Instead it's the book(s) that best combine hot, sexy scenes with a deep emotional connection that really make the pages sizzle.

Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone (5 stars)

The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley (5 stars)

Voyeur by Lacey Alexander (5 stars)

Most Impressive Debuts

None of these were 2013 releases, but they were the debut books for each of these authors and quite impressive for a first effort.

Compromising Prudence by Marguerite Butler (5 stars)

The Diary of Stuffles B. Snippet by Kathie Brown (5 stars)*

The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley (5 stars)

My Life with Snoopy: How One Shelter Dog's Love Changed a Man's Life and Other Tails of Adventure by Joey Camen (4 ½ stars)

Most Underwhelming Reads

The only books that make it on this list are ones that I rate less than three stars. Believe it or not, although a few were frustrating enough to come close, I had none that qualified, so I guess that means I had a pretty good reading year overall. Either that, or I was just being too soft.;-)

Best Overall Hero

Lindsay Markham (Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone)

Best Overall Heroine

Anais Darnby (Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone)

Most Tortured Hero

Lazar di Fiore (The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley)

Most Tortured Heroine

Kaitlyn Emberland (Tender Persuasion by Jean Hackensmith)

Most Frustrating/Annoying Hero

Jared Marcus Benton (Rebellious Desire by Julie Garwood) – A classic, old-school, bodice-ripper hero who was an insufferably arrogant, stubborn, clueless jerk for most of the story. He did have an eleventh-hour turn-around, but it was mostly too little, too late for me.

Most Frustrating/Annoying Heroine

Emma Keane (Accidentally in Love with... a God? by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff) - A flighty, high-strung, mouthy, snarky spitfire who can sometimes be rather childish. She was also way too reactionary, never really thinks before she acts, is seemingly always angry about one thing or another, and her emotions were a confusing mixture that flip-flop around from one feeling to the next.

Hottest Hero

Lazar di Fiore (The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley)

Most Perfect Couple

Lindsay Markham & Anais Darnby (Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone)

Most Evil Villains

President Snow (Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins)

Elyta (One With the Night & One With the Shadows by Susan Squires)

Gibb & Matt Burnwood (The Witness by Sandra Brown)

Most Memorable Supporting Characters

Finnick Odair & Primrose Everdeen (Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins)

Beckett Taylor & Cole Bridge (Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia)

Trez & iAm (The King by J. R. Ward)

Artegel & Myste (The Mirror of Her Dreams by Stephen R. Donaldson)

Most Memorable Child Characters

Caleb Brown (Father to Be by Marilyn Pappano)

Indio Stump (Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

Greg Franklin (Wait for the Sunrise by Cassandra Austin)

Most Memorable Animal Characters

George & Boo (The King by J. R. Ward*)

Arthur (An Irresistible Bachelor by Jessica Bird)

Daffodil (Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Leads

Characters with occupations or circumstances you don't often see in romance.

Lindsay Markham (Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone) – Opium addict

Charles Hatterly (Compromising Prudence by Marguerite Butler) – Ornithologist

Blake Hartt (Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia) – Homeless/Mentally ill/Gifted musician

Livia McHugh (Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia) – Psychology student

Troy & Faith Wainwright (Do Over by Mari Carr) – Married 25 years

Callie Burke (An Irresistible Bachelor by Jessica Bird) – Art restorer

Jergan (One With the Darkness by Susan Squires) – Slave

Leif Holbrook (Harvest Moon by Robyn Carr) – Hollywood screen-writer

Jillian Matlock (Wild Man Creek by Robyn Carr) – Organic farmer of designer fruits & veggies

Apollo Greaves (Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt*) – Gardener/Escapee from Bedlam

Sydney Foster (Streets of Fire by Judith Duncan) – Former prostitute/real estate tycoon/philanthropist

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Plots

Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone – Two childhood friends finally reveal their love for one another only to have a terrible misunderstanding tear them apart. Thinking she has abandoned him, the hero fully gives in to his opium addiction, which leads to unintentional pain and heartache for both of them. Their journey back to wholeness and trusting in one another is an utterly beautiful and epic love story.

The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley – A fairy tale type of story in which a tortured lost prince returns to his island homeland seeking revenge against his enemies but finds love instead in the arms of his enemy's daughter whom he takes as his captive.

Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia – A homeless man, living in the train station, counts the smiles a lovely young woman gives him every day, which become a lifeline and a light in his dark corner of the world. When she defends him against bullies one day, it leads to a more personal meeting and a tender romance as well as an introduction to his very unusual brothers.

Tender Persuasion by Jean Hackensmith – Based on the true story of a young woman who was brutally raped and stabbed numerous times. Until meeting her hero, she was only living half a life, but in order for him to help her overcome her extreme fears, he must exhibit infinite love and patience.

Hired for Her Pleasure by Bonnie Dee – A freelance writer with agoraphobia hires a male escort for a little companionship, which turns into an unforgettable night of passion for both of them. When they're afraid to share their true feelings, he disappears, leading to her facing her fears in order to find him again.

One With the Darkness by Susan Squires – A vampire who lost her one and only true love (a man who was originally purchased as her slave) when she refused to turn him into one of her own kind travels back in time to Ancient Rome, facing the dangers and political intrigue that await her there for a chance to right the wrongs of the past.

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Settings

Streets of Fire by Judith Duncan – Calgary, Alberta, Canada

One with the Shadows by Susan Squires – Italy & North Africa

Accidentally in Love with... a God? by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff – Mexico & Italy

Best Overall Quotes

It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”     – Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling)

In my mind I am eloquent; I can climb intricate scaffolds of words to reach the highest cathedral ceilings and paint my thoughts. But when I open my mouth, everything collapses.”     – R (Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion)

Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us!”     – Katniss Everdeen (Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins)

You can't look back – you just have to put the past behind you, and find something better in your future.”     – from Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult

Funniest Quotes

After shoving his former clothes inside, Xcor found himself bowing at the waist. "Your assistance has been much appreciated."

Antoine raised his palm like he was getting ready to do a clap on the shoulder again. But once more, he caught himself and smiled instead. "Knock her dead, my man."

"Oh, no." Xcor shook his head. "That shan’t be necessary. This one I like.”     – Xcor & Antoine (The King by J. R. Ward*)

Finnick?" I say, "Maybe some pants?"

He looks down at his legs as if noticing his outfit for the first time. Then he whips off his hospital gown leaving him in just his underwear. "Why? Do you find this" – he strikes a ridiculously provocative pose – "distracting?"

I laugh. Boggs looks embarrassed and Finnick looks more like the guy I met at the Quarter Quell”     – Katniss Everdeen & Finnick Odair (Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins)

If Sasha’s threatened, Astrid’s upset. If Astrid’s upset, I’m going to kill whatever’s upsetting her until she’s happy again.”     – Zarek (Shadow of the Moon by Sherrilyn Kenyon)

Most Romantic Quotes

“I vow I am, and always will be, constant and faithful in my love for you, Anais. Nothing you or anyone else does shall alter these feelings. I am forever loving, forever waiting, forever yearning...forever yours.”     – Lindsay Markham (Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone)

He kept his head down in what seemed to be a prayer. “He counts. You’ve smiled at him four hundred and forty-six times as of a few minutes ago. He announces the number every time I see him.”     – Cole referring to Blake (Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia)

Blake took her face in his hands. “You let me touch you. Kiss you. Your skin? It feels like piano keys. My hands know just where to go.”     – Blake (Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia)

You love me. Real or not real?"

I tell him, "Real.”     – Peeta Mellark & Katniss Everdeen (Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins)

Prettiest Covers

Addicted Book Cover

 Addicted

by Charlotte Featherstone

Bring Me Home for Christmas Book Cover

Bring Me Home for Christmas

by Robyn Carr

*This book was published in 2014.

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