Best of the Year 2015

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 2015. Instead the list is compiled from the books that were read and reviewed during the 2015 calendar year. If you would like to view our picks from past years, please visit the archive.

Author of the Year - Winner

Elizabeth Hoyt (4 – 5 star reads in a row)

Author of the Year – Runner-Up

J. R. Ward/Jessica Bird (4 – 4 ½ to 5 star reads in a row)

Best Overall Romance

Paradise by Judith McNaught (5 stars)

Best Alternate Reality Romances

Blood Kiss by J. R. Ward (5 stars)*

The Shadows by J. R. Ward (4 ½ stars)*

Best Contemporary Romances

Return to Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia (5 stars)

Paradise by Judith McNaught (5 stars)

The Bourbon Kings by J. R. Ward (5 stars)*

Only by Your Touch by Catherine Anderson (4 ½ stars)

Beauty and the Black Sheep by Jessica Bird (4 ½ stars)

One Wish by Robyn Carr (4 ½ stars)*

A Mutual Favor by Ann Jacobs (4 ½ stars)

Perfect by Judith McNaught (4 ½ stars)

Best Erotic Romances

Be with Me by Maya Banks (5 stars)

Sinful by Charlotte Featherstone (5 stars)

Best Historical Romance (American)

A Wild Yearning by Penelope Williamson (5 stars)

Best Historical Romances (Britain & Other Countries)

The Devil to Pay by Liz Carlyle (5 stars)

Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt (5 stars)

Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt (5 stars)

A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh (4 ½ stars)

Beguiled by Susan Spencer Paul (4 ½ stars)

Best Romantic Novellas & Short Stories

Sinful: Epilogue by Charlotte Featherstone (5 stars)

Some Like It Hot by Lori Foster (5 stars)

From Pride to Bride by JoAnn A. Grote (5 stars)

Dearest Rogue Bonus Epilogue by Elizabeth Hoyt (5 stars)

A Maiden Lane Christmas Special by Elizabeth Hoyt (5 stars)

Midnight Surrender by Jean Brashear (4 ½ stars)

Playing Doctor by Lori Foster (4 ½ stars)

From Halter to Altar by Cathy Marie Hake (4 ½ stars)

Best Young Adult Fiction

City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (5 stars)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (5 stars)

Best Young Adult Fiction Novellas & Short Stories

The Stone Witch by Isobelle Carmody (4 ½ stars)

Stray Magic by Diana Peterfreund (4 ½ stars)

Best Fantasy Fiction

Blood Rites by Jim Butcher (5 stars)

Death Masks by Jim Butcher (5 stars)

A Man Rides Through by Stephen R. Donaldson (4 ½ stars)

Best Fantasy Short Story

Vignette by Jim Butcher (4 ½ stars)

Best Graphic Novels

The Dresden Files: Storm Front, Vol. 1: The Gathering Storm by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers, Ardian Syaf (5 stars)

The Dresden Files: Storm Front, Vol. 2: Maelstrom by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers, Ardian Syaf, Brett Booth (4 ½ stars)

Best Historical Fiction

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon (5 stars)

Best Non-Fiction Book

Miracles from Heaven: A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing by Christy Wilson Beam (5 stars)*

Best Children's Picture Book

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (5 stars)

Best Children's Book (Fiction)

Get on out of Here, Philip Hall by Bette Greene (4 ½ stars)

Best Christmas Stories

A Maiden Lane Christmas Special by Elizabeth Hoyt (5 stars)

A Christmas Promise by Mary Balogh (4 ½ stars)

Most Surprising Winners

This year I'm giving this distinction to two stories that quite literally couldn't be more different from each other if they tried. One is an erotic romance, while the other is an inspirational romance. One is a novel, while the other is a novella. One contains three hot, hunky heroes, while the other has only one. One is a contemporary story, while the other is historical. But both took me by surprise and exceeded my expectation, giving me two great reads.

Be with Me by Maya Banks (5 stars) – I had never read a Maya Banks book before. Several of my GoodReads friends had recommended her work to me, but there were a few naysayers as well. I had also never read a ménage a quatre romance before either. I hoped that I would enjoy this story when I picked it up, but more than that, I ended up loving it. This book had so much more depth in both it's plot and characters than most erotic romances do, giving me a really meaty story. I couldn't have asked for a better, more perfect and steamy read.

From Pride to Bride by JoAnn A. Grote (5 stars) – I had never read anything by JoAnn Grote before, and I don't often read inspirational romances because I frequently find them to be too preachy. I have to admit as well that the heroine of this story wasn't my favorite of the four sisters depicted in the two previous novellas of this quartet. Well, the hero and heroine both ended up being wonderful, my favorites in the series, and I was extremely pleasantly surprised to find the story itself contained a gentle, inviting, and encouraging faith message. Bravo!

Funniest Read

Vignette by Jim Butcher (4 ½ stars) – The interplay between Harry and Bob as they argue over what Harry's new phone book ad should say is crisp and funny.

Biggest Tearjerkers

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling (5 stars)

The Shadows by J. R. Ward (4 ½ stars)*

Sweetest Romances

The best romances I read this year that have milder content.

From Pride to Bride by JoAnn A. Grote (5 stars)

Dearest Rogue Bonus Epilogue by Elizabeth Hoyt (5 stars)

Steamiest Romance

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

Be with Me by Maya Banks (5 stars)

Most Impressive Debut

Miracles from Heaven: A Little Girl, Her Journey to Heaven, and Her Amazing Story of Healing by Christy Wilson Beam (5 stars)*

Best Overall Hero

Matthew Farrell (Paradise by Judith McNaught)

Best Overall Heroine

Meredith Bancroft (Paradise by Judith McNaught)

Most Tortured Hero

Matthew, Earl of Wallingford (Sinful by Charlotte Featherstone)

Most Tortured Heroine

Selena (The Shadows by J. R. Ward*)

Hottest Heroes

Cam Douglas, Sawyer Pritchard & Hutch Bishop (Be with Me by Maya Banks)

Most Perfect Couple

Matthew Farrell & Meredith Bancroft (Paradise by Judith McNaught)

Most Evil Villains

Master Eremis (A Man Rides Through by Stephen R. Donaldson)

Voldemort (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling)

Valentine Morganstern (City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare)

Most Memorable Supporting Characters

Thomas Raith (Blood Rites by Jim Butcher)

Magnus Bane (City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare)

Cole Bridge & Blake Hartt (Return to Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia)

Most Memorable Child Characters

The Archive (Death Masks by Jim Butcher)

Jeremy Evans (Only by Your Touch by Catherine Anderson)

Beth Lambert (Get on out of Here, Philip Hall by Bette Greene)

Nameless Girl (The Stone Witch by Isobelle Carmody)

Most Memorable Animal Characters

Gandhi (Return to Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia)

Methuselah, Diablo, & all the wild forest animals (Only by Your Touch by Catherine Anderson)

Ramon & Rhubarb (A Bride for a Bit by JoAnn A. Grote, Cathy Marie Hake, Janelle Burnham Schneider, Pamela Kaye Tracy)

Goneril (Stray Magic by Diana Peterfreund)

Henry & Dove (Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Leads

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

Sidonie Saint-Godard (The Devil to Pay by Liz Carlyle) – Deportment teacher masquerading as the avenging Black Angel

Beckett Taylor (Return to Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia) – Ex-crime lord trying to turn over a new leaf

Eve Hartt (Return to Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia) – Assassin

Grace Dillon (One Wish by Robyn Carr*) – Figure skater turned florist

Hannah Bridges ("Hardhats And Silk Stockings" from When Good Things Happen to Bad Boys by HelenKay Dimon) – Owner of a Construction Company

Veronica Archer (Silent Confessions by Julie Kenner) – Erotica student and owner of an erotica bookstore

Matt Lacoumette (A New Hope by Robyn Carr*) – Contemporary farmer

Ben Longtree (Only by Your Touch by Catherine Anderson) – Psychic healer, veterinarian, writer

Blake Smiley (Wildest Dreams by Robyn Carr*) – Triathlete

Cody Carlyle & Josh Pierce (Hell on Wheels by Karen Kelley) – Bounty hunters

Asa Makepeace (Sweetest Scoundrel by Elizabeth Hoyt*) – Owner/manager of a pleasure garden/theater

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Plots

The Devil to Pay by Liz Carlyle – A proper widow by day masquerades as the infamous Black Angel by night, defending the weak from being preyed upon by the wealthy and powerful and robbing from the rich to give to the poor. She meets the hero when she sets upon him in disguise as her alter-ego, believing that he's wronged a woman.

Perfect by Judith McNaught – After spending five years in prison for the murder of his wife, a mega movie star turned film director escapes, taking a young woman hostage. He takes her to a remote mountaintop cabin where they spend a week, falling madly in love, but can their love survive when he decides to flee the country, sending her back home to be with her family?

Return to Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia – An ex-crime lord tries to turn over a new leaf, but he's drawn back into his old life when his sister-in-law is taken hostage by the new gangster who's moved into his old territory. To save her, he must team up with the only woman he's ever loved, a deadly assassin who used to work for him and who planned to kill him for revenge before falling in love with him.

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Settings

A Wild Yearning by Penelope Williamson – Colonial Maine

Best Opening Line

The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.” (Blood Rites by Jim Butcher)

Best Overall Quotes

“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.”      – Albus Dumbledore (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling)

“We're all human, aren't we? Every human life is worth the same, and worth saving.”      Kingsley Shacklebolt (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling)

“Pain is a byproduct of life. That’s the truth. Life sometimes sucks. That’s true for everyone. But if you don’t face the pain and the suck, you don’t ever get the other things either. Laughter. Joy. Love. Pain passes, but those things are worth fighting for. Worth dying for.”      – Harry Dresden (Vignette by Jim Butcher)

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,

Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”       – The Onceler (The Lorax by Dr. Seuss)

Sometimes you can save someone’s whole world just by smiling at them. Kindness is one of those things that has immense value to the person experiencing it.”      – Blake Hartt (Return to Poughkeepsie by Debra Anastasia)

Funniest Quotes

“What are you doing with all those books anyway?" Ron asked.

“Just trying to decide which ones to take with us," said Hermione. “When we're looking for the Horcruxes."

“Oh, of course," said Ron, clapping a hand to his forehead. "I forgot we'll be hunting down Voldemort in a mobile library.”      – Ron Weasley & Hermione Granger (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling)

Not that I was worried about anyone stealing my car. I once had a car thief offer to get me something better for a sweetheart rate.”       – Harry Dresden (Death Masks by Jim Butcher)

He bent and kissed me briefly, then headed for the door. Just short of it, though, he turned back.

"The, um, sperms ..." he said, a little awkwardly.

"Yes?"

"Can ye not take them out and give them decent burial or something?"

I hid my smile in my teacup.

"I'll take good care of them," I promised. "I always do, don't I?”      – Jamie & Claire Fraser (The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon)

Evil isn’t the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it’s a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference.”      – Harry Dresden (Vignette by Jim Butcher)

We came to see Jace. Is he alright?"

"I don't know," Magnus said. "Does he normally just lie on the floor like that without moving?”       – Clary Fray & Magnus Bane (City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare)

Most Romantic Quotes

Jane, you are my confidante, my helpmate, my friend. My lover. You are everything the word wife means to me. In my heart, we are wed. In my soul, you are mine.”      – Matthew, Earl of Wallingford (Sinful by Charlotte Featherstone)

I'm not letting you go after this." He raised his head. "Marry me, Phoebe, please. Damn the courtship. Damn your brother. Damn the waiting. I can't...I can't breathe when you're not with me. I love you with all my cynical heart. Be my wife and teach me to laugh and let me buy you beer and ride with me on the beaches of Cornwall. Be my love and my wife forevermore."      – Captain James Trevillion (Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

D'ye ken that the only time I am without pain is in your bed, Sassenach? When I take ye, when I lie in your arms – my wounds are healed, then, my scars forgotten.”      – Jamie Fraser (The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon)

I’m prepared to be a very patient man when it comes to you. I will seduce you for however long it takes – give you space if you need it or follow you tight as sunshine on your shoulder if you’ll let me.” His eyes locked on hers. “I lost my chance with you once, Lizzie King – that is not going to happen again.”      – Tulane Baldwine (The Bourbon Kings by J. R. Ward*)

Sexiest Quote

Bedding her could be anything from tenderness to riot, but to take her when she was a bit the worse for drink was always a particular delight.

Intoxicated, she took less care for him than usual; abandoned and oblivious to all but her own pleasure, she would rake him, bite him – and beg him to serve her so, as well.

He loved the feeling of power in it, the tantalizing choice between joining her at once in animal lust, or of holding himself –for a time – in check, so as to drive her at his whim.”      – Jamie Fraser (The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon)

Prettiest Covers

Dearest Rogue Book Cover

 Dearest Rogue
by Elizabeth Hoyt*

Dearest Rogue Step-back Cover

(+ step-back)

 Sweetest Scoundrel Book Cover

 Sweetest Scoundrel
by Elizabeth Hoyt
*

Sweetest Scoundrel Step-back Cover

(+ step-back)

Sexiest Covers

 Be with Me Book Cover

Be with Me
by Maya Banks

 A Mutual Favor

Mutual Favor
by Ann Jacobs

Most Interesting/Unusual Covers

 Return to Poughkeepsie Book Cover

Return to Poughkeepsie
by Debra Anastasia

*This book was published in 2015.

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