Best of the Year 2017

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 2017. Instead the list is compiled from the books that were read and reviewed during the 2017 calendar year. If you would like to view our picks from past years, please visit the archive.

Author of the Year - Winner

Lisa Kleypas (4 – 5 star reads in a row)

Author of the Year – Runner-Up

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

Best Overall Romance

Prairie Embrace by Rosanne Bittner (5 stars)

Best Alternate Reality Romances

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh (5 stars)

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

Becoming Death by D. T. Dyllin (4 ½ stars)

Feeling Death by D. T. Dyllin (4 ½ stars)

Best Contemporary Romances

From the First by Jessica Bird (5 stars)

Devil's Cut by J. R. Ward* (5 stars)

Best Erotic Romance

Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James (5 stars)

Best Historical Romances (American)

Prairie Embrace by Rosanne Bittner (5 stars)

Thee, I Love by Annette Blair (5 stars)

Never Marry a Cowboy by Lorraine Heath (5 stars)

His Secondhand Wife by Cheryl St. John (4 ½ stars)

Best Historical Romances (Britain & Other Countries)

Prince Charming by Gaelen Foley (5 stars)

Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt* (5 stars)

Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas (5 stars)

Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas (5 stars)

Someone to Watch Over Me by Lisa Kleypas (5 stars)

Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas (5 stars)

Another Chance to Dream by Lynn Kurland (5 stars)

A Winter Ballad by Barbara Samuel (5 stars)

The Secret by Julie Garwood (4 ½ stars)

Best Male/Male Romance

Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick (4 ½ stars)

Best Romantic Novella or Short Story

Once Upon a Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt* (4 ½ stars)

Best Romantic Suspense

The Healer by Sharon Sala (4 ½ stars)

Best Young Adult Fiction

The Maze Runner by James Dashner (5 stars)

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner (5 stars)

Best Young Adult Fiction Novellas

The Son by Veronica Roth (5 stars)

The Initiate by Veronica Roth (4 ½ stars)

The Traitor by Veronica Roth (4 ½ stars)

The Transfer by Veronica Roth (4 ½ stars)

Best Fantasy Fiction

Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher (5 stars)

White Night by Jim Butcher (5 stars)

Best Fantasy Novella

Something Borrowed by Jim Butcher (5 stars)

Best Graphic Novel

Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files: Down Town by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers, Carlos Gómez, Stjepan Šejić (4 ½ stars)

Best Historical Fiction

The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon (5 stars)

Best Historical Fiction Novella

A Plague of Zombies by Diana Gabaldon (5 stars)

Best Non-Fiction Books

What Is the Bible?: How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything by Rob Bell* (5 stars)

The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church by Gregory A. Boyd (5 stars)

The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our "Correct" Beliefs by Peter Enns (5 stars)

Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman's Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim by Sabeeha Rehman (5 stars)

Pawprints of Katrina: Pets Saved and Lessons Learned by Cathy Scott (5 stars)

More Than Words: 10 Values for the Modern Family by Erin Wathen* (5 stars)

The Witness of Religion in an Age of Fear by Michael Kinnamon* (4 ½ stars)

Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet by Jonathan Merritt (4 ½ stars)

More Than Enough: Living Abundantly in a Culture of Excess by Lee Hull Moses (4 ½ stars)

Best Christmas Stories

Noelle by Greg Kincaid* (4 ½ stars)

The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere (4 ½ stars)

Most Surprising Winner

The Death Trilogy by D. T. Dyllin (4 to 4 ½ stars) – Although D. T. Dyllin is a friend of mine, I hadn’t tried any of her stories until this one, because I know that she leans toward the darker side of romance which sometimes works for me and sometimes doesn’t. I’ll admit that there were a lot of elements in these books that shouldn’t have worked for me, and in other authors' hands, I've strongly disliked. But somehow, D. T. Dyllin managed to write the story in such a way that all these things made sense in context, so that I was OK with them. Not to mention, she knows how to engage my emotions and how to write some awesome love scenes, as well as keep the reader on their toes. So these all ended up being some surprisingly good reads.

Funniest Read

The Wastrel by Margaret Moore (4 stars) – While not quite what I would call a romantic comedy, it contained plenty of witty dialogue and humorous events that often had me grinning from ear to ear.

Sweetest Romance

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

Another Chance to Dream by Lynn Kurland (5 stars)

Steamiest Romances

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

Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James (5 stars)

Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas (5 stars)

Most Impressive Debuts

None of these was a 2017 release, but they were the debut books for each of these authors and quite impressive for a first effort.

Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman's Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim by Sabeeha Rehman (5 stars)

Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick (4 ½ stars)

Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet by Jonathan Merritt (4 ½ stars)

Best Overall Hero

Nick Gentry (Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas)

Best Overall Heroine

Charlotte Howard (Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas)

Most Tortured Hero

Raphael de Chartres (Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

Most Tortured Heroine

Katie Russell (Prairie Embrace by Rosanne Bittner)

Hottest Hero

Christian Grey (Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James)

Most Perfect Couple

Nick Gentry & Charlotte Howard (Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas)

Most Evil Villains

The Lords of Chaos (Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt*)

Lord Radnor (Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas)

Major Bourdain (The Healer by Sharon Sala)

Ezra Russell (Prairie Embrace by Rosanne Bittner)

William of Winterbourne aka Brother Simon (A Winter Ballad by Barbara Samuel)

Alain and Rollan of Ayre (Another Chance to Dream by Lynn Kurland)

Simon Sauder (Thee, I Love by Annette Blair)

Most Memorable Supporting Characters

Dr. Jacob Linley (Someone to Watch Over Me by Lisa Kleypas)

Nick Gentry (Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas)

Will Rogers & Rosebud (Prairie Embrace by Rosanne Bittner)

Molly & Charity Carpenter (Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher)

Spike Moriarty & Madeline Maguire (From the First by Jessica Bird)

Chuck (The Maze Runner by James Dashner)

Thomas Raith (White Night by Jim Butcher)

Gideon Shaw & Olivia Marsden (Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas)

Aurora & Byron Wells (The Wastrel by Margaret Moore)

Most Memorable Child Characters

Geoffrey (A Winter Ballad by Barbara Samuel)

Robin, Amanda, and Nicholas (Another Chance to Dream by Lynn Kurland)

Sorcha MacLachlan (One Little Sin by Liz Carlyle)

Tommy T (The Night Remembers by Kathleen Eagle)

William Ransom (The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon)

Hallie (Lt. Kent: Lone Wolf by Judith Lyons)

Emma & Aaron Sauder (Thee, I Love by Annette Blair)

Most Memorable Animal Characters

Ysengrin, Esmeralda, & Remus (A Winter Ballad by Barbara Samuel)

Maggie (K is for Kismet by Jossilynn)

Stevie (The Night Remembers by Kathleen Eagle)

Hobo (The Healer by Sharon Sala)

Mouse (Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher & White Night by Jim Butcher)

Elle (Noelle by Greg Kincaid)

Jupiter & Zeus (The Wastrel by Margaret Moore)

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Leads

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

Molly Jacobs (K is for Kismet by Jossilynn) – Romance novelist

Conrad “Connie” Boyle (Any Day Now by Robyn Carr) – Firefighter/EMT

Ashton Robertson (Never Marry a Cowboy by Lorraine Heath) – Has consumption

Xcor (The Chosen by J. R. Ward) – Has a cleft lip

Jesse Brown Wolf (The Night Remembers by Kathleen Eagle) – Masquerading as Dark Dog, a vigilante super-hero

Alex Moorehouse (From the First by Jessica Bird) – Competitive sailor

Daniela Chiaramonte (Prince Charming by Gaelen Foley) – Masquerading as the Masked Rider who robs from the rich to give to the poor

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Plots

Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh – In a futuristic world, a race known as the Psy are capable of extraordinary powers of the mind but are conditioned from birth not to feel anything. Any of their race who is found to have emotions faces a fate worse than death. A young female Psy has been having an increasingly difficult time not feeling. She is sent to negotiate a business contract with a leopard changeling who is the alpha of his pack, and finds herself intensely attracted to him. After a string of changeling women were murdered with all evidence pointing to a Psy as the culprit, he seeks to use her connections to infiltrate the Psy network to find the killer. She is willing to help, but to do so will reveal her emotions and make her a target for the murderer as well.

The Night Remembers by Kathleen Eagle – A young woman moves to a city where she doesn’t know anyone in an effort to escape an abusive ex. There she meets a twelve-year-old streetwise comic book artist and becomes his mentor, offering him the guidance he’s been missing. When she’s attacked by street thugs, her charge seeks help from the mysterious recluse who fuels his superhero fantasies. Little does the woman know that her rescuer leads a double-life as her handyman by day and the vigilante dubbed Dark Dog by night, trying to make the streets safer.

The Healer by Sharon Sala – A Native American man with extraordinary psychic and healing powers is on the run from a villainous hunter who wants to harness his powers for his own selfish gain. The man’s travels take him to a small town where he meets a young woman who has a crazed stalker. They share an uncanny connection, but between the murderous stalker and the hunter picking up their trail, they’ll have to fight for their survival.

The Death Trilogy by D. T. Dyllin – A young woman who works with a team of psychic investigators possesses psychic powers that allows her to sense what dead persons felt in the moments prior to their demise. Despite being married, she dreams of a man who isn’t her husband with whom she has a powerful connection and who gives her the best sex of her life, and sometimes it feels like far more like memories than mere dreams. When she is sent to the scene of a serial murder and taps into the victim’s energy, she sees the man from her dreams, leading her down a twisting, turning road where she no longer knows exactly what’s going on or who she can trust… where she becomes addicted to the euphoria found in the death emotions… and where nothing matters anymore except her overwhelming love for the man in her dreams and finding out who is pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Settings

Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick – Futuristic/dystopian Las Vegas

Lt. Kent: Lone Wolf by Judith Lyons – Old Gothic mansion in the Montana mountains

Best Opening Lines

All things considered, it was probably the fault of the electric eel. (The Custom of the Army by Diana Gabaldon)

It was so cold out, he thought his cock might break off in his hand -- if he could find it. (The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon)

Considering how extremely dull her life had been up until this point, Iris Daniels, Lady Jordan had discovered a quite colorful way to die. (Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt)

Mary Whitsun did not like comely gentlemen. (Once Upon a Maiden Lane by Elizabeth Hoyt)

Best Overall Quotes

Laws, enforced by the sword, control behavior but cannot change hearts.”      – Gregory A. Boyd (The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power Is Destroying the Church)

I don't care about whose DNA has recombined with whose. When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching--they are your family.”      – Harry Dresden (Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher)

You could tell from the books whether a library was meant for show or not. Books that were used had an open, interested feel to them, even if closed and neatly lined up on a shelf in strict order with their fellows. You felt as though the book took as much interest in you as you did in it and was willing to help when you reached for it.”      – Jamie Fraser (The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon)

Anger is just anger. It isn't good. It isn't bad. It just is. What you do with it is what matters. It's like anything else. You can use it to build or to destroy. You just have to make the choice."

"Constructive anger," the demon said, her voice dripping sarcasm.

"Also known as passion," I said quietly. "Passion has overthrown tyrants and freed prisoners and slaves. Passion has brought justice where there was savagery. Passion has created freedom where there was nothing but fear. Passion has helped souls rise from the ashes of their horrible lives and build something better, stronger, more beautiful.”      – Harry Dresden & Lasciel (White Night by Jim Butcher)

Knowledge is the ultimate weapon. It always has been.”      – Harry Dresden (White Night by Jim Butcher)

Funniest Quotes

Merda! Her lace panties had snagged on his ring, the signet ring he'd inherited from his father, Giacomo Casanova. His father had seduced hundred of women without any problems whatsoever, and he was having trouble with just one. This was the real reason he never used the Casanova name. He could never live up to his father's reputation. The old man was probably laughing in his grave.

"Nine circles of hell," Jack muttered.

"Hell?" Lara asked. "I thought I was the Holy Land."

"You're paradise. Unfortunately, I am stuck there."

Her eyes widened. "Stuck?"

"Normally, I would love being stuck to your lovely bum, but it would look odd if we go sightseeing with my hand under your skirt. Especially in the basilica."

She glanced down. "How can you be stuck?"

"My ring. It's caught in the lace. See?" He moved his hand down her hip, dragging her undies down a few inches.

"Okay, stop." She bit her lip, frowning, then suddenly giggled. "I can't believe this has happened."

"I assure you, as much as I had hoped to get your clothes off, this was not part of my original plan."

She snorted. "No problem. Just rip yourself loose."

"Are you sure? It will destroy you undies."

She narrowed her eyes with a seductuve look. "Rip it."

"Very well." He jerked his hand away, but the panties came with him. He yanked his hand back and forth, but the lacy, latex material simply stretched with him. "Santo cielo, they are indestructible."

Lara laughed.

He continued to wage battle, but to no avail. "They could use this material to build spaceships.”       – Giacomo "Jack" Casanova & Lara Boucher (Secret Life of a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks)

Lottie stared blindly at the dark canopy overhead. “Nick,” she asked raggedly, “is this the usual way that people h-have relations?”

His voice was muffled. “What is the usual way?”

She inhaled sharply as he nipped at the inner curve of her thigh. “I’m not entirely certain. But I don’t think this is it.”

His voice thickened with amusement. “I know what I’m doing, Lottie.”

I was not implying that you didn’t… oh, please don’t kiss me there!”

Then she felt him shake with suppressed laughter. “For someone who has never done this before, you’re rather opinionated. Let me make love to you the way I want, hmmn? The first time, at least.” He grasped both her wrists and pinned them at her sides. “Lie still.”      – Nick Gentry & Charlotte Howard (Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas)

There was a sound like a human yawn, and then the skull turned slightly toward me and asked, "What's up, boss?"

"Evil's afoot."

"Well, sure," Bob said, "because it refuses to learn the metric system. Otherwise it'd be up to a meter by now.”      Harry Dresden & Bob (White Night by Jim Butcher)

Most Emotional Quotes

I solemnly vow that I will safeguard and hold dear and deep in my heart our union and you, I promise to love you faithfully, forsaking all others, through the good times and the bad, in sickness and in health, regardless of where life takes us. I will protect you, trust you, and respect you. I will share your joys and sorrows and comfort you in times of need. I promise to cherish you and uphold your hopes and dreams and keep you safe at my side. All that is mine is now yours. I give you my hand, my heart, and my love from this moment on for as long as we both shall live."      – Christian Grey (Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James)

I give you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, to stand by your side in good times and in bad, to share your joy as well as your sorrow. I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals and dreams, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, to share my hopes and dreams with you, and bring you solace in times of need and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.”      Anastasia Grey (Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James)

He uttered a curse that startled her with its foulness, and gripped her head between his hands, forcing her to stare at him. His voice was savage. "For twelve years I have been in constant torment, wanting you in my arms and believing it would never be possible. I want you for a thousand reasons other than your legs, and...no, damn it, I want you for no reason at all, other than the fact that you're you. I want to shove myself deep inside you and stay for hours...days...weeks. I want morning and noon and nightfall with you. I want your tears, your smiles, your kisses...the smell of your hair, the taste of your skin, the touch of your breath on my face. I want to see you in the final hour of my life...to lie in your arms as I take my last breath.”       – John McKenna (Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas)

For a moment she simply stood there in the dark corridor, her heart stopped, the duke roaring huskily behind her like some beast out of one of her childhood nightmares.

Despair wrapped chilly fingers around her throat.

Then she brought her hand before her face and looked at the ruby ring on her little finger. Delicate. Lovely. Eternal.

She breathed again.

Dyemore was no beast. No Bluebeard. No fairy-tale nightmare.

He was a man -- a man in pain.

And she was going to pull herself together and help him.

She was already moving toward the stairs.

He hadn't liked the sheets. Something to do with the cedarwood scent had driven him to this crisis. Nicoletta had tried to give her the worn-out sheets -- the ones not stored in the cedarwood cabinet. Therefore she needed to go down and find those sheets and return to her husband.

No, it was more than that.

Dyemore had saved her at great risk to himself, and she'd rewarded him by shooting him. He'd nearly died from that wound -- continued to be ill from that wound. She owed the man.

And more still.

It didn't matter that he was maddeningly autocratic, unsmiling, and abrupt. Or even that she found him to be the tiniest bit frightening. He'd asked her about her childhood. Engaged her in discussion. Was interested in her opinions on Polybius's "Histories" -- and even when he didn't agree with those opinions, he'd respected them.

His cool gray eyes as he'd watched her face during their debate had been intent and focused, as if she was the only thing he cared about at the moment. She'd had his entire attention.

And that? That was worth fighting for.      – Iris Daniels (Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt)

To this point, he could not really have said that he loved William. Feel the terror of responsibility for him, yes. Carry thought of him like a gem in his pocket, certainly, reaching now and then to touch it, marveling. But now he felt the perfection of the tiny bones of William’s spine through his clothes, smooth as marbles under his fingers, smelled the scent of him, rich with the incense of innocence and the faint tang of shit and clean linen. And thought his heart would break with love.      – Jamie Fraser (The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon)

Most Romantic Quotes

Unwrapping the paper carefully so it doesn’t tear, I find a beautiful red leather box. Cartier. It’s familiar, thanks to my second-chance earrings and my watch. Cautiously, I open the box to discover a delicate charm bracelet of silver, or platinum or white gold—I don’t know, but it’s absolutely enchanting. Attached to it are several charms: the Eiffel Tower, a London black cab, a helicopter—Charlie Tango, a glider—the soaring, a catamaran—The Grace, a bed, and an ice cream cone? I look up at him, bemused.

Vanilla?” He shrugs apologetically, and I can’t help but laugh. Of course.

Christian, this is beautiful. Thank you. It’s yar.” He grins.

My favorite is the heart. It’s a locket.

You can put a picture or whatever in that.”

A picture of you.” I glance at him through my lashes. “Always in my heart.”

He smiles his lovely, heartbreakingly shy smile.

I fondle the last two charms: a letter C—oh yes, I was his first girlfriend to use his first name. I smile at the thought. And finally, there’s a key.

To my heart and soul,” he whispers.      – Christian & Anastasia Grey (Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James)

I finally know what to wish for.”

Puzzled, she gazed down at him while the long locks of her hair trailed over his chest and shoulders. “What?”

The wishing well,” he reminded her.

Oh, yes…” Lottie lowered her face to his chest and nuzzled the soft fur, recalling that morning in the forest. “You wouldn’t make a wish.”

Because I didn’t know what I wanted. And now I do.”

What do you want?” she asked tenderly.

His hand slipped behind her head, pulling her mouth down to his. “To love you forever,” he whispered just before their lips met.      Nick Gentry & Charlotte Howard (Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas)

Sleep, my love," He whispered, smoothing her long hair, lifting the damp locks away from the back of her neck. "I'll be here to watch over you."

"You sleep too," she said groggily, her hand creeping to the center of his chest.

"No." McKenna smiled and pressed a soft kiss against her temple. His voice was husky with wonder. "Not when staying awake is better than anything I could find in a dream.”       – John McKenna & Aline Marsden (Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas)

Sexiest Quotes

I'd really like to tie you up right now"      – Christian Grey (Fifty Shades Freed by E. L. James)

You’re not wearing drawers,” he murmured, his hand wandering avidly over her bare limbs.

It’s too hot today,” she said breathlessly, wiggling to evade him, pushing ineffectually at the mound of his hand beneath her dress. “I most certainly did not discard them for your benefit, and… Nick, stop that. The maid is going to come in at any moment.”

Then I’ll have to be fast.”

You’re never fast. Nick… oh…”

Her body curled against his as he reached the patch of hair between her thighs, the sweet cleft already rich with moisture as her well-tutored body responded to his touch. “I’m going to do this to you next week at the Markenfields’ ball,” he said softly, running his thumb along the humid seam of her sex. “I’m going to take you to some private corner… and pull up the front of your dress, and stroke and tease you until you come.”

No,” she protested faintly, her eyes closing as she felt his long middle finger slide inside her.

Oh, yes.” Nick withdrew his wet finger and ruthlessly tickled the softly straining crest until he felt her body tensing rhythmically in his lap. “I’ll keep you quiet with my mouth,” he whispered. “And I’ll be kissing you when you climax with my fingers inside you… like this…” He thrust his two middle fingers inside the warm, pulsing channel and covered her lips with his as she moaned and shuddered violently.

When he had siphoned the last few shivers of pleasure from her body, Nick lifted his mouth and smiled smugly into her flushed face. “Was that fast enough for you?”      Nick Gentry & Charlotte Howard (Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas)

Prettiest Covers

Once Upon a Christmas Eve

by Elizabeth Hoyt

Once Upon a Maiden Lane

by Elizabeth Hoyt

Prairie Embrace

by Rosanne Bittner

Sexiest Cover

Thee, I Love

by Annette Blair

Most Interesting/Unusual Covers

Feeling Death

by D. T. Dyllin

Embracing Death

by D. T. Dyllin

Becoming Death

by D. T. Dyllin

Fifty Shades Freed

by E. L. James

Freedom

by Jay Kirkpatrick

 

*This book was published in 2017.

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