Best of the Year 2019

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 2019. Instead the list is compiled from the books that were read and reviewed during the 2019 calendar year. If you would like to view our picks from past years, please visit the archive

Author of the Year - Winner

Stephenie Meyer (4 - 4 ½ - 5 star reads in a row)

Author of the Year - Runner-Up

Nalini Singh (3 - 5 star reads in a row)

Best Overall Romance

Love in the Light by Laura Kaye (5 stars)

Best Alternate Reality Romances

Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione (5 stars)

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (5 stars)

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (5 stars)

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide by Stephenie Meyer (5 stars)

Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh (5 stars)

Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh (5 stars)

Forbidden Nights with a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks (5 stars)

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

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

Where Winter Finds You by J. R. Ward (5 stars)*

Sin Undone by Larissa Ione (4 ½ stars)

Prisoner of Night by J. R. Ward (4 ½ stars)*

Best Contemporary Romances

Mister O by Lauren Blakely (5 stars)

The Best of Us by Robyn Carr (5 stars)*

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles (5 stars)

Love in the Light by Laura Kaye (5 stars)

The Mister by E. L. James (4 ½ stars)*

Best Erotic Romance

Mister O by Lauren Blakely (5 stars)

Best Historical Romances (Britain & Other Countries)

Seduced at Midnight by Jacquie D'Alessandro (5 stars)

Tempted At Midnight by Jacquie D'Alessandro (5 stars)

Two Little Lies by Liz Carlyle (4 ½ stars)

Best New Adult Romance

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles (5 stars)

Best Male/Male Romance

Angel Voices by Rowan Speedwell (4 ½ stars)

Best Romance Novellas & Short Stories

Wraith & Serena by Larissa Ione (5 stars)

Tayla & Eidolon by Larissa Ione (5 stars)

Luc & Kar by Larissa Ione (5 stars)

A Fool Again by Eloisa James (5 stars)

Forever in the Light by Laura Kaye (5 stars)

Stroke of Enticement by Nalini Singh (5 stars)

Angel Voices by Rowan Speedwell (4 ½ stars)

Best Romantic Comedy

Mister O by Lauren Blakely (5 stars)

Best Romantic Suspense

Dirty Secrets by Karen Rose (5 stars)

Best Time Travel Romance

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon (5 stars)

Best Young Adult Fiction

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles (5 stars)

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (5 stars)

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (5 stars)

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide by Stephenie Meyer (5 stars)

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (4 ½ stars)

The Kill Order by James Dashner (4 ½ stars)

The Fever Code by James Dashner (4 ½ stars)

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer (4 ½ stars)

Best Middle Grade Fiction

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (4 ½ stars)

Best Fantasy Novellas

The Warrior by Jim Butcher (5 stars)

Last Call by Jim Butcher (4 ½ stars)

Best Graphic Novel

Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: Wild Card by Jim Butcher, Mark Powers, Carlos Gómez 

Best Historical Fiction

An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon (5 stars)

Best Biographies/Memoirs

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (5 stars)*

Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph by Yusra Mardini (5 stars)

Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future by Pete Buttigieg (4 ½ stars)*

Best Non-Fiction Books

Shameless: A Sexual Reformation by Nadia Bolz-Weber (5 stars)*

Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US by Lenny Duncan (5 stars)*

Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others by Barbara Brown Taylor (4 ½ stars)*

Best Christmas Stories

Angel Voices by Rowan Speedwell (4 ½ stars)

Most Surprising Winner

The Best of Us by Robyn Carr (5 stars)* - While I consider Robyn Carr to be a favorite author, there are certain quirks of her writing style that have begun to grate over time, so that her books that I count as keepers have become fewer and further between. However, despite my occasional misgivings, her books always tend to rate highly with her other fans. There's barely a one that doesn't have above a four-star rating. When I first picked up this book, its GoodReads rating was considerably less than four stars, leaving me with a bit of trepidation. If other die-hard readers found something significant enough to criticize, surely I would, too. But I kept reading and reading, and nothing jumped out at me. In fact, it ended up becoming my favorite of the series so far for its heartwarming family drama and triple treat of romantic entanglements.

Funniest Read

Mister O by Lauren Blakely (5 stars) - I'm super-picky about my romantic comedies, but so far, Lauren Blakely hits all my humor buttons just right. Mister O is light and funny without being weird or dorky, while also having all the emotion I look for in a romance.

Biggest Tearjerkers

Both of these books were so intensely emotional I couldn't choose between them.

Love in the Light by Laura Kaye (5 stars)

Where Winter Finds You by J. R. Ward (5 stars)

Sweetest Romances

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

Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer (5 stars)

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer (5 stars)

Steamiest Romance

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.

Mister O by Lauren Blakely (5 stars)

Most Impressive Debuts

All but one of these were 2019 releases, and they were all the debut books for each of these authors and quite impressive for a first effort.

Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US by Lenny Duncan (5 stars)*

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (5 stars)*

Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph by Yusra Mardini (5 stars)

Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future by Pete Buttigieg (4 ½ stars)*

Best Overall Hero

Caden Grayson (Love in the Light by Laura Kaye)

Best Overall Heroine

Alessia Demachi (The Mister by E. L. James*)

Most Tortured Hero

Caden Grayson (Love in the Light by Laura Kaye)

Most Tortured Heroine

Talin McKade (Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh)

Hottest Heroes

I couldn't decide between these two guys, so I'm naming them both.

Nick Hammer (Mister O by Lauren Blakely)

Phil Jones (Forbidden Nights with a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks)

Most Perfect Couple

Caden Grayson & Makenna James (Love in the Light by Laura Kaye)

Most Evil Villains

Reseph aka Pestilence (Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione)

Casimir & The Malcontents (Forbidden Nights with a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks)

Throe (The Savior by J. R. Ward*)

Chalen (Prisoner of Night by J. R. Ward*)

Most Memorable Supporting Characters

Sarah, Lacy & Nellie Jean (The Texan's Wager by Jodi Thomas)

Nexi (Prisoner of Night by J. R. Ward*)

Butch, Syn & Rochelle (Blood Truth by J. R. Ward*)

Nate (The Savior by J. R. Ward*)

Phineas (Forbidden Nights with a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks)

Denny & Rachel Hunter (An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon)

Eliza (Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson)

Most Memorable Child Characters

Cerelia (Two Little Lies by Liz Carlyle)

Aaron (Night Falls Like Silk by Kathleen Eagle)

Deedee (The Kill Order by James Dashner)

Renesmee Carlie Cullen (Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer)

Megan Walker (Dirty Secrets by Karen Rose)

Jem and Mandy Mackenzie (An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon)

Most Memorable Animal Characters

Dog (Rapture by J. R. Ward)

George (Patience for Christmas by Grace Burrowes)

Fido (Mister O by Lauren Blakely)

Hal (Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione)

Ceasar & Princess Buttercup (Seduced at Midnight by Jacquie D'Alessandro)

Silas & King George (Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson)

Sam (Hot & Heavy by Sandra Hill)

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Leads

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

Alex Fuentes (Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles) - Gang member

Nick Hammer (Mister O by Lauren Blakely) - Cartoonist

Harper Holiday (Mister O by Lauren Blakely) - Magician

Duran (Prisoner of Night by J. R. Ward*) - Cult survivor

Patience Friendly (Patience for Christmas by Grace Burrowes) - Advice columnist

Dougal MacHugh (Patience for Christmas by Grace Burrowes) - Newspaper publisher

Thomas Warrior (Night Falls Like Silk by Kathleen Eagle) - Graphic novel author/artist

Truman Taylor & Sayra Martin (Small Blessings by DeWanna Pace) - Telegraph operators

Viviana Alessandri (Two Little Lies by Liz Carlyle) - Opera singer

Most Unique/Unusual Romance Plots

Prisoner of Night by J. R. Ward* - When a beautiful female vampire's brother is kidnapped by a ruthless drug lord, she makes a deal with him to find and return his "beloved" in exchange for her brother's freedom. He offers her a secret weapon in the form of a handsome, alluring male vampire. Her new companion not only survived being raised in a cult, but also being the drug lord's captive for two decades. Now all he wants is vengeance against the person who caused his pain. They must work together to overcome the perils that await them, but can they learn to trust one another?

Patience for Christmas by Grace Burrowes - An advice columnist is challenged by her publisher to engage in a Christmas advice-athon with her chief rival at a different newspaper. As she works nearly day and night with her publisher to hone these columns during the two weeks leading up to the holiday, they being to fall in love despite past differences. But can their burgeoning new affection overcome the huge secret he's been hiding from her?

Night Falls Like Silk by Kathleen Eagle - A brilliant comic book artist who lives a largely reclusive life, losing himself in the fantasy worlds he creates, meets a wealthy, young widow when they get into a bidding war over a set of Native American ledger drawings at an auction. When he accepts the task of mentoring her talented young nephew, the two quickly fall into a passionate affair. But when the ledger drawings disappear, suspicion for the theft falls squarely on the hapless hero, because this crime and several others bear an eerie similarity to events in a graphic novel he's been working on but hasn't yet published. Is he losing his mind or is someone tricking him into thinking that his comics are taking on a life of their own?

Best Opening Lines

Navy SEAL Lieutenant Ian MacLean looked over his Last Will and Testament... and began to laugh. (Hot & Heavy by Sandra Hill)

My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter. (Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land)

Ask me my three favorite things and the answers are so easy they roll of my tongue: hitting a homerun for my softball league, drawing a killer cartoon panel, and oh yeah -- making a woman come so hard she sees stars. (Mister O by Lauren Blakely)

Grave. And not as in serious. As in headstone and freshly disturbed earth, as in a body down under, as in ashes to ashes, dust to dust. (Rapture by J. R. Ward)

Best Overall Quotes

"I want to look into someone's eyes and feel like he knows me, gets me, understands me. I want him to see my quirks and accept them, not try to change them. I want to know what that's like."    - Harper Holiday (Mister O by Lauren Blakely)

"I know that war is the failure of diplomacy and the failure of leaders to make alternative decisions."     - Ronan Farrow (War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence)

"Opening yourself up to making mistakes and being vulnerable is what makes it beautiful and special with the person you love."     - Sierra (Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles)

"Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us; so be quick to love, make haste to be kind, and go in peace to follow the good road of blessing."     - Pete Buttigieg (Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and a Model for America's Future*)

Funniest Quotes

"I made lasagna for dinner," Tamsyn called out. "That work for you?"

He continued to look at her, as if he'd drink her up with his eyes. "Anything is fine."

"Maybe I shouldn't waste my lasagna on you, then." Tamsyn grabbed a container from the cooling unit. "How about some cardboard instead?"

Brenna found herself amused in spite of the blood that continued to scent the air and the taut expectation that stretched between her and Judd. Lips twitching, she waited for his response.

"Cardboard has no nutritional value." Utterly toneless. "Lasagna would be a better choice."     - Judd Lauren, Brenna Kincaid, Tamsyn Ryder (Caressed by Ice by Nalini Singh)

"UG staff is patching up wargs, and all surviving Guardians are tied up," Wraith said, "But they could probably use some medical attention. Especially the one dipshit with the idiotic Mohawk. He lost a lot of blood."

"Because you ate him," Sin said wryly.

Wraith blinked with exaggerated innocence. "Fighting makes me hungry."     - Wraith & Sin (Sin Undone by Larissa Ione)

"You do mean it, then," I said. "You feel ... er ... betrothed to her?"

"Well, of course he does, Sassenach," Jamie said, reaching for another slice of toast. "He left her his dog."     - Claire & Jamie Fraser (An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon)

Most Emotional Quotes

Carter placed her fingers over his hand and signed a single sign.

"I love you too," she answered.

"How did you know what I said?" He moved his fingers along her arm trying to convince himself she was truly with him.

"I listened with my heart."     - Carter McKoy & Bailee Moore (The Texan's Wager by Jodi Thomas)

"How can I be angry with the other half of my soul?" he asked, his tone so tender it tore little pieces out of her heart. "I have a temper, baby, and I know I fucking brood. But even if I act pissed, even if I snarl, it doesn't mean I love you any less. Your soul shines, Tally, and I'm so damn glad it shines for me."     - Clay Bennett & Talin McKade (Mine to Possess by Nalini Singh)

"Straight up, Mels, the only reason I haven't completely jumped you is because I can't. I...can't." He threw up his free hand and let it fall back down to the bedspread. "And you know what sucks? I've been with a lot of women."

Annnnnnnd that made her chest hurt. "Before you were injured..."

He nodded. "Of all the things for my memory to come back on, right?"

Cue another kick in the solar plexus. "You remember them?"

"I hate it because I would trade every single random fuck for just one night with you." He brushed her face with his fingertips and then brought his thumb to her mouth. With the same gentle pressure he'd put against her wrist, he caressed her lower lip. "I'd give up every one of them. Matter of fact, it feels like...a curse to have finally found someone like you, only to have it be too late. And that's where it's at. It's too late for me, Mels, and that's how you're killing me. When I look at you, when I see you move, when you smile or take a deep breath, I just... I die a little. Every time."     - Matthias Hault & Mels Carmichael (Rapture by J.R. Ward)

Most Romantic Quotes

Nick: What kind of kisses?

Princess: Kisses that make me melt.

Nick: That's the best kind.     - Nick Hammer & Harper Holiday (Mister O by Lauren Blakely)

"And what do you want right now?" Right now I itch to heal his wounds and forget my own.

He touches my cheek with the tips of his fingers.

My breath hitches. "Do you want to kiss me, Alex?" I whisper.

"Dios mio, I want to kiss you ... to taste your lips, your tongue." He gently traces my lips with the tips of his fingers. "Do you want me to kiss you? Nobody else would know but the two of us."     - Alex Fuentes & Brittany Ellis (Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles)

"That dog is a wolf, is he not?"

"Aye, well, mostly."

A small flash of hazel told him not to quibble.

"And yet he is thy boon companion, a creature of rare courage and affection, and altogether a worthy being?"

"Oh, aye," he said with more confidence. "He is."

She gave him an even look.

"Thee is a wolf, too, and I know it. But thee is my wolf, and best thee know that."

He'd started to burn when she spoke, an ignition swift and fierce as the lighting of one of his cousin's matches. He put out his hand, palm forward, to her, still cautious lest she too, burst into flame.

"What I said to ye, before . . . that I kent ye loved me-"

She stepped forward and pressed her palm to his, her small, cool fingers linking tight.

"What I say to thee now is that I do love thee. And if thee hunts at night, thee will come home."

Under the sycamore, the dog yawned and laid his muzzle on his paws.

"And sleep at they feet," Ian whispered, and gathered her in with his one good arm, both of them blazing bright as day.     - Ian Murray & Rachel Hunter (An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon)

Sexiest Quotes

"Yes, Harper, you can totally ride me, and I will give you ten thousand orgasms before I even have one. Because I am that kind of lover. I am generous and giving, and I would absolutely love to introduce you to my tongue so I can do things to you that will turn your world inside out and leave you begging for more. How's that for an answer?"     - Nick Hammer (Mister O by Lauren Blakely)

"Any guy who thinks he automatically knows how to please a woman is a conceited ass. Every woman is one of a kind. Every woman has her own titillations and turn-ons."     - Nick Hammer (Mister O by Lauren Blakely)

"Sweetheart, if it's not too much of an imposition, I would be forever beholden to you if you could kindly assume a reclining position so I can screw your brains out."     - Phil Jones (Forbidden Nights with a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks)

Prettiest Covers

The Texan's Wager Book Cover

The Texan's Wager

by Jodi Thomas 

The Mister Book Cover

The Mister

by E. L. James* 

Seduced at Midnight Book Cover

Seduced at Midnight

by Jacquie D'Alessandro 

Sexiest Covers

Mister O Book Cover

Mister O

by Lauren Blakely 

Love in the Light Book Cover

Love in the Light

by Laura Kaye 

Pleasure Me Book Cover

Pleasure Me

by Monica Burns 

Most Interesting/Unusual Covers

Breaking Dawn Book Cover

Breaking Dawn

by Stephenie Meyer 

 The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner Book Cover

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

by Stephenie Meyer 

 The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide Book Cover

The Twilight Saga: The Official Illustrated Guide

by Stephenie Meyer 

*This book was published in 2019. 

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