Foanna’s 2014 Reading Roundup – Part 1

rr 1Happy new year, Banditas and Bandita Buddies! I hope 2015 is fantastic for you.

That’s enough of the looking ahead. Let’s look back to 2014 and some great books.

I thought I’d devote my spots on the Romance Bandits for January and February to listing some of the wonderful reads I found last year. After all, we all love recommendations for our towering TBR piles, don’t we?

Today, I’m going to talk about romances. Next month, I’m going to talk about books that aren’t romances (or at least not primarily – I find my favorite books nearly always include some sort of romantic plot, even if only as a subsidiary). You’ll notice that I’ve steered clear of books by my tremendously talented Bandit sisters – if I included theirs, we’d be here all year!

rr 2I blogged a couple of months ago about how I was on a major Nora Roberts kick. That looks like it might continue this year. Of the many Noras I read in 2014, my favorite is THE WITNESS, her story of a super-intelligent, high achieving teenager who finally kicks over the traces and rebels, only to be forced into a living nightmare when she witnesses a mafia killing. The woman grows up, always on the run, always smart enough to stay alive – but what happens when she falls in love with the local police chief? Is it time to stop running and finally face her enemies?

This one has two wonderful central characters (I love Abigail’s dorky but smart take on life), a lovely romance and some seriously good suspense. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you grab it now! For a peek at some of the other Nora books I read this year, here’s my blog on the subject:

rr 3The next book, THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT by Kandy Shepherd, is by a friend of mine. It just happens that some of my favorite reads last year are by people I know – they’re all well worth picking up! Summer is simply gorgeous, a lovely story about two damaged people who were in love as teenagers and reconnect after life hasn’t been kind to either of them. It’s a story about bad timing turning into forever after. I laughed and cried in this one – and you’ll fall in love with the town of Dolphin Bay where the book is set. You can read an interview with Kandy here:

The next sooper-dooper read for you is THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE, the debut novel by Vanessa Barneveld, another friend of mine.

rr 5This YA is a beautiful story about coming to accept who you are and finding the right person and learning that life is a mixture of happy and sad. It’s also a darn good ghostly mystery story as heroine Keira struggles to answer the questions surrounding the death of high school hero Jimmy and in the process realizes that she’s always loved his older brother Dan. Even if you’re not usually a YA fan, give this one a go. You won’t be disappointed. You can see where Vanessa visited the lair and gave us the lowdown on her book here:

With my next recommendation, I’m cheating slightly as it’s a series of six, M.C. Beaton/Marion Chesney’s The Travelling Matchmaker books. These are trad Regencies full of wit and romance and classic period touches like duels and highwaymen and marriages of convenience.

rr 4When housekeeper Hannah Pym unexpectedly receives a bequest from her late employer, she determines to seek the adventure that her quiet life in domestic service has so far prevented. She sets out on various stagecoaches and meets danger and excitement and young lovers and a chance to discover talents she never knew she possessed. These books are such fun – definitely a series to put a smile on your face. Here’s a link to a more detailed review of the six books that I did on the Romance Dish:

My next choice from 2014 is a corker of a steamy reunion story from lair favorite Annie West. For some reason, I couldn’t link this one through the cover, but here’s the Amazon link:

rr 6I love all Annie’s stories but this one really hit it out of the ballpark for me. Orsino Chatsfield and his estranged wife Poppy have so much passion between them that when they come together in a glamorous French chateau, they set the Loire Valley aflame! This is part of the Harlequin Chatsfield continuity but you can read the story as a stand-alone. Give it a go – these characters are unforgettable. Here’s a link to where Annie visited the lair to talk about this book:

My last favorite book of the year is one I read in December. Who doesn’t like a Christmas charmer? Mary Jo Putney‘s collection of four Regency novellas plus a contemporary, CHRISTMAS REVELS, is uber charming. All the stories are great, but my particular favorite is The Christmas Cuckoo where a capable young woman who believes she’s on the shelf collects the wrong man from the local inn and takes him home for a family Christmas. A lovely story about life delivering some gorgeous surprises just when you think your chances have run out. And you’ll fall in love with Jack Howard just like Meg does.

So that’s my romance round-up. I’ve got a mixture of women’s fiction and mysteries and nonfiction coming next month so make sure you check in.

In the meantime, what were your favorite romances of 2014? I’m always looking for recommendations.

1BanditBootyAnd because I love to share my friends’ books, I’ll give one commenter today their choice from THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT by Kandy Shepherd, REBEL’S BARGAIN by Annie West, or THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE by Vanessa Barneveld. The prize is available internationally. Good luck!Β 

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  • Jane says:

    Hello Anna,
    I want some of those cookies you baked. My favorite reads of 2014 included Kristen Callihan’s “The Hook Up,” Julie James’ “It Happened One Wedding,” Miranda Neville’s “Lady Windermere’s Lover” and Jaci Burton’s “Hope Ignites.”

    • Jane, I have to tell you they were scrumptious and my elderly friend looked quite bright and spry when I gave them to him! Hmm, instead of cookies, would you like a rooster instead? πŸ™‚

      I’ve read Kristen, Julie and Miranda before – love her historicals. I’ll have to check Jaci out. Thanks for the recommendations.

  • Annie West says:

    Anna, I love the fact you’re looking back to favourite reads, and especially that ‘Rebel’s Bargain’ made your list! Wow. Colour me happy!

    I’ve read several of the books you’ve listed, including ‘This is My Afterlife’ and ‘The Summer They Never Forgot’ so I can see I was lucky to make the grade – great books! I’m fascinated by the MC Beatons. Hope to check them out soon!

    Happy new year, Banditas and buddies!

    • Annie, I think you might get a smile out of the MCBs. I’ll bring them down sometime when I visit. They’re nice and short too which can be a virtue when we’re all so busy. And honestly, as I said, I love all your books, but Rebel really struck me like a comet. Fantastic story. Thanks for writing it.

  • Amy Conley says:

    One of my favs was one you recommended, I think the title is THAT SUMMER by Lauren Willing. Loved it!

  • Helen says:


    A great list and I have to agree with you about Kandy and Annie’s books I loved both of them πŸ™‚ I have only read two of Nora’s stories and I did enjoy them but her back list is massive so I tend to steer clear LOL and I really need to get Vanessa’s one I have heard so many good things about it.

    I read some great books in 2014 one of them was Ella Carey’s The Paris Time Capsule you really should give it a read Shooting Butterflies by T M Clark is also fantastic although maybe not quite a romance but with lots of romance and suspense in it Cathryn Hein’s The French Prize and Rachael John’s Outback Blaze and I very much loved Sarah Morgan’s O’Neil Brothers series yes and the list could go on LOL

    Have Fun

  • Happy New Year, Banditas! Anna, sooper-dooper congratulations to you on your multiple Australian Romance Readers Awards nominations!

    Wow, I must be dreaming β€” thank you so much for recommending This Is Your Afterlife. You’ve made my year! I had such fun here at the lair on release day.

    I love Mary Jo Putney. I’m heading straight over to nab Christmas Revels. Can I just mention how much I loved your Christmas charmer, Her Christmas Earl? Annie West and Kandy Shepherd books are auto-buys for me β€” they both draw their characters and stories so well.

    One of my favourite reads of 2014 was a YA called I WISH, which I must confess was written by a friend of mine, Elizabeth Langston. It has a dreamy genie with a moral code. Loved it. Also loved a younger YA book called Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan. I was sold on the title alone, but I soon found the story itself was cute and charming.

    Thanks again for the mention, Anna! x

    • Vanessa, congratulations on Afterlife. I just loved it. So much heart.

      And thanks for the shout for Christmas Earl. That was such a fun one to write.

      Both those recommendations from you sound great. Love the title, Flirty Dancing!

  • flchen1 says:

    Hm… a few of my top 2014 reads: Joanna Bourne’s Rogue Spy–great installment in her Spymaster series; a fun new contemporary series from Erin Nicholas set in Sapphire Falls; Tracy Ann Warren’s The Man Plan (the first in the series was pretty good too!); a collection of Mercy Thompson shorts by Patricia Briggs…

    • Fedora, thanks for those recommendations. You know, I haven’t read any of them and a couple of those authors are new to me. Love to find great new books to read!

    • Helen says:

      I have Joanna Bourne’s Rogue Spy on my kindle and I am really looking forward to diving into this one I loved the rest in the series πŸ™‚

      Have Fun

  • Franca Poli says:

    One of the books I read in 2014 and I liked it “Sleigh Bells in the Snow” by Sarah Morgan. I have read two books anche Annie West, but they were in 2013 “Imprisoned by a Vow” and “An Enticing Debt to Pay” very beautiful both.

    • Franca, I love Sarah Morgan’s books and her O’Neill Brothers trilogy was fantastic. So glad you’re another fan. Grab Rebel’s Bargain. You’ll just love it.

  • Quantum says:

    Hi Anna

    Nora’s ‘The Witness’ is one of my favourites …. thanks to your earlier recommendation!

    I would put Julianne MacLean in the super nova class as a writer. Her ‘Pembroke Palace’ series knocked me for six …. the mad earl changes his will so that all of his sons have to marry by Christmas in order to break the weather curse which threatens to flood the castle. MacLean writes some of the most moving love scenes that I have read LOL. Her ‘Color of Heaven’ series is also superb, but closer to the ‘Women’s fiction’ genre I think.

    I also discovered Maggie Osborne’s writing last year. I think ‘Lady Reluctant’ is my favourite of hers … I’m a sucker for pirates and love on the high seas!

    • Quantum says:

      Forgot to mention Sarah Morgan …..I loved ‘Sleigh Bells’ as another Anna Campbell Recommendation!

    • Quantum, thanks for the recommendations. I’ve read Julianne Maclean but not for a long time. Must pick her up again. That sounds like an intriguing premise. A friend of mine lent me a Maggie Osborne a few years ago – loved it. I’ll have to go further into her work. So glad you loved The Witness and the Sarah Morgan – both great, I think!

  • Mary Preston says:

    I am furiously adding to my reading list. It is extremely healthy looking I might add.

    WHEN THE DUKE WAS WICKED by Lorraine Heath was a lot of fun. Beginning with the title.

  • Shannon says:

    Most people have mentioned my favorite books of last year.

    Sarah Morgan’s Maybe This Christmas is the last in the series. The ending is just so wonderful.

    Light My Fire by G. A. Aiken, in theory another dragon romance, but really a continuation of the human/dragon politics of Southland. Yes, you have to read these in order to understand this one.

    Sarah MacLean’s Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover; gotta love Chase.

    Only Enchanting by Mary Balogh, A wounded warrior who stutters avoids family pressure to marry and finds a woman who is just as emotionally distant.

    The Traitor by Grace Burrows-a story about how a man who was a torturer gets his redemption. Again a wonderful ending, and a secondary character that left me almost weeping.

    And then there’s the Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan, which has the best collection of puns in a romance novel ever. I always love a scientist heroine and a man who values her for her mind as well as her body.

    I was on a Carla Kelly spree. Basically, I have loved every book in her Regency series with one exception. I would buy one and then another.

    I am stopping with 7, since that is a natural number according to my college literature professor.

    • Wow, Shannon, that’s a great list. Wonderful to see so many historicals on your list. I love a lot of the authors you mentioned – need to catch up with their more recent stuff (the Mary Balogh sounds wonderful and the Courtney Milan!). Sarah’s books are great. I’ll have to pick Chase up! Thanks for swinging by!

  • Debbie Oxier says:

    I Saw Her Standing There by Marie Force, No Limits by Lori Foster, Grayson by Lisa Eugene, Against the Odds by Angie McKeon, Worth the Fall by Claudia Connor, Cody Walker’ s Woman by Amelia Autin to name a few. Discovered some new authors along the way while continuing several series I enjoy.

  • Minna says:

    It’s a good thing I’m on Goodreads, so I don’t have to trust my memory alone. Some of my favourites were:

    Undercover Warrior and Eagle’s Last Stand by Aimee Thurlo
    Ashes & Alchemy by Cindy Spencer Pape
    First to Burn by Anna Richland
    Dangerous Angel by Stacy Gail
    Concealed in Death and Festive in Death by J.D. Robb
    Dancing with Dragons and ‘Til Dragons Do Us Part Lorenda Christensen
    Nobody by Sarah M. Anderson
    Untamed Wolf and Loyal Wolf by Linda O. Johnston
    Alien Collective by Gini Koch
    The Fire Within by Dana Marie Bell
    Forged by Desire by Bec McMaster

    • Minna, great list. I’m on the Australian Romance Readers Association loop and they do a monthly tally of books read. It means I’ve started keeping track of what I’m reading. Great fodder when it comes to a blog like this.

  • pjpuppymom says:

    You never fail to add new books to my tbr, Anna! I read a lot of wonderful books last year. Here are a few of my favorites (excluding Banditas, who all wrote some outstanding books!).

    TO SCOTLAND WITH LOVE by Patience Griffin – a beautifully written debut and my favorite contemporary of the year with a Gerard Butler inspired hero and a heroine searching for roots while struggling with a moral dilemma. Toss in a slew of meddling quilters, a small coastal village in Scotland and I’m hooked.

    A LOVE OF VENGEANCE by Nancy Haviland – another debut, this one romantic suspense set within the world of organized crime. Haviland’s characters and writing hooked me from the get-go and held my attention until the very end. Mob books are not my norm but I fell head over heels for this one and can’t wait for the next book in the series.

    VIRTUE FALLS – an earthquake, a tsunami, a decades old murder and a serial killer roaming free in a small west coast town. Christina Dodd takes her writing to a new level in this stunning, edge-of-your-seat suspense thriller. I loved every nail-biting word of it!

    NEVER JUDGE A LADY BY HER COVER by Sarah MacLean. MacLean saved the best for last in her wonderful conclusion to the Rules of Scoundrels series. Chase. I had no idea…

    THREE WEEKS WITH LADY X by Eloisa James – a stellar addition to a stellar career. A rough-around-the-edges hero, an intelligent, self-made heroine, brilliant writing and a journey that ripped my heart out then mended it with stunning effect make this my #1 book of the year and my all-time favorite Eloisa James story.

    • PJ, thanks for those recommendations. I’ve got both the Sarah M and the Eloisa on my radar – noticed Janga loved them too when she did her list. I hadn’t heard of the Patience Griffin before I read Janga’s best of 2014 column (which was the inspiration for this one). It sounds right up my alley. I’ll definitely get that one.

  • Maureen says:

    A favorite of mine was The Best Kind of Trouble by Lauren Dane.

  • jcp says:

    The Christmas Bargain by Shanna Hatfield

  • Sally Schmidt says:

    So many more books to add to my TBR! I am so far behind on my Nora Roberts. I think anything she writes is a romance. And the M. C. Beaton series – thanks! I’ll be reading those for sure.

    I retired in March of last year, and even though I don’t really have much more free time (not sure how that happens) I told myself I did and have been reading much, much more and going back to include genres I hadn’t spent much time in lately. I am rediscovering romance and cozies and remember why I loved them in the first place.

    Some of my favorites that I read in 2014 were (of course) Her Christmas Earl, Christmas at the Chatsfield by Maisey Yates online, A Matchmaker’s Christmas by Donna Lea Simpson (lucky find), The Perfect Gift by Jo Robertson, and anything Annie West or Lorraine Heath.

    • Sally, laughing at you expecting to have lots of extra time in retirement. Everyone I know who retires seems to be busier than they were when they worked! Wishing you lots of happy years of doing your own thing. I’ve read lots of cozies and romances this year too. Swing back next year – I’ve got three mysteries in the second part of this column. Might give you some more stuff for the TBR pile.

      Thanks for mentioning Earl! So glad you enjoyed it.

  • Kim says:

    I agree with your recommendations of The Witness and Rebel’s Bargain. Both were good reads. I also liked:

    Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran ( A betrayed duke retreats from the public and his family & a woman with secrets helps him regain his life)

    The Hidden Blade & My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas (historical romance meets wuxia. These books must be read in order to get the full impact)

    Rogue Spy by Joanna Bourne (English & French spies set during the French Revolution)

    When the Duke Was Wicked by Lorraine Heath (Heroine has a huge secret that she feels makes her unlovable. It’s a friends-to-lovers trope).

    It Happened One Wedding by Julie James (This author excels in strong, funny & intelligent heroines).

    • Kim, so glad you enjoyed Rebel and the Witness. Give the others a go – they’re all great reads!

      A few people have mentioned the Jo Bourne. I need to catch up with that series. Lots of other historical lovelies there to catch up with too. Thanks for the recommendations!

  • catslady says:

    Some authors that I’ve read more than one book this year are Grace Burrowes, Linda Howard, Jodi Picoult, Cathy Maxwell and Nora Roberts. I’ve never read a book from them that I haven’t enjoyed.

    • Catslady, isn’t it lovely to have those go-to authors? Liz Carlyle is one of mine. Love her historicals. One of the lovely things about being on a Nora glom is that her backlist is so huge – I’ve been at her all year and there are still plenty of books left to read.

  • Anna, you’ve listed four of my favourite reads for the year! The only two I haven’t read are Mary Jo Putney’s and MC Beaton’s books!

    So there’s another 2 to add to my TBR and then there’s all the suggestions in you comments! I need a reading clone too… actually I think I’d like to do the reading and let the clone do everything else!

    I’d love to list all my great reads for 2014 but the list would be enormous so here are just a few… there’s Sarah Mayberry’s WITHIN REACH and a YA by Rachel Bailey – THE SUMMER OF JAKE. And of course, your marvellous WHAT A DUKE DARES.

    • Sharon, so glad you enjoyed most of my list. Aren’t those books by Kandy, Nora, Annie and Vanessa fantastic? All of them have such a big emotional impact too. I think you’d like the Mary Jo Putney too – definitely worth trying.

      Sarah Mayberry’s a go-to author for me – you introduced me to her, yay, you. I’m really anticipating her…Anticipation which should be out soon. Loved the first book in that series, Satisfaction.

  • Great list here, La Divina!!

    Of course you know I LOVED Annie’s Rebel’s Bargain. Awesome book!

    What a Duke Dares – LOVED this book !!

    The Captive
    The Traitor
    The Laird

    All by Grace Burrowes

    Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran

    Lady Windermere’s Lover by Miranda Neville

    Three Weeks with Lady X by Eloisa James

    The Duke’s Guide to Correct Behavior by Megan Frampton

    Gracious, I could go on and on. It has been a great year for reading romance!

    • Louisa, thanks so much for mentioning What a Duke Dares. That’s lovely.

      A few people have mentioned Grace Burrowes in this list – wonderful to have a great new historical voice out there. Love the rest on your list!

  • Hi Anna! Thank you for the round-up. I always enjoy books you recommend and I’m taking careful note. I didn’t read as many romances in 2014 as I usually do but one I enjoyed very much was by and English author, Jill Mansell called Don’t Want to Miss a Thing. Set in an English village with a nice community feel to it. Really lovely. And of course you know I loved Her Christmas Earl!

    • Christina, I just checked out the Jill Mansell. Looks great. Ordered it. Thanks for the recommendation. And thanks so much for saying you enjoyed THE CHRISTMAS EARL. That was a really enjoyable story to write.

  • Mozette says:

    Romances… hmmm… I haven’t read that many this past year, only 2.

    Yes, I know, not very many is it?

    But I loved them nonetheless.

    ‘Her Christmas Earl’ by Anna Campbell – I read a few days before Christmas… very nice, lovely and fun.

    ‘The Watcher’ by Jo Robertson – okay, this was romantic thriller. But there were some really steamy parts in it. πŸ˜€

    I did reviews on both these books; and they’re on My Reading List blog. πŸ˜€

    • Thanks for mentioning Christmas Earl, Mozette. So glad you enjoyed it! And I appreciate the review too. You’ll have to swing by next month and check out my recommendations in the other genres!

      • Mozette says:

        Hey you’re welcome, Anna! πŸ˜€

        I scored your free one when you offered it up last year and got in and read it when there was absolutely bub-kiss on tv… and I mean zero… to watch.

        I got so into it that I almost missed my favourite program: ‘Supernatural’… πŸ˜›

        I mean, your book is wonderful; and is still on my tablet. Might get in and read it again soon. πŸ˜€

  • Anna, what a fun post! I remember that you’ve lauded the Beaton series before, so I’m going to try it.

    I loved The Witness. How could I not with a smalltown sheriff hero and a geek heroine who loves Star Trek?

    It’s hard to pick favorites, and the past year has kind of blurred into the prior one.

    I enjoyed Jesse Hayworth’s Harvest at Mustang Ridge a lot.

    Dianna Love’s Kiss the Enemy was great.

    Elle Kennedy’s Midnight Games was also fabulous RS.

    I finally tried Nalini Singh this past year. Loved them all, but Archangel’s Shadow and Shield of Winter were standouts.

    I also enjoyed Julie James’ It Happened One Wedding and Lori Austin’s The Lone Warrior.

    • Great list of recommendations, Nancy! So glad you’re another fan of the Witness. I love how she makes that heroine her own person – often when those slightly offbeat characters fall in love in a romance, they lose the things that make them offbeat. This girl didn’t. And that hero was absolutely lovely. I haven’t read Nalini in a while (she’s a delight in person if you ever get the chance to meet her). Must catch up on her books!

  • Thanks so much to everyone who swung by and for all the wonderful recommendations. I’m clearly going to be starting off my reading year with a bang.

    Don’t forget to check back to see who won their choice from Kandy, Annie and Vanessa’s book!

  • Laney4 says:

    Ah come on, Annie! Choosing favourite stories is like choosing favourite children!
    I read 306 books last year, so do you think I remember?
    Thankfully, I see above you have lots of “wonderful recommendations”, so I’ll just say that I read a BUNCH of Annie West’s books last year and loved every one of them! Would love to read REBEL’S BARGAIN too, as I hope to read ALL of her books (which is quite an undertaking, I understand)!

  • Hi Anna – Thank you so much for including THE SUMMER THEY NEVER FORGOT in your list of favourite romances for 2014 – and I’m in such fine company!
    I love THE WITNESS only read it last year, it was such a page turner and fabulous characters. I also read Annie West’s and Vanessa Barneveld’s books and really enjoyed them too.
    I didn’t read nearly as much as I usually do last year but a standout for me was your HER CHRISTMAS EARL even though it was short it was witty and sexy and with such endearing characters.