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Best Romance Books of the Decade (2010-2019) according to r/RomanceBooks
First off, thank you to everyone who participated, by either nominating and/or voting in our Best of the Decade Romance books poll. Below you will find the top three (and in some cases the top one) books in every category polled.
Descriptions of books are linked to Goodreads, and not included here as the post became too long. Quoted text is from the person who nominated the book as to why they felt it should be one of the best.
For a quick look at all books nominated you can find the spreadsheet I used to track here.
Best Fantasy Romance - Nomination Thread
1st Place: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, 2016; YA, M/F, Open door; nominated by u/failedsoapopera
Why I love this book so much:2nd Place: Radiance by Grace Draven, 2015; M/F, open door; nominated by u/Hrylla
*It deals with real mental health issues within an interesting & rich fantasy world>
*The chemistry between the main characters is on point
*It has so many favorite tropes: friends to lovers, fated mates, there's only one bed!, training montages, etc.
*Watching Feyre find self worth, power, and purpose, as well as friendship and love is just so healing for me
*It straddles the line between NA and regular fantasy, but I think it deserves a place in the fantasy contest because it was widely loved, made an impact on the romance world when it was released, and while there are some technical issues with SJM's writing IMO, it's a well-crafted, fun, and heartwarming story. Plus, it's got a great cliffhanger.
This book fits so many of the things I personally like3rd Place: Uprooted by Naomi Novik, 2015, YA, M/F, Close Door; nominated by u/SphereMyVerse
*Altar diplomacy (arranged marriage)
*Besides that the pace and story just flows so nicely. Being a sucker for world building I also thoroughly enjoyed myself (that weird dish where she had to kill the pie? Great!).
*It also features such swoon worth quotes as: "Woman of day," he said slowly. "You mean everything to me.”
To be quite honest I’m nominating this one cos it was one of the first fantasy romances I read, and I think it needs to be here! It was a huge hit at the time. It’s the classic immortal hero with deeply ridiculous name meets and is awful to a feisty young woman, who gives as good as she gets despite the weird power dynamic. It‘s a go-to rec for a newbie to fantasy romance.Best Debut Novel: Nomination Thread
Also it should have been F/F, Kasia and Agnieszka had way more chemistry, Sarkan was just tolerable some of the time, thank you for listening to my TED talk
1st Place: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, 2018; CR, M/F, Open Door, Own Voices; nominated by u/nmnenado
An obvious nomination and continuous top rec on the sub. This book gender-flips the Pretty Woman trope and gets points for featuring racial- and neuro-diversity, no-shame sex work, a sweet love story, and super steamy sex.2nd Place: Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore, 2019; HR, M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/Yellowtail799
Annabelle Archer, the brilliant destitute daughter of a country vicar, meets Sebastian Devereux, the cold and calculating Duke of Montgomery. She has earned a place at Oxford, rare as she is one of the first female students, and it is dependent upon her support of women's suffrage. He is looking for a wife, not an outspoken commoner who may upset his political position. Love ensues.3rd Place: The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, 2016; CR, M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/expatb
Quality Points: historically rich; the problem that separates them from being together is actually dealt with (not waved away) in a way that makes sense.
This book took contemporary romance by storm and skyrocketed Sally Thorne to stardom. She created a great enemies to lovers story with a secretly pining hero that was hard to resist for many a reader. Including me! I loved Lucy and Josh and the sweetness that developed between them.Best Historical - Medieval - Nomination Thread
This book was so popular and well liked that many (including me) had such high expectations for her second novel that there was no way she could live up to it and the book fell flat. To this day, The Hating Game is one of the most recommended CR, enemies to lovers book out there.
1st Place: Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks, 2012; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/seantheaussie
No reason given.
2nd Place: Agnes Moor's Wild Knight by Alyssa Cole, 2014; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/expatb
I think that there is a real talent to tell a story in a shorter format, and Alyssa Cole is mastering that with her novellas. Her ability to have a set-up, build a relationship, have a nice level of steam and have me buy in to it all in 50 pages, is something to be lauded.3rd Place: Far, Bright, and Terrible by Elizabeth Kingston, 2017; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/SaMnReader
I loved this novella about Agnes, who is a black courtier in James IV court. I felt that there was a real connection between Agnes and the Wild Knight, which is a switch for me, as someone who doesn't like short timelines, or insta-love. But it really worked for me. I loved that her Highlander had come for her - it was HOT.
I also really enjoyed the uniqueness of having a black character in that setting. In reality, they existed, but we don't see them too often in books and the fact that she is present and has a mind and is basically a diplomat for James made me really like Agnes and this story.
I could have nominated any of this series. Kingston takes difficult characters and has believable growth through the book. This one was very emotional, taking a character that was loathed and felt irredeemable in the prior book and giving her a love story to end all love stories. The hero is a teddy bear, the heroine is a manipulative, powerful force made so by her excellent backstory. The story reckons with the girl she was and the woman she became-and the hero loving her for it all.Best LGBTQI Books - Thread
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1st Place: Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, 2019; CR, M/M, Open Door; nominated by u/arsenal_kate
It’s just so incredibly charming and sweet. It’s perfect escapism, both on the relationship level and on the political level.2nd Place: Glitterland by Alexis Hall, 2013; CR, M/M; nominated by u/eros_bittersweet
A highly-educated writer with bipolar disorder is smitten at first sight with a skinny-jeans-wearing, glitterly-epauletted Essex lad. They have a flirtation in which Ash, the writer, castigates himself for the attraction he feels towards Darian, who he initially thinks is as brainless as he is unapologetically tacky: "Hunjad Pacent!" But all is not what it seems. During their initial hookup Darian is thoughtful and caring, beyond what one would expect of a one-night-stand, and he expresses interest in dating Ash. As their relationship progresses, he demonstrates that he is the better person of the two and that he is good for Ash in every way: he brings him down to earth, he forces him to think of others. His every action, from cooking him dinner to bringing him timely wet-wipes, is thoughtful and demonstrative of his care. But Ash's obstacles to love are many, and all of them are within himself. He must overcome his own prejudices against Darian's background, and his personal demons, which tell him he does not deserve love, to be the partner Darian deserves.3rd Place: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, 2011; HR, M/M, Closed Door; nominated by u/expatb
A very modern story about pride and prejudice, this book is, in my opinion, just in another class of storytelling. Not only is Ash's prejudice against Darian a theme, but so is our own prejudice as the reader, in (most likely) assuming Ash is the more worthy man of the two. In Ash's metaphorically laden internal monologues, which are wildly creative, his imagery quite often becomes overwrought and disproportionate to the events and things described. Doubt creeps in gradually: is Ash, so very intelligent and privileged, not sometimes just as absurd as Darian can be, if not more so? Isn't Darian, Essex Salt-of-the-Earth, actually a lovely person; his goodness, emotional intelligence and instinctive sense of rightness just as worthy of our esteem as Ash's cleverness? Alexis Hall's intensely immersive first-person narrative tells a love story that also makes us question our own prejudices. And as the book unfolds, we judge each of the heroes less for their ways of expressing themselves. By the end of the book, I found I was unable to be amused at Ash's hyperbole when I understood how much pain lurked behind it, and understood that Darian's absurdities mattered far less than his good heart.
Ash's burdensome inner life is a heartbreaking picture of bipolar disorder. This is a book that does not use mental illness to force drama upon the plot: one of the most affective moments of the book is when Ash builds a simple trip to the grocery store into a psychological crisis. His actions, though they stem from his illness, are often selfish, yet we see how much it hurts him to carry them out, how much he loathes himself for things done out of a sense of self-preservation. Importantly, he does not need to become perfect or healed to win Darian's love: he must merely accept himself as deserving of it.
It's a wonderful, thematically rich book with a beautiful love story as its heart.
This book is beautifully written. Miller's prose and the fact that she is a high school classics teacher as her main job helps with the intimate knowledge she has of the Iliad and the time period, which shines through in her storytelling. She fills in the blanks left by Homer in his epic poem and creates such a believable love story between Patroclus and Achilles. This book was great.Best Contemporary Novel - Nomination Thread
1st Place: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, 2018; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/theheartofanartichok
I think this book deserves to win because it was unique and very sexy. I loved the hero and the way this book treated both autism and sex work. I can’t think of another book that made me sigh and swoon the way TKQ did.2nd Place: Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert, 2019; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/expatb
This was the first book I had ever read by Hibbert and what an introduction! This book blew me away with the humor, the steam, and the representation of people with illnesses that aren’t immediately apparent. They way that she handles both characters and their issues so deftly and weaves them into the story is amazing and set the bar (high) for me. Red became instant book boyfriend material. And Chloe was someone I really wanted to get to know and hang out with.3rd Place: Pretty Face by Lucy Parker, 2017; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/1RexManningFan
I enjoyed it so much, that immediately after I read it, I sent it to a few of my friends for them to read.
*Both characters are genuinely likableBest Paranormal Romance - Nomination Thread
*Slow burn romance. You know it's inevitable, the characters know it's inevitable, but they try to resist
*Obstacles to HEA are not contrived. Feels realistic and again, characters are aware of their issues but work around them
*Unique setting - London theatre world
1st Place: Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews, 2013; M/F; nominated by u/expatb
This was the first book that I read by Andrews and it was fantastic. I loved the slow burn and the alternate universe that they created. A house that is magical and tied to the witch who keeps it? Yes, please. While I don’t tend to favor vampires and werewolves, I really enjoyed the ones in this book! If that doesn’t make it the greatest, nothing will.2nd Place: Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews, 2011; M/F; nominated by u/Scavengerhawk
This book/series is one of a kind. A kickass heroine who LOVES her family and respects herself. The Hero is intimidating and powerful but respects her, listens to her, relies on her knowledge/power when they pair up. It's a slow burn with a lot of character development. You fall in love with her quirky grandmother and her war-veteran mother. She always strives to do the right thing and is true to herself.3rd Place: Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost, 2012; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/Needednewusername
Amazing plot, amazing story, and the perfect slow-burn with just enough banteflirting.
I believe this book should win because both characters have powers that make the other more vulnerable than they had ever been in the past, and that vulnerability leads to a truly beautiful love story!Best Historical - Georgian/Regency - Nomination Thread
1st Place: A Week to be Wicked by Tessa Dare, 2012; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/seantheaussie
Tessa Dare's A Week to Be Wicked is fucking awesome. I spent my time reading it feeling warm inside, with a smile on my face and often squirmed and hummed with happiness. It peaks at the second greatest romantic moment I have yet read.2nd Place: Duke of Sin by Elizabeth Hoyt, 2016; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/mirukushake
*The hero of this book is a uniquely mercurial, vain, and cunning villain, without being an asshole3rd Place: When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James, 2011; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/mirukushake
*One of the darkest hero backstories this side of the 2000s
*Heroine has been given a raw deal in life but still takes pride in what she does, and can find the good in others, including the bad boy hero
*Hot bathtub-related sex
*House M.D., but make it Georgian and add some beauty and the beast vibesBest Young Adult/New Adult Romance - Nomination Thread
*The characters act in very ridiculous and anachronistic ways, but their banter is so hilariously snarky it works anyway
*The MCs actually spend time together and get to know each other in real ways, and the ending of the book beautifully shows just how deep their feelings are
1st Place: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, 2015; FR, M/F, open door; nominated by u/expatb
I feel like Maas almost singlehandedly created the “New Adult” genre. She certainly did for me. This book creates such a beautiful - and hot! - story that gaps that younger reader to adult reader so seamlessly. Plus, it’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling, which is one of my absolute favorites. I thought Feyre was such an interesting heroine and I enjoyed reading about her journey and her ability to take on some very tough situations.2nd Place: The Deal by Elle Kennedy, 2015; CR, M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/urchicken
With how much I enjoyed this one, maybe I’ll finally read the follow up books someday!
This book is such a great introductory book into the New Adult genre. I love the banter between the two MCs. I love that they established a friendship before jumping into bed together. This book was light hearted and fun with just a touch of angst. Also the hero is a hot hockey player, who doesn’t love that?3rd Place: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren, 2017; CR, M/M; nominated by u/booksandwine99
This is a YA m/m romance. It's senior year of high school, and Tanner is a bisexual non-mormon living in Provo, Utah (an area with 98% mormon population). He can't wait to get out of there, and has no plans on meeting anyone in Utah. Then BYU college student Sebastian TA's in his creative writing class and sparks fly. The problem is, Sebastian is a poster boy for devout mormonism and is leaving on a two year mission for the church in a few short months.Best Historical - Western/Americana - No Thread (only one nomination)
I may have loved this more because I am an ex-mormon, but I still reccomend it even if you don't have any knowledge of mormon culture. Christina or Lauren either have history with the church or they did their research because it is spot on. I liked the characters and it had just the right amount of conflict and angst.
Tempest by Miss Beverly Jenkins, 2018; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/grumpyblonde
This book was my first foray into Beverly Jenkins and I loved it! This book has an independent, adventurous heroine (who is a crack shot btw) and a closed-off grumpy hero who mourning the death of his wife and trying to raise their daughter. The characters build a friendship, learn to communicate and bring out the best in each other. Regan, the heroine, updates the hero's outdated views about women. The book delves into the challenges of being black in the US in the 1800s and complex family dynamics. Their daughter is so precious and the main characters have some great chemistry!Best Science Fiction - Nomination Thread
1st Place: The Last Hour of Gann by R Lee Smith, 2013; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/jaynarg
I've been waiting for what feels like forever for this thread! This book is seriously worthy of awards. It's amazing. Coming close to 1000 pages, it has everything. Humans crash landing on an alien planet. Aliens (of course). The writing is wonderful. The world building...wow. The story is just amazing. After I read this the first time it stuck in my head for months. I'm actually rereading it right now. If you read this book, proceed with caution. TW: this book contains a lot of rape2nd Place: Starflight by Melissa Landers, 2016; M/F, YA; nominated by u/everymovieapicture
In the words of Stefon, this book has everything. A found family space crew! Space class differences between a space aristocrat hero and a scrappy, badass underdog heroine! That heroine using the hero's temporary amnesia to force him to act as her servant and position her as the aristocrat instead! Naked cuddling for warmth! And so, so much more.3rd Place: This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohter and Max Gladstone, 2019; F/F; nominated by u/MedievalGirl
Truly, this book scratches every Sci-Fi romance itch for me. Beautiful yet approachable world-building, fantastic characters, a great supporting cast, and of course, a heart-throbbing romance that's good until "And they lived happily ever after."
This novella won all the science fiction awards in the last year. It is also a great romance with exquisite prose. Red and Blue are agents for rivals in the Time Wars. Their taunting messages to each other in tree rings and tea (among other odd things) turn to love letters.Best Historical - Victorian/Edwardian/Golden Age books - Nomination Thread
1st Place: The Duchess War by Courtney Milan, 2012; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/SaMnReader
A book that for me, comes down to moments. There isn't one particular thing in this book that I can point to and say "that," but the way the arc is constructed, the lack of sacrifice on the part of the heroine, and a hero who ultimately just loves her as she is for who she is. The fact that Robert has some of the best lines does not hurt, including "Look up," Minnie is introverted, and assertive, and is certainly no "mouse". I love a heroine who believe she deserves more than the plan and course her life is taking and despite it being hard, she decides to change it. Robert is a hero and a character who is ideal but not without flaws, he's someone to aspire to.2nd Place: Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas, 2012; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/SaMnReader
I've read this book 4-5 times. I think, "Oh,I 'll just read a chapter" and find myself sucked in by the charm, the humor, and the earnestness of it. It's sparkles, it shines, and the moment they meet is one of the best meet cutes in my opinion.
This book does exist in a world that is being set and built and is heavily enriched by the series and the prequel, but it delighted me when I first read it, and it delights me more now.
A most unusual and heartbreaking romance, never easy. It would be easy to reduce this to a romance about a guy who cheats on his wife and woman who stupidly waits for his husband to love her and see her.3rd Place: Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas, 2010; M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/expatb
Only see, that's not what this is. That's barely a part of the plot even though this discussion dominates low ratings. I submit, instead, this is a book of a man and a woman not given a choice in their partners and learning how to live with it. This is unrequited love and friends to lovers. This is about who you grow to be and reconciling your past with your present.
Millie is one of the most understated tough and amazing heroines. She could launch a thousand essays for the question of what strength is. She's their foundation. I'll hear nothing else.
Here is part of my review: won't recap, but I'll definitely say in many ways this isn't an easy read. And it would be easy to malign Fitz for his choices and seemingly constant rejection of Millie, but part of why this book worked was that he, too, was rejected time and again by her. I'm not sure why he'd think anything but what he thought, and his appreciation of her really did ring true from the very early 'bricks' of their relationship. He maintains respect, honesty, and friendship for his wife in a lovely way.
And friendship is such a lovely foundation, isn't it? I think the choices in this book were brave and made for a unique plot. It would be easy to have Fitz hung up on his long forgotten lover but Thomas made her available to him, and in the end that's what set this book apart.
So a couple random paragraphs there, but in the end I'll just say this: I loved their quiet humor, I loved their quiet strength, and I loved their quiet and powerful love.
This is one of my favorite books by her. And I think I've re-read it as many times as I have read my other favorites by Kleypas, which is saying something since the others were published 15 years prior. I absolutely adored the epistolary, Cyrano feel to the beginning of the book. It set up everything so beautifully.Best Erotic Romance - Nomination Thread
I think this is one of the first historical romances that I read that dealt with PTSD after a war. I thought it was handled really well. It wasn't cured by a magical vagina, nor some crackpot remedy. It was work and patience.
I Love Beatrix and Christopher, they are so great together. Everything about this book hits the spot for me. It's so good!
1st Place: Priest by Sierra Simone, 2015; CR, M/F; nominated by u/canquilt
This book is elegant, deep, and sexy. Simone gives the main character a crisis of conscience and forces him to choose between personal happiness and his religious community. She weaves theological aspects with sexual ones and does it very artfully. The sex scenes themselves are absolutely out of this world.2nd Place: Desperate Measures by Katee Robert, 2019; M/F, CR; nominated by u/expatb
Wow, this book packs a punch! This was the first book I've read by Katee Robert and it knocked me upside the head and then pushed me around. I honestly went into this book thinking I wasn't going to like it because I didn't want my childhood to be destroyed. Who knew I wanted Jasmine and Jafar together? Who knew that a sex club run by Hades would be fascinating? (Seriously, though, he's really the only one who could run this club!). And Whoooo-boy was this book hot! It has since spawned six books in the same universe.3rd Place (tie): For Real by Alexis Hall, 2018; CR, M/M; nominated by u/jrooknroll
Robert knows how to keep the focus so close, in that there's not a lot of external factors, or movement. So much of the plot takes place in an apartment, but it doesn't feel claustrophobic for a minute. That takes talent. And Katee Robert has it.
This book is both sexy and sweet. The writing is incredible. I think this is Hall’s best work.Added thoughts by u/eros_bitersweet
The erotica is absolutely central to the relationship and drives its progression. Firstly, the expected personas of the dom and sub are completely swapped: Laurie is the half of the partnership powerful IRL with his job in medicine, while Toby is the young, relatively innocent side of the couple who is finding his path in life. In one scene of the novel, Toby really does need Laurie to take charge of a chaotic situation at work, so he can get through it without quitting. And yet Toby is perfectly capable of rubbing shoulders with the educated crowd at Oxford and feeling comfortable, more able to charm them and impress them than Laurie with his knowledge and talent. Who you are in the outside world does not dictate how you experience desire and intimacy.3rd Place (tie): The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, 2018; CR, M/F; nominated by u/seantheaussie
It's also not just that the kink illustrates what the characters want: the BDSM in this book is also about how they exchange vulnerability. This novel is really about the experience of vicarious desire. Individual longing for the other is layered on top of anticipation of the other's desire, then satisfaction at seeing that desire experienced, a dynamic which zings back and forth between the pair, giving and taking and giving, until it culminates in an overabundance of both feeling and erotic experience.comment continues here (shortened for overall post length)
THE most popular romance book of the past few years who's appeal is based upon its heat. You know full well that even though you are not on the spectrum like Stella, you wish Michael was servicing you.Historical - General - Only one nomination, no thread.
The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James, 2012; M/F, open door; nominated by u/DancingMarshmallow
I’m nominating this because, while including some paranormal/ghost story elements, it has such lovely attention to detail and its setting of 1920s England: the clothes, the cars, the technology, WWI, the changing culture (especially women entering the work force in more ways). I also love that it uses the setting in a non-stereotypical way. Yes, this is the Roaring 20s, but no gangsters or flappers to be had here. And the setting matters, which I think is important in HR. The basic plot could happen in another time, but the setting isn’t just window dressing here: it influences how our characters act and think. chef’s kissBest Romantic Suspense - Nomination Thread
1st Place: Tinderbox by Rachel Grant, 2017; CR, M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/expatb
This was the first book that I read by Grant, based on a recommendation from this sub and it did not disappoint! I absolutely love reading about capable heroes and heroines. I also love when an author shows their intelligence on a topic and I fell that Grant’s experience as an archaeologist in the horn of Africa is apparent in this book. Talk about competence porn!2nd Place: The Search by Nora Roberts , 2010; CR, M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/expatb
The fact that this book (and series) is set in an area that is not commonly seen in romance novels, and on that I admittedly know little about, made it so much better for me. I love having unique “experiences” through my reading when in reality I would most likely not be able to go to a place, etc.
The romance of this book is great! It’s hot and it front and center and quick and snappy. Just what I want when I want a plot with lots of action and some shenanigans.
This is probably one of the last books I’ve read by Roberts. I have since moved on from bingeing all of her books right as they hit the shelves. But she has to be acknowledged as an author who knows her craft. Admittedly, it’s been a long while since I’ve read this book, but I do have very distinct images and impressions in my head of when I read it. And I feel that that alone is a testament to Robert’s ability to create a story that sticks with you. The atmosphere that she created in this book is what sticks with me the most. In a suspense novel, I personally think that the atmosphere should be a leading character, and this book delivers. I also like to read about a character in distress and the love interest who doesn’t want anyone, but can’t help but make moves to protect the other. Swoon3rd Place: Firestorm (Flashpoint #3) by Rachel Grant, 2018; CR, M/F, Open Door; nominated by u/seantheaussie
Contains a member of my Pantheon of Heroines and she, and her Hero, Get. Shit. Done. whether standing shoulder to shoulder, back to back or penis in vagina (to be honest only one thing gets accomplished in that last position, but it is VERY accomplished.)Whew! If you've actually read through this whole thing, thank you! And I hope you enjoyed the past 10 weeks or so of discussions. Thanks again to all!
Edit: thanks for all the love! Hope this fills your TBR a bit more. Happy reading!!