Despite my sad and pathetic reading totals in 2008, I managed to read quite a few quality books this year. Here's a look at the books I graded in the A range. Click on the titles to see full reviews.
His Secret Past (Harlequin SuperRomance 1491) by Ellen Hartman. This is only Hartman's second published book, and it knocked my socks off. Two characters with mountains of personal baggage, a compelling Big Secret-style plot, and oodles of emotion. She's now officially on my autobuy list.
Fathers & Daughters series by Karen Templeton (Silhouette Special Edition). Sybil nagged me to read the first book in this series, Dear Santa, and after that it was all down hill. Characters that felt and acted like real people, along with compelling conflict, have made Templeton one of my go-to authors for series romance. Books in order are Dear Santa, Yours, Mine...Or Ours?, and Baby, I'm Yours.
Outlaw Bride by Jenna Kernan (Harlequin Historical). What I so love about Kernan's work for HH is that she writes westerns pre-Civil War. Her stories have a wonderful frontier quality to them, and she generally writes heroines with some gumption. This story features a heroine pushed to the edge and a hero who is determined to give up on life. Great stuff.
Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain (Suspense). The second book in Cain's Gretchen Lowell serial-killer saga, this book literally was a white knuckle read for me. I know a lot of readers who poo-pooed the twist in this one - but for me, I loved it (and felt Cain did some foreshadowing, so y'all shouldn't have been all that shocked). This was one book I literally could not put down, and in a year where I read only 64 books? That means something. I was putting a lot of books down this year, this wasn't one of them.
Revenant by Carolyn Haines (Suspense). Another suspense story, this one featuring a damaged heroine that knocked my socks off. Loved the Deep South setting, which gave this story a gothic tone. Also enjoyed the tabloid news angle, the cold case and the heroine's destructive nature. I really hope Haines continues to revisit these characters in future books. Review was on now-defunct Paperback Reader blog, which has been dismantled. Take my word for it - great suspense novel.
In Too Deep by Portia Da Costa (Erotic Romance). Definitely one of the lighter and more fun reads I had this year. Adored the librarian heroine, and I'm always a sucker for a hero who pines after the heroine from afar. Smokin' hot love scenes, that never ventured into Bizzaro World (which seems to have over run this sub genre of late).
The Man Behind The Cop by Janice Kay Johnson (Harlequin SuperRomance 1489). I adore series romances that feature emotional story lines, so it's kind of amazing I hadn't discovered Johnson prior to this year. This one packs real emotional punch, with a heroine who has only seen the worst in men, and a hero who thinks he's nowhere near good enough for her.
The Rebel And The Lady by Kathryn Albright (Harlequin Historical). I'm beginning to think I'm in the minority on this book, as I've yet to find a reader who adored it as much as I did. I suspect the reason I loved it so much was I read the author's first novel, which was pleasant but nothing all that special. This story though? Wow! Loved that she used The Alamo as a backdrop for the romance, that the story featured honest-to-goodness, not cliche-riddled Mexican characters, and a hero who doesn't start out all that hero-worthy.
Princess Mia by Meg Cabot (Young Adult). The second-to-last book in the Princess Diaries saga. This one was mainly graded an A because I found it a marvelous return to form. Mia has grown up a bit (finally!), Tina Hakim-Baba continues to rock my world, and there's little to zero "Lily Bullshit" in this installment. A great entry in the series. Sorry, no review.
Next up? The best of the honorable mentions. Stay tuned.