My Top 2020 Reads : My Year in books

Posted January 1, 2021 by Nix in Books 2020 / 1 Comment

This is my final Year in Books post. This is filled with the books I most enjoyed in 2020 that were published this year. I loved them all – I will try to say why after each blurb.

Thank you all for visiting for these posts – I wish you all a happy new year.

The Devil of Downtown (Uptown Girls, #3)

The final novel in Joanna Shupe’s critically acclaimed Uptown Girl series about a beautiful do-gooder who must decide if she can team up with one of New York’s brashest criminals without losing something irreplaceable: her heart.

Manhattan kingpin.
Brilliant mastermind.
Gentleman gangster.

He’s built a wall around his heart…

Orphaned and abandoned on the Bowery’s mean streets, Jack Mulligan survived on strength, cunning, and ambition. Now he rules his territory better than any politician or copper ever could. He didn’t get here by being soft. But in uptown do-gooder Justine Greene―the very definition of an iron fist in a velvet glove―Jack may have met his match.

She wears hers on her sleeve…

Justine is devoted to tracking down deadbeat husbands and fighting for fair working conditions. When her mission brings her face-to-face with Jack, she’s shocked to find the man behind the criminal empire is considerably more charming and honorable than many “gentlemen” she knows.

Forming an unlikely alliance, they discover an unexpected desire. And when Justine’s past catches up with them, Jack may be her only hope of survival. Is she ready to make a deal with the devil…?

Justine is a woman on a mission to make the lives of women within the community better. The ones that have been abused, betrayed or abandoned are the ones that she wishes to help. And she needs Jack Mullighan’s help to do so.

These two couldn’t be more polar opposite and I adored each and every second of their story. This is the fitting end to this series but, no, you don’t need to read them all (although you should).

Alpha Night (Psy-Changeling Trinity, #4; Psy-Changeling, #19)

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh returns to her breathtaking Psy-Changeling Trinity series with a mating that shouldn’t exist . . .

Alpha wolf Selenka Durev’s devotion to her pack is equaled only by her anger at anyone who would harm those under her care. That currently includes the empaths who’ve flowed into her city for a symposium that is a security nightmare, a powder keg just waiting for a match.

Ethan Night is an Arrow who isn’t an Arrow. Numb and disengaged from the world, he’s loyal only to himself. Assigned as part of the security force at a world-first symposium, he carries a dark agenda tied to the power-hungry and murderous Consortium. Then violence erupts and Ethan finds himself crashing into the heart and soul of an alpha wolf.

Mating at first sight is a myth, a fairytale. Yet Selenka’s wolf is resolute: Ethan Night, broken Arrow and a man capable of obsessive devotion, is the mate it has chosen. Even if the mating bond is full of static and not quite as it should be. Because Selenka’s new mate has a terrible secret, his mind surging with a power that is a creature of madness and death . .

Selenka is an Alpha who protects all whom she considers hers. From the second she lays eyes on the fractured Ethan Night, she includes him in that bubble. But he is caught up in a plot to destroy the net, excitement and a change from the cold its draw, When he meets Selenka, he doesn’t need to look for excitement anywhere else but it’s too late, the plan has been set. The only thing to do now is to try to help from within the consortium – will he be successful.

I love it when Singh writes an atypical hero and Ethan is very much that. Remote, obsessive and very Alpha, he was a wonderful protagonist and, paired with the fiesty Selenka, this made for a compelling love story. It is part of the series and you do need to read from at least book 16 of the series to understand the nuances of the world building arc.

Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5)

As Prime magic users, Catalina Baylor and her sisters have extraordinary powers—powers their ruthless grandmother would love to control. Catalina can earn her family some protection working as deputy to the Warden of Texas, overseeing breaches of magic law in the state, but that has risks as well. When House Baylor is under attack and monsters haunt her every step, Catalina is forced to rely on handsome, dangerous Alessandro Sagredo, the Prime who crushed her heart. 

The nightmare that Alessandro has fought since childhood has come roaring back to life, but now Catalina is under threat. Not even his lifelong quest for revenge will stop him from keeping her safe, even if every battle could be his last. Because Catalina won’t rest until she stops the use of the illicit, power-granting serum that’s tearing their world apart

This series just gets better and better – this is the book that Catalina really grew on me. I have enjoyed all the previous installments but, in this one, you get to see the head of the house and the decisions, and sacrifices, Catalina has had to make to protect her family, even without their knowledge.

House Baylor is commisioned to work on a murder in which the suspect could be any number of houses. The issue with working with powerful families is that they will do anything to both advance their power and protect their secrets. Even kill.

Alongside Alessandro, House Baylor have to protect a lot more themselves from coming distaster in this latest installment of the series. I do think you need to read the books in order.

Headliners (London Celebrities, #5)

Sparks fly when two feuding TV presenters are thrown together to host a live morning show in Lucy Parker’s latest enemies-to-lovers contemporary romance.

He might be the sexiest man in London, according to his fan site (which he definitely writes himself), but he’s also the most arrogant man she’s ever met.

She might have the longest legs he’s ever seen, but she also has the sharpest tongue.

For years, rival TV presenters Sabrina Carlton and Nick Davenport have traded barbs on their respective shows. The public can’t get enough of their feud, but after Nick airs Sabrina’s family scandals to all of Britain, the gloves are off. They can barely be in the same room together—but these longtime enemies are about to become the unlikeliest of cohosts.

With their reputations on the rocks, Sabrina and Nick have one last chance to save their careers. If they can resurrect a sinking morning show, they’ll still have a future in television. But with ratings at an all-time low and a Christmas Eve deadline to win back the nation’s favor, the clock is ticking—and someone on their staff doesn’t want them to succeed.

Small mishaps on set start adding up, and Sabrina and Nick find themselves—quelle horreur—working together to hunt down the saboteur…and discovering they might have more in common than they thought. When a fiery encounter is caught on camera, the public is convinced that the reluctant cohosts are secretly lusting after one another.

The public might not be wrong.

Their chemistry has always been explosive, but with hate turning to love, the stakes are rising and everything is on the line. Neither is sure if they can trust these new feelings…or if they’ll still have a job in the New Year.

Awww, I adore this series. This is a true enemies-to-lovers story with the stage being set as a workplace rivalry which exaccerbated when they are thrown together on a new show. Sabrina and Nick are both driven, ambitious people who would gladly throw each other under the workplace bus. Well, for a bit of the book anyway. Lucy Parker writes fabulous characters and these two are no exception.

This is part of a series however I don’t think you need to read these in order.

The Roommate
317

House Rules:
Do your own dishes.
Knock before entering the bathroom.
Never look up your roommate online.


The Wheatons are infamous among the east coast elite for their lack of impulse control, except for their daughter Clara. She’s the consummate socialite: over-achieving, well-mannered, predictable. But every Wheaton has their weakness. When Clara’s childhood crush invites her to move cross-country, the offer is too much to resist. Unfortunately, it’s also too good to be true.

After a bait-and-switch, Clara finds herself sharing a lease with a charming stranger. Josh might be a bit too perceptive—not to mention handsome—for comfort, but there’s a good chance he and Clara could have survived sharing a summer sublet if she hadn’t looked him up on the Internet…

Once she learns how Josh has made a name for himself, Clara realizes living with him might make her the Wheaton’s most scandalous story yet. His professional prowess inspires her to take tackling the stigma against female desire into her own hands. They may not agree on much, but Josh and Clara both believe women deserve better sex. What they decide to do about it will change both of their lives, and if they’re lucky, they’ll help everyone else get lucky too.is

This debut was absolutely amazing to read. It is rare to read such a sex-positive book that also feels akin to contempory romance, but this one manages to pull it off. I adored it and book two is on the list to read when it comes out.

Josh is an absolute darking of a hero (he is famous for being very attentive to female needs in his adult movies) and Clara was a woman that , although she struggled with it, decided to take the reigns on her own future. They are absolutely lovely to read about.

Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters, #2)

Talia Hibbert returns with another charming romantic comedy about a young woman who agrees to fake date her friend after a video of him “rescuing” her from their office building goes viral…

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

Awww, I adored Zaf and Dani’s story – I think this may be my second favourite Talia Hibbert story. Fake relationships are not often my style but I thought this one was wonderful.

Zaf is an absolute joy to read. He plays Rugby with youngsters, is a massive advocate for mental health and is a big cinnamon roll. He is the perfect hero. Dani is a fabulous heroine who is a big HELL NO on romance. That is until she tries to seduce Zaf and he ends up seducing her instead.

Just a Heartbeat Away (Forever Yours #1)

Some people change your life

Others change your heart

Newly widowed dad Sebastian Dorner was unraveling at the edges—until his son’s teacher, Via DeRosa, threw him a lifeline. Now, two years later, they reconnect at Matty’s new school, and an inconvenient but unmistakable jolt of attraction crackles between them. But why does the first person to spark with Sebastian in years have to be a millennial? Is twentysomething Via really too young for him or does fortysomething Sebastian just feel too damn old?

A former foster kid, Via’s finally forged the stable life she’s always dreamed of—new job, steady income, no drama. The last thing she needs are rumors about her and a single dad at school. But why does she keep being drawn into his capable, worn-flannel orbit? And why does being around Sebastian, Matty and even their dog, Crabby, seem to spark so much want?

They’re trying to ignore the tension threatening their friendship. But sometimes what’ll heal you is just a touch—and a heartbeat—away…

Cara Bastone was an author I discovered this year who has rapidly become an autotry.

This story was wonderful. I will put a content warning here; bereavement is a major part of this story and watching Sebastian put himself back together for Matty was both heart-breaking and heart-warming; this is a hero I adored fast. Via was such an old soul and her experience of found family was the part of the romance that I enjoyed the most and the thing that made me read book two.

Boyfriend Material

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.

This book appears on a lot of lists this year and there is a reason why; it is fabulous. Fake relationship turns real in this opposites attract story – it is full of humour, angst and drama. I adored Oliver from start to finish – Luc took a bit more warming up to!

End Game (The Foundling, #5)

Welcome to the ferocious world of The Foundling, set in an bayou town where men are men – except when they are also dragons, kitties with wings, alligators, and . . . well, Miller.

This is the unmissable climax to Hailey Edwards’s epic The Foundling series, featuring the fiercest heroine in this world or any other: Luce Boudreau.

Orphan. Daughter. Cop. Villain . . . Savior?

This has all happened before. For millennia, our world has been the only remaining stone in the proverbial shoe of the universe’s most powerful forces. Their continued failure to conquer Earth has led to this: their last chance for success, and for Luce and her coterie, their only chance to save mankind, their own lives, and the world.

As the last war begins, Luce and her mate Cole face danger on every front, from the angels and their all-powerful leader, from the demon inside Luce who will take any chance to break free from her pesky humanity, to the secrets her so-called allies seem to be keeping. Worst of all, they’ve got to keep finding new babysitters for one small, extremely loyal, far-too-fearless and very determined baby dragon.

At least Luce and Cole are in it together . . . or that’s what Cole thinks. For Luce is keeping a secret. She might be able to save the world, but she won’t be able to save herself. As the end of days draws near, Luce must do everything she can to hide the truth, for the sake of those she loves . .

This is the end of this series and I have been waiting for it since book one. I wanted to know how it played out as it was filled with so many twists and turns; I could not see how it would resolve in a way that was satisfying.

Set in a dystopian world filled with monsters. this is a series filled with violence, suffering and pain but, amongst all that, is a family unit which are struggling to put themselves back together. I adored it.

The Duke Who Didn't (Wedgeford Trials, #1)

Miss Chloe Fong has plans for her life, lists for her days, and absolutely no time for nonsense. Three years ago, she told her childhood sweetheart that he could talk to her once he planned to be serious. He disappeared that very night.

Except now he’s back. Jeremy Wentworth, the Duke of Lansing, has returned to the tiny village he once visited with the hope of wooing Chloe. In his defense, it took him years of attempting to be serious to realize that the endeavor was incompatible with his personality.

All he has to do is convince Chloe to make room for a mischievous trickster in her life, then disclose that in all the years they’ve known each other, he’s failed to mention his real name, his title… and the minor fact that he owns her entire village.

Only one thing can go wrong: Everything.

Courtney Milan is auto-try for me and this one was delightful. I am usually not one for relationships that start on a lie (like not disclosing your identity) but this one works its self out in a way that I enjoyed. I adored Chloe and her lists (and the fact that Jeremy never made fun of them). I loved that Jeremy just wanted normalcy and people to like him for himself and not his wealth. It was just damn cute.

Always Only You (Bergman Brothers, #2)

Get ready for an emotional ride filled with laughter, longing, and a sweet slow-burn in this sports romance about love’s power not in spite of difference, but because of it.

Ren

The moment I met her, I knew Frankie Zeferino was someone worth waiting for. Deadpan delivery, secret heart of gold, and a rare one-dimpled smile that makes my knees weak, Frankie has been forbidden since the day she and I became coworkers, meaning waiting has been the name of my game—besides, hockey, that is.

I’m a player on the team, she’s on staff, and as long as we work together, dating is off-limits. But patience has always been my virtue. Frankie won’t be here forever—she’s headed for bigger, better things. I just hope that when she leaves the team and I tell her how I feel, she won’t want to leave me behind, too.

Frankie

I’ve had a problem at work since the day Ren Bergman joined the team: a six foot three hunk of happy with a sunshine smile. I’m a grumbly grump and his ridiculously good nature drives me nuts, but even I can’t entirely ignore that hot tamale of a ginger with icy eyes, the perfect playoff beard, and a body built for sin that he’s annoyingly modest about.

Before I got wise, I would have tripped over myself to get a guy like Ren, but with my diagnosis, I’ve learned what I am to most people in my life—a problem, not a person. Now, opening my heart to anyone, no matter how sweet, is the last thing I’m prepared to do.

Always Only You is an opposites-attract, forbidden love sports romance about a nerdy, late-blooming hockey star, and his tough cookie coworker who keeps both her soft side and her autism diagnosis* to herself. Complete with a meddling secretary, tantric yoga torture, and a scorching slow burn, this standalone is the second in a series of novels about a Swedish-American family of five brothers, two sisters, and their wild adventures as they each find happily ever after.

*This is an #OwnVoices story for its portrayal of autism by an autistic author.

This book took me completely by surprise and I adored it. It is a dual POV book and I loved being in both of their heads throughout the book.

Frankie is a woman who hides as much of herself as she can from everyone else. No one kmows how badly her Rhematoid Arthritis impacts her. And no one knows about her Autism. She holds herself apart from everyone – until a break-in at her apartment means that Ren will get an upclose and personal look into her life. She is an awesome heroine – she is fiercely independent (maybe too much), caring and a bit of a geek (I love the cane).

Ren has loved Frankie from day one – he can’t believe she is in his house. He is an absolute cinnamon roll towards everyone in this book and, when she finally lets him in, he treats her like that too. He is an amazing hero; he organises Shakespeare readings for his team-mates, he looks after Frankie during her period and he is so lovely with all his brother.

This book has great disability rep, a brilliant relationship built on communication and a huge, lovely family dynamic. I really did enjoy this.

Mermaid Inn (Matchmaker Bay #1)

Escape to Matchmaker Bay in this hilarious and heartwarming second chance romance from the USA Today bestselling “master of witty banter” (Entertainment Weekly).

Eve Abbott has a problem-actually, make that a lot of problems. And they’re all going to get worse the moment her toes hit the sand in Matchmaker Bay. Once a blissful summer escape, now the tiny town just reminds Eve of loss. Inheriting her aunt’s beloved Mermaid Inn is the only reason Eve is coming back. She’s definitely not ready to handle nosy neighbors, extensive renovations, or the discovery that a certain heartbreaker still lives down the street…

Police Chief Sawyer Collins always does the right thing, even when it costs him everything. Like Evie. He’s spent the past ten years trying to forget her–to forget how right she felt in his arms, to forget the pain in her eyes the day she left. The last thing he expects is to see her back in town or to find that the spark between them is as strong as ever. Sawyer knows this is his only chance to prove that his feelings have always been real… before Eve turns tail and leaves for good.

This is a second chance romance that was both heart-breaking and lovely – I also hasten to add that the original romance was when they were teens; they are very different people.

This was a lovely story of our protagonists forced together again within the small town that only one of them now thinks of as home. Evie never wanted to return, and would happily leave again if the terms of her aunts would not make that impossible, but now she is back, she finds it hard not to re-aquaint with the place and all its residents. I always do enjoy a small town romance and this one was no exception – the side characters and dynamics are part of the charm of a book like this.

Sawyer never left and, from the age of 18, was responsible for a lot. He had to let Evie go the first time but he really would like a second chance and so he starts a charm campaign to get her back. He was a worthy hero and that was shown throughout the book with both his interactions with Evie and Clara (his sister).

Go Deep (Unexpected Lovers, #1)

It was all supposed to be so simple.

Navaya Howard is an erotic writer in a rut. Her readers are fed up of her stale plots and Navaya can’t blame them. She’s been celibate for over a year and a half since finding her now ex-boyfriend’s side chick’s positive pregnancy test on her bathroom counter. How can she write steamy romances if she can barely remember which body parts go into the other?

Navaya enlists the help of her best friend, Xander, to revive the inspiration that used to have her sitting comfortably at the top of her game. What happens when the sex hits deeper than either of them expected and the tender emotions can no longer be denied?

Navaya and Xander’s arrangement has gone far deeper than intended.
Will their friendship and their hearts survive the fall?

This was a KU rec and it is fabulous.

There is no underlying feelings between these two at the start of the book; Navaya has an issue with her erotic writings being “stale” and she asks Xander to help her with inspiration as she knows, from his previous girlfriends, that he would be a pretty good muse. Well, these two characters don’t think there are feelings but their friendship does seem to be a barrier to other relationships.

Once they start having sex, those pesky feelings start to rise and cause issues. This is an erotic book so the sex scenes are frequent and very well written (sex-toy positive scene – I love it!). The more they have sex, the more feelings arise and pretty soon, they are both running scared.

I loved it and I have marked so many more Rilzy Adams books as to read after this. If you like Erotic Romance, you should try this.

Written in the Stars

With nods to Bridget Jones and Pride and Prejudice, a charming #ownvoices queer rom-com debut about a free-spirited social media astrologer who agrees to fake a relationship with an uptight actuary until New Year’s Eve—with results not even the stars could predict!

After a disastrous blind date, Darcy Lowell is desperate to stop her well-meaning brother from playing matchmaker ever again. Love—and the inevitable heartbreak—is the last thing she wants. So she fibs and says her latest set up was a success. Darcy doesn’t expect her lie to bite her in the ass.

Elle Jones, one of the astrologers behind the popular Twitter account, Oh My Stars, dreams of finding her soul mate. But she knows it is most assuredly not Darcy… a no-nonsense stick-in-the-mud, who is way too analytical, punctual, and skeptical for someone as free-spirited as Elle. When Darcy’s brother—and Elle’s new business partner—expresses how happy he is that they hit it off, Elle is baffled. Was Darcy on the same date? Because… awkward.

When Darcy begs Elle to play along, she agrees to pretend they’re dating to save face. But with a few conditions: Darcy must help Elle navigate her own overbearing family over the holidays and their arrangement expires on New Year’s Eve. The last thing they expect is to develop real feelings during a fake relationship.

But maybe opposites can attract when true love is written in the stars?

This book took me completely by surprise. I did not expect to love it as much as I did but it was outstanding. I have pre-ordered book two.

It is billed as a FF retelling of Pride and Predjudice and, although I could see a nod to P&P, I wouldn’t say it was a retelling. I enjoyed both of the characters and the writing was lovely.

Darcy and Elle are set up on a blind date that goes horribly wrong. Darcy is driven, straight-laced and quite traditional and when she meets quirky, horoscope writer Elle, it doesn’t seem that they are written in any kind of stars. Both of them, however, are bored of meddling family members (Darcy’s is her brother who I love and Elle is her awful family. Who are awful) so they agree to “fake date” for the period of a month, They will be each others dates for a variety of famliy affairs and, once the family back off, they will break up. Of course, that’s not quite how it goes and, with all the getting to know each other, they realise that they compliment each other quite well. They are, however, very very different ….

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