Badass Best of 2014: Romance (Part One – Paranormal, Historical, and Erotic)

Best of 2014

Romance was a big genre for us this year at Badass Book Reviews!  Today we’re hitting you with our favorite novels in several different romance subgenres.  Take a look below for our favorites from the paranormal, historical, and erotic romance genres and come back later today for our contemporary romance list.  Don’t forget to let us know about your favorites in the comments; we’re always looking for fabulous, new reads.

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Best of PNR
 
PNR Books
Burn for Me by Cynthia Eden (Book #1 in Phoenix Fire) || Published January 28th 2014 by Brava ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  + ½ || Review

SynopsisUnder Fire… Eve Bradley was undercover looking for a story, not a cause. But something about the man they called Subject Thirteen got her involved. The scientists said he was a devil, and they had a decent case: Terrifying power. A bad attitude. And looks that could lead anyone to sin. . .Cain O’Connor knows the minute he catches her candy scent that Eve could drive him wild. But she’s a threat–in a way no one has been for him in years. She’s safer away from him, too. But with a powerful conspiracy determined to shut Eve up for good, there’s no time to argue. All they can do is trust their instincts–and their hearts. . .

Why We Love ItBurn For Me was fabulous.  Eve and Cain were (excuse the pun) smokin’ hot!  Cain was the best kind of alpha hero and Eve made sure he knew his place.  They were a great team and complimented each other well, both in and out of the sheets.   We are eager to see the Wyatt legacy explored in future books!

Gun Shy by Eleri Stone (Book #2 in Reaper) || Published September 1st 2014 by Carina Press ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  + ½ || Review

Synopsis: Before the cure, Lieutenant Lyle Dalton’s job was simple: kill the Reapers. Now, under orders to inject all captured flesh eaters with the serum that restores their humanity, his Rangers at Fort Dougan face entirely new dangers. Someone wanted the Reaper cure badly enough to spill blood for it, and Lyle needs to steal it back if he hopes to hold the border. Jane Fisher escaped Scraper crime boss Gideon Moore with only the clothes on her back. What he took from her can never be replaced, but her new home at Fort Dougan is the first safe one she’s known. Or was, until the remaining supply of serum was stolen, flown high into the mountains on Gideon’s command. Serving as Lyle’s guide through Scraper territory means revisiting her own personal hell, but it’s also an opportunity—for closure or revenge, Jane isn’t quite sure. Beautiful, proud and haunted, Jane is a temptation Lyle’s worked hard to avoid. The mountains are the last place she needs to be. But if Jane can find the courage to face down a man like Gideon for the sake of the fort, no force on earth will keep Lyle from her side.

Why We Love It: We’re not usually drawn to Western-themed stories, but the Reaper series is a finely-crafted paranormal romance that just happens to be set in that time period.  It’s not overdone or distracting, it’s just where the story happens to take place.   It actually makes for a very interesting setting, especially where the female characters are concerned.  Because the frontier is still a little wild, the women have more opportunities to take control of their lives and carve out their own niches.  We can’t wait to see who we meet in the next book and to learn more about the corruption in the Scraper cities.  We hope the series continues to provide us with opportunities to check in with the other couples.  Our hat is off to Eleri Stone for creating an addictive and unique paranormal series.

Gray Bishop by Kelly Meade (Book #2 in Cornerstone Run Trilogy) || Published October 21st 2014 by Intermix ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Some people need something to fight for… With the attacks on their homes escalating and human half-breeds seeking sanctuary among them, the loup garou are reaching their breaking point. Two, in particular. After failing to stop his little brother’s kidnapping years ago, Bishop McQueen angrily broods on his shame, though no one else blames him. Jillian Reynolds is still dealing with a tragic accident that took everything she ever wanted from life. And her attraction to Bishop is only making things more difficult. When word reaches them that Jillian’s hometown is under attack, the Alpha takes Bishop, Jillian, and a group of enforcers to assist in the battle. And it is in this chaos that both Bishop and Jillian will have to face their pasts—and the true feelings they have for each other—if they are going to survive…

Why We Love It: We definitely don’t recommend jumping into the series with this book.  Start from the beginning and enjoy the ride!  Though we weren’t blown away by Black Rook, we were fully invested in Gray Bishop.  We felt like the story and characters were much freer to thrive now that the world building and setup had been established.  We are very excited to read the finale, White Knight, to find out how Knight is going to act and to see the culmination of Shay’s story as well.

Wickedly Dangerous by Deborah Blake (Book #1 in Baba Yaga) || Published September 2nd 2014 by Berkley ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Known as the wicked witch of Russian fairy tales, Baba Yaga is not one woman, but rather a title carried by a chosen few. They keep the balance of nature and guard the borders of our world, but don’t make the mistake of crossing one of them… Older than she looks and powerful beyond measure, Barbara Yager no longer has much in common with the mortal life she left behind long ago. Posing as an herbalist and researcher, she travels the country with her faithful (mostly) dragon-turned-dog in an enchanted Airstream, fulfilling her duties as a Baba Yaga and avoiding any possibility of human attachment. But when she is summoned to find a missing child, Barbara suddenly finds herself caught up in a web of deceit and an unexpected attraction to the charming but frustrating Sheriff Liam McClellan. Now, as Barbara fights both human enemies and Otherworld creatures to save the lives of three innocent children, she discovers that her most difficult battle may be with her own heart…

Why We Love It: Deborah Blake’s Wickedly Dangerous was a pleasant surprise!  The writing was clear and concise, nothing that we would describe as special, but it worked for the straight-forward heroine, Barbara Yager.  Barbara was a nice change from a lot of “first-book” heroines that have to find themselves and their strength throughout the story.  The side characters in Wickedly Dangerous were diverse and interesting.  We hesitate to classify this series as a paranormal romance because we think the fantasy elements are stronger than the love story, but each book will focus on a different Baba Yaga in the same vein as most PNR series.  We’ll be sad to leave Barbara and Liam behind, but it will be interesting to see how Beka’s life differs from Barbara’s.

Forged by Jacqueline Frank (Book #4 in The World of Nightwalkers) || Published April 29th 2014 by Ballantine Books  ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: When Katrina Haynes discovers a large man lying wounded in the snow, she fears he is at death’s door. But as Kat tends to his injuries, she quickly realizes that they’re the least of her worries. With an irresistible Scottish brogue and a strange ability to harden his chiseled body like a statue, the stranger awakens a desire she is unable to resist—and a fascination about the intriguing world he exists in.  As a proud Gargoyle, Ahnvil must safeguard the Nightwalker to whom he’s sworn fealty. But as this bewitching woman nurses him back to health, arousing an almost uncontrollable hunger within him, he is possessed with the fierce impulse to protect her as well. And he will have to shield her—for by coming to his rescue, Kat has placed herself in the middle of a supernatural war . . . and exposed herself to dark, powerful magic. As human and Gargoyle forge an unbreakable bond, Kat will discover that despite his intimidating strength and size, one thing Ahnvil does not possess is a heart of stone.

Why We Love It: We love this series. We love the mix of Egyptian mythology with all sorts of paranormal creatures.  For optimum reading enjoyment, we’d recommend starting with the first book, Forbidden.  One of the things that draws us to this series is the sheer diversity of all of the paranormal creatures. There are gargoyles, night angels, djynn, and more. We especially enjoyed the villain of this series, who has now taken on a very pregnant female form. Just his inner dialogue made this book worth the read.  Forged is an excellent addition to the World of the Nightwalkers series. We can’t wait to read more of this series. In the meantime, we can go back and read the original Nightwalkers series.

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Best of HR
 
HR Books
Scandal and the Duchess by Jennifer Ashley (Book #6.5 in MacKenzies and McBrides) || Published September 16th 2014 by Intermix ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

SynopsisScandal follows Rose Barclay, young widow of the Duke of Southdown, wherever she goes. It’s never her fault–honor bright–but newspapers love to write about the young woman from Scotland, and the much older duke she married, who died on their honeymoon. The duke left her with a large widow’s portion, now contested by his son, who kicks Rose out of the estate’s dower house and uses it to kennel his dogs. Rose does *not* need to be found with a large, handsome Scot passed out at her feet, fueling gossips and giving her stepson more ammunition. The Scot is Steven McBride – a decorated soldier who is notorious for heavy gambling and womanizing during his leave time. Steven is happy to open his eyes and find the beautiful woman standing over him, and happy to help spirit her away. He comes up with a ruse to foil the journalists, but Rose will have to go along with his very scandalous proposal.

Why We Love ItScandal and the Duchess is a story about two lonely people who come together in a farce only to find love where they lease expect it.  We thought the pacing of this book was perfect.  Their story was incredibly romantic and hot! The chemistry between them practically jumped off the page and the little mystery here made this such a fun read.  This was a great introduction to the author and we cannot wait to read more from her! We recommend Scandal and the Duchess if you are looking for a story with sweet, loving characters and just a hint of mystery.

Love and Let Spy by Shana Galen (Book #2 in Lord and Lady Spy) || Published August 5th 2014 by Sourcebooks Casablanca ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Her name is Bonde, Jane Bonde . . . A beautiful and eligible member of the ton, Jane has more than a few secrets: she’s one of the Crown’s most elite agents. She may be deadly, but she doesn’t know a thing about fashion, flirtation, or love . . . until Dominic Griffyn shakes up her carefully stirred world and asks her to be his bride. He’s exactly the kind of man she’s not looking for. And he’s dangerous, because falling into his arms is so much more satisfying than saving England from her enemies. He’s an improper gentleman who needs a wife. . . Tall, dark, and tortured, Dominic Griffyn is haunted by demons from his past. When his stepfather insists that he marry, Dominic allows himself to hope that the beautiful but mysterious Miss Bonde might help him forget his troubles. As they grow closer, it’s clear that there’s more to Jane than danger. She might be just what his neglected heart needs.

Why We Love It: We loved both of the main characters in this book! Jane was spunky and determined and Griffyn was curious and persistent.   The suspense/action parts were perfectly balanced with the romance and the intensity was offset with humor at just the right moments. Jane and Griffyn had chemistry from the get-go and it only increased with each page.  Overall, this book was a huge win by us and it’s a huge bonus that Shana Galen has such a big back list! If you’re a fan of historical romance with a determined heroine and her persistent hero, we think you will love this book!

What a Lady Craves by Ashlyn MacNamara (Book #1 in The Eton Boys Trilogy) || Published August 12th 2014 by Loveswept ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Henrietta Upperton is about to marry Alexander Sanford, when he rushes off to India to salvage his family’s fortune. Then comes the devastating news that he has wed another. Eight agonizing years later, a storm washes Alexander ashore—injured, widowed, and hunted—and one glimpse of his ruggedly handsome face reawakens the desire Henrietta thought she had buried deep inside. Her body still yearns for his touch, but she’s determined not let him wound her again . . . not this time. For Alexander, honor always comes first. But only now does he realize that when given the choice between two virtuous deeds, he picked the wrong one. On the run with his life in tatters and a pair of daughters in tow, Alexander burns for Henrietta. He knows he does not deserve forgiveness. And yet he longs to wrap his arms around her warm body once again. What’s more, he is sure the lady craves the same.

Why We Love It: The humor in this book is perfectly timed and the heroine is incredibly likable and strong—two things we love in a historical romance!  This book was such a fun story about two people who get a second chance at first love.  The sexual tension in this book was crackling in every scene with both Alexander and Henrietta.  We love that it was Alexander who couldn’t get control of his desire and that Henrietta was more successful pushing it down.  Fans of Lisa Kleypas and/or Julia Quinn should really enjoy this book. It’s a perfect read if you are looking for a strong heroine and a second chance at love.

The Temptations of Anna Jacobs by Robyn DeHart (Book #1 in Dangerous Liaisons) || Published April 15th 2014 by Intermix ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Love and justice… When Drew Foster is released from prison, he doesn’t much care about salvaging his soiled reputation. Though he’s working undercover, everyone in Victorian London believes him guilty of the Jack the Ripper murders and that his brother paid for his “innocence.” Despite her genteel upbringing, Anna Jacobs is intent on finishing medical school and becoming a physician. Society’s ridicule has never bothered her, but when her brother, the Yard’s best detective, is scorned for letting Drew go, she confronts the one man who can set the record straight at a ball. She certainly doesn’t count on the rogue being dashing and handsome, nor on him stealing a passionate kiss. Anna’s brazen contempt for his dangerous reputation captivates Drew, but he is harboring secrets that make him unfit to court any proper woman. As he finds himself an outsider among his colleagues at Scotland Yard, the feisty beauty offers up her medical knowledge to assist him on the case. But when the real killer returns to London to continue his reign of terror, can Anna find safety in Drew’s arms?

Why We Love It:  The Temptations of Anna Jacobs picks up where the previous book, The Secrets of Mia Danvers, left off. We’re really enjoying this series and we loved the leads, Anna and Drew, more than we expected.  The twist with The Ripper’s identity was also well-done.  We highly recommend the Dangerous Liaisons series for romance and historical readers alike.

The Captive by Grace Burrowes (Book #1 in Captive Hearts) || Published July 1st 2014 by Sourcebooks Casablanca ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

SynopsisHe’ll never be free… Captured and tortured by the French, Christian Severn, Duke of Mercia, survives by vowing to take revenge on his tormentors. Before the duke can pursue his version of justice, Gillian, Countess of Greendale, reminds him that his small daughter has suffered much in his absence, and needs her papa desperately. Until he surrenders his heart… Gilly endured her difficult marriage by avoiding confrontation and keeping peace at any cost. Christian’s devotion to his daughter and his kindness toward Gilly give her hope that she could enjoy a future with him, for surely he of all men shares her loathing for violence in any form. Little does Gilly know, the battle for Christian’s heart is only beginning.

Why We Love ItThe Captive is one of those books that came along at just the right time. We thought the writing was superb. The pacing was spot on, and we could feel every emotion these characters were feeling.  This was a fantastic read. If you like a story that will surprise you, move you, and just stay with you, this one won’t disappoint.

 

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Best of ER
 
ER Books

The Saint by Tiffany Reisz (Book #1 in The Original Sinners: White Years) || Published June 24th 2014 by Harelquin MIRA ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: In the beginning, there was him. Gutsy, green-eyed Eleanor never met a rule she didn’t want to break. She’s sick of her mother’s zealotry and the confines of Catholic school, and declares she’ll never go to church again. But her first glimpse of beautiful, magnetic Father Søren Stearns and his lust-worthy Italian motorcycle is an epiphany. Suddenly, daily Mass seems like a reward, and her punishment is the ache she feels when they’re apart. He is intelligent and insightful and he seems to know her intimately at her very core. Eleanor is consumed—and even she knows that can’t be right. But when one desperate mistake nearly costs Eleanor everything, it is Søren who steps in to save her. She vows to repay him with complete obedience…and a whole world opens before her as he reveals to her his deepest secrets. Danger can be managed—pain, welcomed. Everything is about to begin.

Why We Love It: Fans of Tiffany Reisz’s The Original Sinners series will adore The Saint. It takes our favorite characters Nora, Kingsley, and Soren and goes back in time fairy tale style. There’s even a beautiful fairy tale cottage in the Black Forest.  We must admit that we had some reservations about this book. While we enjoyed this series immensely, there were parts of this book that seriously tested our own comfort levels.  Part of the allure of the series (and the reason we want more) is the clever and witty dialogue between the characters. There were so many fantastic lines. We also like how each book reveals another layer of each character. Just when you thought that you knew a character, some interesting tidbit about that character is revealed.  The Saint was not an easy read for us, but we still enjoyed learning more about our favorite kinky characters.

The King by Tiffany Reisz (Book #2 in The Original Sinners: White Years) || Published November 25th 2014 by Harlequin MIRA ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Cunning. Sex. Pure nerve. Only this unholy threesome can raise him to his rightful place as a ruler of Manhattan’s kink kingdom.  Bouncing from bed to bed on the Upper East Side, Kingsley Edge is brilliant, beautiful and utterly debauched. No carnal act or chemical compound can relieve his self-destructive heartache—only Søren, the one person he loves without limit or regret. A man he can never have, but in whose hands Kingsley is reborn to attain even greater heights of sin. Kingsley’s plan to open the ultimate BDSM club—a dungeon playground for New York’s A-list—becomes his obsession. His expertise in domination can’t subdue the one man who wants to stop him. The enigmatic Reverend Fuller won’t rest until King’s dream is destroyed, and so the battle lines are set; it’s one man’s sacred mission against another’s…

Why We Love It: Ms. Reisz is a master story teller.  She is definitely crafty. Just when you think you have a character all figured out, she reveals another facet that shocks the hell out of you but fits them perfectly!  She does like to keep her readers on their toes.  We enjoyed this book and we can’t wait for more.  As far as we’re concerned, The Virgin can’t come soon enough…

Naughty Bits by Joey W. Hill || Published July 15th 2014 by Penguin Group ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: To understand her customers’ desires at her lingerie store, Naughty Bits, Madison has been exploring her own deep yearnings with the help of neighboring store owner—and oh-so-sexy Dominant—Logan. After overcoming her fears and allowing herself to truly submit, Madison is ready for her ultimate sexual adventure: an auction where she’ll be offered up to the highest bidding Master. But when her fantasy brings her face-to-face with her true feelings for Logan, she’ll have to figure out if she’s ready to trust her heart as well as her body to him forever…

Why We Love It:  We found this to be a very enjoyable story of self-discovery.  We really liked the flow of the entire story.  The entire story was very well done, and we think the way Madison evolved during the book was so realistic. She never jumped into anything; instead she always took the time to think things through. This was a great read, and we think whether you’re toying with the idea of reading a BDSM book or already enjoy that aspect of a story, this is a fantastic choice!

Every Part of You by Megan Hart || Published April 1st 2014 by St. Martin’s Griffin ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: Simone Kahan’s been watching Elliott Anderson through her office window for months. He likes to bring women back to his office for late-night trysts, and Simone enjoys her voyeurism until one night, Elliott appears to go too far with his date. The other woman might not be into spanking, but Simone is, and when she meets Elliott in the elevator later that night, she makes sure he’s intrigued enough by her to ask her to go with him to the party he no longer has a date for. Thrown together by circumstances he’d never have imagined, Elliott isn’t sure what to think about Simone. She’s nothing like the women he normally dates, but something about her draws him in until he can’t stop himself from wanting her…until their goodnight kiss becomes something harder. Harsher.  Simone responds to his rough hands as no woman ever has, and Elliott’s not ready to pursue what he’s always told himself is wrong.

Why We Love It: From the beginning we were hooked.  We wanted more but really why we wanted more was because we loved the characters.  The set-up of the story intersected with our daily life so well, that we could imagine all of this.  We love how when we open up a Megan Hart book, we never know where the book will take us.  But we do know that we will enjoy the journey and learn something new.  Every Part of You is fun, very steamy and addictive.  It is romance erotica at its best.

Mastering the Marquess by Lavinia Kent (Book #1 in Bound and Determined) || Published July 29th 2014 by Loveswept ||  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  || Review

Synopsis: One night of fierce passion and unbound pleasure leaves two strangers craving much more in Lavinia Kent’s sumptuous novel of sensual discovery. The time has come for the widow Louisa, Lady Brookingston, to move on, but she refuses to remarry at the cost of shaming her late husband’s memory. Their six years together were wedded bliss—even if a war injury prevented him from fulfilling his marital duties. Only one woman can help Louisa: Madame Rouge, the discreet proprietress of a club where London’s elite explore their wildest fantasies. Geoffrey, the Marquess of Swanston, has no intention of agreeing to deflower an anonymous virgin. But when Madame Rouge tempts him with the absolute power he’ll have over a woman who knows nothing of carnal delights, he’s intrigued. Control is the one thing he cannot resist—and control is what he loses during his night with the blindfolded beauty. He longs to take her further, to leave his mark upon her perfect behind, but the mystery woman refuses to see him again. Instead Geoffrey reluctantly agrees to take a wife, the widow of his dear friend, Lord Brookingston—fating them both to a wicked surprise.

Why We Love It: We have to say right off the bat that this author has an amazing gift for detailing a scene and setting it up so you feel you’re in the room watching as everything unfolds. This was a steamy, interesting read with great characters. We highly recommend this book if you like erotica or historical romance with a suspenseful twist.

 

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Other Badass Best of 2014 Lists:
Urban Fantasy
Speculative Fantasy
General Fiction
Romance (Part Two)
YA & NA Romance
YA & NA Speculative Fiction
YA & NA Contemporary Fiction
Our Best Discoveries
Our Literary Slambook
Our Most Anticipated Reads of 2015

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