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Sandys IconThis is the second year in a row I’ve not been able to decide which of two terrific books should be my No. 1. So I have a tie once again. Last year it was two fantasies that made the top spot. This year one of those authors has maintained her position, but she’s now sharing it with an historical author who never lets me down in story or character. And who rounds out the rest of my list? Think I can surprise you? Hmmmmm. Maybe not totally, but I think a few of my picks just might!

Book Cover10. A Forever Kind of Love by Shiloh Walker – emotion is going to be the word of the day for this list. Combined with an alpha hero and a romance to die for, an author has a life-long fan in me if she can pull that off. Shiloh Walker is definitely one of those authors. This book is chockful of emotion, pulling on your heartstrings so much you’re sure they’ll definitely break. Just what I’ve come to expect from her.

Book CoverBook Cover9. Saddled and Spurred/Wrangled and Tangled & Chasin’ Eight/Cowboy Casanova by Lorelei James – I’m not sure how she does it, releasing these four books, plus others, in one year, but I’m sure glad Ms. James does. I couldn’t leave any of these books off the list over another, they’re all so good. My favorite, I think, is W&T – I love Renner and Tierney, they’re such fun. Her cowboys from both of her current series will keep you hot and bothered long after you’ve finished reading them!

Book Cover8. Hidden Embers by Tessa Adams – sigh. Dragons. I love’em. And this edition of Tessa Adams’ Dragon’s Heat series is right on target for me with the emotion the hero goes through and all those alpha dragons breathing fire everywhere. The aerial fight scenes are as intense as the lovemaking, and with a mysterious disease that could end their clan, this is one all-consuming read. And how can you not lust over that cover, for heaven’s sake?

Book Cover7. Touch of Crimson by Sylvia Day – I so enjoy an author who can write in more than one genre, and Sylvia Day is a master. I love her paranormals every bit as much as I love her historicals. This new series featuring angels is spectacular. ToC is the perfect opening, and I can’t wait for more, especially since next up is a werewolf hero. Shifters do it for me every time.

Book Cover6. Pride and Pleasure by Sylvia Day – this is the first time an author has made my list in two different genres. Doesn’t surprise me it’s Ms. Day. Both hero and heroine in this book are fascinating characters, something this author excels at like no other. I can’t imagine anyone reading this list hasn’t read Sylvia Day before, but if so, you have to pick up one of her books like yesterday. Seriously.

Book Cover5. Breaking Point by Pamela Clare – another author who writes alpha heroes and gives them the perfect heroine for our reading pleasure. And who can insert emotion that breaks your heart and then shows you action until you’re ready to collapse with exhaustion. You get everything in a Pamela Clare book. The hero in this story goes through hell, but his heroine, of course, helps pull him through.

Book Cover4. Hidden Away by Maya Banks – If you’ve read my reviews of Ms. Banks’ KGI series books, you know I love these Kelly boys. They go through hell to find love, but that makes it all the more sweet and pleasurable in the end. It’s also the family aspect of these stories that I love. You mess with one Kelly, you mess with them all. The brothers tease and fight like boys do, but they back each other up no matter what. Heroes, every one of them.

Book Cover3. The Many Sins of Lord Cameron by Jennifer Ashley – more brothers that have burrowed into my heart. This book is my second favorite so far, right behind The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie. We find out what drives Cam, how his past has shaped him. And what a past it is. I also like the father-son aspect of this book. I was hoping that would be a good part of it when we met Daniel in earlier stories, and Ms. Ashley gave me that hope in spades, and then some.

Book Cover2. Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh – there’s not a thing about Ms. Singh’s Psy-Changeling series that I don’t like. I like/love certain books over others, especially the ones that made me cry – but every one of them calls to and satisfies the paranormal/shifter fan in me. Hawke and Sienna live up to the expectations in my mind, I loved every single word.

Book Cover1. Waking Up with the Duke by Lorraine Heath – all three books in this trilogy are wonderful, but this one, this one was the most emotional of all, and that’s saying something after the very talented Ms. Heath turned a not-so-nice character into a hero you couldn’t help but love on the very first page of his book. The untenable situation in WUwtD, the characters who live it, and the love they share is what puts this book in the No. 1 position for me.

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1. Haunting Desire and Haunting Embrace by Erin Quinn – this series has been, well, haunting to read. Ms. Quinn has given this reader a whole new lo ok at Ireland and paranormal stories the like of which I’ve never read before. So beautifully written.

The series has ended with Haunting Embrace, so if you’re looking for something different, these books will hit the spot perfectly.

I always give a few honorable mentions, because it’s such a difficult time whittling down the list of all the great books I’ve read in a year’s time. So I want to share those with you too. Here they are in no particular order:Book Cover

Book CoverSecond Chance at the Sugar Shack/Any Given Christmas by Candis Terry – what fun these books are! I’m glad I discovered Ms. Terry. She’s a joy to read. Great sense of humor and a mama ghost. You can’t go wrong!

Book CoverA Light at Winter’s End by Julia London – I’m so glad this book was written. I was very upset at the ending of Summer of Two Wishes. The heroine picked the wrong man, as far as I’m concerned. And when he walked off into the sunset, so to speak, with no other information about where he went, what he did, how he coped, well, I wasn’t happy at all. Here we find out. And now I’m happy. (You should read SoTW first!)

Book CoverThe King’s Mistress by Sandy Blair – it’s nice to have a new book by Sandy Blair on the shelves. And she’s done one heck of a job weaving her hero and heroine into Scottish history to give readers a wonderful romance. No one does it better.

Book CoverMaking Waves by Tawna Fenske – I enjoy an author who can make me laugh out loud. There aren’t many out there who can. Tawna Fenske is a new voice on the scene, and she knows how to write humor. Her characters and storylines are just plain old fun! I still chuckle thinking about that black thong…

Book CoverWhat I Did for a Duke by Julie Anne Long – this was my first Julie Anne Long book and I can certainly say I’m hooked. I really enjoyed these characters and just had fun with them. I look forward to reading a lot more of her books in the future. With all of the historicals on my list this year, this one didn’t miss the cut by much at all. So very close!

Well, now we go from my Best of the Year to my Worst of the Year reads. I’m teased by some of the reviewers here at the Pond that I like everything I read. Well, that’s not technically true, because there are those books that sometimes don’t do it even for me. So I have a few. One doesn’t surprise me, one does, and the others just surprised me as I read them. And the biggest surprise is they’re all Scottish historicals, which I love to read. Now you know really how painful these were for me!

Book Cover~ Must Love Kilts by Allie Mackay – I always try to give an author a second chance when one of their books doesn’t work for me. I believe I’ve given Ms. MacKay a third and fourth chance. I doubt there will be another chance in the offing any time soon. So this one didn’t surprise me at all. And that’s really too bad, because I wouldn’t mind getting a look at the covers on her books. Those I love. You can see my review here, if you’d like.

Book Cover~ In Bed with a Highlander by Maya Banks – needless to say, this one surprised the ever livin’ hell out of me, as much as I love Ms. Banks’ romantic suspense novels. Honestly, I’m still flabbergasted at my reaction to this book. I expected to love it, every last word. But something went horribly wrong for me. I didn’t grade it super low just because of who the author is – at least the characters worked for me – but I just couldn’t get past other things. I feel another tear coming on. My review is here.

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Book Cover~ Captured by the Highlander/Claimed by the Highlander by Julianne MacLean – I’ve not read Ms. MacLean before these books, and I now know I shouldn’t have started here. I have a lot of her books in the TBR mountain, so it definitely surprised me during reading that these books just don’t work for me on any level, except maybe her characters. Despite their sounding like modern-day people and the books being nearly mirror images of each other, I do like the heroes and heroines. It’s everything else that needs work. I have yet to try the third book, and I don’t know how soon, if at all, that’s going to happen. My reviews can be read here and here.

So how do your 2011 reads stack up to my list? Any you agree with? How about vehemently disagree with?