Best of 2015: Francesca’s Picks

Posted December 19, 2015 by Francesca in Best Of, Under the Covers / 44 Comments

bestof2015

FRANCESCA RECOMMENDS

I’ve mentioned this on social media before but when I was looking back at my reading in 2015 I was left a bit disappointed.  I say this because while I enjoyed several books, I also don’t have as many books that blew me away as I’ve had years before.  Some may say this is because the more we read, the pickier we get.  That may be true to a point.  But I also feel that the quality of books is changing.  This may be because of the publishing industry and the changes we see there, or maybe it’s the pressure of having to release X amount of books a year.  Maybe it’s simply authors writing for the large number of new readers and their particular taste.  Or maybe I’m just not finding the gems that are out there!  I am not one for DNF a book and this year also saw my giving throwing in the towel on more books than I have ever done in my whole life!  And that’s not counting that this was also the year I read the most under 3 stars books ever for me!

Nonetheless, here’s my list of the books that do stand out from what I read this year.  You can’t go wrong with picking these up.

Best New Release: The Shadows by J.R. Ward

the-shadows

Our Review | Amazon

I haven’t had a book move me the way this one did in a long time.  Yes, people will bitch about the path the author took with this book.  Was it hard? Yes.  Heartbreaking for me? Yes.  But I think Ward is fearless for staying true to what she saw in the story and for giving it to us real.  Because I am not sure I could’ve handled a miraculous resolution that would’ve been a cop out for the corner she wrote herself in.  It made sense to me for it to happen.  Even as it tore me apart.  One of my ugliest cries, definitely in a while, but probably ever.  The Shadows is gut-wrenching, intense, beautiful and full of love.  Even hope.  I can’t recommend this book enough!

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Best New to Me: The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

bronzehorseman

Our Review | Amazon

I’ve been behind the times and hadn’t picked up this book even though I’ve seen it recommended everywhere.  It was on my radar though, and when the audiobook came out I jumped on it.  What a beautifully tragic story!  I was enraptured in this novel from beginning to end.  Falling in love with its characters.  Through the hard times they faced, the mistakes the made, the sacrifices.  And even their happy times.  These are characters that stay with you and transcend time.  This is not a book to be easily forgotten or to blend in with others.  And some of its quotes will stay with me forever. <3

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Best New Series: Off-Campus by Elle Kennedy

THE DEAL – Our Review | Amazon
THE MISTAKE – Our Review | Amazon
THE SCORE – Pre-Order Amazon

After all that heavy on the first two choices, here’s a fun one!  I’ve read Elle Kennedy before, mainly her romantic suspense.  When she first announced she was releasing a new adult college-sports themed book, THE DEAL, I was extremely curious to see what her voice would sound like in comparison to her other work.  And I was taken on a fun and sexy ride from beginning to end.  She has now released a second book in this series, which was fantastic as well and I’m left jumping up and down in excitement for more!  Book boyfriend material!

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Favorite Heroine: Claire from The Veil by Chloe Neill

theveil

Our Review | Amazon

I don’t think this book got enough attention.  I LOVED IT.  I loved everything about this book.  But a lot of it has to do with the heroine.  Claire carries this story very well.  She knows just enough to about the paranormal and her own heritage to be dangerous.  There’s a lot she needs to learn, but she’s got enough common sense to KNOW that she doesn’t know certain things.  She’s kick ass without putting that in your face like some other heroines can easily do.  And you just have to care about her.  I am extremely excited to see where this new series by Ms. Neill will go and I may venture out and say this will be better than Chicagoland!

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Favorite Hero: Leo from Nuts by Alice Clayton

NutsAliceclayton

Our Review | Amazon

This is always a hard category for me.  As Suzanne always puts it, I’m a slut.  j/k  I do have a harem of book boyfriends and it’s hard to pick one to bring out and play with.  I know you always hear me talk about the same authors in this category so while giving you the perfect book boyfriend here I also wanted to change it up a bit from years past.  Leo is it.  OMG this man is perfection.  First of all, the looks.  Bearded, lumberjack look.  Totally does it for me.  Second, his fun but mysterious persona.  Fell for everything he had going on.  And third, the man has moves.  Just bend me over a barrel and call me Sugar Snap!

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Best Cover: Hearts of Blue by L.H. Cosway

heartsofblue

Our Review | Amazon

I love everything about this cover.  The colors are the first thing that draws me in.  But I love the tats, the handcuffs, the mix of sweet with bad boy that comes through while looking at this perfect cover.  It just makes me all giddy.  And the fact that the book was as awesome as its cover is also important to point out.  Just like every L.H. Cosway book this year.  She rocked it!

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Biggest Letdown: Claimed by Elle Kennedy

claimed

Our Review | Amazon

As I mentioned before, I’ve enjoyed Ms. Kennedy’s writing before and I was really excited about CLAIMED.  I don’t read blurbs anymore for favorite authors so I wasn’t prepared for a dystopian.  Instead I was expecting romantic suspense.  But once I figured out the theme I was EVEN MORE excited about it.  And while it starts out really hot and I was very intrigued by the world, it quickly became clear that this was going to be highly sexed up and I feel like this book suffered from too much sex (yes, granted hot sex) and not enough story development.  I hope that changes a bit in the next one because I am genuinely interested in seeing this world and all its characters fleshed out.

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Best Couple: Cole and Summer from Hollywood Dirt by Alessandra Torre

hollywooddirt

Our Review | Amazon

Well, there were a few contenders here but not one other one quite as perfect as Cole and Summer.  This book was a complete surprise for me.  I’m used to seeing Ms. Torre write darker stuff.  More edgy, I guess.  This was her lightest contemporary romance yet and I think this is where she needs to stay.  This book rocked!  Cole is a bit of jerk which is always a plus, and Summer is an every day kind of gal you just want to hang with.  Together, they have some amazing chemistry.  In and out of the bedroom.  I couldn’t read this fast enough to gobble those two up!

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Best Sex Scene: Call on Me by Roni Loren

callonme

Our Review | Amazon

When it comes to hot sex, not many can write it hotter than Roni Loren.  Pike is a dirty talker, which is always a plus and although this book is less kinky than her previous ones, it doesn’t lack some serious steam.  So it’s not just one scene, just every single sexual interaction between Oakley and Pike in this one! *whimpers*

Pike rubbed his thumbs along the steering wheel, trying to keep calm and focused on the road. “You like the idea of that? That we could be discovered?”

She was quiet for a moment, her fingers idly stroking his abdomen, the scritch-scritch of her nails against the coarse hair erotic in and of itself. “In the right situation, I think it could be exciting.”

He filed that knowledge away. “If I had been there, I would’ve turned you around, pushed up your skirt, and pressed you against the door with one hand over your mouth to keep you quiet and one between your legs to make you come.”

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Author of the Year: Elle Kennedy

As I look back on this year and I look at some of the books I enjoyed the most, 3 authors stand out to me.  L.H. Cosway, J.R. Ward and Elle Kennedy.  But because the Ward is a staple around here and you all know she’s the Queen and always the best, and I usually can’t shut up singing L.H. Cosway’s praises, this year we are switching it up.  My author of the year for 2015 is Elle Kennedy.  Even though, yes, I know you’re thinking what about your biggest letdown book above?  But aside from that book that wasn’t one of my favorites of hers, I fell in love with too many of her new books this year!  First there was the Off Campus series I already mentioned above.  THE DEAL and THE MISTAKE were both amazing and will steal your heart.  Then going back to my fave Killer Instincts series, MIDNIGHT CAPTIVE rocked my socks off.  I read that book in like one sitting and pulled an all nighter.  And finally….HIM.  She wrote this LGBT story with Sarina Bowen and made me fall in love with every word.  I wanted to live in the pages of that book and they always made my favorite couple list above.

About Elle Kennedy

A RITA-award nominated author, Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a B.A. in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager.

Elle currently publishes with Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Harlequin Blaze, Samhain Publishing, and NAL. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting!

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So there you have it!  That’s the books that made my best of 2015 after reading over 250 books this year.  Some honorable mentions that I couldn’t necessarily find a category to place them in but that I thought should be highlighted here are:

HIM by Sarina Bowen and Elle KennedyOur Review | Amazon

KING OF HEARTS by L.H. CoswayOur Review | Amazon

HEARTS OF FIRE by L.H. CoswayOur Review | Amazon

WHEN A SCOT TIES THE KNOT by Tessa DareOur Review | Amazon

THE VIRGIN ROMANCE NOVELIST by Meghan QuinnOur Review | Amazon

COLD-HEARTED RAKE by Lisa KleypasOur Review | Amazon

THE DRAFTER by Kim HarrisonOur Review | Amazon

THE NIGHTINGALE by Kristin HannahOur Review | Amazon

UNRAVELED by Lorelei JamesOur Review | Amazon

Phedre’s Trilogy by Jacqueline CareyOur Reviews | Amazon

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Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for Angela’s Best of 2015!

Missed our previous posts:

Annie’s Best of 2015 Picks

Suzanne’s Best of 2015 Picks

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12daysofchristmasgiveaway5

ONE LUCKY WINNER WILL GET ALL THE FOLLOWING

SIGNED copy of SOULBOUND by Kristen Callihan
SIGNED copy of MIDNIGHT RIDE by Cat Johnson
SIGNED copy of FIRST DROP OF CRIMSON by Jeaniene Frost
THIS HEART OF MINE by Brenda Novak
BUSTED by Shiloh Walker
EDGE OF DANGER by Katie Reus
BROKEDOWN COWBOY by Maisey Yates
SHADOW’S END by Thea Harrison

8 BOOKS TOTAL (3 OF THEM SIGNED!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Francesca

Blogger/Reviewer at Under the Covers Book Blog
I’m a 30 something sun lover living in the Big Apple (read New York).I’m a book and coffee addict and lover of all things elephants.

I get easily distracted by pictures of sexy guys and have tons of book boyfriends.I keep all my alpha males chained to my basement and guard them fiercely.*Back off bitches*I like to see Jason Momoa as a lot of those boyfriends, because ….. mmmmmmm JASON.MOMOA!

I’m a part time graphic designer (yes, everything you see on UTC has been done by me), run my husband's business from home and on a good day I’m a self appointed superwoman (she who can do it all).I love blogging with my girls and I couldn’t do it any other way!My first love is everything paranormal, but in the past few years I’ve re-learned to love contemporary romance.Every once in a while I like to mix things up with a historical romance, a steampunk or an LGBT book.Because I need variety to avoid book slumps.I don’t always need an HEA although I prefer one, and I love authors that can rip my heart out and make me ugly cry.
Francesca
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Elizabeth
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Elizabeth

I ugly cried at the shadows too

Stephanie M
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Stephanie M

Phoebe Batten from Dearest Rogue by Elizabeth Hoyt.

Maria Passia
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Maria Passia

Sasha from Wasted Lust by JA Huss!

Bube
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Bube

Skylar Tempest from Christmas Ever After by Sarah Morgan 🙂
I have Off-Campus series on my wish-read,and I hope I will read very soon,really excited about this series!
Great titles Francesca 🙂

Maria Theresa Santos
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Maria Theresa Santos

The Paper Swan by Leylah Attar

Linda
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Linda

Ellysetta from C.L. Wilson’s Tairen Soul series

Diane
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Diane

These all look really good!

Sharyonda
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Sharyonda

Wow…all on my to do list of books to read. Good choices!

Trix
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Trix

I mostly read m/m, so I’ll have to think about that! Maybe Kelly from Melanie TIng’s HOCKEY IS MY BOYFRIEND series…

Gabrielle
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Gabrielle

So many to choose from! Mysta from outfoxing Mysta

Andra
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Andra

Josephine from Sweet Ruin by Kresley Cole. I think she’s amazing!

Esther Gerdzen
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Esther Gerdzen

Claire Fraser from Outlander 🙂 Thanks for the chance !

Jolanda L
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Jolanda L

Alyssa “Ally” Marshall from Spiral of Need

Betul E.
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Betul E.

Luisa from Dirty Angels Trilogy by Karina Halle <3

Tanja Dancy
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Tanja Dancy

My favorite heroine of 2015 is Lady Yvette Barlow from The Art of Sinning by Sabrina Jeffries.

Kikitsablp89
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Kikitsablp89

Sarah from The Club Series, by Lauren Rowe

Christine Maria Rose
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Christine Maria Rose

Good question! I really liked Chloe from Crushed by Lauren Layne, and PJ from Opening Up by Lauren Dane. They are my two favourite heroines from the books I read this year!

heatherzilla
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heatherzilla

Maddie from Souls Unfractured

Kassandra
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Kassandra

Charlie Davidson 😉

Artemis Giote
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Artemis Giote

Lizzie from The Air He Breathes by Brittainy Cherry.

Dawn Roberto
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Dawn Roberto

I think Eve from the In Death Series with her growth and more in the series.

Janie McGaugh
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Janie McGaugh

Kate Daniels is my favorite.

Sophia Rose
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Sophia Rose

I like what you said about Ward’s plot choices for The Shadows. I totally agree that since she went there that it would have been a cop out to pull a Hail Mary miracle.

Nuts really sounds good. I want to read that one.

Hmmm, favorite heroine. I don’t really have a new one from this year. I’m a fan of Dory from Karen Chance’s books.

Timitra
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Timitra

Naomi from Last Kiss by Jen Frederick and Jessica Clare

Kalliope D.
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Kalliope D.

Mackenzie Delano from ‘Chasing the Dragon’ by T.K. Leigh.

Sue G.
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Sue G.

Phoenix Fuller from Brenda Novak’s This Heart of Mine.

Amanda Sheila
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Amanda Sheila

India Savage from Rock Chick series by Kristen Ashley is always my favorite!

Diana Doan
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Diana Doan

Evie from Iniquity by Amy A. Bartol!

Amy R
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Amy R

Charley Davidson

Laura Lovejoy Brunk
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Laura Lovejoy Brunk

My List is similar …8th Grave by Daryanda Jones , The Shadows by Jr Ward , The Queen and The Virgin by Tiffany Reisz, Burned by KMM

JoannaM
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JoannaM

I don’t think I have A favorite but one of my top ones is Georgia from Four by R.E. Carr.

Irma J
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Irma J

Lucy from More Than Forever.

Texas Book Lover
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Texas Book Lover

I finally read the Kate Daniels series this year so Kate gets my vote!

lea
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lea

Andi from Revved by Samantha Towle

Jess1
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Jess1

Kate Daniels is my favorite heroine. Go Kate!

EC
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EC

Not sure. Really not sure. But if I have to put one up, I would say Madeline Gracechurch in Tessa Data’s WHEN A SCOT TIES THE KNOT.

Mirlou
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Mirlou

Charley Davidson.
Thank you for this giveaway.

Elle Magnussen
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Elle Magnussen

Err I don’t know. I never have favorite heroine. Lol
thanks for the giveaway!! Merry Christmas. xoxo

Joanne B
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Joanne B

Charlie Davidson.

Nikki
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Nikki

I loved Amy from Heart of Stone by Tess Oliver & Anna Hart. Also totally agree about Hollywood Dirt’s couple & I WILL read The Bronze Horseman this year! I’ve heard so many good things about it.

Diane Sallans
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Diane Sallans

Eve Dallas is still a favorite

Kim Perry
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Kim Perry

Charley Davidson is one of my favorites!

Brad
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Brad

I would love the Frost book!!!

Ileana A.
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Ileana A.

Eve Dallas from the In Death series 😀