My Top Romance Books in 2016 that I freaking loved, loved, loved!

Sarah MacLean A Scot in the Dark

Elizabeth Hoyt Duke of Sin

Eloisa James My American Duchess, Seven Minutes in Heaven

Theresa Romain Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress

Grace Burrowes – Anything she writes…;-)

Courtney Milan Trade Me, Hold Me

Sarina Bowen (True North Series) (The Ivy Years)

Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen Him, Us

Jana Aston Wrong, Right,  Trust, Fling

Elle Kennedy The Deal, The Score, The Mistake, The Goal

Lauren Layne ‘Stiletto & Oxford Series’

Damon Suede Pent Up

Charlotte Stein Never Loved, Never Sweeter

Penny Reid ‘Winston Brothers Series’

Thea Harrison Moonshadow

Amanda Bouchet A Promise of Fire

Teresa Dare When A Scot ties a knot

I read around 10 books a month. Less if I’m writing a lot and more if I need a break from writing. Being a Romance reader is what made me decide to start writing romance. I get obsessed with an author and then I blow through their entire catalog. The dream of a hardcore Romance fan to find an author you haven’t read and realize that (YES!) they have six books in their catalog.

SO, this is my best of 2016 list. I could write a runner-up list that is equal in length. I am sorry for those books that escaped my brain. So many great books. This list is just a snapshot of my mood today. I’m sure tomorrow I will read this and think “Why didn’t I include so-and-so?” Hey, I just thought of my next blog!

Follow me on my author Facebook page for current updates on what I am reading (@katebigelauthor). I tend to post a little fangirl “oh wow” when I finish a new book on my Facebook page.

Things I am bored with completely this year: Billionaire Romance, BDSM anything, Steampunk and MC Romance. I am tentative on Bad Boy Romance, but every time I think I am done with it someone writes a book which brings its back for me. (Nora Flite, Laren Layne, etc.)

I read Historical Romance because witty banter and history are fascinating. Women back then had so many struggles so the conflict is always fascinating. Back to the idea of witty banter, why don’t we all talk this way? Really? Sigh.  Sarah MacLean kind of rules this kingdom and I don’t think anyone can take it away. Love the plot of A Scot in the Dark, a historical sex tape scandal but instead of a sex tape, it’s a nude painting, and the heroine refuses to be embarrassed about it. <loud clapping>

Elizabeth Hoyt is more about intense relationships in the historical romance subgenre; her series Maiden Lane is excellent, but the Duke of Sin is one of her best in years. Totally flawed, self-centered hero and a strong independent heroine who loves her job as a housekeeper? YES! One of the best depictions of the joys of cleaning and organizing a home. And she doesn’t want to marry him, yawn nobles are boring.

Theresa Romain is a relatively new author and super talented – each book gets better and better. Again, her heroines are not necessarily stuck in a ballroom and looking to get married but offbeat smart women who happen to fall in love.

I love the way Eloisa James writes about marriage, and the stuff after what normally is considered the happily ever after, it’s authentic and deeply romantic. She is a committed Regency author so it’s very specific. My American Duchess was a little more farcical than I like…her most recent book Seven Minutes in Heaven was wonderful. A strong heroine and confused conflicted hero who are trying to do the right thing but failing. Lovely. I’m including it because it came out in the first month of 2017.

I love Grace Burrows historicals because she delivers incredible characters in historical settings who have interesting problems – informed by her years as a child welfare attorney. Yes, she writes about dukes and earls but in different and heartbreaking situations. She put out 5(?) books last year, don’t make me choose. She put out a book with Mary Balogh (who should be on this list, what was I thinking?), Once upon a Dream. Lovely.

Courtney Milan has written some of my favorite Historical Romances and I think is the author responsible for the shift from Virgins in the Ballrooms to smart, cool women doing interesting things in a gown. She has started writing Contemporary Romance and has brought diversity to the contemporary twenty-something Romance. Hold Me is a brilliant romance with a genuine look at the fuzziness of sexual preference and transgender issues.

Sarina Bowen. Great Writing. Interesting characters struggling while falling in love or trying not to…Bittersweet hooked me hard (ex-football player takes over family apple orchards to support the family), and I read her whole catalog. Hard Hitter is her most recent book, Hockey Romance – a closed off hero and a yoga instructor? COME ON. Loved it.

Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen collaboration on Him and Us produced the best in MM romance. The struggle, the conflict, and the resolution – big emotions, big conflict, big love. If you think MM Romance is only for people who are LGBT, you are crazy. I read Sci-fi, and I’m not an alien. LGBT romance (MM, Trans or FF) is great because the romantic tension is so high. Right? – The stakes are crazy, loss of job, family, and friends keep you on the edge of your seat. Now that MM is hot, is  the FF subgenre is just waiting for the right author? Or is to much of a male porn trope?

Jana Aston’s Wrong was a book I picked up thinking I would not enjoy but somehow she managed to write a book about falling in love your Doctor that was unique, just slightly weird and deeply romantic.  Right, it should be creepy but not. The other books in the series are excellent too. Right is my favorite because the heroine is nuts (a stalker) but you still love her, and the hero is perfect in saving her from herself.

Elle Kennedy and Hockey romance at college. I don’t watch sports. I have no idea why I’m obsessed with Hockey College Romance. I am working on that mystery. Maybe I know too much about football and basketball players that is icky, so I have transferred all my admiration for the athletic dude to hockey. It’s a theory. These are my escape books…feeling down, blue…read one of these.

Lauren Layne writes snappy big city romance. Stiletto & Oxford Series is Manhattan-based involving the men and women at two magazines. Kind of the novel version of a rom-com. Don’t judge me – fabulous clothes, handsome men, snappy dialog in the big apple? Yes Yes.

Damon Suede Pent Up made me cry. Really. The most emotional MM romance writer. I love the family element to his stories and the blue-collar spin on his heroes. Sexually explicit but sweet. Go figure. I don’t know how he does it. We totally need more men writing true romance. NO Nicholas Sparks doesn’t count. He writes weepies without a happily ever after so they aren’t romance.

I am a huge Charlotte Stein fan. And you either love her or hate her. First, she comes from Erotica, so it’s just not spicy, it’s very specific. Erotica as a subgenre is changing. Romance is getting more explicit and straightforward and Erotica is somewhat being absorbed into other subgenres with a sort of “spicy” rating being assigned to novels. In romance currently, sex is depicted in a healthy consensual way where people enjoy it, it’s part of love and romantic relationship, how the characters have sex is key to the romance and story. Romance no longer is burdened with euphemisms. Some authors simply prefer to close the bedroom door but mostly the door is open. Novels with explicit sexual relationships like Never Loved and Never Sweeter are not about titillation, the stories are examinations of the internal life of people as they engage in a sexual relationship. Charlotte Stein style is unique and almost literary. She write boldy, breaks rules. She is a goddess.

Penny Reid is an author I give to people who are not sure about Romance. Neanderthal Seeks Human is my favorite. The woman is the Neanderthal in the title. See! You are already interested. Her Winston Brother series takes place in the hills of Tennessee. Excellent stereotype-breaking stuff. Hot men with beards…family and small town characters.  A more modern Robyn Carr (who I adore also).

Thea Harrison is a goddess of Paranormal novels. I gift her book Dragonbound as a sort of entry drug to the world of Paranormal/Shifter Romance. The Elder Races series had 15 (?) books that were great. She started a new branch of stories with Moonshadow, and it’s just wonderful.

Amanda Bouchet A Promise of Fire is high fantasy romance. A great heroine who is more like a hero in that she is conflicted, good/evil, and powerful. A new author – yay! More, please!

Teresa Dare writes historical romance. Witty smart Regency. Beautiful writing and great characters. FUN.






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  1. Thank you for this!

    JAMM Jamie Anderson Marketing and Media C: 310.902.4838 E: A: 14020 Captains Row #104 Marina del Rey, CA 90292 W:

    From: Kate Bigel <> Reply-To: Kate Bigel <> Date: Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 2:20 PM To: “Jamie R. Anderson” <> Subject: [New post] My Top Romance Books in 2016 that I freaking loved, loved, loved!

    Kate Bigel posted: “Sarah MacLean A Scot in the Dark Elizabeth Hoyt Duke of Sin Eloisa James My American Duchess, Seven Minutes in Heaven Theresa Romain Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress Grace Burrowes – Anything she writes…;-) Courtney Milan Trade Me, Hold Me Sarina Bow”

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