Taking a leaf from Tackling Mt. TBR's book, I'm reflecting on some of the best books I read this year. (Not all of them were new this year; some were just new-to-me.) I had a good year for reading: the bright side to being put on bed rest for the last weeks of my pregnancy meant that I had plenty of time to read back in February and March. These are the historicals I liked best this year, in no particular order:
Courtney Milan's The Heiress Effect -- I loved that the main characters were both sympathetic, moral people trying to do their best for others, even when that meant putting others' interests above their own. I also loved that they were not aristocrats, but rather of the middle class. I get tired of all the dukes and earls and countesses that populate historical romance, as if happy ever afters were the exclusive province of the aristocracy.
Tessa Dare's Any Duchess Will Do -- This is a delightful retelling of the Pygmalian story, and I love the pragmatic way that it deals with class issues. Plus, the heroine is awesome.
Sarah MacLean's No Good Duke Goes Unpunished -- This is a gripping, unputdownable story. I was utterly transported.
Meredith Duran's At Your Pleasure -- I didn't write a review of this at the time, so unfortunately my memory of it isn't great, but I remember I loved it. It's set in 1715, earlier than most British historicals, and the conflict between the protagonists isn't class or social position but religion/politics. The heroine and her family are Tories loyal to the Stuart king (James of Scotland); the hero is an ex-Catholic loyal to the new Hanoverian crown. The unique setting and conflict allowed Duran to make the forbidden love and second chance romance tropes feel fresh, and I gave this book 5 stars (which I almost never do).
Julie Anne Long's The Perils of Pleasure -- I love this book for the heroine, Madeline Greenway, who is one of my favorite historical romance characters ever.
Elizabeth Essex's Almost a Scandal -- Others probably won't love this book as much as I did, but it hit all my sweet spots. I am a sucker for boats and nautical history, and also for a good forbidden love trope, and this book managed the cross-dressing heroine trope in a way that wasn't ridiculous. Well, not entirely ridiculous. Anyway, it worked for me. A lot.
Postscript: As I added the book covers to this post, I was amused beyond words to find that all of these books feature jewel-toned covers of women in gowns, fully half of them green. How nicely they coordinate! This is entirely a coincidence, and not a statement on my reading tastes -- especially since I read on my kindle app and barely pay any attention to book covers.