Earlier this week we launched our Best of the Year So Far lists, and I’m particularly excited about the Romance list we put together. It was so difficult to choose our favorites for this year—there were way more than ten to choose from!—but as these lists tend to do, it forced us to think about what makes a Romance book truly great and focus on the ten most memorable books of the year (so far).
Our number one Romance pick of the year was Sarah MacLean’s Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart, starring feisty, Italian-born Juliana Fiori (who you might remember from MacLean’s first book in the Love by Numbers series, Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake).
Juliana is notorious for her difficulties conforming to the inscrutably complex rules of London society. One night, after thwarting the advances of an unwanted suitor, Juliana hides in a carriage—only to be discovered by its owner, Simon Pearson, Duke of Leighton, a man famed for his hauteur and aversion to scandal. Juliana resolves to teach him a lesson about living a passionate life before he marries his proper (read: dull) fiancée, while the “Duke of Disdain” agrees to watch over Juliana and protect her from further faux pas before she brings ruin to her family. But the Duke is hiding a scandal of his own, and when he becomes the center of the ton’s gossip, he realizes that the woman he wants by his side is the one who has caused—and weathered—a few scandals of her own.
I loved the realistic yet delightfully witty banter in Eleven Scandals, and I felt for both Juliana, who tries so hard to repress her unconventional nature (it’s not worth it, Juliana!), and Simon, whose primary motivation is to protect his family’s secrets, even at the expense of his own happiness. But what propelled this novel to the top of our favorites so far this year were the brilliant, fully realized set pieces (the best being a bittersweet Guy Fawkes Day bonfire) and the heart-wrenching role-reversal at the end. We won’t spoil it here—you’ll have to read the book to find out how it ends.
We’ll be discussing our Best of the Year So Far picks in Romance here on Omni over the next few weeks. We’d love to hear what you thought about our picks, as well as the ones we missed—join the conversation in the comments!