The Best Romances of January: Our Top 6 Picks

Best Romances of JanuaryAmong the fighter pilots, hockey players, security professionals, sword-swinging warriors, and football players, there's a lot of testosterone* in this month's top romance picks.

But that's the way we like 'em.


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Getting Inside (Seattle Grizzlies) by Serena Bell - I know I said in a recent post that I wanted to see more female billionaires in romances this year...but after reading Getting Inside, I realized I was aiming too low. Female professional football coaches are rarer than political civility on Facebook, and this forbidden romance between a new linebacker coach and the Seattle Grizzlies' top—but struggling—defensive linebacker had me glued to every word. Iona Thomas has to not only excel at her job but represent women in the professional league, and Ty Williams is the very last person she should be getting involved with. Both of them realize the stakes are too high for a relationship between them, but, hey, love can't be denied. Tense, heart-scalding, and emotionally riveting, this has already earned a spot on my best of the year list.

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On Broken Wings (Wild Aces) by Chanel Cleeton - Not too many people are tackling grieving widows in romances these days (widowers, yes—wives die off before the story opens as often as mothers die off before Disney's princess movies), and Cleeton handles it with a beautiful slow build. Dani Peterson has always been the love of Alex's life, but when she was married to his commanding officer, she was way off limits. Now, a year after Dani's husband's death in a training accident, Alex is still keeping Dani at arm's length. What Dani needs, though, is arms wrapped around her. A graceful exploration of the devastation of a spouse's early death, the remnants of grief, and the ways we can a bunch of sizzle.

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Breath of Fire (The Kingmaker Chronicles) by Amanda Bouchet - Bouchet's sequel to A Promise of Fire (one of our picks for best romances of the year...and unofficially among the top five) starts with a bang as Griffin discovers who his beloved Cat really is. I'm not going to include any spoilers here, because you really should read A Promise of Fire if you haven't already. The action in Breath of Fire is electric, the monsters and family drama are terrifying, and the humor is quick and sharp. Authors often have trouble with second books in series, but Bouchet, if anything, delivers an even better read. Sequester yourself from your friends and family for a few days and let yourself be absorbed in this top-notch fantasy romance.

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Hard Hitter (A Brooklyn Bruisers Novel) by Sarina Bowen - One of the league's top defensemen and the team's go-to guy for fighting, Patrick suffers some of the worst damage a professional hockey player can handle. Popping a few pills made it better for a while, but what really seems to do the trick is the team's massage therapist and yoga instructor, Ari Bettini. Ari recognizes pain when she sees it, and it takes all her skills to get past Patrick's well-honed defensive moves to see what's in his heart. Hockey romances are among my favorites, and Bowen's follow-up to Rookie Move (also excellent) is a winner for those who like stories in which even the toughest professional athletes show their softer side. (And I don't mean their abs.)

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A Merciful Death (Mercy Kilpatrick) by Kendra Elliot - Elliot is a master of romantic suspense, and her latest sets a rural community of preppers (people preparing for disaster) in the sights of a killer. Because large caches of guns were stolen from the victims' homes, FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick is sent from the Seattle office to investigate further. But Mercy herself has a fraught history with Eagle's Nest, and it takes police chief Truman Daly patience and persistence to unstopper the secrets Mercy has kept packed deep inside. Elliot expertly interweaves the current murders with the damage that past crimes have done to Mercy and Truman's souls, and she lays out convincing tracks to a number of possible culprits in Eagle's Nest. Fascinating details about prepper lifestyle give extra flavor to this mystery, adding to its memorability.

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Accidentally on Purpose (Heartbreaker Bay) by Jill Shalvis - Anyone who's been reading Shalvis's Heartbreaker Bay series has been breathlessly awaiting the story of sassy, unstoppable Elle and silent, equally unstoppable Archer. Archer runs his private security business out of the building Elle manages and they have the same group of friends, so Elle and Archer cross paths frequently. But they are rarely alone with each other for various reasons. Elle suspects Archer doesn't really like her, because he helped her years ago in a sting operation that lost him his job. Archer likes Elle way too much for his own peace of mind but doesn't want to remind her of their disastrous first encounter because he imagines that she hates to remember herself as helpless. Sexual attraction tangles up with misunderstandings, and then once those misunderstandings are cleared up there's still a bit of wishy-washyness to get past before True Love is recognized, but Shalvis, as always, paints a picture of modern love with genuine compassion and a splash of laughter, creating characters that will stay with you after their story is over.

 The rest of our best of the month picks can be found here, including the hilarious historical romance Schooling the Viscount by Maggie Robinson, Danielle Steel's The Mistress, and a modern royal romance, Royal Scandal.

* Anyone who's looking for a smart and funny take on the role of testosterone--backed by scientific studies--should check out the nonfiction book Testosterone Rex. It's one of our Top 10 books of January, and it will change the way you think about the hormone's role in typical "manly" activities. Good stuff!


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Comments (2)

Have to disagree on your review of Breath of Fire. I loved Promise of Fire, but this one... I'm more than halfway through and wonder if it's worth finishing. The male hero seems like a different person - described as having incredible self-control in the first book, he starts this one with a huge temper tantrum, and continues in the same vein. The plot is uneven, with both deus ex machina contrivances and way too obvious foreshadowing. Worst of all, one of the great things about the first book was the blooming romantic relationship. Now? They have sex so often it gets tedious.

Posted by: Jill | Friday January 6, 2017 at 9:43 AM

Thank you so much for reading and for the kind words, Adrian! I saw from your profile page that you're a transplant from the East coast to the PNW -- me too, four years ago. It's been a crazy experience, but lots of fun, too, and a great chance to observe subtle differences in subculture. :-)

Posted by: Serena Bell | Friday January 6, 2017 at 2:18 PM

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