A Romance Writer's Year of Red-Hot Reading

Posted by Sharon on December 9, 2020
Talia Hibbert is a USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. A lifelong bookworm, she’s known for haunting the local library, eating too many biscuits, and writing sexy, diverse romance novels.

Gushing about books is Talia’s primary form of communication. Today she shares ten love stories that kept her content during the Dumpster fire of 2020.

When I realized it was time to write this column, I panicked a fair bit. Ten books I’d read in 2020? I was convinced I’d barely read one book. Surely I had spent the last year staring up at my bedroom ceiling, fighting off attacks of the nerves like Mrs. Bennet?

Apparently not, because once I started writing down titles, they poured out of me like a flood. The trouble was, I didn’t trust my perception of time. The fabulous romp with the duke and the Demerara heiress—hadn’t I read that years ago? The delicious drama between the alpha Changeling and the healing Arrow—wasn’t I significantly younger when I cracked that one open? A quick Google search proved the answer was no on both counts. Each story was published in 2020, even if I feel centuries removed from the flashes of joy they brought me.

This year has been so disorientating—a lightning-fast treadmill to nowhere, a looping roller coaster whose drops I think I’ve learned until I find myself screaming again. So I’ve been treating books like hidden caves on a treacherous journey: safe havens to hide in for a while and leave behind with bitter regret. But the great thing about books is, you can return to their worlds whenever you want to (or, in the case of this year, whenever you desperately need to).

Maybe that’s why my top ten books of 2020 are kind, dreamy, triumphant stories that I’ll reread for years to come.

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This brilliant book is filled to the brim with warm banter, found family, and friends-to-lovers vibes. But it’s Rebekah Weatherspoon, so there’s an extra escapist twist in the form of fairy-tale themes, a hot cowboy hero, and delicious use of the amnesia trope.

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Strange is right. This alien-abduction romance has deadly stakes, but it’s comforting and laugh-out-loud funny, too. Also, the cinnamon roll hero should not be this sexy to me—he is a literal giant insect, and how dare you make me like this, Ann Aguirre?

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Fun, fluffy, and achingly romantic. This book has all the best elements of historical romance mixed in with small-town coziness. There’s hilarious banter between the secretly aristocratic hero and the uptight heroine he adores—and there’s a very satisfying revenge arc, too.

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What. A. Banger. This quick read is my ideal contemporary romance: full of flirting, fabulous tropes and fan-yourself heat. Old friends see each other differently when a wedding forces them into proximity—and a truth-or-dare kiss pushes them over the edge.

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I picked this up because the heroine is autistic and uses a cane, just like me. I couldn’t put it down because the heroine is also a chaotic, prickly badass, and the hockey-playing hero has been pining for her (respectfully!) ever since they met at work.

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I have a thing for emotion-driven, slice-of-life romances about supernatural creatures, and it is incredibly hard to find. So thank you, Dria Andersen, for this hot AF, friends-to-lovers, fake engagement romance between a nervous latent panther and the grunty bear who loves her.

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This YA novel is a trans brujo adventure with a relatable, diverse cast that teenage Talia could only dream of, and the friends-to-lovers romance is divine. Energizing, delightful, and utterly satisfying. I gobbled this down between giggles and gasps.

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Nalini Singh, how do I love thee? Lemme count the goddamn ways. In this glittering speculative romance, a literal alpha female (with fangs!) mates with a traitorous, traumatized Arrow (think psychic supersoldier). Sexy, emotional, utterly gripping.

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A fabulous fantasy romp between a perfumer who ditched her vile husband and a berserker whose god died. (Don’t worry, the berserker has taken up knitting to keep himself busy.) A book with this many decapitated heads should not be so hilarious, but it is.

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A hilarious, high-concept historical romance that has it all: ironic banter, a West Indian mother on a mission, an autocratic war hero with a heart of gold, and some thrilling suspense. This is the kind of emotionally rich rom-com I crave.

2021 Preview

Here are my most anticipated 2021 releases.

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Suri’s debut, Empire of Sand, interwove dark fantasy tropes with a delicious arranged marriage—so, obviously, I am her willing servant forevermore. Her third novel stars a vengeful princess and a secret priestess, and I can’t wait for the super-intense feels.

Expected publication date: June 8, 2021

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Naima Simone is the queen of raw-but-sweet romance. Her latest socially awkward hero makes metal sculptures and gives me the same vibes as Ron Swanson’s eyebrows (either you feel the pull or you don’t, I can’t help you with that). Plus, he’s English!

Expected publication date: 2021

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Rock star romance is most definitely back, and it’s looking better than ever. I am already in love with this guitar-playing heroine, Toni Bennette. I can’t wait to see how she handles her band being managed by the first love who left her behind.

Expected publication date: April 6, 2021

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Does this book have an actual blurb? No, not at the time of writing. Do I lie awake at night thinking, “Oh my God, Kennedy Ryan tackling Hollywood romance, I can’t wait to have my heart set aflame by her incandescent prose again”? Absolutely I do.

Expected publication date: Spring 2021

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I am an unrepentant stan for this series! I will not be silenced! These banter-filled historical romps delight me to the core, and I will take as many as Ms. Riley sees fit to give me. This one stars an adorable amnesiac and a grumpy single dad. Enough said.

Expected publication date: April 2021

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Like everyone else on the planet, I adored Suleikha Snyder’s fun, intense novella Tikka Chance on Me. So when I heard she was writing a gritty paranormal influenced by her love of Jon Bernthal’s Punisher (swoon), I might’ve freaked out a little bit. OK, a lot. Gimme.

Expected publication date: January 26, 2021

See more Reading Year in Review book recommendations in the following genres: Mystery, Fantasy and Science Fiction, Literary Fiction, and Young Adult.

Now it's your turn! What were your favorite 2020 romances? 

Check out more recent articles:
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Comments Showing 1-16 of 16 (16 new)

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message 2: by Malaika (new)

Malaika Glad to see you discovered T. Kingfisher! It's not really a romance, but I definitely recommend her Clocktaur War duo. I really think you'd like the lead, and the man who falls for her. Her short stories are also wonderful (Jackalope Wives and Other Stories, Toad Words and Other Stories), but many are so American I'm not sure how they'd translate to someone across the pond. They're steeped in myths and just general tropes from our south and west.

message 3: by Steph (last edited Dec 13, 2020 06:42AM) (new)

message 4: by Amma (new)

Amma wow

message 5: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Gritty paranormal romance based on Jon Bernthal's Punisher!? Sign me up! Love that show so much.

My favourite 2020 romances:
Daring and the Duke
The Duke Who Didn't
Chasing Cassandra
A Rogue of One's Own
The Bachelor
Naughty Brits

Can you tell I love historical romances? (And I realize I'm a bit behind - a lot of the books I read this year weren't published in 2020!)

Flannel Covered Jesus Cool!:)

message 7: by Renee (new)

Renee I highly recommend anything by Grace Draven for amazing fantasy romance

message 8: by Lia (new)

Lia Dospetti Not done reading it yet, but my favorite romance this year is Soft on Soft by Mina Waheed :3

message 9: by Keysha (new)

Keysha Love Talia! I appreciate hearing about her faves.

message 10: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Ellsworth Beach Read and The Happy Ever After Playlist this year. I also read and loved the entire Winston Brothers series by Penny Reid and liked them so much I did start her new series Engagement and Espionage. Loved Serpent & Dove. And couldn't get enough of or stop laughing with Kiss My Cupcake and The Hating Game.

message 11: by Sally (new)

Sally Now That I've Found You
Swooning over the Football Billionaire
Acting In Love
Writing In Love
You Are the Story
Hallie's Hero

message 12: by LectoraEstherica (new)

LectoraEstherica Thanks for the paranormal recs!! I hope they are back, they are my favorite subgenre in romance 😍.

kittykat AKA Ms. Tortitude Favourite romances read this year? Actually quite a few!

Contemporary Romance
Warrior Blue
Heartbreak Warfare
A Match Made for Thanksgiving this whole series counts
Take the Lead ditto
Queen Move
When You Are Mine and Loving You Always duet
The Idea of You

Historical Romance - a total surprise to me as I'd not read much HR before this year
True Story
Band Sinister
Wild Sweet Love
Carry the World
Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie
Agnes Moor's Wild Knight

Fantasy Romance
Make Her New WYSIWYG total cinnamon roll MMC and my absolute fav out of all the books I've read by this author
And honourable mentions to these because they are not strictly romances (ie there is so much other stuff going on)
The House in the Cerulean Sea standalone
Hot and Badgered 3 books
Death's Dancer 3 books
Brothersong 4 books + 3 website freebie short stories.

message 14: by Mab in the wild (new)

Mab in the wild Yes Talia! I enjoy your books, and I'm super into this reading list. Great finds for getting over that end-of-a-long-year slump

message 15: by Marie (new)

Marie Talia Hibbert can sell me on a book like no other! <3

message 16: by Angie Leonie (new)

Angie Leonie "Take a hint Dani Brown" was my FAVOURITE book of all genres, I've been told to "shulupboutit" too many times, then had 3 people try to birthmas me kindle copies 😂😂😂. I also discovered Katee Robert and Christina C Jones who I now stand at their series altars or que towards the till.

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