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Bookshelf in a heart shape with books around the outside. Handwriting font says "Romance Recs for 2020" in inside the circle.

2020 has been the year that never ends. Seriously. It’s been tiring and full of in general badness for a lot of people. So I (Jessica) put out a call to find what made people this year. What books made the reader feel. Anything. Reading has been a distraction for a lot of people. And the community showed up!

All I asked was to send in a rec, audio or not, for the final episode of 2020. 2-3 sentences long, which is about around 45 seconds to a minute long. It didn’t have to be published this year, either. Very simple. Interestingly enough, there was zero overlap and a very inclusive list.

Listen to the episode here.

The Answers

Adele Buck/Buchanan.

  • Connect. http:// | @_AdeleBuck
  • One Day To Fall by Therese Beharrie. Buy.
    She should be at her “perfect” sister’s bedside, awaiting the arrival of the newest member of her family. But the thought of spending hours at the hospital with her suffocating relatives has Sophia hailing the first taxi she sees. Only to realise too late that the man at the wheel of her getaway car is the most unpleasant one she’s ever had the misfortune to meet.

    Parker Jones, the handsome yet surly driver in question, is used to dealing with baggage of the family variety. And it just so happens he’s in need of temporary escape from his own. Witty banter with a beautiful—if exasperating—woman while chauffeuring her around the city on a gorgeous spring day makes for an ideal break from reality.

    But a lot can happen in twenty-four hours: babies can be born, family can reconnect. And maybe the most unlikely pair can fall in love.

     

Ali Williams.

  • Connect. http:// | @CLAficionado
  • Chasing Elliot by Stefanie Simpson. Buy.
    CONTENT WARNING: This book contains a high heat level with frequent and explicit depictions of sex. Strong language. Harassment. Some conflict and angst. References to past family trauma and care of a premature baby.

    Elliot Felding has too much on her plate. Three kids, a found family, a busy job, and more anger than she has room for. She doesn’t need her ex, Wystan Austen, back in her life making everything worse.

    Old anger sparks between them and erupts in a hot, unexpected encounter. Reeling from the chemistry still between them, they make a pact to let it play out.

    It’s only sex, right?

    But trouble is brewing that puts her family at risk and Elliot needs to make a choice.

    Hold onto her anger, or let it go.

    Chasing Elliot is a standalone short novel written in UK English and set in the fictional British city of Chadford.

     

Andrea Martucci.

  • Connect. http:// | @ShelfLovePod
  • Harbor by Rebekah Weatherspoon. Buy.
    *This romance features a polyamorous relationship between two men and a woman, with BDSM overtones*
    Months before she’s set to walk down the aisle, assistant district attorney Brooklyn Lewis suffers an unthinkable loss. It’s bad enough her fiancé is violently taken from her, but along with her grief she must also process the fact that the man of her dreams was unfaithful. Friends and family want to see her heal, but Brooklyn doesn’t know how to move on from trauma and deception until she discovers she’s not the only one broken by this tragedy.

    A light in the storm…Attorney Vaughn Coleman and his partner Chris Shaw have also lost the love of their lives, who was found lifeless in the same bed as Brooklyn’s fiancé, taken from them by the same killer.Unmoored by grief, Brooklyn, Chris, and Vaughn fall into a relationship that both fulfills them and threatens to pull them under the waves of guilt, but they soon realize it may take the love of three people to bring their battered ships back to shore.

     

Bex Goos.

  • Connect. http:// | @BexGoos
  • Dance with the Devil by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Buy.

    Dark-Hunter: A soulless guardian who stands between mankind and those who would see mankind destroyed. Yeah, right. The only part of that Code of Honor I got was eternity and solitude.

    Insanity: A condition many say I suffer from after being alone for so long. But I don’t suffer from my insanity-I enjoy every minute of it.

    Trust: I can’t trust anyone…not even myself. The only thing I trust in is my ability to do the wrong thing in any situation and to put a hurt on anyone who gets in my way.

    Truth: I endured a lifetime as a Roman slave, and 900 years as an exiled Dark-Hunter. Now I’m tired of enduring. I want the truth about what happened the night I was exiled-I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

    Astrid (Greek, meaning star): An exceptional woman who can see straight to the truth. Brave and strong, she is a point of light in the darkness. She touches me and I tremble. She smiles and my cold heart shatters.

    Zarek: They say even the most damned man can be forgiven. I never believed that until the night Astrid opened her door to me and made this feral beast want to be human again. Made me want to love and be loved. But how can an ex-slave whose soul is owned by a Greek goddess ever dream of touching, let alone holding, a fiery star?

     

Caitlyn Lynch.

  • Connect. http:// | @caitlynlynch6
  • The Love Study by Kris Ripper. Buy.
    Declan has commitment issues. He’s been an office temp for literally years now, and his friends delight in telling people that he left his last boyfriend at the altar.

    And that’s all true. But he’s starting to think it’s time to start working on his issues. Maybe.

    When Declan meets Sidney—a popular nonbinary YouTuber with an advice show—an opportunity presents itself: as part of The Love Study, Declan will go on a series of dates arranged by Sidney and report back on how the date went in the next episode.

    The dates are…sort of blah. It’s not Sidney’s fault; the folks participating are (mostly) great people, but there’s no chemistry there. Maybe Declan’s just broken.

    Or maybe the problem is that the only person he’s feeling chemistry with is Sidney.

     

Diana from Happily Ever Aftermath.

  • Connect. http:// | @HEAMCast
  • Well-Meet by Jen DeLuca. Buy.
    Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

    The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

    This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

     

Eve Pendle.

  • Connect. http:// | @EvePendle
  • The Sword Dancer by Jeannie Lin. Buy.
    Sword dancer Li Feng is used to living life on the edge of the law—a woman alone in the dangerous world of the Tang Dynasty has only her whirlwind reflexes to trust. She will discover the truth about her past, even if that means outwitting the most feared thief-catcher of them all…

    Relentless, handsome and determined, Han sees life—and love—as black and white. Until he finally captures the spirited, courageous Li Feng, who makes him question everything he thought he knew about right and wrong. Soon he’s faced with an impossible choice: betray the elusive sword dancer he is learning to love, or trust his long-disregarded heart and follow her to dangerous, tempting rebellion…

     

Jessica Hannan.

  • Connect. http:// | @DamselsPodcast
  • Let It Shine. Buy.
    **Let It Shine originally appeared in The Brightest Day: A Juneteenth Historical Romance Anthology. This version features the original story, as well as a bonus short story, No Valley Low.***

    Sofronia Wallis knows that proper Black women don’t court trouble by upending the status quo, but it’s 1961 and the Civil Rights movement is in full swing. Sofie’s spent half her life being prim, proper, and reserved—as if that could bring her mother back—but the nonviolent protests happening across the South bring out her inner agitator.

    Ivan Friedman has devoted his life to boxing, loving the finesse of a well-delivered punch and the penance of receiving one. His family escaped from Europe before the horrors of WWII, and Ivan decides to help fight injustice in their new country, even if it goes against all his instincts as a fighter.

    When Ivan and Sofie meet, they realize that their pasts are intertwined and—with the sparks that fly between them—perhaps their futures will be too. With everything in their society lined up against them, will Sofie and Ivan be able to beat the odds? Or will their chance at love be destroyed by the tumultuous times they live in?

  • Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade. Buy.
    Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, Gods of the Gates, he’s known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster. Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character through his stories, especially the ones that feature the internet’s favorite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he’d be fired. Immediately.

    April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her “real life” for years—but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus, one half of her OTP, sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realizes life is really stranger than fanfiction.

    Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realizes that he wants much more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she’s actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to hide from her.

    With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?

     

Kiley Dunbar.

  • Connect. http:// | @KileyDunbar
  • Ice Cream Lover by Jackie Lau. Buy.
    I hate ice cream. Ever since my fiancée left me at the altar and skewered me in her bestseller “Embrace Your Inner Ice Cream Sandwich: Finding the Positive You in a World of Negativity,” I haven’t been able to stomach the stuff.

    Unfortunately, my five-year-old niece is a budding foodie and her favorite place in the world is Ginger Scoops, a cutesy Asian ice cream shop. Since I’ve been looking after my niece a lot lately, I’ve spent too much time there, sipping black coffee, refusing to eat ice cream, and trying not to look at the owner, Chloe Jenkins. Chloe is obnoxiously cheerful, and I can’t stand her.

    Naturally, I end up kissing her.

    But I’ve sworn off women after the fiasco with my ex-fiancée, and I’m convinced I’m no good at relationships. Still, with Chloe I’m tempted to do the impossible: give love and ice cream another chance…

     

Melanie C. Duncan.

  • Connect. http:// | @MelanieCDuncan
  • How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole. Buy.
    When Shanti Mohapi weds the king of Njaza, her dream of becoming a queen finally comes true. But it’s nothing like she imagined. Shanti and her husband may share an immediate and powerful attraction, but her subjects see her as an outsider, and everything she was taught about being the perfect wife goes disastrously wrong.

    A king must rule with an iron fist, and newly crowned King Sanyu was born perfectly fitted for the gauntlet, even if he wishes he weren’t. He agrees to take a wife as is required of him, though he doesn’t expect to actually fall in love. Even more vexing? His beguiling new queen seems to have the answers to his country’s problems—except no one will listen to her.

    By day, they lead separate lives. By night, she wears the crown, and he bows to her demands in matters of politics and passion. When turmoil erupts in their kingdom and their marriage, Shanti goes on the run, and Sanyu must learn whether he has what it takes both to lead his people and to catch his queen.

     

Jessica

Owner of Deconstructing Damsels.

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