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My Favorite Books of 2023

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Another year has flown by. In just a couple of weeks, we’ll be saying goodbye to 2023, and hello to 2024.

One thing I set out to do and actually accomplished this year was doing more recreational reading.

In my day job as an editor, I read books all day long, sometimes six or seven days a week. Most of the books aren’t exactly what I’d choose for pleasure reading, since I mostly deal with non-fiction.

Even before I got into editing and the publishing industry, I didn’t spend much time pleasure reading. That’s partially because I went directly into university from high school, and I did my degree in English literature.

So, yeah, I read a lot of books, I’ve read less and less for fun. Getting back into reading for pleasure has been one of my goals for the last few years. I think 2023 is the first year that I can say I actually accomplished that goal. And, with it, I can actually claim to have a few favorite books of 2023.

My 2023 Reading Goals

Back in January, I published a list of my goals for the year. New Year’s resolutions are often broken, but it’s good to write them down. Putting them on the blog, where all and sundry can see them, was a good way to hold myself accountable.

I also shared my reading lists for the month in my newsletter. I set a goal of reading at least three books per month, or thirty-six books for the year.

Secretly, I hoped I could read four books per month, or up to forty-eight books for the whole year.

Why Set a Monthly Goal?

A monthly goal is a good way of setting a steady pace. It’s easy to say, oh, I want to read forty books or fifty books for the year. But if you fall behind, then that goal can feel insurmountable. Similarly, you might plow through a bunch of books one month, then decide you can take a “break.” And then you’re way off track.

While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with reading more or less like that, it really isn’t the best way to reach the goal. At least, not for me. I work much better if I can make something into a routine. The rhythm of “read X number of books per month” works best for me.

So, How Many Books Did I Read in 2023?

I read forty-two books for pleasure in 2023. That’s more than the three books per month goal I’d set in January (or thirty-six books per year).

I didn’t, unfortunately, reach my stretch goal of forty-eight books per month. I surpassed the three-books-per-month goal in all months except July, August, and September.

In July and September, I reached my goal of three books for the month, but I didn’t surpass it. In August, I read no books at all.

From January to the end of June, however, I read four books per month. I was able to get back to that pace in October, and I maintained it until the end of the year.

I’m going to cut myself some serious slack for the July-September stretch. One, we had to replace our car in early July, after our old one was totalled. Two, I ended up being unemployed for a stretch of six weeks from the end of June to mid-August. And three, I found out in early July that I’m having a baby!

Wait, Don’t You Have More Time When Unemployed?

You’d think! I had about six weeks where I had virtually nothing but free time.

You don’t get much done when you spend every waking second worrying about how you’re going to pay your bills. Ultimately, my household is pretty resilient, in part because both incomes are freelance based and thus unsteady by nature. Basically, we plan for this kind of stuff as much as we can. Six weeks was a really long stretch for me, but we bounced back relatively quickly as well.

Still, I spent more time looking for jobs, going over our finances, and try to drum up new work. And my off-time wasn’t really “relaxing,” because I felt like I should be working on one of those three things. It was difficult to concentrate on almost anything but.

I also felt like absolute crap beginning in the last week of July. While the first five weeks of my pregnancy were relatively symptom-free, I got hit hard with “morning sickness” (aka all-day nausea) for the next eleven weeks or so.

What Were My Favorite Books of 2023?

I definitely tried to mix things up a bit, trying authors who are pretty much auto-buys for me as well as new-to-me authors. I hit a few duds, for sure, and there are a couple of authors whose books I probably won’t touch with a ten-foot pole ever again. Their work simply is not for me.
I’d rather focus on recommending my favorite books of 2023, versus bashing books I didn’t enjoy. Obviously, everyone’s taste in books is different, so what wasn’t working for me may be someone else’s favorite new book!

So, let’s dive in—here are five of my favorite books of 2023.

The Secrets of Country Gentlemen
KJ Charles, The Doomsday Books 1

KJ Charles is basically an auto-buy author for me. I love dry British humor, which Charles’s books deliver in spades. Whip-smart dialogue, “spicy” romance between characters with undeniable chemistry, painstaking attention to historical detail, and intrigue and mystery thrown in on the side? Yes please!

The cover for The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen, by KJ Charles, features a number of natural illustrations, including a fox, hare, snake, among others, as well as two men crouched facing each other at the bottom of the page, on a blue background.

The Secrets of Country Gentlemen introduces us to Joss Doomsday and his family band of smugglers in the Romney Marsh, a flat expanse in Kent where folks “import” contraband from France during the Napoleonic wars. This forms the backdrop as Sir Gareth arrives from London, having just inherited an estate from his estranged father.

Gareth soon finds himself embroiled in Marsh politicking—and on the wrong side of both the Doomsday clan and other nefarious characters across the Marsh. Joss, however, seems awfully familiar, reminding him of the lover he had in London, who called himself “Kent.”

Soon enough, however, the secrets of Sir Gareth’s late father begin to resurface, causing trouble all across the Marsh. Can Gareth and Joss work together to solve the mystery and survive long enough to act on the growing passion between them?

A Fae’s Two Alphas
Jem Zero

The cover for A Fae's Two Alphas, another of Cherry's favorite books of 2023, by jem zero, features a silver-haired person with a wolf on either side of them, against a bright forest background.

If you’re looking for a trans masc tale, look no further. Romance and fantasy collide in this m/m/m novel. The story follows Bennett, a half-fae trapped on the human plane. Bennett wants nothing more than to return to Faery, but he’s been banished by his father. Worse, his father seems to have stolen his magic, and Bennett will do anything to get it back.

To fulfill that goal, he meets with grumpy loner wolf shifter Callum, who happens to be a practised magician and healer. His meeting with Callum also brings him back into the orbit of Jesse, his former childhood best friend. Soon enough, Bennett, Callum, and Jesse find themselves locked in a classic love triangle—one with angles that they neatly resolve without the usual drama.

Bad Blood
LC Davis, The God-Bearer Chronicles Book 1

The cover for Bad Blood, by L.C. Davis, features a white-haired person dressed in a white robe facing the camera, surrounded by four men, all with their attention (and their hands) on this central figure.

L.C. Davis / Joel Abernathy was a new-to-me author this year, but I am so glad I picked up Book 1 of The God-Bearer Chronicles. We have vampires, demons, werewolves, witches, and reincarnated gods—what’s not to love?

Davis’s polyam / “reverse harem” features hapless gay human man Chase becoming a sacrifice to bring back the goddess Ichor, whom his so-called friends worship. Things go horribly awry, though, when Ichor is accidentally installed in Chase as her vessel, rather than his former BFF Sarah.

As Chase awakens into his new powers, he finds himself under the grudging protection of the four vampires—Cameron, Cyrus, Alex, and Sam—who serve as Ichor’s paladins. But nefarious agents are all around them—some of them, even within their own walls …

A Lady for a Duke
Alexis Hall

This book marked a couple of firsts for me: my first Alexis Hall book and my first romance with a trans woman as the leading lady.

Readers, I loved it. Hall has done a fantastic job with the historical aspects of this historical romance, as well as the romance portion of it. Haters who say trans people didn’t exist in the past or shouldn’t be in historical romances because they can’t deliver on the HEA need to be walloped with this book until reality sinks in.

The cover for A LADY FOR A DUKE, one of Cherry's favorite books of 2023, features a brunette woman in a yellow dress in evening gloves resting her forehead against that of a blond gentleman, dressed in blue.

Viola Carroll was presumed dead after the war, which gave her the perfect excuse to assume a new identity and become the woman she was always meant to be. Unfortunately, that also meant giving up most of the friendships and relationships she’d had in her previous life, including that of the man who she might have once called her best friend, Justin de Vere, Duke of Gracewood.

After her imperious sister-in-law receives a letter from Gracewood’s younger sister, the two embark on a trip to the de Vere family estate in Northumberland, where they find not all is well: the young miss has been allowed to indulge all her eccentrities, while her brother loses himself to laudnaum to escape his pain—both physical and mental—after the war.

Meeting Viola sparks both familiarity and romance anew, on both sides. But will the secret of Viola’s past be too much for their budding relationship to bear?

A Thief and a Gentleman
Arden Powell, Flos Magicae 6

The cover for A Thief and a Gentleman, by Arden Powell, features the silhouettes of two men in formal dress dancing, against a botanical backdrop.

If you have not read any of Arden Powell’s work yet, go. Do it now.

A Thief and a Gentleman is the sixth entry in the Flos Magicae series, a series set in 1920s England, with a twist: there’s magic. Most people have magic, although some do not, and it’s a relatively commonplace thing.

My favorite in this series is probably still The Bachelor’s Valet, but A Thief and a Gentleman is another strong contender.

Cherry’s Favorite Books of 2023: Honorable Mentions

A Novel Arrangement
Arden Powell, Flos Magicae 5

If you didn’t get the hint above, I love Powell’s work. A Novel Arrangement is a wonderful polyam / ménage-a-trois featuring a talented seamstress turned romance author, her lawyer husband, and his BFF, a caustic, brooding artist.

Powell handles the protagonist, Elizabeth, beautifully, making this an excellent read, even if you, like me, much prefer m/m romance.

The Gryphon Guardian
Hawke Oakley

If you’re looking for a quick, low-to-no drama read, pick up one of the books in Hawke Oakley’s Fairytale Mates series. These quick reads usually focus on human omegas who have been badly hurt by past lovers, only to stumbled into the arms of their mythical “fated mates.” The most drama in these stories is usually an extremely satisfying confrontation with the scumbag ex. Otherwise, there’s plenty of fluff and plenty of spice.

There you have it: my favorite books of 2023! If you want to check out all of the books I read in 2023, then head over to my Goodreads page (which I finally updated after a bajillion years). Here’s to many more years of great books!

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By Cherry

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