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Jane’s Best of 2011 List

My best of 2011 List. I even numbered them.  I am happy with how the list turned out.  There is a little of everything.  One book I left off but I probably shouldn’t have was Snapped by Laura Griffin.  It was good enough that I went back and read the entire series.  Ditto with Cindy Gerard‘s BOI series.  The reason that I ultimately left Snapped and the Gerard book off was I ended up liking other books in the backlist more.   Still, if you like romantic suspense, Griffin and Gerard provide great suspense reads.  Griffin is more police procedure and Gerard is more military ops.

  1. Unlocked by Courtney Milan.  This novella was wonderfully written, encapsulating an entire romance within its pages.  It read like an anthem for any girl who had been mocked or teased.
  2. Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook.  Yasmeen and Archimedes Fox played off each other wonderfully.  The fierce minded airship captain and the happy go lucky adventurer set in alternate universe 19th century.  The Iron Seas world is as richly built as any out there.
  3. Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.  I’m not much of a YA reader but this one I gobbled up in a heartbeat. I recommend it to anyone who loves a good coming of age story about a fantastic heroine.
  4. The Disgraced Playboy by Caitlin Crews.  Crews is my fast becoming my favorite contemporary author.  Within the confines of the category romance, Crews is playing around with tropes and challenging stereotypes.  And how can you not love a book where the hero says “I am  my own heroin.”
  5. Silk Is for Seduction by Loretta Chase.  You can tell by this book how much Chase admires her fellow woman.  She praises their ingenuity, their toughness, their ability to survive and matches those strong, capable women with swoon worthy heroes.  Because she can.
  6. Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart by Sarah MacLean.  Maclean gave her heroine a shameful past and the heroine decides to embrace it rather than run from it, causing her to be the center of gossip and scandal.  But in amongst the desire to stand up against the tide, was the need for belonging.  Both relatable traits.
  7. Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison.  Best debut book in romance in 2011 and given Harrison’s prolific writing, we’ll be able to enjoy more of her books for years to come.
  8. Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh.  This was a hotly anticipated book in the Changeling/Psy series featuring a romance that has been in the making for 10 books.  It would have been easy to excuse reader’s disappointment on overbuilt expectations, but I felt like this one delivered by not changing the world building to suit the romance but using the world building to create believable conflict.
  9. Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey.  It’s hard to write a contemporary romance without some mystery thread in it (or so says the shelves upon shelves of contemporaries that have that mystery component) so I have real appreciation for authors that can write a believable and touching conflict based just on two people alone.  Yours to Keep was funny and poignant.
  10. What I Did For A Duke by Julie Anne Long.  Wonderful dialogue, beautiful imagery, and a unique set of characters made this book a winner.

So the Dear Author crew named our best of lists.  What about the readers of Dear Author?  What new authors did you find in 2011. Did the DA crew overlook a spectacular book?  What books did you find to be overhyped, overpraised, and an overall disappointment?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Ruth (CO)
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 12:26:19

    I have read and liked most of your top ten list. I have not read any Julie Anne Long. I guess I need to get on the bandwagon here.

  2. Tabitha
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 12:46:44

    I agree about Unlocked and Dragon Bound; I very much enjoyed those two books and highly recommend them as well. I have read Yours to Keep and Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart — while I enjoyed the books, they weren’t impressive reads (for me) meaning I’m not sure that I would re-read them. I also read Kiss of Snow and, probably partly due to my expectations, I did not like the book as greatly as I expected to so while I would re-read the book it won’t be anytime soon.

    Two additional books that I would recommend is Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep (YA) and You Belong to Me by Karen Rose (RS). Touch of Frost is Jennifer Estep’s dip into YA and the series is a creative twist on mythology. Love it. (though, albeit hypocritically, I hate the cliffhanger ending) And of course, I am a long time fan of Karen Rose and her writing just gets better with each new release. :)

  3. Jorrie Spencer
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 12:50:45

    Thanks for this list, and everyone’s year-end lists at Dear Author! I really enjoy this feature.

    I’m going to try Laura Griffin, as I like police procedural.

    My big romance discovery, as in new-to-me, was Ilona Andrews and The Edge series.

  4. Elyssa Papa
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 12:54:51

    I really have to try a Laura Griffin book. And yay on loving The Girl of Fire and Thorns–I loved this book so much!

  5. Loosheesh
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 13:04:23

    Yay, I was hoping for a list like this! Another thumbs up for Unlocked and Dragon Bound – loved both of them! There are a few books on there I’ve been thinking of picking up.

    In no particular order, my top 10 favorites for 2011:

    (1) Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison (definite favorite of 2011!)
    (2) Just the Sexiest Man Alive by Julie James
    (3) Not Quite a Husband by Sherry Thomas
    (4) Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
    (5) The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
    (6) The Cruellest Month by Louise Penny
    (7) Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
    (8) The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
    (9) Confessions of a Call Center Gal by Lisa Lim
    (10) Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

    Authors I discovered in 2011 that I want to read more from: Thea Harrison, Sherry Thomas, and Louise Penny.

    Those I found in 2011 and wish I hadn’t: (a) Carolyn Brown (I read her Lucky series and now I shudder with horror and dread whenever I see her name) and Marliss Melton (I read her Seal Team 12 and my brain is still recovering from the experience; they weren’t awful, just very mediocre). I will never read anything from these two authors again … unless I’m paid lots (and lots) of money, lol!

  6. Kim
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 13:42:24

    I agree with What I Did For a Duke and Eleven Scandals. I’d also pick A Lot Like Love by Julie James. This year I discovered Rachel Gibson’s contemporaries.

  7. Jane
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 13:54:52

    @Loosheesh you are not the first I’ve heard say that about Brown.

  8. Jane
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 13:55:46

    @Tabitha I used to love Karen Rose and then I fell off the bandwagon and I can’t even remember why. Have you tried Kate Brady?

  9. Jane
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 13:56:09

    @Ruth (CO) I haven’t liked all of her work and have resisted reading earlier stuff.

  10. Tabitha
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 14:15:32

    @Jane: Yes, I have read two novels by Kate Brady — One Scream Away and Last to Die. I was looking forward to see what she would release next but she didn’t have a new release in 2011.

    Edit: Perhaps because the violence in Karen Rose’s books have gotten even more gruesome? Some of the descriptions are hard for me to take.

  11. Janine
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 15:10:46

    Three of these (the Chase, the Singh and the Long) made my list as well. I really enjoyed the Milan (couldn’t list it due to a conflict of interest) and Dragon Bound was huge fun even though Pia’s being under guard so much bothered me. It almost made my list. I started Eleven Scandals but felt lost because I hadn’t read the earlier books in the series, so I quit. I do want to try Maclean again, though. The rest I have not read yet, though I really want to. All in all, a very good list.

  12. Dabney Grinnan
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 15:38:40

    My two favorite books of the year were Julie Anne Long’s “What I Did for a Duke” and Anne Mallory’s “One Night is Never Enough.”

    After that, in no particular order, I loved:

    “Bad Boys Do” by Victoria Dahl
    “Any Man of Mine” by Rachel Gibson
    The Black Hawk by Joanna Bourne
    “The Sweetest Thing” and “Animal Attraction” by Jill Shalvis
    “A Sense of Sin” by Elizabeth Essex
    “Money Shot” by Susan Sey
    “Dangerous in Diamonds” by Madeline Hunter

  13. Vi
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 15:42:59

    Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh is on my Top 10 list. Dmitri’s story was so riveting from beginning to end.

  14. karlynp
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 15:46:53

    Great list Jane. Unlocked and Dragon Bound hit my top 10 books published in 2011 too. (I read over 150 books last year, and it looks like 72 were published in 2011). And while they didn’t make my list, I too give high nods to What I Did For A Duke, Heart of Steel, and Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart. The rest on your list I have not read.

    In no particular order

    1- Shadowfever by Karen M Moning (PNR/UF series)
    2 – Breaking Point by Pamela Clare (romance suspense)
    3 – Beg for Mercy by Jamie Alden (romance suspense)
    4 – Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione (PNR series)
    5 – Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison (PNR series)
    6 – Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey (contemporary)
    7 – Head Over Heals by Jill Shalvis (contemporary)
    8 – Unlocked by Courtney Milan (historical, novella)
    9 – Wild Man Creek by Robyn Carr (contemporary series)
    10 – Cat’s Tale by Bettie Sharp (fantasy, PNR)

  15. Karenmc
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 15:53:49

    Some of my favorites for 2011 were Courtney Milan’s Unveiled (and the other two books and novella are high up there, too), Meredith Duran’s A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal, Loretta Chase’s Silk is for Seduction and my final read of the year, Cecilia Grant’s debut, A Lady Awakened. I’ve been working through a huge TBR pile, so some 2011 books I simply haven’t read yet, and although I enjoy Sarah MacLean and Julie Anne Long, their books were good reads, but not great (JAL can be so, so wonderful at times).

    In 2012 I’m eager for the Sherry Thomas trilogy, along with the usual historical-writing suspects. Yesterday I ruthlessly culled books from the TBR pile so I can concentrate on the authors I really love and have time to find new ones.

  16. Willa
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 16:46:17

    I discovered Laura Griffin last year too. Love Snapped and quickly gobbled down her backlist . .

  17. MarieC
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 17:20:58

    Great list (and I’m happy to say I read most of them!).

    Of my 2011 reads, Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels and Edge series), Nalini Singh (Psy and Guild hunter), and Thea Harrison (Dragon) take the top (in particular order), then Jennifer Estep (Chicagoland and Mythos) and Sarah MacLean.

    Funny, I didn’t notice before how many PR/UF books I read this year….

  18. Kaetrin
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 18:17:55

    @Jane is Kate Brady the RS author you spoke of a couple of podcasts ago as writing an excellent RS or was it someone else?

  19. Jane
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 18:24:03

    @Kaetrin: I don’t know. I think it might have been Laura Griffin that I spoke of. I do enjoy Kate Brady though. Here is a review I did of One Scream Away.

  20. Mandi
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 19:41:29

    Well now I need to go buy the Disgraced Playboy :)

  21. Carin
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 19:44:29

    @Jane – I read 1/2 of your top 10 and liked them all. I made a top list for 2011, but it’s books I read. Some were pubbed in 2011, but some were just ones I found in 2011. So, in no particular order my best reads of 2011 were:

    Sci Fi/ Fantasy
    Ember by Bettie Sharpe

    Brown Siblings Series by Lauren Dane
    Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey (I liked all 3 Kowalski books!)
    The Perfect Play by Jaci Burton

    Sea Change by Darlene Marshall
    The Un Series by Courtney Milan (still have Unraveled yet to read)

    Kate Daniels’ Series by Ilona Andrews
    Big Bad Beast by Shelly Laurenston
    Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison (I loved the first one and DNF’d the 2nd.)

    The Iron Seas Series by Meljean Brook

    My runners up: Liberating Lacy by Anne Calhoun, Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress Series, Here Comes the Groom by Karina Bliss, Warprize by Elizabeth Vaughan, Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

  22. Jane
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 20:04:29

    @Carin Our tastes match pretty closely. I haven’t read the Frost series and while I like some of the Dane books, I find them curiously free of conflict.

  23. Carin
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 22:32:15

    @Jane – I think our taste in books is similar. I generally know if you like a book that I will, too.

    As for the Dane books, I really enjoyed the lack of conflict. There was something really relaxing about just reading how they worked things out. I can see their faults, but it just doesn’t bug me when I’m reading. It does depend on my mood a bit, too though. Those books were exactly what I was looking for when I read them.

  24. Pamela
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 22:38:25

    1. Chelsea Cain – Archie and Gretchen series of 4 books, so far. These are listed as either mysteries or thrillers, and once I started reading book 1, I was hooked. Gretchen is a serial killer and Archie is the lead detective who’s been looking for her for a decade. Their relationship is fascinating. (I named my two cats I got last spring when I was reading this series, Archie and Gretchen. :-)
    2. Dick Francis – I discovered these books by this author this last year. I usually go for female main characters, especially 1st person POV. I still prefer female first person, but I was feeling the need to be expansive and gave one of the Dick Francis’s books (Longshot) a try last year. 10 pages in, I had one of those memorable, eye opening, wow moments. I loved the voice, loved the horse racing setting. Since then I’ve read quite a few mysteries by DF, and admittedly the voice is very close to the same in all, but it’s like when you first discover Amanda Quick — the voice is so good, you don’t mind the main characters are the same.
    3. Diana Rowland – My Life as a White Trash Zombie. I enjoyed the hell out of this book. I went into it expecting it might be silly and a quick set-asider, but I was sucked into this trashy girl’s world, grossed out and kinda tickled by all the braiiinns she lusted for, and truly rooting for her. I’ll definitely be reading book 2 when it comes out.
    4. Cherie Priest – Cheshire Red 1 & 2, Bloodshot and Hellbent. I loved the heroine, loved reading about a female vampire who wasn’t a wuss, loved and was amazed by Sister Rose. Who would have thunk a drag queen hero would work in traditional publishing. I love it.
    5. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. I was trying to add some male “he-man” leads into my reading diet during my year long mystery kick. I had just gotten burned by MacDonald’s Travis McGee series and wanted to pound Travis McGee’s face to a pulp. I tried Jack Reacher next and he’s a he-man to die for. Reacher is such a likeable character and the plots truly are thrilling. I’ve read the first 6 books of the series and will be back to the series after my current urban fantasy run cools down.
    6. Ilona Andrews – Magic Slays. One of the few urban fantasy series I caught at the beginning and thus I’ve had to wait the year for each. It’s a great series that has everything I like.
    7. Margaret Frazer – Dame Frevisse series. Another mystery series where a nun in 15th century England is the detective. I love medieval settings but don’t find a lot of books to my taste. There’s no romance in the books but the matter of fact, likable Dame Frevisse, and the sense of place is wonderful. I’ve read the first 5 and will be continuing the series.
    8. Ann Aguirre – Sirantha Jax series. I’ve only read the first (Grimspace), but what a great book. It’s a futuristic world in an interplanetary system and Jax is an amazing heroine. The secondary characters are something special in this book. I will be continuing this series soon.
    9. Lori G Armstrong – Julie Collins 4 book mystery series. Julie Collins is a great, tough girl heroine. These books contains a minor plot arc of Julie’s romance with the leader of an MC that is hot and funny. When I read the last book, I was so depressed it was over.
    10. Loretta Chase – Last Night’s Scandal. Loretta Chase is the only current historical romance author that I know of, who I can rely on to hit my taste button every time. Her writing is beautiful, her heroines and heros are always fully fleshed out characters that are always different people from the last characters she wrote about. I wish I could find some others in this genre who write women you don’t have to blush for.

  25. Kaetrin
    Jan 03, 2012 @ 23:28:48

    @Jane: I don’t think it was Laura Griffin. It was during a conversation with Sarah when you said that there was a great RS book which started off with some violence to a child and Sarah said that was one of her hot buttons and she avoided RS because of it. I will go back a listen to the podcast one of these days, as I’m often on the lookout for good RS. So much of it is just silly. I listened to Stephanie Tyler’s In the Air Tonight recently and it was just eye-rolling. The narrator was very good but she couldn’t make a silk purse etc.

  26. eggs
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 05:46:31

    Wow @ karlynp’s list! I LOVED 5 of the books on your list and haven’t read anything at all by the other 5 authors. How likely is that? I feel like it was a personalized recommendation list. I love these best of year posts, they are the best way to find new authors.

  27. Angie G
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 07:30:40

    I really love these lists. I’m on the lookout now for the ones I haven’t read. Big thanks to DA and SBTB for bringing Shannon Stacey to my attention last year. She’s a keeper!

  28. Jane
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 07:37:47

    @Kaetrin: Michelle Jaffe’s Bad Girl. Love that book. Oh Stephanie Tyler. Good ideas but…

  29. Tracy
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 08:23:56

    I’ve read a lot of YA this year as well as some non-romance adult fiction and memoirs. My favorites, in no particular order:

    1. Unveiled by Courtney Milan (Historical Romance)
    2. Where She Went by Gayle Foreman (YA)
    3. I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan (YA)
    4. You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon (Adult Fiction)
    5. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (MG/YA)
    6. Divergent by Veronica Roth (YA)
    7. Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (YA; actually a 2009 pub date)

  30. Molly O'Keefe
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 08:32:09

    Top Five with two word reviews (in no particular order)

    ROOM – harrowing, uplifting,
    The Night Circus – magical, mysterious
    The Black Hawk – detailed, historically exciting
    Unlocked – Tender, romantic
    Heart of Steel – creative, hilarious

  31. Molly O'Keefe
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 08:33:29

    Oh is A Lady Awakened considered next year? In no that would be six – suprising and nuanced

  32. Kaetrin
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 17:48:28

    @Jane: thx Jane! that’s the one.

  33. Joanna K.
    Jan 06, 2012 @ 23:30:36

    Nalini Singh’s “Kiss of Snow” and “Archangel’s Blade” made the top two spots for me for best books of 2011.

    3) Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart by Sarah MacLean
    4) One Grave at a Time by Jeanine Frost
    5) Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook
    6) Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
    7) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
    8) Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase
    9) Unveiled by Courtney Milan

    There should be a 10th book somewhere but I’m having a difficult time trying to remember I read that was released in 2011. :)

  34. a very specific glom: novellas by Courtney Milan | the passionate reader
    Mar 01, 2014 @ 11:32:44

    […] Unlocked. I marked the book as TBR and forgot about it. But when Jane at Dear Author put it on her best of 2011 list, I bought it. And loved it.Since then Ms. Milan’s works have been auto-buys for me. Her […]

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