The Wenches' Best Reads of 2017

Another year is drawing to a close and another few dozen books have been read by the Wenches. As usual some aren't worth mentioning, but some rocked our worlds. While we've drifted away a bit from the halcyon days when we were reading and loving the same things, we are all still reading and talking about books as much as we can. 

While the control freaks among us love a Top Ten list, this year there were just too many great books, and we're left with fifteen, although three pairs of those fifteen are successive novels in the same series. So we have a Top Twelve List this year. Or a Top Fifteen. Whatever. Either way, come through the jump as we share the best books we read in 2017. And here's a toast to more wonderful stories in 2018. 

Blade Bound: Chloe Neill has made our Best Of list every year since our inception, and this year is, of course, no exception. The first of her two entries is the most bittersweet of them all, because it's the last installment in the adventures of Merit, Sentinel of Cadogan House, heroine of the Chicagoland Vampires Series. We've been with Merit since the beginning and have loved nearly every page of her thirteen novels and handful of novellas. We've been with her through joy and heartbreak, loss and redemption, and we absolutely loved her reaching her Happy Ever After. This book was beautifully constructed, ticked all of the boxes an HEA needs, saw our girl being the fierce badass she was destined to be, and wrapped up with a gorgeous Cadogan-blue bow. We are sad that there won't be any more Ombuddie Ops or Cadogan Shenanigans, but we're happy about where Chloe Neill left our favorite Chicago supernaturals. This is how you end a long, beloved series. Bravo.

Where the Dead Lie: (Sebastian St Cyr by C.S. Harris) Once again an excellent addition to this superb series following Sebastian St Cyr, Viscount Devlin. I told you about this one in August here. He has yet another grisly murder to solve. While this book felt a bit more gritty then previous books, it had me gripped from start to finish. The ending in this one was shocking for me. If you want to start this fantastic series check out the first book What Angels Fear.

Kings of Wyld: (The Band #1) by Nicolas Eames - Think that rock music and fantasy don't go together? Think again. A fantasy book, that makes you want to go and listen to some classic rock music. The book almost immediately made me want to sing, "The Boys are Back in Town" by Thin Lizzy. This is a book about bands and how legendary they are as they face creatures of the Wyld. Some bands are legend (even if the truth of battles may be slightly exaggerated over time) and other bands are mediocre. Yes the Kings of Wyld can face any foe and their allies may just surprise you. It's time for these mercs to make the world remember why they are a legend! And it doesn't hurt that you might be singing "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC or "Wild Horses" by The Rolling Stones whilst you are reading.

The Awakening: (Graveyard Queen #6) by Amanda Stevens - A brilliant conclusion to the Graveyard Queen series where our heroine Amelia Gray comes full circle. Amelia can see the dead and there are powers that will stop at nothing to ensure she doesn't uncover the truth. This time Amelia is restoring Woodbine Cemetery in Charleston, USA and the ghost of a dead child needs Amelia to help her in order for the child to find peace. It will take Amelia back into the orbit of John Devlin. A man who seems to have accepted in place within his family, yet who Amelia can't forget. There are secrets to uncover and only Amelia can solve the mystery.

Tower of Dawn: (Throne of Glass #6) Sara J. Maas: I love, love, love the Throne
of Glass series but I was not sure if I wanted to read Tower of Dawn after I learned that it is a the story of some secondary characters, between the two heroes of this book, I was really on the fence about liking Chaol, the first hero, who has an important role in the beginning of the series. I didn’t mind Nesryn, the second hero, a minor character who saved the day once. Of course I read it, and the book surpassed my expectation, it was fantastic. ToG world expands, until now we only heard about the Southern Continent and its people, now we are there and we get to see and understand so much. The story unfolds in parallel to the actions in book #5, so we, the readers have a knowledge that the characters don’t have, a fact that brings tension to the story, and the romances, so well handled. I have to add that what really captivated me, besides the rich world building, amazing characters, and heart-stopping tale, was the way the author tackled an important issue — the everyday life of a disabled person. How often do we think about life from the point of view of the one sitting in the wheelchair? And on top of that, a disabled character who happens to participate in an action-packed tale? This story is a must read for the fans, as it absolutely lays the foundation for the next installment.

A Court of Wings and Ruin: (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) Sara J.
Maas. Did I tell you how much I love Sarah J. Maas books? The worlds she builds are epic, her characters are swoon-worthy and powerful. This book is the conclusion to Feyre’s story and it was a perfect mixture of excitement, heart-stopping and heartbreaking scenes. War hovers at Prythian’s borders, a mad king threatens the kingdom and Feyre and her incredible gang are determined to find a solution. Feyre came such a long way from that small, poor place where she lived when we first meet her in ACOTAR to that fairyland, magical world where she matures and comes to her powers, and the romance, it kept me emotionally invested in that love all the way. Maas’s characters are as compelling here as in her other books, the way she writes relationships between characters is a gem. The books started as a story of one girl and expanded into a colorful world, engaging characters, courageous, loyal friendships, and magical adventures. The end was really strong and though I know there are more books on the horizon, that end felt like a satisfying for the trilogy. No, I wouldn't mind more books, not at all. The book was 2017 winner of Goodreads choice in YA fantasy category.

Hate To Want You: There was no way the Wenches were going to have a "Best of 2017" list and NOT have Alisha Rai on it. We've loved her forever, but the Forbidden
Hearts series has basically left us awestruck. And it all starts with Hate To Want You. The story of our star crossed lovers, Livvy and Nicholas, torn apart in their youth by circumstances beyond their control and brought together once a year for one hell of a cheat day. Livvy, like all of Ms. Rai's heroines, is impossible not to love. Her energy, her personality are absolutely bewitching. Add that to her strength and resilience and you're going to be very invested in her getting her HEA with the man she clearly loves. At first glance you might mistake Nicholas for one of those workaholic, aloof, millionaire types and wonder if he even deserves our Livvy if you haven't read an Alisha Rai before. But make no mistake, he is so much more than his work and suits. His love for Livvy is a thing of beauty. And while it takes our heroes a little while to finally understand that they both do love each other, the journey is magnificent. This first in the series also introduces us to Nicholas and Livvy's families and friends whom you'll see a lot more of in the next installments, and they are brilliant characters in their own rights even in this book. You'll leave this book wanting more of so many of them. Lucky for you, Alisha Rai is super generous and you have two more installments of this amazing series to look forward to! PS- Those gorgeous covers deserve a shout out because they are possibly the best covers I've seen this year.

Wrong to Need You: I'm wondering if this might be my favourite release this
year. Alisha Rai's Wrong To Need You was so much better than I could have ever imagined. Don't get me wrong, I have absolute faith in Alisha Rai and had no doubt this would a quality book, but I could not have predicted just how beautiful it was. We met both Sadia and Jackson in Hate To Want You, and if you're anything like me, one glimpse of strong, silent, sexy, tattooed, tall, sexy (did I already mention that? sorry!) Jackson was all it took for you to want more. And wow, does this book deliver. Sadia was amazing as Livvy's best friend in the first book, and as a main character, let's just say I could have read many more pages of Sadia dealing with everything from family, to Jackson, to her son. You totally understand why Jackson and Sadia's attraction to each other is technically a problem, but it still feels so.damn.right. As always with this author, the sheer sexiness and romance in this book is unbeatable. Jackson and Sadia's chemistry will leave you feeling breathless. I was completely absorbed in the story. It's so authentic, their families and friends and their dynamics with all of them, the secrets from their pasts, the things that haunt them, it's all done so well. I was hooked from the first line of the book to the very last. If there was one series I had to put on this list, it would be the Forbidden Hearts series. 

White Hot: We waited SO LONG for the next installment of Ilona Andrews's Hidden
Legacy series. I was so sure there was no way White Hot could be better than Burn For Me, since sequels hardly ever are, and the first book's insane pace would be hard to match. But of course, I was wrong. White Hot was yet another amazing adventure to be had at breakneck speed. I cannot go on enough about how much I adore the fast pace of this series. You don't have a single second to get bored. Not that you will when it comes to Nevada, Mad Rogan, the Baylor clan, and a bevy of side characters you'll either love, or love to hate. The romance between Nevada and Rogan is so much more prominent in this installment, and I'm not going to lie, now that you know how hot it can be between them, you'll be counting the pages till they're on page together. Their chemistry is undeniable, and Lord help me, you want to get caught up in that whirlwind that is a Rogan intent on courting Nevada. Just take my word for it, the progression of their relationship to its obvious next step is perfect, I wouldn't change a word. We find out so much more about Nevada's family, and who knew they'd be THIS fascinating. Trust me, you have to read it to believe it. The case Nevada takes on introduces us to two new characters that you'll adore, Cornelius and Mathilda. They are such a pleasant surprise. And we meet a lot more people on Rogan's team too. White Hot is an absolute adventure, the action, the romance, the mystery, the laughs, and the set-up for the next installment is nothing short of perfect. Easily one of the best reads of the year!

Wildfire: Readers were lucky enough to get the third installment of the Hidden
Legacy series this year too! And the Wenches were lucky enough to get ARCs for both of them together. Wildfire seamlessly continues the story from White Hot, with Victoria Tremaine totally messing up Nevada and Rogan's much earned sexy snowcation. UGH. On the one hand, you want more adventure because this series turns you into an adrenaline junkie who needs another fix. And on the other you just want these two to spend some quiet (relatively), stress free, sexy times together. The best thing about this book was how much deeper we go into the lore of this series. If you think you'd already seen it all, well, you're wrong. The politics and trials the Baylor's have to go through to become their own House is fascinating. And finding out the capabilities and levels of sheer power in the Baylor family was pretty fucking awesome. It's so rare for me to not have a single complaint after three installments of an Urban Fantasy series, but here I am, nary a complaint. And nothing but love for this series. I hope we get more of it, but if not, Wildfire was still an amazing installment that made me want more the second I turned the last page.

An Extraordinary Union: Alyssa Cole's Loyal League series was easily one
of my favourite new series of the year (or, tbh, the past few years) An Extraordinary Union is just that. Extraordinary. It's a brilliant start to this series. Elle and Malcolm are Union spies thrown together when both their missions bring them to the Caffreys' home, and who can't ignore their obvious, and inconvenient, attraction. But it's fun to watch them try.
Elle is a remarkable heroine. Smart, resourceful, and so brave. There are going to be times you'll want to stand up and cheer for her. And marvel at her awesomeness. It instantly made me wary of Malcolm. Would he deserve our brilliant Elle? Well, don't worry. He does. He's no slouch in the hero department. And the best thing about him is his willingness to shut up and listen and learn when Elle speaks. Their chemistry is undeniable, and it was beautiful watching their relationship unfold on page. The story has so many layers to it. Romance, intrigue, drama, suspense, a bit of horror of the non supernatural kind, and history. There's something in it for everyone.

A Hope Divided: A Hope Divided is the second installment in Alyssa Cole's Loyal
League series. Can I just take a second to give a shout out to the authors on this list who released two books in a series this year? I love you. Once again my "second installments aren't usually as good as the first" theory got smashed to pieces. A Hope Divided was EVERYTHING. Marlie was a completely different heroine from Elle, but God, I loved her all the same. A scientist and healer at heart, it's completely engrossing reading about how Marlie navigates the world around her. From the Lynch Household, to her limited trips into the outside world. It's on one of those trips she meets Ewan McCall. Ewan and Marlie obviously hit it off. And you immediately start wondering how they're going to be on page together more often because *sigh* I love the way he thinks about her. It's so nice to read. It's not a predictable story, and I was genuinely, pleasantly, surprised at how fate throws them together. Once again Ms. Cole manages to captivate us with her wonderful story telling. I couldn't stop turning the pages until I was done, and then I was sitting there pouting over not having the next book because I AM SO GREEDY (and ungrateful lol). A Hope Divided is a marvelous second installment in the Loyal League series. Sexy romance, a compelling spy thriller, an educational window into history that gets glossed over more often than it should, and the story of two people who somehow find their true selves while falling in love with each other. The Wenches can't recommend this enough, which is why it has to be on the list.

The Hunt: It seemed like we were waiting forever for the final installment of Chloe Neill's Devil's Isle series. But, we finally got our greedy little hands on The Hunt earlier this year. It was everything I hoped it would be. It had some Liam and Claire goodness, magic, Quinn brother banter, and a great mystery to solve. And, Moses. I love Moses. Anyway, even though I wanted to shake Liam and Claire for being so stubborn and emotionally stunted sometimes, I still loved every minute of this book. We learned some surprising things about Claire's past. There were magical battles. And, most importantly, the ending left room for more Devil's Isle books! While there has been no official announcement of more books, that I'm aware of, the ending, while satisfying, makes me hopeful for more from this world.

Mists of the Serengeti is an achingly beautiful romantic epic set mostly in
southern Africa near the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Barb reviewed it here. It tells the story of two people from vastly different backgrounds who embark on a shared humanitarian mission as they work through the grief of losing a loved one in a terrorist bombing. Jack, a Tanzanian coffee farmer, is grieving his only daughter and Rodel, a teacher from England, her sister, who died in the same attack. As they race against time and opposing forces to rescue a group of children and deliver them to safety, they bond over their shared loss and try to resist their deep attraction to each other. Because they know they’ll soon return to their dissimilar lives that are worlds apart. Leylah Attar’s exquisite prose is stunning. It brings the complex characters and gorgeous settings fully to life as Jack and Rodel traverse dazzling (external and internal) vistas of grandeur. Everything they see and feel is richly palpable. The shattering loss, the painful process of piecing hearts and lives back together, the smoldering passion, the relentless menace lurking in the jungles and plains around them. This book plunged me into the depths of despair and then left me soaring. And in the end eviscerated my heart. Just ripped it into tiny pieces and stomped all over them. What Attar did at the end took me completely by surprise and absolutely gutted me. But in such a beautiful way. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It will leave you in awe. 

We are all connected. How many times do we pass people on the street, whose lives are intertwined with ours in ways that remain forever unknown? How many ways are we tied to a stranger by fragile, invisible threads that bind us all together?

Feversong: I will never not be awed at the deftness with which Karen Moning
weaves together love, adventure, morality, and the meaning of life. I closed Feversong with a deeper understanding of the world, and pure joy at the place where she left one of the most perfectly imperfect couples I've ever read. Our characters were perfectly in-character, the resolution was imminently satisfying, while not being overly-dramatic, and there were enough things left in the air that I'm confident when we step into the next book with a new central character we will still be wondering what comes next. Feversong is the perfect culmination of an epic series that I will carry with me for the rest of my days. Thank you, Ms. Moning for sharing your world with us.


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