I believe there is nothing wrong with occasionally making yourself the centre of the universe (#narcissist). So because I can, I decided to disregard publication dates on this occasion and make my literary Dirty Dozen – or my top twelve M/M books, about the most memorable novels I have read in 2015. Therefore, my finalists are not necessarily recent releases, or even ones published within the last 12 months. For reasons known precisely to no one, I missed some gems released in previous years, and clearly have been playing the catch-up game. So there you have it, in no particular order, a peculiar mix of new, and slightly older – twelve separate and varied categories, twelve superb books. All captivating reads, very much on point and highly recommended, even if I say so myself (#narcissist).
HARPER FOX, Scrap Metal
This book goes under my BEST BRITISH CONTEMPORARY NOVEL category. The most striking thing about it is the exquisite style of writing– elegant and refined, but intense all the same. Few authors in the M/M genre share this unique ability to dress their thoughts in the language so lyrical and poetic, yet crisp and clear.
Vividly emotional and angsty, this story is touchingly romantic. It features one of my most beloved secondary characters – the curmudgeonly, tough as nails, Gaelic speaking old devil, hiding a huge heart underneath his surly exterior. A subtle pinch of the supernatural adds flavour into the mix. A crime to miss it.
ADRIENNE WILDER, In the Absence of Light
Here goes my BEST AMERICAN CONTEMPORARY NOVEL award. This book is unusual, kooky and completely delightful. I loved every page of this fluidly written emotional journey. I found the setting of a small sleepy town utterly charming. The characters are bold, quirky and powerful; the relationship building tugged at my heart. The plot is intriguing, a little on the thriller side at times, and the humour – dry. Overall, it’s an uplifting, charming story with a lot of beauty and some shadows along the way, a tad of angst, finally concluded with a satisfying HEA.
SANTINO HASSELL, Sutphin Boulevard
This is, unquestionably, my HOTTEST BOOK OF THE YEAR. Steamy, passionate and damn sexy, it features some top-notch erotica. For me, its attractiveness also originates from the fact, that this novel peruses edgier, darker avenues, marred with difficult, real topics with some raw authenticity about them. The characters, despite messing up badly and being greatly flawed and damaged, exude seriously irresistible charm and possess ridiculously high likeability factor – and the dynamics between them, Lord Almighty! In addition, it’s a bromance. And the sex is scorching. Just making sure I’ve made my point about the fiery sex crystal clear.
ALEKSANDR VOINOV, Nightingale
This book wins my BEST HISTORICAL QUEER NOVEL award easily. I’m a massive fan of the World War II time period in fiction. The historical detail is executed just right – there’s enough of it to create the ambiance, but not enough to overwhelm. What I most loved about this book, is its atmospheric feel – the fear, the anxiety, and anticipation of something dreadful about to happen any time soon, the suspenseful vibe keeping me on the edge. The emotions are flying high – it’s not really a romance, although there’s a love story there. The writing is brilliant – articulate and well-turned. To my mind, Aleksandr is pretty much a unique phenomenon within the M/M fiction; I’m convinced there isn’t a subgenre he couldn’t proficiently do.
ROAN PARRISH, In the Middle of Somewhere
This novel takes podium as the BEST DEBUT of the year. Although it contains a relatively angst free, sweet, and heart-warming story, it doesn’t come across as corny or overly saccharine. There are many interesting cinematic and culinary references within. The style is innovative and the language – imaginative with a fair portion of humour woven in between. And what an engaging pair of main characters! It is a book about a character’s growth and it’s just as endearing, as it is amusing.
Every household should come equipped with Rex.
JORDAN L. HAWK, Restless Spirits
This marvellous combination of a sexy historical romance and spooky supernatural tale tops my BEST URBAN FANTASY category. One could call it the Ghostbusters of the 1800s. I enjoyed the original concept and well developed plot. The world building thrills with its creativeness, the cast of characters is diverse, the writing witty and the editing – thorough. This is an excellent introduction to the new paranormal series – eerie and creepy just enough, with a touch of heat.
ASTRID AMARA, K.J. CHARLES, CHARLIE COCHET, RHYS FORD, GINN HALE, LOU HARPER, JORDAN L HAWK, NICOLE KIMBERLING, JORDAN CASTILLO PRICE, ANDREA SPEED, Charmed & Dangerous
I’ve read tonnes of anthologies this year. This collection claims the BEST ANTHOLOGY title with no qualms whatsoever. Those ten highly entertaining stories about miscellaneous sympathetic monsters and magical abilities, written by a solid crew of my favourite M/M paranormal romance and urban fantasy authors, are an obligatory read for the fanciers of this subgenre. This anthology is as varied content and style wise, as it is homogeneous regarding the quality of writing, which is, frankly, outstanding. I guarantee that fun times will be had by all.
JOSH LANYON, All She Wrote (Holmes & Moriarity #2)
My Dirty Dozen would feel all wrong without a Lanyon in it. This novel gets the BEST MYSTERY title hands down. I loved the vintage whodunit feel about it, complete with the classic secluded manor setting and amateur sleuthing. My favourite trope – the lovers reunited theme – makes an appearance, giving this novel a surprisingly romantic vibe. The writing is precise and eloquent, as ever. Josh generously displays her trademark humour – the dry, ironic, and witty type, characterised by its deadpan and sarcastic delivery. A superb and refined read.
GINN HALE, Swift and the Black Dog
I’ve read a staggering amount of short stories this year, possibly more than over the previous three years combined. Many of them were simply fabulous, so the competition within this category was fierce, indeed. Ginn’s is, undoubtedly, the BEST SHORT STORY I’ve read not only this year, but in a long time. It features somewhat darker, dystopian undertones and an endearing romantic element. Fascinating characters, exquisite world building, smooth composition, compelling story telling – it bears the Ginn quality stamp all over it. This story practically screams for a follow-up or a prequel (seriously, I’ll take either or both, I’m not fussy in this case).
DANI ALEXANDER, Shattered Glass
This book contains the BEST HUMOUR I’ve encountered in the M/M romances in 2015. Its hysterically funny lines had me in stiches, roaring with laughter like a loon several times, what resulted in receiving funny looks from alarmed co-commuters, while travelling on public transport. The story is fast-paced and presented in the most brilliantly executed first person narrative I’ve come across in ages. The whole thing is just one effortless, smooth and hilarious ride. I’m virtually getting RSI in my finger, hovering over the one-click button, in a nervous anticipation of book two.
J.R. GRAY, Damages Incurred (Bound #4)
I’ve read a heap of BDSM books this year, as it is my favourite subgenre. Sadly, I remained unimpressed by it to a large extend, due to its repetitiveness and playing to the stereotypes. This book decisively stands out for me, so awarding it the BEST BDSM ROMANCE title, truly is a no brainer. There’s nothing trite about it; it’s written with verve, the plot is gripping and the action quick moving. Having a range of well-developed characters – imperfect and broken, just as I like them – to follow increased the book’s attractiveness. Not to mention that the sex is, fittingly, ass-whippingly good.
JORDAN CASTILLO PRICE, Channeling Morpheus for Bloody Mary
This choice, for once, was a piece of cake to make. I award this book the BEST AUDIOBOOK prize without even breaking a sweat. It is a complete masterpiece and has class coming out of its ears. The highly sensual combo of JCP’s writing & the velvety, sexy ooze of Gomez Pugh’s low voice should be made illegal. Whenever they come together, the magic happens and my insides quiver perilously. There’s nothing better than having your favourite, madly talented narrator reading one of your most beloved books, which features a character you have a ginormous crush on (#TeamWildBill4Eva).
SANTINO HASSELL, Stygian
Cheekily rounding my collection up to a baker’s dozen, I’ve added the thirteenth book, which is my BEST PARANORMAL NOVEL of the year. This dark, suspenseful, eerie Southern Gothic fiction, featuring vampires, musicians, and complicated romance, hits just the right balance between creepy and hot. The storytelling carries inarguable cinematic quality and aesthetics about it and the character creation kicks major ass.
The M/M genre has experienced its fair share of difficulties this year, scandals and dramas included. Regardless of its assorted struggles and hiccups, I feel the genre has grown, in terms of both popularity and diversity, which is a promising factor for its future. As for literary value, 2015 was a very fruitful year, indeed. I’ve accumulated a sizable (or, well, unrealistic) to-be-read pile for the next year and discovered many exciting new authors. I need to mention at least one – J.C. Lillis, whose poignant and masterfully written short story entitled Memory Hills stunned me with its originality and left me teary-eyed. Choosing a dozen novels out of almost three hundred I’ve read in 2015 was an agonising and exhausting exercise. Frankly, I’m relieved I don’t need to repeat it for another twelve months.
A bilingual Londoner Kasia Bacon is a literary/medical translator and a proofreader. An avid reader, reviewer and book blogger, she’s currently working on her debut M/M fantasy novel, filled with the shenanigans of assassins and sexy elves. She has a mild coffee and lemon tart addiction, coupled with a slight obsession of all things paranormal. She is a lover of MMA, nature and the great outdoors. She can be found on her website, Twitter, or on Goodreads.