The Best Novels of 2018: Escapist Smut Edition

The Best Novels of 2018 - Escapist Smut Edition - featured

I struggled with the subtitle for this article. Last year’s described the contents as books “that won’t make you think too hard,” which is true (also hard, heh), but implies that these books are somehow less than, or won’t linger in the readers’ mind the way a traditional Best Of book might. This is the root of the problem: how to describe how this list is different from other “best” lists without forcing a dichotomy, relying on that tired old cliche that “good” books aren’t fun and “fun” books aren’t good.

So I went with Escapist Smut because, well, that’s what these books are, and if the patriarchy wants to attach a negative connotation to both escapist and smut, I say, Step off, patriarchy. This is my time. Also, this isn’t really a Best Of romance list, because it’s just my fave books that have that trashy edge I so enjoy. (And I haven’t read The Kiss Quotient yet, so don’t @ me.)

Anyway! Who cares! Let’s just get to my fave, best, funnest, smuttiest 2018 books, with links to Booklist reviews where available. Bye!

 

Blood Fury, by J. R. WardBlood Fury by J R Ward

Yes! The Black Dagger Brotherhood strikes again! But now it’s BDB: The New Class, a much-needed series reset that focus on the trainees in the war against the baby powder–smelling bad guys. This one has two Fancy Vampires falling in love with Less Fancy Vampires, and while the book is not a deep exploration of economics (thank the Scribe Virgin), the issues with class difference take the place of some of the more esoteric political discussions that bogged down previous books. What I mean is, less backstory world-building, more angstin’ and smoochin’. We’ve got Richy Rich Peyton, who gets over his sad boi self and falls for Novo, who is trying to just focus on her training but can’t stop thinking about his hair. Then there’s Fancy Lawyer Saxton, who is brokenhearted but also drawn to the rugged Ruhn, who is an outsider in the Brotherhood’s house and thinks Fancy Smart Saxton is too Fancy and Smart for him. But dudes in slacks need love too, Ruhn!

 

Driven to Distraction, by Lori FosterDriven to Distraction by Lori Foster

If you like road trips and rescue dogs, I have good news for you. Both of those things are in this book. And it’s Lori Foster, so you know there’s going to be lake houses and gun violence, but this one feels gentler than her ex-military/bodyguard books. Maybe it’s the dog. Or maybe it’s the ruggedly handsome hero who wants the buttoned-up heroine to cut loose, but he doesn’t, like, pressure her into doing it. Instead, he lets her dictate the pace of their relationship—which might also be because she is technically his boss, since she’s the one who hired him to transport her and the mysterious collectibles her boss buys. But it’s probably the dog.

 

A Duke by Default, by Alyssa ColeA Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole

A giant, grumpy Scotsman who makes a living banging heavy metals over an open flame. Bye. Seriously, the existence of Tavish Mackenzie is enough to recommend this delight of a book, but there is also Portia Hobbs, who is a relatable combination of feeling like a hot mess and confident in what she brings to the table (creativity, smarts, sex appeal). Also also is the cast of supporting characters who keep Portia and Tavish’s most defeatist self-talk in check and, especially in Portia’s girlfriend group chat, bring the LOLs, as the kids say. (They do not say that.) In short, come for the #swordbae, stay for the HEA. (Yes!)

 

Hot and Badgered, by Shelly LaurenstonHot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston

This book is dizzying and hilarious—think early Evanovich but with shape-shifting honey badgers. It’s light on the romance, but who cares because the hero is such a teddy bear that the gentle slow burn feels right. (Actually he’s a shape-shifting grizzly, but whatever). Plus, it’s a nice way to counterbalance the chaos of the relationship of the shifter sisters—who, due to Reasons, are bordering on feral—and the slapstick, caper-like pace. My fave part, though, is the way the shifters’ personalities reflect their animals—all the grizzlies are protective and always hungry, the weasels are conniving and shifty, and the honey badgers do not give a shit. Fun!

 

Interceptedby Alexa MartinIntercepted by Alexa Martin

Once again, I find my aversion to sportsball challenged by a romance novel. Friends, I liked this book about football! Fine, so it’s mostly about a gal trying to make it in a world populated by domineering men who underestimate her and the man who loves her for who she really is, but that’s like, my favorite trope: women who eschew vulnerability because society likens that to weakness, and the men who love them. Sexxxy times in the patriarchy. You know, that old trope.

 

Rafe, by Rebekah WeatherspoonRafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon

This may be my new fave kind of romance: real steamy with low angst. A bearded nanny comes to the rescue of a surgeon with twin daughters, who is left in the lurch, childcare-wise. The bearded nanny and the lady doctor are, like, mad hot for each other. But the children! But then Bearded Nanny is like, let’s talk it out, and they do, and they figure out a way to make it work. If you like a guy who does unspeakable things and also laundry, this is the book for you.

 

Wicked and the Wallflower, by Sarah MacLeanWicked and the Wallflower by Sarah MacLean

Sometimes I worry that Sarah MacLean’s characters are anachronistically modern, and then I remind myself that I am reading for fun and escape and if anachronistically modern attitudes are what enables MacLean to achieve that magical balance of gritty and dirty and polite and proper, well, I don’t care. Give that duke an iPhone. Cuz she sets the scene and tone just right in this tale of a victim of Regency-era Mean Girls who pretends to be engaged to the Catch of the Season, only to have a dude named the Devil (yes!) offer to help her out of her predicament. There is smooching. (And, to be fair, there are no iPhones.)

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1 Comment on "The Best Novels of 2018: Escapist Smut Edition"

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  1. Bill Ott says:

    I’m old and I’m male, and if that makes me part of the patriarchy, so be it, but I have no beef with escapist smut—bring them on, alone or together. This is my favorite “best of” list of the year.

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