10. Wicked Abyss by Kresley Cole
Cole’s Immortals After Dark series is one of the best paranormal series out there — and, at 19 books, one of the most intimidating to crack. Luckily, this year brought a stand-alone, and it’s a damn good one. Thousands of years ago, Abyssian “Sian” Infernas had his heart crushed by a fey princess. Now he’s the king of hell, and she’s been reincarnated, so he captures her and imprisons her in his inferno — that’s when the fun starts. Demon king and fey princess is the ultimate opposites-attract, and Sian and Lily are a brilliant pair. The big-picture machinations of the series still work in the background, but this is a supremely satisfying book by itself.
9. Breathless by Beverly Jenkins
It’s a dangerous trope: the independent woman who thinks she has everything… until she meets a man. But in the hands of a master like Beverly Jenkins, the story of a self-proclaimed spinster falling in love becomes empowerment itself, especially when she does it in the midst of a network of caring and strong women. Breathless is the second book in Jenkins’s Old West trilogy, and the historical setting adds extra weight to the heroine’s desire for an independent life. Portia is serious and guarded, with good reason. Part of what makes this book work so well is that the hero, Kent, never disregards Portia’s caution, but respects it just as much as he honors her, helping her see that strength, independence, and love can co-exist.