Favorite Romance Novels of 2023


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Contemporary Romance:

2023 favorite romance 1

Stars in Your Eyes - Kacen Callender

I added this to my “game-changing romance” shelf on Goodreads the moment I finished. Actors Logan and Mattie get off to a rough start on the set of their romcom, leading the studio heads to suggest they fake a relationship in order to provide the movie with positive publicity. While this sounds like a typical cute set-up, it grapples with trauma and the way it changes us and impacts our relationships. This follows different romance beats. It’s not a linear process but the way Logan and Mattie come back to each other is beyond satisfying. (Content notes.)


You, With a View - Jessica Joyce

This had my name all over it: photography, road trip, banter, and reunited rivals to lovers. To top it all off, anything that explores the loss of a beloved grandparent is especially close to my heart.  When Noelle’s TikTok about her grandmother’s secret first love goes viral, she unexpectedly reunites with her high school rival Theo. Gram almost married Theo’s grandfather Paul decades ago. When Noelle decides to go on the honeymoon trip that never happened, Paul and Theo decide to join her. I cried a bunch but it also made me laugh! (Content notes.)


Something Wild & Wonderful - Anita Kelly

Anita Kelly keeps getting better and better. In no particular order, I loved: the setting (hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and then time in my beloved Nashville!), the angst (so many feeeeelings!!!! it made me cry so much, the best), the letters (incredibly moving to see both what was written, as well as which letters weren’t sent), and the exploration of faith (Alexei making sense of what he believes after coming out and losing his faith community and parents.) (Content notes.)


Fail Seven Times - Kris Ripper

This best friends to polyamorous lovers contemporary romance is going to have a soft place in my heart for a long time. Grumpy misanthrope Justin has long been in love with his childhood best friend Alex but as a gay man, he’s stunned to discover he’s also in love with his college friend and Alex’s girlfriend Jamie. This is pure internal conflict and angst and I loved seeing how this triad came together. This pushed me to read the entire Scientific Method Universe series and its spinoffs, which I highly recommend. (Content notes.)


2023 favorite romance 2

For Never and Always - Helena Greer

Hannah and Levi had chemistry (and issues) for days. There were so many other things I loved about this second chance romance: being back at Carrigan's, administrative badassery, Kringle the cat, celebrating Passover, the food descriptions, a transformational haircut, embracing demisexuality, vibrant queer community, counseling with Rabbi Ruth, and a few others that are too spoilery to mention. (Content notes.)


Snowflake (Afterwards #6) - Nia Forrester

Neighbors Kai and Asha connect thanks to a snowstorm the week of Thanksgiving. They each have a lot to overcome. Asha’s hangups about her past; Kal and his reputation and his belief that a relationship will interfere with his Olympic dreams. This had some great angst. (Content notes.)


Too Like the Lightning - Travis Beaudoin

What a perfect angsty summer romance! Andrew is very much down on his luck when he rolls into Bulbs, Florida to stay for the summer in his friend’s rental property. He lost out on tenure and was fired in the process and then his boyfriend dumped him. Then he completely embarrasses himself by crying in front of the young hot groundskeeper who lets him into the house. We’ve got Shakespeare quotes, nature symbolism, an age gap that completely works, and sunshine in human form known as Coley. (Content notes.)


What Could Have Been (Lake Lenora #1) - Heather Guerre

Ashlyn and Noah both had unrequited crushes on each other in high school and they both thought the other person hated them. And wouldn’t you know, that’s very much still in play when Ashlyn has to return to her hometown to settle her deceased estranged grandmother’s estate and needs to hire Noah’s company to fix up the house. (Content notes.)


2023 favorite romance 3

A Holly Jolly Ever After (Christmas Notch #2) - Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone

If the first book in this series was “Hallmark movie but make it sexy”, this is “Hallmark After Dark but first let’s dismantle purity culture.” I loved it! (Content notes.)


Sotto Voce (Clover Hill Romance #5) - Suzanne Clay

A a slow burn polyamorous FMM romance between waitress and singer Harmony and husbands Oliver and Garrett. There was some beautiful symbolism as these three people figured out what it might look like to make music together and then so much more. (Content notes.)


SFF Romance:

2023 SFF romance

The Ippos King (Wraith Kings #3) - Grace Draven

Everything I love about fantasy romance! Serovek and Anhuset were incredibly well-matched, no matter how much she resisted admitting it. Serovek’s easy-going, teasing manner hides a fierce warrior and he’s able to bring out a lightness in Anhuset, who is all soldier, all the time. (Content notes.)


Sweep of the Blade (Innkeeper Chronicles #4) - Ilona Andrews

By far my favorite book in the series! Maud and Arland’s romance had me in a chokehold from start to finish. (Content notes.)


Aurora Blazing (Consortium Rebellion #2) - Jessie Mihalik

I could not put this space opera romance down! Bianca and Ian’s respective repressed longing gave me so much life. The push and pull, the misunderstandings, and the slow burn kept me enthralled. (Content notes.)


Erotic Romance:

2023 erotic romance

Salt Kiss (Lyonesse #1) - Sierra Simone

I have been waiting years for this promised MMF Tristan and Isolde retelling. It was worth the wait. (Content notes.)


Breaking Boundaries (Fourplay #1) - Gemma Blythe

Holy moly, this was all kinds of hot. Couple friends go on a beach vacation and the thin wall between their rooms leads to accidental auditory voyeurism and seeing each other in a brand new light. But it’s not as simple as Bex realizing she’s attracted to Darcy and Rafe saying he’d be okay if she wants to explore it. She has no idea what Darcy or Alec think, much less if they’d be on board. And then when Rafe realizes he might not be as straight as he always thought and he’d like to play with Alec? Friendship just got complicated. (Content notes.)


Favorite Nonfiction of 2023

2023 favorite nonfiction 1

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The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America - Carol Anderson

The Second Amendment was borne from white supremacy and it has only ever been interested in furthering that cause, as Carol Anderson thoroughly lays out. The through lines are all right there! I learned a ton. Disheartening and infuriating and yet not all that surprising given the US’s history.  (Content notes.)


The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight - Andrew Leland

Leland has retinitis pigmentosa but was slow to accept or adapt to the loss of his eyesight, which creates an interesting backdrop for a big picture examination of blindness and ableism within society. He details the trajectory of not being diagnosed until college to his experience writing this book in his 40s and his use of various assistive devices, as well as how his family has responded. There’s a range of blindness so it’s no surprise that even the leading organizations have very different ideas about their position and relationship to disability, as well as work to do when it comes to intersectionality. Leland’s relationship to his own blindness starts out quite ableist and I loved watching the journey toward more acceptance. (Content notes.)


Hijab Butch Blues - Lamya H.

An insightful memoir-in-essays by a queer nonbinary (she/they) Muslim author, which pairs stories from the Quran with stories about their life. Lamya touches on immigration, Islamaphobia, racism, homophobia, and more as she finds hope in a religious text while needing to remain closeted to much of their community, including their family. Their devoutness happens *because* of their identity, not in spite of it. It’s a nuanced, powerful view of religion. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys memoirs that grapple with faith/religion. (Content notes.)


Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture - Virginia Sole-Smith

A much-needed exploration of the ways diet culture shows up in how we talk about our bodies and what we do or don’t eat. The author touches on everything from thin privilege to the impact dads have. As a child-free woman, I never expected to read a parenting book but this is just as much for non-parents. We all need this information, whether we’re working to do better for the children of today or processing how diet culture harmed our childhoods up to now. (Content notes.)


2023 favorite nonfiction 2

Bleed: Destroying Myths and Misogyny in Endometriosis Care - Tracey Lindeman

One of the most impactful books I read last year. I recommend this even if you don’t have a connection to endometriosis because of the way it addresses misogyny in healthcare and the education on hormonal birth control. It covers the limitations of what’s been researched and where most reproductive care guidelines come from and how they’re not as evidenced-based as they should be. I was floored by how little research had been done on hormonal birth control before FDA approval, including options that are available today. Misogyny in healthcare is not a new idea to me but it’s a whole other thing to see it laid out in print and see how pernicious it is in every aspect of our healthcare system. I have silent endometriosis and feel much more equipped as a result of reading this. (Content notes.)


A Living Remedy - Nicole Chung

A luminous exploration of grief, class, and the failure of the US medical system. Nicole Chung is an ever stunning writer. (Content notes.)


The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide - Steven W. Thrasher

If you overlay a map of those most affected by COVID-19 and those most affected by HIV/AIDS, you’ll find a striking connection. Thrasher explores why marginalized communities are at a greater risk of being diagnosed and then surviving various viruses. The answer comes down to systemic issues like racism, capitalism, ableism, and the carceral state. With stories from past investigations and from his own life, Thrasher offers an empathetic holistic account of those hit the hardest. (Content notes.)


The Enneagram for Black Liberation: Return to Who You Are Beneath the Armor You Carry - Chichi Agorom

One of the best Enneagram books I've ever read—and if you know how many I've read (and declined to read), that's saying something. Using a Black liberation lens, Agorom's approach makes this a more intersectional system. She emphasizes that we are more than our armor and the things we do to survive. Community practice is key, taking us beyond what we’ve learned about ourselves and going into the world to live out our strengths and healing. (No content notes.)


Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More - Janet Mock

Janet Mock shares her experience growing up as a Black Hawaiian trans woman. A really thoughtful coming-of-age memoir. (Content notes.)

Favorite Fiction and YA of 2023

I read 236 books and 63 novellas and short stories in 2023. I also DNFed 63 books. I've been making great progress on my unread digital library but that also accounts for a bunch of the DNFs. I'm going to keep chipping away at all of my unread books, both digital and print, this year and see how far I get. 

I included links to content notes for each book. You'll also find my full book reviews there if you want to learn more beyond my one to two sentence summaries. 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 



2023 favorite fiction 1

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1) - Rebecca Roanhorse

Pre-Columbian America-set fantasy with mind-blowing world-building. (Content notes.) 


The Unbroken (Magic of the Lost #1) - CL Clark

High stakes and action-packed sapphic fantasy that takes on colonialism from a number of angles. (Content notes.


Something Close to Magic - Emma Mills

A delightful cozy fantasy about a baker’s apprentice who gets caught up with a bounty hunter, an actual troll (who is my favorite!), and a prince named Hapless. (Content notes.) 


The Ferryman - Justin Cronin

This is not just dystopian science fiction set on a Stepford-like island with a horrific class divide: it’s a grief novel. (Content notes.


2023 favorite fiction 2

Spear - Nicola Griffith

A gripping and evocative sapphic Arthurian retelling. Griffith's prose is gorgeous. (Content notes.) 


Divine Rivals (Letters of Enchantment #1) - Rebecca Ross

Rival journalists Iris and Roman communicate via magical typewriters, not realizing who their letters are going to, as a war between gods gets underway. (Content notes.) 


Babel - RF Kuang

A feast for word nerds. This fantasy grapples with the tyranny of colonialism, student-led revolutions, and whether empires can be defeated. (Content notes.) 


Hench - Natalie Zina Walschots

Anna “The Auditor” and her fellow henches turn everything we know about heroes and villains upside down. Such a clever premise! (Content notes.) 




2023 favorite YA

Bloodmarked (The Legendborn Cycle #2) - Tracy Deonn

A sequel that more than holds its own. Tracy Deonn blew my mind once more with this Arthurian retelling. (Content notes.) 


Never a Hero (Monsters #2) - Vanessa Len

A riveting page-turner as Joan, Nick, and crew deal with the fallout of a new timeline and face a new threat. (Content notes.

Favorite Romance Novels of 2022

Favorite Romance Novels of 2022 | Leigh Kramer

Another year of romance saving my life. Simply so grateful for this genre and the many gifts it has brought into my life, from the stories themselves to the life-long friends.

I'm generally game for anything when it comes to romance but even I was surprised by how much I wound up loving a few of the horror romances I tried. I'm a wimp! And yet not only was I downloading those with glee, I was tearing through romances with murdery MCs and it was cathartic as hell. This year also brought some favorite new author discoveries. CL Beaumont and Daniel May are the most notable. I haven't stopped thinking about their books or their incredible prose. 

Whenever I was just not feeling whatever I was reading or had a string of DNFs, I turned to Noelle Adams or her edgier pen name Claire Kent. I don't know what it is about her stories but I zoom through them without trouble. Luckily, she has an extensive backlist so I'll be set for quite a while.

I've included a link to my Goodreads reviews at the end of each synopsis for anyone who needs content notes/warnings.

This post contains affiliate links.


Fave romance 2022

Contemporary Romance:

Delilah Green Doesn't Care by Ashley Herring Blake

I will cut anyone who hurts Delilah Green. Claire was really great too but Delilah’s prickly self crawled right into my heart and I immediately felt this great need to protect her. Could she be a bit of a mess? Yes. Did she have big walls in place? Absolutely. And I think that’s why I loved her: those self-protective measures keep people out so she won’t be hurt but they also don’t let people in so she continues to feel unlovable. This is some of my biggest character catnip. It’s overall light in tone but instead of making me laugh, it made me cry a lot. That’s high praise: I deeply cared about these characters and was rooting for them to figure things out. It was such a satisfying read. (Content notes.)


The Truth of Things by Tasha Harrison

This book deserves all the recognition! There may be a prevalence of cop MCs in romance but few, if any, interrogate the system they work in. Not so here. My hat is all the way off to Tasha L. Harrison. She really swings for the fences with a clear-eyed look at systemic racism and police brutality. Levi is a Black cop who comes to the scene when Ava is being harassed by a different cop who broke up an altercation near her, an altercation that did not warrant a gun being immediately drawn on them. There are meet-disasters and then there’s this. Ava wants nothing to do with Levi but she has a hard time taking her eyes off of him when she goes to the precinct the next day to report personal property damage.

Ava is committed to social justice and she knows what Camden cops are like. But Levi is one of the so-called good ones (for real) and they start getting to know each other over the phone until he finally gets her to agree to go out with him. Levi was such a stellar character and I really liked what a great complement he was to her. At the same time, how could this possibly end well? I read with my heart in my throat and a pit in my stomach, nervous about what would happen. I was completely in Ava and Levi’s corner. They make a great team and they had such great chemistry. I couldn’t help but root for them to band together despite the circumstances life brought their way. This was heart-wrenching at times. I had so many feelings as I read: joy, despair, hope, frustration, delight, sorrow. This story ripped my heart out real good. Unfortunately, the second book in the duology didn't work as well for me but I still highly recommend this—while it ends with unresolved issues, Ava and Levi still get their HEA. (Content notes.)


Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon

Angst-lovers, this one’s for us. It’s the exact kind of story I’ve been missing. Gorgeous writing, layered characters, great angst. It made me laugh out loud and it made me cry…is there anything better? It was such a magical reading experience. Rowan and Harry snuck into my heart from their meet-disaster of a beginning. Rowan won’t risk a serious relationship and Harry doesn’t know how to do casual. They kept getting in their own way, which made my heart clench. I had such a hard time putting this down because I needed to see how it would all come together. This has such a strong sense of place. The way Devon wrote about flowers, plants, grapevines, and nature had me rapt. I wish I could go visit the vineyard and book a stay the bed and breakfast once it’s ready. Similarly, the secondary characters were just as well-developed as Harry and Rowan. The Brady family was absolutely wonderful. I will never tire of a watching a big loving family embrace someone who believes they’re unlovable. People feeling like they don’t belong or like there’s something fundamentally wrong with them is my catnip. My angsty soul is thoroughly satisfied and grateful to have read this. (Content notes.)


Strings Attached by Suzanne Clay

Friends to polyamorous lovers! This was such a treat of a novella. I really felt for April pining all those years. The way things evolved between her and Gavin was utterly compelling. I got such a kick out of Jillian’s advice and that she was part of setting things in motion. I would love to get a story about Jillian and her boyfriend next and then maybe all four together. (Content notes.)


The Enforcer (The Family #3) by Katrina Jackson

Katrina Jackson's brand of Italian mafia just plain works for me. Zoe is highly skeptical that both her cousin and sister randomly fell for these mafia men and she’s sure it’s not going to happen to her. But when they all need to split up for safety, Alfonso takes her to his family and we all know what happens when that kind of forced proximity comes into the picture. Alfonso is a henchman who is good at doing what he’s told…I did not expect that to also apply to the bedroom and I was very much here for it. It was HOT. Zoe is a force to be reckoned with and I loved seeing her rise to every occasion. I loved that they are both adamant about not wanting to have children. This story takes place over a short period of time and it ends with an HFN, one that made perfect sense to me. Alfonso is completely gone for Zoe, as well he should be, but she needs more time to figure out her feelings for him. It ends on a hopeful note for them and a cliffhanger setup for next book. (Content notes.)


Third Life (Second Best #2) by Noelle Adams

This series is utterly gripping. I could scarcely put this down! It wasn’t angsty like Second Best but it still made me cry in the end. Gillian has felt invisible for most of her life. After her mother’s recent death, she decides it’s time for a fresh start and plans a vacation for a one night stand, not expecting to ever meet someone like Richard. Because Richard seems way too out of her league, she’s different with him than anyone else and that winds up being what draws them together. It’s supposed to only be casual: they meet up in different cities around the world for a hot weekend. At first this works but then Gillian realizes she wants more. She’s pragmatic, which I found refreshing, I appreciated the way she went after the life she wanted, even when the way forward wasn’t certain. What can I say about Richard? He was debonair and emotionally repressed. My catnip. I loved watching the evolution of their relationship and what needed to happen for it come together. (Content notes.)


Fave romance 2022 2

Holiday Romance:

Season of Love by Helena Greer

Set at a Jewish-run Christmas tree farm, Noelle and Miriam are initially at odds when they discover they’ve inherited the farm, along with Miriam’s cousin Hannah and Hannah’s ex Levi. Miriam has been away for the past ten years and Noelle is unaware of her reasons why—but she has strong opinions anyway. They’re both grieving Cass’s death and emotions are high when Miriam decides she’ll stay to get Carrigan’s through this holiday season to Noelle’s chagrin. The evolution from there was an absolute delight but this is NOT a romcom. In addition to grief, it delves into healing from trauma. It has sneaky angst and it made me cry. Miriam is estranged from her abusive father but she also distanced herself from everyone else in the process. It takes time to heal from abuse and learn new ways to respond to conflict. This is true for Miriam, as well as Noelle, and it was so good to see them start figuring things out. They’re not magically fixed by love but they are certainly better for having each other. An amazing crew of secondary characters round out the cast, forming one beautiful found family. I adored them all. (Content notes.)


Historical Romance:

Names for the Dawn by CL Beaumont

An astoundingly well-written romance set in early 1990s Alaska about a gay trans white American park ranger and gay Pakistani-Indian wolf biologist. The richness of the characters and strong sense of place made for an unforgettable read. Will has forged the life he wants, to a degree. He’s a park ranger. He’s living as the man he always knew he was. But no one knows that he’s trans or gay. He’s deeply closeted, steeled for rejection at every turn. The isolated landscape mirrored how Will has isolated himself. Will wants to be seen but the risks are real and he doesn't believe he'll ever be loved. And then he meets Nikhil, much lauded in his field and in Denali for research. Nikhil is isolated in his own ways too. The story alternates between the summer they met and one year later. We know something tore them apart but not what or how that barrier will be overcome. I felt so deeply for Will and Nikhil, completely invested in how they could possibly get to their HEA. Their intimacy built in such lovely, thoughtful ways, making for one satisfying romance. 

Names for the Dawn is the angsty book I've been longing for. This is a languorous, interior book. It’s not that things don’t happen; how the characters feel about these situations matters more. It made me cry several times—my highest praise. This was heart-wrenching and then some and not always in ways I might have guessed. What impressed me beyond the characterization and structure was the writing itself. I highlighted and re-read so many passages, just taking them in. It’s not just that the writing itself is beautiful, although it absolutely is. It’s the way Beaumont writes with care for his readers. There’s nary an emotionally manipulative plot choice. Everything that happened felt earned. I was able to trust where the author was taking me, even when he was ripping my heart out. It’s one of the best romances I’ve ever read. (Content notes.)


Heart of Stone by Johannes T. Evans

Do you need an exquisite slow burn with intense pining and longing glances? Look no further than this historical paranormal romance. Angsty, yearning, gloriously moving. Vampire Henry hires Theophilus as his personal secretary. Henry is lonely and touch-starved but also a completely vivacious, lively character. He’s intensely interested in Theophilus’s opinions, whereas Theophilus is completely baffled by this and wants to maintain propriety. We get different vignettes of their interactions as their relationship grows from employer-employee to friends to (much later) something more. The story focuses on small intimacies and I ate it up. There are lingering gazes upon wrists and contemplation of faces. This book felt revelatory. There’s something deeply loving about all of the characters, in and of themselves but also the way they look out for each other. It has a broader sense of community than your typical historical romance. Then there’s the writing itself, utterly gorgeous prose. What a wonder. (Content notes.)


The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles

When in doubt, turn to KJ Charles. This was a breath of fresh air. Robert sends his editor Henry essentially a companion manuscript to his popular Casebook of Simon Feximal. Only in this version, Robert writes himself back into the narrative about his partner through this collection of stories covering their first five years together. Robert and Simon met because of a ghost and they became further embroiled because of Simon’s work as a ghost-hunter. That age old formula for love, you know. This was crisp, entertaining, creepy, and sneakily angsty. I adored hearing about Robert and Simon’s cases and how they took care of each other and learned what it means to really love someone, no matter the cost. (Content notes.)


HC Union romance faves

Fantasy Romance/Steampunk/Urban Fantasy:

The Kraken King (Iron Seas #4) by Meljean Brook

Adventure and intrigue, an author FMC, and a MMC who says he will come for her, no matter what, AND THEN HE DOES. I swooned so hard over Ariq and Zenobia’s story. Zenobia is considered to have a plain appearance and she’s become very pragmatic about her options as a result, especially since past suitors have only wanted her for her money or access to her brother. She struggles to believe Ariq really wants her and oh how my heart ached. Ariq knows who he is, what he wants, and how to see things through. I loved the way he persevered and endeavored to prove to Zenobia that he was with and for her. He would never contain or limit her. And she wants to be by his side to support him. They made such a fantastic team. I thoroughly enjoyed the meta element of the adventure stories Zenobia writes. This had such good angst and it made me cry a couple of times. I could not have loved this more. (Content notes.)


Sapphire Flames, Emerald Blaze, and Ruby Fever (Hidden Legacy #4-6) by Ilona Andrews

*This series was published by Avon, an imprint of HarperCollins. The HarperCollins Union has been on strike since November 10, 2022. They deserve a fair contract, living wages, and an inclusive workplace. It’s disheartening that HarperCollins has yet to meet these reasonable requests. Learn how to support the union here.*

I saved Catalnia's arc of the Hidden Legacy series until Ruby Fever releases. I did not want to deal with the cliffhangers! It was worth the wait. Only sharing thoughts about Sapphire Flames here so as to avoid giving spoilers. Catalina was an absolute badass. She’s head of the House now and she’s good at it, even if she’s scared half the time. I loved seeing her siren power in action. Her long-time crush on Alessandro made for such an interesting dynamic, as well as highlighting her belief that she’ll never know what love is like due to not trusting her power’s effect on people she’s interested in. This was heartbreaking but it also made for great tension with Alessandro. There are big barriers between these two but Alessandro was clearly just as gone for her, even if she struggled to see it. This is going to be one slow, delicious burn. (Content notes for Sapphire Flames, Emerald Blaze, and Ruby Fever.)


Entreat Me by Grace Draven

Meet my new favorite Beauty & the Beast retelling. Draven upped the ante by giving us not one but two pairs of Beautys and Beasts. Louvaen and Ballard are the primary couple and the secondary is Louvaen’s sister Cinnia and Ballard’s son Gavin. Cinnia is a traditional Beauty, whereas Louvaen is often described as a shrew or a harpy. But really, she’s just a pragmatic, hard-working widow doing her best to take care of her overly trusting sister and incompetent father. Louvaen has all my respect and admiration. She was the true star of this story.

Ballard and Gavin have been cursed for 372 years by Ballard’s wife Isabeau who died after giving birth to Gavin. Gavin’s curse didn’t manifest until he was around 12. This devastated Ballard and he decided to have his magician redirect Gavin’s curse to him instead so he’s taken on the burden completely. But once the curse is done destroying Ballard, it will turn to Gavin. Time is running out for Ballard and they’re despairing over ever ending the curse until Cinnia and Louvaen arrive. The story is driven by whether or not the curse will end. I was so worried for everyone, including the other inhabitants of the castle. My heart was in my throat half the time, just yearning for Ballard and Louvaen to be together. I loved them so much. Even though it follows the beats of the source material, it has interesting twists and nods. A magnificent retelling. (Content notes.)


Erotic Romance:

A Fresh Taste of Ink trilogy by Daniel May

I love when authors make a liar out of me. Infidelity has always been one of my hard limits. There’s no sugar coating Trinket’s choice to cheat on his boyfriend. Knowing the trilogy is about the evolution from infidelity to committed triad helped me enjoy the ride. Trinket, Mini, and Zee made for one unputdownable, incendiary read. This was hot, hot, HOT. The characters are what makes this work. I genuinely liked each of them. I have a strong sense of who they are, in spite of knowing very few specifics about them. I know what makes them tick, what they desire and what they’re embarrassed about. Trinket is cheating on Zee, yes. He’s not necessarily in denial about that fact but he doesn’t think too hard about it either. He’s deeply in love with Zee but there’s something he’s getting from Mini that he also needs. And what he gets from Mini feeds his relationship with Zee, apart from the fact that Zee doesn’t know. There is something symbiotic happening between the three men and the tattoos and the secrecy and I couldn't get enough of it. Highly recommend the whole trilogy. Daniel May has incredible range and I've enjoyed everything else that I've tried by him. (Content notes.)


Dark Romance:

Mindf*ck series by S.T. Abby

I would sell my soul for Lana and her vigilante justice. She’s become one of my very favorite romance FMCs. Lana is a female serial killer who falls for the FBI agent who’s unknowingly investigating her crimes. Talk about a good setup. It’s compelling as hell, especially given how good she is at profiling and how she can help Logan with his cases. Lana has good reasons for killing these men and I’m 100% on her side. Now I’m not going to lie: what she does to them is grisly but what they did to her was worse and frankly, torture is too good for them. With twists and turns aplenty, I wasn’t sure how things could possibly resolve. All I knew was I needed everyone in Delaney Grove to suffer and then I needed Lana and Logan to get their HEA. While we do get an HEA, ST Abby makes her readers work for it, which made it that much more satisfying for me. This series is very dark (heed the CWs) but it's also cathartic. If you can handle some blood and gore—and I’m saying that as a general wimp—and the CWs aren't sensitive issues for you, it’s well worth the try just to experience the magnificence of Lana. (Content notes.)


Favorite Nonfiction of 2022

Favorite Nonfiction of 2022 | Leigh Kramer

After a couple of years of reading way less nonfiction than usual, I seem to be back on track and I couldn't be happier about it. I accepted that due dates are the best way to get me to read the nonfiction I want to read and so I've been back on the "library first" train. Every book on this list came up in multiple conversations with friends. I couldn't help but want to discuss the contents and convince my friends to read them too. They're that good.

I've included a link to my Goodreads reviews at the end of each synopsis for anyone who needs content notes/warnings.

This post contains affiliate links.


Fave nonfiction 2022

Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make—and Keep—Friends by Marisa G. Franco

An instructive look at friendship through the lens of attachment theory. The author, a psychologist, makes a strong case for why we need to prioritize friendship more, as well as how these relationships take work just like any other—and they’re worth working on. It’s an engaging read, with a blend of research, anecdotes from her own life, and practical tips. As a single woman, I’m already a believer in the power of friendship and I’m always interested in deepening those relationships. This provides a good gut check about the kind of friends we are and potential areas of improvement.

This wasn’t necessarily new information but it was helpful to have it packaged together in one place. It has the potential to really revolutionize friendships for people who haven’t put the same time and energy in as their romantic or familial relationships. I particularly appreciated the chapter on managing conflict and the helpful scripts provided throughout. (Content notes.)

Disclosure: I received a free advanced copy from G.P. Putnam’s Sons in exchange for an honest review.


Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain

Given the impact Quiet had on me, I shouldn’t be surprised by how much this resonated. There’s a Bittersweet Quiz so people can assess their temperament. It said “if you score above 5.7, you are a true connoisseur of the place where light and dark meet.” My score was 8.9. Cain makes a case for bittersweetness as both a strength and a source of wisdom and connection. It’s basically my entire personality as an Enneagram Four and I felt incredibly seen and understood. But there’s so much to appreciate, no matter what personality type you are. (Content notes.)


They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib

Not only the best music writing I’ve ever encountered but one of the best essay collections I’ve ever read, which also touches on pop culture and current events. I loved the wide range of musicians and the deeply moving connections he made. The essays related to misogyny, suicide/suicidal ideation, racism, and grief were particularly strong. Simply phenomenal. (Content notes.)


In Transit: Being Non-Binary in a World of Dichotomies by Dianna Anderson

A valuable, accessible resource exploring the history and evolution of non-binary identity. There’s some exceptional writing, especially in each chapter’s conclusion. Dianna Anderson is a long-time internet friend and I knew I could count on them to explain theory in a way that would be easy to understand. They did a great job teasing out the relationship between non-binary people and the LGBTQ+ community and how this has changed over the years. As a cishet woman, I really appreciated their callout in chapter 9 for cis people to recognize their own biases and bigotry. The questions are helpful reflection points and I plan on taking my time with them. (Content notes.)

Disclosure: I’m friendly with the author.


The Chiffon Trenches by André Leon Talley

ALT was a force to be reckoned with, an irrepressible personality and a font of fashion history. The first half was a dishy delight, going into the who’s who of the fashion world and displaying the fullness of his wit and knowledge of the industry. The second half was more somber and searching as he experienced loss and delved into the rifts with Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld. With each story, he was seeking acknowledgment and affirmation that his contributions mattered. That he mattered. He had a strong sense of duty that could lead to misplaced loyalty. My heart ached over the way he was treated by some of the most important figures in his life. And that’s not even getting into the racism and microaggressions he experienced as a Black gay man within the still largely white halls of the fashion industry. He made a difference where he could, perhaps not as much as some would hope but he still made an impact. There is a lot of name dropping and I ate it up. He moved through a lavish world that I can only imagine and I enjoyed living vicariously through him. I especially enjoyed learning the behind the scenes on various collections and the progression of his career. It’s notable who he mentions and who he does not. (Content notes.)



HC Union nonfiction faves

Sitting Pretty: The View From My Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig

*This was published by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins. The HarperCollins Union has been on strike since November 10, 2022. They deserve a fair contract, living wages, and an inclusive workplace. It’s disheartening that HarperCollins has yet to meet these reasonable requests. Learn how to support the union here.*

Rebekah Taussig issued an important invitation through this essay collection. Her essays are a blend of vulnerability, humor, and education. I felt as if I was in conversation with her and perhaps that because she’s a teacher by background. Her essays are nuanced and considered. They had my mind racing with possibilities. But also, her prose is gorgeous and a treat to read.

Taussig is purposeful in opening up about her life as a wheelchair user to show just how ableist our society is. No matter your knowledge or experience of disability, we need to think about the environment and people around you, as well as the ways you might perpetuate ableism. Accessibility benefits everyone. Taussig deftly shows this in example after example. Because here’s the thing: we will all likely experience disability at some point. As we age, our bodies and abilities change. It boggles my mind why this isn’t already a consideration for stores, restaurants, and venues. We have an opportunity to address ableism and discrimination and I hope we will take it. (Content notes.)


Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe

This was a well-researched and enraging read about the opioid epidemic. Investigative journalism at its finest—I’m in awe of how Patrick Radden Keefe structured this and how many connections he brought to light. The Sacklers had every opportunity to do the right thing and chose not to. Not only did they deny wrong-doing, they used their wealth and power to evade accountability. To this day, they have not apologized. I’m glad the truth is out there and can only hope they will be held accountable someday. Eat the rich. (Content notes.)


How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing by KC Davis

Truly excellent. This made me cry good tears. Written with care and compassion, her concepts are easy to adapt to your specific needs. While I don’t struggle with the care tasks she spends the most time on (e.g. dishes, laundry), the first half of the book helped me reframe a task that had plagued me for months—and I was finally able to cross it off the list. For that alone, I’m grateful. Highly recommend for anyone dealing with mental health issues or trauma and anyone who is neurodivergent or generally overwhelmed. (Content notes.)


I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

As good as everyone said. I never would have read this if not for all the rave reviews as I’m not familiar with the author or the shows she was on. This is more in the vein of narrative non-fiction and goes deeper and is more thoughtfully written than many other celebrity memoirs. McCurdy clearly did a lot of processing and healing before writing this. She deserved so much better than the cards she was dealt. Knowing she’s in a better place now is a relief. It’s incredibly intense so please consider the CWs, especially if you have a history of disordered eating. McCurdy is a gifted writer and I’m glad she had the opportunity to share her story. (Content notes.)


The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O'Rourke

The author shares an insightful, honest account of her chronic illnesses, from her family’s narratives around illness to the doctors who dismissed her symptoms. She was eventually diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, endometriosis, POTS, Lyme disease, and hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. It was unfortunately a long road to getting those diagnoses. But the doctors weren’t failing her out of callousness necessarily so this book is also an exploration of the Western model of medicine and how that impacts those living with invisible illnesses.

She writes with a lot of compassion for herself as she was trying to find answers, as well as others seeking diagnosis. If you’re in a similar boat, I think you’ll be encouraged to keep going but please exercise caution as needed as she goes into a lot of details about the ups and downs that could prove to be difficult depending on where you’re at. For those of us on the other side, I don’t think her intention was to show readers how they can be better friends or partners to those with chronic illness but it’s there all the same. She examines a number of issues, including why doctors find it easier to dismiss symptoms than listen to patients and why the tests themselves can be inaccurate and what actual health looks like when living with a chronic illness. Luckily, there are also doctors who are trying to change how things are done and who are innovating within the field. With the rise of long COVID, the author is hopeful we’ll see a changing tide and patients across the board will receive better care for symptoms that aren’t straightforward. (Content notes.)



Favorite Nonfiction of 2022  Leigh Kramer