This year was packed with tons of fabulous M/M releases. Out of the one hundred and sixty book I read over the year, there are a few memorable ones Along with my go-to genre of contemporary romance, I expanded my horizons by trying out historical and paranormal stories and thoroughly enjoyed them.

The following are 2019 releases I read that stand out. In addition to the aforementioned historical and paranormal, you’ll find an own voices story, bi rep, and an M/M twist on a classic.

All the Better Part of Me by Molly Ringle
Tags: bi rep, friends to lovers, actor, contemporary romance

Simply amazing.

When I first heard about this story over a year ago, I fell over myself with excitement. I am a huge fan of the 80s, especially the music, and the major draw to All the Better Part of Me for me was the New Wave influences. Each chapter title is a song title from the 80s, and the songs fit perfectly with the narrative.

So I went into reading All the Better Part of Me with extremely high expectations. I wasn’t disappointed in the least.

Have you ever read a book that made you feel giddy, whether it be a particular character, the plot, or the writing? That’s how I felt from the moment I got to know Sinter. Sinter is hands down one of my favorite characters ever, and Ringle’s writing gives him such a great voice. He’s got a huge heart that influences everything he does. He’s endearing, even when he makes mistakes. He’s the kind of person who, if you met in real life, you’d hold on to tight and never let go. Because everyone needs a Sinter in their life.

A decent portion of Sinter’s interactions with other characters is done via text message. These interactions are engaging and perfectly convey the development of his relationships with the other people. Ringle gives life to what can sometimes come across as staid, impersonal communication on page.

Ringle takes stale plot twists and gives them new life. I don’t think this would have worked with any character other than Sinter. He is thrown more than one curve ball over the course of this book, and his actions are genuine and sometimes heartbreaking.

An amazing soundtrack, a captivating MC, and an engrossing plot combine to make this one of the best books I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading.

Spellbound by Allie Therin
Tags: paranormal, historical (1920s), magic, romance, audiobook, series

I got lost in this book. Lost, I tell ya! This story of magic set in 1920s NYC during Prohibition hooked me from the very first sentence, and I had trouble putting it down. The setting is written so perfectly that I felt as though I was running the city streets with Rory, sneaking into a hidden club to have a drink with Arthur, and freezing my butt off at Coney Island. The world-building is phenomenal, the character development is  amazing, and the magic is…well, magical. The book ends on a cliffhanger of sorts, but not to worry! This is the first in the trilogy of Therin’s stunning debut.

Now let’s talk about the audio. I am very particular about audiobook narrators, and I’m so glad I took a chance on Erik Bloomquist, a new to me narrator. His interpretation of Therin’s story and characters add a whole other level to this book. The accents and narration are on point. I loved listening to the audio so much that I wanted to immediately start from the beginning once I was finished.

What We Want by Eliott Griffen
Tags: own voices, bi rep, contemporary romance, age gap, slow burn, contemporary romance, series

 

What an emotional ride! I loved the slow burn between Rob and Zach, and how they really got to know each other before FINALLY admitting their feelings. There are some complicated personal issues each are dealing with that influence their journey and make their relationship all the more special. I’m looking forward to the next installment of their story.

Smalltown Boy by Amelia C. Wilson
Tags: historical (1980s), romance, friends to lovers, found family, coming of age, AIDS

 

Wilson’s debut is nothing short of spectacular. It’s an epic tale of a gay young man who moves to the “big city”, London, and gets a crash course in debauchery. The group of friends he surrounds himself with, with the help of his childhood best friend, introduce him to all the things his mall town existence wouldn’t ever imagine.

Max is flawed, and some of his decisions are more than questionable, but Wilson still manages to make the reader root for him. He’s young and sheltered, and London is the proverbial candy store.

I appreciated the attention to detail paid to the time period in which the story is set. I grew up in the 80s, and the setting felt very authentic and true to the decade. One of the most sensitive topics, the AIDS epidemic, is handled respectfully and honestly. Nothing is sugarcoated. There is suffering and lives lost.

Smalltown Boy is raw, humorous at times, and, ultimately, hopeful. Wilson is one to keep an eye on.

 

How to Belong with a Billionaire by Alexis Hall
Tags: BDSM, found family, contemporary romance, erotica, second chances, audiobook, end of a series

 

I am devastated. Not about the characters, main plot, and side stories contained within the pages of How to Belong. I’m absolutely wrecked because Arden St. Ives’ tale is over. How does a reader recover from the conclusion of one of the most phenomenal series ever?

I don’t know that this reader can.

Hall has this magical storytelling way with words. Words that are crafted in such a way that the reader is completely absorbed into his world. And each character, no matter how big or small a part they play in the Arden St. Ives’ universe, is fleshed out so well. Every scene is set up so thoroughly, it’s hard not to imagine the reader would recognize the cemetery, or the dog biscuit factory, or the busy London streets should one find themselves in such location.

I want more, I crave more, of Ellery and Bellerose and George (Oh, George!)…everyone, really. I crave the connections the characters form with each other, the complex personalities of each, and the random silly and delightfully dated pop culture references. (Spice Girls, anyone?)

Ardy’s growth and maturity are well developed in How to Belong, compared to when we first meet him in How to Bang. It’s inevitable that he would grow up; his maturation is natural and fits the Ardy we’ve come to know and love. He’s come leaps and bounds from the carefree, party-going university student and is now more aware, more perceptive. He’s become the person Caspian needs.

Reading the last sentence of the last chapter was difficult in two ways: one, it meant the end of Arden and Caspian; and two, it felt…not quite satisfying in a way. The ending left me wanting… something else. It felt like the end of a day, when you know as you go to bed that you will wake up in the morning to start the next day. But there is no next day, only a blank page.

Despite my feeling of almost confusion…I guess…with the ending, I still give How to Belong five stars. Overall, this book was amazing, and the series is extraordinary. It’s one I will read and listen to (Joel Leslie is GOAT.) over and over, and never get tired of.

Captain Stellar by R.J. Sorrento
Tags: superheros, romance, college, slow burn, found family, series

 

Captain Stellar was my first superhero read, and what a STELLAR read it was!

The world-building was amazing. I found myself immersed into the queer superhero world Sorrento created. Cal and Fernando are great characters, and I became super invested in them from the beginning. There are also several other minor characters that work really well with the story. They are fleshed out enough to add something extra and keep the plot moving without muddying up the story. And the descriptions of food! My tummy is grumbling.

Jin was my favorite side character, and I thoroughly enjoyed his story, My Ex Has Superpowers. I recommend solely for the food descriptions!

 

Manners & Mannerisms by Tanya Chris
Tags: regency romance, virgin, historical, queer take on Jane Austen

 

My first Regency romance, and what a fantastic read! I was completely immersed in the world of Lord William and Reginald Abernathy. The attention to historical detail is phenomenal and the clandestine romance is sweet. Highly recommend.