My January 2024 Reading List: What to Read and What to Skip in Romance

In this book list and episode of the She Reads Romance Books Podcast I’m discussing all the romance books I read in January and sharing what I really think of them – including which books I recommend you buy because they are so fantastic and which books I suggest you just borrow because they didn’t quite hit the mark. This month was definitely hit or miss with lots of variety.

Episode 33: My January 2024 Reading List: What to Read & What to Skip:

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Hello readers!

Welcome back to the She Reads Romance Books Podcast where I take my mission very seriously in helping you find the best books worth reading…weeding out those books that just don’t cut it and clearly identifying the books that absolutely deserve a spot on your TBR list to read when you are able.

That’s why I love putting these monthly reading wrap-up episodes together. Do you like them? I mean, I like them, but I’d love to hear if you do. If you find them helpful and like hearing about what books I pick up and read. So definitely drop a review and share or a comment below because I want to know if I should keep them up.

Today I’m talking about my January reads and I have to say it was a great start to a new year. I had all the excitement of what’s to come in regards to new releases for 2024 and I definitely dove into some of those this past month but I also read some throw backs and books I didn’t get to in 2023.

Lots of variety in the books I’m talking about in today’s episode so let’s dive in.

My first book of the year was Fish Out of Water by Katie Ruggle.

Fish out of Water is one of the romance books read by romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books in January 2024.

Fish Out of Water
by Katie Ruggle

This was a new author to me but I just had to read this story because the book summary made it sound like a fantastic forced proximity, grumpy sunshine romance and it was.

Our heroine, Dalia Weathersby, receives an SOS text message from her sister who went off on a solo hike in the woods leaving Dahlia as the only one to try and locate her missing sister. But the city girl is smart and realizes she’ll need help and so she ropes in local hermit and man of few words Winston Dane with just a little bit of blackmail.

Honestly, this book was a cute read because the main characters were so much fun. Most of the book is these two hiking out into the wilderness in the middle of winter with only Dahlia‘s constant chatter to keep them company, besides the threat of bears and blizzard snowstorms.

As I noted, this is my first book by Ruggle, and I was quite impressed by the dialogue that she wrote for these two. Dahlia was hilarious. She never shut up as Winston would say but her comments and quirkiness and just random ramblings were so cute and charming. No wonder Winston fell for her in just a few days. So yes there is a bit of instalust/instalove in this one.

Winston, on other hand, was the quiet hermit who had a strong, right eyebrow that would rise with every funny or ridiculous thing that came out of Dahlia‘s mouth. I thought their banter was hilarious and kept me really interested in this book.

There is definitely a little bit of suspense surrounding her sister, but in a quirky kind of way. However, the ending was quite the rescue. If you’re looking for a book with great characterization, and a fun, romantic suspense without any crazy drama definitely put Fish Out of Water on your to read list!

Check out my book review of Fish Out of Water.

My next read is by another author I had never read before and this book won’t be my last. It was Heartless Hunter by Kristen Ciccarelli.

Heartless Hunter is one of the romance books read by romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books in January 2024.

Heartless Hunter
by Kristen Ciccarelli

Heartless Hunter made my list of most anticipated romance books of 2024 list and it totally delivered. It releases in February but I couldn’t wait to read my advanced reader copy because I’m already on the hunt for what will be the standout, romantasy book of the year and Ciccarelli’s romance is definitely in the running.

The combination of enemies to lovers, love triangle, witch romance, and romantic suspense all wrapped up into an amazing package made this a book that I couldn’t put down.

It is the story of our heroine Rune who lives in a world where witches are now hunted because of their powers. She lost her grandmother who was a witch in a devastating way and so she now pretends to be this ditzy socialite by day while masquerading as the mysterious Crimson Moth at night who saves captured witches and sherries them to safety with the help of her girlfriend, Verity and best boyfriend, Alex.

She has been desperate to find one witch in particular, a friend of her grandmother’s who has been captured by the Royal Guard. In an attempt to find the location where they are holding the witch captive before her execution, Rune realizes she needs to get close to Alex’s older brother Gideon who’s a high-ranking Royal Guard.

Meanwhile, Gideon has been chasing the Crimson Moth for 2 years and is desperate to find her because he has a real vendetta against witches and you’ll learn why in the book. He suspects Rune so he decides to court her to see if he can flush her out and uncover her true identity.

This book as I said had a great, enemies to lovers angle but you could see how much they actually really started to like one another even though Rune and Gideon were both hiding something from each other. The pacing was really well done with some OMG moments near the end that will have you ready and waiting for the next book in the series.

This one however felt like a full story though does end on a bit of a cliffhanger or at least in a way that you know the story is still continuing. I highly recommend checking it out this coming month, Heartless Hunter by Kristen Ciccarelli.

Check out my review of Heartless Hunter.

Leaving fantasy romance, I decided to dive into Chloe Liese’s final book in her popular Bergman Brothers series which is Only and Forever which releases on April 9.

Only and Forever is one of the romance books read by romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books in January 2024.

Only and Forever
by Chloe Liese

So there are a total of seven books in the Bergman series and this was my third read. I loved Always Only You, book 2 in the series, which is Ren and Frankie’s romance as well as book five, Everything for You, which is Oliver and Gavin’s story.

I can say for all of these books, they can absolutely be read as a standalone. Of course, this seventh and final book gives a good send off to the entire Bergman clan but I really enjoyed it without reading all of the prior books.

So this is Viggo’s story. He is a hopeless romantic and is weary of waiting for his happily ever after when he’s had to watch his siblings find their other halves. But his chaotic life has made finding his forever love seem improbable because the man opens a romance bookstore all by himself and while launching that store decides to coach a little kids soccer team and adopt five kittens and two dogs.

The man is straight up crazy but crazy with a big heart which is why he ends up making this pact with someone from his past that re-emerges, big sister of his little sister’s best friend, Tallulah Clarke.

Tallulha is an author who had a bestselling thriller but she’s struggling with some severe writer’s block for her second novel about a couple. She just can’t seem to write chemistry between her characters so her deal with Viggo is that she will give him the necessary help in his bookstore while he helps her add some romance and chemistry between her characters in her book. Oh and she just so happens to move in with him too.  

I found this to be one of those romance books that just makes you smile while reading it. Both Tallulah and Viggo have their struggles- he has ADHD and she has some serious baggage from her childhood but they have this obvious attraction and connection. They are gentle with one another and help each other really work through those struggles and come to acknowledge to each other that they are the other’s perfect match.

You get great mental health representation, definitely some steamy times and some really sweet, fun times and two really wonderful characters with an adorable story. I enjoyed it and highly recommend you add it to your list to read this April.

My next book I talked about in episode 31 of the podcast about the best love triangle romance books because after reading it I just had to talk about it but I will rehash it here if you didn’t catch that episode but you should circle back to it for sure.  

The book is One is a Promise by Pam Goodwin but I soon followed that book with the next in the trilogy, Two is a Lie followed immediately with the third book, Three is a War.

One is a Promise is one of the romance books read by romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books in January 2024.

One is a Promise
by Pam Goodwin

I was truly and completely in a Pam Goodwin trance for three days because I just binge read this entire series it was SO good.

In One is a Promise we meet Danni, a belly dancer, who after the BEST meet cute I think I’ve ever read it so incredibly different and cute and hot,  falls for Cole with just one look. Cole, the hot stud on a motorcycle who moves in with Danni within a month and proposes before he has to leave for a job that sends him overseas on an oil rig for a year.

Only the kicker is he doesn’t return and instead of reuniting with him on her wedding day, she’s met with a man who comes to her doorstep saying he’s gone. Her heart is severed and it takes her years to only begin to heal her heart when she’s approached by this alpha in a suit to come work at this casino – and dance in the restaurant he’s opening there.

She can’t refuse the money and hence starts her fall into love again, slowly opening her heart to this guy who made her feel things she hasn’t felt since Cole.

Speaking about the entire series and all three books, this is one of those love triangles that rips your heart out because you love both men and totally feel for the heroine who is faced with the impossible choice. I was really hoping that they would find an arrangement where all three could be together but spoiler, that doesn’t happen.

If you love love triangles then it’s a no-brainer that you have to read this series. Even if it’s not your first choice, which it’s not mine because I can’t take the intensity sometimes, I would still highly recommend it. Fabulous. Simply fabulous and a fun throw-back series which was different from the three new releases that I started the year with.

My next book is another one from my most anticipated romance book lists of 2024 but missed the mark for me and that is Expiration Dates by Rebecca Serle which releases in March.

Expiration Dates is one of the romance books read by romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books in January 2024.

Expiration Dates
by Rebecca Serle

Now this is my first book by this author but I have see her other popular work so wanted to give it a go since I absolutely loved the premise of this book. But man I was disappointed.

So what’s it about. Well, Daphne Bell upon meeting a new man receives a slip of paper with his name and a number on it—the exact amount of time they will be together. Then finally, the night of a blind date there’s only a name: Jake and no expiration date. But as Jake and Daphne’s story unfolds, Daphne finds herself doubting the paper’s prediction, and wrestling with what it means to be both committed and truthful.

Sounds really cool right?  The aspects of the notes with time frames for her relationships is such a neat concept but that uniqueness just didn’t come across on the page or redeem the lackluster story.

Instead, I got really bored and by 40% in was just skimming. While the flashbacks to her romantic relationships were a good hook to use in this story, they were overshadowed by so much extra prose that distracted from the point that I assume she was trying to make with them that just got lost.

Daphne and Jake had zero chemistry so I just started skipping their parts all together. Then something gets thrown into the mix and I’m just like WHY? Uh…this is a borrow from the library kind of book if you’re curious about it but it just didn’t meet my expectations. Bummer.

My next read was Eyes on Me by Sara Cate.

Eyes on Me is one of the romance books read by romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books in January 2024.

Eyes on Me
by Sara Cate

Again, my first by this author which now looking back on my list I tried a lot of new authors to me this month. Yeah! I kept hearing a lot about Cate’s Salacious Players Club series that focuses on different kink and I was pumped to read this, book two in the series, because it is about a voyeur.

Garrett is one of four owners of the Salacious Players’ Club, who likes to watch. Then one day he stumbles upon this app and starts anonymously watching a cam girl who OMG is his step sister – the person that he constantly butts heads with and who he can’t stop watching and secretly opening up to on the app.

Ok -so I picked this because I wanted a voyeurism book and yes, he watches her on the app a few times but there wasn’t a lot of voyeurism to the book if I’m honest. She has some exhibition tendencies but even that was pretty mild.

So right from the start I was kind of bummed. And I was totally fine with the taboo aspect of him feeling attracted to his step sister all of a sudden but even that seem tame. I only gave it 2 stars because I expected better writing and story and character development with the amount of popularity this series has garnered but it just didn’t work for me.

The next book I read was my selection for the January Romance Book Reading Challenge which was to read one book from 2023 that you didn’t get to last year but wanted to read and that is The Good Girl by Nikki Sloane.

The Good Girl is one of the romance books read by romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books in January 2024.

The Good Girl
by Nikki Sloane

This is the fifth and final book in her Nashville Neighborhood series which is a bunch of taboo romance books, where everyone has a connection of living in the same Nashville neighborhood.

This book was also the steamy read I picked to talk about with Becky on her podcast Too Stupid to Live which is fantastic if you haven’t yet followed that podcast. You have to check out the episode where we pick apart this book because we had so much fun and a really great conversation. I’ll include the link below so you can take a listen. She’s amazing. It was amazing. I cannot wait to go on the show again.

And honestly being on that podcast really got me thinking about starting up a romance book club, where we can dive into one book and talk all about the things that we love about it and maybe didn’t love about it, and the things that it made us sort of think about or ponder about so those wheels are churning in my head, so stay tuned for how that might transpire.

Funnily enough, initially, when I read this book, I was still kind of like down in the dumps after reading the last two books that just didn’t meet expectations and I wasn’t really enjoying it so I just stopped reading because I didn’t feel like I was really being fair to this book and had to circle back. So I cleansed the pallet and cleared my head to view this book in its own right and I’m so glad I did because it was just a fun, steamy read.

I took like I think four pages of notes on the book just so that I would be prepared for the podcast episode because that’s the kind of nerd that I am, but doing so really made me see a lot of different plot points, connections and repeated elements that I might have normally grazed over but this time was able to sort of appreciate maybe a little bit more.

This book is a brother’s best friend romance, which I guess for this series makes it a little bit taboo. If you read any of the other books in the series, this book finally gives you Preston’s story.

He is one of the main characters in the first book, The Doctor, where Preston and his girlfriend Cassidy break up and Cassidy begins dating his father, the doctor. You definitely get a little bit more of Cassidy and Preston‘s father in this book, but I hadn’t read it and I didn’t feel like I was lost at all. If anything, it makes me want to go back and read it now which I think I will at some pint.

This book also features Preston‘s best friend Colin, whose story you get in The Frat Boy, which was book 3 in the series.

I’ve got to tell you that book was super hot and super steamy because it is about Colin and his girlfriend Madison, who start out as enemies in college. He was in a fraternity, and she was in a sorority, and they both get kicked out of their houses due to a skirmish and end up becoming adult film stars together.

But in The Good Girl, Preston has this instant connection to Sydney, Colin’s younger sister, when he sees her at his college graduation party. She’s always had a crush on him and confesses it to him but he’s like, I don’t date and you’re too much of a good girl for me.

Well fast-forward a year when they run into each other again when Sydney is having this big argument with her mother and she realizes she no longer wants to be a good girl because what good has it ever gotten her.  So she ropes in Preston to help give her lessons to become a bad girl, including taking her virginity.

I’ll say this is definitely your stereotypical brother’s best friend romance where the best friend is like you’re not good enough for my sister and the sister is the good girl virgin and there you go.

If you like steamy scenes, lots of references to him calling her a good girl or her claiming to want to be a bad girl and if you like dirty talk then definitely read it as a standalone or just go binge the entire series.

The next book is in a micro trope that I’m starting to check out which is reverse harem hockey romances. These are sprouting up everywhere. And while I didn’t like a popular one from last year, I enjoyed the one I read this month which is Best Friends Never Kiss by Krista Wolf. 

Best Friends Never Kiss is one of the romance books read by romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books in January 2024.

Best Friends Never Kiss
by Krista Wolf

I’m kind of jealous of the heroine in this story, not going to lie. She has three hot best friends who play hockey and they are just super nice and super awesome with her. They’ve only ever been friends.

Tyler was her best friend from childhood who lived next door but who had a girlfriend until recently.  Axel was the hottest hockey prodigy who was always surrounded by puck bunnies, and Zane was the brooding goalie.

Ariana has been trying to go out on dates, but totally crashing and burning and after one particular bad date her friends are like well why don’t you go out on dates with us and we can help you out. Well, of course one thing leads to another and she ends up hooking up with each of them and the rest is history.

I rated it three stars because I thought it was well written compared to a lot of reverse harem books I’ve read and the story is good. It’s an enjoyable, friends to lovers book with just enough steam. It totally could have been a great book but the author didn’t have the best segways into how Ariana first sleeps with each of the guys. They could have easily been so much better but it’s still a book I’d recommend if you like reverse harem/why choose romances.

The last book that I picked up for this month was Twisted Lies by Ana Huang, which is the fourth book in her Twisted Love series.

Twisted Lies by Ana Huang is one of the romance books read by romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books in January 2024.

Twisted Lies
by Ana Huang

Ironically enough I have not read book one, Twisted Love, but I did enjoy Twisted Games and loved Twisted Hate. I picked up this one because I was in the mood for a morally grey character and Christian Harper totally fit the bill for that and I’m so glad I read this. I definitely am putting together a morally grey character list with him on it so that is coming.

You get a bit of a lead into Christian and Stella’s story from Twisted Hate because she moves into his apartment building in that book but I think you could definitely pick this up as a standalone read.

Stella Alonso is an influencer who doesn’t quite live up to her family’s expectations in terms of her career choice but she busts it between her two jobs while neglecting her true dream. She has zero time for a relationship but she keeps running into Christian, the hottie in a suit who just oozes control and always gets what he wants. And you find out pretty quickly that he’s obsessed with Stella. She is quite comfortable in the man’s presence and yet feels totally drawn to him at the same time.

When she is up for a big brand contract she realizes that a boyfriend, even a fake boyfriend could earn her some major follows and seal the deal so Christian volunteers. And when her stalker reappears, it becomes even more important for Stella to get closer to Christian.

This book is told from both points of view which is wonderful because I loved getting inside Christian’s head. They have such good chemistry together but the book isn’t called Twisted Lies for nothing. I’ll just leave it at that but I enjoyed this book which I read with my Kindle Unlimited subscription so definitely add it to you KU library!

Wow, what a month of reading it was now that I’ve reflected on everything. But before I end the episode, a few things to highlight…

We are entering the month of February so if you’re following along with me with the annual Romance Book Reading Challenge remember that this month’s challenge is to read either one spicy romance book or a romance novella. It’s a short month so if you’re short on time you can grab a novella and I have a list of Valentine’s Day themed novellas on the blog you should check out.

If you need help picking a spicy romance book, you can check out my list of best spicy romance books or you can listen to some earlier episodes on the podcast such as episode 8 where I share my list of best kinky romance books, or another fun one of course is my recent episode 32 on erotic romance books for the virgin reader. All of these are good places to start to help you make a selection.

Also remember that my Facebook Group is now LIVE! I’d love it if you’d join me in the She Reads Romance Books Reader Lounge where you’ll connect with other romance book lovers to ask for and share recommendations, gush over your favorite book quotes and book boyfriends and just have fun talking books. I really hope to see you there. I’ll include a link to the group in the show notes below for easy access.

Thanks as always for tuning in to today’s episode. Don’t forget to show some love and leave a rating. Til next time, happy reading because life is better with a love story.

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Check out romance book blogger, She Reads Romance Books' reading list for January 2024 to hear which books she recommends you read and which you might want to skip.
Leslie Murphy is the owner and writer of She Reads Romance Books.

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Leslie is the founder, writer, and producer of She Reads Romance Books (and the She Reads Romance Books Podcast), an online book community focused on romance books and the readers who love them because life is better with a love story.

Leslie reads 150 romance books a year and has been called a "book expert" by CNN. Reading romance is her passion and she cultivates her book lists with the best books worth reading in the genre. Leslie graduated magna cum laude from Davidson College where she honed her writing skills and also holds two Master's degrees. Join her community in the She Reads Romance Books Reader Lounge.

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1 thought on “My January 2024 Reading List: What to Read and What to Skip in Romance”

  1. I’m so disappointed you didn’t like Rebecca Serle’s latest, Expiration Dates. In Five Years and One Italian Summer are both fantastic books which I highly recommend, although they do not fit into the category of romance books.

    But as always, thanks for the some new books to add to my TBR. I think I’ll be busy until spring with all of the books I have on my list. :))

    Reply

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