My Favorite NA reads of 2016: (In no particular order)
Wicked and Torn by Jennifer L. Armentrout
The Return by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Yet another Armentrout favorite I read this year. After being introduced to Seth in the Covenant series, I was eager for him to have his own story and get his own happy ending. So I was super stoked when Jennifer released the first in a trilogy centering around Seth. We get a look inside his head as he encounters new dangers and new love, and like any Armentrout book, this book was packed with romance, action and humor from start to finish.
The chapters switch between Seth’s perspective and that of a new character, named Josie. Josie is a college student living a relatively normal college life until the day Seth shows up to find her and bring her back to the covenant, and she finds that she’s a demigod whose powers have not yet manifested.
From there, much chaos, drama and romance ensues. Josie is a quirky, likable character and Seth turned out to be the hero we all knew he could be despite his actions in the Covenant series. I can’t wait to dive in to book two, but I’m waiting until the final book is released early this year!
These books follow the stories of four friends as they navigate life and love and each find their own romantic happy endings. I haven’t had a chance to read the fourth book yet, as it was released very recently, but I loved the first three and I’m sure it will be no exception!
In Sweet Filthy Boy, Mia and her friends travel to Vegas for a post college graduation get-away, where they meet a trio of hot guys-an aussie, a canadian and a cute french guy named Ansel-at a bar. They wake up the next morning, each couple married to each other in a unanimous, drunken Vegas wedding. While their friends instantly set about getting their marriages annulled, Mia and Ansel are hesitant to break things off so quickly.
As the night they spent together slowly comes back in bits and pieces, Mia can’t deny the connection this boy she’s only known for a day. She told him everything about how she got the scar on her leg and how it changed her life. She told him about her past and her fears and her desires, and he listened with endless patience and understanding.
Their friends call them crazy, but Mia has always went with her gut, and her gut tells her that her feelings for this Ansel go beyond the physical, and that she’d be a fool to not give this thing they have-whatever it is-a chance. So in a split second decision she agrees to take off with him to spend the summer in his apartment in France.
Right away, it’s clear that things aren’t going to be as simple as they were that one night, and they struggle to navigate their growing relationship in this new environment. Mia is falling for Ansel hard, but does he feel the same way? Does he regret inviting her to stay with him? And is there more to his past than he’s letting on?
Mia was relatable to me in a lot of ways-she was very shy and quiet at times, so that people often underestimated her. She could also be very fierce and witty and brave at times. Ansel was sweet and dorky yet equally sexy and intense as well. Yeah, there’s a lot of sex and we all know lust can easily be mistaken for love, but I’ve read many New Adult books with similar situations, and I felt that relationship was genuine. It was complicated and sometimes messy, but genuine.
Despite their awkward start upon arriving in France, I felt like they came to really see each other for who they were and accepted one another’s flaws. They really grew to care for each other as they tried to work out exactly what had drawn them to each other in the first place.
In Dirty Rowdy Thing, Harlow and Finn can’t deny the attraction they’ve felt since they met in Vegas. They got married in a drunken haze, spent the night rolling in the sheets, then had the marriage annulled, all within a couple days. Following their quickie wedding in Vegas, Harlow later shows up at Finn’s house in Vancouver Island for a weekend fooling around. From then on they develop a sort of friends-with-benefits relationship, and while both of them sense they could become something more, they’re afraid to pursue it, worried it could ruin what they have and complicate their mutual friend group.
Unlike in Sweet Filthy Boy, this love story is told in alternating chapters between both Finn and Harlow’s POV’s, so we get to see the struggles they’re dealing with in their individual lives. Harlow is struggling to cope with the news of her mothers breast cancer diagnosis. Finn has taken care of the family business for years now, but the fishing boat he and his brothers have owned for year may be on its last leg, and they can’t afford a new one. So Finn joins his friends in downtown San Diego, seeking a solution to keep him family’s fishing business from going down hill. And in Harlow, he finds a much needed distraction from his family drama, as does Harlow in him.
For Harlow and Finn, the sex was a huge part of their slowly evolving relationship, as it was the only way either of them felt they could communicate, and the only time either of them were willing to show any ounce of vulnerability. It was the only time Harlow felt comfortable giving up some control. And although Finn wasn’t usually the type to engage in casual sex, he couldn’t seem to get enough of Harlow.
Outside of the bedroom, however, they find it harder to get along. Finn can’t help but see Harlow as a privileged rich girl whose never struggled a day in her life. Harlow, of course, oftentimes becomes fed up with his hot and cold behavior towards her, and his judgmental attitude. Finn could be really stubborn and prideful at times and there was a point in the story where he took Harlow’s attempts to help him as personal attack to his ego. Harlow wanted so badly to help Finn fix his problems but was hesitant to open up to him regarding her own issues, which caused some more tension between them down the road.
Overall though, these two fit beautifully together in spite of their differences. It took some time, but they eventually worked things out and came to a mutual understanding, each of them acknowledging the mistakes both of them had made, and forgiving each other for them.
I loved Harlow’s bluntness and how direct she was. She didn’t shy away from conflict, went after what she wanted and was perfectly capable of handling things on her own. She does have a hard time coming to terms with the depth of her feelings for Finn, but she’s smart and mature in how she handles their relationship in the long run.
Finn was a lot softer and more sensitive than I would have thought after our brief introduction to him in Sweet Filthy Boy, but he too had a bit of a controlling side and was as much of a fixer and get-shit-done type of person as Harlow. This second addition to the Wild Seasons series was just as hot and heart warming as the first, and I have definitely found a new favorite NA author in Christina Lauren!
In Dark Wild Night we’re finally given Lola and Oliver’s story, the only couple out of the six friends who never consummated their “marriage” or became anything more than friends the night in Vegas. They mutually decided to maintain a platonic relationship, although secretly, they’ve both always wanted more but are completely ignorant to each others shared feelings. Like in Dirty Rowdy Thing, this story is also told in alternating POV’s.
Lola is probably my favorite character of this series so far. She’s a huge comic nerd and has even published her very own graphic novel, a story she’s been working on since she was fifteen. She’s fiercely passionate about her work it was very inspiring to see a woman become so successful in an industry typically dominated by men.
Many people see comics and graphic novels as primarily “guy things” and as her novel began the process of becoming a movie, she experienced a lot of sexism from the filmmakers and producers. But she stood her ground as they tried to change her non romantic graphic novel into a romantic film and continued to invalidate all her complaints that they were incorrectly interpreting her story. She stood firm in her opinions and didn’t let the Hollywood bullies shut her down. She was a very empowering female narrator and her flaws only made her feel more real.
Oliver is the adorably dorky, nerdy, glasses-wearing type. He was very supportive of Lola’s career and never doubted her intelligence or ability. I loved that they were friends-best friends-for months before they became something more. I never get tired of friends-to-lovers romances. From the beginning, it was obvious that they both loved each other in a more-than-friends kind of way, but were both blind to the fact that they shared these feelings.
Lola’s past brought up some complications in their delicate new relationship. Her mom had abandoned her and her dad when she was a young girl, and her fear of being left again resulted in her shutting Oliver out suddenly and without explanation. It took her awhile to see that Oliver was nothing like her mom, and it brought out Oliver’s own insecurities as he worried that she didn’t fully trust him or didn’t love him the way he loved her.
This was one of the sweetest, most thought provoking NA romances I’ve read. It’s without a doubt my favorite book in this series so far, and Oliver and Lola are hands down my favorite couple. I loved watching this sweet, nerdy couple start off as friends with a shared love for comics and slowly move towards something more. This story was equal parts romance, equal parts the story of a woman finding her path as a graphic novelist, and I loved every second of it.
Books 1 & 2 of The Radleigh University trilogy by Dahlia Adler
This college trilogy tells the love stories of three friends, each featuring diverse main characters and romances. They’re full of fierce female characters and sexy romantic interests, with plenty of hilarious and swoon-worthy moments. I have yet to read the final book in the series Out on Good Behavior, but I’m excited to as it’s a f/f romance! They can be hard to find within the NA category.
I’ve already written a review for Last Will and Testmant, in which college sophomore Lizzie’s life is turned upside down when her parents die in a sudden car crash, leaving her as guardian to her two younger brothers. As she struggles to balance her college work and new guardian status, she finds herself seeking the help of her class TA Connor.
Connor has never been Lizzie’s biggest fan, and Lizzie only ever seen him as preppy, uptight know-it-all. However, as he proves to be both an excellent tutor, babysitter and friend, she finds herself falling for him despite knowing that a relationships between teacher and student is expressly forbidden.
Diversity bonus: Lizzie is a biracial main character who is half white, half Filipina!
In Right of First Refusal, we’re given a look into Caitlin’s life as an ambitious college lacrosse player struggling with unexpected family drama and the sudden appearance of someone from her past.
The day Cait moves into her new dorm, she gets the shock of her life upon meeting her roommate’s boyfriend; Lawrence Mason, who just happens to be the boy who broke her heart two years previously, and who now works as the school’s new basketball student-coach.
Cait and Mase agree it’s best to keep their history a secret from her roommate, but Cait is surprised at how determined Mase is to ignore their past and the connection they shared. He seems to want nothing to do with her now, but she can’t figure out why. When Cait begins posing as the girlfriend of a player on Mase’s team, she can’t help the satisfaction she gets at seeing him as jealous as she’s been ever since she met his new girlfriend. It’s obvious that they never stopped caring for each other. They’ve always had something real, ever since since they were brought together by a shared love of athletics at a sports camp two years previously. So why did he break things off? And is it impossible to ever get him back?
On top of Mase’s reappearance in her life, Cait is also dealing with her dad getting remarried to a girl not much older than she is. That and the fact that he’s moving across the country. He’s pestering her and her sister to transfer colleges and move out to California so they can stay close to each other, but Cait is perfectly happy where she is. Her dad just doesn’t seem to understand how important her lacrosse team is to her or realize how difficult it would be to just pack up and leave all her friends and sports commitments behind.
Cait is a very level-headed, hard working girl whose passion for lacrosse and loyalty to her friends made her an easy character to like and sympathize with. She’s a team player on and off the field; reliable, responsible and always there to support her friends, as long as they do the same for her.
I loved Cait’s story because I feel like it’s hard to find sporty romances where the girl is as much a player as the guys are. Usually it’s just the guy who’s the athelete. Girl’s sports are often overlooked and I liked how much work Cait put into improving her game, how big a role it played in her overall strength and resilience as a person.
Although this book is primarily a romance, it was also so much more. It was about Cait’s perseverance as an athlete even amidst the pressure that sometimes came along with it, and her growth as a person as she struggled to adjust to Mase’s presence in her life and the new differences between them. It was about her friendships with Lizzie and Frankie and her struggle to adapt to the changes in her relationship with her father. Cait is a very empowering character whose drive and passion is very inspiring and easy to relate to.
Mase, although a bit stingy towards Cait upon their reunion, was very supportive of her dedication to lacrosse and never doubted her strength in both mind and body.She and Mase shared a fierce competetiveness both on and off the field and it showed in how they bantered and danced around their feelings for one another. Although Mase tries to claim that what they’d had had been anything more than teenage lust, they eventually found themselves unable to deny the attraction and emotion bond between them that’d never really gone away. I loved this second chance sports romance and can’t wait to dive into Out on Good Behavior!
Diversity bonus: this is a biracial romance, as Mase is black!
The Off-Campus series by Elle Kennedy
2016 NA Honorable Mentions:
My Favorite Adult Novels of 2016: