Underrated Books to Read in 2023 - Guest Post by Ruby Rae Reads
It's the start of a new year, and you're probably planning your 2023 TBR. If you're still looking for book recs, look no further than the list below!
The lovely Ruby from Ruby Rae Reads has taken over our blog today to share 10 underrated books you should read in 2023.
Read through Ruby's suggestions, then head to her blog after for even more book recommendations!
When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.
Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.
As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.
I truly didn't think a historical romance could capture me so but I was giddy and smiling the entire way through and this book deserves all the praise. A Lady For A Duke is a heartwarming and beautiful historical romance that follows Viola and Gracewood as they navigate their identities, grief and war.
If you're looking for something that will give you all the Bridgerton (the show) vibes, a stunning childhood friends to lovers reunion with wonderful trans and disability representation, then here's your book. This one stole my heart and is not giving it back and you need to read for your soul to be put together. I'm not kidding around, DO IT!!!!
Florence Day is a ghost-writer with one big problem. She's supposed to be penning swoon-worthy novels for a famous romance author but, after a bad break-up, Florence no longer believes in love. And when her strict (but undeniably hot) new editor, Benji Andor, won't give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye.
Although when tragedy strikes and Florence has to head home, the last thing she expects to see is a ghost at her front door. Not just any ghost, however, but the stern form of her still very hot - yet now unquestionably dead - new editor.
As sparks start to fly between them, Florence tells herself she can't be falling for a ghost - even an infuriatingly sexy one. But can Benji help Florence to realise love isn't dead, after all?
I don't know how else to communicate that this book blew all of my expectations out of the water and has quickly become a favourite of the year.
If you're looking for an adult romance about a ghostwriter, Florence, who can literally see ghosts, is dealing with grief, doesn't believe in love, and her ghost editor, Ben, is haunting her to finish her romance manuscript, then you've come to the right place. It ticked all of my boxes and I love being enveloped in my ghost romance. You want weird in the bestest way possible? Look no further.
THIS BOOK IS EVERYTHING AND MORE <3<3<3<3<3
When Eva Mercy, a single mother and bestselling erotica writer, and the enigmatic, award-winning novelist Shane Hall meet at a literary event in New York, sparks fly. But what no one knows is that fifteen years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one week together, madly in love. While they may pretend to be strangers, they can't deny their chemistry.
Over the next seven days, amidst a steamy Brooklyn summer, Eva and Shane reconnect. But Eva is wary of the man who broke her heart and wants Shane out of the city so her life can return to normal. Before he disappears, though, she needs a few questions answered...
Need a second chance romance between authors that discusses chronic pain? Then I’ve got you covered.
We follow Eva, a single mom and erotica author who was once in love with Shane, an enigmatic literary fiction writer as their paths cross again. This book is such a perfect blend of working through past trauma whilst focusing on an uplifting future, though there are heavy trigger warnings I suggest you look up before opening this one up.
Overall, this second chance romance had me glued to the page and you need to drop everything you’re doing to read it. You won’t regret <3<3<3 Perfect for fans of Beach Read and Get A Life, Chloe Brown.
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery. A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city in chaos.
Juliette Cai is the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang - a network of criminals far above the law.
Roma Montagov is the prodigal son of her greatest rivals, the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. He is also Juliette's first love... and first betrayal.
When a deadly madness strikes gangsters on both sides, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, and a monster in the shadows. And as the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns - and grudges - aside and work together.
For if they can't stop this mayhem, there will be no city left to rule.
If I haven’t made it clear, you NEED to read this masterpiece of a young adult historical fiction dulogy. This Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai is packed full of enemies to lovers romance, social and political commentary and lots of knives and guns.
The finale was a fantastic conclusion (even though I was in tears) and absolutely broke me. I’m sorry for your pain in advance but you really just need to read this. If I can only do one thing in life, it will be to make everybody read this series and be in pain with me. Enjoy.
If someone were to ask Jasmine Santos to describe the last few years of her life with a single word, it would definitely be a four-letter one.
After seventeen years of figure skating - and countless broken bones and broken promises - she knows her window to compete is coming to a close.
But when the offer of a lifetime comes from the arrogant idiot she's spent the last decade dreaming about pushing in front of a moving bus, Jasmine might have to reconsider everything.
Including Ivan Lukov.
If you’re looking for maybe one of the most perfect adult romances ever, then this book right here is going to tick all the boxes. We follow two figure skaters who have been long-time enemies but surprise! need to team up this season and it is everything. Romances can bow down before this book is how good it is, especially the slow-burn which no other author can get right except Mariana Zapata.
This book was absolutely brilliant and everything you will ever need in your life. Just read it and thank me later. Highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend <3<3<3
What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret - not even the person she is on the inside.
But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.
Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances' dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past...
She has to confess why Carys disappeared...
Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.
It's only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it's only by being your true self that you can find happiness.
Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.
We all love Heartstopper, but I have to recommend this showstopper of a young adult contemporary set in the Oseman-verse that you may not have read yet.
This book explores mental health, sexuality and most importantly deep intimacies of platonic friendships tucked between our character’s love of the internet and it is oh so wonderful. This book felt so real, you could tell how much care and craft went into it and it just gave me all the feels.
There's so much to dissect and take away from the book and I am so glad I read it when I did, in my final year of high school – a particularly great time to pick it up if you ask me. Such a page-tuner that I absolutely loved, go read it!
Contrary to popular belief, best friends Kate and Anderson are not codependent. Carpooling to and from theatre rehearsals? Environmentally sound and efficient. Consulting each other on every single life decision? Basic good judgment. Pining for the same guys from afar? Shared crushes are more fun anyway.
But when Kate and Andy's latest long-distance crush shows up at their school, everything goes off-script. Matt is talented and sweet, and Kate likes him. She really likes him. The only problem? So does Anderson.
Turns out, communal crushes aren't so fun when real feelings are involved. This one might even bring the curtains down on Kate and Anderson's friendship.
Another underrated gem from a beloved author that I need more people to be taken by! This book was like… the biggest warm hug and I am in love. We follow Kate, caught in a love triangle with her best-friend, Anderson, who always seem to fall for the same guy. Another great exploration of platonic friendship in amongst theatre nerd mania whilst also navigating teenagehood and it such a good time.
Highly recommend this YA contemporary packed with diversity and wonderful relationships, even a cute side romance!!!
Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers - magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons.
There's Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There's Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London...
You’ve heard of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue yeah? Well, let me tell you about Schwab's stunning adult fantasy trilogy with elemental magic, parallel universes and all the romance. Course you’re hooked, who wouldn’t be?
We follow Kell, who can cross into each of the different Londons: Red London, Grey London, White London and Black London (we don’t go there) who meets Lila, a pick-pocket who steals an item that is rather valuable.
There are royals and pirates and magicians and you need this series in your life! This series has one of the most unique and beautiful magic systems I have ever read and I don’t say this lightly. I highly recommend!!!
The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies - humans with extraordinary abilities - who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone... except the villains they once overthrew.
Nova has good reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice - and in Nova. But Nova's allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.
Calling all superhero fans! Marissa Meyer has got you covered with this young adult science fiction trilogy with actual superheroes. You need to check out these books with morally grey teens and extraordinary abilities.
Nova as a young girl always believed in the Renegades’ vision for justice, but when her parents are taken from her and they are nowhere in sight to come to her rescue, Nova quickly loses faith.
Now with her own abilities and the Anarchists behind her, Nova goes undercover to enact her revenge once and for all. Filled with superheroes and villains, political commentary, and romance, you won’t be able to put this book down!
When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie… although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.
But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.
When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.
The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby's growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.
But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.
If you have not yet read a book by Emma Lord then you have been missing out. An absolute gem of a young adult contemporary author and one of my favourites! It’s hard to describe but I’ll give it a shot: Lord just writes books for teens so well, they’re not cheesy or inauthentic but her books feel so real and you just have to read.
This book is her sophomore release that follows Abby who finds out she has a sister she never knew about after taking a DNA test with her friends as a joke and lands up at summer camp to meet her new sister with all of the messiness you can expect but I’m telling you it’s worth it.
Have I convinced you yet? You’ve already started? Oh great. If you’re looking for a YA contemporary romance that explores sisterly relations and ‘oops I am also in love with my best friend’, you’ve come to the right place and Emma Lord is here to give you the warmest hug. Read to cure all your problems <3<3<3
I’m Ruby (she/her), a South African book blogger and bookstagrammer. We talk books, movies, ramblings and everything in between on the blog. I’m a lover of stories and an aspiring writer. I’m currently a uni going student majoring in English and Film & Media Studies. Also your resident chaotic mood reader and rambling INFJ.