Harriet Scott Chessman: Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper
"Simple and elegant" is actually a pretty good description for this lovely novella about the relationship between impressionist painter Mary Cassatt and her sister Lydia, set in late 19th century Paris; told from Lydia's point of view and based on five beautiful portraits of Lydia painted by Mary, images of all of which are included in the book.
Sharon Maas: The Small Fortune of Dorothea Q.
Set partly in Guayana and partly in London, a beautifully written multi-generational tale of love, forgiveness, and three women coming of age and fighting to define their place in life. Oh, and a valuable stamp.
Hilary Mantel: Wolf Hall
Damn that woman -- Ms. Mantel -- for turning one of those people whom I'd always happily pigeonholed as one of history's great villains into one of my new favorite characters. The whole vast canvas of Tudor London and the Tudor court really comes alive in her writing, but Cromwell himself is the unquestionable standout.
Love sequel, Bring up the Bodies, as well ... and I can see the as-yet unpublished third book of the trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, as a hot contender for the First Dance category even now.
C.J. Sansom: Lamentation
That ending!! How dare you leave me hanging in the air like that over the fate of my favorite character, Mr. Sansom?
Tana French: In the Woods
All those books about other Dublin Murder Squad detectives are fine and good, but c'mon, Ms. French --(show spoiler)
Louis de Bernières: Birds Without Wings
Major lump-in-throat time. Two friends, one Greek and one Turkish, coming of age in a mixed-ethnic village in early 20th century Turkey, and ripped apart by the world events that are sweeping through their village and tearing it to shreds. Not an easy book, but absolutely gorgeous writing.
Also a hot contender for the Best Man category.
Arthur Conan Doyle: Sherlock Holmes (complete canon).
The iconic literary friendship to end all literary friendships.
Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy forever.
Harriet Vane and Lord Peter Wimsey