Best of 2021: The Books

Posted January 3, 2022 by Casee in Features | 7 Comments

It’s that time of year again. The time where we come together and look over the books that we’ve read over the course of 2021 and list our favorites. Today’s list will include all of our favorite books that we read in 2021. Join us for a week of reflecting on our favorites and not so favorite reads, authors, heroes, heroines, and series.


Lucky Stars (Ghosts and Reincarnation #5) by Kristen Ashley: I read this book very early in the year, but I still remember it. It’s a second-chance romance with a few ghosts thrown in. It was typical Kristen Ashley fare and I was hooked.

Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder #1) by Ilona Andrews: At the end of 2020, I struggled to start this book. I finished the Kate Daniel series in 2020 & I didn’t want it to be over. So I procrastinated. Then I read it, & omg you guys, it was amazing. Aurelia was just so like Julie, but not like her at all. Seeing the short glimpse of Derek & I all for this series. I can’t wait for the next book.

Give Me a Reason (Redemption Hills #1) by A.L. Jackson: For me, A.L. Jackson has never missed. There is not one book she’s written that I didn’t like. This book went beyond like and straight into love. It’s the first in a new series. Both Trent & Eden are amazing characters.

Tin Queen (Clifton Forge #5) by Devney Perry: I’m really disappointed that I didn’t review this book. It took me awhile to love it, but when I did? Holy crap, this was a good book. There is romance, intrigue, family secrets, and a happy ending. This book stayed with me long after I finished it. Nova was so badass. Plus she admitted when she was wrong, which made her a better character than she already was.

Wicked Bite (Realm Enforcers #5) by Rebecca Zanetti: This is probably my favorite book of 2021. I enjoyed Bear and Nessa so much. Their struggle was very real. I hope to bring you guys this review sometime this month. It was a fabulous book.

Honorable Mentions: Fallen Jester by Devney Perry, Archangel’s Light by Nalini Singh, and Come to Me Recklessly by A.L. Jackson.


Murder on Cold Street (Lady Sherlock #5) by Sherry Thomas: I somehow missed this series when it was first released, which turns out to be a blessing because I was able to binge-read it. I loved all the books, but this one stood out for me. Charlotte, Watson and the whole cast of characters is really wonderful here.

Hot as Hades by Alisha Rai: This is the Hades/Persephone story I’ve been waiting for. I loved everything about it…except that it ended too quickly.

Heart (Ghost Mountain Wolf Shifters #2) by Audrey Faye: This series was another new discovery for me in 2021. I liked all the books I read in the series, but this one was my favorite. The focus on the pack submissives and letting those who were abused and traumatized find their own power was wonderful.

Wild Sign (Alpha & Omega #6) by Patricia Briggs: Briggs is always a favorite, and I love Charles and Anna, but I especially loved learning more about Leah in this book. Although this isn’t my favorite book in the series, it was definitely an awesome book.

Shatter the Dark (Ever Dark, Ever Deadly #4) by Jenna Collett: This was such a great book. I really loved the nod to Hansel and Gretel and Beauty and the Beast. Both MCs were well-written and really grew over the course of the novel.

Honorable Mentions: The Half-Life of Marie Curie by Lauren Gunderson, Chaos Reigning (Consortium Rebellion #3) by Jessie Mihalik and Boyfriend (Moo U #1) by Sarina Bowen.

What were your favorite books in 2021?

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7 responses to “Best of 2021: The Books

  1. DiscoDollyDeb

    I maintain two “Favorite Books” lists each year: one for books published and read in the current year; the other for books published in prior years but only read in the current year. Here are my favorite books published and read in 2021:

    SAINT by Sierra Simone: Brilliant and profound m/m story about complicated people (a monk and his former lover) sincerely questing for spiritual peace but also in deep need of human connection through love and intimacy, asking themselves if such things are possible within the hierarchical system of the Catholic Church. My favorite book of 2021.

    FLOAT PLAN by Trish Doller: Two people—one mourning the suicide of her fiancé, the other mourning the amputation of part of his leg—work together to sail a small boat across the Caribbean. An elegantly-written, technically-detailed, emotionally-bracing story of living with grief and loss. Excellent on all levels.

    THE TYRANT ALPHA’S REJECTED MATE by Cate C. Wells: Wolf-shifter romance with masterly world building featuring a scrappy, self-sufficient, physically-disabled heroine and a pack-alpha hero who does not want to accept that she is his fated mate. Wells excels at describing pack politics and stoking the sexual tension to incredible levels.

    ROLE MODEL by Rachel Reid: Grumpy/sunshine pairing between a deeply-closeted NHL player and the out-and-proud social media manager for the player’s new team. While tracking one player’s journey to self-acceptance and coming out, Reid addresses the serious issues of homophobia in sports and why sexual assault allegations against male athletes are frequently ignored—all in a way that never overwhelms the wonderful love story.

    WRATH by Ella James: Beautifully-written, utterly-heartbreaking, but ultimately triumphant story about how institutionalized homophobia destroys the mental, physical, emotional, and sexual health of young gay people. As two college-age step-brothers gradually fall in love, they have to confront the trauma one of them has experienced as a result of abusive “conversion therapy.” Hard-to-read in places, but a worthwhile and necessary book.

    FORBIDDEN by Karla Sorensen: The slowest (and sexiest) of slow-burns between a widowed MMA fighter and the prickly younger woman who manages the gym he owns. Suffused with melancholy and loss, this is a slow-burn where the reasons behind the gradual pace of the couple’s relationship proceed organically from the characters’ personalities and circumstances and not just because of the demands of the plot. Amazing levels of sexual tension—frequently when no sexual activity of any sort actually takes place.

    JUST NOT THAT INTO BILLIONAIRES by Annika Martin: Poignant story of a dancer and a tech billionaire who married on a drunken Vegas whim and meet up a decade later to divorce. A lovely story of second-chances, re-evaluating the past, thinking about the choices we make now versus the choices we made back then, and making amends for what we cannot change.

    HER DEAL WITH THE GREEK DEVIL and THE SICILIAN’S FORGOTTEN WIFE, both by Caitlin Crews: Crews continues to expand the boundaries of the Harlequin Presents template in these two incredibly well-written and rather dark books which both feature wealthy men who plan to use innocent women as instruments of revenge. HER DEAL WITH THE GREEK DEVIL has an almost irredeemable hero and a plot that could be found in a dark/mafia romance as the hero manipulates the heroine’s financial situation until she has no choice but to become his mistress to save herself and her mother from bankruptcy. Meanwhile, THE SICILIAN’S FORGOTTEN WIFE neatly upends the revenge-marriage and amnesia tropes and incorporates moments of unexpected humor in the process as the hero (suffering from amnesia after a fall) becomes a different person without the drive for revenge poisoning his mind.

    SWEETHEART by Sarah Mayberry: Not only a smoothly-written romance about a woman falling for her sister’s ex, but also a sensitive exploration of the toll mental illness takes on the sufferer and their family. There’s a strain of melancholy running throughout the book—about chances missed and choices made when a loved one is ill and requires the lion’s share of the family’s attention and resources. Mayberry has written a nuanced book about a difficult subject—alongside a nice romance between two decent people.

  2. DiscoDollyDeb

    And here are my favorite books published in prior years but that I didn’t get around to reading until 2021:

    PROTECTING YOU & FIGHTING FOR US by Claire Kingsley (duet published in 2020): Childhood friends become college-age lovers, joyously planning a marriage and a bright future together. Then the hero protects the heroine from a violent assault—and the unintended consequences of that action lead to the hero’s incarceration and the heroine’s long wait to be with the man she loves. But when the hero is eventually released after almost a decade behind bars, the couple find that the waiting may have been the easiest part. A melancholy story—but one suffused with hope—of coming to terms with the past and adjusting expectations for the future.

    OF SUNLIGHT AND STARDUST by Riley Hart & Christina Lee (published in 2018): Deeply-moving story with a dual-timeline (now and 1948) about two same-sex couples and their connection to a Michigan farmhouse and its partially-destroyed barn. Beautifully-written but utterly gutting in parts. It will break your heart.

    THE IMPOSSIBLE BOY & THE LOST BOY by Anna Martin (published in 2017 & 2020, respectively): Gentle, low-key story about love, relationships, friendships, success, second-chances, mental health issues, addiction, relapses, and recovery as we witness five years in the on-then-off-then-on-again relationship between a pan-sexual musician and a gender-fluid fashion journalist. Full of the messiness of life (including anorexia and drug addiction) and the joy of finding a special connection with another person.

    OUT OF NOWHERE by Roan Parrish (published in 2016): Depressed, anxious, miserable, panic-attack-prone, homophobic, and deeply-closeted hero (cw/tw: homophobia, violence, suicide ideation, mental health struggles) gradually reclaims his humanity when he meets a gay man who runs a program for LGBTQ teenagers and is persuaded to present a workshop on car maintenance. A brilliantly-written book about the toll of being closeted—and the freeing power of being true to yourself.

    FAKED by Karla Sorensen (published in 2020): The heroine agrees to impersonate her identical twin sister and attend a social event with her twin’s best friend—a man the heroine has loved from afar for years. But, on the night of the event, instead of the heroine’s crush, his older half-brother—a bad-boy snowboarder and family black-sheep—arrives, and he immediately realizes the heroine is not who she claims to be. An excellent story about seeing—and being seen by—the person you love.

    WHEN ALL THE WORLD SLEEPS by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock (published in 2014): Romantic-suspense with tense storyline (cw/tw: homophobia and homophobic violence) about the developing relationship between a local cop and one of the small town’s only openly-gay men—a man who suffers from a severe sleep disorder. Despite the ominous sense of ever-present anti-gay violence simmering just below the surface, WHEN ALL THE WORLD SLEEPS shows that love, care, and concern will flourish in even the stoniest soil.

    SHALLOW by Cora Kenborn (published in 2017): Uber-angsty “revenge romance” between a woman whose selfishness and thoughtlessness has caused more than one tragedy and the man who took the fall for her years ago and has been plotting revenge ever since. Unusual in that the consequences of the heroine’s behavior are neither excused nor whitewashed, and both hero & heroine occasionally function in morally-gray areas. A brilliant story about love, forgiveness, redemption, second (and third) chances, and coming to terms with your choices and things you can’t undo (only slightly marred by the unnecessary inclusion of the “psycho ex-girlfriend” character).

    INTO THE FIRE by Mia West (eleven interconnected novellas and short stories, published between 2014 and 2017): Epic, immersive m/m romance set in various parts of Europe just after the fall of the Rome (late 5th-century C.E.). The story charts the decades-long relationship between a former soldier in the Roman army and his childhood friend, the town blacksmith, as they travel together across Germania and Gaul, eventually settling along the coast of Brittany and becoming part of a small community living in a crumbling Roman fort. A brilliant depiction of Europe just on the verge of the Dark Ages.

    LOOKING FOR TROUBLE by Misha Horne (published in 2018): Engaging and well-crafted slow-burn m/m historical romance (set in Nevada in the 1880s) with spanking and daddy-kink elements. Historically-accurate emotional and cultural landscape, with neither man having any frame of reference for the feelings he has for the other. Horne beautifully unfolds the heroes’ journey to awareness, acceptance, and love.

  3. Kim

    Murder on Cold Street (2020) was very good. Sherry Thomas’ newest book, Miss Moriarty, I Presume (2021) was good, too. Other 2021 best books were After Dark with the Duke by Julie Anne Long and To Sir, With Love by Lauren Layne.

  4. JenM

    It’s so hard to choose, but in romance, my favorite reads in 2021 (in no particular order) are:
    1) Battle Royal by Lucy Parker
    2) You Spin Me by Karen Grey
    3) Taken to Nobu by Elizabeth Stephens
    4) Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron
    5) Silver Silence by Nalini Singh

  5. Kareni

    I read many books that I enjoyed this past year; some are mentioned above and in the comments. None though stood out as absolute favorites. I’ll mention instead a book I recently read. Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki is a strange mix of aliens come to Earth who are running a doughnut store; a famous violin teacher who has promised seven souls to a demon and who is fast approaching the deadline to deliver the seventh; a young trans woman who has run away from an abusive home with her violin; and a variety of other characters including an AI. Strangely, it all works.

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