My Best Books of 2021!

This year has been another difficult one, but authors have stepped up and given us some amazing stories. I struggled to whittle my favourite books of the year down to a reasonable number. There was no way I could stop at a Top Ten, but I managed a Top Fifteen. These are the books that made my year, and I highly recommend each and every one. Here they are, listed in no particular order:

  1. The Tell Tale by Clare Ashton

2. A Corruption of Blood by Ambrose Parry

3. The Island Between Us by Wendy Hudson 

4. The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan 

5. Ignis by KJ

6. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

7. Everyone In This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily R Austin

8. The Rose Code by Kate Quinn

9. The End Of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

10. Her Last Request by Mari Hannah

11. The Dead Of Winter by Nicola Upson

12. Song Of Serenity by Brey Willows

13.The Appeal by Janice Hallett

14. Katharine Parr, The Sixth Wife by Alison Weir

15. Shiver by Allie Reynolds

Review of ‘Darcy Comes Home’ by Jen Silver

‘Darcy Comes Home’ is a at first glance a second chance romance story. Darcy was sent away as a teenager to a Christian conversion camp and has not seen the love of her life for twenty five years. Now she’s back home and unsure what Angie will make of her return. There are plenty of added complications, with family issues and a myriad of other problems to deal with. Will the couple find a future together or will those other matters mean it can’t work out?

For me this wasn’t primarily a romance. Yes, it is a part of it, but it makes up a smaller part of the book. There are serious issues and they are not at all lightweight. I found the story engaging from the start and I really liked the descriptions of the village, what goes on there and the people. The two main characters are interesting and I appreciated the time and effort that went into the other characters too. It was certainly more of an ensemble story. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Song of Serenity’ by Brey Willows

What’s a Muse to do when her much-anticipated peaceful break is under threat? Calliope Ardalides is the eldest of the nine Muses, and is responsible for arbitrating arguments between the gods and answering for their failures to the humans who complain. Her haven of serenity is a small Scottish village, where the Temple of the Muses is situated. But when an American businesswoman lodges plans for an adventure park right next door, Calliope’s hopes of relaxation and calm are shattered. Despite a powerful attraction neither women appear ready to yield. Can they each get what they want? And will they be able to resist the pull of something more?

I’ve been looking forward to this, the first in a new series set in the Afterlife Inc world. The first trilogy was excellent and my favourite series of the past five years. This time we are with the Muses, and they are just as compelling. Calliope is a talented musician and singer, but has been so caught up in the other aspects of her job, that her artistic side has taken a back seat. Being in Scotland lets her enjoy music again, but the threat to her peace from Jordan James and her plans is worrying. Although she’s used to seeing an issue from both sides at work, it’s more difficult in this case. She’s a kind, thoughtful and sensitive soul and I really liked her. 

Jordan wasn’t the big, bad wolf, even though she wanted to build next to the Temple. I could see her point of view, and it would certainly help the local community. But she had to see the whole picture, and Calliope was the person to help her do that. Their attraction was intense and powerful, but it was also healing for both of them. 

Brey Willows describes the Scottish countryside perfectly and makes me feel as if I’m there. She sees past the surface and allows the reader a peek of that too. I love the marrying of old and new, the mythology and the present. The story shows wonderful imagination, and I never tire of reading what she has come up with . She knows her characters inside out and allows the reader to become part of their lives. 

‘Song of Serenity’ is a stunning story. I highly recommend it.

I was given this Arc for review. 

Review of ‘Footprints’ by Ali Spooner

I must admit to being a huge fan of the Strong Southern Women Series by Ali Spooner. ‘Footprints’ is book 4 and follows the story of Sandy, the youngest of the family. She has looked up to her older sister Cam, and hopes to be as good as her some day in helping run the family businesses. When floods endanger the people of Baton Rouge, Sandy and Cam volunteer with the Cajun Navy and help save those affected. 

I loved reading more about Sandy, and seeing her as a grown woman. The whole family come together to keep their way of life going in the Bayou. I felt a part of their lives for a while, as the writing flows so well. The descriptions are wonderfully vivid and the emotional and romantic lives of the sisters so true. A great story.

I was given this ARC for review. 

Review of ‘Turbulent Waves’ by Ali Vali

‘Turbulent Waves’ by Ali Vali is a romantic fantasy novel set in Atlantis and New Orleans. Vivien could never forget meeting a girl on the beach years ago. She appeared to dip beneath the waves in the company of sharks – but how could that be? Years later she finds out when Kai Merlin, heir to the Atlantean throne, comes back into her life and they fall in love. As they plan their wedding Vivien finds out about the world beneath the sea and is astounded at the scope of it all. But Atlantis is under threat and the women must fight for their lives and the home they will now share. 

This is the second in the series and I feel reading the first one is important to understanding the whole story. It’s a truly amazing world and the concept is so well thought out. I loved finding out about the history and technology of the Atlantean people. The love story between Kai and Vivien is beautiful and tender and extremely hot. The heat level is scorching, with very descriptive love scenes. But underneath all of the happiness at the impending wedding is an undercurrent of fear and tension as they battle an enemy from the stars. I loved to wallow in fantasy and this let me do that. An enjoyable story.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Nero’ by Valden Bush

I love sci-fi, so getting the chance to read a new voice in the genre thrilled me. And I was not disappointed. Valden Bush has imagined a fascinating universe of worlds and peoples, with a brilliant twist, in her debut novel, ‘Nero’. Stele Hosun is an outcast on account of her black eyes. In her culture on Nero those with this characteristic are banished, as are those women who love other women. Stele is angry and volatile, but who can blame her? When Colonel Kian Ray offers her an outlet where her skills may be useful, she has to decide whether to let go of her anger and take a chance. She also has to find a way to live without her love, Ariane. But when pirates invade Nero, Stele has to use everything she’s got to find a way to save the woman she loves and the society than shunned her.

‘Nero’ is a beautifully written story, with exquisite world-building, an intriguing mystery and a passionate love story. The connection between Stele and Ariane was powerful, enduring and intense. The mystery of the coloured shards in Neroan culture made for an engrossing tale, captivating my attention until the very last page. I loved this book and hope there will be more of these characters and their stories in the future. 

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Scripted Love’ by Helena Harte

‘Scripted Love’ is a sweet romance and slow-burn. This is one of my favourite tropes and can be so good if done well. And Helena Harte does it very well. Rix has her own production company and is about to turn Layla’s precious books into a series of films. Layla knows how she wants her books to be adapted – and is not reticent about making that clear. When she meets Rix there’s a spark, but working together and pursuing a relationship could cause big problems. The women also have very different ideas about love and romance. Will they be able to reconcile their differences? 

I liked Rix. She was a sensitive butch, with a social conscience. Not at all what one would expect from a Hollywood producer/director. Layla really appealed to me too. She was new to the Hollywood scene and it was interesting seeing it through her eyes. I found the Hollywood lifestyle and industry stuff fascinating and enjoyed the fact that it was shown from all levels of participation. There was plenty of sexual tension with a teensy bit of angst. But ultimately it was very romantic and sexy.

A lovely story.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Dead Lez Walking’ by G Benson

‘Dead Lez Walking’ is exciting, tense, funny and touching. When an outbreak of a mysterious virus hits Perth, the hospital Taren works in takes the brunt. As a lockdown is enforced, she and her colleagues must find a way to survive – or become victims themselves. This is no ordinary virus. As zombies wander the corridors looking for their next meal, surgeon Joy wakes to find her world turned upside down. One by one, the survivors find each other and with the help of some medical knowledge, sheer determination and more than a hint of gallows humour, they battle against the odds.

G Benson’s books are normally funny, romantic and exciting. And ‘Dead Lez Walking’ is all of those things – but with gore and light horror too. It was so well written that she had me believing this could really happen. She made it seem so real. That was down to great characters, snappy, witty dialogue and a story with pace. All throughout I could not help but think it would make a terrific film. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’ by Jenny Frame

I loved being back in Rosebrook Village. This time we are with dapper Archie Archer, a townie who loves her job, but wouldn’t want to live there. When she falls for the romance-loving country-phile Ashling, Archie has to decide what she really wants in life. Can she change her ways for the love of a good woman? And will she be able to give Ashling the storybook ending she hopes for?

There is conflict from the start for this pair. They seem to disagree on everything. But it’s obvious for anyone to see that they are made for each other. They might just need a little push in the right direction. As they are forced to work together more closely, the sparks start to fly. I adored the growing romance between Archie and Ashling, and could feel the passion jumping off of the page. The dynamic was wonderful. This age-gap, enemies to lovers story swept me off my feet. And the wonderful family-feeling of the village made it so special. Every person wanted to be there, and they were all behind the couple, cheering them on. I can’t wait for the next one and finding out what happens next for Fox, Clem and the gang.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Big London Dreams’ by Clare Lydon

I have read every book in Clare Lydon’s London Romance series and enjoyed every one. ‘Big London Dreams’ is the best so far. As well as love and romance, we are taken back to the 1950s, and to a time where girls were expected to find a nice young man and settle down. For Eunice Starling and Joan Hart that’s not so easy. Neither have been able to find a man that remotely interested them, and when they fall in love everything seems to click. But this was the late fifties and it took more than love to keep them together. Sixty years later they meet again and tell their story. Will it be happily ever after for them at last? You’ll have to read this wonderful book to find out.

‘Big London Dreams’ was the most heart-wrenching love story. A story of it’s time. But it was also joyful and heartwarming. Clare Lydon told the most amazing tale of true love, where time could not diminish the passion the women felt for each other. It was also beautifully written and the descriptions of London were so evocative. I could imagine it all so well. So much effort was put into making it just right. Although I knew there would be heartbreak, I could not stop reading. I knew that love would conquer all, and Ms Lydon did not disappoint. The fact that it tied in with my favourite romance series and the friends I had come to love, made it all the more special. Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC for review.