Friday, December 31, 2021

Suleikha's Top 20 Romance Books of 2021

I read 100 books this year. Whoo-hoo! Unsurprisingly, most of them were romance novels. I'm five books up from last year, which makes me feel a little bit better about how my reading has decreased overall. While books comfort us in times of need, sometimes it's hard to find the motivation to pick up that paperback or e-reader or audio player. But every book that brings us joy is a victory in and of itself. That's my metric, by the way: joy. I don't want to call this a "best of" list because that implies the other 80 books weren't special. There are tons of books not listed that were technically brilliant or rip-roaring reads or a great comfort to me. These are just ones I wanted to highlight. There are also a few titles which are technically fantasy or mystery, but they have a strong thread of romance in them. Is that cheating? Probably. Do I care? No. Because they made me happy! I hope some of these have made other readers happy, too!

Note: These are all titles that came out in 2021 and they're in alphabetical order. If I included previous years or backlist titles, I think it would be SO much harder to narrow things down. Also, I read ARCs of Eva Leigh's Waiting for a Scot Like You and Rosie Danan's The Intimacy Experiment in December 2020, but I didn't want to leave them out! Somehow, all of this makes sense in my head. lol.

1. The Brightest Star in Paris by Diana Biller
Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

2. Kiss the Bride by Melissa Blue (I beta read this)

3. Subtle Blood by KJ Charles (historical mystery)

4. The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan

5. Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev

6. Well Matched by Jen DeLuca
7. Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

8. Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins

9. Waiting for a Scot Like You by Eva Leigh

10. Battle Royal by Lucy Parker

11. An Unexpected Peril by Deanna Raybourn (historical mystery)

12. The Devil You Know by Kit Rocha

13. The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon

14. Reel by Kennedy Ryan

15. The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri (historical fantasy)

16. Legacy by Holley Trent

17. The Hellion's Waltz by Olivia Waite

18. For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten (historical fantasy)

19. How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams

20. Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

2022 releases to look out for:
The Emma Project by Sonali Dev
Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron
The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa
Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley

On the Shelf: December 2021

Good riddance to 2021! But the books I read this year truly helped me get through it, and I'm proud to say I hit my goal of 100 reads. Here's December's rundown, which helped me get to that finish line. From finally devouring the hardcover of Angie Thomas's stunning and thoroughly moving Concrete Rose that I bought in May to wolfing down Lucy Parker's delicious baker vs. baker romance Battle Royal, I happily genre-hopped all over the place. Though I'm not sure reading Christopher Golden's snow-based horror novel in the middle of winter was wise. I will be in fear of ice creatures yanking me out my window until at least April 2022.

Fortunately, I had warm and cozy reads like Jayce Ellis's second-chance romance If You Love Something to balance out the terror. And I tore through Haven by Claire Kent, which hit a little too close to home given the COVID-19 pandemic, just in time to ring in the new year. Maybe there's something poetic about that. Reading something that started out really grim but ended with love and hope. We could all use a little love and hope

The Reading Rundown:
The Brightest Star in Paris by Diana Biller (historical romance, gothic romance)
Cole: A Naughty List Christmas Novella by Ellie Devine (erotic romance, LGBT+ romance, MMF polyam)
If You Love Something by Jayce Ellis (contemporary romance, LGBT+ romance, male/male romance)
Snowblind by Christopher Golden (horror)
Haven by Claire Kent (post-apocalyptic romance, erotic romance, novella)
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (domestic thriller, suspense, Charlotte Bronte retelling)
Battle Royal by Lucy Parker (contemporary romance)
Stormsong by C.L. Polk (gaslamp fantasy, steampunk, LGBT+ romance)
MILF on the Shelf by Nico Rosso (erotic romance, novella)
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (young adult fiction, coming-of-age)
Sleigh, Bells, Rings by Holley Trent (erotic romance, contemporary LGBT+ romance, FFM polyam, novella)

Backlist adventures: Temptations of a Wallflower by Eva Leigh.

Currently reading: An ARC of D'Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding by Chencia C. Higgins, which comes out on January 25.

On the TBR/wish list
The Emma Project by Sonali Dev (5/17/22)
Road of Bones by Christopher Golden (1/25/22)
Truth, Lies, and Mr. Grey by Shelly Ellis (3/29/22)
The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa (4/5/22)
At the Quiet Edge by Victoria Helen Stone (5/1/22)
Fake it Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley (6/21/22)
The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

On the Shelf: November 2021

Good news! I already have one of my favorite books of 2022! Farah Heron's hilarious and heartfelt Kamila Knows Best! No spoilers, but it's such a good friends-to-lovers romance and a fresh twist on Emma. It will also totally make you crave biriyani. Meanwhile, back in this year, I immersed myself in the world of The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova. She's one of my auto-buys, and her first foray into hardcover adult fiction is ambitious and lyrical and kept me turning pages late into the night. 

I then traveled all the way back to some historical romance! Jess Michaels' sexy and sweet Princes Are Wild is the middle of a series, and it ensured that I will be waiting for the next two Regency Royals titles! I hopped to paranormal as Holley Trent wraps her Norseton Wolves series with Watcher and, of course, I inhaled Beverly Jenkins' romantic suspense novella. It's always a treat when this historical romance legend pops into the present  and gives us a present!     

The Reading Rundown
The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova (mainstream fiction, magical realism)
A Lot Like Adiós by Alexis Daria (contemporary romance)
Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron (out 3/8/22, contemporary romance, Jane Austen retelling)
Rare Danger by Beverly Jenkins (romantic suspense)
Princes Are Wild by Jess Michaels (historical romance)
Watcher by Holley Trent (paranormal romance)
Run Posy Run by Cate C. Wells (erotic thriller, dark romance)

Backlist adventures: I went down a genre rabbit hole, which led me to Jill Sorenson's Riding Dirty and Shooting Dirty from 2015. She was a little ahead of the current "dark romance" boom, IMHO, taking her motorcycle club books that one step further to where everybody is shady/a criminal. And they're a continuation of her Aftershock series. I devoured these like potato chips. They are definitely lizard brain books.

On the TBR/wish list
If You Love Something by Jayce Ellis
Truth, Lies, and Mr. Grey by Shelly Ellis
D'Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding by Chencia C. Higgins
Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma
Fake it Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley