Hi all! Today I am so excited to be here with you sharing my favorite books from 2021!
This is one of my favorite posts of the year, as I love to go back and look through my reviews and remember all the wonderful things I have read! This year, I read 212 books, so lots of wonderful things from which to choose. The books on my list this year are things I went totally crazy for as soon as I read them. They have continued to stick in my mind and left a lasting impression over the year. All are excellent books and well worth checking out if you haven’t read them.
I have divided these up into my absolute favorites of the year, plus some noteworthy audiobooks, as well as some honorable mentions.
The Formicary Duology (Chrysalis and Cross) by S.E. Harmon
I went absolutely crazy for this high suspense, high action, super romantic amnesia story. We meet Christian Cross just as he has been shot in the head and left for dead, and now he has amnesia and has no idea who wants to kill him or why. Chris’ life is totally upside down and the only thing he remembers, the only light guiding him, is the love he has for Dr. Grayson Laurie. This story continues across the two books as Chris first uncovers more about who he is and what exactly he has been up to that has put him in the sights of an organization of killers. Then we see him fight with all he has to take down the bad guys, who are up to all sorts of awful things. And through it all, Christian’s top priority is Gray. This is a bad boy, grumpy/sunshiney, super intense thriller and I loved every minute of these two books.
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun
Charm Offensive takes on the reality TV trope with Dev Deshpande as a producer on a Bachelor-like show, Ever After. Despite the fact that Dev definitely sees “behind the curtain” into this show that professes to help people find their match, he still believes in fairy-tale love. Dev is tasked with helping their “prince” Charlie Winshaw get through the process of finding his princess. Unfortunately, Charlie isn’t actually into any of the women, and as Dev and Charlie spend more time together, they realize that they are the true perfect match. Of course, that means a host of complications related to the show, as well as Charlie dealing with coming out, plus some mental health issues for both men. The story manages to be charming, funny, warm, and romantic, while also addressing some more serious topics. I just loved this one and found it completely engaging.
Subtle Blood by K.J. Charles
Subtle Blood wraps up K.J. Charles’ amazing Will Darling Adventures and brings to a close the story of Will Darling and Kim Secretan. By this third book, Kim and Will are happily living lives together until Kim’s brother is accused of murder. He is a horrid man and Kim would let him rot if not for the fact that if his brother hangs, Kim will inherit. Which of course means his quiet life with Will out of the spotlight is in danger of being destroyed, as there is no way the men could continue their relationship in its form if Kim gains a title. So Will and Kim have to figure out the real killer (or at least, help Kim’s brother look less guilty). As with the other books in the series, Charles manages a great balance between the mystery and the romance and here we see a wonderful happy ending for Kim and Will. I just adored them and completely loved the series. You are going to want to start at the beginning, both to see the start of this relationship, as well as for some of the larger world building. For fans of historicals with some great mystery/suspense, this series is not to be missed.
What We May Be by Layla Reyne
Layla Reyne excels at mystery/suspense and this story is no exception. What We May Be is a lovers reunited story combined with a serial killer murder mystery. Ten years ago, Sean, Trevor, and Charlie had planned a life together, until Sean left them both. Without Sean, things between Trevor and Charlie fell apart too and all three have mourned the loss of their relationship. When Sean returns to town as an FBI agent helping with a murder investigation, it gives him a chance to reunite with Charlie and Trevor. This story gives an exciting and engaging mystery, but the real standout here for me is the relationship between Charlie, Sean, and Trevor. Reyne does a wonderful job helping us feel the connection among these three, both the bond they had ten years ago, as well as the reigniting of those feelings in present day. I loved the dynamic among them and found them sexy and romantic together. The mystery nicely combines some of the personal for the characters, connecting the various parts of the book together so well.
The Cuckoo’s Call by Lily Morton
I am a huge fan of Lily Morton and her books end up on my annual favorites list pretty much every year since I started reading her work. I have loved so many of her books this year, but The Cuckoo’s Call stood out as my favorite. Wren is abandoned by his friends while on vacation in Majorca and meets wealthy hotel heir, Mateo Rossi. Mateo is intrigued by Wren, who is open and honest and nothing like the series of men Mateo usually dates. The pair decide to spend the week together as Wren finishes up his vacation and they have an amazing time on the beautiful island. Things go so well that Wren agrees to accompany Mateo home to Venice for a month when the vacation is over, but returning to Mateo’s real life ends up being difficult for both of them. The men have fallen for each other, but need to figure out how to make their vacation romance into something long term. This one is sexy and romantic and Morton makes the most of the amazing settings, really bringing them to life. Wren is charming and fun and a perfect match for Mateo, helping to bring back that spark he thought lost. (I’ll also make a shout out here for another Lily Morton favorite this year, Beautifully Unexpected, which features a wonderful relationship between two older heroes that I just loved.)
The Jock by Tal Bauer
Oh, this one was so swoony and emotional, I was completely captivated by this story of football player, Wes Van de Hoek, and his love, Justin Swanscott. Wes has known two things for most of this life: that he is gay, and that the only way out of his small west Texas town is through football. He is now one of the top players in the country and under a fierce spotlight. Wes meets Justin on a summer program in Paris and the two fall in love, only to have to return to college in the fall and keep their relationship hidden. I absolutely adored these two men together. Watching them fall for one another was so lovely, and I appreciated the fierce bond the pair have almost from the start. This story is sexy and romantic, but there is also an intensity as they find themselves in an almost impossible situation. Wes feels the burden of being the face of his team and knowing that anything he does will affect all of them. So he feels he has no choice but to keep this secret that is killing him. This story has some heartbreak and some pain, but it comes together so beautifully and I just found myself completely emotionally caught up in Wes and Justin’s story.
Wonderstruck by Allie Therin
This one is another third in a trilogy, this time the wonderful Magic in Manhattan series by Allie Therin. Over the three books, we saw Rory and Arthur both save the world and fall in love. I really enjoyed the way the bond grows between the men over the books, both magical and romantic. By this third book, the connection between them is so strong, which is good, because they are tested once again as the series suspense arcs come together into a final climax. It is intense and exciting and kind of horrifying. The scope of the magical mystery here feels perfect for the culmination of the story and I love how it all comes together. But I just truly love Arthur and Rory and the way they just fit so perfectly together and make such a wonderful team. This is such an engaging trilogy and Therin’s world building is amazing. This is a series you need to read from the start, but it is well worth the experience. I’ll also note that while the review isn’t running for a few weeks, I just adored the standalone spinoff, Proper Scoundrels, and was thrilled to get back into this world once again.
Cold Hard Ground by Arial Millar
Arial Millar is the paranormal pen name for one of my favorite authors, E.M. Lindsey. I am a big fan of dystopian stories and I have fallen for this series in a big way. Cold Hard Ground is the first in the author’s Carpe Noctem series, which is a dystopian omegaverse mashup. It features Kor, an alpha military leader who is taken captive at the end of a war between humans and wolves. He is tortured and experimented upon, causing him to go blind. Kor is rescued by Misha, a human also being held captive, and the two manage to escape, falling in love in the process. But that is just the tip of the iceberg as it becomes clear that while the war may be officially over, leaders on both sides are up to no good and Kor is determined to help fight for his wolves’ survival. This story is such a great set up for the series and I was blown away by the world building. It is such an unusual combination of genres and Millar makes it totally work. The first three books in the series are out so far, and this one is my favorite of the set. More books are coming, so this is a great time to catch up on the series. (As a side note, I absolutely adore E.M. Lindsey’s writing and can recommend any of their books I read this year, but The Other Side of Here is particularly excellent.)
Those were my top eight favorites of the year, but I do want to do a special shoutout to a new author, Vawn Cassidy (who also writes under pen name Wendy Saunders). Cassidy wrote two of my favorite books this year, Suddenly Beck and Dead Serious. I couldn’t decide which one to put in my top list, so you are getting both. Suddenly Beck features Nate Elliott, who is running away from his life and ends up in a small Cornish beach town where he meets local artist, Beck Ainsley. It is romantic and sexy and full of small town charm, plus insane chemistry between the main characters that just leaps off the page. It is the first in a series and I can’t wait for more. Dead Serious is a totally different style, this time featuring an introverted pathologist, Tristan Everett, who almost dies and suddenly can see ghosts, including the drag queen whose body he is examining. When Tristan meets and falls for the detective on the case, Danny Hayes, things get a lot more complicated, especially since Tristan can’t tell Danny he can see ghosts. This one is funny and clever and a great mix of mystery and romance. It is also the first in the series and I am looking forward to new adventures.
I could go on and on with books I loved this year, but I am trying to keep some control over this list! But I can’t go on without listing some honorable mentions, books I loved but that didn’t quite make the official list:
- A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
- Head Games by Onley James and Neve Wilder
- A Cold Hard Truth by Kate Hawthorne
- The Tribulations of Ross Young, Supernat PA by A.J. Sherwood
- Of Secrets and Wolves by Alice Winters
- Flame Born series by Kat Silver
- The Gangster by C.S. Poe
And last, I wanted to highlight some amazing audiobooks from this year. All the books on this list are actually ones I read in ebook form in previous years, and then listened to for the first time in audio this year. I can highly recommend them all in both ebook and audio formats:
- It Takes Two to Tumble and A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian (audio by Joel Leslie)
- Band Sinister by K.J. Charles (audio by Cornell Collins)
- Gideon by Lily Morton (audio by Joel Leslie)
- Slow Heat by Leta Blake (audio by Michael Ferraiuolo)
And there you have it! My 2021 favorites! Thanks for reading my reviews this year and supporting the blog and all we do! Keep an eye out for more Best of 2021 lists from others from our team over the course of the week!
Thanks for sharing your list, Jay! I’ll be taking another look at some of your choices and moving one book I already own up my stack.
I’m so glad you liked Proper Scoundrels. I’ve noted its release date on my calendar and expect to block off my evening to read it.
Yes! So good! It leans more heavily on the character end bc it is one book vs three and I just looooved these guys together!