Top 10 Romances of 2021

2021 reading was a wild ride! I didn’t read quite as many books as I have in previous years, but I’m okay with that. Life was hectic, busy, chaotic and full of ups and downs this past year. The books I did read were pretty amazing for the most part.

The books listed below are my favorite 10 books that I read this year. Narrowing down the choices was so hard! There is a mix of books that were published from previous years, this year and even a few ARCs that are releasing in 2022. These were all five star reads for me and I highly recommend each and every single one!

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

  • The Love Hypothesis had everything I love in a rom-com –
  • Funny scenes that had the perfect banter⁣
  • Fake dating/forced proximity/only one bed…need I say more?? ⁣
  • The tension and build up of a slow burn between the MC’s⁣
  • Strong willed and confident women in STEM ⁣
  • Consider this book to be a true rom-com with so much awkwardness that I had to constantly shut the book because I was laughing out loud so much!

Dear Enemy by Kristen Callihan

  • Second chance romance and so much shared history and angst between the two.
  • Forced proximity situations that had me laughing out loud, yet swooning at the same time.
  • Slow burn and so much sexual tension
  • While Dear Enemy is a standalone, I definitely recommend the other book in this duology – Make it Sweet which technically takes place after Dear Enemy.
  • Highly recommend the audiobook to Dear Enemy -it was fantastic!

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

  • Friends to lovers
  • So much angst it had me swooning and tugging on my heart strings.
  • Timeline jumps that had me laughing and crying in equal measures and biting my nails at the anticipation of what was going to happen next.

Battle Royal by Lucy Parker

  • A romance featuring dueling bakers and a royal wedding⁣
  • Great British Bake Off or other baking shows vibes woven throughout thebook⁣
  • A grumpy/grumbly hero (who makes contestants cry), but might have a soft heart underneath
  • A spunky sunshiney heroine who loves glitter and all things sweet⁣

Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey

  • A slow burn with that steam we can expect from a Tessa Bailey book
  • Friends-to-lovers romance⁣
  • Hero and heroine who are both so vulnerable but are each others greatest support⁣
  • Angst, swooning and a book that will make you laugh and grin while reading it ⁣
  • Doesn’t release until 2022 – but I HIGHLY recommend it. Definitely read It Happened One Summer to get you ready for Hook, Line, and Sinker

The Royals Next Door by Karina Halle

  • Enemies to lovers/bodyguard romance
  • Slow burn⁣
  • Grumpy/grunty hero that is a cinnamon roll (and can make cinnamon rolls)⁣
  • Fiercely loyal and funny heroine who unapologetically loves romance ⁣
  • A romance that has wonderful mental health representation⁣

Lease on Love by Fallon Ballard

  • Forced Proximity
  • Great friendships throughout the book⁣
  • Humor mixed in with plenty of angst
  • This book was just…sigh so great. It was such a sweet and soft romance.
  • And although there was a lot of humor throughout the book, there was also a lot of discussion on grief and starting over that was written so beautifully.⁣

The Kingmaker by Kennedy Ryan

  • A second chance romance told over the span of years
  • Two very head strong characters who will not settle for anything less, but want only the best for each other
  • Political intrigue and issues being discussed that are still affecting us including: how indigenous people are being treated, clean energy, race, gender
  • The sweetest, swooniest and steamiest romance!

Duke, Actually by Jenny Holiday

  • Friends to lovers⁣
  • Slow burn romance⁣
  • Grumpy/sunshine (she’s the grumpy one)⁣
  • The cutest puppy⁣
  • Christmas-y vibes (but never felt over the top)
  • If contemporary romance met historical romance I feel like it would be Duke, Actually. Which sounds so strange – but works so well

The Wedding Ringer by Kerry Rea

  • Wonderful book about the loss of friendships, new friendships and the vulnerability that comes with both.
  • Sweetest romance with great banter. I had a grin on my face every time Willa & Liam were on the same page. I was constantly laughing out loud and rooting for the two to get together!
  • A book so profound and touching that I can’t possibly do it justice with my words – highly recommend!

Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize the purchase.

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ARC Review – Love Next Door

Love Next Door by Helena Hunting

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Heat Rating: 🔥🔥

Series: Lakeside #1

Release Date: July 27, 2021

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.


SYNOPSIS

When Dillion Stitch left her hometown, she had no intention of going back. But when her brother gets into trouble, Dillion reluctantly agrees to return home to take her place at the family business.

Being back in Pearl Lake after all these years feels familiar, but also brings a few surprises. She’s quick to notice that someone new has shown up at the cottage next door. Dillion gets more than an eyeful when she goes to check out the newcomer and meets Donovan “Van” Firestone—her beloved neighbor’s grandson—in all his unclothed glory.

Having gotten off to a rocky start, it’s not long before they begin bickering with each other all over town. All that back and forth inevitably sparks an undeniable attraction. But Dillion’s family has issues, Van’s family resents him, and neither Dillion nor Van feels truly at ease in the small town. For these Pearl Lake exiles, home isn’t just where the heart is—it’s where things get complicated.


REVIEW

Dillion Stitch is back in Pearl Lake. Not really where she’d like to be, but after a series of circumstances all happen at once, she’s needed back home to help her family with their business. Dillion couldn’t wait to get out of the small town life and severed a lot of connections on her way out of Pearl Lake. Will she be able to handle small town life again where everyone is up in each other’s business?

Donovan Firestone has his own reasons for escaping to Pearl Lake. At first he was only coming to manage his grandmother’s estate. But soon he’s planning on staying a while. He doesn’t realize that Dillion and his grandma were close and that she has been keeping up with the estate when his beloved grandmother passed. These two don’t exactly hit it off, but soon they’re in each others spaces more and more often. Will they eventually act on their passion?

I really enjoyed Love Next Door. Having grown up in a small town myself, I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait to leave. I didn’t end up going very far and still visit often and am so grateful for small town living! I also really related to Dillion as being the eldest sibling and really having to take charge of situations sometimes. Family life can be hectic and lovely at the same time and I love how Helena showcased those circumstances.

Van and Dillion had such great chemistry and I loved their sparks right from the beginning. Yes they both make mistakes, but their open and honest communication really added to their relationship. They truly were there for one another and I adored them.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series – hopefully it’s Teagan’s story.

Not My Match ARC Review

Not My Match by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Series: The Game Changers #2

Release Date: January 19, 2021

Heat Level: 🔥🔥🔥

I received a complimentary copy and ALC from the publisher.


SYNOPSIS

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills delivers a smart and sexy romance about a professional football hottie and the girl he’s sworn to never touch.

Homeless and heartbreakingly innocent, Giselle Riley walks into my penthouse and chaos follows.

I shouldn’t have invited the girl genius to live with me, but it’s clear she needs my help—not only for a place to lay her pretty blonde head but in finding real love, which she’s not going to get with the crazy men she picks up online.

Too bad she’s a twenty-four-year-old virgin and I’m a bad boy wide receiver. She’s off limits for a hardcore player like me—and we’re just friends.

Instead, I’m her matchmaking service, no matter how jealous it makes me when I tag along on her dates.

I can keep my self-control. Right? No way will I give in to everything inside me that dreams of a girl like her in my world.

I may be the best wide receiver in the country, but how could I hold on to a girl like her?


REVIEW

Giselle Riley is book smart (she is a physicist after all), but she’s not having the best of luck with her dating life. It doesn’t help that Giselle’s brother in law, Jack (from Not My Romeo) has declared her off limits to his teammates including Jack’s best friend Devon. When a bad date leads Giselle to Devon’s night club, he ends up coming to her rescue and talks her into letting him set her up with a “perfect” date.

When an unfortunate circumstance leaves Giselle homeless for the moment, Devon comes to her rescue and lets her stay in his guest bedroom. Giselle and Devon slowly get to know one another – and Giselle even agrees to let Devon set her up on some dates. While roommates for the moment, Giselle and Devon end up spending a lot of time with one another. Will they stay friends or will their growing attraction towards one another lead to something more?

Immediately when Giselle and Devon were on the same page I could feel their electricity. I loved their sweet friends to lovers story. They truly took the time to get to know one another and that made me root for these two even more. Ilsa Madden-Mills definitely knows how to write steamy scenes and the sexy times between Devon and Giselle were so HOT! But underneath their physical attraction, both Devon and Giselle exposed their vulnerability and I loved that most of all.

Although I did read Not My Romeo, you don’t have to read these books in order to enjoy them. Not My Match can be read as a standalone.

Audiobook:

Story: 5
Narration: 5
Overall: 5

I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook of Not My Match. The audiobook was narrated by Summer Morton and Alexander Cendese. These two did an amazing job narrating Giselle and Devon. I had not listened to an audiobook narrated by either Summer Morton or Alexander Cendese, but I feel like both of them did a wonderful job portraying different emotions for their characters. I could always tell if Devon or Giselle were happy, sad or anxious. I really enjoyed listening to this duo narrate Not My Match.

If you’re looking for a forced-proximity, friends to lovers steamy romance – grab your copy of Not My Match.

Yours to Keep ARC Review

Yours to Keep by Lauren Layne

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Series: Man of the Year #2

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Heat Rating: 🔥🔥

Release Date: September 1, 2020

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.

Carter Ramsey is a profession baseball player, but suddenly he has a whole lot of time on his hands. You see, he was recently injured and now he’s contemplating his life choices. He had imagined at this point in his life he would have been married, maybe with a couple of kids. Instead, he’s featured in Citizen magazine in the Man of the Year article. Carter wishes to change a few things about his life and so decides to head back home to Haven for his 10 year high school reunion hoping to reconnect with his high school sweetheart.

Olive Dunn has continued living in Haven even after high school was over. She’s a biology teacher in the local high school (same high school she went to) and loves her job and her small town. She lives on the outskirts of town and doesn’t expect any new neighbors. That is, until Carter Ramsey strolls up next door. Carter and Olive were lab partners in high school once upon a time, but that was about it. Now they’re back in the same time and end up co-chairing the high school reunion together.

I loved the banter between Carter and Olive! I was either laughing or had a silly grin on my face while I was reading this book. I absolutely love that the chemistry between Olive and Carter was gradually introduced to us. We got to reunite with these two as acquaintances, who then turned into friends, before the sexual tension started burning up the pages.

This book is low on the drama, but high on the feels. If you want a lovely romance with some sizzling chemistry then pick up Yours to Keep. Although this book is part of a series, you could definitely read it as a standalone. Yours to Keep releases September 1, 2020.


I have been a long time fan of Lauren Layne! I think she is most likely one of the authors whose books I have read the most. I absolutely loved Yours to Keep! It was such a great book that constantly had a smile on my face. I had a hard time connecting with the characters in the previous book in the series – Yours in Scandal – but really fell fast and hard for Carter and Olive! I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

A Secret for a Secret ARC Review

A Secret for a Secret by Helena Hunting

Genre: Contemporary Romance/Hockey Romance

Series: All In #3

Release Date: May 12, 2020

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Heat Rating: 🔥🔥🔥

I received a complimentary advance audiobook of this title from the publisher and e-book from the author.

After reading A Lie for a Lie and A Favor for a Favor I could not wait to read more about Kingston! I will admit that when I got my ALC of A Secret for a Secret – it could not have come at a better time. With the current state of the world, I needed a book that would a) make me laugh and also b) a book that I could not put down. Helena Hunting’s brand of humor is always so so good and it was no different in A Secret for a Secret. I listened to a majority of the book at work and I was internally laughing out loud so much!

After being introduced to Kingston in A Favor for a Favor, I couldn’t wait to read more about him! A milk loving, sweetheart from Tennesse – yes please!

Kingston ends up meeting a woman at a bar named Queenie. They meet at a particular low point in both of their lives. Kingston and Queenie end up getting drunk together, have a one night stand and don’t see each other for a number of years.

Fast forward a few years and Kingston is now a NHL hockey player in Seattle. Queenie has decided to take a job as an assistant for her dad, who is the coach of the NHL hockey team.

The first interaction between Queenie and Kingston was hilarious! I will admit that it took me a while to warm up to Queenie and Kingston together. But as usual I never should have doubted Helena Hunting’s writing style. There were certain parts of the book that had me seriously laughing out loud.

As usual the steamy scenes were so HOT! The chemistry between Queenie and Kingston was amazing and I loved how she was the chaos to his calm. Kingston is THE PERFECT boyfriend and I loved how sweet he always treated Queenie.

I have loved loved loved this series and can’t wait to see what HH has in store next!

Audiobook:

Story: 4
Narration: 4
Overall: 4

I truly enjoyed listening to the audiobook of A Secret for a Secret. The audiobook was narrated by Jason Clarke and Stella Bloom. Both Jason and Stella did an amazing job portraying Kingston and Queenie.

I could always tell if Kingston or Queenie was anxious or happy. And the various characters making appearances in the book (hi Violet!) were always portrayed perfectly. I am so happy I had a chance to listen to audiobook in addition to reading A Secret for a Secret.

I’ve bookmarked so many parts that had me laughing out loud or had me sighing over how cute Queenie and Kingston are together.

Definitely pick up your copy of A Secret for a Secret when it releases May 12, 2020!

Amazon US → https://amzn.to/33ks3io

CA → https://amzn.to/2RX9EWS

UK → https://amzn.to/38LVU7f

AU → https://amzn.to/38LOwsw

Amazon Worldwide → mybook.to/ASecret4aSecretKindle

Add it to Goodreads → http://bit.ly/ASecret4aSecretGR

Audible → https://www.audible.com/pd/A-Secret-for-a-Secret-Audiobook/1799773841

She Loves Me ARC Review

She Loves Me by Melissa Foster

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Series: Harmony Pointe #3

Release Date: April 21, 2020

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Heat Rating: 🔥🔥

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tasty Book PR and the publisher.

If you are a fan of friends-to-lovers in a small town setting, then She Loves Me is the perfect book for you! Although She Loves Me is part of the Harmony Pointe series, I read it as a standalone and had no problem following along with the secondary characters.

Piper Dalton works construction and her best friend in town is Harley Dutch, a local bartender. Piper and Harley have been flirting with each other for years, but never took the next step.

Piper has been hurt in the past, and she’s not willing to risk her heart in a serious relationship. Harley has had feelings for Piper forever and only wants her to see how much he cares for. When Harley gets into an accident and hurts his ankle, Piper has to help care for him as well as his nieces.

I loved how Piper and Harley slowly came around to each other. Their interactions were funny, sweet and sexy all at the same time. These two individuals care so much about each other, but each have their own hang ups that they have to get past.

Harley is gruff manly man on the outside but a total teddy bear on the outside. I admired how he always wanted to take care of everyone around him. Piper is a bit more prickly, but once you find out her back story it makes more sense. But when Harley wants more than Piper can give him, will their love be enough?

I enjoyed this sweet small town friends to lovers romance.

Blurb:

What are two besties willing to risk for something more?

Something is off in Piper Dalton’s life, and she has a feeling it might just be her. All her siblings are blissfully settled with their forever loves. But while her sisters were dreaming of white weddings, Piper was left heartbroken and commitment phobic by her first love, her best friend’s younger brother. As a woman dominating the male-driven construction industry, Piper has no interest in turning in her hammer for an apron—even if hot and hilarious Harley thinks otherwise.

Burly bar owner Harley Dutch has a bum ankle and two preteen nieces to take care of, and having his best friend, tough-as-nails and sexy-as-sin Piper Dalton, come to his rescue is just the remedy he needs. Piper is her snarky self, and she kind of sucks at caregiving, but she’s owned his heart for years, she’s got a way with the girls, and Harley would sure like to have his way with her…

As things heat up between Piper and Harley, she warns him not to fall in love with her because she’ll only break his heart. Harley is the right man for that challenge—until he makes the biggest mistake of his life, and they begin to wonder if true love really can conquer all.

Buy Links:

➜KINDLE: https://smarturl.it/SLM_Kindle

➜PAPERBACK: https://smarturl.it/SLM_Pb

➜FREE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED 

Also available in audio book

➜AMAZON: https://smarturl.it/SLMa_Amazon

➜APPLE: https://smarturl.it/SLMa_Apple

➜AUDIBLE: https://smarturl.it/SLMa_Audible

**This book is published by Montlake (an Amazon imprint) and won’t be available on other ebook retailers, but you can download a FREE Kindle ereader app to read it (link below) or order the paperback.

http://bit.ly/FreeKindleApp1

A Favor for a Favor ARC Review

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Series: All In

Release Date: January 28, 2020

Heat Level: 🔥🔥

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I received a complimentary advance audiobook of this title from the publisher and e-book from the author.

Stevie has just moved to Seattle to start a new job as a sports physiotherapist and wanted to surprise her boyfriend Joey early. What she doesn’t anticipate happening is walking in on Joey cheating on her in their new apartment. Safe to say Stevie hightails it out of there and decides to stay at her brother RJ’s apartment. Next we get the antithesis of a meet cute – Stevie runs in to the jerk who lives across the hall and he lays it into her for waking him up in the middle of the night. Great start to her move to Seattle!

I absolutely LOVE a grumpy hero and Bishop is definitely one grumpy/jerk of a hero. I love that him and Stevie and play their childish games just to get under each others skins. They each have their own misconceptions of each other and it isn’t until Bishop ends up with a groin injury that they actually decide to get to know one another a little better. Stevie wants to help rehab Bishop with his injury. He gets extra PT time and Stevie gets the advantage of rehabbing an NHL player to add in her portfolio.

The chemistry between Bishop and Stevie slowly built until the pages were about to explode! They are wary of each other, but soon develop a wonderful friendship. They each have their reasons for living the way that they do and I love the trust that they eventually have in each other. The sexual tension was sizzling between these two and I was just waiting for one of them to make a move.

It’s always fun when Violet and Alex makes a cameo (if you haven’t read Pucked yet – what are you waiting for!). I also really liked getting to know more about Kingston and can’t wait to read his book, A Secret for a Secret next.


Audiobook:

Story: 5

Narration: 5

Overall: 5

I really enjoyed listening to the audiobook of A Favor for a Favor. The audiobook was narrated by Jacob Morgan and Erin Mallon. These two are the perfect pair for audiobooks and I loved how they portrayed both Bishop and Stevie. Jacob Morgan is probably my favorite male narrator and he does such a great job voicing various characters. I could always tell if he was portraying Bishop, RJ, Coach Alex or the various other characters in the book! Erin Mallon is always so great in her narration. She always has the perfect pitch for when he’s happy/irritated/sad or mad! She also does a great job voicing the male characters when her chapters call for it. I love this duo so much and they did a great job voicing Stevie and Bishop in A Favor for a Favor. You won’t be disappointed if you pick up this audiobook!

If you’re looking for your next sweet and sexy hockey romance then pick up A Favor for a Favor!

GoodReads A Lie for a Lie Review