Misc

Best Romance Novels I Read in 2021

As usual, I read quite a few romance novels throughout the year – in fact, 26% of the books I read this year were romance. However, romance rarely makes it to my favorite books of the year, and I like doing a separate post for this genre, to highlight all the great romance I read. I am getting quite good at picking up romance that I end up loving, so most of the stuff I read, I really enjoyed. In fact, out of the 16 romance books I read, I actively disliked only like two or three. A stellar result in my opinion. Not all of these are published in 2021, but there are a few that were, and were AMAZING. I EVEN MANAGED TO RANK THEM, SO PROUD OF MYSELF. So let’s get into it. 

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7. To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters

To Have and to Hoax (The Regency Vows, #1)

This is basically the only second chance romance that has ever worked for me. It’s a historical, Regency era romance about James and Violet, who are married, but not speaking to each other, until Violet decides to fake an illness to teach James a lesson. This is painfully slow, and the whole book really hinges on miscommunication and an entirely ridiculous conflict, but I did not care ONE bit about that. I found the chemistry between the characters insanely well written, and I loved them both as characters, even though they share a single brain cell.  Both Violet and James were frustrating but still loveable in their uselessness, and I just really enjoyed their inner monologues about each other. I also think that the author was great at establishing them as a couple prior to their falling out, which I think is super important and why a lot of second chance romances do not always work for me. I also quite enjoyed the secondary characters here, and their dynamics, so it was an overall AMAZING read, and I am really sad that this book does not get the love I think it deserves.

6. The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas

The Spanish Love DeceptionLISTEN, I loved this. It hits literally everything I love in a romance – it’s hate-to-love (and it’s my favorite kind of hate to love, but I won’t say how because I dislike that trope being spoilt), it’s fake dating, it’s slow burn, it’s angsty, AN ALL AROUND GREAT TIME. It’s about Catalina and Aaron, who work together and are sworn enemies, until Catalina needs a fake date to her sister’s wedding, and Aaron offers to do it. The characters were great on their own, and I loved their dynamic. Was this so similar to The Hating Game that it bordered on illegal? YES. Was it in need of some SERIOUS editing? Absolutely. Did it need to be like 150 pages shorter? YOU BET. This is why it’s lower on the list, but I loved it and see myself rereading it all the time.

5. Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle

Twice ShyThis was the sunshine x grumpy book of my dreams! After I wasn’t obsessed with Hogle’s first book, I was hesitant to go into this one, but I LOVED IT. The novel follows Maybell, who inherits a house, and sets out to it for a fresh start, only to clash with the taciturn, reclusive groundskeeper about the house’s future. The dynamic between the two is amazing, and similarly to Hogle’s previous book, the interactions between them are so well-written and their back and forth is so compelling. This will be the consesus among everyone who reads this book but I have to say that I LOVE Wesley. He is one of my favorite romance heroes I ever read about. WE SHOULD PROTECT HIM AT ALL COSTS, OKAY. The book also explores larger themes of anxiety, and I really appreciated how that was handled. I also really enjoyed how Wesley uses his art to communicate, while Maybell opens up about her rich inner life, and how these become their tools for finding common ground and opening up. It was really sweet. LIKE ALL IN ALL, this novel was so sweet that it made me NAUSEOUS. Could not recommend more. If you want to read more of my thoughts, you can find them HERE.

4. Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

Pretty Face (London Celebrities, #2)One of two Lucy Parker’s books on this list, because she really is the moment. What I really love about this series is how organic and quiet the romances are (despite them being about celebrities). This one follows Lily, an actress usually only lauded for her looks, trying to make her big acting break in theatre, and Luc, the director of the play Lily’s auditioning for. It’s an age-gap romance, and it’s SO.GOOD. I am forever grateful to Hannah for talking about these books, because Lucy Parker seriously became one of my favorite romance authors. I really liked both Luc and Lily as individual characters and I loved how their relationship progressed. This was funny, and charming, and what I specifically liked about it is that, yes, this was dramatic because it deals with celebrity but the conflict itself felt very realistic and human and the way it is resolved also made sense and it was done really well. I really hope you pick up a Lucy Parker book in the future because they are amazing.

3. Battle Royal by Lucy Parker

Battle Royal (Palace Insiders, #1)I just said that Lucy writes quiet and heartwarming romances, but this one was not that quiet, and I really appreciated how different it was to the other series. This novel follows Sylvie, a baker that made her breakthrough on a cooking show, where Dominic was a judge, and they were… well, not FRIENDLY. But Sylvie gets invited to be the judge on the show’s upcoming season alongside Dominic, all while a royal wedding (and a cake job) are brewing in the background. I usually do not like a lot of plot in my romance novels, because I think it tends to bog down the romance, however, I loved the plot elements here. Sure, they require a serious suspension of disbelief, but I found it all just so damn charming. We could have used a little LESS conflicts by the end, but overall, I think this made for a very interesting story. Most importantly, the relationship between Sylvie and Dominic is absolutely amazing, and so well written. I loved every single interaction they had on paper. It was an all around winner for me, even though it got a bit ridiculous towards the end. ALSO, the romance that is being set up for the next book is EVERYTHING, and I seriously cannot wait.

2. Wait for It by Mariana Zapata

Wait for ItOf course there’s a Zapata book on here, WHO DO YOU THINK I AM. I actually read three of her novels this year, but this one is by far the best in my opinion. We follow Diana (who we met in The Wall of Winnipeg) as she becomes the caretaker of her nephews, and moves into a new neighborhood to start fresh, and then she meets Dallas. This was in true Zapata fashion painfully slow, but the tension was INSANE. It’s a very organic progression from reluctant acquaintances to friends, and it’s such a well-written friends to lovers romance. There’s a strong family component here as well, and I just adored the main character so much. Diana is amazing. The conflict is ridiculous, but Zapata always just writes the best possible relationship dynamics that I just ignore everything else so easily. It’s the kind of book where I had to physically occassionally put it down TO COMPOSE MYSELF. Definitely recommend. 

1. The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

The Love Hypothesis (The Love Hypothesis, #1)I love being a parody, so of course my favorite romance of the year is a repackaged Reylo fic. I am not ashamed of it. We follow Olive, a PhD student who ends up kissing the department’s big bad professor in order to convince her best friend that she is over her ex-boyfriend. The big bad professor is Adam (I KNOW) only too happy to oblige and enter a fake dating scheme with Olive. This is seriously TROPE GALORE, and I was so into it from beginning to the end. Lots of academia stuff as well, and maybe that hits too close to home, who can say. All I know is that fan fiction truly is where it’s at. I loved all the hurt/comfort, fake dating miscommunication, ANGSTY interaction Adam and Olive shared. Like truly spectacular fun. Also, Ali Hazelwood truly said fuck it and transported Adam Driver into the cover and into her main character and we have to respect that. Go off queen, but like is that legal? Not sure, all I know is that I am now a certified Ali Hazelwood stan and I truly cannot wait for her upcoming releases. 

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I would love to hear from you! Tell me what were your favorite romances of the year? Would love to know!   

In the meantime, happy reading

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