Best Fiction Reads of 2021: Part 4

Best Fiction Reads of 2021

Good day, my bookish peeps. My apologies for the tardiness in posting the fourth and final addition to my “Best Reads of 2021” list, but I’ve had to deal with a series of severe migraine episodes over the past few weeks. The only good thing about the delay in writing this post was that I had a chance to fine-tune this section of my “best of” list, the romance reads. (Even though I had the time to fine-tune the list, I wound up not adding or deleting any of my original choices, so I guess they were the best choices after all.) Although I enjoy reading from a wide variety of genres, especially mystery, suspense, and thrillers, I’m also a huge romance fiction fan.

The first title on this romance best of list is the final book in the Brown Sisters trilogy by Talia Hibbert, Act Your Age, Eve Brown. If you haven’t read the previous two books in this series, Get A Life, Chloe Brown and Take A Hint, Dani Brown, then you’ll want to add those to your list as well. These stories feature flawed, but realistic characters that are trying their best to cope in a world that doesn’t often make room for differently-sized, neurodiverse/neurodivergent, or differently-abled people. What more can I say other than these are great diverse romance reads.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown, The Brown Sisters #3, by Talia Hibbert
ISBN: 9780062941275 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780062941282 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062941299 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781799971085 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B089WJ184B (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B089SYX5F5 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Avon Romance
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Romance | Interracial Romance

 

In USA Today bestselling author Talia Hibbert’s newest rom-com, the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.

Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how.
 
Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.
 
Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help . Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.
 

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Read an excerpt here.


 My next romance recommendation is the first book in a new series by award-winning romance author Sandra Kitt. Winner Takes All kicks off the Millionaires Club series. This is nice, tender, and sometimes emotional diverse romance from an author that has written quite a number of tender, emotional romances.

Winner Takes All, The Millionaires Club #1, by Sandra Kitt
ISBN: 9781728214887 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781728214894 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781662081477 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781662081828 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B08SR9CXWF (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08DHGVN2L (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: April 6, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Romance | Interracial Romance

 

“Great story-telling of the most romantic kind.”—Brenda Jackson, New York Times bestselling author

“A warm-hearted story and a clever plot reflecting current issues with sensitivity, warmth, and wisdom.”—Susan Wiggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jean Travis has the job of announcing the latest lottery winner on TV and is stunned to find that Patrick Bennett, her teenage crush, is the top mega winner. They haven’t seen each other in years, and Patrick is thrilled to renew their acquaintance. Jean, not so much. After all, a lot has changed since they used to study together and Jean worked so hard to hide her feelings. Now that he’s won so much money, Patrick faces a whole new world of demands from family, friends, coworkers, strangers. The only person he knows for sure he can trust, is Jean…

“Romantic, tender, emotional, and compelling.”—RaeAnne Thayne, New York Times bestselling author


When you’re a person of color and a religious minority (at least in this country), it is often incredibly difficult to find books that have characters that look like you and practice your faith. Thankfully, there are a growing number of authors of color and books that reflect a variety of religious beliefs, including Islam. YAY! I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin and knew that I’d be purchasing all future books by this author. I immediately grabbed a digital copy of Hana Khan Carries On when it was released and was fortunate enough to add a print copy of this book to my home library later.

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin
ISBN: 9780593336366 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780593336373 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593410431 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08KWKPPGL (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08JKN98K9 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 13, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Romance| Women’s Fiction

 

From the author of Ayesha at Last comes a sparkling new rom-com for fans of “You’ve Got Mail.”

Hana Khan’s family-run halal restaurant is on its last legs. So when a flashy competitor gets ready to open nearby, bringing their inevitable closure even closer, she turns to her anonymously-hosted podcast, and her lively and long-lasting relationship with one of her listeners, for advice.

But a hate-motivated attack on their neighbourhood complicates the situation further, as does Hana’s growing attraction for Aydin, the young owner of the rival business. Who might not be a complete stranger after all…

A charmingly refreshing and modern love story, Uzma Jalaluddin’s tale is humorously warm and filled with gorgeous characters you won’t be able to forget. Now in development for film with Mindy Kaling and Amazon Studios.


Another author on my “just buy it” list is Jasmine Guillory. I love her characters, the romance, the romantic-struggle, and the humor. Ms. Guillory’s 2021 release, While We Were Dating featured a plus-size woman of color as the love interest. YAAS! This book was the sixth addition to “The Wedding Date” series. If you enjoy well-written romance with lots of intelligent characters and humor, then I suggest you binge-read this entire series (if you haven’t already).

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory
ISBN: 9780593100844 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780593100851 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780593100868 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593409800 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08LQYMB1F (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08L5WF4YM (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 13, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Romance | Multicultural Romance

 

Two people realize that it’s no longer an act when they veer off-script in this sizzling romantic comedy by New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.

Ben Stephens has never bothered with serious relationships. He has plenty of casual dates to keep him busy, family drama he’s trying to ignore and his advertising job to focus on. When Ben lands a huge ad campaign featuring movie star Anna Gardiner, however, it’s hard to keep it purely professional. Anna is not just gorgeous and sexy, she’s also down to earth and considerate, and he can’t help flirting a little…

Anna Gardiner is on a mission: to make herself a household name, and this ad campaign will be a great distraction while she waits to hear if she’s booked her next movie. However, she didn’t expect Ben Stephens to be her biggest distraction. She knows mixing business with pleasure never works out, but why not indulge in a harmless flirtation?

But their lighthearted banter takes a turn for the serious when Ben helps Anna in a family emergency, and they reveal truths about themselves to each other, truths they’ve barely shared with those closest to them.

When the opportunity comes to turn their real-life fling into something more for the Hollywood spotlight, will Ben be content to play the background role in Anna’s life and leave when the cameras stop rolling? Or could he be the leading man she needs to craft their own Hollywood ending?


I’ve recently realized that I read a large number of books that are part of a series. If I’m grabbed by the first title in a series, it’s a sure bet that I’ll be reading all of the new books in that series. Although I’m not a big sports fan, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the “Bromance Book Club” series. Come on folks, a romance series featuring male characters that read romance books to help with their relationships, what’s not to love?! Book four in this series, Isn’t It Bromantic? is slightly different from the first three because the male character is actually writing a romance rather than reading one to help with his love interest.

Isn’t It Bromantic?, Bromance Book Club #4, by Lyssa Kay Adams
ISBN: 9780593332771 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780062964595 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593332788 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08MMJVQ81 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08JKP2G5S (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 3, 2021
Genre: Fiction | Romance | Sports Romance

 

With his passion for romance novels, it was only a matter of time before Vlad took up the pen to write a novel the Bromance Book Club would swoon over.

Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared after speaking out against government corruption, she escaped danger the only way she knew how. She agreed to marry her childhood friend, Vladimir, and move to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.

Vlad, aka The Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But after four years, it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance—both on and off the page.

The Bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love—and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s senior citizen neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves The Loners. Just when things finally look promising, the danger from Elena’s past life intrudes, and the book club will face their first-ever life-or-death grand gesture as they race to a happy ever after.

 

I was honored to get the opportunity to see this author at a regional book festival last year. I was incredibly blessed that my youngest brother took the time to get my copy of The Dating Playbook signed while I was attending another author presentation. (My brother also drove me to North Carolina so I could attend this event. We spent a lovely day at the Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors and I didn’t have to do the drive down or back to West Virginia. In-person events with authors. Got books signed. Had a fantastic day trip without driving. Win-Win-WIN!) I had read the first book in this series, The Boyfriend Project with my online book group, Mocha Girls Read and was hooked. And yes, I own the digital and print copy of this book.

The Dating Playbook, The Boyfriend Project #2, by Farrah Rochon
ISBN: 9781538716670 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9781538716663 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781549135941 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B09B38J4WF (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08PV5JRHM (Kindle edition)
Publication date: August 17, 2021
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Fiction | Romance

When a personal trainer agrees to fake date her client, all rules are out the window in this “fun, heartfelt, and totally relatable” romantic comedy (Abby Jimenez, NYT bestselling author of Life’s Too Short).

When it comes to personal training, Taylor Powell kicks serious butt. Unfortunately, her bills are piling up, rent is due, and the money situation is dire. Taylor needs more than the support of her new best friends, Samiah and London. She needs a miracle.

And Jamar Dixon might just be it. The oh-so-fine former footballer wants back into the NFL, and he wants Taylor to train him. There’s just one catch—no one can know what they’re doing. But when they’re accidentally outed as a couple, Taylor’s game plan is turned completely upside down. Is Jamar just playing to win . . . or is he playing for keeps?

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I actually had this next author’s first book, Ties That Tether on my TBR list for awhile. I don’t know why I grabbed her latest The Sweetest Remedy to read first, but I did. No, this book isn’t part of a series, but I do heartily recommend you grab both books if you enjoy reading multicultural romance or want to start reading multicultural romance. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author in the future.

The Sweetest Remedy by Jane Igharo
ISBN: 9780593101964 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780593101971 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780593456484 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B08SMNJPT5 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08R5LW2H3 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 28, 2021
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Fiction | Romance

When a woman travels to Nigeria to attend the funeral of the father she never knew, she meets her extravagant family for the first time, a new and inspiring love interest, and discovers parts of herself she didn’t know were missing, from Jane Igharo, the acclaimed author of Ties That Tether.

Hannah Bailey has never known her father, the Nigerian entrepreneur who had a brief relationship with her white mother. Because of this, Hannah has always felt uncertain about part of her identity. When her father dies, she’s invited to Nigeria for the funeral. Though she wants to hate the man who abandoned her, she’s curious about who he was and where he was from. Searching for answers, Hannah boards a plane to Lagos, Nigeria.

In Banana Island, one of Nigeria’s most affluent areas, Hannah meets the Jolades, her late father’s prestigious family—some who accept her and some who think she doesn’t belong. The days leading up to the funeral are chaotic, but Hannah is soon shaped by secrets that unfold, a culture she never thought she would understand or appreciate, and a man who steals her heart and helps her to see herself in a new light.


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I have this rather annoying (or at least it’s annoying to me) habit of adding books to my TBR list and then promptly forgetting about them until they pop back up on my reading radar. This next title is one such book, Seven Days in June. As someone that has been dealing with migraine for 40+ years, any book featuring a person dealing with migraine should have been one of the first I grabbed to read (the main female character has severe migraine attacks and the portrayal was all-too familiar). Sadly, I didn’t end up reading this book until mid-December and I had even obtained a signed copy of this book earlier this year in North Carolina. If this one is on your TBR list, I suggest you read it sooner rather than later!

Seven Days in June by Tia Williams
ISBN: 9781538719107 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781538719114 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781549104855 (digital audiobook)
ASIN: B094471J1S (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B08KQ3KS5Y (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 1, 2021
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Fiction | Romance

Brooklynite Eva Mercy is a single mom and bestselling erotica writer, who is feeling pressed from all sides. Shane Hall is a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning literary author who, to everyone’s surprise, shows up in New York.

When Shane and Eva meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their past buried traumas, but the eyebrows of New York’s Black literati. What no one knows is that twenty years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. They may be pretending that everything is fine now, but they can’t deny their chemistry – or the fact that they’ve been secretly writing to each other in their books ever since.

Over the next seven days in the middle of a steamy Brooklyn summer, Eva and Shane reconnect, but Eva’s not sure how she can trust the man who broke her heart, and she needs to get him out of New York so that her life can return to normal. But before Shane disappears again, there are a few questions she needs answered…

With its keen observations of Black life and the condition of modern motherhood, as well as the consequences of motherless-ness, Seven Days in June is by turns humorous, warm and deeply sensual.

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This next title is part of a series, “Modern Mail Order Brides” by Olivia Gaines. I’ve read all of thirteen of the titles, enjoyed some much more than others although I’ve enjoyed them all. Sunflowers and Honey had me staying up late reading, choking on my tea and triggering an asthma attack from laughing so hard, and smiling until the last page. Although this title released in October, I’ve already read it a number of times and enjoy it a little more with each re-reading.

Sunflowers and Honey, Modern Mail Order Brides #13, by Olivia Gaines
ISBN: 9798488630000 (paperback)
ASIN: B098LZBGLJ (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 12, 2021
Publisher: Davonshire House Publishing
Genre: Fiction | Romance

Symphony Willis wasn’t about to let her big sister have all the fun. Placing a call to Melody, she asked what everyone wanted to know, “where did you meet Lakota?”

Following the directions sent via text, Symphony walked into the offices of Perfect Match to start a journey that opened not only a lot of doors, but her heart to understanding what it truly means to be family.

Saddle up as we head West to a family farm in Oklahoma that specializes in Sunflowers and Honey.

 
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My final romance recommendation is a novella by the one and only, Beverly Jenkins. (Told you, I read everything this Queen writes!) Ms. Bev released this novella a few months ago and I’ve already read it multiple times. Yes, it was just that good. Romance, interesting characters, books, intrigue, books, romance, and books!

Rare Danger by Beverly Jenkins
ISBN: 9781713643876 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B09JFSH428 (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B09CGBQW7R (Kindle edition)
Publication date: November 16, 2021
Publisher: Montlake
Genre: Fiction | Novella | Romance | Romantic-Suspense

A librarian’s quiet life becomes a page-turner of adventure, romance, and murder in a thrilling novella by USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins.

For Jasmine Ware, curating books for an exclusive clientele is her passion. Until an old friend, a dealer of rare books, goes missing and his partner is murdered. Linked to an artifact smuggled out of the ancient library at Timbuktu, the mystery draws Jasmine deeper into a plot that could cost her her life.

Air force veteran and private security ace Torr Noble is accustomed to adrenaline-pumping stakes. He never expected a private librarian would be so intriguing, but Jasmine is full of surprises. As the connection between them burns hot, a powerful old enemy raises his head. Torr and Jasmine must work together to find the missing dealer.

Will the search be the start of a happily ever after or a disastrous THE END?

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Of course there were plenty of other titles that I read and enjoyed in 2021. The few mentioned on this “best of” list are the ones that truly stood out. Once again, I have to say “THANK YOU” to all of the wonderful authors, publishing companies, publicists, book tour companies, and libraries that afforded me so many fantastic reads over the course of 2021. I hope y’all had some wonderful reads last year and I hope we all have just as many great reads on our 2022 list come the end of the year.

Happy Reading, y’all!