October may be a bit too early for AAR’s  “Best romance novels of 2021” columns, but knowing that those are around the corner, I always like to stop and take stock of my “Best romance novels of 2021… so far.” I see it as a time to suggest a few last-minute books for your TBRs and hopefully to get some recommendations for my own in return.

Here are the best new romance novel releases of 2021 I’ve read so far.

For me, 2021 has been the year of YA romance. I hope the YA branding doesn’t put people off of trying these fantastic reads!

Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer is a fast-paced tech thriller about a girl on the run from her father and the AI helping to keep her safe. It has an f/f romance subplot and a happy ending for those characters.

In Not Here To Be LIked by Michelle Quach, an eminently qualified young woman running for high school newspaper editor loses to the last-minute candidacy of a newbie male jock, prompting our heroine and the entire school to confront systemic misogyny and what feminism really means. It’s nuanced, compelling, important, and well worth an adult read.

Kristen Cashore’s Winterkeep is the continuation of the Graceling Realms series (by the way, I’m hugely excited for the Graceling graphic novel, which releases in November). A kidnapped Queen Bitterblue realizes her feelings for her advisor Giddon when it may be too late, while the daughter of the leaders of a rival kingdom struggles to choose her path.

I also very much enjoyed a couple of adult romances – including one that is VERY adult.

Harlequin Historical’s A Marriage of Equals by Elizabeth Rolls takes on a Regency interracial couple in the midst of a suspense plot as they try to help a young woman on the run from an exploitative forced marriage.

My most recent DIK read – one which only released this month – is Brianna Ocampo’s Truth or Dare. This burning-level erotic novella features two longtime friends pushed over the edge to lovers by a game and an attractive third party.

Trish Doller’s Float Plan stars two grieving protagonists healing together – a hero who lost his leg and his sailing career with it, and heroine trying to find herself sailing on the boat she inherited from her fiance, who died from suicide.

I’m glad I stopped to make this list, because I realized how few of the DIKs by other AAR reviewers I’ve tried this year. Now I’m off to restock my TBR in the hopes of adding a few more top choices by December!

Have something else I should try? Please let me know in the comments!

Caroline Russomanno
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.