This year was feast or famine for my reading life. I could barely pick up a book for most of the spring – instead losing myself in repeats of Top Chef and my umpteenth playthrough of Stardew Valley. I then spent July binging every happily ever after I could get my hands on, and when August hit it was back to video games. This lead to a shorter list of favorites, but no less robust, than in previous years. But there is definitely no pattern beyond “and they all lived happily ever after”.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

My colleague Caz calls this “quite possibly the best romantic comedy I’ve ever read” and I completely agree. This book is in my permanent Hall of Fame, cemented next to Red, White, and Royal Blue as my favorite m/m contemporary tales. Just… I love it with my whole heart.

Buy it at: AmazonAudible,  or  your local independent bookstore

Check, Please! By Ngozi Ukazu

Had you told me that this would be the year I got into comics and graphics novels, I would not have believed you, but holy cripes, was it! My favorite was absolutely this gem which follows a college hockey team and focuses on home baker and YouTube vlogger Eric Bittle. We follow as he navigates love (with the seemingly stoic Jack Zimmerman), baking in shared housing, and charming the living socks off this reviewer. If you’ve read any m/m hockey romances in the past, I can’t encourage you enough to give this a go.

Buy it at: Amazon or your local independent retailer

Queen Move by Kennedy Ryan

I have no idea why this book isn’t on more Best-of lists because it’s easily the hottest thing I’ve read this year.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local independent bookstore

An Heiress to Remember by Maya Rodale

If you’ve followed my Historical Romance reviews over the years, you know I’m not particularly fussed by detailed accuracy. I’m aware Ms. Rodale’s work rubs many the wrong way, but I’m simply not among them. I adored Beatrice’s journey in this book – how she comes to understand herself as a business owner, how she grapples with being a woman in a definitively male world. Plus, the bed stunt is just so cinematic I could basically see it in my head.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local independent bookstore

One to Watch by Kate Stayma-London

I gave this one a DIK back in August and I stand by it. One I’ve pressed into several hands and implored them to read it.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent bookstore

A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore

I was charmed by this! I loved the build of the romance (enemies-to-lovers was my most read trope this year and this one stands out), I loved Lucie’s spark, I loved Tristan in totality. I loved the flaws they both had and I just… y’all, I really loved this book.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent bookstore

Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein

There are books we love no matter when we read them and books we love because of when we read them, and I think this is one of the latter. I missed the Olympics a lot this year and was glad this novel existed in a world where COVID never happened so that we could have them. The romance was well built and felt very, I don’t know, adult to me? There was a silly miscommunication that I didn’t completely care for, but humans are routinely idiots. This one brought me valuable escapism on a day I needed it most and I will be thankful to it and think fondly of it for a long time to come.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent bookstore

The Roommate by Rosie Danan

This is a fabulous example of a book that will not work for everyone, but for those of us for whom it works – IT WORKED. I don’t always love the uptight/virgin heroine being taught by the lothario, at least not outside of Regencies, but everything about this book just drew me in. I read it in one sitting and have recommended it frequently since.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible, or your local independent bookstore

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Because this is classified as ‘women’s fiction’, you may quibble with my definition of this having an HEA. For me, however, Lakshmi does. The ending of this book gives her more power over her life than she’d ever had before and, Lord, if that’s not an HEA…

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local independent bookstore

Yes, No, Maybe So by Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed

YA was one of my favorite genres this year and I caught up on a lot I’d missed the past several years during my absence from it. A lot stood out, but this was absolutely my favorite published this year. Activism and politics are common themes in a lot of YAs, but this one felt fresh. I liked following their friends-to-something more story, while also living life with people who aren’t as cynical about change as I am was a true delight.

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Kristen Donnelly
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Voracious reader, with a preference for sassy romances and happily ever afters. In a relationship with coffee, seeing whiskey on the side.