Some years I have a “type” – the year of the contemp, the year of comedy. This year, the only thing consistent in my favorites is that they had very little in common with each other! I hope this list will be useful to people who like a variety of reads, because whatever you like, I’m pretty sure I made one of them a favorite!


Tanked by Mia Hopkins

The first time I read Hopkins, she made my Best Belated reads list because I didn’t catch her in her release year. I was NOT going to make that mistake again, and I had Tanked nearly as soon as it released. This working-class contemporary about a social worker and the third brother who helps run the Eastside Brewery in a gritty part of L.A. is full of heart, hope, and heat. It’s one of tne of the rare romances to incorporate Covid into the setting, which it does deftly and honestly (examining, for instance, how the brewery is trying to stay afloat).

Buy it at: Amazon, or your local bookshop


Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik

Jessie Mihalik kicked off her Starlight’s Shadow series with Hunt the Stars, an enemies-to-lovers, close-proximity romance between the captain of a starship and the aristocratic general of the interstellar government she nearly died fighting against. The space crew is close-knit. The heroine is a great leader. The military tactics and strategies are sound. The plot is twisty. The hero is hot. It’s everything I love about SF romance, and the best new series since Linnea Sinclair.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop


Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell

I had a second strong SF find this year. While Mihalik reminded me of Sinclair, Maxwell’s self-destructive hero Tennal reminded me of Miles Vorkosigan. His brain is imbued with a power he genuinely cannot handle, and his only hope may be the man with complementary powers – except the military has assigned that man to mentally enslave him. Their romance plays out against the backdrop of personal and interstellar intrigue. Another book that kept me up rubbing my eyes to try to get through one more chapter.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop


Rust in the Root by Justina Ireland

Like most Justina Irelands, this is more of a story with strong-romantic-elements than a romance, but as a fantasy historical, it’s simply top-notch. In an alternate 1930s, magician Laura takes a position with the Colored Auxiliary of the Bureau of the Arcane to fight against the Blight, a dangerous task that will offer and endanger a romance with her female boss Skylark. It’s a gripping and impeccably executed fantasy.

Buy it at: Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop


Red Blossom in Snow by Jeannie Lin

I never miss one of Jeannie Lin’s Lotus Palace mysteries, and they consistently make my year-end best list. This cross-class lovers story features a magistrate and a courtesan on opposite sides of a criminal investigation. It’s the sophistication with which Lin approaches the characters – how they know they are manipulating each other and being manipulated in turn – on top of a fresh spin on a rare setting (a river journey), that make this book stand out. And I always love it when a righteous hero falls for the most fallen of women.

Buy it at Amazon or your local bookshop


The Stand-In by Lily Chu

A fresh spin on the “ordinary girl elevated to the world of the wealthy” romance trope, The Stand-In is the story of a Toronto woman (Gracie) who looks surprisingly identical to a famous Chinese movie star, Fangli, whose mental health issues are interfering with her ability to do movie press. Fangli hires Gracie to pose as her for PR events, with her costar, actor Sam, as Gracie’s tutor in all things Fangli. I liked the realistically developed elite setting, but I loved the deft handling of both Gracie’s and Fangli’s mental health (depression and anxiety). Even more impressive is that this came from a début author.

Buy it at Amazon, Audible or your local bookshop


A Match Made in Lipa by Carla de Guzman

De Guzman has been a solid writer for some time, and with this book, she broke through to star status. In a way, this is a gender-flipped story where big-city hero Santi learns to love life in the provinces, but our heroine Kira is a businesswoman and powerhouse in her own right. The characters, the setting, the careers, the family dynamics – everything in this book is real. I was transported into the characters’ lives and simply loved it.

Buy it at Amazon or your local bookshop


I suppose there is one other thing that my favorites this year have in common – I haven’t seen them on many other “Best of” lists. I hope this one unburies a few treasures for you!

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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.