Kaetrin’s Best of 2021 List
I had a hit and miss year with reading, spending a few months in a terrible slump and then taking time off due to injury where I could not do any reviewing and so I read from my TBR and caught up on some series’ which had been languishing there. I read some fantastic books over the course of the year but these lists are about books published this year so I was ruthless in my sorting after I exported my Goodreads data and only looked at 2021 releases. Lucky for me there were exactly 10 standouts.
In no particular order, here they are.
~ Kaetrin ~
Role Model (Game Changers, #5) by Rachel Reid
I immediately went and glommed most of the rest of this series after reading this one and the next book in the series – The Long Game – is one of my most anticipated books of 2022. I enjoy sports romance and I like the world Rachel Reid has built. Sure, it’s somewhat aspirational with out gay hockey players but they’re not all on one team and that makes it feel more organic somehow.
Possibly I related to this one a little more because there’s a non athlete main character and Harris was pretty special.
Harris was one of the only ones wearing a shirt, but it was a tank top, so he felt practically naked. He was tossing a Frisbee with Bood and Dykstra, which was a physical activity he was actually good at.
He’d engaged in another physical activity he was good at last night, so he was on a real fitness kick lately. Practically a decathlete.
All Fired Up (Ashes & Dust, #1) by Jenn Burke
I liked Not Dead Yet (even though I had mixed feelings about the series end, in particular what happened to one beloved character) but the opener to the follow up series was my favourite of all of them so far. Sirius and I reviewed this one together, here.
The Legacy (Off-Campus, #5) by Elle Kennedy
The Legacy is an anthology of novellas set in the Off-Campus world, picking up a few years after graduation. It’s definitely one for fans. It really only makes sense if you’ve read (and liked) the earlier books. Off-Campus is one of my favourite series’ however and it’s one I’ve re-read in it’s entirety. I love all the characters and their stories and it was nice to catch up with the couples and check in with how they were getting on. The anthology is a kind of extended epilogue so it may not be everyone’s jam but I am always happy to read more in this world. There’s plenty of romance and steam but my lasting memory of this book is bursting into fits of laughter at the scenes where Dean is practicing his marriage proposal and being critiqued by Garrett and the other guys. Worth it for that alone.
With You Forever (Bergman Brothers, #4) by Chloe Liese
I picked this one up at NetGalley on a whim and it was such a treat! I have found a new author to glom. Witty banter, interesting, likeable characters and grumpy vs sunshine. Basically my catnip. Review here.
Battle Royal (Palace Insiders #1) by Lucy Parker
I think this is Lucy Parker’s best book yet. It made me laugh and cry and it was oh so satisfying.
Cool, firm lips were pressed against her temple. Closing her eyes for a moment now, as she had then, Sylvie breathed deeply before she turned her head and looked up at Dominic. He was holding her, his arms wrapped around her without hesitation, his body sharing its warmth.
For once, the expression in his dark eyes was transmitting clear as day. Deep concern, but primarily empathy. The bone-deep understanding of someone who had walked a similar path.
Full review here.
Paladin’s Strength (The Saint of Steel, #2) by T. Kingfisher
Before 2021 I had not read a T. Kingfisher book. I do not know how this could have been but it was. Paladin’s Strength was so funny and delightful, full of adventure and fantastic romance. The audiobook has just been released so I plan on revisiting all the goodness very soon.
“How many of them do you think you could take, boss? A dozen, maybe?”
“Galen, I’ve never tested how many rabbits I could fight off at a time. It just hasn’t come up.”
My review of this one here and Jayne’s review here.
Bombshells (Brooklyn Bruisers #8) by Sarina Bowen
One of the series’ I glommed when I was taking an injury timeout (see what I did there?) was the Brooklyn Bruisers. I read them all, one after the other and then got sad when I ran out. (It’s okay there’s a new one coming out in 2022). I didn’t review it formally because at the time I couldn’t type but it features cocky Anton Bayer and Sylvie Hanson, a member of the new Brooklyn women’s hockey team the Bombshells. I know nothing about hockey except for what I’ve read in romance novels so don’t take my word for it but it seems to me that Sarina Bowen is a fan and understands the rules and the way the teams are structured and intricacies of the sport. She uses these things to build an authentic world without overburdening the reader with too many technicalities. It’s clear to me that Bowen thinks that the pay gap for women’s sport sucks which is a sentiment I share.
Anton and Sylvie have a friends to lovers romance and there is much pining (on Anton’s part) because at the start, Sylvie is looking someone else’s way. Anton decides to be her friend and he is genuine about it even while he’s experiencing the feelings.
Bombshells hit the spot for me. It was a feel good romance with characters I liked and cared about with the added bonus of plenty of banter and smack talk.
Love at First by Kate Clayborn
This book was so beautiful. Just exquisite.
Seconds later Will came to the doorway, tucking his hands into his pockets and leaning against the frame. Will excelled in doorways, frankly. Excellent standing, leaning, kissing, touching. A+ in all those subjects, and now he was adding a fourth: looking.
My full review here.
All the Feels by Olivia Dade
Olivia Dade’s writing just keeps getting better. I loved Alex and Lauren. But especially Alex.
“Let me get this straight.” He braced his hands on the counter and leaned in closer to the clerk. “There’s only . . . one bed?”
The young man blinked at him. “Yes, sir.”
When Alex pumped his fists in triumph, punching the air, Lauren and the clerk both jumped.
“This is the best day of my fucking life!” he shouted. “Only! One! Bed! My second-favorite trope!”
He swung around to beam at her. “Lauren! Did you hear?”
My review here.
The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley
I just adored The Vanished Days. Adored. So clever and twisty. From start to finish I was rapt. I can’t wait to read it again.
Full review here.
Yay for “Vanished Days” and “Paladin’s Strength.” Those just missed making my list for this year as I gave them both a B+. I really need to try Kate Clayborn and the Chloe Liese book sounds interesting.
I enjoyed every moment of reading Kate Clayborn’s Love At First as I did her Love Lettering. I wait somewhat patiently (there are many other books to read, thank goodness) for the e-book price of All The Feels to come down from the stratosphere.
ROLE MODEL also made my Top Ten of 2021–I really liked how it addressed what happens when women come forward with instances of sexual abuse by athletes without overpowering the central romance—and LONG GAME is my most anticipated book of 2022. Can’t wait!
I see a number of books above that I’ve enjoyed and several others that interest me. Thanks for sharing your list, Kaetrin. I hope that you are now fully recovered. All the best in 2022!
@Kaetrin and @DDD and other fans of Rachel Reid’s Ilya and Shane might be interested in this deleted scene that the author shared on December 15:
@Kareni: Thank you! That was a fun little scene.
@Kareni: Oh that was fun – thank you for the link!