While I do tend to prefer women’s fiction novels with as little romance as possible, I’ve also come to appreciate some romance, as long as I choose them wisely. They were also a nice break between thick, heavy fantasy novels. Since the two blend together far too much for my liking to the point where I couldn’t quite tell which way some books were supposed to lean, though, I’m just lumping them together here. There are also only 14 that fall in one or both, anyways.
So, which women’s fiction/romance novel turned out to be my favorite of 2021?
The first one I want to mention was written by someone I actually once knew! She taught a nature-oriented class for young children that I decided to put my son into when he was a toddler. He had more fun collecting leaves, but his teacher was such a sweet lady. On Home by Becca Spence Dobias is far from my usual read, but I really liked how it focused on three women in one family and on motherhood.
Sadly, some just were not my cup of tea and had disappointing love triangles, which don’t work for me anyways. The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams was a huge disappointment and, while I think the end tried to salvage it, it just didn’t work for me as a whole. I was expecting something full of humorous mishaps as one woman tries to juggle multiple men, but it just fell flat and she annoyed me to no end. Then there was The Bookstore on the Beach by Brenda Novak, which annoyed me in more ways than I can possibly count. It had not one, but two love triangles, and I think I enjoyed the peripheral love story a lot more. Throw in some unnecessary drama and a conflicted woman and it was kind of a train wreck to me. The final disappointment was actually a highly anticipated sequel. I adored Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade last year, but All the Feels just made me cringe. I don’t even know where to start with that one, but it was not at the same caliber as Spoiler Alert. It instead made for an annoying companion novel that had me enjoying Spoiler Alert all over again.
Fortunately, I really enjoyed the ones that took me outside of the US. Bella Cigna by Wendi Dass involved a lovely trip to Rome and a sweet romance with an Italian. Talk Bookish to Me by Kate Bromley also involved a fun trip to Italy, but was also set in NYC as college sweethearts suddenly come face to face again and rekindle their romance, but he’s keeping a secret, one that made my opinion of him, and the book to some extent, plummet. Their banter, though, was a ton of fun. Finding Home by Kate Field was a lovely trip to a small English village and leans more heavily towards the women’s fiction side, so I was thoroughly charmed. And of course Sophie Valroux’s Paris Stars by Samantha Verant took me back to France for the next part in Sophie’s story and Battle Royal by Lucy Parker took me to London with tons of cake, a royal wedding, and rival bakers. Both managed to make me so hungry for fancy food and cake.
Then there are the ones that took me on fun trips around the US (this year, I’ll take any trip I can get!). Dragonflies at Night by Anne Marie Bennett was a fun bi-coastal read with a super sweet, mature romance between an event planner on the East Coast and a popular musician on the West Coast. The Book of Revelations by Idelle Kursman surprisingly had far less romance than expected and was a fun visit to Boston, focusing more on family and the past coming to light. The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Xio Axelrod got me straight in the heart as a good chunk of it is set in Philadelphia, which was my home for one year, and reading this just brought so many fond memories bubbling up. The Memory Keeper by Jenny Hale took me straight to the South in the best possible way. I loved everything about it, and thinking about it just gives me the softest, coziest feeling.
And then there was Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers. This one struck me right at my core. It spoke to me exactly when I needed it and exactly in the way I needed it to. Even though it appeared to be marketed as a romance, I’d argue it’s more accurately described as women’s fiction as the romance was not as strong as I hoped and came secondary to the main character figuring herself out. But that was a good thing for me since it really spoke to me at just the right time.
So which one ended up being my favorite of 2021?
I feel like it’s a toss up between Battle Royal and The Memory Keeper with Sophie Valroux’s Paris Stars very close behind, but Battle Royal has to take the cake because, well, it’s all about cake and, if there’s something I needed this year, it was lots of sugar (not kidding; one kid has been doing school online all year and the other has been doing homeschool preschool since August. I need all the sugar and chocolate I can get.). I’m surprised I’m picking a romance this year, but, even though it wasn’t perfect, I really do love dessert.
What romance of women’s fiction novel did you love this year?
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