Top 21 Books of 2021

This year has been filled with so many amazing books! Every single book on this list earns a 5 star rating and comes highly recommended. Some of them are now even some of my favorite reads of all time. Thank you so much to all these authors, and all the other authors out there, for everything that goes into their books; the worlds they create for us to escape into, the characters we come to care for, the research needed for all the rich history. There is so much that I am deeply appreciative of. Thanks for an incredible year of books!


Isabelle and Alexander by Rebecca Anderson

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Manchester, 1850

Isabelle Rackham knows she will not marry for love. Though arranged marriages have fallen out of fashion, hers has been settled for some time to combine the upper-middle-class wealth of her father’s coal mines with Alexander Osgood’s prospering Northern country textile mills. Though not a man prone to romantic gestures, Alexander is well-known as an eligible bachelor. His good looks have turned more than one head, so Isabelle is content to think of herself as Alexander’s wife.

However, her marriage is not what she expected. Northern England is nothing like her home farther west in the lake country. Cold, dreary, and dark, the soot from the textile mills creates a gray hue that seems to cling to everything in the city of Manchester. Alexander is distant and aloof, preferring to spend his time at the mill rather than with her at home. Their few conversations are brief, polite, and lacking any emotion, leaving Isabelle lonely and desperately homesick.

Sensing his wife’s unhappiness, Alexander suggests a trip to his country estate. Isabelle hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know her new husband without the distractions of his business. But the change of scenery doesn’t bring them any closer. While riding together on horses, Alexander is thrown from his and becomes paralyzed. Tragedy or destiny? The help and care that Alexander now needs is Isabelle’s opportunity to forge a connection and create a deep and romantic love where nothing else could.


An Alleged Rogue by Sian Ann Bessey

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Lord Adam Dunsbourne is a tyrant. At least, that’s what everyone says. The tales are shocking: accounts of a man who gambled away the family fortune and keeps his younger sister, Emily, captive in their home at Dunsbourne Manor. So when Adam and his sister make an unexpected appearance at a dinner party, the scandalized whispers cannot be contained.

New to the town, Phoebe Hadford hears the condemning rumors and determines to do all she can to help the baron’s oppressed sister. Upon entering Dunsbourne Manor, however, she quickly discovers that all is not what she has been led to believe.

Adam, though unsure of whether he can trust the intentions of his beautiful neighbor, is quickly drawn in by Phoebe’s genuine nature. But even as Adam and Phoebe’s connection deepens, a dangerous enemy from Adam’s past reemerges. For years, Adam has hunted for the man who betrayed him, not realizing he had only to wait. His foe has returned, and this time, he will threaten everything Adam cherishes most―including the woman he loves.


A Companion for the Count by Sally Britton

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Miss Emma Arlen’s position as a companion never included distracting her mistress’s suitors, but when a handsome Italian ambassador arrives determined to find an English bride, Emma happily takes up the cause.

Emma Arlen has spent a decade as a member of the duke’s family, in the position of companion to his daughter and ward to the duke himself. She would do anything to show her support to the ducal family for their love and kindness. When Lady Josephine begs Emma to distract a most determined Sicilian suitor, she agrees at once. How hard can it be to keep one man entertained for a few weeks?

Luca, the Conte di Atella, left his home in the newly formed Kingdom of the Two Sicilies under the direct orders of King Ferdinand I. Luca’s duty as ambassador to England includes everything from negotiating better trade agreements to strengthening the bonds between the two nations. If possible, by marrying a lady of high birth. When he optimistically sets his sights on Lady Elinor, Miss Arlen consistently disrupts his plans. The more time that passes, the more he realizes he does not mind at all.

Continually in the conte’s company, Emma recognizes in him a spirit of adventure and nobility like she has never witnessed before. When the time comes for him to go, will she be able to part with him and keep her heart intact?

 


Fortune Favors the Sparrow by Rebecca Connolly

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Mischief is as mischief does…

Clara Harlow is perfectly content with her life as a teacher of art and French at the Miss Masters Finishing School, so nothing startles her more than to discover that the school is far more than it seems, and its purposes more complicated than anything she could have imagined. She finds herself accepting an assignment from the highest powers in England to use her talents for a particular mission: to impersonate the ward of the late Duke of Kirklin, gain access to the estate, and to discern how a strip of the Kent coastline there is being used against the security of England.

The present Duke of Kirklin, George Russell, better known as Hawk, does not know what to make of the appearance of the former ward of his late uncle, but he is captivated by her. Her skills in art are unlike anything he has ever seen, and her company grows more agreeable with every passing day. His boring, bachelor life grows less and less appealing, and the company within his walls more perfectly suited for the place than he ever dreamed.

What could possibly go wrong?


Charming Artemis by Sarah M. Eden

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Charlie Jonquil is mild-mannered and kind―except when it comes to his one true adversary, Artemis Lancaster. Though Charlie has a brilliant mind for mathematics, Artemis poses a problem he can’t seem to comprehend: how can one be so lovely and so infuriating? A party in London brings him into the company of the maddening young lady, and it is clear that Charlie’s disdain is mutual. But when an unfortunate incident between the pair involving Charlie’s jacket and a glass of raspberry shrub leads to scandal, the sworn enemies are left with only two options: be ruined or be married.

So it is that Artemis finds herself in a most outrageous predicament: she must wed a gentleman she’s hated for years―and she pledges to avoid him at all costs. But it is only when they enter into this mockery of a marriage that Charlie and Artemis learn things are not as simple as they once appeared. As their tentative ceasefire leads to friendship, it seems their marriage born of desperation might lead them to a love that was destined to be.


A Proper Scoundrel by Esther Hatch

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His scandals were right on track until she derailed everything.

As the successful owner of multiple railroad lines, Diana Barton is all too accustomed to fending off suitors seeking to stake their claim on her wealth. In order to keep the wolves at bay, Diana has contrived the perfect plan: appeal to the most notorious rake in London, the Baron Lord Bryant, to ruin her reputation and scare off the worst of the time wasters. The ruse will be no hardship she’s secretly been fascinated by the man for years.

Lord Bryant is well aware of his questionable reputation. Indeed, he has cultivated the image carefully, and the last thing he wants is a wife. But when he’s approached by the younger sister of a business associate, he tells her in no uncertain terms that he cannot help. However, when he sees for himself what she is up against, Bryant grudgingly offers his assistance. Faced with his most complicated entanglement yet, Bryant is firm in his conditions and Diana knows that to get romantically involved with Bryant would spell certain heartbreak. But as the counterfeit couple grow ever closer, the line between truth and lies becomes blurred, threatening both Lord Bryant’s well-laid plans and the future of Diana’s railroad business.


Georgana’s Secret by Arlem Hawks

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1811

A Regency romance on the high seas. Two hearts yearning to find a safe harbor, and possibly, a lasting love.

As a young girl, Georgana Woodall dreamed of beautiful dresses, fancy balls, and falling in love. However, when her mother dies, she cannot face a future under the guardianship of her abusive grandmother and instead chooses to join her father on his ship disguised as his cabin boy, “George.”

Lieutenant Dominic Peyton has no time in his life for love, not with his dedication to His Majesty’s Royal Navy claiming his full attention. While trying to adjust to a new crew, he strives to be an exemplary officer and leader. When he sees the captain’s cabin boy being harassed by the crew, he immediately puts a stop to it and takes the “boy” under his wing. After discovering a number of clues, Dominic deduces that George is really a woman. Knowing that revealing the cabin boy’s secret would put her in serious danger from the rowdy crew, Dominic keeps silent and hides his growing affection for her.

Georgana is quickly losing her heart to Dominic’s compassion and care but is convinced nothing can come of her affection. She cannot continue to live her life on the sea, and having already missed too many seasons in London, her chances of being welcomed back into polite society and finding a suitable husband are quickly slipping away.

Georgana’s Secret is about two hearts yearning to find a safe harbor, and possibly, a lasting love.


The Nabob’s Daughter by Jess Heileman

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She’ll do anything to escape an arranged marriage. He’ll do anything to help her.

Honora Crauford relishes her life in India. So when her father informs her of his latest business transaction—marrying her off to a bankrupt nobleman in England—her only hope for returning home is to convince her betrothed, by whatever antics necessary, that a marriage to her comes at a cost that not even the greatest fortune can justify. 

Graham Whitworth can hardly believe his wretched luck. It seems the only way to save his family’s insolvent estate is to comply with his father’s demands and marry the extremely wealthy, but utterly ridiculous, nabob’s daughter. But when Honora missteps, Graham discerns her farce and begins to see who she truly is—a most impressive lady. A lady likely capable of fixing his family’s financial troubles. 

Realizing they both desire freedom, Graham and Honora join forces to restore the Whitworth estate and return Honora to her beloved India. But sometimes love has its own agenda, and the revoking of a once undesirable arrangement may just prove to be the greatest sacrifice of all.

  


Winning the Gentleman by Kristi Ann Hunter

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Aaron Whitworth hasn’t had control over most aspects of his life, but he’s always taken pride in being an honorable businessman and better-than-average horseman. When both of those claims are threatened, he makes the desperate decision to hire the horse trainer of a traveling circus as a temporary jockey for his racehorses.

Sophia Fitzroy knows that most horsemen don’t take her seriously because she’s a woman, but she can’t pass up the opportunity to get away from the tumultuous world of travel and performing. As she fights for the right to do the work she was hired for, she learns the fight for Aaron’s guarded heart might be an even more worthwhile challenge.

As secrets come to light and past vulnerabilities are confronted, will Aaron and Sophia sacrifice their former dreams and forge a new one together–against all odds?


Proposing Mischief by Regina Jennings

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Only one person can give her the freedom she seeks–but is it worth the risk?

Maisie Kentworth is being forced to stay on her parents’ ranch. After a short-lived relationship with the wrong man, she’s worried about inflaming things further between her former beau and her protective family. Left to rue her mistakes, she keeps busy exploring the idle mine at the edge of their property, where she discovers a great treasure.

Boone Bragg is also stuck. With his parents on vacation, the management of Bragg Mining falls on him, and one of his advisors wants him as a son-in-law. One wrong move, and Boone will end up either offending an associate or marrying a woman he can’t endure.

While closing up a spent mine, Boone gets two surprises. One is a spitfire farm girl who’s trespassing with a pickax, and the other is the amazing crystal cavern that she’s discovered. Suddenly Boone sees a way to overhaul the family business. With part of the cavern on Kentworth land, Boone makes Maisie a proposal that he hopes will solve all of their problems. Instead it throws Joplin into chaos, and it will take all of Maisie’s gumption to set things right.


Song of Salzburg by Jen Geigle Johnson

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When talented violinist Freya Winter is chosen to take part in a musical celebration alongside some of the best instrumentalists in the world, she is thrilled. Performing in front of royalty is a breathtaking opportunity, but her true motivation for traveling to Salzburg is to fulfill an unlikely dream: to meet and train under the renowned Salzburg Maestro, a master musician shrouded in mystery.

Freya travels aboard the Orient Express to practice with the newly formed orchestra in Salzburg, and nothing can distract her―not her mother’s illness, nor her father’s domineering ways; however, when a handsome passenger becomes a regular fixture on her journeys, Freya feels her focus blurring. Conversation with Erich is easy, and their shared love of music draws them undeniably closer. But even as they open their hearts to each other, the harsh realities of her family life intrude on the future she’s envisioned, and Freya feels her dreams slipping through her fingers, threatening to rob her of everything she cherishes most.


The Highwayman’s Letter by Martha Keyes

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He waylays her carriage and runs off with her property. Can she keep him from stealing her heart as well?

By day, Reginald Sinclair works in the post office, but by night, he is the increasingly infamous Paladin, the gallant highwayman making young women swoon all over Somerset. With a vendetta against the wealthy that spans both past and present, Reggie’s escapades allow him to take justice into his own hands while helping his uncle avoid insolvency.

Joanna Carmichael’s father has finally chosen her a husband. While she is not thrilled with her father’s selection, Joanna understands it as a business arrangement, something which suits her practicality perfectly. Her father hopes her good sense will exercise a beneficial effect upon her younger sister, Frances, who is regrettably prone to romantics. Frances’s preoccupation with reports of the Paladin threaten to overshadow Joanna’s coolheaded example, but Joanna is determined to show her sister how foolish and unworthy of admiration the outlaw is.

During their encounter, though, the maddening highwayman takes an item of Joanna’s—then has the audacity to send her a letter with instructions on how to recover it, beginning a battle of wills that brings Reggie within reach of the people responsible for his family’s ruin and forces Joanna to reconsider the desirability of her business arrangement.


Heart in the Highlands by Heidi Kimball

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An arranged marriage was never what Callum Darrington, future Duke of Edinbane, imagined for himself. But with the well-being of his uncle’s family hanging in the balance, Callum strikes a bargain with his father and reluctantly agrees to tie himself to a stranger. The reality of the lovely Lady Katherine is more than he could have hoped for, and their wedding heralds a bright new future for the couple—until Callum discovers his father deliberately deceived him. Callum lashes out, setting in motion heartbreak not even he could have foreseen.

Four years later, Callum is ready to piece together the marriage he so carelessly destroyed. But their years apart have hardened Kate: she is not the naive and trusting young woman she once was, and she has no intention of allowing Callum a foothold in her life or her heart. Despite her coldness, Callum works to regain her trust and rebuild their marriage, not realizing Kate harbors a secret that could change everything—and this time, there is much more at stake than just her heart.


Forever Phoebe by Chalon Linton

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At the dignified age of eighteen, Phoebe Jamison knows she should behave in a manner befitting her station, as her three loving elder brothers often tease. Unfortunately, the lively young woman has a personality every bit as fiery as her red hair, a fact brought to her attention in the criticism from the gentleman she has long pined for. But not every man is of the opinion that a woman should be decorous above all else. The newest resident of Somerset, Mr. Franklin Everly, is considered a most eligible bachelor, and he is immediately drawn to Phoebe’s spirited nature as he becomes acquainted with the delightful Jamison siblings of Primly Park.

Franklin embarks on a friendship with Phoebe that quickly deepens into a warm and thrilling connection. But even as he fights for Phoebe’s attentions, a very real danger is revealed: girls in neighboring villages have gone missing, and the kidnapper is moving ever closer to Primly Park. Despite the guard of her fiercely protective brothers and Franklin, Phoebe must rely on her own strength when she finds herself in the sights of the Bride Snatcher. 


Dusk’s Darkest Shores by Carolyn Miller

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How can a meek wallflower help a returning war hero whose dreams are plunged into darkness?

Mary Bloomfield has no illusions. Her chances for matrimony have long since passed her by. Still, her circumstances are pleasant enough, especially now that she has found purpose in assisting her father with his medical practice in England’s beautiful Lake District. Even without love, it’s a peaceful life.

That is until Adam Edgerton returns to the sleepy district. This decorated war hero did not arrive home to acclaim and rest, but to a new battle against the repercussions of an insidious disease. Mary’s caring nature cannot stand to see someone suffer–but how can she help this man see any brightness in his future when he’s plunged into melancholic darkness, his dreams laid waste by his condition?

Adam wants no charity, but he’s also no coward. If this gentle woman can work hard, how can he do less? Together they struggle to find a way forward for him. Frustration and antipathy slowly develop into friendship and esteem. Then a summer storm atop a mountain peak leads to scandal–and both Mary and Adam must search the depths of their closed hearts for answers if they hope to find any future path with happiness at its end.


Inventing Vivian by Jennifer Moore

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Ladies of London’s High Society are known for their social graces and poise. Vivian Kirby boasts neither of these enviable qualities, though she does offer impressive conversation on chemical compositions. Unfortunately, it appears that not many men want a brilliant wife. So it is that Vivian finds kinship with a group of young women who embrace each other’s differences: The Blue Orchid Society.

After an extended stay in China, Lord Benedict has returned transformed to his family’s estate, where an encounter with Vivian, whose scientific knowledge he once undermined, leaves him determined to make amends. He arranges to help forward her research—anonymously, of course. Through letters, Vivian establishes a warm friendship with her secret benefactor, even as she’s unexpectedly drawn into a murder investigation that forces her to work alongside Benedict to unearth the truth. Soon, Vivian fears she may be falling in love with two men, never suspecting that they are one and the same.


The Indebted Earl by Erica Vetsch

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Can Captain Wyvern keep his new marriage of convenience all business–or will it turn into something more?

Captain Charles Wyvern owes a great debt to the man who saved his life–especially since Major Richardson lost his own life in the process. The best way to honor that hero’s dying wish is for Wyvern to escort the man’s grieving fiancée and mother safely to a new cottage home by the sea. But along the way, he learns of another obligation that has fallen on his shoulders: his uncle has died and the captain is now the Earl of Rothwell.

When he and the ladies arrive at his new manor house in Devon, they discover an estate in need of a leader and a gaggle of girls, all wards of the former earl. War the new earl knows; young ladies and properties he does not. Still wishing to provide for the bereaved Lady Sophia Haverly, Charles proposes a marriage of convenience.

Sophie is surprised to find she isn’t opposed to the idea. It will help her care for her betrothed’s elderly mother, and she’s already fallen in love with the wayward girls on the Rothwell estate. This alliance is a chance to repay the captain who has done so much for her care, as well as divert her attention from her grief. When Wyvern returns to his sea commission, she’ll stay behind to oversee his property and wards.

It sounds so simple. Until the stalwart captain is arrested on suspicion of smuggling, and Sophie realizes how much he’s come to mean to her. Now she’ll have to learn to fight, not only for his freedom but also for his love.


Refining the Debutante by Anneka R. Walker

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Miss Miranda Bartley is in love with the Honorable Ethan Roderick, their engagement all but official. But as she basks in the success of her London Season, her joy is cut short when Ethan ends their courtship, claiming she is too insensitive. In the wake of her heartbreak, Miranda is dealt yet another blow, one that changes everything. In a harsh twist of fate, she quickly falls from Society darling to servant in her uncle’s home.

Believing he will never see Miranda again, Ethan is shocked when he encounters her by accident. Even more surprising is her dramatic change; she is no longer the self-centered young woman he left behind. Her eyes are now open to the plight of poverty surrounding her, and Miranda has become every bit the lady Ethan once imagined her to be. As he helps the woman he once loved, their tattered relationship returns to familiarity. But Ethan is determined to protect his heart and begins a courtship with his neighbor, who is predictable and safe everything Miranda is not. Forced to perform a delicate dance, Miranda and Ethan must choose follow the rules of Society or the longing of their hearts.


An Engagement of Sorts by Alene Wecker

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Much to her mother’s dismay, spirited Anne Fletcher spent her youth seeking her father’s approval by hunting and riding. More comfortable in breeches than ball gowns, Anne sees the freedoms she once enjoyed slowly taken from her in the name of fashioning her into an eligible young lady. When her parents try to force her into marriage, Anne makes a desperate attempt to salvage her last vestige of independence. If she is to marry, she will do so on her own terms.

Anne strikes a deal: if she cannot secure a man for herself, she will agree to marry the husband her parents approved. She soon finds herself in the last place she would ever choose―that stifling parade of etiquette, the London Season. Anne’s plan is in motion. Now all she needs is a man willing to masquerade as her fiancé.


The Vanishing at Loxby Manor by Abigail Wilson

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Her friend is missing.

After five years abroad, Charity Halliwell finally returns to Loxby Manor, the home of dear friends—and her lost love. No longer a young girl, she is now haunted by a painful secret and the demise of her dreams. Instead of the healing and happiness she hopes to find, she encounters a darkness lurking in the shadows of the once-familiar house. When her friend, Seline, disappears the very night of her arrival, Charity is determined to uncover the truth.

Her only hope is the man who broke her heart.

Branded a coward, Piers Cavanaugh has lived the last five years as an outcast far from his family home. When his sister presumably elopes with a stable hand, Piers joins forces with an unlikely partner—the one woman he thought he’d never see again. Together they launch an investigation that leads to strange nightly meetings in the ruins of an old abbey and disturbing whispers of a secret organization. The more they learn, the more desperate the situation becomes. 

The house seems determined to keep its secrets.

As they struggle to piece together the clues, Charity and Piers also endeavor to rebuild their friendship. One cryptic letter changed everything between them. To find happiness they will have to overcome the grief and shame keeping them apart. But first they must discover why Seline vanished and confront the growing fear that she may never return. 


The Heart’s Charge  by Karen Witemeyer

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Members of Hanger’s Horsemen, Mark Wallace and Jonah Brooks arrive in Llano County, Texas, to deliver a steed, never expecting they’d deliver a baby as well. Left with an infant to care for, they head to a nearby foundling home, where Mark encounters the woman he’d nearly married a decade ago.

After failing at love, Katherine Palmer dedicated her life to caring for children, teaming up with Eliza Southerland to start Harmony House. From mixed ancestry, illegitimate, and female, Eliza understands the pain of not fitting society’s mold. Yet those are the very attributes that lead her to minister to outcast children. The taciturn Jonah intrigues her with his courage and kindness, but there are secrets behind his eyes–ghosts from wars past and others still being waged.

However, when a handful of urchin children from the area go missing, a pair of Horsemen are exactly what the women need. Working together to find the children, will these two couples find love as well?


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