2021 was a fantastic year for contemporary romances! As you probably know by now, I love a good romance – historical, contemporary, romantasy, sci-fi – you name it, and I’ll read it if it has a love story I can root for. I was lucky to read so many enjoyable contemporary romances, but there were several that stood out above the rest. Entertaining, witty, and, of course, swoon-worthy, these are my favorite contemporary romance reads of 2021!
1. Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron
Page Length: 357
Publication Date: March 2, 2021
Synopsis: Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall–with hopes that Reena will marry him.
But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.
As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.
2. The Beach Reads Book Club by Kathryn Freeman
Publisher: One More Chapter
Synopsis: Welcome to the Beach Reads Book Club…where love is just a page away…
When Lottie Watt is unceremoniously booted out of her uptight book club for not following the rules, she decides to throw the rulebook out the window and start her own club – one where conversation, gin and cake take precedent over actually having read the book!
The Beach Reads Book Club soon finds a home for its meetings at Books by the Bay, a charming bookshop and café owned by gorgeous, brooding Matthew Steele, and as the book club picks heat up, so too does the attraction between Matt and Lottie.
If there’s anything Lottie has learned from the romances she’s been reading, it’s that the greatest loves are the ones hardest earned.
A love letter to chicklit, romance, romcoms, whatever you want to call them!
3. The Christmas Village by Annie Rains
Series: Somerset Lake #2
Page Length: 339
Publication Date: Oct. 12, 2021
Synopsis: Lucy Hannigan has inherited her mother’s bulldog, Bella, and her childhood home, the only pink house on Gingerbread Lane. With the holidays coming up, the pressure is on to decorate the house for the annual lights competition and maintain her parent’s winning streak. But Lucy already has her hands full as a midwife and a new landlord-to her ex-fiancé.
When Miles Bruno is suddenly asked to move out of his rental home, he’s grateful to Lucy for taking him on as a tenant. But their broken-off engagement doesn’t make it easy to live next door. Sparks still fly between them, and he’d give anything to get back in Lucy’s good graces. But to do that will take much more than just tree trimming and house decorating and contest winning. Will one wildly grand romantic gesture on Christmas Eve finally soften her heart?
4. Every Day in December by Kitty Wilson
Page Length: 384
Publication Date: Aug. 20, 2021
Publisher: One More Chapter
Synopsis: Two people. One month to fall in love.
Belle Wilde loves December. Yes, she’s just lost her job and Christmas is not a good time to find yourself ‘financially challenged’. And yes, her parents are still going on about the fact that she really should have it all together by now. But Belle believes that in December, magic can happen.
Rory Walters hates December. Whilst it looks like his life is together, he’s still reeling from a winter’s night five years ago when his life changed forever. Now back at home, he’s certain that this will be yet another Christmas to endure rather than enjoy.
But as midnight on December 31st draws closer, Belle and Rory’s time together is coming to an end. With a little help from a Christmas miracle could Belle find the one thing she really wants underneath the mistletoe?
5. Highland Games by Evie Alexander
Series: Kinloch Series #1
Page Length: 310
Publication Date: Oct. 15, 2021
Publisher: Emlin Press
Synopsis: A fiery heroine, a Scottish god, a cabin, a castle, and enough heat to warm the coldest Scottish winter…
Zoe’s always played it safe, just as her parents wanted. But when her great-uncle dies and leaves her a ramshackle cabin in the Scottish Highlands, she decides it’s time to change her life.
Upping sticks seems like a good idea in her cosy flat in London, but the reality is very different. There’s no electricity or running water, the roof leaks and there’s no front door. If that wasn’t bad enough, she’s moved up in the depths of winter and her scorching hot neighbour wants her out.
Rory’s got a fifty thousand tonne problem. If he can’t make Kinloch castle profitable, he’s out of a job. He needs a clear head, but there’s someone living in the cabin he saw as his own and she’s turned his world upside down.
Rory needs Zoe out of Scotland, and out of his life. The trouble is, she has no intention of leaving.
Let the games begin…
6. The Inn on Sweetbriar Lane by Jeannie Chin
Page Length: 459
Publication Date: Sept. 28, 2021
Synopsis: June Wu always has it all together—only now, she’s in over her head. Her family’s inn desperately needs guests, her mother’s medical debts are piling up, and the surly, if sexy, stranger next door is driving away the customers she has left! When he asks for June’s help, though, she can’t say no. After all, his new bar could be just what the upcoming Pumpkin Festival needs to bring in more tourists. But with the fierce attraction between them, will working together be playing with fire?
Ex-soldier Clay Hawthorne prefers being on his own. He’s moved to Blue Cedar Falls for one reason—to carry out his best friend’s dream of opening a bar in the hometown he’ll now never return to. But the town’s business association is trying to stop Clay’s progress. June soon becomes his biggest supporter, and while their partnership is supposed to be only temporary, for the first time Clay wants something permanent—with June. Can two total opposites really learn to meet each other in the middle?
7. Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens
Page Length: 400
Publication Date: Nov. 9, 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Synopsis: From the New York Times bestselling author of This Time Next Year comes a heartwarming and hilarious tale that asks: What if you pick up the wrong suitcase in an airport, only to fall head over heels for its unseen owner?
Laura’s business trip to the Channel Islands isn’t exactly off to a great start. After unceremoniously dumping everything in her bag in front of the most attractive man she’s ever seen in real life, she arrives at her hotel only to realize she’s grabbed the wrong suitcase from the airport. Her only consolation? The irresistibly appealing contents of the case: a copy of her favorite book; piano music; and a rugged, heavy knit fisherman sweater only a Ryan Gosling lookalike could pull off. The owner of this suitcase is Laura’s dream man–she’s sure of it. Now, all she has to do is find him.
The mix-up seems written in the stars. After all, what are the odds that she’d find The One on the same remote island where her mom and dad had first fallen in love, especially as she sets out to write an article about their epic romance? Commissioning surly cab driver Ted to ferry her around seems like her best bet in both tracking down the mystery suitcase owner and retracing her parents’ footsteps. And if beneath Ted’s gruffness lies a wit that makes their cab rides strangely entertaining, so much the better. But as Laura’s long-lost luggage soulmate proves difficult to find–and as she realizes that the love story she’s held on a pedestal all her life might not have been that perfect–she’ll have to rethink her whole outlook on love to discover what she really wants.
8. Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane
Page Length: 416
Publication Date: April 1, 2021
Publisher: Harper Collins
Synopsis: Two best friends.
One missed chance.
And a night that changes everything.
Eve, Justin, Susie and Ed have been friends since they were eighteen. Now in their 30s, the four are still as close as ever, Thursday pub quiz night is still sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed.
Maybe Eve should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed sometimes thinks about it too.
Then one night, in an instant, all their lives change forever. And, as Eve learns she didn’t know her friends as well as she thought, she also discovers she isn’t the only person keeping secrets…
9. Like a Boss by Anne Harper
Series: Accidentally Viral #2
Publication Date: April 19, 2021
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Synopsis: Antonella “Nell” Bennett is having the worst day of her life.
Long-term boyfriend broke up with her? Check.
Drove through the pouring rain to a small roadside restaurant, only to be told all the tables were reserved for “Couples Night”? Check.
Definitely no longer one half of a couple? Check.
So maybe she got a little heated with the restaurant’s host, and maybe her voice carried a bit as she lamented—loudly—that she’s never anyone’s “plus-one.” At least an attractive stranger comes to her rescue, inviting her to be seated with him, and when it turns out to be one of the best nights she’s had in a while, even ending in an innocent kiss that becomes anything but? Check please.
Fast forward a week, and Nell’s rant has gone viral. Sure, her tiny hometown of Arbor Bay is collectively buzzing over their latest Internet celebrity, but Nell’s no stranger to attention. Drama seems to follow her whether she likes it or not.
But even she never expected to show up to work only to discover her brand-new boss is a very familiar face…
10. Lost With You by Anna Lenore
Series: Lost and Found #1
Page Length: 370
Publication Date: Oct. 8, 2021
Synopsis: A tragic act of fate becomes an epic journey toward love…
Tired of following in her father’s footsteps at his small, uninspiring catering business, Cora is in desperate need of a new adventure, booking a week-long trip to New Zealand. But when she finds herself stranded in the middle of the Pacific after a horrific plane crash, the real adventure begins, and she’s forced to learn how to keep herself alive.
But she’s not the only survivor…
Liam Montgomery is the last person she expected to find washed ashore with her. He’s tall, dark, ruggedly handsome, and he’s a movie star—the one who’s danced in her fantasies for months.
At first, it all seems like a mirage, but it’s real. Liam is now her sole companion, and they soon find out how important it is to lean on each other in their new, unforgiving reality. Tensions rise, danger strikes, and they both learn what it truly means to fight for their lives…and for love.
11. A Match Made in Venice by Leonie Mack
Publication Date: Nov. 9, 2021
Synopsis: When pragmatic, sensible and resolutely single Deirdre York (Didi to her friends) is sent to Venice for work she is determined not to be taken in by the romantic clichés. Winter in the floating city may be breathtakingly beautiful, but she’s here with a clear purpose and will not let the magic of Venice distract her.
Piero Zanetti is the epitome of the handsome yet tortured artist. Heart-broken by the end of his love affair with a glamorous opera singer, he has lost his ability to work, and his inspiration has drained away, along with his zest for life.
But Didi needs Piero working – she has been tasked with commissioning him to do a glass centrepiece for a luxury department store Christmas display – some how Didi has to cheer Piero up or at least find him a new muse…
As Didi and Piero slowly become friends, and as Venice starts to melt Didi’s heart and gently nudge Piero out of the blues, something special begins to happen. Can Venice – the City of Love – work a Christmas miracle and help Didi and Piero to find their happiness at last…
12. The Matchmaker Bride by Ginny Baird
Series: Blue Hill Brides #2
Page Length: 350
Publication Date: July 27, 2021
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Synopsis: Successful Boston matchmaker and television personality Meredith Galanes’s reputation is on the line. During a guest appearance on a morning talk show, she’s broadsided by questions about her own romantic attachments, just as she’s trying to secure a syndication deal. Afraid to admit her love life is a total disaster, Meredith blurts out that she’s seriously involved with a very special man—a boatbuilder in Maine. She never expects that small slip to get spun into a story about her supposed engagement.
Or that the paparazzi will track the guy down…
Derrick Albright is laid-back about many things. Being hounded by the press about some imaginary engagement to a woman he’s only met once—and couldn’t stand—isn’t one of them. Then Meredith actually shows up at his cabin in Blue Hill, Maine, with an apology, a pot roast, and a proposal—play along until she secures her TV deal, and she’ll help him win back his ex.
It’s a simple plan, but if they have any chance of pulling it off, they’ll have to survive each other first…
13. The Meeting Point by Olivia Lara
Page Length: 368
Publication Date: Sept. 2, 2021
Publisher: Aria Fiction
Synopsis: What if the Lift driver who finds your cheating boyfriend’s phone holds the directions to true love?
‘Who are you and why do you have my boyfriend’s phone?’
‘He left it in my car. You must be the blonde in the red dress? I’m the Lift driver who dropped you two off earlier.’
And with these words, the life of the brunette and t-shirt wearing Maya Maas is turned upside down. Having planned to surprise her boyfriend, she finds herself single and stranded in an unknown city on her birthday.
So when the mystery driver rescues Maya with the suggestion that she cheers herself up at a nearby beach town, she jumps at the chance to get things back on track. She wasn’t expecting a personalised itinerary or the easy companionship that comes from opening up to a stranger via text, let alone the possibility it might grow into something more…
Come on this 5* journey to love, laughter and back again, perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane, Josie Silver and Sally Thorne.
14. Must Love Cowboys by Carly Bloom
Series: Once Upon a Time in Texas #3
Page Length: 657
Publication Date: April 27, 2021
Synopsis: In this charming, sexy romance, a bookish beauty needs a fake boyfriend and finds a handsome cowboy who is just the man for the job.
Beau Montgomery is living his best life . . . until he’s left in charge of Rancho Cañada Verde. With his dyslexia, he’d choose a saddle over spreadsheets any day. His best hope is to ask the town librarian for tutoring. Only he’s had a crush on the book-loving beauty since his junior high days—and despite being a smooth talker, he can’t help getting tongue-tied every time they meet.
Alice Martin doesn’t regret putting her career above personal relationships—but when Beau comes to her for help, Alice decides to see what she’s been missing. She’ll improve Beau’s reading skills if the handsome cowboy teaches her how to flirt and agrees to be her date to an upcoming wedding. But when the town’s gossip mill gets going, they’re forced into a fake romance to keep their deal a secret. Soon Alice is seeing Beau in a whole new way . . . can she turn their imaginary story into a real-life happy-ever-after?
15. No Ordinary Christmas by Belle Calhoun
Series: Mistletoe, Maine #1
Page Length: 318
Publication Date: Sept. 28, 2021
Synopsis: The quaint New England town of Mistletoe is thrilled to welcome back one of their own, Dante West. Now a famous Hollywood action star, Dante is filming a movie in town to help the local economy, as well as make amends with the people he hurt when he abruptly left Mistletoe all those years ago.
Librarian Lucy Marshall isn’t thrilled to see Dante. He was once her best friend and first love until he left her behind without a word of goodbye. When Dante makes her an offer she can’t refuse — use of the library as a filming venue in exchange for a lucrative donation, Lucy finds herself spending a lot of time in Dante’s company. With the magic of Christmas in the air, Dante and Lucy begin to forge a new bond. But can two people leading such different lives find lasting love the second time around?
16. Red Velvet by Carla Luna
Faking it has never been so much fun…
In her ultra-competitive family, April Beckett is used to taking last place. For years, she’s put up with jabs about her modest job and her pathetic love life. Especially after she tried to impress her older sisters with a fake boyfriend in college and failed miserably. But now she has a smoking-hot date for her brother’s wedding, guaranteed to wow them.
Until he bails. Cue total desperation.
Without April’s friendship, Brody Blackwood wouldn’t have survived his last breakup. So, if she needs a plus-one for a family wedding, he’s all in. Even if it means pretending to be her boyfriend. And committing to six days of activities at a wooded resort in Wisconsin. But how hard could a relaxing getaway with your best friend be?
Too bad there’s a grueling 10K race and a cutthroat trivia night to endure. Not to mention a massive secret to protect. But will the biggest secret of all turn out to be that this fake relationship feels more real than April or Brody ever imagined?
17. The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews
Page Length: 224
Publication Date: Sept. 28, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Synopsis: When newly-divorced Ivy Perkins buys an old farmhouse sight unseen, she is definitely looking for a change in her life. The Four Roses, as the farmhouse is called, is a labor of love—but Ivy didn’t bargain on just how much labor. The previous family left so much furniture and so much junk, that it’s a full-time job sorting through all of it.
At the top of a closet, Ivy finds an old Santa suit—beautifully made and decades old. In the pocket of a suit she finds a note written in a childish hand: it’s from a little girl who has one Christmas wish, and that is for her father to return home from the war. This discovery sets Ivy off on a mission. Who wrote the note? Did the man ever come home? What mysteries did the Rose family hold?
Ivy’s quest brings her into the community, at a time when all she wanted to do was be left alone and nurse her wounds. But the magic of Christmas makes miracles happen, and Ivy just might find more than she ever thought possible: a welcoming town, a family reunited, a mystery solved, and a second chance at love.
18. So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park
Page Length: 384
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
Synopsis: When up-and-coming investment banker Jess Kim is passed over for a promotion, laid off in a virtual meeting, and then overhears why (“she’s already being overpaid anyway for a woman” and “Asians are worker bees, not someone who can drum up new deals”) she delivers an “eff you guys” speech and storms out of the building. Not sure what’s next, she moves back home to Tennessee with her domineering Korean mom, who tries to set her up with her pastor’s son Daniel Choi, an M&A lawyer by day and a successful video game streamer by night. Turns out he’s swoony and smart, not the awkward preacher’s kid she remembers. With his help, Jess launches a Korean cooking YouTube channel focused on easy meal prep for busy professionals.
All is going well until her mom walks on the show mid-live recording and argues about cooking technique. While she hates being berated by her mother in front of the world, it actually works in their favor—they go viral!
Soon her cooking channel becomes an actual media company and brand. When a client is suddenly interested in buying Jess out, she finds herself sitting across the table from the very investment firm she quit not so long ago. But there’s just one other problem: Daniel, the guy whose been helping her and that she’s been falling for, is the firm’s new general counsel.
19. The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren
Page Length: 368
Publication Date: May 18, 2021
Publisher: Gallery Books
Synopsis: Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents—who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno—Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.
But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: this Jess understands.
At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.
Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated.
20. The Wedding Crasher and the Cowboy by Robin Bielman
Page Length: 368
Publication Date: Oct. 26, 2021
Publisher: Entangled: Amara
Synopsis: Kennedy Martin is shocked when her ex calls days before his wedding, expressing serious second thoughts. Doesn’t he see his fiancée’s actually the glaze to his doughnut? Now she’s got no choice but to crash his wedding and convince the man he’s with the right woman.
Instead, she crashes into the absolute last man she ever wanted to see: Maverick Owens, her old college nemesis. Maverick is still as awful, infuriating, and just The Worst as ever—even if he looks way too sexy in his cowboy hat. And of course he’s convinced she’s actually at the seaside ranch to ruin the wedding.
Now the only way to get some face time with the groom and save this marriage is to participate in all sorts of pre-wedding events…with Maverick. Stuck on a canoe, making small-talk at cocktail hour, and even a hoedown with her worst enemy? This just might be the longest week of her life…
21. When We’re Thirty by Casey Dembowski
Page Length: 297
Publication Date: April 27, 2021
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing
Synopsis: Two friends. One pact. The performance of their lives.
Hannah Abbott is stuck in a dead-end relationship and at a job she loves but that barely pays the bills. The four walls of her tiny New York City apartment have never seemed so small. She’s barely toasted her thirtieth birthday when her old college friend Will knocks on her door with an unexpected proposal.
Will Thorne never forgot the marriage pact he made with Hannah, but he also never imagined he’d be the one to initiate it. One ex-fiancée and an almost-career-ending mistake later, however, he finds himself outside Hannah’s door, on bended knee, to collect on their graduation-night pinky promise.
With both of their futures at stake, Hannah and Will take a leap of faith.
Now, all they have to do is convince their friends and family that they’re madly in love. As long as they follow the list of rules they’ve drafted, everything should go smoothly. Except Will has never been good with rules, and Hannah can’t stop overthinking the sleeping arrangements. Turning thirty has never been so promising.