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My 5-Star Reads from 2021

We're all doing it... the end-of-year reflection before we start to look forward.
So, here's mine.

Out of the 50 books I read in 2021, 12 of them were 5-star reads. That's 24%... which may seem low to some of you. But considering how sparingly I give out the illusive fiver, I think this is actually pretty crazy! So, I'm dying to share these fantastic books with you all.

Here they are... now, go out and buy them!

Archer's Voice by Mia Sheridan

Genre: Contemporary Romance

High-Level Summary: Female heroine flees to a remote town as she copes with the PTSD of her father's death. There, she meets a mute who's chosen to live his life as an outcast. They form an attachment and change each other in amazing and heart-wrenching ways. But there's more to their past tragedies than either of them realize.

Read this if... you love swoony love stories with hot, shirtless men and romantic confessions spoken in sign language.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Genre: Literary Fiction

High-Level Summary: A boy loses his mother in a tragic accident at a young age, but a strange twist of fate lands him with a very valuable and infamous painting. As he struggles to avoid the foster-care system, he stumbles from one unstable household into another, all the while keeping this amazing artifact a secret until its existence becomes the center of a massive heist.

Read this if... you love lyrically-written novels, don't cringe away from trigger-warning type content, and don't mind a verrrrry lonnnng reading journey that has a rewarding payout at the end.

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

Genre: World War II Historical Fiction

High-Level Summary: In present-day America, a woman struggles to balance the care of her autistic son with her high-maintenance family and dying grandmother. In WWII Poland, a couple in the throes of young love struggle to survive the German occupation and are ultimately forced to make a choice over whether to stay and suffer in their homeland or flee to America and to safety.

Read this if... you're prepared to cry literal, visceral tears.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Near-Historical Fiction (1900s)

High-Level Summary: Evelyn Hugo propels herself from poverty into stardom, but with her fame comes a series fortunate and not-so-fortunate marriages. In present-day, a reporter is hired to finally listen to Evelyn's full life story from the movie star's own lips, in hopes of determining which of the seven husbands Evelyn truly loved.

Read this if... you love old-school Hollywood, are looking for more LGBTQ+ content... and also geek out over an unforeseen plot twist.

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Genre: Near-Historical Fiction (1900s)

High-Level Summary: A young Englishwoman marries an American during the Great Depression and is forced to learn the routines of a new life in Kentucky. When she struggles to find purpose and happiness in her marriage, she joins a local movement to distribute library books in the mountains...but her actions don't sit well with her new husband and his family.

Read this if... you have a passion for all things books and enjoy a nice, clean romantic sub-plot.

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White

Genre: Near-Historical Fiction (1900s) / Contemporary Fiction (Alternating POVs)

High-Level Summary: During World War I, a ship full of wealthy Americans crosses the Atlantic Ocean. There are definitely spies aboard, but are they giving their intelligence to America or to Germany? Meanwhile, in present-day England, two young people team up to piece together the truth behind a politician's shady family history.

Read this if... you're a sucker for characters that have very unique voices and tones, and if espionage makes you turn the page to figure out who's good and who's bad.

What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon

Genre: Near-Historical Fiction (1900s Ireland)

High-Level Summary: A woman in present-day Ireland rows out onto a loch and somehow finds herself transported back in time to the Irish revolution, only to find that she's recognized as a local woman who disappeared a year or so earlier. But how can she exist in two time periods at once, and will her strange arrival impact history?

Read this if... you loved Outlander, you're okay with paranormal/time-travel romance, you love Irish history.

The Locksmith's Daughter by Karen Brooks

Genre: Historical Fiction

High-Level Summary: The daughter of a locksmith returns home after scandal and ruin, only to find herself employed under Queen Elizabeth's spymaster. Using her unique knowledge of locks and other special training, she becomes a vessel of classified knowledge... until the knowledge grows so dangerous that she herself becomes endangered, along with her family.

Read this if... complicated political intrigue doesn't intimidate you, and you love a male love interest who's willing to defy the Queen and her court for the sake of his heart.

The Evening and the Morning by Ken Follett

Genre: Historical Fiction

High-Level Summary: A region in England struggles to find peace under the harsh rule of three local brothers during the Dark Ages. When an abbot takes charge of a church in a nearby town, he finds himself going head-to-head with these corrupt lords. Fortunately, he finds help from a young builder who is trying to start over after a fleet of Vikings took everything away from him.

Read this if... you loved Pillars of the Earth, you can handle trigger-warning type content, you enjoy history!

No Choice But Seduction by Johanna Lindsey

Genre: Regency Romance

High-Level Summary: Katey Tyler finds herself alone in the world with a massive inheritance. All she wants is to travel the world. But then she stumbles upon a kidnapping, saves a young girl from her abductors, and finds herself thrown into the chaos of the wealthy and powerful Malory family. When Boyd Anderson, brother-in-law to one of the Malorys, accuses Katey of being behind the kidnapping all along, she demands he sail her around the world on his ship as recompense for his humiliating mistake.

Read this if... you like love-at-first-sight tropes and enjoy a little pirate/high-seas action.

A Loving Scoundrel by Johanna Lindsey

Genre: Regency Romance

High-Level Overview: Jeremy Malory needs to hire a thief to help his friend out of a spot of trouble, but he didn't expect to find her. Danny was taken in by a local gang at a young age, and although she has the beauty and grace of a noble-born lady, she's a damned good thief. But after she's kicked out of the gang for helping Jeremy, she demands that he employ her as a maid in his household instead, so that she can try to turn herself into a respectable woman. The problem is, Jeremy can't keep his hands off her...

Read this if... Cinderella stories are your jam, or if you want a unique spin on an "upstairs/downstairs romance" trope.

Gentle Rogue by Johanna Lindsey

Genre: Regency Romance

High-Level Overview: James Malory created a fake identity long ago so that he could sail the high seas as a pirate without endangering his family. Now he's ready to retire, but as he makes one last voyage, he's shocked to find that the new cabin boy assigned to him is actually a woman... and a very attractive woman at that. Georgina Anderson is desperate to get home to America. The last thing she expected was to get seduced by her employer. Little does James know, she has FIVE brothers awaiting her at home...

Read this if... you love when a manly man gets brought to his knees by a woman. And, if you love the "woman in disguise as a man" trope.

And that's a wrap! I can't wait to see what 5-star reads 2022 brings.

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