Best of October 2021

What a month! I thought that I knew which books would be making my Best of the Year list, but now I’ve got no idea – this month was that good of a reading month for me. I made an effort to clean up my TBR and it definitely paid off. In October, I read a mix of brand new releases and summer releases, and this list is just filled with fantastic romances.

Let’s start with the books that actually released in October. Three easily rose to the top of the pack, and they are all completely different. My favorite is probably Canary, a wild ride of a mafia romance. It was such a different kind of book and it took awhile for me to get into, but I was loving the violent and aggressive read by the end. On the other end of the spectrum, the light and sexy Attachment Theory had me laughing and loving the forbidden romance at the heart of it. It was a devourable read that had me hooked right away. Finally, the marriage of convenience romance, The Closer, was a low angst treat with the sweetest, swooniest hero. All three books put me in a great reading mood, and the unique storylines stood out from the pack of otherwise mediocre October releases. I’ve still got a few promising October romances on my TBR, so reviews for those will trickle in during November.

I’m glad that I finally got back to my 2021 TBR, because it made for such an awesome reading month. Carnal Urges released while I was in a bit of a slump a few months ago, so I saved it for a rainy day – and it was just as good as I was hoping. Intense and very, very steamy. The other three are all from new-to-me authors, and they showed up on my feed often enough that I had to give them a try. So glad I did! A Deal with the Devil was a sexy slow burn with the kind of broken hero that will take you on a hate to love journey, all on his own. The Spanish Love Deception, a debut, is a smash hit for good reason – its Hating Game meets Marriage for One vibe REALLY worked for me. I was still in a book hangover when I started reading The Wrong Heart, and it absolutely possessed (and devastated) me while I devoured it whole. It took a full week to recover from reading those two back-to-back – nothing else felt like it came even close to the quality.

As we head into November, things are looking good. I’ve already read three 5-star November releases, and there will be several other promising romances hitting my Kindle soon. After a flurry of new releases at the start of the month, there’s a little lull in new books mid-month – which means I’ll be digging back into my 2021 TBR. Here’s hoping it goes as well as it did in October!

If you missed my November Release Calendar, you can find it here – there are so many books to look forward to!

I’ve got my review for each of this month’s best books below – you can’t go wrong with any of these!


NEW THIS MONTH

Okay, so this is going to be a weird 5-star review, but just bear with me for a minute, lol. I wasn’t sure that I even liked this book for the first 30% or so – I was more fascinated than anything, and it definitely took awhile to wrap my head around the characters. This wastes zero time jumping right in; that blurb is pretty misleading, and our couple has actually been working together for over 6 months when the story begins (she is NOT his captive). I really wasn’t a fan of the antihero at the start, and there’s very little overtly “romantic” content. But every time I debated setting this aside, I realized that I didn’t want to. I wanted to see what happened next. And somewhere along the way, this brutal, exceedingly violent, mafia suspense novel transitioned into a subtle and unique love story… it just happens to feature a coldblooded killer as the leading man.

The story follows a woman, let’s call her Ash, who has entered the mafia world for… reasons. She’s on a mission, and she’s put up with a lot along the way – she’s been raped, she’s become desensitized to bloodshed, and violence happens on a daily basis. Her newest boss is the best one so far, not because he’s particularly nice (he’s not), but because he doesn’t treat her poorly. She mostly tries to stay out of his way, but a trip forces them to spend time together – and that changes the whole dynamic. It’s not long before Ash is seeing the kinder side of Raize, and the silent killer seems to become more fond of her as well. As the two fight for survival, they bond in unexpected ways.

This is as much a suspense novel as it is a romance, with a SIGNIFICANT focus on the darker side of mafia life. I couldn’t even begin to list the number of violent scenes, and there’s triggering content on every page. BUT not between our antihero and heroine. Raize doesn’t talk a lot, but he speaks volumes with his actions – and he’s actually got a sweet side buried deep, deep inside of him. Very deep. Once this reaches the halfway point, the romance becomes more central to the story, and I loved the quiet moments between these two. It’s steamy and intense and oh so brutal, but absolutely immersive and completely engrossing. I can definitely name some issues that I have with it (please, ladies, don’t bang hot killers without protection when you know they had frequent drug-filled sex parties in the days before you got together), but I actually really enjoyed this. It’s not a safe or easy story in any way, but its distinct vibe makes the romance shine.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3iIbjfV

🎧 Audio note: I also have mixed feelings about the audio, go figure. I switched back and forth between the ebook and audio, and it’s clear that the book was edited some more after the audio was completed – there are a few notable discrepancies between the two. You also shouldn’t be too excited about Connor Crais – only about 10% of the book is told from his perspective, the rest is narrated by CJ Bloom, whose peppy, upbeat voice really doesn’t match the tone of the book. She also voices a few Mexican characters, and… yeah, no. Not a great idea. But it’s easy to listen to and mostly well done, so I did enjoy the audio for the most part. This is steamy and violent throughout, so I’m not sure that I’d recommend it as a workday listen. The runtime is also significantly longer than a workday, so it’ll likely run over two days. So, I do recommend the audio overall, but it’s not without its own issues.

Audiobook: https://amzn.to/3iEeTHD


There’s just something SWOONY about a sweetheart of a hero who shows his fierce, alpha side when his protective instincts kick in. I adored this kind and loving hero; he takes care of everyone but himself, and doesn’t hesitate to step in when our heroine is in need. Their marriage of convenience might not have been thought out very well, but it felt real and right the whole way through. This low angst romance remains light, playful, and sexy throughout, with great banter and tons of chemistry. Together, they make the kind of found family that is just so heartwarming and sweet. I loved it!

There’s a glaring omission in the blurb, and it’s something that most readers will have an opinion on, so I’m not going to leave it out. That’s your spoiler warning.

The story follows Cooper (23), a pro baseball player who is overwhelmed. Cooper is trying to do his best to take care of the man who raised him, Pops, but juggling his career and his family is taking a toll. When Cooper meets McKinley (22), she’s a hot mess. Hot, yes. But also a mess. Turns out, the sexy (and pregnant) stranger is actually a friend of his Pops, and that means Cooper will take care of her as well. The stubborn McKinley refuses Cooper’s help, but they soon come to an unexpected agreement – they’ll marry, then McKinley will have health insurance and Cooper will have help with Pops. It’s a temporary solution to both of their problems, but one that neither of them thought through. Because living together feels right – and Cooper has no plans to let McKinley or her baby go.

The pregnancy is a big, big part of the story, so it wouldn’t be right to leave that out of my review. McKinley is pregnant when she meets Cooper, and it does nothing to diminish his attraction to her. If anything, it just makes his protective instincts go into overdrive. I loved their chemistry and the humor that’s present throughout the book. This slow burn romance is sweet some moments and sexy in others, but the drama remains low throughout. Cooper is the kindest, swooniest guy, and I loved him. He doesn’t stand a chance against McKinley, and watching him fall was one of the best parts of the book. And I love that he’s not a player, nor does he fight his attraction – he’s just a good guy. Period. If you’re looking for a low angst, high swoon read, this marriage of convenience romance is sure to satisfy. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this easygoing rom com.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3lTvKa9


Grinning. I was grinning like a fool while reading this sexy, playful, and SWOONY love story – it is smart and funny and just so completely Loring. I loved every minute of it. Our hero is a sweet charmer, a guy who loves love and always wants to be immersed in it. When paired with a slightly older (and possibly wiser) heroine, he becomes the best version of himself, and that was so very fulfilling to read. There are some seriously great family moments in this, with fart jokes, judgmental Basset Hounds, and laughter-filled text exchanges. There is also some fan-worthy sexual tension, and a couple of steamy scenes that are just so perfectly intimate. This forbidden romance is a complete joy to read, and I devoured it at an alarming rate.

The story follows Dylan, an actor who always seems to fall for his co-stars. Showmances often feel like the real thing, and Dylan has had his heart broken SO MANY times. He’s ready to seek the advice of a therapist, and visits one who came highly recommended. The only problem? She’s also the woman who captured Dylan’s attention during their brief, but memorable, interaction a few years ago. When they met the first time around, Scarlett was a single mom still reeling from a divorce. Now that she’s in a better headspace, Dylan is off-limits. He’s too young, too charming, too unlucky in love – and also her new patient. But their chemistry is impossible to ignore, and Dylan might just be worth taking a chance on.

There are so many things I loved about this, but the combination of characters was EXCELLENT. Dylan is the sweetest, swooniest man ever; I adored his transition from boy to man. Scarlett is his perfect complement, and the two together are smokin’ hot. Loring does a great job of ratcheting up the tension, and the steamy scenes are electric. Everything about this was so good, though it definitely gets better and better as the story progresses. There’s humor and lightheartedness throughout, but once the heartfelt moments kick in, things are taken up another notch. This will absolutely read as a standalone, but you’ll be left wanting more from this funny family – and I am extremely impatient for Miles’ story. It’s the kind of low angst, intimate read that I love digging into, with a vibe that is undeniably unique. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this sexy, light romance.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3uBc2Uo


RECENT RELEASES

This book… destroyed me. It’s powerful. It’s devastating. It’s utterly romantic. And it will stay with me for a very long time. It’s incredibly unique and wholly captivating, and I felt my blood pressure rising with every unpredictable scene. I loved it. Even my review has the potential to be triggering, so stop now if you need to – this is a bumpy ride, but SO worth the tears you’ll shed along the way.

Our couple meets at a suicide support group, and they are the two most broken characters I’ve read about. Melody is grieving the loss of the man she thought she’d spend her life with, and life doesn’t seem worth living without him. She’s alone, afraid, and hurting, and the most vulnerable she’s ever been. But there’s a man in the group who intrigues her – Parker doesn’t show his pain in his eyes like everyone else. He seems dead inside – unemotional, uncaring, and apathetic about life. He’s never felt love like Melody, and he’s almost jealous of her loss. Because it means she felt something once. As the two clash and struggle, both individually and together, they dig deeper and find a connection. And it’s the life-changing kind.

You might’ve noticed that I didn’t even mention the situation described in the blurb. That’s because this is so much more than that. I went into it blind, and that is absolutely the way to go. Its unpredictability had me at the edge of my seat the entire time, and I was simply entranced and immersed in what I was reading. So powerful, so impactful. This hero is EVERYTHING, a man so starved for affection that I HURT for him. I wanted to slap Parker one minute then hug him the next, fan myself one moment then wipe away my tears the next. There’s just so much to this story, but the message is one of HOPE. If you can make it through the darkness, there is a beautiful, engaging love story on the other side. One that had me clutching my chest for so many different reasons – I cried, I laughed, I swooned. I fell for these two, and their love story is one I won’t forget.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2XyJ3Vi


Out of the 200 romance novels I’ve read this year, this might be my favorite one. Period. This is what I call a ROMANCE; an intimate read with a torturous slow burn that absolutely captivated me and a hero that every woman needs in her life. It’s incredibly romantic, with page after page of quote-worthy text. At nearly 500 pages, I’d usually think it’s 200 too many, but… I didn’t want it to end. I ignored real life for two days and simply immersed myself in this love story, and I don’t regret it for a single second.

The story follows Lina, a woman who moved from Spain to the U.S. after a breakup left her reeling. She’s been in the States for several years now, but she’s never really moved on. So as a family wedding in Spain approaches, Lina isn’t sure how to show her family that she’s okay and isn’t stuck in the past. Her solution? Bring a fake boyfriend along for the journey. But the only man Lina can find for the role is her infuriating coworker, Aaron. They’ve been office rivals for nearly two years, and can’t be in the same room without arguing. Lina isn’t quite sure why Aaron would volunteer for the job, but desperation has her willing to agree. As the two rivals team up and show a united front, things feel more natural than anticipated… and Lina soon realizes that she never really knew Aaron at all.

Other reviewers have called this a combination of The Hating Game and Marriage for One, which, yes, is definitely why I finally picked this book up, lol. I LOVED both of those books, and while this storyline is completely different, the vibes are similar. If you liked trying to figure out what was going on inside Josh’s head during The Hating Game, then you’ll love putting together the puzzle that is Aaron. He might be my new all-time favorite hero. If the length of Marriage for One didn’t turn you off, and you loved the growth in intimacy, then you’ll delight in that aspect of this. The combination of the two? Phenomenal. The slow burn is downright delicious, and it definitely pays off by the end. This might have the best love scene I’ve ever read, and that’s because I was so completely invested in the relationship. The subtle shifts along the way built into something truly swoonworthy, and I was holding my chest with glee through some of the more romantic moments – and there were a LOT of them. I devoured every word yet didn’t want to binge too fast, because it was just that good. I don’t have a single complaint – I loved it.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3BQZPxL


What a WILD ride! Geissinger’s books are always addictive, and her mafia romances have been particularly compelling – with this being no exception. These two were FIRE together, and I was absolutely hooked from start to finish. I’ll openly admit that I had a little more trouble than usual getting behind this particular couple, not because they don’t have exquisite banter and sizzling chemistry (they definitely DO!), but because the brand of steam in this one just isn’t my flavor (we’ll talk about that in a minute). But that is really my only complaint. The rest of this was so completely engrossing, I was perfectly fine with skimming through a couple of scenes that weren’t my cup of tea. I binged this in one sitting, and stayed up way too late reading. And the audio? Well worth the wait.

Yes, this will technically read as a standalone. Do I recommend that? No, because the other books are fantastic. They’re also somewhat interconnected, and I can’t say how well this would read out of order. This story follows Declan and Sloane, two people brought together by… unusual circumstances. Declan has taken Sloane captive on the order of his mafia boss, and now they’re stuck together – and neither one is excited about it. Declan is a broody and moody, coldblooded killer, and Sloane is a fierce and feisty, resilient woman. She probably should be afraid of the man (okay, she definitely should be), but Sloane refuses to cower. Her bubbly energy and upbeat attitude throw Declan off-kilter, and it’s not long before she’s getting under his skin. But Declan is a man who is always in control, and he’ll have it one way or another.

So, let’s get the part that I didn’t like out of the way – the steam. Geissinger’s books are ALWAYS smoking hot and the scenes aren’t typically vanilla, but this story has a more pronounced submission aspect. There’s a lot of “sir” and “master” talk, with one mildly disturbing steamy scene involving a tampon that I could not for the life of me find sexy. But, hey, different strokes for different folks, right? There were probably only about 25 pages in the whole book that weren’t for me, and the rest was outstanding. It’s definitely got an instalove feel, but it worked here since the chemistry is very, very obvious. I LOVED all of the banter, and there is such a playful feel to this otherwise dark (and potentially triggering) romance. Declan makes a great antihero, with a stern exterior and a secret marshmallow heart; the opposites attract vibe really worked for these two. This hits the ground running from the first page, and it kept me hooked from start to finish. And you can bet that I’m extremely impatient for the next couple in this series.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3mCFeaf

🎧 Audio note: The audio is great! It’s got duet narration that is extremely well done, with both voices in every chapter. Loved that. The female narrator does a good job, but Troy Duran steals the show with his accent and deep voice. Sometimes I have trouble with accents in audiobooks, but this one was just sexy. And there’s a lot of steam in this, so it’s a scorching listen. DEFINITELY not safe for work, lol. Nope. The runtime is ideal though, under 10 hours and perfect for a one-day listen – which is good, because there was no way that I was going to sleep without finishing. The audio takes this story up another notch, and it’s one that I’d recommend without hesitation. Just make sure that you have headphones in, because, yeah, it’s blush-inducing.

Audiobook: https://amzn.to/3mkiICz


This was slow burn goodness, with a focus on the emotional connection and plenty of sexual tension. I loved the light, easy banter and the opposites attract vibe, though this new-to-me author does an excellent job of showing the parallels between these two seemingly different people. Our broken, playboy of a hero is selfish and uncaring on the surface, but once you dig a little deeper he is a total sweetheart. I LOVED him once this got going – which I definitely wouldn’t have predicted at the start. One of the strongest elements of the book is the single perspective, which drove me crazy at times, but was necessary for the subtle moments to make an impact. As our upbeat and kind heroine gets to know the hero better, the tiny revelations build until he becomes a completely different man in her eyes. This had me hooked the whole way through – I loved it!

The story follows Tali, a woman who has always assumed the role of caretaker. After getting out of a 10-year relationship, Tali is struggling a little bit. She has taken on the financial burden of her family and isn’t sure where her own career is going – let alone her love life. So when a friend offers her a very lucrative, temporary assistant position, Tali doesn’t hesitate to say yes. She’ll be working for a moody plastic surgeon who spends his nights drinking and having one night stands, but the money will make a huge difference in her life. The only problem? Once Tali gets to know Hayes better, she realizes that he’s just a brokenhearted man who is afraid to trust again… not all that different than herself. As the two get closer, their jagged pieces are either going to be the thing that brings them together or tears them apart.

Let’s start with a few safety details, because that’s why I was initially hesitant to read this – yes, Tali’s job entails kicking Hayes’ one night stands out of his house. He sleeps with several women after she starts working for him (very early on), though he’s being more self-destructive than usual in an effort to get her to quit. Since that all happened at the start of the book, before an emotional connection develops, it was easy to move on from – and was not an issue later on. Once these two develop a friendship (with a side of flirtation), the story really kicks into high gear. I loved their connection and the focus on more than just sex, which made this otherwise light and sexy read feel richer and deeper. And once they cross the line? It was steamy and intimate, with so many great quiet moments. I wouldn’t have complained about a little more time with them together, but the pacing in this is great. There was never a dull moment, and it felt so very romantic by the end. I loved it the whole way through, and the story got better with every scene.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3oQwXSB


Did you see my November Release Calendar?

It includes the 30+ November releases I’m excited about AND 200+ upcoming books that are available for preorder! Check it out here.


Want to know what else I read in October?

Check out my October Wrap-Up here, which includes links for everything I reviewed during October.


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