Best Book Series of 2021 - Part 4
Often my book reviews highlight my favorite stand-alone books, but this post is going to focus on the excellent series I’ve been reading and highly recommend—both romance (romantic suspense) and mysteries. (Click on the either the title or the book cover image to learn more and go to the book's purchase page.)
The Westmoreland Dynasty Series by Judith McNaught
IF YOU LOVED BRIDGERTON, both the books by Julia Quinn and the Netflix Series (and—swoon—who didn’t?), I think you’ll love the historical romance Westmoreland series by Judith McNaught.
The series begins with Whitney, My Love set in England’s Regency period, continues with A Kingdom of Dreams which goes backward in time to Scotland in 1497, and moves back to 1800s England for Until You and Miracles, books two and three in the series. This is multi-generational story that takes you through some fascinating times in history along with fast-paced underlying suspenseful plotlines and a delicious cast of well-developed, intriguing characters—who never seem to do what you expect them to.
ABOUT Whitney, My Love
A saucy spitfire who has grown into a ravishing young woman, Whitney Stone returns from her triumphant time in Paris society to England. She plans on marrying her childhood sweetheart, only to discover she has been bargained away by her bankrupt father to the arrogant and alluring Clayton Westmoreland, the Duke of Claymore. Outraged, she defies her new lord. But even as his smoldering passion seduces her into a gathering storm of desire, Whitney cannot—will not—relinquish her dream of perfect love. Rich with emotion, brimming with laughter and tears, Whitney, My Love is “the ultimate love story, one you can dream about forever”
ABOUT A Kingdom of Dreams
Abducted from her convent school, headstrong Scottish beauty Jennifer Merrick does not easily surrender to Royce Westmoreland, Duke of Claymore. Known as “The Wolf,” his very name strikes terror in the hearts of his enemies. But proud Jennifer will have nothing to do with the fierce English warrior who holds her captive, this handsome rogue who taunts her with his blazing arrogance. Boldly she challenges his will—until the night he takes her in his powerful embrace, awakening in her an irresistible hunger. And suddenly Jennifer finds herself ensnared in a bewildering web…a seductive, dangerous trap of pride, passion, loyalty, and overwhelming love.
ABOUT Until You
In this unforgettable romantic adventure, a teacher of wealthy young ladies finds her life changed forever when she travels from the wilds of America to elegant London. Sheridan Bromleigh is hired to accompany one of her students, heiress Charise Lancaster, to England to meet her fiancé. But when her charge elopes with a stranger, Sheridan wonders how she will ever explain it to Charise’s intended, Lord Burleton. Standing on the pier, Stephen Westmoreland, the Earl of Langford, assumes the young woman coming toward him is Charise Lancaster and reluctantly informs her of his inadvertent role in a fatal accident involving Lord Burleton the night before. And just as the young woman is about to speak, she steps into the path of a cargo net loaded with crates. Sheridan awakens in Westmoreland’s mansion with no memory of who she is; the only hint of her past is the puzzling fact that everyone calls her Miss Lancaster. All she truly knows is that she is falling in love with a handsome English earl, and that the life unfolding before her seems full of wondrous possibilities.
In Regency London, world-weary lord Nicki du Ville receives an outrageous proposal from Julianna Skeffington, who is Sheridan Bromleigh’s charge from Until You.
The Irish Heart Series by Juliet Gauvin
When I originally fell in love with this series there were just three books out. I was so happy to find that a fourth book had been released and a fifth will be out on September 12, 2021. Yay!! (How can you put a book down when one of the first scenes in the book has the main character finding a handsome Irish man using the shower in the cottage she has rented?)
These stories follow the same couple from the time they meet (in the scene described previously) through their (at times) turbulent relationship. I don’t want to say too much and give anything away, but these books are a delight. There’s plenty of suspense and well-written twists in each storyline that make for more than typical romantic reading. For me, location is also key as the settings for each book bring up happy travel memories. The London Flat was especially fun as I once (many years ago) lived in this wonderful city for a semester as a student. (Book two was, indeed, inspired by the author’s time living in London and declares it to be her “favorite city.”)
ABOUT The Irish Cottage
Elizabeth Lara built a perfect life as San Francisco’s top divorce attorney, but when she loses her great-aunt Mags, the woman who raised her, she boards a plane and leaves it all behind. The Irish shores welcome her as she learns a shocking truth, kept secret for thirty-five years. Devastated and now alone in the world, Beth tries to find peace in a beautiful cottage by Lough Rhiannon, but peace isn’t what fate had in mind. Almost as soon as she arrives, Beth’s solitary retreat into the magic wilds of Ireland is interrupted by Connor Bannon. A man with light brown hair, ice blue eyes and a secret of his own. He’s gorgeous, grieving, and completely unexpected.
With the help of Mags’ letters, the colorful townspeople of Dingle, and Connor, Elizabeth might just find a way back to the girl she lost long ago and become the woman she always wanted to be.
ABOUT The London Flat
Elizabeth Lara has just finished her tour of Ireland. She’s moved on to London, but the dashing Connor Bannon isn’t far from her thoughts as she searches for Mags’ lost love. From dinner with the Queen, to an unexpected encounter with someone from her past, to the tabloids—London proves to be more excitement than she expected. Will she find Mags’ Matthieu? Will Connor be able to win her back or will she choose her gorgeous friend Wes? Both men will take her to exclusively exotic locations and bring her face to face with royalty. Find out what happens next in Beth’s life as she travels, experiences more romance, and finds her way.
ABOUT The Paris Apartment
Having found what she was looking for in London, Elizabeth journeys to Paris to finish what Mags started. She's got her love, now will she be able to find the missing pieces to her life?
ABOUT The Irish Castle
Sometimes losing your way and finding your life is only the beginning. Picking up five years after the events of The Paris Apartment, The Irish Castle is the first book in a new story following Elizabeth Lara and Connor Bannon. It’s time to come back to the land of enchanting green hills and lively music. To friendly dolphins and beautiful people. It’s time to come home to Ireland.
ABOUT The Irish Secret (release date September 12, 2021)
Taking place after the events in The Irish Castle, the story of Elizabeth Lara, Connor Bannon, Kilian O'Grady, and Audre Bright continues.
More love, laughter, dancing . . . and of course, Ireland.
The Adrift Series: More of Us to the West by Trinity Dunn
I am dying that book two is not yet out! This is a plane crash, desert island kind of survival story akin to the TV-show Lost—but I think it is better! It draws you in with the possibilities that something even greater is going on here. You’re going to love these characters and the intrigue and the plot as they face the facts of their new island home and the possibility that the rescue they’re expecting may be impossible. Book two, Feathers Floating through Ember will release on November 1, 2021 Once you’re done with book one, you can read the first chapter of book two.
ABOUT More of Us to the West
I wanted to disappear...and then I did.
On a trip to reignite the spark in her marriage, Alaina Grace’s upgraded first-class ticket places her far from her husband and next to the notorious Jack Volmer, a former teen actor who’d previously hung on posters in her childhood bedroom. When an unusual storm forces their plane out of the sky, her ticket will save her life and require her to question everything. Ripped from the comforts of her world and injured, Alaina finds herself on an island in the middle of the Pacific, completely separated from her husband among eleven strangers. Seeking comfort in the presence of the single familiar face, Alaina quickly finds herself torn between her past and her present; between two loves in two contrasting worlds. As they navigate life on the island, they uncover mystery around the storm they encountered and begin to question whether it was indeed a storm at all. In this new foreign place, as they search for signs of rescue, these strangers will find adventure, hidden secrets, and in each other: family.
Moving on to mysteries . . . . I highly recommended three different series by authors who I have the pleasure of knowing personally.
Here’s my review of Figure Eight, book one:
This detective/mystery novel draws you in immediately! It’s easy to empathize with former police officer, John Cabrelli, as he despairs over a mistake made in the line of duty. With that backdrop, we follow him to northern Wisconsin where he learns of an inheritance, but things quickly turn fishy (no pun intended) as he learns there’s more interest in this property than there really ought to be. Nania presents us with well-developed and at times quirky characters, a fast-paced plot line, and some of the best twists in anything I've read this year. The unusual format is equally intriguing with Cabrelli telling his story from his hospital bed as the clock is ticking on his life.
ABOUT Figure Eight
2020 Midwest Book Awards Mystery/Thriller Winner
A shattered career. A crooked lawyer. An unsolved murder. Seeking peace in the Northwoods is fraught with danger.
Every night John Cabrelli relives the tragic events that ended his career. While struggling to find himself again, John inherits his uncle's cabin and returns to the lake where he spent much of his youth. Little does John know that danger waits for him when he uncovers suspicious circumstances of his uncle's death. Few people will talk about it as John unravels a mystery that could forever change the landscape.
Award-winning author, conservationist, and retired decorated law enforcement officer Jeff Nania weaves a thrilling tale of murder and deceit, family and traditions, redemption and second chances.
Indelible: A Sean McPherson Novel is a stellar beginning to Laurie Buchanan’s series.
The lush, beautiful setting of a Pacific Northwest writers retreat is the perfect backdrop and jumping off point for book one in this series. The book has such wonderfully detailed characters with unique personalities, skillsets, goals, and desires that it feels like I’ve met these people. The author approaches key suspenseful scenes with an unflinching style that will have your heart pounding as you turn the page to see who will survive—and who will not! Beautiful prose, exceptional dialogue, skillful pacing, and surprising twists make this book a delightful, satisfying read. Cannot wait for book two, which will be entitled Iconoclast (Pre-order it now.)
When a sniper killed his partner, Sean McPherson was injured in the ambush. Now an ex-cop, he takes a job at a writing retreat in the Pacific Northwest. At Pines & Quill, he hopes to heal and put his life back together in the Zen-like capacity of groundskeeper and all-around handyman.
Sniper, Jason Hughes, blames McPherson for the loss of more than ten million dollars’ worth of heroin—and he wants revenge. In the guise of a New York City limo driver working on a sizzling tell-all memoir, Hughes arrives at Pines & Quill along with three other writers in residence: a bohemian psychic taking a break from grueling work as a forensic intuitive, a bitter divorcée who wants to open herself to a new life, and a vibrant and resilient potter navigating life from a wheelchair. With conflicting agendas, uncertain loyalties, and romantic entanglements at play, Hughes finds it difficult to get McPherson in his sights. Gradually, he forms a different plan, one that threatens the lives of everyone at the retreat.
Patricia Skalka’s Door County Mystery Series begins with Death Stalks Door County and features the character Dave Cubiak, a former Chicago homicide detective. I love sinking into these murder mysteries set in one of my favorite places in Wisconsin. Skalka has created a rich set of characters in each of these novels that is supplemented by new faces (sometimes innocent/sometimes very, very guilty). The story arc of the returning characters is well-established as we root for them in both their personal and professional lives. But even better are the intricately detailed scenes that delve into the murder in each book, taking you along on the twists and turns so you feel like you’re right there with Sheriff Cubiak as motivations are discovered and the perpetrator is brought to justice. These books are immensely satisfying reads—even for the most picky mystery fans.
ABOUT Death Stalks Door County
Six deaths mar the holiday mood as summer vacationers enjoy Wisconsin’s beautiful Door County peninsula. Murders, or bizarre accidents? Newly hired park ranger Dave Cubiak, a former Chicago homicide detective, assumes the worst but refuses to get involved. Grief-stricken and guilt-ridden over the loss of his wife and daughter, he’s had enough of death.
Forced to confront the past, the morose Cubiak moves beyond his own heartache and starts investigating, even as a popular festival draws more people into possible danger. In a desperate search for clues, Cubiak uncovers a tangled web of greed, betrayal, bitter rivalries, and lost love beneath the peninsula’s travel-brochure veneer. Befriended by several locals but unsure whom to trust or to suspect of murder, the one-time cop tracks a clever killer.
Here are the rest of the books in the series in order:
Happy reading!! - Valerie