It’s a new year so time for me to share my favourite books of 2021 before I leap into reading this year’s offerings. 2021 galloped by and threw many obstacles my way, but it produced some amazing books though for me, the world of witches and magic have shone above the rest.
In no particular order here are my best books of 2021:
2022 looks like it will also be a wonderful year for magic and romance with the publication of the final instalment of the Practical Magic series, The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman and the future publication of Miranda Dickinson’s The Start of Something.
What were your favourite reads in 2021 and what are you looking forward to this year? Let me know in the comments below.
A huge thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources, Random Things Tour, all the publishers who have supported my blog and allowed me early access to these wonderful books and of course, you my readers.
I’m thrilled to have been asked to help celebrate this year’s #SFFRomFest and chat about my favourite fantasy and sci-fi romances. As many of you know I love books involving magic, witchcraft or the paranormal and a romantic thread always makes them extra special.
What has been your favourite SFF Romance from 2021 so far?
I hate questions like this because this year has produced some amazing and unique novels in the fantasy genre making it difficult to choose just one so I may have to cheat. Sorry!
A true fantasy romance that stands out is Caedis Knight’s Witches of Barcelona, the second novel in the Blood Web Chronicles. It follows Saskia, a low level witch on her investigations into the murky world of the paranormals. It’s hot and sizzles in all the right places with a varied cast of characters and thrilling plot. The world building is fully developed, imaginative and with many twists and turns it kept me on the toes. My review can be found here.
Another novel I adore and cannot get out of my mind is Midnight in Everwood by M.A Kuzniar. It’s not out until the end of this month and I feel privileged to have read an advanced copy – thank you so much, Harper Voyager. Based on The Nutcracker ballet, Marietta is a heroine to admire and again, the depth and layers of the world the author has created drew me in and I did not want to leave despite the dangers faced there. It’s a tale of obsession, desire for independence and self-discovery bundled up with magic and illusions. Everyone who loves ballet or fantasies such as Caraval are in for a treat. The physical copies are also stunning and I can’t wait to own one.
Which subgenre of SFF Romance do you tend to read most and what do you love about it?
I love magical realism and witchlit – stories that are based in reality but overlayed by magic and imagination such as portals to other worlds or characters with secret abilities. I find them more accessible than high fantasy, easy to visualise and I love the added excitement of knowing I could visit places mentioned if I wish. For example, I fell in love with Oxford through the Discovery of Witches and a tour is on my wishlist. I long to explore The British Library thanks to the wonderful worldbuilding in Threadneedle by Cari Thomas.
I also have a love of time slip novels such as those by Barbara Erskine, who is the queen of this genre. They tap into my love of history and the supernatural. I find I learn more about the obscure times and personalities this way rather than a textbook.
What was the first SFF Romance you can remember reading?
It has to be The Changeover by Margaret Mahy. Forget Twilight the chemistry between the two main characters, Laura and Sorenson Carlisle is perfect and the scene of her changing to be a witch is sensual and alludes to so much.
The first adult SFF romance I remember is TheLady of Hay by Barbara Erskine which I borrowed from my mum after she raved about it, but another memorable novel from my teenage years is Past Forgetting by Alexandra Thorne. It’s a time slip novel involving a dress I longed to own and the aurora borealis. Duncan Carlisle is a hero to swoon after.
What SFF Romance do you always recommend?
Currently, it is Midnight in Everwood but there is also Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy which blends my love of witchcraft, libraries and different species together. Caedis Knight’s Blood Web Chronicles are great for those who like romances that sizzle, and Kelley Armstrong is also one of my favourite authors to recommend. I’m not very good at choosing one thing, am I? There are just too many wonderful books and authors out there to love.
What SFF Romance is next on your TBR pile?
The next on my list is the last instalment of The Indigo Chronicles, Children of Shadows by N. Simmonds.
I’ll be joining in with the festival more on my Instagram account but if you want to discover more bloggers favourites or add to your TBR pile use the hashtag #SFFRomFest in your favourite social media outlet.
What are your favourite fantasy or sci-fi romance novels?
I follow some authors and order their books before I even read the blurb. You know from their backlist their new novel will provide you with hours of escapism and joy. Barbara Erskine is one of these with her unique ability of transporting you to the past with her supernatural time slip novels. I’m thrilled to share my review for new novel, The Dream Weavers.
Book Review: The Dream Weavers by Barbara Erskine
Title: The Dream Weavers
Author: Barbara Erskine
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Release date: 15th April 2021
Genre: historical time slip
The brand-new, gripping historical novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author of Lady of Hay!
‘Warmth, depth, mystery, magic and the supernatural … such a beautiful book!’ bestselling author Santa Montefiore
‘A dazzling roller-coaster of a book that will thrill, enchant and intrigue those who love history and the supernatural’ bestselling author Alison Weir
Mercia, 788 AD
In the grand Saxon halls of Mercia, King Offa rules with cold ambition. His youngest daughter Eadburh is destined for an arranged marriage, but with reckless spirit her heart is taken by a Welsh prince, a man she can never be matched with and who is quickly and cruelly taken from her.
Eadburh inherited her father’s ruthless ways but it’s the gifts passed down from her mother that are far more dangerous. She is determined to carve her own place in the world, yet her path could cause war.
Offa’s Dyke, 2021
In a cottage hidden amongst the misty Welsh hills of Offa’s Dyke, Bea Dalloway is called to help Simon Armstrong, who is searching for peace. Instead he finds himself disturbed by unsettling noises and visions.
It isn’t long before Bea is also swept up by haunting dreams. The past is whispering to them, calling out for the truth to be told at last. And as dreams and reality weave closer together, Bea and Simon must be strong to resist the pull of the past – and its desire for revenge…
The Sunday Times bestselling author returns with a thrilling tale of lost love, betrayal and secrets that have lain buried over a thousand years…
According to my Kindle, reading time for this book was 10 hours and 3 mins and what a wonderful 10 hours it was. This novel is pure book heaven and showcases Barbara Erskine’s superior storytelling skills and talent at blending history with fiction and the supernatural. She is still the Queen of time slip fiction.
It is hard to review without revealing spoilers; part of the thrill of this book is discovering the twists and turns which are always unexpected. Both the contemporary and historical settings are brought to life by the descriptions which ignite the senses. I could smell the herbs in Nesta’s herb garden and imagine being in the halls with King Offa. While reading, I was in these locations and experiencing things with the characters. It made me long to visit Wales and Hereford cathedral.
All the characters are well developed and I connected with Bea, a modern ghost hunter, for her beliefs and desire to make things better for the ghosts. Eadburh is a complex character and one I wanted to hate but struggled to the more I discovered her story. This novel made me question along with characters, how the traumas people experienced in the past affected their reactions and future events and what would they be like if they had access to the support we have today.
My only quibble is the novel ended too soon and maybe the end was too tidy, but that could be my hidden revengeful side showing.
Would I recommend?
Oh yes. Like always, Barbara Erskine has researched the factual stories and seamlessly blended fiction with fact to produce a fantastic read. With Welsh ancestors, reading some of the history about Offa’s Dyke and Prince of Powys, made me want to explore the Welsh history some more. This is one for my forever shelf, and I know will be a popular book on The Enchanted Emporium’s bookshelf.
Thank you Harper Collins for my advanced copy to review and give my honest opinion. My audio version was downloaded this morning and can’t wait to hold my physical version too.
Have you read this? Let me know what you think in the comment below.
Today I am excited to be chatting to Kate Ryder, the author of Secrets of the Mist, and her new release Beneath Cornish Skies and is on my TBR pile. So grab a coffee or tea and cake if needed and discover more about the person behind these books.
Hello Kate, thank you so much for popping by. Your books are based in Cornwall, what draws you to this setting for your novels?
Three of my four published novels are set in Cornwall, which is such an inspirational county for the writer/artist in me. As a Piscean I’m drawn to the sea, and Cornwall’s natural, ruggedly beautiful coastline always gets my creative juices flowing!
Did any of your inspiration for novels originate from your own real-life experiences?
Secrets of the Mist (interestingly, the only novel I’ve set in a different county) was inspired by renovations to our 200 year old cottage during which a time capsule was discovered, secreted away by a previous owner. Its contents were fascinating and it had me contemplating previous occupiers of our cottage and the dramas it may have witnessed. Readers took the novel to heart and it achieved #1 best seller in Time Travel Romance on Amazon UK, Canada and Australia.
I loved the cottage in Secrets of the Mist. Is this based on a real place?
The setting for the cottage is real – Walditch, in Dorset – but the actual property doesn’t exist. It’s purely from my imagination. However, the internal stained glass divide between the sitting and dining rooms and the ghostly presence were inspired by a conversation with someone who told me about an old Dartmoor cottage she once owned that she’d shared with a ghost.
I have a bookcase full of books I will keep forever and regularly reread them. Do you reread books or do you only read them once?
I have bookcases full of books (at least our old stone cottage is well insulated!). I do reread books but tend to put several months between subsequent readings.
What are you currently reading?
Several reviewers comment that my books remind them of Barbara Erskine’s writing. What a wonderful compliment! I’m currently enjoying the audible version of her novel, River of Destiny. It’s a terrific adventure, which the narrator has done justice to.
I would agree with their assessment, Secrets of the Mist did have the atmosphere of Barbara Erskine novels. River of Destiny is a great book and will now have to add it to my reread pile.Do you have any tips for would-be writers?
Remember that writing is a long-game. Smile and enjoy the journey!
Secrets of the Mist and your upcoming release are time slip novels with elements of the supernatural threaded through them. Is this a genre you always wanted to write?
In my late childhood/early teenage years, I was spellbound by Alison Uttley’s ATraveller in Time. The mix of history and timeslip seemed so believable. The story has remained with me through the intervening years, although I wasn’t aware this was a genre I would write. Summer in a Cornish Cove (and its standalone sequel, Cottage on a Cornish Cliff) is a contemporary romantic suspense novel that verges on psychological thriller, although (she laughs) there is a tiny smattering of the other side coming through!
What is your favourite book?
Who is your favourite author?
Daphne du Maurier. However, during lockdown I discovered several terrific authors that I’d not read before, including Christina Courtenay, Georgia Hill, Nicola Cornick and Susanna Kearsley. All historical dual-timeline/timeslip writers… funny that!
Is your writing influenced by the books you have read?
Definitely. When aspiring to being a good writer you should read a varied subject matter and as many books as possible.
Where is your favourite place to read or write?
During 2020 – the strangest of years – I did a lot of reading in bed; probably because it felt safe and warm. I write in my office, which is in the eaves of our three-storey Cornish cottage. Being on the top floor, it feels like an eyrie, tucked away from the distractions of the rest of the household.
When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can recall, and I’ve also worked in publishing. However, it took a certain milestone birthday to motivate me towards turning my dream of becoming a published author into reality. I joined the Romantic Novelist’s Association New Writers’ Scheme and submitted a manuscript for a professional critique. Taking on board my reader’s comments, I tweaked the manuscript and sent it to several publishing companies. There followed the inevitable rejections (par for the course) but Aria responded and offered me a four-book contract.
Beneath Cornish Skies
To an outsider, Cassandra Shaw‘s life looks perfect. She lives in a beautiful, luxurious house in the English countryside, with a handsome, wealthy boyfriend who insists she needn’t do a day’s work in her life. But Cassie knows that something is not right. Her boyfriend has grown colder, treating her more like a housekeeper than a future wife. And her time feels empty and purposeless.
Cassandra has always been riddled with insecurities and self-doubt, but, just for once, she decides to take a chance on a new beginning. She answers an advert for a live-in nanny, dog walker, cook and all-round ‘Superhuman’ for a family living in a rambling manor house on the rugged North Cornish coast. The work is hard and tiring, but Cassie has never felt so fulfilled.
As Cassie learns to connect with the natural beauty unfolding around her, Cornwall starts to offer up its secrets. Soon, Cassie starts wondering if she was drawn to this isolated part of the coast for a reason. Why was she guided to Foxcombe Manor? What are the flashes of light she sees in the valley? Is it her imagination or does someone brush past her? And who is the mysterious man living deep in the woods?
A beautiful romance with a hint of ghostliness, Beneath Cornish Skies is for anyone who has ever longed to start their lives again.
Kate Ryder is an award-winning, Amazon Kindle international best seller who writes timeslip and romantic suspense in a true-to-life narrative. On leaving school she studied drama but soon discovered her preference for writing plays rather than performing them! Since then, she has worked in the publishing, tour operating and property industries, and has travelled widely.
Kate is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors. In 2017, she signed a 4-book contract with Aria (digital imprint of award-winning independent publisher, Head of Zeus).
Summer in a Cornish Cove, a contemporary romantic suspense set on the Lizard Peninsula, gained her a nomination for the RNA’s 2018 Joan Hessayon award, while its standalone sequel, Cottage on a Cornish Cliff, reached the heady heights of #2 in Kindle Literary Sagas.
‘Secrets of the Mist’, a mysterious timeslip romance, not only achieved #1 Kindle best seller flags in the UK, Canada and Australia, but also reached #49 in Amazon UK Paid Kindle. In the original, self-published version (The Forgotten Promise) it was awarded the first Chill with a Book “Book of the Month”.
Originally hailing from the South East of England, today Kate lives on the Cornish side of the beautiful Tamar Valley with her husband and a collection of animals.