Best of Reviews 2021, Part One

Smart Bitches Best Of 2021 with a stack of tattered books against a sparkly background with the words Thanks for reading with us at the bottom

NB: This week, we’re taking a look back at 2021. We’ve got a week of best-of posts to share, with reviews, cover snark, sales, and more. We hope you enjoy revisiting our archives, and most of all, we wish you and yours a wonderful holiday and a happy new year – with all the very best of reading.

We’re counting down the best of our 2021 reviews, which I’m sure you’re all curious about. Counting down from ten, these are the first five reviews in terms of page views. There are some familiar faces in this top ten when compared to last year.

Let’s get into it!

10.Book of Love by Erin Satie (April 25)

Review by Catherine

Grade: A-

Book of Love is a satisfyingly dense book, beautifully written, with a deeply touching and loving central relationship, but it does have a rather bittersweet ending. While I loved the way Cordelia and Alistair were able to make each other whole, the end of the book left me feeling a little melancholy. If you enjoy a thoughtful romance that touches on politics and feminism but also takes you on a gloriously sensual and detailed journey into the process of bookbinding, then I think this book will make you very happy.

9. The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix (July 14)

Review by Carrie and Maya

Grade: C-

Carrie: WHY, YOU ASK, would I review this mass of TWs on a romance book website? It’s because I know a subset of our readers are all about embracing the “Bitch” in Smart Bitches, and this is a story about women who band together for physical and emotional survival and find ways to claim their stories in a world that does not support them. Unfortunately, Maya and I were disappointed by the presence of harmful stereotypes in what could have been a more inclusively feminist story.

8. When a Rogue Meets His Match by Elizabeth Hoyt (December 2, 2020)

Review by Ellen

Grade: F

My problem with this book, then, can be summed up as follows: Gideon repeatedly inflicts emotional suffering on Messalina and never makes what I would describe as genuine or believable restitution. The Gideon of the end of the book is exactly the same as the Gideon of the beginning of the book except he is capable in a literal way of saying the words “I love you” even if they appear to have no real meaning or impact for him. I guess I believe that he has come to care about Messalina being happy or content in a kind of abstract way (just so long as she is happy with him). But a “romance” that validates the idea that if two people love each other, it’s okay for one of them to repeatedly hurt the other one without ever even apologizing, let alone doing anything to change, is a pretty big failure as a romance. Even die-hard Hoyt fans (as I generally am) should consider skipping this one.

7. Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne (April 13)

Review by Elyse

Grade: B+

A big theme in this romance is healing from trauma and coming out of isolation, and at the time I read it I had just scheduled my first Covid shot. This theme resonated so much with me I found myself crying while I read, big fat tears soaking into my pillow, but it was a cathartic cry and it felt good. There were also moments when this book made me laugh out loud. It’s a book of Big Feelings and I really needed it.

6.The Devil Comes Courting by Courtney Milan (April 20)

Review by Catherine

Grade: A

The Devil Comes Courting is a far more dense and angsty book than, say, The Duke Who Didn’t, or indeed most of Milan’s prior work. But it is also a very joyful story. It is a book about the delight of discovery: of new things, of one’s own capabilities, of love, of things that were thought lost. It’s a book that addresses serious topics seriously, but it is also a book that sparkles.

What are your predictions for the top five? Let us know in the comments!

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