Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature/meme now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. The meme was originally the brainchild of The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Ten New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021.
2021 was a good year for me in terms of new authors. I discovered a bunch of new authors whose series or work I will be following from now on. My ten favorite new-to-me authors of 2021 appear below, in alphabetical order, plus a smattering of honorable mentions. (Author and series links go to Goodreads. Individual title links lead to my reviews.)
Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021
Jennifer Ashley. I fell in love with Ashley’s Kat Holloway series this year. It’s refreshing to see a historical mystery series where the main character is a working-class woman — and a cook, at that. The details of below-stairs Victorian life are believable, the mysteries are reasonably well-plotted, and the main character and recurring secondary characters are wonderful, particularly Kat and her mysterious swain, Daniel. Ashley has given her main characters a long romantic arc, expertly maintaining romantic tension while allowing the relationship to slowly evolve. I devoured the existing books (and wrote reviews for A Soupcon of Poison, Death Below Stairs, Murder in the East End, and Death at the Crystal Palace), and I will definitely be following the series in future. I also plan to try her mystery series written as Ashley Gardner, and perhaps her historical romances and paranormal romances (as Jennifer Ashley) as well.
S.J. Bennett. Bennett’s new mystery series features Queen Elizabeth II as an unlikely but thoroughly charming amateur detective. Due to the constraints upon her movements, she enlists the aid of her new Assistant Private Secretary, Rozie Ochodi, a young Nigerian-born woman, formerly an officer in the Royal Horse Artillery. Rozie is fiercely loyal to the Queen; her lively intelligence and powers of observation make her the ideal sidekick and sub rosa investigator on the Queen’s behalf. I listened to The Windsor Knot and loved it, and I’m looking forward to reading All The Queen’s Men in February (I have an ARC.)
Olivia Dade. Dade’s new contemporary romance series features the stars of a fantasy TV series, the world of fanfic, and strong heroines who don’t fit the typical “slender and beautiful” mold. There’s body positivity, neurodiversity, really believable angst, and terrific character and relationship development. Dade’s books are a tad blunter in their language than I am quite comfortable with (particularly in the explicit scenes), but the stories and the characters made me love them anyway. And I love the insider look at fandom; it’s clear Dade is a veteran of the fanfic writing-and-reading scene. I have read Spoiler Alert and All the Feels so far, and they really did give me all the feels. I can’t wait for her next book.
Alix E. Harrow. I read A Spindle Splintered, Harrow’s “Sleeping Beauty” novella, and was blown away: it’s fierce and beautiful and I will never see “Sleeping Beauty” the same way again. I can’t wait for the next book, A Mirror Mended (June 2022), but I am also stoked to read Harrow’s The Ten Thousand Doors of January and The Once and Future Witches.
Anna Lee Huber. I’ve been listening to Huber’s ‘Lady Darby’ historical mystery series, beginning with The Anatomist’s Wife, and I am hooked. Oh, there are a few minor things that annoy me — well, OK, one thing: Keira’s tendency to ignore common sense and go it alone (please tell me she gets over that eventually?) But on the whole, it’s a wonderful series, and I love it. Huber excels at creating atmosphere, and her main characters are interesting and engaging, both individually and together. I love it when mystery authors give their main characters a romantic arc (and I hate it when they use a romantic relationship to create tension without ever resolving the relationship.) Huber does the former, and does it well. Whenever I get caught up with the Lady Darby series, I’ll give Huber’s Verity Kent series a try.
Katherine Langrish‘s thoughtful and insightful essays in From War Drobe to Spare Oom: Travels in Narnia with My Nine-Year-Old Self really resonated with me. I’m looking forward to reading her explorations of fairy tales (Seven Miles of Steel Thistles), as well as her YA fictional ‘Troll’ series, collected in West of the Moon.
Caroline Linden writes historical romance that pays tribute to historical accuracy and historical romance tropes, while simultaneously embracing notions of agency, consent, and sex positivity. I read her ‘Desperately Seeking Duke‘ trilogy (plus related novella), and thoroughly enjoyed them all. Her heroes are good, decent men at heart, sometimes with a hint of rogue; they may have secrets, but they aren’t dark and brooding. Her heroines are strong, smart, and just enough out of the ton to be a bit independent in their thinking and how they want to live their lives; in particular, they aren’t ashamed or embarrassed to feel desire, and to enjoy their own sensuality. I will definitely be reading more of Linden’s novels.
Courtney Milan is another historical romance writer, and one that has been on my radar for years. COYER Book Club finally pushed me to read the first in her Brothers Sinister series, The Duchess War, and I see why everyone loves her books so much. Her characters come alive; they are real, and the relationships they have feel real (and exhilarating, and wrenching, and ultimately satisfying.) I followed up with A Kiss at Midwinter, and promptly bought the rest of the series. I’m looking forward to reading the remaining books, and then moving on to some of the other Milan books I’ve purchased in recent years, and never gotten around to.
Lisa Shearin. Shearin’s SPI Files series is funny and action-packed; think Men In Black, but with supernatural creatures (goblins, dragons, grendels, merfolk, even Celtic gods) instead of aliens. (Although that’s not entirely correct; the goblins and elves have their own worlds, which seem to be either other planes or other planets.) It’s urban/contemporary fantasy, and I’m completely hooked; I read all 7 books (so far) in under a month. Shearin has another, tangentially related series (the Raine Benares series) that is 9 books long; I hope to start those this year.
P. G. Wodehouse. I have been meaning to read Wodehouse for literally decades, and in 2021, I finally got around to it. So far, I have only listened to one of Wodehouse’s classic — and sidesplittingly funny — Jeeves and Wooster novels (The Code of the Woosters), but I laughed my way through that one, and I’m definitely up for more.
Jenny Colgan: I read The Bookshop on the Corner and The Christmas Bookshop, and enjoyed both.
Theodora Goss: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter is the start of the Athena Club series. Part mystery series, part historical fantasy, the series features the daughters and/or creations of famous literary mad scientists: Dr. Jeckyl and his alter ego, Hyde; Dr. Frankenstein; Doctor Moreau; and Dr. Rappini. The first book was good; I’m looking forward to the next ones.
M. E. Hilliard‘s well-written cozy/traditional mystery, The Unkindness of Ravens, is the start of a series that I think I will follow, but I need to read book two before I decide.
Celia Lake writes and self-publishes historical fantasy and historical fantasy romance: slow, thoughtful books that are a pleasure to read. So far, I have only read Eclipse, but I really, really liked it, and I think I will be reading more of her books.
Sarah J. Maas: I finally read A Court of Thorns and Roses for COYER Book Club. It was very good, and also disturbing. (Stockholm syndrome, anyone?) I’m on the fence, but will probably finish the original trilogy, at least.
Erin Sterling’s paranormal-mystery-romance The Ex Hex was a lot of fun, and if she writes a sequel, I’ll definitely read it.