We had a HUGE month in the Romance, Erotic and Romantic Suspense category in April 2021, with a total of thirty-seven (37) reviews submitted across twenty-seven (27) individual book titles written by twenty-six (26) amazing Australian Women Writers. These reviews were submitted by sixteen (16) individual reviewers over the course of April. Compared to March 2021, this is a massive increase of nine (9) additional reviews and five (5) additional reviewers. Thank you once more to everyone who read, reviewed and linked their reviews to the Australian Women Writer’s Database throughout April.

Monthly Snapshot

Of the thirty-seven (37) books reviewed in April,  twenty-four (24) of them were traditionally published and three (3) were self-published. Sixteen (16) of these books were published in 2021, seven (7) in 2020, four (4) in 2019. While contemporary fiction and historical fiction still reigned supreme as the top genres, romantic suspense was the largest increase from last month (and indeed the entire year) with three (3) reviews recorded this month. There was also an increase in more diverse romances with six (6) books falling into more diverse sub-categories. It was amazing to see some Indigenous literature featured as well a  #Ownvoices novel.

April’s top three reviewed books were:

April’s top three reviewed books were:

Review Highlights

The Jam Queens by Josephine Moon was a fan favourite this month, with Helen Sibbritt “highly recommend[ing this] beautifully written, heartwarming […]page turner.Ktbookbingo thought it was “just what the doctor ordered,” praising the story for transporting her “to the gorgeous Barossa Valley and then travelling from Darwin to Adelaide” during a  “time when travel is still so restricted”. Brenda Telford also enjoyed the travelling aspect and being able to live the journey on the Ghan, a trip she wants to take herself, and really enjoyed the foodie focus that Josephine Moon is well know for.  A point that was very evident in Theresa smith writes review when she exclaimed that The Jam Queens was “pure magic. Like food for your soul. There’s so much in this book that I could relate to and I absolutely loved the overarching theme of hope that was ever-present throughout. I cried, I laughed, I drooled over the delicious descriptions of the jams, from the standard flavours through to the more unusual combinations.”

Readers beware though, while this book was a foodie haven with all reviews gushing over jam and the recipes included, this book packs an emotional punch with reviewers divided by the many topical themes covered. Claire from “Claire Reads and Reviews felt “with secrets galore, clashing and challenging personalities, traumas, romance and more this made for a fabulous read. Josephine manages to cover several topical issues, IVF, grief, transgender issues, still-birth, US shootings and a few others, but they all fill this story in a very organic way” while Veronica @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf would have preferred the focus to be on one or two topical issues, but still felt “The Jam Queens is sure to be popular amongst contemporary fiction readers with messages of resilience, family and love, plus an assured happy ending.”

Both Marianne and Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out had a lot of praise for Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne. Keeping with the romantic comedy and theme of the book, Marianne reviewed the novel in recipe format summarising that readers “in the mood to swoon a little will enjoy this light-hearted romance,” with Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out found Second First Impressions to be a delightful, feel-good read […] with appealing characters, a sweet romance, and plenty of well-timed humour.”

Debut novelist Averil Kenny wowed Veronica @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf with her poetical and lyrical writing and haunting Queensland landscapes. “Kenny has captured the wonder and seclusion of the area with perfection. She also highlights the danger of the wild storms, cyclones and floods and the relentless heat and humidity of a northern summer. I loved how the characters welcomed these dramatic changes in weather. It was a part of their life to celebrated not endured.” Those Hamilton Sisters is “a coming of age story that incorporates small-town minds, a mother’s legacy, misogyny, first love and above all, family.” Both Veronica and Jennifer Cameron-Smith agree that this is one “accomplished debut”(Jennifer Cameron-Smith) that is “not to be missed!” (Veronica @ The Burgeoning Bookshelf ).  

Book cover

The Philosopher’s Daughters by Alison Booth is an historical narrative with romantic-suspense elements, that illustrates Australia’s casual violence and racism against the backdrop of the suffragette movement and outback Australia. Cass Moriarty had this to say:

Booth’s writing is clear and well-researched. Her knowledge of the Australia of that time, and its culture and norms, is evident in the detail she writes onto every page, and her author experience is demonstrated by the skill with which the story takes shape. We are given chapters from both Sarah’s and Harriet’s perspectives. The dialogue is authentic and engaging. This is a story about two strong women who empower themselves through their art, their grit, their courage and their ideals. While there is a strong romantic element, it is never saccharine. The increasing tension towards the end of the book makes for a page-turning read, as the stakes get higher and each sister must decide what is really important, and how far they are prepared to go for what they believe in. The epilogue is a lovely and satisfying resolution. This is historical fiction well anchored in researched fact, with themes of belonging, identity, love and sacrifice. And at the centre of it all, the terrible, cruel racism that typified that time; the greedy and destructive colonialism; the nuanced emotions of these women as they struggle against the prevailing views. Booth doesn’t shy away from the violence but she balances this with characters who really do wish to change their own attitudes and the environment in which they live. — Cass Moriarty

Keeping with the romantic-suspense and high stakes theme, Mrs B Book Reviews reviewed Last Known Contact by Phillipa Nefri Clark.  This book was one of three self-published titles reviewed this month, and Clark is an author Mrs B wants everyone to take a chance on and read.

Drawing in themes of business, family tensions, relationships, love, regrets, tragedy, loyalty and trust, Last Known Contact leaves the reader with plenty to contend with. Within her novel, Phillipa Nefri Clark provides a balanced set of both good and bad characters. In the lead Ellie, we have a strong and resolute woman, on a path of self discovery that will change her life forever. Ellie is an everyday woman, who many will be able to relate to.Mrs B Book Reviews

The last book I’m going to highlight this month is Sunburnt Veils by Sara Haghdoosti. As soon as I read Nadia L King’s review, I knew I had to include it in this month’s wrap up, for King claims “that it is definitely one of the best books I’ll read this year.” As a young-adult, #ownvoices and debut novel, King’s review lists a number of reasons for why she loves this book so much, as well as a bunch of quotes that spoke to her heart. I highly recommend you check out her full review here.

Sunburnt Veils lifts the lid on being a Feminist Muslim in Australia, and what it takes to truly belong. It’s about stepping out of your comfort zone and reaching for something higher than yourself. I highly recommend this wonderfully entertaining, #Ownvoices novel. Bravo, Sara Haghdoosti on a fabulous debut. — Nadia L King

Until next month, I wish you all a fantastic reading month in May and can’t wait to read all your reviews!

About Me: Hey, I’m Jess from The Never Ending Bookshelf. I’m an avid reader, book collector (sometimes book hoarder) and a hopeless romantic. I live and breathe everything to do with the written word, working by day as a bookseller and by night as a book blogger. You can find me at The Never Ending Bookshelf, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads and on Facebook.