Welcome back to the Romance, Erotica and Romantic Suspense round-up for October 2021. We had a great month in October, with a total of thirty reviews received under the romance sub-category of the Australian Women Writers Challenge. These reviews were of twenty-three individual titles and were submitted by ten of our fantastic reviewers. As always, thank you to everyone who took the time to link their reviews this month.

Monthly Snapshot:

Of the books reviewed in October, thirteen of the books were released in 2021, three were released in 2019, two in 2018 and 2013, and one each in 2020, 2016 and 2002. While we expect to see so many of the 2021 releases, it’s amazing to see books with ranges dating back to as far as 2002 still being subitted to the Australian Women Writers Database.  Eight of the books had been independently/self-published with the remaining fifteen titles traditionally published. In October the most popular sub-category of romance was Contemporary Romance, with eleven books, Speculative Romance with five books, Historical Romance with four books and Romantic Suspense with three books.

October’s top reviewed books were:

October’s top three reviewers included:

Contemporary Romance:

October was certaintly a big month for romance with a lot of 2021’s big releases starting to be released. With this in mind, it comes as no surprise to see Outback Secrets by Rachael Johns being our top rated book for the month.

Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out was “delighted to return to Bunyip Bay” in Johns most recent release, the fifth in the Outback series to date. Featuring a fake dateing scheme between Henrietta ‘Henri” Forward and Liam Castle to keep their mothers at bay, the relationship blurs the lines between authenticity and fake, and what it means to have a happily ever after. Although the romance is ‘fun and heartwarming”, Shelleyrae said Liam’s character brought some heavier topics into the mix, with themes such as “trauma, PTSD, grief, and suicide” explored. Helen Sibritt also commented on this in her review, stating that although she was actively cherring Henri and Liam’s relationship on and celebrating their milestones and successcess, she was reduced to tears many times whilst reading the novel. Because of this, Helen views this particular novel one that readers can not afford to miss. Lastly, much like both Shelleyrae and Helen, Brenda Telford loved this book, with all three reviewers remarking on the way there was a five year gap between book four and this one in the Bunyip Bay series, and yet how much this book made them feel like they were coming home to old friends. Furthermore, Shelleyrae also remarked that she particularly enjoyed the way Henri’s character, and indeed this entire novel, reclaimed what a romantic Happily Ever After (HEA) looked like, showcasing that it didn’t always need to included marriage, babies and picked white fences.

Reviewed favourable by Veronica @ The Burgenoing Bookshelf and Helen Sibritt via Goodreads, Summer of Serenity by Nicola Marsh was another big hit with reviewers this month. Set amongst the small seatown of  Acacia Haven, “Summer of Serenity is a story about small-town closeness and the lack of resources for these communities. Just outside Acacia Haven is the small community of Serenity, not a hippy commune but an intentional community of like minded people that believe in sustainability. Through the teenagers of the local school we see how this community believes in work ethics and learning through helping out around the community rather than attaining a University admission ranking. A work and life balance is fostered in the children of the community and they can still grow up to lead a fulfilling and purposeful life” (Veronica @ The Burgenoing Bookshelf). Veronica in particular enjoyed the “enjoyed the different generational romances, how the different age groups handled situations differently and the reasons behind why the characters were closed off to love but all culminated in each of them bottling up their emotions, stopping them from moving forward with their lives” and praised Marsh for the way in which she was able to “portray the lingering effects of domestic abuse without an abundance of graphic detail” on the page. She did empahise in the review, and Helen agreed in hers, that depsite the darker themes, Summer of Serenity was a “heart-warming” narrative that still delievered the ever important HEA on the page.

Mrs B’s Book Reviews also hosted a chat with Nicola Marsh on her new release  Summer of Serenity and it’s well worth a read if you have some spare time.

Historical Romance:

With four historical romance novels reviewed this month, three regency era and one more Australian Goldmine era, I though I would highlight two novels this month, one from each sub-category.

First up we have The Widow of Ballarat by Darry Fraser. KTBookBingo (via instagram) thougth this one to be a welcome change from the more typical World War Australian historical novels on the market. She was highly impressed by Fraser’s ability to not only take the reader “back to the Goldfields of Ballarat during colonial times,” but to the set the scene so well that you can easily picture yourself there; walking among the characters as they go about their business.” While the romance is the sole focus of this particular novel, KTbookbingo points out that the reader will be desperate to find out if Nell and Finn can find their HEA after the events the book has thrown at them.

Marry in Secret by Anne Gracie is second-chance, marriage of convenience romance that instantly transported Elani Konstantine – Elani’s Library into the story like they were lifelong friends. Married in secret four years earlier, Rose and Thomas’ whirlwind romance was dealt a crushing blown when Thomas’ boat was believed to be lost at sea. While Rose believed she would never see Thomas again, she keeps her marriage and heartbreak hidden, and it set to marry the Duke of Everingham when who crashed their wedding  hell bent on revenge? Her late husband, Thomas. Emotionally it’s a narrative that has it all, with love, loss, despair, distrust, desire, hope and a beautiful HEA. Elani says this book holds no punches and “the shock, guilt, grief and pain [will] pull at your heart strings”. Despite it’s heavier emotional nature, Marry in Secret is a sweet romance, with Eleni particularly liking Rose’s spunk and strength of character.

Mrs B’s Book Reviews sat down with Charlotte Anne to discuss her new book The Unworthy Duke and the interview is well worth a read if you have some spare time. With The Unworthy Duke pitched as the ideal read for fans of Bridgerton, make sure you don’t miss this one.

Romantic Suspense:

Annie Seaton’s new eco-romance, Osprey Reef, is taking readers on an exploration of the coral reefs as part of the beautiful Great Barrier Reef, showcasing issues such as bleaching and the damaging affects of climate change. With an esquite backdrop, and following two fircely indepentent women’s lives via dual timeline perspectives, Osprey Reef is a “tense and exciting” read (Brenda Telford) that is “fast paced and has everything [the] reader needs to keep them enthralled” (Helen Sibritt). Brenda highly recommends this one  for readers “who love suspense and mystery, mixed with light romance and intriguing history” and Helen says it is a “must read” to see the “past [unravel …] and see love bloom on the high seas and fortunes change.” Helen “hope[s] you come along for the journey[,as] it is well worth the trip.”


With a slight change of scenary, another favourably reviewed romantic suspense novel this month was Treasured Whispers by Kendal Talbot. If action adventure, Indiannia Jones is more your style,this might be the book for you. Full of danger, intrigue, and set amongst the exotic Egyptian backdrop, Treasured Whispers sees the beloved treasure hunters dive deep undeground in a man made lake, facing unexpected perils in the likes of crocodiles and an unknown enemy who manages to divide their little group. With a pregnant heroine, and hero who will stop at nothing to protect her, Helen Sibritt loved this one, however she does point out a few trigger warnings in her review that might be worthwhile reading before you pick up the book.


Speculative Romance:

Speculative romance is not a sub-genre we typically tend to get too many book reviews linked for throughout the year, and it’s because of this I wish to give a special shout out to Eleni Konstantine – Eleni’s Library who submitted five reviews with this sub-genre this month. As a rule Eleni’s reviews tend to be short and sweet wrap ups of the books, and because many of these books are parts of huge series, there is not much I can summarise here. However if you are looking for a fantasy romance fix, why not consider Revenge by Fiona McIntosh, or if Sci-fi is more your style, what about Shaw by Anna Hackett which is all about the “action, battles with aliens, love, loyalty, [and] survival”. If paranormal romance is more up your ally, why not consider reading: Unforgotten by Cassie Laelyn for your fallen angels fix; or A Night of the Dark Horse by Janni Neal or Darkness Unmasked by Keri Arthur for your dark angels.

As a general note, next month’s Romance round up is being pushed until just after Christmas and will will be a bumper edition including November and December and will sadly be the last Romance round up delivered directly to your inboxes/blog feed. While the website might be wrapping up at the end of this year, the challenge will live on through the Goodreads group and facebook group, so make sure you are following both of them to stay ahead of some of the amazing books written by our amazing Australian Women Writers!

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.