Hands up all those who love browsing the new and upcoming book releases? Many of the best books I read last year were fiction titles that caught my eye from the 2020 new books lists, and 2021 is shaping up as another great year for reading.
Bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape and knowledge and power.Jen Campbell
And, while we love nothing more than popping into our local bookstores, browsing curated 2021 new book release lists online is really the best alternative when we are not able.
Disclosure: If you click a link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Note links will take readers in the US, UK or Canada to their local Amazon store (if available) and in all other cases, to an online book retailer that ships the title to your region.
Join me on my new book browsing adventures in 2021
Here each month in 2021, I will discuss my top picks of the new novels and upcoming fiction releases. Links in this article will take you to more detail about each title and when I have been lucky enough to read it, open up my full review in a new tab.
So read on to see which titles have caught my attention amongst the new and upcoming January, February, March and April 2021 book releases.
April 2021 New Book Releases
Upcoming drama & romance
Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend’s wedding in rural Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed. But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie’s ex, Dylan, who she’s avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier. Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they’ve totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. Sounds like the perfect romantic comedy setup. I cannot wait to read this one. Find out more >>
Other Women by Cathy Kelly has been described as “a refreshingly honest story about female friendship and marriage – and all the great loves of our life”.
Three women. Three secrets. Three tangled lives… Sid wears her independence like armour. So when she strikes up a rare connection with unlucky-in-love Finn, they are both determined to prove that men and women can just be friends. Can’t they? Marin has the perfect home, attentive husband, two beloved children – and a secret addiction to designer clothes. She has it all, so why can’t she stop comparing herself to other women? Bea believes that we all have one love story – and she’s had hers. Now her life centres around her son and support group of fierce single mums – the women she shares everything with. Well, apart from the one secret she can’t tell anyone… Find out more >>
More April 2021 chick lit releases sure to tug on the heartstrings:
Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle – Maybell Parrish lives in her head, her real life full of painful disappointments. So, inheriting an old manor from an eccentric Great Aunt provides her a chance to change things. If she can find a way to get on with grouchy but gorgeous groundskeeper and co-inheritor Wesley. Find out more >>
Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez – Vanessa’s mother and sister never saw the age of 30, so she’s been living every moment as if it were her last. But after her half sister suddenly leaves her in custody of her baby, life goes from “daily adventure” to “next-level bad” (now with bonus baby vomit in hair). Enter the surprisingly helpful hot lawyer next door, Adrian and his geriatric Chihuahua. Find out more >>
New historical & mystery fiction
There are many intriguing new historical fiction titles being released in April 2021.
While Pip Williams’ award-winning The Dictionary of Lost Words was released in Australia last year, I just wanted to highlight that it is now being released worldwide.
In this remarkable debut based on actual events, as a team of male scholars compiles the first Oxford English Dictionary, one of their daughters decides to collect the “objectionable” words they omit… Set during the height of the women’s suffrage movement with the Great War looming, Esme’s ‘Dictionary of Lost Words’ reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. Find out more >>
The Plague Letters by V L Valentine – London, 1665. Within the growing pile of plague-ridden corpses in his churchyard, Rector Symon Patrick discovers one that’s unique. Someone is performing terrible experiments upon the dying. Desperate to discover who, Symon joins a society of eccentric medical men who have gathered to find a cure for the plague… Find out more >>
The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin – Inspired by the true WWII history of the few bookshops to survive the Blitz, this is a timeless story of wartime loss, love and the enduring power of literature. Through blackouts and air raids as the Blitz intensifies, Grace Bennett discovers the power of storytelling to unite her community in ways she never dreamed. Find out more >>
New crime & mystery thrillers – April 2021
When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain – Detective Anna Hart is hiding away from the world. But then a series of local disappearances reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal? This deeply affecting new crime mystery weaves together actual cases of missing persons, trauma theory, and a hint of the metaphysical. Find out more >>
Missing Pieces by Tim Weaver – This chunky new thriller has earned rave early reviews. Rebekah Murphy knows too much… She knows she’s alone on an abandoned island with a killer on her trail. She knows that to get home, she must live to understand why this is happening. She knows someone tried to kill her for a secret. What she doesn’t know is what that secret is… . Find out more >>
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March 2021 Book Releases
Haunting historical fiction
March is Women’s History Month, and quite fittingly there are some fantastic new historical fiction releases with strong female leads on offer.
First up, the highly anticipated The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray. This chunky new fiction is based on the true story of an extraordinary castle in the heart of France and the remarkable women bound by its legacy. I love multiple time/narrative perspectives, and this novel features three – a founding mother (1774), a daring visionary (1914) and a reluctant resistor (1940). Described as “an intricately woven and powerfully told, sweeping novel about duty and hope, love and courage, and the strength we take from those who came before us” this sounds like a must-read. Find out more >>
Sarah Penner’s ‘subversive and intoxicating’ debut The Lost Apothecary, has featured in all the ‘highly anticipated 2021 fiction’ lists. Could this cover be any more beautiful?
In eighteenth-century London, secret apothecary shop owner Nella sells women well-disguised poisons to use against the oppressive men in their lives. But her fate is jeopardized when a young patron makes a fatal mistake, sparking a string of consequences that echo through the centuries. In present-day London, when aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell stumbles upon a clue to the unsolved apothecary murders that haunted London 200 years prior, her life collides with the apothecary’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive. Find out more >>
New mystery and literary suspense
The Vines by Shelley Nolden – A shuttered hospital on New York’s North Brother Island, the site of century-old quarantines and human experiments. When Finn, a young urban explorer, glimpses an enigmatic beauty through the foliage, intrigue turns to obsession as he seeks to uncover her past–and his own family’s dark secrets. Find out more >>
Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews – A ‘stylish and sharp’ character-driven literary suspense thriller set in mysterious Marrakesh, about a secretive famous novelist and ambitious assistant locked in a struggle for fortune and fame. Described by Maria Semple as ‘part Patricia Highsmith, part All About Eve and pure fun’. Find out more >>
New romance and drama releases
In The Last Bookshop by Emma Young, Cait’s best friends have always been books – along with the rare souls who love them as much as she does, like grandmotherly June. When Cait set up her bookshop right in the heart of the city, she thought she’d skipped straight to ‘happily ever after’, but things are changing fast. When June’s sudden interest in Cait’s lacklustre love life and a handsome ‘Mystery Shopper’ force her to concede there may be more to life than her shop and cat, luxury chain stores are circling the prime location and a personal tragedy is brewing. Soon Cait is questioning the viability of both the shop and life she’s shaped around it. An unlikely band of allies are determined she won’t face these questions alone; but is a love of books enough to halt the march of time and progress? Read my review of this heartwarming novel >>
The Speed of Light by Elissa Grossell Dickey – A provocative debut novel told in intersecting timelines over a tumultuous, defining year in one woman’s life. After an MS diagnosis and walking away from “a fixer” but possibly the love of her life, one morning at the university where Simone works, gunshots ring out. In a temporary safe place and terrified, her mind racing, her past year comes into focus. Find out more >>
Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne – From the bestselling author of The Hating Game comes the clever and funny story of a muscular, tattooed, ‘selfish rich boy’ hired as an assistant to two eccentric 90yr-old women, under the watchful eye of ‘serious’ hardworking retirement home manager Ruthie. Find out more >>
New psychological science fiction
Klara and The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – The latest novel from this Nobel and Booker Prize-winner, features an unforgettable narrator. From her place in a store Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches the behaviour of those who come in to browse and who pass on the street outside, remaining hopeful that a customer will soon choose her. Find out more >>
Infinite by Brian Freeman – Car crash victim Dylan is haunted by glimpses of himself. A psychiatrist claims he’s undergoing a hypnotherapy treatment based on every choice he makes creating an infinite number of parallel universes, and Dylan’s doppelgänger has staked a claim to his world. Find out more >>
February 2021 Book Releases
The romance of reading
It seems appropriate that we kick off my top picks of the new books in February with some romance.
First up, a delightful Victorian romance with a feisty leading lady. A Lady’s Formula for Love is Elizabeth Everett’s debut novel and the first book in a planned series, The Secret Scientists of London. Lady Violet is keeping secrets. She founded a clandestine sanctuary for England’s most brilliant female scientists and she is using her genius on a confidential mission for the Crown. But the biggest secret of all is the feelings she has for her solitary and reserved protection officer Arthur Kneland. Find out more >>
Related reading: My Top Intelligent Rom-Com Novels
The Things We Leave Unfinished by Rebecca Yarros – A divorcee starting over clashes with a bestselling writer seeking to complete her grandmother’s unfinished novel. Told in alternating timelines, this story examines the risks we take for love, the scars too deep to heal, and the endings we can’t bring ourselves to see coming. Find out more >>
The Moroccan Daughter by Deborah Rodriguez – From the author of the bestseller The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul, comes a modern story about four different women, of forbidden love, secrets and revelations, set in a country steeped in honour and tradition. Read my review >>
New mystery and suspense
Sarah Pearse’ debut gothic novel The Sanatorium is earning her high praise from early reviewers. ‘This spine-tingling, atmospheric thriller has it all: an eerie Alpine setting, sharp prose, and twists you’ll never see coming’ according to Richard Osman, and the Irish Times are calling it ‘genuinely scary’.
Elin Warner has taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement she has little choice but to accept. But the venue, an isolated hotel (recently renovated sanatorium) high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place she wants to be, particularly when a storm threatens and people start vanishing… Find out more >>
The Paris Affair by Pip Drysdale – From the bestselling author of The Sunday Girl and The Strangers We Know, a new thriller set in Paris starring Harper Brown an arts journalist who dreams of being a hard-hitting reporter. She’s hot on the trail of a murderer – and the scoop of a lifetime…That’s if the killer doesn’t catch her first. Read my review >>
The Spiral by Iain Ryan – A ‘rollercoaster crime noir thriller’ (Independent) with the inventiveness of The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. After being shot twice by a colleague (now dead), Emma’s quest for answers set her on a dangerous, spiralling journey into the heart of darkness. Read my review >>
Literary and historical fiction
Helen Fisher’s Space Hopper (published as Faye, Faraway in the US) is one of the most highly anticipated releases of 2021. A heartfelt, spellbinding, and irresistible debut novel for fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Outlander (tick and tick!) that examines loss, faith, and love.
Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. In an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions – but away from her own family – how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother? Read my review >>
The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles – Another release with lots of buzz recommended for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife. This story of romance, friendship, family and the power of literature to bring us together, is based on the true WWII story of heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris. Find out more >>
My Year Abroad by Chang-rae Lee – From award-winning author of Native Speaker and On Such a Full Sea, an exuberant, provocative story about a young American life transformed by an unusual Asian adventure – and about the human capacities for pleasure, pain, and connection. Find out more >>
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January 2021 Book Releases
Thrilling new page-turners
Rachel Hawkins’ The Wife Upstairs is one of the most hotly-anticipated thrillers of 2021. A modern retelling of the gothic classic Jane Eyre, this is the story of Jane (a broke, light-fingered dog-walker working in a wealthy gated-community in Alabama) who sees an opportunity in the recently widowed, rich, brooding and handsome Eddie Rochester. His wife, Bea, a beautiful and successful businesswoman had drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Can she, plain Jane, win Eddie’s heart before her past–or his–catches up to her?
Apparently with ‘a fresh feminist sensibility’ this novel ‘flips the script’ on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. Find out more >>
Related reads: The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
In Shiver by Allie Reynolds, things turn deadly when five snowboarding friends reunite for a weekend in the French Alps. Someone has deliberately stranded them together at the remote mountaintop resort to find out the truth about Saskia’s mysterious disappearance a decade prior. Milla’s not sure what’s worse: the increasingly sinister things happening around her or the looming snowstorm that’s making escape even more impossible. All she knows is that there’s no one on the mountain she can trust…
From Reynolds, a former competitive snowboarder, authenticity of subject and setting (one ideal for a locked-room thriller) is assured. This is a chilling dramatic thriller. Read my full review >>
More new psychological crime thrillers:
The Coffinmaker’s Garden by Stuart McBride – Ex-DI Ash Henderson races to catch a serial killer while a storm batters the Scottish Coast and a garden with buried human remains is falling into the North Sea.
January 2021 literary mystery & historical fiction
What Could Be Saved by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz is described as a delicious hybrid of mystery, drama, and elegance: rich with detail, lush in language, and capable of keeping you on the edge of your seat.
With a narrative alternating between two time periods and distinctly different settings, Bangkok 1972 and Washington DC 2019, this novel depicts the secret lives and affairs of young elegant parents Genevieve and Robert Preston, and now daughters Laura and Bea as adults seeking answers to their brothers’ childhood disappearance while their once formidable mother slowly slides into dementia. This sounds like an enthralling and moving story about sibling love, rivalry and loyalty. Find out more >>
More thought-provoking literary fiction releases:
Waiting for the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton – A novel about childhood friendships ruptured by the high price of long-held secrets; a love song to the natural beauty around us and call to fight for what we believe in.
The Price of Two Sparrows by Christy Collins – Her award-winning novella The End of Seeing was deeply moving, so expectations are high for Collins’ first full-length work exploring issues of community and prejudice, religion and nature in the modern world. Read my review >>
Science fiction & fantasy in January 2021
Sci-fi dystopian novels were notably absent from my Best Books of 2020 list due to my recent avoidance of the genre… the real news being worrisome enough! But as we collectively look toward brighter horizons, this new January 2021 science fiction release The Effort by Claire Holroyde sounds too good to let pass by.
Featuring a diverse ensemble cast of characters from around the globe and exploring the question, ‘How would we respond if we knew an asteroid equivalent to that which ended the reign of the dinosaurs were on a collision course with earth?’, Publishers Weekly have said its deeper themes about human nature make this apocalyptic thriller more than escapist reading. Can this small highly skilled team find a way to neutralize the greatest threat the world has ever seen before mass hysteria hits or world leaders declare World War III? Sounds provocative. Find out more >>
The last of my picks of January’s new book releases is the quirky fantasy novel We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen.
Jamie wakes up with no memories but can read and erase other people’s—a power he uses to hold up banks to buy coffee, cat food and books. Zoe is also searching for her past and uses her abilities of speed and strength to deliver fast food and occasionally beat up bad guys. When the archrivals meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize the key to revealing their hidden pasts and saving countless people may be trusting each other, and themselves.