Historical dramas, family tensions, and fearless acts of love fill the pages of these amazing debut novels.
The Most Anticipated Debut Novels of 2021
By Jessica Dukes
We Are the Brennans
By Tracey Lange
Sunday Brennan moves home to the east coast after surviving a terrible car accident. But rebuilding her life amidst the secrets she left behind — and the secrets harbored by her big, Irish Catholic family — isn't as easy as she hoped. Fans of Mary Beth Keane and Ann Patchett won't be able to put this down.
By Robert Jones Jr.
Isaiah and Samuel have carved out a space for themselves amid the dangers and horrors of the plantation where they are enslaved. Their relationship goes largely ignored until another slave realizes that he can improve his own conditions by preaching the master’s religion. With their delicate peace abruptly and violently destroyed, Isaiah and Samuel must fight their own friends and family to survive.
By Avni Doshi
Antara spent much of her childhood towed around by her mother, Tara, a woman flailing as she tries to find herself. From an ashram, through homelessness and a string of failed relationships, Antara was an afterthought to Tara’s obsessions. Years later, as Tara’s memory fades and Antara becomes her caretaker, time is running out for them to find forgiveness.
Before the Ruins
By Victoria Gosling
The apocalypse is coming — or maybe not — but Andy, Marcus, Peter, and Em use it as an excuse to embark on a summer adventure anyway. When they decide to celebrate Armageddon at a deserted mansion, they don’t expect to meet David there, and they definitely don’t expect to be ensnared in a search for stolen jewels. Both the treasure hunt and David’s eerie influence will change them all.
By Torrey Peters
Reese and Amy, two trans women, have built a beautiful life together. That is, until Amy decides to detransition. Reese spirals into depression and harmful behavior. Amy, now Ames, mourns life with Reese, and is stunned when he accidentally gets a woman pregnant. But could it be a blessing in disguise? Could this baby be the thing that reunites them as a family?
The Lost Apothecary
By Sarah Penner
London, 1700s: In the crowded squalor of its city streets, an apothecary shop owner, Nella, helps women escape abusive situations. When one of her poisons makes it into the wrong hands, it kicks off a murder mystery that lasts for centuries. London, today: Caroline is a historian who uncovers a clue to the apothecary murders, and finds herself the target of an age-old threat. Despite the years between them, Caroline and Nella may save each other after all.
The Kindest Lie
By Nancy Johnson
Years ago, Ruth relinquished custody of the baby she had as a teenager. Now she’s a successful black businesswoman in a strong marriage, but reluctant to have children. Looking for closure, Ruth returns to her struggling Indiana hometown just as racial tensions explode. Complicating issues for Ruth is Midnight, a white young man and a friend with possible connections to her past.
Wild Women and the Blues
By Denny S. Bryce
Chicago Jazz-Age socialite, Honoree Dalcour, is the star of the Dreamland Café. Her life is a swirl of pirated booze, mobsters, and the hottest celebrities of the day, including filmmaker Oscar Micheaux. Ninety years later, film student, Sawyer Hayes, stakes everything important in his life on an interview with Honoree seeking her stories about Oscar. What Sawyer doesn’t know: Honoree has dangerous secrets and she’s going to take this final chance to tell them.
The Portrait of a Mirror
By A. Natasha Joukovsky
Wes and Diana of Manhattan are married, wealthy, and well-connected to their community of influential people. Dale and Vivien of Philadelphia are planning their wedding. When Vivien gets hired for a project at the Met in NYC and Diana is sent to Philadelphia for work, the paths of the two couples cross in uncontrollable ways. Over the course of one summer, passions take over, right and wrong are ignored, and the consequences are ruthless.
Burn It All Down
By Nicolas DiDomizio
Gia and Joey Rossi — mother and son — are in a rage. Both of their boyfriends have betrayed them, and now they’re reveling in revenge fantasies. It doesn’t take long for those fantasies to become a reality, and before they know it, they’re on the run. Seeking refuge with one of Gia’s ex-boyfriends, she and Joey are finally forced to confront how bad decisions of the past led them to this point.
A Tip for the Hangman
By Allison Epstein
Playwright Christopher Marlowe is excited when he’s tapped to become a spy for Queen Elizabeth’s court. His target: the house of Mary, Queen of Scots, where she is held under arrest. As a servant, he’s to report any chatter about plans to restore her to the throne, but what he learns will change the course of history — his own, and the country’s.
The Other Me
By Sarah Zachrich Jeng
We all wonder how our lives would look if we made different choices in the past, but Kelly is about to find out. She didn’t mean to open a portal to a parallel universe, but now that she’s through it she can’t get back. Her memories aren’t her own, she’s in a crappy marriage with some guy she barely knew back in the day, and her family members are being awkward. Time’s running out, and Kelly has to pinpoint which decision was the fateful one that put her on the path to her real life.
The Light of Luna Park
By Addison Armstrong
Nurse Althea is troubled by her inability to help premature babies at New York’s Bellevue Hospital, until she learns about a new invention on display at Coney Island — the incubator. Doctors aren’t convinced that incubators work, but Althea can’t ignore the amazing results being reported in the news. Risking it all, she kidnaps a baby to save its life. Years later, a mysterious letter reveals Althea’s story and the family secret she fought so hard to hide.
Things We Lost to the Water
By Eric Nguyen
Huong and her sons, Tuan and Binh, are immigrants from Vietnam struggling to build a life in New Orleans. A relationship of convenience grows between Huong and a more established, recent immigrant. Tuan and Binh try assimilating in their own ways — Tuan joins a gang and Binh becomes “Ben.” But then a hurricane bears down on the Crescent City, and whatever fragile security they have is in danger of washing away.
The Comfort of Monsters
By Willa C. Richards
In the summer of 1991, Milwaukee is on edge. Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is on his gruesome mission when Dee vanishes. Decades later, Peg feels out of options in her sister’s investigation. Consulting a psychic, Peg revisits her relationship with Dee and her hazy role in her disappearance. With any mercy, Peg’s memories will be able to heal her family once and for all.
The Elephant of Belfast
By S. Kirk Walsh
When Belfast comes under German attack in WWII, Hettie does the only thing she can: protect the animals of her zoo, especially Violet, an orphaned, three-year-old elephant. Based on real events, this is more than just a story of survival. It’s about the relationship that endures between Hettie and Violet, a love that saves them both.