21 Recommended Women’s Fiction Books – Best Novels from the Last Two Decades

Updated March 2021

Are you looking for some new old book recommendations? In this post you will find lots of women’s fiction and chick lit novels from both well known authors and some that you might not have heard of yet, all that have been published in the last two decades.

I love it when you discover a new author and find they have a huge back catalogue then you can start delving into the past as well as the present. It’s quite funny reading a book that was written in 2000  seeing how much the world has already changed. As a middle-aged woman, this sounds fairly recent. You then realise that it was over 20 years ago!

Read on to find my recommended women’s fiction from the last two decades, throughout the years dating back the year 2000!

Read on for reviews of:

Portia MacIntosh – Faking It (2021)

Kathleen Whyman – Wife Support System (2020)

Milly Johnson – Magnificent Mrs Mayhew (2019)

Claire McGowan – The Other Wife (2019)

Jill Mansell – This Could Change Everything (2018)

Sophie Kinsella – My Not So Perfect Life (2017)

Kristy Greenwood Big Sexy Love (2017)

Jenny Colgan – The Summer Seaside Kitchen (2017)

Milly Johnson – The Barn on Half Moon Hill by Milly Johnson (2016)

Bella Osborne – It Started at Sunset Cottage (2015)

Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl (2014)

Fiona Gibson – Take Mum Out (2014)

Liane Moriaty – The Husband’s Secret (2013)

Jane Green – Accidental Husband (2013)

Jane Green – Patchwork Marriage (2012)

Jojo Moyes – Me Before You (2012)

Shari Low – Friday Night with the Girls (2011)

Elizabeth Noble – The Way We Were (2010)

Freya North – Secrets (2009)

Jane Fallon – Got You Back (2008)

Carmen Reid – Up All Night (2005)

Katie Fforde – Thyme Out  (2000)

Faking It by Portia MacIntosh (2021)

Faking It is the latest, and probably my favourite book from Portia MacIntosh so far (and I’ve read many of them).

In this fictional story Emma seeks helps from her estranged twin Ella. Emma is the twin who seemingly has it all, whilst Ella is single and has just lost her job and home.

The plan is that Ella will pretend to be Emma for a few weeks with only her husband knowing the truth. Ella/Emma will have to navigate being a mum, wife and the yummy mummies on the school run.

I found this so funny and read most of it in a day. It was so good I don’t want to put it down. The ending is a bit of a surprise but leaves you with a warm feeling. Highly recommended. You can read more about her books in my Author Spotlight on Portia MacIntosh.

Released  January 2021

book cover for Faking It by Portia Macintosh depicting a lady with blonde hair and sunglasses in a fur lined coat standing in front of a huge house with a long path

Wife Support System by Kathleen Whyman (2020)

This had such a bizarre plot I was intrigued to read more.

It follows the story of 3 mums and their children who move in together to provide a support network to each other for one month.

Workaholic parents Erica and Dan have just lost their nanny and neither are able to look after their children due to their work commitments.

Louisa, also a workaholic mum, seems to leave everything to her husband and their marriage is at breaking point, despite her pretending it’s not.

And Polly, a widow with 2 children suffers extreme anxiety since the death of her husband.

In this fabulous story, boundaries are crossed, friendships and relationships are tested, and secrets unravel. There are betrayals of trust and each woman’s parenting skills come into question.

I thought this was a brilliant debut novel from Kathleen Whyman. It was easy to follow, had a bit of everything and there were lots of surprises along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed it, 10/10.

blue book cover for the wife support system by kathleen whyman picturing two hands holding the text and a woman carrying a washing basket

The Magnificent Mrs. Mayhew by Milly Johnson (2019)

Had I read the cover blurb, I might not have chosen to read The Magnificent Mrs. Mayhew. I picked it up on the premise that it’s a Milly Johnson novel so it’s bound to be brilliant. I’m so pleased I did.

The story is set around Sophie Mayhew, a woman from money and heritage who is married to a politician heading for the role of Prime Minister. That is until he makes a mistake that could cost him everything.

In the first part of the book we revisit Sophie’s boarding school years,  discover how Sophie and John met, and the week prior to the scandal known as ‘doorstepgate’. Whilst it is so far away from most reader’s real lives, it is one that is well documented in the press and films. The portrayed lifestyle of the upper class is one that is of interest to many.

Having an interest in psychology and a good eye for mannerisms, Sophie has everyone sussed out. Whilst she would love a special friend to confide in, she knows not to trust anyone. Life in this political circle is full of falseness and one-upmanship. The same goes for her family too.

Sophie is different from the rest of the wives, and indeed her family members. She doesn’t fit in well and she actually has compassion for people, unlike the rest of them

As the scandal breaks, Sophie decides not to stand by her husband and flees to a small Yorkshire village by the sea while she recovers from the shock. Here she is shown some lovely northern hospitality and the adventure to find her true self begins.

The Magnificent Mrs. Mayhew is filled with delicious characters that you will love to hate, alongside others you’d love to meet. A fabulous read that has everything from scandal to warmth and compassion. Even  Robbie Williams gets a mention.

I just kept reading this to the detriment of everything else. Highly recommended, You can read more about her books in my Author Spotlight on Milly Johnson.

white book cover for the Magnificent Mrs Mayhew by Milly Johnson picturing a woman with blonde hair wearing a stripy tshirt and a tape measure around her neck for an author spotlight on Milly Johnson

The Other Wife by Claire McGowan (2019)

The Other Wife by Claire McGowen is out of my normal reading genre, but when I saw this domestic thriller on Kindle Unlimited, I decided to give it a go. It’s based around two women who become neighbours and friends, but their relationships are all based on lies, secrets and control.

I thought I had the gist of what was going to happen fairly early on, but each chapter brought about a new twist. It was gripping, addictive, and fascinating with cleverly crafted characters.  I couldn’t put it down and will definitely be reading more from this author. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

book cover depcting the outside of a cottage with the text The Other Wife by Claire McGowan

This Could Change Everything by Jill Mansell (2018)

Some books take a while to get going but Jill Mansell tends to have me captivated from the beginning. This could change everything did exactly that.

This charming story is about a group of people all meeting each other by chance as they muddle their way through life. It is full of kind and larger than life characters. From the wonderful octogenarian Zillah who gives bucket list wishes, to the loud, gaudy Caz who really has a heart of gold underneath her brash exterior.

Jill Mansell always writes with warmth and humour and this had the ability to make me smile and cry. There are lots of romances throughout the story.

I didn’t want to put this down. Highly recommended.

orange book cover with a picture of a park bench and a white bird sitting on it with the text Jill Mansell this could change everything

My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella (2017)

Sophie Kinsella, author of the Shopaholic books, comes up trumps again. A great mix of situations in this story about how other people’s lives aren’t exactly as we perceive them to be.

Farmer’s daughter Katie goes off to London to work and invents herself a new persona as Cat rather than Katie. Things don’t go to plan and she reluctantly goes back to the farm to help her parents set up a new business venture of a glamping resort.

I loved reading about the set-up and organisation of the business and delving deeper into the lives of the characters.

Very well written and a winner from the very start.

Book cover of Sophie Kinsella My Not So Perfect Life

Big Sexy Love by Kristy Greenwood (2017)

Along with Can’t Get You Out of My Head by Sue Shepherd, this is one of the best books I think I’ve ever read. I didn’t want to put it down. Full of hilarious laugh out loud moments mixed in with inevitable sadness due to the subject matter. Enjoyable characters who formed warm relationships that left you with a lovely feeling at sharing their love. You can read about more of Kirsty’s books in my Author Spotlight on Kirsty Greenwood.

kirsty-greenwood

The Summer Seaside Kitchen by Jenny Colgan (2017)

I’ve been reading lots of Kindle books by new authors, many of which I’ve really enjoyed, but getting lost in a Jenny Colgan novel takes the enjoyment factor to a whole new level. She’s been one of my favourite authors for many years and the Summer Seaside Kitchen is another winner. The scene is set with such clarity that you easy transport to the Isle of Mure. Great characters and relationships with an interesting storyline. I absolutely loved this and couldn’t put it down. Paperback and Kindle

summer-seaside-kitchen

The Barn on Half Moon Hill by Milly Johnson (2016)

I’ve read many Milly Johnson books before and have thoroughly enjoyed them so I was pleased to see this release.  Although it is a stand-alone story in its own right, it features a quick return trip to Winterworld and was a prequel to Milly’s book that came out in the Winter of 2018. Available exclusively as an Ebook for only 99p, all proceeds go to a very worthy charity, Care for Claire, a tragic tale of a lady who lost everything!

Whilst it is only a short story, it is a lovely bit of escapism for an hour that certainly acted as a teaser of what’s to come, or as a taster of Milly Johnson’s style of writing if you’ve never read her before.  What a lovely way to donate to charity and get something for yourself at the same time. It costs the same as a bar of chocolate but lasts longer and will leave you guilt free. Go ahead put the kettle on now, click through to Amazon, and put your feet up for an hour or two.

white coloured book cover with the text Milly Johnson The barn on half moon hill

It Started at Sunset Cottage by Bella Osborne (2015)

It started at Sunset Cottage was the debut novel from Bella Osborne published back in 2015. I’ve read a few of Bella’s more recent books and am now working my way through her back catalogue.

This is an interesting story that has lots of twists and turns so don’t be fooled by the cosy cover. Although home baking gets plenty of mentions from butterscotch tart to cookies and chocolatey birthday cakes, there are some darker moments in this story too.

I had a pretty good idea of how the love interests would pan out but there were lots of interesting plotlines along the way with movie stars, drug dealers, and foul mouthed mother-in-laws. There are lots of fun parts too, but I won’t spoil it for you. I really enjoyed this book, it’s the perfect bit of escapism for current times.

Currently free on Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited.

book cover for It Started at Sunset Cottage by Bella Osborne picturing a cottage surrounded by flowers and folliage in a post about book recommendations for chick lit and women's fiction written in the last two decades

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2014)

I kind of had a love/hate relationship with this book. It was given to me by a friend who thought I’d enjoy it, even though it’s not my normal kind of read.

I found the first half really infuriating, but as my friend recommended it so highly I really wanted to like it and kept going. I didn’t particularly like the characters or the style of writing.

However, as we arrived at part two, it all changed and I couldn’t put it down. The story wasn’t at all what it seemed in part one and all I can say is wow! Thoroughly gripping. I hope if anyone else finds the same in the first part, they stick with it, as it’s brilliant!

book cover for gone girl by gillian flynn picturing a man walking and turning slightly to the right

Take Mum Out by Fiona Gibson (2014)

Easy to read humourous story of Alice single mum of two teenage boys who as she approaches 40 is set up on three dates by her girlfriends. Great fun and as a mum of two boys very easy to identify with. I thoroughly enjoyed this.

take-mum-out

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriaty (2013)

The Husband’s Secret is the first book that I’ve read by Liane Moriaty and it certainly wont be my last. I really couldn’t put it down.

It took me a while to get into as the first few chapters were each about a different character and their family. I found that just as I was getting to know one character, it would change to another, and then another. I’m not generally keen on books like that.

However, once the characters came together I was gripped. The women were interesting and you really got to understand them as they shared not only their words and actions, but their innermost thoughts too.

It is about a woman who finds a letter from her husband that is only to be opened in the event of his death. He hasn’t died but what she reads could have an effect on everyone around them.  The style of writing reminded me of Desperate Housewives with Cecilia being like Bree Vandecamp in many ways.

It was a very thought provoking read right up to the end of the epilogue, and shows how life is never as clear cut as it seems. Even though it was written in 2013, it holds up for 2021. An outstanding read.

book cover depicting a photo of a bench in front of some railings titled the Husband's Secret by Liane Moriaty for best fiction books from the last two decades

Accidental Husband (2013) and Patchwork Marriage (2012) by Jane Green

I love Jane Green novels, they are very different from a lot of the other authors I read but still falling under the chick lit/women’s fiction umbrella. She covers a lot of tragedy in her stories, dealing with some hard-hitting topics which can make you dislike some of the characters but it keeps it real and you’re often left not knowing quite how it’s going to turn out.

jane-green-accidental-husband

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (2012)

I’m glad that I didn’t read any reviews of this book before I got it. Had I known what this book was about I would never have read it. It’s so far removed from the stories I normally like but I was hooked within the first few pages and couldn’t put it down. A very real story with believable characters and extremely thought provoking. Don’t research the story any further, give it a read and see. My first read from this author and will be sure to delve into her back catalogue now. Excellent.

jojo-moyes

Friday Night with the Girls by Shari Low (2011)

I read my first Shari Low book in 2020 only to find she had already released 20 books spanning two decades. By the end of January 2021, I had read nearly all of those releases. They are all timeless, extremely well written and can be read in any order even though a lot of the characters overlap.

Friday Night with the Girls is about 3 friends who go away for a spa break to celebrate their upcoming 40th birthdays. They’ve been friends for nearly three decades since they were all aged 11.

The three women recall key moments of their lives throughout the decades: how they’ve supported each other through boyfriends and breakups, babies and businesses, and everything in between.

This is a wonderful trip through the 80s, 90s and 00s evoking personal memories of smoking St Moritz cigarettes, bleaching jeans in the bath, white stilettos and training as a hairdresser for under £39 a week. Along with a soundtrack and tv listings, this will evoke memories for anyone in their 40s and 50s.

Another brilliant read from Shari Low that has many laugh out loud moments along with a few that will have you reaching for your hankies. Girl Power! You can read more about Shari’s books in my Author Spotlight on Shari Low coming January 2021.

book cover for Friday Night with the girls by Shari low picturing the silouette of 3 women standing at a bar overloooking the city of Glasgow

The Way We Were by Elizabeth Nobel (2010)

This was not the light and fluffy chick lit type novel that I normally read but it is well written and easy to read. It’s pretty sad on the whole exploring relationships with parents, children, lovers, and friends, and the effects of illness and trauma.  I found it very thought provoking.

Book cover with pink text for The Way We Were by Elizabeth Noble picturing an elegant lady wearing a pink dressing sitting on a bench staring into the distance

Secrets (2009) by Freya North

This had me captivated from the start, I couldn’t imagine a job I’d love more than to go and live in a big house near the sea as a house/dog sitter with a free reign to decorate, clutter and rearrange.

I loved all the characters and the author even managed to make Joe adorable, even though he was a bit of an arse! I enjoyed reading as the secrets unfolded. A really good well written read.

book cover of secrets by freya north with a pink stripy background and silouette of awoman sitting on a chair with a dog next to her

Got You Back by Jane Fallon (2008)

Got You Back is a rollercoaster of emotions.

On finding out the deception of their relationship with James, the wife and the mistress plot revenge on him to initially humorous attempts. But then the story takes a darker turn drawing in others and altering their personalities to the extent that it becomes rather sad.

An excellent read where you really don’t know quite what’s going to happen next. This was my first read from Jane Fallon and it certainly made me an instant fan. You can read more about Jane’s books in my Author Spotlight on Jane Fallon.

book cover for got you back by Jane fallon with a picture of a door handle with a room hanger on it

Up All Night (2005) by Carmen Reid

Up All Night starts off as a light fun read about Jo’s friendship with Bella, and her lusty relationship with her post-divorce toyboy, but it then takes on a far more serious shift.

Jo is an investigative journalist and although the book was originally written in 2005, the storyline is just as prevalent today as it was back then. She investigates the controversy of childhood immunisations whilst struggling with the complexities of life post-divorce when you have children.She also interviews a hopeful Green MP who talks about her lifestyle and the effects of the modern world and infantile allergies. Although this is fiction,  the issues are still very real now and it’s rather sad how little progress society has made in many respects.

Interesting story. Not at all what I thought it would be but I’d definitely recommend it. A good one for post-read discussion.

yellow book cover with alarm clock on and text Carmen Reid Up All Night

Thyme Out  (2000) by Katie Fforde

Katie Fforde is one of my newly discovered authors and I’m delighted to find a huge back catalogue to work through. Thyme Out was written in 2000 so it is most amusing to find the early mentions of mobile phones and people still reading maps to find places. A wonderful story of the relationship between the old (Kitty) and young (Perdita) and the scoundrel that was Perdita’s ex-husband Lucas. I really enjoyed this.

katie-fforde

I hope you check out some of my suggestions for chick lit and women’s fiction novels that have been published in the last two decades. Please let me know what you think of any of these titles or if you’ve got some of your own that you’d like to share in the comments box below.

huge bookcase with the text The best women's fiction & Chick lit books from the last two decades by tea and cake for the soul
Pin for later – original photo by Ricardo Esquivel via Pexels

You may also like to read:

Tripfiction Books for your Staycation

Free and Cheap Chick Lit Reads

* Books For Summer Reading

Or maybe check out some of my “Author Spotlights”.

 

.

Twitter @kathleenwhyman1 @HeraBooks @JillMansell @KinsellaSophie @Novelicious @jennycolgan @millyjohnson @JaneGreen @jojomoyes @freya_north @thiscarmenreid @KatieFforde @osborne_bella @Sharilow @PortiaMacIntosh @inkstainsclaire

21 thoughts on “21 Recommended Women’s Fiction Books – Best Novels from the Last Two Decades

  1. My not so perfect life sounds like another good option by Kinsella. I’m not usually drawn to women’s fiction, but I always enjoy it when I work it in. I’ll add this to my TBR

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.