10 romance novels that are perfect for summer reading

Readers, it’s been so much fun helping you fill up your summer TBRs. So far I’ve shared the 2019 Summer Reading Guide with subscribers, my Minimalist Summer Reading Guide, and 20 hot new releases everyone will be talking about this summer. And today is a Modern Mrs. Darcy first: summer romance novels!

I didn’t used to read romance, largely because I (wrongly) assumed serious readers didn’t. And it’s true the genre is (sadly) much aligned. But a few savvy readers with great taste convinced me that a good book is a good book, good writing is good writing, and romance writers are some of the best writers out there.

A romance novel isn’t just a love story. If you like love stories, good news! The first category in this year’s Summer Reading Guide is “Wholly Unexpected Love Stories.” But a romance goes a step further, in that to meet the conventions of the genre, it must have a central love story. And, according to the conventions of the genre, it must have a happy ending. Must. (My friend Leigh Kramer wrote a great post that I now think of as Romance 101: read it here.)

I’ve come to admire the way romance writers excel at plot and story. It’s no wonder romance readers are some of the most loyal and passionate out there!

10 romance novels that are perfect for summer reading

When I mention romance novels, people often ask about the heat level. I hear this, because I don’t read much that is, shall we say, spicy. Yet I’ve learned that’s a very subjective question. What I find steamy, someone else might find tame, and vice-versa. But here’s a helpful guide: if you prefer sex scenes to be minimal or only hinted at, look for “closed-door” romance; if you want your romance to be more explicit, then “open-door” romance is perfect for you. And if you don’t want there to be anything more than kissing, then look for romance described as “chaste.” (Sometimes readers ask for “clean” books, but this is a term I, along with many writers and readers, prefer not to use, because it implies books with sex are then dirty— although plenty of authors writing along these lines still use the term.)

Today’s list of romance reads includes some titles I enjoyed but didn’t find right for the guide, some much-buzzed books I haven’t read yet, and some that come out too late in the season to include in the guide. I can’t vouch for these titles the same way I can for those in the guide. With these, I’m just a hopeful reader, excited about the books on her stack, hoping to find something great.

Enjoy today’s list and let me know in the comments section about your relationship with romance novels and which of these you’ll be reading this summer. I can’t wait to hear all about it.

10 romance novels for summer:

The Austen Playbook (London Celebrities)

The Austen Playbook (London Celebrities)

I fell in love with Lucy Parker this year; this book—which revolves around a Jane Austen-based tv adaptation filmed on an English estate—is the one that inspired this post. Parker brings us back to the London theater scene by way of The Austen Playbook, a live-action TV murder mystery where viewers at home determine the outcome for Austen's beloved characters. Actress Freddy finds herself distracted by grumpy critic Griff, whose home is hosting the event. And Griff? He's distracted right back but there's a secret in their respective families' histories that might undo everything. (This series need not be read in order.) More info →
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A Prince on Paper: Reluctant Royals

A Prince on Paper: Reluctant Royals

What happens when a good girl finds herself up close and in person with the bad boy prince she loves to hate? Johan is no stranger to using the paparazzi to his advantage and decides a fake engagement with Nya is the best way to protect his brother, the heir to the throne. Nya may have given up on the existence of Prince Charming but Johan just might change her mind. This is the third book in the Reluctant Royals series and for the best reading experience, you'll probably want to read the first two books first. Spoiler alert: they're amazing. If you're not already reading Alyssa Cole, you're missing out. More info →
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Every Last Breath (Final Hour)

Every Last Breath (Final Hour)

In this unputdownable romantic suspense, two covert operatives have 48 hours to neutralize a lethal bioweapon. There's just one small problem: the only person who can help Maddox stop the pandemic threat is the former love of her life who believes she betrayed him. Cole may want to hate Maddox but he can't ignore the looming crisis. And when these two find themselves working side by side and racing against the clock, who knows what sparks will ignite? More info →
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The Bride Test

The Bride Test

The follow up to Hoang's smash hit The Kiss Quotient, The Bride Test follows Michael's autistic cousin Khai who avoids relationships at all costs because he believes he's not made for love. His mother disagrees, to the point of heading to Vietnam to find Khai a bride. Esme can't turn the chance to come to America and meet a potential husband but nothing goes as planned. Esme and Khai only have so much time to see if their relationship has a shot. Make sure you read the Author's Note at the end! More info →
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The Unhoneymooners

The Unhoneymooners

Christina Lauren is back with an enemies-to-lovers romance. Bridesmaid Olive steels herself to get through her twin sister's wedding, which forces her to spend the day with her sworn enemy best man Ethan. But when the rest of the party falls prey to food poisoning, Olive and Ethan find themselves on an all-expenses-paid honeymoon trip to Hawaii, determined to leave each other alone. Until they wind up pretending to be newlyweds to save Olive's job. Sometimes pretending can be a whole lot of fun. (Fun and funny, this one had me fondly reminiscing my own tropical honeymoon.) More info →
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American Fairytale (Dreamers)

American Fairytale (Dreamers)

Adriana Herrera is quickly establishing herself as an author worth reading by giving us diverse characters we can’t help but root for. The second book in her Dreamers series, American Fairytale pairs a social worker with a billionaire and explores their differences beyond the financial gap between them. Thomas tends to wine and dine his lovers but Milo couldn’t be less interested in that; he just wants Thomas. They’ll both have to figure out how to overcome bad relationship habits in order to get the fairytale they deserve. More info →
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The Friend Zone

The Friend Zone

Add one salty infertile heroine and one firefighter hero who dreams of having a big family someday and you have a debut friends-to-lovers contemporary romance you might stay up reading until the wee hours of the night. Ahem. Josh and Kristen have some big things to overcome but there’s no denying their chemistry from the moment they meet. In a fender bender, no less. This story will make you laugh out loud one minute and cry the next. It doesn’t shy away from the hard topics and it makes the happy ending that much more satisfying. (Heads up for an open door scene or two.) Publication date June 11. More info →
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The Right Swipe

The Right Swipe

Can I just say how much I love this title? Alisha Rai's new series pits rival dating app creators against each other. Rhiannon is focused on her career. But when past hookup Samson reappears a few months after ghosting her and is in league with a business rival, she's wary of giving him a second chance. The angst! The intrigue! The possibilities of risking it all for love! Early readers say they adored the characters and are wishing the next books in the series were already available. Publication date August 6. More info →
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The Wedding Party

The Wedding Party

Alexa and Drew's wedding (the couple from 2018 Summer Reading Guide pick The Wedding Date) is around the corner and there’s just one problem: Alexa's best friends Maddie and Theo hate each other. But there can be a thin line between love and hate and what was supposed to be a one-night stand quickly turns out into “hooking up until this wedding is over” situation. And if they're disappointed when the wedding suddenly gets moved up and it means their time together is coming to an end, surely it doesn't mean anything. Surely. Publication date July 16. More info →
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Beautiful Dreamer

Beautiful Dreamer

When real estate broker Devyn is called back to her hometown, her only focus is on how soon she can leave. And on just when her old high school classmate Elizabeth got so pretty and interesting. Elizabeth wrote Devyn off as shallow back in the day but suddenly their grown up selves are looking at each other in a brand new light. Melissa Brayden is one of the best authors around when it comes to FF romances for a reason. Publication date July 16. More info →
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What new romance novels are you most looking forward to? Any old favorites you’d like to share?

10 romance novels that are perfect for summer reading


Leave A Comment
  1. I’m looking forward to the July release of my second novel, which has a central romance, but is probably more women’s fiction. Genres are so hard! If anyone wants sweet (and funny) regency romance, look for Kristi Ann Hunter with Bethany House. She’s my new favorite and a fabulous IRL friend.

  2. “Sometimes readers ask for “clean” books, but this is a term I, along with many writers and readers, prefer not to use, because it implies books with sex are then dirty.”

    THANK YOU. I am grateful that we are collectively getting better at talking about sex and making it less taboo (on whatever level!) in our reading lives. I probably won’t get to any of these books this summer because I am plowing my way through the Outlander series, but I definitely appreciated this post!

  3. Karen Rice says:

    Anne, I have just started my reading “life” after seeing your signed book at Malaprop’s Book Store in Asheville, NC – we were on an anniversary trip! I have never been a reader yet loved having books around – odd, I know! I love your emails that get me going on what to read next yet I can’t keep up! What a changed life I have now 🙂 Thank goodness for my book list. Thanks for all you do!

  4. Both The Bride Test and American Dreamers (Herrera’s book before American Fairytale) are both INCREDIBLE on audio. I devoured them in about a 3 day period about a week ago. Going to get to American Fairytale soon, of course. Jasmine Guillory’s books are must-reads, as well. Can’t wait for July to get here so I can read the third book. Gonna see her in Denver to get a signed copy. I’d also like to recommend Alexa Martin’s Playbook series for anyone who enjoys the books on this list (or any romance really.) Don’t pass them up even if you don’t like football. I almost did. They’re worth it!

  5. Evelyn North says:

    I started reading romance a few years ago and realized that I had been missing out on some awesome books. Your list is a great selection of modern romance. May I also recommend romantic suspense, especially historical. I’ve devoured Sherry Thomas’ Lady Sherlock series and Deanna Raybourn’s Veronica Speedwell series. Thanks for the romance book plugs. They are so much more than most readers think.

    • Robin Wilson Brock says:

      I also love historical romantic suspense…Deanna Raybourn, Anna Lee Huber, and C. S. Harris write some of my favorite series in this genre!

    • Erin says:

      Came here to recommend Deanna Raybourne’s Veronica Speedwell series and also her Lady Julia Grey series. They’re historical mysteries first and romances second… I think… but I read them because I adore the characters. They would fit in the “closed-door” category and are “slow burn” romances (my fave) so it takes more than one book for the characters to get their happily ever after.

  6. I cannot recommend Lucy Parker enough! I adored The Austen Playbook, just like I have loved all of her other books. I really enjoyed The Kiss Quotient last year, and absolutely fell in love with Helen Hoang’s latest, The Bride Test. If anyone is looking for contemporary romance, I would recommend anything by Penny Reid, Julie James, Alexis Daria, and Kate Clayborn. For historical, Tessa Dare and Sarah MacLean are fantastic. I’m very excited about Jasmine Guillory’s upcoming The Wedding Party and Alisha Rai’s The Right Swipe. I have really enjoyed their previous books and am looking forward to those titles later this summer.

  7. Heather B says:

    I never read romance as a genre, but today when you said, ” And, according to the conventions of the genre, it must have a happy ending. Must.” I was like I need to find out more! As far as looking for “clean reads” , I actually like that term. One of my favorite genres (mystery) often uses this term. I LOVE knowing if the novel will be free of graphic violence and open door sex because I can then know what I can recommend to the YA crowd. A “clean read” is a clear indicator of what the reader can expect, but also what the book buyer/gift giver/reading enthusiast can share openly with the YA crowd. It certainly is not meant to be analyzed that deeply. I love the 2019 Summer Reading Guide- thank you!

    • Just wanted to add that I think Anne wasn’t saying it isn’t helpful to know how much is actually on the page, just that the term “clean” itself carries some judgment. I like “closed door” vs “open door” because it clearly lets you know what to expect, but without any judgment. In the mystery genre, the term “cozy mystery” means the same thing (but for murder) — so you know in a cozy mystery (which I prefer!) you won’t have to read all of the gruesome details.

  8. ChrisV says:

    Not sure if this officially fits the genre, but Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments is a great, fun love story.

  9. Brandyn Keithley says:

    I devour romance and always need recommendations! Great list. I think 2 were already on my my list, but definitely a few more that I’m going to check out immediately.

  10. Pam says:

    What’s my experience with the romance genre? I read paperback romance novels as a teenager (think old school Harlequin romances). Moved away from the genre by the time I was 17 or 18. Through most of my adult life – I turn 60 on my next birthday – I’ve read primarily mystery/thriller/suspense novels, with a dollop of hard science fiction and post-apocalyptic novels. So, romantic suspense (e.g., Mary Stewart; I read most of her novels back in the day) would have been part of my reading life, but not a pure romance, where the focus was squarely on the relationship. Since I retired four years ago, I’ve introduced more variety to my reading, including a few romances. Here’s a short list of the ones I’ve read and enjoyed: McKettrick’s Choice by Linda Lael Miller; Natural Born Charmer by Susan Elizabeth Phillips; and the first in the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn. Definitely open to reading more romances!

  11. Lisa Adams says:

    I love your categories of closed-door, open-door, and chaste–those are such helpful guides, but I wish you had specified which romance fits which category. I prefer to avoid open-door novels but I do enjoy romance and want to know before I begin the book what I’m getting into :).

    • Donna says:

      Many Christian booksellers sell chaste romances that aren’t religious. I’ve particularly enjoyed “Edenbrooke” and “Blackmore” by Julianne Donaldson. For contemporary I really like Rachel Hauck, but they are religious. If you can specify religious or non,
      I can recommend more.

      • Antonia says:

        Thank you – I don’t object to religious fiction so long as its not cheesy or poorly written. I have relied on old books by D.E. Stevenson when I need a clean romance fix.

        • Linn says:

          I so enjoy D.E. Stevenson — my comfort food of choice. Sadly, my local public library deacquisitioned their collection of her books but I couldn’t find these at their yearly book sale.

          • Joy in Alabama says:

            I find a lot of D.E. Stevenson books on Abebooks.com. I’be almost completed my collection!

        • Donna says:

          My go to list of “chaste” authors for historical romance include Tamara Alexander, Kristin Ann Hunter, Josi S. Kilpack, Sarah E. Ladd, and Julie Klassen. I also recommend Francine Rivers although these are far more intense. The religious aspects might be just references to God, or might include verses of Scripture. As mentioned elsewhere, Georgette Heyer is very clean. You could even visit some classics, such as anything by Jane Austen or Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind.”

          I don’t read as much contemporary romance, but in the chaste category I would look at Colleen Coble (mystery/romance) and again, Francine Rivers. I am not usually a Nicholas Sparks fan but I thought “The Longest Ride” was great.

          There are some books marketed under the label of “A Proper Romance” and if you can find those (including some by the authors listed above) I think they will be just what you are looking for.

          • Doni says:

            I recently read a new release by author Samantha Chase, who’s books
            I love to read.
            Groomed To Perfection was wonderful!
            I highly recommend it,along with the other books in the Meet Me At The Altar series!

  12. Linda says:

    I’ve read Romance for 30 years & haven’t ever been ashamed or embarrassed by it like some readers. Read what you enjoy! Historical romance authors I love: Lisa Kleypas, Eloisa James (She’s a Brit Lit/Shakespeare prof at Fordham.), & Sarah MacLean. Contemporary romance authors: Susan Elizabeth Phillips (She has written some of the funniest scenes I’ve ever read.), Julie James, Kristan Higgins, Lauren Layne, Jill Shalvis, & Mariana Zapata.

      • Susan says:

        Try reading The Runaway Bride. I haven’t read her in a few years but this one stuck with me. It does have some “love scenes” in it so be aware if you are squeamish.

    • I totally agree with you about Susan Elizabeth Phillips, full of humour, such great characters and so well written. Hanging out for her next one! Love Kristan Higgins as well.

  13. Renae says:

    I have heard the open-door/closed-door distinction before, but in the explanation I heard it was opposite: that is open door = the relatively chaste things that can go on with the door open and closed-door = the more graphic descriptions of things that go on behind a closed door. Either way, it’s definitely helpful to know what you’re getting into.

  14. Janean says:

    I don’t read romance, but I thought I’d take a chance on The Bride Test, because the author’s backstory interested me. I’m struggling. I’m finding the story and the characters interesting enough, but I’m finding some of the more “sexy time parts,” (channeling Jamie Golden) kinda cringy. I don’t think I’m a prude as I can handle descriptions of sex in books when I feel it fits in the story. What I’m wincing at are the generous and gratuitous descriptions of throbbing body parts and the use of their hardcore names. Like, why do I need to know this? How does it serve the story? Meaning, in a literary or even contemporary fiction book, you might find a sex scene that is described even in vivid detail, but the focus I usually on what the characters are feeling about it or on how the interaction is advancing the story. This book feels like it’s ABOUT sex, in the same way you could say 50 Shades was about sex (which I haven’t read, so I guess I really shouldn’t say). Like, the point in reading a book like this is more about experiencing the descriptions of sex and less about the story, which isn’t my goal in reading a book. No judgment if it yours. I agree with other commenters that shame and sex don’t belong together. I do worry about books on the far other end of the romance spectrum – the swoony kind, where men are seeping women off their feet. I think they can set women up for unreasonable expectations in relationships. I had a friend who read them heavily and was always underwhelmed by the real men that she dated until she faced the reality of what she was doing in terms of how she was comparing them to something that didn’t exist. I can also get pretty fired up about the men rescuing women narrative or the a woman is lost without a man message, too. Clearly, I need to chill. 😂 Just read and let read. 👍🏻

    • Donna says:

      I completely agree with you about “The Bride Test.” Although I enjoyed Esme’s character and the story line in general…and the audio narration is on point…the writing often and purposely crossed into crass and vulgar language. I’m not a prude, but it became rather gross, and it definitely wasn’t romantic.

    • Debbie in Alabama says:

      Janean I so agree with you and your very timely words on this matter. I generally pick up my books because tv has become way too gratuitous. They are a stimulating (intellectual) escape for me. And just wait until you have your grand children learning to read the title of your book. I am no prude but one of the (hottest) ROMANCES I ever enjoyed was The Thorn Birds. And I recall any sex involved the development of the bigger story. Any thoughts, readers?

  15. Aubree Larsen says:

    I just saw that Jenny Colgan has a new novel coming out next month. You have talked about the Bookshop on the Corner quite a bit and since the new one is not listed in the guide or here with romances it does lead me to wonder if you didn’t like it or have other reasons to not anticipate it???

  16. Kerry Seiwert says:

    I read Cora Carmack’s Losing It expecting a breezy, light romance that I could check my mind out and be done. This was a much, much better book than that. Yes, the sex is somewhat graphic, but the characters are wonderfully drawn and likeable. She has 2 other books in this series that were OK, but not as good as this one.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    I confess: l’m a snob. But I am willing to try at least one of these. My biggest problem: getting past the book covers. If I had seen the covers of the Lady Julia Grey stories by Deanna Raybourn, I would have missed books I loved. But even with that experience I can’t get past (most of) the covers.

    • Stacey says:

      This is why ebooks are such a blessing 🙂 I feel way less embarrassed to read a romance novel in public on my Kindle!

  18. Stacy says:

    I’m excited to read The Unhoneymooners. As for my favorite romance writers… Kristan Higgins- I love her work and she has a new one this summer! I’ll admit that I typically read Nora Roberts too, but I am a little embarrassed about that🤷‍♀️

  19. Janet S says:

    Thank you for this. The romance genre is legit, though it may not be everybody’s cup of tea (I don’t care for mysteries myself). I love romance in this modern era of women’s empowerment and explicit consent. Bodice ripping is fine if everyone is having fun. I love going through the ups and downs of relationships and drawn out character development. I read plenty of “serious” fiction, but need romance, yes need, when the world and my books become overwhelming.

  20. Kitty Balay says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this post! I read Helen Haong’s The Kiss Quotient thinking that you had a recommended it. (I think I actually saw it on Goodreads.) I was so surprised when it got to the steamy parts because they are STEAMY! I kept thinking, “Anne recommended this? I’m so surprised!” I have not been a romance reader, and I’ll admit I’ve been a snob about it. But what surprised me was that I really liked this book. I liked the ridiculous story and the characters and the steamy scenes! Will I read her next one? You betcha.
    I just finished The Unexpected Beauty Queen and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was on the fence at first, but once the makeover began, I was hooked. Teri Wilson’s writing is really smart and delightful. She made me laugh out loud several times and the happy ending was thoroughly charming. So thank you for talking about the romance genre. The English major in me is surprised to find this “guilty pleasure.” You are absolutely right, a good book is a good book!

  21. Katie says:

    I always recommend Penny Reid books — especially her Winston Brothers series. Smart, strong female leads. Feminist and fun male leads. Lots of laughs and all the feels. Open door sex, FYI.

  22. Donna says:

    I am a devoted historical romance reader. At the risk of revealing my age, when I was a young teen I devoured Barbara Cartland books! I actually learned a lot about the British aristocracy through those. The 80s and 90s IMO were the golden age of historical romance writing. These were long, complex and historically detailed books. Some of my favorite authors of that period are Laura Kinsale, Kathleen Woodwiss, and Judith McNaught. Now I mostly listen to my books, and that has changed everything. As great as “Outlander” is, Davina Porter’s narration makes it that much better. I highly recommend Nicholas Boulton reading any and all of Laura Kinsale’s titles. And do not miss Alex Wyndham narrating Stella Riley’s “Rockcliffe” series; the first one is “The Parfit Knight.” This pairing of narrator and author is nothing less than magical.

    • Lee Ann says:

      If you like Barbara Cartland, you should read Georgette Heyer, especially since Cartland lifted a lot of her plots from Heyer. They are witty, fun, chaste Regency romances and perfect for summer reading. Try Frederica for starters.

      • Donna says:

        @LeeAnn, I haven’t read Cartland in 35 years, but I do like Heyer (I commented below). Thanks for the suggestion.

  23. Michelle says:

    Part of my struggle with the genre is that as a lesbian, I crave a well told story with relatable characters. I love “Pride and Prejudice” as much as the next MMD fan and would love to see a lesbian spin on it. Sarah Waters has written some great novels along these lines but the endings are not always happy. Any suggestions for happy love stories featuring two women in love?

    • Leigh Kramer says:

      Have you tried any of Melissa Brayden’s books? (She’s recommended in this post.) She’s one of my favorite FF authors and I widely recommend Strawberry Summer. I also enjoyed Elyse Springer’s Thaw, Harper Bliss’s Seasons of Love, and I just started Jennie Davids’s New Ink On Life, which came out yesterday and is wonderful so far—although content warning for breast cancer.

      • Michelle says:

        Thanks Leigh Kramer for the great recommendations!! I missed that there was a FF book on this list – I see it now there at the end. Thanks Anne for including a little love and romance for all of us MMD fans!

  24. Sue says:

    I enjoyed The Royal We, a fictionalized account of Prince William’s romance with Kate. It was fun to pretend to be “inside the room” as their romance developed.

  25. Donna says:

    Sorry to chime in again, but no discussion of romance books is complete without a mention of Georgette Heyer. She pioneered the Regency romance genre. My personal favorite is “Arabella”, with “The Grand Sophy” a close second. These are completely chaste, as well, for anyone looking for that.

    • Raela says:

      Heyer is one of my long-time favorites, too. Her books start out slooooow, I think, but once I’m in it, I’m in. The wit and humor is so delightful, especially in the ones with a large family ensemble for secondary characters. Which is true for your two favorites, as well as Frederica.

    • Terry says:

      Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I was a romance snob, completely and totally, until Georgette Heyer. Now I am working on completing my collection. She is a joy!

  26. Ann McAuliffe says:

    I have been reading the novels by Viola Shipman as they come out and enjoy them very much. Might be considered more woman’s fiction but some romance is included. They focus on family history, family heirlooms etc. I would highly recommend them. The author is a man (Wade Rouse) who uses his grandmothers name as his pen name.

    • Sarah says:

      I’ve only read the 2 most recent ones, but I enjoyed them both. Particularly because I’m from Michigan and I know exactly all the locations where they take place!

  27. Shawnna says:

    I second the Georgette Heyer recommendation. And I love Jill Mansell books. She reminds me a bit of Jenny Colgan.

  28. I just finished The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker, which is a romance that takes place in rural Alaska. The writing is so accurate to what life is like in the bush (we lived there for 5 years, so I really enjoyed that part!!) and the love story has you rooting for the couple from the get go.

    • Shelly, I loved The Simple Wild as well and interesting that it is so accurate describing Alaska. I have enjoyed any of her books I’ve read, I have one sitting on my shelf ready to read as well.

  29. Judith says:

    Wow! Thank you for including a gay and a lesbian romance in your list of 10 romance books. I read romance books in my teens and early 20’s, but after I came out, I just couldn’t read another romance that didn’t relate to me. For the next 5-10 years I visited the “gay and lesbian” sections in bookstores. They were small sections, often only 1-2 shelves, always located in a discreet place near the back of the store, and labeled in minuscule writing. With Kindle Unlimited I have found a wealth of lesbian fiction novels, commonly called LesFic. With podcasts such as yours that include gay and lesbian readers and recommendations and your posts, I have found even more great authors and books for which to choose. Even better than that, you are helping younger LGBTQ readers find quality literature with positive role models, and for many, those happy ending give them hope and courage. Thank you for embracing diversity and including all kinds of love in your romance selections.

  30. Kara says:

    I’m doing the 2019 Read Harder challenge from Book Riot, and it includes the task of an historical romance by an author of color. I absolutely loathe romance books, and double loathe historical romance, so I am really, really struggling with this one. Alyssa Cole seems to be the name that comes up over and over to fit this category, but I’m not looking forward to it at all. Are there other good options out there? (My more typical genres would be speculative fiction or literary fiction.)

    • Donna says:

      @Kara, sorry if this is an ignorant question, but by “women of color” could that include Asian authors? You might try the trilogy that begins with “The Twentieth Wife” by Indy Sundaresan or something by Jeannie Linn, such a son “Butterfly Swords.” As far as AA authors, I thought Beverly Jenkins is the gold standard in historical romance.

    • Leigh Kramer says:

      Alyssa Cole’s Loyal League series is excellent. Try Jeannie Lin: The Dragon And The Pearl is set in China in 759 AD during the Tang Dynasty and I think her other books/series are set around then as well. Or Sherry Thomas writes historicals set in England.

      • Emily C says:

        I would definitely recommend Sonali Dev too! Try A Bollywood Affair or The Bollywood Bride, they were just wonderful!

  31. Sarah says:

    I first got into reading romance when my college roommate and I went to the annual library sale and bought a box of paperback romances for $2. We spent the rest of the semester reading through them in turns. I found I loved the genre. They have happy endings, they focus on the characters, and they are a perfect 24 to 48hr read. These days I turn to them when I am stressed, overwhelmed, or need a palate cleanser between books that require more heavy lifting. To me they are like candy, pure pleasure, although I wouldn’t want them to make up my whole diet.

  32. Taryn says:

    I’ve been devouring Jenny Colgan’s books right now! (The Summer Seaside Kitchen series has me smitten!) And I loved Josie Silver’s “One Day in December”!

  33. Kim says:

    Just added all of these to my Amazon wishlist. My sister, Liza Malloy, is a contemporary romance writer. Her newest, For Love and Italian, just released, and I think it would be a great addition to this list!

  34. Stephanie says:

    Hurray! I’m a huge romance fan and am looking forward to reading several of the books you posted about (especially Christina Lauren’s latest. LOVE THEM SO MUCH!!!!!!!). Another one I’m frothing at the mouth over while I wait for my library to let me know that my ebook is available is Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder ( https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42426261-tikka-chance-on-me?ac=1&from_search=true ). I’ve heard such good things about this book and I’m SO excited!!!

    I recently finished Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler (a YA romance), which was an absolute delight, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Under the Lights, hopefully sometime this summer as well.

    Happy reading, everyone!

  35. Maureen says:

    I recommend The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, a first novel published in 2016 that was a homerun out of the park. Her sophomore effort, 99% Mine, published this year is also excellent but, for your money and time, the former will be one of your best investments in romance reading.

  36. Kelly says:

    I really loved Evvie Drake Starts Over, the forthcoming first novel by Linda Holmes. It feels like a romcom come to life. It’s also romantic without ever being explicit, and really respects its characters as adults with baggage and complicated histories. I really think most of you will love it!

  37. Tricia Pearce says:

    I don’t usually read romances, but I can really recommend ‘The Flat Share’ by Beth O’Leary. I loved it! I also enjoyed ‘Miss You’ by Kate Eberlen and ‘The Nothing Girl’ series (and practically anything else) written by Jodi Taylor.
    Thank you, Anne, for your summer reading guide. I have forwarded it to my book group.

    • Mary says:

      If you enjoyed The Flat Share, you might also enjoy The House Swap by Jo Lovett. I actually read The House Swap first and that led me to The Flat Share. It has a similar feel to it and is super fun!

  38. Kam Hitchcock-Mort says:

    I snubbed romance novels until I began working as a reference librarian in a public library. Just an academic snob. Then my boss talked me into reading a couple and I have been hooked ever since. Please read The Boyfriend School by Sara Bird for a great intro to romance novels. It is one of my favorite books.

  39. Caitlyn Santi says:

    I am a reader and reviewer, and Christian romances are primarily what I read. My top three genres are romantic suspense, historical romance, and contemporary romance. If you are okay with faith based stories these are some of my favorite authors that I highly recommend!

    Romantic Suspense:
    Dani Pettrey
    Lynette Eason, I’m lucky enough to be on both their street teams and they each have a new book releasing in August that I am so excited for, Dani’s The Killing Tide will feature characters that are in the Coast Guard Investigative Service, and Lynette’s Vow of Justice is book four in her Blue Justice series (which is in my opinion a must read series for fans of the show Blue Bloods!)

    Historical romance:
    Roseanna M. White (WWI set romances that are witty, deep, and have a thread of suspense. Her new one The Number of Love is about a female code breaker in London during WWI and it releases June 4!)
    Karen Witemeyer (Westerns with spunky heroines, hunky heroes, a bit of danger, and many laugh out loud moments!)

    Contemporary romance:
    Melissa Tagg (Funny and super fun to read but also full of depth and emotion. Her new book Now and Then and Always just released, I’m reading it now and it’s AMAZING!)
    Becky Wade (She writes awesome heroines and swoon worthy heroes!)
    Toni Shiloh (an amazing African American author!)
    Sarah Monzon (She writes amazing contemporaries as well as split time romances, and some delightful rom-com novellas about bookish heroines!)
    Bethany Turner (Her books The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck and Wooing Cadie McCaffrey are both hilarious and delightful rom-coms!)

  40. Ann (Inky) says:

    I’m really not a fan of romances and never have been, even as a child. But after reading Outlander, I’ve been much more open to trying romance novels, though I seem to only like historical ones! I recently won Highland Crown by May McGoldrick in a giveaway and I excited to give it a shot this summer!

  41. Lola says:

    I’m so happy about this list… I’m adding to my to-read books as I write 😀
    I want to also recommend books by Mariana Zapata. She always writes stories rich in plot with fascinating characters with a slow burn between the characters. I recommend you read “Wall of Winnipeg” first. <3

  42. Anna says:

    I’m a longtime romance reader and love the genre, especially when coupled with humor. I’m a picky reader, but if I fall in love with a book I’ll often re-read it (or re-listen to it) multiple times.
    Here are a few of my (many) favorites:
    Faking It by Jenny Crusie (quirky & adorable characters, plenty of fun)
    Beauty and the Mustache by Penny Reid (hilarious and moving)
    A Spring Affair by Milly Johnson (even better in audio, I love Colleen’s deadpan delivery)
    Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (laugh-out-loud funny)
    The Best Man by Kristan Higgins (just… Levi… I mean…)
    The Party Season by Sarah Mason (more quirky characters and hilarity)

  43. Andrea C says:

    Great list!! For my summer reading I tend to avoid “chaste” romance novels and go for something a little more “open-door” (thanks for these categories! I recently read an excellent erotic romance book by author Jamie Schmidt called “Heat” (Book 1 of the Club Inferno series). Nothing makes me happier when I finish a book to know that there is more to read. This book is the definition of “page-turner” and I was immersed in the super secret sexual “Club Inferno.” It’s a resort for the fashionable and wealthy and a place to escape into the world of BDSM. The main character, Mallory, has no idea what she’s getting into when she goes to the club looking to get away from her ex. She meets Max, a very experienced DOM, and romance and passion ensue. The book has a lot going for it; and besides having some great sex scenes it also has humor and suspense along with some major surprises. Hope you will check it out (http://jamiekschmidt.weebly.com/)

  44. Sarah says:

    I just read The Austen Playbook! What a great suggestion! I adored it!!!
    Now I am halfway through The Unhoneymooners, and love it, too!

  45. Mary says:

    Abby Jimenez is a gift. Her entire The Friend Zone trilogy is a must-read for anyone who enjoys the modern romance genre.

    Christina Lauren’s new book The Soulmate Equation also just came out this week, and I was lucky enough to get an early look at it and just found it to be sheer perfection. It was the first of her books that I had read, and now her entire library of work is on my TBR list!

  46. Susan Gorman says:

    Wow! Lots of books to add to my reading list!
    I am loving Samantha Chase’s Meet Me at the Altar series- Groomed to Perfection & With this Cake are my favorites!
    Grace Burrowes Never A Duke and Janna MacGregor’s Rules for Engaging the Earl were fabulous reads

  47. Donna Smith says:

    I am an avid romance reader. I consider myself an equal opportunity romance reader so I don’t stay with one heat level or genre. One of the best series for summer reading is Samantha Chase’s Magnolia Sound series. There is just about every theme you can think of and some that you may not have.

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