A look at what’s steaming up the shelves this month
If you’re looking for a little romance (of the reading variety) this summer, I have a quintet of contemporary romances to recommend! From boardrooms to bedrooms to — of course — beautiful beaches, these novels pair up some of my favorite romantic couples of the year.
If you only read one romance this month, make it Helen Hoang’s highly anticipated debut, The Kiss Quotient. This book blew me away, and I’m still thinking about Stella and Michael.
Stella’s world revolves around her work creating predictive algorithms. She understands math and formulas, but sex is a mystery that confounds her. But Stella is a problem-solver and, having identified her problem, she hits upon a practical solution: pay someone to teach her. She finds a willing tutor in Michael, an escort she hires to help her navigate the confusing world of sex. What starts out as a business arrangement develops into a romance as these two unique characters unexpectedly connect on an emotional level.
Hoang has created something genuinely special with The Kiss Quotient. Stella and Michael are fully developed characters with realistic hopes and insecurities. Stella’s autism is presented with honesty and realism, and Michael’s work as an escort is treated with respect.
Hoang avoids forced romantic tropes and keeps the drama and miscommunications to a minimum, which makes her characters shine all the brighter. In short, The Kiss Quotient is believable and, yes, very, very sexy. I really loved this delightfully original romance, and its diversity is a breath of fresh air.
Camille Perri’s When Katie Met Cassidy is a delightful romantic tale about two women who have to redefine their ideas about love and partnership. In the process of building a relationship with each other, they find themselves.
When a bad breakup with her fiancé leaves Katie Daniels reeling, she ends up in unfamiliar territory, falling for someone entirely new. Cassidy Price is tall, dark, and handsome — and a woman. The attraction between the two is mutual and hot, but pursuing a relationship is filled with unexpected twists and pitfalls.
Katie is clearly intrigued by her feelings for Cassidy, but she’s also been badly hurt, and that leaves her unsure of how to reconcile her past with this exciting new present. Cassidy is resistant to commitment and has a reputation as a player, but she can’t ignore Katie’s charms.
Perri deftly handles the topics of sexuality and identity, imbuing her story with honesty and heart so that the attraction between Katie and Cassidy unfolds in a believable, and utterly romantic, way. When Katie Met Cassidy defies labels and boundaries and reinforces the idea that love is love, and true love is always worth fighting for.
Jennifer L Armentrout’s Moonlight Seduction is the second book in her series featuring the irresistible de Vincent brothers. Nikki Bresson’s connection to the de Vincent family goes back to her childhood, when her parents worked for the family. Nikki fell hard for the much older Gabriel de Vincent when she was a teenager, but he broke her heart in the worst possible way.
Nikki has returned to the bayou to help out while her mother is undergoing cancer treatment. Of course, she was bound to run into Gabe again, which brings the painful memories to the surface. For his part, Gabe has matured and is still wildly attracted to the older, sexier Nikki, but his conscience is at war with his desire.
Armentrout does a beautiful job with world-building in this series. The bayou setting makes an atmospheric backdrop for the secrets and legends about the mysterious de Vincent family. Gabe is intriguing, flawed, and sexy, though his treatment of Nikki is too often inconsistent and rude. Still, Nikki can hold her own with him, and her snark and humor add just the right touch of realism. I have a weakness for gothic fiction, and Moonlight Seduction is a delight, with the perfect balance of sensuality and mystery to pull me in and make me want to read the entire series.
What Happens in Summer by Caridad Pineiro is the second book in her At the Shore series and the perfect beach read. Connie Reyes and Jonathan Pierce spent one perfect summer in Sea Kiss, New Jersey, before reality intruded. Life went on for the star-crossed pair, with Connie building a successful law career and Jonathan becoming a tech entrepreneur.
The two cross paths again when a wedding between Jonathan’s brother and Connie’s best friend brings them back to the Jersey Shore. Regrets from the past give way to animosity, but they agree to get along for the sake of the wedding. Of course, they’re both still passionately attracted to each other, and it doesn’t take much for them to tumble headlong into another summer fling. But will this time be the real deal?
Jonathan is the antidote to rich-alpha-hero overload. He’s wealthy, yes, but he’s also sensitive, thoughtful and laidback. He’s a good match for Connie, who is driven and ambitious, intent on building a different life for herself than her mother was able to have. Together, they’re a charming couple, and it’s easy to root for their second chance at love. Pineiro’s first book in this series, One Summer Night, features Owen (Jonathan’s brother) and Maggie (Connie’s best friend) and makes for a good companion read to this frothy warm-weather treat.
Helena Hunting’s delicious I Flipping Love You is a romance to flip for. Rian Sutter and her sister have taken on the affluent Hamptons real estate market with the purpose of getting their lives and finances in order. Their plans start to derail when Rian finds tempting competition in drop-dead gorgeous Pierce Whitfield, who seems to turn up wherever she is to bid on the houses she wants.
A friendly, and sometimes frustrating, rivalry leads to a summer love affair filled with sexy, funny moments. Rian and Pierce’s chemistry sizzles on the page, and they bring out the best in each other, which makes for some truly tender scenes amongst their amusing antics. They both have family issues and secrets, which contributes to the emotional conflict.
I Flipping Love You stands out among the summer rom-coms because Hunting does such a great job of giving her characters realistic, and sometimes cringe-worthy, baggage. Rian and Pierce are adorable together, and their vulnerability with each other is a lovely counterpoint to the humor of this terrific summer romance.
Kristina Wright lives in Virginia with her husband, their two sons, a dog, a cat, and a parrot. Her work has appeared in a variety of places, including the Washington Post, USA Today, Upworthy, Narratively, and more. Find her on Twitter at @kristinawright and tell her what you’re reading this summer!