A look at what’s steaming up the shelves this month.
After a slow and stressful start to 2021, I blinked, and suddenly it’s July. It seems like the publishing industry is back in full swing, at least on the book-reviewing side of things, and I’ve been happily reading all sorts of wonderful romance fiction lately. Here are a couple of my favorite titles this month — set in two of my favorite U.S. cities and perfect reading for these long, hot summer days!
A Lowcountry Bride (Avon) by Preslaysa Williams captures the beauty of Charleston, South Carolina, and the wonder of unexpected romance.
Maya Jackson is a wedding gown designer in New York City who takes inspiration from her Filipino and African American heritage. While working for her hyper-critical boss leaves a lot to be desired, Maya is hoping the job will lead to bigger opportunities to showcase her talent. But her plans are upended when she has to take an unpaid leave of absence to care for her convalescing father in Charleston.
Derek Sullivan inherited Always a Bride, a Black-owned bridal boutique in Charleston, from his mother. He’s a military veteran, as well as a widowed father, and he’s struggling to keep the boutique from falling into bankruptcy. Derek offers Maya a job while she’s in town, which she needs to help offset her lost income, and it doesn’t take long before her experience and style breathe new life into the failing shop.
Thrown together by loneliness and a twist of fate, the attraction between Maya and Derek grows, giving them both a reason to envision a future together. But how can they make that happen with all the obstacles in their way?
In this highly anticipated #OwnVoices debut, Williams beautifully captures the anticipation and excitement of new love, but she doesn’t shy away from some pretty serious topics. Maya has sickle cell anemia, and she has concerns about how her illness could affect her career, as well as her relationship with Derek.
Derek lost his wife in a mass shooting at their church three years earlier, and he’s struggling to build a better relationship with his 12-year-old daughter, Jamila. All three of them have experienced more than their share of pain, which makes the resolution of this lovely tale that much sweeter.
In The Checklist (Montlake), Addie Woolridge has crafted a heroine to root for in Houston corporate consultant Dylan Delacroix.
Dylan likes everything neat and tidy. She’s worked hard to build the perfect life for herself, and she lives for the satisfaction of checking things off her to-do lists. (A woman after my own heart!) Unfortunately, she’s a little too good at what she does and manages to make her boss look bad.
Instead of getting a highly coveted transfer to Paris, Dylan is sent packing to her hometown of Seattle, where she’s tasked with managing an eccentric and difficult tech CEO. Suddenly, her highly organized life is thrown into chaos, both personally and professionally.
Seattle is the last place Dylan wants to be, and she has her hands full just trying to keep her disrupted life on an even keel. She doesn’t fit in with her raucous, bohemian family; the client from hell is making work a nightmare; and her relationship with her equally organized (but rude and indifferent) boyfriend is falling apart.
Enter Mike Robinson, Dylan’s irresistibly handsome neighbor. Mike isn’t the nerdy boy next door that she remembers, and their newfound attraction offers a pleasant respite from all the things Dylan can’t control.
This delightful debut blends women’s fiction and romantic comedy in a satisfying combination. Dylan is a terrific, relatable protagonist who knows what she wants and isn’t willing to settle for less than she deserves — even if she has to take a few detours to get it. She’s backed by a fabulous multicultural cast of quirky characters who offer plenty of comic relief as she sorts out her chaotic life one checklist at a time.
Kristina Wright lives in Virginia with her husband, their two sons, two dogs, a cat, and a parrot. She’s the digital editor of Your Teen for Parents magazine, a regular contributor at BookBub, and a lifelong romance fan. Find her on Twitter at @kristinawright or on Bookshop, where she features other book recommendations.