Romance Roundup: July 2024

A look at what’s steaming up the shelves this month.

Romance Roundup: July 2024

As I was sitting down to write this column, I realized all of the books I’m covering this month have “summer” in the title. Now, I know that just because a book has that word in its title and has a summertime (or summertime-adjacent) release date doesn’t mean I have to read it during the summer, but I do love it when the season in a novel matches the season in the real world — especially since I took my vacation at the beginning of June, and it already seems like forever ago (lolsob). With that in mind, here are the books I’ve been enjoyed while sitting in the comfort of my air-conditioned home and longing for one more week at the beach.

*****

Rochelle Bilow’s Effie Olsen’s Summer Special (Berkley) is a delicious second-chance love story set in coastal Maine.

After 16 years of globetrotting as a professional chef, Effie Olsen has returned to her tiny island hometown of Alder Isle, Maine. She needs to regroup after her disastrous last job, and the allure of a temporary position as sous chef at Brown Butter, the town’s Michelin-starred restaurant, is just the kind of palate cleanser she needs. Then she discovers that Ernie Callahan works there, too.

Ernie was the best friend Effie ever had, but things fell apart after he confessed his feelings for her when she already had one foot out of town. Their reunion is a chance to recapture the bond Effie’s been missing, and Ernie’s unwavering support makes it easy for her to step back into old routines — even though she doesn’t plan to stay long.

Ernie loved Effie enough to let her go the first time, but now that she’s back, there’s a spark between them that Effie can’t ignore and isn’t sure she wants to. When a situation at Brown Butter threatens both their jobs, Effie finds herself at a crossroads, torn between what she thinks she’s supposed to want and what her heart is telling her. Can she get out of her own way and let herself be happy?

Bilow has a gift for crafting sparkling dialogue, and the culinary setting and menu descriptions are as mouthwatering as the blossoming romance between Effie and Ernie. 

*****

Annabel Monaghan delivers a swoony, binge-worthy read with Summer Romance (Putnam).

It’s been two years since Ali Morris’ beloved mother died and a year since her clueless husband, Pete, decided he wanted to split up. Ali is doing the best she can to be a good mom to her three kids and a good professional organizer for her clients in her small town of Beechwood, New York, but her own life has been reduced to pile of paper on the counter, muddy cleats in the sink, and a wardrobe of sweatpants that may or may not be clean. Then Pete tells her it’s time to start the paperwork for their divorce, and Ali decides it’s time to take her wedding ring off and put on something other than dirty sweats.

It’s on this momentous occasion that she takes her dog, Ferris, to the dog park, where he promptly pees on the shoes of a sexy stranger. The stranger’s name is Ethan, and Ali simply can’t stop thinking about him. It turns out that Ethan grew up in Beechwood, but he’s only going to be around for the summer. So Ali convinces herself that a little summertime romance — kissing only! — is just what she needs. But it’s not long before she realizes Ethan might be more than just a way of forgetting the bad parts of her life — he may actually be the love of her life.

Monaghan’s latest is a poignant story of grief and loss (of a parent, a marriage, and self) delicately balanced with all the magic and wonder of new love. 

*****

Rounding out this collection of warm-weather romances is Lauren Bailey’s debut, Summer After Summer (Alcove Press), a charming contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

After finding out her husband, Wes, has been cheating on her, Olivia Taylor packs her car and leaves Manhattan for one last summer at her family’s place in the Hamptons. Olivia’s father was never particularly good with money, especially after Olivia’s mother died, and now he’s had to sell the estate. Olivia plans to spend the summer helping her sisters, Charlotte and Sophie, clean out the house and move their father into a retirement community. But she’s shocked when she discovers the new owner is someone from her past.

Fred Webb was Olivia’s first love, and she’s never really gotten over him, despite their rocky history. They met when they were just teenagers, but Olivia’s life was one of privilege, and she had aspirations of becoming a professional tennis player. Fred, meanwhile, was the cute boy who stayed with relatives during the summer and earned money renting beach umbrellas to tourists. It shouldn’t have worked, but somehow it did. For a while, at least.

Bailey’s story bounces back and forth between summers past and present, showing how Olivia and Fred have been in and out of each other’s lives, finding and then losing one another over and over again. Despite the years and heartache on both sides, the feelings are still there — if only these two can find a way to stay together when this summer comes to its inevitable end.

Kristina Wright lives in Virginia with her husband, their two sons, two Goldendoodles, a ginger cat, and a green parrot. She’s a regular contributor at BookBub and a lifelong fan of romance fiction. Find her on Twitter at @kristinawright or on Bookshop, where she features her book recommendations.

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