Romance Roundup: March 2024

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

Romance Roundup: March 2024

It’s March, and I’m more than ready for spring. But I’d be lying if I said I’m not already thinking about a summer vacation. Alas, my next trip is months away, but my favorite romance novels have come through in the meantime — taking me on adventures in England, the Colorado Rockies, and small-town Tennessee. Here are three books that would make perfect beach reads, but you don’t have to wait until summer to dip into them!


Calling all “Ted Lasso” fans: Charlotte Stein’s When Grumpy Met Sunshine (St. Martin’s Griffin) is the steamy romantic comedy you need!

Alfie Harding is a Roy Kent-like footballer with a reputation for being a surly, uncooperative beast. He’s big, he’s bad, and he doesn’t tolerate small talk or stupid questions. Mabel Willicker is the perpetually perky ghostwriter whose unfortunate job it is to pen the beast’s memoir. She’s a curvy cupcake of a woman, and Alfie seems to have even less tolerance for her than he has for all the other would-be ghostwriters who came before. But, for some reason, Alfie decides he’s willing to work with her.

Problem is, Alfie has no interest in sharing the details of his turbulent past and deepest feelings — not even with a sweet, hot mess like Mabel. When their business relationship is mistaken for a potential romance, Mabel’s NDA prevents her from revealing the truth. All they can do is go with it. Mabel is the complete opposite of the willowy, graceful, elegant model-types Alfie usually dates, but the two do their best to convince the paparazzi that their intentions are, in fact, amorous.

Somewhere along the way of collaborating on Alfie’s memoir and becoming real friends, they begin to realize the emotions they’re trying to manufacture for the public might actually be real. Alfie is a teddy bear of a man who understands consent, respects Mabel, and will do whatever it takes to protect her. But convincing Mabel that she might be exactly the type of woman Alfie wants is going to take some effort. Thankfully, Alfie is known for his diehard work ethic.

I’ve been a fan of Stein’s sexy, romantic writing for years, but she takes it to a whole new level with When Grumpy Met Sunshine. It’s endearing, racy, laugh-out-loud funny, and a must-read of 2024.


Fannie Flagg’s Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café meets KJ Dell’Antonia’s The Chicken Sisters in Mary Liza Hartong’s Love and Hot Chicken (William Morrow), a Southern queer romance from a brilliant new writer.

After her beloved father’s unexpected death, PJ Spoon leaves her Ph.D. program in Nashville to return to her small hometown of Pennywhistle, Tennessee, and help her grieving mother. Feeling untethered without her daddy and needing something to keep her busy, PJ impulsively takes a job as a fry cook at the Chickie Shak, a joint serving up Nashville-style hot chicken. Her co-workers include bubbly aspiring singer-songwriter Boof and fearsome restaurant manager Linda.

PJ soon falls for the ever-cheerful Boof, but their budding relationship faces a number of obstacles, including Boof’s search for her birth mother, PJ’s grief over the loss of her father, and the hilarious beauty pageant to claim the Chickie Shak Hot Chicken Crown.

Hartong weaves a charming story of friendship, family, and community with PJ and Boof’s romance, which lies at the heart of this gem of a tale. With lots of humor and snark, the quirky small-town vibes and cast of wacky and lovable secondary characters keep the pages of this delightful debut turning.


Mystery, adventure, romance, and wit make Katie Ruggle’s Fish Out of Water (Sourcebooks Casablanca) the ideal vacation read.

When makeover expert Dahlia Weathersby’s sister Rose goes missing while on a day hike in the Colorado Rockies, Dahlia heads to Howling Falls, the town where Rose was last seen. The hunt for her sister leads Dahlia to Winston Dane, a gruff and grumpy survival expert who also writes cozy mysteries as Dane Winters. Dahlia convinces (read: bribes) him to be her guide through the wilderness, and the pair set off to find the wayward Rose.

You don’t get more “opposites attract” than a determined city girl and an antisocial mountain man, but Dahlia and Winston’s trek through the mountains gives the pair plenty of alone time to figure out what makes each other tick. Attraction sparks despite the circumstances, which include close encounters with wild animals and the awkwardness of having to share a sleeping bag.

Beneath Winston’s rough exterior beats the heart of a Renaissance man and true romantic, and Dahlia finds herself wondering what might be possible after their quest is over. Ruggle has a gift for bringing out the best in her characters with snappy dialogue and heartfelt vulnerability, and she puts a clever spin on familiar romance tropes.

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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