A look at what’s steaming up the shelves this month.
It’s SUMMER! Okay, so I have a job and don’t get summers off, but I still look forward to the warmer months like I did when I was a kid. Everything is just…easier, you know? No lunches to pack, no homework to check, less stress about bedtimes and schedules (and clean laundry, if I’m being honest). It’s also a time when I give myself permission to slack off — a little — and spend the occasional afternoon reading. As I sort through a year’s worth of school projects, well-used supplies, and other detritus at the bottom of my kids’ backpacks, I’ll be looking forward to taking a break and tackling my TBR pile. Until next month, here are the books that are easing me into the halcyon days of June.
Ashley Winstead is one of those gifted writers who is equally talented at crafting a page-turning thriller (In My Dreams I Hold a Knife, The Last Housewife) as she is at creating charming, sexy romcoms (Fool Me Once). Her newest, The Boyfriend Candidate (Graydon House), delights with a hot politician hero, a shy school librarian, and a fake relationship.
When her boyfriend dumps her for being lousy in bed, librarian Alexis Stone is determined to turn her romantic life around. Following the adage “the only way to get over someone is to get under someone else,” she decides to have a one-night stand with a handsome stranger she meets in a hotel bar. Things take a detour when a lightning storm leads to a hotel fire — and some very public pictures of Alexis and her new friend, Logan Arthur, who happens to be running for governor.
With a media-driven scandal brewing, Logan’s political aspirations are about to be derailed, and Alexis’ job could be at risk, too. A fake relationship is the answer to both of their problems — at least until Election Day. Alexis, who isn’t used to being in the limelight, needs to summon the courage to get through this surreal experience unscathed. And Logan, who seems to have his professional life under control, needs to make peace with his personal demons. Along the way, sparks fly, and this unlikely duo finds out what they’re made of — together.
Alexis and Logan are a winning ticket, providing plenty of humor and appeal as they navigate their strange situation. Winstead knows how to turn up the heat gradually, making for a slow-burn, page-turning read.
Jenn McKinlay is another author adept at writing in more than one genre (see her multiple cozy-mystery series for proof), and she delivers the perfect beach read in Summer Reading (Berkley), which features a dyslexic chef and a sexy bookworm.
Passed over for a big promotion at the restaurant where she’s worked for years, Samantha Gale heads to her family’s cottage on Martha’s Vineyard to hang out with her 14-year-old half-brother, Tyler, while her father and stepmother take a European vacation. An unfortunate encounter on the ferry leads to her meeting Bennett Reynolds. He seems just about ideal except for the fact that he’s a reader. Sam is dyslexic and copes by watching cooking videos to learn recipes. She prefers movies to books and has discovered that guys who like to read never like her.
Ben isn’t merely a big fan of reading, though; he’s the island’s new interim library director. He took the job because he wanted to come to Martha’s Vineyard to locate his biological father, a man his famous-artist mother has refused to name. Since Sam is a local and knows everyone, she volunteers to help him in his search. There’s no denying the attraction between them, but since Ben’s job is temporary, and Sam will be job-hunting elsewhere when summer ends, they’re convinced it’s only a seasonal fling.
McKinlay has a knack for crafting realistic and relatable characters, and Sam and Ben are lovely together as they figure out who they are. The relationship between Sam and her half-brother is almost as delightful, and the supporting cast adds color and depth to this warmhearted tale.
Attention, Emily Henry fans: If you’ve already torn through Happy Place and are wondering what to read next, get your hands on debut author Sarah Adler’s Mrs. Nash’s Ashes (Berkley). This wonderfully wacky tale centers on a young woman determined to reunite her (deceased) elderly best friend with the love of her life, even if it means sharing a car with a dour and difficult writer headed for a rendezvous with his own friend (with benefits).
Millicent Watts-Cohen is a former child star turned historical film and TV consultant, and she’s traveling from Washington, DC, to Key West with three tablespoons of her dear friend Mrs. Nash’s ashes in her backpack. Her goal is to bring the remains to Elsie — the woman Mrs. Nash fell in love with during World War II — and hopefully rekindle her own belief that real love can last a lifetime. Unfortunately, a computer glitch leaves Millie stranded in the airport, so an acquaintance of her awful ex comes to her rescue, albeit reluctantly.
Hollis Hollenbeck is also Florida-bound, but for a different reason. He’s an author suffering a pretty serious case of writer’s block, and his “cure” is a week of sex with a very willing companion. With all flights canceled, his only option is to drive to Key West, and after a lot of awkwardness and debate, Millie ends up tagging along. The ensuing road trip is the stuff of comedy gold, with Millie and Hollis battling over everything from the playlist to the existence of true love as he increasingly becomes invested in her mission.
Adler makes a big splash in this heartfelt grumpy/sunshine tale, making it one of my favorite reads of 2023 so far.
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.