Seven romance novels to heat up your summer

Summer is almost here, and that means we’re in for days of sticky heat, flushed skin and sweaty palms. Which is also exactly how you should feel after reading the perfect romance novel. For those looking to feel hot and bothered under the sun during the months to come, we’ve got some recommendations. Here are seven excellent romances to tear into at the beach, by the pool or in a lawn chair with some lemonade.

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1. ‘My Season of Scandal,’ by Julie Anne Long

In a world of delightfully formulaic historical romances, Long’s latest is a complete standout. The scorching slow-burn love story follows Lord Dominic Kirke, a sardonic politician determined to keep the world at bay, and Catherine Keating, a wide-eyed country girl living in the same boardinghouse.

Like a sheep that’s discovered a wolf in his gilded paddock, Kirke knows immediately the danger that a woman like Catherine poses to him. She may be naive, but her wit, kindness and propensity for finding solace in green plants will certainly bring him to his knees. His distance is a futile attempt at self-protection, and readers will delight in the forbidden connection that undoes them both. (Avon)

2. ‘You Should Be So Lucky,’ by Cat Sebastian

Sebastian knocks it out of the park with this romance set during New York’s 1960 baseball season. The book follows Eddie O’Leary, a once-promising baseball star having the worst season of his career, and Mark Bailey, an arts reporter recovering from personal tragedy who is reluctantly assigned to interview Eddie.

You may be (rightfully) side-eyeing a romance in which a reporter falls in love with a source, but Sebastian’s writing is so clever and full of heart that it’s impossible not to be charmed. This is a book about two lonely people whose lives become so much richer for having known each other. And while Sebastian directly addresses the reality of being queer in 1960, she doesn’t let it overwhelm the book. Instead, we’re allowed to enjoy a lovely romance that is, at its core, about learning to live after failure and loss. (Avon)

3. ‘One-Star Romance,’ by Laura Hankin

Were your 20s a chaotic blur of rash decision-making, anxiety and self-loathing? Well, good news! I’ve got the book for you. Natalie is a struggling writer and certified hot mess. Her new book isn’t a critical darling, and her apartment is a dump. Plus, she can’t stop refreshing Goodreads - which is how she finds out that Rob, the man she had major sparks with at her best friend’s engagement party, left a scathing one-star review of her book. She’s determined to never see him again. The universe has other ideas.


Hankin performs a magic trick with this book, turning the most unlikeable (and relatable) of characters into flawed protagonists worth rooting for. Natalie and Rob are the definition of “right person, wrong time,” and because the story spans multiple years, we get the pleasure of seeing them make mistakes, grow up and grow together. It’s real, refreshing and romantic. (Berkley)

4. ‘Take Me Home,’ by Melanie Sweeney

Hazel Elliot has long-standing beef with Ash Campbell. He was moody and aloof toward her in high school, and now he won’t stop stealing her favorite chair at their college coffee shop. Is nothing sacred? Ash has his reasons for pulling Hazel’s pigtails, but she’s determined to see him as an enemy. Could a trip to their hometown be what these two need to see each other fully?

Ash and Hazel’s main love language is bickering, but there’s a real vulnerability to their relationship. We see them slowly unpack each other’s emotional baggage while doing their best not to stamp out the nascent flame burning between them. This book is like a cup of hot chocolate - it’s sweet and will infuse you with warmth from the inside out. (Putnam)

5. ‘Not Another Love Song,’ by Julie Soto

String music turns sensual in Soto’s sophomore novel. The rich timbre and deep vibrations take on a new resonance in the romance between Gwen and Xander, two music rivals vying for first chair in an orchestra. Too bad they have to spend the next season staring intensely at each other while repeatedly building to a musical climax. Surely, nothing carnal can come of that!

If you don’t find cellos and violins particularly erotic (which is valid!), you will feel differently by the end of this romance novel. The heat that explodes between Gwen and Xander is so intense you might feel compelled to look away. And you know the steamy pottery scene in “Ghost”? Just imagine a cello equivalent. (Forever)

6. ‘Four Weekends and a Funeral,’ by Ellie Palmer

Alison Mullally has finally people-pleased too close to the sun. Determined to make the most of her life after a BRCA1 carrier diagnosis and double mastectomy, Alison starts dating (and is soon dumped by) the adventurous Sam. But after Sam dies, Alison (reluctantly) agrees to pretend to be his grieving ex. Now, she’s stuck cleaning out Sam’s apartment with his stoic best friend, Adam, who seems to want nothing to do with her.

Prepare yourself for a whole five-course forced-proximity meal! Alison and Adam may meet through the most contrived of situations, but their connection is all natural. Sure, Adam prefers to speak in single-word sentences, but his obvious care for Alison is warm and undeniably attractive. I mean the man starts storing Thin Mints in his freezer after seeing Alison eat them one time. Who wouldn’t swoon? (Putnam)

7. ‘Whenever You’re Ready,’ by Rachel Runya Katz

Childhood friends Nia and Jade have been in love with each other (and in denial about it) for more than a decade. The two haven’t seen each other since their other best friend, Michal, died of cancer three years ago. But this summer they’re finally going on the Southern Jewish history road trip they had all planned together.

Nia and Jade have the kind of chemistry that comes only from two people who know each other inside and out. But when someone dies, it breaks everyone differently. So, brace yourself for a lengthy slow burn. Don’t worry, though, the journey to a happy ending is sweet, with more than a little heat (including a scene that somehow makes sunscreen applications seem unbearably sexy). (St. Martin’s Griffin)

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Kalyani Saxena is a journalist and writer covering romance and fantasy. She’s also a voracious reader in perpetual search of the perfect execution of the enemies-to-lovers trope.