By Sarah Skilton
Summer of 2021 will be a summer like no other, because it comes on the heels of the Stay-at-Home year. With new possibilities—travel! the beach! restaurants! in-person events!—come new opportunities to enjoy the other best part of summer: romance books. With so many choices it’s hard to know where to start, so I’ve put together a swoony list to kick off your TBR stack this summer. These are books I’ve either read recently or can’t wait to get my hands on, with styles that vary from sexy to sweet. I hope you’ll read along with me.
Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey (Out June 15)
I adored Kerry’s previous books, Waiting for Tom Hanks and Not Like the Movies, both rom-coms at their absolute best, and her latest offering looks to be equally heartwarming and engaging. Teddy Phillips is at a crossroads in life, recently dumped and feeling adrift and purposeless while working at a vintage toy shop in Ohio. She finds solace in the local kids’ TV show “Everett’s Place,” hosted by the handsome and kind Everett St. James (cardigan alert!). She takes a chance and strikes up an old-fashioned correspondence with Everett, initially seeking his advice. Everett contains multitudes—including allusions to young Jim Henson and Mister Rogers—and with Winfrey’s blend of humor, emotional resonance, and loveable characters, I know I’m in for a memorable and uplifting read.
A Phở Love Story, by Loan Le (available now)
If you’ve missed dining out as much as I have, indulge your taste buds with this delicious debut YA book about two Vietnamese-American teens, seniors in high school, who fall in love despite the fact that their families run dueling phở restaurants. Growing up in Little Saigon, California, Bảo Nguyễn has always felt unremarkable—in school, at home, and working in his parents’ restaurant. Linh Mai longs to pursue a life of passionate creativity, but the weight of her parents’ expectations keeps her grounded in ways that are taking its toll. When empathetic Bảo comes upon Linh in the midst of a crises and offers his help, the two realize they’ve been missing out on a wonderful connection—but how can they possibly pursue it when their families have forbidden them from speaking? This combination of star-crossed romance, familial strife, and the experiences of immigrants in the notoriously back-breaking restaurant industry, makes for a rich and moving read that will have you cheering for love to find a way.
The Somerset Girls, by Lori Foster (available now)
Two sisters, two irresistible romances! When introverted, book-loving Autumn and outgoing, free-spirited Ember inherit their grandparents’ animal-rescue farm in the small, tight-knit community of Sunset, Kentucky, their new responsibilities bring them into contact with Autumn’s long-ago teenage crush, Tash Ducker, now a widowed father. As romance blossoms between Autumn and Tash, aided and abetted by Ember, Ember finds herself wondering if her own, secretly aching heart deserves a chance at love with the farm’s handyman, Mike. This sweet story is especially perfect for animal lovers. Read it before The Summer of No Attachments, out June 22, which is set in the same town and features a cameo from Girls.
Beautiful + Dirty, by Katrina Jackson (available now)
Doesn’t a trip to Italy sound amazing right now? Gift yourself the next best thing with this sexy novella that finds Shae escaping her intolerable travel partner for a solo adventure in Naples. When her wanderings find her breaking bread with Salvatore, a deviously hot, elegant older man—and the most dangerous person she’s ever encountered—things get wicked. The title says it all. Katrina Jackson’s novellas are smart, sexy, and perfectly paced. This one has a mafia element that intrigued me from start to finish. Keep in mind it’s more erotic than romantic, which makes it perfect for a sultry summer night.
Love Songs for Skeptics, by Christina Pishiris (available now)
I’m always down for a Brit-com and Pishiris’ debut accomplished something few romances can: made me root equally hard for both men in a love triangle. Londoner Zoë Frixos edits a highly regarded but financially strapped music magazine, and she’s determined to save it with a career-defining interview of a Stevie Nicks-esque rock legend. But the rocker’s publicist, smug Nick Jones, seems determined to thwart Zoë at every turn. Meanwhile, Zoë’s childhood best friend and lifelong crush, Simon, has crashed into town, fresh off his divorce. Zoë would love nothing more than to turn their friendship into a romantic HEA. As she navigates multiple misadventures, including her brother’s upcoming wedding, Zoë’s feelings for both Nick and Simon twist, turn, and spiral in a story that’s just as addictive as your favorite love song.
Each connected novella in this fun, fresh Rom-Com anthology follows a different woman from a group of NYC friends whose plans to escape the summer heat with a fabulous girls-only weekend suddenly lose steam when an unexpected blackout cuts off power to all of Manhattan. But while the lights are out, enemies become lovers, acquaintances find they have more in common than a pack of matches, and the city really heats up!
There’s nothing like summer in Manhattan. The days are long and the nights are even longer. But when the lights go out in the city, fireworks explode…
Night at the Museum by Lori Wilde
Art restorer Ria Preston knows a thing or two about beauty. And when she discovers her neighborhood crush, gregarious Wall Street advisor Vic Albright, is stuck overnight in the Metropolitan Museum of Art with her, she can’t resist taking him on a very private tour…
Lights Outby Priscilla Oliveras
Back in high school, Vanessa Ríos and Mateo Garza were theater troupe rivals. Now Mateo’s a rising Broadway star and Vanessa’s his most scathing critic. Cue a plot twist straight out of central casting: the two end up alone in his New York City apartment during the blackout, setting the stage for what could be their second act romance . . .
Mind Games by Sarah Skilton
What happens in college stays in college–unless you never get over it. In fact, Alison has been waiting to take her revenge on Nick, once the hottest guy on campus, now the hottest guy on the rising magician’s circuit. But her plans to sabotage his first show are upended by the power outage. That’s when the real magic happens…