Are you ready for a summer fling? Dive into some fun, flirty banter with these new romance novels. From excellent reads that expand your understanding of love to fabulous retellings sparking relevance in the modern world, these romance reads will keep your heart aflame all summer long. Here’s to our most anticipated romances of summer 2023.
Emily’s Pick #1: This Jane Austen retelling is set on the Upper East Side, so I’m beyond excited for some brownstone banter and Central Park strolls set in a familiar, delightful story. In this twist on the classic tale, Emma Woodhouse finds herself lonely during her final year of grad school and turns to Nadine, an Ohio transplant, for a fun project to help her transform into a fashionable It-Girl of the Upper East Side. If her neighbor George Knightley stays out of her way, of course. George and Emma have been friends since childhood, but when their lives start to cross even more than beyond their back-to-back brownstone barriers—well, we all can imagine what happens! I’m looking forward to seeing what twists authors Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding can add to this classic—and to hopefully spot a few of my favorite NYC landmarks as well.
In this witty and romantic debut novel, Jane Austen’s Emma meets the misadventures of Manhattan’s modern dating scene as two lifelong friends discover that, in the search for love, you sometimes don’t have to look any further than your own backyard.
Beautiful, clever, and rich, Emma Woodhouse has lived twenty-three years in her tight-knit Upper East Side neighborhood with very little to distress or vex her…that is, until her budding matchmaking hobby results in her sister’s marriage—and subsequent move downtown. Now, with her sister gone and all her friends traveling abroad, Emma must start her final year of grad school grappling with an entirely new emotion: boredom. So when she meets Nadine, a wide-eyed Ohio transplant with a heart of gold and drugstore blonde highlights to match, Emma not only sees a potential new friend but a new project. If only her overbearing neighbor George Knightley would get out of her way.
Handsome, smart, and successful, the only thing that frustrates Knightley more than a corked whiskey is his childhood friend, Emma. Whether it’s her shopping sprees between classes or her revolving door of ill-conceived hobbies, he is only too happy to lecture her on all the finer points of adulthood she’s so hell-bent on ignoring. But despite his gripes—and much to his own chagrin—Knightley can’t help but notice that the girl next door is a woman now…one who he suddenly can’t get out of his head.
As Emma’s best laid plans collide with everyone from hipster baristas to meddling family members to flaky playboy millionaires, these two friends slowly realize their need to always be right has been usurped by a new need entirely, and it’s not long before they discover that even the most familiar stories still have some surprises.
Emily’s Pick #2: Not only does this book have a great premise, but it’s an idea that I want to start in real life too. In THE REFERRAL PROGRAM, a friend group of women in their mid-thirties are fed up with meeting incompatible men on dating apps and realize they should set up a plan in which they each have to refer a male acquaintance as a potential date. Working together to match-make, some of the women end up becoming closer than ever while others grow further apart. I’m so interested in a romance story that involves cute dating stories but also looks at the break-ups and strengths involved in nurturing friendship as well—especially since friendships so often rise and fall in conjunction with romantic relationships.
From the bestselling author of Recipe for Love and You Might Just Get Burned comes an engaging novel about a group of single women who come up with a plan to try and meet Mr. Right.
Dylan and her best friends are in their mid-thirties and have never been married. Back in college, they could not have imagined being single with no prospects for husbands at this stage in their lives.
At a monthly gathering, the ladies discuss the possibilities of being alone for the rest of their lives. While the friends talk about their futures and the fears that come along with it, they hatch a plan. They resolve to start a program where each woman has to refer a good man for a friend to date.
As the friends embark upon the Referral Program, they discover things about themselves and each other they weren’t aware existed. Relationships are put to the test as Dylan and her girls come to terms with their current realities and futures that may or may not include friends or husbands.
Jordyn’s Pick #1: Zoraida Cordova became one of my favorite authors after I read THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUIDEA DIVINA, and when I heard that she was coming out with a Little Mermaid retelling, I pre-ordered KISS THE GIRL right away. This modern-day fairy tale depicts Ariel and her sisters as a famous band called Siren Seven, and now that the farewell tour is over Ariel wants to finally break out of her life and see what the human normal world is like. Enter Eric, the hot singer of a new band who doesn't recognize her and treats Ariel like a regular noncelebrity and hires her to come on the road with his band. KISS THE GIRL feels like my favorite childhood story but all grown up. I love the way that plot points and characters are changed to feel more current and relevant. This is a charming twist on the story we all grew up with, and will have you humming Kiss the Girl all day!
Jordyn’s Pick #2: For those of you ready for a summer at the cottage or weekend cabin, or spending as much time near a lake as possible, MEET ME AT THE LAKE is a perfect summer read that will transport you from whatever season you’re in to the hot summer. For Canadians in Ontario like myself, we’re familiar with the terrain of Muskoka in the summer—tall pine trees, cool refreshing lakes, and the escape from city life. This book is set at a lakeside resort in Muskoka (think Dirty Dancing vibes) and Toronto, a busy, bustling city that has very little in common with the resort. Fern has just returned home to her family’s resort after the death of her mother to figure out what comes next for her and her family’s business. Meanwhile, Will arrives at the resort almost a decade after they were supposed to meet up there, after an idyllic 24 hours spent walking around Toronto together. If that’s not the recipe for a long-lost-love story, then I don’t know what is! This book has me so ready to spend some time in nature, see the random people I see only while camping in the same spot every year, and find a spot on a dock to recharge.
Heather’s Pick #1: Katherine Center’s joyful romance THE BODYGUARD was one of my favorite books of 2022, so I’m stoked to find out what she has in store for readers with HELLO STRANGER (out July 11). The setup is unique: Sadie Montgomery is newly diagnosed with face blindness, a condition she’s told may or may not be temporary. Now she must reckon with the possibility that her career as a portrait artist may be over before it’s truly begun. Further complicating her life, she seems to be developing feelings for a handsome vet and an outgoing, interesting neighbor of hers. While being torn between two love interests sounds like a champagne problem to me, I am nevertheless looking forward to experiencing it from Sadie’s perspective.
Heather’s Pick #2: Once you’ve stuffed as many books as humanly possible into your carry-on, consider topping off your vacation-reading stash with an audiobook! Christina Lauren’s audio original THE HONEYMOON CRASHERS is an enticing sequel to their delightful rom-com THE UNHONEYMOONERS. Olive and Ethan are back in Maui, except this time they’re not pretending to be newlyweds for a free honeymoon—they’re actually getting married! And Olive’s twin sister, Ami, is now the single one, since she discovered that her husband was cheating not long after her own wedding ended in disaster (i.e., tons of guests came down with food poisoning). Ami’s determined to plan the perfect big day for her sister, which means spending lots of time with Ethan’s best man, Brody, who offers to help. While Ami and Brody are total opposites, neither can deny a very real attraction. Could Ami finally get her Happily Ever After? (All signs point to yes!)
A perfectionist maid of honor and a carefree, surfer-bro best man team up to plan a wedding and end up finding a spark of their own in the first audio original from author duo Christina Lauren, a full-cast sequel to their New York Times bestseller The Unhoneymooners.
Ami is determined to break the Torres family wedding curse. Her own disaster of a reception ended with all the guests getting food poisoning, and she left her cheating husband soon after. But even though she’s still processing her own divorce, Ami won’t let her twin sister Olive’s day be anything but perfect. Olive may think she wants a private ceremony in Maui, where she and her fiancé Ethan first fell in love, but Ami knows better and secretly flies the whole Torres family out to surprise the couple. Now she and her meticulously organized binder have less than two weeks to get everything together for the big day, thousands of miles from home.
Enter Brody, Ethan’s best man, who happens to be living in Maui and insists on helping with the preparations. His playfully elaborate schemes and happy-go-lucky attitude are the last thing Ami needs. When sparks start to fly, could it derail all her carefully laid plans?
Equal parts hilarious and swoon-worthy, this full-cast production is your ticket to the ultimate destination wedding, bringing to life both a captivating couple and an unforgettable family. The Honeymoon Crashers is Christina Lauren at their charming, hilarious best.
Emily’s Pick #3: I love a good heist story, but combine all that suspense and adrenaline with some romance and you’ve got all the makings for a steamy rom-com. Simi Chopra is one of the heist masterminds who I’m already absolutely rooting for. With creeping student loan debts and fresh off a work layoff, as well as a best friend accused of stealing a diamond necklace, Simi’s got a lot of motive to break into a high-society wedding to steal the necklace back from the actual thief, prove her friend’s innocence, and maybe get some of the reward money to keep for herself. She joins forces with enigmatic Jack and an elite, if not slightly quirky, group of strangers who are tasked with crashing the wedding before the final vows—and before Simi just might fall completely head over heels for you know who. This is one I can’t wait to read during wedding season.
Photo Credit: iStock / NATALIA KHIMICH