If you're dreaming of some steamy summer loving this season, then do we have book recommendations for you. Katherine D. Morgan—bookseller, romance editor, and fan of happily-ever-afters—selects five recently published romance books to pack for the summer of 2023.
The musical Grease said it best: “Summer lovin’, had me a blast.” Thanks for choosing five of the best romance books for us to read in the summer of 2023. What is it about this time of year that brings up romantic feelings?
You know, for me, the idea of a summer romance makes my heart sing. I will say that the actual romance doesn’t need to be set during the summer for it to make a summer romance for me; I just need the vibes of what a summer romance could feel like for me to go along with it. I need to feel the warmth of emotion on my skin, whether with some witty banter or some heartfelt gutting to my soul. I want smooches in the daytime and a great sense of joy to come after I close that last page. I will read romance any day of the week, so whenever I find one that speaks to me, I will happily read it, whether in the winter or on a nice spring day. God, I love romance. I love it so much.
Your first recommendation is The Fiancée Farce by Alexandria Bellefleur. What will make this romance book a highlight of summer 2023?
I am such a big fan of the ‘marriage of convenience’ trope in romance novels. Like, between that and a ‘second chance romance,’ I’m set. Also, any romance that also has a love interest that also works as a bookseller speaks to my soul. I think that bookstores can be such a romantic place—yes, as a bookseller at Powell’s Books, I will admit that I’m a little bit biased—so whenever a bookseller manages to find love in the stacks, it’s a win-win.
In The Fiancée Farce, opposites attract when Tansy, a quiet and reserved bookseller, pretends she is dating a woman on the cover of a romance novel. The only problem? The woman is real, and she’s a wild child named Gemma, who happens to be the heir to a publishing powerhouse. She’s well on her way to inherit the family fortune, until she hits a snag: she must marry to inherit. So what does Gemma do? Announce her engagement to the stranger that has been apparently fake dating her and then fall in love with said stranger. It’s a great romance for those that like a slow burn, but also, like to be wooed. Who wouldn’t like to be wooed?
Your second recommendation is Behind the Scenes by Karelia Stetz-Waters. Tell me more about that one.
Karelia Stetz-Waters may have my whole heart as a writer. Her characters are always so well-rounded and the banter is top-notch. In her newest romance, you have characters who are trying their best to heal from their respective traumas and manage to find love in the process. (One character, Rose, lost her parents in a plane crash and has spent her entire adulthood making choices that would benefit her younger siblings; her love interest, Ash, is healing from a failed marriage, psychological and sexual issues—and faces a rough patch in her career that might bury her.)
“The idea of a summer romance makes my heart sing”
It has so much heart. I melted when I read it. I know, I know: we tend to read lighter romance during the summer months. But life happens when it happens, and boy, am I glad that I read this one when I did. In fact, I loved it so much that the author came into Powell’s, where I work, and placed a signed copy in my mailbox for me to keep. It’s one of my most prized possessions. It’s an honor to get to love her books as much as I do.
The third recent release that you’d like to recommend is That Summer Feeling by Bridget Morrissey. Why do you think we should read this romance book in summer 2023?
As a child, I only went to camp once because we couldn’t afford it, but I remember having a lot of fun and developing a lot of crushes on the people around me. From counselors to the other day campers, if you were cute and somewhat nice to me, then I loved you. Even though That Summer Feeling focuses on a woman named Garland, who is still reeling from an unexpected divorce, you get to witness her believe in hope and magic again when—instead of rekindling her feelings with her old flame—she find a new match in his sister. Summer is all about taking chances and creating a fresh start, and it was wonderful seeing someone relearn what it’s like to believe again.
The fourth book on your summer 2023 romance reading list is Do I Know You? by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka. Tell us about it.
See, now this book is wonderful because it’s about what happens after the original happily ever after. Eliza and Graham are supposed to be excitedly celebrating their five-year wedding anniversary, and instead, they are feeling so disconnected that they don’t know which way is up and which way is down. As they check into their hotel, Eliza has the brilliant idea to stay in separate rooms. Furthermore, Graham meets a new friend, David, who manages to introduce him to his wife, Eliza, over dinner one evening, and Eliza pretends not to know her husband as a way to spark a new line of intimacy between the two of them. It works until, well, it doesn’t, but that’s the interesting part of the journey. I feel like so many relationships end because the couple will hit a wall and with these two, you get to see what happens afterwards. I found that I became really invested in them as a couple, but also the two of them as people. It was wonderful.
Finally, your last recommendation is Exes and O’s by Amy Lea. What’s it about, and what made you enjoy it enough to recommend it?
Okay, maybe, just maybe, I’m still a little miffed about not being able to get tickets to the Eras tour, but I will say that this book is perfect for fans of Taylor Swift. Actually, I think that it’s perfect for any woman who has asked herself if she is asking too much of her partner when in reality, she is asking for the absolute bare minimum. I am a highly emotional person—and I’m proud of myself for being the way that I am—and whenever I feel like I’m being too much, I reflect on Amy’s latest book and think: Was I really being needy or were my needs not being met? It’s a roommate-to-lovers romance, and it’s a slow burn for sure, but it made me laugh and I really rooted for Tara and Trevor to find their footing as friends but also as a couple. Plus, Tara is a Bookstagrammer and known for making videos about her love of books, so I root for her regardless. We book influencers have got to stick together.
Summer is only just getting started. Are there any other new romance books that you’ve got your eye on?
I am impatiently waiting for the publicist of Role Playing by Cathy Yardley to send an advance reading copy (an ‘ARC’, for those not in the publishing industry) my way? I love romances where the main female character is mid-life, and I feel like there should be more of them. I consume as many as I can, so I keep my eye out for them.
I also think that this year will finally be my Emily Henry year, so while everyone is finishing Happy Place, I will be starting with her first book, Beach Read, which came out a few years ago. Oh, and of course, Ali Hazelwood’s Love, Theoretically is the next title on my list because I enjoy reading about women in STEM falling in love. Finally, I managed to get an ARC of Big Gay Wedding by Byron Lane and I’m so excited for small-town love and a wedding that brings a community together. We need more of that these days.
June 4, 2023
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