There’s something strange, magical and maybe a little tragic about being a preteen girl. You’re not really a kid anymore, but you’re definitely not an adult. Your body is changing in ways that are weird, uncomfortable and deeply embarrassing. But at the same time, it’s so easy to imagine how it’ll all work out, that just around the corner, you’ll be in high school—doing cool and daring things, having epic romances, blossoming into someone gorgeous, confident and desirable, like a character from Sweet Valley High. For most people, a little bit of magic goes out of the world as you realize that growing up never really goes according to plan. But . . . what if you could get some of that magic back?
When Georgie Mulcahy returns to her Virginia hometown at the beginning of Kate Clayborn’s Georgie, All Along, her story is that she’s there to help her best friend, who’s about to have a baby. The truth is that she doesn’t know what to do with herself. After years working as a personal assistant to various Hollywood types, she’s great at managing other people’s lives but way less skilled at figuring out what she might want to do with her own. But while rummaging through old boxes at her friend’s place, Georgie finds a diary their preteen selves filled with dreams about all the amazing things they would do in high school. The lists are a decade and a half old, but better late than never! Georgie hopes that checking off her younger self’s wish list will help her recapture her spark. And best of all, she has a partner in crime in her quest: Levi Fanning, reformed bad boy and the older brother of her former crush.
Georgie is a very appealing heroine: warm and vibrant with irrepressible enthusiasm for even the more outlandish ideas. And Levi, despite his initial awkwardness, balances her out, giving her dreams a steadier foundation and paying attention to all the little things that make a dream special. Neither had the best reputation when they were actually in high school, and it’s sweet to see how healing it is for both of them to reclaim some of the experiences they never really got to have. Clayborn takes teen movie tropes and gently tweaks them into something more colorful and messy and real. The prodigal daughter comes home—but doesn’t immediately discover her dream bakery or bookstore waiting for her. She reunites with the boy of her preteen dreams, who is still handsome, charming and appealing—but it’s his gruff brother she falls for. The bad boy is reformed—but he carries a lot of baggage that he and the prodigal daughter have to work through together.
Life and love aren’t as clean and simple as we think they’ll be when we’re younger. But as Georgie, All Along sweetly attests, the pitfalls and struggles along the way make the happily ever after all the more worth it.
Kate Clayborn’s small-town romance takes teen movie tropes and gently tweaks them into something more colorful and messy and real.
Falon Ballard’s sophomore novel, Just My Type, is a clever, upbeat rom-com that will leave a smile on readers’ faces and joy in their hearts.
Lana Parker is an expert dating and relationships columnist, but she’s also a serial monogamist who’s uninterested in (and perhaps incapable of) being single. Lana gets dumped by her latest boyfriend, rather than engaged to him, as Just My Type begins, but that’s not even the worst thing to happen to her that week. That honor belongs to the moment when Seth Carson, her high school boyfriend who is now a big-shot freelance journalist, takes an assignment from the website that publishes Lana’s column. Lana’s boss soon instructs the pair to write a dueling series of relationship articles in which Lana records her attempts to stay and enjoy being single and Seth tries to stop being a serial dater and instead become boyfriend material.
Since Seth is the one who got away, the assignment immediately proves difficult—in a delicious way—for Lana. Just My Type might have felt a bit less predictable if Ballard had flipped the gender stereotype, making Seth the one who needed to stop jumping into relationships and Lana the one who needed to learn to settle down. However, Just My Type is still a great showcase for Ballard’s talents: Her voice is fresh and flirty, her characters well developed (Lana’s unfailingly loyal, foulmouthed friend May is the kind of person we all need in our lives), and her pacing brisk and never boring. Romance readers—of all types—will be immensely entertained.
This second-chance romance between two journalists is an immensely fun showcase of author Falon Ballard’s talents.
Katee Robert returns with Radiant Sin, the fourth installment of her popular Dark Olympus series, which gives sexy updates to the classic love stories of Greek mythology. This time around, Robert uses the tale of Apollo and Cassandra as inspiration for a modern workplace romance.
In the original myth, Apollo was the god of prophecy (among many other things) and Cassandra was one of his priestesses whom he cursed: She would be able to predict the future, but no one would ever believe her. In Robert’s version of the story, Apollo is the spymaster of the isolated city of Olympus, as well as Cassandra’s boss. The pair go undercover as a couple to attend a weeklong house party in order to figure out what Minos, a mysterious new arrival in the city and the host of the gathering, is up to.
A deliciously twisted plot of fake dating, sneaky intrigue and forced proximity unfolds. Cassandra and Apollo realize just how much their quirks (and kinks) complement each other, all while unpacking the class issues within their relationship that arise from their disparate backgrounds. While Radiant Sin is lighter on the love scenes than the preceding three books in the series, there’s still plenty of steam. And Robert cleverly peppers in details that anchor the myth-inspired story in the real world, such as broken elevators, traffic delays and office politics.
While fans of Greek mythology will be tickled by Robert’s reinterpretation of Apollo and Cassandra, you need not be a classics expert to enjoy this sultry romance.
In her latest Dark Olympus romance, Katee Robert gives the myth of Apollo and Cassandra a sultry, modern spin.
Nareh “Nar” Bedrossian, the fascinating and lovable protagonist of Taleen Voskuni’s tender sapphic rom-com, Sorry, Bro, is a walking, talking identity crisis. Nar’s never been comfortable in her own skin; she doesn’t fully embrace her career as a video journalist, her Armenian heritage or her bisexuality. There’s plenty of room for growth, and Voskuni deftly delivers it in a romance bursting with specificity and cultural depth, told through Nar’s distinctive voice.
Voskuni kicks things off with Nar’s boyfriend’s complete failure of a marriage proposal, and this cringey and brilliant opening scene exposes what Nar knows in her soul: She’ll never be happy if she surrenders part of herself for a man who is so dismissive of her culture. That’s why Nar agrees to attend “Explore Armenia,” a monthlong series of events that celebrate the Armenian American community in her home of San Francisco, California. Who knows? Maybe she’ll meet a man her mother deems appropriate (read: handsome, eligible and Armenian). Instead, Nar meets beautiful, chic and confident Erebuni Minassian, who rescues Nar from having to marshal the confidence to enter a mixer on her own.
Despite the value Nar places on community and family connection, she frequently recoils from what she perceives to be embarrassing aspects of Armenian identity, such as their penchant for gold, departures from Western beauty ideals and ubiquitous discussions of the 1915 Armenian genocide. This discomfort is a result of the clash of values that marked Nar’s childhood. Her late father strove to be a more stereotypically white American, while her mother takes pride in their culture.
A nuanced, complex battle between these two sets of priorities is constantly raging inside Nar’s head. Cool, levelheaded Erebuni is a totally swoonworthy love interest, and it’s impossible not to root for Nar. Voskuni gorgeously depicts their connection, but the narrative arc hinges on Nar’s journey from ambivalence to acceptance. Sorry, Bro is a beautifully crafted portrait of a woman and the Armenian American community, which has been historically underrepresented on the page.
Taleen Voskuni’s sapphic rom-com, Sorry, Bro, is a beautifully crafted portrait of a woman and her Armenian American community.
We’re living in an age of reboots. Everywhere you turn, another classic show or movie is getting a fresh start or a cast reunion. So it feels very much of the moment to have a romance set during the production of a beloved TV series’ 20th anniversary special.
The Reunion, Kayla Olson’s adult debut, opens as Liv Latimer, star of the groundbreaking, wildly popular six-season smash-hit series “Girl on the Verge,” steps back into the shoes of her character, Honor St. Croix. Her return to playing Honor comes with a return to the spotlight—which she mostly shunned after the show ended, choosing to stick to smaller indie movies instead—and a return to Ransom Joel. Ransom was Liv’s co-star, best friend, on-screen love interest and longtime real-life secret crush. In the years since “Girl on the Verge,” he’s become an international action movie star. Liv’s been out of touch with Ransom for years, but it only takes minutes in his company for all the old feelings to come back twice as strong. And after all this time, it seems like her feelings might be reciprocated . . . but falling in love is hard enough when the whole world isn’t watching.
There’s plenty of Hollywood glitz in The Reunion (with luxe descriptions of houses and events), but underneath all the glamour is the poignant aura of a high school reunion. There’s nothing like being surrounded by people who knew you as a kid to help you realize how much you’ve grown up and which opportunities you’ve let pass you by. Olson’s characters are easy to root for all the way through, to the point that I found myself caring deeply about the reboot of a show that never existed. In fact, “Girl on the Verge” sounds so great that I’m sad I can’t watch it myself. And when love finally happens for Ransom and Liv, I felt all the thrill of a dedicated fan, finally seeing my OTP come to life.
If The Reunion has a weakness, it’s how perfect Ransom and Liv are for each other. They seem so mutually smitten right from the start that I half expected this to be one of those romances in which the heroine finally gets a chance with the man of her dreams but then discovers that it’s someone else she’s meant to be with after all. But on the other hand, it’s nice to think that love can be that simple, that clean. Maybe that’s what we like about all these reboots: the idea that we can go back to what we loved before and find it right there waiting for us—just as sweet as we remember, with a payoff that’s just as satisfying as we always hoped it would be.
Kayla Olson’s sweet, satisfying romance follows two actors who uncover long-buried feelings when they reunite for the 20th anniversary of the show they starred in as teens.
In many romance novels, love requires exposure: of one’s true desires and inner secrets, often of one’s most vulnerable self. In this month’s best romances, characters can only find happiness after first finding themselves—and sharing that truth with their partner.
★ Behind the Scenes
Karelia Stetz-Waters pens a tender love story in Behind the Scenes. Director Ash Stewart is preparing to pitch a movie near and dear to her heart—a rom-com about two lonely women who fall in love—so she turns to successful business consultant Rose Josten for help polishing the proposal she’ll present to movie executives. While the entertainment industry is not Rose’s forte, she’s intrigued by the idea of the film as well as by the cool yet vulnerable Ash. The story unfolds at a leisurely pace that suits the cautious main characters; while Rose and Ash fall fast, they don’t trust that their attraction will result in anything real. Readers will cheer for these capable, talented and mature women, both of whom have fascinating careers and interesting hobbies. They just need to find the right person to help them fill the empty spaces and heal their wounds. Rose and Ash’s feelings for each other are never in doubt thanks to Stetz-Waters’ expertly written longing and lush love scenes. And a fairy tale-perfect happy ending guarantees smiles as the last page is turned.
After Rose Maxwell’s sister took over her role as witch leader-in-waiting, Rose is in need of some new life goals. An ill-advised horse-napping at the beginning of April Asher’s dashing and delightful paranormal romance Not Your Ex’s Hexes results in Rose sentenced to community service at an animal sanctuary under the close supervision of half-demon vet Damian Adams. All kinds of sparks fly between them, but he’s grumpy and she’s not interested in relationships. But a friends-with-benefits arrangement seems possible and maybe even sensible until they must face danger—and all the emerging emotions they’ve vowed not to feel. In fact, Damian is sure he can’t actually be feeling them, having been hexed as a teen, but all signs are pointing to the opposite. Asher’s second installment in the Supernatural Singles series is full of action and well-constructed characters. Heart-tugging animals and steamy love scenes make this otherworldly romance a charmer.
Do I Know You?
Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka have written an intriguing twist on the second-chance romance in Do I Know You? In honor of their fifth anniversary, Eliza and Graham Cutler head to a luxury resort in Northern California, hoping a vacation might revive their stalled marriage. Upon learning that there’s been a hotel mix-up and they have two rooms booked instead of one, Eliza impulsively proposes that they sleep separately. Moreover, she suggests they take on new personas so they can meet as strangers and possibly rediscover a spark between them. While hiking, eating and exercising together as their alter egos, Graham and Eliza each come to value new things about the other and recall what led to their original commitment. Readers will root for both characters in this mature and intimate examination of a relationship.
The Duke Gets Even
A happy ending seems impossible in Joanna Shupe’s The Duke Gets Even. Andrew Talbot, the Duke of Lockwood, is desperate to wed an heiress and fill his family’s coffers. But then his antagonistic relationship with free-spirited American Nellie Young transforms into a burning passion. The duke lost out on love in the previous installments of Shupe’s Fifth Avenue Rebels series, and it doesn’t seem like his luck will change: He needs to marry for money, and Nellie can’t imagine life as an English duchess. An affair with Andrew as he seeks the right bride will have to be enough, except, of course, it quickly isn’t. The appealing Nellie wants more for herself and other women of her time, and she’s not at all ashamed of her sexual appetites. Honorable Andrew feels the weight of his responsibilities, yet the fiery ardor he shares with Nellie—featured in feverish love scenes—turns his world upside down. Sensuous and sophisticated, The Duke Gets Even is a satisfying climax to a wonderful and romantic series.
Make a Wish
Romances between a single father and a nanny are a beloved genre staple, but author Helena Hunting explores the trope sans rose-colored glasses in Make a Wish. When she was 20 years old, Harley Spark worked as a nanny for newly widowed Gavin Rhodes. She fell in love with his baby daughter, Peyton, and perhaps with him, before Gavin and Peyton moved away. Seven years later, Gavin and Harley reconnect—and there is an obvious attraction between them. Their happily ever after appears inevitable, until grief, guilt and in-laws step in. Make a Wish chronicles Gavin and Harley’s authentic doubts and fears, with sizzling love scenes and sweet moments creating a sigh-worthy love story.
In this month’s best romances, characters can only find true love after first finding themselves.
When Tessa Bailey’s Bellinger Sisters (It Happened One Summer and Hook, Line, and Sinker) duology went megaviral on TikTok, readers everywhere learned what romance fans had known for years: If you want rom-com hijinks and a high heat level, there is no one better than Bailey. Her latest book, Secretly Yours, is a steamy opposites-attract love story that will only increase her legion of admirers.
Secretly Yours is the start to a new duology, A Vine Mess. Can you tell us a little bit about this new book and the overall setting for the series? The setting is Napa! After writing a series in the misty Pacific Northwest, I was in the mood for a sun-drenched vineyard. In this duology, we’re going to find love for the Vos siblings; they are heirs to a vineyard that is influential and respected but has perhaps seen better days. Julian Vos, a regimented history professor, is my first victim in Secretly Yours. He begins receiving mysterious love letters at the same exact time that he begins falling for his gardener, Hallie, a free spirit who flouts convention and comes with a trio of slobbery dogs. Julian is fiercely attracted to Hallie. Even though he is positive they could never work as a couple, he can’t stop fabricating reasons to see her.
Since wine and vineyards feature prominently, did you do any research on winemaking or vineyard upkeep? Yes, I drank a lot of wine as my main form of research and found it very educational. I also watched a lot of documentaries on winemaking. The process is a lot more complicated than I could have imagined. There is no set method or recipe for wine. It is a constantly evolving art form, especially with new technology. If I learned anything from the eight documentaries I binged, it’s that grapes are extremely temperamental, vintners are more like scientists and I just want to drink the wine. There are a lot of great vineyards within driving distance of where I live on Long Island, New York, and they served as inspiration for my Napa setting.
Hallie and Julian are total opposites in a grumpy-meets-sunshine sort of way: Hallie is bubbly and upbeat, while Julian is more on the stuffy side. What do you enjoy about writing an opposites-attract romance? Do you have an ultimate favorite trope to write? I cannot seem to quit opposites-attract romances. There is something very satisfying about two extremely different personality types finding common ground. There are so many opportunities for them to teach each other new perspectives on everyday life and really unlock something momentous in each other. For instance, in Secretly Yours, Hallie has an organic, unplanned approach to flower placement. Julian wants rows and structure, but when he sees Hallie’s finished product, he acknowledges that the lack of structure is what makes the garden beautiful and interesting.
My favorite trope to write is enemies to lovers, but the storyline must be very specific for me to fall in love enough to write a book of that nature. It’s important to me that, while the hero might be an “enemy” at first, he actually has a soft, Tootsie Roll center when it comes to the heroine.
At times, Julian and Hallie’s diverging personalities create conflict between them. How did you balance making these two people so different while still giving them a workable path toward happily ever after? I really think it goes back to perspective. Julian has this rigid, almost unrealistic schedule. Every moment of the day is accounted for. Due to some past trauma, he believes the careful life balance he has created in order to preserve his mental health will collapse if he doesn’t adhere to his strict daily plans. But he learns through observing Hallie (and constantly having his schedule interrupted by her and the pooches) that everything doesn’t collapse if his plans get derailed.
On the opposite end, Hallie learns that a little structure won’t kill her. It’s really rewarding to take characters on a journey that allows them to see the world differently and learn something about their own resilience.
Why did you decide to have Julian receive physical love letters rather than “wrong number” texts or anonymous social media messages? I took the old-school route because physical letters are more classically romantic and felt more appropriate for this particular series. Letters are a Big Gesture. They would be more of a surprise to receive than a direct message on social media, and have a little more gravity to them. If someone took the time to write words on actual paper and send them to me, in my opinion, those words would carry a lot of weight.
While Secretly Yours has funny moments and great banter, Julian and Hallie are also dealing with serious things. Julian has anxiety and experiences panic attacks, while Hallie is grieving the death of her grandmother. How do you keep a romance from feeling too light or too dark? This is the challenge going into a modern romantic comedy. Readers expect there to be high stakes on the road to happily ever after. We don’t need the path to be easy, simply because the book has humorous situations or a humorous tone. A lot of us deal with the heavier aspects of life by laughing or creating levity. So that is my balancing act—making sure there is depth to the characters and their struggles, while also making sure the champagne bubble, fizzy feeling of romance is on the page. I can usually feel when I need a more poignant scene or if the story needs a break from carrying a heavy emotional load. It’s just a sixth sense. Time for a food fight!
For those who may be picking up a Tessa Bailey book for the first time, what can they expect? What’s the recipe for a Bailey romance? Heat, humor and heart. In one of my books, a reader can expect lovable, relatable characters who are usually at a transition point in their lives—such a coincidence that they happen to meet their love interest at the same time! Expect to laugh and potentially even get a little misty during the quieter moments. Perhaps most notably, expect open-door love scenes. Like, way the heck open.
As someone who has read many a Bailey romance, I know things can get pretty steamy. Where would you rate this one on a scale of 1 to 10? I usually put my books around a 7, but it’s all a matter of perspective. Some will say 10! Others will say 5. A lot of readers lately come to my books having been fooled by the cute, illustrated cover into expecting a closed-door rom-com, but there will always, always be ample steam in my books. I love experiencing the more intimate moments with my characters and putting them in those vulnerable scenes on the page. Their walls come down and they connect on a physical level . . . and afterward, something usually goes wrong. Like one of them gets a job offer in Milwaukee. Mwahaha. Romance writers are evil at their cores.
What can we expect in book two, Unfortunately Yours? Who will be the main couple? In the second book of the Vine Mess duet, we get Natalie Vos and August Cates’ love story. This book owns a massive chunk of my heart—there was just some extra magic sprinkled into it. I can now say definitively that I’ve written my favorite hero of all time. It’s enemies to lovers, marriage of convenience and forced proximity. All the banter. A prank war. And a pesky cat. We meet Natalie and August in Secretly Yours, so I hope readers will be excited for their book.
What have you been reading lately? What books should readers have on their radar? The last book I read was Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan, and it blew me away. It’s a second-chance romance between a divorced couple. They have older kids and a business together, so there are a lot of fraught interactions and high stakes. It’s mature and riveting and feels oh, so real. The tension, emotional and sexual, is top-notch. I highly, highly recommend it. Kennedy knocked it out of the park.
Photo of Tessa Bailey by Nisha Ver Halen.
The bestselling author’s Secretly Yours is the perfect blend of sweet and steamy.
Tessa Bailey, queen of the steamy rom-com, kicks off a new series set in Napa Valley with Secretly Yours. Grab a glass and settle in for an opposites-attract, grumpy-sunshine love story that’s as smooth and enjoyable as a good Pinot Noir.
As Secretly Yours begins, gardener Hallie Welch is feeling nostalgic, ruminating on Uncorked, the new wine shop in her small town that’s taking business away from the oldie but goody across the street, Corked. Hallie embarks on a one-woman attempt to save Corked but soon learns the hard way that day drinking should be done in moderation. Because in a wine-fueled haze, she writes a love letter to the object of her teenage self’s obsession, Julian Vos, who she happens to be working for over the summer.
Now a professor at Stanford, Julian is supposedly on sabbatical, but he actually just traded his rigid school schedule for a rigid novel-writing schedule. He has no idea how to relax, but the beautiful gardener his mother hired is proving to be a distraction he didn’t anticipate.
Julian’s planning tendencies are the perfect foil to Hallie’s spontaneous ones, and Bailey peppers the story with funny demonstrations of their personalities. He irons his socks; she gardens from the heart. He’s all about order; she can’t avoid chaos. He’s buttoned up; she’s wide open. Bailey’s humor and optimism shine through her characters, making both Hallie and Julian compelling and interesting figures. And fans of epistolary romances will be particularly tickled by Bailey’s modern nod to the format. Hallie’s letter is brave and cathartic, and in the good-hearted world of a Tessa Bailey rom-com, such an action deserves to be rewarded with a happily ever after.
Tessa Bailey’s Secretly Yours is a good-hearted rom-com that sparkles with humor and optimism.
It can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to picking a book for the most romantic day of the year, but we promise you’ll fall in love with these 9 romances from authors like Kate Clayborn and Olivia Dade.
It can be hard to know where to begin when it comes to picking a book for the most romantic day of the year, but we promise you'll fall in love with these 9 romances from authors like Kate Clayborn and Olivia Dade.
In Trish Doller’s Off the Map, two lost souls find each other during a road trip across Ireland.
Carla Black is a bit of a rolling stone, traveling the world in her old Jeep Wrangler. She’s careful not to stay in one place too long, form attachments or put down roots. Her next adventure is a drive through the Irish countryside to attend her best friend’s wedding. The groom’s best friend, Eamon Sullivan, has been tasked with meeting up with Carla in Dublin and helping her navigate to the venue.
The attraction is immediate when the pair meet at a local pub, and they end the night by hooking up in Eamon’s apartment. It’s refreshing to see two characters recognize their connection, satisfy their curiosity and handle the morning after like adults, especially since they’ll be stuck in a car together for a few days.
Close quarters lead to more nights together, but also deep conversations. Traveling is one of Cara’s last ways of connecting with her father, whose early onset dementia is getting progressively worse. She’s been honoring his love of travel by seeing the world on her own, but she wonders how sustainable and healthy her nomadic lifestyle really is. Meanwhile, Eamon realizes he’s never prioritized himself and his own dreams of venturing outside Ireland.
The trip is only supposed to take a few hours, but Carla’s penchant for exploration and Eamon’s desire to start taking more risks in life have the two of them taking all manner of beautiful, disastrous and hilarious detours in the Irish countryside. Doller’s detailed prose creates a noticeable sense of wonder as readers experience Ireland from the perspectives of both a first-timer and a local who is learning to look at the land with a new set of eyes. With its lush pine woods and mischievous herds of sheep, Off the Map could have been commissioned by Ireland’s board of tourism.
Steamier than the previous books in Doller’s Beck Sisters series (Float Plan, The Suite Spot), Off the Mapis a sexy romp across the rolling green hills of Ireland. It’s easy to forget that Carla and Eamon have somewhere to be and can’t spend the entirety of their trip tucked away in the corner of a cozy pub or dancing beneath the stars. Romantic and whimsical, Off the Mapwill leave readers craving adventure and perhaps even tempt them into booking a trip to the Emerald Isle.
A romance that takes place during a sexy and whimsical Ireland vacation, Off the Map will leave readers craving a vacation to the Emerald Isle.
Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our newsletter to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres every Tuesday.
After spending the last five years at the prestigious Medio School for Girls, 17-year-old Daniela Vargas is ready to graduate at the top of her class. But instead of heading to college, Dani’s next step is becoming the Primera, or first wife, of the capital’s most promising young politico.
Ayana Mathis’ The Unsettled is a gripping novel about mothers and children, past and present, and the private hells in which we often find ourselves while searching for utopia. With its chorus of intergenerational voices and its themes of love, loss and legacy, it contains many of the things her loyal readers most enjoy, along with a story that is heartbreaking yet hopeful.