I love romance novels—truly, madly and deeply. It took me a while to feel comfortable saying that out loud and without hesitation. On any given day, I turn to a romance novel to relax, de-stress or alleviate my anxiety. My diet includes generous helpings of authors like Talia Hibbert, Mhairi McFarlane, Helen Hoang and Sally Thorne. The books from the genre are comforting companions—a fictional sigh of relief. These days, when the news cycle is relentless and infuriating, they’re my steady IV drip. It’s not just the escapism they offer, although that’s nice too. Nor is it just about the levity they provide or the steadfast certainty of a Happily Ever After when everything is so uncertain and in flux. Romance novels, at their core, are joyful and celebratory. During a time when moments of glee seem so far and few in between, they’re a precious balm to the soul.
When you choose a book, you become invested in these characters and their lives. For the next few hundred pages, you follow their journey, experience their failures and obstacles, and revel in their success and happiness. But if you seek diversity in your romance, you know that many of these characters have often been historically denied the Hallmark variety of a happy ending in those very pages. With the latest crop of novels about love, that’s slowly changing. And there’s immense joy in seeing characters exist in spaces that you thought were never made for you.
Now more than ever, romance is the genre we deserve and need. And if you’re looking for a summer romance, there are plenty of blissful new books to add to your reading list.
Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory (June 23)
Olivia Munroe doesn’t have time to date. She just moved to Los Angeles and she has things to do, like running her own law firm. One day, she meets a handsome stranger at a hotel bar and the two hit it off right away. He turns out to be U.S. junior senator Max Powell. Can she handle being in a very public relationship?
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert (June 23)
When a video of Danika Brown being rescued by a handsome security guard and former rugby player Zafir Ansari goes viral (#DrRugbae), he asks if she’s willing to fake-date to help raise his charity’s profile. She accepts because she just happens to be looking for a Friend with Benefits. Being in a faux relationship seems simple enough, as long as they can keep their budding feelings for one another off the table.
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Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan (June 30)
While it doesn’t technically fall under the romance genre, the hotly-anticipated follow-up to Kevin Kwan’s blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians trilogy still gets a spot on the list. Loosely based on E.M. Forster’s A Room With A View, the novel follows Lucie Churchill’s relationship with George Zao who she meets during a lavish weekend wedding in Capri and encounters once again a few years later in New York.
Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev (May 26)
Sonali Dev takes Jane Austen’s Persuasion and tweaks the recipe. Chef Ashna Raje is desperate to save her restaurant so when she’s asked to join the cast of Cooking with the Stars, a hit reality show that pairs chefs with celebrities, she accepts. Until she’s paired with FIFA-winning soccer star Rico Silva, her first love who also broke her heart by ghosting her when she needed him the most.
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner (May 26)
$22, massybooks.com (Vancouver)
When Emmy Award-winning television writer and show-runner Jo Jones is photographed making her assistant laugh on the red carpet, it makes for perfect tabloid fodder, sparking rumours about the two being an item. With Jo’s film project approaching, as the two spend more time together, they realize that maybe there’s truth to the rumours after all.
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You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria (August 4)
Jasmine and Ashton, each one a soap opera and telenovela star respectively, are cast as the leads in a new film. As they try to make movie magic, the lines blur between their on-screen and real-life chemistry. Which wouldn’t be so bad except for the obstacles constantly thrown their way, thanks to some intense media scrutiny.
The Marriage Game by Sara Desai (June 9)
Layla Patel moves back in with her family in San Francisco after disappointing setbacks. Her well-intentioned dad offers her the office space above his restaurant to help her get started on her business and sets her up with a dating profile. Sam Mehta, the CEO of a corporate downsizing company, moves into the same office space, which he’s forced to share with the owner’s daughter who threatens to ruin his peace and quiet with her parade of suitors.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London (July 7)
After body-positive activist and plus-size blogger Bea Schumacher goes viral for criticizing a reality dating show for its lack of body and racial diversity, she’s suddenly cast as the next leading lady. She’s ready to criticize the show, but things get a bit more complicated once she’s in front of the camera.
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The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (June 30)
$15 ($24.99), chapters.indigo.ca
In the follow-up to The Royal We about an American named Rebecca Porter and Prince Nicholas, the heir to the throne, the couple goes into self-imposed exile following their disastrous wedding day. Soon, they’re forced to return to London and face the fallout from before their big day.
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (July 7)
Luc O’Donnell is the fame-averse son of a rock star. When his dad decides to make a comeback after two decades, Luc needs to clean up his image now that he’ll be back in the public eye. Enter Oliver Blackwood, a perfectly normal albeit uptight barrister. The two agree to date each other as a publicity stunt, which ends up being much harder than they thought.