The Break-Up Clause by Niamh Hargan
When lawyer Fia is asked to mentor new colleague Ben, the problem isn’t just that he’s arrogant, it’s that the last time they saw each other – almost a decade ago – it was in Las Vegas, and they’d just got married. They made a pact to divorce after a year but it never happened, so he’s technically still her husband. The chemistry in this enemies-to-lovers romance is off the charts, but it’s tender and emotional too, and is funny and wise about messy friendships and not knowing where you fit in the world. Summer in New York has never been more sizzling, or more complicated.
A Lady’s Guide to Scandal by Sophie Irwin
Eliza, widowed at twenty-seven, finds herself in receipt of an unexpected fortune – but she’ll lose it if she does anything to ruin her reputation, or that of her late husband’s family. It should be easy for mild mannered Eliza, but when she meets Melville, a dashing poet with a scandalous reputation, and then her long-lost love returns from the war, staying out of trouble starts to look a lot more challenging. Laugh-out-loud funny, and with plot twists I didn’t see coming, this impeccably researched regency romance swept me off my feet. It’s out on the 31st of August, but if you can’t wait then Sophie’s first book, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune Hunting, is another brilliant read.
The True Love Experiment – Christina Lauren
Christina Lauren can do no wrong in my eyes, and The True Love Experiment is one of their best. Romance writer Fizzy can’t write passionately about happy every afters when she no longer believes in love. Connor Prince is dedicated to making wildlife documentaries, but his boss has set his sights on the lucrative, reality TV market, and puts Connor in charge of his new show. Fizzy seems like the perfect fit for his leading lady –until he realises he doesn’t want her to fall for any of the romantic heroes he’s hired, because he’s developing feelings for her himself. A heart-burstingly romantic book with one of my favourite denouements of all time.
Romantic Comedy – Curtis Sittenfeld
It feels strange to include a book I haven’t read yet, but Romantic Comedy is sitting at the top of my teetering To Be Read pile. It’s about Sally Mitz, a successful script writer for a legendary late-night TV comedy show, who’s given up on love. When she meets Noah, a pop idol with a reputation for dating models, she doesn’t believe he’d look at her twice, especially as this isn’t a romantic comedy – it’s real life. Sittenfeld’s Pride and Prejudice retelling Eligible was so pitch-perfect, I feel confident recommending this one, and am saving it for my own summer holiday.
The Beach Holiday – Isabelle Broom
Who wouldn’t want to spend their summer in the Hamptons with a gorgeous film star? After reading The Beach Holiday, you’ll be glad you did – with the added bonus of not having to leave your sofa/garden chair/beach lounger, deal with aeroplanes or run from the paparazzi. Another book where the chemistry and humour between the heroine and hero, Honor and Cellan, keeps you turning the pages, and the happy ever after is satisfyingly hard won.
The Idea of You – Robinne Lee
Hayes Campbell is the superstar frontman of a British boyband known the world over, and Solène only knows him as the celebrity her daughter is obsessed with, so when an encounter throws the two of them together and the attraction is instant, things get complicated. A sizzling hot affair, a Jetset lifestyle, and it’s not hard to see where Robinne got her inspiration for Hayes from. I can’t think of a more truly escapist, sun-soaked summer read than this.
Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
If you’ve had enough of wall-to-wall sunshine and sparkling holiday destinations for the moment, then allow me to recommend my favourite Jane Austen book. Catherine Morland is only seventeen when she spends the winter in Bath and meets Henry Tilney and his family. Unused to high society, and with her love of gothic novels somewhat skewing her view of things, this is a love story with added mystery and lots of funny moments, and is my go-to comfort read.
A Fatal Inheritance – Rachel Rhys
It is, perhaps, a bit of a cheat to include a thriller on a summer romance book list, but A Fatal Inheritance still ticks all the boxes. It’s set in the 1950s on the French Riviera, where heroine Eve has to travel after she receives a letter telling her she’s the beneficiary of a mystery inheritance. This story is as opulent and seductive as it sounds, it has one of my favourite fictional men of all time, and even though I read it several years ago I still press it into people’s hands, and reread it often myself. A beautifully written story of murder, love and glamour in the perfect beach-read setting.
Book Lovers – Emily Henry
Super successful New York agent Nora ends up, partly against her will, in Sunshine Falls, a small town that is straight out of a romance book: it’s the setting of one of her own author’s novels. As if being stuck in the slow-paced, cosy town wasn’t bad enough, she keeps bumping into her work nemesis, hotshot editor Charlie. Taking all our favourite romance tropes and turning them playfully on their head, Book Lovers is a love story and a love letter to books, and I adored it. Just writing this makes me want to abandon my laptop for the day and read it all over again.
London, With Love – Sarra Manning
If you’re looking for an epic, across-the-years love story, then please read London, With Love. Jennifer and Nick meet when they’re teenagers and, while things are never straightforward between them, they are always drawn back to each other. London is the third main character, and I felt like I knew, and loved, unfamiliar parts of it by the end. Sarra’s books always floor me in the best possible way, and this one has some heart-rending twists that make for a properly emotional read (there is a scene at a bus stop that made me cry so hard I had to do breathing exercises to recover). A truly beautiful, punch-you-in-the-gut love story. The stunning paperback is out on August the 3rd.
Cressida McLaughlin is the bestselling author of uplifting, romantic books including the eight-book Cornish Cream Tea series and The Staycation. She grew up in London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Norwich with her husband David. Apart from writing, Cressy loves reading and swooning over romance books, ghost stories and Henry Cavill. Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful Norfolk coastline.
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