This was such a FANTASTIC release month that I really, really struggled to narrow down my list of favorites. I think I rated more books as 5 stars this month than I did in March and April combined, but I also read more of June’s releases than I have any other month (39 in total!). There are six books that immediately jumped to the top of the pack, books that I would recommend without hesitation. I devoured each and every one of my top picks this month, completely invested in the stories.
But I’d be remise if I didn’t mention the other five that stood out in a crowd of great new releases. I usually pick 5-6 of my favorites as the best of the month, but looking at these Honorable Mentions… I just could not leave them out. They’re all excellent reads in their own way, with completely different vibes and storylines that will keep you hooked. They might have one or two things that bugged me, but they all held my attention in a big way.
I’ve got the reviews for my top 6 reads and my Honorable Mentions below. You can’t go wrong with any of these – they’re all outstanding romances.
This was SO GOOD! It’s my first time reading something by Sorensen, and I might just need to go a little one-click crazy on her books, because it was FLAWLESS from start to finish. Twin swaps are a guilty pleasure trope of mine because they can play out in a variety of ways and there’s a level of tension that just works for me. This is the kind that’s executed just right, so it won’t hit on any of the things that might bug some readers – it’s definitely not a love triangle, there’s no question that these two are perfect for each other, and the backstory is handled with care. I was incredibly impressed by how well Sorensen structured the relationship, because a story that starts out with the “wrong” brother and the “wrong” sister can go down a questionable path quickly, but that is definitely not the case here. It’s got so much great dialogue, characters who are complex but easy to like, tension that comes from the CHEMISTRY that sparks between them, and a bad boy hero who will absolutely melt your heart. I loved every minute of it.
The story follows Claire, a 21-year-old who has been harboring a secret crush on her twin’s best friend for years. Though she was able to put it behind her for a long time, its recently resurfaced, so Claire’s more willing than she probably should be to step into her sister’s shoes for an event. Thinking she’ll spend an evening with her crush (albeit, while pretending to be her sister), Claire is shocked when her crush’s brother shows up instead. Nothing like his brother, Bauer is tattooed and temperamental, the outcast of his family. Bauer’s always been more of a good time guy, but there’s no way he’s turning down his chance to spend the evening with the kind of girl he’s only ever dreamed of ending up with. As the two navigate the complexities of the evening, there’s no denying that they’ve got the kind of chemistry you don’t see every day.
I loved the opposites attract feel, the deep conversations, and the level of depth that’s achieved over the course of such a short time. These two have never met before, so they’re starting fresh and getting to know one another in a way they wouldn’t have considered before. It plays out like it’s in real time, and the reader definitely feels like they’re falling along with these two. There’s something incredibly enticing about a bad boy being so vulnerable, opening himself up to something new and different. Bauer is definitely that guy; you will fall for him within minutes of their first meeting. This stays light and reads quickly, but absolutely touches on some subjects that aren’t easy. I devoured it at an embarrassingly quick speed, and can’t wait to check out more from the author. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC (then purchased it for my collection) and am voluntarily leaving a review of this opposites attract romance.
Kindle Edition: https://amzn.to/3hu1ob7
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2BbI6Xv
Hold on a second, I might still be having chest pains from all of the ANGST in that ending. Man, this was good. It sort of snuck up on me – this is not my first time reading one of Leigh’s emotional reads, so I knew I was in for something good, but the beginning had such a somber tone that I thought it might be too much for me. I was so, so wrong. Once these two familiar strangers get to know each other a little better, it’s chemistry-filled and addictive, with a really great road trip vibe that makes you feel like you’re part of the experience. Then those emotions sneak up on you, and before you know it… well, you’re in for a bumpy ride.
The story follows Nora, a woman we’ve met in previous books in the series – though this absolutely reads as a standalone. Her marriage ended when she discovered her husband in bed with another man, but it took that experience for Nora to open her eyes to the fact that she’s never truly gotten over her first love. Deciding that it’s time, she takes the road trip along Route 66 that they planned together – spreading his ashes in all of the place he would’ve loved. Along the way, Nora meets a sexy stranger who also has grief in his eyes. Anderson’s got his own secrets, but the two form a bond and soon find themselves taking the adventure together. They’re in a beautiful little bubble, but… bubbles are bound to burst.
I really, really loved the road trip and how much time is spent on getting to know these two. Leigh is a skilled writer, unraveling the mystery of their lives one piece at a time so that the reader gets to know more as the story goes on (and, yeah, there are many different triggers in their histories). There’s great conversation, sexual tension that’s bound to snap, a slow burn that will make you just the right kind of impatient, and emotion that will hit you with full force. Don’t let the slow burn fool you; this is a slow burn to SIZZLE with some fantastic intimate moments and a few that will make you blush. I found the story to be completely captivating once I settled into it; there was no stopping me from reading this in one sitting, no matter how late I needed to stay up. It’s just an outstanding, mesmerizing kind of read. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC via Social Butterfly PR (then purchased it for my collection), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this road trip romance.
Kindle Edition: https://amzn.to/30shE6m
She’s outdone herself this time. This book is DEVASTATING in both the best and worst way. It’s got an emotional impact that will knock you out, and Quinn has the skills to put you back together again. I loved, LOVED the depth of this relationship. These two are lifelong friends who have had each other’s backs since childhood, and the connection is absolutely amazing. It’s probably the best true friends to lovers romance I have ever read; Quinn nails that dynamic perfectly. These are two people who have seen each other through all of life’s highs and lows; who now find themselves seeing their relationship from a new perspective. But this bad boy has earned his rep for a reason, and you’re going to want to brace yourself for impact.
The story follows Maddox, the so-called “bad boy of baseball.” He certainly seems to fit the title – he’s covered in tattoos, schedules his hookups, gets into fights regularly, and generally doesn’t care if he hurts your feelings. But there’s one woman in his life that turns him into a giant teddy bear, one woman who has been with him through thick and thin. Kinsley is Maddox’s bubbly, sweet, caring best friend, and he’s never really seen her as anything but that. They have the type of relationship that’s only built from years of knowing each other, with no filters, no need to hide their true selves, and no questions about the way they feel about each other… until they start sharing a home.
When’s the last time you read a romance where the couple exchange I love you’s 5% of the way in? There is deep love and respect between these two; they’ve just never been IN love with each other before. I loved how Kinsley can turn gruff, intimidating Maddox into a giant softie within seconds. The depth that Quinn managed to achieve is what makes this book; it swings for the fences with HUGE highs and lows. It’s got all of the delicious tension that I love about a friends to lovers romance, with a connection that’s obvious from the beginning. These two are possibly TOO open about their lives (especially their dating history), but that just shows their connection. It’s the steamiest book I have read by Quinn – a slow burn to scorching INFERNO, if you will. It suits the couple perfectly and showcases intimacy in a way that can only be achieved when a couple trusts each other completely. But the lows… oh man, the lows are going to get you. Quinn definitely tested my limits there, but the grovel makes the angst worth it. Buckle up your seatbelt for a wild ride of a read. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC via Candi Kane PR (then purchased it for my collection) and am voluntarily leaving a review of this friends to lovers romance.
Kindle Edition: https://amzn.to/2MQVdzT
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/3hcsjbr
Okay… WOW. This started enticingly sweet then slowly shifted into an engrossingly addictive read that had me staying up late to devour it. It’s my first from the author – and I’ll definitely be back for more. Which is kind of surprising given the number of things in the story that could’ve gone oh so wrong but were executed with skill and care. It’s a high octane adventure that sneaks up on you until you’re so caught up in the story that there’s no going back.
First, let me take a moment to address the many TRIGGERS. Don’t let the lightness of the romance fool you; this is a DARK story. I saw other reviewers mention that the book is dark and it didn’t seem to fit with the star-crossed lovers, instalove romance I was reading… until it did. There are some uncomfortable moments that many readers may find triggering. It also ends in a major, major CLIFFHANGER that will be resolved in the second half of this duet. That being said, the vast majority of this book is actually very light. It’s got a level of instalove that would normally be an issue for me, but worked with the Romeo and Juliet vibe that this book gives off in spades. They fall fast and hard but the reader knows there is trouble ahead. It’s extremely well written but doesn’t kick into high gear until the halfway point, which is when this launched into easy 5-star territory for me.
I guess I still haven’t told you anything about the actual story. This is definitely a play on Romeo and Juliet where there is no stopping a romance that’s meant to be, despite the many obstacles in the path to happiness. Nicco and Arianne are college students who meet when she is assaulted. He’s the son of a mafia boss, a prince in his own right, who is numb to the world. Arianne is a ray of pure, naive light that brightens up Nicco’s dark world. He feels an instantaneous connection to the sheltered girl, but resists the attraction because he feels unworthy of something so good. Arianne has a lot of growing up to do, but she does it quickly and is a much stronger woman by the end. There are some tender moments, gasp-worthy scenes, and an ending that will make you want to get your hands on the conclusion immediately. In summation…. read it. Don’t let the sweet, instalove vibes throw you off – this is GREAT once it gets going. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC via Give Me Books and am voluntarily leaving a review of this intense romance.
I knew within the first few pages that I was going to LOVE this one, with its slightly ridiculous, playful feel and a storyline that kept me guessing. It’s my first from the author but I will definitely be going back for more, because this was so entertaining from start to finish. The storyline is nothing like I expected it to be – this is an office romance in only the vaguest sense – but there is a boss (who gets a little demanding in the bedroom) and his new assistant (who keeps him on his toes). The meet cute is utterly original, the hero’s vulnerable side is refreshingly unexpected, and the small moments make this an outstanding read.
The story follows Ash, a workaholic whose business and personal life are both suffering because he has trouble relinquishing control. While sifting through resumes on an airplane, Ash meets Zelda, a whirlwind of a woman who changes his life from the moment they cross paths. Zelda’s got what some might consider an overwhelming personality, but something about her draws Ash in right away. They have a crazy first day together, during which Zelda somehow inserts herself into every aspect of Ash’s life – and he’s 100% okay with that. She’s nothing Ash ever expected but everything he’s needed, and these two opposites attract in a big way.
My favorite part of the book? All those little stolen moments and touches. Canterbary does a great job showing how starved for affection both Ash and Zelda are; they see something in the other that calls to them and there is an immediate ease there. There’s lots of “emotionally needing cuddling” that contrasts so well with the dirty steam later on. You may need to suspend reality a few times – the story is downright zaney at the beginning – but I was completely invested the whole way through. It’s light and funny with heartfelt moments and some steamy scenes that prove the title correct. Ash is both tender and alpha in all the right ways, and while he got a little bossier than I like my heroes a few times, there was nothing that hindered my enjoyment of the story. I loved his grumpiness, his growls, and everything else that makes him a great hero. I’ll definitely be checking out more from the author in the future, because this was a very fun, sexy read. I received an ARC (then purchased it for my collection), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this steamy romance.
Kindle Edition: https://amzn.to/3815Tpi
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/3iacuCH
WOW, talk about a powerful start to the series! My love for this book snuck up on me, because I wasn’t sure that I was enjoying it at the beginning, but I was also completely engrossed in the story. Sometimes I think the mark of a great book is when you want to throttle the characters; shake some sense into them because you’re so invested in the story that their stubbornness is incredibly frustrating. That’s exactly how I felt about this one in the first half; it’s deeply emotional and so well written, but this couple will really get on your nerves at times. Somewhere along the way, Bromberg’s skilled writing made their love story get under my skin, and by the end I was fighting back tears because it was so moving – and that’s very much a rarity for me.
The story follows Dekker and Hunter, two people who shared a sex “only” relationship for several months, until feelings became involved. They never spoke the words out loud, but something in their relationship shifted, and that sent these two commitment-phobic individuals running in the other direction. Three years later, they come face-to-face again because Dekker has been tasked with signing pro hockey player Hunter to her family’s sports management agency. Dekker is conflicted about the task, because mixing business with pleasure is never a good idea – and she’s not so sure that their relationship was ever fully resolved. If there was ever a woman to make Hunter question his feelings about relationships, it’s Dekker, but he’s already got the weight of the world on his shoulders, and he’s not sure he can take any more before he breaks.
Second chance romances are sometimes difficult for me to get into, and I think that’s why this one didn’t grip me right away – because the quality is definitely there from the start. VOLATILE describes Hunter and Dekker’s relationship perfectly; they clash every time they start to get closer, and combust during the steamy scenes. It’s a slow burn romance that focuses on the emotional connection, because these two already know they have zero problems in the bedroom. I loved how Bromberg was able to showcase the growth in intimacy, build up the tension until it was at its boiling point, and then let all of the pieces fall into place. Once you get to know these characters better, it’s much easier to feel for all they’ve been through and understand the reasons why they never just sat down and TALKED to one another. The evolution of the relationship is a thing of beauty, and I loved getting lost in the story. If this is how Bromberg writes sports romance, then bring on the rest of the series, because this was fantastic. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC (then purchased it for my collection), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this steamy slow burn romance.
Kindle Edition: https://amzn.to/31sFj7b
It’s not often that I’m so taken aback by a twist that it makes me look back at every scene with fresh eyes and contemplate rereading the book immediately, but that’s exactly what happened with this one. Nathan did an excellent job laying down the foundation, ratcheting up the tension until I was on edge, and then making all of the pieces fall into place with ease. There’s a level of mystery to the book that will both intrigue and irritate you – I wanted to slap the hero several times, demand answers, and understand where his head was at. So even when I wasn’t 100% confident in my love for him, I was still absolutely hooked on the story. My advice to you is this: trust the author. I’ve loved everything that I’ve read by Nathan in the past, so I was willing to let things play out, and it was definitely worth it.
The story follows Sophia, a college student who just transferred to a new school. Her new roommate is a sorority sister without a home, because a student died last year under questionable circumstances. While at a party, Sophia runs into Chase and they clash immediately. He’s moody one minute and likable the next, so Sophia never knows what to expect from him. The two continue to run into each other – he’s in some of her classes, casually dating her roommate, there to lend a helping hand when she least expects it. It’s not long before that friction sparks into something else, but Sophia can tell that Chase is still holding back.
I really had no idea what to expect from this when I started reading, and I think that’s the best way to go into it. My experience with Nathan’s writing comes from her rock star series, so this was very different but still features some of the same elements – a light feel with shots of angst, tension, compelling characters, a slow burn executed very well. But this one is decidedly New Adult and based on a college campus, complete with mean girls, frat boys who do dumb things, and everything else that comes with that (plus a little bit of TRIGGERING content). It’s mysterious and engrossing, making me stay up late to see how everything turned out. And I’ll tell you right now – I did not always love our hero. Nathan pushed me to my limits a few times, making me want to shake him and demand answers. Had there not been a twist, my rating likely would’ve been different but I was invested in the story from start to finish. Not having Chase’s perspective on events was exceptionally frustrating at times, but everything clicked into place towards the end. So does this one have some elements I didn’t love? Yeah, definitely. Am I happy with how it all worked out? Absolutely. If you’re in the mood for a romance that will put you through a range of emotions and keep you on your toes, then this is the one for you. I received an ARC via Give Me Books and am voluntarily leaving a review of this intriguing New Adult romance.
Surrender absolutely FLEW BY! It has the kind of 5-star banter that makes you forget things like instalove and settle into the story. You won’t have any trouble reading this in one sitting (I devoured it very quickly), and those who haven’t read the rest of the Seaside Pictures series won’t have any problem reading this as a standalone, though there are appearances from past heroes. I will openly admit that you’re going to need to be openminded about the timeline on this one – if I sit and think about how quickly everything happened, I might second-guess my rating, but it really just worked for the story. Our hero has an addictive personality, so once he’s in, he is ALL IN. I loved all of the quick-witted dialogue, the playfulness, and the outrageous yet vulnerable personality of the hero. If you’re looking for a quick, smile-inducing read and are open to instalove, then this is definitely worth your time.
The story follows Drew, an aging rockstar who has battled his demons and now wants what all of his friends have – someone who loves him despite his troubled past. Drew’s had a crush on his protégé’s mom for awhile now (she’s 39 to his 36), but hasn’t pursued Bronte because he knows it would lead to trouble. She’s never been anything but good; a mom from a young age whose kids no longer need her around as often. When Drew suggests that he spend one week with Bronte to help her get her groove back and discover what it means to be bad, neither has any idea what they’re in store for.
This storyline definitely did not follow the path that I expected it to, and I’m 100% okay with that. Drew’s got a very strong personality (you’re either going to love him or hate him), and once he’s got his mind set on something, there’s no stopping him. Honestly, the relationship goes from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye, but the connection is obvious. Drew is shameless, infuriating, and sometimes outlandish but I loved all of that. He sees the potential for a family and grabs onto it with both hands. And for a book that moves at such a rapid pace, it really is a slow burn. It’s funny and light with some heartfelt moments and an underlying level of angst that’s only touched upon. Please keep in mind that Drew has struggled with the rockstar lifestyle in the past, including drug addiction, but that the topic is only touched upon in small moments. With such an accelerated timeline, this doesn’t have the depth that you’d get from some of Van Dyken’s other books, but it reads very quickly and will definitely make you smile. I feel like I probably SHOULD rate this as 4 stars because of the level of instalove, but… I enjoyed it way too much for that. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC via Valentine PR (then purchased it for my collection), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this rockstar romance.
Such a sweet and sexy read! This is my first time reading something by either of these authors, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this was a light, heartwarming read from start to finish. It features an adorably awkward hero who will steal your heart, with plenty of steamy moments, and very little angst. I loved the chemistry between these characters and the quick, easy feel to the story. The romance definitely moves at lightning speed, but that’s all part of the story and worked for these characters.
The story follows Shane, a 33-year-old divorced guy who hit a low point after his marriage ended. Over the last few years, he’s devoted himself to his health and his work, but hasn’t ever really put himself out there again – romantically or otherwise. When his brother-in-law/boss informs him that his services are no longer required, it forces Shane to get out of his rut. He meets a smart, sassy young woman whose playful banter and spark of attraction makes him want more. It’s not long before they’re both seeing the potential for something real, but things change once they realize they’re in competition for the same job. They’re lovers, they’re neighbors, they’re coworkers, and now they’re competitors… not exactly a recipe to a healthy start to a relationship.
It’s a light, quick read that has a little bit of drama but doesn’t dwell on it for long. These two are attracted to each other right away (despite Shane’s less than smooth moves), and things accelerate quickly. If I have one complaint about the book, it would be the speed at which their relationship moves – I would’ve loved a slightly slower burn and a less instalove feel – but it’s acknowledged throughout and makes sense for the storyline. I really loved Shane; he makes such a great hero. It was refreshing to read about a guy who had his heart broken but didn’t play the field afterwards, and who wouldn’t hesitate to make a commitment to the woman who has him tied up in knots. I also loved his insecurities and how he felt so real. It’s a solid read from start to finish, and if you’re looking for a chemistry-filled, low angst romance with some steamy moments, then it’s definitely worth your time. I received an ARC via Social Butterfly PR and am voluntarily leaving a review of this sweet, sexy romance.
If you haven’t tried Saman’s work yet, it’s time to change that! There’s an intensity to her writing that hooks you in and doesn’t let go until the last page. Even when I was torn about some of the elements in this dark romance, she had me reeled into the story. It’s darker than I anticipated – a lot of that stems from the personalities of our antihero and antiheroine – but so addictive. This one’s for those who love a complicated romance, don’t shy away from darkness, and are willing to go on an action-packed ride. There’s plenty of suspense to keep you turning the pages, a compelling romance, and intimacy that shines during some very steamy scenes. Don’t worry if you’re not caught up on the series – there might be a couple of references that go over your head, but this reads easily as a standalone.
The story follows Emma, a woman who has been on the run since discovering that her ex is a killer. She fled for her life 5 years ago and has been looking over her shoulder ever since. When she meets a charming, flirtatious guy with darkness lurking behind his eyes, Emma isn’t sure what to think. Her trust in men is almost non-existent, and something about him makes her believe that there’s a ruthlessness under his polished exterior. Assigned with the task of watching Emma, Gavin is surprised by how intriguing he finds her. While darkness has always lived inside Gavin – he’s an assassin by trade because he loves to kill – he sees that life has hardened Emma and changed her. There’s a connection there that Gavin would love to ignore, but violence seems to bring these two together.
This isn’t my first time reading one of Saman’s books, so I knew I was going to be in for an intense, complicated read – and it is exactly that. Gavin is a lot darker than I expected him to be (honestly, so is Emma), which I definitely struggled with at times but I also couldn’t help but love their connection. There’s no mistaking that Gavin is cold-blooded, but Emma brings out another side to him that was great to see. This one’s going to push your boundaries while holding your interest. Prepare yourself for an action-packed, dark read with lots of triggering content. Saman is such a skilled writer that she made me love this couple; her steamy scenes are really incredible, focusing on advancing the storyline while also heating up the pages. That’s not the focus of the book – there is a ton of suspense in this one – but I loved all of those quieter moments that draw these two broken souls together. That’s where she really excels as a writer and my absolute favorite part of her work. Buckle up for a twisted, crazy ride with this one – and don’t say that I didn’t warn you. I was lucky enough to receive an ARC and am voluntarily leaving a review of this sexy, suspenseful read.
Kindle Edition: https://amzn.to/2Vb9Vq2
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/2YVEGQR
We’ll call this one 5 stars with an asterisk, because I enjoyed it way too much to rate it any lower, but there were definitely a couple of things that bugged me (more on that in a minute). Tijan is an excellent writer, so the words just flowed and the story was engrossing from the very first page. I’ve never read a meet cute quite like this one, and it sets the tone for the rest of the book. The author does a great job building intimacy and showcasing the quieter moments between these two. And for a book that’s about high school students, it was refreshingly different than what I was expecting (I think I have PTSD from too many bully romances at this point). There are a couple of bumps on the road to happily ever after for these two, but the tone is light with shots of angst that add great depth to this romance.
The story follows Aspen, a high school senior who just wants to get through the last two weeks of school without anyone noticing her. Aspen is reserved and past experiences have made her want to stay out of the spotlight, so she’s been doing a great job being forgettable around the school. But when she locks eyes with her crush, Blaise, during an intimate moment with another girl, that all changes. Blaise is curious about the girl who would be so brazen as to watch, but so bashful that she would hide in the woods. It’s not long before these two are crushing on each other in a big way, and navigating the complexities of their new relationship.
This took so many unexpected turns that I kind of loved it. I have no idea what I was expecting from a book titled Rich Prick, but Blaise is only a jerk to other people. He’s loving and loyal, hooked around Aspen’s little finger from almost the start. Honestly, the level of instalove here is one of the things that almost made me drop my rating. It’s… yeah, it’s absolutely instalove. There’s no slow burn here, no tension over these two getting together. It all happens at lightning speed. But while I do have a couple of issues with Blaise dropping his steady hookup girl like she’s on fire and moving on with Aspen almost immediately, I also kind of loved how the focus was on them dealing with their budding relationship. The other thing that almost held me back from calling this 5 stars? It’s not quite the standalone that I expected it to be; both of these characters have been introduced in previous books, there are countless characters from past books who play major roles, and I definitely felt like I was missing things at times. Not enough that I couldn’t follow along and enjoy the romance, but it came up countless times. I really loved the relationship, the jerk who isn’t so much of a jerk, the intimate moments, and the depth of the story. There is a little bit of triggering content, but it’s not the focus of the book. Ultimately, it’s a high school romance that feels incredibly mature in a lot of ways but also realistically juvenile in others. I received an ARC via Social Butterfly PR and am voluntarily leaving a review of this heartfelt romance.
Kindle Edition: https://amzn.to/2N250TH
Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/3hzzx9p