May was actually an extremely disappointing month for new releases, which made the gems sparkle even brighter. There were so many books that I was eagerly anticipating, and many of them let me down. That paved the way for others to sneak in and take me by surprise – I absolutely wouldn’t have guessed that these six books would be my favorites of the month, but I’m not complaining!
An eclectic mix tops this month’s list. The tension-filled Forbidden is very likely to make my Best of the Year list – it’s another excellent addition to a series that I’ve been loving. Out of the Blue lived up to its name, because it jumped onto my radar and made me love a second chance romance (which is extremely difficult to do). Just Last Night was nothing like I expected, but turned out to be a very fulfilling read. Rebellious was a wholly unique take on friends to lovers/new adult romance that’s got me wanting to read more from this new-to-me author. Cruel Saints gave me the mafia goodness that I was craving, while Fake satisfied my desire for a low angst treat.
June brings lots of new releases – it’s not nearly as jam-packed as May was, but there are definitely some exciting books on the way. If you missed my June Release Calendar, you can find it here – there are so many books to look forward to!
I’ve got my review for each of this month’s best books below – you can’t go wrong with any of these!
I loved every minute of this, from the heartbreaking prologue, to the near-constant sexual tension, to the absolutely SWOONY conclusion. I knew this was going to be something special when I was holding back tears within 5 minutes of reading, and that turned out to be completely true. The immediate ZAP of connection between these two was just the start of the palpable chemistry between them. It’s sexy and intense, but also an excruciatingly slow burn, and I loved the push/pull dynamic. Isabel and Aiden are both fierce and strong, with vulnerabilities that leave them raw and exposed. Their chemistry was electric from the start, and it slowly simmered into something really beautiful by the end.
The story follows Isabel, the spitfire of a woman that we’ve met in previous books in the series. Though this will definitely read as a standalone, those who have been following the series will appreciate the truly great family moments. Isabel is the most stubborn, strong sister of the bunch, and she rarely lets anything get under her skin. But when a former fighter takes over ownership of the gym Isabel works at, it throws her completely off-balance. Ten years her senior, Aiden is a retired athlete whose poster graced Isabel’s teenage walls. She’s always felt a connection to him, but that’s nothing compared to how she feels once they meet in person. The problem? Aiden is a widower who is just trying to make a peaceful life for his daughter. And being near Isabel is anything but relaxing.
There’s seriously nothing sexier than a big, brute of a man who is so completely gentle around his daughter. Aiden is probably one of the kindest, most caring heroes I’ve read about, and the contrasts between his profession and his personality are positively swoon-worthy. I absolutely loved him. And Isabel is his perfect match; they are so similar in certain ways, yet vastly different in others. The found family element and shared heartache are strong elements here, as is the endless sexual tension. This is my favorite kind of slow burn, where the intensity is there from start to finish – but lines aren’t crossed until the perfect moment. I just devoured this, completely engaged in the relationship from start to finish. And it wraps the series up with a tidy little bow, while also leaving me wanting more. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy (then purchased it for my collection), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this forbidden romance.
THIS is how you do second chance romance! It’s a trope that I tend to avoid, but every once in awhile, I’ll read one that will just absolutely knock it out of the park – like this. It’s deeply romantic, with the perfect amount of angst, longing, and tender moments. The sexual tension and unending love are present in every scene, and the tiny snippets of filthy flashbacks give this some serious HEAT while remaining a slow burn. I loved the quick dialogue, the obvious affection between these two – and the suspenseful storyline just ratcheted everything up another notch. Everybody could use a husband like Cope; he completely melted my heart.
This follows Serena and Cope, two people whose love story should’ve lasted a lifetime. They were young and a little reckless when they got married, but their bond was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of connection, and neither one could see a future without their partner in it. Unfortunately, they both have dangerous jobs, and standing back while the one you love puts themselves in harm’s way is not an easy thing. They weren’t strong enough to work through those issues the first time around, so they’ve spent the last four years apart… though neither one has made any real effort to move on. And they’re still married. So when Cope is assigned as Serena’s bodyguard at her first major surfing competition, it brings them back into each other’s lives, and those dangerous jobs are front and center.
While this is more suspenseful than the romance I’ve been reading lately, that really worked for the storyline. It’s Serena and Cope’s jobs and insecurities that tore them apart the first time, so it makes sense that they’d be at the forefront of any potential reconciliation. I adored the intensity of their love, from the brokenhearted banter, to the sizzling chemistry, to the obvious devotion. And the steamy scenes are smokin’ hot while showcasing their shared intimacy. This is free from any OW/OM drama, and I have zero doubt that both Serena and Cope missed their partner every day they spent apart. The angst comes into play because there isn’t an easy solution; if there was a simple way to move forward, they would’ve done that already. This whole story put me through my paces emotionally, because it’s got a little of everything. But I was wholeheartedly rooting for these two to move forward, and their reconciliation seriously gave my heart some flutters. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this marriage in trouble romance.
Truth? I passed on this book – HARD – the first, second, and possibly third time that I read the blurb. It’s deceptively vague, and I had visions of every other problematic, friends with benefits, new adult “romance” that I’ve read in the last few years, and I was NOT interested. Then a book buddy mentioned that both characters still have their v-cards… and that blurb suddenly took on a whole different meaning. This is so very different than what I expected, so very different than any other new adult romance that I have read, and so very entrancing. Once I settled into the story, I was IN, and there was no stopping my love for this couple.
The story follows Bennett, a college student (21) who has loved Aspen (23) since the day he was born. Their love has evolved over the years, but it has never wavered. And while their bond has the makings of an epic love story, it has started to feel more like a tragedy. Complicated family dynamics made Bennett wary of officially crossing the line from friends to lovers, so he set rules to their relationship years ago. But Aspen has held onto the hope of more for years, and now she’s reached her breaking point. The reality that he could really, truly lose Aspen has made Bennett a desperate man, and he knows that it’s time to give in or give her up.
While I typically shy away from childhood friends to lovers romance because there always seems to be OW/OM drama and eye-rolling teenage angst, these two are so obviously in love with each other that there was nothing and no one that would come between them. I absolutely LOVED their bond; it is rock solid in some ways, yet ready to break in others. The tension is palpable from start to finish, as is the genuine connection. I get why the blurb is so deceptive now: this love story is unlike any other that I have read. It’s sweet, sexy, angsty, and unexpected. Bennett is the only thing standing in the way of this happily ever after, and that was seriously frustrating at times. I felt for both characters throughout, and their journey to forever is all kinds of messy. It’s also completely devourable, and I found myself eagerly anticipating what would happen next. Bennett and Aspen’s love story gave me butterflies, made me want to scream – and it had me hooked the whole way through.
Any book that keeps me reading until the wee hours of the morning is going to get a 5-star rating from me… even if it gets off to a rocky start. I wasn’t enjoying this at first, and I actually set it aside for a couple of weeks while I recalibrated my expectations. It’s NOT a light and easy romance. It’s not even remotely a romance until about 100 pages in. But this turned a corner in a big way, and my love for it started to grow with every page. The slow build in intimacy makes the lackluster start worth it, and the ending is pure perfection. We needed the lows in order to appreciate the highs, and it all comes full circle. What starts off as a depressing, somber (and decidedly British) tale of family and friendship ultimately becomes a gorgeously nuanced love story.
This is about love and loss, and the story touches on some seriously heavy subjects on the way there. I can’t list all of the triggers without giving away major storyline details, but know that there are plenty of them. The story begins with a group of 30-something friends who have become a little codependent over the years. Those friendships are the best part of Eve’s life, and even those come with strings. So when the loss of one of those friends threatens to upend every part of Eve’s life, she doesn’t know what to think. There were secrets among them, and Eve can no longer take anything they’ve said at face value – nor can she get the answers that she so desperately wants. The loss also brings someone from Eve’s past back into her life, and that leads her to question whether she ever really knew him at all.
Since the love interest isn’t even a part of the story until at least a third of the way in, I’ll admit that I was thrown off by the dynamic at the start. Nothing about the heavy book I was reading matched that cute cover or the enticing blurb. I wasn’t even sure that I liked Eve all that much. This is a VERY slow-burning love story with no steamy scenes, and it’s got plenty of subtlety and quieter moments. If you’re paying attention, you’ll pick up on little kernels of information along the way that make this a richer story, but it takes awhile before the pieces come together. Once the romance kicked in, this got my full attention – and I loved it from then on. The author does a great job of making sure that both leads are complex and a little broken – but that’s also why they fit together so well. There’s history between them that makes the experience richer, and I loved the road trip scenes. And I ended up really loving the hero once I got to know him. So. Have a little patience with this love story, and you’ll be rewarded with an excellent read – just know that it might take awhile before you warm up to it. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this complicated romance.
Exactly the kind of mafia romance that I love to devour – focusing on the relationship first, with a strong, protective hero who is vulnerable and compassionate with just one woman. It reads younger and a little more like a soap opera than other mafia romances I’ve read (is there really a mafia school?), but that really works for this story. It still has the intensity and bingeable quality that I love from a darker read, but you can definitely feel the young love and lighter moments (though it is FILLED with triggers – keep that in mind). This antihero falls hard and fast for the beautifully broken girl that he meets, and it’s all about winning her over after that. I binged this in one sitting, and immediately started reading the first book in this world when I was done. The two books are complete standalones that can be read in either order, but there are minor characters who tie the stories together.
First and foremost, this opens with a statement that if you need a trigger warning, then it’s not the book for you. That is true. There are graphic depictions of sexual assault, murder, mayhem, and more – and they start within the first few pages. Our heroine has suffered at the hands of a villain for years, so she’s not sure if our antihero will be her saving grace or her downfall. That dynamic is a major part of the book, and it sits in stark contrast to the somewhat sweet relationship between Elena and Lucian. Those darker moments are needed because they showcase the fact that, while Lucian is no hero, he has a lot of kindness in him. I loved his softer side, and his compassion is what makes this such a compelling read.
From the moment Lucian meets Elena, he feels a connection and a need to protect her. His singleminded focus was great to read, and there is no OW drama. I love that this rides a fine line between light/dark, heavy/uplifting. It’s not nearly as tense or angsty as other mafia romances I’ve read, but there’s just enough of that to keep up the pace. All in all, this was highly enjoyable, and I’ll definitely be reading more from this world. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this slow burn romance.
So devourable! While this wasn’t a perfect ten for me, I thoroughly enjoyed it. There’s a light, laidback feel that makes the pages fly by, and I’ve always been a sucker for a good fake relationship romance. The Hollywood spin and forced proximity really worked for me here, and while I was often frustrated that we didn’t get the hero’s perspective, trying to figure out what he was thinking was half the fun. It’s a quick, bingeable read that stays light and has a touch of sexy. I read it in one sitting and was engaged from start to finish.
The story follows Norah, a server in LA whose life is turned upside down when a Hollywood hunk asks her to be his fake girlfriend. Patrick has been dining at the restaurant Norah works at for a few years, and they’ve never had a real conversation. She respects Patrick’s privacy and sneaks glances from afar, but his life is so vastly different than hers that it feels about as real as one of his movies. After a scandal leaves Patrick’s career in jeopardy, his team suggests a fake girlfriend – and Norah is the only woman he wants in the role. As the two move in together and fake it for the cameras, things quickly feel all too real.
This is told exclusively from Norah’s perspective, and while that’s probably one of my biggest complaints (we really could’ve used some more insight into Patrick), it’s also one of the things that I loved the most. Analyzing Patrick’s tiny smiles and intense stares adds an element of mystery to this fake relationship romance, and it had my eyes glued to every page. I loved the connection between the two, and having them live together took that up a notch. Patrick was sweet and swoony at times, but there’s also an honesty to the story that made these characters feel like real, flawed individuals. The story remains pretty light, and it’s a slow burn to sizzle romance, focusing on the friendship before shifting into something sexier. I enjoyed it the whole way through, and my only major gripe is that I still had a few questions at the end of the book. An epilogue from Patrick’s perspective probably would’ve wrapped this up in a more satisfying way, but I’m still very happy with the way things worked out. It’s just the kind of low angst romance that I love to read, with the perfect combination of sweet and sexy. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this Hollywood romance.
Did you see my June Release Calendar?
It includes the 40+ June releases I’m excited about AND 200+ upcoming books that are available for preorder! Check it out here.
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