June was a TOUGH reading month for me – but the books were great! COVID restrictions got lifted and suddenly it seemed like my weekends were filled with non-reading activities, work was crazy busy, the news was distracting, and it was just really difficult to find time to read. The beginning of the month went better for me, and I actually read a few of these in May. I’ve still got a few June releases on my TBR that I need to carve out some time to read, but I had absolutely no trouble filling up this list with deserving books – there were that many awesome June releases!
Without a doubt, my favorites of the month are The Perfect Catch and Love Scenes, both of which are serious contenders for my Best of the Year list. One is an intense slow burn (The Perfect Catch), the other a subtle one (Love Scenes), but they both captured my attention from start to finish and kept me reading late into the night. I also really enjoyed new books from three of my one-click authors – Lauren Layne, Kendall Ryan, and J. Nathan. All three books were entirely bingeable. My final pick is The Mixtape, from a new-to-me author who I’ve been meaning to read for awhile (Brittainy Cherry). I’ll definitely be picking up her next release!
July brings lots of new releases, with some exciting books on the way. If you missed my July 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!
BEST OF THE YEAR CONTENDERS
Phenomenal – a tense, sexy, intimate treat. Walker might just be my favorite MQ hero EVER. And that’s saying something, because she excels at writing alpha heroes with gooey marshmallow centers. I absolutely ADORED this grumpalicious hero; he’s a beast of a man on the outside, but so, so SWOONY once you get to know him better. This couple’s chemistry leapt off the page, and I loved the focus on intimacy. These two realize that there’s no way they can be together, so it’s a torturous slow burn that highlights the emotional connection. It also subtly ties three series together in a way that is sure to delight longtime fans – as will seeing Walker finally find his HEA. We’ve been teased by this broody bachelor for years, and his love story exceeded my expectations.
The story follows Walker, a baseball player who has lost his love of the sport. It’s no secret that he’s one of the most hated men in baseball, and that does nothing to improve his mood. Walker is quick to lose his temper and has a shell that’s tough to crack, but behind his intimidating persona is a kind, caring man. When the team decides that it’s time for Walker to clean up his image, he’s sent to work with Kate. She doesn’t back down when Walker gets surly, and even helps him smile again. But the team has a very strict no fraternization policy, so crossing the line would jeopardize both of their careers. As feelings develop and attraction increases, it becomes impossible for Walker and Kate to keep things strictly professional.
When this hero was announced, I snuck a peek at some of the books in my collection to refresh my memory. And refresh it did! Walker has had memorable cameos in several books, and I’ve been intrigued every time he’s been on the page (this is still definitely a standalone). He lived up to every expectation that I had for him – never has a hero been so completely smitten with a woman. I loved his singular focus on Kate, his sweet side paired with his intense alpha vibes, and his vulnerability. I just loved him, plain and simple. The two together make this an angsty, sexy read. While this still has the humor that I love about MQ’s work, it’s definitely got a forbidden feel that adds a level of tension. I had moments when I was frustrated by the situation and thought this take-charge hero would’ve done more, but that’s all part of the story. The growth in intimacy was my favorite part, and that was highlighted by some sizzling, emotional scenes. This had me absolutely HOOKED from start to finish, and I loved every minute of it. 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.
I made the mistake of underestimating how much I was going to enjoy this, and ended up reading WAY too late into the night because of that. I absolutely loved it! This slow-burning, subtle romance is deeper and richer than I anticipated, with a somewhat somber tone that just works for the story. It’s as much about Hollywood and family dynamics as it is about romance – but the romance is definitely the star. I adored the hero, a man who does nothing but prove himself to be a fantastic guy throughout, despite his past behavior. And the chemistry? Is the kind that every film director WISHES their actors had. The writing style makes this feel like a movie come to life, and I could envision every scene. So don’t start this before bed, or you might end up having a sleepless night – like me!
The story follows Sloane, an actress whose personal and professional lives both seem to be crumbling. Her character just got killed off an under-appreciated TV show, her ex just wrote an album describing her every fault, and she’s just taken a producer job that feels a lot like pity. Every member of Sloane’s family has some kind of role in the movie that she’ll be working on, and the starring role probably should’ve been hers. But they hired the one man Sloane despises – a former co-star who almost made her leave the business. When Sloane worked with Joseph five years ago, she saw the darker side of Hollywood, and it’s not an experience that she’d like to revisit. But as the two start spending more time together, it quickly becomes apparent that he’s not that guy anymore. And Sloane might just like the man he is now a little too much.
This book is going to work best for those who love a slow burn (closed door) romance, a mysterious hero, and an insight into the intricacies of Hollywood. I loved all three aspects equally, so that made this one captivating read. We only get Sloane’s perspective, and I wouldn’t call her the most reliable narrator, so the story gets more layered and nuanced as it goes on. Even without Joseph’s side of the story, his vulnerability and sweet side shone through. I loved his personal growth (recovered alcoholic), and their chemistry was magnetic. We also get some fascinating peeks at Hollywood, which made this feel so authentic. There was probably a little too much focus on family dynamics for me, but that’s mostly because I wanted as much Sloane and Joseph as I could get. Those two had me completely hooked, and I devoured this in one sitting. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this Hollywood romance.
OTHER TOP PICKS
As someone who has watched You’ve Got Mail more times than I’m willing to admit, I can say with all honesty – and much enthusiasm – that this captures the EXACT sweet, swoony, adorable vibe of the film that has held a special place in my heart for years. I loved it. It feels very much like Layne’s signature style… with the dial cranked all of the way up to “fluffy goodness.” Just like the movie, it’s exceedingly low angst and playful, with a heroine who is sweet yet feisty, and a hero who remains something of a mystery throughout. The romance is kinda/sorta a love triangle, in that both characters are torn between “two” people, and I loved the inclusion of the messages. I’m a sucker for a unique meet cute, and this definitely has that.
The story follows Gracie, the owner of a small family business in New York City. While the shop isn’t her passion, it was important to her dad, so she’ll do everything she can to protect it. So when Gracie’s landlord, Sebastian, makes it clear that he has every intention of buying out her lease early and tearing down the building, she sees him as her new enemy. But there’s more to Sebastian than meets the eye, and he might not be the coldhearted businessman Gracie believes him to be. The only problem? Gracie already has a man in her life, and while she’s never met “Sir,” their messages have given him the starring role in her every fairytale fantasy.
Chances are, if you liked You’ve Got Mail, then you’re going to love this. I’ll be the first to admit that there are a LOT of similarities in the progression of the relationship, even if the details are different. They might not be Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, but the essence is there. It’s a slow burn romance with no steamy scenes, and I wouldn’t say that the relationship is fully developed. We only get Gracie’s side of the story, and she’s not always the most reliable narrator. I was completely okay with that, because this is a light, easy, fun rom com – lighter than anything I’ve read by Layne before. It gave me all sorts of nostalgia for the rom com movies I loved back in the day, and that was definitely the intention here. So grab yourself some popcorn and dive into this swoony rom com, because it’s easy to devour in one sitting. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy, and am voluntarily leaving a review of this low angst romance.
My love for this one snuck up on me. While I’ve heard good things about Cherry’s work, this is the first book of hers that I’ve read – and I wasn’t convinced that I was loving it at the start. Our hero was a bit of a hot mess (with a terrible girlfriend), the tone was heavy, and the romance was slow-moving. But that quietly gave way to an emotional, laidback love story that got lighter and sweeter as it went. That hot mess of a hero turned into a truly great guy, and he stole my heart as he mended his own. That slow-burning romance simmered into the kind of deep love that had me swooning by the end. It’s an emotional – potentially triggering – love story that’s subtle yet strong, and it 100% won me over by the end.
That blurb is just the tip of the iceberg; this is a HEAVY and emotional read for much of the story. There’s also plenty of triggering content, including loss of a loved one, addiction, mental/physical abuse, trauma – and more. There are only a couple of steamy scenes, and the tone is somewhere between a traditional romance and women’s fiction. However, our couple is at the center of every page, making this feel like a true love story.
Essentially, this follows Oliver, a professional musician dealing with the loss of his brother. They rose to fame together, and Oliver was always the quieter, more introverted sibling. Oliver doesn’t know how to be himself without his brother, and he’s not handling his grief or guilt very well. When Oliver meets Emery, he’s at his lowest point. And though single mom Emery has her own issues, she helps the man whose music she’s loved for years. Oliver and Emery help each other when they need it the most, and these two strangers slowly develop a friendship that starts to feel a lot like love.
This quiet, angsty read is for the slow burn lovers out there, because this moves at its own pace. I loved the relationship development between Oliver and Emery, which strengthened with every page. And while Oliver does have a girlfriend for a decent amount of the story, it was easy to see that he was clinging to a relationship that once gave him comfort. Cherry does a great job navigating that, because this love story easily could’ve steered off-course. But I grew to understand why it was necessary, and the contrasts between the beginning and end of this romance are striking. Oliver is almost unrecognizable by the end, and the overarching theme is definitely one of HOPE. Have a little patience with this story, and you’ll be rewarding with one fulfilling read.
A HUGE improvement over the first book in the series, this light and steamy love story is everything that I look forward to from this author’s work. While reading The Rebel, I was drawn to the heroine’s broody ex, who earned a bad rep in that book. I wasn’t sure that I particularly liked Alex going into this, but I could tell that there was more brewing beneath the surface. That turned out to be correct; he’s a man who knows that he messed up, and now he’s craving the intimacy and connection of a relationship. I loved the focus on the emotional connection in this (though there are plenty of steamy moments), and it was so good to see Alex’s softer side. The forced proximity and forbidden dynamic make this a page-turner, so this quick, sexy story absolutely flew by. It’s got a few timeline issues and there are a couple of threads that were just sort of dropped, but I sincerely enjoyed this as a whole.
The story follows Alex, a hockey player who spent the last season making headlines – in a bad way. After his relationship with a good woman crumbled, Alex thought that he wanted to go back to the single life. But it doesn’t take long to realize that the emptiness he feels from casual hookups isn’t what he wants either. He just wants the RIGHT woman. When Alex finds himself sharing a remote cabin with his ex’s assistant for the summer, the two bond over their broken hearts. Both Alex and Aspen are struggling to find their footing after ending long-term relationships, and neither one is in the right headspace to start anything real. But the attraction that sparks between them is impossible to ignore, and their connection gets deeper with every day they spend together.
I loved Alex in this. We see a completely different side of him here, and it’s a lot easier to empathize with his decisions. I also loved that he really is a relationship type of guy; Alex wants the intimacy that he can’t get from casual encounters, and he is such a loving, hurting man. Aspen was easy to like too, and their connection was obvious from the start. The emotional build was great, and most pages are devoted to the two of them together – one of my favorite things in a romance. I do think that the timeline has some issues (and some inconsistencies). Plus, the conflict drags on longer than necessary, with a reconciliation that felt abrupt. But that doesn’t take away from the love that I have for the rest of the story; this is exactly the kind of quick, low angst love story that I was hoping it was going to be. I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes next. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this forbidden romance.
There’s something about this author’s writing that is just so completely devourable – I ALWAYS read her books in one sitting. This was another bingeable romance, and though I did NOT love every moment of it, I was 100% hooked the whole way through. I read this at an alarming rate, and I may have wanted to slap the hero a time or two, but I still loved him. College romances can be tricky for me (I have a touch of PTSD from too many terrible ones), but I have a level of trust with this author’s work now. I know going in that she’s probably going to toy with my emotions without crossing TOO many lines, and that’s definitely the case here. Without that trust, I’m not sure how I would’ve felt about this one. But the frustration that I felt towards the characters adds an intensity to this that kept my eyes glued to the page.
The story follows Shay, a college student who always feels like a bit of a loner. She’s never had a loving or supportive family, and she values her studies over her appearance or social standing. After a less than friendly encounter with a hot jerk, Shay develops a distaste for the guy. But Kason needs help with his schoolwork, and he knows an opportunity when he sees one. Kason has a healthy ego and a level of self-absorption that doesn’t allow him to see the wrongness of his actions as he blackmails Shay into being his tutor. That changes as Kason gets to know Shay better, and it’s not long before he’s wondering if she’ll ever be able to see past their rocky start.
Kason messes up A LOT in this. So much so that I would’ve dropped my rating had it not been a major part of his character development. He’s supposed to be arrogant and selfish, and his actions are supposed to be wrong. That’s all part of the story. There’s drama and angst along the way as Kason struggles to get his footing, and Shay is the only girl who makes him want to be better. I love a smirking bad boy with a marshmallow heart, and that’s Kason. I couldn’t stay mad at him for long, and he definitely won me over along the way. I did still want to smack him though. Regardless, the opposites attract, bad boy/good girl storyline really worked for me, and the dynamic was interesting to read. There’s a uniqueness and unpredictability to the storyline that makes this incredibly engaging, and I cannot deny that I absolutely devoured it. If you can handle a selfish jerk who isn’t perfect, then this is a very solid read. I received an early copy and am voluntarily leaving a review of this college romance.
Did you see my July Release Calendar?
It includes the 50+ July releases I’m excited about AND 200+ upcoming books that are available for preorder! Check it out here.
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