An embarrassment of reading riches made it VERY difficult to put this list together, lol! I couldn’t limit myself to six books this month, so I’ve got six top picks and a few honorable mentions. My top picks were all really great reads, and the honorable mentions would’ve easily made the list in a less overwhelmingly-good month. There’s a mix of new releases and older books, which works for me!
The most exciting thing? Four of my six top picks are by new-to-me authors – WOW! I’d been hearing great things about Meet Me Halfway, so I decided to sample it one night… and couldn’t seem to put it down after that. The slow-burning single mom/neighbor romance felt authentic and unique, with a relationship that develops at just the right pace. I’d heard very little about Funny Feelings when I decided to dive in, but it didn’t take long to win me over. I loved the juxtaposition of the humor and the heartache, with a vibe that felt rich and layered. I saw All Downhill With You’s adorable cover pop up a few places, and I was in just the right mood for a grumpy/sunshine romance – and the lighthearted, original storyline definitely satisfied that craving. And I finally, FINALLY read one of Mariana Zapata’s ultra-slow burn romances. I can see why her books are so beloved!
Let’s not forget the books by my one-click authors. Elizabeth O’Roark’s Devil series has not disappointed yet, and The Devil You Know was another awesome installment. She writes sexual tension in such a unique way, and each book has felt one-of-a-kind. Lucy Score finally wrote a traditionally published book, and it was swoony with small town vibes and a sweetheart of a hero.
Then there are the honorable mentions. Another Lucy Score romance makes the list, this one a super steamy office romance. Had Score not released a brand new book this month, I have no doubt that By a Thread would’ve been one of my top picks. It was chemistry-filled and fan-worthy. Speaking of fan-worthy, Tessa Bailey’s new book was also very steamy. While My Killer Vacation didn’t win me over right away, the more it lingers in my memory, the more I like it. Amy Daws’ new release was also really great, another solid addition to an excellent series. Had I not just read another book in the series that I liked better, it probably would’ve been near the top of this list.
July brings some highly anticipated romances for me. It’s a quieter release month overall, but a few of my favorite authors are releasing new books, so I’m looking forward to diving in. 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!
I’d heard good things about this, but it far exceeded my expectations – I absolutely loved it! It felt so original, focusing on the strength and determination of the single mom heroine and the issues with making assumptions. There’s a great neighbors to lovers romance, and seeing the subtle shifts in the dynamic was immensely satisfying. Our hero is a grumpy jerk who isn’t all that likable at the start, but he had totally and completely melted my heart by the end. Major swoons. It’s a torturous slow burn with some definite sizzle towards the end, and there was never a dull moment for me. Sure, it’s heavy on the single mom element and the story tackles difficult subjects like domestic violence, abuse, and sexual harassment, but that just made it feel richer and more unique. The build in intimacy was incredible, and it’s the kind of story that will stay with me for a long time. Highly recommended.
The story follows Madison, a 25-year-old who got pregnant at 16. Her son is the best thing in her life, but he does make it more complicated. Madison works three jobs to provide for her son, and that means she has zero time in her life for anything else. So when she moves into a new place and her new neighbor assumes that she’s a lazy twenty-something with no ambition… well, it stings. Garrett (36) judged Madison before he got to know her, and as the two neighbors continue to run into one another, he soon realizes that he spoke too soon. The grumpy jerk seems to want to lighten Madison’s load, and the two slowly develop a friendship. Madison has experienced so much bad in her life that it’s a breath of fresh air to have someone truly get to know her, and that leads to some unexpected feelings.
Told exclusively from Madison’s point of view, we see her struggles and the toll it takes on her firsthand. This isn’t some uplifting romance where the heroine just so happens to be a single mom; the story is all about how becoming a mother has changed Madison’s life – for better and for worse. We get to know Garrett one step at a time, and I loved peeling back his layers to find the genuinely good man inside. Having him be mysterious for so much of the story added a little something extra, and I couldn’t help but turn the pages late into the night to see how it all played out. The tone isn’t overly heavy or angsty, but the complexities of the storyline certainly added plenty of depth. The relationship between Madison and Garrett is front and center, and I loved their connection. Even when they were feuding, I wanted them together – and I was SO ready when they finally crossed that line. It’s a compelling, one-of-a-kind romance that kept me hooked the whole way through, and one of my recent favorites.
I love it when I try a new-to-me author and I know immediately that I’m in for an excellent read. My love for this heartfelt, swoony read began right away, and it just got stronger and stronger as the book progressed. I loved the pining, the completely unique feel, and I loved the cinnamon roll hero who is kind, compassionate, and understanding. Told in a combination of flashbacks and present day, we get a feel for this couple’s relationship as it evolves from strangers to friends to comedienne/manager to lovers – with all of the longing and missed opportunities along the way. It’s not a particularly long book, but I felt like I got to know these characters so well, and it was easy to feel the love and support in every scene. They truly do want what’s best for each other, so it made sense that they’ve never crossed the line. And for a book about comedy, it’s actually much more emotional and bittersweet than anticipated. The combination made for an authentic, memorable read.
The story follows Farley (25), a standup comedian on the rise. She’s just getting her big break, and Farley believes a lot of her success can be attributed to her manager, Meyer (35). Surely she’s too much of a hot mess to have made it this far by herself. A former comic, Meyer disappeared from the spotlight years ago and has been mastering the role of single father to an adorable, deaf daughter ever since. Farley and Meyer became friends a few years ago, and Meyer has now become Farley’s rock when her insecurities take over. Their relationship has evolved into something truly special, and neither one is willing to rock the boat by admitting that their feelings are not entirely platonic. But when Meyer and Farley agree to fake date in order to shine the spotlight on Farley, it becomes more difficult than ever to avoid the feelings they’ve tried to bury.
I expected this to feel more like a fake relationship romance, but it never really felt like one – and I’m completely okay with that. The focus is much more on Meyer and Farley’s relationship and how it has changed and strengthened over time. I loved that we got to see how Farley hides behind her humor, and there was a great focus on mental health and an openness about therapy. It could’ve maybe delved into that a bit deeper, but it probably would’ve changed the tone of the story and I sincerely enjoyed the vibe. Farley and Meyer are front and center, and I appreciated that they had such good reasons not to cross any lines – until now. It’s a slow burn romance with swoony feelings throughout, and these two characters complement each other perfectly. Where Farley is chaotic and loud, Meyer is solid and steady. He makes a fantastic book boyfriend, and their connection is the major win here. I loved it the whole way through.
With sexual tension that crackles and banter that shines, this office rivals romance is another great addition to what has been a stellar series of near-standalones. I loved the electric connection between these two office enemies; they’ve got the kind of chemistry that sparks off the page, and the volatile nature of their relationship made for some immensely steamy moments. It took me a little longer than usual to wrap my head around the dynamic – it’s single perspective, with the relationship described through the biased lens of the heroine. Without the hero’s thoughts, we’re left to view every interaction through the eyes of a woman who has been lied to and cheated on in the past. If she can’t trust herself to fall, then how is the reader supposed to trust that she’s interpreting the hero’s actions correctly? That element of mystery added a level of interest to the story that kept me on my toes, left to puzzle out how the hero was feeling. It was frustrating at times, but definitely added a bingeable quality to the book – I flew through this faster than I’ve read ANY book this year.
The story follows Gemma, a lawyer who is known to terrify those around her. She’s a workaholic who is committed to helping women (like her mother and herself) who have been hurt by the men in their lives. Gemma is also working towards making partner, because she won’t be able to make changes in the toxic office environment until she has a seat at the table. The only problem? Her infuriating coworker, Ben, who seems to be an obstacle in her path every step of the way. Since Ben and Gemma started working together two years ago, they’ve had a hate-fueled relationship. Their snarky exchanges and bickering make Gemma’s blood boil… and perhaps run a little hotter. She can’t deny that Ben is sexy, but there’s no chance they could ever be more. Gemma’s past prevents her from opening up to the possibility that their relationship is driven by anything but hate.
I’ve been absolutely LOVING this series, and this was no exception. The vibe of each book has been a little different – and almost completely a standalone – but they’ve all had tons of sexual tension. This is the spiciest one so far, with everything from hate sex to more intimate moments. Initially, it was giving me Book Lovers vibes, but then the tension was cranked up a notch and it became its own thing. There are still some parallels there, with an ice queen of a heroine who thinks she needs to find her perfect Hallmark man to tame her, but the vibes couldn’t be more different. I also really loved that the relationship was front and center; even though this is definitely Gemma’s story, Ben was an integral component. I would’ve loved having his perspective (and there are a couple of things that I think needed to be clarified), but I also get why it wasn’t included. As frustrating as it was not to know what he was thinking, having this be told from the perspective of a woman who is hurting made for such a unique story. As a reader, it was clear to me how much Ben cared for Gemma, but their miscommunication – or complete lack of communication – was constantly getting in the way. There are a few blanks that I’ve chosen to fill in for myself, lol, but I really loved Ben’s character. My only real complaint is that I would’ve liked the epilogue to be written from his point of view to up the swoon factor. I can’t give specific examples, but there were a couple of questions I still wanted answered. Regardless, this was extremely entertaining, super sexy, and such a compelling read. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy, and am voluntarily leaving a review of this steamy office romance.
All kinds of adorable and just the low angst read I was in the mood for, this made for a great introduction to Olivia’s work. The grumpalicious hero paired with a sunshiney heroine made for a fun dynamic, and the story deftly tackles heavier subjects while maintaining a light and easy feel. It’s got small town romance vibes and enemies to lovers friction – plus a forbidden relationship. I loved that the storyline was so unique, and how these characters had to work out their differences before they could begin to heal themselves. It was sexy and swoony in equal measure, and peeling back the layers of this broken hero was so immensely satisfying. It reads quickly, works well as a series starter, and has me wanting to read more from Olivia. A solid 4/low 5-star read the whole way through, this easygoing grumpy/sunshine romance was a win.
The story follows Lorelei, a woman who loves roller coasters – even though one almost killed her. She’s worked at a theme park for years, and continues to do so even after a mysterious equipment malfunction left her with severe injuries to her hip. Lorelei is in the middle of a lawsuit against the roller coaster’s manufacturer, and she’s hoping that will give her some answers about what happened. But when the coaster designer himself comes to consult at the park, it stirs up a lot of trouble. Emory is moody, rude, and assumes that Lorelei is just suing him for the money. The two dislike each other, and spending time together is a surefire way to complicate the lawsuit. But as Emory gets to know Lorelei better, he realizes how much the accident has impacted her life – and Lorelei realizes that Emory just might have a heart buried underneath his rough exterior after all.
I’m new to Olivia’s work, so I had no idea what to expect going in, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s a light and easy read in a lot of ways, but there’s plenty of depth hidden beneath the surface. The storyline is also unlike any I’ve read before, which is always a major win for me. Sure, it plays up the tropes and I can tell that future love stories in this series of interconnected standalones will continue to do so, but it also felt fresh and different. The characters were lovable, the situations were understandable, and the friction made for some heat. It’s actually a little steamy! I loved getting to know Emory better, and there are some swoony moments that really worked. He’s the perfect kind of grump on the outside, with a marshmallow heart on the inside. Paired with the upbeat and resilient Lorelei, he was easy to love. I also appreciated how Lorelei’s injury was handled, and how there was great representation of her aches and limitations – it’s not glossed over. I’m definitely excited to read more from the series, though I do have concerns about a few of the potential couples (two hoes who are sleeping around while pining after each other, a hero who is emotionally cheating on his girlfriend, etc), but I love the overall cast of characters and the small town feel. It was really charming, and that pushes this from 4 to 5 stars for me.
I finally took the plunge, and this absolutely lives up to the hype – I ADORED it! This one’s for those readers who have the patience to follow little breadcrumbs scattered throughout the story, tiny moments of romance that slowly (SLOWLY) build into something truly beautiful. I loved that build in intimacy, the steps that this couple takes along the way. If you look at the contrasts between their relationship at the start of the book and where they end up by the final page, the emotional payoff is definitely there. It just felt so incredibly romantic, and my heart was bursting at the seams. We only get the heroine’s perspective, but I really felt like I knew (and loved) our hero by the end – he’s such an interesting character, and he certainly had me swooning once he got his head out of his… you know.
The story follows Vanessa, a woman who can’t wait to quit her job. It’s not that she hates her boss, but she’s ready to dive into a career that she actually loves, and his moodiness has only gotten worse in the months since he suffered an injury. Aiden’s whole life is centered around his sports career, and Vanessa once admired his commitment. But now Vanessa sees how self-centered and selfish Aiden is, and that means she doesn’t feel bad about leaving. Surely he won’t even miss her. But that’s not quite how things go, and it’s not long before Vanessa is seeing her former boss in an entirely new light. As Aiden and Vanessa’s relationship evolves throughout the course of the following months, they grow closer than either would’ve anticipated.
I don’t want to give away all of the great developments in this slow-burning romance if you’ve still got it on your TBR, just know that I LOVED how the story progressed. It’s got a few twists and turns that surprised me, and I’m so glad that I was able to avoid most spoilers. Aiden ended up being SUCH a great character, and the story was more fulfilling because of his evolution throughout. Vanessa evolves too, and I so appreciated that she finds her confidence along the way. There are some fantastic moments between them, and I’m grateful that their relationship was front and center throughout the entire story. Yes, sometimes the slow burn was painfully, torturously slow, but the romance is central to nearly every interaction. It’s all important. I can certainly see the influence of this story on many of the books I’ve loved in the years since it came out, so I’m really happy that I finally made the time to read this. I’m going to have to read more vintage Zapata now too, lol. If you’re a reader who loves quiet moments between characters, trying to puzzle out the hero’s inner thoughts/feelings, and watching a couple slowly make their way towards each other, then this is a powerhouse of a read.
There’s a lot to love about a cinnamon roll sweetheart who falls hard and fast for his girl – this hero was GREAT! As a longtime fan of Score’s work, I was excited to dive into this and see how her style changes for a more “traditional” romance audience. This still has the same small town feel and found family vibe as many of her other romances, with a more laidback tone and slightly less heat. Still pretty steamy at times (our sweet cinnamon roll hero definitely has a possessive streak), but the overall tone is less angsty and more lighthearted overall. It’s also not first person perspective, which I didn’t even notice until I was about halfway through. And the length is about 100 pages shorter than other books I’ve read by Score, which was honestly just right for the story. This was maybe missing that bit of sizzle that I love about Score’s books, but the slow burn romance, inclusivity, and community aspect definitely made this a very solid read, and I ended up bingeing it in one sitting.
The story follows Maggie, a social media star who makes a living by flipping houses and documenting the process for her followers. She’s never in one place for long, so she’s never set down roots anywhere – and never really plans to either. But when Maggie buys a giant, rundown mansion, she sees the potential in her biggest project yet. And the sexy, smitten landscaper she hires for the job certainly makes sticking around a little easier. Silas is hit with a zap of connection the moment he meets Maggie (his future wife, if you ask him), and the good-natured, hometown guy is determined to convince Maggie that they’re meant to be. As they spend time working on the project of a lifetime, Silas and Maggie build a relationship that just might be made to last.
The renovation aspect of this reminded me of one of my old favorites from Score, Mr. Fixer Upper, but that’s where most of the similarities end. This hero is kind, caring, easygoing, and confident in their connection. Yeah, it’s a little ridiculous that Silas is so head-over-heels right away, but you’ve gotta love a committed man. And he never once wavers – which is exactly what this broken heroine needs in her life. The sense of community and cast of characters definitely made this a richer read, and it’s got a lot more going on that “just” the romance, though that’s absolutely the focal point. There’s a diverse group of characters, which enhances the found family vibe. I loved the slow burn that built on an instant connection, and the steamy scenes were certainly fan-worthy. Silas may be a nice guy, but he can still get a little dirty. What really won me over though is the build in intimacy and level of depth that develops over time, which is what makes this such a fulfilling read. It was a touch too slow here or there, but this was a great, low angst, small town story.
I’m torn between 4 and 5 stars, but you know what? I devoured it in one sitting, was entertained the entire time, and I haven’t read a book that’s quite this steamy in awhile – plus that original, awful cover was swapped out before release day. So I’m rounding up! The second half read much, MUCH better for me, once I got a feel for the dynamic; it’s 100% pure instalove and lust, with strangers who become lovers in the blink of an eye. I loved the opposites attract dynamic, and the ZAP of electricity between these two was apparent from the start. WOW it’s steamy. This commitment-phobic, rugged hero doesn’t know what hits him when he meets this unassuming schoolteacher who is just finding her strength. He soon discovers that he has a possessive, jealous, domineering streak… and she loves everything about that. It was a lot for me to process, lol, but everything comes full circle by the end. All of my initial complaints turned into the book’s strengths, and their over the top connection smoothed out into something perfectly intimate. Oh, and there’s a side of murder mystery, so that was fun too!
The story follows Taylor, a second grade teacher who is excited to finally go on a much-needed vacation with her brother. She’s rented a home on Cape Cod for the next several days, and the clawfoot tub is calling her name. Unfortunately, the dead body she finds in the rental property means that her vacation has taken a very different turn. And while the mild, sweetheart of a woman assumed the experience would frighten her, it just seemed to awaken some inner strength. So when Taylor meets the bounty hunter who is tasked with solving the murder (it’s a long story), she reacts in a way that’s unexpected. The man should be terrifying – he seems to scare everyone else – but it’s clear that Myles is incredibly attracted to Taylor. Myles warns Taylor away from the start, but chemistry seems to keep pulling them back together, and it’s not long before they’re both acting out of character.
This is steamy with a capital S, and it doesn’t take long to get there. Myles and Taylor have the kind of instant connection that jumps off the page, and it can be a lot to handle sometimes. Those situations also aren’t vanilla, so be prepared to fan yourself. I thought Myles was too much until we started to see his softer side, and then he became this lovable teddy bear who just so happens to be a caveman. If jealous/possessive heroes aren’t for you, then you might want to pass on this one, but it certainly made for some super steamy situations. The evolution of both characters was actually very good, and I think that’s kind of the point of the book – their lives completely change over the course of a week, and they both have whiplash. They fight against the connection but continue to be drawn together, and the murder mystery is the perfect thing to bond them as they struggle. There’s definitely a suspenseful element, but the star here is the romance, with Myles and Taylor in nearly every scene together. It’s entertaining, engaging, and entirely bingeable, so I’m rounding up my rating.
A sexy single dad who is a genuinely nice guy, but also kind of a possessive caveman? Yeah, that works for me! This hero steals the show with his combination of sweet and alpha/businessman and caveman, but I also loved the vibrant heroine who has unexpected sides of her own. The two make for a very compelling combination, and the boss/nanny/forbidden element really worked as well. It’s steamy fun, with a fling to more romance that slowly shifts into something deeper, and there’s never a dull moment along the way. The chemistry between our couple sizzled, and there are many, many fan-worthy moments. It’s the banter and playfulness that really stood out for me though; Max and Cozy have an instant spark between them, they just have very different attitudes. I enjoyed the boss/nanny dynamic, which felt different than the norm because of her age (26). Cozy is no young or timid heroine falling for the boss, she’s a strong and independent woman who knows exactly what she’s getting into… at least until she gets in over her head.
The story follows Max, a successful businessman who is excited to have his daughter full-time for the summer. He’s a great dad who takes the time to truly care about his daughter, but he does need a nanny to help carry the load. Unfortunately, they’ve been unable to find the perfect fit, and the hot mess of a woman who interviews last doesn’t seem to fit the bill either. But when Max’s daughter chooses Cassandra/Cozy, he finds himself hiring the seemingly carefree woman. Cozy isn’t the typical nanny, and her philosophy seems to be no planning, no worries. When she moves into the guest house, it immediately changes the dynamic, and it’s not long before Max finds himself inexplicably drawn to her. Messing around with his nanny is a terrible idea, but something about Cozy brings out Max’s baser instincts.
It’s a steamy book with plenty of humor, and the tone remains light even when it tackles some difficult subjects. I kinda loved that we got these first impressions of Max and Cozy, and there was so much more swimming beneath the surface to discover throughout. Sure, we’ve gotten to see bits and pieces of Max throughout the series (absolutely not required reading), but I always pictured him as more of a serious businessman type. He’s a lot more fun here, and certainly more jealous/possessive than anyone would’ve guessed. Max and Cozy are awesome together, and it was really refreshing to see a guy loving and embracing his girl’s full figure. If anything, Cozy’s body just makes Max go into overdrive, lol. The story is not focused on her weight, which was great too. It was also not focused on Max’s backstory either, though I can certainly see how it shaped him into the man he is today. There were a couple of minor things that bugged me about that, but nothing major holding me back from enjoying the story. I’m usually not the biggest fan of “let’s bang out the attraction” storylines, but there was a lot more going on here, so it kept me hooked. This was another very solid installment in the series, though it’s also easy to read as a standalone – and here’s hoping it’s the start of a spinoff series.
I love it when a guy finds himself in over his head within minutes of meeting the right girl, and that is definitely the case here! I finally made room at the top of my TBR for this girthy office romance, and it was well worth the wait. It’s intensely sexy, banter-filled, and full of chemistry. Definitely the steamiest office romance I’ve read in a long while – and also the longest, lol. When the book released, I remember hearing so many different things about how inappropriate some of the hero’s actions are, and how these two are old enough to know better (44 and 39). Which, yeah, that’s valid. But it’s also kind of the point. Score tackles heavy topics like workplace sexual harassment/assault and power imbalances, showcasing that fine line between acceptable and inappropriate. Our hero is determined to prove that he’s nothing like his predatory father, but he can’t seem to control himself around the heroine. It’s an interesting concept, and I think Score handles it well. The book is over the top steamy and immensely entertaining, so even the intimidating page count didn’t scare me. It held my interest with ease, and further cemented my love of Score’s work.
The story follows Dom, a man who has taken over the helm of his father’s business after some problematic situations came to light. Dom doesn’t feel welcome at his new workplace, and he’s sure that his employees think that he’s just like his father. That means Dom is even more determined to act appropriately around the office… which is easier said than done when a fiery woman enters his life. Dom’s surly attitude got Ally fired from her previous job, and she now finds herself working for the grumpy man against his will. It’s not that Dom doesn’t like Ally, it’s that he doesn’t like the way he feels when he’s around her – out of control, intense, and kind of like a caveman. As the two continue to work together, the attraction that sparks between them becomes obvious. But Dom is determined not to cross any lines with an employee, and Ally really needs her job.
This is not a short book, which is probably why it has remained on my TBR for so long. It took me a solid 3 days to get through it. But it caught my interest within the first few pages, and held it the whole way through. I loved that it’s an office romance with a twist; not only are the characters older than the norm (no one is “young and naive” here), but the sexual harassment storyline and Dom’s determination to keep things professional made this stand out from the pack. It’s also so steamy that it might make you blush, lol. Dom and Ally’s connection is electric, and the push/pull between them made for some seriously great moments. I loved that Dom was trying to be a good guy, that he put up a valiant fight. And, for all of his inappropriate actions, I never felt like he was predatory or too much. A lot to handle, sure. A predator, definitely not. The overall vibe remains mostly light and sexy, with tons of tension-filled moments and a lot of heat. Dom and Ally are SO good together once they finally give in, and the dynamic felt very unique. All in all, I wish I’d moved this to the top of my TBR sooner – this was a great read.
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