You’ll be seeing some of these books on my Best of 2022 list for sure – August brought some excellent reads. Both Love on the Brain and Thank You For Listening made my Best of 2022 (So Far) list back in June after I posted my sneak peek reviews, and they remain some of my favorites from this year. I was worried that Hazelwood’s sophomore effort wouldn’t live up to my love of The Love Hypothesis, but it was just as swoony, and it brought the same kind of vibe. I loved it! I also listened to Julia Whelan’s newest, which was not only an outstanding read, but a powerhouse vocal performance as well. I loved Elissa Sussman’s debut, the rare second chance romance to win me over. It was just such an interesting concept, and executed in an engaging way. I enjoyed The Bodyguard, which mixed women’s fiction and romance for a multi-faceted feel. Eloise and the Grump Next Door was a lighthearted and bingeable read, a great series starter. And Owen North was the kind of steamy, chemistry-filled read that makes me want to read more from the author. In fact, six out of the seven authors who wrote this month’s picks are new-to-me authors, and they weren’t the only ones who landed on my radar this month! Stay tuned for my August Wrap-Up, which showcases just how successful my month of new-to-me author exploration really was.
If you missed my September 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!
No sophomore slump here! Love on the Brain is as deliciously swoony and addictive as The Love Hypothesis, with characters who are equally compelling. I devoured it in one sitting and LOVED it the whole way through. It’s quirky and science-filled, with a relationship that’s layered and nuanced. I loved trying to figure out our hero’s thoughts and feelings, and I loved that it has a similar vibe to The Love Hypothesis (both standalones) while also feeling distinct and original. This heroine takes the quirkiness up a level, and there’s also a LOT of scientific fun to go along with the romance. And it is definitely a romance. Told exclusively from the heroine’s point of view, one of my favorite parts was intensely analyzing the hero’s every thought and action. I kinda felt like a love detective, puzzling out his feelings every step of the way. Both characters are exceedingly likable, even when I was frustrated with the heroine’s cluelessness – or reluctance? – at times. It held my attention with ease, and is without a doubt one of my favorite books of the year.
The story follows Bee, a neuroscientist whose last relationship almost tanked her career before it even started. The bright, bubbly woman is now a little more closed off, though she’s incredibly excited about the career opportunity that has come her way. The temporary assignment is the kind of project that could change her entire career trajectory, and Bee can’t wait to get started… until she discovers who her co-lead on the project will be. Bee met Levi back in grad school, and his attitude couldn’t have made it clearer how much he despised her. She hasn’t forgotten about her grad school nemesis in the years since, and seeing him again makes all of those old feelings come rushing back. Her hatred and resentment towards him, of course. As the two start work together, their old issues rise to the surface, and it doesn’t take long to realize that their project won’t be successful if they can’t get along.
Bee is quite the character, and she makes this story feel even more vibrant than anticipated. It felt like everything was turned up a notch – the personality, the science, the chemistry, the pop culture references. Oh, and the HEAT! This is steamier than The Love Hypothesis, but it’s still got the slow burn goodness that I was hoping for. Bee and Levi are FANTASTIC together, and it was easy to see all of the ways they’re perfect for each other… even if Bee is oblivious. The whole book is low angst but friction-filled, with enemies to lovers vibes and tons of sexual tension. It really felt like a rom com, and the tone is upbeat throughout. I loved Bee and Levi’s rich history, how they are in so much of the book together, and how everything just felt so unique. I loved the whole thing, let’s be honest here. This exceeded my (very high) expectations, and made for one incredibly memorable read. I was lucky enough to receive an early copy (thank you!), and am voluntarily leaving a review of this super swoony romance.
Really, really good – I loved it! Thought-provoking and romantic, this straddles the line between women’s fiction and romance, with a heroine-centric storyline that effortlessly weaves in a rich and dynamic love story. It also balances light and playful moments with heavier, sometimes somber, scenes for maximum impact. I’m so glad that I went in completely blind; the story unravels in such an interesting and unexpected way, following our heroine as she works to find herself again. I’m not always the biggest fan of third person/single perspective romances, but it works here. It’s truly the heroine’s story, and she changes course as certain things are revealed. Her chemistry with the hero was fantastic, and I loved how their relationship progressed. From moments of smile-inducing banter to epistolary chapters, this has a little of everything, and the book is richer for it. If you’re a romance-lover who appreciates a story that also entails significant personal growth, then this is sure to be a memorable read.
The story follows Sewanee, a former actress who began narrating audiobooks after an accident left her without an eye. She lost a lot of confidence after the accident, but narrating books has been a great way of putting her acting skills to work – without having a camera involved. While Sewanee started out narrating romance, she’s too jaded to love the genre and she’s since shifted into narrating other types of books. But when a beloved romance author passes away and Sewanee is asked to narrate her final work… it’s nearly impossible to refuse. As Sewanee begins communicating with her co-narrator on the book, the two connect in a way that neither one expected. They’ve been hiding from the losses in their lives, and talking things out opens their eyes to what they truly want.
This review wouldn’t be complete without talking about the powerhouse of a performance from author and narrator, Julia Whelan. This is meant to be listened to on audio, and it’s clear that this is deeply personal to Whelan – without being autobiographical. Her insight into the industry adds a richness to the story that breaths life into it, and there are so many moments that will be poignant to fans of the genre. While I’ve listened to many audiobooks that Whelan has narrated, this is my first time reading something that she’s written, and it was such a great experience. There’s enough romance woven into the story that it never veered too far into women’s fiction territory for this romance-lover, and Whelan is also aware of the expectations that come with each. I kinda loved that she teases us about which one this story will end up being, and that certainly kept me on my toes. Yes, Sewanee learns and grows throughout the book, but the romance is also integral to her journey. I’m sure that I’ll be thinking about this book for months to come, and that’s the sure sign of a great read.
As a general rule, I HATE second chance romances… but I LOVED this. I was hesitant to pick this up because of the couple’s complicated past, but that all faded into the background as I became immersed in this truly unique love story. Told in flashbacks, present day, and snippets of articles that fill in the gaps, we see how these characters have changed and grown over the last ten years. We see all of the ways they messed things up in the past, as well as all of the ways they are PERFECT for each other in the present. If you’re someone who enjoys puzzling out a mysterious hero, then you’re going to love this one – piecing together all of the little breadcrumbs that show the depth of his feelings and just how much he thought of her in their time apart. These two fell hard and fast over the course of a single weekend, and they’ve had ten years apart to let those feelings simmer, fester, or grow. There’s really no way to tell until the whole story is told. And one of the best things – beyond the obvious zap of chemistry – is that the story is told in such a way that I was completely and utterly invested in seeing how things played out in the past AND the present.
The story follows Chani, a journalist who couldn’t have predicted the countless ways that one interview would change her life. As a 26-year-old, she was starstruck and smitten to meet sexy actor Gabe. Tasked with writing an article that would make Gabe look good, Chani was surprised to discover that they seemed to have a connection that had nothing to do with the article she was writing. And the time they spent together that weekend seemed to confirm that… until it didn’t. Ten years later, Chani would like to believe that she’s both older and wiser. That article changed the trajectory of her career, and the whispers about that weekend have not quieted in the years since. So when Chani is asked to interview Gabe again – now a star who has lost his shine after a divorce and a few trips to rehab – she’s hoping to get some closure and move past it once and for all. But spending time together again makes those old feelings come rushing back, and it’s possible that finally getting everything out in the open will change everything.
I’ve gotta give it to Sussman – she managed to make this relationship feel rich and deep, despite the fact that Chani and Gabe have only spent a handful of days together. They had that first potential-filled weekend that went horribly wrong, then only brief interactions in the years since. So it’s amazing how much history they have, and how much the intimacy grows between them. The story seems to be a bit polarizing to readers, and I can see how that element wouldn’t work for some – but it definitely did for me. There are plenty of lighthearted moments, splashes of angst, longing, and a TON of unfulfilled potential. As much as I wanted to shake them over the miscommunication, it was also easy to see that the Chani and Gabe of the past wouldn’t have worked out. They needed that time apart, and Gabe needed to get sober. I was even (shockingly) okay with the fact that they both married and divorced other people during those years as well – hurt people hurt people, and returning to safer relationships made sense to me. Besides, they’d only spent a matter of hours together, and neither one was entirely sure of the other’s motivations. Once they face the truth of their feelings, the entire dynamic shifts. It’s a complex story that drew me in more and more as it progressed, until I was incredibly engrossed. I loved it.
Intelligent, lighthearted, and full of romance, this was exactly what I was hoping for… though I wouldn’t have minded some steam, lol! It’s my first from the author, so I wasn’t sure if the vibe would be more women’s fiction or romance, but it ended up being a great combination of the two. The romance is front and center throughout, though this is definitely the heroine’s story. It’s told exclusively from her point of view, and she’s got some self-reflection and personal growth to go through before she can let love into her life. But it also feels like a low angst, slow burn romance too, complete with a fake relationship and a famous hero. I loved that our couple was forced to spend nearly every moment together, and neither one seemed to have any complaints about that. It’s the kind of story where you have to puzzle out the hero’s thoughts and feelings, which kept me engaged and interested throughout. And I had no trouble bingeing it in one sitting – this was very good.
The story follows Hannah, a woman’s whose past has shaped her into the person she is today. She works as a bodyguard, and it would take just the right guy to scale her walls and discover the soft center she hides beneath her bristly and business-like exterior. So when Hannah’s estranged mother passes away and her support system crumbles around her, she hopes that burying herself in work with protect her from all of the unwelcome emotions that are creeping up on her. But when a new assignment – protecting a famous but reclusive actor – starts spiraling out of control, Hannah is left reeling. It’s not long before she finds herself posing as the heartthrob’s girlfriend and temporarily living on his family ranch. Spending time together brings them closer, but Jack is off-limits in more ways than one… and faking a relationship with an actor would lead anyone to question whether it’s ALL an act.
Much of the story is introspective and focused on Hannah’s thoughts, but Jack is also an integral component. It’s a true romance, just one that tackles some heavier issues and does not include any steam. Difficult subjects like cancer, the loss of a loved one, and addiction are included, but the overall tone is actually pretty upbeat. Jack and Hannah’s connection is so easy to see, and I loved all of the ways they complement each other. They both heal old wounds throughout the story, and there were plenty of swoony vibes. Their relationship develops slowly, almost a friendship at first, and I can see why there was no spice included – though they form a bond semi-quickly, there are several obstacles in their way. I loved how much Jack appreciated Hannah’s authenticity, and he adored the fact that she can be both tough and tender. He doesn’t try to change her, and he seems to genuinely love the things that make her insecure about herself. All in all, it was super easy to fall for Jack, so I had plenty of patience for their relationship to evolve. This was an excellent first read from this new-to-me author – I loved it!
I loved it from start to finish – this was a sweet and swoony treat, featuring an adorable grump of a hero and playful, lighthearted vibes. I’ve been meaning to check out both of these authors individually, so I jumped at the chance to read their first team-up, and it was more than I could’ve hoped for. The story balances humor and heart, tackling heavier subjects such as the loss of a loved one and dysfunctional family dynamics, while also bringing plenty of laughs, banter, and a low angst feel. I LOVED this couple together, particularly the way the sunshine heroine brought out the grumpy hero’s gooey cinnamon roll center. And for a book that doesn’t have any steam, this was pretty sexy, with so many sexual tension-filled moments – heated glances, scorching kisses, and a great growth in intimacy. The forbidden/age gap dynamic also gave this a definite slow burn feel. I’m excited to read more from the series, because this was an EASY 5-star rating for me.
The story follows Eloise (21) a woman who thought that the days following her college graduation would go very differently. Her plans to go to grad school fell through, her grandmother just passed away, and her family feels more distant than ever. So when Eloise heads to her grandmother’s hometown for the funeral – the beautiful, small island community where Eloise spent some of her summers – she’s feeling out of sorts. And after a few drinks at the local bar leave her decidedly tipsy, a handsome stranger comes to Eloise’s rescue. Unfortunately, Jake (32) also happens to be her grandmother’s lawyer, and he’s got some information that will further alter Eloise’s plans. But spending time in the welcoming community is not a hardship, and it’s not long before Eloise is seeing a softer side to the stern and serious Jake.
I’ll admit to being a little nervous about this particular age gap, but it really worked out well – Eloise is at a turning point in her life, and Jake is just old enough to see things from a different perspective. It certainly adds plenty of friction to their ever-evolving relationship, and is perhaps the only angsty element to the story. The overall tone is light, fun, and just the right kind of quirky. I loved the small town feel, the chemistry between Eloise and Jake, and pretty much every character we encounter along the way, lol. I’m definitely interested in reading more about the sisters, and this writing duo has set up future love stories in a way that has me itching to get my hands on those books – which is exactly what I hope for every time I read a new-to-me author. This was an all-around win, and I didn’t even miss the spice (mostly), because they did such a great job of bringing the sexual tension as well as the swoon. The focus on the emotional connection was awesome, and I really loved Jake (even when he drove me crazy). I loved the whole thing, let’s be honest here.
Leading with one of the most memorable meet cutes I’ve read was the PERFECT introduction to this new-to-me author’s work. I’m jumping into the series with the final book, and I am just fine with that – this was easy to read as a standalone, and such steamy, tension-filled fun that it kept me turning the pages. These two have sparks flying between them from the first moment they meet, and the forbidden office dynamic that followed kept the tension ratcheted up. Plus, this hero is a genuinely nice guy who is not afraid of a commitment, and I loved his determination to get more than one night with his girl. There was perhaps a bit of a lull in the middle, but that’s really my only complaint about this low angst, spicy treat – it was exactly what I was in the mood for when I started reading.
The story follows Charlize, a woman who got her heart broken a year ago. She’s been traveling the world ever since, and has only temporarily returned to her home base. So when she meets a sexy stranger at a wedding – in a very awkward way – he throws a wrench in her plans. Owen is the kind of guy Charlize knows to stay away from, but there’s something about him that draws her closer. And when they share one heat-filled night together, Charlize is not sure that she’ll be able to keep her distance. But both Charlize and Owen are thrown for a loop when they discover that Charlize will be temporarily working at the business he owns – for his ex-wife, no less. Surely they can keep their hands off each other while Charlize is working in the office… right?
I really had no idea what to expect going into this, but the hysterical, heat-filled meet cute convinced me that I was in for a great read. The chemistry between these two is SUPER obvious, and that first steamy scene was certainly fan-worthy. I loved that Owen worked so hard to win Charlize over; he knew that someone amazing had stumbled into his life, and he was not willing to let her go. And I also thought the office situation was pretty unique – Owen works with his ex-wife, and he’s trying to be respectful towards her. I kept worrying that there was going to be a ton of drama there, and I was very relieved to discover that wasn’t the case. That’s the only part of the story that dragged a little for me, but I also loved the playfulness and flirty moments. It’s not the kind of story that digs deep or gets heavy, but it was just the kind of light and sexy office romance I wanted.
Did you see my September Release Calendar?
It includes the September releases I’m excited about AND 200+ upcoming books that are available for preorder! Check it out here.
Check out this week’s new releases here.
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