Summer reading. The words conjure up memories of lazy reading locales, having one eye on a book and the other watching children. Or lazing about with dogs sleeping beside me on a blanket in the shade. Or trying to get the last words in before the thunderstorm knocks out the electricity for the long haul. One thing every reader brings to the table is their experience and memories—no reader truly ever reads the same book as another. The common plot and characters may be shared, but interpretations add spice and flavor to the book.

So, as you can probably tell, I grew up in a place where summer thunderstorms were frequent, very unlike where I live now in Texas. And some days, especially when the temperature is in the three digits and the sky is exceptionally clear, I miss those storms. Not knowing exactly when the ominous clouds would let forth the rains or the thunder and lightning was more exciting and beautiful than even the best movie special effects could ever replicate.

I find that reading a romantic suspense is not unlike a Pennsylvania thunderstorm. Summer reading and romantic suspense go hand in hand—that perfect mix of spine-tingling adventure and hair-raising sensuality.

To give you the shivers, I have a few suggestions for you.

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Debra Webb is in the middle of a series, Faces of Evil, set in Birmingham, Ala. Now, usually I think of Southern women to be patterned after Julia Sugarbaker, not hard-eyed detectives, but Webb has created a great female cop/former FBI agent character in Jess Harris. Harris—not perfect or even close to it—left the FBI under difficult circumstances and returned home, which is never easy. In her latest outing, Revenge (Grand Central; July 30, 2013) “Jess also has a number of personal issues to deal with. She's having problems with both her own family and her relationship with Dan Burnette; and is having difficulty getting her own investigative team to work together as a cohesive unit. She is also being blamed for the disappearance of Ted Allen; and having problems with another Deputy Chief. Just when Jess thinks things could not possibly get any worse, her on-the-lam serial killer Eric Spears ups his text mail torment of her into full-blown stalking. Spears is now leaving special ‘gifts’ for her, sometimes within the confines of her own apartment.” Yes, this is a ride you don’t want to miss.

Even though Revenge is number five in the series, it’s easy to pick up the story since each book has its own murder to solve. The overlapping relations between Jess and her love interest, Dan, as well as the serial killer Spears makes a very different type of triangular relationship not seen frequently, if at all, in romances—but Webb really makes it work.Last Kiss Goodbye

I’m always on the look out for any book by Karen Robards and I’m excited to see her next one will be out this summer. The Last Kiss Goodbye (Ballantine; August 13, 2013) combines some signature suspense mixed with heart-pounding sensual tension. But this time Robards throws in the paranormal. As a psychiatrist, Dr. Charlotte "Charlie" Stone explores the darkest territory of serial killers psyches with a secret talent—Charlie can see dead people—and she tries to a achieve justice for the victims by hunting down madmen and murderers. Her talent also gives her a hopelessly passionate relationship with Michael Garland. Not a bad thing, except Garland is a ghost. Fortunately, Charlie also gets help from a flesh-and-blood agent, Tony Bartoli. 

Yes, another love triangle, but Robards not only pulls it together in mixing up the suspense but she also provides some top-notch romance.

If you’re a fan of the television series Longmire then you’re also probably looking for novels set in the area. I was delighted to find Lisa Jackson’s latest suspense set in Grizzly Falls, Mont. Not Wyoming, but close enough. Ready to Die (Kensington; July 30, 2013) has a killer with a list of victims. Two of his unknowing victims are on his trail: detectives Regan Pescoli and Selena Alvarez. The great thing I’ve found with Jackson is her uncanny and relentless magic with suspense. Her books can be labeled just as suspense or sometimes even as a thriller, but she always provides a strong romantic element. And Ready To Die gives us two strong women with conflicting relationships able and willing to capture the killer. It’s a perfect summer thunderstorm read.

And now, two books to download: Make sure you’ve got your device charged because you don’t want to miss either of these.

Adrienne Giordano is back with her latest in the Private Protector seriesOpposing Forces (Carina Press; June 2013). Although our reviewer still thinks Relentless Pursuit is the best so far, Opposing Forces provides a better chemistry between the two main characters and shows how much “Giordano has matured as a writer. Opposing Forces is a can't-put-it-down romantic suspense. From a shocking beginning to a well-earned happily ever after, Ms. Giordano makes every word count as she develops a powerful yet mysterious threat faced by characters falling in love in spite of their best intentions.”

Jackson Lynx is a recovering prescription drug addict with an almost complete one-year plan who’s tempted by Jillian Murdoch from his yoga class. Jillian isn’t looking for a relationship, but when she catches a man breaking into her house, it makes perfect sense to turn to security specialist Lynx. Before they know it, they are facing increasingly violent threats and trying to figure out what to do about the strong attraction that simmers between them. Our reviewer continues, “Lynx and Jillian are wonderful, well-developed characters that I rooted for throughout the book. Each is battling demons that complicate their budding relationship. As a result, they have an intense and imperfect relationship. I think I enjoyed their arguments more than I did the romantic moments. I know this is a weird thing for a romance lover to say but their fights were real and honest which completely pulled me in. The threat they face was as overwhelming for me as it was for Jillian and kept me wondering who was involved and what their plan was until the very end.”

How can you not love a novel with real but imperfect characters plus strong suspense? I know I can’t. Which brings me to my last book, A Thousand Lies, self-published by Sharon Sala. I’ve been a fan of Sala’s writing for years and she doesn’t let me down in this tale of a complicated, unhealthy family dynamic. There is dysfunctional and then there is just evil. To be honest, I’m not a fan of the price, but the book has stayed with me for two weeks and I’m still recommending it for the hardcore romantic suspense reader with deeper pockets. 

So, I hope I’ve given you a few books to try—and remember, those summer thunderstorms can provide a perfect backdrop for reading.

Sara Reyes is the founder and partner at FreshFiction.com a popular fiction web site for today's reader with new titles, contests, over 50,000 genre fiction author profiles with backlists, and permanently archived reviews, plus all the industry buzz. Fresh Fiction has a biweekly segment (Buy the Book) on WFAA Channel 8 Good Morning Texas to talk about new books not to miss. Believing face-to-face interaction is as important as virtual communities, Fresh Fiction sponsors an annual author reader tea in June, a readers conference in November, monthly literary events, and book clubs. Follow Sara at @FreshFiction on Twitter or Facebook.com/FreshFiction.