Is spring a little wiggy for you this year? In Wisconsin, it really can’t figure out what it wants to do. A week or so ago it was a sunny eighty degrees and now it’s cool and rainy, hovering around fifty. Thankfully there are so many bright books releasing these days that we can find sun in their pages, if not in our backyards.

I’ve been in a contemporary mood recently and have had the opportunity to read/listen to some great titles over the past month.

I’ll kick off with The Idea of You by Robinne Lee. Many of you may know the author as an actress in movies like Hitch, Seven Pounds, and the Fifty Shades franchise. I’m often hesitant to read books written by celebrities, because, well, writing—especially writing fiction—is a special skill and lots of people miss the mark. But with celebrities, I sometimes feel they’re trying to expand their brand through another platform, and even if it’s an automatic bestseller, it doesn’t mean the book is good.

But oh my. The Idea of You is good. Really good. It’s so well-written and contemplates the dark and light of celebrity culture, as well as motherhood, romance, love, social taboos, and many other aspects of a May/December romance when the woman, Solène, is December and the man, Hayes, is May, but also Harry Styles-esque famous, while Solène’s daughter has a huge crush on him. I should mention that the ending does not offer a definitive HEA/HFN, but the journey of main characters Solène and Hayes is truly compelling and thought-provoking, while also being really sexy, romantic, and poignant. The book releases June 13, and I highly recommend it. (Kirkus gave it a great review, too.)

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5.25 romance_royallyromaThe delightful author Teri Wilson participated in the Paris Festival of Romance Novels last year, where I met her and heard she was launching a Royals series. It begins with Royally Roma which features Prince Niccolo of fictional Lazaretto, and Julia, an impoverished grad student with a dicey backstory and a real (and earned) mistrust of rich men. When a misunderstanding leads to her giving him a tour of Rome which causes her to lose her job, and then he doesn’t have the cash or credit to pay her, she swears not to let him out of her sight until she gets her money. So he spends a (platonic) night in her apartment and enjoys living out of the spotlight and spending time with the smart, passionate Julia, who encourages him to live honestly and authentically, which at first leads to major misunderstandings and then manifests in truly life-changing ways. 

This book was truly charming, an exquisite mix of romantic and sexual tension set against the historical grandeur of the Eternal City. Plus, as a huge fan of Roman Holiday, I especially enjoyed the small nods to certain scenes of that timeless, wonderful movie. Royally Roma released at the end of March (an e-release from Pocket) and the second book, Royally Romanov, loosely based on the 1956 classic film Anastasia, releases in July. (I was obsessed with the Romanovs when I was a teenager, so I will totally be reading that one!) 

I ran into Ann Marie Walker at a Chicago-area author get-together, and she told me about her upcoming romantic comedy Black Tie Optional, a modern marriage-of-convenience storyline that brings billionaire Coleman Grant together with Olivia Ramsey, an advocate for a slew of liberal causes. She’s been stalking him professionally and they tell themselves they can’t stand each other, but when they land at the same Vegas hotel and see each other in a different light, it ends in a night of drunken yet unexpectedly blazing passion. That leads Cole to ask Olivia to marry him in order to inherit his parents’ fortune. In return he’ll revise his plans that threaten the endangered bats she’s trying to save—and has been stalking him over—so they tie the knot at an Elvis-themed Vegas chapel, sending them into a marriage that becomes more real as the days go by. However, their past mistrust, deep-seated differences, and personal and professional pride keeps them from admitting the truth.

This book was crazy fun, with off-the-charts sexual tension, some laugh out loud scenes, and a romantic arc that at first sounds hard to believe, but through their journey, we fall in love with Cole and Olivia almost as hard as they fall in love with each other. Adorable, romantic, funny, and sexy! 

5.25 romance_blacktieBlack Tie Optional releases on May 30th, and is the first of Walker’s new Wild Wedding series. 

Finally, in a recent post, my friend Scandie recommended Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz, and I will second her strong recommendation! This time-travel romance is swoon-worthy and lovely. Reisz is a powerful writer who hits all the high romance you can ask for, while creating a fascinating yet believable plot that makes us believe that love can conquer all, even time and death.

She has nothing to live for in the present, but finds there’s something worth dying for in the past…

“An enthralling new novel about a woman swept away by the tides who awakens to find herself in 1921, reunited with the husband she’s been mourning for four years. Fans of Kate Morton and Diana Gabaldon will fall in love with the mystery, romance, and beauty of an isolated South Carolina lighthouse, where a power greater than love works its magic.” (Thanks to Harlequin for getting me the audio for this book, which was recorded by Blackstone. Narrator Teri Schnaubelt did a great job.)

Four great titles I highly recommend, and I hope you’ll add to your TBR piles. What are you reading/looking forward to these days?

#HappyReading #LoveRomance