There are still a few weeks of summer left, which means plenty more afternoons to lie out in the sun, maybe poolside, while diving into a good book. It's a great time to read anything with a romantic twist — so that's why we've asked romance author Jasmine Guillory to recommend a few of her favorites, and to tell us what she looks for in a romance.
"I want to feel like I'm inside the story, you know? I want characters who feel real to me, who, even if I have nothing in common with them, I understand why they're behaving the way they are," she says. "I think about their struggles, and I understand why they're falling in love. I think that's the most important thing for me in a romance, is to really know that these two people are meant for each other, and to feel like I'm kind of tagging along on their love story. That's my favorite part."
Honey Girl, by Morgan Rogers
One of the things that I love so much about this book is, I think that the drunken hookup in Vegas is a common beginning of a romance novel trope, but this book is so different than what you would expect from that — it's a very coming-of-age book. Grace is in her mid-20s. She's just finished a Ph.D. program and is really figuring out what to do with the rest of her life and then, you know, deciding that she's really going to kind of give it a shot with this woman that she hooked up with in Vegas and then got married to. And they live on the other sides of the country. They kind of fall in love over the phone, and then they travel to meet one another. And it's a really kind of slow, thoughtful, loving book, and I just enjoyed it so much.
Island Affair, by Priscilla Oliveras
So this story is about Sara and Luis. And they — I should have probably said this at the beginning — one of my favorite things about romance novels, honestly, is I feel like they're always kind of secret family stories, right? Because when you think about who you want to spend your life with, a lot of times that's because of your family and the people that you grew up with. And so, sometimes, you're really figuring out who your family is in relationship to you. And I think there's a lot of that in this book.
Both Sara and Luis are figuring out their families. They both love their family so much, but have kind of difficult relationships with different individuals ... And Sara, especially, feels like her family looks down on her. So that's why she has this fake fiancé, because she was supposed to come on this family vacation with a fiancé. They broke up right before, and she feels like she has to save face in front of her family. And so she gets Luis to pretend to be her fiancé ... And I kind of loved the way that they learn about each other, figure out their families and figure out their selves as they're working through their relationship.
Intercepted, by Alexa Martin
One of the things that I love about Alexa Martin's writing is a lot of her books have been set in and around a football team. And I've always had a kind of love-hate relationship with football and, I think, a lot of sports. There's so much that we love about watching them, but we all know so many of the bad things that happen in sports, from the health struggles to assault to all of the kind of ways in which the teams don't treat their players well. And Alexa Martin really knows how to deal with all of that — both sides of it.
This story is really about Marlee, who starts out the book dating an NFL player. She finds out that he's cheating on her, breaks up with him, but then there's a new player in town, and she has kind of a past with him. And so she's figuring out herself and kind of who she wants to be as a person. Does she want to be in this relationship? Does she want to be an NFL girlfriend? And there's so much about friendship and family and knowing who you are as a person before you're in a relationship in this book. And that's one of the things that I loved about it so much.
It's an interesting year, right? Because I think a lot of the books that have come out this year were written at least partially during the pandemic. And so while none of these books that I've read, at least, have specifically touched on it, I think a lot of the themes really have touched on it, right? There's a lot about friendship and how our friends evolve, about loving family, about mental health. You know, I know that my most recent book, While We Were Dating, I wrote during the pandemic, and there's a lot about mental health in there. And I think I couldn't write a book last year that didn't deal with that theme because it was so important to so many of us in the past year.
This story was edited for radio by Isabella Gomez and Melissa Gray, and adapted for radio by Petra Mayer