16 romance novels to heat up your summer

Open fire bans may be in place this summer season, but that doesn’t mean readers can’t get scorched by hot romance on the page. Summer 2024 is chock-full of novels with intriguing plots that explore the vagaries of the human heart.

The Times took a look at some of these twisty stories where lovers and friends seek soulmates and playmates in locales that stretch from 11th century Italy to an alternative future. One of this summer’s most sizzling themes takes readers behind the scenes of reality dating shows where Mr. or Ms. Wrong distracts contestants from that season’s Mr. Right.

Whether you’re looking for the coolness of a noir romance or the polite manners of a Victorian spy caper, a queer superhero hunk or a polyamorous Manhattan bartender, a curvy girl’s quest to find the perfect man in time for her birthday or a woman’s treasure hunt to recover stolen jewels, plenty of steamy stories await a place on your summer TBR.

Add some spice to that sweating glass of ice tea and drink deeply of these piquant novels.


We Could Be Heroes
By Philip Ellis
G.P. Putnam’s Sons: 384 pages, $20
(June 4)

Can the hot romance between a “superhero” and a drag performer save the world? Patrick and Will meet on a chaotic night and become unexpected friends. Find out what happens when the mask and the wig come off and their burgeoning romance puts them under the spotlight.

The Secret Keeper of Main Street
By Trisha R. Thomas
William Morrow & Co.: 304 pages, $28
(June 4)

Bailey Dowery is a dressmaker who harbors a secret in 1950s Oklahoma. She can see the future of each of the brides for whom she creates stunning gowns. When the daughter of a wealthy oil tycoon who’s planning the high-society wedding of the year visits her shop, Bailey predicts disaster. Someone ends up dead and the repercussions threaten everyone Bailey loves.

Isabel and the Rogue
By Liana de la Rosa
Penguin Publishing GroupBerkley: 352 pages, $19
(June 4)

Mexican heiress Isabel Luna Valdés lives a quiet life under the French Occupation in the 19th century. When the ambassador asks her to spy for her country, she plunges into a world of espionage and intrigue. Capt. Sirius Dawson is the rakish British intelligence officer who seduces women to pry information. How will he keep his English cool as he matches wits with the clever, enchanting Isabel?

Triple Sec
By TJ Alexander
Atria: 320 pages, $19
(June 4)

Mel is a bartender at a swanky cocktail lounge. Every night, she watches as romance sparks for everyone but her. When Bebe orders one of her concoctions, Mel is shaken and stirred by the gorgeous woman, who draws her into a relationship that includes her husband. The polyamorous trio’s sexy encounters give Mel delicious inspiration for an upcoming bartender competition.

Not Here to Make Friends
By Jodi McAlister
Atria: 400 pages, $19
(June 4)

Murray is the highly successful showrunner for the steamy reality series “Marry Me, Juliet.” He’s on a mission to make this season the most successful yet. The network selects the very dramatic Lily Fireball as the show’s feisty villain, and Murray sees trouble on the set. As Murray battles with his show’s alluring bad girl, he’s tempted by her charms.

The Summer Escape
By Jill Shalvis
Avon Books: 336 pages, $30
(June 11)

How can Anna Moore clear her father’s good name in their Lake Tahoe hometown? He’s been accused of stealing a valuable necklace, and Anna turns sleuth to find the truth. She bumps up against Owen Harris, the sexy adventurist who’s also in search of the million-dollar jewels, and the pair engages in a wild scavenger hunt. Anna must race Owen to the prize without getting her heart stolen.

Curvy Girl Summer
By Danielle Allen
Bramble: 368 pages, $18
(June 11)

Aaliyah James is looking for love in all the wrong places. When family tells her she’s “too much” for anyone, the miffed Aaliyah claps back with stories about the sexy man she’s been seeing. Before her family shows up to meet this mystery man at her birthday party, can Aaliyah find the right one to turn that big fib into reality?

Hot Summer
By Elle Everhart
G.P. Putnam’s Sons: 400 pages, $19
(June 25)

Cas gets selected to appear on a “Love Island”-type reality show and heads to the sunny beaches of Cyprus determined to win the public’s hearts by taking the top prize. That’s when she meets Ada, a beautiful contestant with whom Cas would like to hook up, only to find that Ada wants a relationship. Their desire for one another means Cas may have to compromise her winning strategy.

Joe Hustle
By Richard Lange
Mulholland: 272 pages, $29
(June 25)

What’s a classic noir without a troubled dame at its heart? Joe Hustle inhabits the shadow world of the Los Angeles fringe. When he meets Emily — beautiful, rich and the black sheep of her family — he falls hard. Joe runs into trouble with a drug dealer, and the young lovers flee on a desperate road trip. Lange, known for his hard-boiled mysteries, has penned a dangerous noir romance.


The Villian Edit
By Laurie Devore
Avon: 336 pages, $28
(July 2)

In an effort to win back her reading public, struggling romance novelist Jacqueline Matthis lands a spot on a “Bachelor”-type reality program. She falls hard for the show’s sexy Marcus. But her plans go awry when Jac discovers that her ex, Henry, is a producer on the show and that he’s set her up to be that season’s villain. As Jac tries to narrate her comeback story, the plot goes awry.

By M.T. Anderson
Pantheon: 240 pages; $28
(July 23)

Anderson’s debut adult novel is the 11th century queer romantic adventure you didn’t know you were looking for. Brother Nicephorus dreams that his plague-afflicted town will be cured by attaining a holy relic. After treasure hunter Tyun shows up, the two men set off on a wild and erotic pilgrimage to find the mystical bones.


Elizabeth of East Hampton
By Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding
Gallery Books: 384 pages, $19
(Aug. 6)

Lizzy Bennet detests summers in the Hamptons. Her hometown fills up with Manhattan’s elite, who turn the place into a party town, only to leave wreckage behind by Labor Day. Lizzy has decided this is her last Hamptons summer, which she’ll spend working and surfing. When the wealthy Will Darcy shows up, Lizzy is prepared to hate him. In this retelling of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” Darcy and Lizzy give Regency tea a Long Island twist.

In Every Life
By Rea Frey
Harper Muse: 368 pages, $19
(Aug. 6)

Harper’s world is upended when her husband, Ben, receives a cancer diagnosis. As Ben’s health declines, he tells Harper to find a new love who can comfort her after he’s gone. A New York reporter shows up to tell their unusual story and Harper is faced with an impossible choice made possible by magic. She can go back to her past and choose a different path, but it would have to be one without Ben.

Till Death Do Us Part
By Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
Simon & Schuster: 320 pages, $29
(Aug. 13)

Ten years ago, June’s first husband, Josh, drowned during their honeymoon. While planning her second wedding, June thinks she sees Josh and worries that she’s hallucinating. She then stumbles upon his photograph online and takes off for California in search of the truth.

The Cottage on Pelican Bay
By Brenda Jackson
Canary Street Press: 320 pages, $19
(Aug. 20)

Jackson, whose accolades include a lifetime achievement award from the Romance Writers of America, delivers another scorcher. Zara Miller meets “Saint” in a New Orleans bar for a brief, memorable fling. Zara goes back to her hometown of Catalina Cove and re-encounters the smoldering Saint, and their affair grows hot enough to burn Zara’s cottage down.

Morbidly Yours
By Ivy Fairbanks
G.P. Putnam’s Sons: 352 pages, $19
(Aug. 20)

Callum Flannelly is a painfully shy undertaker in Ireland who will be disinherited if he doesn’t marry by the time he’s 35. Lark is a vivacious American widow who lives next door to the mortuary. Lark decides to play Callum’s matchmaker, digging deep to find him a new love. Can she do it before time runs out?

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