Get Ready for Summer With These 7 New 2021 Romance Reads

Readers of this blog should know well by now that I love a good romance book. In terms of pure escapism, no genre does it better. In a world where sh*t unfortunately does hit the fan and fairytale happily-ever-afters are unlikely, these books are my go-to when I want to feel the warm-fuzzies and just all-around better about life in that moment. So, I pick up a romance novel (or many of them, over and over again) and get so engrossed and enthralled with the magical, happy stories. And like, well, magic, I always feel better by the time I reach those final pages. So, in this installment of Miranda’s Book Nook, I’ll be sharing new summer 2021 romance book titles that I can’t get enough of that should be on your radar this summer. Hello, beach reads, anyone??

Happy Endings by Thien-Kim Lam

I was very excited about this book premise because I think the romance genre in total is still strongly lacking in terms of sex positivity, representation, and diversity books, and this read delivers on those fronts. It’s a sexy second-chance romance about two exes with unfinished business together. Trixie just moved to DC and is determined to make her sex toy business a hit to prove to her traditional Vietnamese parents that she can succeed. Her first pop-up shop goes well, until, while at the restaurant where it’s being hosted, the owner strolls in. It’s none other than her ex, Andre, who broke up with her via a note, all Sex and the City-style.

Andre needs to save his family’s soul restaurant, and so the two of them agree to a merger of sorts, hosting her pop-up series at his business which will save his and help launch hers. But, their chemistry is still smoldering and they soon get engaged in a FWB situation. Yes, old flames are reignited and deep feelings re-emerge. Told in dual perspectives, this book is very spicy and has lots of backstory. Yet, the writing is very captivating to keep my attention. It should be noted that there is a massive content warning for grief if that’s triggering. Also, I don’t know why but these characters just felt a little cringe to me. But all in all, this was still a fun romance romp (albeit a bit of a smutty one) when you need to indulge.

Rating: Three Stars

Available: May 15


The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary

The acclaimed author of The Flatshare and The Switch is back once again with a delightful and impactful romance read! Here, we follow two exes who are road-tripping together to their mutual friend’s wedding, so you know things are bound to get awkward. The main characters of Dylan and Addie are total opposites, but fell in love years ago on holiday.

Now, two years since their breakup, they are forced to reunite at their friend Cherry’s wedding. But first, they have to get there, along with his best friend, her sister, and another random guest, all in one car. It’s forced proximity at its finest. The book is told in back-and-forth perspectives of both Addie and Dylan, in present and past timelines. There is a content warning for sexual assault that I think definitely should be addressed here, too, so heads up if that’s triggering for you.

Both Addie and Dylan have interesting and engaging sides that compel me to keep reading because I’m just so invested in this journey. These characters are well-written, authentic, and vulnerable. However, this read does feel quite long, but is way better than The Switch in my eyes. All in all, I just wish it didn’t have to end because I just wanted more to their story!

Rating: Four Stars

Available: June 1


Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

I initially had a different plan for my TBR order this past February, but as soon as I got approval for a galley of this brand-new Nicola Yoon book, all that went out the window! Yoon is a master at what she does, creating compelling contemporary YA (and I loved both of her previous books), so I knew this would deliver and totally be worth deviating from my monthly, scheduled TBR plan. And guess what, that paid off because it’s totally five-star worthy.

It starts with the main character Evie, who doesn’t believe in love anymore after her parents’ divorce. The girl who once devoured romance novels now can only see how couples’ love stories end instead of the actual loved-up parts. After some fated encounters, she ends up at La Brea Dance Studio and finds herself learning to dance with the spontaneous, adventurous X. Xavier (who goes by the nickname X) is the total opposite of Evie, but the two of them are thrown together as a pair for a local ballroom dance competition. As they practice together and get to know each other, Evie has to confront if love is worth the risk. An emotional Nicola Yoon novel that’s also a dance romance, um, yes, please!

Reading this one, I found it’s full of engaging language where I can truly get inside bookish Evie’s head. There is a magical, fantastical element of sorts that explain how some things occur and connect. The subplot with her powers reminds me of Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer in that way. Overall, this doesn’t feel quite like her other books, but rather something completely new, and I dig it! I do equally love this one as much as her previous ones, even with its differences. The characters are relatable and authentic, too. Also, Evie+X has such a squeal-worthy, precious connection and romance. Then, there’s a big bombshell reveal in the second act that took me by complete surprise and hit me right in the feels. And I do mean, all of the feels. This book’s so vulnerable and surprisingly profound. And that ending: I just want more! Additionally, this one made me cry so, so hard by the end. Seriously. Bring me all the tissues right now because I need them.

It’s a beautifully written book and so authentic because, hey, not everything lasts forever except that feeling and association of love sometimes can. This book is romantic, fantastical, authentic, vulnerable, bittersweet, and heartfelt. I loved it so darn much. Yoon effortlessly blends the contemporary with the fantasy in this sweet YA read about the power of first love. This book is just so flipping good, she’s done it again. Brava!

Rating: Five Stars

Available: June 2


To Sir, With Love by Lauren Layne

Immediately based on the summary, I was drawn to this romance read. Being hailed as Love is Blind meets You’ve Got Mail, two thirty-somethings meet and connect via a blind dating app with no names or pictures, only to discover their online chemistry is just as strong as their IRL workplace rivalry.

We follow aspiring artist Grace, who runs her late father’s boutique champagne shop in Manhattan. She’s cheerful and oft dreaming of her prince, who she believes is this guy from the app even though he has a girlfriend and they are just virtual pen pals. Then, her store is in trouble but she’s hesitant to give up her dad’s dream, and the man from the company who owns her building wants to buy her out. It turns out that owner is none other than the attractive and arrogant Sebastian. Overwhelmed with what path to take next, Gracie seeks solace and comfort in Sir, her faceless pen pal who she initially matched with based on common interests. While she’s falling deeper and deeper for Sir online, she doesn’t realize that he’s actually the man she cannot stand ala You’ve Got Mail.

These two have such banter from the jump that’s just so delicious and fun as a reader, where I just want to keep reading more of this fun enemies to lovers tale. It’s told partially in the present day, but then each chapter begins with a snippet of their anonymous texts, giving us more of the juicy details. In the end, it’s definitely cute, I’ll give it that, but it’s also quite expected and, all in all, just fine. But, you know, sometimes that predicably sweet rom-com is just what you need at a time. Except for that epilogue, I need more like right now.

Rating: Three Stars

Available: June 29


Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev

After reading Sonali Dev’s Recipe for Persuasion, I was excited to check out her next book in this series, which was an Indian-American twist on Sense and Sensibility, as evidenced by this clever and punny title. Here, eldest Raje sibling Yash is the first Indian gubernatorial candidate in California, who always knows what he wants and how to use his privileged background to get it by controlling his feelings.

After a hate-fueled incident at one of his rallies critically injures his friend/bodyguard, Yash’s life starts to spiral. To keep his anxiety attacks from leaking to the press, his family sends him to his sisters’ best friend India Dashwood, a popular stress management coach and yoga instructor. Oh, and these two once shared a mystical, magical night over ten years ago that didn’t lead anywhere, but that neither of them ever forgot. From the get-go, it’s also always fun to see previous characters pop up and still have their HEAs from earlier novels.

This read starts with plenty of action, so you get in Yash’s head and just want to keep reading. This book, told in dual perspectives, features compelling and relatable storytelling that just drew me in. While obviously this is an adaptation, it still feels current, new, and fresh. And, yes, it’s plenty cute too with a few squeal-worthy occurrences and monologues.

Rating: Three Stars

Available: July 6


It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

Just by the title and summary, I was already so pumped to check out this new Tessa Bailey read because she does her niche so well that’ll always have me hooked. Here, Piper is a socialite and Hollywood “It” Girl who’s been cut off from her family after she gets arrested. Not only that, but her millionaire stepfather cuts her off and exiles her to a small fishing-centric beach town in the Pacific Northwest.

In this Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com, the wild child twentysomething bumps into the surly yet sexy local fisherman Brendan. They butt heads at first, but after they keep running into each other all over town, it’s clear there’s something between them that is too palpable to ignore. It sounds like so much fun, and this book totally delivers. In her exile, Piper is sent to run her late biological father’s dive bar in town with her younger sister Hannah. Soon after her arrival, she meets sea captain and widower Brendan who doesn’t think this spoiled princess can survive here for even a week. She’s determined to prove she can, and a delicious enemies-to-lovers plot is born. She keeps running into Brendan all over town, only to discover that, while they are polar opposites, he’s also just a nice and friendly guy. They have such an undeniable pull to one another in this indulgent E2L story. It’s chock full of witty, compelling language that completely draws me in.

This book, with its dual perspectives, also explores the hidden depths of each character. Piper is also digging into her dead dad’s (whom she barely remembers) past while Brendan is attempting to finally move on with his life. Once these two figure out who they each are and how that impacts their own futures, it’s such an all-consuming type of love story, and I’m pretty sure I’m obsessed. Holy crap, so this book is so frothy, vulnerable, sexy, intense, and fun! It’s so much and I’m loving it. Like, it’s making my heart burst, I swear, and I’m just so into this read that I cannot put it down and ended up DEVOURING it in a single sitting until freaking four o’clock in the morning. I totally feel all of the zings, and then by the end, it’s just so flipping cute! Gah, I just cannot wait for the sequel to read all about Hannah+Fox’s story, too! I just need to read this one like four more times right now because I just can’t stop thinking about it.

Rating: Four Stars

Available: July 13


Heartbreak for Hire by Sonia Hartl

If you thoroughly enjoyed Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game, like me, then you’ll absolutely love this new romance read. With a similar spiteful enemies to lovers premise and quick, witty banter to boot, this novel delivers for those THG fans.

This book is hailed as a fun romance read for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne, and so immediately, I knew I’d be interested in this one, especially after I read the summary. Here, twentysomething Brinkley works at “Heartbreak for Hire,” a Chicago-based company that helps women take back their power and get revenge on the men that jilted them. This undercover gig helps her earn enough money to eventually open her own gallery, while still getting her frustrations out on her ex and helping to empower other women. When her boss reveals her plans to hire male employees, she questions whether or not she’s in the right field. Then, we find out one of her former targets Mark, who made quite the impression, is hired to work with her. Mark’s an adjunct professor struggling on the academic ladder, and quite the attentive and attractive nerd. Soon, Brinkley learns people aren’t always what they appear as they start working together and she trains him closely.

They have such delicious snappy banter that pulls me in and yearns to see what will happen next. This book is full of witty and captivating language that had me turning the page and polishing off this read in a single setting in only a few hours. The premise does give me such The Hating Game vibes, and its tone and language are whipsmart, witty, and banter-laden that backs that idea up. With that similar tone, rich and authentic characters, a heck of a plot twist, and more, it’s such a delicious, juicy enemies-to-lovers romance read.

Rating: Four Stars

Available: July 27


Advance reader copies of the books listed were provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Immediate Reactions After Watching Netflix’s ‘Too Hot to Handle’ Series

One thing y’all know about me is that I’m a sucker for a good reality TV show, and the trashier the better. It’s a guilty pleasure, I’m not even guilty about. Upon seeing the trailer for Netflix’s latest foray into the dating reality TV game, Too Hot to Handle, it immediately looked bad — but in a way that I definitely needed to watch. And so I did. Oh boy, did I. And, um, it was A LOT. But instead of recapping what y’all missed, I thought I’d give my unfiltered and unapologetically honest first impressions and opinions of this series. Because, hey, it’s what I do and what I like.

First off, here’s the official trailer of the new show, from the streaming service that brought you Love is Blind.

So, keep reading for a list of all my random musings and thoughts I had while watching this trashy dating show starring beautiful people, places, and accents. I watched it so you don’t have to, and here’s what happened.

  1. Slow-mo beach/pool shots of beautiful people in swimsuits, OK, this is just like Love Island.
  2. They found “the hottest, horniest, commit-phobic swipesters,” like this is a real quote from the narrator.
  3. The resort is essentially run by a Siri or Alexa-type called Lana. Lana quietly and secretly gathers intel on the guests without their knowledge, how creepy.
  4. Essex girl Chloe is like every girl I’ve ever seen in all six seasons of Love Island.
  5. The are all like 20 years old; babies! Basically, there’s an air of immaturity around the lot.
  6. Sharron openly admitted that he’s most proud of his manhood, which, um, is the size of an air freshener. Which like, ew, we didn’t want to know that. (Hey, it’s been four minutes! Geez!)
  7. I can already tell Haley is going to be annoying: She has a tattoo in another language that she doesn’t know what it means and can’t stop doing her sorority chant. Just please stop.
  8. Within 5 minutes, I already can tell it is a pure dumpster fire. Like it’s so bad, but I just can’t look away.
  9. OK but seriously, Love Island and the entire Bachelor franchise both look classier than this. Which is saying a lot because people are making out and hooking up in like every episode.
  10. Did Harry just call the girls quesadillas? Like the food? Um. And then naughty possums? Creep alert.
  11. Most of them are models and influencers, of course. One dude (the Jesus lookalike) was even on America’s Next Top Model once upon a time, like obviously none of them are here for the right reasons.
  12. It’s just so ridiculous, but I just can’t look away.
  13. David walks into bars, whips his top off, and that works for him? I’d give him serious side-eye, like what the heck, that’s so unsanitary.
  14. OK Haley doesn’t know were Australia is. Like, I just. And yet, she’s in college??
  15. This show is rapidly decreasing my interest in dating as it continues to prove that men are The Worst and just trash even more. This song just gets me right now.
  16. One thing that really, really bugs me is that the lower thirds are inconsistent. It bothers me. For the US contestants, it says the state and USA, but international kids get their city and country code. For example, “Colorado, USA” or “New Jersey, USA” are not in the same style as “Essex, UK” or “Cork, Ireland.” Like, Colorado and New Jersey are states, and Essex and Cork are cities not states.
  17. There’s no way “Kelz” is his given name. Come on, please gimme a backstory and the real information.
  18. Harry is awful and not even the least bit cute. Like, how is he a hot commodity? Surely, it’s just the accent??
  19. This show is over the top and trash, but I can’t stop watching. OK, I’m in it and invested completely, just like the streaming service’s The Circle.
  20. Even the bedroom decor looks like it was inspired by Love Island meets the beachy vibes and palapas of Bachelor in Paradise.
  21. I cannot stand Francesca and Haley. These two girls are fake fake fake and snooty bullies and I do not like watching them on my TV screen.
  22. Real question: Considering this is an international show, how would these potential intercontinental relationships work on the outside? Like, I need follow-ups.
  23. Seriously, point deductions already? Can’t you keep it in your pants? You just met and there’s a cash prize on the line.
  24. How did the casting team find these people? They are all the absolute worst.
  25. Can’t touch, can’t kiss? Huh, seems like good practice for quarantine. Welcome to our new world!
  26. It’s truly mind-boggling, like, I just cannot.
  27. Rhonda’s nails are like talons. How is that comfortable?
  28. I swear, David’s only move seems to be applying sunscreen to girls. Like, no, please don’t touch me, we just met.
  29. The boys are flirting with Lana, who is a computer. Like, quite childish?
  30. Matthew and David don’t know a single man that’s gone a month without sexual practices? Um, welcome to quarantine life as singles, hun. LOL.
  31. Chloe is funny and my instant favorite. “Think of your nan” is my new favorite quote from one of these shows. Hahahaha.
  32. Like how is this hard? Girls, just avoid the temptation: don’t shave your legs, don’t put on makeup, cover up your bikinis. You have all the tools, use it. When there’s a giant sum of money on the line, wouldn’t it be worth it?
  33. This lot cannot even go two 12 minutes without breaking the rules. Like seriously?
  34. With each kiss worth $3,000 each, surely they are going to wind up with like $50 each??
  35. Ok, I keep forgetting that Nicole is there. Oof, girl does nothing. #freeholiday #unproblematic
  36. Ick, Harry is the worst. Why is he lying and pinning it all on Francesca. Boy, you’re canceled.
  37. Haley and Francesca must not be worried about money or financial obligations if they decide to break the rules out of revenge to intentionally drag the pot down without a care in the world. Like how selfish and immature are you?
  38. I’m watching these humans tie each other up. Oy, what is TV anymore?
  39. Sharron was so happy the truth came out that he and Rhonda didn’t break the rules that he says he “feels like OJ.” Um yea, I don’t know if I’d go down that route, yikes.
  40. LOLOL, Bryce joining the crew as a late arrival with no knowledge, then finding out immediately from the rest of the participants, oh it’s a priceless look.
  41. Lana reading out an itemized bill of infractions to the group is so savage.
  42. Poor Chloe, she keeps wasting money on kisses with boys whom she doesn’t fancy. Poor girl.
  43. Boys are learning to be vulnerable by covering each other in mud? Ummmm ok? Oh and then running across the garden with wooden spears? A weird version of Braveheart or something that I didn’t expect.
  44. Why is Bryce sleeping on the floor? Like, hun, you could share a bed with a friend, make a pillow wall, sleep on the couch in the living room or the outdoor bed. Why the floor?
  45. Banter! Banter! Banter! I like a bit of banter myself (it’s the Anglophile in me) but like no one has it? They just keep saying that’s what they like???
  46. Ooh poor David, he is so sunburnt. Yikes, that’s got to majorly hurt.
  47. Like Harry and Francesca, are you the least bit remorseful about costing the group $20,000? A bit selfish, huh?
  48. The girls take part in an empowerment workshop. Great, love it, we stan women being strong and independent. But, doing so by um taking a mirror up to their *ahem* yoni and then painting an artistic portrait of it? Yea, it’s a lot. Not even Love Island has gone there!
  49. Wait, Rhonda has a son? And she waited until the penultimate episode to reveal it to anyone? Like, wouldn’t you mention that in your voiceover? To your boyfriend? Someone, anyone?
  50. Oh, so y’all are putting faith in the couple who’s lost more than $30,000 to not touch at all for a whole night in the private suite. Oy. But seriously, you better stay six feet apart. Hey, it’s good quarantine practice.
  51. I get for suspense they wanted it to seem like one couple or whatnot would get the final prize, but it was obvious based on how the whole show was set up that everyone would get a piece of the fund. And Francesca’s smug face when it was just her and her beau standing, ugh. So selfish and snooty. Nope. Then, her face when Sharron was next to stand up and then, everyone else? Like, huh, karma hun, that’s what you get for being so mean-spirited and arrogant.
  52. This was filmed a year ago. How many of them are still together? (Or at least attempted to last outside the resort.) Come on, Netflix, gimme the tea and a reunion like now.

Wow, that was truly trash and sleazy. But like, wow, it’s addictive.