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.

8 Fall Book Releases I Couldn’t Put Down

Will we have a summer? Will we have a fall, even? Will the world go back to normal and will our country actually enact change so equality is a given? As much as I wish I had the answers or that everything would be answered affirmatively and in a timely manner, we just don’t know anything. You know, a good book can help you cope, and that’s a fact. (I’m proof as I’ve gotten lost in many a book since the stay-at-home orders were enacted.)

So, welcome back to Miranda’s Book Nook with my latest recommendations perfect to keep you busy and engaged during this crazy, anxious, and uncertain time.

Kiss My Cupcake by Helena Hunting

This novel focuses on two neighboring bars competing for business in a college town, and immediately I spy a delicious enemies-to-lovers trope brewing, chock full of sparks and chemistry. The dual perspectives of Ronan and Blaire help show there’s more to each side. Let’s just say this book is as sweet as … cupcakes! But, I like it, it’s fun and indulgent and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.

It’s a super quick read, and damn now I just want a cupcake myself! Once the duo gets to know each other and even team up, it gets a heck of a lot cuter and they are so in sync, it’s adorable. All that perfection and cuteness finally comes crumbling down in the final acts, and all that rawness and vulnerability is selling this book as more than just a cutesy romance. It has a predictable, sugary sweet ending, but yea, I enjoyed it. It was a very quick romance read and it was fun, definitely.

The story follows business owners Blaire Calloway and Ronan Knight who find themselves competing for customers and publicity. But, like any good romance, with every disagreement, more chemistry and sparks develop. Then, when a bigger business threat could take both their shops down, they must team up and well, I think you know where that is headed.

Available: August 11


Not Your #LoveStory by Sonia Hartl

This a quick, fun, and easy YA romance read. At first, you’re following aspiring YouTuber Macy in what looks like a love triangle of sorts between one complete jerk and two of her coworkers/friends, so it’s a little unclear who the main characters are and the story is definitely slow to start.

It reminds me of a teen, YA version of Girl Gone Viral with the context of a bystander live tweets a supposed meet-cute, even if it turns out to be faked. But, of course, the truth isn’t what it seems online. Eric is a cocky, slimy jerk who wants to capitalize on the attention. And, there we get the classic fake dating trope, so the duo can get more exposure and website revenue. Then, there’s a love triangle trope with Paxton, the sweetheart she’s big-time crushing on. Macy is caught between ethics and money and if she should play into this Twitter narrative or not. But, she and Paxton together are just so raw, vulnerable, and super cute. It’s a quick, fun YA read.

Available: September 1


Older by Pamela Redmond

I’ve been so so so excited for this sequel to Younger since I first found out about it, because I loved the original book and the popular TVLand series based on it. Here, we pick up some five years after Liza’s big lie and wow, so much as happened for her. The writing style and language are just so descriptive and captivating, I just can’t put it down. Oh, what a laugh, with the Sutton Foster and TV show references: It’s so brilliant to tie-in the show for the fans. Okay, like holy sh*t, I’m actually OBSESSED with everything in this book by just chapter one alone.

So, Hugo Fielding is the perfect choice for any Team Charles fans from the show, don’t you worry. He’ll bring the romance, and so will Josh for quite the love triangle (erm, square?). A romantic connection for Team Hugo is a bit of a slow burn, and then it comes in hot, hot, hot, wowza.

Hugo even says a line that implies that he finished this book at 3 in the morning, and hey, that tracks so well, because, SAME. I’m absolutely in love with this book and Pamela Redmond does the world of Liza and her perspective so much justice, and I just need to keep reading. It has to be a five-star read for me, like I’m actively clapping, squealing, and I’m just obsessed. I really liked the script parts and the show connections are fun, especially as a fan of the TV show myself. There’s so much drama, and I’m living for it!  Seriously it’s so descriptive, I can’t stop reading: it feels like a movie in my head, I can see it all so clearly. Also, it may seem silly, but I really appreciate the non-flowery, non-cutesy *ahem* monikers that you’d typically find in other romance novels, and thank goodness; this makes the book feel so much more realistic. In the end, everyone does get their HEAs, but in a way that feels authentic and justified, and about damn time. In the end, it comes full circle to the show and it’s a nice way to pay tribute to that world and fans.

This book has frothy romance and melodrama, core friendship bonds, odes to both LA and NYC, plenty of heart and vulnerability, independence, and so many meta ties to the show and its actors. I loved it as a sequel and on its own, though it does help if you know the story already whether, from the first book or TV series, it certainly helps you connect to the world right off the bat.

Available: September 8


White Coat Diaries by Madi Sinha

It’s definitely an eye-opening look at the life of an idealistic young doctor, just as she begins her residency at a prestigious hospital. We first meet Norah who’s having a tough time transitioning into her new role and her chief resident Ethan, whom she obviously falls for despite him not being interested.

It reads quickly with engaging language, it and does remind me of Grey’s Anatomy (I do love my medical dramas!), but I like that it is more about her career than just romance and finding a man. It’s the story of her residency, friendships, and family. Norah is definitely idealistic which I’d rather see her more realistic and wanting to do this job well and not fawn all over a man. It’s engaging and I couldn’t put it down. The ending did feel out of character for her, and I do wish there was no implied romantic interest because the book didn’t need it, that part all felt like filler. Other than that, it was a quick read about the medical field.

Available: September 15


Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey

This enemies-to-lovers romance is set in the house flipping world, much like the author’s previous books in the Just Us League. With this one, Wes and Bethany have so much banter together, which is what I love, so it won me over. In the book, house stager Bethany teams up with construction worker Wes to flip a house on a tight deadline.

It does awkwardly flip between the two point-of-views, but the voices are drastically different, so it’s not that confusing. It’s very cute, but does escalate very fast, which is good because a slow burn wouldn’t have worked as well between these two characters with their chemistry and attraction.

It does feel like just another cutesy, steamy romance and that’s about it. There’s some very detailed language and lots of steamy scenes, so if that’s not your style, FYI. It’s a romance, nothing more or nothing less, it is what it is and just what you’d expect in the genre. It’s a fine, easy romance read. That being said, the HEA at the end is sweet and adorable, I can’t ignore or brush over that. Since it is the third book in the series, it definitely is meant for an audience that knows the other two books since it has the same characters. Having not read the others first, it’s just fine, but had I read the others, I’m sure I’d like even more.

Available: September 22


The Code for Love and Heartbreak by Jillian Cantor

It starts off cute enough, back in high school. The book feels original with the story and characters and from the beginning, I’m very intrigued to see where things will go.

This retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma follows coding rockstar Emma and co-club president and friend George as they must develop a brand-new coding project for competition. Her idea is to create “The Code for Love,” a dating algorithm slash matchmaking app. At first, he disapproves of her idea, but it actually works and for the first time, she becomes popular across the whole school.

It’s a fast and fun contemporary YA read and very enjoyable. I’ve gotten so invested in the story because Emma is so oblivious to what’s right in front of her and I just want to shake her like, ‘Girl, what is right in front of you!’ And then, George, gah, this boy, this boy is indecisive and is messing with my head because it all seemed so obvious, but I don’t know what to think anymore. But that being said, I couldn’t put it down and ended up devouring it in one night. That ending is beyond is cute, like heart-melting, earth-shattering, grand romance, and all that stuff. It’s so cute and that ending/epilogue is precious. It’s a love story for all us nerd types out there, and proof that you can’t rationalize everything. For a YA romance, it’s just what I want.

Available: October 6


Cobble Hill by Cecily von Ziegesar

I was so excited about this book just being the latest from the mind of the woman who created Gossip Girl, which was a series I devoured back in the day. That, and the premise had me intrigued. The story follows a year-in-the-life of parents and kids in the well-off neighborhood of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, and how they all connect and relate with each other.

There’s so much descriptive language that it really does play out like a movie in your head, but there’s a lot of point-of-views; almost too many at times, which is hard to keep up. While some of the adult characters are providing all the chaos, little nerdy teen Liam is the shiny and adorable bright spot with his schoolboy crush on the shy new girl Shy. There are so many secrets, which obviously causes all of the drama. There were a few continuity problems: like how on Earth did Editorial Assistant Manfred somehow, magically get promoted straight away to Senior Editor??? It doesn’t make sense. However, the book is very well-written, I can’t deny that. (Also, side note, are babysitters in Cobble Hill really making $20 per hour? If so, I may need a new side gig!)

The book starts to pick up by the second part after an extremely long exposition, but there’s still no singular or central story, it’s sort of all over the place. It is interesting to see all these different perspectives because it’s all so incredibly weird, like what is happening?? The plot is so odd, so odd, but yet, I couldn’t stop reading. The plot is so bizarre, it feels strange for it to be written by the same author who created Gossip Girl. But, I’m addicted and just have to keep reading because of the captivating, descriptive writing and storytelling devices; it really draws you in. Everything in this book is so off-the-walls-bonkers with the characters, I had no clue what was going on, but perhaps that’s what the author was going for. Then, there’s sort of a mystery going on, but just sort of as a device to show time passing? Then, there’s some resolution at the end, but it’s mostly a jumble, mish-mosh of a year in the life of eclectic, wealthy Brooklyn families. While the plot was strange and different, I was so intrigued and just couldn’t put it down.

Available: October 20


Stories from Suffragette City by M. J. Rose and Fiona Davis; introduction by Kristin Hannah

This collection of short stories honors the struggle for women’s suffrage and several perspectives of a variety of women across New York and the country at this time across the essays. Written by an assortment of bestselling authors, each story is set on the same day: October 23, 1915, during the march for women’s suffrage in New York City.

Each story uses impactful, captivating language to draw the reader in. With everything that’s happening in the world, this book is more important than ever to show why we need to stand up and fight for justice and equality. The stories are all about such strong, curious women and their male allies, who all turn up for the same suffragette parade in NYC. Some of these stories do end quite abruptly and ambiguously, while others feel completed and whole. But its overarching lesson about standing up and remaining strong at protests still rings true. Then, the little Grace character bounds from one story to the next, and as she weaves through the parade, multiple stories are tied together and show off a symbol of hope for the next generation.

It’s an eye-opening and important read, chock full of compelling language. It shares a message that women are not invisible and can/will/need to make their own destiny. The stories do highlight diverse voices, with two WOC protagonists, however, I wish that had a higher proportion instead of making it seem like a “white woman issue,” I would have loved more of a diverse perspective in a more even split overall.

Available: October 27


Advance reader copies of each book were provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.