August is, more often than not, a month of in-betweens. Summer is slowly waning, with the last vestiges of hot weather slowly fading into the background, and looking ahead the promise of fall awaits—crisp coolness, changing leaves, and pumpkin spice-flavored everything. (Of course, if you live in a different hemisphere then chances are the weather’s only getting warmer for you by comparison!) While every month could arguably be considered a reading month, there’s nothing like the inevitability of back-to-school season that personally gets me in the biggest mood to crack open a book and immerse myself in an engrossing story. (And the best part is not even having to write an essay on it afterward!)
This month was also a verifiable wealth of riches in terms of the sheer number of romance releases—so much so that it would be impossible for me to list every single one of them here, but if you too find yourself torn between more than one impossible choice, the below list will hopefully serve as a nice jumping-off point. From the eternally gratifying trope of enemies-to-lovers to a steamy holiday love story that could put Hallmark’s offerings to shame to the ever-delightful conceit of heists(!), none of the below August romance novels will steer you wrong.
The Hookup Plan by Farrah Rochon
Release Date: August 2 from Forever
Why You’ll Love It: I’ve been a fan of Rochon’s Boyfriend Project series since the beginning, in which group of women who all discover they’ve been led on by the same guy proceed to collectively dump him by very public, and very viral means. Luckily, the promise of romance all but ensures they’ll each find their own perfect match later on down the road, but what also makes Rochon’s series so special is the fact that these women all bond together over their shared experience and become each other’s biggest cheerleaders. In fact, you could argue that the relationship between these ladies is as important if not on par with each of their respective love stories. In other words, this group is #girlganggoals.
By the time you get to The Hookup Plan, you’ll be ready and waiting for overachiever London to meet her match—but it happens in the most irresistible of ways, with her high school archenemy. Why shouldn’t she give in and let herself have some fantastic, toe-curling bed tango with her rival? Even if there’s more than a small chance that all of that irritation is going to slowly evolve into deeper feeling…
Publisher’s Description: Successful pediatric surgeon London Kelley just needs to find some balance and de-stress. According to her friends Samiah and Taylor, what London really needs is a casual hookup. A night of fun with no strings. But no one—least of all London—expected it to go down at her high school reunion with Drew Sullivan, millionaire, owner of delicious abs, and oh yes, her archnemesis.
Now London is certain the road to hell is paved with good sex. Because she’s found out the real reason Drew’s back in Austin: to decide whether her beloved hospital remains open. Worse, Drew is doing everything he can to show her that he’s a decent guy who actually cares. But London’s not falling for it. Because while sleeping with the enemy is one thing, falling for him is definitely not part of the plan.
Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan
Release Date: August 2 from Avon
Why You’ll Love It: Many of us avid romance readers likely recognize Whelan’s name already—not just because she’s written before, but because she’s also lent her skill to the art of audiobook narration, helping to spin many a tale with her voice. Thank You for Listening isn’t just a story that positions romance at the forefront, but also a part of the industry that’s not often focused on within the genre. Sewanee Chester, our lead, was once an on-screen star but has since realized that she can also continue her passion in a soundbooth reading stories. She doesn’t really narrate romances anymore after a tragic event in her past, but eventually, her real life takes a surprising turn that could rival the pages of any swoony love story.
In the pursuit of her own HEA, Sewanee also decides to re-embrace the genre she formerly scorned and open her heart on more than one front. Whelan’s latest is a story about love as well as a dedication to the audio narration community in and of itself—and about how the possibility of romance can strike anywhere, no matter what your occupational pursuit or life stage is.
Publisher’s Description: For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.
On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.
As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.
If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.
Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon
Release Date: August 9 from Griffin
Why You’ll Love It: There are times I’m not fully prepared for a book to feel like a big squeezing fist around my heart, and this was one of those times, but simultaneously, Devon is an author who is already breathing fresh life into the genre. When I saw this was already getting rave early reviews from my timeline, I couldn’t help but dive in, and I’m extraordinarily glad I did.
A contemporary romance that manages to be evocative, angsty, moving, and filled with little indescribable moments between two people that hold staggering emotional significance. A lush vineyard creates the irresistible backdrop for its leads, Rowan and Harry, to fall deeply in love with one another, but also establish a connection that gives them both the ability to heal from past hurts. Everything always returns to their dynamic, and by the end of the story, you’ll be happy you went on this year-long journey with them, even if it might involve a slew of emotions in the process. Devon’s debut happens to be not just one of the best of contemporary romance, but one of the best books of the year.
Publisher’s Description: Two imperfect people. One year under the sun. A love story you won’t ever forget.
Rowan McKinnon doesn’t believe in love. With a botany PhD, two best friends who embrace her social quirkiness, and some occasional no-strings sex, she has everything she needs. But she hides deep wounds from the past—from a negligent mother, and a fiancé who treated her like a pawn in a game. When an academic setback leads Rowan to take on the restoration of an abandoned vineyard, she relishes the opportunity to restore the grapes to their former glory.
She does not expect to meet a man like Harrison Brady.
An obstetrician profoundly struggling after losing a patient, Harry no longer believes he is capable of keeping people safe. Reeling, Harry leaves Los Angeles to emotionally recover at his parents’ new vineyard in Pennsylvania.
He does not expect to meet a woman like Rowan McKinnon.
As their combative banter gives way to a simmering tension, sunlight begins to crack through the darkness smothering Harry’s soul. He’s compelled to explore the undeniable pull between them. And after a lifetime of protecting herself from feeling anything, for anyone, Rowan tries to keep things casual.
But even she can’t ignore their explosive connection.
Ruby Fever by Ilona Andrews
Release Date: August 23 from Avon
Why You’ll Love It: Ilona Andrews has been on my must-read list ever since the release of their earlier Kate Daniels series (if you’re not familiar with it, leave now, check it out, and thank me later) and their latest world, rendered courtesy of their Hidden Legacy books, is equally rich and entertaining. Although there are no current plans to continue the series—Ruby Fever may very well be the finale, for now—what a way to wrap things up!
Scheming families from magic dynasties (yes, you read that right: magic) continue their antics as the story (and romance) of Catalina and Alessandro comes to a close, but there’s a lot that needs to be resolved from previous installments before the end. This is one of those series that would make a perfect TV adaptation—streamers, take note!—not just as a result of the action and adventure, but the romance that’s as valued and weighted as the dynamics between family members. Ilona Andrews continues to engage, endear, and grip readers, and Ruby Fever is a rip-roaring installment that has already left me eager for more. (Arabella’s trilogy when?)
Publisher’s Description: #1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews is back with the newest book in the exciting Hidden Legacy series—the thrilling conclusion to her trilogy featuring fierce and beautiful Prime magic user Catalina Baylor.
An escaped spider, the unexpected arrival of an Imperial Russian Prince, the senseless assassination of a powerful figure, a shocking attack on the supposedly invincible Warden of Texas, Catalina’s boss… And it’s only Monday.
Within hours, the fate of Houston—not to mention the House of Baylor—now rests on Catalina, who will have to harness her powers as never before. But even with her fellow Prime and fiancé Alessandro Sagredo by her side, she may not be able to expose who’s responsible before all hell really breaks loose.
To Catch a Raven by Beverly Jenkins
Release Date: August 23 from Avon
Why You’ll Love It: One of my favorite things about reading anything from Beverly Jenkins is how it illuminates a different aspect of history that I previously knew little to almost nothing about before. Beyond that, To Catch a Raven bears every single element of a perfect Beverly Jenkins romance, including Raven, a female lead I would readily swear my own allegiance to in a heartbeat, and Braxton, a swoony hero who emanates charisma through every scene he’s in and wants to serve Raven’s everything. Plus: heist! Declaration of Independence heist!
As someone who is an unabashed lover of National Treasure, it’s possible that Ms. Bev couldn’t have crafted a more perfectly tailored book to target several of my most niche interests. To Catch a Raven blends the best elements of that film with an old Western-set romance—and to top it all off, there’s even a fake marriage component! Run, do not walk, to pick up a copy of this for yourself.
Publisher’s Description: The newest novel in USA Today bestselling author Beverly Jenkins’s compelling Women Who Dare series features a fearless grifter who goes undercover to reclaim the stolen Declaration of Independence.
Lying and cheating may be sins to some people, but for Raven Moreaux, it is a way of life. She comes from a long line of grifters and couldn’t be prouder…Until she’s forced to help the government.
A former Confederate official is suspected of stealing the Declaration of Independence, and Raven, posing as his housekeeper, is tasked with getting it back. Her partner is the too handsome Braxton Steel. Masquerading as a valet/driver, Brax is also supposed to be her “husband.” He has his own reasons for doing this job, but when their pretend marriage ignites into fiery passion, they’ll have to put everything—including their hearts—on the line.
Heartbreaker by Sarah MacLean
Release Date: August 23 from Avon
Why You’ll Love It: MacLean’s Hell’s Belles series continues in patriarchy-smashing fashion, with devastatingly good romance and enough steam to fog up a carriage’s windows.
Adelaide Frampton is a heroine who prides herself on subversion, using her skill and ability to help other women in the most clandestine ways possible. Need an excuse to avoid being foisted into an unwanted marriage? She’s your Matchbreaker, and it doesn’t matter whether any of society’s men find themselves on the receiving end of scandal in the process of her efforts. In fact, one might even say a few of them deserve it. However, Henry, Duke of Clayborn, has little patience for Adelaide’s pursuits—but he finds himself in forced proximity to them when the two have to follow a pair of wayward lovers on their way to Gretna Green. You guessed it: this is a road-trip romance, complete with the only-one-bed AND being forced to pretend marriage tropes. (Even writing it out like that makes me giddy!)
Publisher’s Description: A Princess of Thieves
Raised among London’s most notorious criminals, a twist of fate landed Adelaide Frampton in the bright ballrooms of Mayfair, where she masquerades as a quiet wallflower—so plain and unassuming that no one realizes she’s the Matchbreaker…using her superior skills as a thief to help brides avoid the altar.
A King of Reputation
Henry, Duke of Clayborn, has spent a lifetime living in perfection. He has no time for the salacious gossip that arises every time the Matchbreaker ends another groom. His own reputation is impeccable—and the last thing he needs is a frustrating, fascinating woman discovering the truth of his past, or the secrets he holds close.
A Royal Match
When the two find themselves on a breakneck journey across Britain to stop a wedding, it’s impossible for Clayborn to resist this woman who both frustrates and fascinates him. But late-night carriage rides make for delicious danger…and soon Adelaide is uncovering Clayborn’s truths, throwing his well-laid plans into chaos…and threatening to steal his heavily guarded heart.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
Release Date: August 23 from Berkley
Why You’ll Love It: The best way I can describe Mandanna’s adult debut romance is to call it “cozy witch vibes.” Now that I have your attention, let me expand by talking about this absolute joy of a book that offers extraordinary magic, found family energy, and a captivating setting. Mika Moon has been taught to keep her abilities a secret; the last thing any witch needs is to attract anything resembling a spotlight. However, when she receives a missive that directs her to a place called the Nowhere House, Mika finds a new purpose in the offer of being able to teach a group of orphaned, younger witches how to harness their power. Unfortunately, she’s also positioned at odds with the grumpy librarian of Nowhere House, Jamie, who initially considers Mika an outsider who doesn’t truly belong. (As a side note: “grumpy librarian”? Be still my heart.) As time passes, though, the inhabitants under this roof all forge into a new unit — one that will need to be powerful enough to take on an unforeseen danger, with Mika herself leading the fight on behalf of her motley family.
Publisher’s Description: A warm and uplifting novel about an isolated witch whose opportunity to embrace a quirky new family—and a new love—changes the course of her life.
As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.
But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.
As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for…
The Hellion and the Hero by Emily Sullivan
Release Date: August 23 from Forever
Why You’ll Love It: Regardless of your feelings on this year’s Persuasion adaptation over on Netflix, the latest in Emily Sullivan’s League of Scoundrels series will satisfy those who yearn for a second-chance romance as that of Anne and Wentworth’s. If you’ve been following along with these books already, you know Georgiana, Lady Arlington, has recently endured the death of her husband, a man she was obligated to marry in order to protect her family. At the time of her betrothal, her interest truly lay with Captain Henry Harris, although she was inevitably warned away from him by the mistaken belief that he was a fortune hunter only pursuing her for her wealth.
Years later, their paths collide again: in taking over her late husband’s businesses, Georgiana’s decisions have positioned her at odds with her competitors, and Henry becomes the private investigator tasked with unearthing the identity of those making increasingly dangerous threats against her. When he realizes Georgiana is the viscountess who he’s being paid to protect, he can’t resist the temptation of being close to her once more — and the two slowly start to recall why they fell for each other the first time around.
Publisher’s Description: Lady Georgiana Arlington has always done what’s best for her family—even when it meant marrying a man she didn’t love to save her father. Her husband’s death has left her stronger and bolder—a hellion, some would even say. When a mysterious enemy jeopardizes her livelihood and reputation, there’s only one person she can trust to help her uncover the threat: the same man she left heartbroken years ago.
Captain Henry Harris is no longer the penniless fortune hunter he was when they first met. Now a decorated naval hero, he could have his choice of women, but no other woman has Georgie’s allure, nor the tenacity he can’t help but admire. Assisting Lady Arlington will put both his body and his heart in danger—and yet, he can’t resist a second chance with the one woman he’s never been able to forget.
In the Event of Love by Courtney Kae
Release Date: August 30 from Kensington
Why You’ll Love It: Some might say that it’s a little too early for a holiday rom-com to be making its way onto this list; I’d argue that anything that delivers sapphic Hallmark movie energy is a perennial and therefore essential choice. All of the trappings you want from a story like this are there — big-city workaholic named Morgan takes a break from her 24/7 life, finding an idyllic retreat in the small mountain town where she grew up.
The chances of her running into her former crush while she’s visiting? Inevitable, but what makes Kae’s debut even more lovely is the fact that Morgan’s new flame isn’t a lumberjack; her name is Rachel, and she’s a lumberjane. Naturally, Morgan can also use her event planning expertise to help Rachel and her family’s holiday tree farm which is currently struggling to stay in business. Working with a woman she once shared an unforgettable kiss with should be easy, and Morgan’s got more than enough practice keeping things professional that she won’t slip up here—obviously. (Or will she…?)
Publisher’s Description: With her career as a Los Angeles event planner imploding after a tabloid blowup, Morgan Ross isn’t headed home for the holidays so much as in strategic retreat. Breathtaking mountain vistas, quirky townsfolk, and charming small businesses aside, her hometown of Fern Falls is built of one heartbreak on top of another . . .
Take her one-time best friend turned crush, Rachel Reed. The memory of their perfect, doomed first kiss is still fresh as new-fallen snow. Way fresher than the freezing mud Morgan ends up sprawled in on her very first day back, only to be hauled out via Rachel’s sexy new lumberjane muscles acquired from running her family tree farm.
When Morgan discovers that the Reeds’ struggling tree farm is the only thing standing between Fern Falls and corporate greed destroying the whole town’s livelihood, she decides she can put heartbreak aside to save the farm by planning her best fundraiser yet. She has all the inspiration for a spectacular event: delicious vanilla lattes, acoustic guitars under majestic pines, a cozy barn surrounded by brilliant stars. But she and Rachel will ABSOLUTELY NOT have a heartwarming holiday happy ending. That would be as unprofessional as it is unlikely. Right?
Carly Lane is an Atlanta-based writer who considers herself a lifelong Star Wars fan, newbie Trekker, diehard romance reader, nascent horror lover, and occasional live-tweeter. She is the senior TV editor at Collider, a former contributing editor for SYFY FANGRRLS, and has also written for Vulture, the Boston Globe, Nerdist, Teen Vogue, Den of Geek, The Toast, and elsewhere around the Internet.