By Jean Marie Brown
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Summertime is a great time to take a break from the daily grind. Whether you’re lounging at the beach, relaxing on a patio or reclining on the sofa, reading is surefire escape. If you throw in a little romance, you’re almost always guaranteed a happy ending.
Here are some of the offerings that you’ll find this summer.
“Hotshot” by Julie Garwood; Penguin Group, $26.95 (Aug. 6)
Julie Garwood is an old hand at romance. When she’s on, you can expect snappy dialogue, a fast-moving plot and a believable romance. She delivers in “Hotshot.”
FBI agent Finn McBain and the former girl next door, Peyton Lockhart, first meet when Finn rescues the 5-year-old from drowning in her family’s swimming pool. Finn is eight years older than Peyton, so she doesn’t make an impression until 20 years later when he sees her again at his brother’s wedding.
Peyton needs rescuing once again — she has ticked off the wrong people — and Finn is there. He realizes there’s trouble when he walks Peyton to her car after the wedding and notices the bullet holes in the bumper. The secondary characters and subplots make this one worth reading. The tale includes a ferret, a sexual deviant, the cousin from hell and a reluctant groom.
“Burn” by Maya Banks; Berkley, $15 (Aug. 6)
This is the final installment of Maya Banks’ “Breathless Trilogy” about three friends who’ve known each other since college and are finally finding love well into their 30s. This being a romance, they are successful gazillionaires who can buy and sell the world. “Burn” is Ash McIntyre’s story. He was born to wealth but turned his back on his family because it’s full of manipulative jackals.
I had high hopes for the story of Ash and Josie Carlysle, a struggling artist, but for me the romance seemed forced. On the positive side, I enjoyed catching up with Gabe Hamilton and Mia Crestwell (“Rush”) and Jace Crestwell and Bethany Willis (“Fever”).
All three of the stories revolve around dominant / submissive relationships, and the sex scenes are very explicit. I’ve noted that some reader reviews on Amazon have attributed the storyline to “Fifty Shades of Grey,” but Banks was writing erotic romance long before E.L. James introduced readers to Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.
“Chose the Wrong Guy, Gave Him the Wrong Finger” by Beth Harbison; St. Martin’s Press, $25.99 (July 9)
The title references the note that Quinn Barton included with the gifts she returned after her ill-fated wedding. Her brother-in-law to-be, Frank Morrison, catches her before she walks down the aisle and tells her that his brother the groom, Burke, has been unfaithful.
Most of the action takes place years later and focuses on the holding patterns that lock down people’s lives. Quinn hasn’t had a relationship since, Burke is still a jerk and Frank is still loving Quinn from afar.
The story moved a bit slowly for me, but if you’re looking for a sweet romance in a quaint setting you’ll enjoy this one.
“Perfect Fling” by Carly Phillips; Jove, $7.99 (July 30)
Erin Marsden is the quintessential good girl. An assistant district attorney in a small town, she’s the daughter of the former chief of police, and younger sister of the current top cop. But even good girls go for bad boys. Erin has a hook-up with Cole Sanders, the teen delinquent who grew up to be an undercover cop. Since he’s undercover, and small towns have long memories, he is still seen as a hood.
Their one-night stand becomes complicated after Erin discovers she’s pregnant — and the focus of a stalker.
Cole, who’s in town between assignments, volunteers to be her bodyguard. They stumble their way to a happy ending in a light and breezy read.
“Perfect Fling” is part of Phillips’ “Serendipity” series, so if you enjoy this one, or want to know the full story of one of the secondary characters, there’s plenty more to read.
“Three Little Words” by Susan Mallery; Harlequin, $7.99 (July 30)
I loved the beginning of this story. It’s a series of letters from Isabel Beebe to Ford Hendrix. Isabel starts writing Ford when she is 14. She’s nursing a broken heart because Ford called off his engagement to her older sister after discovering she was sleeping with his best friend. Ford goes into the military and eventually becomes a Navy SEAL.
Isabel writes him for 10 years, chronicling all her teen angst and 20-something antics, stopping only when she’s on the verge of becoming engaged. Several years later, they both make it back to their hometown of Fool’s Gold and discovers that there’s an attraction.
They resist, but not too hard. The romance is amusing. Ford persuades Isabel to act as his “fake girlfriend” to ward off his mother’s matchmaking efforts. But, of course, things become all too real.
“The Lemon Orchard” by Luanne Rice; Viking, $27.95 (available now)
Julia and Roberto are from different worlds — she’s staying at her aunt’s and uncle’s lemon orchard in Malibu, where Roberto works. But each has retreated from love because of tragedy; both lost a daughter. And they find a love that helps them move past their grief.
“The Sea of Tranquility” by Katja Millay; Atria, $15 (available now)
Nastya Kashnikov and Josh Bennett are teens who’ve known more than their share of tragedy. Nastya is hiding from her past life as a piano prodigy, and Josh sees himself as a cursed outcast who has buried everyone that he loves. Both are 17 and just trying to get through high school, until they are drawn into each other’s lives.
“A Certain Summer” by Patricia Beard; Gallery, $16 (available now)
The love story is set in the summer of 1948 and centers around Helen Wadsworth, whose husband, Arthur, was declared missing in action after an OSS operation in France. (The OSS, or Office of Strategic Services, was the precursor to the CIA.) She is courted by her husband’s best friend but is attracted to Peter Gavin, a former Marine. In addition to the romance, this one has a twist of mystery and suspense.