These three romance novels are perfect for the homestretch of summer, when it's too hot to go outside and all you want to do is lie under the air conditioner with a book. Whether in the Wild West or big city, online or IRL, these three stories show that romance and happy ever afters are everywhere — if you dare to reach for them.
In Playing House, Ruby Lang combines two of my favorite things: romance and real estate. Fay Liu and Oliver Huang are both urban planners who share a circle of friends; they bond over attending open houses for apartments they have no intention of buying. They go together as friends but are often mistaken for a couple — especially once sparks start flying and they start exploring opportunities for hookups in each empty apartment.
But there's a catch — of course. Fay is looking for something real after her divorce, and Oliver isn't feeling confident about himself or his future while he's freelancing and, oh, up for a job at her firm. It's a secret that you know will come out, that you know will complicate their relationship and maybe derail their happy ever after. Spoiler alert: They make it work!
Maisey Yates' Lone Wolf Cowboy is a Western romance full of angst, hot sex and true love. Vanessa Logan returns home to Gold Valley after a long time gone. She has been struggling with drug addiction; now, five years sober, she's ready to move back home and work on her frayed relationship with her family. But first she runs into Jacob Dalton, the EMT who came to her rescue one tragic night years earlier.
Jacob looks like a hero, acts like a hero, but according to him, is absolutely not a hero, because he is always fixated on the people he couldn't save — particularly his best friend, who died in an accident that Jacob feels responsible for. He's content to live with the guilt. But his relationship with Vanessa forces him to reckon with those feelings — especially Vanessa herself, with her passion for him and her "therapist talk." This is a story about really feeling your feelings — even when they cause pain — so you can move toward the love and the happy ever after.
Online dating can be so dispiriting, yet it makes for a terrific romance in How to Hack a Heartbreak, by Kristin Rockaway. Melanie Strickland has a thankless job working as a tech support person for a startup incubator called Hatch. After one too many bad dates on the popular dating app Fluttr, she spends a weekend coding a website, JerkAlert.Biz (the .com was taken, ha!), where women can review the Fluttr dates who have done them wrong (dick pics, actually married, the usual nightmares). One of the first guys she lists is Alex Hernandez: hot startup guy from her office who seems into her. But is he?
Soon Melanie is navigating an interoffice romance with Alex and balancing her day job with her anonymous role in a viral website. Thank goodness for her swoon-worthy cast of best friends who are always there with tequila, cookie dough and the connections she needs to make her startup dreams come true — especially when disaster strikes. Set in the New York City tech scene, this is a funny, fast-paced romance that shows that romance and real love can happen — if you're willing to take it offline.
Maya Rodale is a bestselling romance author. Her new book is Some Like It Scandalous.