Happy Saturday, and happy July. With half of 2023 behind us, I thought it would be a good time to highlight some of my favorite reads of the year (so far). Since January, I’ve read a little over 150 books, and I had a bunch of 3-star reads. Today, I’m focusing on contemporary romances and rom-coms.
Most of the books I read released already, but there are a couple that are soon-to-be-released, and I’d like to thank the authors and publishers who gifted me the books. Now, let’s check out ten of my faves!
1. Beginning of Forever by Catherine Bybee
Series: The D’Angelos #3
Page Length: 360
Publication Date: June 27, 2023
Synopsis: Tasting wine is not enough: sommelier Giovanni D’Angelo wants to create it. To put his family first, he’s always deferred his dreams—a vineyard to run, a woman to marry. But a three-week vineyard tour in Italy could set him back on track.
For Emma Rutledge, wine is in her blood. Intent to run the family wine business one day, she finds that the men in her family are only intent to push her out of it. But that’s fine—she’s got a plan.
When Gio and Emma meet on a wine tour in Tuscany, their shared aspirations fuel an undeniable chemistry. Returning home to California, they work toward setting up Emma’s vineyard and a label of their own. But when Emma receives a life-altering diagnosis, she worries it’s all been for nothing.
As Emma works to cement her family legacy while dealing with this unexpected challenge, Gio tries to convince her that their future isn’t just wine.
2. Famous for a Living by Melissa Ferguson
Publication Date: May 1, 2023
Page Length: 320
Synopsis: With her millions of followers, Cat Cranwell is adored around the world. But when an app partnership goes very, very wrong, Cat suddenly finds herself shunned from the community that not only fed her soul all these years but paid her bills. When Cat’s closest living relative, Uncle Terry, offers her a position on his staff at a small national park in Montana to get away from the city, Cat hesitantly accepts the opportunity.
What she doesn’t realize is that as the new social media strategist her goal is to save Kannery National Park from being absorbed into Glacier National Park by boosting the number of visitors. And at least one of her new colleagues—namely, handsome and rugged ranger Zaiah Hudson—thinks social media is the root of everything that’s wrong with the world. Written with bestselling author Melissa Ferguson’s signature wit and charm, this romantic comedy of opposites attract is full of hilarious romp and a romance that will melt readers’ hearts.
3. Hello Stranger by Katherine Center
Page Length: 336
Publication Date: July 11, 2023
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Synopsis: Sadie Montogmery has had good breaks and bad breaks in her life, but as a struggling artist, all she needs is one lucky break. Things seem to be going her way when she lands one of the coveted finalist spots in a portrait competition. It happens to coincide with a surgery she needs to have. Minor, they say. Less than a week in the hospital they say. Nothing about you will change, they say. Upon recovery, it begins to dawn on Sadie that she can see everything around her, but she can no longer see faces.
Temporary, they say. Lots of people deal with this, they say. As she struggles to cope―and hang onto her artistic dreams―she finds solace in her fourteen-year-old dog, Peanut. Thankfully, she can still see animal faces. When Peanut gets sick, she rushes him to the emergency vet nearby. That’s when she meets veterinarian Dr. Addison. And she’s pleasantly surprised when he asks her on a date. But she doesn’t want anyone to know about her face blindness. Least of all Joe, her obnoxious neighbor who always wears a bowling jacket and seems to know everyone in the building. He’s always there at the most embarrassing but convenient times, and soon, they develop a sort of friendship. But could it be something more?
As Sadie tries to save her career, confront her haunting past, and handle falling in love with two different guys she realizes that happiness can be found in the places―and people― you least expect.
4. Jasmine and Jake Rock the Boat by Sonya Lalli
Page Length: 336
Publication Date: April 18, 2023
Synopsis:An impulsive decision to join an Alaskan cruise getaway brings the chance for an onboard romance in this new enemies-to-lovers romance from the author of A Holly Jolly Diwali.
Jasmine Randhawa likes everyone to think she has it all—great job, perfect Seattle apartment, and a handsome boyfriend. But she’s not as confident or successful as she seems, and her relationship is at a breaking point.
When Jasmine finds herself single and tagging along on her parents’ vacation, she’s not sure her life can get any farther off course. It’s a nightmare for someone who’s been so fiercely independent to find herself on a cruise full of family friends who’ve judged her since childhood. Things only get worse once the ship leaves the harbor and she realizes that this is a seniors’ cruise, and the only other person under fifty on the entire boat is her childhood acquaintance, cocky and successful Jake Dhillon.
Jasmine and Jake clash right away, with Jasmine smarting over how their South Asian community puts him on a pedestal as the perfect Indian son, whereas her reputation as a troublemaker precedes her. Except they can’t avoid each other forever during the ten-day cruise, and they soon recognize a surprising number of similarities, especially in how many secrets they’re keeping hidden from their families. Their restlessness seems to disappear whenever they’re together, but is this relationship strong enough to last on land?
5. Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood
Page Length: 368
Publication Date: July 13, 2023
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Synopsis: The many lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have finally caught up with her. By day, she’s an adjunct professor, toiling away at grading labs and teaching thermodynamics in the hopes of landing tenure. By other day, Elsie makes up for her non-existent paycheck by offering her services as a fake girlfriend, tapping into her expertly honed people pleasing skills to embody whichever version of herself the client needs.
Honestly, it’s a pretty sweet gig—until her carefully constructed Elsie-verse comes crashing down. Because Jack Smith, the annoyingly attractive and broody older brother of her favorite client, turns out to be the cold-hearted experimental physicist who ruined her mentor’s career and undermined the reputation of theorists everywhere. And that same Jack who now sits on the hiring committee at MIT, right between Elsie and her dream job.
Elsie is prepared for an all-out war of scholarly sabotage but…those long, penetrating looks? Not having to be anything other than her true self when she’s with him? Will falling into an experimentalist’s orbit finally tempt her to put her most guarded theories on love into practice?
6. Nobody Puts Rom-Coms in the Corner by Kathryn Freeman
Publication Date: Feb. 10, 2023
Publisher: One More Chapter
Synopsis: Sally is a classic romantic and Harry is a classic cynic, but when a drunken bet leads the new flatmates to (badly) recreate ‘the lift’ from Dirty Dancing, and the video goes viral (#EpicRomcomReenactmentFailure), they both realise there’s potential financial benefit in blundering their way through the romcom lexicon for their suddenly vast social media following.
Now, as Harry and Sally bring major romcom moments to new life – including recreating that classic diner scene – their faking it turns to making…out and suddenly they’re living a real life romcom of their own! But like all the greatest love stories, the road to happily ever after is paved with unexpected challenges for this hero and heroine…
7. Secretly Yours by Tessa Bailey
Series: A Vine Mess #1
Page Length: 384
Publication Date: Feb. 7, 2023
Publisher: Avon Books
Synopsis: Hallie Welch fell hard for Julian Vos at fourteen, after they almost kissed in the dark vineyards of his family’s winery. Now the prodigal hottie has returned to their small town. When Hallie is hired to revamp the gardens on the Vos estate, she wonders if she’ll finally get that smooch. But the grumpy professor isn’t the teenager she remembers and their polar opposite personalities clash spectacularly. One wine-fueled girls’ night later, Hallie can’t shake the sense that she did something reckless–and then she remembers the drunken secret admirer letter she left for Julian. Oh shit.
On sabbatical from his ivy league job, Julian plans to write a novel. But having Hallie gardening right outside his window is the ultimate distraction. She’s eccentric, chronically late, often literally covered in dirt–and so unbelievably beautiful, he can’t focus on anything else. Until he finds an anonymous letter sent by a woman from his past. Even as Julian wonders about this admirer, he’s sucked further into Hallie’s orbit. Like the flowers she plants all over town, Hallie is a burst of color in Julian’s gray-scale life. For a man who irons his socks and runs on tight schedules, her sunny chaotic energy makes zero sense. But there’s something so familiar about her… and her very presence is turning his world upside down.
8. Summer Reading by Jenn McKinlay
Page Length: 480
Publication Date: May 16, 2023
Synopsis: For Samantha Gale, a summer on Martha’s Vineyard at her family’s tiny cottage was supposed to be about resurrecting her career as a chef, until she’s tasked with chaperoning her half-brother, Tyler. The teenage brainiac is spending his summer at the local library in a robotics competition, and there’s no place Sam, who’s dyslexic, likes less than the library. And because the universe hates her, the library’s interim director turns out to be the hot-reader guy whose book she accidentally destroyed on the ferry ride to the island.
Bennett Reynolds is on a quest to find his father, whose identity he’s never known. He’s taken the temporary job on the island to research the summer his mother spent there when she got pregnant with him. Ben tells himself he isn’t interested in a relationship right now. Yet as soon as Sam knocks his book into the ocean, he can’t stop thinking about her.
An irresistible attraction blossoms when Ben inspires Sam to create the cookbook she’s always dreamed about and she jumps all in on helping him find his father, and soon they realize their summer fling may heat up into a happily ever after.
9. Unfortunately Yours by Tessa Bailey
Series: A Vine Mess #2
Page Length: 384
Publication Date: June 6, 2023
Synopsis: A down-on-her-luck Napa heiress suggests a mutually beneficial marriage of convenience to a man she can’t stand… only to discover there’s a fine line between love and hate.
After losing her job and her fiancé in one fell swoop, Natalie Vos returned home to lick her wounds. A few months later, she’s sufficiently drowned her sorrows in cabernet and she’s ready to get back on her feet. She just needs her trust fund to finance her new business venture. Unfortunately, the terms require she marry before she can have the money. And well, dumped, remember? But Natalie is desperate enough to propose to a man who makes her want to kill him–and kiss him, in equal measure.
August Cates may own a vineyard, but he doesn’t know jack about making wine. He’s determined to do his late best friend proud, no matter what it takes. Except his tasting room is empty, his wine is disgusting (seriously, he once saw someone gag), and his buddy’s legacy is circling the drain. No bank will give him the loan he needs to turn the business around… and then the gorgeous, feisty heiress knocks on his door. Natalie has haunted his dreams since the moment they met, but their sizzling chemistry immediately morphed into simmering insults.
Now, a quickie marriage could help them both. A sham wedding, a few weeks living under the same roof, and then they can go their separate ways–assuming they make it out alive. How hard could it be? There’s just one thing they didn’t account for: their unfortunate, unbearable, undeniable attraction.
10. Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez
Page Length: 400
Publication Date: April 11, 2023
Synopsis: Dr. Briana Ortiz’s life is seriously flatlining. Her divorce is just about finalized, her brother’s running out of time to find a kidney donor, and that promotion she wants? Oh, that’s probably going to the new man-doctor who’s already registering eighty-friggin’-seven on Briana’s “pain in my ass” scale. But just when all systems are set to hate, Dr. Jacob Maddox completely flips the game . . . by sending Briana a letter.
And it’s a really good letter. Like the kind that proves that Jacob isn’t actually Satan. Worse, he might be this fantastically funny and subversively likeable guy who’s terrible at first impressions. Because suddenly he and Bri are exchanging letters, sharing lunch dates in her “sob closet,” and discussing the merits of freakishly tiny horses. But when Jacob decides to give Briana the best gift imaginable—a kidney for her brother—she wonders just how she can resist this quietly sexy new doctor . . . especially when he calls in a favor she can’t refuse.
Have you read any of these? What are some of your favorite reads of 2023? Comment below!