Summer Reading 101

Magazines are all flush with the summer reading lists, and I’ve been asked to compile a never-fail list of books for the perfect summer reading. Any time, any part of the romance genre, with the only caveat that they still be in print.

I’ve been doodling my faves in various genres, and have a pretty diverse list of old and newer books, but I wanted to query the Power of the Bitchery. Is there a book that without fail will give you hours of sunny, peaceful enjoyment, complete with perfect tan, that really great post-ocean-swim hair, and the warm bliss of a happy ending? What’s your personal never-lets-you-down book for happy summer vacation reading?

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  1. 1
    Scotsie says:

    Any old Tamora Pierce book from her “Song of the Lioness” series.  It’s a YA series, but I have loved it and re-read it every couple of years since I was 14.  No other series or book has captured my imagination quite like those.

  2. 2
    Adah says:

    Anything by Elizabeth Hoyt. The Raven Prince is my favorite, but they’re all great.

    Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase.

  3. 3
    Chrissie says:

    I bang on about it in every single comment I leave on this site, lol, but it has to be Nora Roberts’ Chesapeake Bay books, especially the first two! First read them at the beach, in fact …

    Another one – I’m not sure if this counts as romance, but it partly is at least – is the absolutely beyond wonderful The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy. It’s partly YA romance, part supernatural, part family drama, partly about what it is to be a writer and creator, and it’s magical (and also set by the sea).

  4. 4
    TraeCat says:

    Chrissie, I’m bangin’ that drum with you!
    Just about any Nora book will satisfy that criteria for me.  BIG BIG fan of the Garden trilogy (I really really want to be Rosalind when I grow up) and any of the Keys trilogy as well. Lora Leigh for the steamy summer nights.

  5. 5
    stormyskies says:

    The Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig.

  6. 6
    jessica says:

    Julie Garwood, The Secret-makes me feel good any time I read it. Also Susan Elizabeth Phillips Match Me If You Can, and Nora Roberts Gallagher trilogy. These will always make me feel better.

  7. 7
    nadia says:

    Oh, Inner Harbor from the Chesapeake Bay series is a definite comfort read for me.  Her Carnal Innocence is great summer reading, not just because it’s a fun read, but it takes place during the hot Southern summer so you have the mood already set.

    One of my favorite never-fails-me books is Thief of Hearts by Teresa Medeiros.  Hot pirates make me all tingly.

    Lowell’s Pearl Cove is an excellent poolside read, half of it takes place in Australia at a pearl farm.

    Tara Janzen’s “Crazy” series:  yummy fun, hot men, lots of action, amazing sex (of course!), but not so complex that you feel there’ll be a quiz at the end.

    And I’m thinking Betsy the Vampire should be read nowhere but the beach for proper appreciation.

  8. 8
    Sarabeth says:

    I find that I like to read the Irish Jewels trilogy of Nora’s. My favorite is the second one with Brenna.

    However, not a romance, but The Black Ships by Jo Graham is a book I am going to read again. Her style of writing flows as I read it. There’s romance, there’s love, but oh so much more.

    On the Sci-Fi side, I re-read David Brin’s Glory Season on the beach or by the pool. The female-centric world captures my interest again and again.

  9. 9
    Lil' Deviant says:

    I second the “Crazy” series.  They are fun, fast passed and easy to pick back up.

  10. 10
    Lil' Deviant says:


  11. 11
    Angie Fox says:

    It’s definitely time to pull out the Betsy the Vampire series, along with Katie MacAlister’s Aisling Grey series. Oh and Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books are also great for the beach.

  12. 12
    Jessica says:

    I second the Tamora Pierce rec, but make sure you have the next in the series waiting in the wings (or your bag).

    Butterfly by Katherine Harvey is the most ridiculously trashy beach read ever—I’ve gone through a couple copies, I get it, re-read it, and loan it out, never to be seen again.

    And to be a total English major nerd, I just read The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles and loved it.

  13. 13
    Quercus says:

    Anything by Judith Krantz; my favorite is probably Princess Daisy.  I always re-read my second-hand copies when I get depressed; there’s just something about her irrepressible heroines that cheers me up.  Her books probably qualify as “trashy”, but they’re tightly plotted, full of fun/hilarious descriptions of sex, food, clothes, and antiques, and just generally awesome.

    Come to the Cult of Krantz… You’ll like it here….

  14. 14
    KristenMary says:

    I second Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase. I loved Miss Wonderful too.

    I really like the old Amanda Quick books too. The ones with the single title like “Reckless” or “Seduction” with the woman’s head on the spine.

    And anything by Nora, of course. My favorites are the Key trilogy and the Gallaghers.

  15. 15
    kpsr. says:

    I third the Tamora Pierce recommendation.
    Two other thoughts in the YA romance(ish) subgroup:

    Sorcery and Cecilia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer a light frothy wonder of an epistolary novel that’s sort of Diana Wynne Jones meets Jane Austen. Man, I love this book. The 2nd book in the series is not nearly as good, but the third book manages to bounce back a bit.

    Also, Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson. I realize this is a very new book, but I think it’s nearly the perfect summer read. (It’s a little closer to perfect if you’re a teenager or a girl or both, but neither is an absolute necessity to enjoy.) There’s a bit of history a dash of mystery, first love, pirates, jellyfish, and I could go on. Seriously, now that it’s out in paperback, I think it should sell like hotcakes.

  16. 16
    Ros says:

    Last summer I loved ‘Sea Fever’ by Sarah Mason.

  17. 17
    GrowlyCub says:

    Jules Jones, Lord and Master, because I get the warm fuzzies when I read it and a happy smile on my face every time.

    Mary Jo Putney, The Rake and the Reformer, now available as The Rake, because I loved this book from the first time I’ve read it.  It traveled from this continent to another and then back again and where I go, it goes.  I read it at least once every quarter, if not more often.

    Lois McMaster Bujold, Beguilement and Legacy. Legacy has one of the funniest and most tender love scenes I’ve ever read.  Warm fuzzies apply.

    And recently discovered:
    Mary Balogh, The Secret Pearl and A Summer to Remember. Angst here I come, but it’s so good when they make it to the happy end!

    I really want to add Balogh’s A Precious Gem and A Promise of Spring, because they have unusual heroines and heroes, but they are currently OOP.  Ditto Georgette Heyer, Venetia and These Old Shades.  These last two were reprinted not too long ago, however.

  18. 18
    dianewb says:

    Tell Me No Lies by Elizabeth Lowell.  Totally suspenseful and the absolute sexiest vulnerable alpha male ever.  Love it.

  19. 19
    Kalen Hughes says:

    Heyer, Heyer and more Heyer.

    Anything by Julia Ross, Candice Hern, Tracy Grant and Pam Rosenthal.

  20. 20
    Tina says:

    I will admit it, I’m hooked on the Twilight series.

  21. 21
    Nancy Werlin says:

    Let me get specific about the Georgette Heyer: VENETIA. And then THESE OLD SHADES. Then maybe the sequel, DEVIL’S CUB. And then for pure fun: ARABELLA.

  22. 22
    Chanel19 says:

    Sandra Hill and her Viking/Seal series.

  23. 23
    Cat Marsters says:

    Jenny Crusie, Welcome To Temptation.  I have a seriously battered, sandy, sunscreen-smeared (interesting since I usually holiday in the UK, old habits die hard) chlorinated copy.

    When I was a teenager it was Jude Deveraux’s A Knight In Shining Armour.  Nicked my mum’s library copy one year, checked it out again…and again…contemplated stealing it…finally discovered Amazon.  Happy Ever After (I now have two copies.  Don’t ask).

    Funnily enough, I’ve just bought a stack of books for next week’s holiday, which include Jim Butcher: Captain’s Fury (read the first three, loved them, v. clever man); Beth Kendrick: Nearlyweds (got My Favourite Mistake at RWA one year purely because I like the song of the same title, got hooked on her writing); Bill Bryson: Neither Here Nor There (read a lot of his others, still refer to his book on the English language, loved him on Shakespeare).  Oh, and some chick called JD Robb.  You probably haven’t heard of her.

  24. 24
    amy lane says:

    Lots of books after my own heart—Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb, Amanda Quick/Jayne Anne Krentz—these are all surefire happy-makers.  One of my favorites, probably because it turned my daughter on to reading when she was sure she hated it, and because it’s fantasy AND romance, is The Changeling Sea by Patricia McKillip.  Every year, Kir goes into the sea and I mourn him, and every year the quirky, every-man magician turns up and celebrates that Peri has no more princes in her life. 

    This year, I have to read my OWN books—after a two year hiatus from Cory & company while I wrote fantasy, I need to get back into trash-talking alpha-bitch groove:-)

  25. 25
    KimberlyD says:

    Bet Me, Don’t Look Down, or Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie. All are light and easy to read, plus they’re really funny.

    The new mermaid books by MaryJanice Davidson (Sleeping With the Fishes and Swimming Without a Net). If you like her Betsy books, you’ll like these. Plus, reading about mermaids at the beach just sounds right.

    Patricia Briggs’ Mercy books are great. They aren’t romance per se, but they are about a kickass heroine playing in a big boys world.

    I’m sure I have plenty more suggestions but they’re locked away in a back part of my brain.

  26. 26
    Keri Ford says:

    I read Christie Craig’s Divorced, Desperate, and Delicious a few weeks ago and laughed all the way through it. Her next in the series, Weddings Can Be Murder just hit the shelves and I know it’ll be great.

  27. 27
    Anna Marie says:

    Tam Lin by Pamela Dean is perfect. I first read it when I was in college and I just re-read it last year and it is still perfection. A MUST read.

  28. 28

    I think Catherine Andersen should be on your list – I love her Kendrick/Coulter series as well as her book Annie’s Song.

    Just finished reading Jessica Andersen’s Night Keeper – It’s a series I’ll be in on for the long haul.

  29. 29
    The F says:

    Without a fail:

    Double Standards, Something Wonderful – Judith McNaught
    Angel – Johanna Lindsey
    Slow heat in Heaven, Envy, Exclusive – Sandra Brown
    Ransom, Castle, The Bride, The Wedding – Julie Garwood
    Princess of Fire and Knight of Fire – Shannon Drake
    Seduction – Amanda Quick
    Still Lake – Anne Stuart

    So many many more.

  30. 30
    BevQB says:

    Nadia said:

    Lowell’s Pearl Cove is an excellent poolside read, half of it takes place in Australia at a pearl farm.

    I second that! In fact, you might as well read the whole Donovan series. Or at least what there is of it. Damn you, Elizabeth Lowell! Come back here and finish the series! PLEASE?

    Angie Fox said:

    It’s definitely time to pull out the Betsy the Vampire series, along with Katie MacAlister’s Aisling Grey series. Oh and Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books are also great for the beach.

    Oh yeah—GREAT beach reads!

    I first found one of my all time favorite books on the shelves of a beach house we rented one year, so even though it seems an unlikely beach choice, Linda Howard’s Son of the Morning seems like an excellent beach read to me. Hell, I stayed up till 4 AM reading it even though I KNEW that the hubby and demon spawn would all be awake and ready to hit the beach in just a couple of hours. But I could not put it down.

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