The Rec League: Beaches and Beach Reading

The Rec League - a tattered book with a heart leaning on it. Not the best graphic for this series but whatever I received an email from Milly, who is looking for some books to read: 

I was just enjoying my lunch hour reading the latest O magazine – the summer reading one and I realized very few books in it were HAPPY. Now I wouldn't expect otherwise from “serious” readers but come on… their beach reads section was quite depressing.

So I got to thinking: what is the bitchery's best beach reads that some of us may not know about? Must be light, frothy, fun, engrossing, crazy sauce welcome.

My contributions:

Anything Julie James ( A | BN | K ) especially the one where the hero and heroine hate each other and try to sabotage one another. Title escapes me but I think it's her first one

Ivanhoe for a classic ( A | BN | K)

The Crystal Cave series my Mary Stewart ( A | BN | K)

Lucky Harbour series by Jill Shalvis ( A | BN | K)

PS are is there any funny erotica out there that isn't angsty or alphahole'ish?! Girl' gotta have some smut for the beach but honestly the aholes get old.  

Beach reading, and funny erotica minus alphaholes. Ok, then! 

First, I think Milly's right to identify what beach reading is (and isn't) for different readers. Sarah MacLean wrote about this subject for her WaPO column recently, and echoed some of Milly's comments.

For me, and this is my own opinion after many hours in a chair on the sand, beach reading serves a few purposes. IThe story has to be easy in, easy out, happy and relaxing. If you have to pay attention to what is going on around you – kids, shore, food, bugs, beach tag inspectors – being able to easily enter and exit the story is important. I prefer not to have to put my book down, but I know that I'll have to. I also like my summer vacation reading to be funny, happy, and enjoyable. Vacation reading is joyful reading for me.

The first books that come to mind for me when I think of chairs, sand, sunscreen and hours to read are the Chesapeake Bay series by Nora Roberts ( A | BN | K) – which I remember reading on the beach and being so engrossed that high tide came and a wave broke onto me, the chair, and the book, soaking it. And it was a library book – so I felt awful. 

Beach reading is almost always contemporary comedy for me, too, or historicals that I know won't be angsty or rip my heart out while I'm reading. The Smith/Smythe series by Julia Quinn would be a good example, as would Tessa Dare. 

So what is beach reading for you?

What aare your beach reading recommendations – and while we're asking, what's your most favorite beach?  (Mine, all in New Jersey: Sandy Hook National Recreation Area, Sea Bright, Seven Presidents, and Stone Harbor.)

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Bibliophile says:

    To the beach I would bring a category romance (maybe an early Nora), a Georgette Heyer (Venetia or maybe An Infamous Army), a detective novel (Agatha Christie maybe, or maybe the latest J.D. Robb), and one of my Calvin and Hobbes collections, and Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman.

    My favourite beach? This:
    It’s not a beach for sunbathing, but I love to walk along it in my bare feet, feeling the wet sand squelch between my toes.

  2. 2
    library addict says:

    A beach read for me is a book which makes me happy. It can be a romantic suspense or have some angst. My main criteria is that it not have the characters doing TSTL stuff just to move the plot along. Many SIM books from the 1990s would qualify. Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski series, Jill Shalvis’ Animal Magnetism series, Meg Benjamin’s Konigsburg series, Jayne Ann Krentz non-paramormal single titles, etc. I tend to think of autobuy authors only as a beach read needs a built in level of comfort unless you’re rereading and that’s difficult to judge with a new-to-you author.

    Of course nowadays it is easier to have multiple books to choose from if you are using a dedicated ereader, tablet, or phone. I have not actually been to a beach since I went digital :(

    Also, Christmas stories or books where characters are stranded in the snow don’t work for me as a beach read. Although I did just read a Christmas novella set in Australia last week, so that could work.

  3. 3
    Miranda says:

    Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Cruisie

    Pink Carnation series by Lauren Willig (I’m planning to read the Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla during a Labor Day trip)

    Incryptid series by Seanan McGuire (more urban fantasy than romance, but light)

    Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews

    Favorite beach:

    I went on a girlfriend trip there last year. The family of one of my friends has a time-share cottage there, and we got a really good deal. It’s a quiet, family-oriented beach. Very relaxing.

  4. 4
    Lisa J says:

    A Julie Garwood historical (Prince Charming, Ransom, Saving Grace, The Secret, etc, etc), maybe the MacKenzie books by Linda Howard, or the MacGregors by Nora Roberts.

  5. 5
    Sheila says:

    My fave beach reads: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, not a romance but a great suspense story.  Oldie but goody A Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereaux.  I also love all Linda Howard backlist.  And of course Anne Stuart’s Ice series (love her alpha males).  Happy reading

  6. 6
    Sheila says:

    Hatteras national seashore

  7. 7
    Francesca says:

    A couple of bad experiences made me very reluctant to try a new author while away. At least an e-reader means I have plenty of options if disappointed nowadays, but it was such a let-down when my brand-new, save-it-for-the-holiday book left me thinking “Meh” during my recent vacation.

    For froth and happy feels, my go-to is Eva Ibbotson, but my preferred brand of beach-crack is the sex and shopping novel such as Judith Krantz or Penny Vincenzi.

  8. 8
    DonnaMarie says:

    Mmmmmm beach reads… I’ll second anything by Julie James. Any Nora Roberts trilogy or quartet. Old Linda Howard Silhouettes. Anything by Shannon McKenna. Tara Janzen’s Crazy series. As for light-hearted erotica, Milly, that’s a bit of a stumper. Maybe Wallbanger? It’s sequel Rusty Nailed is out now, too. Not erotica per se, but pretty sexy and funny. Or try one of the first two books in Lauren Dane’s Brown Siblings series: Laid Bare or Coming Undone.

    As for beaches, I’ve been east coast, I’ve been west coast, but the beaches of home are the ones I love the most.

  9. 9
    cleo says:

    The Julie James is Practice Makes Perfect.

    Fun erotica without assholes? I have a few bdsm suggestions.  The Wicked West by Victoria Dahl and several by Delphine Dryden – especially When in Rio (friends to lovers at a conference in Rio – the bdsm is mostly bondage and spanking) or the second book in her Science of Desire series (I think that’s what it’s called).

  10. 10
    Natalie Hart says:

    For beach reads, I like Jennifer Crusie, Mary Kay Andrews (because they always take place in the south, so the climate is always hot), Eloisa James, Loretta Chase, . In the YA realm, Ally Carter has two series (Gallagher Girls, a private school to train girl spies, and Heist Society, a group of 3rd generation teenage thieves) that are more fun than angsty, especially in the earlier books.

    For beaches, nothing beats the Lake Michigan beaches 30 minutes from my home.

  11. 11
    cleo says:

    I forgot – favorite beaches. I have several here in Chicago – Promontory Point and Pratt St Beach – but really I love the entire lakeshore. You can almost walk the length of the city along the lake and I love it.

  12. 12
    cayenne says:

    I’m not a beach-goer or dock-sitter as I have a tendency to burn under a fluorescent light bulb, but I have fond memories of Brackley Beach in Prince Edward Island.

    For contemporary Beach Reads, I would recommend Laura Florand’s Amour et Chocolat series, though, to be honest, I’m recommending Laura Florand for just about anything at this point :). I’d also say Tara Sivec’s Chocolate Lovers & Chocoholics series, and Maisey Yates’ Silver Creek series.

    For beach-y, entertaining-though-possibly-somewhat-angsty, asshole-free erotica (or at least with redeemed-by-the-end assholes), I second DonnaMarie’s reco of Lauren Dane’s Brown Siblings series, adding the Delicious, Chase Brothers, and Petal series as well. I’d also suggest Lorelei James’ Rough Riders series; Mari Carr’s Wild Irish, Compass Brothers, or Cocktales series; Stephanie Julian’s Salon Games series (book 3 just came out this week); Vivian Arend’s Six Pack Ranch series; and Elle Kennedy’s Out of Uniform series. I would also recommend some of the Harlequin Cosmo Red Hot Reads entries as fun and sexy: Tiffany Reisz (NOT her Original Sinners series though I loveloveLOVE it, but it doesn’t fit Milly’s criteria), Maisey Yates, Lauren Dane, Delphine Dryden, Cara McKenna, and Sarah Morgan.

  13. 13
    kkw says:

    I have been to many glorious beaches around the world, and my conclusion is the best beach is the closest. In my case currently Coney Island, which is actually a ghastly place to swim because it’s filthy, so there goes that theory. But seriously, after spending 24 hours on a plane or 12 hours on a hellacious bus or whatever, you get to your unspoiled paradise and need to sleep for three days to recover, and then you’re so busy dreading the return trip that even baby turtle hatching is uninspiring.

    But if you’re going for an ultimate beachy destination, my vote is Maui.

    I like detective stories for beach reads, or implausible spy thrillers. It’s one time I don’t prefer romance. If I’ve gone away with friends or family, I want to read what everyone else is reading so we can chat about it.

  14. 14
    Lostshadows says:

    I haven’t been to a beach since the early eighties, but probably something, physically, not too heavy and that I wouldn’t be too upset if it sustained damage. (Sand & water+kindle sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.)

    Other than that, probably, pretty much anything I’d be willing to read in public. (The beach is probably not the best place for an ugly cry book.)

  15. 15
    Rebecca says:

    For the ultimate beachy destination, I have to say Gijon, Spain wins out – BECAUSE THEY HAVE A LIBRARY ON THE BEACH.  “Biblioplaya” (which translates to something like “libra-beach”) is a tent set up on the actual beach, where you can check out books for the day, and reserve them for the next day to finish, as necessary.  And it’s stocked for you every summer.  Here’s a short article with video about it, unfortunately only in Spanish, and without too many shots of the lovely blue waters of the Atlantic.

    For beach reads, anything by Agatha Christie (preferably one I haven’t read in a while so I don’t remember it immediately), or Georgette Heyer.  (Sometimes Terry Pratchett, but he involves more serious emotional engagement with the characters usually.)

  16. 16

    I’m not much of a beach person, but my fluffy reads would include Victoria Dahl’s Donovan Brothers trilogy (especially Bad Boys Do) and Jessica Sims Midnight Liaisons series (snarky, smexy paranormal). Plus Nora. Can’t forget Nora. And I love JA Jance’s old JP Beaumont mysteries.

    Favorite beach? (Yes, I do have one): Cannon Beach, Oregon

  17. 17
    Cate says:

    For my beach reads, I would have to say any of Mary Stewart’s suspense novels This Rough Magic/Madam Will You Talk etc…. so much the better if you’re actually on Corfu or in the South of France while you’re reading them.:) Mark Green’s The Tourist Auction, had me hooting with laughter , and Lauren Willig’s Carnation series is a summery must have.
      As for my favourite beach, you’d have to go a long way to beat my beloved Branksome Chine in Dorset. In fact, it’s such a lovely evening,I think I might have to go and have a paddle….Thanks for the inspiration Sarah !

  18. 18
    Big K says:

    Beach reads may be the most important reads of the year. If you leave that beach unsatisfied. . . well, that’s just unacceptable.

    Some beach reads that wouldn’t normally be on this site (I love this site, btw):

    Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher. First book in one of my favorite fantasy series, much better than his other stuff. Each book builds on the last one. You MUST read them in order!

    Thea Harrison—Fantasy/para with central romantic component. Best ones are Dragon Bound, Storm’s Heart, Hunter’s Season, and Oracle’s Moon. Others are good, too. The characters are well developed and the action is sensible and plot driven. Can’t wait for her next book.

    A Classic—Watership Downs by Adams. Didn’t see that coming, did you? Have you read this action adventure book about very violent bunnies? It’s fan-damn-tastic. I really believe on some level that real rabbits think like the rabbits in this book—and maybe they do! Read it, read it, read it.

    Finally, favorite books of all time—The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King. The first book is spotty, I admit, but the rest of the series makes up for it in spades, and you have to read it in order to appreciate how it builds on itself. It’s a spaghetti western/Tolkien/classic Stephen King. Really awesome.

    Favorite beach? I still love Long Beach in Plymouth most of all. You can walk for miles and just soak in the summer. Then when you are too hot, run into the cold water. Suitably refreshed, have a banana popsicle and enjoy a book. Heaven!

    Have a great summer, everyone!

  19. 19
    LenoreJ says:

    Crazy Rich Asians is a fun romance and a wild ride into the world of…crazy, rich and crazy rich Asians! Fun, insiders and definitely bitch-er-beachy.

  20. 20

    Great beach reading: Anything by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Even when her books are less than perfect, they’re still mighty entertaining.

    It’s hard for a Floridian to pick a favorite beach. That’s akin to asking which is our favorite child! But for the purposes of this question, I’ll go with St. George Island on the Florida Panhandle

  21. 21
    LauraL says:

    My husband and I have been heading to the Outer Banks for vacation almost yearly for almost 30 years with or without family and friends. My thoughts today have been on that big sandbar and its people, especially our beloved Hatteras Island, as Hurricane Arthur approaches. We’ve been to a number of other beaches, but we always come back to the OBX. I’ve done a lot of reading there with my toes in the sand or on the porch.

    For beach reading, I always treat myself to a hardback new release, lately Mary Kay Andrews’ latest. I also add a few magazines I don’t regularly buy. It’s all about the splurge and I end up at Buxton Books buying more books while on vacation. However, if we were headed to Hatteras this year, I’d so be re-reading Terri Osborne’s Anchor Island trilogy!

    I have a couple of perpetual favorites and one of them usually makes the trip in my backpack each time. Outer Banks by Anne Rivers Siddons is an old favorite and I find something new resonating with me on each re-read as I grow older. I also treasure reading Early From the Dance by David Payne while at the beach because it reminds me of how the Outer Banks was when we first visited as newlyweds and the wild horses still roamed far enough South to be seen and there was no damn Walmart!

  22. 22
    chacha1 says:

    “Soapsuds” by Finola Hughes.

  23. 23
    Anna says:

    Just finished Breaking Away by Toni Aleo. Great beach read.  I’ve read the whole series. I love hockey.  Players. HA! Anyway it was really good.  Lots of sex so you better like that sort of stuff.  For my beach vacation next month, I’m going to read Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones, the new Jill Shalvis and the new Roxanne St Claire.  I’m going to be gone a whole week so I’ll need a few more.

  24. 24
    Vasha says:

    Funniest happy story I read this year: “Almost Like Being in Love” by Steve Kluger.

  25. 25
    Elinor Aspen says:

    Favorite beach reads: a new romance by Loretta Chase, Miranda Neville, Sherry Thomas or Mary Balogh, or a mystery by Sharyn McCrumb.

    My favorite beach of all time is Gold Rock Beach on Grand Bahama Island:—it’s difficult to get to (you need a car), but mostly deserted (seriously—we saw maybe four other people during the couple hours we spent there). The rest of Lucaya National Park is worth seeing as well; there’s a boardwalk through a mangrove swamp, and a spiral staircase down into a sea cave.

  26. 26
    Milly says:

    Thanks everyone!  Amazing suggestions and now my e-reader is very happy but my credit card is crying :).

  27. 27
  28. 28
    Celia Marsh says:

    I’d ditto Jennifer Crusie (probably extra especially Welcome to Temptation, Bet Me, and Faking It—they’re not just comfort reading, they’re also nice soft core erotica, I’d say, and definitely fun/funny) and the Ally Carter (which is YA not New Adult, thankfully—not erotica, more like dating/making out sort of romance).  Diane Kelly has a new one (book 5 of the series) which is probably contemporary/mystery.  Similar to

    Paranormal fun/funny beachy stuff would cover Molly Harper books, the Showalter “Extra-ordinary girl” series is good and light, as is Seanan McGuirre (I may have mangled that name—InCyrptid and October Daye series).  I love Lynsay Sands and um, *whispers*Kerrelyn Sparks*/whisper* for being brainless entertainment (KS more than LS) And I’m trying the Bhlack Dhaggher Brothherhhood books right now, though I may have to go do a search and replace on everyone’s name since seriously, what’s up with that?  Phury? Zsadist? Tohrment?  Vishis? Luckily I still have some of the Mcguirre books and 2 DD Barrant Bloodhound series to retreat to if I start using h’s where they don’t belong.

    Shelly Laurenston also wins at fun erotica—there are alpha males, but since they’re weres it’s more actually for reals alphas, I mind them less than the human jerks types of alphas.

  29. 29
    LML says:

    @Celia Marsh: SBSarah had some very funny comments about that Bhlack Dhaggher series.

  30. 30
    Diana says:

    @LML – I want to read the fun comments about Bhlack Dhagher, where are they?

    I gave up on this series a few years ago, I should have stopped at Zhadist

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