Romance Authors on the Novels That Remind Them of Summer
Whether you're lounging on the beach, taking comfort in the shade of a leafy tree or camped out next to the fan, getting lost in a great book can be one of the greatest pleasures of the summer. We asked several romance writers which books they associate most closely with the season. Some of their answers may surprise you at first, but you'll find that all of these picks tap into the heat, passion and freedom of summer.
"My favorite summer read is A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh: She takes two people who have a disgust of marriage and throws them together in an engagement-of-convenience for one halcyon summer. The lady's condition is that it be a summer of passion, because when summer's over, she'll break the engagement—ruining herself, but having given the gentleman at least a few months' respite from his family's pressure to marry.
[The characters'] backstory makes this romance even more heartrending. Lauren Edgeworth's last fiancé jilted her at the altar, and she's endured a year of pity and whispers since. Ruin looms like salvation for her, just as surcease from his family's carping looms like salvation for former officer Kit Butler. They intend to share a summer of passion, but their shared season becomes a summer of love, acceptance and self-acceptance.
Mary Balogh's wonderful prose, her deft pacing, and her ability to entwine love and passion make A Summer to Remember a book to remember."
"Summer romance reading? For me, the book forever tied up with summer—although it's not specifically a summertime or beach read--is [Colleen McCullough's] The Thorn Birds. It was 1978 and it had just come out that year in paperback, and I would rather have died than spend my money on it—I was a die-hard [sci-fi] girl back then—but a friend of mine had a copy. So we took turns reading it—on the beach, in the car en route to the beach, hanging out at the pool…
Even if the romance hadn't been the hottest thing my 11-year-old self had ever (not yet) imagined, I still would forever associate the book with sun and sweat."
"You never forget your first romance... novel. Mine was The Sheikh's Revenge, a Harlequin Presents by Emma Darcy. It's a perfect summer read if you want your hot summer to get even hotter. A widowed sheikh's intended bride runs away with an Australian pilot. In revenge, the sheikh takes the pilot's virginal sister captive. The steaming desert setting, the smoldering sheikh, and the beautiful heroine falling in love against her will make for a perfect summer read. If you don't sweat while reading this book, you're doing it wrong."
[Editor's note: The Sheikh's Revenge is out of print, but check out Darcy's equally steamy novel Traded to the Sheikh.]
"For me, the best book of summer isn't necessarily one that makes me think of summer—sometimes, it's the exact opposite. One of the best books I ever read on vacation is Hidden by Eve Silver [writing as Eve Kenin], which is set in a frozen Siberian wasteland. The story was so tense and gripping and real, it made me feel the cold--which was no mean trick on a blazing July at the beach. I started it intending to read just a few chapters, and nearly got burnt to a crisp by reading the whole thing in one go. And then I read it again, safely indoors with a cold drink at hand. That's summer, to me—having a book that I can't put down and the freedom to read it from cover to cover."
"One summer, when I was a teenager, my grandmother gave me a grocery sack full of romance novels. On a rainy Florida afternoon, I started working my way through that bag. There were Regency romances, contemporary glitz novels and plenty of happily-ever-afters to fill up the hours. One of my favorites was Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer. It was a World War II-era romance, set in Georgia, with a pregnant heroine and an ex-convict hero. Two unlikely people came together in a story that to this day remains my favorite book. The characters are real and their struggles to feel worthy of love are poignant and heartbreaking. Whenever I pick up this book on a lazy summer day, it's like returning to spend the day with old friends."
"Some years back, I picked up a debut book by an author at a Romance Writers of America conference. The book was called 7 Days and 7 Nights by Wendy Wax. It's about two radio personalities forced together in a competition, and of course their goals clash—an intriguing setup for any romance novel.
From the time I returned from the conference and began to read the book, I couldn't put it down. I curled up on my deck swing and totally lost myself in the story.
The perfect summer read is light and funny and, of course, romantic. And this book delivered. It is perfect for the beach or any summer getaway. All these years later, it is still one of my favorites."
Ron Hogan is the co-founder of Lady Jane's Salon, the first monthly reading series for romance fiction, and the creator of Beatrice, one of the Internet's first book-themed websites. He currently hosts The Handsell, a video series where authors and booksellers share their reading recommendations.