Ah, September. The heat of summer is on its way out and fall is on its way in. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of books to keep you warm. So break out your mugs and fill them up with your favorite fall beverage (perhaps something pumpkin spice-flavored), and relax with a few new feel-good tales that feature a little laughter and a whole lot of love.
For this month’s roundup, USA TODAY staff read a collection of new rom-coms featuring a heated romance between a Napa Valley vineyard owner and a tech executive, a two-night stand with an unexpected twist and an international pop star who gets more than she could have imagined when she inadvertently ends up in Rome, Kentucky.
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‘Drunk on Love’
By Jasmine Guillory. ★★★½ (out of four). Out now.
At least half of Jasmine Guillory’s latest romance novel takes place in the bedroom, so if you’re uncomfortable with literature that gets down and dirty, this book’s not for you. But if your reading preferences are more rom than com, you’ll love this steamy tale of Napa Valley vineyard owner Margot and tech exec Luke, who have a passionate fling at his place after meeting at a local bar. Unfortunately, the no-strings-attached one-night stand puts Margot in a bind when Luke shows up for his first day of work at Noble Family Vineyards and she learns he’s her newest employee. Each has secrets to hide and walls to break down, and Guillory allows her characters to tackle them in a way that’s relatable. Guillory also demonstrates why she’s a bestselling author as she weaves in more serious threads about race and identity, about what it means to be recognized and what it means to be successful. You’ll be cheering for Margot and Luke until you turn the last page. – Leigh Harrington
‘The American Roommate Experiment’
By Elena Armas. ★★★★ (out of four). Out now.
When Rosie Graham hears someone breaking into her apartment – okay, her best friend’s apartment, her best friend who doesn’t technically know she’s using it – she isn’t prepared for it to be her roommate’s pro surfer cousin, Lucas Martin, the one she’s been obsessively following on socials. She’s less prepared for them to become de facto roommates and partners in a quest to jumpstart the stalled-out draft of her latest romance novel. “The American Roommate Experiment” is the follow-up to Armas’ huge-on-TikTok “The Spanish Love Deception” (yes, Aaron and Lina make cameos) with a new twist on the Spain-Meets-New York story. Rosie and Lucas’ connection deepens with every swoony, steamy date – you’ll want to get swept up, too. – Jennifer Ernst Beaudry
‘Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake’
By Mazey Eddings. ★★★½ (out of four). Out now.
When a two-night stand turns into a lot more than Lizzie Blake bargained for, she sets her determined yet ADHD mind on making a platonic relationship work with the too-hot-to-handle Australian baby daddy, Rake. For his part, Rake is actually quite a gentleman. And for reasons we must patiently wait to discover, he wants nothing more than to be an equal part of raising their unexpected child. Steamy scenes and smart writing will keep you wanting more as Lizzie and Rake navigate real-life circumstances and grapple with unrealistic boundaries. While the “unwanted feelings” loop that Lizzie and Rake create gets a bit repetitive, it gives us time to root for Lizzie’s success in a secret, sultry baking endeavor. Eddings sets this story up for not one, but two satisfying climaxes as Lizzy triumphs over her “fritzy” brain and her family, to turn all of her past (and present) “mistakes” into a very happy ever after. – Danielle DeSiato
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‘When in Rome’
By Sarah Adams. ★★★ (out of four). Out now.
Rae Rose badly needs a break from her isolated life as “the princess of soulful pop.” But she gets more than she could have imagined when she inadvertently finds herself in Rome, Kentucky – thanks to some inspiration from Audrey Hepburn. Rose ends up crashing with Noah Walker, a taciturn but caring pie shop owner who allegedly does not have the energy to fall in love. Luckily for readers, this is a well-written love story. Together, Rose and Walker learn to let their guards down and cautiously let love in. By the end, a burnt-out popstar – with help from loving sisters and nosy but loving town members – is finally able to build the life of her dreams. True love included. – Mabinty Quarshie
‘The Make-Up Test’
By Jenny L. Howe. ★★½ (out of four). Out now.
“The Make-Up Test” follows brilliant and highly competitive student Allison Avery in her first year of graduate school at the prestigious Claymore University. Everything should be perfect when she lands a TA job with her dream mentor, except her co-TA is her ex-boyfriend and academic enemy, Colin Benjamin. When they’re pitted against each other for a distinguished research position, who will win? And can they rekindle their love in light of the competition? Featuring a plus-size heroine, “The Make-Up Test” provides some much-needed representation in the rom-com genre. When we meet Allison, she’s confident and comfortable in her body, and her body poses no obstacle in her journey to romance. It’s not all quaint, as Allison faces fatphobia from her classmates and family, which can be difficult to read at times. This sweet and funny story drags at times when it gets into complicated family dynamics. A series of miscommunications frustratingly complicates Allison and Benjamin’s love story, but I was still rooting for them until the very last page. – Samantha Mangino
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