Let’s hear it for summer vacation romances. Summer flings that turn into a love able to withstand the turning of the seasons? That’s the good stuff. Much as I’m fully obsessed with beach reading, I love books that evoke summer vacations. Honestly, they’re great for any time of year, whether you’re anticipating your own estival activities, wanting to enhance your current summer vibes, or needing some extra heat on a chilly day — hello to our Southern Hemisphere friends experiencing winter right now!
Naturally, guaranteed happy endings represent the cherry on the summery sundae. What is it about romances set during summer vacations? It must be a holdover from youth, that the freedom of summer creates an imaginative space crackling with pure potential. A meet cute is extra cute on the beach. A relationship that seems ephemeral at first but turns out to be solid is a dream come true. Not to mention, when money is tight, you really can’t beat a book that will transport you to someplace with sun, sand, and/or surf for the comparatively low cost of a book. So treat yourself. Make a colorful beverage with a little umbrella in it. Grab a popsicle out of the freezer. Considering the heat radiating off some of these books, you might even need a cold shower.
Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras
If you’d like to travel to Key West (I sure would), here’s the book for you. The premise is top notch: Sarah’s unreliable boyfriend flakes on his obligation to attend Sarah’s family vacation, so she recruits the nearest available man: firefighter and dive captain (dive captain!!!) Luis. You have to love a man so inclined to help someone in need. This is a great book if you love romances that come with big families attached.
Hang the Moon by Alexandria Bellefleur
Summer in Seattle is amazing: lots of sunshine, low humidity, close to water and mountains both. And if you have friends there, like Annie does, it’s worth visiting before she moves across the globe. She wasn’t expecting to fall for Brendon, her brother’s best friend whom she remembers as a dorky kid. He’s a grown cinnamon roll now, and he uses this precious window of time to woo his childhood crush in cinematic romcom style.
Where the Honeybells Grow by Ruthie Lenor
Plenty of us make a vacation out of those summer weddings we’re invited to. Quinn is back in Bellbush to celebrate his best friend’s nuptials, but his uncle convinces him to stay longer and help out on Honeybells Ranch. When he meets Gerti, a newcomer to Bellbush, he may be tempted to extend his stay even longer. This one has really immersive and vivid small town vibes, which is something I definitely crave in my summer vacation romances.
Like Lovers Do by Tracey Livesay
I’m just going to let you know off the top: this book has a hammock sex scene. If that is not summer vacation romance in a nutshell, I don’t know what is. This fantastic entry in the Girls Trip series pairs Dr. Nicole Allen, an ambitious surgeon with her friend Benjamin Reed Van Mont. The two fake date on a trip to Martha’s Vineyard, so if you’re counting the tropes this is: summer vacation, friends-to-lovers, and fake dating. With hammock sex.
Make It Sweet by Kristen Callihan
This book is god-tier when it comes to summer vacation romances, and it was one of my tippy top romances from 2021. Emma, an actress on a Game of Thrones-esque show, needs a break. She goes to an idyllic estate in California, where she meets reclusive ex-hockey player Lucian Osmond. They are two people on the run from their problems who crash into each other, and it’s deliciously sexy. And there are baked goods to boot.
40-Love by Olivia Dade
I often feel like Olivia Dade is writing romances specifically for me, and as a big tennis fan, this one really hit me where I live. Tess Dunn, a teacher on summer break, has a near-disaster meet cute when a rogue wave absconds with her bikini top. Sexy tennis pro Lucas Karlsson comes to her rescue, making sure she doesn’t expose herself to a beach full of people, and things just get more delightful from there.
A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Andres
I’m stretching the premise a little on this one because the romance is sparked at a boating party rather than on vacation. But how badly do I want to be invited to a boating party this summer? This historical romance is set in a little Caribbean town called Arroyo Blanco. There Emilia, who writes serial romances under a pseudonym, encounters Ruben, a literary darling. He’s got secrets of his own, and there’s only so long these two can banter before they start kissing.
A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh
If you’re looking for a Regency romance with summer vacation vibes, Mary Balogh’s got you covered. While many of her books are deeply emotional, this one’s comparatively light, pairing an infamous bachelor with a woman recovering from having been left at the altar. Lauren agrees to pose as Kit’s betrothed if he can give her a fun, adventurous summer. She thinks if she can break the fake engagement at the end of the summer, she can finally be free of the marriage business altogether. But you can guess how that turns out for her.
You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi positively took over the literary world by publishing across genres and age groups. And their romance novel, which I want you to read without too much foreknowledge, is a megastar in their blazing literary constellation. In it, Feyi Adekola, a young widow, finds herself on a tropical island, flirting with something like forbidden love. I adore romances where the couple is solid and the rest of the world has to shift to meet them, and this is one of those.
The Girl Next Door by Chelsea M. Cameron
Sometimes a summer trip is a little bit less like a relaxing vacation and more like a chance to regroup before the next big move. That’s what Iris needs, so she’s back in her childhood bedroom in Salty Cove, Maine. Her neighbor Jude is back in town too, hauling lobsters and seeking solitude. A summer fling is the perfect distraction for these two women who never wanted to be back in their hometown. But they might find what they’re seeking in each other.
Keep these summery feelings going past summer vacation romances. We have more generally summery romances and even more of this year’s best summer reads. Stay hydrated, apply sunscreen, watch out for poison ivy, and keep reading!