14 Steamy Summer Reads, Selected by a Romance Novelist

Romance novelist Sarah MacLean is an expert in super-hot books. She literally writes said super-hot books for a living, so if you’re looking for, you know, super-hot book recommendations, she’s definitely your girl. In order to help you stock up before you head to the beach this summer, Sarah compiled this list of nine novels so hot that you’ll have to take a dip in the ocean just to get yourself composed again.

One quick warning about beach reads: If you’re hoping to read about sex on the beach while actually on the beach, you might be a little disappointed — Sarah notes that beach sex scenes are actually a rarity in most romance novels. “It just seems like a lot of work.” Truer words have never been spoken.

1. Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

“Everything about this book is delicious, and Alisha is one of the sexiest writers writing today. Imagine if Romeo and Juliet existed in the modern world and wasn’t tragic, and also they were grown people who had grown feelings and intelligence. You have a hero and heroine whose families have always been at odds, and when they were teenagers, they had a really intense, emotional relationship but couldn’t be together because their families were in a power struggle. Since then, they’ve met each year on a specific day and had one night of passionate love. One year, she doesn’t show, so he goes looking for her. It’s the story of them coming together in spite of all their challenges, and besides being deliciously sexy, it’s also an emotional gut punch. It’s a great summer read to take with you on vacation, in hopes that you too will meet somebody with whom you can have a torrid one-night stand.”

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2. The Scandal of It All by Sophie Jordan

“This book turns the whole historical romance trope on its head — it’s an older-woman, younger-man romance. We really don’t see that often in any romance at all and we could see a lot more of them. She’s a young, stunningly beautiful woman — think Gloria from Modern Family — who married an older man for money and for security. She cared about him but it wasn’t the perfect marriage. He dies and leaves her a widow, and at the same time, a dear friend of hers dies, so the heroine decides she needs to have the adventures she’s always dreamed about. She has another really fabulous widow best friend, who has taken a ton of lovers and has access to a pleasure club. The heroine goes there intending to have an affair with this silver fox, but ends up with her stepson’s best friend. He’s always had a little bit of a thing for her but she’s never thought of him in any way other than as her stepson’s best friend. There’s a massive taboo to it too in the sense that there’s something just deliciously wrong about it, even as it’s totally right.”

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3. How Not to Fall by Emily Foster

How Not to Fall tells the story of a summer love that happens to become a year-round love. Emily Foster is the pen name of Emily Nagoski, Ph.D., a sex expert who also wrote a book called Come as You Are about women’s sexuality and how women can have sex for pleasure. Every single sex expert should write a romance novel, because the sex in this book is bananas good and also so honest. This is the first time I’ve ever read a heroine who couldn’t orgasm vaginally and it’s not a thing like, ‘Oh, there will eventually be a magic penis that will cure her of this affliction.’ The hero is like, ‘That’s totally fine, we’ll do whatever we need to do to make sure that you come.’ The sex is so hot but the story’s also really beautiful. She’s a student who’s leaving to go into a medical Ph.D. program and he’s running the lab that she works in as an undergrad. She’s had a crush on him throughout college, so she decides to have an affair with him for the summer before she leaves for graduate school. They have this really delicious friendship that evolves into this really emotional and satisfying relationship, then it all falls apart in a devastating way. The first time I read this book, I didn’t know that there was a second book, but there’s a second book about the same characters, so if you read both together you get a full, satisfying romance.”

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4. A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

“My husband refers to Kresley’s Immortals After Dark series as ‘Monster Mash,’ because every immortal character that you can imagine exists in this world. The other thing that’s delicious about this whole series is that it’s all fated, eternal mates, and some of them wait thousands of years to meet their mates. I just spent two weeks reading the entire 17-book series back to back; I’m obsessed. I’ll just paint a picture for you with the first chapter. Our hero is a werewolf but his vampire archnemeses have kept him chained for 200 years in the catacombs beneath Paris. All of a sudden, he senses his mate above, and he’s like, ‘Oh my god, my mate is up there, I have to get to her.’ So he gnaws off his leg to get out of the mystical chains so that he can chase her through Paris. His leg regenerates so don’t worry about it — it’s fine. It turns out that his mate is a vampire so of course that’s the conflict — he’s a werewolf, she’s a vampire, how will they ever fall for each other? Kresley writes sex better than probably anybody writing today. I recommend this as a summer read, because what better time to read 17 books in a row than during the long, lazy days of summer?”

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5. Love Me in the Dark by Mia Asher

“I really loved this book because it really harnessed the complicated existence of women in the world in 2017. The heroine married young, to a man who has always overshadowed her just by virtue of his presence. She discovers him in the midst of an affair and he apologizes, but there’s a terrible a crack in their marriage, so she tries to come to terms with it by going to Paris for a summer. She meets a man there who lost his love and their child in a tragic car accident, and he’s gone years alone without ever believing that he would love again. Mia writes the push-pull of the emotional affair really beautifully. I’m not a fan of cheating in romances — that runs counter to the whole concept of how romance should go — but they don’t consummate their love story until there are ways in which they can both be free to do so. The emotional relationship between the two of them is so intense and so beautiful, and it’s set in Paris, which is really rare for romance novels.”

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6. Fast Connection by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

“This book is about two bisexual former soldiers who find each other through Grindr. It’s supposed to be just a one-night stand, but when they meet, there’s a really intense connection between them in large part because they can understand each other in a way that many of their friends who were never in the military and who are not bisexual or gay just can’t. The complexity of the relationship here is really thoughtful and interesting, and then there’s the added issue of the challenges that men in the military face when they return home. It all comes together in this really emotionally rich, beautiful way, and on top of that, it’s tremendously sexy.”

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7. Luck on the Line by Zoraida Córdova

“The heroine’s mother is basically a Martha Stewart figure who’s launched a restaurant and the hero is the chef in this kitchen. So if you have ever had Tom Colicchio fantasies, this is the book for you. It’s an enemies-to-lovers trope. She wants to prove to her mother that she’s good enough and capable enough to run a restaurant, and the chef thinks she’s fluffy and basically like a baby. The sparks that fly are sexy and cool and awesome.”

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8. Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl

“The way that I introduce Victoria Dahl to anybody is by saying that she writes the best blow jobs there are in romance, and this is the book that I hand out as proof. The hero is a librarian, which is kind of awesome — like a very sexy, young, handsome, muscular librarian, as they are. The heroine writes an advice column, but she’s never had an orgasm and feels very much like a fraud. She meets the hero, and he just falls for her and wants to be with her. Sometimes you just need a romance novel where everything about these people is just decent and good, and you just want them to fall in love and be happy and have a lot of sex and be satisfied. That is what this book is. On top of it, this hero loves cunnilingus, which is great.”

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9. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

“This another enemies-to-lovers story about two young professionals who work in publishing. Their two companies merge, and they end up working out of the same office — their desks literally face each other. They hate each other from the moment they meet. Then it’s announced that one of them will be promoted and the other will stay an assistant, so they go into full competition mode. The way that it’s written, you sort of feel like they’re in a cage match all the time and at any point, one of them could murder the other, or they could just fall into having sex all the time. I won’t spoil it, but it ends pretty well.”

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And if you’re looking for other steamy reads, we here at at Cosmo have our own recs that will keep you on the edge of your seat… or your bed. Whichever one works best for you.

10. The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

Hear ye, hear ye. If you’re a Bridgerton fan, you’re already familiar with the story, but the ton of regency London has been smoldering long before Shondaland ever got hold of it. And while there’s a whole lot of sexual desire happening between Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset in the show (and that’s putting it mildly), the novel it’s based on has a lot more steamy scenes to pique your interest. After finishing the novel, you’ll most likely be burning for much more than just the Duke of Hastings.

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11. Follow Me Darkly by Helen Hardt

If you’re looking for an updated version of your favorite Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, Helen Hardt has got it at the ready for you. Following the budding romance between a billionaire and social media assistant (sounding familiar yet?), the novel is filled with glamour, fame, and a lot of sex. But what looks to be the perfect relationship is about to experience something that can change their lives forever.

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12. Set by Alexandria House

Sometimes, all you want is to root for the relationship that has to work against all the odds. This book not only has all of that, but the steamy aftermath of what happens when two former classmates hook up after their high school reunion.

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13. Forever… by Judy Blume

While we all had our own versions of first love, how about reading it all over again? This book touches on all the things that once seemed foreign to us: hormones, emotions, and not to mention a memorable first time.

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14. Tempted by You by Stephanie Nicole Harris

Ever wondered what happens when a soap-opera star falls in love with a university professor-turned-politician? Well, it’s a whole lot of figuring out how they fit in each others’ very different worlds. It has all the entanglements of a forbidden love affair, with all the steamy sex scenes to boot.

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