With those April showers well behind us now, it’s time to look ahead to the May flowers they bring—and for some, the pesky pollen that accompanies all of those brilliant blossoms. If you can endure the potential sneezing, why not venture outdoors with a picnic blanket in search of some shade underneath which to read any one of the month’s excellent romances spotlighted below? Of course, this list is hardly exhaustive; May was a very good month to us romance readers, and these are just some of the many hot new releases that dropped.
From avid rivals to friends with benefits, first kisses to clandestine affairs, May’s picks are about as different from one another trope-wise as you could possibly get—but the one thing they all have in common is the reassurance of a happy ending, in whatever unique form that happens to take. So crack open a book, maybe crack open a cold drink while you’re at it, and immerse yourself in any one of the following reads.
Release Date: May 3 from Berkley
Why You’ll Love It: Henry has gone on record as saying that she wrote this book with “accidental Roy Kent energy,” and less than one chapter into her latest romance will make it abundantly clear that her hero Charlie Lastra, a curmudgeon of a book editor, shares quite a few traits in common with one of our bonafide Ted Lasso faves.
But Book Lovers isn’t just a story with a hero who bears something of a resemblance to Brett Goldstein’s footballer — it’s an aptly-titled romance for people who love books and every single aspect of them, from breaking down story and delving deep into character, both individual journeys and important relationships that aren’t even necessarily romantic. Nora is a heroine for the modern age who doesn’t try to fit herself into a prescribed box in order to be more likeable and has a fierce loyalty to her sister (maybe even often at the cost of her own happiness). However, as soon as she and Charlie’s paths cross for the first time, so many sparks fly that I was convinced my ARC was going to catch on fire while I was reading it. Another delightfully achey story that only serves to remind why Henry is one of the best.
Publisher’s Description: One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….
Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.
Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.
If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.
Release Date: May 3 from Sourcebooks Casablanca
Why You’ll Love It: Those of you who watched To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and wanted something exactly in this vein—-only gayer—are in for a delightful read about second-chance romance and the ways in which finding your identity can differ from someone else’s journey. There’s a delightful twist on the conceit of sending messages to past crushes, which could feel farfetched, but ends up grounded by the universal sense many of us have had in being on the precipice of the next step in our lives, and being utterly terrified as a result.
Apart from being sincerely hilarious and one of the most pitch-perfect rom-coms that have ever been added to the genre — Janovsky infuses this book with laugh-out-loud scenes — there’s also something thoughtful and welcome in Wren’s story, one that promises us that we don’t have to have ourselves completely worked out right away, and that the road to understanding yourself and your preferences doesn’t have to look identical to the person next to you. In fact, sometimes it’s better to make your own road altogether.
Publisher’s Description: Dear (never-been-quite-over-you) Crush,
It’s been a few years since we were together, but I can’t stop thinking about the time we almost…
Wren Roland has never been kissed, but he wants that movie-perfect ending more than anything. Feeling nostalgic on the eve of his birthday, he sends emails to all the boys he (ahem) loved before he came out. Morning brings the inevitable Oh God What Did I Do?, but he brushes that panic aside. Why stress about it? None of his could-have-beens are actually going to read the emails, much less respond. Right?
Enter Derick Haverford, Wren’s #1 pre-coming-out-crush and his drive-in theater’s new social media intern. Everyone claims he’s coasting on cinematic good looks and his father’s connections, but Wren has always known there’s much more to Derick than meets the eye. Too bad he doesn’t feel the same way about the infamous almost-kiss that once rocked Wren’s world.
Whatever. Wren’s no longer a closeted teenager; he can survive this. But as their hazy summer becomes consumed with a special project that may just save the struggling drive-in for good, Wren and Derick are drawn ever-closer…and maybe, finally, Wren’s dream of a perfect-kiss-before-the-credits is within reach.
Release Date: May 3 from Rebel Carter
Why You’ll Love It: Personally, I am distraught if this is, in fact, the conclusion of Carter’s Gold Sky series, which follows a remote town on the frontier and its citizens who are more than welcoming of a certain kind of free living and romance. However, as a swan song, there’s little better than something that properly wraps up a series that explores love through the various members of a close-knit family, and given that Carter has also referred to this as her love letter to historical romance, that description couldn’t be more apt.
This time around, Carter travels beyond the borders of Gold Sky to New York, where an unexpected marriage saves the youngest daughter of the Wickes-Barnes family forged in the first book from a scandal of her own making. Knowing that the hero of Carter’s Rose and Wicked was inspired by a certain Bridgerton boxer-turned-gentleman’s club owner (Will Mondrich, anyone?) makes this finale all the sweeter.
Publisher’s Description: Rose Wickes-Barnes has a plan to establish herself as an independent woman of good standing.
Move away from Gold Sky.
Join one of New York City’s most prestigious theater companies.
Establish herself in society as an up-and-coming costumer with said theater company.
Thusly, she aims to enjoy the fruits of her labor just as any woman should. What she never anticipates is the scandal, paparazzi storm, and subsequent whirlwind marriage she finds herself in.
Rose and her new husband, the gentle, soft-spoken, and earnest Samuel Walker, who selflessly put himself in harm’s way to keep her safe one fateful, rainy, day, are forced to flee the city and marry to keep their reputations intact. All the while Rose suspects there is far more to her new husband than the man she’s coming dangerously close to falling in love with.
People on the streets of New York give him a wide berth, and they call him ‘Wicked Walker’. Rose has never known him to be anything but a gentleman and her protector, but she can’t help but admit she is curious to see just what’s so wicked about ‘Wicked Walker.’
Release Date: May 17 from Avon
Why You’ll Love It: Sonali Dev continues her reign in contemporary nods to Jane Austen with the latest installment in her Rajes series, which also serves as yet another excellent conclusion releasing this month! After first being introduced to Naina through Insense and Sensibility, it’s clear this heroine was long overdue for her own romance—especially since she’d spent the previous installment dealing with her own fake relationship with Yash Raje!
Of course, the last person she would ever expect is yet another Raje sibling, let alone a man 12 years her junior, and the family she recently stepped away from wants little to do with her after seeing her vacate the situation with Yash, but what’s more rewarding than seeing Naina finally come into her own as a character is watching her receive the happiness and contentment from a true romance that she’s been denied up until this point—and the results are marvelously steamy, poignant, and charming as always.
Publisher’s Description: Emma gets a fresh Indian-American twist from award-winning author Sonali Dev in her heartwarmingly irresistible Jane Austen-inspired rom-com series.
No one can call Vansh Raje’s life anything but charmed. Handsome—Vogue has declared him California’s hottest single—and rich enough to spend all his time on missions to make the world a better place. Add to that a doting family and a contagiously sunny disposition and Vansh has made it halfway through his twenties without ever facing anything to throw him off his admittedly spectacular game.
A couple years from turning forty, Knightlina (Naina) Kohli has just gotten out of a ten-year-long fake relationship with Vansh’s brother and wants only one thing from her life…fine, two things. One, to have nothing to do with the unfairly blessed Raje family ever again. Two, to bring economic independence to millions of women in South Asia through her microfinance foundation and prove her father wrong about, well, everything.
Just when Naina’s dream is about to come to fruition, Vansh Raje shows up with his misguided Emma Project… And suddenly she’s fighting him for funding and wondering if a friends-with-benefits arrangement that’s as toe-curlingly hot as it is fun is worth risking her life’s work for.
Release Date: May 17 from Gallery Books
Why You’ll Love It: It’s no exaggeration whatsoever to say that this might actually be one of the most unpredictable Christina Lauren books yet—and this story absolutely puts the “wild” in Something Wilder. Lily and Leo were each other’s first loves once upon a time, but a real-life tragedy drives them apart and a misunderstanding keeps them there, living separate lives from one another, until a set of unlikely coincidences brings them back into one another’s orbit. Granted, these coincidences also involve a fake treasure hunt that soon becomes a real treasure hunt, a high-speed car chase, dangerous river crossings, kidnappings, only one sleeping bag, and so much more.
If you’re looking for a read that delivers the same energy as The Lost City or Romancing the Stone, adventure packed with romance packed with truly unexpected twists, then check out the story that proves a welcome departure from the average contemporary romance and catapults its second-chance couple into real life-or-death thrills.
Publisher’s Description: Growing up the daughter of notorious treasure hunter and absentee father Duke Wilder left Lily without much patience for the profession…or much money in the bank. But Lily is nothing if not resourceful, and now uses Duke’s coveted hand-drawn maps to guide tourists on fake treasure hunts through the red rock canyons of Utah. It pays the bills but doesn’t leave enough to fulfill her dream of buying back the beloved ranch her father sold years ago, and definitely not enough to deal with the sight of the man she once loved walking back into her life with a motley crew of friends ready to hit the trails. Frankly, Lily would like to take him out into the wilderness—and leave him there.
Leo Grady knew mirages were a thing in the desert, but they’d barely left civilization when the silhouette of his greatest regret comes into focus in the flickering light of the campfire. Ready to leave the past behind him, Leo wants nothing more than to reconnect with his first and only love. Unfortunately, Lily Wilder is all business, drawing a clear line in the sand: it’s never going to happen.
But when the trip goes horribly and hilariously wrong, the group wonders if maybe the legend of the hidden treasure wasn’t a gimmick after all. There’s a chance to right the wrongs—of Duke’s past and their own—but only if Leo and Lily can confront their history and work together. Alone under the stars in the isolated and dangerous mazes of the Canyonlands, Leo and Lily must decide whether they’ll risk their lives and hearts on the adventure of a lifetime.
Release Date: May 24 from Avon
Why You’ll Love It: Shupe is by and large the queen of Gilded Age romance—I’ve given her titles a shoutout before on this very site, because they delve into an era in history not often reached for in the genre but also have a delightful focus on the women who assert themselves in this particular time period and the men who are happy to fall on their knees and grant them their every desire. Case in point: the latest in her Fifth Avenue Rebels series, which delivers the already-excellent arranged marriage trope with a twist that asks the question: What if your anonymous, masked lover was also the person you were already betrothed to?
That’s the dilemma that tycoon Preston Clarke finds himself in, especially after he’s already insisted that he won’t honor the terms of his impending marriage to Katherine Delafield. It’s a fantastic place to begin a story from, because once Preston realizes that he has screwed up in devastating fashion, and that his intended is also the woman with whom he shared a truly unforgettable experience, and she’s already decided to move on and life her live on her own terms, how can he make things up to her?
Publisher’s Description: By beloved USA Today bestselling author Joanna Shupe, the third installment in the Fifth Avenue Rebels series about an arranged engagement destined for disaster.
A hard-hearted tycoon.
A romantic dreamer.
An engagement set up to fail.
The charismatic and vivacious Katherine Delafield should be married by now. Her father arranged an engagement to the much sought-after tycoon Preston Clarke ages ago. The only problem is Preston refuses to acknowledge it. But this isn’t going to stop Katherine from living life to the fullest as she ditches all silly notions of love and marriage and sets out to sample all the excitement New York City has to offer… the more scandalous the better. Because no matter what happens, she and Preston will never marry.
After a tormented childhood, Preston is done letting his father control his life—including choosing his bride. But when a mysterious lover at a masquerade turns out to be his would-be fiancée, Preston’s resolve begins to crumble. He hadn’t expected Katherine to be so charming. Or beautiful. Or passionate. And seeing her out on the town with other men is driving him crazy.
What happens when the wrong bride turns out to be the right woman after all?
Release Date: May 24 from Forever
Why You’ll Love It: Hall is the author behind so many of my other favorite romances, like Boyfriend Material and Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake—so I was entirely delighted when I learned that he was not only writing another historical romance, but one that would be primed to personally devastate me in the best possible sense of the word. Hall is already a name to follow in romance, but with A Lady for a Duke, he cements himself even further as a writer who pushes the genre beyond its previous borders and helps to reestablish a new definition altogether.
There are the trademark trappings of a Regency romance, of course, in all their most entertaining incarnations, but ultimately our heroine, Viola Carroll, has previously been living a lie—not just to herself in her past, which finally led to her embracing her true identity as a woman, but also to her oldest and dearest friend in her present, who believes her life had been lost on the battlefield at Waterloo years ago. Understandably, the story deals in many heavy subjects, and readers will be taken on a journey of many emotions, but the end result is a book that delivers on both its angst-laced premise and the reassurance of happiness by its conclusion.
Publisher’s Description: When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.
Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.
As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.
Carly Lane is an Atlanta-based writer who considers herself a lifelong Star Wars fan, newbie Trekker, diehard romance reader, nascent horror lover, and occasional live-tweeter. She is the senior TV editor at Collider, a former contributing editor for SYFY FANGRRLS, and has also written for Vulture, the Boston Globe, Nerdist, Teen Vogue, Den of Geek, The Toast, and elsewhere around the Internet.