Beach Reads + Contemporary Romance: July Review Roundup 

You likely know that summer is my biggest reading season, in part that if I’m spending the day in the pool or on the beach, I have a book (or two) with me, & that I am fortunate enough to enjoy some extra time off in the summer as a teacher. I’m definitely doing the most amount of reading than I have ever done before in the summer, averaging anywhere between 4-6 books a week. I mentioned in my 10+ book mini review round up back in June that because I’m reading so much, I haven’t been necessarily writing full reviews for every single book I read & I’ve been enjoying the shorter length mini review format where I maybe don’t write as much in my traditional mini review posts and share more books that I’ve read. I have a few full length reviews planned for the next few weeks, but I definitely have a feeling I’ll be sharing another similar round-up in July! Today I’ll be sharing mini reviews forYA and adult contemporary books (including some romances of course) & a few beach reads from Elin Hilderbrand. 

The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall – I LOVED The Secret Bridesmaid. This British contemporary following a woman whose hired by brides to be a bridesmaid/undercover wedding planner and is recommended to serve in a royal wedding for a diva of a bride was SO good. It was the perfect blend of self-growth, relationship development (including friendship & romance), and having such a fun story. If you’re a fan of books with some sort of wedding storyline, check this one out! My Rating: 5/5 Stars 

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane – My local county library branch is closed for at least the first half of July, so I’ve been visiting another local branch and I’ve loved getting to find books that my local library doesn’t have, including so many books from Mhairi McFarlane! She’s a go-to British contemporary romance author from some of my most trusted book rec sources, so I started with what feels like her most recommended book, If I Never Met You. The book uses the fake dating trope, as lawyer Laurie agrees to fake date her co-worker after her long-time boyfriend and also fellow colleague breaks up with her. I liked that the book begins with Laurie’s relationship with her ex and we see the break-up happen and unravel instead of jumping right into the fake-dating. This was overall a fun read and I’m looking forward to checking out more of her books. My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Heart & Seoul by Jen Federick – I was running on the reading rush that was Axie Oh’s upcoming XOXO (review coming to the blog on Monday!) That made me want to read another book set in South Korea, leading me to Jen Frederick’s Heart & Seoul. This contemporary romance (although I think it does read more as a women’s fiction/contemporary drama) follows Hara, a Korean adoptee who decides to go to Seoul for the first time to learn more about her birth parents. I liked that the book balanced so many elements and wasn’t all about the romance or Hara’s adoption/birth story. The book puts way more focus on family than the romance, although I did like the relationship. I’ve read a few books with Korea as the setting, but this book gave such an interesting perspective on the lifestyle and customs there. I was kind’ve mixed on the ending, in the sense that I thought it would’ve been a unique ending for a contemporary romance while also wanting MORE and I was happy to find out that there will be a book #2, Soulmates, in January 2022. My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand – I’m on a slight & unexpected mission to read as many Elin Hilderbrand book as possible this year. Elin was recently interviewed on Bad on Paper Podcast, and Silver Girl came up in their conversation. I was a bit hesitant going into this one because I wasn’t super intrigued by the synopsis, as the book follows Meredith’s downfall due to her husband’s Ponzi scheme and hiding from the media with her former best friend in Nantucket for the summer. However, I became so much more addicted to this story than expected, having actually loved the focus on friendship and how the story intertwined the past & present. My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand The Perfect Couple was one of Elin Hilderbrand’s top 3 recommended own books from her Bad on Paper episode – if you’re new to her books, Elin actually recommend three books that weren’t on the recent NYT essential Elin Hilderbrand book list. She recommended The Blue Bistro (which I recently bought a used copy of from Better World Books), Summerland (which I’m reading today!), and The Perfect Couple. The Perfect Couple is a murder mystery, beginning with the death of the bride’s maid of honor and alternating between the past and present perspective of the bridal party & family. I don’t think this one was necessarily my favorite Elin Hilderbrand book, but I really enjoyed the story and most importantly when it comes to mysteries, it wasn’t predictable!! I think my murderer pride lion changed at least 3 times while reading and I still didn’t see the ending coming! My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler Cool for the Summer was on so many summer reading recommendations lists and read by a few of my book blogging friends, so I checked out this slight Grease retelling following high school senior Lara split between the girl she spent the summer with and the star quarterback she’s always had a crush on. It took me a while to settle into this book – I usually don’t mind books that flip between the past and present, but iy was difficult for some reason to get settled into the story.I think it’s because I enjoyed reading about Lara’s summer romance/past more, especially since Lara’s friends in the present felt immature and didn’t seem super supportive of the main character. My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Beth & Amy (The March Sisters #2) by Virginia Kantra – Little Women is one my favorite classic books (and film adaptations), so I first read Virginia Kantra’s modern Little Women retelling series in December 2019 with Meg & Jo. This sequel follows the other two March sisters, Beth & Amy, following the events of book #1 as Amy tries to figure out how to grow her accessories business (along with her feelings for the March family’s honorary brother) and Beth starts her career as a singer. This series is super cozy and I liked seeing how Virginia Kantra kept to the original book while adding her own series (not a super spoiler, but Beth does not suffer from the same illness as she does in Little Women). At the same time, there were points in the story where the characters do come off as superficial and I wasn’t a super fan of the direction of Beth’s storyline (warning for eating disorder). My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars 

What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? What are some of your contemporary romance or Elin Hildebrand book recommendations? Share in the comments! 

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