In April, Bolu Babalola released the much-anticipated Love in Color, a collection of folklore retellings from around the world, with a focus on stories from West Africa but ranging into characters like Pyramus and Thisbe and Scheherazade, as well. A romance fan, Babalola recommended some summer selections for Jezebel readers.
After a long, wretched winter, the weather is warming and there’s a hint of summer in the air—the literal, calendrical season, sure, but also a dawning emotional state. (Or so we hope, at least.) With it comes one of life’s great hedonistic pleasures: endless summer reading, hours spent in a slightly battered book with bright colors. But which books, specifically? Here are her recommendations.
Bolu Babalola’s Summer Romance Picks
You Had Me at Hola, Alexis Daria
This book is sexy, soapy and so gloriously romantic whilst giving us a full exploration of representation of the Latinx community within television in a celebratory and warm way. This is a novel that Jane Villanueva would have ordered!
No Judgments, Meg Cabot
I mean, I am a die-hard Meg Cabot stan. Meg FOREVER. She keeps the girls eating and No Judgements is no exception. With a sunny island backdrop populated with loveable characters, this is the perfect sexy spring/summer read to lose yourself in, with a sweet good-hearted protagonist and a dependably swoon-worthy love interest who you just *know* smells good.
Take a Hint, Dani Brown, Talia Hibbert
Talia Hibbert knows how to write funny, sharp characters with love interests who meet them toe to toe in such a *hot* way, and Take A Hint is no different. The author’s charm and wit sings off the page in this delightful fake-romance fare.
How to Catch a Queen, Alyssa Cole
What I love about Cole’s writing in particular is how the romance is always situated in full and rich worlds with complex characters whose personal journeys of growth are accentuated by their romances. How To Catch A Queen is a sexy, politically intelligent tale about two people who never saw love as an option learning to embrace it whilst coming into themselves. It’s about meeting someone who makes you want to lower your barriers and let love in. And did I mention that it’s hot? It’s very hot...stay up till 4am hot.
The Wedding Party, Jasmine Guillory
Oh how I adore Jasmine Guillory! The Wedding Party is a taut enemies-to-lovers secret romance story that explores what it means when you start to fall for someone who represents everything you thought you didn’t want—or rather, when you fall for someone who you perhaps pre-judged, and what we learn about ourselves on the way. A tale simmering with sexual tension, this novel is a delectable treat.
The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang
This book had me sweating—it is truly steamy, and yet retains a compelling tenderness at its heart. Not only does it usurp the invert power dynamics we see in romances—instead of a rich professional man, and a working class woman, we see the reverse—but it also has a sweet neurodiverse protagonist in Stella. It is a gentle delight to see her working her way through her emotions with a man who utterly adores her. Also, I need to reiterate, it is extremely sexy.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han
This book, and indeed this trilogy has my entire heart. Sweet and warm, Lara Jean Covey might be one of my favourite romantic leads ever, and Peter Kavinsky one of my favourite literary love interests. This is a story of coming into yourself as a person and also meeting someone who gives you the space to be you, whilst also being brave enough to let yourself be vulnerable enough to receive the love you seek.
Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
A book I revisit time and time again, especially when I have writer’s block, Nick & Norah’s Playlist is a sharp novella that thrums with energy and chemistry with thrilling, poetic sentences as we follow the titular characters through an adventurous, sultry New York City night as they search for their favourite band and find love along the way.