23 Top Finds on Kindle Unlimited

I love my Kindle Unlimited subscription! $11.99 a month for unlimited books is a no-brainer for me given how much I read. Sure, there are a number of books you can’t get, but tons you can, and a lot of them are really good! So many, in fact, that I can’t fit them all into one post, so here are some of my favorites (alphabetical by author) in different contemporary romance genres (rom-com, romance, mafia romance, sweet romance), plus wine pairings. 

If you like mafia romance thrillers, this one is up your alley. Landyn’s criminal father sells her off to a brutal drug cartel leader who has zero humanity, and she has no way to escape. Lucky for her (relatively speaking), chaos breaks out at the ceremony and she ends up married to Brax, who’s another cartel guy but wants to keep her safe. They face constant danger, never know who to trust, and must stay ahead of warring factions and deadly conspiracies.

Overall, the suspense, thrill, and danger made this book a fun read and added to the romantic story. The plot was fast-moving and kept me entertained the whole time. Brax was a stunning character—smart, ruthless, brave, and haunted by loss. Landyn, on the other hand, was whiny and absurdly naïve for a mob boss’s daughter, and really didn’t have much personality to speak of. I expected more savvy and less dumba**ery. Still, the book was a fun read and different from most of the books I’ve read lately.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Romantic Thriller, Mafia, Arranged Marriage, Proximity
Pair With: 19 Crimes, Prisoner Wine Company, and Murder Ridge Winery.

Bright and dedicated Sophia finally finds the perfect roommate and an apartment she can actually afford in San Francisco and still take care of her mother. But she also finds a rude, cranky, and hot landlord in Max, who takes every opportunity to get under her skin.

Even when they get together, will it ever work with his snobby society parents (seriously, it almost feels like a Regency England novel at times) and her more modest background and family?

Landlord Wars was cute and fun, mainly because Sophia and Max were likeable and caring people.

Sophia’s determination and devotion to her family really stood out: she takes care of her unstable mother and college-age younger sister so selflessly. 

Max comes from the snottiest and most selfish family imaginable, but uses his wealth and power to truly help people in San Francisco (and his family actually disapproves!). 

I really could have done without Max’s family—are there really still “high society” people like that in the U.S. anymore? Be forewarned, you’ll be super annoyed at their meddling.

Still, enjoyable book with the requisite HEA! 

Rating: 3.8
Steam: Medium
Tropes: Enemies to lovers, Proximity, Landlord/Tenant
Pair with: The San Francisco Chronicle’s medal winners.

The second book in Louise Bay’s Doctors series is a cute, fun story with a bunch of tropes rolled into one. Ellie is a smart and lovely aspiring chef who wasted way too much time working for her ex-boyfriend and neglecting her own dreams. Now that she’s free, she needs a job to save for a prestigious culinary school, and she lands one as grumpy Zach’s medical assistant.

Zach is a sexy and talented doctor who loathes his job and is secretly writing a book. When he heads to a remote Scottish island cottage to edit his book—without his agent’s notes—Ellie delivers them in person, right before the ferry gets canceled and a winter storm rolls in . . . but they won’t be cold. Now, what happens when the storm passes and it’s back to the real world?

So we have forced proximity, only one bed, grumpy sunshine, and boss-employee all in one book! Throw in some family antics, some real cuteness between the characters, and steamy but not over-the-top scenes, and it’s a fun read.

There’s also some legit growth in the characters—Ellie moving forward and refusing to let her ex control her, Zach forging his own path in a family of majorly successful doctor and realizing he won’t be letting them down, both of them growing into each other and making it work despite some obstacles. It’s not quite as good as the first book in the series, Dr. Off Limits, and the final obstacle is kind of annoying (but that’s the case in 90% of romance books for me, so take it with a grain of salt), but overall pretty cute.

Rating: 3.8
Steam: Average to High
Tropes: Forced proximity, only one bed, opposites attract, grumpy sunshine, boss/employee
Pair with: English sparkling wine, such as Chapel Down Brut or Coates & Seely. English sparkling wines have become exceedingly popular in recent years. They’re also pricey, so there are some non-English alternatives to consider: Richebel Brut Sparkling ($10), Faire La Fete Brut ($15 at Costco), or Deligeroy Cremant De Loire Brut Sparkling Wine ($20).

Single dad Rowan never saw this coming—becoming a father after a one-night stand. He had a rough childhood and is terrified he will fail his son, just like his own parents did. Delilah, a rich heiress until the world found out her mom built the family’s wealth on fraud, now works in a coffee shop and will do anything to move on from the shame of her mother’s actions. Two tortured souls with mommy/daddy issues find themselves instantly attracted to each other in a small South African town, and both feel unworthy and ill-prepared for romance.

This book was cute and an easy, fun read. It did get annoying with Rowan’s hang-ups and went in circles for too long with all his reasons for not wanting to be with Delilah. I loved the group of guys supporting each other through single fatherhood and reminding us that we’re all screwing it up in one way or another, but what matters most is just loving your kids. It’s a romance, so you know Delilah and Rowan eventually come around, and the grand gesture is sweet and fitting.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Slow Burn, Opposites Attract, Single Parent, Instant Attraction
Pair With: South African wines (too many good ones to choose from). 

Hope Travers lives on her close-knit family’s large and prosperous estate where she runs the gin distillery, among other jobs. She needs her own space and decides to build a house on the estate, but when the crew breaks ground, they run into what looks like ancient ruins.

When university archaeologist Cameron Ferguson shows up to run the dig, they instantly gravitate toward one another. But as the dig progresses and family secrets are uncovered, things start to go wrong all over the estate, and Hope wonders what they’ve stumbled into.

Where We Belong wins with excellent main (and side) characters and refreshingly mature relationships among them. Hope is kind, thoughtful, and smart—and like lots of women, she gets things done! Cam is also a really thoughtful and smart guy, who comes from a working class background but has no chip on his shoulder and is working toward his professional dreams.

What’s so great about their relationship is they act like adults, unlike so many romance novels! They are honest with each other and don’t play ridiculous games—even though they have a little baggage, they support each other through it and don’t let their problems ruin their relationship.

The family secrets plot was interesting, but so much was left unresolved. The author is clearly starting a new series and doesn’t want to tie up all the loose ends in one book, but there are a lot of them. A little more buildup of Hope and Cam’s relationship would have been nice, but I really can’t complain! (P.S. read the next book in the series, In From the Cold, to see what happens).

Rating: 4
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Close Proximity, Family Secrets, Small Village, Mystery
Pair With: Craft Gin

Journalist and single mom Claire’s had a rough time of it lately, but can get her career back on track when she lands a coveted interview with hot British rock star Chris (who was also her teenage crush). She knows she has to ask him some tough questions but doesn’t expect flirtatious conversation and maybe an actual friendship forming.

Chris also hasn’t had the easiest time after a nasty divorce and career mishaps—the fun and sparks flying from the interview seem just as unexpected for him. The story brings them together first in friendship, but romance comes along and with it happiness, pain, growth and a little angst. Claire and Chris feel like real people with real pain, real mistakes, and real love. It goes beyond the typical rock star trope (though, really, what rock star is as real as Chris?) and the author does a lovely job of showing us who the characters—especially Claire—really are.

I could have done with a dual perspective for more insight into Chris, but overall it’s a fun story I thoroughly enjoyed. If you’ve ever fantasized about an HEA with your favorite rock star and like the trope, this one is for you!

P.S. I liked the sequel, Back Forever, even more, though I’d recommend reading Bring Me Back first.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Rock Star, Single Parent, Childhood Idol
Pair With: Mojitos, Fancy Wine

Emma Rutledge knows her way around a winery and the wine business—she should, since her family owns a successful and renowned winery—and has worked hard for a larger role in the company. Her dear old (major as***ole and sexist pig) dad does everything he can to block her path, including making her dirtbag ex-husband her boss. So she’ll take matters into her own hands and find a way to start her own winery.

Giovanni D’Angelo knows his way around wine; he’s a talented sommelier and also plays a huge role in his family’s successful restaurant. But he wants more—his own vineyard to be exact. He meets Emma on a Tuscan wine tour and there’s some instant chemistry; first friendship and then who knows…

Maybe it’s the Italian countryside, the beautiful descriptions of Temecula, or the smart and interesting characters, but this book sucked me right in and was captivating the whole way through. Emma’s family mostly sucked—especially her dad, and her mom for just rolling over until the end—but some of them came through in the end. It would have been nice for her dad to have one or two redeeming qualities, but I can live with that.

Emma and Giovanni’s character development was perfect—you see Emma going from a capable and hard-working but somewhat uncertain businessperson to someone who’ll walk into an intimidating room, confront her father, and move her business forward despite his assholery. Gio goes from a cheesy ladies man to a loving and supportive partner; you can see how much he cares and wants to protect her without being overbearing or controlling. Overall, I loved the book and definitely want to read the rest of the series.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes and Tropes: Travel, Wine, Different Backgrounds
Pair with: Wine from Temecula Valley, CA; consider Foot Path, Peltzer, Mount Palomar, Avensole, Robert Renzoni, Oak Mountain, Temecula Hills, or Palumbo.

Back in the day, Noah was a shy, awkward teen, in love with his beautiful and popular best friend, Shay, who lived with her step-grandmother at the neighboring farm in small-town Rhode Island. They went their separate ways after high school with no shortage of bitterness from Noah, who realized she was gone and his love was unrequited.

Fast forward a decade plus. Shay gets dumped at the altar by her dirtbag fiance, then discovers she inherited her step-grandmother’s farm. But, of course there’s a catch to this inheritance: she has to move to Friendship and has to be married within a year, or the land reverts to the town. Is this even legal? Will Noah oblige?

Noah is my favorite kind of romance hero – I found myself loving and rooting for him from the beginning. Sexy as hell, adopts and adores his niece, works hard, sacrifices so much in his life for his family and others he loves, protects Shay from her ex, and has loved Shay forever. The only problem is that he might be too perfect, if there is such a thing. There just isn’t anything wrong with the guy.

The story drags just a bit while Noah and Shay try to figure out their feelings and how to express them. His niece is adorable and hilarious, and very relatable to people with high-energy smart-aleck kids…overall, a fun, happy read.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Childhood Friends, Small Town, Kid in Plot, Fake Marriage
Pair With: Given the farmer’s market in the book, consider trying Farmer’s Market Wine Co.

A hilarious stand-up comedian and her hot older manager fake dating to rev up publicity for her tour? Yes please! Farley is a rising star with big—and secret—feelings for Meyer, her best friend and manager. The last thing she’d want to do is ruin their friendship.

Meyer quit performing years ago to raise his daughter; he’s been managing Farley’s career and she’s come to mean the world to him. For two people trying to keep their true feelings at bay, was there ever any “fake” in the fake dating?

As expected, the book was funny and had some hilarious moments, and the stand-up comedy was a unique and fun plot feature (yay, no author as the protagonist). DeWitt did a nice job of building up the relationship over time, the sweet “fake” touches and signs of real affection; slowly allowing the characters to admit their feelings for each other.

Also, Meyer’s hearing-impaired daughter was awesome and added some fun and friendship to the story. I didn’t love the back-and-forth chronology; it worked for the most part but it’s never something I get excited about. Still, my favorite of Tarah DeWitt’s books so far.

P.S. If you liked this, try Christmas Presents, a compilation of Christmas novellas/epilogues, one from Funny Feelings and one each from two of DeWitt’s other books, The Co-Op and Rootbound.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Friends to Lovers, Fake Relationship, Single Parent, Age Gap
Pair With: Wines with funny names.

Autumn is done with being married to a slimeball and is ready for a fresh start but not a fresh romantic entanglement. What better idea than to drunk-buy a pier on the other side of the country and move into a small beach town?

Local whale watching captain Griff has given up on relationships after pretty terrible family and romantic experiences. But Griff and Autumn click instantly and think they can handle a friends-with-benefits arrangement. . . .

Pieces of Us ended up being a really sweet story with some legit spice too—it was nice to read a fun, easy book where I really liked the main characters and where the annoying ones don’t overshadow or hijack the whole story. Griff was everything a gruff romantic hero should be: tall, built, strong, outdoorsy, kind, thoughtful, loving, tortured. Same with Autumn, who’s smart, tough, beautiful, kind, loving, and a great businessperson who figures out how to make the pier viable and the town come together. The way they grow together is lovely and the small ocean town idyllic; the other characters a bit Hallmarky, but there’s definitely too much spice for Hallmark in this book.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium to High
Themes and Tropes: Small Town, Fresh Start, Friends to Lovers, Opposites Attract
Pair With: California coastal wines

Songwriter Tabitha can work from anywhere, so why not travel the world pet-sitting in exotic locations? That should help mend her broken heart and help her live again. Her latest gig is a month at a stunning Madeira villa, where she can be at peace to write songs and walk dogs through the beautiful countryside.

Enter Raff, the estranged son of the villa’s owners, who is Tabitha’s age and hot. He’s had his troubles growing up with parents who saw him only as a disappointment, and figures he’ll enjoy the house while they’re gone—but has no idea Tabitha will be there. . . .

Raff isn’t the most endearing character at the beginning, but grew on me after a while once I started to see where he was coming from. Tabitha was likeable, though she had her moments of overstepping and trying to dictate Raff’s choices. It was fun to see them growing together on a real up-and-down trajectory, both of them trying to figure themselves out and navigate a relationship. It felt real—happy at times, frustrating at other times, relatable issues and a nice, easy read.

Rating: 4
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Escapist, Close Proximity
Pair With: Madeira Wine. I’ve only ever cooked with Madeira, so I’m curious to try some Madeira to drink. This article on Drinks Geek is a great starting point.

Romantic soul and wedding dress designer Emma crushes her Vegas fashion show on her birthday. She’s flying high until she sees her ex’s Instagram post that he’s engaged. So logical next step? Drink too much champagne and head to a male revue, of course, and then down a few shots for good measure!

Griffin’s been his little sister’s guardian for twelve years and put her through college—and himself through law school—by performing in a male revue. Responsible and grumpy, Griffin never hooks up with anyone from his shows, but he’s struck with the instant need to protect and know Emma.

Not only do they wake up married, but drunk Emma’s wedding video post goes viral and the happy couple is booked for an interview in New York by the “Anna Wintour of wedding fashion.” Can they fake it? Is it even fake anymore?

I unexpectedly LOVED this book! I thought it might be another Vegas cliché but it so wasn’t. The feelings are so real, and they both try so hard not to get their hearts broken—are they willing to take a chance?

Emma and Griffin actually seem like legit people, which is sometimes hard to find in romance books. They have flaws but genuinely care about each other and their families, and find a way to work things out. 

Rating: 4.8
Steam: Medium
Tropes: Vegas wedding, fake marriage, slow burn, only one bed
Pair With: Champagne or sparkling wine (and maybe a lemon drop shot?). For Emma’s fancy family, there’s always the classic Dom Perignon. For more realistic, consider Kirkland Signature Brut Champagne ($20) or Richebel Brut Sparkling Champagne ($10 at Total Wine).

Ok, the solo honeymoon trope has been done a million times, but there was something about How to Honeymoon Alone that quietly drew me in and made me stay.

Maybe it was how much I liked the characters. They were both likeable in different ways: Sunny teacher Eden had been saving forever for this trip to Barbados, and now that she’s escaped her cheating ex-fiance, she’s ready for a new adventure. Gruff lawyer Philip is getting the escape from his workaholic lifestyle he didn’t know he needed. The story is sweet, the conversations are good, the surroundings beautiful.

Third person or dual perspectives would have worked better—we get lots of Eden’s thoughts but such minimal insight into Philip where I would have loved more. If you’re someone who gets really hung up on grammar and usage issues, there are a few of those but not enough to ruin it. Overall, a relaxing and enjoyable read and lots of fun.

Rating: 3.8
Steam: Low to medium
Themes and Tropes: Solo Honeymoon, Opposites Attract, Vacation/Travel, Proximity
Pair With: Tropical rum drinks – check this out about Barbados drinks.  

Two smart, savvy, and gorgeous rivals upping the stakes? Yes, please!

Blake Avery worked tirelessly to get from humble beginnings to self-made fitness millionaire—skipping every teenage activity (like her prom) to realize her dreams. When The Wall Street Journal comes calling for an interview and mentions her rival, trust fund baby Gabriel Mercer, is also self-made, that’s more than she can take . . . Gabriel bristles at her criticism and sparks fly. He has to meet her, and honestly it’s worth reading this book just to see their first meeting and its fallout.

This is my favorite Camilla Isley book so far—the main characters make it worth the read. Blake kicks a** and corners the market on clever and witty, and she’s also really thoughtful and kind. After a rough start, Gabriel becomes so endearing and you can’t help rooting for him. Plus the banter and tension between these two = off the charts.

The book takes Blake’s bad experience with her slimy ex too far—yes, anyone would be skittish after that experience, but it’s so painfully obvious Gabriel’s not that guy and the book seems to be trying too hard to create drama. Still, really liked the book and definitely recommend.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to Lovers, Slow-ish burn, Billionaires, New York
Pair With: Healthier wines, such as Fresh Wine, which advertises itself as embodying “a deeper connection with active lifestyles.” (I haven’t tried them yet). 

Four strangers meet on a long flight from London to St. Lucia….

Bernadette is celebrating her escape from her nasty ex-husband and is supposed to take this vacation with her BFF, who bails at the last minute.

Tadgh is heading to the altar but is thrown by a text that suggests his fiancé is not planning to honor her vows.

Hayley is flying economy while her jerk husband lives it up in first class and comes back just to demean her.

Dev fell in love at first sight and is taking a leap of faith on this flight to find her.

One Last Day of Summer was a lot of fun!

The banter on the plane was fun and sometimes hilarious, and the bonding among the four main characters and the emotional support they gave each other made it so much fun to read and made me wonder what was going to happen next. The author did a fabulous job of bringing together these very different people, different ages, different life stories. And they find so much in common. It’s about much more than romance! 

Rating: 4
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Friendship, Forced Proximity, Multiple Characters, GenX, Multiple Generations
Pair With: Tropical Drinks

British veterinarian Sophie is at a crossroads—she’s just sent her daughter off to college in the U.S., her job is taking her nowhere, and her life is just, well, blah. Until she sees a job posting for a veterinarian in a small Highlands village and impulsively applies.

Artist Ben enjoys the quiet and solitude he can find in his Highland croft, and has a daughter of his own recently out of university. He can wander the shores with his dogs with no interruption, but then Sophie moves into the cottage down the hill…

This book focused on more than just Sophie and Ben. Really, it was mostly about Sophie, her life, her struggles, her feelings, with sprinkles of Ben and his life but not much more. Still, the town vibe and the other characters and parts of the story make it well-rounded and interesting.

Sophie and Ben’s relationship grows very subtly and quietly—a lovely moment here, a look there, chance meetings that grow into more, and a sweet happily ever after that suits the book perfectly.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: None
Tropes: Small Town, GenX, Over 40, Scottish Highlands, Empty Nesters, Close Proximity
Pair With: Scottish Specialties

City girl, wine buyer, and introvert Jenn finds herself in the Italian countryside scoping out Proseccos for her boss, where she meets country boy, grappa distiller, and all-around good guy Tiziano. Of course he just happens to be the grandson of her B&B host and literally knows everyone in this tight-knit Italian community. He plays the happy-go-lucky goofball on the surface and hides his complexities and worries from the world—will he let Jenn in? She comes across as aloof and keeps the world at arm’s length, but Tiziano slowly breaks down her walls, and they grow closer.

Everything felt so real and genuine in this book, from the characters’ depth, the relationships across the community, and the glorious setting. You really feel like you’re in Italy’s wine country experiencing the harvest, vineyards, tastings, and everything else. The dialogue flows naturally and you can imagine the gatherings and conversations taking place; so often, dialogue is so stilted and you feel like the author is trying too hard—not the case here. The closeness of the families and community gives this book all the right feels. And of course, Tiziano is adorable—not just hot and sexy, but a deep feeling guy beneath his laid-back surface.

This book just had so much feeling and I felt so connected to the characters and the story—the main reason I gave it 5 stars. Sometimes I get swept away by the setting, and a love story set among Italian vineyards in the countryside is right up my fairy tale alley. So, am I enjoying the story so much because of the setting? Partly? The setting has to count for something—and the beautiful countryside is part of the romance to be sure, but it’s really the characters, emotions, and feelings combined with the perfect setting that did it for me.

Rating: 5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Small Town, Travel, Italy, Proximity, Opposites Attract
Pair With: Prosecco from Valdobbiadene, such as Umberto Bortolotti or Adami

Hilarious from the start! Has anyone else accidentally sent the wrong attachment to an email? I know I have, though luckily it wasn’t a sexy romance book about my boss…

Brooke’s successful book trilogy is turning into a Netflix series, and she has to keep the momentum going with her next book. But, she refers to her draft—due now—as a heaping pile of garbage. So she gets a little drunk working up the courage to send this garbage to Chase, her sexy editor. She quickly hits send before she can rethink it (again), and two weeks later, she finds out she sent him the steamy fantasy she wrote . . . about him.

And he loves it. And he’s betting his job that it’ll be a best-seller. And it needs to get edited in a few short weeks. So Chase joins her on the Netflix tour as her RV driver and off they go.

LOVE the banter between Brooke and Chase, and the buildup to when they finally give in really works. Chase was the absolute best—he might have actually needed a few more flaws to make him a real person. There was some hate about this book taking too long to get going, but that didn’t really bother me (and I’m good with a slow burn when done well), but there is some repetition and it could have been shorter. Maybe I just liked Chase so much that I didn’t care!

Rating: 4
Steam: Average
Themes and Tropes: Road Trip, Colleagues, Writer/Editor, Proximity, Slow Burn
Pair With: RoadTrip Wine or consider an actual wine road trip

Tired of her famous and overbearing father, chef Tatum Elliott moves across the country to manage catering at Stonebrook Farm, where former culinary rival Lennox Hawthorne runs a wildly successful farm-to-table restaurant.

Lennox always resented how everything was just handed to Tatum because of her father. Tatum knows it but respects that he never kissed her ass like everyone else did. They notice each other’s hotness from the start; the rivals/enemies storyline heats up; and they finally start to really see each other.

This is my favorite so far of the Hawthorne Brothers series. It’s told so skillfully, the characters are interesting and relatable people, and you can feel their chemistry without all the bedroom scenes. Once they figure out they like each other, they really build each other up and both grow as a result. 

Rating: 4
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Enemies to lovers, small town, close family, forced proximity
Pair With: Try Fowles Farm to Table wines, including Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay, all around $20/bottle.

A fake marriage to fulfill a dad’s dying wish and a child’s need for stability turns hotter and more real than either of them thought.

Greer overhears her dad’s dying wish to walk one of his daughters down the aisle, and she’s on it: find someone to fake marry her so her dad can have this moment of joy. Her brother’s teammate and friend Beckett needs a wife, or at least a stable, serious relationship, so his ex can know she’s leaving their daughter, Olive, in good hands when she moves to London for a year.

Problem solved. They put on a show with their fake wedding, move in together, and start spending lots of time together. And, of course, soon it’s not so fake anymore…

Favorite thing(s) about One and Only? Definitely the characters—lots of fun, interesting, loving people. Greer is smart, hardworking, thoughtful, and very devoted to her family (clearly, since she decides to fake a wedding just to make her dad feel some happiness). Beckett adores Olive and is thrilled for the opportunity to be a bigger part of her everyday life, and Greer jumps on the Olive bandwagon instantly. Greer’s family is lovely, with some quirks, and Olive’s mom, Josie, is supportive (no bitchy exes here, so refreshing) and loving.

There’s enough drama to keep things interesting but not over-annoying, and the genuine love and bonding in this book is strong.

Rating: 4
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Fake Relationship, Marriage of Convenience, Single Parent, Sports/Athlete, Slow Burn
Pair With: Wine from Oregon

Role Playing by Cathy Yardley

Empty nester and recluse Maggie has no interest in being more social, but she’s worried her college freshman son is too much like her and isn’t getting out and experiencing life. She grudgingly agrees to get out more if he will. 

Her attempts at in-person socializing are borderline catastrophic, but she manages to connect online as “Bogwitch” with some gamers and finds a friend in “Otter,” who she thinks is a college student (and who thinks she’s an old lady). Otter is really Aiden, who’s around Maggie’s age and using the online game as an escape from his god-awful family. What a surprise when they meet in person!

I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. When I read the description and saw gaming as a main part of the plot, I wasn’t all that excited to read it. But I’ve enjoyed other Cathy Yardley books and I also liked her Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcast interview, so I gave it a chance and am glad I did!

The scene where they meet for the first time is hilarious, and the friendship they develop is sweet and lovely before it becomes more. It’s definitely a slow burn, but you really get a chance to know the characters and see more of their lives—it’s not just two online gamers hooking up.

Rating: 4
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes or Tropes: GenX, Friends to Lovers, Divorcee, Slow Burn, Secret Identity
Pair With: Washington Wines

Izzy and Nate meet as seatmates on a plane, with Izzy heading home from college and Nate off to army training. Their connection is immediate and off the charts. And then the plane crashes…. the army grabs Nate before Izzy’s out of surgery, and they wonder if they’ll ever see each other again.

Fate brings them together again and they vow to find ways to steal time together in between his deployments, but so much keeps them apart. Then they meet again in war-torn Afghanistan, Izzy on a diplomatic mission and Nate her security detail. After years of encounters and a heartbreaking misunderstanding, can they find a way to take their shot together?

When I read the description, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read this book, but am so glad I did. The pull between Izzy and Nate is instant and deep; they’re not just attracted to each other but are instantly sharing dreams, things they love, books, and finding they can connect on so many levels. The back-and-forth chronology mostly works—you see the plane meeting, then are thrust forward to Afghanistan ten years later amid the massive tension in their relationship and in a war zone, then are left to follow their relationship in the years between.

Some readers are, understandably, upset about the depiction of the war and the fact that the central plot is a romantic relationship between Izzy and Nate while a war is going on and people are suffering and dying. Can we remember this book is shelved as a romance? It’s not supposed to be a realistic war novel, but the story of these two people. And yes, some of the choices aren’t great, but again, romance novel.

If you want an accurate book on a war and/or Afghanistan, or if dire military or humanitarian situations are triggers for you, this book isn’t for you. If you want pull and tension between two flawed but caring people in tough circumstances, more than just an average romance, pick this up!

Rating: 4
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Fate, Military/War, Close Proximity, Bodyguard
Pair With: Wines from Veteran-Owned Vineyards

Once I got into it Kulti became one of my favorite killer female athlete romances. Sal Casillas is a driven and talented soccer star with a deeply competitive spirit and huge heart. As a kid, she idolized Reiner Kulti for his game and also his hotness, wanting to both play like him and marry him.

When he shows up to coach her professional team and is not only rude to her, but also to her dad, Sal wonders what she ever saw in him. He’s merciless toward her, but she’s determined to take whatever he throws her way and use it on the soccer field. Though he won’t admit it to her face, he sees her and knows she’s extraordinary—as an athlete and person.

Getting inside Sal’s mindset, seeing what top-flight athletes have to do to achieve their dreams (or even stay on teams), and watching two complicated characters navigate through their professional and personal relationships all add up to a fantastic story.

You can really feel the tension, the love, the admiration, the passion. Also, I adore Mariana Zapata books—the slow burn can be too slow for some, but I LOVE how she develops characters and by the time you get to the good part, you know these people and what’s on the line for them.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Low to Average
Themes and Tropes: Athletes/Sports, Slow Burn, Enemies to Lovers, Childhood Crush
Pair with: Non-alcoholic wine