Travel the World With these Mesmerizing Escapist Romance Books

Find yourself transported to Italy, Greece, or Anywhere Else with these Escapist Reads!

Ok, so what do we mean by escapist romance? For us, we’re talking about romances that help us escape to a beautiful country, island, world–whatever–and there is a love story involved. These books actually make it feel like our fantasies could happen (though who are we kidding, we know we can’t just move to Italy) and we can live vicariously through these lovely souls who just move to another country and make it work. 

Anyway, here are a handful of our favorite escapist romances. Enjoy! For more reviews, please check out our Reviews page. 

Escapist at its Best: Wine, Vineyards, Agriturismo, Italian Countryside

City girl, wine buyer, and introvert Jenn finds herself in the Italian countryside scoping out Proseccos when 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.

Tiziano plays the happy-go-lucky goofball on the surface and hides his complexities and worries from the world. Jenn, on the other hand, comes across as aloof and keeps the world at arm’s length. Are they willing to let each other in?

The feeling in A Taste of Italian Sunshine is everything! It was so real and genuine, from the characters’ depth, the relationships across the community, and the glorious setting. You 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. And of course, Tiziano is adorable—not just handsome and sexy, but a deep guy beneath his laid-back surface.

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. Still, it’s the characters, emotions, and feelings combined with that perfect setting that did it for me.

This was my first Leonie Mack book; I loved it so much that I’ve now read (and loved) them all. This one is tied with Italy Ever After for my favorite, at least for now!

Rating: 5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Small Town, Travel, Italy, Proximity, Opposites Attract
Pair With: Prosecco

In Italian Rendezvous, College professor Isla needs a serious break after losing her beloved grandmother and getting dumped by her slimeball ex. What better place for some escapist magic than the beautiful Italian village where her grandmother grew up? Hmmm, yes, imagining myself strolling down to the water, riding vespas along the coast, enjoying the slower pace = perfection.

She’s ready to get herself together, relax, maybe read, maybe plan her next semester . . . maybe not. But then Enzo flits into her world. A little adventure would be ok, right? He’s the laid back, quintessential handsome and charming Italian man, in these beautiful surroundings. What could go wrong?

It’s been a few weeks since I read Italian Rendezvous, but the feel of it really stays. Parts of it are sticking with me and making me smile: sweet moments between Isla and Enzo, the trip to the beach, Vespa rides, hilarious family moments, friendships, and picturing the gorgeous Italian scenery comes to mind. You feel like you’re enjoying the cliffs, wine, coast, and culture—I’d 100% be up for a visit to this lovely town! Enjoy this breezy read.

Rating: 3.7
Steam: Very Low
Themes and Tropes: Escapist, Travel, Opposites Attract, Italy, Summer Fling, Small Town/Village
Pair With: Wines from Liguria, Italy

Steph is stuck in a rut as a London production engineer (and also a talented pianist) trying to make it work with her jerk boyfriend (and boss) Ethan. They get a career-making call to produce a reunion album in Italy for a world-famous band, and off they go to a gorgeous setting full of interesting people.

Steph dives right in and the bandmates quickly uncover her production skill—and also quickly realize her piano style fits in perfectly with their music. Steph also notices Rob, the band leader’s super-hot son, who mostly secludes himself in a neighboring home and is a renowned musician in his own right.

Rob’s never quite fit in with some of his family, especially his creepy bully of an older brother, so it takes a while to warm up to him. Really, the story is more about Steph’s personal and professional growth than it is about their relationship, though the two of them pick up more attention as the book goes on.

Never Too Late was a nice, easy read with a lovely setting, mostly nice people (almost too nice at times), and good story. Not riveting but interesting enough to keep my attention and enjoy it. I would have liked a little more depth with the characters, as many were fairly one-dimensional, but it also made the story low-stress and easy to read (exactly the kind of escapist book I was looking for).

Rating: 3.5
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Escapist, Musician/Rock Star, Slow Burn, Italy
Pair With: Italian Wine

Escape to tropical Panama, with sparkling warm water, sandy beaches, and plenty of romance.

Troubled(ish) souls in tropical paradise? I’m in!

Cass has nothing going in her life but a boring job and terrible love life, so when she learns she’s inherited her estranged and presumed-dead dad’s yacht in Panama, she takes off with little hesitation. She quickly finds out that dear old dad left her with a steep marina bill she has no money to pay.

Archer likes his small-town life in the Canadian Rockies, but when he visits Panama, he’s surprised to find he likes the tropics even more. He wants to stay longer but has to find the money to extend his adventure.

Thus, a plan is hatched, with Cass and Archer starting a charter business to take tourists around the beautiful islands and reefs. They agree to keep it professional; he’s not looking for a relationship and she’s been burned too many times. . . .

Shelter by the Sea is a fun, breezy read with likeable characters and a laid-back vibe. The idyllic tropical setting dominates the book, in a good way, and made me daydream about escaping to a quiet life in the tropics working on a boat all day.

Cass and Archer’s attraction is instant, though they try to keep it at bay, and it’s fun (most of the time) to watch their relationship with each other and their surroundings develop. There were some frustrating points with Cass’s indecision and fear of being left again, but overall a really nice story in a captivating setting that makes me smile when I remember reading it.

Rating: 3.8
Steam: Medium
Tropes: Proximity, Instant Attraction, Business Relationship, Tropical Setting
Pair With: Your favorite tropical drinks or a light summer white or rosé.

Hello from Madeira: Sun, views, wine, love, peace (maybe)...

Tabitha is a songwriter who can work from anywhere, so she travels around the world pet-sitting in exotic locations to mend her broken heart and hopefully learn to 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. Raff’s parents saw him only as a disappointment, and he figures he’ll enjoy the house while they’re gone. But is stunned to find Tabitha there. . . .

Raff isn’t the most endearing character at the beginning, but he grew on me after a while, once I started to see where he was coming from. Tabitha was very 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, imperfect people and relationships. A nice, easy read and a lovely escapist romance.

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.

"When she smiled, the world smiled with her, and more than once, I found myself wishing I was the man she deserved to be with, the one she had come to Italy to find."

So tired of her stifling life in England and her mother’s incessant matchmaking, Georgie spins her globe and lands on Vernazza, Italy. It’s a picturesque seaside village in the Cinque Terre, full of life and so different from England. Determined not to just be another tourist, she meets friends and has an instant crush on Gianluca, along with every other straight woman in town.

But gorgeous and grumpy Gianluca has already lived with the worst kind of heartbreak, and there’s no way he can give his heart to anyone, let alone this annoyingly cheery British tourist. The two start working together to restore his grandmother’s old bed and breakfast, forcing them to spend time together…

I’m dying to go to Cinque Terre after reading A Place in the Sun! You feel like you’re right there on the cliffs, at the beach, on the train, in the town square. Someday! The chemistry between Georgie and Gianluca sparks instantly. She’s adorable and sweet, bubbly and loving, open to anything, and finds herself falling for Gianluca. It’s a little much at times, pushing for a guy who doesn’t seem to want anything beyond physical. But still, it works. He’s gruff and closed on the outside, but he’s burying a heart of gold that eventually surfaces once he lets it.

Sounds like a stereotype, but it didn’t feel that way reading it. Lots of emotions, beautiful moments, connections made it a memorable read.

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Escapist, Travel, Reopening to Love, Grumpy/Sunshine, Italy, Widower
Pair With: Wine from Cinque Terre. They’re hard to find in the US, but substitute your favorite Italian white, and it’s a perfect pairing.

Lou is trying to rebuild her confidence after her divorce from her gaslighting ex-husband, Phil, and trying to support her middle school daughter, Edie, through it all. She jumps at the opportunity to chaperone Edie’s summer music camp in Italy, and it doesn’t hurt that Edie’s sweet and sexy music teacher will be there.

Nick was a child music prodigy who endured a lot of emotional trauma and now spends his days teaching kids to play beautifully and believe in themselves. Now everyone’s in Italy and there are lots of feelings going around…

I loved it! You can feel the tension and pull between Lou and Nick from the beginning, get lost in the stunning backdrop of Lake Garda, join the characters in surmounting their demons and growing together, and enjoy everything that blossoms in this book. They are both lovely people struggling to jump over the hurdles in their lives and helping each other along the way. Nick might be one of my new favorite book boyfriends—he’s so sweet, loving, sensitive, kind, and has the hot teacher vibe down pat!

Lou and Nick’s biggest roadblock is their struggles with confidence. Lou’s ex-husband spent twelve years systematically undermining her self-worth, telling her she was ordinary and talentless, and gaslighting her all over the place. It’s taking a LOT for her to move past it, which gets annoying and of course affects her budding relationship with Nick: she wonders how such a sexy, talented, younger man could have true feelings for her?

Nick grew up with parents constantly fighting over his music and his massive stage fright issues, kids mercilessly bullying him, and a huge meltdown that ended his stage career: he wonders how someone as beautiful and dynamic as Lou, who lights up the world around her, want to be with him?

This is a romance, so you know they figure it out and find their happily ever after. Even though you want to punch Phil just about every time he appears on the page and you want to tell Lou to get over the hold he has on her, the good parts are so good, the character growth is fun to see, and Edie is a sweet and wise-beyond-her-years character. The ending is perfect.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Travel, Italy, Forbidden Love, Teacher-Parent, Divorcee, Single Parent
Pair With: Lake Garda, Italy wine.

Away from the cold, rain, and bad memories of London, Mary’s off to Rome for the summer, maybe longer. She’s got a brand-new job at an Italian pizzeria and a brand-new life to start. Hallelujah. Her life hasn’t been easy—drug-addicted mother, foster kid, never felt like she belonged anywhere. But she’s ready for something new.

She meets the family who owns the pizzeria and she’s instantly drawn to one of them: Dante. But she’s not here for men, and definitely not gruff, grumpy men who don’t even seem to like her. Who has time for that?

Oh but Dante was fabulous! He has good reasons for being grumpy and stoic—he’s a former police officer who lost his eyesight on the job and then lost his (selfish) fiancée. He’s done an incredible job of coping and managing, and he does NOT want your pity or help, thank you very much. Of course I love a brooding man as long as he’s not a complete jerk. And, yeah, sometimes he’s a jerk but in a totally understandable way. His whole life changed with the accident: not only did he lose his eyesight, but then he was burned hard in love and he still feels overwhelming guilt from what happened to others in the accident. 

Loved Mary too. She’s had what she thinks is a dull life and takes a risk to change it, moving to a new country and pushing through some of the growing pains. She also went through a rough breakup and didn’t have a happy childhood. Now she dedicates herself to starting over and being open to new possibilities.

The subplots were interesting too—it wasn’t 100% about Mary and Dante. The family is trying to keep the restaurant fresh and at the top of the rankings; family members are each going through their own issues and relationships. Mary exudes compassion, and finds her place caring for the people in the family and finding herself loved in return. But yes, the Mary and Dante storyline is the best one…

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Very Low
Themes and Tropes: Escapist, Travel, Italy, Family Business, Proximity, Colleagues, Slow Burn
Pair With: Italian Wines

This escapist read will whisk you away to all the magic of stunning Barbados

Solo trip in tropical paradise—sounds like a dream to me! Ok, maybe not if I just found out my fiancé was cheating but whatever. So, Eden arrives at her dream honeymoon destination determined to do everything she planned and start getting over the dirtbag.

Phillip has his own issues, also dealing with a breakup and a solo trip. He crashes into Eden’s world on Day One at dinner (crowded restaurant, needs a seat, sees she’s alone). And she’s having none of it. Even though he’s super hot and could be just what she needs. Only somehow they keep finding each other.

I liked this a lot more than I thought I would! I was ready for super tropey, but it felt unique and fun. The characters slowly but surely start coming together emotionally, the setting is gorgeous, and dialogue interesting. It’s a nice, chill story. I didn’t love some of the grammar/usage issues (though surely I have plenty of my own, so I can’t be too much of a hypocrite). It would’ve been nice to have a dual perspective and get more insight into Phillip, but I can’t complain too much.

Rating: 3.8
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes and Tropes: Moving Forward, Solo Honeymoon, Escapist, Tropical Island, Opposites Attract.
Pair With: Rum drinks and specialties from Barbados.

Eve and Gianni find themselves in a tiny Greek village on Corfu, each with their own reasons. Eve’s burned out from her job and life in England, and accepts her friend Gabby’s invitation for a visit. Gianni learns a life-changing family secret from his father on his death bed, and sets off for Greece to see what he can uncover. Neither has the time or energy for romance. But love can be sneaky…

The romance between Eve and Gianni was beautiful and fun, but even better was the rest of the story and Gianni’s reason for visiting Greece. He’s there for answers, and that part of the plot really helped everything else fall into place. Then you add in the chemistry, the intriguing cast of characters, and even some local village psychics, and you’ve got an entertaining story!

Rating: 4
Steam: None to very low
Themes and Tropes: Escapist, Travel, Greece, Secrets, Instant Attraction, Family Drama
Pair With: Greek wines

The countess and the gardener, only he has no idea who she is…

The countess and the gardener, only he has no idea who she is…

After a completely BS scandal, all Jess wants is to escape to her Highlands castle and hide away from the world in peace. It would be WAY better if no one knew she was there, especially since everyone in the village hates her family. So instead of Jessamine, Countess of Cheshire, she’s just plain old Jess.

And she meets Mac, who’s gruff (and sexy) on the outside, but kind, warm and loving all the way around. Mac is the passionate estate gardener who adores the grounds and flowers, and also is devoted to his 12-year-old foster son, Arran. Jess and Mac notice the attraction, but it takes a while to get going, and going. All the while, Jess keeps her secret…

I mostly LOVED the book. I adore Mac—what a giving and unselfish person who cares so much about everyone else, especially Arran. I understand Jess too, and why she wanted to keep her identity secret, but it goes WAY too far, and so much of the book is spent obsessing over it. She has so many chances to be honest and chickened out, and seriously, how would Mac not have found out? I would have rated the book over a 4 if the secrets and lies hadn’t dragged out so long.

Summer at the Scottish Castle also explores LGBTQ+ issues, both with Jess and Mac discussing bisexuality and, more at the forefront, Arran finding a place as non-binary. There is a strong message of acceptance and people being free to figure out who they are and how they want to be seen. It was unexpected and nice to see.

Now, if only I could go off to live in a castle in the Scottish Highlands!

Rating: 3.5
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Escapist, Travel, Scotland, Opposites Attract, Different Worlds, Secrets/Lies
Pair With: Scotch.