Report Card: January 2024 Romance Books Releases

How Many January Contemporary Romance New Releases Did We Read?

Well, Dry January (attempts) gave us some time and focus to get through as many January new romance releases as we could! Every month, we love to preview the brand-new and most-anticipated new books. Love to find some unique plots and themes, along with some tried-and-true favorite tropes and themes. And we love to read as many of them as we can. Will we ever read 100%? Undoubtedly, no. Will we try? Heck yeah. 

So let’s see our second report card, which covers the January Contemporary Romance New Release List. Stay tuned for our January Historical Romance Report Card. We’re pretty generous with the grading scale and we get half-credit for a DNF if we really try; otherwise A’s and B’s would be downright impossible. We’re still not sure we can ever get an A, but we’ll see how it shakes out.

85-100% of books finished = A
65-84% = B
50-64% = C
40-49% = D
>40% = F. 

Here’s the bullet list, and please see below for actual reviews or romance new releases (and reasons for DNFs–it doesn’t mean the book was bad, just that it wasn’t for us. 

  1. Go Find Less by Thea Claire – Read, 3 stars
  2. Red String Theory by Lauren Kung Jessen – Read, 4.5 stars
  3. Boone by Laramie Briscoe – Did Not Read
  4. Cluelessly Yours by Max Monroe – Did Not Finish
  5. What Happens at the Lake by Vi Keeland – Read, 4 stars
  6. The Bright Spot by Jill Shalvis – Read, 3 stars
  7. Love, Naturally by Sophie Sullivan – Read, 4 stars
  8. Say You’ll Be Mine by Naina Kumar – Read, 4 stars
  9. Love at First Flight by Jo Watson – Could Not Find
  10. Baby, One More Time by Camilla Isley – Read, 4.4 stars
  11. The Breakup Tour by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka – Read, 2 stars
  12. Strictly Not Yours by Carrie Elks – Read, 4 stars

Ok, we can live with a 79% B!

And if you’re looking for other recent releases, check out our November, December and February new release guides. 

Publisher's Blurb:

“If I’m too much, go find less.”

In the bingo card of life, Piper Delmonico did not expect to mark out the squares “widowed” and “sober” before her ten year high school reunion. Pushing 30, designing lingerie for a manager who wouldn’t know silk from satin, and constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, she finds herself face to face with someone who witnessed, first hand, the very public demise of her good girl reputation. Thrown together a decade later, Piper expects “Marble Man” Fitz Westfall, the golden boy with the stoic face, to be another person telling her she’s too much. But does recently-divorced Fitz, with his head in the sand, really know as much about Piper as he thinks he does? He realizes she may be just what he needs to know that he’s not truly made of stone.

Our Take:

Almost DNF’d it because of the unnecessary flashbacks, but it turned out to be a cute book. The characters really try to confront their issues, and truly support each other. Right away, they’re not playing games and are honest about where they’re coming from (to a certain point). The surrounding characters really add to the book too–it’s not just the romance!

Rating: 3.3

Steam: Low to Medium

Themes and Tropes: Second Chance(ish), Teenage Acquaintances, Widow, Divorce, Baggage, Fun Friend Group

Publisher's Blurb:

This charming fated-love rom-com about two star-crossed lovers will appeal to readers of Helen Hoang, Jasmine Guillory, and Sarah Adams.

Just a date . . . or a twist of fate?  When it comes to love and art, Rooney Gao believes in signs. Most of all, she believes in the Chinese legend that everyone is tied to their one true love by the red string of fate. And that belief has inspired her career as an artist, as well as the large art installations she makes with ( obviously ) red string. That is until artist’s block strikes and Rooney begins to question everything. But then fate leads her to the perfect guy . . . Jack Liu is perfect. He’s absurdly smart, successful, handsome, and after one enchanting New York night—under icy February skies and fueled by fried dumplings—all signs point to destiny. Only Jack doesn’t believe. And after their magical date, it looks like they might be lost to each other forever . . . until they’re given one more chance to reconnect. But can Rooney convince a reluctant skeptic to take a leap of fate?

Our Take:

Red String Theory: the ultimate fate-versus-free-will, opposites attract romance, and we’re here for it!

Rooney and Jack were the perfect romance characters: lovely, flawed people with so much to give, so much to learn, so much to find in each other. They share so many entrancing moments, with Jack trying to inspire Rooney to get her artist’s groove back, the two of them sharing dumplings along with secrets, gaining confidence, watching them quietly falling deeper in love. It’s just a beautiful story.

The fate/free will tension gets a little extreme and annoying—Rooney’s 100% fate and Jack’s 100% free will, and both are set in their ways. That’s probably our only complaint and a minor one at that.

Rating: 4.5
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Fate v. Free Will, Opposites Attract, Forbidden(ish) Love
Pair With: Fate Wines or Free Will Brewing Company

Publisher's Blurb:

Boone Wilson

Instead of building my forever with a conventional family, I’ve dedicated my life to being the best father I can to the son I had way too early in life. Now that he’s grown, I’m giving all I can to my job. I make a construction site run smoothly, and can build anything with a couple pieces of wood and my imagination. My world is small and calm. That’s how I like it. Until Alexis Monroe barrels her way into my peaceful existence and turns my world upside down.

Alexis Monroe

Since graduating college I’ve been hustling, trying to make a dent in the crippling student loan debt I’ve accumulated. Just when I think I’m about to hit major burnout, Boone Wilson walks into the bar I sling drinks at. His swagger and quiet self-assuredness is a flame that draws me to him. All I can do now? Try not to get burned.

Our Take:

We didn’t get to this one. With so many books on our list, and this one unavailable at the library, maybe soon. 

Publisher's Blurb:

The bad news? Getting hit by a cab can officially get crossed off my bucket list. The worse news? While I’ve woken up from my coma, the man I’m in love with hasn’t stirred from his. And the most terrible news of all? A pregnant woman is at his bedside, holding his hand, and saying that he’s the father of her baby.

Sammy Baker is a divorced, single mom trying to find her way again. With two boys and an absent ex-husband, she’s got the world on her shoulders and Legos under her feet. Amid the chaos lives the dream of, one day, finding love again.

Though, she didn’t think that would land her smack-dab in the middle of two men. Will Sammy choose the successful businessman who doesn’t hesitate to tell her he’s interested? Or will she go for the eligible bachelor doctor with a constant influx of women vying for his attention?

Our Take:

Unfortunately, Cluelessly Yours was a DNF. Between the love-triangle trope and the back-and-forth chronology, we just couldn’t push through. It earned lots of good reviews on Goodreads, though, so it might be for you!

Publisher's Blurb:

When life took an unexpected turn, I decided to get out of New York for a while. What better place to go than the idyllic small town my father spoke about so fondly when I was growing up? Laurel Lake held the title America’s Friendliest Town for seventeen years running, and friendly was just what I needed right now.

Unfortunately, friendly wasn’t the welcome I got when I arrived. Instead, I got Fox Cassidy. My tall, dark, and burly neighbor, who grunted at me instead of saying hello.

As time went on though, I started to notice things about Fox other than his glares. Like how he watched me when he thought I wasn’t looking, or how fire ignited in his eyes whenever we bickered. Though I was in Laurel Lake to escape my problems, not create new ones. And getting involved with a man like Fox screamed trouble, even if he was gorgeous and unlike any man I’d ever met.

Our Take:

Super cute! Initially, we expected just another stereotypical small-town, grumpy-sunshine romance. And to a certain point, that’s what we got. But the characters are so endearing, and their issues aren’t your run-of-the-mill small town problems. Fox’s grumpiness comes from legitimate pain, as do Josie’s issues–they both are such deep-feeling and caring people. There’s some spice and great chemistry, and plenty of sweetness too. 

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Small Town, Grumpy/Sunshine, Opposites Attract
Pair With: Laurel Mountain wines

Publisher's Blurb:

Luna Wright is a lot of things, but sweet and trusting aren’t on the list. However, she’s a sucker for the underdog and a hard-luck story. Adopted at birth, with scant knowledge of her biological family, she’s created her own inner circle, a motley crew which includes her bestie Willow, to help her run the struggling but charming Apple Ridge Farm.

With a farm-to-table café as well as a menagerie of rescued animals (complete with a baby goat who keeps escaping to the pantry to eat the secret stash of decidedly not organic potato chips), it’s the best home she’s ever known. But when Silas, the owner who they secretly call The Grinch, passes away, Luna discovers the farm is now under the control of both his investment manager, the enigmatic Jameson Hayes….and her. And that Silas had many, many secrets.

Now Luna’s carefully controlled corner of the world is threatened and she—along with some of her friends—has to dig deep to find true strength and the real meaning of love and family.

Our Take:

Overall, the book was fine. We never really felt the chemistry between Luna and Jameson, didn’t get that feeling you get when a romance just works. Also, there was lots of repetition—the same issues arise every day without a real progression. Still, it’s a sweet story of lovely people coming together to save a place that matters to them, growing closer, and strengthening their already strong bond.

Rating: 3
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Save the Farm, Small Town, Opposites Attract, Found Family
Pair With: Wines from the Lake Tahoe area

Publisher's Blurb:

Presley Ayers is not the woman you bring on a camping trip. An accomplished concierge at an exclusive hotel in Great Falls, MI, she knows more about the top ten places for champagne and caviar than she does about the best hiking boots to go stomping around near Lake Michigan. But when she surprises her boyfriend of eight months with a vacation to the Get Lost Lodge and he dumps her instead, Presley decides to rough it solo and take the trip herself.

When Beckett Keller helps the gorgeous woman off the rickety boat and onto Lodge territory, it’s clear she’s made a mistake. She doesn’t like hiking, fishing, or nature in general, so why did she go on this trip?―but he’s got other things on his mind. A crumbling lodge, and his own plans and dreams that are forever deferred―so he doesn’t have time for Ms. Fish-Out-of-Water. But neither Beckett or Presley can help that inexplicable draw they feel towards each other. He’s all rough stubble and plaid shirts, while she’s all high heels and brand-name athleisurewear.

But you know what they say about opposites.

Our Take:

Super cute and fun all the way around! Anytime a book involves nature and a hot outdoor guy, we’re in! Even better when you add in the opposites attract, sweet characters, and kicking an obnoxious ex-boyfriend to the curb.

The story outside of the two main characters is cute too. Beckett’s family is lovely, his niece is adorable, you get a little of their stories and a feel for the surroundings.

Rating: 4
Steam: None/Closed Door
Themes and Tropes: Opposites Attract, Instant Attraction, Small Town, Nature
Pair With: This is more of a craft beer read

Publisher's Blurb:

In this utterly charming debut romance, a teacher with big dreams joins forces with a no-nonsense engineer to survive an ex’s wedding and escape matchmaking pressure from their Indian families. Their plan? Faking an engagement, of course.

Meghna Raman’s parents wanted her to be an engineer, but instead she’s followed her passion, becoming a theater teacher and aspiring playwright. But when she discovers that her beloved writing partner, best friend, and secret crush, Seth, is suddenly engaged—and not to her—she realizes he’s about to become the one-that-got-away. Even worse, he’s asked her to be his best man. And worse than that, she’s agreed. 

Grumpy, handsome engineer Karthik Murthy has seen enough of his parents’ marriage to know that it isn’t for him. He only agreed to his mother’s matchmaking attempts to make her happy, never dreaming he would meet someone as vibrant as Meghna. Though he can’t offer her a real marriage, a fake engagement could help Meghna soothe the sting of planning Seth’s wedding festivities and Karthik avoid the absurd number of set-ups his mother has planned for the next year.

But as they find common ground, grow protective of one another’s hearts, and learn to fall for the flaws they thought they hated, an undeniable chemistry takes shape. Soon, Meghna and Karthik’s expectations and insecurities threaten to risk something that’s become a lot more real than they hoped.

Our Take:

Say You’ll Be Mine is a fun idea and cute twist on the fake-engagement trope—I haven’t read a fake relationship trope in the arranged marriage context (though the arranged marriage part of it didn’t play that big of a role). Each character was instrumental in the other’s growth—they can see things from the outside that the other can’t.

There were a few annoying parts, namely both characters’ near-obsession with assuming the worst in the other. It shows their insecurities and how fragile their psyches are, but it’s a little much. Still, we don’t have many complaints and really enjoyed this one!

Rating: 4:
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Fake Relationship/Engagement, Arranged Marriage(ish), Long Distance
Pair With: Champagne

Publisher's Blurb:

Things Pippa [enjoys]: her job, airplanes, synonyms and tropical fish.

Things Pippa does not enjoy: repeating patterns, tight clothes, people asking why she’s single and school reunions.

After four months of only speaking over intercom, when air-traffic controller Pippa Edwards finally meets pilot Andrew Boyce-Jones face-to-face, they discover they’ve got much more in common than simply working at the same airport. In fact . . . they both need a date. Tired of every relationship ending before it’s even begun, Pippa wants to evade the inevitable questions at her dreaded ten-year school reunion in Cape Town. And Andrew needs to get his well-meaning family off his back about settling down. The solution seems simple. A pact – a fake dating pact – for as long as it’s mutually beneficial. It’s perfect.

Or at least it would be if their very real attraction wasn’t about to make Pippa question everything she thought she wanted. . .

Our Take:

We couldn’t find this one at the library or on Amazon, so it’s unread for now. 

Publisher's Blurb:

Driven and smart, Marissa Mayer has worked her way to COO at a major Fintech startup as well as launching her own successful app on the side. Now what she wants more than anything is a baby. And having given up on love after her heart was broken by the boy next door, she’s prepared to do it alone.

Recently returning to New York from LA, Dr John Raikes is an expert in his field of neonatal medicine. But when John introduces himself as Marissa’s doctor, sparks fly, and not in a good way. 

Marissa knows she should keep John at arm’s length, lest she have her heart broken again… But there’s something about a man in a white coat. And with John determined to show Marissa he’s changed, can she keep saying no when her heart is saying yes?

Our Take:

Baby, One More Time captivated me the entire time. We were having so much fun reading it and could not put it down. Marissa is so kick-a** and also so broken, and you see her emotional pieces coming back together. John knows he was a total d-bag but shows he can change and become a decent human. Maybe. We’re still not sure we trust him.

Rating: 4.4
Steam: Very low
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Pregnancy, Successful Career Woman, Child in Plot
Pair With: Non-Alcoholic Drinks, Half-Caffeinated Coffee

Publisher's Blurb:

Riley Wynn went from a promising singer-songwriter to a superstar overnight, thanks to her breakup song concept album and its unforgettable lead single. When Riley’s ex-husband claims the hit song is about him, she does something she hasn’t in ten years and calls Max Harcourt, her college boyfriend and the real inspiration for the song of the summer.

Max hasn’t spoken to Riley since their relationship ended. He’s content with managing the retirement home his family owns, but it’s not the life he dreamed of filled with music. When Riley asks him to go public as her songwriting muse, he agrees on one condition: he’ll join her in her band on tour.

As they perform across the country, Max and Riley start to realize that while they hit some wrong notes in the past, their future could hold incredible things. And their rekindled relationship will either last forever or go down in flames.

Our Take:

We loved the idea of two old flames going on tour, but didn’t love the book.

For Riley, it’s all about Riley and only Riley. Everything from her point of view is whining and self-pity. She’s willing to mess with people’s feelings—even Max’s and her own—for the sake of her career. Max isn’t much better—it’s also all about Max, just more quietly so. And just no chemistry. 

Rating: 2
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Celebrity/Musician, Proximity/Road Trip

Publisher's Blurb:

I thought I knew everything about my rich, neat-freak doctor of a boss. Until I walked into a fight club and our eyes clashed across the ring…

Holden Salinger is a pediatric oncologist and for the last two years I’ve been cleaning his swanky New York apartment. I know every intimate detail about him, from his overly large shoe size to his toothpaste tube rolling obsession. But he doesn’t even know I exist. The man couldn’t pick me out in a police lineup. Until I get a second job working at a local bar, only to discover there’s a secret back room. One with a boxing ring right in the center. And when I see him vault into it, muscles rippling, I realize he’s not the man I thought he was. From the moment our gazes clash, the chemistry between us is sizzling. And when he becomes my unexpected savior, my heart takes a tumble I’m not expecting. Falling for him is such a bad idea. If he finds out who I really am, he’d never want to touch me. So let’s not tell him, okay?

Our Take:

Fun and different, and another good one in Carrie Elks’ Salinger Brothers series. The premise was a little weak and the secret was annoying, but the chemistry more than made up for it along with the other parts of the plot. Enjoy this one!

Rating: 4
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Opposites Attract, Secrets, Instant Attraction