August's best rom-com reads: Julia Whelan's 'Thank You for Listening,' Alexis Hall's 'Husband Material'

·8 min read

The sweltering heat of August is no match for a hot-blooded literary tryst, so get out of the heat and relax with a few feel-good tales of romance, laughter and love from summer's latest batch of rom-coms.

For this month's roundup, USA TODAY staff read a collection of new rom-coms featuring an engaged couple attempting to plan a dream wedding, an audiobook narrator on the mend from a tragic accident, and a love story that involves an FBI scandal, a ghost and a boutique hotel in France

The temperature's not falling anytime soon. Here are our picks for August's most fiery new rom-com novels:

"Husband Material," by Alexis Hall
"Husband Material," by Alexis Hall

'Husband Material'

By Alexis Hall. ★★★ (out of four). Out now.

The sequel to "Boyfriend Material" starts two years after its predecessor and continues to follow Luc and Oliver's relationship. The book is structured in five sections, each focused on either a wedding or a funeral within Luc's friend group and culminating in Luc and Oliver's wedding. Throughout, Luc is an entertaining and relatable mess. As the narrator, he provides all context, and it's impossible to say whether the absurd characters are real or whether Luc is an unreliable and judgmental narrator. That said, I found several of the characters – including Oliver, Alex Twaddle, Luc's blue-blooded co-worker; Judy, his mom's platonic life partner, as well as his mom herself – impossible to believe or lacking nuance. However, they are still delightful, and I laughed out loud at their absurdity. Hall manages to include subtle (and not-so-subtle) commentary on wealth, power, family, religion and identity, intermingled with wild characters and out-there plot points. – Rebecca Viser

July's top rom-coms: 'Dream On' by Angie Hockman, Lacie Waldon's 'From the Jump'

"The Fixer Upper," by Lauren Forsythe
"The Fixer Upper," by Lauren Forsythe

'The Fixer Upper'

By Lauren Forsythe. ★★★½ (out of four). Out now.

Aly Aresti has been pushing, prodding and pulling the men in her life for years, whether it’s a string of slacker exes or her lazy, inept co-workers. And now she’s stuck waiting for life to begin. So when a chance encounter (and a push from her work BFFs) spawns an unexpectedly thriving (and very hush-hush) agency helping women nudge their partners into being more, she feels like she’s at least putting some good out into the world. That is, until she’s hired to fix Dylan James, an unresolved piece of her past she’s not sure needs changing. Sweet and deftly plotted, “The Fixer-Upper” will have you rooting for Aly to not just get the guy, but to get it all. – Jennifer Ernst Beaudry

June's top rom-coms: Jenny Colgan's 'An Island Wedding' and Lucy Score's 'Maggie Moves On'

May's top rom-coms: Emily Henry's 'Book Lovers' and Casey McQuiston's 'I Kissed Shara Wheeler'

"Thank You for Listening," Julia Whelan
"Thank You for Listening," Julia Whelan

'Thank You for Listening'

By Julia Whelan. ★★★★ (out of four). Out now.

Sewanee Chester is scarred after a horrific accident ends her acting dreams and forces her to wear an eyepatch long-term. She’s also scared of moving on, even if she isn’t willing to admit it. “Thank You for Listening” is a hilarious and touching look into an audiobook narrator’s journey to love. You’ll chuckle at the sexual innuendos between Sewanee and her mystery co-narrator, Brock McNight. You’ll cringe at the ways Sewanee self-sabotages. But ultimately, you’ll cheer her on as she learns to work through shame, denial and self-deception to finally reach freedom and love that’s been a long time coming. This novel has everything the best romance novels should have: a reluctant protagonist, a hot partner, loving family/friends and true love. What more can you ask for? – Mabinty Quarshie

April's top rom-coms: A tangled story about a wedding guest who falls for the groom 

"The Hookup Plan," by Farrah Rochon
"The Hookup Plan," by Farrah Rochon

'The Hookup Plan'

By Farrah Rochon. ★★★ (out of four). Out now.

After her high-school reunion, Dr. London Kelley winds up going home with rival Drew Sullivan for their own steamy reunion. But while the former co-valedictorians might have unexpectedly A+ physical chemistry, that doesn’t mean the pediatric surgeon is ready to fall for her former nemesis – especially when she finds out his company has a hand in the fate of her beloved hospital. When Drew tries to show her that he’s more than a nemesis with six-pack abs (and a net worth well over six figures), will she be able to stick to her feelings-free plan? From no-strings-attached hookups to the invisible strings tying us to the people and places we grew up with, “The Hookup Plan” is both hot and heartwarming. – Hannah Southwick

March's top rom-coms: Jesse Q. Sutanto's ‘Four Aunties and a Wedding'

"Mad About You," by Mhairi McFarlane
"Mad About You," by Mhairi McFarlane

'Mad About You'

By Mhairi McFarlane. ★★★★ (out of four). Out now.

If you're looking for a steamy kiss-and-tell, "Mad About You" isn't it. But that doesn't mean it isn't a great rom-com read. McFarlane's latest has all the drama of a Bridget Jones' jaunt without as much overt self-flagellation and as many comic escapades, although the novel's denouement is certainly worth the wait. Main character Harriet, a mid-30s wedding photographer from Leeds, dukes it out with two unstable ex-boyfriends as she settles into celibate life and the guest bedroom of her handsome new landlord. Readers can only watch as Harriet works through relationships dotted with surprising betrayals from those closest to her and budding friendships with people on the periphery of her orbit. "Mad About You" offers sweetness and sass and a lesson that's worthy of a film script. – Leigh Harrington

"Lucy Checks In," by Dee Ernst
"Lucy Checks In," by Dee Ernst

'Lucy Checks In'

By Dee Ernst. ★★★★ (out of four). Out now.

With an FBI scandal, a boutique hotel, and maybe even a ghost, this isn’t your typical French love story. Fleeing from her fallen career and broken heart, Lucy Giannetti takes a job at a hotel in Rennes, France, to save her reputation and escape her past. Upon arrival, she meets the hotel’s niche residents and discovers the status of the hotel isn’t at all she romanticized it to be. While she physically (and metaphorically) works to build something of herself again, she comes to find that success takes a village, and that village is filled with trust, friendship and community. With its abundance of interesting characters and Lucy’s genuine yet wistful voice, this delightful read hits all the sweet spots. This heartening adventure shows that trusting yourself and following your instincts can guide you to exactly where you need to be. – Madison Yerke

Best rom-com reads of 2022: Which books got perfect scores from our critics?

"The Lost Ticket," by Freya Sampson
"The Lost Ticket," by Freya Sampson

'The Lost Ticket'

By Freya Sampson. ★★½ (out of four). Out now.

Libby is in a rut. Instead of proposing, her boyfriend dumps her right before her 30th birthday. She moves in with her sister, only to become an unwitting nanny to her nephew. She finds a distraction in Frank, an elderly gentleman she meets on the bus who’s been looking for a woman he met on the same route 60 years earlier. Libby sets out to find her, with reluctant help from Dylan, Frank’s handsome punk caregiver. We all know where this is headed.

It’s as sweet as it sounds – a literary cup of cocoa. Sampson reminds us that there’s value in the “failures” in life – missed connections, broken relationships, unattained college degrees. They may, inadvertently, set us on the right path. Same for small daily interactions like a conversation on public transport.

The mystery of Frank’s girl on the bus is resolved in a bittersweet twist, a nice break in the saccharine story. It could have ended there – the final scene's too on the nose, or, rather, the bus. But if you’re looking for a little hope, or a reminder of how chance encounters can change life for the better, this is the ticket. – Cara Kelly

Also in August

"The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie," by Rachel Linden (out now). Lolly Blanchard's life seems to have passed her by, until her quirky great aunt gives her a chance to see what might have been and still could be.

"Mr. Perfect on Paper," by Jean Meltzer (out now). Dara Rabinowitz, a third-generation Jewish matchmaker, unwittingly finds her own search for love is broadcast on national TV when her bubbe shares Dara's checklist for the perfect Jewish husband.

"Love in the Time of Serial Killers," by Alicia Thompson (out nowAug. 16). Ph.D. student Phoebe Walsh can’t get enough of true crime – she even studies it. But when she suspects her new neighbor is a serial killer, she may have gone too far.

"With Love from Wish & Co.," by Minnie Darke (out now). Marnie Fairchild puts her boutique in danger when she accidentally sends the wrong gifts to the wrong people.

"Would You Rather," by Allison Ashley (out now). Noah and Mia are best friends in vastly different places in life. So when Mia has an opportunity to achieve her dream, Noah suggests they wed so she can pursue it.

"Love on the Brain," by Ali Hazelwood (out now). Scientist Bee Königswasser accepts her dream job at NASA only to find she is working with her grad school nemesis, Levi Ward.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rom-com roundup: Best new books from Julia Whelan, Alexis Hall, more