Romance books to heat up your summer

Mr. Wrong Number

Lynn Painter

Berkley, $16, 352 pp.

Mr. Wrong Number is an entertaining romantic comedy that features a heroine prone to big mishaps. Olivia Marshall has moved back home to Omaha from Chicago after she was laid off, dumped by her boyfriend, and then she accidentally burned down her apartment building and all her belongings. So she temporarily moves in with her brother — and his roommate, Colin Beck, whom Olivia has loathed ever since she overheard him referring to her as a “little weirdo” when she was 15.

Colin is even hotter now, she realizes when she sees him on her first morning there, when she is hungover and disheveled. Her day does not get any better as she starts her job hunt online and then stops by her parents’ house to get some of her old clothes as well as a lecture.

So when she gets a random text during an ugly-crying session that asks what she is wearing, she testily replies, “Your mom’s wedding dress and her favorite thong.”

She and Mr. Wrong Number fall into a witty back-and-forth and develop an anonymous friendship over texts.

Naturally, the mystery man turns out to be Colin, who is torn between continuing the texting or ghosting Miss Misdial, especially since the attraction between him and Olivia is heating up IRL. But despite his misgivings, he continues his text conversations with Olivia, who is vulnerable and in need of a friend, even an anonymous one.

Of course we all know that a traumatic reveal is coming (including with Olivia’s less-than-honest bid to land her dream job). And despite the hilarious chaos that inevitably follows Olivia, the two start to realize that their relationship may be the real thing.

A Brush With Love

By Mazey Eddings

St. Martin’s Griffin, $17, 331 pp.

Philadelphia dentist and neurodiverse author Mazey Eddings’ debut novel is a humorous and touching romance about Harper Horowitz, a student working to get a residency in the top oral surgery program. She has terrible anxiety and deals with it by following a regimented schedule and focusing on her studies.

But her life is literally upended when she trips down stairs and crashes into fellow student Daniel Craige. She is stunned by her fall and by Daniel’s handsomeness. Daniel finds himself intrigued and smitten, and a friendship develops.

As they grow closer, the skittish Harper wants to remain just friends, despite being fiercely attracted to him. She knows that she is set to leave Philadelphia for her residency . And she is also desperately trying to hide her overwhelming anxiety from him and her friends.

But eventually all the stress gets to Harper and things come to a disastrous head. You root for Harper to pull her life back together and for Daniel to come to terms with his family problems. Spoiler alert: The climactic scene is just begging for a rom-com movie treatment.

The Next Thing You Know

By Jessica Strawser

St. Martin’s Press, $28, 344 pp.

The Love of My Life

By Rosie Walsh

Pamela Dorman Books, $28, 380 pp.

Two new books depart from the usual template for romances — one was bittersweet and emotional, the other a mystery/thriller involving an already married couple.

The Next Thing You Know is about Nova Huston, an end-of-life doula who helps terminal clients prepare for a “peaceful transition” on their own terms. Her new client is Mason Shaylor, a singer-songwriter who has a deteriorating condition that now makes performing his music impossible.

At first prickly and resistant to Nova’s attempts to learn about his life and his disease, Mason and Nova eventually connect. Soon their bond deepens, but a shocking turn of events has Nova under scrutiny for her relationship with a client, and Nova questioning herself. Strawser has written a poignant tale about love, friendship, and redemption.

I stayed up until dawn to finish The Love of My Life, engrossed by the mystery surrounding Leo and his wife, Emma. Leo is an obituary writer at a London newspaper. Emma is a well-known marine biologist battling cancer. While they await the results of her last round of chemo, Leo is tasked with writing an advance obituary for his wife. He agonizes over such a morbid duty, but he figures that he knows Emma best and is the most qualified to write it. He starts writing in secret, not wanting to burden his already stressed wife. However, he soon uncovers things he never knew about her, leading him to realize that Emma has been keeping some huge secrets from him, and he starts to delve into her past.

The story switches between their viewpoints, between present and past, slowly uncovering all the devastating secrets Emma has been keeping. Walsh keeps ratcheting the tension, revealing more twists and turns in the story, until a wonderfully satisfying denouement is reached.

With Lover Arisen (Gallery Books, $28), the latest in J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood paranormal series, we get the story of Balthazar, a newer member of the brotherhood. But it is the reemergence of an old enemy and the heartbreaking sacrifice of a longtime fan favorite that leaves you stunned and facing a torturous wait for answers in the next book. It’s another thrilling entry in the long-running series.