For fans of romance, fantasy or both:
Pretty much anything by Nalini Singh
If you love complicated worlds, ever-growing casts of characters and a flood of emotional angst that could float a few yachts, look no further than Singh’s Guild Hunter Series, Psy-Changeling Series and Rock Series. To be honest, I could probably outfit 95 percent of all vacationing binge readers with a Nalini Singh book or three.
The Psy-Changeling series takes place in a world populated by shifters, humans and the psy — supposedly emotionless beings that possess dangerous powers. Each book builds on a complex universe, exploring the costs of power, diplomacy and emotional control, and examines what makes us human. You can start with the first book, “Slave to Sensation,” or the first in what readers are calling the “second season” of the series, “Silver Silence.” Wherever you start, be sure to set an alarm to reapply your sunscreen. You’ll be so absorbed, you’ll need the reminder.
The Guild Hunter series involves archangels, vampires and the titular Guild Hunters in a world that mixes theology and mythology with mystery and romance. The stories follow two main characters for the first few books beginning with “Angels’ Blood,” but the series widens to feature other pairings as well. And with 14 installments in this series — plus a new book, “Archangel’s War,” coming in September — you won’t risk running out of story any time soon.
If fantasy and the paranormal aren’t your thing, Singh also writes the contemporary Rock Kiss series, which is scorching hot but also surprisingly sweet. If the possibility of leather pants, behind-the-scenes peeks into the music world and stories of found family sound promising, start with “Rock Addiction.” There are four books and a novella in this series — perfect for a long weekend or a week away.
Shelly Laurenston's series
Perhaps you like your romance with some campy humor and mayhem. If your tastes tend toward over-the-top, I think I have you covered: Pick any Shelly Laurenston book in the Pride series, the Call of Crows trilogy or the Honey Badger Chronicles. Most of Laurenston’s stories take place in an interconnected fantasy world populated by fierce, sarcastic animal shifters. Of course, anxious honey badger shifters, winged Norse goddesses and overprotective tiger shifter assassin moms will either appeal to you or send you running. If it’s the former, there are more than 40 books to enjoy. They’re perfect for an entire summer of sunny reading with a sizable frosty beverage by your side. Cheers!
For mystery lovers:
I love historical mysteries that combine crime-solving with clever characters who become more familiar with each subsequent book. I especially love what John Rogers, one of the writers from the television show “Leverage,” once described as “competence porn,” which is “watching competent people banter and plan.” For whatever reason, it’s thrilling to see characters brilliantly doing their jobs, demonstrating how much they know and, in the case of these books, also solving crimes.
Jennifer Ashley's Kat Holloway series
This is one of my favorite new series. Ashley writes exquisite historical romance and equally marvelous mysteries. Kat Holloway is a highly trained cook in wealthy households during the late 1800s — a position of higher status among the servants, though still in service. When she’s not creating meals that will make your stomach growl, she’s solving murders alongside a mysterious, charming and potentially unreliable ally, Daniel McAdam. The latest book, “Death in Kew Gardens,” arrives June 4, so with three novels and a novella, this series should get you through a few days of bingeing. But fair warning: Don’t dive in without some snackage nearby.
Anna Lee Huber's Lady Darby Mystery series
These books slowly unite two very different characters over multiple installments (and multiple murders), blending mystery with historical fiction, social commentary and a delicious slow-burn romance. Lady Darby is holding on by a thread to her position on the fringes of 19th-century London society, due in part to her late husband’s cruelty. In “The Anatomist’s Wife,” she’s the prime suspect in a grisly house party murder. Is there anything better than the words “house party murder”? Probably not, but these come close: “New book!” The most recent in the seven-book series, “An Artless Demise,” came out in April.
Sherry Thomas's The Lady Sherlock series
These books, which recast Sherlock Holmes as Charlotte Holmes, are perfect for those who adore layered stories. Unignorable questions of gender, expectation and privilege lurk beneath complex mysteries and a slowly scorching romance. The more I reread these books, the more I discover about Charlotte’s brilliant powers of deduction. The first novel is “A Conspiracy in Belgravia,” and the fourth, “The Art of Theft,” arrives in October.
Sarah Wendell is the author of three books and co-founder of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, one of the most popular and longest-running online communities devoted to romance fiction.