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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Wisconsin chapter.

This is what happens when a reader finally has some free time

Over spring break, I had the bright idea of going to a Barnes and Noble to “look around” and came out of it with eight new books to go towards my Goodreads 2023 reading goal. After blowing through five contemporary romance novels over the course of the break, I reflected on my favorites and what I learned about my book preferences throughout the experience. These novels are ranked from my least to most favorite because I cannot bring myself to call any of these books bad.

5. One Last Stop

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston disappointed me a little after my love for her past novels like Red, White, and Royal Blue. While the romance between Jane and August was cute to read through, I feel it rested a little too much on “love at first sight.” There’s also the fact that the story follows a girl misplaced from the 1970s and stuck on a subway train, so their entire romance takes place on public transportation. Although this concept was an intriguing plot with a well-thought-out conclusion, it made a lot of the romance scenes fall flat when you remember a rat had just ran past them. This was also the book that made me realize I prefer contemporary romances that show both POVs of the main couple because otherwise, it can feel one-sided in places. While a great novel with fun side characters, it just was not what I want when I pick up a romance.

4. The American Roommate Experience

As far as book boyfriends go, Lucas from Elena Armas’s The American Roomate Experience ranks very highly. The novel follows a close-proximity romance where struggling romance novelist Rosie Graham moves in with her best friend’s cousin, Lucas, who she’s harbored a social media crush on, after her apartment is destroyed. While living together, Lucas agrees to take Rosie on several “experimental dates” to get her inspiration flowing. We watch them dancing around their growing feelings throughout the novel since Lucas must return to Spain eventually. I love watching people being obviously in love, so this book captivated me from the start. I’ve ranked it lower, however, cause Rosie’s initial awkwardness around him was hard to sit through and I much prefer when the man in heterosexual fictional relationships is the one pining. Even so, I loved this book and adored the dates Lucas took her on. I will be going back and reading the first book in this series which follows Rosie’s best friend and Lucas’s cousin as I loved Armas’s writing style and fell in love with the characters she created.

3. People We Meet on Vacation

Emily Henry knew what she was doing when she wrote People We Meet on Vacation, a When Harry Meets Sally inspired friends-to-lovers and second chance romance between free-spirited Poppy and her best friend, the introverted Alex. Henry is incredible at writing charming banter between her leads and I love the structure of the novel, taking place during a summer vacation and flashing back towards the last decade of summer vacations between Poppy and Alex. It was also incredibly refreshing to read about two characters who went to therapy to understand their baggage before pursuing a relationship. My biggest and pretty much only issue with the novel is that I wish we could understand more of what Alex was thinking during the story. He was already such a reserved character, a perfect juxtaposition to the explosive Poppy, but the lack of POV from him kept me from fully understanding him until the last few chapters. While a beautifully written novel from a clearly skilled writer, I cannot put it above the following series whose characters I also fell in love with.

2. It Happened One Summer

I cannot get over my love for Tessa Bailey’s Bellinger Sisters series that first appeared in It Happened One Summer. Wild-child socialite Piper Bellinger is sent from LA to a small coastal fishing town by her stepdad to learn about her late father’s history as a fisherman and understand the value of money. She meets the brooding sea captain Brendan, still mourning the loss of his wife, and the two eventually find themselves falling in love. The story captured themes of moving on and finding a second chance at true happiness with an engaging opposites-attract couple. Piper is one of my favorite main characters from a contemporary romance, taking charge of her destiny and going after what she wants at every turn. I also love how much time we spend with them as a couple, developing from their first date until moving in together and getting engaged. There are some cringe aspects related to Piper’s job as an influencer but she’s an overall great character, and I love how she builds a life in the town separate from her life with Brendan. Additionally, as previously mentioned, we get to see both POVs and fully understand why they gravitate toward each other. I did not think the sequel about Piper’s sister Hannah could possibly top it, but alas, I was wrong.

1. Hook, Line, and Sinker

Piper’s younger and more responsible sister Hannah came along to Westport as a support system but ended up befriending Brenden’s second-in-command, the rakish Fox Thornton. Hook, Line, and Sinker follows Hannah returning to Westport months after the events of It Happened One Summer when the movie she is working on as an assistant is filming there. She moves in with Fox, who had become one of her best friends after months of texting and the two dance around their attraction for one another. It’s a fun best friend-to-lovers romance that checked all of the boxes for me as the two are adorably and obliviously in love. I am a sucker for a reformed rake and the story includes both POVs allowing for a greatly well-rounded understanding of Hannah and Fox. I loved reading each of their emotional arcs and how they inspired one another to grow; the epilogue with both couples from the Bellinger sisters series was also the perfect ending to the story. This was a great guilty pleasure romance to read on my spring break.

Being able to do nothing but read for a week was incredibly therapeutic. Reading these books was a great way to remind me that I always need to make time for the things which bring me peace. Even if the novels don’t live up to expectations, I love consuming a story that someone dreamed up in their head and put to paper. 

Brynn Sullivan

Wisconsin '26

My name is Brynn and I have been an avid reader and writer my whole life. I love to hear and talk about niche topics in film, literature, popular culture, and more. Majoring in English.