Listen. I also often don’t want to think about politics in this day and age, because reality is so terrible why would I want to spend my meager escapism opportunities in the same toxic sludge as I spend my days in? However, I can’t deny that as a former speech-and-debator and forever lover of argumentative men in suits, there’s just something so tantalizing about a political romance. I did my best to curate this list to appeal to those who want politics with a side of romance as well as romance with a side of politics. Did I succeed? Yes, because I’m writing this newsletter and I get final say. This newsletter is not a democracy! Also, all of these books are available on Kindle Unlimited if you’re into that sort of thing.
The One You Want by Emma Barry. While reading this book, I was telling a friend this might be the first time I was more invested in the b-plot of a romance novel between the two main characters than I was in their actual relationship. Here’s what I mean: at its core, this is a book about idealism versus cynicism set in politics in Washington, DC. Millie Frank is a union organizer (love that for her) who recently got a bit more attention than she’d like after being held hostage in a highly publicized incident. Parker Beckett is a pragmatic aid for an ostensibly Democratic senator and will do whatever it takes to pass the national budget. Millie and Parker meet and there’s an instant, if confusing on both ends, attraction, but when they meet again at the negotiating table when Millie makes the case for better union protections in the upcoming budget, the spark between them becomes an inferno, and not only in a sexy way.
Not to spoil things, but the ending of the budget negotiation plot was depressingly realistic, though I did like how the two characters navigated it and came out the other side professionally and as romantic partners. This is not a West Wing/Aaron Sorkin fantasy political universe, so don’t go in expecting to feel satisfied and fuzzy about the state of American politics.
Additional confession time: I have tried and failed twice to read the final book in this series. The final book features two high-level campaign staffers on opposite presidential campaigns; the MMC is with a prominent Democrat, while the FMC is a Latina on the side of the underdog Republican. After my first attempt to read, I looked up the ending, and Emma Barry confirmed that after the 2016 election (this series was largely written prior to that) she’d changed the conclusion of book 3 so the FMC left her party. To which I say… she didn’t before?? Like the Republican party was soooo reasonable and a safe place for women or BIPOC people prior to 2016? With that in mind, I tried again, but could not get through more than a few chapters before wanting to tear it apart. So out of curiosity, if you’ve read this series, should I give it a third try? A book about rivals on the campaign trail seems exactly up my alley… if only it was two Democrats or independents or even local politics… but I cannot suspend my disbelief or my inherent gag reflex for chapters that ask me to seriously consider a Republican campaign team.
How hot? 🔥🔥🔥
Honestly, I’m Totally Faking It by Amanda Gambill. Rach is a personal assistant to personal assistants (a real thing) who finally gets her big break to just be a personal assistant, which is pretty neat because basically nothing else in her life is going well. But when she accidentally walks in on her new boss doing a TV interview from his home office while naked, going viral for the incident, things get exponentially more complicated for her. Because not only is her new boss, Pres, an aspiring local politician, but in order to cover up “boobgate” without derailing Rach’s life or his campaign, he pretends she’s his girlfriend who simply made an understandable mistake about the timing of his live interview.
It turns out, the famously buttoned up Pres could use the boost of a snappy, slightly chaotic Rach on his arm during his campaign, and Rach could definitely use the job security. So they strike a deal to fake date until election day. Of course, appearances can be deceiving, but they can also be foreshadowing. You’ll laugh, you’ll cringe, you’ll swoon, and you’ll find yourself wondering how either of these two people could have thought they’d end up with anyone else.
How hot? 🔥🔥🔥🔥
That Kind of Guy by Stephanie Archer. I recently reviewed the final book in this series as an ARC, Finn Rhodes Forever, if this seems familiar!
In this first book, however, we’ve got Avery, a semi-recent transplant to the tiny Canadian island community of Queen’s Cove and manager of an important local restaurant. She’s great at her job, partially because of her own efforts and partially because she’s fueled by the failure of her parents’ beloved restaurant from her childhood after her father ruined it. But when the owner of the restaurant unexpectedly decides to sell a bit earlier than anticipated and Avery’s business loan isn’t approved so she can buy it as intended, she might lose everything again.
Enter: Emmett Rhodes, who canonically looks like Henry Cavill and has the cocky charisma to back it up. He’s a hometown hero and business owner beloved by everyone on the island… except Avery, who has her reasons to distrust smooth-talking men who seem too good to be true. If you’ve noticed I tend to read and like books where there’s a major daddy issues backstory for the FMC, no you didn’t. In any case, Emmett has his own problem- he recently decided to run for mayor since the incumbent doesn’t seem to actually be improving anything in his community, but his polling numbers are dragging because everyone sees him as a playboy who isn’t serious enough for politics.
The deal: Avery (beloved restaurant manager/soon-to-be owner) and Emmett (beloved local boy with a big heart and a big fear of turtles) fake date to bolster Emmett’s polls and get Avery a co-signer for her loan. It works a little too well, and most of this book is basically these two dummies agreeing to fake a more and more involved relationship until it becomes clear they aren’t faking one single thing.
Rating caveat: this is Stephanie Archer’s first book on KU so despite a strong premise and great enemies to fake lovers to real lovers set up, the writing/dialog in particular are a little rough. The series writing improves a lot as it goes, but even after re-reading and enjoying this book prior to writing this recommendation, I had to dock it a quarter of a star of what was otherwise a 4 star book due to it being a little rough around the edges. Still, a great summer read with A+ steamy scenes if that’s what you’re looking for!
How hot? 🔥🔥🔥🔥
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