The best books to make you laugh, cry, and swoon

Who am I?

I’m a woman. Laughing, crying, and swooning are all things I know intimately—sometimes heart-achingly. I’m living my life with my heart open, learning to be unashamedly me. That means I love, sometimes recklessly. That meant I hurt, sometimes more than anyone could know. And that means I swoon, not only for romance but also for the beauty of this “wild and precious life.” My recommended novels take you through all the feels. My own novels use my roots in Nashville, TN. Family and music are key. But more than that, my books are about learning to love yourself. I’ve learned personally that that’s the true happily ever after.


I wrote...

The Not So Nice Girl

By Skye McDonald,

Book cover of The Not So Nice Girl

What is my book about?

Eleanor Field wants nothing more than to spend a drama-free summer in Nashville, listening to rock n' roll and baking pastries. But her plans are derailed when she walks into a local record shop and meets Sam Greene, a newly graduated, newly single guy who's looking for a stress-free summer of his own. Despite their instant attraction, neither of them is looking for anything serious. But as they continue to spend time together, their friendship lays the groundwork for something deeper.

Set in the summer of 1986, The Not So Nice Girl is a heartwarming romance about two people who find love when they least expect it. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Swear on This Life

Skye McDonald Why did I love this book?

Swear on This Life is not your typical romance—and I absolutely love it. It’s a soul journey to heal childhood wounds. It’s a “the one who got away” love story. It’s heart-wrenching and elating. 

It feels like real life. 

(But you do get the HEA!)

Renee Carlino doesn’t stick to the formula for romance novels in the traditional sense, but her writing is still safely classed in the genre. That’s why I love it. It’s not fluff (don’t get me wrong, I love fluffy romcoms as well!) and it’s not a guy with 8-pack abs (also love those heroes!). Carlino writes about vulnerable humans daring to feel even though they know that love, like life, comes with hurt. 

Don’t grab Swear on This Life when you need a lighthearted read. Grab it when you want to sit in your feels. I think you’ll love it!

By Renée Carlino,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Swear on This Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From bestselling author Renee Carlino, a warm and witty novel about a struggling writer who must come to grips with her past, present, and future after she discovers that she's the inspiration for a pseudonymously published bestselling novel.
When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J. Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn't thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.
Yet from the very first page, Emiline is…


Book cover of Beautiful Player

Skye McDonald Why did I love this book?

Beautiful Player is my go-to steamy, fun reread. I love Will and Hanna’s quick-witted love story. I love that Hanna is a brilliant chemistry grad student. I love that part of the narrative is her opening up to her sensuality, not being afraid of it. And I love sexy Will and how hard he falls for his protégé!

Christina Lauren was my gateway into romance. While I have read all of their Beautiful Series, this one stands out as my favorite. Intelligent, driven main characters who go running together? Plenty of steam? A woman owning her value as a scientist and lover? Yes, yes, yes please!

By Christina Lauren,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Beautiful Player as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Hanna "Ziggy" Bergstrom moves to New York City for graduate school, Will Sumner thinks his responsibilities to his best friend's nerdy little sister will be limited to the occasional dinner and check-in. Little does he know that Ziggy is ready to break out of her bookworm academic shell and move more into bombshell territory. Of course she figures the gorgeous womanizing venture capitalist Will is the best person to help mentor her in this new field of study: dating.

Will takes on the challenge with more than a healthy dose of scepticism and humour, but soon finds that Ziggy…


Book cover of Lavinia

Skye McDonald Why did I love this book?

Romance isn't the only genre I read, of course. Lavinia is written by one of my favorite authors, Ursula K LeGuin. This historical fiction novel takes a character from the ancient Aeneid and brings her to life.

In the Aeneid, Lavinia is the prize for Aeneas. But, she never speaks. Not even one word. LeGuin decided to fix that. She gives Lavinia her own story and journey. In doing so, she creates a rich protagonist who takes destiny into her own hands. 

LeGuin traditionally writes science fiction. I love how this female writer in a male-dominated genre broke out of sci-fi to bring a historical female character to proper life. This is female empowerment, and I am so here for it! Lavinia is enthralling, exciting, and impassioned. Definitely a favorite!

By Ursula K. Le Guin,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Lavinia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

An exceptional combination of history and mythology - 'an intriguing, luxuriously realised novel' FINANCIAL TIMES

'Subtly moving, playful...a novel that brought me to tears more than once. Lavinia is a delightful heroine' GUARDIAN

'Like Spartan Helen, I caused a war. She caused hers by letting men who wanted her take her. I caused mine because I wouldn't be given, wouldn't be taken, but chose my man and my fate. The man was famous, the fate obscure; not a bad balance.'

Lavinia is the daughter of the King of Latium, a victorious warrior who loves peace; she is her father's closest…


Book cover of Simmer Down

Skye McDonald Why did I love this book?

Simmer Down is my favorite novel by my friend and co-author/podcaster, Sarah Smith. Smith is a master of the hate-to-love beach read. Her books are spicy, sizzling, and fun. 

Simmer Down is my favorite because of English hottie Callum, the love interest. Nikki, the main character, starts off detesting this grumpy Brit when he becomes competition for her food truck business in Maui. But through a series of laugh-out-loud and ooo-did-she-really-say-that encounters, these two spicy characters realize they’re even better together than they are apart. 

I love this story, and I love how Smith weaves small elements of her life into her novels. Nikki is Filipino-American and grieving the loss of a parent; the food she makes with her mother are traditional Filipino dishes that Smith is an absolute wizard at. The character dynamics make this fun romance an even richer read.

By Sarah Smith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Simmer Down as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A PopSugar Must-Read for October!

In this finger-licking good rom-com, two is the perfect number of cooks in the kitchen.

Nikki DiMarco knew life wouldn’t be all sunshine and coconuts when she quit her dream job to help her mom serve up mouthwatering Filipino dishes to hungry beach goers, but she didn’t expect the Maui food truck scene to be so eat-or-be-eaten—or the competition to be so smoking hot.

But Tiva’s Filipina Kusina has faced bigger road bumps than the arrival of Callum James. Nikki doesn’t care how delectable the British food truck owner is—he rudely set up shop next…


Book cover of It Starts with a Kiss

Skye McDonald Why did I love this book?

It Starts With A Kiss is a cyber romance novella. JL Peridot’s prose is lyrical and beautiful. This book has steam and spaceships. What’s not to love for a romantic geek like me? 

Peridot's style fascinates me. Her voice is unique, almost like she’s casting a spell. The story may unfold on a spaceship, but she paints with words in a way that keeps the cold darkness of space anything but detached. And, come on: it’s not every author who can make a pair of coveralls sexy like Peridot does in this book!  

If you enjoy It Starts With A Kiss, I highly recommend following Peridot’s newsletter. She often writes short fiction and anthology contributions. All of her stories are beautifully told. Even when she’s writing chilling romantic horror, you’ll still be mesmerized.

You might also like...

Honeymoon at Sea: How I Found Myself Living on a Small Boat

By Jennifer Silva Redmond,

Book cover of Honeymoon at Sea: How I Found Myself Living on a Small Boat

Jennifer Silva Redmond Author Of Honeymoon at Sea: How I Found Myself Living on a Small Boat

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Writer of Memoir Editor of everything Sailor of Seas Daily Dog Walker Intrepid Traveler

Jennifer's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When Jennifer Shea married Russel Redmond, they made a decision to spend their honeymoon at sea, sailing in Mexico. The voyage tested their new relationship, not just through rocky waters and unexpected weather, but in all the ways that living on a twenty-six-foot sailboat make one reconsider what's truly important.

In this charming, meditative memoir, the couple sails to Baja's Sea of Cortez, where they spend twelve months before sailing south and through the Panama Canal. Jennifer's unique experience on the boat weaves through time, from her bohemian 1960s childhood to being a struggling actor in New York.

Honeymoon at Sea: How I Found Myself Living on a Small Boat

By Jennifer Silva Redmond,

What is this book about?

When Jennifer Shea married Russel Redmond, they made a decision to spend their honeymoon at sea, sailing in Mexico. The voyage tested their new relationship, not just through rocky waters and unexpected weather, but in all the ways that living on a twenty-six-foot sailboat make one reconsider what's truly important.

In this charming, meditative memoir, Jennifer recounts that fateful first year, moving back and forth with the currents of her life. On their voyage, the couple sailed Watchfire to Baja California's Sea of Cortez, where they spent twelve months before sailing south along Mexico and Central America and through the…


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