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3 Required Romances For Your September Reading Pleasure

It's back to school season, which means lists of required reading — like these three super hot and totally fun romance novels involving spies, strippers, football players and fifth-grade teachers — plus some very important lessons about life, love and happily ever after.

Magic Mike XXL meets Bridesmaids in Stripped, a sexy, funny contemporary romance by Zoey Castile that asks an important question: What happens when the guy you've fallen for is a stripper?

After meet-cute involving mixed up laundry and a sequined thong, Robyn Flores finds herself on the perfect night in with her hunky neighbor Zac Fallon — until she unwittingly insults him by saying strippers are gross and trashy. The next time they meet is, of course, at a bachelorette party for her best friend ... where he's the, um, entertainment. It's a devilishly fun scene that kickstarts a hot romance.

Robyn and Zac don't have time for a relationship — she's a busy fifth-grade teacher and maid of honor, and he's only in town temporarily — so they agree to a short, sweet, and very sexy fling. Their chemistry is real and intense; the only problem is explaining just what her boyfriend does to her boss and family. In the end, it's simple: Just love him.

I'm not usually one for football romances, but I've been known to make exceptions, and I'm glad I did when it came to Intercepted by Alexa Martin. The heroine, Marlee Harper, is also not interested in football romances — but she makes an exception for the new hunky quarterback on the team, Gavin Pope.

Marlee's relationship with the Denver Mustangs' wide receiver ended when she discovered he'd been cheating (again), so she's sworn off athletes forever. Except Gavin is always showing up to save the day — he's her getaway ride from the house she shared with the cheating ex, he stands up for her in front of the team at charity event — as she navigates her new, independent life and deals with some major drama with other team wives. Not that she needs to be rescued. She has no time for nonsense when it comes to her romance, her work, or standing up for herself. In fact, Marlee never bites her tongue when she can get the last word in an argument, and it makes for some very entertaining reading.

Marlee is a fierce, loving and sassy heroine, determined to be independent for the first time in her life — even if it means sacrificing the best sex (and the best relationship) she's ever had. Her love story isn't about which football player is The One for her, it's about a woman claiming her independence on her own terms, even when a hunky guy keeps coming to the rescue.

You Only Love Twice by Bec McMaster is a slow burn steampunk romance that pairs a lady assassin with the enemy she used to love. Gemma Townsend, a member of The Company of Rogues, is assigned to track down the Chameleon, a mysterious and ruthless killer who has set his (her?) sights on the Queen. Should anything happen to the Queen, it would destroy the fragile peace in London.

A complication Gemma didn't count on is Dmitri — or Obsidian, as he's now calling himself. Five years earlier they had fallen in love while on assignment together in Russia. Gemma thought he'd died — but then he pops up in London, with no memories of their love affair — and, oh, he's been sent to kill her.

This novel is full of twist, turns, dramatic reveals, deep backstory and worldbuilding–readers might want to read the first two books in the series first — but it doesn't skimp on the love between Gemma and Obsidian. While dark, and somewhat violent, this story shows us that any hate programmed into our brains can be overridden with love, passion and trust. Love can and does conquer all.

Maya Rodale is a best-selling romance author.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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