cover image Hot Summer Nights

Hot Summer Nights

Jaci Burton, Carly Phillips, Erin McCarthy, and Jessica Clare. Berkley Sensation, $7.99 mass market (352p) ISBN 978-0-425-26339-6

Four bestselling contemporary romance authors offer up a disjointed collection of racy novellas for summer reading. Burton (the Play by Play series) phones in “Hope Smolders,” a bland tale of betrayed single mother Jane Kline learning to trust and enjoy herself with the help of handsome highway patrolman Will Griffin. In “Perfect Stranger,” a workaday entry in Phillips’s Serendipity series, pro football player Luke Thompson, searching for meaning in his future, finds Alexa Collins, a doctor who’s tired of trying to live up to her father’s expectations and plans. The standout is Clare’s “The Legend of Jane,” a quirky charmer about video blogger Luanne Allard, who moves to Bluebonnet, Tex. (the setting for Clare’s Bluebonnet series) and immediately runs afoul of local police officer Hank Sharp. Luanne and Hank are atypical romantic leads, but they generate plenty of heat and their lighthearted encounters balance believably with their character issues. McCarthy’s “Ice Princess” is less successful, as Chelsea Carruthers’s juvenile sense of humor spoils the mood of passionate encounters with sexy ski instructor Brody Durbin. Readers looking for these authors’ best efforts should seek out their novels. (July)