What to Read & What to Skip: My October 2023 Reading List

October 2023 was a great reading month for me and in this episode of the She Reads Romance Books Podcast I’m giving you the run-down of my book recommendations of which books I think you should read and which books you may just want to borrow.

I’ve got new releases, holiday romances, paranormal romances, historical romances, and more to share!

Episode 11: My October 2023 Reading List (What to Read & What to Skip)

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My October 2023 Reading List:

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Episode Show Notes:

Hey readers! In today’s episode, I am giving you a recap of ALL the romance books that I read in October.

I used to do monthly reading recaps here on the blog, which I stopped last year, but I really loved those posts so I’m bringing them back for the podcast.

It’s always my goal to help readers like you find the best books worth reading, so giving you my take on all the books I read and my mini reviews of them will help you decide which books you should read and absolutely put on your TBR list and which books you might want to skip.

But for these episodes, I’m going to recommend books that I think you should buy because they are just so darn good, or recommend books that you may just want to borrow to see if they are the book for you as they probably weren’t for me.

I’m going to jump right in to the first book I read this month with an advanced reader copy which was The Fake Mate by Lana Ferguson.

The Fake Mate is one of the new romance book releases coming December 2023. See all that's new in romance on She Reads Romance Books.

The Fake Mate
by Lana Ferguson

This paranormal romance doesn’t release until December 5 but I can tell you that you’re definitely going to want to preorder this baby because it is such a fun and steamy read.

Of all the possible paranormal romances you can read – from various shapeshifters to vampire romances to witches and demons, werewolf romance books are my absolute favorite. It’s probably because they have that alpha male quality to their romance heroes which is like catnip to my soul because I never tire of an alpha male, and one that happens to shift into a werewolf, yes please!

I also really like contemporary werewolf romance books as opposed to fantasy werewolf romance books where the characters are in a magical world. Don’t get me wrong, I love those too but there’s something about a contemporary setting with shapeshifters that really resonates with me and that is what The Fake Mate is.

OK, so what’s it about? Well Noah, is a renowned cardiologist who has been hiding his designation as alpha werewolf by taking suppressants to hide his scent because there’s still this stigma about unmated alphas and how they’re more likely to go wild and off the rails or something. Well, Noah’s been hiding his status to protect his job but someone outed him and all his hard work is at risk.

Enter Mackenzie who is an ER doctor whose grandmother has been on her case to find someone but her dating life has been pretty dismal and she’s over it.

So to get her grandmother off her back, and to protect Noah from losing his job they agree to a fake mate relationship but we all know how those go – once you start faking it the line between what’s fake and real starts to blur.

And when these two start mixing in fake mates with benefits, things really get steamy.

I gave this 4+ stars it was so good. Definitely add it to your TBR list if you love werewolf romances, romances between alphas and omegas, dirty talkers, or if you want to know what knotting is because yeah, they go there! Be on the lookout in December for The Fake Mate by Lana Ferguson and check out my book review if you want to learn more.

Another paranormal romance book that I read this month with another advanced reader copy is Bride by Ali Hazelwood which will be released in February of 2024.

Bride is one of the new romance book releases coming February 2024. See all that's new in romance on She Reads Romance Books.

by Ali Hazelwood

I can just cut to the chase on this one. It is going to be on my most anticipated romance books list of 2024 and you have to read it because it’s fabulous and a 5-star read. It is one of the best slow burn romances I’ve ever read!

As I said it’s a paranormal romance which is a new direction for Ali Hazelwood who’s mostly known for her contemporary enemies to lovers romances up to this point.

It features Misery Lark, the daughter of the most powerful Vampyre councilman who has agreed to a marriage of convenience with a powerful Werewolf Alpha in an effort to keep the peace between Weres and Vampyres because in this world there is a very unstable relationship between Weres, Vampyres and Humans who really don’t mix.

But Misery also has her own reasons for agreeing to the marriage of convenience.

Overall, I thought Ali did a great job creating this paranormal world but she did it through the amazing characterization of her two leads – Misery and Lowe. Misery is a loner but is so snarky and Lowe is one of those alpha males you totally fall for because he is a strong, capable, and compassionate leader who also has a heart of gold.

Given the epilogue, I think we might get another book in this paranormal world and I truly hope that’s the case.

Even if you don’t love paranormal romances or even vampire romances or werewolf romances I really think you’ll love this well-written book so definitely add Bride by Ali Hazelwood to your TBR list for 2024. I loved it.

Check out my book review of Bride.

The next book I read is a new Christmas romance book for 2023 and a completely new author to me. It’s Confessions of a Christmasholic by Joss Wood.

Confessions of a Christmasholic is a holiday romance read by She Reads Romance Books.

Confessions of a Christmasholic
by Joss Wood

This book grabbed my attention because I love Christmas romance books where one character is a complete Scrooge about the holiday. I’m going to be doing an upcoming podcast episode about that topic very soon so stayed tuned for that.

But it was really fun to get into the holiday spirit with this one even though it was only October.

This is a forced proximity romance where Sutton is mistaken for the new nanny of Gus Langston, Mr. Christmas of his small town who runs the village’s year-round Christmas shop that was his deceased wife’s dream. Recognizing that he can’t do it all anymore running the Christmas shop, his adventure business AND take care of his two kids, he hires Sutton who’s desperate for cash before she hopefully finds a job in the city.

Overall, I think Wood created some great characters including side characters I only wanted more of. While I liked the single dad romance angle, I found Sutton’s storyline with her best friend a bit repetitive and their romance a bit rushed.

But what really got me was that the ending was a bit of disappointment because it is a rushed happy-for-now ending. So this one might be one to borrow instead of buy if you’re looking for a holiday romance this season.

Another Christmas romance book that released this month that I read was A Holly Jolly Ever After by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone.

A Holly Jolly Ever After is one of the new romance book releases coming October 2023. See all that's new in romance on She Reads Romance Books.

A Holly Jolly Ever After
by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone

This is the third book in their Christmas Notch series and after reading A Merry Little Meet Cute, which was their first Christmas romance book that released in 2022 I knew I had to read this one.

This is another costars-to-lovers romance that features Kallum, who is a former boy band rockstar who is now rocking the dad bod and is the owner of several pizza joints. But he has just been cast in a steamy holiday romance movie, because of a sex tape that was released without his permission that went viral because of his prowess in the bedroom.

Our heroine is Winnie Baker, who began her career as a child actor, and who was this image of purity and innocence. She married a fellow costar at the age of 18 and now years later, she’s just divorced her husband after he cheated on her but, it’s her reputation that’s in the toilet after it.

So she’s at this stage in her life where she’s trying to figure out who she is and part of doing that is signing up for this steamy Christmas romance movie when all of her previous work has been more of the Hallmark movie variety.

And because it’s a spicy Christmas romance there are several intimacy scenes she has to do and on set during their first intimacy scene it’s pretty obvious that Winnie doesn’t know what she’s doing. And that’s because even though she was married for so many years, she has never experienced passion, or had an orgasm.

To help make sure this movie isn’t a flop she turns to Kallum for help asking him to help her with her “research” so that she can do better. That’s their cue to start getting it on in secret behind closed doors and of course, falling for each other in the process.

Because Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone are writing it, this is such a fun Christmas romance but I absolutely loved the focus on Winnie’s character growth throughout this book. Then there’s Kallum who is just the sweetest hero to fall for. He’s been crushing on Winnie for years and was just totally sweet in every way towards her.

If you’re looking for a romance to read this holiday season, I highly recommend A Holly Jolly Ever After and you can read more of my thoughts on this book in my review.

The next book that I tackled was my advanced reader copy of 10 Things That Never Happened by Alexis Hall.

10 Things That Never Happened is one of the new romance book releases coming October 2023. See all that's new in romance on She Reads Romance Books.

10 Things That Never Happened
by Alexis Hall

This is his new release that dropped this month, and it is his return back to contemporary gay romance after writing a bunch of historical romances and a paranormal romance.

I enjoy Alexis Hall books that all fall into the queer romance category and this book sort of returns to that world where he set his Boyfriend Material and Husband Material books.

I thought the set up for this romance sounded super cute. It’s about a manager of a bed and bath store who is about to get fired by his boss because his store branch is just not cutting it. But Sam ends up being knocked over and hitting his head then faking amnesia so that he doesn’t lose his job, and can somehow find a way to convince Jonathan to save, not only his position, but the workers’ jobs that he manages at his storefront.

This MM romance has Alexi Hall’s signature all over it with the kind of quirky, adorable, main character, pitted against the more straight-laced, rigid character, who is really just misunderstood.

But to be honest, I haven’t finished this book. I put it back on my shelf for now because it was just a really slow read for me and I just had too much on my plate to get through. I think I was at maybe 30 or 40% and didn’t really feel like any foundation has been set yet for the romance between the two main characters. I hope to return back to it but I’m suggesting putting this on your borrow list to see if it’s one for you.  

I next turned to historical romance with Laney Hatcher‘s newest release in her London Ladies Embroidery series which are her historical reimaginings of Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series.

Love Matched, is the third book in the series and it is her reimagining of Love Hacked, which is one of my all-time favorite romance books so I was super excited to read this one.

Love Matched is one of the new romance book releases coming October 2023. See all that's new in romance on She Reads Romance Books.

Love Matched
by Laney Hatcher

It is the story of Cassandra, who is a Lady of the Ton and who has been quite unlucky in love and at finding a suitable match during the season.

She even comes to learn that there is a rumor going around that if you happen to have an unlight unlucky run-in while courting Cassandra then you’re most likely to find your intended immediately after.

So poor Cassandra‘s been unlucky in love while attending all these balls and events during the season, and yet she keeps running into this footman who has an eye on her. They end up in an interesting situation during a ball and strike up a conversation which soon after turns into secret meet ups between the two.

Though while they end up falling for each other, they know ultimately that they probably don’t have a future given their differences in social standing.

It has a taste of mystery, is an opposites attract romance, and is really a good, quick read since it’s only just over 200 pages and available in Kindle Unlimited by the way.

It can absolutely be read as a standalone and if you love historical romance, I recommend it with the entire series worth checking out. I just love her writing and this hit the spot when it came to historical romance. If you want to learn more, you can check out my book review on She Reads Romance Books.

This month I was lucky enough to read a second Ali Hazelwood book with an advanced reader copy of Check & Mate, her new young adult romance or really what I think is more of a new adult romance releasing in early November.

Check and Mate is Ali Hazelwood's young adult romance debut novel coming in 2023.

Check & Mate
by Ali Hazelwood

I’ve loved Ali’s writing ever since Love Hypothesis (which I gave 4 stars to I think) but this year I read three of her new books and they’ve all been five star reads for me starting with Love, Theoretically then reading her 2024 release that I mentioned earlier, Bride, and now this one Check & Mate.

The woman is on fire I tell you! So this is being marketed as a young adult romance but as I said, to me it’s really a new adult romance because our heroine is 18 or even 19 years old and our hero is 20 or 21+ and they are so much older and wiser than their years that I really read it more as a new adult romance in young adult romance.

This book is about Mallory Greenleaf who loves chess and yet has not played a game in four years because she believed that the game and her love for it ruined her family. She’s now working as a car mechanic desperate to make money anyway she can to pay off the mortgage and all of the household bills because it’s just her, her two sisters and her mom who is struggling with a chronic illness.

One day though, her best friend convinces her to play in a charity chess tournament, where she ends up beating the current world champion and catching his eye. From there, she’s approached by a chess club and sponsored for the year to participate in tournaments where she keeps having run-ins with Nolan the world champion.

I actually loved the aspect of chess in this book but even if you don’t care for the sport, there’s so much to love about this romance. I especially loved the heroine and learning more about her struggles. Hazelwood also gives so many great secondary characters to love, including Mallory‘s best friend and her chess mentor and players.

I’m a bit obsessed with Nolan. I’ll admit there’s just a little bit given about his backstory, but he’s just a one of those heroes that I absolutely love that is so kind and patient.

This is also the kind of slow burn romance I adore, that just burns and burns, it’s also pretty closed-soor romance unlike her past romances, whether or not that appeals to you, but it didn’t need any extra steaminess in my opinion.

I would highly check it out if you love the academic rivals to lovers trope or slow burn romance. This is one of her best, and I highly recommend it. Don’t miss my book review of Check & Mate.

The last book that I was able to read this month was Elsie Silver‘s latest release, Hopeless, which is book five in her Chestnut Springs series.

Hopeless is one of the new romance book releases coming October 2023. See all that's new in romance on She Reads Romance Books.

by Elsie Silver

My first Elsie Silver book that I read was earlier this year, which was Reckless,  book four in the Chestnut Springs series and I absolutely loved it. It’s on my list of best romance books of 2023, so I was super excited to read Beau’s story in Hopeless and it did not disappoint.

This is a must-read if you love virgin romances and fake relationship romances. Beau Eaton is a special ops veteran who survived an ordeal behind enemy lines and really just hasn’t been himself since getting out of service and returning home to his small town.

He’s dealing with some PTSD and really just doesn’t know who he is anymore but he’s always had his eye on Bailey Jansen who’s lived in his small town all her life with a reputation she just can’t overcome courtesy of her dad and brothers.

Because she’s looked down upon, she’s always kept her head down and is just looking to catch a break to earn enough money to finally leave this town and put it and her past behind her. So in steps Beau who offers her a solution saying he bet things would be different for her if she had his last name so he proposes a fake engagement.

Being fake engaged set up a great forced proximity story where the two are together and their chemistry together is just flamed, but it was really those moments where Bailey could be her snarky self in front of Beau and he could truly feel relaxed in her present, because she never treated him with soft gloves like everybody else in town.

The best part was her unfiltered mouth. She would just ask the most crazy and forward questions of Beau- usually surrounding something sexual because she was a virgin and had no experience. Of course that didn’t last for long but the two characters absolutely made this book and if you’re looking for a satisfying read, also available on Kindle Unlimited, I highly recommend Hopeless by Elsie Silver.

And there you have it. As you can see I really read a bit of everything this month in terms of romance categories and tropes, with traditionally published authors and indie authors, favorite authors and new authors. I love when I have months of reading like that.

I’m going to be recapping my reading list every month on the She Reads Romance Books Podcast and on the blog so be sure to follow the podcast so you can catch these episodes.

Until next time. Happy reading!

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Check out which romance books you should read and which you should skip based on She Reads Romance Books reading list for October 2023.
Leslie Murphy is the owner and writer of She Reads Romance Books.

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Leslie is the founder, writer, and producer of She Reads Romance Books (and the She Reads Romance Books Podcast), an online book community focused on romance books and the readers who love them because life is better with a love story.

Leslie reads 150 romance books a year and has been called a "book expert" by CNN. Reading romance is her passion and she cultivates her book lists with the best books worth reading in the genre. Leslie graduated magna cum laude from Davidson College where she honed her writing skills and also holds two Master's degrees. Join her community in the She Reads Romance Books Reader Lounge.

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