What follows is a painstaking list (painstaking because apparently I don’t read many books set in hot places or seasons), a somewhat random selection of books that I hope are well-suited to helping readers escape from winter weather and suffering. Runs the gamut of genres, with nonfiction, rom-com, fantasy, thriller, historical fiction, and science fiction.
1. The Heist, by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg
Janet Evanovich is one of my favorite authors of romantic comedy – she writes almost slapstick humor with more than a dash of hot romance. I keep reading her Stephanie Plum series, even though she’s up to 20 by now. The Heist takes place in Indonesia – it is a fast-paced frolic about an FBI special agent (Kate) and a con-man (Nick) who end up working together – sort of – to stop a corrupt banker. Involves a trip to Indonesia, and some crazy hijinks on the water and on the island.
2. Dark Currents, by Sharon Lee
By one of my favorite authors OF ALL TIME, this one takes place in a seaside town with a paranormal side. Lots of fey creatures and magic and demons. It kills me that I can’t remember if it takes place during the summer, but it’s seaside anyway, and well worth a look. Certainly, it will distract you from cold toes and snowy sidewalks.
3. Wildflower: An Extraordinary Life and Untimely Death in Africa, by Mark Seal
Wildflower is about an environmentalist with “an uncanny ability to connect to animals,” Joan Root, who moved to Kenya to protect the wildlife and make films about it. An intriguing, well-written narrative nonfiction.
4. Dune,by Frank Herbert
Ah, one of the classics of science fiction. Do I need to tell you about it? Set mostly on a desert planet that has so little water, alien nomadic tribespeople must wear water-recycling suits. Amazing, incredible story on a grand scale. Don’t miss it!
5. Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
The first of the Bond books, and the first in the movie remakes, you all know what it’s about. You probably also remember that it takes place on the coast in France, with sandy beaches and shimmery water. Watch out for the misogyny, and be warned – there’s some graphic violence (remember the torture scene? Yeah.) But even with all of that, it is definitely an entertaining Cold War espionage novel. And then you can say you’ve read the book, too.
6. The Shape of Water, by Andrea Camilleri
Confession: I haven’t read the book yet. A translation from the Italian, this novel begins the series about Commissario Montalbano, a Sicilian detective. The International Mystery television series is amusing, witty, suspenseful… the characters are delightful. I would bet this is a masterpiece of detective fiction, just waiting for you to discover it. (For the record: I’m looking for the Italian version to read, first).
7. Mara, Daughter of the Nile, by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
This, a book I would have loved to read as a young adult, is also a book I thoroughly enjoyed as a fully-grown (or so I hope) adult. As the title suggests, this novel takes readers to Egypt – an ancient Egypt of pharaohs and slaves. Mara is a slave who finds herself falling in love with her young master, who is trying to overthrow the government. Espionage, suspense, adventure, and hot hot sands.
8. The Twelve Rooms of the Nile, by Enid Shomer
Another book set in Egypt, this one chronicles a fictional meeting, friendship, and romance between Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert as they traveled the Nile. In reality, they did so at the same time, but never met. The setting is vivid and atmospheric, with great historical detail. The characters are engaging, and the prose is the kind to savor.
9. To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis
Connie Willis writes some of the best science fiction around. If you haven’t checked The Doomsday Book out of your local library yet, do so immediately. THIS BOOK. Amazing. It is a light, witty, hilarious tale of mishaps and manners, which is mostly set during a sweltering Victorian summer outside London. If you haven’t read Willis’ other time-travel novels, the main point is that future historians are actually time travelers, who learn about history by living it. Without stepping on the proverbial butterfly, of course. Ned, the main character in To Say Nothing of the Dog, is severely time-lagged after shuttling back and forth between his time and World War II, looking for a particular object. He gets sent to the Victorian period to recuperate, but nothing goes as it should.
- Cold Fire, by Kate Elliott (second in a series, part of which takes place in an alternate Caribbean)
- Queen of Swords, by Sara Donati (fifth in a superb series about colonial America, takes place mostly in New Orlenas)
- The Assassin and the Desert, by Sarah J. Maas (novella in the Throne of Glass series)
- Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen (memoir by Baroness Blixen about life on a coffee plantation in Kenya)
Whew! I really hope you have other suggestions, because I clearly do not know enough about books set in hot, sunny, deserty or beachy climes. Please help. Write a suggestion in the comments!