Choosing books that represent “Fling” is a challenge due to the word’s definition. A “fling,” after all, is “a short period of enjoyment or wild behavior.” Many novels about sexual side stories focus instead on affairs because they last longer and often morph into difficult and tragic tales.
That’s the case with the titles on this list — but each of them includes enjoyment and wild behavior, too. Any — or, better yet, several — of these will add fun and a little scorch to your vacation reading. Among them: A women bent on revenge who also has a taste for orgies, a secret affair by the sea, lovers with a connection to the real Casablanca, and a sort of Sliding Doors fantasy about love’s possibilities.
1. If you’re hooked on scandi-crime:
You may not have thought a novel about “Sweden’s financial elite” would make its way to the top of your to-be-read pile, but look out — Ahrnstedt’s U.S. debut is smart and smoldering, using an affair between cutthroat David and upperclass Natalia as the catalyst for unraveling families, institutions and the very notion of trust.
2. If you’re an anglophile:
Eva and Jim meet at university and fall in love. Eva and Jim never meet. Eva and Jim meet at university and things go wrong between them. Haven’t we all wondered “what if?” about our own romantic encounters? This British novel allows for all sorts of “maybes” and “perhapses” and, in doing so, examines what love really means.
3. If you love wartime romance:
Amazingly, not all of World War II’s stories have been told and Brown explores one in this tale of heroic American artist Varian Fry and his Marseilles-based American Relief Center. What’s fling-y about it? Fry’s friends, colleagues and hangers-on liaise prolifically in a “life during wartime” atmosphere of tension and unease.
4. If you’d do the Charleston:
If you enjoyed Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, you’ll love this heady cocktail of a book set in 1920s Manhattan. Socialite Vera Bellington finds that French muralist Emil Hallan fills a void in her superficial life, but their happy affair teeters on the brink of ruin when Vera’s college nemesis threatens to reveal a long-held secret.
5. If you still miss Mad Men:
Joan Fortier is one of the most interesting characters of 2016: Rich beyond even the wildest dreams of her Houston housewife girlfriends, she is compellingly beautiful and sexy but can’t seem to dress herself properly or stop having embarrassing incidents at the favored nightclub. Why? You’ll find out. Oh, yes you will.
6. If you have an inner room:
Judith Rashleigh has a life she loves: prim art historian by day, wanton sexual participant by night. But when she’s fired from the auction house where she works for someone else’s perfidy, Judith Rashleigh becomes a fury bent on revenge — anywhere in the world it takes her. This book is perfect for those who like flings sexy and shocking.
7. If you love a happy ending:
Imagine a published poet picturing herself in a romance novel and you’ve got Liz Kay’s Monsters, in which the poet protagonist has such a tough time keeping weight on after her husband dies….. All the better for meeting a superstar actor who wants to make a movie of her chapbook. What ensues is textbook — but still fun.
8. If you like to keep it light:
If you like your flings funny and with a healthy heaping of snark, Lancaster (Pretty in Plaid, The Best of Enemies) is here to save your summer. Penny Sinclair loves her life as a Chicago actuary, divorcee and mother, but while planning her daughter’s wedding, things go awry — perhaps in the best way she could imagine.
9. If you want to weep a little:
Some flings go on for a long, long time due to geographical and cultural constraints. At Connecticut’s “Bagel Beach” in the 1950s, 12-year-old narrator Molly sees her Aunt Bec’s anxiety but doesn’t know immediately that it stems in part from her endless affair with a married man — until an accident reveals part of the truth.
10. If you adore Shakespeare in love:
Amilia Bassano Lanier (who really existed) may have had an affair with William Shakespeare and, if she did, might have had Shakespeare’s love child. Sharratt, however, concocts something more surprising: What if Amilia was Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady,” and what if she actually authored many of his best works?