Article Line Long1
Design

The Case For The Romance Novel And How Its Enhanced My Life (+ 30 Of My Favorites)

Ladies, get ready to bookmark this post. This is more of a life/marriage rec/hack than it is a “book review”. These are romance novels, the ones typically relegated to “bored housewife” status, the likes of Hallmark movies and I have zero shame (nay, pride even) when discussing my love of these. And jokes on them, because these books have not only highly enhanced my/our life and marriage but are now sweeping the bestsellers lists. SWEEPING. And I’m here for the good versions of all of them. Some are bodice-ripping, many involve Dukes, some rom-comy, often erotic or steamy, always extremely enjoyable, easy to read, with a no-fail happy ending. Also, Mom/Dad (and my brothers), you can go ahead and click out of this post right now!

It’s full circle really. I grew up glued to romance novels, starting with V.C. Andrews graduating quickly to Sidney Sheldon and Danielle Steel. Years later, I got my degree in comparative literature and history and opted for Margaret Atwood and Paul Auster and the likes for decades. And yet here we are, reading historical romance novels called “Some Like It Scot” and telling the world about it, shamelessly.

Wait, Why Are Romance Novels So Great?

  1. They are extremely comforting, which is natural anti-anxiety. Think rom-coms like The Proposal or How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days. The formula requires a happy ending – so no need to worry AT ALL (like you do with some thrillers). You know the tropes and you know it will all work out therefore you can rely on them to put you in a good mood during stress. The good ones I’m recommending have a fresh (ish) take on the tropes while sticking within the formula. BTW you know what else is formulaic? All superhero stories, all action movies, or Patterson thrillers. So once again I think it’s hilarious that the male-run publishing industry thinks that these should be somehow relegated to just fluff because they mostly talk about relationships and feelings – there is so much skill and art in good story-telling, regardless of the genre.
  2. They help you sleep. These are highly enjoyable, but they aren’t as gripping or anxiety-inducing as many page-turning thrillers (which I also love) so I find that every night I SO look forward to snuggling into bed, but they don’t keep me up with a “But who dunnit??” rumination.
  3. They can take the place of a good TV show/social media and wine for me at night. I reach for both of those things after work, desperate to turn my brain off into “sleep mode.” But those things for me can be unhealthy if not moderated. So instead I opt for a novel after the kids are down (or before when it’s not my turn) because I’m so excited to get back to my book (will they or won’t they??). It’s dramatically reduced my TV/social media and wine consumption.
  4. They will put you in the mood and I can almost guarantee (from experience) that they’ll reignite your sex life. This is specifically useful for those of us in long-term monogamous relationships. You know what I’m talking about. All of these below recs are full of great chemistry, a lot of tension/buildup/almost kissing, and yes many have steamy descriptive scenes that will provoke a partner nudge that will likely not be rejected. Brian has totally endorsed this post, BTW. He’s a big fan of this hobby of mine.

Romance Novels Are Having A HUGE Moment

You don’t need to be embarrassed or feel shame if you read these – you are NOT alone. Women fiction writers and literal romance novelists are absolutely killing it right now on all the bestsellers lists and I feel such glee for all of them. DOMINATING. The publishing industry, like most, was/is run by men who I’m sure discounted the power of this female-oriented type of reading enjoyment, prioritizing the James Pattersons and Dean Koontz of the world (both of which I also love), but LOOK. AT. US.

My #1 Tip…

Also, you might want a Kindle. Some of these titles/covers can be embarrassing to buy from a store, open in the mail, or hold on the sofa/beach. I love my Kindle, but if you read in the bath/pool/lake then get the waterproof one (I wish I had the new one). The best part is that you can read at night without the need for a lamp, or waking your partner and you can immediately download the next book as soon as you wrap the last one. I was super anti-Kindle until lockdown where we couldn’t go to stores or get deliveries. I still buy hard copies of psychology/business books, but for all my fiction where I don’t think I’m going to reference it again, I’m full-Kindle now.

Contemporary Rom-Com Style

Think Dirty Dancing or How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. These might be coming of age, first love, friends to lovers, enemy to lovers, roommates to lovers, fake boyfriends, workplace romance – all my favorite tropes are here – set in the last 5-15 years. Here are my absolute favorites:

Beach Read (Kindle + Local) | Happy Place (Kindle + Local) | People We Meet on Vacation (Kindle + Local) | Book Lovers (Kindle + Local)

Emily Henry: Let EmHen be your gateway romance novel drug – witty, smart dialogue, and a fresh yet relatable romantic perspective (Emhens unite). I loved her books in this order: Beach Read, Happy Place, People We Meet on Vacation, and Book Lovers. Also if you are anti-Kindle, these books don’t have bodice-ripping Fabio on the front and you can easily read them in public. With EmHen you’ll get nostalgia, romance, so much build-up, and a few steamy scenes (but not crazy graphic).

Every Summer After (Kindle + Local) | Meet Me At The Lake (Kindle + Local)

Carley Fortune: The PERFECT summer read/s. Carley sweeps you away with her first love nostalgia vibe that draws me in instantly and creates a really beautiful world you want to be in. She is a former publishing editor that took a stab at writing her own and then BOOM bestsellers list (I love stories like that). She only has two books but I loved them both SO MUCH. Brian actually read Every Summer After because the fiction book he is writing is set in a lake town with dual timelines. He admitted that he liked it. They are so good (and I’m not alone, all over the bestsellers list – her second is Meet Me At The Lake).

Something Wilder (Kindle + Local) | Love and Other Words (Kindle + Local) | The Soulmate Equation (Kindle + Local) | The Unhoneymooners (Kindle + Local)

Christina Lauren: Two friends (Christina and Lauren) who pound out (NPI) and write so many fun romance novels, seemingly so fast. I always enjoy them as extremely quick, easy reads. I think I’ve read 15 or so of their books now and counting. I loved Something Wilder, Love and Other Words, The Soulmate Equation, and The Unhoneymooners. You can’t not enjoy these books and you might finish one easily in two days (aka excellent vacation reads).

Colleen Hoover: It seems crazy not to immediately call her out because I’ve read four of her books and they are GREAT. I LOVE her own personal story and think that the themes in her novels are important to explore. However, they are dark and often make me feel unsettled (themes of domestic abuse, addiction, death) so they aren’t my go-to if I need a mood boost (but great for a plane trip – you won’t put it down and more gripping than others).

The Love Hypothesis (Kindle + Local) | Stuck With You (Kindle) | Love On The Brain (Kindle + Local) | Below Zero (Kindle)

Ali Hazelwood: Ali seemingly created a whole sub-genre called STEMenist fiction (women working and finding romance in the science fields). I’ve really liked these: The Love Hypothesis, Stuck With You, Love on the Brain, and Below Zero.

The Wedding Date (Kindle + Local) | The Proposal (Kindle + Local) | The Wedding Party (Kindle + Local)

Jasmine Guillory: Wedding Date Series (I think there are five, I loved the first three) – Entertaining from page one, so much “almost kissing” and steamy in such a good way. Also, I appreciated the inside perspective of what it might be like to be a black woman dating a white guy. I highly enjoyed them all.

Fix Her Up (Kindle + Local) | It Happened One Summer (Kindle + Local) | Hook Line and Sinker (Kindle + Local) | Secretly Yours (Kindle + Local)

Tessa Bailey: These are swift, fun, and steamy with brawny dudes if that’s your thing (it is mine). These lean more Hallmark movie-ish and I couldn’t put them down. Fix Her Up, It Happened One Summer, Hook, Line, and Sinker (lots of “the rich city girl meets the brawny small-town fisherman” – a trope I highly enjoy). I just downloaded Secretly Yours and I’m excited to start.

The Friend Zone (Kindle + Local) | The Happy Ever After Playlist (Kindle + Local) | Part of Your World (Kindle + Local)

Abby Jimenez: Former food network star (**Could this be my future, too?**). These are sweet, so fun, and feel like people/friends you know. The Friend Zone, The Happy Ever After Playlist, and Part Of Your World. I think I’ve read a few more and will continue to pick them up (not super steamy but lots of buildup). I just started Part Of Your World and am enjoying it a lot (but fairly tame so far).

The Spanish Love Deception (Kindle + Local) | Dating Dr. Dil (Kindle + Local) | The Hating Game (Kindle + Local) | The Roommate (Kindle + Local) | Seven Days in June (Kindle + Local) | The Bodyguard (Kindle + Local) | That Summer (Kindle + Local) | Big Summer (Kindle + Local) | Shipped (Kindle + Local) | Things We Never Got Over (Kindle + Local)

Others I loved: The Spanish Love Deception, Dating Dr. Dil, The Hating Game (LOVED), and The Roommate (LOVED, so steamy). Tia Williams’ Seven Days in June – So good, excited about her next book. The Bodyguard by Katherine Center, That Summer and Big Summer (both by Jennifer Weiner), Shipped, and Lucy Score’s books (I liked Things We Never Got Over, the first one in the series but couldn’t get through the second one).

You might wonder where is Sally Rooney, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Jojo Moyes, and Emma Straub. I’ve read almost all of them and love them, but I feel like the whole world recommends them and they don’t fall into the “romance genre” as much so they aren’t the focus of this list. But also Curtis Sittenfeld’s romantic comedy (huge fan here) was wonderfully written but missed a few romance marks for me (aka very little steam).

Historical Romance

Y’all. Get ready to be transported into a time where women couldn’t own property, dukes had to be tamed (such rakes!), and corsets came undone fast (warning – you may accidentally start calling your partner “my lord,” true story). I love living in this fantasy world and they are far more entertaining and fresh than they were in my youth (and more graphic in a fun way). I personally don’t love the long drawn out series (I loved Bridgerton the TV series, but not the books as much) and I kissed many, many a toad to wittle down this list. I learned a lot about the women’s suffrage movement, what it was like to not own property even as a woman of The Ton, and even a few new moves:) Yes, some of these can be problematic and hyper-cliche re: cisgender roles which is why I love the more recently written ones that take a more feminist bent.

Bringing Down The Duke (Kindle + Local) | A Rogue of One’s Own (Kindle + Local) | Portrait of a Scotsman (Kindle + Local)

Hands down my favorite – Evie Dunmore: SO GOOOD and if you are new to this genre start with this series. Her writing is so quick, smart, and totally feminist ( + very steamy). I can’t recommend this series more: Bringing Down The Duke, A Rogue of One’s Own, and Portrait of a Scotsman. I don’t think I’ve ever preordered a book before until this lady…

My Fake Rake (Kindle + Local) | Would I Lie To The Duke (Kindle + Local) | Waiting For A Scot Like You (Kindle + Local) | An Education in Pleasure (Kindle) | Forever Your Earl (Kindle + Local) | Scandal Takes The Stage (Kindle + Local) | From Duke Til Dawn (Kindle + Local)

Eva Leigh: This is where I started and I really liked these: My Fake Rake, Would I Lie To The Duke, and Waiting for a Scot Like You – ALL GREAT/fun/fast and hard to put down. Really good, steamy stuff. If you want to go straight to some mood-enhancing stuff, download An Education in Pleasure and try not to get turned on. I also read and liked: Forever Your Earl, Scandal Takes The Stage, and From Duke Til Dawn.

To Have And To Hoax (Kindle + Local) | To Love And To Loathe (Kindle + Local)

Martha Waters: To Have and to Hoax and To Love and to Loathe. Both of these were fun and rompy, but could be frustrating at times (so many set pieces that felt silly) but I still really liked them.

Bombshell (Kindle + Local) | The Rogue Not Taken (Kindle + Local) | One Good Earl Deserves Another (Kindle + Local)

Sarah MacLean: This lady can really write tension and love scenes: Bombshell (LOVED THIS SO MUCH), The Rogue Not Taken, and One Good Earl Deserves Another are all my favorites.

Who’s That Earl (Kindle + Local) | The Duke Undone (Kindle + Local) | It’s Getting Scot In Here (Kindle + Local) | Mr. Malcolm’s List (Kindle + Local) | A Lady’s Guide To Mischief and Mayhem (Kindle)

One-offs that I also loved: Who’s That Earl, The Duke Undone, It’s Getting Scot in Here, Mr. Malcolm’s List, and A Lady’s Guide To Mischief and Mayhem.

If you like the more drawn-out ones then yes, of course, Bridgerton or Outlander are good but I like the short fun fast ones that are less epic romances and more juicy.

For Those Ready To Dabble In Erotica

Now to the fun stuff – which are honestly at times can be problematic (think 50 Shades of Grey dynamic) so read the description to make sure you are up for it (I’ve started a few that were a bit too hardcore for me). It’s hard to say that I loved any of these, but did I enjoy them and couldn’t put them down? Yes. So there’s that.

Bared to You (Kindle + Local) | The Belle And The Beard (Kindle + Local) | The Rivals (Kindle + Local) | Off The Clock (Kindle + Local)

LGBTQAI+ Focused

One Last Stop (Kindle + Local) | Boyfriend Material (Kindle + Local) | Red White And Royal Blue (Kindle + Local) | Love And Other Disasters (Kindle + Local)

Y’all, I have such compassion for my LGBTQAI+ friends that sit through so many hetero-romantic comedies, but lately, there seems to be way more non-hetero rom-com books being published. Here are some that are meant to be really good that I have downloaded but not read yet: One Last Stop, Boyfriend Material, Red, White, & Royal Blue, and Love and Other Disasters.

What Else????

I have a huge summer reading list (not all romances, I’m starting The Guest after I finish my current novel) but I’d love any romance novels that I’m missing (which is likely A LOT). That’s the good news! It seems endless in a good way. Like just when I think I’ve read them all I’ll find a new writer who I love and dive in. I’ve read The Court of Thorns and Roses (the first one) and I’d be open to others dabbling in the fantasy genre if they are recommended. Let’s dish in the comments about others you love.

0 0 votes
Article Rating

WANT MORE OF WHERE THAT CAME FROM?

Never miss a single post and get a little something extra on Saturdays.

197 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
🥰 Rusty
9 months ago

Bahahaha!!!🤣🤣
Good on you! Steamy hath no shame!
As an ex-English & English Literature teacher, my initial reactiin was muchly to judge… BUT … I might just try one!😏
When I was @ 19 when I sat on a bus for more than 2,000km, next to a very large, middle-aged woman who devoured romance novels. Needless to say, I read one on that bus trip. Yet, not ever, since.
Emily… pray tell, does Brian now adopt a Scottish accent at certain times?! LOL 👀
After your pandemic foray into Oulander, and my own addiction to said TV series, I wonder … hhmmm???

Emma
9 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Why down votes?

Vid
9 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Why do we need to know about this woman’s weight? Seems unnecessarily rude.

RM
9 months ago
Reply to  Vid

When I read “very large, middle-aged woman who devoured romance novels” I immediately pictured a woman completely confident in herself and owning her sexuality and I thought “you go girl!!!”

🥰 Rusty
9 months ago
Reply to  RM

Indeed, she was a hoot!

SR
9 months ago
Reply to  🥰 Rusty

Then lead with that, not her weight. Your perspective on her body size isn’t what is important about her.

Emilie
9 months ago

I really enjoyed The Flatshare, by Beth O’Leary. I haven’t read a lot of romance novels, but your post has convinced me to give some a try. (After my mother died, I worked on finding some “happy books” to read. It really made for a happy reading experience! and seems in the spirit of your post. The Flatshare was part of that effort, but also some non-romance books that I really loved: A man called Ove, A psalm for the wild-built, Nothing to see here.)

amber
9 months ago
Reply to  Emilie

I’ve enjoyed all of Beth O’Leary’s books!

Emilie
9 months ago
Reply to  Emilie

Also, I saw you mention fantasy… I’m not a big fantasy reader, but I recently read “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik and LOVED it. It hit so many buttons: strong female lead, interesting historical setting, a romance thrown in, and just really awesome writing and fun plot.

Diana
9 months ago
Reply to  Emilie

Emilie, I agree that Spinning Silver was awesome, and I loved Naomi Novik’s Uprooted even more 🙂 The romance was a little prominent and steamy in that one. And I bet you would enjoy The Bear and the Nightingale series!

Vanessa
9 months ago
Reply to  Emily

I do the exact same thing to relax at night— I have for years & I’m an Eng Lit teacher- sometimes the brain needs a break. I highly suggest a few authors I’ve come across in the last few years— I really liked “Unmarriageable” which is a Pakistani spin on Pride and Prejudice, all of Helen Huongs books (like The Bride Test) and Sara Desai’s series too. Reading these fun romance books about different cultures actually felt like relaxing while also getting an education on food, celebration and family culture. I highly suggest!!

HH
9 months ago
Reply to  Vanessa

Love, love Helen Huong’s books and Unmarriageable!

8 months ago
Reply to  Emily

Uprooted by Naomi Novik too! Also The Wolf and the Woodsman

Julie S
9 months ago
Reply to  Emilie

YES absolutely love these two stand-alone books by Naomi Novik. I just re-read Uprooted and I virtually never reread things! Going to do that with Spinning Silver in another year or two, just finished it last year and want more details to fade in my memory before I take it out again 🙂 But WOW.

Emilie
9 months ago
Reply to  Emilie

Also, The Keeper of Lost Things has a nice romance (although I wouldn’t classify it as a romance novel) and a happy ending.

Christina
9 months ago

Oh my gosh, I’m so here for this. Totally agree on how obsessed I am with romance novels. Also, am I making it up that you had a previous post that was similar to this that’s no longer on the site?? I was looking for it a couple months ago to find recs, but couldn’t find it and swore it was there. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Anyway, I second all of these (and adding the few I haven’t read to my TBR list). Also wanted to add Icebreaker by Hannah Grace. SUCH good story telling and she really builds out the whole friend group personalities/dynamics. It’s just sooo good.

🥰 Rusty
9 months ago
Reply to  Emily

It’s so fun to read ypur ‘gab’ about stuff you love!😍

Christina
9 months ago
Reply to  Emily

Love this so much!! I must have dreamt that you’d written this post bc it’s so in line with the blog. Perfect content, as always!! 🥰🥰

Christina
9 months ago

Based on the ones you’ve recommended that I’ve enjoyed, I need to read the rest of your recommendations. One of my grandmas was a romance reader so I read a bunch of her books in my teens and early twenties when visiting her, but then didn’t get back to the genre on my own until my early 40s, 7 or 8 years ago. I read a lot of other things too but when COVID hit romance books were the only ones I could get through for a year or so. Knowing everything will work out really helps when life around you has suddenly become much more anxiety-provoking! I recently read two books that aren’t marketed as romance but really are, with a historical, LGBTQAI+, mystery plus magic genre mélange that is so good: Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light and A Restless Truth. A Marvellous Light has two Edwardian Englishmen, one a magician and the other not, falling for each other as they try to unravel a curse. The steam is intense, plus there’s some nice description and discussion of William Morris wallpaper and other design elements of country homes. The sequel, A Restless Light, has the younger sister of the… Read more »

Alyce
9 months ago

I’ve been an avid romance novel reader since my teens when I would literally steal the books from the public library because I was too embarrassed to check them out. And read them in secret before returning them because they were not appropriate reading material (fellow former Mormon here👋🏾) One author I think you’ll love based on who you already like is Courtney Milan. She has feminist historical fiction that with POCs in believable plot lines, and contemporary romances with LGBTQ characters. And she’s just a really good writer! Above average for the genre.

Adele
9 months ago
Reply to  Alyce

I second Courtney Milan! Lots of great recs here, many I’ve read, some I haven’t. Thanks for being a proud and loud romance reader.

susanmarie
9 months ago

Nora Goes off Script by Annabel Monaghan is so good, up there with Emily Henry. Also Kevin Kwan’s books are fun to read, the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy and Sex and Vanity as well.

Danielle
9 months ago
Reply to  susanmarie

I loved Nora Goes Off Script!!

Hannah
9 months ago
Reply to  Emily

Came here to also recommend Nora Goes Off Script. You will love it!

Sarah
9 months ago
Reply to  susanmarie

Came here to say Nora too; just finished and loved it. The author has a new one out, Same Time Next Summer, that’s next on my list.

Julie S
9 months ago
Reply to  Sarah

Also good, I just finished it 🙂

Maggie
9 months ago
Reply to  susanmarie

I just read Nora Goes off Script and LOVED it so much that I read it again. Her second book is good…but just regular good!

Pam
9 months ago

The ice planet barbarians series is SO good! They are self published and are well-written. The author is great at world-building, so it’s always comforting to jump back in (there are tons of books!). Just read the first one- you’ll be hooked!

kristin
9 months ago
Reply to  Pam

I wanted to mention this one too. It’s become my comfort read (I can get the audiobooks from the library) and I listen while doing puzzles or driving or anything really. They’re really well written. I went into them thinking they were going to be joke-y but they were not!

Monica
9 months ago

I’m so happy to read a post about boooks! I’d love to ee more of these in the future. And if Brian wants ocontribute a series of guest posts about his writing program, his writing journey, his reading adventures, that wouldbe great, too. I don’t read a lot of romance novels but can understand the appeal of the genre and of an books of the “unputdownable” variety. I think Steve Martin said those are those are his favorite kind of books. Back in 2010, I spent the summer in India and got addicted to Mills and Boone books. They are slim wisps books that were sold at outdoor markets lover the city of Chennai (used copies) where I was staying and I found them to very comforting. So on your next trip to a Commonwealth country, you can pick some up. To escape, I tend to read adventure books like those by David Grann, and ones that might be recommended by Outside magazine writers. I also can’t get enough of books about World War II and there are so many gripping stories like The Escape Artist, The Longest Winter, books by Erik Larson, etc. Thy make you want to learn… Read more »

Alice
9 months ago
Reply to  Emily

Yes, please!

Rachel
9 months ago
Reply to  Emily

There is definitely a genre of HGTV star meets local handyman series waiting for your expertise Em.

Kristen
9 months ago
Reply to  Rachel

Lucy Score has written several along these lines. Her most recent was “Maggie Moves On”. But, she has also written “Mr. Fixer Upper”, which is the HGTV personality/producer trope.

ay
9 months ago
Reply to  Kristen

I was going to say Lucy Score. Just found her books and looove them!

Rachel
9 months ago
Reply to  Emily

On second thought… it would be more lovable (and longer lasting as a series) if it were her producer who found love. Make the tv designer a bit ridiculous and then you can poke fun at the tropes in that world.

8 months ago
Reply to  Rachel

Check out The Honey Don’t List by Christina Lauren – that’s very much the plot of the book (with a bit of spoofy side-eye at Chip and Joanna)

Elaine
9 months ago
Reply to  Monica

Mills & Boon books were my teenage years (I think they’re available outside commonwealth countries, at least I don’t live in a commonwealth country). Such cheesy, script on repeat, read in a day or so and utterly satisfying little books!

Katie
9 months ago

the beck sisters series by Trish dollar- so good!
katharine center – the body guard
Lacie Walden’s books are good and feel like they could easily be hallmark Movies lol

Sarah
9 months ago
Reply to  Katie

I second these recs plus anything by Elin Hilderbrand. Love these recs from everyone! Huge reader of all genres and totally agree with your description of why these books are good for our souls and overall happiness-surprisingly so!

Emily
9 months ago

Ooooh- what a fun post! I was a life-long literary fiction girl until the pandemic (English minor in college!). Then, basically all media seemed far too heavy and serious and I went looking for something lighter. Emily Henry and Taylor Jenkins Reid have been my gateway authors to less serious reads. I’m back to bouncing around genres but every few books I throw in a modern romance and fly through it. Total mood booster and palate cleanser!
Thank you for this AMAZING list! I cannot wait to dig in. I don’t have anything to add except I recently finished The Bodyguard by Katherine Center and thought it was fun (but a little too PG).
Another author/ genre I discovered during the pandemic is Becky Chambers. She writes sci-fi and I found the Wayfarer series (there’s only 4 and they are very loosely connected) to be really wonderful. Escapist, smart, emotionally driven. Definitely not romance but they changed my life in the same way modern romance has!

Alice
9 months ago
Reply to  Emily

Thanks for the Becky Chambers recommendation. I can’t be coaxed to take up romance, but I’m on board for a good SF book (or series).

Cara Morrow
9 months ago

Thank you for this! “Thank You for Listening” by Julia Whelan and “Nora Goes Off Script” by Annabel Monahan are both MUSTS!

Catherine Barrett
9 months ago
Reply to  Cara Morrow

Yes!! Thank You For Listening is one of my favorites! (The first half might be my favorite half of a romance novel — great banter and laugh out loud funny.)

Liza
9 months ago

Judy Blume’s “Wifey.” Masterful filth!

Meg
9 months ago

Wait, you’ve only read the first book in the Court of Thorns and Roses series?? Would HIGHLY recommend continuing the series; it’s the worst book in the series. A Court of Mist and Fury is excellent romance wise and A Court of Silver Flames is the steamiest.

SSM
9 months ago
Reply to  Meg

Yes, this! For sure read the second book before you decide whether to finish the series. I was turned on to this genre (pun intended) by this series during the pandemic when all I needed was a mental break. My sanity and my marriage have both profited. Love this post, love you, for real you gotta read the second book.

Megan
9 months ago
Reply to  Emily

ACOTAR was the series that got me back into reading after a long dry spell. It’s definitely worth continuing!! I’m an English major who felt like I could only read certain things. Your post resonates with me so much!!

Carrie
9 months ago
Reply to  Emily

Yes yes yes! Don’t stop with Court of Thorns and Roses-the rest are so much better! Especially Court of Silver Flames.

Lia
9 months ago
Reply to  Meg

Yes, a Court of Silver Flames is SO GOOD!

Elizabeth
9 months ago
Reply to  Meg

I also started a response with the word “wait” and then thought, someone has got to have already told her to keep going with this series. For sure the first was the least engaging – mostly a prelude so to speak of all the good things to come! Excellent series.

DMA
9 months ago
Reply to  Meg

Also, her ensuing Crescent City is incredible – it’s still fantasy but set in a more contemporary world.

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yaros is similar vibes but even better + spicier IMO.

Kimberly
9 months ago
Reply to  Meg

Honestly, I found ACOTAR a fun read, but I was a worried about toxic masculinity/dubious consent in the series. Is it just me? This actually makes me hesitant to explore new romance (especially in a fantasy setting) novels.

kristin
9 months ago
Reply to  Meg

A Court of Mist and Fury is my all-time favourite book. I’ve read it 3xs now!

jen
9 months ago

These are my favorite kind of books, especially since 2016. I formed a Trashy Book Club during COVID and it’s the highlight of my month. My top reads/series:
-The Winston Brothers Series by Penny Reid. Well written, great dialogue and many lol moments.
-“The Sweet Spot” Amy Poppel. Multi generational story, great writing.
-Anything Lucy Score writes. She is wonderful! Her latest was “Things We Hide From the Light”. Loved it!
-Anything by Ilsa Maden-Mills. Her latest series starts with “Princess and the Player”

Deb
9 months ago
Reply to  jen

You would LOVE Penny Reid! Her smart romances are delightful.

Lynn
9 months ago
Reply to  jen

I love Penny Reid! I still think her first book, Neanderthal Seeks Human, is the best and funniest. It could be because the main character is neurodiverse like I am. SO funny! And, she wrote it to win a bet. Icing on the cake!

Pat
9 months ago

Someone to try—-Mary Kay Andrews. She is not only a very good writer but she knows how to tell a story. Even though it is soon obvious who the heroine will end up with, how she gets there is what grabs your interest.

Kelly
9 months ago

I really enjoyed the Lovelight Farms series by BK Borison. Good writing, easy reading, and compelling healthy (respectful, consensual) relationships!

Crystal
9 months ago

Romance novels are the best! I started with Rom coms a long time ago, stuck to historical for a decade and this year I dived deep into dark romance (always with a HEA).

HIGHLY recommend Kylie Kent for spicy reads that are light dark and Lauren Biel if you want to dive deep into dark!

Danielle
9 months ago

Here for this post!! Love romance books, and agree with you 💯 on all of the above. I personally have been staying up too late with my kindle and am reading physical books at the moment (covers be damned!). I’m also a HUGE Elin Hilderbrand fan, and also include some Carley Fortune-like romance. Happy reading, all!

Danielle
9 months ago
Reply to  Danielle

A couple more to add: Business or Pleasure by Rachel Lynn Solomon is SO good! Same for Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez, and The Idea of You by Robinne Lee is 🔥🔥🔥!

Amy
9 months ago
Reply to  Danielle

Yes! The Idea of You is a good one!

kimberly
9 months ago

Long time reader (your blog and romance), first time commenter.
’ve been reading romances since my introduction to author Kathleen Woodiwiss. If you enjoy the genre may I recommend the website, AllAboutRomance.com. Their reviews have introduced me to many new, great authors and also, saved money and disappointment from buying a book not to my taste. If you are interested in trying Urban/Fantasy, i highly recommend author Ilona Andrews. She has several different series but I would start with the Inkeeper Chronicles. Lucy Parker is fantastic contemporary author writing books set in London. Terrific blend of funny and steamy with hunky/grumpy heroes, and they’re all great.

Elaine
9 months ago
Reply to  kimberly

OMG I grew up on Kathleen Woodiwiss ‘Shanna’ and fell in love with Ruark Beauchamp immediately. Great historical romance.

Jeanne
9 months ago
Reply to  kimberly

I’ve been reading the comments waiting for someone to mention Kathleen Woodiwiss! The Wolf and The Dove and The Flame and The Flower still are my favorite romances. All of her books are fabulous and I highly recommend.

Britney Hardie
9 months ago
Reply to  kimberly

Shanna is my all time favorite. Kathleen Woodiwise could not write a bad book but Shanna transported me and started a life long love of pirates.

Sarah
9 months ago
Reply to  kimberly

Plus one for Lucy Parker!

Beth
9 months ago

I am an English major who works at a library and you hit most of my favorite authors here. Like others have said, these became my comforting go-to books during the pandemic. Other favorites include Kate Clayborn, Kelly Harms, Josie Silver, Beth O’Leary (some others mentioned her already but she deserves another mention), and Lynn Painter.

Lashley
9 months ago

Emily! I am shocked – SHOCKED – there’s no Chloe Liese mentioned here. Get thee to the Bergman brothers series ASAP.

jen
9 months ago
Reply to  Lashley

I love that series too! I whipped through them.
Also Beachreadsandbubbly on Insta has fab recommendations. She’s been my latest source for new authors. Love all these recommendations too!

Emi
9 months ago

Have you dabbled in the sports romance yet? Hockey and soccer have been my two sports of choice and there is no shortage! From the Bergman Brother series by Chloe Liese (soccer and hockey and neurodivergent rep**bonus she includes a playlist for each book**) to Elle Kennedy’s Off Campus and Briar U series to Amy Dawes’ Harris Brothers (all pro soccer players) to Samantha Whiskey Carolina Reapers series (10+ books). There is something for everyone. Lots of spice or closed door- you can find every trope. Happy hunting!!

Amy
9 months ago
Reply to  Emi

Mariana Zapata does sports as well.

Demet
9 months ago

Tessa Bailey’s latest Unfortunately Yours is better than Secretly Yours in that ”rich city girl meets the brawny small-town fisherman” kind of way. Also recommend Josie Silver’s One Night on the Island for romance. And Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient for steam plus romance with a neurodivergent heroine which made it different and interesting. And for pure steam, Christina Lauren’s earlier works, the Beautiful series, especially Beautiful Stranger. 😊

Jennifer
9 months ago
Reply to  Demet

Seconding Helen Hoang’s books. Definitely worth reading

Inga
9 months ago
Reply to  Demet

I’m such a snob when it comes to books, but, after an NPR recommendation, I really, really enjoyed The Kiss Quotient. It’s steamy but also… smart? And I too loved reading about romance from a neurodivergent perspective. Years later, I still think of the main characters often.
Another romance novel (more than that, really) that I devoured is the Australian classic, The Thorn Birds. It might fall under the ‘dark’ or morally complicated category, but it’s oh so good, and I learned a lot about the Australian Outback while reading it.

MollyS
9 months ago

Based on site stats, this is going to be the “most engagement/visitors” post of 2023! Love this genre, too! Look forward to someday reading the Emily Brian novel. 😀

Laurie Fronhofer
9 months ago

eric jerome dickey

Roberta Davis
9 months ago

Emily, you turned me on to these when I was looking for something new to read and several of the more serious books I had immediately read prior to these were a little disappointing. I think Beach Read was the first one I read, but now have read all of Emily Henry’s novels. So now I love Emily Henry and Carley Fortune and Sally Thorne! And I liked Things We Never Got Over, too! As a kid, I read so many classics, and I would reread them over and over- and now I am rereading all of these, too! No more shame over reading these! 🙂

Roberta Davis
9 months ago

I just read A Perfect Vintage which was recently recommended to you by a reader. That was a good story, too!

Julie
9 months ago

Lisa Kleypas is hands down my favorite romance author! Start with the Wallflowers series and you’ll be hooked (somewhat steamy <3)

SB
9 months ago
Reply to  Julie

I’m here to second the Lisa Kleypas recommendation! I love her historical fiction as well as contemporary romances. The thing I love most about the well-written historical genre is often you’ll get a sense of how society developed in terms of industry and social change, and that helps me put some of the more contentious social and political things of today in perspective. It’s given me a lens into how things like women’s rights, the labor movement, railroads, or the accessibility of something like soap can impact society. This is a moment in time. We don’t know how it will all play out at this point but as fraught as the world can feel these days, odds are humanity will survive. In a very surprising way, they have given me hope when things feel hopeless.

Alyce
9 months ago
Reply to  Julie

I second Lisa Kleypas!

AC
9 months ago
Reply to  Julie

Here to second Lisa Keypas as well! Wallflowers followed by Ravenels series is such a fun progression in history, the characters, but also the author becoming more feminist in her writing. I also love Tessa Dare (haven’t seen mentioned yet) and Courtney Milan (have seen mentioned)!

Nc
9 months ago
Reply to  Julie

Lisa Kleypas is required reading in the historical romance genre.

Sarah
9 months ago
Reply to  Julie

I came here to say just that! An absolute gem of a writer. So smart and funny (and steamy!).

Tina
9 months ago

Ok I love this post so much. I love all your posts but especially this one (I’m in a romance novel loving phase myself – I second all the things here!). Also as other have said – Nora Goes Off Script is amazing – I devoured it in like 24 hrs (I am loving the woman no longer in her twenties with kids books coming out lately – I relate!). But I also super highly recommend Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola (modern, fun, writing is amazing!) She has a book with short love stories as well and is so talented. (P.s., both Bolu and Emily Henry were featured on NPRs It’s Been a Minute recently with their recs 😉

Natalie
9 months ago

Thanks for sharing. I would like to read romance novels, but being single, I feel lonely and sad when I read them, thus they are anxiety inducing for me. Perhaps if I do find someone with whom to share my life I will enjoy them more.

Kelly
9 months ago
Reply to  Natalie

<3

Jenni
9 months ago

Thanks for the recommendations, read many of these, and loved all! I would add Mhairi McFarlane to the list, even though theres not that much steam.

Beth
9 months ago

Kate Quinn is another historical romance fiction author with incredibly strong female characters and a good dose of steam and longing. She reminds me of Emily Henry in that her books have plenty of romance but don’t sacrifice depth and complexity when it comes to character and plot development. I’ve read and loved her novels set during WWII (The Alice Network is my favorite), and she’s also written some set during the Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance. Side note: I’m not particularly interested in WWII myself, so don’t let that be a deterrent – these books are really about the relationships and strong women fighting against the patriarchy with a lot of romance mixed in – eternal themes!

Beth
9 months ago
Reply to  Beth

And thank you so much for this post – should have been the first thing I said in my original post! You turned me on to Emily Henry in the first place, and I love her so much!

Char
9 months ago

Whoa, my “Want to Read” list on Goodreads just expanded by quite a few. Great post, Emily!

Sheila
9 months ago

I just want to put in a plug for using a local library if you have access to one. I didn’t check every book mentioned here but I went through a bunch and every one I checked was available at my local library in both paper book and ebook form.
Not sure these would be of interest because they certainly aren’t modern but I have a weakness for Georgette Heyer’s Regency and Georgian romances because her historical detail is accurate and the romances are sweet. She began writing in the 1920s and continued into the 1970s. Yes, I am old!

Irene
9 months ago
Reply to  Sheila

The Libby app is a great tool to access your library resources. I always check Libby first before I jump to Amazon.

Kelsey
9 months ago
Reply to  Sheila

I love most of Heyer’s work! Glad to see someone mentioned her.

maggie
9 months ago
Reply to  Sheila

PLEASE use the library. The more users, the more funding our libraries get. 100% essential for our communities.

Laura
9 months ago

I would recommend everyone check-out the Libby App (https://help.libbyapp.com/en-us/6103.htm) you can checkout kindle books or audiobooks (my fav) from the library!

Anonymous
9 months ago
Reply to  Laura

Oh gosh, Libby is wonderful for poors like me. Please don’t use it if you don’t have to. Waitlists will be terrible if a lot of Emily’s readers join. 🙁

Laura
9 months ago
Reply to  Anonymous

It’s all tied to your library card and local library, so the waitlists and number of book available are based on how many your library owns – the more users the better! It helps support local libraries with increased usage, which increases their funding.

Anonymous
9 months ago
Reply to  Laura

Yes, I know it’s all local. Hadn’t thought about usage increasing funding. I wonder how much of that funding goes back to getting more copies of the audio books…I guess I’m selfish when it comes to Libby books. They mean a lot to me, not only bc I can “afford” them, but also bc my eyes need a lot of rest. And as Emily said, financially supporting authors is so important too. I feel guilty for almost never buying books, even though I’m not able.

K
9 months ago
Reply to  Anonymous

Libraries aren’t free, they are paid for primarily with government tax dollars. If you pay taxes (and even if you don’t), you have the right to use your local library without any guilt. Just as you have a right to use your local playgrounds or pools. These amenities are not strictly for “poors” but for residents.

Caitlin
9 months ago
Reply to  K

Woohooo! Libraries are the best and librarians are superheros❤️

maggie
9 months ago
Reply to  Caitlin

Support the libraries! Everyone! Please! Libby app counts! No guilt.

Alice
9 months ago
Reply to  Laura

Thank you for this!!!

Carolyn Todd
9 months ago
Reply to  Laura

Check your local library’s website and see if they have partner libraries where you can borrow ebooks. In our state, some of the big municipal
libraries allow you to register and borrow ebooks from their collection. You can also Google and find libraries that share their ebook collections!

Sarah H
9 months ago

I love this post so much! I can’t believe nobody on here has mentioned Jilly Cooper yet – the absolute queen of the bonkbuster. Disney+ are doing an adaptation of Rivals next year I think, although Riders and The Man Who Made Husbands jealous are probably my favourite two.

Victoria
9 months ago
Reply to  Sarah H

Cooper did smaller books like Imogen and Octavia which can be a little steamy but not the great tome of the bonkbusters

Susy
9 months ago

I’m a romance novelist. May I share a link to your article on my Facebook author page?

Erika
9 months ago

Another reader who got hooked on this genre based on your recommendation of Evie Dunmore! I have also enjoyed most of TL Swan’s books, especially the Miles High series (4 books, each about a billionaire Miles brother who is attracted to a woman of substance— a fave trope). Thanks for all these recommendations! Perfect for an upcoming transatlantic flight!

Kristen
9 months ago
Reply to  Erika

The Takeover in the Miles High series is one of my all-time favorite books and one of the few I can re-read at any time.

Vivi
9 months ago

We seem to have almost identical taste in books (well-written, steamy books with fully developed characters set in interesting locations) and having read almost every book on this list you really can’t go wrong (except with Colleen Hoover—sorry, not a fan!). Additionally, all of Emily’s points about this genre are 100% correct. A book not on the list that you should check out is I Love You, I Hate You by Elizabeth Davis.

Marie
9 months ago

Great recs!!!! Loved so many of these. If you love romance and want some hilarious recs- def check out @smuttybookreviews on IG. She reads all levels of steam and writes highly entertaining reviews.

Elise
9 months ago

Thanks for the great list, Emily. I’ve read a lot of these but love the recommendations from you and others. I’ve put them on my wishlist and Hold/Later at the library (Kindle). I read a lot and often read 1-3 books per week so I always need lots of books. This genre is so relaxing and fun – something we all need during these times. One tiny remark: I cringe at the “during the pandemic” statements – sorry to say but it’s not over.

KS
9 months ago

I’m a lesbian but I have always been down for a good romance novel. But I have always felt a little embarrassed about reading them but like this post mentions, it’s a fun way to turn off my brain and relax. However, I didn’t know what I was missing until BookTok convinced me to start reading MM Romance (men on men) and OMG I have never looked back. Red, White and Royal Blue was my first and it was an amazing introduction …I was hooked! Something about taking all the old romance tropes and making them gay really does it for me. Personally, I can read these with no baggage – as in I don’t feel the need to check my feminism at the door to read a hot and steamy novel about hot and steamy guys doing hot and steamy things to each other. Some of these novels are downright smut, but I find them to be very palatable smut!?!?! So fun! So hot! These novels are overwhelmingly written by straight women, so there’s something incredibly relatable about the relationship dynamics. Yes, the covers are embarrassing, so I do read them on my Kindle. Strangely I have never found… Read more »

Meg
9 months ago

Surprised that it’s not on this list: The Kiss Quotient (and other books by Helen Hoang).
More Scottish escapism: The Highland Fling.
For spooky season: The Ex Hex. Like Tessa Bailey but witches. (This is central to the plot, but it’s not a fantasy novel.)
Not steamy but like Carley Fortune: The Summer of Broken Rules.
Historical romance that is only a little silly: Never Fall for Your Fiancee.
Another from an author on your list, Abby Jimenez: Yours Truly.
Really good body positivity and steam, plus the fantasy of falling for an actor: Spoiler Alert.
Similarly, good body positivity and reality show drama: One To Watch, If The Shoe Fits.
LGBTQ: Charm Offensive.
Yet more regular person falling in love with an actor: Nora Goes Off Script.
About book publishing (strangely common?): Meet Me in the Margins, By Any Other Name.
Charming teen romance: Catching Jordan.
Steamy/trashy: Hate to Love You, The Hunter.

Stacia
9 months ago

Jenny Colgan’s books! Sweet and realistic.

Stacia
9 months ago

… and FYI Jenny Colgan used to write Dr Who episodes! (Not that her romance books are in that genre…)

Yaay!! Also Nora Roberts! I always say you could write a dissertation on the evolution of young women in society based on her treatments over the years. SO funny to go back now and read her books from the 80s and see how much has chaged. But you’re right – it always ends happy. A perfect escape. Thanks so much for this post!

Pam
9 months ago

Kaitlyn and the Highlander!

Nissa
9 months ago

I concur with much of this list and am feverishly adding the ones I haven’t read to my must read list. I would add The Royal We and American Royals to this list. Thanks for this post… so much fun!

Nissa
9 months ago
Reply to  Nissa

Also, I really enjoyed In Five Years by Rebecca Searle.

Margaret
9 months ago

I love this post, thank you Emily! I started reading romance novels during a particularly stressful year in 2019 and they carried me through the pandemic. I’m still going strong with them 4 years later. I’m wondering if you use Goodreads or another app to track your reading? Would love to follow along and see what else you’re reading. Cheers!

Linda
9 months ago

You’ve got one book by Kate Canterbary, but what about her magnificent Walsh family series, starting with “Underneath it All”?
Also, anything by Rosalind James. Rugby players, anyone? The “Escape To New Zealand” series has ’em.
Keep up the great work!

Sarah
9 months ago
Reply to  Linda

The Walsh series is terrific – and ditto for all other Kate Canterbary books. She’s great with character and setting.