Hello friends! I’m a massive fan of the romance genre.. but that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when I was scared to venture into the genre, which can seem pretty intimidating at first glance, as it is massive, with many authors and sub-genres, and can be hard to navigate. I’ve wanted to make an intro to romance post for a while, and I think the time has finally come. I think, given that romance has helped many of us survive during the pandemic, now is a good time to celebrate all the wonderful books and authors I love.
Today’s post is, first and foremost, aimed at those who are unsure where to start or who are overwhelmed by the genre. But the same time, those who are already well-versed in the genre may also find this a useful tool to find some new books. Because of the scope of this post, I couldn’t talk about the books in detail, but I did share why I love them and also linked you to goodreads where you can get better acquainted with the novels.
adult paranormal romance
Psy-Changeling: A lot of you will recall my love for this fantastic series because I honestly can’t shut up about it. 😅 But can you blame me when it’s one of my all time favorite pieces of media. (Want to know about the rest? Click here!) In any case, if you are looking for an immersive, complex fantasy series with sci-fi elements and a new couple in each novel, Psy-Changeling is for you.
women of the otherworld: While this series is far from the quality of Psy-Changeling in my opinion, it’s still a fun fantasy series I’d wholeheartedly recommend to those of you who like shape-shifters, witches, and other supernatural folk.
Hidden Legacy: Someone please explain to me how successful authors like Ilona Andrews can be given such basic, awful covers. Unacceptable. In any case, I loved the original trilogy and I can’t wait to continue on my journey through this series and Ilona Andrews’ backlist. Besides the entertaining family dynamics, I also loved that it took some time for the main couple to find common ground, compromise, and get together.
Peter Darling: Anyone who wants to read a novella-length fantasy romance should dive into Peter Darling, a Peter Pan retelling where Peter and Hook realize that they may have more in common than they originally thought. An absolutely lovely novella with Own Voices trans rep and a male/male romance.
mysteries with a romance
lady julia grey: Deanna Raybourn is an excellent author; she grabs a hold of all my attention and doesn’t let go until the very end of her books. I adored the romance she built up during the course of multiple books, but even more so, I’m incredibly impressed by her mysteries. They are complex and fascinating, and I was never able to figure them out ahead of time.
Every Breath: The Every Breath trilogy is criminally underrated, so please, if you’re interested pick it up and support this wonderful author! Every Breath is a contemporary Sherlock Holmes retelling with a lovely (m/f) romance between the main characters – one of them a stand-in for Holmes, the other for Watson.
silence for the dead: For those who enjoy spirits and hauntings, Simone St. James’ novels are a must-read. They always contain a romance – some more prominent than others – and they also have a captivating plot, with some creepy ghosts and supernatural occurrences thrown in.
The Naturals: While the romance is not at the center of The Naturals, it is significant enough that I felt it okay to recommend it here. I really loved the mysteries in the series, and while the main character ended up with the guy I wasn’t rooting for (boo!) I grew to like their relationship by the end.
happier ya romances
LOVE FROM A TO Z: I feel like sometimes YA Contemporaries, even if they are mainly romances, are marketed as Coming of Age novels, but that is not the case with Love For A to Z, aka one of the best romances I’ve ever read. What I love about this book – besides the fantastic characters – is that it effortlessly mixes together the romance with serious topics, such as Islamophobia. I cannot recommend this enough.
GEEKERELLA: This is a Cinderella retelling that does an excellent job of using materials from the original and putting them into a modern setting. I loved how light and fun this novel was, and I also loved that it focused quite a bit on friendship.
COLOR OUTSIDE THE LINES: I have mixed feelings about most anthologies I’ve read, but not about Color Outside the Lines, a short story collection about interracial couples and the issues they face. This is a quick but nonetheless impactful read that I loved from start to finish.
DATING SARAH COOPER: While the fact that Dating Sarah Cooper features a couple that pretends to be interested in women – for attention and peer pressure, respectively – it doesn’t brush off the protagonists’ actions as normal. Instead, the author makes the characters realize how wrong they were to do this even as they grapple with their sexuality and their very real interest in each other. If you like friends to lovers, this book is for you.
I WANNA BE WHERE YOU ARE: I Wanna Be Where You Are follows a girl who decides to break her mother’s rules in order to follow her dreams. Much of the novel takes place during a road trip to a ballet audition, on which she ventures with her annoying neighbor and his dog, and it is as wholesome as that sounds.
TASH HEARTS TOLSTOY: If you are looking for a romance with an asexual heroine, Tash Hearts Tolstoy is the way to go. Similarly to I Wanna Be Where You Are, Tash is also about following your dreams, as the novel follows Tash and her friends who have created a web series which is suddenly nominated for a prominent online award. With the unexpected amount of popularity come unexpected challenges, however, which put a strain on Tash.
QUEENS OF GEEK: It’s been ages since I last talked about Queens of Geek on here, even though it’s a fun, quick YA Contemporary that follows two couples. On the one hand, we have an m/f best friends to lovers story, and on the other, a lovely f/f romance. I’ve never been to something like Comic Con, but I had so much fun reading about the characters’ adventures on this fictionalized version of the event.
FOOLISH HEARTS: If you want a soft romance with a sunshine, life-of-the-party boy and a shy, more cautious girl then Foolish Hearts is for you. I loved the focus on friendship – new and old ones both – and had a blast reading this novel.
heavier ya romance
CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT: As the category title above suggests, Call It What You Want is a rather heavy read. The protagonists are two characters who – for different reasons – are outcasts in their high school and who never thought that they had anything in common. Yet, during the course of the novel, a tentative friendship forms between these two, which later turns into a romance.
SICK KIDS IN LOVE: I feel like putting Sick Kids in Love into the heavier category isn’t the best choice – after all, for the most part, this is a light, joyful novel about first love – but this is where I had space left in the post, lmao. In any case, while the novel covers some heavier topics, it is not at all sad and it’s an incredibly quick read.
ALL IN PIECES: I love this book with all my heart, and it makes me so sad that it’s criminally underrated. While it has many heartwarming parts – such as the romance, the main characters’ friends, as well as her love for her little brother – it is overall a difficult read. The protagonist’s father is neglectful while her aunt has written her off as a bad influence for her brother. At the same time, the novel does offer a lot of hope for the future, and is too beautiful to miss.
THE HENNA WARS: This is one of my 2020 reads, and while it is sweet for the most part, it also deals with heavy topics, like the main character’s parents refusing to acknowledge her sexuality, or with her being being outed at her school.
THE KISS QUOTIENT: I love Helen Hoang’s novels, and I can’t wait to read her future works. Her romances always make me fall in love with the characters – including the supporting cast – and root for the couple. If you are okay with steamier romances, The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test are for you.
A GIRL LIKE HER: Talia Hibbert is one of my favorite authors without a doubt, so I had a hard time choosing what to recommend by her, but I think A Girl Like Her is my favorite romance by her. I love that we have a grumpy heroine and a sunshine hero – which is a switch of the usual roles – and the heroine doesn’t have to change to be accepted and loved.
A PRINCESS THEORY: Alyssa Cole is another big favorite of mine, and her Reluctant Royals series is a must read for contemporary romance fans, especially for those who like royals in their romances.
THE RIGHTS SWIPE: I read the second book in this series first – which an excellent body guard romance, if anyone is interested in that – but I’d also recommend The Right Swipe, the first in the series. The heroine is a badass business woman whom I loved reading about.
WELL MET: Another sunshine x grumpy romance, this one with a grumpy hero and an optimistic heroine. I had so much fun reading this novel – even though I was frustrated by the hero’s actions a couple of times – so I’d gladly recommend it.
SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT: For those who are looking for a quiet, extremely slow-burn novel, I recommend Something To Talk About. This f/f romance follows a Hollywood writer and her assistant who are mistaken for a couple at the red carpet. While they haven’t really viewed each other like that, the rumors and photos make both of their minds go there, which leads to their relationship slowly but surely changing.
YOU HAD ME AT HOLA: This follows Jasmine and Ashton who play leads in a new, bilingual rom-com. While they try to keep their distance from each other – they both have their reasons for that – ultimately, their chemistry proves to be too strong to ignore.
BOYFRIEND MATERIAL: If you are looking for an entertaining romance novel with fake dating and fun characters, Boyfriend Material is the book you should reach for. It is one of my favorite books of 2020, and I cannot recommend it enough.
ACT LIKE IT: Lucy Parker is yet another massive favorite of mine – her novels always cheer me up, no matter how many times I’d read them and Act Like It is my favorite by her. Again, this is a classical example of the sunshine and grumpy trope with some hate-to-love and fake dating thrown into the mix, aka the perfect combination of tropes.
THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB: I feel like I don’t love this book – and the whole series – as much as everyone else, but nonetheless, I find it/them entertaining and relaxing to read. At parts laugh-out-loud funny, at other parts emotional, The Bromance Book Club is a rather solid rom-com.
YOU DESERVE EACH OTHER: I feel like I liked the male lead way less than everyone else, but still, I found this novel about an engaged couple at war over who will break their engagement first delightful.
NEW ORLEANS RUSH: Ah, here we go, another good example of the sunshine x grumpy trope, and a really wholesome one at that. New Orleans Rush features great sibling dynamics, discussions about toxic family, as well as an adorable, tentative romance.
adult historical romance
THE DUCHESS DEAL: I’ve read – and loved – a considerable amount of Tessa Dare’s novels (look, another big favorite of mine!) but I think The Duchess Deal remains my favorite by her. I love how Dare mixes humorous scenes with the more emotional and serious ones, and I always have so much fun while reading her novels.
FORBIDDEN: This remains the only book I’ve read by Beverly Jenkins, but damn, it is a great one! Jenkins puts a lot of effort into painting a realistic, clear picture of the era she portrays, which is something I loved.
COLD HEARTED RAKE: Kleypas is a fantastic author – her historical romances always transport me back in time and make me root for the main couple. I love that she concentrates heavily on family and friendship, and shows the importance of both, not just the romance.
THE DUCHESS WAR: I’m pretty sure I’ve read all but one of Courtney Milan’s full-length novels, but I still haven’t had enough of them. The Duchess War is one of my favorites by her, as the romance in this one completely stole my heart.
ya fantasy or sci fi with romance
CRUEL BEAUTY: While I read Cruel Beauty ages ago, I still remember being enthralled by this enemies to lovers romance. I loved the characters and the world, and I think this is one of the best retellings I’ve ever read.
THE DARKEST STAR: My shameful confession is that I still haven’t read the third and final novel in this series, but I will! If you enjoyed the Lux series by JLA, you’ll likely also enjoy this one even more, as the mood and writing are similar, but the plot and the romance are better written, in my opinion.
THESE BROKEN STARS: This hate-to-love romance, filled to the brink with excellent banter and sass, is one of my favorite books ever. I loved that while the world is fascinating – and the plot too – the focus was on the romance and on the characters.
CRIER’S WAR: Shameful confession #2 is that I haven’t read the sequel to Crier’s War either, but I’m really-really excited for that. Anyhow, I love the slow-burn, enemies to lovers f/f romance in Crier’s War, and I can’t wait to see these girls again.
Do you read a lot of romance? Have romance books helped you during the pandemic? Who are your favorite romance authors? Books? Sub-genres? Share, share! I’m always open to new recommendations.