If you follow my book recs, you know I’m not really a huge romance person. My favorite genres tend to be thrillers, more literally reads, or non-fiction. But when I find a romance I really love, I go crazy for it. I have a few favorite authors I never miss an Emily Henry, I never miss a Christina Lauren. There are so many really cheesy romance contemporary romance novels out there, those aren’t for me.
If the main character is a messy young woman who needs saving by a man, I can’t do it. If it’s about a woman who moves from a big city to a small town and finds love (bonus points if she leaves her high powered job to become a florist or baker), I’m out. So if I am going to read romance, it needs to have more depth. I enjoy romance novels where the protagonist is a little bit older (I especially love a romance where the main characters are finding love in their 40s or 50s), where the woman has an interesting career, etc! These are all, for me, romance books that everyone will enjoy.
PS – 10 of my favorite books by women of color.
15 Romance Book Recommendations
in no particular order! Click the title of each book to shop!
The Hating Game, by Sally Thorne
This was one of my top reader book recommendations. A few of you had borderline harassed me (I say that lovingly!) on Instagram stories for not having read it. Now I see why as it’s just the cutest (and now it is a film, which I have to admit, I really enjoyed). It’s one of those perfect books to read by the beach on vacation (I read it in two days while in Asia) and perfect when you want a cute romcom type of book. I loved it.
It’s about two coworkers who are nemesis- and vying for the same promotion. They absolutely hate each other, until they don’t. It’s cute and fun (what enemies to lovers romance isn’t??) and so perfect for when you just want something light and feel good. I had major feel good vibes from this – and wished I had an office crush back when I read it.
The Idea of You, by Robinne Lee
I don’t really know where to begin with this book. Becca and Ashley (Spivey) had raved and raved (and raved!!) about it but it didn’t really sound very interesting to me. (Harry Styles fan fiction!? Meh. Note: this attitude was before his real life romance with Olivia Wilde. I loved that!) So I took the plunge and bought it. And oh wow. I got sucked in. It’s as spicy as everyone said it would be, but it’s also very sweet, and surprisingly well written.
A chic French divorcee takes her daughter to an August Moon (think One Direction) concert and through a series of events, begin a love affair. At first it’s just sex but it quickly turns into more – they legitimately fall in love. I really enjoyed this one. Robinne Lee is a great writer; I loved her descriptions of the fashion and the exotic locales the characters traveled to. It’s also v v steamy!
Happy Place, by Emily Henry
As mentioned above, I will always read whatever Emily Henry writes. She has such a knack for writing non-cheesy romance novels with complex, relatable characters you can’t help falling in love with. This one had a new trope: a couple who is broken up is fake dating for the sake of their friends.
Harriet (Harry to her friends) has an enviably close group of friends from college. Every summer, they spend a week up at their friend Sabrina’s house in Maine, but this is the last year as Sabrina’s father is selling the house. The six friends (all coupled off) retreat to the house, determined to have one last great trip together. But things are amiss… some friendships feel more strained, and Harry and her fiancé Wyn broke up five months ago, but are fake dating for the sake of their friends. Alternating between their younger years and present day, we see them fall in love, drift apart, and begrudgingly reunite for the trip. But will they find their way back to each other? You have to read it to find out!
Book Lovers, by Emily Henry
Everyone loves Beach Read by Emily Henry but I think this one is actually my favorite of her books. I loved this one because it poked fun of romance novels a bit, and also: the characters were so likable and relatable.
Our leading lady, Nora, is a book agent and a bit of a workaholic in her thirties. In her words, “the one who gets dumped” by her boyfriends who leave her to marry an innkeeper’s daughter or trade city living for a small town or the countryside. She is, as she puts it, the Christmas movie villain on the Peloton bike. (Same same) When her younger sister Libby suggests they take a break to spend a month in Sunshine Falls (just outside of Asheville), all bets are off. Especially when Nora runs into her nemesis Charlie Lastra (an equally workaholic book editor). Maybe he’s not as bad as he seems. This book is the perfect romance. It was a little cheesy at times but in an enjoyable way. I got choked up at the end which is not something that usually happens. I couldn’t love it more.
Meant To Be, by Emily Giffin
I think this may be my all time favorite Emily Giffin book, which is saying a lot as I’ve loved so many of her books! It’s loosely inspired by the Kennedy family (specifically: John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette). Told from alternating narratives, it follows Joe Kingsley and Cate Cooper from childhood through a chance encounter when they meet and fall in love.
Joe is rebellious and free spirited (think: adventurous womanizer with a heart of gold). Cate has more of a fairytale arc. She grew up with just her mom (and a revolving door of boyfriends), and when her mom falls in love with an abusive man… Cate’s life just gets harder and she’s basically on her own. Even with her newly glamorous life and her face all over billboards, she constantly feels like an outsider… never telling anyone about her past, keeping men at arms length. I tore through this in just a couple days. It was extremely fun to read: part fairy tale, part Carolyn Bessette fan fiction (Bessette’s background is very different from Cate’s but there are still plenty of similarities).
In a New York Minute, by Kate Spencer
I had heard amazing things about this book and I absolutely loved it. I am also a big Kate Spencer fan; I love her podcast, Forever 35! This well worth the read (especially if you love/miss New York right now – it will provide all of the warm and fuzzy nostalgia for the city). Franny is having the worst day.. She gets laid off from a job that she doesn’t even really like and then on the subway her dress gets stuck in the door and rips, leaving her nearly naked. (I found this sort of New York City day to be deeply relatable).
When a stranger (handsome Hayes) lends her his jacket, the moment goes viral on instagram and the two of them become known as the “Subway QTs.” Neither of them is particularly crazy about this, but they wind up on TV together, keep bumping into each other, and ultimately forming an unlikely friendship. I loved this because it made me nostalgic for my younger years in New York. It’s laugh out loud funny at times, too. Also, the story arc is so good… and I really fell in love with these characters. It is such a fun read… I hope it becomes a series as I want more from these characters!
People We Meet on Vacation, by Emily Henry
This is my second favorite Emily Henry book! It’s been spun as a modern day When Harry Met Sally and I didn’t see too many parallels but I really enjoyed it regardless. Alex and Poppy are college best friends. They couldn’t be more different – Alex is a teacher who loves his khakis and longs for a conventional life whereas Poppy is a wild child who wants to travel the world (she’s a travel writer) and never settle down. But they are as close as can be, and every summer without fail, they plan “The Summer Trip.”
The book opens and Poppy and Alex are just not as close as they used to be. The trip didn’t happen last year, and Poppy desperately misses Alex. She convinces him to plan one more trip (to Palm Springs – which was fun, as I read it while I was there). The book alternates between past summer trips and the current one, as we figure out what happened to their friendship, and what is going to happen next for them. It is a very cute romcom of a book. I really liked both characters and it’s my favorite romance type of book I’ve read in ages. Really cute and heartwarming, with a satisfying ending.
The Soulmate Equation, by Christina Lauren
This was SO. GOOD. Go read immediately. This is definitely a top fiction book recommendation for me. You might remember that I was not the biggest fan of In a Holidaze which broke my heart to say as they (Christina Lauren is two people!) are one of my all-time favorite authors. This redeemed that; it’s up there with Love and Other Words (my favorite of theirs!). It is definitely one of my favorite books they’ve written.
Jess is a single mom, about to turn 30. Dating is not a priority – she’s cynical and just trying to piece together a living. River is a handsome scientist turned matchmaker… his company has actually figured out a way to make a match based upon genetics. When Jess’s friend peer pressures her into taking the DNA test, a surprise match (Diamond, the highest level) occurs between Jess and River. They’re both shocked by this… especially as they don’t really like each other too much. Still, the results are too compelling to ignore. They begin dating (at first for publicity), but is their “diamond match” for real? I don’t want to give anything away but I loved this book so much and think you will really enjoy it!
Party of Two, by Jasmine Guillory
Let it be said! Jasmine Guillory is one of my favorite authors. I had been saving this one and out of all of her books, I think that this one might be my favorite (a bold statement for sure… all of her books are EXCELLENT). This one is about Alexa (from The Wedding Date)’s older sister, Olivia Monroe. (Note: you don’t have to read all of her books, but if you are familiar it’s kinda fun when old characters make a cameo)
Olivia’s just moved to LA to start her own law firm. While staying in a hotel on her first night in town, she chats up a handsome man at the hotel’s bar. When she gets up to her room, she realizes she hadn’t recognized him: she’d been talking to senator Max Powell. This gives her a laugh at first but when they reconnect at a conference a few weeks later, sparks fly and soon they are falling in love. But can Olivia handle the spotlight? The media commenting on her appearance and digging up her past? I love the famous person dates regular person trope, I loved Olivia as a character (she’s smart and funny and ultra relatable, plus she has a career!), and I liked that the characters were my age. It was realistic, it was sexy, it was fun, smart… can’t recommend it enough!
One To Watch, by Kate Stayman-London
Oh I LOVED this book. I read it after having read a bunch of more heavy books, thinking it would be good to read something cute and fun and while it was cute and fun (and Jasmine Guillory had blurbed it so I knew it would be good), it was so much more than that. It was real and raw and very clever… and I saw so much of myself and my friends in the characters and how they engaged with each other.
Bea Schumacher is a plus-size fashion blogger (love a book about a blogger!) who has always been unlucky in love, especially when it comes to her best friend / crush, Ray. One interaction between them leaves her devastated and feeling completely unlovable and awful. Meanwhile, she’s always loved Main Squeeze (which is basically The Bachelor). One night on her blog she publishes a (slightly tipsy) takedown of the show, calling it out on their lack of diversity. The next thing she knows, the show is under new management and they want her to be the star! She begrudgingly agrees… never expecting to find love.
I won’t tell you what happens but I will say how enthralled I was with the book. It was as satisfying as watching a whole season of The Bachelor with an inside twist on the behind the scenes. And Bea was just such a wonderfully relatable character. I adored this book.
If I Never Met You, by Mhairi McFarlane
Mhairi McFarlane is one of my friend + former podcast co-host Becca’s favorite authors but I’d never read anything by her until this one! And oh my, it is so cute. If you’ve ever gone through a crushing break up I think you will appreciate this one. It has everything: endearing characters you can deeply relate to, a soul-crushing breakup, great girlfriends, a bit of revenge, a dashing man, and a little bit of that Hating Game style office romance.
Laurie finds herself left reeling after her boyfriend of EIGHTEEN YEARS breaks up with her, leaving her for another woman who gets pregnant pretty much immediately after the breakup. Her (very handsome but total playboy) coworker Jamie hatches a plan where they will pretend to date to a) help Jamie be taken more seriously at work and b) help create some jealousy to distract from the humiliation and grief on Laurie’s side. I won’t say anymore as I don’t want to give anything away. I LOVED this book.
In Five Years, by Rebecca Serle
Oh My God – This book WRECKED ME. Not in the way I thought it would, but probably even more intensely so. Dannie is one of those girls who has everything figured out. Engaged by 28, married by 30, making partner at her law firm, and so on and so forth. Her fiance David is dependable, sweet, and handsome, and she is certain she is on the right path. Then, the night she gets engaged, she has a dream that feels more like a premonition: it’s exactly five years later, and she wakes up in someone else’s apartment with a (very dreamy) strange man. She can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong and 4 years later, she meets that man (same name, etc etc.) It’s eery! This book is a little bit like The Light We Lost, and a little bit like One Day in December.
I loved both of this books and maybe loved this one even more! You won’t be able to put it down and it is going to cause some serious tears. I definitely recommend reading it.
Get a Life Chloe Brown, by Talia Hibbert
If you’re one to judge a book by its cover it looks like it’s going to be cheesy, Young Adult romance. And while it is a very sweet romance, it’s so much more than that! It’s a complex romance and WHOAH there are some very steamy sex scenes. Definitely not a YA romance book!
Chloe Brown is chronically ill – after getting pneumonia years ago she has fibromyalgia and is always tired and sick. She’s close with her family but was abandoned by her boyfriend + friends when she got sick. But she has a plan and an utterly adorable to-do list… to help her literally, “get a life.” Things like “do something bad,” and “have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.” Redford “Red” Morgan is Chloe’s superintendent, but also an artist with some pretty heavy emotional baggage. The two initially hate each other (think The Hating Game by Sally Thorne) but ultimately fall for each other. It’s very sweet and a fun romance that you’ll be able to devour in a rain afternoon.
Love and Other Words, by Christina Lauren
This was my introduction to Christina Lauren and the book that made me fall in love with their writing. I still think about this book and the ending. I think I love it because it is also a little bit twisty, like a thriller. This is the story of Macy and Elliot. Macy is in her late twenties and engaged to another man – when she runs into her childhood best friend/high school boyfriend, Elliot. They’d had a falling out and her entire world was shaken to the core. The book follows their story (in both present day and when they were young) as we learn what happened to make the two of them lose touch. I really loved it.. It’s very romantic and very sweet and I couldn’t put it down. Definitely one of my all time favorite books, let alone romance books!
One Day In December, by Josie Silver
This is such a sweet love story and I truly could not put it down. If you haven’t read it yet, order it… but save it to read around the holidays! It’s such a realistic, relatable look at friendships, love, and loss. Laurie isn’t one to believe in love at first sight but spots Jack from the bus. They lock eyes and it’s that instant magical attraction – love at first sight. She spends the next year looking for him until they accidentally reconnect: her best friend brings him to their Christmas party and is already head over heels in love with him. The novel spans about ten years. All of the characters endure dramatic heartbreaks and a lot transpires between each of them. I loved the friendship between Laurie and Sarah but the male characters were really wonderful too.