When I find myself getting too lost in complex fantastical fictional worlds or twisted dark thrillers, I always read a romance novel right after to bring me back to reality. Romance books are arguably the easiest genre to get through, but with so many out there, it’s just as easy to get lost in the possibilities, not to mention the stigma or side-eye glance some people will give you if you’re reading a book with a shirtless man and helpless maiden on the cover.
We’re here to take the stigma away from romance books. It’s OK to read romance! Embrace the cheesiness, settle in, and take a break from reality with two characters who definitely totally met like that and of course have a perfect job and apartment. We’re kidding—the great thing about modern romance books is how much more realistic they’re getting, allowing the story to pull you in while the passion keeps you wanting to turn the pages. Whether you’re looking to pursue the genre seriously or just as a simple hobby, we promise you the romance books below are sure to captivate you. And if our stamp of approval isn’t enough, you can rest easy knowing every single book on this list came highly recommended by millions of readers on Goodreads.
Fern Brookbanks has spent the last decade thinking about her 24-hour-long Toronto fling with Will Baxter, an aggravatingly attractive, idealistic artist. They made a pact to meet each other exactly one year later, but when Fern showed up and Will didn’t, she spiraled. Now, Fern is still running her mother’s Muskoka lakeside resort, a job she vowed to herself she would never do. So when Will shows up ten years after their first meeting with a suitcase in tow and an offer to help, Fern has to decide if she can trust him again.
Bookish Lily Greene has always felt inadequate compared to the rest of her family. She dreams of becoming a children’s book editor but finds herself stuck in the nonfiction division with no hope of a promotion. She finds an escape in correspondence with her favorite fantasy author until he unexpectedly ghosts her. Months later, Lily asks her charming, attractive new neighbor Nick Brown to set her up with a date to her sister’s wedding. Little does she know that Nick is in fact her favorite fantasy author, and he still can’t get her off his mind.
Nash Morgan, the chief of police in a small town, has become a shell of who he once was. His smiles and Southern charm have been overshadowed by panic attacks and nightmares as he recovers from being shot. Thankfully, his new next-door neighbor, Lina, is able to see through the cracks and help him through a tough time. The problem is that Lina expects a short-term fling, and Nash is looking for much more…even if it means facing the danger that nearly killed him.
Ashley Herring Blake
All of Iris Kelly’s closest friends and family members are in love, and they want the same for Iris. But Iris has a strict rule: she doesn’t date, happy to stick to her one-night stands and random hookups instead. The problem is that Iris is a romance author facing a deadline for her second book, and she has no ideas. When she has a messy and not-very-good one-night stand with a stranger in a Portland bar, Iris expects to never see Stefania again. When the two run into each other as cast members in a queer retelling of Much Ado About Nothing, they decide they could both benefit from a fake romance.
Harriet and Wyn were the perfect couple—they had meshed flawlessly ever since they met in college. However, for reasons neither of them care to discuss, the two have broken up, but have yet to tell their close friends. This is how they find themselves sharing a bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly respite from the outside world for a decade. Desperate to make their last week in the cottage before it is sold as magical as possible, Harriet and Wyn decide to play the part and fake their love for one more week.
Dr. Briana Ortiz’s life feels like it’s flatlining. She’s in the thick of a divorce, her brother is running out of time to find a kidney donor, and she’s concerned that the promotion she’s after is going to go to Dr. Jacob Maddox, the newest “man-doctor” in her hospital. Briana is exasperated until Jacob sends her a letter. Soon, the two are exchanging letters back and forth, having lunches together, and forming a bond. But when Jacob offers to donate his kidney to Briana’s brother, Briana has to consider whether she can really trust him.
Nick Russo has worked his way up to being a reporter at one of New York’s biggest newspapers. But the late 1950s are a hostile time for a gay man, and Nick has to be cautious in order to protect his future. Andy Fleming is the heir to the newspaper empire, but he’s a mess: He’s never paid a bill on time, and he routinely gets lost on his way to work. When Andy agrees to work a year in the newsroom, certain that he’ll hate it, Nick ends up showing him the ropes. Gradually, their unlikely friendship evolves into feelings that they can’t deny, but this means that they have to decide if they’re ready to fight for love for the first time in their lives.
Reserved and controlled, billionaire heir to a media empire Kai Young has no time for chaos, and with her purple hair and inappropriate jokes, Isabella Valencia is chaos personified. Isabella, on the other hand, has never met a man she couldn’t charm until she met Kai Young. Kai is a member of the exclusive club where Isabella bartends, making him strictly off-limits, but Isabella can’t resist his cool exterior—and Kai is becoming tempted to break all of his own rules.
Grace Henderson has been the star of the US Women’s National Team for ten years, but this year she’s sidelined with an injury. A bold new upstart, Phoebe Matthews, takes her spot on the field, and Grace sees her as her rival while Phoebe is starstruck to even share a locker room with Grace. The last thing either expects is to become friends with benefits with their teammate, but one kiss changes everything. As the tension between them grows, both players will have to weigh their relationship against the team’s success.
Ryan is the newest captain of the Devils, Chicago’s NBA team, and he’s desperate to prove to his apprehensive general manager that he’s capable of work-life balance. Indy is in an upcoming wedding, where all of her childhood friends and her ex-boyfriend will be in attendance. The two are an unlikely pair of roommates—Indy never expected to be living with her best friend’s brother—and to say that they don’t live well together would be an understatement. But both could benefit from having a fake romance in the coming months.
Two students at Maple Hills, Russ and Aurora, meet at an end-of-year party where a drinking game leads to the two of them having a passionate one-night stand. When Aurora slips away before Russ even has a chance to get her name, he expects to never see her again. Both are shocked when they bump into each other again on the first day of camp, where they are both counselors. Though the two are aware of the camp’s strict rules against counselor romances, they’re both drawn to the wildfire they can’t seem to put out.
Manuela del Carmen Caceres Galvan is about to be trapped in a loveless marriage, so she jumps at the invitation to show her paintings at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. Cora Kempf Bristol, Duchess of Sundrige, has alternative motives: She wants to convince the mysterious Miss Caceres Galvan to sell land that she’s sworn never to sell. But Manuela is tempted by Cora’s offer, and concedes on the condition that Cora spend the summer with her in Paris. As the two spend months indulging in their shared passion for the arts, once-elusive happiness seems possible for both women.
20-year-old Violet Sorrengail spent her life preparing to go into the Scribe Quadrant and live a quiet life among books and history. Her mother, the commanding general of Navarre, had other plans. Violet instead finds herself competing with hundreds of candidates to become one of Navarre’s elite: a dragon rider. While her competitors have spent their lives training for this very moment, Violet is leagues behind them and, on top of that, has a chronic illness that makes her even more vulnerable at Basgiath, the deadly war college she’s being forced to enroll in. All she has on her side are her wits, which are admittedly better than most, and the ever-frustrating Xaden Riorson, who can’t seem to decide whether to kill her or help her survive long enough to bond a dragon of her own.
Mickey Chambers is an expert at analyzing literature but is a little lost in her own story. She’s an adjunct instructor with too few classes and too many medical bills, so she picks up a bartending job. Diego Acosta, the bar owner, is worried he’s running his late wife’s bar into the ground—and with the pressures of returning to college at age forty-two, he’s stressed. When it turns out that his new hire at the bar is also his new creative writing professor, Diego and Mickey try their best to keep things professional.
Meghna’s parents wanted her to become an engineer, but she’s followed her passion of becoming a theater teacher. When she realizes that her longtime friend and secret crush, Seth, is engaged, she knows that he’s about to become the one that got away. Determined to move on, she agrees to let her parents introduce her to a potential match. Handsome engineer Karthik isn’t interested in a real marriage, but he does offer Meghna a fake engagement as they both attempt to dodge pressure from family and friends. But as they find common ground, an undeniably real chemistry begins to take place.
Overworked book publicist Clementine is trying to pick up the pieces of her life when she finds a strange man standing in the kitchen of her late aunt’s apartment. His kind eyes and Southern drawl might be exactly what Clementine needs to follow her plan of finding someone decent to love. However, when she discovers that the apartment exists at a pinch in time, and her new crush is actually living seven years in the future, she has to decide whether to fall into a love that she knows is doomed.
Rachel Abbott has discovered that her husband, a rising star mayor with his eye on the White House, has been cheating on her. Desperate to save face, Matt pleads her to keep up appearances through his reelection campaign, in exchange for one million dollars and his lavish house in the DC suburbs. Rachel agrees, but then she meets Nathan Vasquez, a very handsome twenty-six-year-old artist. Can the two of them keep their sizzling romance a secret to avoid an all-out scandal?
Ricki Wilde is the impulsive, artistic daughter of a powerful Atlanta dynasty, sticking out like a sore thumb among her famous socialite sisters. When she’s invited by a nonagenarian to rent the bottom floor of a Harlem brownstone, Ricki jumps at the opportunity. She has a plan to open a flower shop against the backdrop of a neighborhood that still simmers with the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance. One evening in early February, Ricki encounters a mysterious stranger who knocks her life off balance forever.
Misery Lark is the only daughter of the most powerful Vampyre councilman, and she’s been called upon to uphold the peacekeeping alliance between Vampyres and Weres. The Alpha of the Weres, Lowe Moreland, is ruthless and unpredictable, and he doesn’t trust Misery to keep his pack’s best interest in mind. When the two have to agree to a marriage of convenience in order to keep the peace, their own ulterior motives threaten to shift the power dynamics between the two groups forever.