My Favorite Romance Novels

Since Valentine’s Day is this weekend, I thought I’d give you a list of my favorite lovey dovey stories.

As I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t always been a fan of romance novels. If you’d like to learn about my journey, read this essay I wrote last year that was published online by beyourself.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve read a lot of romance novels. I probably should have attempted a count for this post but I’d say over a hundred easily. I’ve read so many that are fantastic, across all sub-genres and by authors from all walks of life.

When I sat down to make this list of my favorites, it was tough! The ones I’ve chosen are those that have resonated with me strongest and which I feel bring something special to a crowded genre.

My Favorite Romance Novels

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

This is the first romance novel that truly knocked my socks off. It showed me how sexy they can be (as opposed to simply including sex scenes) while also being start and sensitive. Helen Hoang writes neurodiverse characters which appeals to me because the main reason I love the genre is that it shows how everyone deserves to love and be loved.

The Friend Zone and The Happily Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

These are two separate books about two different love stories. In my mind, I think of them as one reading experience because they’re strongly connected and have quite a bit of character overlap, which isn’t common in most romance series. The Friend Zone made me realize I like my romance with a big dose of heaviness. These books tackle topics such as death, grief, and infertility. While they have happy endings, it takes the characters a lot of work to get there. I appreciate because that’s how I’ve found life to be and can relate to those characters, even if our exact circumstances are very different.

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

This novel resonated with me for the reasons I stated above. It’s not only about a romance. It’s about Evvie and what she’s dealing with in her life (loss and grief) and then a romance happens to come along and that’s nice for her. It starts as a friendship, and the man has some heavy stuff going on in his life too. By being a safe haven to each other first, they develop into something more.

Beard Science by Penny Reid

This is book three in the Winston Brothers series, which I raved about a lot last year. It’s definitely my favorite romance series and I can’t recommend it enough (definitely start with book one.) I enjoyed all seven of the books, and I feel the series gets stronger the further along it goes. This one is my favorite because I enjoyed Jennifer’s journey most of all the characters. What I love about Penny Reid’s writing is that her characters are wonderfully complex and realistic. They each contain “good” and “bad.” She proves that people who make poor choices are still worthy of love and capable of giving it too.

This series focuses on the six Winston brothers, most of them live together and all of their lives are closely entwined. This means all the characters show up in each others’ books, which I particularly love. By the time I finished the series, I felt strongly connected to this family and their small Southern hometown. These books were a saving grace for me during the early months of the pandemic.

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

This novel was my first venture back into the romance genre after decades away. I chose it for a reading challenge category and figured I’d have to grit my teeth to get through it. I was pleasantly surprised to fall in love with it right away. The story is lovely, giving peeks into a culture I am not familiar with. Samir is a famous Bollywood director. He travels to the U.S. on a mission for his brother, who needs to annul his illegal childhood marriage. Samir finds Mili, who still believes the marriage has been legitimate for 20 years even though she had never met her husband. Unable to come clean with his secret intentions, Samir and Mili develop a friendship and begin to fall in love. This story showed me that romance isn’t always the text book definition, and it opened my eyes to what love might look like in a culture different from my own.

To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Haan

This is the first in a three book young adult series. I devoured all three books in one week. This story captures everything I love about the YA genre, it’s about adolescence, love, and family. On the surface, this is about a teenaged girl figuring out who she is. It goes deeper than that because Lara Jean’s mother has passed away, and her oldest sister has just left for college. There truly are huge shifts in her reality she is adjusting to. Lara Jean is a fantastic narrator, totally spot on teenager, sometimes snarky, shifting from insecure to pissed or sad or ecstatic. I enjoy YA stories because they remind me of my own youth, and that coming of age stories are universal.

Layla by Colleen Hoover

This is a paranormal romance novel that has a bit of a mystery woven in. I haven’t read anything else quite like it. There were a few points in the story where I had no idea what was really happening, which made it an exciting read. Leeds and Layla have an intense whirlwind relationship and are determined they will spend forever together. An accident changes everything and they are left feeling lost and trying to find their way back to each other. What I appreciate most about this story is that it’s another example of love not looking like what we might expect it to.

The Roommate by Rosie Danan

This is a recent read that immediately went onto my favorites list. I haven’t said this outright yet, but I prefer my romance reads to have a lot of sex! that’s not difficult to find, but I haven’t quite encountered it in this form before – one of the main love interests is an adult film star (and not the one you might expect). I’m super impressed that a romance novel featuring porn stars is mainstream. The story tackles some serious issues and brings to light the flaws in the porn industry, as well as potential benefits. Women’s pleasure is front and center in the story, which reminded me how much it isn’t in other romance novels. I appreciate that Clara’s sex life doesn’t improve simply because she finds the right man, but because SHE is willing to prioritize her own pleasure and release her shame around sex. There’s a lot of explicit sexual content, and it’s presented in a positive, loving light. I would have liked for it to be longer and take on making a statement about the atrocities that occur in relation to human trafficking and porn creation. Regardless, it does cover some important ground.

I hope you enjoyed learning about my favorite romance novels. If you’ve never read the genre (or you think you don’t like it), please pick one of these and give it a try!

I’d also love to hear from you – have you read any of these titles, or have similar ones you’d recommend for me!


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