I have been wanting to put together a definitive list of my favourite romances for ages and what better time than on Valentine’s Day! I have read quite a few romances in my life, but these are the ones that stand out to me.
Brooklynite Eva Mercy is a single mom and bestselling erotica writer, who is feeling pressed from all sides. Shane Hall is a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning literary author who, to everyone’s surprise, shows up in New York.
When Shane and Eva meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their past buried traumas, but the eyebrows of New York’s Black literati. What no one knows is that twenty years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. They may be pretending that everything is fine now, but they can’t deny their chemistry – or the fact that they’ve been secretly writing to each other in their books ever since.
Over the next seven days in the middle of a steamy Brooklyn summer, Eva and Shane reconnect, but Eva’s not sure how she can trust the man who broke her heart, and she needs to get him out of New York so that her life can return to normal. But before Shane disappears again, there are a few questions she needs answered…
With its keen observations of Black life and the condition of modern motherhood, as well as the consequences of motherless-ness, Seven Days in June is by turns humorous, warm and deeply sensual.
Seven Days in June is the newest book on my list of favourites but it is certainly near the top. I am sure you have seen this book everywhere, but it deserves all the hype. This is a second-chance romance at its best! I sometimes struggle with second chances because they often include flashbacks to the character’s teenage years, which can make the story feel like an odd mix of YA and adult, but it was handled perfectly in this case. It is important to note that this is not a light and fluffy romance but I wouldn’t consider it dark either. Both Eva and Shane had difficult childhoods and there are content warnings for self harm and drug abuse. They had an intense connection as teenagers, but they have not seen each other in years, despite them both being successful authors. I loved seeing them reunite and the feelings that it brought up. This further solidified for me that I like my romance to be dual POV. This book also made me realize that I need to read more romances starring single mothers!
Sweet like plantain, hot like pepper. They taste the best when together…
Sharp-tongued (and secretly soft-hearted) Kiki Banjo has just made a huge mistake. As an expert in relationship-evasion and the host of the popular student radio show Brown Sugar, she’s made it her mission to make sure the women of the African-Caribbean Society at Whitewell University do not fall into the mess of “situationships”, players, and heartbreak. But when the Queen of the Unbothered kisses Malakai Korede, the guy she just publicly denounced as “The Wastemen of Whitewell,” in front of every Blackwellian on campus, she finds her show on the brink.
They’re soon embroiled in a fake relationship to try and salvage their reputations and save their futures. Kiki has never surrendered her heart before, and a player like Malakai won’t be the one to change that, no matter how charming he is or how electric their connection feels. But surprisingly entertaining study sessions and intimate, late-night talks at old-fashioned diners force Kiki to look beyond her own presumptions. Is she ready to open herself up to something deeper?
A gloriously funny and sparkling debut novel, Honey & Spice is full of delicious tension and romantic intrigue that will make you weak at the knees.
I had an ALC of Honey and Spice, so I had no idea what to expect when I picked it up, but it blew me away! There is something so unique about Bolu Babalola’s writing and it took me a minute to get used to, but I was quickly hooked and I will try anything that she writes. Honey and Spice is enemies-to-lovers with the added bonus of also having fake dating! I think that Kiki is one of my favourite heroines in any romance that I have ever read. I admire her strength and her passion but I also appreciate that she had some vulnerability. Kiki hosts a radio show, which we get snippets of. I highly recommend listening to this on audio if you can!
Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again.
It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career.
She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?
Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.
You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty is a messy romance and I loved every single second of it. It probably doesn’t hurt that I adore Akwaeke Emezi and will read anything they write! This is one of those cases where I think it is best to go into this knowing as little as possible and just go along for the ride. You might not always agree with Feyi’s decisions but I personally understood her. I think that You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty is an authentic look at the messiness that is grief and how people can connect through loss. Emezi writes across a variety of genres but I hope they return to romance!
When Sara Foster runs away from home at sixteen, she leaves behind not only the losses that have shattered her world but the girl she once was, capable of trust and intimacy. Years later, in Los Angeles, she is a sought-after bartender, renowned as much for her brilliant cocktails as for the mystery that clings to her. Across the city, Emilie Dubois is in a holding pattern. In her seventh year and fifth major as an undergraduate, she yearns for the beauty and community her Creole grandparents cultivated but is unable to commit. On a whim, she takes a job arranging flowers at the glamorous restaurant Yerba Buena and embarks on an affair with the married owner.
When Sara catches sight of Emilie one morning at Yerba Buena, their connection is immediate. But the damage both women carry, and the choices they have made, pulls them apart again and again. When Sara’s old life catches up to her, upending everything she thought she wanted just as Emilie has finally gained her own sense of purpose, they must decide if their love is more powerful than their pasts.
At once exquisite and expansive, astonishing in its humanity and heart, Yerba Buena is a love story for our time and a propulsive journey through the lives of two women finding their way in the world.
Yerba Buena is Nina LaCour’s adult debut and I cannot wait to see what she writes next! This story follows both Sara and Emilie from when they are teenagers into adulthood and all of the struggles that they face. We see them work through their traumas while also falling in love and working out how they can fit into one another’s lives. There was something so bittersweet about this book and it is one that has stayed with me after all of this time.
After a wild bet, gourmet grilled-cheese sandwich, and cuddle with a baby goat, Alexis Montgomery has had her world turned upside down. The cause: Daniel Grant, a ridiculously hot carpenter who’s ten years younger than her and as casual as they come—the complete opposite of sophisticated city-girl Alexis. And yet their chemistry is undeniable.
While her ultra-wealthy parents want her to carry on the family legacy of world-renowned surgeons, Alexis doesn’t need glory or fame. She’s fine with being a “mere” ER doctor. And every minute she spends with Daniel and the tight-knit town where he lives, she’s discovering just what’s really important. Yet letting their relationship become anything more than a short-term fling would mean turning her back on her family and giving up the opportunity to help thousands of people.
Bringing Daniel into her world is impossible, and yet she can’t just give up the joy she’s found with him either. With so many differences between them, how can Alexis possibly choose between her world and his?
Part of Your World is arguably my favourite romance of all time! I adore Abby Jimenez but this is the book of hers that stands out to me. I think she does an amazing job of finding the balance between a lighthearted romance and more serious topics. Content warnings for domestic abuse in this one. There are also some amazing side characters and it is the ultimate small town vibe in my mind!
All I wanted to do was live my life in peace. Maybe get a cat, expand my spice farm. Really anything that doesn’t involve going on a quest where an orc might rip my face off. But they say the Goddess has favorites. If so, I’m clearly not one of them.
After saving the demon Fallon in a wine-drunk stupor, all he wanted to do was kill an evil witch enslaving his people.
I mean, I get it. Don’t get me wrong. But he’s dragging me along for the ride, and I’m kind of peeved about it. On the bright side, he keeps burning off his shirt.
I read That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon in January and fell in love with it and its sequel! These are ridiculous and silly fantasy romances and they brought me so much joy. The author just announced that the third book is coming out in April and hearing that news made my day!
D’Vaughn and Kris have six weeks to plan their dream wedding.
Their whole relationship is fake.
Instant I Do could be Kris Zavala’s big break. She’s right on the cusp of really making it as an influencer, so a stint on reality TV is the perfect chance to elevate her brand. And $100,000 wouldn’t hurt, either.
D’Vaughn Miller is just trying to break out of her shell. She’s sort of neglected to come out to her mom for years, so a big splashy fake wedding is just the excuse she needs.
All they have to do is convince their friends and family they’re getting married in six weeks. If anyone guesses they’re not for real, they’re out. Selling their chemistry on camera is surprisingly easy, and it’s still there when no one else is watching, which is an unexpected bonus. Winning this competition is going to be a piece of wedding cake.
But each week of the competition brings new challenges, and soon the prize money’s not the only thing at stake. A reality show isn’t the best place to create a solid foundation, and their fake wedding might just derail their relationship before it even starts.
I think that D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding is such an underrated romance! There is something about a competition show within a romance that works for me. D’Vaughn and Kris have so much chemistry and I loved seeing their families interact as they plan this fake wedding. So much drama while also having some of the sweetest moments I have read in a romance.
When Viola Carroll was presumed dead at Waterloo she took the opportunity to live, at last, as herself. But freedom does not come without a price, and Viola paid for hers with the loss of her wealth, her title, and her closest companion, Justin de Vere, the Duke of Gracewood.
Only when their families reconnect, years after the war, does Viola learn how deep that loss truly was. Shattered without her, Gracewood has retreated so far into grief that Viola barely recognises her old friend in the lonely, brooding man he has become.
As Viola strives to bring Gracewood back to himself, fresh desires give new names to old feelings. Feelings that would have been impossible once and may be impossible still, but which Viola cannot deny. Even if they cost her everything, all over again.
I have not read a lot of historical romance but A Lady for a Duke was the perfect place to start! It is on the long side, but it is worth it. There is something so special about the way that Alexis Hall writes characters, which is why I have three of his books on my list of favourites.
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way
Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.
To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.
But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.
Boyfriend Material is one of the best audiobooks I have ever listened to! The banter between Luc and Oliver is top tier and it is the book that made me fall in love with fake dating. I will say that I haven’t read the sequel because of the mixed reviews, but you can definitely treat this as a standalone!
Following the recipe is the key to a successful bake. Rosaline Palmer has always lived by those rules—well, except for when she dropped out of college to raise her daughter, Amelie. Now, with a paycheck as useful as greaseproof paper and a house crumbling faster than biscuits in tea, she’s teetering on the edge of financial disaster. But where there’s a whisk there’s a way . . . and Rosaline has just landed a spot on the nation’s most beloved baking show.
Winning the prize money would give her daughter the life she deserves—and Rosaline is determined to stick to the instructions. However, more than collapsing trifles stand between Rosaline and sweet, sweet victory. Suave, well-educated, and parent-approved Alain Pope knows all the right moves to sweep her off her feet, but it’s shy electrician Harry Dobson who makes Rosaline question her long-held beliefs—about herself, her family, and her desires.
Rosaline fears falling for Harry is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Yet as the competition—and the ovens—heat up, Rosaline starts to realize the most delicious bakes come from the heart.
Alexis Hall has hit all of my favourite tropes! Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake is a foodie romance and it reads as though you are behind the scenes of The Great British Bake Off. This is more serious than some of the other romances on this list, but Alexis Hall handles it well.
Prince Jones is the guy with all the answers—or so it seems. After all, at seventeen, he has his own segment on Detroit’s popular hip-hop show, Love Radio, where he dishes out advice to the brokenhearted.
Prince has always dreamed of becoming a DJ and falling in love. But being the main caretaker for his mother, who has multiple sclerosis, and his little brother means his dreams will stay just that and the only romances in his life are the ones he hears about from his listeners. Until he meets Dani Ford.
Dani isn’t checking for anybody. She’s focused on her plan: ace senior year, score a scholarship, and move to New York City to become a famous author. But her college essay keeps tripping her up and acknowledging what’s blocking her means dealing with what happened at that party a few months ago. And that’s one thing Dani can’t do.
When the romantic DJ meets the ambitious writer, sparks fly. Prince is smitten, but Dani’s not looking to get derailed. She gives Prince just three dates to convince her that he’s worth falling for. Three dates for the love expert to take his own advice, and just maybe change two lives forever.
Love Radio is the only YA romance on this list and it deserves to be here! I should talk about this book more than I do because it was truly something special. There is one scene that is so damn sweet and I still think about it all the time! Once again, there are content warnings I think it is important to be aware of, specifically attempted sexual assault.
Recently divorced and on the verge of bankruptcy, Dahlia Woodson is ready to reinvent herself on the popular reality competition show Chef’s Special. Too bad the first memorable move she makes is falling flat on her face, sending fish tacos flying—not quite the fresh start she was hoping for. Still, she’s focused on winning, until she meets someone she might want a future with more than she needs the prize money.
After announcing their pronouns on national television, London Parker has enough on their mind without worrying about the klutzy competitor stationed in front of them. They’re there to prove the trolls—including a fellow contestant and their dad—wrong, and falling in love was never part of the plan.
As London and Dahlia get closer, reality starts to fall away. Goodbye, guilt about divorce, anxiety about uncertain futures, and stress from transphobia. Hello, hilarious shenanigans on set, wedding crashing, and spontaneous dips into the Pacific. But as the finale draws near, Dahlia and London’s steamy relationship starts to feel the heat both in and outside the kitchen—and they must figure out if they have the right ingredients for a happily ever after.
Love and Other Disasters is another foodie romance and is set on a cooking show! I love the dynamic between London and Dahlia. This one is super steamy!
After a betrayal derailed her interior design career, Liz Bennet found a fresh start in New York. Now an executive assistant by day and stage kitten by night, she’s discovered a second home with the performers at Meryton, Manhattan’s top-tier burlesque venue. Love’s the last thing on her mind when she locks eyes with Will Darcy across the crowded club. The spark between them is undeniable–that is, until she overhears the uptight wealth manager call her merely “tolerable.”
Bennet is determined to write Darcy off, but once their besties fall head-over-heels, they’re thrown into each other’s orbit again and again. Each encounter begins to feel more heated than the last, but is their chemistry enough to topple that terrible first impression? What’s more, when a charming newcomer arrives on the scene with accusations against Darcy, his claims leave Bennet torn. And when a sudden development leaves Meryton’s fate in jeopardy, she will have to decide who to trust in time to salvage her design dreams, her heart, and the stage she shares with her found family…
A Certain Appeal is a Pride and Prejudice retelling set in a burlesque club! Need I say more!?
After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion.
Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration-and love-in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.
If you are looking for a closed-door romance, I highly recommend If the Shoe Fits. I already loved Julie Murphy’s YA novels, so I was thrilled to have an adult romance by her. This is loosely based on Cinderella and follows a shoe designer who becomes a contestant on a show a lot like The Bachelor.
After a public meltdown over her breakup from her cheating musician boyfriend, Cherisse swore off guys in the music industry, and dating in general for a while, preferring to focus on growing her pastry chef business.
When Cherisse’s younger sister reveals she’s getting married in a few months, Cherisse hopes that will distract her mother enough to quit harassing her about finding a guy, settling down and having kids. But her mother’s matchmaking keeps intensifying.
Cherisse tries to humour her mother, hoping if she feigns interest in the eligible bachelors she keeps tossing her way, she’ll be off the hook, but things don’t quite go as planned. Turns out for the first time in ages, she and Keiran King, the most annoying man ever, are on the island at the same time. Avoiding him is impossible, especially when Keiran’s close friend is the one marrying her sister, and he’s the best man to her maid of honour.
Keiran doesn’t know what to make of Cherisse now. They’ve always butted heads. To him she’s always been a stuck-up brat who seeks attention, even while he secretly harbored a crush on her. Now with Cherisse’s sister marrying one of his good friends he can’t escape her as the wedding activities keep throwing them together.
When things turn heated after a rainy night of bedroom fun, they both have to figure out if they can survive the countdown to wedding day, without this turning into a recipe for disaster.
Sweethand is enemies to lovers and centers around a wedding, which is a setup I really love! Also, the cat on the cover is named Jello, so you already know this is adorable!
What is your favourite romance?