The best sexy books for smart woman over forty

Leslie Morris Noyes Author Of Willing: A Contemporary Romance
By Leslie Morris Noyes

Who am I?

I’m a creative director in Vermont with a few favorite things: laughter, standard poodles, and happy endings—in life and in fiction. Romance fiction abounds with young heroines and happy endings. But I prefer reading about mature women like myself, women who have experienced their share of disappointments yet face life’s challenges with courage and humor. I like the elements of both genres in one juicy book. After much-frustrated searching, I gave up and wrote the story I wanted to read. My wise, middle-aged heroine still has lots to learn about grief and joy, and learns many of those lessons with men—in bed.

I wrote...

Willing: A Contemporary Romance

By Leslie Morris Noyes,

Book cover of Willing: A Contemporary Romance

What is my book about?

Liz Silver has lost her creative spark. Her career success is tied to the enthusiasm she brings to her wedding photography, but losing that spark threatens her livelihood. What gives? Her life is perfect, isn’t it? She has a delightful daughter, supportive friends, and glorious Vermont to call home. Armed with the wisdom and humor her Jewish ancestors stitched into her DNA, Liz begins looking for solutions. The men she casually takes to bed along the way force her to consider whether her vow to leave love behind is the problem. Traveling a road potholed with old grief, Liz discovers a new way of seeing herself, a career reboot, and, just maybe, the partner of her dreams—if the potholes don’t get her first. 

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Spending: A Utopian Divertimento

By Mary Gordon,

Book cover of Spending: A Utopian Divertimento

Why this book?

Spending is about a divorced artist and mom. It starts with a middle-aged protagonist reluctantly giving a gallery talk. She complains that male artists often have muses to do their laundry and supply sex, thereby providing practical and “therapeutic” support. A man in the audience stands up and offers to be the artist’s muse. The story is about what happens when this stubbornly independent woman takes him up on it. I totally related to the crusty heroine who has fought for everything she has and distrusts fortune when it offers abundant gifts. 

The Feast of Love

By Charles Baxter,

Book cover of The Feast of Love

Why this book?

I confess that almost everything Baxter has written is too intellectually frigid for me. But this novel is one of my favorites. At times sweet, at times intense, it is a meditation on the ways we love, and the various stages of love based on our ages and the duration of our relationships. Baxter explores romantic love, first love, old love, love for our children, and sexual obsession. Grief and hope figure prominently. At first, seemingly a series of short stories, the novel’s characters gradually drift into one another’s orbits and their stories become integrated. I love the author’s mastery of form while telling a brilliantly humane—and sexy—story about what it means to love.

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library

By Sue Halpern,

Book cover of Summer Hours at the Robbers Library

Why this book?

A teenage girl in Maine steals a dictionary at the mall and is sentenced to do community service in her small town’s library. The middle-aged head librarian there has exiled herself from a divorce accompanied by public scandal. A much younger New York City stockbroker who had piles of money turns up in town after losing everything in the 2008 crash. He believes his aunt’s savings booklet from a bank long subsumed by another—he just needs to figure out which one—will put him back on his feet. I love how gently this novel reveals these damaged characters’ foibles and hopes. They seem to have nothing in common, yet they heal each other. And there is (spoiler alert) a sexy little romance between the librarian and the stockbroker.


By Sherry Thomas,

Book cover of Delicious

Why this book?

Set in Victorian England, this novel begins where romances often start—with a beleaguered heroine. She is a brilliant cook with a questionable past. Her patron dies. His brother takes over the estate where—let’s say—she’s been multi-tasking. The brother has perversely cut all pleasure from his life. But oh, that food. Complications develop, including his desire to not desire the food or the cook. There are dark secrets and dark hungers including a hunger for revenge on both the hero’s and heroine’s parts. I love a sexy, twisty story that I can’t put down. This one meets all of my marks. 

Harnessing Peacocks

By Mary Wesley,

Book cover of Harnessing Peacocks

Why this book?

Ms. Wesley didn’t publish until she was seventy, which I find inspiring. She produced ten slim interconnected novels. Like the heroine of Delicious although a century later, this one cooks. She cooks for elderly ladies, visiting for a week or two to stock their freezers with fabulous meals. Her less innocent sideline is “visiting” with men. These occupations earn her enough to keep her fatherless son in an excellent private school. Then, the unthinkable happens: two men who were previously unknown to each other discover they may be sharing the same mistress. The problem is they thought their arrangements were exclusive. A comedy of manners ensues. Wesley’s prose cuts like a finely honed knife. And she does her cutting with very few words. I so admire that skill!  

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in romantic love, middle-aged women, and London?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about romantic love, middle-aged women, and London.

Romantic Love Explore 417 books about romantic love
Middle-Aged Women Explore 8 books about middle-aged women
London Explore 421 books about London

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Proposition, Dancing with Clara, and To Have and To Hold if you like this list.