The best forbidden romance books to tempt and hook you

Who am I?

Romeo and Juliet, Lancelot and Guinevere, Antony and Cleopatra—the greatest love stories in human history are awash with forbidden feels. While I shun the icky taboo, I’m easily reeled in by the rush of healthy forbidden attraction, and the higher the stakes, the better. Of course, everything is more fun when it’s not allowed! What attracts me to forbidden romance isn’t only the complicated dynamics, intense storylines, and angsty drama, but the “we can’t have each other but want each other so badly” burn. Give me all the stolen glances, fleeting touches, and breathless kisses. Nothing does sexual tension like forbidden romance.

I wrote...

Emmie and the Tudor King

By Natalie Murray,

Book cover of Emmie and the Tudor King

What is my book about?

Emmie and the Tudor King is book 1 in the Hearts & Crowns trilogy, which follows an American high school graduate to a reimagined sixteenth-century England, where she meets a doomed, but utterly dreamy, Tudor king who is destined for a dreadful fate. This fast-paced time-slip romance series has already received acclaim from Foreword Reviews, YA Books Central, InD'Tale Magazine, and popular YA authors Brigid Kemmerer (A Curse So Dark and Lonely) and CJ Flood (Infinite Sky), among others. 

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The books I picked & why

From Sand and Ash

By Amy Harmon,

Book cover of From Sand and Ash

Why did I love this book?

Angelo is a Catholic priest, and Eva is a Jew in Nazi-occupied Italy. It doesn’t get much more forbidden than a Catholic priest falling helplessly in love. So is the case in this beautifully written novel by Amy Harmon. Set in WWII Italy, it’s a gripping and at times brutal read about the persecution of Italian Jews by the Gestapo. This powerful setting gives rise to a butterflies-inducing romance between a young priest and his Jewish friend that he tries so desperately to protect. The scenes in which Eva and Angelo begin to succumb to their feelings will leave you breathless, and there is an “I can’t believe I’m kissing you” scene that you won’t want to end.

"Confession: I am nineteen years old, and I’ve been kissed many times. But I’ve never been kissed like that."

By Amy Harmon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked From Sand and Ash as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Italy, 1943-Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.

As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.

Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva…

Jane Eyre

By Charlotte Brontë,

Book cover of Jane Eyre

Why did I love this book?

Jane is poor, Rochester is rich, and he’s also harboring a grave secret. Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books in the world. I fell so hard for Rochester—he is my ultimate Bronte hero (yes, I’m looking at you, Heathcliffe). Jane is an orphan and an outcast who comes to work for the socially superior Edward Rochester at his estate when she’s hired as a governess to his ward, Adèle. An entirely unsuitable and unacceptable pair, the two catch some serious feelings that will go on to change their lives irreversibly. He’s brooding and proud; she’s strong-willed and independent. A page-turning, deeply emotional read, Jane and her miserable wretch of a man are guaranteed to turn your eyeballs into little love-struck heart shapes.

“Jane, do you mean to go one way in the world, and to let me go another?”
“I do.”
“Jane” (bending towards and embracing me), “do you mean it now?”
“I do.”
“And now?" softly kissing my forehead and cheek.

By Charlotte Brontë,

Why should I read it?

29 authors picked Jane Eyre as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Introduction and Notes by Dr Sally Minogue, Canterbury Christ Church University College.

Jane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage.

She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester.

However, there is great kindness and warmth…

The Bronze Horseman

By Paullina Simons,

Book cover of The Bronze Horseman

Why did I love this book?

Alexander is dating Tatiana’s much-loved sister, and they’re both in love with him. I live and breathe romance novels—especially high-stakes, forbidden romance—and when someone asks me which one is my forever favorite, there is only one answer: The Bronze Horseman. An epic novel set in 1941 war-torn Leningrad, this may be the most intense, tension-filled romance you will ever read. Why did it have such an effect on me? Firstly, I have long been in love with Paullina Simon’s angsty, feel-everything writing ever since I read her debut novel. Secondly, the fact that the Red Army soldier Alexander is dating Tatiana’s sister is the perfect footing for yearning glances, fleeting touches, and secret meetings. Thirdly, Alexander is just so…*passes out*. This is one of the only books ever that I’ve read twice.

“She is my older sister. Do you understand? She is my only sister.” She paused. “And she is serious about you.”
Did she need to say more? She didn’t think so, but judging by the displeased look on his face, yes she did. “There will be other boys,” she finally added with a gallant shrug, “but I will never have another sister.”
All Alexander said was, “I'm not a boy.”

By Paullina Simons,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Bronze Horseman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A magnificent epic of love, war and Russia from the international bestselling author of TULLY and ROAD TO PARADISE

Leningrad 1941: the white nights of summer illuminate a city of fallen grandeur whose palaces and avenues speak of a different age, when Leningrad was known as St Petersburg.

Two sisters, Tatiana and Dasha, share the same bed, living in one room with their brother and parents.

The routine of their hard impoverished life is shattered on 22 June 1941 when Hitler invades Russia. For the Metanov family, for Leningrad and particularly for Tatiana, life will never be the same again.…

Book cover of People We Meet on Vacation

Why did I love this book?

Poppy and Alex are best friends who want different things in life. Friends-to-lovers is my absolute favorite romance trope, so I will read any book recommended to me with that swoon-worthy storyline. That said, I could never rank People We Meet on Vacation among comparable novels of this ilk that I’ve read. I don’t know how Emily Henry does it, but this novel manages to draw out the developing, slow-burn romance in such a way that every little touch, every flicker of eye contact, every bravely flirtatious comment, feels like it’s setting the room on fire. By the time Poppy and Alex—who believe they’re incompatible—realize they’re madly in love with each other, it feels so earned, so real, and so special. Do. Not. Miss. This. Book.

“Tell me I’m not the reason you’re not married with kids right now, and everything else you wanted.”
He stares at me, face terse, eyes dark and cloudy.
“Tell me,” I beg, and he just stares at me, the silence of the room adding to the buzz inside my skull.
Finally, he shakes his head. “Of course it’s because of you.”

By Emily Henry,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked People We Meet on Vacation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Book Lovers and Beach Read comes a sparkling novel that will leave you with the warm, hazy afterglow usually reserved for the best vacations.

Two best friends. Ten summer trips. One last chance to fall in love.

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of…

King of Battle and Blood

By Scarlett St. Clair,

Book cover of King of Battle and Blood

Why did I love this book?

Isolde is forced to marry the universally hated vampire king Adrian. For those who like their forbidden romances even spicier than the above suggestions, this romantasy (fantasy-romance hybrid) is sure to steam up your Kindle. This fun, enemies-to-lovers ride follows Isolde’s necessary marriage to the most despised and feared man in her universe, the vampire king Adrian. She’s not just supposed to hate him—she’s supposed to kill him—except she’s about to explode from the power of their off-the-charts chemistry. Author Scarlett St. Clair does not hold back on the steam, which feels undeniably satisfying when the sexual tension between the characters is so utterly fierce and angsty.

“Why me?”
He stared at me, and I got the impression he did not know how to answer my question.
“You assume I want a wife,” he said. “But I came for a queen.”
It was my turn to stare.
“So our marriage will be one of pageantry?”
“Oh, I think we are both too passionate for that.”

By Scarlett St. Clair,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked King of Battle and Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An instant USA Today bestseller! From fan-favorite Scarlett St. Clair, the bestselling author of the Hades & Persephone series, comes a new fantasy filled with danger, darkness, and insatiable romance.

Their union is his revenge.

Isolde de Lara considers her wedding day to be her death day. To end a years-long war, she is to marry vampire king Adrian Aleksandr Vasiliev, and kill him.

But her assassination attempt is thwarted, and Adrian threatens that if Isolde tries to kill him again, he will raise her as the undead. Faced with the possibility of becoming the thing she hates most, Isolde…

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