The best forbidden romance books to tempt and hook you

The Books I Picked & Why

From Sand and Ash

By Amy Harmon

Book cover of From Sand and Ash

Why 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."

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Jane Eyre

By Charlotte Brontë

Book cover of Jane Eyre

Why 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.

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Bronze Horseman

By Paullina Simons

Book cover of The Bronze Horseman

Why 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.”

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

People We Meet on Vacation

By Emily Henry

Book cover of People We Meet on Vacation

Why 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.”

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

King of Battle and Blood

By Scarlett St Clair

Book cover of King of Battle and Blood

Why 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.”

When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists