The best romance novels for empowering escapism

Why am I passionate about this?

I started reading romance because I wanted to drown myself in stories of women stepping into their power and getting everything they wanted. Romance is a genre often looked down upon because of the happy-ever-afters, but I think that’s part of why it can be so deliciously subversive. Most (but not all) romance novels are centered on women, their voices, their sexuality, their desires, and their victories. In a world that’s often cruel, escaping into a world where dreams and fantasies are possible can be liberating. I started writing romance because I wanted to be a part of these stories and craft a world for others to escape into.

I wrote...

Unbound by Shadows

By Avalon Griffin,

Book cover of Unbound by Shadows

What is my book about?

Selene has never been one to make a fuss. She doesn’t mind it when the barista gets her order wrong, someone cuts her off in traffic, or she must drop everything to mediate her family’s latest crisis. But when she enters a portal to the matriarchal dimension of Aurelia, she encounters a demon whose smoldering gaze makes her wonder why she ever craved a life so ordinary.

Samael is a vengeance demon with a drive to punish. When he becomes Selene’s guardian on a quest for a stone that could send her home, he plots to sacrifice her and steal it for himself. But as they travel together, their attraction grows. Until one day, they each must choose between finding escape and surrendering to temptation.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Dark Needs at Night's Edge

Avalon Griffin Why did I love this book?

I’m a sucker for stories about two outcasts who find belonging together, and this book does that beautifully.

It’s about a ballerina who haunts her beloved home after being murdered in the 1920s. She’s bored and desperately lonely until a crazed vampire becomes imprisoned in her mansion.

Because he’s not human, the vampire can see the beautiful ghost, and sparks fly.

This book is a master class in writing sexual tension since the characters can’t touch initially. Once they could touch, I loved how the heroine was fully comfortable in her sexuality and assertive with her less experienced vampire partner.

The author also does a great job of showing how the two progress and change through their own character arcs, with love being the catalyst for their growth. 

By Kresley Cole,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dark Needs at Night's Edge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On the night lovely Neomi Renate, a famous ballerina at the turn of the century, was murdered, an evil force turned her into a spectre - a phantom that's neither alive nor dead - and cursed her to relive her harrowing death every month during the full moon. Unable to leave her home, she has managed to scare away any trespassers, until she encounters an inhabitant even more terrifying than Neomi herself.

When Conrad Wroth, a vampire warlord who's been half-mad for centuries, first beholds Neomi, he knows nothing will stop him from claiming the ethereal beauty as his own…

Book cover of Ice Planet Barbarians

Avalon Griffin Why did I love this book?

No, this isn't the title of a B-movie—it's the fun, sexy, and surprisingly sweet start of a series with wonderful world-building and likable characters.

This book is about how a group of human women abducted by evil aliens crash-land on a planet full of hunky, endearing aliens and the adventures they share.

I loved how the aliens cherished and celebrated the women in this story instead of reviling their humanity, as I've seen in other sci-fi stories. The spicy scenes are hot, and the heroine is a natural leader who doesn't passively wait around to be rescued.

This is a dual-POV story, and the alien hero's confusion over human quirks is quite funny. Escapism at its best!

By Ruby Dixon,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Ice Planet Barbarians as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

You'd think being abducted by aliens would be the worst thing that could happen to me. And you'd be wrong. Because now, the aliens are having ship trouble, and they've left their cargo of human women - including me - on an ice planet.

And the only native inhabitant I've met? He's big, horned, blue, and really, really has a thing for me...

Book cover of A Gentleman Never Keeps Score

Avalon Griffin Why did I love this book?

This book was one of the first male/male romance novels I ever read.

I loved how the author took an interracial gay love story set in the early 1800s and made it believable and sweet without glossing over the harsh realities of the time. The romance follows the trope of “opposites attract” between a disgraced English gentleman and a Black former boxer who runs a pub.

The two characters complimented each other well, and altogether I was worried they could never truly have happily-ever-after in Regency England, the author found a wonderful way to make sure they did.

The book delves into concepts like found-family, healing from sexual trauma, classism, racism, consent, and boundaries—a wonderful, uplifting escape into history.

By Cat Sebastian,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Gentleman Never Keeps Score as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If you haven’t read Cat Sebastian, what are you waiting for?”—Lorraine Heath, New York Times bestselling author


Once beloved by London's fashionable elite, Hartley Sedgwick has become a recluse after a spate of salacious gossip exposed his most-private secrets. Rarely venturing from the house whose inheritance is a daily reminder of his downfall, he’s captivated by the exceedingly handsome man who seeks to rob him.

Since retiring from the boxing ring, Sam Fox has made his pub, The Bell, into a haven for those in his Free Black community. But when his best friend Kate implores him to find and…

Book cover of A Duke by Default

Avalon Griffin Why did I love this book?

Have you ever dreamed about escaping all your problems by picking up and moving to Scotland to become a sword-maker?

That’s exactly what the heroine does in this book. Contemporary romance isn’t my favorite, but everything Alyssa Cole writes is full of emotional depth, diverse characters, and chemistry for days.

The hero of this book is a sexy, lovable grouch, and the heroine battles her own insecurities and struggles with ADHD in a way that makes you want to cheer by the end of the book.

I loved the themes of finding your own path despite family expectations, and how the hero never tried to rein in the heroine but stepped up his own self-growth to meet her.

By Alyssa Cole,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Duke by Default as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An NPR Best Book of the Year - A Bookish Favorite Book of the Year - A Bookpage Best Romance of the Year

Award-winning author Alyssa Cole's Reluctant Royals series continues with a woman on a quest to be the heroine of her own story and the duke in shining armor she rescues along the way...

New York City socialite and perpetual hot mess Portia Hobbs is tired of disappointing her family, friends, and-most importantly-herself. An apprenticeship with a struggling swordmaker in Scotland is a chance to use her expertise and discover what she's capable of. Turns out she excels…

Book cover of The North Wind

Avalon Griffin Why did I love this book?

For fans of slow-burn, enemies-to-lovers fantasy, this book is gold.

With Beauty and the Beast and Hades and Persephone vibes, this book tells the story of a human woman who is kidnapped and wed to the Frost King, a brooding immortal.

The writing is beautiful, and I appreciated how it took a long time for the heroine and hero to trust each other and break down their walls. Both characters are deeply flawed, yet you still root for their happiness.

The world-building is lovely and folkloric. Getting into the steamy parts takes a while, but it’s worth the wait!

By Alexandria Warwick,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The North Wind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lush. Dark. Romantic. Introducing a newly reimagined tale written in the vein of Beauty and the Beast and Hades and Persephone.

Long before civilization, there were the gods. And before the gods, there was the earth, the celestial bodies, and air given flesh. They are the Anemoi-the Four Winds-and they have been banished to the four corners of the world.

Wren of Edgewood is no stranger to suffering. Her parents are gone. Survival is all she knows. For three hundred years, the land known as the Gray has been encased in ice, surrounded by a great barrier called the Shade,…

You might also like...

Return to Hope Creek

By Alyssa J. Montgomery,

Book cover of Return to Hope Creek

Alyssa J. Montgomery Author Of A Spanish Seduction

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an Australian USA Today bestselling romance author who writes contemporary romance and uses the pen name Alyssa James to write medieval romance. I think the makeover trope resonates with me because although I’m no beauty queen now, I was definitely an ugly duckling in my teens. For reasons best known to him, my father insisted on close-cropped hair, and financial circumstances dictated out-of-style hand-me-down clothing. After university, I found my own style, but it wasn’t until I was accepted as an international flight attendant that I believed that I couldn’t be all that ugly if Qantas employed me!

Alyssa's book list on makeover romances

What is my book about?

Return to Hope Creek is a second-chance rural romance set in Australia.

Stella Simpson's career and engagement are over. She returns to the rural community of Hope Creek to heal, unaware her high school and college sweetheart, Mitchell Scott, has also moved back to town to do some healing of his own.

Mitchell, a former NFL quarterback, doesn't need the complication of encountering Stella again so long after the messy end to their relationship, but as each tries to build a new life, they are drawn together and find their chemistry is just as strong as ever.

Will their love be stronger the second time around?

Return to Hope Creek

By Alyssa J. Montgomery,

What is this book about?

When two old flames come back to their home town, sparks are bound to ignite. A rural romance from USA Today bestselling author Alyssa J. Montgomery.

A horrific car accident ended former world number-one Stella Simpson’s tennis career, and a betrayal ended her relationship with her fiancé/coach. When a family friend offers to sell her half of a property in the rural community where she grew up, it seems like the perfect place to escape, heal and begin the next phase of her life. Until she discovers that the man who broke her heart ten years ago has bought the…

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