The best romance books that flash back to the 1980s and 90s

Who am I?

I was a teenager in the 80s (with the big-hair pictures to prove it) and a chain-smoking, bar-hopping, flannel-clad twenty-something in the 90s. I remember everything about those days. Because my brain is basically a pop culture museum, most of my books are nostalgic, geared toward Gen X, and heavily influenced by the John Hughes films from my youth. My novels are always written with humor, heart, and heat… and more than a little sarcasm. Then again, I’m a lifelong Jersey girl, so that might go without saying. I love reading stories with fun, gorgeous heroes and smart, vibrant heroines… so that’s what I write.

I wrote...

Remember When

By T. Torrest,

Book cover of Remember When

What is my book about?

You know how sometimes, your high school crush grows up to become an insanely famous movie star? Okay, probably not. But I do.

Years before Trip Wiley could be seen on movie screens all over the world, he could be seen sitting at the desk behind me in my fifth-period English class. This was back in 1990, back in the days of Aqua Net and Cavariccis, of keg parties and NKOTB. Back when Trip’s “fame” only extended to the female population of our nothing little town. I mean, we were practically drooling over the guy. In our defense, he was pretty freaking hot. And smart. And funny. And talented. And hot. Still is. Can you blame me for never getting over him?

The books I picked & why

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Seduction and Snacks

By Tara Sivec,

Book cover of Seduction and Snacks

Why this book?

Tara Sivec is flipping hysterical, and if you haven’t discovered her yet, I highly suggest you dive into her entire book catalog immediately. Seduction and Snacks was my first read from her, and I noticed so many similar pop culture references in our writing that I messaged her to introduce myself and find out if we’d been separated at birth. S&S is crude, silly, and thoroughly entertaining. Oh, and also—according to the warning on her book’s sales page—not to be taken seriously. You should probably go in with an open mind (and a bottle of Tequila). 

The Good Life

By Jodie Beau,

Book cover of The Good Life

Why this book?

Jodie Beau and I have a mutual blogger friend who badgered me incessantly to read this book. I’m so glad she did! The Good Life is an enchanting story about a single mother heading back to her hometown to start over, but it’s all the awesome movie and TV show references that landed it a spot on this list. This author is as much of a pop culture junkie as I am… and that’s saying a lot. I’m a sucker for a steamy second-chance friends-to-lovers story that will leave me with a huge smile on my face by the last turn of the page. TGL delivered on all counts! 

Melt With You

By Addison Moore,

Book cover of Melt With You

Why this book?

Like, omigod! What a blast from the past! This adorable teen romance takes place in 1984 in southern California. It was a totally awesome 80s flashback that reminded me of Pretty in Pink (never a bad thing, amirite?). Granted, I felt that too many of the pop culture references were awkwardly crowbarred into the narrative, but it was still a fun ride nonetheless. I love stories like this, ones where the average girl lands the school’s most popular guy. Throw in a makeover, and I’m one-clicking every time. Does that make me shallow? I don’t care. Plots like that always give good butterflies, and MWY is no exception. If you’re looking for a totally rad romance that won’t gag you with a spoon, Melt With You will like, totally stoke your 1980s heart.

Oona Out of Order

By Margarita Montimore,

Book cover of Oona Out of Order

Why this book?

In a word… wow. This book blew me away. It’s about an 18-year-old on New Year’s Eve in 1982 who, at the stroke of midnight, wakes up in the body of her 51-year-old self. Each new year, she finds herself time-hopping into a random version of herself. I loved the concept of this story and the many, many nods to the 80s and 90s in New York City (OMG the outfits!!!). I consider myself a queen of nostalgia, but I may need to hand my crown over to Ms. Montimore. She seamlessly weaves in the pop culture of each year during every new chapter, fully immersing you in that time period. I felt the ending was a little rushed, but I’m still putting this on my “top recommendations” shelf. I implore you to take a chance on this quirky, sexy, and surprising book. You won’t be disappointed.


By Caryl Rivers,

Book cover of Virgins

Why this book?

Gah! Virgins! I should mention that this book was actually written in the 80s and flashes back to the 50s, but in the spirit of this list (and simply because I flipping love it), I’m including it here. Peggy and Sean are two good little Catholic teens navigating their senior year of high school. Sean is slated to enter the priesthood upon graduation, testing the limits of the pair’s carnal restraint in the final days of their relationship. I don’t think there’s a book in the world that has influenced my storytelling more than this one. It’s hot, hilarious, and heartbreaking… and pretty much serves as the blueprint for my own book. Highly recommend.

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