367 books directly related to romantic love 📚

All 367 romantic love books as recommended by authors and experts. Updated weekly.

Convenience Store Woman

By Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori,

Book cover of Convenience Store Woman

Why this book?

Keiko Furukura can’t find her fit in the world until she’s hired as a sales clerk at Smile Mart. (I imagine it’s like the 7-11 stores in Tokyo, which serve pretty good food.) She’s an ideal worker, primarily because her passion for Smile Smart is genuine. Yet her sister and others think she should marry, pursue a career, and at least have a boyfriend. Herein lies the heart of the inner struggle, to which each of us navigates to some degree or another: how much to relinquish oneself in order to please others? Keiko’s inner battle is valiant and believable, and I rooted for her throughout the story to choose her idiosyncratic, odd self over something as bland as the world’s definition of female. 


Gone With the Wind

By Margaret Mitchell,

Book cover of Gone With the Wind

Why this book?

It’s been years since I’ve read this book and yet I could tell you a million details about the story, the main character as well as the side characters. I didn’t like the character of Scarlet for the majority of the book but I always understood her and respected her determination to survive no matter what. I can’t help but admire Margaret for writing such a strong, complex character.


The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work

By Terrence Real,

Book cover of The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Know to Make Love Work

Why this book?

I picked up this book about 12 years ago. Being a psychotherapist I love, love learning. I love attending workshops (pre-covid) and learning new ways of thinking. New ways of looking at issues. New ways to look at how we get stuck in our relationships and life. Reading this book gave me tools that have transformed my therapy practice and how I work with couples. How I interact with my husband, my sons, and my close friends. It helped me by giving me insight into who I want to be in a relationship and it gave me self-worth as well. I have all the couples I work with read this book and it speeds along our therapy work. 


Lovely War

By Julie Berry,

Book cover of Lovely War

Why this book?

A love story set during wartime. One might shrug their shoulders as if to say, Ho, hum. But this is a love story unlike any other. Aside from being exquisitely written, filled with stunning beauty and ugly truths, it is, in fact, three love stories: two between two mortal couples set during WWI, and the third, a love triangle among the gods (yes, Olympian gods) set during WWII. What’s ho hum about that? Again, it is the craft Berry wields that intrigues me. How does she tell a historical story from a fantastical point of view? How do the gods serve as intrusive narrators without truly being intrusive? 


The Lover

By Marguerite Duras, Barbara Bray (translator),

Book cover of The Lover

Why this book?

This classic of illicit passion is so beautifully written, so mesmeric in its poetic prose and recreation of a long-gone world, it blew my mind when I first read it and changed my ideas about the possibilities of writing. The young Duras meets a Chinese man on a ferry crossing the Mekong at the start of this autobiographical novel. Their differences in age, wealth, class, race, and expectations, all play out, and it’s a novel as much about exploitation as sexual desire. It’s multi-layered, experimental, but has a real narrative tug. I love it!


Lust, Caution: The Story

By Eileen Chang,

Book cover of Lust, Caution: The Story

Why this book?

Set in wartime Shanghai in a time of espionage, betrayal, and murder. Chang knew of what she wrote – her own husband worked for the pro-Japanese collaborationist Chinese government of Wang Jing-wei and was considered a traitor. It’s a wartime novel where bombs don’t fall and soldiers don’t fight but everyone, including the main character of Wang Chia-chih (based on a real-life Nationalist Chinese spy Zheng Pingru, but with a fair amount of Chang herself thrown in), is faced with issues of resistance, collaboration, fighting back or staying quiet. A novella, but no less a masterpiece for being short.


The Glass Palace

By Amitav Ghosh,

Book cover of The Glass Palace

Why this book?

The finest novel written on the English in Burma. Set during the British invasion of 1885, a poor boy is lifted on the tides of political and social chaos that shaped Burma and India.


My Last Continent

By Midge Raymond,

Book cover of My Last Continent

Why this book?

Few novels capture the thrills and the dangers of living in Antarctica amidst penguins, icebergs, and tourist vessels. Midge Raymond (who is my partner) has written a powerful novel that is more than just a romance between researchers, it is a cautionary tale about the precariousness of our world. For anyone considering (or dreaming) of a cruise to Antarctica, this is a must-read novel.


Rebecca

By Daphne du Maurier,

Book cover of Rebecca

Why this book?

Suspenseful and chilling, Rebecca is a quintessential piece of gothic literature. Daphne Du Maurier’s classic novel has gone on to inspire several retellings and adaptations in the decades since its publication. I love how the story deftly weaves together mystery and noir elements with exquisite atmospheric writing and cleverly executed twists. 


The Handmaid's Tale

By Margaret Atwood,

Book cover of The Handmaid's Tale

Why this book?

Like all great dystopian books, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is a powerful condemnation of our present reality, and is finding particular resonance in today’s debates on female agency and equality. The story takes place in a United States transformed into a religious-military dictatorship known as the Republic of Gilead, where women are only valued for what they can contribute to men. Beyond denying women property and literacy, Gilead denies them their names and autonomy over their bodies. The story is made more poignant and powerful through the eyes of Offred, a handmaid who still remembers and yearns for the life stolen from her—one where she had a job, a husband, and a child. The perfect dystopian book to feed your rebellion against female oppression.


Pavilion of Women

By Pearl S. Buck,

Book cover of Pavilion of Women

Why this book?

Pearl Buck is an author whom I admire for her genuine love and respect of the Chinese culture and people. This sentiment shines through her novels. Pavilion of Women is unique in that it highlights a pronounced social change in China in the early 20th century, when Western values began to nudge younger Chinese to unyoke themselves of old traditions and customs. The fastidious, all-wise, and freedom-seeking protagonist attempts to dictate other people’s lives to keep her household in order, but fails miserably. She finally learns from a renegade missionary that her rigid attitudes and lack of empathy are in fact the real shackles that hobble her.

I love this novel because character development is superbly handled.


Eleanor & Park

By Rainbow Rowell,

Book cover of Eleanor & Park

Why this book?

Eleanor & Park is the story of two 16-year-olds who ride the school bus together and fall in love for the first time. Your typical first love story, right? Wrong. Eleanor and her mother are both victims of domestic abuse, Eleanor also suffers from poor body image, and she is bullied at school for not fitting in. Park is a half-Asian cool kid who tries to break through Eleanor’s tough exterior. Set in the mid-1980s with lots of cool cultural references, Eleanor & Park will appeal to the romantics, the quirky ones, and the misfits among us.


The Movement of Stars

By Amy Brill,

Book cover of The Movement of Stars

Why this book?

Read one page of this gorgeous novel and be transported to the streets and sand dunes of 19th-century Quaker Nantucket back when it was still a whaling town. The Movement of Stars is a brilliantly researched work of historical fiction that explores timeless themes: ambition, love, women’s rights, closed-faith communities, and race. I fell in love with the quiet protagonist, Hannah Price, who charts her own course in this unlikely love story.


Dominicana

By Angie Cruz,

Book cover of Dominicana

Why this book?

Effectively a novelization of Cruz’s own mother’s story, Dominicana is about a 15-year-old girl in the Dominican Republic who, in the 1960s, is married off to a local man in his thirties. He has set up a new life for them in Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan. Despite its moments of struggle, spousal abuse, and loneliness, this novel reads lightly and inspirationally—a celebration of its protagonist’s fortitude.


The Tattooist of Auschwitz

By Heather Morris,

Book cover of The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Why this book?

This book is written from an incredible perspective of a Slovakian Jew, who because he speaks multiple languages, is forcibly put to work to permanently mark via tattoo his fellow prisoners. With all of the negativity surrounding his physical and emotional world, he finds love in a fellow prisoner, whom he met while marking her arm. The way the author is able to weave a beautiful love story throughout this nightmare, really exemplifies the importance of hope and resistance.

The Testaments

By Margaret Atwood,

Book cover of The Testaments

Why this book?

Atwood has written extensively about the relationship between humans and nature in many of her books, in many different forms. But I’ve chosen to highlight The Testaments because of the way Atwood explores the fallout of ideologies that stemmed from an environmental collapse. What Atwood does so brilliantly in her writing is continually revealing how human reaction to climate change can be as harmful as the mass ecological destruction and extinction itself. She serves up a cautionary tale for how our response—and our beliefs—will play a large role in what kind of changes define the future.


Where the Crawdads Sing

By Delia Owens,

Book cover of Where the Crawdads Sing

Why this book?

A resourceful woman, an outcast, cleverly survives a harsh life. She turns to art for inspiration and fulfillment.

The descriptions of Kya’s drawings of shells, feathers, and seabirds were evocative. Equally compelling was the poetry composed by the talented and insightful Kya.

The relationship between Kya and the black couple, Jumping’ and Mabel, was moving and heartfelt.

The book tackles topics of abandonment, isolation, and betrayal; against this reality Kya proves to be resilient, creative, and resourceful.


The Paris Library

By Janet Skeslien Charles,

Book cover of The Paris Library

Why this book?

I loved this book as much for its story as its turn of phrase. The Paris Library is set during the Nazi occupation of Paris. Although the book does not avoid addressing the privations and terror experienced by those living through that devastating period, it is the role the library played in people’s lives that is central to the story – it provided a precarious haven and a refuge of sanity. The novel is an important reminder that books are far more than words on paper – they have the power to sustain us through the darkest times.

Still Life with Woodpecker

By Tom Robbins,

Book cover of Still Life with Woodpecker

Why this book?

Still Life with Woodpecker tells the story of the love affair between Leigh-Cheri, an environmentalist princess, and Bernard Mickey Wrangle, an outlaw known as the Woodpecker. It’s a pure tribute to love and the enthusiasm for life and endeavors to emphasize the unreserved need we have to have in order to keep both of these alive.

Bernard reminds Leigh-Cheri that “Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won't adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet.” One of the best reads for one who is in love or in need of falling in love!


Gold Fame Citrus

By Claire Vaye Watkins,

Book cover of Gold Fame Citrus

Why this book?

This speculative dystopia about drought-ruined California is equal parts lyrical gut-punch and surrealist adventure story. Main characters Luz and Ray set up residence in an abandoned celebrity mansion, subsisting on whatever they can scavenge. Their precarious existence is upended when they cross paths with a toddler, and the trio sets off into the Dune Sea in search of a life that offers more than mere survival. A warning: this is not a cool breeze of a read. But if you’re curious about the psychic impact of prolonged heat, thirst, and desperation, Watkins offers a masterclass on the grimy reality of human resilience in a hostile world of our own making.

Walking on Glass

By Iain M. Banks,

Book cover of Walking on Glass

Why this book?

I love Iain Banks’ work and this book seems to encapsulate the best of his early work: epic sci-fi, mental breakdown, and fantastic comedy. Switching between three storylines, one of which contains the best imagery in all SF and fantasy, Walking On Glass mixes reality with insanity and imagination with the every day to superb effect.


Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs

By Molly Harper,

Book cover of Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs

Why this book?

Molly Harper has a way with words. They are often funny in the most unique ways. Her Half-Moon Hollow series is set in a world where the vampires have come out of the coffin. Jane Jameson, the local (recently fired) librarian, has been turned into a vampire and if her mama finds out, Jane will never hear the end of it.


Sex in an Old Regime City: Young Workers and Intimacy in France, 1660-1789

By Julie Hardwick,

Book cover of Sex in an Old Regime City: Young Workers and Intimacy in France, 1660-1789

Why this book?

This book brings to light the intimate relationships of ordinary young men and women as opposed to those of powerful, public women. While royal women endured contemporary surveillance of their sexuality, pregnancies, and childbirths, the intimate lives of ordinary women must be wrested from archival records. Harwick’s exploration of legal records concerning unmarried pregnant women reveals the various range of strategies they adopted as well as the extensive support, both emotional and financial, they received from their community—clergy, lawyers, midwives, parents, etc.—to the benefit of both mother and child. Such support may well have reduced child abandonment and infanticide.

Hardwick not only challenges the standard notion of a sexual double standard applied to the detriment of women but also documents the mobilization of an early modern city not to punish unmarried women who faced expected pregnancies but to offer sympathetic aid.


The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

By Haruki Murakami,

Book cover of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

Why this book?

A deeply engrossing story, where characters are transported back into time from contemporary Japan to zoos in Manchuria on the eve of Japan’s 1945 defeat. Although the narrative is disjointed, its characters are haunting, and the work is unforgettable. A mesmerizing tale by the greatest living novelist of Japan today.


An Unofficial Marriage: A Novel about Pauline Viardot and Ivan Turgenev

By Joie Davidow,

Book cover of An Unofficial Marriage: A Novel about Pauline Viardot and Ivan Turgenev

Why this book?

Pauline Viardot (1821-1910) was one of the most celebrated prima donnas of the nineteenth century, but she was much more than a typical diva. She was also one of the most versatile artists of the era, a talented composer, arranger, teacher, autograph collector, entrepreneur, salonnière, and promoter of early music. While fictionalized, this novel sticks closely to historical events of her life, focusing on her marriage to Louis Viardot, her long-lasting affair with Russian author Ivan Turgenev, and the unconventional and loving bonds that formed between these three extraordinary artists. If you’re looking for historical fiction about one of the most fascinating divas of the nineteenth century, An Unofficial Marriage is a great choice.


The Darkest Part of the Forest

By Holly Black,

Book cover of The Darkest Part of the Forest

Why this book?

Wow, it is nearly impossible to choose just one of my faves from Holly Black’s faerie stories. They are all amazing! Seriously…. Every. Last. One. But what grabbed me with this book was the way it started. This story has an eerie feel to it from the very first page. I love how Holly weaves reality into her fantasy and the way the Fae are already known and accepted in their world, but also feared (because hello, they’re Fae!). There's everything in this story, romance, adventure, and coming-of-age badassery, which again bodes well if you ever find yourself face to face with the Faire Folk.


Follow Me to Ground

By Sue Rainsford,

Book cover of Follow Me to Ground

Why this book?

Nothing scary happens exactly, but that doesn’t stop this novel from holding a strange and creepy tension throughout the whole of it. With a heavy surrealist bent, the book centers on a girl and her father who were born from the ground, and so have the powers to heal people by moving around the things that are inside them. It’s exactly as haunting as it sounds.


Egalia's Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes

By Gerd Brantenberg,

Book cover of Egalia's Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes

Why this book?

There is never enough alternate history. Particularly alternate history that doesn’t focus either on the Nazis winning World War II or the South winning the American Civil War. Thankfully we have Egalia’s Daughters, yet another forward-thinking novel from the seventies. Set in a world where gender norms are swapped around entirely, its male characters wear special testicle bras and adorn their beards with flowers (I do like that last part). Of course, this woman-dominated world is no less homophobic than our own, and as part of their gender rebellion, the men form relationships with one another, in various configurations. It’s a delightful read, with its gender reversals a mirror reflection of our own society.

Exposure: An Epiphany Novel

By Ember Dante,

Book cover of Exposure: An Epiphany Novel

Why this book?

The characters in Exposure are well developed and likable, and the story was captivating from beginning to end. It had the right mix of tension and humor. Readers who enjoy spicy romances with some family drama thrown in will love this book. Loyalty is a double-edged sword, especially when dealing with family.


The Plus One

By Sarah Archer,

Book cover of The Plus One

Why this book?

If sci-fi is not really your thing, worry not! Charming robots have crept into romance too and as a romance, The Plus One doesn’t disappoint. The robot love interest, Ethan, is everything a woman could look for—attentive, handsome, intelligent. But is he too good to be true? I loved how this book took a sci-fi trope and rewrote it for a romance reader, while still addressing some of the fundamental questions raised by AI, in this instance, not just “what is human?” but also “what is love?”


Animal Husbandry

By Laura Zigman,

Book cover of Animal Husbandry

Why this book?

I would argue that this novel set up the formula for fresh funny self-deprecating women characters that become heroines of their own stories. Later made into a movie with Ashley Judd and titled Someone Like You, the heroine compares modern-day dating to the rituals of mating in the animal kingdom to hilarious results.  


Kyland (Sign of Love)

By Mia Sheridan,

Book cover of Kyland (Sign of Love)

Why this book?

This book made me smile, ugly cry, laugh, feel upset, feel hopeful and it gave me goosebumps. I loved everything that it made me feel. The hero made an enormous sacrifice for the heroine without telling her. Misunderstandings and this secret ultimately placed them on separate paths, but when fate places them in the same place years later, it's magic. It is a story about second chances, about the flame of true love never going out, and about facing one’s biggest fear and facing it daily for the person you love.


The Wall of Winnipeg and Me

By Mariana Zapata,

Book cover of The Wall of Winnipeg and Me

Why this book?

Aiden and Vanessa’s story is another slow burn, but it does not feel slow at all. Zapata has a way of building a sensual story that makes you want more without feeling as if you are missing something. I did not think I would like slow-burn romances until I came across Zapata. I fell in love with these characters as they were becoming friends and ultimately as they fell in love with one another. I found myself smiling a lot watching the interactions between these two. It’s magic. I still think of Aiden often and wish he were my boyfriend! (That is how much I liked him).


Delicious

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. 


My Stubborn Heart

By Becky Wade,

Book cover of My Stubborn Heart

Why this book?

I love My Stubborn Heart because it’s a contemporary Christian romance that’s real, relatable, and encourages Christians to trust God, even when it feels like doing things God’s way puts our hopes and dreams at risk. I love this book because a) hockey player, and b) redheaded heroine (and we all need to see more of them in fiction and real life!)

I recommend this book for people who enjoy contemporary romance with heart and humor and are wanting to read books with more than a tokenistic faith message.


It Had to Be You

By Susan May Warren,

Book cover of It Had to Be You

Why this book?

This is the second book in the Christiansen family series, but in my opinion, is one of the best. Why? It’s about a hockey player (hello!), and the over-committed sister of one of his teammates. This book explores things such as family obligations and unspoken expectations, discovering God’s purpose for your life, and learning to accept God’s grace. The use of Scripture is powerful and inspiring yet used so naturally that I’m sure readers will be encouraged as I was, and as for the romance – prepare for some swoon-worthy kisses!

Reason and Romance: A Contemporary Retelling of Sense and Sensibility

By Debra White Smith,

Book cover of Reason and Romance: A Contemporary Retelling of Sense and Sensibility

Why this book?

As a longtime fan of Jane Austen, this modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility is the epitome of romance for me, containing all the feels. There is a beautiful sense of longing, as Elaina attempts to be the voice of reason in her highly emotion-driven family while struggling between her natural caution and a yearning attraction for Ted Farris. It’s the sense of emotional constraint that makes this romance so powerful to me, as Elaina’s qualities of reticence seem rare these days. If you want an inspiring, sweet romance with a hint of Jane Austen, then this is a great book to check out.

Devil's Bride

By Stephanie Laurens,

Book cover of Devil's Bride

Why this book?

I love all of Stephanie Laurens’ books about historical London and high society during the Regency period or “the ton”, as it was called. The Bar Cynster series doesn’t disappoint. These books are fun to read and in keeping with the true romance books of boy meets girl themes and girl tames the cagy, self-proclaimed bachelor. Each book deals with a different brother or cousin in the Cynster dynasty and a specific event around their daily lives. The reader gets a sense of current events and the lifestyle of the rich during this period and how money and power can evade or remove any adverse effects on the family. 

There are six books in this series and I highly recommend reading all six. They are fun, light-hearted, and easy to read. I even like their nicknames of “scandal”, “rake”, and “devil”. It makes them seem like the bad boys of their day. A great pick-me-up series. Sometimes I re-read them just for the fun of it.


To Sir Phillip, with Love: Bridgerton

By Julia Quinn,

Book cover of To Sir Phillip, with Love: Bridgerton

Why this book?

I have enjoyed all the books in the Bridgerton Series, even though, or maybe because, they are much different than the Netflix series by the same name. Julia Quinn is the master of writing about women with an attitude, and this book is no exception. Eloise, thought to be a hopeless spinster, finds herself with a pen-pal. She never expected the widower in the letters to propose, but willing to create a new life for herself, she runs off in the middle of the night to accept his offer. The story that follows is charming, realistic, and thoroughly enjoyable. 

I love Eloise in this story. She is smart and funny and brave. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks, or maybe she simply isn’t afraid to step outside her comfort zone and go against the norm. Whatever the case, the romance in this book is smart and funny. I adore a leading man who is withdrawn, intellectual, and completely thrown by a strong-willed woman.


The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh

By Molly Greeley,

Book cover of The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh

Why this book?

If you’re not a dyed-in-the-wool historical fiction reader, you might think Jane Austen retellings aren’t for you. That’s only because you haven’t read The Heiress yet. This stunning, dreamy, gothic-infused book takes a minor character from Pride and Prejudice who hardly gets any lines and spins up a story about finding your voice in a world that wants to keep you silent. Anne’s struggle against addiction and desperate desire to embrace the beauty of life feels like it could have taken place yesterday. Also, it’s got lesbian yearning that’s both sweet and sexy, aka the dream. Give me that queer pining, please and thank you. 


How I Wonder What You Are

By Jane Lovering,

Book cover of How I Wonder What You Are

Why this book?

This book has great warmth and humour. The characters feel so real. It’s set in Yorkshire in the UK, which happens to be where I spent most of my life, so that made it extra enjoyable. I feel not enough people know about Jane Lovering and her books deserve more readers. This is not just another romance, but a romance with heart and depth. I defy anyone not to fall in love with Phinn.


Jane Doe

By Victoria Helen Stone,

Book cover of Jane Doe

Why this book?

If you enjoyed Gone Girl, I’m guessing you have a soft spot for a well-written sociopath. Jane Doe will be right up your street and then some. Jane is the kind of sociopath you can’t help but love. She’s funny, she’s misanthropic and she doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks. But best of all, Jane is on a revenge mission and despite every horrible thing she does, you’ll still love her.


The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert

By John Gottman, Nan Silver,

Book cover of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert

Why this book?

I am a huge fan of Gottman's work, and I would be happy to recommend any of his books. At his “love lab,” he has done a tremendous amount of rigorous scientific research over the past several decades about what makes relationships work and what makes them fail, and he has boiled all of that down into some very helpful lessons about what successful couples do and what they avoid.  There is no better place to start if you are looking to improve your relationship.


Punk 57

By Penelope Douglas,

Book cover of Punk 57

Why this book?

This is a pen pals turned to best friends turned to enemies turned to lovers story. And no one could write this mess better than Penelope Douglas. Punk 57 follows the friendship of two kids who only talk through letters until Misha transfers to Ryen’s school and discovers she’s nothing like in the letters. You can blame the hormones, but this book has the same amount of angst as it has of pure goodness.


Assassin's Gambit: The Hearts and Thrones

By Amy Raby,

Book cover of Assassin's Gambit: The Hearts and Thrones

Why this book?

This book was originally marketed as a “romance for the fans of the Game of Thrones”, and it is one of the books I really enjoy. The main character, Vitala, is sent by her secret order of rebels to assassinate the powerful Emperor of Kjall. When she arrives at court, she is quickly dropped into a torrent of intrigue that makes her question everything she’d learned, including her own mission. 

This book is pure fun, from start to finish. From the assassins’ standpoint, Vitala is a refreshing one, because her powers come from a special skill she possesses rather than weaponry. In fact, most of the imperial guards, as well as the Emperor himself, are much more capable than her when it comes to combat, and yet in the end the danger she brings outpowers them all. This book taught me a lot about writing action, intrigue, and romance.


The Player

By Claire Contreras,

Book cover of The Player

Why this book?

I loved this book so much! It was hot, full of passion, and fun to read. I adore Claire's writing and she brings you into a world where you never want to leave. I literally know nothing about soccer, but this book is still one of my absolute faves!


The Deal

By Elle Kennedy,

Book cover of The Deal

Why this book?

Elle writes college hockey like no one's business. You can tell she's a fan who actually knows the sport (and the mindset of the guys who play it). This book is hot, funny, frustrating, and oh, so good. I fell in love instantly with her writing and I know you will too!


Long Shot

By Kennedy Ryan,

Book cover of Long Shot

Why this book?

Long Shot is the most brutally honest and beautiful romance novel I have ever read, and undoubtedly one of my top reads of all time. There are so many elements of this story I loved, but what I loved most was how fearlessly Kennedy Ryan tackled the taboo subject of abuse -- specifically in the sports world. Full of heartache and evocative hope, this is an absolute must-read.


Warm Bodies

By Isaac Marion,

Book cover of Warm Bodies

Why this book?

Can’t we all relate to feeling a disconnect to the ‘real world’ in these times of rampant social media and fake news? I know I sometimes slip into zombie mode in my life so I could easily relate to R. Even as a zombie though, he feels wonderfully human as he tries to change his life and looks for a better way. I absolutely fell in love with him for that. You’ll definitely get Romeo and Juliet vibes too so expect some zombie romance too. The movie is fun—the book is better!


The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty

By A.N. Roquelaure, Anne Rice,

Book cover of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty

Why this book?

A.N Roquelaure was my introduction to steamy and provocative writing that had an emphasis in BDSM. This was Anne Rice’s pen name when writing erotica more publicly was rather frowned upon but after reading it, it’s clear to see that Anne’s sensual way of writing is phenomenal and worth lapping up greedily!


The Duke and I: Bridgerton

By Julia Quinn,

Book cover of The Duke and I: Bridgerton

Why this book?

I am so glad this book is such a success. I fell in love with the hero right away, when as a child he had trouble speaking and his father rejected him. He grows into a hard man until he meets Daphne Bridgerton and then the story takes off. What fun! 


The Shadows Between Us

By Tricia Levenseller,

Book cover of The Shadows Between Us

Why this book?

This is another book that I consider to fall under the romance category first. However, I absolutely adored this book because the main character is a morally gray character. I love seeing morally gray characters! I love writing them. It makes the story so much more interesting. It also makes the characters unpredictable, keeping them from falling into the “Mary Sue” category. 


Moonshot

By Alessandra Torre,

Book cover of Moonshot

Why this book?

I've never read anything with this style of writing. Ever. It was refreshing and poignant while also having the ability to sucker-punch me right in the chest with angsty goodness. I knew I would be walking into a sports romance, I had heard she could write the schmexiness, but what I didn't know was that Moonshot would be so un-put-downable that I would be a worthless human being until I devoured every last page - and devour I did.


Fraternize

By Rachel Van Dyken,

Book cover of Fraternize

Why this book?

This was my first RVD book and I'm kicking myself for waiting so long to read her. Her style is so fun and addicting, I had the hardest time ever putting the book down. Full of angst (hello, love triangle!), humor, and heat – this is one that will get you all up in your feels.


The Stopover

By T.L. Swan,

Book cover of The Stopover

Why this book?

This sexy story captures the visceral connection between her leading male and female characters beautifully. I felt their chemistry from the word go. Chemistry in a romance novel is what a slightly flawed, left-of-field detective is to crime novels. At the end of the day, writing romance is all about expressing deep passion and emotion. I believe T. L. Swan achieved that very well with this story while adding enough sauciness to charm the reader.   


Beautiful Bastard

By Christina Lauren,

Book cover of Beautiful Bastard

Why this book?

This was my first steamy romance read, the one that got me hooked on erotic romance and still one of my favorites. From the moment Bennett’s hand landed on Chloe’s thigh in the boardroom my pulse spiked and didn’t stop racing until the last page. Bennett and Chloe’s chemistry is a masterclass, enemies to lovers hot.  


Simply Love

By Mary Balogh,

Book cover of Simply Love

Why this book?

This book was my first experience with Mary Balogh and I instantly became a fan. She is now one of my favorite romance authors. This book broke my heart in the best of ways. Sydnam is injured from the war. He is missing an eye and an arm. Still, he managed to easily make me, and Anne, swoon over his artistic soul. Anne is a single mother with a background just as heartbreaking as Sydnam's but I never doubted for a moment they would end up happily ever after. I rooted for them all the way. 


Romancing the Duke

By Tessa Dare,

Book cover of Romancing the Duke

Why this book?

This was the first book in Tessa Dare's Castles Ever After. I love Tessa's modern characters set in a historical backdrop. Isolde is a woman that knows what she wants. She is forced to go up against Ransom, a stubborn Duke who is visually impaired, in a fight over a castle they both believe they own.  

Also, I would just love to say how much I love when Tessa Dare gives her characters an unusual pet. In this case, Isolde has an ermine. Animal antics add so much fun to her stories! 

This book made me laugh. It made me cry. It made my heartbreak and ultimately it gave me a beautiful love story I thoroughly enjoyed reading.


Slow Hands

By Leslie Kelly,

Book cover of Slow Hands

Why this book?

This was the book that inspired me to write. I loved it so. Even though it was a quick, easy read, Slow Hands made me want to step into the pages and take the heroine’s place. As I consumed it for the third time, I decided to analyze why I enjoyed it so. One of the reasons was that Maddy wasn’t perfect. I could relate to her. Also, the sex was steamy, fun, and very re-readable. Lastly, the hero was to die for. To me, the hero makes the book and Jake was one I wanted to grab onto and never let go. Slow Hands made me want to be an author and pen stories that made other people feel the same way I did – and I hope I have. 


Delicious

By Shayla Black,

Book cover of Delicious

Why this book?

Wow. This book almost broke my kindle. I cried so much, I nearly shorted it out. Talk about flawed characters – this story has two of the best. Alyssa had been through hell and back and come out stronger for it. Ironically, she is a stripper and a virgin. I ate this stuff up! Plus, Luc, the hero was such a hard head. I enjoyed his come to Jesus moment when he realized what he was letting slip through his fingers. Merciful heaven, this book set a standard for me that I have strived to attain as far as weaving an emotional roller coaster tale. Shayla Black is a master.   


The Heart Principle

By Helen Hoang,

Book cover of The Heart Principle

Why this book?

I think all of Hoang’s books are masterpieces, but this one in particular hit me right in the feels. The heroine, Anna, is faced with many life changes all at once. A new autism diagnosis, a family tragedy, a break-up, and a caregiver role all culminate in extreme autistic burnout. As an autistic woman, I felt incredibly seen in this beautiful book. The story really captures how devastating burnout can be, while also showing the hero, Quan, give Anna the love and care she needs during a hard time. Their story doesn’t fall into the trap of saying love fixes everything but instead shows how it allows one to experience painful emotions in the safety of being supported. 


Float Plan

By Trish Doller,

Book cover of Float Plan

Why this book?

Float Plan offers one of the most nuanced looks at grief and healing that I’ve read in a book. Anna, the heroine, is mourning the loss of her boyfriend, Ben, after he takes his life. This gorgeous novel follows Anna while she sails through the Caribbean, fulfilling a plan she and Ben had before he died. Along the way, she meets Keane, a heart on his sleeve, patient, and gentle man that reminds Anna that pain and mourning aren’t mutually exclusive with healing and love. Their love story is tender and wonderfully written, and is a raw and honest depiction of healing after a loss. 


Take a Hint, Dani Brown

By Talia Hibbert,

Book cover of Take a Hint, Dani Brown

Why this book?

Take a Hint, Dani Brown features characters so unique in their complexity that they immediately felt like real people to me. They are so multi-faceted that I find it impossible to describe them in all of their glorious fullness here. However, I can say that I particularly related to Dani's coexisting commitments to intellectual rigor and personalized spirituality, and to Zaf's internal wrestling matches between fear and courage, as a hopeless romantic with anxiety issues. Having a curvy, bisexual heroine also places this book "off the beaten path" for the romance genre. Throughout, this wonderfully realistic romantic comedy had me alternately laughing out loud and sighing at the deeply satisfying love story. 

Romancing Mister Bridgerton: Bridgerton

By Julia Quinn,

Book cover of Romancing Mister Bridgerton: Bridgerton

Why this book?

This is the book that kick-started my career! Before walking into a small bookstore in Ghana and picking up this particular novel, I had no idea Regency romance was even a genre. Not only did I find this story engaging, but it was also filled with humor and written in a style that made me crave more. Until that point, I had attempted to write a historical fiction novel (which remains unfinished until this day). As soon as I was done with Romancing Mister Bridgerton I thought, this is the kind of story I want to write. Low and behold, I’m now working on my 42nd Regency romance book!


When Beauty Tamed the Beast

By Eloisa James,

Book cover of When Beauty Tamed the Beast

Why this book?

I think this was the first historical romance I read where the hero had a disability, which added great depth of character. It was also the first historical romance I read where the hero had a medical profession. This subject matter – medicine during the early to mid 19th Century – piqued my interest so greatly I’ve since written several novels in which the hero or heroine is medically trained. I’m especially keen on challenging various misconceptions relating to medicinal practices during this period, like the fact that hand washing is still being credited to Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) even though William Buchan (1729-1805) wrote about the importance of it nearly 100 years earlier in his book titled, Domestic Medicine. Just one of those things that gets my goat…


Any Rogue Will Do

By Bethany Bennett,

Book cover of Any Rogue Will Do

Why this book?

It isn’t easy breaking through as an author these days, especially not in a genre that’s as competitive as the historical romance genre has become. Bethany Bennett entered the scene last year with a novel that’s not only memorable, but which contains a plot and characterization that easily match those of more seasoned authors. Her sequel, West End Earl, is even better and proves she’ll excel, so this is a new to me author whose career I look forward to following in the coming years.


Night Brother

By Rosie Garland,

Book cover of Night Brother

Why this book?

It is set in the late 19th early 20th century in Manchester, England. A time of suffragists and a blossoming underground queer culture, both of which were violently opposed by state and police. Set in this time, place and atmosphere is the story of Edie and Gnome. The first chapter shows them in perfect, natural harmony with each other. As Edie grows up, her intersex nature (given a gloriously magical bent by Garland) is repressed and made a cause of shame via their mother’s abuse. Without full expression and acceptance, Edie/Gnome's relationship becomes destructive and toxic. The Night Brother is a journey of acceptance and balance woven into a wider narrative about feminine roles in society and the struggle to transcend them.

It is a delight to follow Garland’s beautiful prose both as it delves into the violent and gritty aspects of Victorian Manchester and when it soars into fantastical and magical scenes. The book is like a lover's kiss, communicating deep and hidden truths while giving intense pleasure.


The Hating Game

By Sally Thorne,

Book cover of The Hating Game

Why this book?

Lucy and Josh have so much chemistry that it manifests as anger, frustration, and, yes, hate. But don’t be fooled. Sally Thorne’s writing is witty, charming, and sexy too. (Case in point: the elevator scene.) After reading this book, you’ll want an office nemesis just so you can play the game—and drive Human Resources a little crazy in the process.


Wallbanger

By Alice Clayton,

Book cover of Wallbanger

Why this book?

There are relationships that start badly, very badly. That is the case of the main character of this novel and her neighbor, whose active and noisy sex life does not let her sleep a wink at night. I think this is one of the least promising beginnings of a relationship in the history of romance novels beginning of a relationship, however...

If you want to read a fresh, funny comedy with a memorable love/hate relationship you can't miss this one!


More Than Neighbors

By Isabel Keats, Simon Bruni (translator),

Book cover of More Than Neighbors

Why this book?

As I'm sure you have already guessed this is one of my own few stories translated to English ;-D. I chose it to be part of this selection because one of the few things that Cat and Leo, the main characters, have in common is how absolutely different they are. And this, I think, is one of the strong points of the book; the fact that two people that are poles apart can fall madly in love with each other. The other is that More Than Neighbors is an easy feel-good read.


Flight

By Laura Griffin,

Book cover of Flight

Why this book?

This is the second book in the Texas Murder Files series and Griffin is the author who brought us the Tracers books (another great series. Go read it!) In Flight, Miranda is desperately trying to take a break and recoup from a far too stressful job. We can all relate. But when she stumbles upon a murder, her skills as a forensic photographer mean her break is over. Local Detective Joel is just the hero we need and the tension builds slowly and wonderfully. This is great romantic suspense!


First Frost

By Sarah Addison Allen,

Book cover of First Frost

Why this book?

This book is also set in an ordinary world in a small Georgia town (I think it’s Georgia!), with an extraordinary family whose lineage has women with magical powers. The townsfolk know about the “odd” family, but they aren’t wholly shunned. Each woman has her own vulnerabilities and life journey. I loved the magic and cranky apple tree!


The Hours

By Michael Cunningham,

Book cover of The Hours

Why this book?

In The Hours, Cunningham masterfully weaves together the stories of three women who will never meet, yet are connected through the influence of Virginia Woolf (one of the three) on their lives. Cunningham shows how art—in this case, Mrs. Dalloway, one of Woolf’s most brilliant novels—can have a profound influence that the artist could never have predicted and will never know.  As someone striving to produce her own art (in my case, through novels about the impact of art on human lives) that speaks to me in a very deep way, and gives me hope.


Phoenix Unbound

By Grace Draven,

Book cover of Phoenix Unbound

Why this book?

Although this book does feature some heavy themes (CW for mentions of rape), it’s a powerful story about dealing with trauma – and moving on from it, to the life one wants to live. Draven’s characters simply breathe. They feel fleshed-out and real, with all the contradictions of real people. Although the book is part of a series, the story feels complete on its own; the worldbuilding is lush and interesting. I love books that feature travel because being on the road is a great way for characters to connect with each other, as they must rely on one another for safety and survival. Phoenix Unbound features two very different characters who come together in a way that feels real – and beautiful.


Invasion of the Body Snatchers

By Jack Finney,

Book cover of Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Why this book?

The imposters are becoming us! Jack Finney’s science-horror masterpiece seems to me like a book everybody knows about but perhaps not that many modern readers have actually read. It is about alien technology slowly replacing people with shallow imposters that threaten to destroy humanity. Scenes in this novel are among the most legitimately scary that I’ve read in fiction. I don’t know another writer who was better at portraying the desperate madness provoked by bone-deep emotional terror. By that I mean, Finney’s characters are at times driven nearly out of their minds with fear. Watching these characters, as a reader, I felt their terror in the center of my chest.


Barney's Version

By Mordecai Richler,

Book cover of Barney's Version

Why this book?

Everything you want to know about being Jewish, brilliant, vengeful, Jewish, neurotic, charming, and being a Canadian writer in Bohemian Paris in the fifties. Richler’s hero Barney Panofsky is the portrait of a man who wasted his life, but had a great time doing it. A self-proclaimed ‘impenitent rotter’, he is redeemed by his unwavering regret at losing the love of his third wife. Oh, the carousing, the romance, the revelry. How I wish I had been there.


Private Arrangements

By Sherry Thomas,

Book cover of Private Arrangements

Why this book?

Private Arrangements was my introduction to Sherry Thomas’s absolutely exquisite prose and story-telling. The setting is the Edwardian period and gives us a couple who were once passionately in love. The day after their wedding everything goes wrong with no way to pick up the pieces. Indeed, the two have lived apart for the last ten years. Now she wants a divorce, and he has a shocking proposal for her. How on earth can two people who have made such terrible mistakes find their way back to each other? Thomas takes you on an emotional ride on the way to the answer. She’s an amazing writer whose characters come to life on the page in a way few can match. If you haven’t read her work, you should.


The Viscount Who Loved Me: Bridgerton

By Julia Quinn,

Book cover of The Viscount Who Loved Me: Bridgerton

Why this book?

Bridgerton. Need I say more? Well, yes. This is my favorite of Quinn’s Bridgerton series, and every time I re-read this book, I laugh at the scene in the Viscount’s study. I am laughing right now. Quinn’s historicals are full of fun and joy, perhaps epitomized in a Bridgerton sibling game of Pall Mall that is both merciless and screamingly funny. There’s nobody better at joyful stories than Quinn. If you want to spend a few hours being delighted, read this book. Then go watch Ava Duvernay bring that joy to the screen.


Ravished

By Amanda Quick,

Book cover of Ravished

Why this book?

Another favorite romance trope of mine is Beauty and the Beast, and Quick gives us The Beast of Blackthorn Hall paired with a paleontologist heroine who brooks no nonsense, especially from the Beast. The poor man doesn’t understand how outmatched he is until it’s too late. There are caves, dinosaur fossils, smugglers, the ocean tide, and the wonderful road to love for two characters who really, truly, need each other. The dialogue absolutely sparkles. Amanda Quick is a pen name for NYT bestselling author Jayne-Ann Krentz.  


Daughter of the Reich

By Louise Fein,

Book cover of Daughter of the Reich

Why this book?

Daughter of the Reich is a story of a young girl in Nazi Germany who was raised to believe that her neighbors and fellow citizens are the enemy because they're Jewish. You gain real insight into the propaganda Germans were told about the Jewish people, and how one relationship can shatter all your misconceptions and stereotypes.

This book reminds me of my own writing in that it explores both sides of history and what happens when someone begins to question their own upbringing.


When He Was Wicked: Bridgerton

By Julia Quinn,

Book cover of When He Was Wicked: Bridgerton

Why this book?

Long before Bridgerton graced screens around the world, I loved this Julia Quinn novel (the sixth in her Bridgerton series) about a man who falls hard for a woman he can never have: his cousin’s wife. Michael is head over heels for Francesca and positively loathes himself for it. His angst is so palpable, it made my chest ache. It’s a slow, hot burn—and totally worth the wait.


Love and Let Die

By Blake Lexi,

Book cover of Love and Let Die

Why this book?

I adore the extended Masters and Mercenaries family, and Ian Taggart’s cynical wisecracks keep doubling me over in laughter. And laughter is so important. Life is serious and can be hard, I love it when a book takes me away for a while and make me feel. Lexi Blake’s books, especially for her Masters and Mercenaries series, make me feel a lot!

Again, this is book five in a series, you will want to read in order. However, since this is Ian’s and Charlotte’s story this is my pick as favorite!


Wicked Ties

By Shayla Black,

Book cover of Wicked Ties

Why this book?

Sexy and Dominant Jack is having dreams about a faceless woman. His Cajun grand père is convinced this must be his fated wife. 

Morgan is on the run from a stalker and trying to figure out why no relationship has worked for her in the past.

Wicked Ties is a compelling mix of mystery, suspense, and romance with a tormented hero and several unexpected twists. It kept me glued to my eReader until I finished the book. I love it when a book is so engaging I can’t put it down.


A Cowboy for Keeps

By Jody Hedlund,

Book cover of A Cowboy for Keeps

Why this book?

Like many authors, I’m a very picky reader and frequently abandon books after reading less than 10 percent. Over the past year or so, I’ve found myself abandoning more and more historicals because of poor writing, anachronisms, or unrealistic characters. I was beginning to despair of finding a book that met my standards, and then I opened A Cowboy for Keeps. Not only did Hedlund’s story meet my standards, it exceeded them. Her beautiful writing and vivid descriptions immersed me in the Old West, and the story itself was so riveting that while I wanted to see what happened next, part of me hated the idea of turning the last page. This is an outstanding historical romance.


A View Most Glorious

By Regina Scott,

Book cover of A View Most Glorious

Why this book?

The first time I saw Mount Rainier, I joked with my husband that we ought to find a way to live within sight of it. That didn’t happen, but the memory of its beauty didn’t fade, and so when I was given an opportunity to read an advance copy of Regina Scott’s latest American Wonders book featuring a heroine who attempts to climb Mount Rainier, I said, “yes, please!” What a great book! The combination of multi-faceted characters, a careful blending of fact and fiction, and fascinating descriptions of mountain climbing in the early twentieth century kept me turning pages instead of sleeping or working on my own manuscript. This is a truly unputdownable book. 


To Win Her Favor

By Tamera Alexander,

Book cover of To Win Her Favor

Why this book?

Tamera and I had the same agent who said Tamera’s books and mine were similar in that both were “a cut above” your typical Christian romance. I concur because Tamera’s books are not only beautifully written, they are a wealth of spiritual passion that perfectly dovetails with classic romantic passion.


Priest

By Sierra Simone,

Book cover of Priest

Why this book?

A somewhat dark romance on a taboo topic, this book was written in a way I never expected. It brought love and spirituality through in a way that made the taboo, unthinkable acts beautiful and holy. It was written with so much feeling, depth, and emotion that I found myself in tears over the struggles. I could feel the pain but also that deeper, spiritual connection that took my breath away in the most unexpected ways.


Blindfolded Innocence

By Alessandra Torre,

Book cover of Blindfolded Innocence

Why this book?

Alessandra Torre (in my opinion) is at her best when writing sexy romance. Julia is an ambitious law intern who, on her first day at work, is warned to keep away from sexy, alpha Brad de Luca. The writing is fast-paced, addictive, and seduced me into barrelling straight into book 2 in the series. I particularly loved the massage scene involving Julia, which juxtaposed into a scene with Brad –illicit tension heaven! 


The Last Tycoon: The Authorized Text

By F. Scott Fitzgerald,

Book cover of The Last Tycoon: The Authorized Text

Why this book?

I came to this novel late, after friends adapted it into a TV series. My regret is I did not read it sooner. Fitzgerald often serves as the cautionary example of how Hollywood destroys true literary talent. But none of that is apparent in this uncompleted but extraordinary novel. Instead, Fitzgerald created a limerently admiring, page-turning story about a powerful studio executive’s own limerent pursuit of a mysterious woman, told to us by a college girl who herself is in love with the executive. The description of life and work in Hollywood is comprehensively accurate with one marvelous exception: no human has ever been as talented and humane a creative producer as Monroe Stahr – but he’s a model of perfection to which we all should still aspire.


Heart on Fire (The Kingmaker Chronicles, 3)

By Amanda Bouchet,

Book cover of Heart on Fire (The Kingmaker Chronicles, 3)

Why this book?

This book was one of the first romantic fantasy books I picked up and it completely captivated me from the very first page. You are immediately thrown into an incredible world, right at the same time the two main characters meet. It’s fast-paced, steamy, and perfect for anyone who loves that enemies-to-lovers vibe (me, I’m anyone). Kat and Griffin are amazing together and it’s so much fun to watch them figure that out.


The Innocent

By Ian McEwan,

Book cover of The Innocent

Why this book?

Though not thought of as an espionage writer, McEwan uncorks a fine, suspenseful novel based on two true stories of Cold War intrigue. Set in mid-1950s Berlin, it speaks, as the title implies, of a loss of innocence, both professionally and personally, of a British engineer caught up in a dangerous web of uncertain loyalties and unexpected violence. (Why are the best espionage novels set in WWII or the Cold War? Most spying is done now through satellites and electronic eavesdropping. It’s hard to write a good book with a satellite as the main character.)


Polaris Rising

By Jessie Mihalik,

Book cover of Polaris Rising

Why this book?

This book is just pure fun. As you probably guessed, I’m a huge fan of Firefly and this book really sated my Firefly need. Set in the far future, an heiress of one of the major houses or large corporations that run the “ ‘verse” is on the run from her family to avoid a political marriage. She and one of the galaxy’s most ruthless outlaws are forced to team up to stay alive. This book has it all: sexy outlaw dudes, space chases, snarky heroines, and political espionage.   


You Should Have Known

By Jean Hanff Korelitz,

Book cover of You Should Have Known

Why this book?

I read this novel when it came out in 2014, before I even got my own book deal. I was fascinated by the premise: A marriage counselor who had no idea that her own marriage was a sham, and her husband a psychopath. It hit home for sure. I prefer the book to The Undoing, the recent film on which it was based.


Edenbrooke

By Julianne Donaldson,

Book cover of Edenbrooke

Why this book?

Lately becoming known as a modern and very recent classic, Edenbrooke is sweet romantic fiction at its best with authentic echoes of Jane Austen. The setting is well-established, the characters multi-dimensional, and the writing is elegant and beautiful. It is a romance novel that can be enjoyed again and again, and it's a shame that it hasn't been brought to film yet. 


Engaging Sir Isaac: A Regency Romance

By Sally Britton,

Book cover of Engaging Sir Isaac: A Regency Romance

Why this book?

This is my favorite book of Sally Britton's many clean and wholesome Regency romances. I love how fully dimensional her characters are, and her research is always spot-on and entertaining. She creates wonderful stories set in England that pull at your heartstrings and bring the most satisfying happily-ever-afters in the end. Many of her books are part of a series, but they can be read in any order. 


Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

By Dai Sijie,

Book cover of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

Why this book?

Set in a distant, rural world far away from the city where two young men were sent for re-education during the Cultural Revolution, this tender, seductive novel weaves the passion of reading with the yearning for romance. It’s a humorous look at life in exile but also a touching story about a young woman’s discovery of her power and sexual awakening. I’ve read this book years ago and still remember it.


Slightly Dangerous

By Mary Balogh,

Book cover of Slightly Dangerous

Why this book?

Slightly Dangerous is a historical romance novel where you will root and completely fall head over heels for the main hero. I absolutely love how the author wrote the hero’s character in such a way that you find yourself intertwined with him, mind, body, and soul. He is a sort of hero where everyone believes him to be dangerous and heartless, but is the opposite, and this story will take you on the journey of that discovery. Especially when the heroine realizes this as well. This book makes you become a cheerleader, where you will find yourself speaking and whispering words of encouragement to the characters and crying when the drama keeps them apart. But alas, jumping for joy when that happily ever after takes hold.


These Old Shades

By Georgette Heyer,

Book cover of These Old Shades

Why this book?

Who doesn’t love a good “nobility-in-disguise” story? They are especially pleasing when a big dose of romance and justice for a mistreated young woman are thrown in. Due to its lovable characters and fun plot twists, These Old Shades is arguably the novel that propelled Georgette Heyer to fame as a premiere Regency Romance author.


Bared to You

By Sylvia Day,

Book cover of Bared to You

Why this book?

In Bared to You, Sylvia Day created a world that is easy to get lost in and is very sexy. The characters, Eve and Gideon, meet and sparks fly but outside forces and internal struggles try to keep them apart. Through ups and downs, they fought for their love, sometimes struggling together and sometimes apart. Their story stayed with me a long time and I have reread it again and again, revisiting old friends. I highly encourage you to visit their world that so many romance readers have indulged in.


Narcisa: Our Lady of Ashes

By Jonathan Shaw,

Book cover of Narcisa: Our Lady of Ashes

Why this book?

I picked up Narcisa in Portland’s legendary Powell’s bookstore over ten years ago on a whim and it ended up worming its way into my top ten books of all time. The prose is chaotic, evocative, drippy, disgusting, engaging, fantastic. Narcisa is a predatory, magnetic mess of nature and like the narrator, you’ve got to keep flying with her until she throws you down. I was floored and inspired by Shaw’s ability to tame such a blizzard of turmoil between two thin paper covers.


Elude

By Rachel Van Dyken,

Book cover of Elude

Why this book?

This book happens to be in the back half of a series, but it’s my favorite in this mafia “family.” Van Dyken does break the romance rules a little with this one, but the growth that Sergio goes through makes it (mostly) worth it in the end. While reading a series in order is usually the goal of a reader, I’m an emotional reader and have zero issue starting in the middle of a series. There isn’t a true overall series arc here, so picking up in the middle won’t hurt you. But seeing these mafia men come together for Sergio and Andi… You’ll fall in love with this group easily. Bring tissues.


Obsession

By Amanda Robson,

Book cover of Obsession

Why this book?

The book starts with a wife asking her husband who else he would sleep with, if he could. I loved this hook which any one of us might ask in a casual way, anticipating our partner to say ‘only you, darling!’ When the husband doesn’t give the expected reply, it unsurprisingly opens a can of worms which kept me turning the pages. This compulsive, sexy, roller coaster of a story didn’t disappoint me.


Slave to Sensation

By Nalini Singh,

Book cover of Slave to Sensation

Why this book?

Slave to Sensation is perfect for shifter lovers who’d also like to be introduced to a fascinating and extremely powerful species. The Psi are humans who’ve evolved into creatures able to use their minds in amazing but also frightening ways. Always well written with plenty of action, yummy romance, and strong female characters. The world building is fabulous and each book in the main series and the spin-off series is wonderful.

Ms. Singh teaches me to write with abundant heart. Her books have often made me cry in a good way. She is truly an inspiration to me, and I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and chat with her about writing romance novels.


Royally Rearranged: A Sweet Royal Romcom

By Emma St. Clair,

Book cover of Royally Rearranged: A Sweet Royal Romcom

Why this book?

At some point in life, every woman wanted to be a princess. The crown, the poofy dress, the loyal servants. (Now that I’m older, I’d be happy with just the servants.) This novel is pure wish fulfillment. It’s also a fun read—and as far as embarrassing moments go, getting glass splinters in your derriere in front of a hot guy definitely checks that box. Also, this book has lots of romantic tension. Always a plus.

The heroine was nice, funny, sweet, but also awkward at times—someone you’d want as a friend.


The Hook Up

By Kristen Callihan,

Book cover of The Hook Up

Why this book?

This college romance is full of steam and humor. A star football player has a chance encounter with an edgy nerd at a party. My first novel is based on a hook up at a party, so I am in mad love with this story. A true relationship unfolds between these two that goes deeper than witty bits and coed antics. You will definitely stay up all night to finish this book. 


Doctor Zhivago

By Boris Pasternak, Richard Pevear (translator), Larissa Volokhonsky

Book cover of Doctor Zhivago

Why this book?

This is one of the most popular books of Russian literature known outside Russia. Until the 1990s, Russians themselves and those living in the communist bloc were not allowed to read Doctor Zhivago. The book follows the story of a young doctor, Zhivago, and his love interest during the turbulent time of WWI. The beautiful read will be only slightly slowed by complex long Russian names and the style of Pasternak’s writing. 


Second Nature: A Love Story

By Jacquelyn Mitchard,

Book cover of Second Nature: A Love Story

Why this book?

I unabashedly admit to reading this fabulously fascinating novel at least five times. Set "a few years in the future," a remote young medical illustrator, Sicily Coyne, needs a new face. When the girlhood victim of a deadly church fire learns that her fiancé holds a deeply buried and devastating secret, Sicily is propelled to agree to receive the first-ever face transplant. Surgery not only restores her appearance, but transforms her into a gorgeous young woman, which sends her spiraling into deep depression. But Sicily's a survivor. She begins embracing a brave new world, ultimately finding an unexpected and by all accounts unsuitable new love, who gives her a gift she never would have expected. Mitchard, one of our finest women's fiction writers at the top of her game.


Not Another Bad Date

By Rachel Gibson,

Book cover of Not Another Bad Date

Why this book?

A romance novel by one of the funniest writers I’ve encountered in a long time. Her stories are racy, but the humor is outstanding leaving me to laugh out loud on any number of occasions. I’ve recently discovered Rachel Gibson and I highly recommend her books if you’re looking for humor in love and life. 


The Lucky Dress

By Aimee Brown,

Book cover of The Lucky Dress

Why this book?

I enjoy a book that is easy to read and makes me laugh. The Lucky Dress is a story most of us can relate to, with heartache and triumphs. We see the main character deal with a no-good ex and follow her life where we meet her friends and family. She grows as a woman, though not without some bumps along the way.

The Captain of All Pleasures

By Kresley Cole,

Book cover of The Captain of All Pleasures

Why this book?

One of my all-time favorite stories set on the high seas with a daring sea captain and a worthy heroine. The story involves two competing shipping companies in 19th century England, and two captains (the English Earl, Captain Sutherland, and the American, Captain Lassiter). Each must win the Great Race from London to Sydney to survive.

When Lassiter is imprisoned, his daughter, Nicole, who has been raised at sea decides to enter the race for him. Nicole is attracted to the handsome Sutherland, who when he first encounters her in a dockside bar, thinks she's a whore. Circumstances make them enemies. When sabotage of her ship forces her to join him on his ship, her spirit and his wall of stone collide. The result? A fast-paced story that grabs you.


Wild Bells to the Wild Sky

By Laurie McBain,

Book cover of Wild Bells to the Wild Sky

Why this book?

This is an enthralling tale of Queen Elizabeth’s Sea Dogs and a great love story. Few authors can come close to the masterful storytelling of Laurie McBain, which is why I am one of her fans. With an amazingly complex plot, this one features prejudice, treachery, threats to the queen, spies, gypsies, and high seas adventure making it one of her best. 


Three Women

By Lisa Taddeo,

Book cover of Three Women

Why this book?

This book is wildly imaginative for non-fiction. It’s an account of the sex lives of (yup) three women and the very complex desires that fuel them. All were just trying to snatch a little joy for themselves, carnally speaking. And I have to believe that sharing their stories only heightened that joy. I got to know Lisa and hear about her process for collecting the material for this book (which I helped adapt into a TV series for Showtime). I’ve never met anyone so free of judgment, and so ready to understand why people do things that others find unseemly. She is a master of empathy, and I learned how powerful that can be from her and this work.


Dear Aaron

By Mariana Zapata,

Book cover of Dear Aaron

Why this book?

Anything―and I mean anything―by Mariana Zapata is an outstanding slow-burn read. Every book gives you not only a gorgeously written HEA but also laugh-out-loud humor, incredible secondary characters, and stories you’ll physically miss when you’re done. Dear Aaron is a unique read that starts with letters and ends with a heat you’ll feel in your bones.

With Love, Wherever You Are

By Dandi Daley Mackall,

Book cover of With Love, Wherever You Are

Why this book?

Author Dandi Daley Mackall wrote With Love, Wherever You Are after reading a trunk-load of letters exchanged by her parents during their years as a nurse and doctor on the battlefields of Europe during World War II. Mackall's novel is based on genealogical research and is a story about people and the matters of their hearts, instead of military strategies and battles. Mackall was closer in time, though, since With Love, Wherever You Are is about her parents and set during the 1940s. She had access to primary sources in her research. As “The Greatest Generation” is passing away, it’s important that authors like Mackall are preserving these biographical stories.

The Summer Before the War

By Helen Simonson,

Book cover of The Summer Before the War

Why this book?

This book is leisurely, reminiscent of Elizabeth Gaskell’s works (such as North and South or Wives and Daughters); it reads and feels like a warm summer day. It takes place in a small English town in the tense and uncertain months leading up to the war and a little beyond, featuring family dramas, romantic entanglements, spunky schoolteachers, Belgian refugees, underage recruits, life, and death, and love.


If I Never Met You

By Mhairi McFarlane,

Book cover of If I Never Met You

Why this book?

Mhairi McFarlane is a go-to author for me. I love her witty turn of phrase, and her characters and settings are always so real and relatable. Laurie is a great female protagonist, with a meaningful career and a loyal circle of friends, and I like that she’s shown to have a full, rounded life outside of her romantic relationships. There’s sparky dialogue, emotional depth, a very hot leading man, and fantastic chemistry between the two leads that fizzes off the page. 


The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By Joanna Bolouri,

Book cover of The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Why this book?

Joanna Bolouri is one of my favourite romcom writers because she’s so damn funny! Her books are genuinely hilarious and totally live up to the ‘laugh-out-loud’ tag. I love them all, but this is my favourite. Emily is a great character, and Ethan is so cute and adorable. I’m a sucker for a player with hidden depths, and the fact that he’s younger than Emily too is a refreshing change. Throw in a Christmas break with her eccentric family, and you’re guaranteed oodles of fun. 


The Unhoneymooners

By Christina Lauren,

Book cover of The Unhoneymooners

Why this book?

There isn’t a book these authors have written that I haven’t loved, their mix of humor, chemistry, and wonderful, relatable character are addicting. I’m a sucker for enemies-to-lovers so I adored this aspect of The Unhoneymooners. Plus, it makes a perfect beach read because the main characters spend a huge chunk of time on the beautiful beach of Hawaii. It made me want to book a trip there with TBR (to be read) pile in my suitcase.


The Beguiled

By Thomas Cullinan,

Book cover of The Beguiled

Why this book?

You may know this strange story as a film, but the different narrators in this gothic tale of John McBurney, a wounded Union soldier being washed and nursed by a group of young girls in Martha Farnworth’s remote school is full of the same sexual tension I hoped to conjure up in my book. What could be more beguiling than the juxtaposition of sheltered women carrying out intimate tasks on a man weakened by injury?


Heard It in a Love Song

By Tracey Garvis Graves,

Book cover of Heard It in a Love Song

Why this book?

Tracey Garvis Graves’s novel about second chances and starting over is filled with so much warmth, it’s impossible not to cheer for her characters and to feel true empathy for their situations. Newly-divorced Layla discovers she had to make peace with her past to find love in her present—and music is the key to it all. 


Sweet Thing

By Renée Carlino,

Book cover of Sweet Thing

Why this book?

Renee Carlino’s book about being in love—and loving music—when you’re in your early 20s is the kind of story that feels like time travel. She captures life and love and grief and confusion so perfectly. And for anyone who has ever found guitar players sexy, well, I bet Will will win your heart.


Jane Steele

By Lyndsay Faye,

Book cover of Jane Steele

Why this book?

"Reader, I murdered him." Yes, those are among the opening lines of this reimagining of Jane Eyre’s story. I was immediately hooked! Jane Steele is a sensitive orphan who suffers at the hands of a spiteful aunt. I have a weakness for orphans and misfits, and at first Jane put me in mind of Cinderella. But the story quickly turns dark. After fleeing her grim life and making her way by penning criminals’ last confessions, she learns her aunt has died and she may be the heir to the home left behind. But there’s a complication—her childhood home has a new master, Mr. Thornfield, who happens to be seeking a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate's true heir, Jane takes the position and falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield. Thus begins a dangerous dance between her and her master. I loved this book!

An Heiress to Remember: The Gilded Age Girls Club

By Maya Rodale,

Book cover of An Heiress to Remember: The Gilded Age Girls Club

Why this book?

Maya Rodale always writes strong, clever heroines, and this book features one of her very best. Beatrice Goodwin has been tossed around by life, but she’s come home to her first love: Goodwin’s, her family’s once-fashionable department store in Gilded Age New York City. The one person standing in the way of her plans to make it the finest store in New York… her other first love, Wes Dalton, whose heart she broke years ago. He wants revenge. She wants her store. They’re both smart, funny, and oh so good at their shared profession, you know they’ll be unstoppable together.


The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories

By Charlotte Perkins Gilman,

Book cover of The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories

Why this book?

The Yellow Wallpaper inspired my book and brand. Gilman not only defined the madwoman of Gothic literature by writing one of the most haunting and empowering stories of the 19th century, but she also lived it. Her experience inspired her story and exposed the horror of hysteria treatments. This story inspired me because I could relate to Gilman and her main character. Though hysteria is no longer a recognized condition and women have gained many more rights, ideologies left over from the hysteria panic still creep in our culture and generational memory. Women are still called crazy. The assumption that women are emotionally unstable is still used to discredit, invalidate and control women. In an era where women couldn’t fight for their rights as we do, Gilman found her power by embracing madness, and so do I.


His Banana

By Penelope Bloom,

Book cover of His Banana

Why this book?

If you’re looking twice at the title, I can assure you this story is just as bonkers as you might think. An undercover reporter gets a job at a big company and then falls for the billionaire target of her sting operation. After accidentally eating his banana in the company break room. Another billionaire romance but the side characters are so unique and quirky that it feels completely fresh and new. I’ll warn you now, this entire series is binge-worthy.  


Come from Away

By Genevieve Graham,

Book cover of Come from Away

Why this book?

Obviously, I love that this book is set in Canada, like all my own novels. A little-known story coming out of Nova Scotia involves Nazi sailors leaving their U-Boat one evening, on a bet, to attend a small-town dance without their identity being discovered. Graham has artfully taken this possibility on its ultimate “what-if?” journey. What if one of those sailors didn’t make it back to his submarine before it blew up, killing everyone aboard? What if he found a deserted trapper’s cabin to hole up in? What if he met a young Canadian woman whose three brothers were serving overseas? Isn’t it a tantalizing setup? Graham totally delivers in this page-turner.


To Write a Wrong

By Jen Turano,

Book cover of To Write a Wrong

Why this book?

Jen Turano is the queen of quirky characters. This book had me giggling and guffawing with all its crazy shenanigans. Who knew an oversized bustle could double as a floatation device? Daphne Beekman is a successful author who pens thrilling mysteries yet swoons at the first sign of danger in real life. As a consultant for an all-female inquiry agency, she puts her intelligence and creative mind to work solving crimes. But when the reclusive author, and incredibly handsome, Herman Henderson hires the agency, Daphne determines to take a more active role. Outlandish disguises, daring adventure, and bookish banter ensue as Daphne and Herman solve the greatest mystery of all—love.


Manor for Sale, Baron Included: A Victorian Romance

By Esther Hatch,

Book cover of Manor for Sale, Baron Included: A Victorian Romance

Why this book?

This fun regency story pits a nobleman in dire financial straights against the female merchant who buys his late mother's home. He plans to woo her into marriage to get his house back. Too bad she despises entitled lords. A hilarious battle of wills takes place with practical jokes, a fictitious menagerie, and boxing lessons that morph into an unconventional courtship ritual. I love smart heroines, and Sally Duncan uses her wits to great effect to keep Lord Farnsworth guessing and the reader giggling.


Voyager

By Diana Gabaldon,

Book cover of Voyager

Why this book?

This is the third in the Outlander series and was quite serendipitously the first of her books my husband and I listened to. He checked out the audio cassette version from the library and brought it on a kids-free trip to Maui…Maui, no kids, a hot-date-night book every day and night. This third book stands alone and has enough backstory to bring the listener/reader up to speed on this adventure/romance across time and distance even without reading Outlander or Dragonfly in Amber (which we did as soon as we got home). Living history through the lens of Jamie Frazier in 1740s Scotland and the Caribbean, and the dual time perspective of Claire, a 1940s time traveler is a riveting ride, again with characters that cause me to laugh, cry and, of course, bleed out. Ms. Gabaldon is also a gracious woman with her time and inspiration at writer’s conferences and certainly encouraged me to keep writing.  


The Music Shop

By Rachel Joyce,

Book cover of The Music Shop

Why this book?

I remember 1988, the arrival of the CD and old-fashioned record shops. But what I loved most about this book was the portrayal of Frank, the record shop owner with the gift of being able to pick the right music for his customers but unable to help himself. For me, the mystery of Ilse was a background tune to the real story of how these two unlikely characters overcome their various emotional burdens to finally reach out to each other. Sorry about the spoiler!


The Spanish Love Deception

By Elena Armas,

Book cover of The Spanish Love Deception

Why this book?

As someone who spent a number of years working in a big office in New York City (and kinda hating it), the “big city office atmosphere” in this story really spoke to me. Luckily, there is at least a brief vacation where the characters escape the grind. Best of all, when they return to the city, they can appreciate what’s romantic about it in so many new and wonderful ways.


Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover

By Sarah MacLean,

Book cover of Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover

Why this book?

Little is more adventurous than a woman who owns a gambling hell, who has forged a path to success, and dares Society to judge her. I love Sarah’s depth of characterization and how she infuses her characters with a background and motivations that make their actions, even the questionable ones, understandable and believable. I find she always takes an insurmountable conflict and uses it to drive the characters toward change. I so admire Sarah’s ability to carry me on a journey that always ends with a sigh of satisfaction, and often a few tears.


The Masqueraders

By Georgette Heyer,

Book cover of The Masqueraders

Why this book?

For those Regency romance purists and Georgette Heyer fans out there, it would be criminal to leave this tale off the list. Known as the Queen of Regency, Heyer weaves an interesting tale about two masters of disguise. Both brother and sister dress and conduct themselves as the opposite sex in this adventure! Do you enjoy witty banter? Me too! I love lighthearted, humorous moments, and I was not disappointed.

This book is very true to regency form in terms of language, vocabulary, and sentence structure. That being said, you’ll enjoy this book more if you already have a solid understanding of Regency societal rules and peerage, codes of conduct, etc.


Unmasked by the Marquess: The Regency Impostors

By Cat Sebastian,

Book cover of Unmasked by the Marquess: The Regency Impostors

Why this book?

This is book 1 in the Regency Imposters series. The heroine has masqueraded as a male for 6 years, assuming her late husband’s identity. She’s actually a nonbinary character, which makes this a unique aspect of this book. The hero, while the perfect example of high society, is also open-minded in terms of sexuality, which gave this book a refreshing perspective. I’m glad to see today’s authors include more diverse characters. I think they make the stories more realistic.


The Wildest Ride

By Marcella Bell,

Book cover of The Wildest Ride

Why this book?

I really enjoyed this tale of two people who’ve faced discrimination in rodeo their entire lives for being Black, Native, and, in Lil’s case, a woman. What I love is that it’s not primarily a story about racism. It’s a beautiful romance first, an exciting rodeo competition second, and while racism is there, of course, they succeed despite it. It’s such an uplifting read about strength, hard work, love, and passion.

Heartbeat Braves

By Pamela Sanderson,

Book cover of Heartbeat Braves

Why this book?

I don’t usually read sweet, fade-to-black romance (I’m a fan of the full-steam-ahead stuff), but there is so much deadpan Native humor I was howling with laughter the whole time. The Crooked Rock Urban Indian Center staff and regulars are wonderful characters. How they establish this new community in the city, displaced from their tribal communities, is so recognizable for someone who lives 500 miles away from my tribe.

Certain Dark Things

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia,

Book cover of Certain Dark Things

Why this book?

Atl, the “wild child” daughter of a matriarch in a vampire clan that was old when the Aztecs ruled Mexico, is on the run from the slaughter of her family. She risks hiding out in Mexico City, off-limits to her kind, setting off a clash between warring vampire narco gangs, the beleaguered police, and the mortal crime families.  Atl needs to grow up and figure out how to survive before any or all of the above find her.  Forget everything you think you know about vampires. Moreno-Garcia throws all the pieces into the air and creates a new world of modern vampire noir. 


Swear on This Life

By Renée Carlino,

Book cover of Swear on This Life

Why this book?

Renée Carlino writes gorgeous second chance romances and this one is the pinnacle for me. Swear on This Life is the story of Emiline and Jase and how through the most tragic beginning blooms the love of a lifetime. Imagine picking up the latest best-selling novel and discovering your deeply painful childhood on every page. Nothing could be worse, except finding out your childhood best friend and first love wrote it. Renée writes a raw story of resilience that first feels like a gut punch but melts into salve to the soul. I devoured all the words and then regretted it when I had none left to savor. I wish I could read this one again for the first time. Bring the tissues, this one will tear your heart out and sew it back together bigger and brighter than it was before.

Twice in a Blue Moon

By Christina Lauren,

Book cover of Twice in a Blue Moon

Why this book?

This book made me swoon. Sam has all of Tate’s important firsts - first love, first betrayal, and first heartbreak. Twice in a Blue Moon is the story of reconnecting and rewriting the wrongs of the past. It’s emotional, tender, redemptive, and impossible to put down. Christina Lauren’s signature witty banter and descriptive writing style pulls you into the book and keeps you there until the last page. It was one of my favorite pandemic reads!

True Love Story

By Willow Aster,

Book cover of True Love Story

Why this book?

Willow Aster’s debut novel is one of my all-time favorite second chance romances. The story of Sparrow and Ian is one of deep love and unbelievably bad timing. Life seems to constantly put them together only to rip them apart but somehow they keep finding each other. True Love Story made me believe in soulmates and the power of letting go of the past to create a beautiful future. It will break your heart and mend it back together in the most beautiful way!

Killing Me Softly

By Nicci French,

Book cover of Killing Me Softly

Why this book?

We’re in fiction now. This is the story of Alice, a young professional woman with a settled life and reliable boyfriend, who jettisons it all when she meets Adam, a mountaineer. Adam is very broken, with PTSD after a tragedy in the mountains. I know climbers who would say the plot is sensationalist, but I’ve also met climbers who seem to have left their most vivid selves in that white otherworld. And this is the essential territory of Nicci French novels - people with dangerous edges and missing pieces, and how charismatic they are. 


A Kingdom of Dreams

By Judith McNaught,

Book cover of A Kingdom of Dreams

Why this book?

She is the queen of historical romance for a reason. I will never forget reading this book as a teen, and I don’t know how many times I’ve read this as an adult. It has everything you can want - adventure, a crazy kind of love, an alpha male who is hot as hell, and of course, an innocent virgin. It’s a book that made me want to be a romance novelist. I bow to Judith McNaught for life. 


The Red Door Inn

By Liz Johnson,

Book cover of The Red Door Inn

Why this book?

We all know Prince Edward Island from the Anne of Green Gables series, but nothing has made me want to step on the shores more than Liz Johnson’s contemporary romance, The Red Door Inn. When Marie flees a troubled past, she lands in PEI and finds herself helping renovate a historic bed and breakfast. Set right on the water, this story enchants the heart and scratches the travel itch in equal parts. With crackling romantic tension, sweeping views, and brisk sea air, this book has everything you need to drift away for a little vacation right from your couch.


If for Any Reason

By Court Walsh,

Book cover of If for Any Reason

Why this book?

Set in Nantucket in the summer, this book has as much swoon-worthy scenery and food as it does romance and drama. Having grown up in the desert, I soaked up every word of Walsh’s masterful description of this whimsical island. The setting weaves seamlessly into the story, and you feel like you’re right on the beach eating ice cream cones along with Emily, Hollis, and the rest of the gang. Throw in local small-town theatre and a broody teen, and this story has all the makings of a great beach read.


High Fidelity

By Nick Hornby,

Book cover of High Fidelity

Why this book?

I was undecided between High Fidelity and another of Nick Hornby's novels on the same theme and picked High Fidelity because in this novel the depressed main character turns around his life on his own. High Fidelity is about the self-realisation that only you can help yourself out of depression.

Narrated with warmth and humour, the story of Rob Fleming, a depressed music record store owner is anything but depressing. Rob’s juvenile attitude to life and the realisation that he had been sleepwalking through it is brought out as he ruminates on his many relationships to find the reason behind his fear of commitment. High Fidelity is the coming of age story of a grown-up Holden Caulfield who eventually finds his way home.


Let It Be Love (Effington Family & Friends)

By Victoria Alexander,

Book cover of Let It Be Love (Effington Family & Friends)

Why this book?

Let It Be Love was the first historical romance novel I ever read. It was the one that sparked and inspired my own writing. This book is filled with good humor, grand sexual tension between the hero and heroine, and the desired ever-after you wish for yourself. It will make you fall in love with hot-blooded male characters who find their hearts melting for their ladies. It will have you appreciate the strong, clever, and stubborn female characters that strive for what they want. The best traditional HR! Would make the perfect start for anyone’s journey into Historical Romance.


Almost a Lady

By Jane Feather,

Book cover of Almost a Lady

Why this book?

Almost A Lady is filled with love, passion, and adventure for the restless soul. It has a fiery heroine who isn’t afraid to fight for her life, and the most ideal roguish pirate scoundrel one longs for in a Historical Romance. The perfect enemies-to-lovers tale that will have you staying up late for more. I loved this book because it revealed far more than what a traditional HR setting could be. It gave me love and peril and a hot slow-burn of fervor and intensity one needs in a great Historical Romance.


Passion

By Lisa Valdez,

Book cover of Passion

Why this book?

Passion is a highly intense and passionate novel that transports you away from the traditional HR to a whole new world of an exotic and steamy love affair. The characters flourish together from hot-blooded lovers to hopelessly in love. This book carries all that you would hope to find in a historical romance, from lust, obsession, longing, and love with a happy conclusion. If you’re looking for all the qualities, and then some, in a historical romance, then this book will get you there! Truly unforgettable! I read this over a decade ago, and I still remember it fondly! But honestly, because of all the sensual sex scenes!


Marrying Winterborne

By Lisa Kleypas,

Book cover of Marrying Winterborne

Why this book?

Marrying Winterborne is an all-around feel-good romance for the ages. Every step of the way, you are rooting for the hero and heroine. A traditional historical romance story that will melt your heart and will leave you imagining your own love story in the making. The hero draws you in with his brooding yet protective personality, and the heroine captures your heart with her innocent yet loyal love for her man. I loved this book because it honestly truly made me cry while reading it, which is no easy feat to accomplish. I also found it to be a real breath of fresh air, due to how the characters were realistically written and relatable.


Marry Me by Sundown

By Johanna Lindsey,

Book cover of Marry Me by Sundown

Why this book?

Of course, I must include a novel set in the American West. How could I not? And oh, so many to choose from—a difficult task. This is another recommendation based on strong, intriguing characters. The heroine is determined to save her family from financial ruin and she faces the hardships of the West. Lindsey has written two very passionate, headstrong individuals, and you will have some laughs and some tears reading this one.


Fangirl

By Rainbow Rowell,

Book cover of Fangirl

Why this book?

First of all, any author by the name of Rainbow is already fantastic in my book. The story is engaging and well-written. Cath is the author of a ridiculously popular fanfiction and, on top of that, she’s heading to college. This book is popular for a reason, as the author depicts a strong main character who not only struggles to navigate the choppy waters of college life, but family life too by worrying about her dad. I sure love a main character with a big heart.


Burning Up (Smoke Jumpers)

By Anne Marsh,

Book cover of Burning Up (Smoke Jumpers)

Why this book?

Is there anything hotter than a man willing to launch himself into a wilderness fire to save complete strangers? If you think there isn't, may I direct you to Marsh’s three-book series with action, suspense, drama – and scorching-hot men risking everything to help others. Burning Up introduces the reader to a close-knit group of smokejumpers, vengeful arsonists, regrets, and lost love… and reminds us that the riskiest jobs often result in heartbreak. I doubt that I could handle the stress of loving someone who lays down their life every single time they go to work, but I do find the psychology of the risk-taker fascinating and sexy: real heroes are rare and maybe that’s what makes them so irresistible… even if they are fictional.


Given

By Nandi Taylor,

Book cover of Given

Why this book?

Given is a fantasy romance, centering on the relationship between Yenni and Weysh. Yenni is a princess of the Yirba who ventures to a distant land to seek a magical cure for her ailing father; Weysh is a charming and troublesome dragon shapeshifter who believes Yenni is his Given, or destined mate.

In addition to offering a unique spin on dragons, Given has wonderful world building. We learn about the intertwined history of three cultures: the Yirba, the Creshens, and the once-mighty dragons. While the draconic aspect is what drew me to this book, I also loved learning about the magic system, and how each culture approaches magic use. The romance is sweet and understated, and is well balanced with Yenni and Weysh's personal goals.


The Starless Sea

By Erin Morgenstern,

Book cover of The Starless Sea

Why this book?

Erin Morgenstern is one of those authors who borrows words to create Art. Yes, that’s capitalized for a reason. She doesn’t so much construct prose as assemble a silent symphony that plays privately in the head of anyone who graces their eyes with her words. So, if you’re scrolling this list looking for the point where rainbow fantasy meets literature, congrats, you’ve found it. At some points, the story feels like it’s trying to be a bit too clever for its own good, but it does it so gracefully you might not mind. If you have a penchant for things as elegant and mysterious as a starless sea, grab a copy and find out why it made the list for yourself.


The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement

By David G. Brooks,

Book cover of The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement

Why this book?

I used this book in class for three semesters. The students were fans; I stopped using it only because I re-designed my classes regularly. It’s a deep dive into hundreds of social science and neuroscience research projects about how we relate to each other, how we want to engage with each other, and why. It first appeared to be an unusual pick for a class on creatively entrepreneurial growth but students agreed it made sense when reminded that most creative work is done in collaborative teams so understanding each other is of great creative benefit. Brooks uses fictional characters, a man and a woman, and tells their life stories, illuminating them with insights rooted in research; we see the deep human truths behind behaviors and are entertained along the way. 


Maybe This Time

By Kasie West,

Book cover of Maybe This Time

Why this book?

Set in small-town Alabama, Sophie is working at the local florist while dreaming all the big city dreams but slowly falling for love interest, Andrew. I’m a sucker for slow-burn romances told in unconventional ways while enjoying a good Southern setting, and this book has it! Enemies-to-lovers over the course of a year’s events and with a heavy dose of family dynamics bubbling to the surface? Yes, please!


Wild Nights: Conversations with Mykonos about Passionate Love, Extraordinary Sex, and How to Open to God

By David Deida,

Book cover of Wild Nights: Conversations with Mykonos about Passionate Love, Extraordinary Sex, and How to Open to God

Why this book?

This book has to be first on my list. With his teacher Mykonos, David Deida explores the realm where sex meets spirituality in the Crazy Wisdom tradition. I’ve been following this path myself for decades as I find it the fastest way for cultivating a free mind and spiritual growth. Crazy Wisdom is a Buddhist concept that involves practices so unconventional, outrageous, and unexpected, that they shock you out of your normal ego behavior patterns. The sex you can experience from this deconditioned space is mind-blowing. Through a fascinating and entertaining story, Wild Nights inspires us to get out of our boring shells, take a leap of faith and explore our deeper longings and fantasies.


Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence

By Esther Perel,

Book cover of Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence

Why this book?

What I teach people about sex helps them have a strong tantric base. This creates the sexual bonding and physical foundation that allows us to do the necessary emotional relationship work. However, I certainly don’t feel qualified to give advice on how to make romantic relationships succeed. That’s where famous relationship therapist Esther Perel comes in. In this eloquent book, she admirably tackles the age-old problem of sustaining both a good sex life and a good relationship in the long term. Combine these relationship skills with tantra and you’ll be equipped with some remarkable tools that exceptionally few couples have mastered yet.


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). 


Bellewether

By Susanna Kearsley,

Book cover of Bellewether

Why this book?

I love a good story told well—where the plot has me eager to flip the page, but the writing is so gorgeous I want to linger. Bellewether entwines the story of present-day Charley with Lydia, a woman living in the midst of war between the British and French American colonies in 1759. It’s a story of ghosts, figurative and real, of love, forbidden and lost, and it’s about discovering the truths that matter the most. 


The Housekeeper and the Professor

By Yoko Ogawa,

Book cover of The Housekeeper and the Professor

Why this book?

This is the tender and intriguing story of a brilliant math professor with a peculiar problem--ever since a traumatic head injury, he has lived with only eighty minutes of short-term memory. The other main character is a young Housekeeper, with a ten-year-old son, who is hired to care for him. Each day, the characters are reintroduced to one another, while the Professor’s long-term memories open up new directions for them all, creating close bonds and a strange familiar unit. It’s a simple story but it has remained with me for some reason – perhaps because memory is so key to who we are but somehow, in this book, the characters are drawn together and create something despite that. I also loved the inter-generational friendships. 


Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After

By Sophia Dembling,

Book cover of Introverts in Love: The Quiet Way to Happily Ever After

Why this book?

I had a great deal of respect for this author from reading her Psychology Today columns. Sophia Dembling is an introvert and from her research and personal experience knows that relationships between different personality types can be challenging to say the least. 

She takes us through all aspects of the dating process and doesn’t slam extroverts. What she does is show us, through her great wit and transparency, how we are not perfect but that we can balance each other. 

Dembling teaches introverts “how to let someone into their hearts while honoring the solitude we need..” I found myself laughing many times, even while reading the table of contents. “Whee! Fun With Extroverts” and “I Love you But Please Don’t Call Me.” And she helps extroverted readers understand and empathize with introverts who don’t find joy in too much socializing. 


From Blood and Ash

By Jennifer L. Armentrout,

Book cover of From Blood and Ash

Why this book?

This book starts slowly, but don’t give up on it so quickly. The chemistry between Poppy and Hawke is out of this world, and the plot and twists will keep you on the edge of your reading nook. This is an epic fantasy romance that will certainly leave you breathless.

G.

By John Berger,

Book cover of G.

Why this book?

John Berger was a fantastic cultural observer and art critic, this book is erotic both in its observation of culture and context but also of human fallibility, and psychic and psychological transportation of love itself. It had a big influence on me as an art student and for the brief years when I was a sculptor. What I love about it is its empathy for both the female and male inner erotic life, although it is set in England and Europe at the end of the 19th century, Berger’s razor-sharp, succinct blending of the internal and external world is both moving and sensual. 


Black Tickets: Stories

By Jayne Anne Phillips,

Book cover of Black Tickets: Stories

Why this book?

West Virginia’s Jayne Anne Phillips made a noisy arrival on the literary scene with her triumphant collection of short stories, Black Tickets. One of the first of the “dirty realists,” Phillips paints the backroads and forgotten lives of rural West Virginia during a time when that state, and many like it, were on no one’s radar. As one of her characters says, “This ain’t the South…this is the goddam past.” Phillips captures the loneliness and the disconnected lives of young women and men in a way few books have done.  


Widdershins

By Charles de Lint,

Book cover of Widdershins

Why this book?

I won this book in a contest, put it on a shelf, and forgot about it for months. When I finally got around to reading it, I was captured! Urban fantasy is supposed to take the normal world and twist it like the focusing bits on a pair of binoculars. The results are that what you were looking at gets blurry, but something else becomes crystal clear. Widdershins did that for me. The normal world blurred and suddenly I could see the magical world that was all around complete with alliances and enemies. 


What the Dead Leave Behind

By Rosemary Simpson,

Book cover of What the Dead Leave Behind

Why this book?

Frances lives in the Victorian Era in London, but in her hometown of New York, it’s the Gilded Age. This is her background in all its glittering and horrifying glory. 

Crime novels fit quite naturally in this era. I love a loathsome villain and Rosemary Simpson serves up some of the worst in her Gilded Age series. She uses actual events, like the great blizzard of 1888, as catalysts for some heinous crimes. If you needed to dispose of a body, what better place than a snowdrift? 

Prudence MacKenzie, the dead man’s fiancé and our sleuth, doesn’t seem to realize the danger she’s in. I spent the entire read on the edge of my seat wondering if she’d make it to the end of the book alive. This is historical noir in elegant Gilded Age style.


Hands Down

By Mariana Zapata,

Book cover of Hands Down

Why this book?

I’d talk about Mariana Zapata for days without coming out for air. The queen of slow-burn will leave you squirming in your seat shouting “Just kiss already!” on the top of your lungs. It’s a sweet blooming romance between childhood friends who spent years apart. If you read The Wall of Winnipeg and Me, you were probably waiting for Zack’s story. Bonus? Zack is the sweetest and the pure definition of a cinnamon roll hero.


The Winner's Curse

By Marie Rutkoski,

Book cover of The Winner's Curse

Why this book?

Kestrel’s father is the fierce general who won the Herran War and enslaved its people. When she buys a Herrani house slave named Arin at the market, Kestrel gets more than she bargained for – a challenge to her privileged, sheltered life, an epic love, and a part in the revolution. This is the first in the trilogy, and it is a genuine pleasure to watch Kestrel, from the beginning a character with an independent streak, navigate impossible choices as she grows into the person she wants to be. A lush and detailed world full of intrigue, politics, and gripping romance. 


To Kill a Kingdom

By Alexandra Christo,

Book cover of To Kill a Kingdom

Why this book?

When Lira is banished by her mother, she will do anything to win back her mother’s favor, including killing Elian. She doesn’t expect them to become reluctant allies and friends, nor does she expect to fall in love with him against the backdrop of a story with high stakes, lush world-building, and action-packed sea adventures. With a siren princess and a human pirate prince who wishes to slay her, this book brings forth a forbidden romance that is bound to break your heart. 


The Heiress Effect

By Courtney Milan,

Book cover of The Heiress Effect

Why this book?

This is the book that made me want to write a historical romance. The protagonist, Miss Jane Fairfield, is outlandishly rich. But she can’t get married and leave her younger sister, who has epilepsy, to the well-meaning but cruel treatments recommended by their uncle, who is also their guardian. Since her money makes her an appealing target for many an impoverished rake, Jane has to work extra to become unappealing while still seeming like she’s trying to attract a man. She wears obnoxiously bright clothing, insults people with the kindest tone, and—in one desperate attempt to make a man be mean to her—takes the food right off his plate. This is a book about people trying to put you in your place and keep you small. And let me give you a hint: it’s a romance, so there’s definitely a Happily Ever After, and that includes small-minded people getting their comeuppance. 


The Foreign Student

By Susan Choi,

Book cover of The Foreign Student

Why this book?

In 1950s Sewanee, Chang and Katherine slowly fall in love and find that the Souths of Korea and Tennessee are not that different after all, both subject to lingering issues of class, family, race, and civil war. I love the poetic language in this novel, as well as its ambitious story and the complexity invested in every relation.


The Sea of Tranquility

By Katja Millay,

Book cover of The Sea of Tranquility

Why this book?

Semi-spoiler alert: this book has the best ending line ever so don’t flip to the end or you’ll rob yourself of something very precious. I adore a nice ending twist and although not so much an O’Henry plot twist (love his stories) as an “aha” shift in perspective, it has stuck with me more than any other element of the story.

The book’s blurb very aptly describes The Sea of Tranquility as “... a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.” I’m a sucker for second chance stories, especially following an injustice. The beauty of this story lies not in the how the protagonist, Nastya, recovers her power by confronting and righting the injustice but in how she subtly and simultaneously learns to look forward instead of backward.


Friend: A Novel from North Korea

By Nam-Nyong Paek, Immanuel Kim (translator),

Book cover of Friend: A Novel from North Korea

Why this book?

This one is set in North Korea and is by a sanctioned North Korean writer. As a result, there is no criticism directed at the North’s restrictive society and on the surface it isn’t at all political. Instead, it shows the mundane existence of a judge and his wife, ordinary people who work hard to contribute to the development of the nation. It seems to be about traditional values, and the rising prevalence of divorce is seen as a problem. Those of us who follow Korea rarely get this kind of insight into what life in the North is really like, and while these characters may be relatively privileged, their existence is tellingly monochromatic.


The Perfect Find

By Tia Williams,

Book cover of The Perfect Find

Why this book?

This story about 40-year-old Jenna Jones restarting her beauty journalism career and falling in love with a young videographer half her age has all the steaminess and will they/won’t they that you can want in a romance. But it’s also the unofficial sequel to Williams’ cult classic, Accidental Diva, and features dynamics friendships throughout. Whether it’s with Billie, the main character from Accidental Diva, and Elodie—her longstanding friends that keep her sane, or with the newfound friends she makes as she journeys through her reignited career, you’re bound to identify with these women and their friendship.


The Horse Whisperer: A Novel

By Nicholas Evans,

Book cover of The Horse Whisperer: A Novel

Why this book?

I read this book when it was first published, and I couldn’t put it down. The story opens with a dreadful accident where a lorry hits two girls out riding together. One girl and her horse are killed, the other girl has life-changing injuries. and her horse is so traumatised that the vet suggests putting him down. However, her mother refuses to do that. Instead, she loads the horse into a trailer and takes him and her daughter to Montana to meet a horse whisperer who she hopes can heal them all. (NB Although this story features a child, it is not a children’s book.)


Mothering Sunday: A Romance

By Graham Swift,

Book cover of Mothering Sunday: A Romance

Why this book?

Mothering Sunday takes place on a single day in March 1924, a day off for all the servants, including Jane Fairchild, although as a foundling she has no mother to go home to. The novella revolves around the affair Jane has with soon-to-be-married Paul Sheringham, the only remaining son of the neighbouring family, and heir to their estate. The writing is imbued with a sense of loss, of time warping and wavering, of what-would-have-beens, and conveys the difficulties faced by those who had to carry on in the wake of the Great War. 


Savannah Blues

By Mary Kay Andrews,

Book cover of Savannah Blues

Why this book?

I love Andrews’ combination of Women’s Fiction and Mystery, and I think this series creates a wonderful bridge between Andrews’ writing style between the two genres and her pen names (originally, she wrote mysteries as Kathy Hogan Trocheck). Savannah Blues is more character- than plot-driven, but for those looking for a light mystery in a sultry southern setting with all the ubiquitous eccentrics and some BFFs bent on ex-husband revenge, you’ll enjoy the story like I did. You learn a bit about antiquing and Savannah architecture while cheering on amateur sleuth Weezie and enjoy a lot of laughs with her friend Bebe Loudermilk. By the end of Savannah Blues, I wanted to move across Georgia and have Weezie dress me up at home in Savannah.


The Lost Lieutenant

By Erica Vetsch,

Book cover of The Lost Lieutenant

Why this book?

I love me a hero that’s a strong underdog sort of fella, the type that’s misunderstood yet does the right thing despite the consequences. Hero Evan Eldridge is the type of man that makes me wish I could meet him in person instead of on the pages. War is horrific, lasting long after the bloody battles. I liked how Evan managed to overcome his ghosts of the past, which is a great inspiration for us all to do the same. 

More Jane Austen than Jane Eyre.


A Castaway in Cornwall

By Julie Klassen,

Book cover of A Castaway in Cornwall

Why this book?

Every chance I get to skip across the pond I take in a heartbeat, and one of my very favorite places to visit is the coast of Cornwall. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on airfare, though, to do the same. The descriptions in this book are positively scrumptious. You’ll feel as if your toes are in the sand with seagulls circling overhead. Plus there’s a fantastic mystery involved. Win. Win.

More Jane Eyre than Jane Austen.


The Vanishing at Loxby Manor

By Abigail Wilson,

Book cover of The Vanishing at Loxby Manor

Why this book?

Gothic stories are some of my favorite, especially when paired with the English countryside. This one entangles relationships that are sometimes tricky to navigate—much like real life, which I really appreciated. Truth is timeless, and I find that I often learn lessons from historical fiction that help me in my contemporary life. Such is the case for The Vanishing at Loxby Manor. I love how misunderstandings are cleared up between the characters for a very satisfying ending.

More Jane Eyre than Jane Austen.


Playing the Part

By Jen Turano,

Book cover of Playing the Part

Why this book?

Let me introduce you to the wonderful world of Turano's historical romances. Playing the Part is my favorite; it is about a 19th-century New York City actress who hides away at a friend's country estate. Every character is quirky and engaging. I laughed out loud, over and over, at the myriad of crazy situations they got themselves into.


The Prince: A Devil's Duke Novel

By Katharine Ashe,

Book cover of The Prince: A Devil's Duke Novel

Why this book?

This historical romance features an ambitious heroine, who doesn’t allow undiagnosed OCD to define her life, and a displaced immigrant determined to reclaim his birthright, despite a physical disability. The parallel between their struggles illustrates how physical and mental illnesses share similar challenges. Why can’t we treat them equally?


Ten Rules for Faking It

By Sophie Sullivan,

Book cover of Ten Rules for Faking It

Why this book?

Kudos to the author for creating a charming romance that brings readers deep inside crippling social anxiety. Taking it one step further, the novel shows how effectively someone—the heroine—can mask mental illness. Here is the heartbreaking reality: anxiety is easily hidden and often misread as anti-social behavior.


The Good Sister

By Sally Hepworth,

Book cover of The Good Sister

Why this book?

As someone who has only recently discovered my own neurodiversity (having been diagnosed late in life with ADHD), I’m drawn to books with neurodiverse characters as I try to navigate my new understanding of myself and my world. In The Good Sister, Fern, who is on the autism spectrum, works hard to keep her life carefully structured. When her sister Rose can’t fall pregnant, Fern sees an opportunity to pay her sister back for everything Rose has done for her. But as the book delves into the sisters’ past, it becomes clear that there is a dark history between these sisters, and with plenty of clever twists it makes for a truly compelling read.


Snowspelled: The Harwood Spellbook Volume I

By Stephanie Burgis,

Book cover of Snowspelled: The Harwood Spellbook Volume I

Why this book?

In the nineteenth-century setting of Snowpelled, the proper role of a lady is politics, and magic is the domain of men. Cassandra Harwood is the one scandalous exception—but something’s gone wrong. At the start of the story, all we know is that even the simplest spell is now out of her reach.

The mystery unfolds as Cassandra attempts to outsmart an elf lord and avoid her (absolutely delightful) ex-fiancé, the latter task no less difficult than the former. 

I love third-person point of view, but one of the joys of this book is getting the story directly from Cassandra—a woman who became a magician by “utterly refusing to give up on my great plans until the world around me finally saw sense and accepted them.” 


The Lady and the Lionheart

By Joanne Bischof,

Book cover of The Lady and the Lionheart

Why this book?

This book grabbed my heart and is still holding on. I have never read a hero more committed to what is right and willing to pursue it at all costs, in spite of his imperfections. His compassion and level of sacrifice are unmatched. Both he and the heroine are wounded, yet in different ways. Her journey to trust is one that touched me deeply. Bischof knows how to write the heart and paint the power of redemption. 


Donut Fall in Love

By Jackie Lau,

Book cover of Donut Fall in Love

Why this book?

In this Toronto-set contemporary, baker Lindsay coaches actor Ryan to appear on a celebrity cooking show. Ryan’s mother has recently passed away, and while Lindsay’s father died years ago, she lives with the residual effects of that loss. The two connect over food, laughter, and grief. What I loved about this book was how Lau sensitively explores how grief isn’t an isolated feeling with a set end, but rather is a set of feelings and actions that can have ripples over the course of a person’s life.


The Raven Prince

By Elizabeth Hoyt,

Book cover of The Raven Prince

Why this book?

Elizabeth Hoyt was the first historical romance writer I read, and she hooked me on the genre. The Raven Prince is probably my favorite of hers. I love how the meet-cute is actually more of a meet-hate, and how Anna pursues her own happiness with guts and determination, even when Edward has his head firmly planted where the sun don’t shine. This book is also notable for the fact the hero has noticeable scars that to the casual eye might make him unattractive. There is a realism to the couple that you don’t find in a lot of historical romances. Definitely a top pick.


Who I Am with You

By Robin Lee Hatcher,

Book cover of Who I Am with You

Why this book?

This novel is beautifully written, a gentle, faith-filled love story with characters I couldn’t help but care about from the start. Recently widowed and expecting a baby, Jessica is struggling with the tragic loss of her husband and daughter—and the secret knowledge of her late husband’s betrayal. Her new next-door neighbor, Ridley, has his own secrets, which is why he’s attempting to keep a low profile in this small-town setting. I loved watching their friendship evolve into something more and how their faith grew as they dealt with the difficulties they faced. And as a lifelong animal lover, I have to say I was especially fond of Ridley’s dog, Kris, who played the perfect little matchmaker!


A Princess for Christmas

By Jenny Holiday,

Book cover of A Princess for Christmas

Why this book?

I absolutely love Hallmark Christmas movies! Much to my husband’s chagrin, I fill up our DVR with Hallmark movies every November and December and never manage to watch them all. Many of those movies have a royal theme with a prince or princess wanting some normalcy and finding love with an American “commoner.” I originally saw this book on a shelf at Barnes & Noble and knew it would be an enjoyable holiday read. The author didn’t disappoint as she spun the tale of a NYC cab driver and his younger sister who cross paths with Princess Marie of Eldovia.  


Surprised By Love: One Couple's Journey from Infidelity to True Love

By Dr. Jay Kent-Ferraro, Dr. Julie Kent-Ferraro,

Book cover of Surprised By Love: One Couple's Journey from Infidelity to True Love

Why this book?

A terrific, candid book for both partners in a marriage rocked by an affair. They walk the reader through each phase of his infidelity and its impact on their marriage: the rationalizations, trauma, the fall-out, divorce, and eventual restoration of their marriage. Terrific insights, especially for the unfaithful. While Dr. Jay ascribes the key to their recovery as his wife’s constant love, I believe he overlooked another important factor: his wife stopping her tendency to over-accommodate, learning to set boundaries, and treating herself with more self-respect. It’s in the book but not credited as a significant factor in him wanting her again and motivating him to take a hard look at himself. Especially helpful for unfaithful men who are executives and travel a lot for work.


Neanderthal Seeks Human: A Smart Romance

By Penny Reid,

Book cover of Neanderthal Seeks Human: A Smart Romance

Why this book?

All of the women in Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series are spitfires, but I have a soft spot for Janie and her habit of rattling off encyclopedic facts at inopportune times and solving problems in her head as a way of avoiding too much reality. Grumbly, protective Quinn is her perfect match and readers are especially lucky because their romance unfolds over not one, but two novels.


The Love Hypothesis

By Ali Hazelwood,

Book cover of The Love Hypothesis

Why this book?

This wonderful novel has more spice than my other recommendations, but it is still totally sweet. It opens strong, with third-year PhD candidate Olive Wood desperately kissing the first man in sight. She has her reasons, but only when the dust settles does she realize the gravity of what she has done and who exactly she just kissed: Adam Carlson, a young hotshot professor who is known for his ruthless and grumpy attitude. When they discover that pretending to date could be beneficial for them both, they carry on with the ruse but end up finding something entirely more real than either of them anticipated. I found this book difficult to put down and read it in one weekend at great cost to my sleep.


Becoming Us: 8 Steps to Grow a Family That Thrives

By Elly Taylor,

Book cover of Becoming Us: 8 Steps to Grow a Family That Thrives

Why this book?

As a therapist and coach for expectant and new parents, this book is always near the top of my list of recommendations. Taylor does a wonderful job of normalizing the difficult transition for most from “couple” to “parents.” She uses her background as a couple’s therapist to help people build tools to navigate the emotional upheaval that is incredibly common (and backed by extensive research) in the transition to parenthood. I appreciate Taylor’s honesty and her inclusion of stories from couples as examples. Reading this book feels like having a conversation with a good friend, who focuses first on your strengths, but who isn’t afraid to help you learn some new and helpful ways of interacting.


An American Marriage

By Tayari Jones,

Book cover of An American Marriage

Why this book?

I feel the ethos of this book in my very marrow. It’s basically like, “La la-la, I’m a Black person just living my life, trying to enjoy my marriage, start a family, generally be human, but then BAM! Some seriously unjust and disruptive shit totally blindsides me, derails my entire existence, and I just have to figure out how to get back to feeling human again.” After this pandemic, I think everyone can probably relate to this to some degree. (Huh. Covid: The Great Equalizer.)


A Promise of Fire

By Amanda Bouchet,

Book cover of A Promise of Fire

Why this book?

Cat, or Catalia Fisa, is a badass character from page one. She’s a fighter, and with good reason. Coming from a traumatic family life, Cat draws her strength from the fears she felt throughout her youth. Not only that, but she’s painfully aware of her many physical and emotional flaws. I think it says a lot about a character who knows they have faults that need to be dealt with, faults that prevent them from developing healthy relationships or putting their safety first at times. Throughout The Kingmaker Chronicles, Cat sacrifices herself repeatedly for the people she loves, a trait that every lead should have (to some extent anyway).


An Irish Hostage

By Charles Todd,

Book cover of An Irish Hostage

Why this book?

As a student of history I am impressed with the research that underpins this series, and especially the life of ordinary people in Ireland following the  Easter 1916 uprising. The whole Bess Crawford series tells the story of Bess, a strong-willed, independent woman who serves as a battlefield nurse in World War One. She needs all her courage and intelligence to survive then and in all of her ventures. Society’s expectations of women and how they should behave were dramatically changed during and following the Great War. How was it possible to expect a woman who had nursed on battlefields or driven an ambulance through enemy territory to return to a life of ‘proper’ behaviour, of tea and cucumber sandwiches, and absolute obedience to her husband?

An Irish Hostage finds Bess in Ireland at the wedding of a friend, only to become embroiled in the trouble and treachery following the Easter Uprising of 1916. She needs all her bravery and sound judgment to escape. 


1Q84

By Haruki Murakami, Jay Rubin (translator), Philip ­Gabriel (translator)

Book cover of 1Q84

Why this book?

1Q84 did a lot to help my book get to where it ended up going. I even quoted a line from it at the beginning. This was my first foray into Murakami, and I was never once intimidated by its 1000+ page count (and I try my best to stick to 300-page books). Quite simply, it’s maybe my favourite book of all time.

There’s plenty to unpack in 1Q84, but for the purposes of this recommendation, the book really hits on the ideas of identity and reality, as our dual protagonists discover their places in their worlds may not be exactly what they’d always known.

It's a wild mix of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Magical Realism with cults and killers and parallel worlds and fairy-like creatures sprinkled in.


The Lady

By Anne McCaffrey,

Book cover of The Lady

Why this book?

Written by the same author who wrote the amazing Dragonriders of Pern books, The Lady is set in 1970s Ireland and follows the horse-loving Carradyne family. There is plenty of drama and tears but it has a happy ending and the horses are very well written. Life wasn’t easy for women in Ireland at the time and McCaffery didn't shirk away from all the unfairness that she saw in the world around her. There are a few pretty shocking moments but it all works out in the end.