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The Best Romance Novels of 2022
The genre has had an exceptional year — one of its best of all time.
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By Olivia Waite
Welcome to the first New York Times list of the year’s best romance novels! My teenage self would not have believed this list possible, much less that I’d be writing it.
The genre has had an exceptional year. (Other top candidates for Best Romance Year are 1992, which brought us Julie Garwood’s “The Secret,” Laura Kinsale’s “Flowers From the Storm,” and Amanda Quick’s “Ravished” and “Reckless”; and 1995, which had Beverly Jenkins’s “Vivid,” J.D. Robb’s “Naked in Death” and Loretta Chase’s “Lord of Scoundrels.”)
Many of the books below have been featured in this column before; a few are new, discovered as I circled back to titles I’d missed.
For too long, I’d been craving a baseball romance book by an author who loves baseball and romance equally, and along came KD Casey’s FIRE SEASON (Carina Press, ebook, $4.99) , the story of two major-league pitchers who become roommates and then considerably more. Casey’s work feels as supple and lived-in as a fielder’s favorite glove, resilient but never rough, and the difficulties of queer identity in an entrenchedly heterosexual industry are handled with care but never allowed to steal the limelight from her heroes.
I initially skipped Akwaeke Emezi’s YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY (Atria, 278 pp., $27) because I thought it was more women’s fiction than romance — a mistake I regret, and which I’m thrilled to correct now. Widows are a stock character in romance, but rarely is the experience treated with such brutal depth as in this tale of Feyi, a young, haunted Black widow who falls for her new boyfriend’s famous father. The book is gloriously messy at the start, but like Feyi, it lights up when Alim enters: a queer and wildly charismatic Black chef who also knows about loss, and who is as foolishly, impossibly attracted to Feyi as she is to him. A modern masterpiece, and a perfect romance to start with if you come from the more literary side of the book world
Chencia C. Higgins’s D’VAUGHN AND KRIS PLAN A WEDDING (Carina Adores, 336 pp., paperback, $14.99) is a warmly funny love letter to queer Black women and the queer Black women who love them, disguised as a high-concept rom-com about a reality wedding show. Romances that decenter both whiteness and the gender binary are still dismayingly rare in traditional publishing, so to see a Black lesbian stud as a central character is like water on a parched bit of ground.
Higgins has a knack for writing scenes that are hilarious and natural, as opposed to the capital-H high jinks that often pass for the com part of a rom-com and that tend to stress me out. It is impossible to feel stressed while reading this book, even as you hold your breath to see whether D’Vaughn and Kris will make it to their televised wedding day.
As I read Mia Hopkins’s TANKED (Little Stone, ebook, $4.99) , I thought, Finally, an author brave enough to put the painful pandemic reality on the page of a romance — and then to insist a happy ending is possible in spite of all of that. Gorgeous and emotionally bruising, this story of a former underground fighter and a social worker out of work will wring you out in the best way, cementing this trilogy as one of my top contemporary series of all time.
A romance lover’s romance, Alexis Hall’s SOMETHING FABULOUS (Montlake, 363 pp., paperback, $9.99) riffs ruthlessly on Georgette Heyer and other classic historical romance archetypes in a way that verges on surreal and anarchic, even as the emotional through-line (a domineering duke unlearning power while relearning himself and his desires) stays engagingly tender and sincere. Part of that is because our domineering duke is paired with bubbly, beautiful Bonny, about whom I cannot say enough good things. It was hard to pick just one of the four books Hall published this year; please admire my restraint.
When I think of Jeannie Lin’s Tang Dynasty-set RED BLOSSOM IN SNOW (Independently published, 300 pp., paperback, $14.99) , I think of scenes with a boat gliding up a river through a dense fog, and characters wrapped in silk, and a pervasive sense of yearning. Sadness is a necessary balancing flavor in romance, and Lin makes it shine like the moon in this tale of cross-class lovers, family secrets and murder. One of those breathtaking romances where the obstacles to true love feel staggering and insurmountable, even for the reader who knows very well how it’s going to end.
It’s been a very good year for paranormal romance, and one reason is Sangu Mandanna’s THE VERY SECRET SOCIETY OF IRREGULAR WITCHES (Berkley, 336 pp., paperback, $17) , an effervescent stunner about a lonely modern witch hired to teach three troublesome younger witches at an idyllic country house with gardens full of secrets. My favorite bits all come at the end, and I refuse to spoil them, but the joyous shock of this book’s finale has lingered since summer.
At the busiest time of the year, I found time to not only read Everina Maxwell’s queer sci-fi romance OCEAN’S ECHO (Tor, 460 pp., $27.99) but also reread it, and I found it even more delicious the second time around. Somehow, Maxwell has combined fake dating with a far-future military adventure, set it against a backdrop of vicious civil war and psychic powers, and made it lush and poetic. There are moments that gesture toward the crystalline beauty of “This Is How You Lose the Time War,” by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, or the character-forward complexity of Lois McMaster Bujold’s beloved Vorkosigan series. One of the rare books that deliver at every level on every page.
Fantasy romances are on the upswing, with plenty of L.G.B.T.Q. love stories to boot. C.L. Polk’s second-world romance “Witchmark” brought home a World Fantasy Award in 2019, and this year they’ve graced us with EVEN THOUGH I KNEW THE END (Tordotcom, 144 pp. $19.99) , a queer women’s magical noir where every femme’s fatale. Helen Brandt, a private detective with only days left to live, is on the trail of a supernatural killer, and desperate to protect her beloved Edith from both those facts. Eerie, sharp and fiercely bittersweet.
My unabashed most-loved book of 2022? That would be THE DEAD ROMANTICS (Berkley, 345 pp., paperback, $17) , by Ashley Poston. The plot: A romance ghostwriter on deadline loses her father, and then encounters the ghost of her hot new editor, who cannot pass over until she finishes her latest manuscript. The feelings: swoony. The sentences: truly breathtaking.
This romance has haunted me since I finished it, and it has become the standard by which I’ve judged everything else from this year.
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The 38 best romance books to read in 2022, from beloved classics to bestselling rom-coms
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- Romance books range from contemporary love stories to historical fiction reads.
- They make great weekend reads and gifts for friends.
- These are our top romance picks, from new bestsellers to classic tales.
Books can transport us through time, across galaxies, or smack-dab in the middle of a heartfelt love story, filled with every swoon-worthy moment and a satisfyingly happy ending. Great romance books fall into all kinds of tropes and sub-genres from enemies-to-lovers to fantasy romance , but they all follow interesting characters through a series of challenges on their way to falling in love.
The romance books on this list fit into a few categories: contemporary, romantic comedies, young adult, classics, and historical fiction. They're bestsellers, award-winners, readers' favorites on social media and Goodreads, and some of our personal favorite picks. So whether you're looking for a tumultuous romantic comedy or a sweet and simple happily ever after, here are the best romance books to read in 2022.
The 38 best romance books to read in 2022:
Contemporary, young adult, historical fiction, "honey & spice" by bolu babalola.
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $23.85
Kiki Banjo is the host of a popular student radio show, "Brown Sugar," where she gives advice to the women on campus as they navigate players and try to avoid heartbreak. When she publicly kisses Malakai Korede, the guy she just denounced on her show, she needs to quickly fix the public perception, as a prized internship is on the line. She asks Malakai to fake a relationship with her, though their chemistry is undeniably real from the moment they first met.
"The Love Hypothesis" by Ali Hazelwood
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $11.04
Needing to convince her best friend that she's happily dating, Ph.D. candidate Olive Smith impulsively kisses Adam Carlson, a young, hot professor with an unyieldingly harsh reputation. When the two agree to start a fake relationship, real feelings start to bubble to the surface until everything changes at a big science conference.
To find out why this is one of our favorite new romances, check out our more in-depth review .
"Seven Days in June" by Tia Williams
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $16.61
When they were teenagers, Eva and Shane spent one week together madly in love, so when they meet by chance at a literary event 20 years later, their immediate chemistry is no surprise. In this warm and emotional romance, Eva and Shane reconnect over seven days in Brooklyn, exploring the spark between them while addressing the questions left lingering after all this time.
"The Charm Offensive" by Alison Cochrun
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $13.04
Dev has always believed in a fairytale romance, which is why he works on the notorious dating show "Ever After," even if his own love life isn't a magical love story. When the new Prince Charming, self-made tech giant Charlie, struggles to push past his anxiety to make any connections with the women on the show, Dev makes it his personal mission to ease Charlie's stress in this incredible queer romance that also addresses serious mental health issues.
"The Dating Plan" by Sara Desai
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $13.99
When it seems like Daisy can no longer avoid the marital pressure from her family, she asks her childhood crush (and first heartbreak) to be her fake fiancé. Realizing a marriage of convenience could majorly benefit each of them, they begin to go on a series of fake dates to get to know each other better and find the long-buried feelings for each other are still very real.
"You Had Me At Hola" by Alexis Daria
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $12
Jasmine is returning to NYC after a messy and public breakup to film a new telenovela with co-star Ashton, who fears his career is dead after his last character was killed off. Ashton and Jasmine make a pact to rehearse in private in order to generate on-screen chemistry. As their behind-the-scenes romance heats up, so does their performance, until the press threatens to ruin everything. Despite their initial awkward meeting, the chemistry between these characters nearly explodes off the pages and makes for a wildly sexy read.
"The Devil Wears Black" by L. J. Shen
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.75
You will love to hate some of these characters in a romance that's as entertaining as it is delicious. Maddie has set up everything for her perfect life until her ex walks back in with an outrageous proposition that lands her in the middle of a fake engagement. It combines the fake relationship and enemies-to-lovers tropes to a unique plot with Grade-A characters. It's romantic, funny, angsty, and full of all kinds of heartbreak.
"The Proposal" by Jasmine Guillory
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $13.02
Nikole attends a baseball game with her boyfriend of five months when he very publically proposes, despite his inability to spell her first name and the fact that they aren't even in love. After she says "no," — and Carlos, a stranger sitting nearby, rescues her from a stadium of disapproving onlookers — Nik sets off on an epic rebound with her new hunky doctor/hero until they start breaking all the hookup rules. This is one of those books that made me forget I was reading because the story played out so smoothly.
"In Five Years" by Rebecca Serle
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $10.03
In a job interview, Dannie is asked where she sees herself in five years. That night, Dannie accepts the job offer and a proposal but wakes up five years into the future in a different apartment next to a different man. Dannie struggles to figure out what happened — until she's back in 2020 an hour later, the experience remaining barely more than a visceral vision. This is a fast read that had me so interested in the balance between what we want and what we need.
"The Kiss Quotient" by Helen Hoang
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $11.30
This steamy romance is about Stella, a 30-year-old math genius with Asperger's who wants a bit more experience in the love department. When she hires Michael, an escort, to help her practice everything from kissing to complicated positions, he can't resist her offer — and she soon finds that she can't resist him. This one has a ton of sexy scenes but also takes us on Stella's journey of accepting that romance might not fit her careful computations.
"Take A Hint, Dani Brown" by Talia Hibbert
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $11.80
Dani is on the hunt for a friend-with-benefits when she and Zafir, the flirty security guard, go viral for a video of him carrying her out of a building during a fire drill. Monopolizing on the publicity by faking a relationship is mutually beneficial: Zafir gets the publicity he needs for his rugby charity, and Dani gets to see him naked. It's fun, it's flirty, it's down-right sexy — but this rom-com is also fantastic for tackling (pun intended) toxic masculinity, anxiety, and witchy spirituality.
"The Light We Lost" by Jill Santopolo
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.58
I cried actual tears on public transit because of this book and I am not sorry. This is a 13-year journey of the battle between fate and choice between Lucy and Gabe, starting from their senior year at Columbia. They reunite a year later, just before Gabe receives a photojournalism assignment in the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. This book is overflowing with emotion, fantastic prose, and heartbreak. It explores all kinds of love, especially the kind that changes you forever.
"The Intimacy Experiment" by Rosie Danan
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $10.99
Naomi's sex-positive business has taken off and Ethan is looking to bring more congregants to his synagogue. An unlikely pair, the two team up to host a seminar series on "Modern Intimacy," a solution that will save Ethan's synagogue and expand Naomi's business to higher education — until their attraction for one another threatens their success. This book is beloved for its strong plot and for the way it doesn't follow the common tropes of many new releases. It's also extremely sexy while tackling real issues, making it an enriching (and very steamy) read.
"The Bodyguard" by Katherine Center
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $16.99
Though you wouldn't guess it at first glance, Hannah Brooks has been hired as superstar actor Jack Stapleton's bodyguard, protecting him from a determined stalker. But when Jack's mom gets sick, he doesn't want his family to worry about the stalker or his bodyguard and asks Hannah to pretend to be his girlfriend as a cover in this sweet, magical romance.
"Delilah Green Doesn't Care" by Ashley Herring Blake
This adorable and steamy rom-com is about Delilah Green who reluctantly returns to her hometown of Bright Falls to photograph her estranged stepsister's wedding for an irrefutable amount of money. Though she's hoping to lay low and leave quickly, Delilah soon runs into Claire Sutherland, one of her stepsister's best friends, and decides to have a little fun messing with Claire until real feelings develop as they're forced together time and time again.
"The Unhoneymooners" by Christina Lauren
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.44
Truly one of the funniest books I've ever read, "The Unhoneymooners" takes place on a romantic Hawaiian vacation between sworn nemeses Olive and Ethan. When food poisoning at her sister's wedding leaves everyone but Olive and Ethan heaving, the two head on the abandoned, all-expense-paid honeymoon with the intention of avoiding each other. All of it works out — until Olive's new boss is at the same resort and the couple fakes being madly-in-love newlyweds to avoid being caught in a lie. The banter between these two characters made me want a whole series of just their conversations.
You can find more Christina Lauren books here .
"People We Meet on Vacation" by Emily Henry
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.98
Emily Henry is quickly becoming the queen of unique summer rom-coms (her last one, " Beach Read ," blew readers away) and this one continues the trend. Alex and Poppy are complete opposites and were inseparable best friends until two years ago. They decide to take a week-long vacation together again to mend their friendship and find their old happiness again. This is a romance that's wholly cute and emotional at the same time.
"The Bromance Book Club" by Lyssa Kay Adams
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $11.78
I found myself utterly invested in this book's non-traditional romantic plot and deep characters — the first in a short and highly entertaining series. The "Bromance Book Club" is a secret club amongst Nashville's major-league baseball players who read sexy romance novels to keep the romance in their marriages alive. When Gavin finds out that his wife faked every orgasm, his teammates bring him into the club to help him save his marriage. This is the perfect, easy romantic read when you need a laugh.
"In A Holidaze" by Christina Lauren
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $10.95
Okay yes, this is a holiday read but it's such a fun "Groundhog Day"-style romance that it's worth reading any time of year. At her favorite cabin with her family and friends, Mae awkwardly makes out with Theo — a family friend on whom she's had a crush since she was 13. On the drive back to the airport, Mae finds out that the beloved family cabin is being sold, just before a truck crashes into the side of their car. She tumbles into living the same day over and over until she finally allows the universe to tell her where to find happiness.
"Excuse Me While I Ugly Cry" by Joya Goffney
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.89
In this authentic and heartfelt enemies-to-lovers romance, Quinn loses her precious journal of lists — filled with everything from all the days she's cried to the boys she'd like to kiss — when an anonymous account blackmails her into facing her greatest fears or else the journal will go public. She teams up with Carter Bennett to face her fears, track down the blackmailer, and just maybe fall in love.
"All The Bright Places" by Jennifer Niven
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $7.48
Theodore Finch is always thinking about death and dying, but every time he comes close to taking his life, something stops him. Violet is pining for the future where she can escape their small town and the memories of her late sister. After Violet and Finch meet at the bell tower, each saving each other in some small way, they set out to discover the wonders of their state. Along with having a memorable and surprising story, this book also touches on the delicacy and importance of mental health in young people.
You can read our review of "All the Bright Places" here .
"Everything, Everything" by Nicola Yoon
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.49
As the moving truck next door brings Olly into Maddy's exceptionally small world, she knows love and disaster are inevitable. Maddy's immunodeficiency confines her to her home, but Olly is the key to a world she can't help but ache to explore. This and Nicola Yoon's other YA stories have garnered so many readers in need of a happy ending. "Everything, Everything" comes with a great message, eager and aching characters, and a classic teen romance.
"Eleanor and Park" by Rainbow Rowell
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $11.43
A love story between two completely different (but equally quirky) teenagers, Eleanor and Park begin to fall for each other over mixtapes and late-night conversations in 1986. Anyone who's ever felt that all-consuming, first-love feeling can attest that this book captures it perfectly. It's told with alternating points of view, so you really get to understand the souls of these characters as they navigate a teenage romance in the midst of two separately difficult lives.
"The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $6.10
How could I list YA romances without "The Fault in Our Stars"? A cult favorite, "The Fault in Our Stars" has earned every tear dropped onto its pages. Hazel is living on borrowed time with her terminal cancer diagnosis when she meets Augustus in her support group, who lights up a world that's felt so dark. This is a magical love story that will fill your heart just to break it and put it back together again. I think this book is still so deeply loved because the writing is so moving and the testaments between Hazel and Augustus feel incredibly real.
You can find more John Green books here .
"Red, White, and Royal Blue" By Casey McQuiston
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.97
The sheer comedy and sweet enemies-to-lovers story make this is a queer, YA, royal romance staple in the genre. When a confrontation between Alex (the First Son in the US) and Henry (British royalty) hits the tabloids, the PR teams decide the best course of action is for Alex and Henry to stage a very public, fake friendship. But as their time together buds into a secret romance, Alex and Henry know so much more is at stake than teenage heartbreak.
"Five Feet Apart" by Rachael Lippincott
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $11.18
This is a YA love story about two teens living with cystic fibrosis. Perpetually stuck in the hospital, Stella is on the waiting list for new lungs and Will can't wait to turn 18 so he can walk away from all the treatments. They have to stay six feet apart in order to not risk infection — but six feet for a budding teenage love might as well be a universe away. I was so emotionally invested in the characters while also learning so much about cystic fibrosis and the trials each patient endures.
"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.37
Published in 1813, "Pride and Prejudice" is the epitome of a classic love story. It explores the contrast between marrying for love and marrying out of societal and familial pressure, all as Elizabeth's witty and flirty relationship with Mr. Darcy unfolds. This story is a masterful, high-society classic that is enchanting from the very first page.
You can find more Jane Austen books here .
"Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $5.95
Jane Eyre is a Victorian, gothic romance that follows Jane from her teen years to adolescence. This, at least on the surface, is a story woven and sometimes driven by romance but it is so much more than the love between Jane and Rochester, the contemplative and mysterious man by whom she's been hired. "Jane Eyre" feels so ahead of its time, telling the story of an intellectual and morally driven young woman navigating the secrets held by Rochester and his home.
"Wuthering Heights" by Emily Brontë
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $7.44
Catherine and Heathcliff are doomed lovers, selfish and borderline monstrous as characters. Their two families are linked by fate — the actions of one inevitably affecting the other. The love and lust that runs through this story is just one component of the careful balance between good and wicked that continues to uphold this classic's epic status to this day.
"Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $15
"Gone With The Wind" is rightfully one of the bestselling novels of all time, beloved for the tragic and emotionally absorbing story of Scarlett O'Hara and how the Civil War changed her life forever. Scarlett is a character designed for us to hate — she's selfish, self-absorbed, and seems to have little to no redeeming qualities, but must tear herself from poverty after Sherman's March to the Sea. This classic is simply a masterpiece, with nearly every line meticulous and memorable.
"A Room with a View" by E. M. Forster
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.99
Published in 1908, "A Room with a View" is a love story between independent Lucy and the handsome George Emerson, but it's also a wide-angle portrait of the human condition. Set in Italy and England, this book gives us a great look at the societal changes of the early 1900s and the charming love between two characters as Lucy finds the bravery that will set her free. It's a short classic, but the progression of Lucy's character development and love story is unforgettable.
"The Duke and I" by Julia Quinn
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $9.29
In Regency-era London, Daphne Bridgerton should be poised, courteous, and perfectly ladylike — but her honesty and lack of desire to play the games to get a husband leaves her without a suitor. She finds that a fake courtship with Simon, Duke of Hastings — who wants to shun marriage completely — could be more than mutually beneficial...until she begins to fall for him. In this book, we get to know the families and histories of Daphne and Simon really well, which multiplies our empathy for the characters. This is a really sweet story with a couple of sexy scenes that will have you reaching for the rest of the books.
You can find more Julia Quinn books here.
"Lessons in Chemistry" by Bonnie Garmus
Available at Amazon and Bookshop , from $18.76
Years ago, Elizabeth Zott was a chemist on an all-male research team with only one man who didn't treat her like she didn't belong. Now, Elizabeth finds herself a single mother, reluctantly hosting the nationally adored cooking show "Supper at Six." Set in the 1960s, Elizabeth is unwittingly teaching women not just how to cook, but how to fight against the status quo in this hysterical and poignant historical romance.
"Secrets of a Summer Night" by Lisa Kleypas
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $8.36
Annabelle's situation is tense — she must wed a wealthy man to help her family, no matter what. But Annabelle's only persistent suitor is Simon, an entrepreneur who wants Annabelle as his mistress. This might be easy to resist, considering what's at stake — if Annabelle's attraction to Simon was remotely resistible. The tension and magical romance in this novel keep this historical read at the top of my list.
"The Duke Heist" by Erica Ridley
Chloe Wynchester is able to blend into any crowd, a curse she finds highly useful when recovering a missing painting becomes her father's dying wish. In the heist, she accidentally kidnaps the hunky Lawrence Gosling, a Duke who must marry an heiress to mend his family's reputation, complicated by his immediate attraction to Chloe. If you've read an Erica Ridley novel in the past, you know most of her romances are slow burns with low steam. In this series, she cranked up the heat to deliver a fast-paced, sexy, and playful heart-melter of a story.
"Outlander" by Diana Gabaldon
The plot of this book is a rollercoaster of motives and morals that so many readers can't resist. Claire is a former combat nurse on a second honeymoon in 1945 when she finds herself inexplicably thrown back in time to a war-torn Scotland in 1743. In her potentially impossible mission to get back home, she meets James Fraser, a complex man with whom love is easy, and finds herself romantically torn between her husband (who she may never see again) and her newfound protector.
"The Notebook" by Nicholas Sparks
I've read a lot of sometimes-cheesy, super-romantic Nicholas Sparks novels over the years but this one is still my favorite. Noah is restoring a home in North Carolina after returning from WWII, reminiscing about the love-filled summer he spent with Allie 14 years ago. When she suddenly returns to town to see him again, their love story continues to unfold. "The Notebook" is every bit as sappy and cheesy as we've come to want from a Nicholas Sparks story, but this romance will likely draw out the waterworks, too.
"Bringing Down the Duke" by Evie Dunmore
Available on Amazon and Bookshop , from $12.39
In 1879, Annabelle is among the first women accepted into Oxford University. The only stipulation? She must support the women's suffrage movement by recruiting Sebastian Devereux-a Duke to their cause — while denying the attraction she has for a man who stands against everything she's fighting for. This book is a chemistry-filled debut with an interesting look at the women's suffrage movement in Britain.
Sign up for Insider Reviews' weekly newsletter for more buying advice and great deals. You can purchase logo and accolade licensing to this story here . Disclosure: Written and researched by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our partners. We may receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected] .
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The best contemporary romance novels, per goodreads and a ‘booktuber’, social links for victoria giardina.
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Let’s be real — a lighthearted romance book paired with a beautifully illustrated cover is a divine duo.
That said, we rounded up the 36 best contemporary romance novels, according to what Goodreads exclusively shared with the New York Post and a ‘BookTuber.’
Steph Bohrer , a 21-year-old student at Arizona State University, has more than 215,000 subscribers on YouTube where she posts videos on book recommendations, buying books and even relating Taylor Swift songs to some of her favorite paperbacks and hardcovers .
“I started my YouTube during quarantine,” Bohrer told the The Post. “I was so bored, was reading so much and had nobody to talk about my books with. So, the new thing is to film yourself talking and people received the videos well.”
She’ll typically finish a new read in two days — sometimes in one sitting if she’s “really into it.”
“When I was younger, I was so anti-reading — I thought it was boring and I hated reading books for school,” she said. “I started reading on Wattpad on my phone, and then started reading young-adult romance books and started an excessive amount. Now, I can’t imagine not reading.”
Below, find the 36 best contemporary romance novel recommendations — including much-clamored-about books and unique titles with exceptional storylines. That’s right, no more hunting down titles or falling into a what-do-I-read slump.
With each book, there’s a brief explanation to skim and shop your next five-star rating.
Best Contemporary Romance Books of 2023, per Goodreads
1. “people we meet on vacation” by emily henry.
Sometimes, we need a cute vacation-themed romance to dive into. The relationship of Poppy and Alex is one of Goodreads’ most-read, and it’s about one trip away that changes everything.
“I read this book when I was in Hawaii and it’s about girl and boy best friends who go on vacation every year,” Bohrer adds. “You’re reading until you find out why they don’t talk anymore.”
2. “The Love Hypothesis” by Ali Hazelwood
As one of our personal favorites, “The Love Hypothesis” has developed much acclaim for its professor-and-student trope, with a love for science that’s adored by academics. Not to mention, the witty banter and flirtatious scenes make this one a treat to read.
3. “The Spanish Love Deception” by Elena Armas
If we’re being honest, we’re in the middle of this read and are already obsessed. Not to mention, it’s one Goodreads and Bohrer recommend.
“This book is so fun and cute,” Bohrer adds. “It’s an enemies-to-lovers, wholesome read . The characters work together and she needs a date to a wedding, even though they don’t get along. The ‘fake dating’ slowly turns into a real relationship.”
4. “One Last Stop” by Casey McQuiston
A cherished rom-com, “One Last Stop” homes in on twenty-three-year-old who’s new to NYC and sees a gorgeous girl on a subway train. It’s a unique contemporary novel that’ll have you swooning in no time.
5. “It Happened One Summer” by Tessa Bailey
Piper, who’s deemed the “wild child” who drinks a bit too much champagne, falls into the lap of a small-town boy who couldn’t be more opposite of her when she’s prompted to run her late father’s dive bar. Steamy, sexy and fun, you’ll want to soar through these pages.
6. “The Ex Hex” by Erin Sterling
If you’re a lover of all things spooky and romantic, pick up “The Ex Hex.” It’s a lovey-dovey tale of Vivienne Jones, who casts a spell on her horrible ex-boyfriend. And then, it’s all mystery and magic from there.
7. “The Soulmate Equation” by Christina Lauren
As a statistics nerd, protagonist Jess Davis ends up hearing about GeneticAlly, a trending DNA-based matchmaking company which, after her friend urges her, is seemingly the answer to her single-ridden life. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, especially when she’s matched with someone to a 98% accuracy.
8. “Reminders of Him” by Colleen Hoover
Meet Hoover’s newest book that everyone is talking about. It’s a story about a troubled young mother who tries to reconnect with her four-year-old daughter. And, interestingly, the only person who hasn’t shut the door on her is Ledger Ward, a local bar owner who has the few remaining ties to her daughter.
9. “Seven Days In June” by Tia Williams
“Seven Days In June” made the cut as one of Reese’s Book Club picks and a Goodreads choice. A Brooklynite single mom and bestselling erotica writer unexpectedly meets Shane at a literary event. After spending one week crazy in love, it’s a story you won’t want to skip on to discover what happens next.
10. “Act Your Age, Eve Brown” by Talia Hibbert
Cute and fit for any romance lover, “Act Your Age, Eve Brown” surrounds Eve, a certified hot-mess and Jacob, the owner of an understaffed bed and breakfast. When Eve tries to melt Jacob’s frosty exterior of stress and closed-off-ness, it becomes impeccably good.
Best Contemporary Romance Books of 2023, per a ‘BookTuber’:
1. “ the song of achilles” by madeline miller.
“This is a Greek mythology retelling of the story of Achilles,” Bohrer said. “I wasn’t into Greek mythology at all but this book is so well written and it’s a romance about Patroclus and Achilles that’s accurate to the myth. It’s tragic but so good.”
2. “ Ugly Love” by Colleen Hoover
“It’s told in a past and present perspective of why this boy Miles is so anti-love,” she said. “It shows his first relationship in the past and a girl falling in love with him in the present. It’s a great story of everything that happened in his life and what changed him.”
Plus, Colleen Hoover is her favorite author and “ Ugly Love ” is her favorite of her books.
3. “ The Hating Game” by Sally Thorne
“’ The Hating Game ‘ is one of my favorite books,” she said. “It’s enemies-to-lovers: the boy is grumpy and mean and the girl is all sunshine and happiness, and they just don’t get along. You see their forced proximity and how they eventually realize they have more in common than they thought.”
4. The Addicted Series Box Set by Krista Ritchie
“This is my favorite series of all time with 10 books,” she said. “There are three couples — six best friends — and they’re famous. And, it’s more than just romance because the character development is so strong.”
5. “ Archer’s Voice” by Mia Sheridan
“This boy named Archer goes through something really traumatic to the point where he can’t speak anymore,” she said. “He meets this girl named Bree and they have some trauma they go through together. It’s a story of fate finding love after being through a lot.”
6. “A Thousand Boy Kisses” by Tillie Cole
“I can’t say anything without spoiling this book, but it’s a young-adult book about this girl who goes through something tragic, cuts off her childhood best friend and ends up figuring out the issue at hand together,” she said.
7. “ The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
“I recently finished this book and it was amazing,” she said. “It’s the life story of one of the biggest actresses in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, and everything she goes through — love, loss, and relationships with family and friends — makes you learn so much from her story.”
8. “ Confess” by Colleen Hoover
“ This book is about a girl who moves to a new town, needs a job and meets a boy who was hiring — almost like fate,” she said. “They’re both hiding a lot and there’s a plot twist in there, too.”
9. “ Bright Side” by Kim Holden
“’ Bright Side ‘ is about a girl who is so optimistic and everyone loves her,” she said. “She meets this boy and she’s closed-off to him because he sees the ‘real’ her and she doesn’t want people to know she’s not actually happy all the time — and she has a lot of secrets.”
10. “ All Your Perfects” by Colleen Hoover
“’ All Your Perfects ‘ is told from a past, present and future perspective,” she said. “It’s about a couple falling in love for the first time and then eight years into their marriage, their relationship is falling apart. So, you’re seeing them fall in love, fall out of love and their hardships with infertility.”
11. “ The Unhoneymooners” by Christina Lauren
“’ The Unhoneymooners ‘ is about this girl and boy whose siblings are getting married — they’re the best man and maid of honor at a wedding — and they’ve never gotten along,” she said. “The bride and groom get food poisoning and they’re forced to take on their prepaid honeymoon and it’s fun seeing them spend the week together.”
12. “ The Deal” by Ellie Kennedy
“’ The Deal ‘ is a hockey romance about a super popular guy and super smart girl needing each other to cope with some trauma,” she said. “Garrett plays hockey, Hannah ends up tutoring him, and he realizes what she’s been through all along.”
13. “ November 9″ by Colleen Hoover
“Fallyn and Ben decide to meet up every November 9 because they live on opposite sides of the country, but they have an instant connection when they meet,” she said. “You follow every November 9 of them meeting up and how their relationship develops over that time.”
14. “ Beach Read” by Emily Henry
“’ Beach Read ‘ is about this girl who moves to her dad’s beach house after he passes away, after finding out what he’s been hiding for all of her life,” she said. “She’s a writer and goes there to write her book, but soon realizes her college rival — who’s also a writer — lives next door.”
15. “ The Summer of Broken Rules” by K.L. Walther
“’ The Summer of Broken Rules takes place in Martha’s Vineyard and I loved the summer-inspired scenery,” she said. “It’s about this girl whose sister passed away, goes on a family vacation with her aunts and cousins for the first time without her sister, and she meets this boy there.”
16. “ Most of All You” by Mia Sheridan
“’ Most of All You ‘ is about a boy with a tragic past who’s hesitant about dating,” Bohrer said. “He meets this girl who’s detached from reality and has also been through a lot. And, he sees something in her that nobody else sees.”
She describes it as “two broken people finding comfort in each other.”
17. “ Red, White & Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston
“’ Red White & Royal Blue ‘ is about the First Son of the United States and the Prince of England,” she said. “They have a public fight and their parents make them go on ‘fake friend dates’ so the public thinks they’re civil. The character discovers more about his sexuality and it’s a great romance of two high-profile people.”
18. “ It Ends With Us” by Colleen Hoover
“This is a really popular one,” she said. “Lily meets this boy and as things go wrong, she reads diary entries from when she dated her first love. It’s an impactful story .”
19. “ Daisy Jones & The Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid
“’ Daisy Jones & The Six ‘ is about a girl in a band and you’re going to have to read it — it’s hard not to spoil it,” she said.
20. “ The Wall of Winnipeg and Me” by Mariana Zapata
“This is about the assistant to an NFL football player who has worked for the athlete her whole life,” she said. “But, he’s so mean to her, she quits, and then he begs her to come back at her doorstep. She ends up having to move in with him and it’s a forced-proximity story of a developing relationship .”
21. “ Hopeless” by Colleen Hoover
“Sky has lived a sheltered life: no phone, no Internet, and no access to the outside world,” she said. “She meets this boy and they have an instant friendship. There’s an instant plot twist and everything she thought about her life is a complete lie.”
22. “ Maybe Someday” by Colleen Hoover
“’ Maybe Someday ‘ is about this girl who finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her with her best friend,” she said. “She has nowhere to go so she moves in with her neighbor. The relationship theme is ‘maybe someday we can be together, but not right now,’ once a new guy comes into the picture.”
23. “ The Kiss Quotient” by Helen Hoang
“In this book , the main character’s parents pressure her into starting a family of her own, but she wants to focus on her career,” she said. “She has Asperger’s, a form of Autism, so she’s not comfortable being in a relationship with someone. So, she hires a male escort to teach her about being in a relationship — and you find out why he’s escorting in the first place.”
24. “ The Problem With Forever” by Jennifer L. Armentrout
“Mallory grew up in a foster home with this boy who always protected her,” she said. “They end up getting separated and she finds the boy she grew up with in her last period class.”
25. “ The Simple Wild” by K.A. Tucker
“The main character finds out her dad is dying and she hasn’t seen him since she was little because he lives in Alaska,” she said. “Her father owns an airline company and the girl bonds with a pilot about her dad’s sickness.”
26. “ Heart Bones” by Colleen Hoover
“After her mom passed away, the main character ends up moving in with her dad, who she’s really never met,” she said. “She meets her stepsister, becomes immersed in a new friend group, and meets a boy — and there’s a plot twist that summer .”
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25 Romance Books That Are Sexy, Smart, and Anything But Sappy
They’re a total guilty pleasure.
Filled with enough drama, witty repartee, and tension to keep you on your toes till the very end, many of the most popular romance books today are love stories that go beyond the white, cis-het lens. We're excited to see more diversity represented in the romance genre, however, there is still much more progress to be made. According to an annual independent report from the Los Angeles-based bookstore The Ripped Bodice, for every 100 books published in 2021 by leading romance publishers, fewer than 12 books were written by people of color.
We celebrate the books that allow more readers to see themselves (and their own romantic adventures and mishaps) in their pages and think that any lover of lit can take pleasure in their stories. Featuring both longtime best-sellers and new reads, these 25 romance books are definitely worth adding to your personal library.
Joy Revolution Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert
At the intersection of romance books and YA novels is this charming, geeky, yet emotionally complex read from author Talia Hibbert. It follows Bradley, a star student athlete, Celene, a burgeoning social-media influencer with a conspiracy-theory TikTok account, and the long-running misunderstanding between them.
Paired together during a survival course in the woods with full scholarships on the line, these frenemies are forced to work together to overcome their struggles. Thankfully, they begin to recognize the redeeming qualities (and cuteness) of the other along the way, too.
More : The Most Romantic Movies for a Perfect Night In
William Morrow Paperbacks 99 Percent Mine: A Novel by Sally Thorne
Darcy and Tom have been friends — just friends — since they were kids. Tom and Darcy's twin brother are best friends, so their bond has always been a platonic one. When Darcy inherits a fixer-upper cottage and Tom is tasked with restoring the home to its former glory, suddenly the rules no longer apply.
St. Martin's Griffin The Girl He Used to Know: A Novel by Tracey Garvis Graves
Annika and Jonathan fell hard for one another after they met at chess club while studying at the University of Illinois. Their love seemed like it could withstand anything — until an unexpected tragedy forced them apart.
Now, 10 years later, they've reconnected. Both on different paths with the careers they always dreamed of, Annika and Jonathan need to decide if they should take their second chance at being together before it’s lost.
Atria Books It Starts With Us: A Novel by Colleen Hoover
Thanks to #BookTok, Colleen Hoover's 2016 romance book It Ends With Us has had a major resurgence . Now, the long-awaited sequel is here.
It Starts With Us picks up 2 years later, and this time, the story is told from the perspective of Atlas, Lily's first love and the one who came before her abusive ex-husband Ryle. While the two of them finally have a second chance at happiness together, Ryle's bitter jealousy threatens to keep them apart for good.
Knopf Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin
Gabrielle Zevin's blockbuster novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is not your typical romance book. Instead, it is about the depth and richness of friendship love.
Protagonists Sam and Sadie are bonded in childhood by their love of gaming — years later, they design a game together which explodes into something bigger than they could've ever imagined. The book is an expansive, decades-sweeping character study that reckons with trust as the bedrock of a lasting partnership.
Algonquin Books An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
An American Marriage was named a top book in 2018 by the likes of Amazon, the New York Times , and NPR (it was even an Oprah's Book Club pick!). So it’s no surprise that our former parenting editor Latifah Miles names it as one of her favorite romance books as well.
She says, " An American Marriage is full of twists and turns and made me rethink the meaning of true love and how far you are willing to go for the person you have committed your life to. Where is the boundary between love and personal happiness, and how do we pick up the pieces after everything falls apart?"
Flatiron Books My Ex-Life: A Novel by Stephen McCauley
David and Julie had a short, misguided marriage, managed to part as friends, and allowed their lives to completely diverge. Decades later, they both find themselves teetering on the cusp of a midlife crisis, with Julie seeking David out for help in tutoring her daughter. Their reconnection rekindles something more complicated than romance — it’s more of a fractured friendship that’ll never quite look the way it once did.
Sweet Rose Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon
Jordan Collins is a total bookworm and the founder of a floundering romance-book club. He's also desperate to save his passion project. Rex Bailey, a smart-mouthed bookstore employee, offers to join the Meet Cute Club and help Jordan revitalize the local lit community he loves so dear.
Though reluctant at first, Jordan eventually agrees to let him join the club and in doing so, gets to know Rex on a deeper level — even if he's the last guy on Earth that he'd expect to fall for.
Lake Union Publishing The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms
An Amazon Charts and Washington Post best-seller surrounds the story of Amy Byler who's headed to New York City for a summer to take a much-needed break from her overworked life.
After letting loose and taking in all the city has to offer, she meets one particular man who leaves her contemplating if she should stay or go back to all that she left behind in Pennsylvania.
Avon Books Bridgerton: The Duke & I by Julia Quinn
Yes, that steamy Netflix show is a romance book adaptation. Set in Regency-era, high-society England, Daphne Bridgerton finds her reputation at stake, while the promiscuous Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings, is bombarded with more marriage proposals than he can stand.
To play the court at its own gossipy game, the two join forces and fake their love affair to elevate Daphne in the public sphere and take the duke off the market for good. But with the undeniable chemistry between their feisty jabs at each other, could this faux romance turn real?
Custard Books Before You Say I Do by Clare Lydon
This romance book follows Abby, an engaged woman who is so busy with work that her fiancee has to hire a professional bridesmaid, Jordan, to help her keep things in order as the wedding fast approaches.
There's no question that when the two women meet, sparks fly, and Abby wonders if her life priorities have been completely out of whack all along.
Katherine Tegen Books Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
Be forewarned: You'll want the tissues handy when you start reading this otherworldly romance book. Jack and Kate meet at a party, and it was like it was always meant to be. Neither of them has ever felt such a happy, goofy, instant bond with another person.
When Kate suddenly loses the battle with her chronic illness and dies, Jack gains the ability to travel back in time over and over again to try and relive their love story, and also change whatever he can about it so that she can live.
Riptide Publishing Finding Your Feet by Cass Lennox
You might never know where you'll meet The One. Evie Whitmore has a dance routine to learn with just hours to spare, and Tyler Davis is the one who is tasked with teaching it to her. Taken by her skill and the effortlessness of their pairing, Tyler is still healing from a past abusive relationship, but he may be ready to let someone new into his life.
This tender romance between an asexual person and a trans man is about the importance of patience and trust.
Berkley Delilah Green Doesn't Care by Ashley Herring Blake
They say you’ve got to take the bitter with the sweet, but Delilah Green is finding that it works the other way around, too. Pressured to return to her much-despised hometown to photograph her stepsister’s wedding, Delilah is dreading the whole event until she runs into Claire Sutherland. Claire, one of the bridesmaids, is dealing with grief, single parenthood, and maintaining a work-life balance ... so Delilah’s arrival after years apart completely throws her for a loop.
Although free-spirited Delilah and homebody Claire make an unexpected pairing, their relationship soon moves beyond the casual realm into the loving support they each didn’t realize they needed.
St. Martin's Griffin Red, White & Royal Blue: A Novel by Casey McQuiston
Alex Claremont-Diaz's mother is president of the United States, meaning that he has to keep up a wholesome public image, so as not to rock the boat with any foreign relations. Unfortunately, he's in a bit of a quarrel with British royal Prince Henry, and the tabloids have the receipts of their altercation.
Both Alex and Henry agree to smile for the camera to keep the nations that their families lead in peace, but as they're forced to get closer, it turns out the two influential sons might be hiding their attraction for each other under the guise of rivalry.
Berkley Book Lovers by Emily Henry
To call this romance novel a bookish read may be redundant, but it feels particularly apt when we're taking about two rivals in the publishing world.
Nora Stephens is a literary agent who knows all of the tropes of every rom-com out there ... so she knows she'll never get herself snagged in one. And Charlie Lastra is a book editor who helps meet-cutes come to life on the page but takes the red pen to every scenario he finds himself IRL. Come for the irresistibly snappy banter and sexual tension in Book Lovers , but stay for the unexpectedly heartfelt connection.
Feiwel & Friends Tell Me How You Really Feel by Aminah Mae Safi
This YA romance book follows two girls whose love story had a bit of a false start. The super popular Sana Khan asked out aspiring filmmaker Rachel Recht, and let's just say that it didn't go well.
Both walked away from the encounter feeling like they'd been pranked. They've managed to keep their distance — until Rachel reluctantly casts Sana as the lead in her senior film project. Perhaps take two of their romance is more successful.
Berkley The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
This romantic read is just as sexy as it is sweet. Khai and Esme live on opposite ends of the globe, and seemingly in two different realities — Esme in the world of starry-eyed romance, and Khai in a matter-of-fact, socially isolated viewpoint.
The two are paired together through an arranged courtship and must navigate through their differences to reach common ground together.
Berkley Well Met by Jen DeLuca
It turns out, these two star-crossed lovers can only express their true feelings when they're role-playing at the Renaissance Faire (!).
Bubbly, lighthearted Emily agrees to volunteer at the Faire for the summer and is under the supervision of the disgruntled Simon. It's only when they're in costume that the flirtation gets hot and heavy.
William Morrow Paperbacks Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors: A Novel by Sonali Dev
This reimagining of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is set in #MeToo-era San Francisco. Reversing the gender roles of the classic romance book, Dr. Trisha Raje and chef DJ Caine initially clash over their different worldviews, and both are incredibly loyal to their families. Eventually, the two reconcile to save DJ's sister.
Melanie Yates is the senior service editor of Best Products, where she writes and reports pieces pertaining to the etiquette, dilemmas, and how-tos of gift-giving for different occasions. Previously, she was the site's senior home editor, covering all things decor- and bedding-related since 2015. Her digital byline can also be found on Bustle, House Beautiful , and Elle Decor . A longtime classical-music enthusiast, Melanie spends her off-hours enjoying performances big and small across New York City.
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Here are the Best Romance Novels of 2022, According to the New York Times
Historically, the New York Times has not been known for its romance novel coverage. Its writing about books tends to skew towards literary fiction and away from anything genre — but especially romance. Things have looked a little different in the past few years, though, as romance novelist Olivia Waite — author of The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics , among others — started as a romance novel columnist in 2020. This year, she wrote an article about The Best Romance Novels of 2022 , which is the first time romance novels have gotten their own best of list in the publication.
Here are the top romance novels of the year, according to the New York Times:
Fire Season by KD Casey
You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding by Chencia C. Higgins
Tanked by Mia Hopkins
Something Fabulous by Alexis Hall
Red Blossom In Snow by Jeannie Lin
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
Ocean’s Echo by Everina Maxwell
Even Though I Knew the End by C.L. Polk
Olivia Waite’s Favorite
The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston
It should come as no surprise that Waite, the author of a beloved F/F romance series, has included a diverse array of romances on her list, with more than half of the books having queer main characters. There are also more authors of color included than most of the other best of lists we’ve seen this year.
The whole list, including the write ups for each, is at the New York Times .
Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books .
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- Help Support the Book Drive for Green Hill School Prison Library
Special Collections · 1. Mad About the Baron · 2. Love, Theoretically (Signed Book) · 3. Flashpoint Series Collection · 4. Things We Never Got
Romance ; Right Man, Right Time. 2,862 ; Things We Hide from the Light (Knockemout Book 2). 14,368 ; Things We Never Got Over (Knockemout Book 1). 112,035 ; A Girl
Romance ; Beyond the Moonlit Sea: A Novel. 24,746 ; The Song of Achilles: A Novel. 66,579 ; Flawless: A Small Town Enemies to Lovers Romance. 14,177 ; The Last Mrs.
1663 Results ; Someone Else's Shoes · Jojo Moyes ; Recovery Road · Christine Feehan ; Without a Trace · Danielle Steel ; Loathe to Love You · Ali Hazelwood ; High
My unabashed most-loved book of 2022? That would be THE DEAD ROMANTICS (Berkley, 345 pp., paperback, $17), by Ashley Poston. The plot: A romance
From light rom-coms and YA fiction to bestselling modern and classic books, this list has your next favorite romance novel.
The best contemporary romance novels, per Goodreads and a 'BookTuber' ; 1. “People We Meet On Vacation” by Emily Henry ; 2. “The Love Hypothesis”
New York Times ; Things We Never Got Over, Lucy Score (Bloom), 9, 10 ; Secretly Yours, Tessa Bailey (Avon), 11, - ; Icebreaker, Hannah Grace (Atria), 12, 13.
25 Romance Books That Are Sexy, Smart, and Anything But Sappy ; 7. Unexpected Reunion. Flatiron Books My Ex-Life: A Novel by Stephen McCauley ; 8.
Here are the Best Romance Novels of 2022, According to the New York Times ; You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi ; D'Vaughn