While tidying my bookshelves the other day, the first romance novel I ever read came tumbling to the floor. In the seventh grade, my friends and I had purchased a thick novel from a CVS in anticipation of a sleepover. I, the book's guard, took the novel home and read it in its entirely, before we read the dirty parts aloud at the sleepover. The novel's protagonists brought to life, with excitement and warmth, the acts I'd only heard
described clinically in health class. Despite being set in Regency England, not contemporary America, the novel was a preview of dynamics I'd encounter one day in the adult world. With that, I was a convert to romance.
As I learned, there's romance novel for every reader. A queer werewolf epic? Check. Contemporary romances between two badass professionals? Double check. Since the genre is so immense and the series so long, it can be intimidating to find a point of entry. All of these books will function as great starters. The more you read, the more you'll know what kind of romance is
Romance is a sprawling genre. This list will be continually updated with favorites new and old, and my ears wide are open to all suggestions. Leave 'em in the comments, and you might see them turn up on the list.
by Helen Hoang The Kiss Quotient
Looking for the romance book of the summer? It’s right here. Stella Lane is brilliant, beautiful, and an extremely successful econometrician. But Stella’s Asperger’s Syndrome, and the accompanying discomfort with touch and small talk, makes sex and dating difficult for her. Stella decides to “learn” to date by hiring Michael Phan, a male escort. Their arrangement begins as a cut-and-dry business proposition, but doesn’t stay that way. Helen Hoang, who has Asperger's Syndrome herself, infuses Stella's first-person narration with the
reality of being a neurodiverse individual
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Jasmine Guillory is a debut romance novelist to watch out for.
Roxane Gay reviewed Guillory's first book, calling
The Wedding Date "a charming, warm, sexy gem of a novel"
and one the best books she's read in a while. This sweet, light novel is the antidote to whatever is weighing you down on the news — too bad you won't be able to put it down, and will finish it all too quickly. In the book, Alexa, the chief of staff for the mayor of San Francisco, meets Drew, a successful pediatric surgeon, in a hotel elevator. He recruits her to be his date for a wedding; from there, their connection is evident and undeniable. Can they deal with Drew's commitment hangups, and cope with the distance, and actually make it work?
Wolfsong by T.J. Klune
Ox Matheson first encounters the Bennett family when when he's 16 years old. Joe Bennett, his new neighbor, is unlike anyone he's ever met before — and he smells strange, too. As Ox finds out after saving Joe's life, Joe and his entire family are werewolves. This explains the smell, and all the other strangeness that makes Joe so alluringly
. After a three-year separation, Ox and Joe find each other again, and there's no use denying the chemistry that blossomed while they were apart.
is an incredibly moving story about two people who are meant to be — and one just happens to be a werewolf.
The Duchess War by Courtney Milan
If you're looking for a string of steamy historical books to get lost in, Milan's Brothers Sinister Series might be the one for you. The series technically starts with a prequel novella called
The Governess Affair
The Duchess War
is its first full-blown novel. By the time Wilhemina "Minnie" Lane and Robert, Duke of Clermont meet while hiding out during a musical performance, they've lived adult lives. They have secrets, and baggage, and responsibilities they'd rather not deal with. Essentially, there's a lot Minnie and Robert don't know about each other — but they
like each other. Their past secrets infuse their dialogue with wit and sizzle.
A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare
Too bad Spindle Cove is fictional – otherwise, the picturesque coastal town run entirely by women would make your dream destination list. That said, Spindle Cove isn't strictly a vacation destination. Instead, it's a place where families send their problematic and promiscuous female relatives to be reformed. Susanna Finch is the community's director, and she teaches the girls to be well-rounded in conventional skills, like gardening, and practical skills, like defending themselves with weapons. The wounded Lieutenant Victor "Bram" Bramwell visits this all-women, Themyscria-esque colony with the hope that Susanna's father, a weapons engineer, will sign off on him being able to fight again. Instead, Bram is instructed to stay in Spindle Cove and gather a militia to prepare defenses in case of an incoming French invasion. Bram and Susanna end up spending a
of time together. Tessa Dare is known for her incredible writing, dialogue, and pacing —
A Night to Surrender
proves no exception.
by Alisha Rai Hate to Want You
One night a year, every year, exes Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler meet up to indulge in the chemistry that had kept them together while they dated. Livvy and Nicholas broke up after their families became embroiled in a massive rivalry — no way could their love surmount a scandal of
Hate to Want You
is praised for its fleshed-out characters, a rivalry along the lines of the Montague-Capulet legend, and a love that feels
by Alyssa Cole A Princess in Theory
Of course Naledi Smith ignored the email in her inbox — after all, who would believe a note claiming that she was engaged to an African prince, and that he was coming to retriever her? Naledi is a grad school student juggling multiple jobs, not a royal. Yet the email actually comes true, and Prince Thabiso, the heir of Thesolo, shows up on her doorstep — only she doesn't know he's a prince. Even if their relationship begins with a small lie (Thabiso isn't the pauper he pretends to be), the attraction and love that blossoms between Thesolo and Naledi is very real.
by Jenny Holiday One and Only One and Only
is the perfect rom-com, just told in book form. Jane Denning has closed herself off since a painful breakup five years ago, and spends her days writing young-adult novels and indulging in her fandoms. While the bridesmaid for her friend's wedding, she's assigned to watch out for the groom's brother, a soldier who has just returned home from deployment. As you should know by now, opposites attract.
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of celebrity news, fun takes on pop culture, and trending stories on the Refinery29 Entertainment Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!