8+ Romance Books to Read Right Now
by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
I'll be honest, friends. I missed out on romances for a HUGE part of my reading life. These past few years, I've been making up for lost time, but the last few months I'd run into a bit of a dry spell.
I read several romances that were duds for me, and after going through a lot of medical appointments and ultimately a body-altering major surgery, I also just wasn't feeling it. I didn't want to read about Happily Ever Afters or steamy love scenes.
But I DID want reads that felt light and comforting, so I had a few months where not much was working for me. (I shared a few of the books that I really loved during that period where nothing else worked in a Bookish Fave - give any of those recs a try if you're in a slump. Notice that Emily Henry's Book Lovers did make that list - it was the only romance I enjoyed earlier this year!)
But I'm happy to report that (1) my reading life has picked back up, and (2) I've really enjoyed several romance books very recently. Here are some of the ones that worked for me.
Recent Romance Favorites
Bolu Babalola's Honey & Spice (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - I’m listening to this one on audio right now (thanks for Libro.fm and their ALC program), and it is lovely. (I haven't finished yet but am sure it's going to be a favorite!) In this novel, university student Kiki Banjo has a radio show full of empowering advice for the young women on campus, but her plan to follow her own advice and to avoid all romantic endeavors goes awry when she crosses paths with Malakai Korede, a new student on campus.
Mazey Eddings's A Brush with Love (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - I listened to this one thanks to Libro.fm, and I was surprised by how much I loved it. The story follows two dental students (which, since I now work very closely with a dental team, I think a lot more about!) and their very different journeys through the experience. What I appreciated most about this one was the thoughtful exploration of two important issues - debilitating anxiety (for Harper) and the balance between individual desires and family responsibilities (for Dan).
Alexis Hall's A Lady for a Duke (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - My love of Alexis Hall's books is well documented. In this historical fiction novel, protagonist Viola Carroll was presumed dead at the battle of Waterloo, which led to the unlikely opportunity for her to finally live more freely as herself. But the start of her life as Viola does not come easily as she must give up her land, her title, her prestige, and every connection to her old life including her relationship with her beloved best friend, Justin de Vere, duke of Gracewood. The only people in the world who know Viola's true story are her brother and his wife, Lady Marleigh, but she must find her way forward in the world. Read my full review of this one here.
Emily Henry's Book Lovers (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - While the romance component of this one was lovely, the part I enjoyed most in this book was the exploration of the relationship between sisters. This is very much a story about how when we love people, we sometimes hide things to protect them, and often sorting our way through hard things yields good results but requires some hard work to grow.
Julie Tieu's The Donut Trap (Libro.fm | Bookshop.org) - I read this one a while ago but wanted to include it here because it is a fun one that's perfect for anyone in a bit of a romance slump. This one centers on 22-year-old Jasmine Tran, a daughter of Cambodian refugees of Chinese descent who fled Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge genocide and found their way to America, where they own a donut shop. (And the donut descriptions are amazing, which I think works nicely during these cold winter months!) Check out my full review here.
Chencia D. Higgins' D'Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding (Join us for our book club chat!) (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - I loved this one. Fast, fun, and full of smart commentary about Happily Ever Afters, representation, and the problematic nature of societal norms, this one explores the world of romance through the premise of a reality TV show. Kris and D'Vaughn are both lovable, realistic characters, and I really appreciated how we got to know each of their families.
Longtime Favorite Romance Series Books
I wanted to include two favorites here, both of which I read when I first started reading romance books a few years ago. These are both open-door romance series that take on important social issues within the novels, and I love both of these series so much!
Helen Hoang's The Bride Test (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - Helen Hoang was one of the first authors I read and loved in the romance arena, and she made me realize just what I’d been missing! I read The Bride Test (which I believe is book two in the series) first, but these books can be read in any order. We discussed book three in this series, The Heart Principle, as an Unabridged Book Club pick in episode 218.
Talia Hibbert's Act Your Age, Eve Brown (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - I love this whole series so much, but I think Eve might be my favorite of the three! Eve, the youngest of the three Brown sisters, is determined to show that she's ready for more adult responsibilities, but in her rush to prove that to her family, she pushes her way into a complicated job at a B&B with a curmudgeonly owner who is not used to sharing responsibility with others. I loved Eve and Jacob and the way that they learned about themselves and each other as the story progressed.
YA Romance Picks
I couldn't complete this list without including a few young adult romances that I have loved. Here are a few of my favorites.
Jenny Han's To All the Boys I've Loved Before (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - This may have been the first YA romance series I read, and I discovered an absolute love for Lara Jean, her family, and her life journey. Our podcast love of this one is well documented. So beautiful! You can't go wrong with this one. (I also love the adaptations of these books - so good!)
Emiko Jean's Tokyo Ever After (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - Oh my goodness, I love this book so very much. This one centers on Izumi Tanaka, a Japanese American teenager living in Mount Shasta, a small town in northern California. For Izumi's whole life, it has only been her and her mom, and her mother had always refused to share anything at all about Izumi's father. But as her friend discovers through some sleuthing, Izumi's father is none other than the crown prince of Japan. Check out my review of this one here. The sequel was an absolute delight as well!
Sandhya Menon's When Dimple Met Rishi (Bookshop.org | Libro.fm) - I've read and loved this whole series (I think I've read all of the books?), and they're all excellent, but Dimple and Rishi continue to be my favorite! I love the way they both have to confront their own assumptions and expectations when it comes to relationships.
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