What’s new, readers? If you’re looking to get swept off your feet by stories full of adorable meet-cutes, lovable and diverse characters, charming banter, and cheek-crimsoning chemistry, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are five top-notch rom-com reads that I recommend for those who want all the feels.
Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur (2020)
The sexy underwear that chafes Elle Jones like hell as she runs late to her blind date with Darcy Lowell becomes a relatively small issue when compared to the catastrophe that subsequently unfolds. The spark is definitely mutual between the two, but it gets quickly snuffed out by the personality clash. Carefree and optimistic Elle is one of the astrologers behind the flourishing social media business Oh My Stars and is searching for her soul mate, while leery and strait-laced Darcy is a workaholic actuary who believes in neither the zodiac nor love. Afterward, Darcy isn’t eager to let her brother Brendon—he arranged not just this awful blind date but several previous ones as well—coerce her into speed dating, which motivates her to tell her brother the date was amazing. Elle grudgingly goes along with the lie, hoping her family relatives, who think she’s made irresponsible life choices, will be appeased by her fake relationship—a deal that she and Darcy agree to cut off on New Year’s Eve. Bellefleur debuts with a shimmering queer tale of two winsome women tentatively falling for each other, disparate interests and all. Their sympathetic backstories, the astrology listicles such as “What Rom-Com Are You Based on Your Zodiac Sign?” and “The Zodiac Signs as Christmas Songs,” the light homages to Pride & Prejudice and Bridget Jones, and the story taking place in my beloved hometown of Seattle during the holiday season all serve to add extra luster to this stellar opposites-attract rom-com.
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang (2018)
Thirty-year-old econometrician Stella Lane is thriving in her algorithm-filled career, but her mother has been egging her on to get married and beget babies. Due to her Asperger’s syndrome, she feels more than a little awkward when it comes to dating, kissing, and anything in the bedroom. Her solution is to hire Michael Phan, a Vietnamese-Swedish escort who once dreamed of being a fashion designer, as a sex coach. As their unusual arrangement eventually evolves to broaden Stella’s training and cover relationships in general, the fine line between business and love starts to blur. Hoang (The Bride Test), who is also on the autistic spectrum, presents a swoonworthy cross between the fake-dating premise and a gender-swapped Pretty Woman with her debut. Stella and Michael are deeply characterized leads whose ultra spicy chemistry develops into a convincingly heartfelt courtship where the two of them treat each other with nothing but compassion, patience, and tenderness, even as they each wrestle with personal insecurities. Perfect for readers who are in the mood for a touching and sexy rom-com with spectacular neuroatypical and hapa rep.
Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory (2020)
Having just moved from New York to L.A. to open a law firm with a friend of hers, Olivia Monroe spends the first night in her new home chatting about desserts with a stunning stranger at a hotel bar. Their flirtatious encounter seems to progress no further, but almost as soon as she goes up to her room, she recognizes him on the news as charismatic California senator Maxwell Stewart Powell III. After the two of them reunite at a fundraiser where Max is the speaker and he subsequently courts her by sending a chocolate layer cake, they begin covertly dating to avoid the attentions of the media as a Black women going out with a white politician. Guillory’s latest book—the fifth entry in the romance series that she launched with 2018’s The Wedding Date, which starred Olivia’s kid sister Alexa—is a whimsical love story with likable leads who share an adoration for sweet treats. Olivia’s characterization is crafted especially deftly. The contrast between methodical Olivia and spontaneous Max feeds well into the complications that arise once they go public. A contemporary romance as delicious as the confections interspersed throughout it.
The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams (2019)
Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott gets thrown for a loop when he realizes that his wife Thea has been faking her orgasms. By moving into the guest room and giving her the cold shoulder, he pushes their three-year-long marriage to the breaking point, forcing Thea to ask for a divorce and boot him out of the house. Desperate to patch things up before it’s too late, Gavin swallows his machismo and reluctantly follows the advice of his teammates to join the Bromance Book Club, where Nashville’s most athletic and qualified men secretly read romance novels in order to better understand women and become in tune with their own emotions. In her hilarious and smart series opener, Adams (Crazy Stupid Bromance) believably depicts Gavin and Thea’s gradual mending of their relationship as they overcome the miscommunication and sexual frustration at its root. The second-chance-romance narrative is bolstered by Gavin’s toxic masculinity-decrying book club fellows, who are as likely to crack coarse jokes about book boners as they are to debate whether The Little Mermaid is appropriate for young girls to watch and condemn the derision that the pumpkin spice latte brooks because it’s favored by women. Historical romance devotees will enjoy the meta excerpts from Courting the Countess, the Regency novel that the club gives Gavin to teach him how to woo his wife. An irresistible choice that is especially ideal for male readers who are hesitant to explore the romance genre.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (2019)
There’s no love lost between Alex Claremont-Diaz, the half-Latinx son of the first female president of the United States, and his excruciating nemesis Prince Henry of Wales. When the animosity between them blows up into a fracas that results in knocking over a cake at a royal wedding, the two scions are forced to maintain across-the-pond peace by feigning an amicable friendship in public. To Alex’s shock, he ends up diving into a clandestine affair with Henry, a delicate situation that entails rendezvousing at every possible moment to have wildly passionate sex and engaging in email correspondence that includes quotes from various historical figures suspected to have been involved in gay romances. Debut author McQuiston offers a queer enemies-to-lovers romance that unfolds in the midst of President Ellen Claremont’s arduous reelection campaign. Clever banter, political drama, and a diverse roster of side characters are weaved in to flesh out Alex and Henry’s emotionally robust M/M story. If only McQuiston’s version of 2020—an alternate world where a progressive White House governed the country, Twitter and fanfic effected positive change, and, most importantly, Covid-19 was nonexistent—was how this year turned out.
All my love and prayers go to you, readers. Stay healthy and stay strong.