By Alexis Hall
This England-set comedy features a fake relationship between opposites Oliver, a neat and emotionally tidy barrister, and witty narrator Luc. When Luc’s work for a nonprofit is endangered by accidental public embarrassment, the pretend relationship works to his advantage and to Oliver’s, who needs a plus-one for a family event. Their slowest-of-burns romance is gentle, balanced by poignant moments and guffawingly funny dialogue.
By Olivia Waite
Widowed printer Agatha discovers a colony of bees residing amid old printing plates and asks Penelope, a local beekeeper, to help her move them to a better home. Surprised by the depth of their friendship and their attraction, Penelope and Agatha begin to carefully build their connection, echoing the deliberate precision of bees constructing a hive, including the sweetness at the end.
By Courtney Milan
Chloe, a perfectionist who someday might check off the last item on her to-do list, is determined to resist gentle, charming Jeremy, who adores her and wants to marry her. Sounds simple, but it’s not. Milan’s specialty is writing complex, layered stories that blend family, food and history, featuring lovely, nuanced characters. This historical romance is a warm friends-to-lovers comfort read you’ll savor repeatedly.
By Milla Vane
Warrior Maddek captures Yvenne, physically weak but intellectually ruthless, and their resulting political marriage allows both of them the most bloodthirsty revenge. In the sequel, exiled Lizzan forms a painful alliance with her former best friend and lover Aerax, the person responsible for her banishment. If you savor ferocious romance and fantasy, these will keep you happy for many pages.
By Jeannie Lin
The latest book in the intricate Lotus Palace Mystery series features wildly intelligent Lady Bai, accustomed to being overlooked and undervalued, who sneaks out to assist her brother’s inquiries into a murder and conspiracy. Continuing her acquaintance with Gao, a cunning gang enforcer who yearns for her, is just part of the investigation (no, it isn’t).
By V.E. Schwab
If you thought your year was interminable, meet the hopeful, haunting Addie LaRue. She prayed to the old gods to escape an arranged marriage and became immortal. . .but everyone she meets forgets her immediately. Addie navigates the world alone for 300 years, until 2014, when a bookstore employee named Henry remembers her.
By Scarlett Peckham
Seraphina is a “rakess”: sexually forthright, dedicated to advancing the rights of women and determined to write her memoirs, though revisiting her history is painful. She begins a liaison with single father Adam, who has avoided physical intimacy for a host of reasons, and whose career depends on support from conservative men who abhor women like Seraphina. Inverting historical tropes and archetypes, the story offers comedy and catharsis, and ends with a happily-ever-after so perfect it will make you return immediately to page one.
By Talia Hibbert
A balm for whatever ails you. Dani and Zafir are clearly made for each other, a fact they stubbornly resist even after he dramatically rescues her in photos that go viral. Cue fake dating for Instagram likes and adorable caretaking between a grumpy former athlete and a PhD student. Take two, and give one to a friend.
By Jane Igharo
A Canadian Nigerian heroine has a one-night stand with Rafael, and, oops, it wasn’t a one-night stand after all. Azere is caught between her family’s expectations to uphold its culture and traditions and her own desire to follow her heart and find happiness. If you like snarky, clever stories, Azere’s narration is *chef’s kiss.*
Catnip alert! A disastrous first date between an icy actuary and a sunny astrologer turns into a temporary alliance to endure family holiday gatherings. Neither woman thinks their incendiary chemistry would last through a Real Relationship, but the more they build their fake one, the more their temporary arrangement seems destined for permanence.
Sarah Wendell is the author of three books and co-founder of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, one of the most popular and longest-running online communities devoted to romance fiction.