So, every publication and blogger is putting out a Valentine’s Day romance list, and we are nothing if not followers. We’ve assembled a large list (33 Books) of a mix of traditionally and indie published books. All of the books on this list are ones we’ve read and feel comfortable recommending. And they all fit the definition of romance - a story where the relationship is central to the overall plot and features a happy for now or happily every after ending.
We’re going to break this down into several categories because not everyone reads Regency romances (but we are going to start there).
These are books set between 1795-1837. While the Regency itself was only from 1811-1820 most people use these dates including Wikipedia. This was honestly one of the hardest for us to narrow down, mostly because it’s the dominant genre in traditionally published romance – even Contemporary doesn’t hold a candle to Regency right now.
Sweet Disorder - Rose Lerner - M/F Romance (Steamy) - Election hijinks ensue when the local election hinges on who the widowed wife of a newspaper printer marries. Other Notes: Plus-Sized Heroine, Family Drama, Disabled Characters, Everyday People Falling in Love, Marginalized Author (Jewish).
The Baroness Affair - Jean Wilde - M/M/F Romance (Steamy) - A desperate noblewoman enlists the help of a male courtesan to help her get pregnant… no it’s not what you think. Other Notes: Equal Triad Polyamory, Period Appropriate Homophobia, LBGT Romance, Family Drama.
How To Start a Scandal - Madeline Martin - M/F Romance (Steamy) - A wallflower and secret society reporter reconnects with the Earl Next Door who’s recently returned from the war. Other Notes: Plus-Sized Heroine, Family Drama, Positive Mental Illness Portrayal, Cute Plot Animals.
Project Duchess - Sabrina Jeffries - M/F Romance (Steamy) - A duke returns to his family after the mysterious death of his stepfather, yet another duke, only to be enchanted by a woman who has a connection to the last person to see his stepfather alive. Other Notes: Older Heroine (the whole series features these), Romantic Suspense Series, family drama. I’m really enjoying the whole series and it’s worth a read.
The Rakess - Scarlett Peckham - M/F Romance (Steamy) - This is a love it or hate it kind of book that flips so many of the conventional romance tropes on its ear. It features a hard-drinking, hard-smoking, highly sexual woman who authors progressive literature and causes a scandal just by living her life meeting up with a mild-mannered reputation conscious Scottish Architect with two small children. Even the cover flips the script on the classic clinch cover. I loved it. A lot people didn’t. Other notes: Period appropriate sexism/hypocrisy/etc., CW: alcoholism, neighbors to lovers, adorable plot moppets.
These are romances that feature a fantastical element. This can be anything from vampires to shifters to time travel. These also will often be series which may or may not continue with the same relationship throughout several books.
Hot Ghost - Annika Martin - M/F Romance (Steamy) - A waitress finds love with the ghost who haunts the pier near her family’s restaurant. Other Notes: Major Character Death (It’s a Ghost Romance…), Everyday People Falling in Love, Novella.
Accepting Fate - Deanna Chase - M/F Romance (Steamy) - Fresh from a bad break up, a woman meets her soulmate at an art gallery opening. Together they have to work through their trauma and find out if they can be happy together. Other Notes: Childhood trauma, Fire Fighter Romance, Soulmates, Artists.
Gretel - Niamh Murphy - F/F Romance (Steamy) - A retelling of the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel with a very interesting twist. Other Notes: Age-Gap Romance, Novella.
One Shade of Grey - Monica Corwin - M/F Romance (Steamy) - Dorian Grey, yes that one, has a bit of a problem. He keeps seeing a woman who he thinks is the reincarnation of his lost love. But is she really? Or is he going insane? Other Notes: Positive Portrayal of Mental Illness, Classical Story Retelling, Billionaire Romance, Immortality
Tangled in Time - Barbara Longley - M/F Romance (Steamy) - Cursed to see spirits, Regan is approached by the spirit of a cursed Irish warrior. Now they must work together to lift his curse and fall in love along the way. Other Notes: Fae Romance, Time Travel Romance, Ghost Romance.
Hunger Pangs: True Love Bites - Joy Demorra - M/M/F Romance (Steamy or Fluffy) - A vampire, a werewolf, and a magic user walk into a plot to end the world. Of course they have to fall in love along the way. Other Notes: Vampire Romance, Werewolf Romance, Magic User Romance, LBGT Fantasy Romance, Bisexual Romance, Postive Mental Illness representation, Marginalized Author (Disabled, Queer, Neurodivergent).
These are books where the sex is as much a part of the romance as the rest of the story. The plots here tend to be thinner, but they’re still present and important. This is not smut for smut’s sake. The relationship is important too. All of these are going to rate high on the steam.
After Hours - Lynda Aicher - M/F Romance - An executive assistant accidentally observes an after hours orgy in one of the boardrooms. Rather than be repulsed, she’s aroused. And up for more. Other Notes: Workplace Romance, Voyeurism, Exhibitionism, Mild BDSM, Boss/Subordinate Relationship.
Loving Maddie from A to Z - Kelly Jamieson - M/M/F Romance - An outwardly happy couple looks to add something to their relationship by inviting their friend into their home and bed. Other Notes: Polyamory, BDSM, Big City Romance.
Ever After - Eden French - M/M/F Romance - An erotic modern retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale featuring billionaires, celebrities, and lots of hot sex. Other Notes: Interracial Romance, Polyamory, Billionaire Romance, CW: Child Abuse.
Test Drive - N.S. Johnson - M/F Romance - A so-called good girl finds that she’s really not when she falls for the leader of a street racing crew. Other Notes: Polyamory, CW: Infidelity, Interracial Romance, Reverse Harem, Recreational Drug Use, Author of Color.
Other Historical Romance
These are romances set outside of the Regency but not during contemporary periods. A lot of old school romances tend to be this because medieval was big then. But it also includes everything up to 1990 too… Yeah… I know… I feel old.
Let It Shine - Alyssa Cole - M/F Romance (Steamy) - Set during the civil rights movement, this story follows two young people struggling to find their voice and love amidst the turmoil of the 1960s. Other Notes: Interracial Romance, Period Appropriate Racism, Period Appropriate Anti-Semitism, Author of Color, Sports Romance, Novella.
In Pursuit Of… - Courtney Milan - M/M Romance (Steamy) - Set immediately after the American War for Independence it features a British soldier falling in love with a Black man who fought for the American side. Other Notes: Interracial Romance, Romantic Comedy, period appropriate racism, author of color, Novella.
Bringing Down the Duke - Evie Dunmore - M/F Romance (Steamy) - A rare female scholar tries to keep her scholarship going while also crusading for the rights of women in Victorian England. Other Notes: Alpha Hero, Clueless Heroine.
These romances are set in the last 25 years and run the gamut of tropes.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown - Talia Hibbert - M/F Romance (Steamy) - Sick of living her life wrapped in tissue paper, Chloe Brown sets off to live a little. And to do that, she needs the help of her building’s manager. Other Notes: Plus-Sized Heroine, Interracial Romance, Disabled Characters, Positive Portrayal of Mental Illness, Marginalized Author (Black). As a note the sequel Take a Hint, Dani Brown is just as good and features a Bisexual Woman of Color.
Beg, Borrow, or Steal - Susie Tate - M/F Romance (Fluffy) - A medical student has to juggle the needs of being a single mother, a student, and paying the bills. And if that means she’s got to take off her clothes to do that, that’s what she’s going to do. Too bad she keeps falling asleep in class. Other Notes: No Sex (No really), But also Super sex positive, Student/Teacher Relationship, Adorable Plot Moppet.
Soft Hands - Ariel Bishop - M/M Romance (Steamy) - A professional Hockey Player ends up falling for the team trainer and massage therapist. Other Notes: Bisexual Rep, Sports Romance, Interracial Romance.
The Year We Fell Down - Sarina Bowen - M/F Romance (Steamy) - Two people who’ve suffered from accidents which have left them disabled find each other at a Harvard Expy. While one of the characters only has a temporary disability (broken leg) it still fucking counts. Other Notes: New Adult Romance, Disabled characters, Sports Romance, College Romance.
Small Town Romance
A subgenre of Contemporary Romance, these are books set in a small town and often the stakes tend to be pretty low. They can run the range of no-sex to lots of steam. They are also often VERY WHITE. While many are set in America, they can also be set elsewhere with Australia and the British Isles being the most common other settings.
Falling for Her Brother’s Best Friend - Noelle Adams - M/F Romance (Steamy) - Who doesn’t love a small town romance featuring characters that used to be childhood friends becoming more? Other Notes: New Adult Romance.
The Last One - Tawdra Kandle - M/F Romance (Steamy) - Meghan, an art student, and Sam, a farmer, and how they meet in small-town Georgia when Meghan comes to teach art over the summer to the kids in town…and ends up staying with Sam and his family. Other Notes: Alpha Male Hero.
If Wishes Were Horses - Caitlyn Lynch - M/F Romance (Steamy) - When an Aussie woman inherits partial ownership in a horse ranch in Ireland, sparks fly. Other Notes: Novella, Irish Romance.
Old School Romance
These are romances that were written before the rise of indie publishing where white men had the power and it shows. These are what people point to when they reduce romance novels to just “bodice rippers” but even then they weren’t just that. BTW none of these books feature Fabio so suck it!
Skye O’Malley - Bertrice Small - M/F Romance (Steamy) - Daughter of a small Irish lord, this book follows Skye through her life and romances across England, Ireland, and even Algeria. It’s wild and all over the place and is not your typical romance novel. It ends on a HEA but there is a JOURNEY. But gods it’s one of my old-school faves. Other Notes: Major Character Death. Non-Con, Pirates, Interracial Romance, Historical Domain Characters, This is not your typical romance. I like the whole series... but that’s a me thing.
The Traveling Matchmaker Series - Marion Chesney/M.C Beaton - M/F Romance (Fluffy) - A housekeeper inherits a large sum of money and decides to use it to travel about England. Along the way, she makes matches for the other passengers of the stagecoach she’s traveling on while getting into all sorts of adventures. This series is pure fluff and I love it. Other Notes: Period appropriate xenophobia, Age Gap Romance.
Remembrance - Jude Deveraux - M/F Romance (Steamy) - A romance novelist discovers that the reason she hasn’t found love is because of an issue with her past life. So she decides to do something about it… only to find it’s just the very tip of the story. Other Notes: Time Travel Romance, Past Lives, Meta… so very meta.
Desire in Disguise - Rebecca Brandewyne - M/F Romance (Steamy) - Look this is set during the French Revolution and features dueling (quite literally) pirates. This is a wild ride and it’s so old school it hurts. Other Notes: Alpha hero, mistaken identity, enemies to lovers, spies, pirates, But oh so many problematic tropes. This looks to be out of print… so check your local library.
Gentle Warrior - Julie Garwood - M/F Romance (Steamy) - Set right after the Norman Invasion of England, this features a Norman Lord who was granted an Anglo-Saxon wife and all of the drama that comes with. Note… this is the first Romance Novel I ever read.. My mother bought it for me when it was newish – in 1987. Other Notes: CW: Rape, Arranged Marriage, Non-conventionally Attractive Hero.
Books that check all of the boxes of Romance but aren’t Labeled as Romance because Sexism.
Romance isn’t about sex. There’s lots of books with explicit sex in them that aren’t Romance and several with a strong romantic relationship that drives the plot which ends happily and satisfying. But sexism is a thing and so here we are.
The Princess Bride - William Goldman - M/F Romance (Fluffy) - You’ve probably seen the movie. The book is also fun. And since the romance is central to the plot AND the ending is a happy one (especially in the movie) it qualifies.
The Hunger Games Trilogy - Suzanne Collins - M/F Romance (Fluffy) - Look who would have thought that in a book about kids killing each other and the violence of war that Romance would play that big of a role? But it does. And it is. And it’s important.
Katherine - Anya Seton - M/F Romance (Fluffy) - This could feasibly go into Old School Romance, but apparently the publishers have decided to downplay the actual romance and try to sell this as literature. It follows the real-life Romance between Katherine Swineford and the Duke of Lancaster.
Did we leave off any of your favorites? It’s probably because we haven’t read them! We always like recs, especially featuring marginalized authors or main characters with marginalized identities.