time for another romance novel recommendations thread
December 6, 2019 2:44 AM   Subscribe

Romance novels are my thing. I am seeking some good recommendations for new, recently published authors/books. Specifically: good writing, contemporary setting, diverse casts with protagonists of colour being a strong preference, and non-hetero-normative storylines and pairings. I've given examples of the kind of authors I like below the jump.

I read a lot of books in this genre. My current favourite author in the genre is Lucy Parker but I have read everything she's read. If you've read her books, you will know the kind of thing I'm looking for: funny, feminist, cheerful without being escapist (her characters have real problems but the books don't weigh you down), sex-positive, and have a cast of characters that actually reflect reality i.e. every single person isn't young, thin and white. But only one of her books has a protagonist of colour.

I enjoyed Linda Holmes' first novel, Evvie Drake Starts Over, A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole, Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren, and Hold Me by Courtney Milan, which are good examples of the kind of thing I am seeking. Contemporary novels with realistic, well-rounded characters from across the spectra of race and sexuality etc., and the last three named feature protagonists of colour. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne also gets an honourable mention because it's funny and well-written but I'm kind of over the whole two-hot-white-people get together thing.

I admit that most of these are books about heterosexual pairings. I'd love a good romance novel that isn't heteronormative.

But I've been out of the loop lately. Who else is writing good stuff in this genre that I should be checking out?

Not seeking:
-literary fiction with romantic overtones - I am looking for romance novels
-historical/paranormal/other subgenres. I want to read contemporary stories about regular folks.
-anything too depressing.

Many thanks!
posted by unicorn chaser to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I forgot to add: not seeking young adult novel recommendations either.
posted by unicorn chaser at 2:46 AM on December 6, 2019

Jasmine Guillory? I've only read the The Wedding Date, but the protagonist is a woman of color, though I believe the rest of her books are all about heterosexual couples. If you do like her she's written a lot of other books and I believe they are all contemporary and sex positive. And fun!
posted by Shazbot at 3:41 AM on December 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

Red White and Royal Blue - modern queer romance, diverse characters, funny, feminist. The main characters are young (early 20s?) but it’s definitely not a YA book.
posted by okayokayigive at 3:42 AM on December 6, 2019 [6 favorites]

Mina V. Esguerra's books are pretty heteronormative (at least those I've read), but they are fun, easy reads, all set in the Philippines and by a Filipina author. I'd recommend maybe Iris After the Incident.
posted by posadnitsa at 3:47 AM on December 6, 2019

The Right Swipe, by Alisha Rai
The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang
Rebekah Weatherspoon. I haven't read her yet, but my friends are raving about her latest, Xeni, in which one MC is biracial and the other is bisexual.
I've also heard amazing things about American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera.
posted by gideonfrog at 4:29 AM on December 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding Jasmine Guillory and Helen Hoang.
posted by bardophile at 4:40 AM on December 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Wedding Date is GREAT, but I've been a little disappointed by the rest of the series (though, Royal Holiday gets points for focusing on a middle-aged black woman instead of yet another hot young 20-something).

I similarly loved the Kiss Quotient but did not particularly care for the follow-up (the Bride Test). But both feature Vietnamese-American and neurodivergent characters, which is cool.

You might like Some Part of Me is You by Adrienne Marsh. It's very thinly veiled Taylor Swift fanfiction, if Taylor Swift were secretly gay and in love with a member of her backing band.

Alexa Martin writes a pretty fun series about members of a fictional NFL team. Characters are diverse in terms of race, but not sexuality. I could not care less about football (or football players' abs) and have enjoyed the ones I've read.

I've also been feeling like I've hit a dead end with romance novels that don't suck, so I'll definitely be checking out some of the ones you mentioned!
posted by catoclock at 6:12 AM on December 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

Alisha Rai has been mentioned but her Forbidden Hearts series is also fantastic.
posted by sunset in snow country at 7:59 AM on December 6, 2019

I've really enjoyed Roan Parrish's books for queer contemporaries. I also just read the first couple of Lorelie Brown's Belladonna Ink books, featuring queer women. They're on the short side which was a bit frustrating in that they ended just as I was getting invested, but they otherwise fit your bill and might be worth taking a look at.
posted by Stacey at 8:17 AM on December 6, 2019

Thirding Alisha Rai - love her! I really enjoyed all of her books that I've read.
Nalini Singh's Hard Play series might work for you, though I think they are all hetero (the Rock Kiss series might work, too, if you like rock stars).
I really like Red White and Royal Blue also but there's definitely some political wish-fulfillment there....
Olivia Dade is good and could work for you.
I think all the characters in Kate Claybourn's books are white (it's been quite awhile since I read them) and they are definitely hetero but they are a similar vibe so could possibly work for you, I remember them as feminist and fun.

Do you read Smart Bitches Trashy Books? They are my go-to for romance recs!
posted by john_snow at 9:04 AM on December 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

So many votes already for Alisha Rai, but I'll add that my favorite of hers is A Gentleman in the Street -- very high heat level but still a romance (vs. erotica).

Other authors to recommend: Rebekah Weatherspoon, Mia Hopkins.

Are you on twitter? If yes, follow @WOCinRomance which promotes books by women of color & Native and Indigenous Women.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:22 AM on December 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

In addition to Alisha Rai, Alexa Martin, and Jasmine Guillory, I'd recommend Andie J. Christopher.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 9:52 AM on December 6, 2019

Level Up, by Cathy Yardley, fits your criteria.
posted by missrachael at 11:21 AM on December 6, 2019

Have you tried the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy by Kevin Kwan?
posted by TrishaU at 11:42 AM on December 6, 2019

I just read The flatshare by Beth O’Leary and enjoyed it
posted by meijusa at 1:29 AM on December 7, 2019

For diverse casts, I'd recommend Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal and Ayesha, At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (both F/M contemporary retellings of Pride & Prejudice, oddly enough, one set in Pakistan, the other in Canada). I like Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon (this one is F/F; her writing is generally romance but tilts strongly to the erotica side of it). I highly enjoy all of Jasmine Guillory and second recommendations for Alexa Martin's football series and Helen Hoang (all F/M).

If you want M/M, I'd recommend Jay Northcote (A Boyfriend for Christmas or Rainbow Place, maybe to get started), All the Better Part of Me by Molly Ringle, Stella Starling (my fave is The Boyfriend Game), Flash Rip by Keira Andrews, Lights and Sirens by Lisa Henry, Avery Cockburn's Glasgow Lads series, Daryl Banner's Football Sundae.

For an intersection of the two, I'd recommend searching Women of Color in Romance, where you can look at just LGBTQ or just contemporary.
posted by Margalo Epps at 3:16 PM on December 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

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