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FYA’s Grown-Up Guide To Romance Novels: Required Reading

Who needs Tinder when you've got FYA on your side? We've rounded up the best of the best in romance in case you need a last-minute book blind date for tomorrow's holiday. 

FYA’s Grown-Up Guide To Romance Novels: Required Reading

Happy almost-Valentine’s Day to all you lovers out there, and a Happy Galentine’s Day to all my poetic noble land mermaids. Throughout February we’re putting a spotlight on some of the bestest, sexiest, and swooniest romance novels we’ve read, but there are simply too many to love, and sadly none of us get paid to just sit around and compose dirty limericks about our favorite rakes and rogues (YET).

So this list comprises the rest of our top picks from the world of romance for your reading pleasure. We’d cross oceans for these books. We’d fly to the moon for their words. We’d ask any one of them to formally be our Valentine, tomorrow and forever.


Book Title: Anything for You (Blue Heron #5)

Author: Kristan Higgins

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary small-town, family business

Why You'll Love It: I should warn you this isn’t the first book in the Blue Heron series so if you’re a completionist, go ahead and start with The Best Man. This series begins with a family-owned winery in a sleepy little town and marries off all the siblings and their friends within it. There was a point when I was a big sucker for "sibling" series, the ones where you know everyone will get their own book in which to shine. It's nice to have that built-in backstory as the series went on (it’s like we’re all friends!). Higgins makes her small town cozy without being too kitschy. She has some personal writing quirks that drive me nuts (over-using alternative curse words, every protagonist has a dog--that part is fine--but some of actual dogs are really annoying) but her characters and plotting are strong.

Book Title: Dark Desires (Dark Gothic #1)

Author: Eve Silver

Romance Genre Type: Historical gothic romances

Why You'll Love It: I have this entire series in my e-reader and I’ll read a new one every so often when I’m in the mood for something a little creepy. I liken this to the movie Crimson Peak (with less incest) or Jane Eyre but with bedroom moments. Read this for those times when you want to oogle a male love interest who may or may not be a murderer.

Book Title: Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After #1)

Author: Tessa Dare

Romance Genre Type: Historical romance, Beauty and the Beast plot

Why You'll Love It: I’m not the hugest fan of Tessa Dare, but this book was very cute. Izzy’s dad wrote her into his fairy tales, so she has actual fans who write her letters, even as an adult. There’s a duke who hides himself away in a drafty castle because he has been blinded and crippled from being in a duel, but still gets the girl. At one point there’s a whole fairy tale role-playing scene with multiple participants. It’s delightful.

Book Title: Exclusively Yours (Kowalski Family #1)

Author: Shannon Stacey

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary small-town, family business, reunited ex-lovers

Why You'll Love It: I told you I was a sucker. (Maybe this is an only child thing, wanting the fantasy of having siblings around to discuss my love troubles with.) This time, the family-run business is a camping/ski resort in, you guessed it, a small town. This book introduces you to the Kowalskis, who seem like a loveable, fun group, as they go on their annual family camping trip. It basically made me want to head out to the wilderness ASAP even though it’s something I RARELY ever do. I would love to hang out around the fire, drinking wine and playing dirty Scrabble (only raunchy words or double-entendres allowed). The only one I would suggest skipping is the second book, because the “heroine”, who is not a Kowalski herself, is kind of an asshole.

Book Title: The Kiss Quotient

Author: Helen Hoang

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary romance, Pretty Woman turned on its head

Why You'll Love It: I’ve already waxed poetic about this book in a full review on our site, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include it in this list. I loved Stella, our smart and autistic protagonist who just wants to learn how to excel at sexy times, and Michael, our Julia Roberts hooker with a heart of gold. You’ll be fanning yourself and grinning in equal parts.


Book Title: Bet Me

Author: Jennifer Crusie

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary

Why You'll Love It: This is such a great romance novel that it’s taught in college fiction writing classes. Practical, straight shooting Min is a plus size heroine with a good career and great friends. She meets the ridiculously good-looking Cal when he takes her out on a bet. It’s pretty much the complete opposite of a meet-cute and everything about it is magic. The swoony love story and the warm and hilarious cast of characters never fail to make this my favorite annual re-read.

Book Title: Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake

Author: Sarah MacLean

Romance Genre Type: Regency

Why You'll Love It: Lady Calpurnia Hartwell is a plain and unwed wallflower, and at 28 years-old is quite firmly on the shelf. But before she consigns herself to lace caps and the spinster section of every ball, she makes a list of all the scandalous things she wants to do that are forbidden to gently-bred young ladies. I love Callie’s sense of adventure and that she recognizes how unfair the world is for her gender, and how she discovers her own agency. Along the way, she enlists the help of the insanely charming Marquess of Ralston to conquer the list, because if you’re going to break all the rules, you need a smoking hot co-conspirator. This is the first in Sarah MacLean’s delightful series.

Book Title: In the Middle of Somewhere

Author: Roan Parrish

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary

Why You'll Love It: Daniel and Rex have a dramatic first meeting when Daniel wrecks his rental car in the snow while he’s visiting Rex’s tiny Michigan town for a job interview. Once Daniel moves to town, the sparks fly but the two have a lot of differences to overcome in order to make this work. I love that both characters are so realistically imperfect, and come to the relationship with so much baggage. But don’t worry, the angst doesn’t keep it from being crazy hot (like, whoa).  


Book Title: The Wedding Date

Author: Jasmine Guillory

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary

Why You'll Love It: From the get-go, this book trades in some of my favorite romantic comedy tropes. Alexa Monroe and Drew Nichols have a chance encounter when their elevator breaks down, and from that first meeting, they can’t seem to get enough of one another. So much so that Drew asks Alexa to be his date to his ex’s wedding just a few minutes into knowing her. Before she knows it, she finds herself in a “fake girlfriend” scenario. This book strikes just the right balance of sexy and sweet if you’re in the mood for more of a PG-13/light R romp. Plus, Alexa is a girl after my heart and loves a good meal almost as much as she loves cozying up to Drew, so amazing food descriptions abound on page after page. My mouth was salivating not only from the steamy love between the two main characters, but also from the descriptions of tacos, burritos, ice cream, etc…

Book Title: Fish & Chips (Cut & Run #3)

Author: Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary

Why You'll Love It: This book is my favorite installment in the terrific Cut & Run series, which follows the adventures of FBI Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett. Ty and Zane are complete opposites who have to work together as partners to solve crimes. They rub one another the wrong way at first, but soon all that friction turns to heat. As this is the third book in the series, head back to the beginning with Cut & Run to watch their relationship mature. In Fish & Chips, Ty and Zane must go undercover impersonating a married couple on a Caribbean cruise in order to gain intel and catch criminals. While they play along with the ruse, the lines between what’s real and what’s fake are blurred as they grow closer and closer. While the whole series is hot-hot-hot, this one is my favorite because of Ty’s undercover identity as “arm candy” Del Porter, which requires an extreme makeover, and makes for some very interesting role-playing scenarios.


Book Title: Lord of Scoundrels

Author: Loretta Chase

Romance Genre Type: Regency

Why You'll Love It: Lord of Scoundrels will always hold a special place in my heart because I purchased it on a trip to Los Angeles with FYA friends, Alexis and Catie. We wondered into The Ripped Bodice, and when I mentioned that a friend had recommended it, the bookshop owners agreed it was a romance must-read. They were, of course, correct. It’s got everything: enemies to lovers, witty banter, a headstrong heroine, the whole kit and caboodle.

Book Title: Mine Till Midnight (The Hathaways #1)

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Romance Genre Type: Regency

Why You'll Love It: If you loved Kleypas’ Wallflowers series, the Hathaways are required reading. The series follows the story of a family of eccentrics (by Regency standards, at least) and while I enjoyed them all, I particularly loved Mine Till Midnight for giving me a whole book about Cam Rohan, one of my favorite characters from Devil in Winter.  


Book Title: The Hating Game

Author: Sally Thorne

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary

Why You'll Love It: Are you ready for some smokin'-hot enemistry in a—let's face it, Thorne is pandering to my fellow nerds here—publishing setting? Lucy and Josh are jockeying for the same job, but when Josh kisses Lucy one night, neither of them are expecting it to turn their little Hating Game into something much, much steamier. Lucy needs this promotion, but she also needs Josh's face on hers. What's an heir to a strawberry fortune to do?

Book Title: 99 Percent Mine

Author: Sally Thorne

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary

Why You'll Love It: This is Thorne's follow-up to The Hating Game, and it has all the things I loved about the previous volume: sharp dialogue, realistic stakes, and really, really steamy a sibling rivalry to, well, rival your your own. I was afraid that The Hating Game was an anomaly, possibly the only contemporary romance for adults I ever could love (yes, the romance reader in me is very dramatic and requires detail about the various layers of underwear women were once required to wear), but I shouldn't have worried. There's a genuinely nice love interest and house flipping (get your sexy HGTV fix here!) plus the most annoying Big Brother Act in existence. Sign me up.

Books To Yearn For:

What’s a list about love without a little angst? We’ve been craving these new releases and hoping that when they finally come...out, it will have been worth the wait.

Book Title: The Right Swipe

Author: Alisha Rai

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary

Why I’m Excited: Two dating app business rivals, a one-night stand, and Alisha Rai’s ability to merge a solid romance with fully realized plotlines? Yes, please.

Book Title: The Bride Test

Author: Helen Hoang

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary

Why I’m Excited: Another unique romantic love interest, this time who says he can’t feel emotions, and a mail-order bride situation that’s more than meets the eye? I’ve only read one book from Hoang but I’ve already put all my trust in her that this will be amazing.

Book Title: Waiting for Tom Hanks

Author: Kerry Winfrey

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary

Why I’m Excited: Winfrey has written a few YA books we’ve enjoyed (woot!) and ran a wonderful blog entitled A Year of Romantic Comedies in which she analyzes our favorite rom-com movies. If that isn’t enough to make you want to read this book, then I don’t know what to tell you. 

Book Title: Moonlight & Whiskey

Author: Tricia Lynne

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary

Why I’m Excited: This is Tricia Lynne’s debut novel, in which curvy Avery and her bestie head to New Orleans for a girls’ trip. Avery meets the hot, tattooed Declan, and his merry band of friends, and it’s not long before they’re steaming up the town. I mean, like, all the fire emojis.

Book Title: A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals #3)

Author: Alyssa Cole

Romance Genre Type: Contemporary

Why I’m Excited: The first two books in this series had strong, diverse female characters and sexy men, and Johan proved he's got more going on under the surface than his playboy prince image would let you believe. Shallow alert: these covers are so bright and eye-catching!

Book Title: Devil’s Daughter 

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Romance Genre Type: Regency

Why I’m Excited: A book about the daughter of Evie Jenner and Sebastian St. Vincent from Devil in Winter is a no-brainer. The fact that said daughter is the seducer, rather than the seducee? Sign me up.


Did we leave out your favorite romance novel? Please compose a poem of love (or, you know, just leave a handy link) for your book du jour below!

Stephanie Johnston's photo About the Author: Stephanie is an avid reader who moonlights as a college Educational Advisor. Though she now calls Orlando home, she grew up all over the U.S. Aside from her obsession with YA books and book-related activities, Stephanie loves watching way too much television, reading organizational/DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.