Romance novels are powerful tools.
Can they be formulaic, tropey, and unsurprising? Sure, but that’s what makes them so fun. Does the quality of writing vary? Yes, as with any genre. Does the genre persist, retaining a large chunk of the market share, despite being dismissed as fluffy because it challenges the status quo around sex, pleasure, and relationships? Hell yes.
At a time when the world around us is burning—literally (climate change) and figuratively (babies in cages)–the ensured happily ever after (HEA) romance novels offer safety and comfort. Now, more than ever, we need romance novels to help us escape and recharge from the struggles of a society hurtling towards fascism.
And then there’s the sex.
That feeling of new relationship energy as you enter the story of new characters, and witness them make their way towards each other. The inspiration: “uh, I’ll have to try that next time.” The rush of endorphins when they finally get together. The day-long turn on—with or without solo release. The explicit consent that challenges the idea that asking for sex can’t be sexy. The 3:1 ratio of her and his orgasms in heterosexual novels. The alpha male being called on his shit and doing the work to unlearn it and make amends.
What better time than Read a Romance month to celebrate our favorite reads this year? These aren’t all new releases, but rather those that have gotten under my skin lately.
Kait’s Top 5 Steamy Romance Reads
Summer Fridays may have come to an end, but that doesn’t mean your fun has to! Let these steamy romances carry the summer heat into the fall.
Intercepted by Alexa Martin
Sportsball romances aren’t usually my cup of tea, but Alexa Martin’s years as an NFL wife infuse her stories with that little extra something no amount of research can bestow. Intercepted is the first in her Playbook series and my favorite. I fell in love with Gavin, the sweet hero who sees through Marlee’s trauma response (and her BS) and keeps showing up. I resonated with Marlee’s abandonment issues and struggles as a budding entrepreneur. This is the type of book you devour in as few sittings as possible, that’ll have you cheering Marlee’s successes and screaming at Gavin’s missteps. And for how sure you can be that their HEA is coming, how they get there totally surprised me, making the ending that much sweeter.
Brazen and the Beast by Sarah Maclean
The older I get, the less patience I have for historical romances where the entire conflict revolves around the heroine’s virginity. I want the stories of the widows and mistresses, the rule breakers and boundary pushers. And just once I want a “plump” heroine to look, well, plump, on the cover. Enter: Sarah Maclean’s latest novel. Brazen and the Beast is book two of the Bareknuckle Bastards series, and her steamiest book to date. Hattie is every woman who’s ever said enough is enough and taken her life into her own hands. Beast is, well, his name tells you a lot about this anti-hero. Watching them banter, kiss, push apart, and come together is the sexiest sort of fun.
Misadventures of a Curvy Girl by Sierra Simone
This book. This fucking book. Imagine if Lizzo wrote a romance novel—you’d have Misadventures of a Curvy Girl. A heroine who’s decided to ditch the diet, fuck fashion rules, and own every curve. Two heroes who can’t get enough. Navigating the city-country divide and stigma of being a throuple together. The older neighbor who champions their cause. It’s so utterly delicious, fun, and affirming that even though I read it months ago, I didn’t even have to reread the back cover in order to tell you about it.
Burn for Me by Cynthia Eden
Paranormal romance will forever hold a place in my heart. ”Fantasy” novels were how I snuck explicit books under my mom’s nose before she granted me permission to read her Danielle Steele novels! So when I discovered Burn for Me was not, as the name implies, about firefighters but instead—well I can’t spoil it for you—I couldn’t put it down. There’s lots of wild sex, a dystopian setting that’s eerily contemporary, and a heroine who can literally be the hero’s undoing.
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
Every now and then a book comes along that shakes up the romance world. The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics was that book this summer. A queer historical romance about a lady astronomer and an explorer’s widow—both of whom are on the cover in a “traditional” romance novel pose—the book was so popular it sold out. The book doesn’t shy away from the stigmas of the time and how they impact the characters, without falling into trauma porn territory. Instead, it uplifts the voices of queer characters and focuses on the good stuff—all wrapped up in a beautifully written package.
Bad Blood by M. Malone
Bad Blood is a novella full of trope-y goodness. She’s his best friend’s sister who gets jilted at the altar. He’s got some serious imposter syndrome even though he’s pretty perfect! There’s an overprotective (sometimes controlling) older brother who gets called on his shit. There’s a lot of miscommunication, (fr)enemies-to-lovers, and intimate moments that can only happen with someone you’ve known a while. Perfect for a quick, fun read.
There’s a romance read for everyone.
No matter your preference, there’s a trope and subgenre to satisfy your cravings.