Romance novels are finally having their time to shine, and I’m excited to recommend a few.
I’m not ashamed to be a voracious romance reader. I take down two to three books a week, and I’ll try anything once. I’m pretty open-minded and I’ve read some stories that have been really ‘out there’ (Yes, I even tried to read Ice Planet Barbarians… not my cup of tea), but some books just beg to be read again and again.
Here are my suggestions for some excellent romance reading this summer, arranged in ascending spice level.
If you liked A Court of Thorns and Roses, I recommend “The Cruel Prince” by Holly Black
Spice level: (2 / 5)
Content warnings: graphic violence, parental death, bullying
Tropes: political intrigue, enemies-to-lovers, possessive love interest
So, technically, The Cruel Prince is of the fantasy fiction genre rather than romantic fantasy, but that doesn’t mean the romance in this book isn’t top-tier. Jude is a human raised in the Fey world, and Cardan is the crown prince… who also happens to be her school bully. The two become embroiled in a Faerie succession plot for the throne, and Jude is forced to use her wit and skill as a warrior to prevent the crown from falling to the wrong person. This book is satisfying and has one of the best strong female leads I’ve encountered in a while.
Quote: “You really do want me,’ I say, close enough to feel the warmth of his breath as it hitches. ‘And you hate it.”
If you want to sob your eyes out, I suggest “A God of Wrath and Lies” by K.M. Moronova (Book 1 of the Pine Hollow series)
Spice level: (3 / 5)
Content warnings: Graphic violence, pet death, major character death
Tropes: Betrayal, “Maybe in another life,” reincarnation, fated mates
To be totally transparent, this is literally the best book I’ve read in a long time. I finished it at 4 a.m. and was open-mouth-sobbing. The story follows Elodie as she explores a mystical world of gods and magic while attempting to process her trauma and loss. The world building is incredible, and the author does an excellent job of allowing the reader’s understanding of the world to unfold as the main character recovers her memories. Fair warning, though, this series isn’t complete yet. You and I are just going to have to wait to find out what happens next.
Quote: “You are real. This moment – this moment means everything to me. Real or not.”
If you have a thing for bad boys and like a thriller mystery, try “Ruin” by Jolie Vines
Spice level: (4 / 5)
Content warnings: Violence, physical abuse, juvenile detention facilities, Scottish accents
Tropes: Possessive love interest, secret inheritance, miscommunication gone wrong
Ruin is full of sexual tension and spice, but don’t let that distract you from the surprisingly high quality thriller mystery plot. Set in Scotland, this romance follows Ruin, the ‘bad boy’ at the local juvenile detention facility, and Theadora, a socially isolated young heiress. Both are heavily affected by circumstances beyond their control and find out that their pasts are more intertwined than they realized. It’s a quick read but still manages to keep you on your toes until the very last page.
Quote: He loved me. I wanted to laugh. “For fuck’s sake,” he added, desperation in his tone. “Say it back.”
If you’re a Fleabag fan, you should read “Priest” by Sierra Simone
Spice level: (5 / 5)
Content warning: Catholicism, mentions of sexual abuse (not the main characters), sacrilege, they did WHAT on the altar?
Tropes: Forbidden love, vow of chastity, miscommunication
The premise is simple: A Catholic priest falls in love with his beautiful new parishioner, and the following scandal permanently alters both of their lives. You can see the plot twists coming from a mile away, but the complex and nuanced main characters make up for the lack of imagination in the storyline. The spice in this book is deliciously transgressive and oh so satisfying.
Quote: “And what about an unbelievably hot priest? Is that a sound reason for exploring the Church?”
If you want something you shouldn’t read in public, check out “The Never King” by Nikki St. Crow
Spice level: Off the scale
Content warning: Rough sex, threesomes, knives, graphic violence
Tropes: Found family, love after trauma
So, if you’re looking for a book where the plot only exists as a framework for the spicy scenes, The Never King is the book for you. This is a dark retelling of the adventures of Peter Pan, and in this version, everyone is over 18 and really horny. Fair warning, this one is not something you should not read on the bus. The spice starts almost immediately, and features multiple love interests (and yes, there are threesomes!) The storyline also includes magic, intrigue and mystery but all of that is low in quality compared to the sex scenes. But, let’s be honest, you’re not reading this type of book for the plot.
Quote: “She needs to know… there are no white knights here. Just monsters. And I am the worst one.”Summer is the best time to turn off your brain and sink into some satisfying literature. If you enjoy a little spice in your life, these are the reads for you. They range in tropes and content, ensuring there is something for everyone. I hope you give these reads a chance and fall in love with them just as I have.