This year, I am splitting off my favorite romances into two posts: favorite romance novels and favorite romance novellas and novelettes. This post gives a rather long list of my favorite romance novels I read in 2018. (Not all of them were published in 2018, of course.) It only includes new reads.It definitely shows my bias towards contemporary adult romance, but there is a handful of fantasy, sci fi, paranormal, YA contemp and historical romance too.
If you want to see books from prior years best romance reads, here are my 2015, 2016, and 2017 lists.
I am grouping them by theme. Many could belong in more than one category. I link to reviews where I have written them; and also where I have only posted trigger warnings, so you can easily find those.
I’m listing rep at the end of my descriptions. If you spot something incorrect, please do feel free to let me know. Also, I am not intending to out anyone; I get author info from the web and the book bio. If an author would like me to remove any info listed, please do let me know. I want to note that I use the word fat as a neutral descriptor when listing rep, and use the word queer when a character or author identify that way or when I am unclear about their identity but know they fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella.
For folks looking for romance with no on-the-page sex, I am putting three asterisks*** at the end of the description.
Brother’s Best Friend
- Clean Breaks by Ruby Lang (contemporary m/f romance novel) Tough guarded heroine who is feeling her way into the life she wants after her cancer goes into remission reconnects with her brothers best friend from childhood who treated her badly as a kid, and romance sparks. I liked how he lets her be where she’s at, even if that means she’s angry or breaks social expectations, how he appreciates her armor. (Rep: Chinese American heroine with cancer. Taiwanese American hero. Asian American author.)
- Pretending He’s Mine by Mia Sosa (contemporary m/f romance) I enjoyed this tropetastic romance full of fun, heat, and humor. Brother’s best friend, roommates to lovers, fake relationship tropes make for a lovely ride, and I fell hard for both the MCs. This feels a bit like an NA romance in that both MCs have arcs around their identities managing family expectations, and their careers. I liked that, and appreciated the complex family dynamics and the bits at the wedding in particular. (Rep: Black man MC. Black woman secondary character. Latinx secondary characters. Latinx woman author.)
- Game of Hearts by Cathy Yardley (contemporary m/f romance novel) I adored this romance between a cosplaying mechanic and the man she’s had a crush on forever who is in a motorcycle club. Loved the fat rep in this, and how gloriously geeky it was. (Rep: Fat heroine. Native American hero. Biracial Asian American woman author.)
- Her Halloween Treat by Tiffany Reisz (contemporary m/f romance novel) Full of 80s references, this brother’s best friend romance balances heat, heart, and humor beautifully, and culminates in an 80s costume party queer wedding. The MCs have truly amazing chemistry, and I could not put this down. (Rep: Gay secondary characters. Bi woman author.)
Enemies to Lovers
- Making Up by Lucy Parker (contemporary m/f romance novel) It was just lovely to read a romance that had such a nuanced portrayal of trauma recovery and gave a trauma survivor a love interest that really held and respected Trix where she was, supported her autonomy, saw her strength while also being gentle with her vulnerability. It made me feel hopeful, as a trauma survivor reader. (Rep: Black British hero with a knee injury and anxiety. Heroine with PTSD.)
- Something Like Love by Christina C Jones (contemporary m/f romance) I loved this book! Both MCs had such strong voices, and so much complexity to their characterization. I was riveted, cared a lot about them, and was really rooting for them as a couple. It was very satisfying to watch the MCs go from being angry and glaring to caring about each other. There is a lot of heat and chemistry between them, and even when they shift away from being antagonists, their connection has this charge to it, where they dare each other and push against each other. (Rep: Black bisexual heroine. Black bisexual hero. Black woman author.)
- A Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper. (science fiction m/f romance novel) This is a completely gripping romance. Could not put it down. The romance bits are really swoony; I adored the central relationship. It pushes against so many classic tropes, unpacks them, shows their problems. (Rep: Woman of color MC with PTSD. Disabled man of color MC. Queer secondary character with limited sight. Lesbian secondary character. Asexual woman secondary character. Trans boy secondary character. Gay man secondary characters.)
- Undone by the Ex Con by Talia Hibbert (contemporary m/f romance novel) I love Talia Hibbert’s writing, the way she does incidental fat rep, the way she engages with the complexities of class and trauma, the swooniness in her romances, and of course, the gorgeous heat and chemistry. This is one of my faves, & they were hard to pare down. The heroine’s arc is all about coming to terms w/accepting her diabetes, and as a diabetic reader, I really appreciated this kind of rep. (Rep: Fat Black woman MC with diabetes. Bisexual man MC with PTSD. Gay man secondary character. Black, Anglo-Romani, disabled autistic queer woman author.)
- Jilted by Lilah Suzanne (contemp m/enby romance novel) This has a rather slow meditative feel and an unusual romance arc, and I really appreciated the non-binary representation, the messiness of the MCs and the way Carter’s arc focused on him figuring out what he actually wanted instead of shaping his life around pleasing others. (Rep: Pansexual non-binary MC, Bisexual man MC. Bisexual genderqueer author.)
- The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory (contemporary m/f romance novel) I adored this contemporary m/f romance! It was exactly the book I needed, in pretty much every way. Mostly light, with a bit of angst, & a slow tender fall of a romance arc. This has the fake girlfriend so I’m not alone at my exes wedding trope, and centers a long distance relationship that emerges from the fake dating. The meet-cute is wonderful and it really satisfies on the fake dating front. (Rep: Fat Black heroine. Black secondary characters. Latinx secondary character. Black woman author.)
- A Wedding One Christmas by Therese Beharrie (contemporary m/f romance novel) This beautifully rendered fake relationship romance has two very guarded people thrown together over the course of a day trying to fight off their instant connection and attraction, and it’s one of my most favorite holiday romances I read in 2018. (Rep: Black woman MC. Black woman author.)
- The Art of French Kissing by Brianna Shrum (contemporary m/f YA romance novel) I loved this YA hate to love romance centered around a cooking competition for a scholarship to culinary school. It was engaging, complex, and funny. It had characters I fell hard for, and it made me feel so many things. (Rep: Japanese American queer boy MC with anxiety. Lesbian secondary characters. Indian American secondary characters. Queer Jewish woman author.)
- Idlewild by Jude Sierra (contemporary m/genderqueer romance novel) I enjoyed so much about this slow burn foodie romance. The pacing was meditative, the prose was lovely, and I felt wrapped up in the story and the characters as I watched them quietly grow and change and come together. Both of the MCs hide so much of themselves from the world, and are barely beginning to show certain pockets to each other as the book ends. I really liked that; it felt real. One of the MCs is closeted about being genderqueer–he is out to nobody in the story (not even his love interest) and that doesn’t change or look like it will change anytime soon after the book ends, it’s just referenced quietly. That too felt very real, and worked for me as a genderqueer reader. (Rep: Gay man MC. Black queer genderqueer MC. Latinx Bi-ro, demi/ace woman author.)
- Perfect Pairing by Rachel Spangler (contemporary f/f romance novel) I really enjoyed this one. Wonderful food descriptions and details about food preparation and design, great chemistry, chosen family, hard-won happy ending, a bit angsty, full of humor, heat and heart. (Rep: Biracial POC butch lesbian MC. Femme lesbian MC. Lesbian author.)
Good Neuroatypical Representation
- Invitation to the Blues by Roan Parrish (contemporary m/m romance novel) Still not sure I have words to adequately describe this gorgeously rendered, deeply characterized, utterly heart-wrenching, deliciously queer, simply beautiful romance. Except to say its one of the best books I read in 2018, and my new fave by this author. (Rep: Queer man MC with depression and PTSD who I read as autistic. Gay Black man love interest. Queer woman secondary character. Trans man secondary character.)
- The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas (contemporary YA m/f romance novel) This book feels like it does something different from the other books I’ve read with autistic MCs, like its a deeper POV and feels very real and also like the book lets Grace be as autistic as she is, in a way that feels new to me, without making it about her autism. The romance has a light presence, and a lovely arc. (Rep: Autistic girl MC. Autistic woman author.)***
- A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole (contemporary m/f romance novel) I loved this book so much. I think it’s my favorite by Cole, and I love so much of her work, so that is really saying something. Such a gorgeous romance arc, and Portia has my heart. I especially love her self acceptance arc around her ADHD. (Rep: Black heroine with ADHD. Chilean-Scottish biracial hero. Black woman author with ADHD.)
- A Tiny Piece of Something Greater by Jude Sierra (contemporary m/m romance) I fell hard for Reid, felt so much with him in this story, which centers a young man in recovery from mental health crisis, and the way he finds love amidst the turmoil of trying to find solid ground again. (Rep: Latinx MC. MC with cyclothymia. Latinx Bi-ro, demi/ace author.)
- Pink Slip by Katrina Jackson. (contemporary m/f/f romance novel) This is a polyamorous spy romance novella that resolves to m/f/f BDSM triad, and it’s wonderful. The MC is a personal assistant to a married couple who work for the CIA, and she falls for them both, basically right as soon as she meets them. This has a lot of humor, heat, and heart, with a dash of silly and a whole bunch of spy story yumminess, and it was a joy to read. (Rep: Black queer woman MC. Puerto Rican bisexual woman MC. Black woman author.)
- Just Like Honey by Ajax Bell (historical polyamorous m/m romance) This story centers a gay artist living in Seattle in the 1990s, who’s struggling to make art and figure out the direction for his art. At the same time as he is struggling with his art, his kinky open relationship with his boyfriend gets complicated. He is pushed in a bunch of different directions, and the story is mostly about him beginning to claim agency over his life and art and being brave and open about who he is and what he wants. (Rep: Bisexual polyamorous man MC. Japanese American polyamorous gay man MC. Bi enby author.)
- His Cocky Valet by Cole McCade (contemporary m/m romance novel) I devoured this #cockygate BDSM erotic romance in big gulps. The D/s is incredibly hot, and also angsty, complex and just beautiful. I adored these characters so much! (Rep: Gay man MCs. Native AmeriBlAsian POC demibisexual queer man author.)
- Syncopation by Anna Zabo (contemporary m/m romance) Intensely riveting, complex characterization, so well written! This is one of my most favorite musician romances because of how central music was in the story, and because the writing about the music was incredibly gorgeous and resonant. This book has one of my favorite depictions of a D/s relationship that I’ve ever read; it gets at the ways D/s can build you up and create intimacy and be a positive force in your life, a source of strength as you deal with chaos. I had trouble with some bits of the aromantic representation, but really liked other aspects of it; I discuss this in my review. (Rep: Gay man trauma survivor MC with synesthesia, former sex worker. Pansexual aromantic man MC, former sex worker. Bi/pan non-binary author.)
Meet Cute Romance
- Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis (contemp m/f romance novel) I really enjoyed this rom com between two guarded folks who were not looking for each other but could not stay away. I especially liked the chosen family feel. It felt very much like a Christmas rom com movie.
- What Kind of Day by Mina V. Esguerra (contemp m/f romance novel) I really enjoyed this romance, fell really hard for the heroine, and liked the way they navigated rocky waters together. It felt real, and it was lovely to see two characters in their thirties trying to navigate career crises. (Representation: Filipino MCs. Filipino woman author.)
- From the Same Star by Nicole Field (contemporary f/f romance novel)*** This is a gorgeous romance that centers D/s and a beautiful grief arc. I love the ace rep and the vulnerability of the dominant love interest, and seeing Angela grow throughout the story. (Rep: Queer woman MC. Ace spec queer woman love interest. Demisexual polyamorous queer multigender author.)
- The Demon Prince by Ann Aguirre. (paranormal m/f romance novel) I was blown away by this intense, lovely, angsty romance with MCs that try to keep things casual but just really can’t, in a fraught warlike situation. They have such chemistry, and I loved the femdom D/s dynamic and the menage scene. (Rep: Bi man MC with chronic illness and PTSD, Demisexual biromantic autistic woman MC. Bi secondary character.)
- His Cocky Cellist by Cole McCade (contemporary m/m romance novel) This D/s romance blew me away. It’s easily one of my most favorite kink romances ever, with beautifully complex characterization, a deeply compelling arc, and gorgeous language. I highly recommend it. (Rep: Bisexual man with chronic illness. Moroccan-American femme gay man with chronic pain. Native AmeriBlAsian POC demibisexual queer man author.)
- Riven by Roan Parrish (contemporary m/m romance novel) This rock star romance between a new rock star and a musician grappling with recovery from addiction that cost him his career, just blew me away. It was gorgeously written, deeply characterized, intensely compelling, and the way it sinks into the details of composing and performing music was so visceral, real, and beautiful. (Rep: Gay MC with addiction. Gay MC.)
- Counterpoint by Anna Zabo (contemporary m/m romance novel) I absolutely loved this meet-cute BDSM romance between a programmer and a rock star who is really also a geek too. The BDSM was gorgeous, their arcs were so compelling, and I fell really hard for both heroes, was so grateful to see a careful, caring, vulnerable dominant character in particular. (Rep: Pansexual MC. Gay MC with anxiety. Bi/pan non-binary author.)
- On the Line by Liz Lincoln (contemporary m/f romance novel) This was light, and sweet, and sexy! It centers football player single dad and his new nanny, a former science teacher and huge geek, who just happens to be his old friend’s little sister and the woman who he recently met in the grocery store that he was intensely attracted to and hoping to date…and now can’t because she’s his new nanny. (Rep: Hero with a sports related injury. Spoonie author.)
- Rafe: A Buff Male Nanny by Rebekah Weatherspoon (contemporary m/f romance novel) Hilarious, hot, and full of heart, this romance between a surgeon and her new nanny for her twin daughters feels exactly like the domestic sweet fluff I needed. It is definitely going to be a comfort reread for me. (Black woman trauma survivor heroine. Formerly incarcerated hero. Black queer woman author.)
- Untouchable by Talia Hibbert (contemporary m/f romance novel) I fell so hard for the heroine of this single dad/nanny romance. Fell for her and felt for her, and loved watching their romance unfold. Untouchable is one of my most favorite books of Hibbert’s. (Rep: Fat Black autistic bi heroine with depression. Hero with depression. Secondary autistic Black woman character with PTSD. Secondary character with chronic illness. Autistic Black Anglo-Romani disabled queer author.)
- The Art of Three by Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae (contemporary m/m/f romance novel) A beautiful polyamorous romance, and such a lovely story; so full of heart. I cannot measure how much I appreciate getting to read polyamorous romance that’s not erotic romance. I am incredibly glad that it exists in the world, and not only because it felt like a quiet cup of tea while cuddling on the couch with a loved one on a day I deeply needed that. (Bisexual man MC. Bisexual Jewish man MC. Jewish woman MC. Queer non-binary author. Queer woman author)
- Behind These Doors by Jude Lucens (historical polyamorous romance novel) I loved so much about this romance, particularly the open polyamory, the central m/m relationship, and the way the story illuminated and engaged with misogyny and class differences. (Gay man MC. Bisexual polyamorous man MC. Demisexual biromantic polyamorous man MC. Polyamorous woman MC. Queer woman secondary character. Bi, demisexual, polyamorous pagan woman of colour author with chronic illness.)
- From Scratch by Katrina Jackson (contemporary m/m/f romance novel) I found this polyamorous erotic romance utterly delightful! It has so many things I love, all together in one fluffy package: a lovely meet-cute, a really sweet friends to lovers arc, humor, heat, heart, baked goods, queerness, excellent friendships, polyamory, stellar fat representation. I laughed out loud more times than I could count, and fell really hard for all three of the main characters; the moments when they were sweet to each other were just so swoony. (Rep: Black woman MC. Black bisexual man trauma survivor MC. Latinx pansexual/bisexual man MC. Black woman author)
Second Chance Romance
- Her Festive Flirtation by Therese Beharrie (contemporary m/f romance novel) This second chance brother’s best friend romance had a lovely depth and complexity to the characters and was paced beautifully. A very satisfying mix of both angsty and swoony with wonderful family and holiday moments and all the chaos of a wedding. (Rep: Black MCs. Black woman author.)***
- Second Chance by Jay Northcote (contemporary m/m romance novel with a trans man lead) I really appreciated the way this second chance romance quietly challenged so many common issues that often exist in trans representation in romance, and I found the sex scenes particularly well done in terms of the trans representation. (Rep: Gay man MC. Gay trans man MC. Trans man author.)
- Intercepted by Alexa Martin (contemporary m/f romance novel) I fell really hard for the heroine in this second chance football romance. She was drawn with such a strong specific internal voice, hashtags and all. Marlee was so compelling, made me laugh, made me feel for her. I loved her arc a lot; for me her arc was the best thing about this book, and the center of the story. (Rep: Biracial Black woman MC. Black woman author.)
Slowest of Burns
- Wanna Bet? by Talia Hibbert (contemporary m/f romance novel) I really loved this friends to lovers romance. It felt like it went really deep, and was extremely satisfying and complex, and is the gold standard for this trope for me. It has beaten out my other favorites by this author and is her standout, thus far, in my opinion. One of the best books I’ve read in 2018. (Rep: Fat Black British bisexual or pansexual heroine. Desi biracial Muslim hero. Black, Anglo-Romani, disabled autistic queer woman author..)
- Over and Over Again by Cole McCade (contemp m/m romance novel) Gorgeously written, quiet, slow burn, snowed-in angsty May/Dec holiday romance. With baby goats. This is an age gap romance with a taboo element, as the gentle giant older MC is a friend of the family and knew the younger MC as a child. (Rep: British-Hungarian Romani demisexual homoromantic man MC. Gay man MC. Native AmeriBlAsian POC demibisexual queer man author.)
- Dirty Sexy Scot by Melissa Blue (contemporary m/f romance novel) I devoured Blue’s series centering Scottish heroes in the same family and Black American heroines in big gulps, one right after the other. They are well plotted, deeply compelling, smoking hot romances with complex characters that I fell hard for, and romance arcs that were intensely satisfying. My fave was Dirty Sexy Scot, which has all these elements plus a geeky guarded heroine, a fabulous meet-cute, and this lovely complex romance arc that I found completely gripping. (Rep: Black heroine. Black woman author.)
Surprise Baby Romance
- Her Perfect Affair by Priscilla Oliveras (contemporary m/f romance) I really enjoyed book two in this series centering Puerto Rican sisters. This book, like book one, is a tightly plotted, beautifully characterized, tropetastic romance that centers complex family dynamics. It’s a category romance that doesn’t miss a beat, and was a comfort to me on a hard day. (Rep: Puerto Rican heroine with an illness. Mexican American-Puerto Rican woman author.)***
- Squared Away by Annabeth Albert (contemporary m/m romance) At its core this romance is about interdependence and co-parenting as a transformative force in the MCs lives, and about what it means to count on each other and step up for each other. Both of the MCs are flawed and complex, they have a lovely chemistry and a substantial amount of angst (some of which is a closeted/out conflict, the author favors those), and the kids in the story are wonderful. The demisexual rep was pretty good, I thought though not especially resonant for me personally, as a demi questioning reader. (Rep: Demisexual panromantic MC. Gay MC. Pansexual secondary character. Gay secondary characters.)
- Belly Up by Eva Darrows (contemporary YA m/f romance novel) I am lucky enough to have been an early reader for this wonderful YA romance centering a pregnant teen girl. It’s full of heart, and full of humor, and the characters are wonderfully complex and deeply drawn. I loved it. I especially appreciated the fat rep, and the hero Leaf in particular. He’s a total dreamboat. (Rep: Hispanic biracial fat pregnant questioning teen girl MC. Fat Romani teen boy MC who I read as demisexual. Gray ace secondary character. Butch trans lesbian secondary character. Femme lesbian secondary character with diabetes. Hispanic and Romani biracial bisexual fat author with diabetes, PTSD, and anxiety.) (Note: out 4/30/19)
- Free Fall by Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner (historical m/f romance novel) This is set during the space race and it has a fat heroine who I fell really hard for, who has a shotgun wedding to an astronaut after a one night stand leads to a surprise pregnancy. This is a marry first then fall in love story & it’s got this lovely slow fall and hard-earned happy ending. (Rep: Fat heroine.)
6 thoughts on “Fave Romance Novels I Read in 2018”
Hah, I knew the guy in Over and Over Again is Hungarian! I’ve been putting it off because he has the same name as my uncle and that makes me feel kind of weird.
I’m so happy that you keep introducing me to awesome polyamorous romances. I already have one of these on my TBR but I’m gonna check out the others.
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Oh yay! There are a few others on the list in other categories, btw. (Pink Slip, Just Like Honey, and The Demon Prince.) I love polyam romance, and found some really great ones last year.
I definitely get not being up for reading books based on name similarity; I’ve run into that before myself. 🙂
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I already own Pink Slip and I’m excited about it, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I picked it up from another of your rec lists a while ago 😀
I adore so many books on this list! And I read Leaf as demisexual, too, so I’m glad I’m not the only one who saw that!
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Yay! I adore Leaf so much. I think it’s named on the page in the version that went to publication, I just haven’t read that one yet. 🙂
I am not at all surprised that we have similar tastes!
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oh that’s excellent! i thought i’d seen Hillary say so, but she had sent me a version before her edits, so i wasn’t 100% sure!