Here are my fave new-to-me romances I read in the first quarter of 2018, grouped by trope. I limited myself to selecting three at most from each author. A bunch of these books were by new-to-me authors! I love finding new backlists to check out.
This list definitely shows my bias towards contemporary romance, but also includes paranormal romance, mystery romance, and romantic suspense. I link to reviews where I have written them; and also where I have only posted content warnings, so you can easily find those. If I have not yet reviewed, I am using affiliate links to Amazon. If you buy through those links, I will make a small amount of money on that sale (which I plan to use to buy more books to review), but it will not add any to the cost of your product. It comes out of the company’s profits.
I’m listing marginalized representation 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 stories with no on-the-page sex, I am putting three asterisks*** at the end of the description.
Bringing the Heat
- A Tale of Two Cities: A New Year Novella by Alexandra Warren (2019 contemporary m/f romance novella) I really enjoyed this! It cracked me up multiple times and delivered serious heat. This was my first read by this author and I definitely will be checking out her backlist. (Rep: Black MCs. Black woman author.)
- Fair Play by Samantha Wayland (2013 contemporary m/f romsusp novel) This is the first in a polyamorous hockey romance series which resolves to an m/m/f triad, with the seeds planted in this book; I’m definitely hooked and want to read the other books. It was riveting, I really liked the heroine’s arc around her job, and the MCs have truly explosive chemistry; amazing UST and when they finally get to it, the sex scenes are extremely hot and definitely lay the groundwork for a triad later with a ton of erotic compersion, which was lovely to see in a romance about a couple. Please do look at the CWs in the link because there are quite a few. (Rep: Woman trauma survivor MC. Bisexual man MC.)
- His Only Valentine by Katrina Jackson (2019 contemporary m/f erotic romsusp novella) I loved getting to spend time with Kenny and Maya again. I adore Maya to pieces and they are so sweet together and it was just lovely to see them celebrate Valentine’s Day, even though a few wrenches got thrown in, as they do when you are a spy. This would be better if you read Private Eye but I think it can stand alone okay. The fat representation in this book is breathtaking; I love how much Kenny is gone over her, and how it carries both heat and sweetness in the descriptions of her from his POV. (Fat Black bisexual woman sex worker MC. Asian American man MC. Black queer woman author.)
- The Other Side of the Roses by R. Cooper (2017 contemporary m/m romance novella)*** I generally adore the author’s writing style, and this book has a lot to offer in terms of the swooniness possible with a long time crush from childhood. I fell really hard for Sami, the chubby Iranian American gay MC who has been yearning for his childhood neighbor and meets him again in adulthood. I have mixed feelings about the autism rep (the autistic MC experiences quite a lot of ableism, including when he is first introduced, and is rescued by the allistic MC), but there is something lovely about a romance where the MC is unabashedly swooning over an autistic love interest & doesn’t bring ableism into the way he sees his love interest. Sami is a bit of a magical autism whisperer but that didn’t bug me as much as it has in other stories, maybe because I liked him so much. (Rep: Iranian American Muslim gay man MC. Autistic gay man love interest.)
- Imaginary Lines by Allison Parr (2014 contemporary m/f romance novel) This childhood crush to lovers story was so compelling. I could not put it down. It felt very culturally Jewish in a way that really resonated for me, and I loved the chemistry between the MCs, who are stuck with a bunch of internal and external obstacles that seem kind of impossible to navigate. And oh the pining; I love it when there is so much pining. (Rep: Jewish MCs. Jewish woman author.)
- Kiss and Cry by Mina V Esguerra (2019 contemporary m/f romance novel)I loved this romance, it’s one of my faves I’ve read in 2019, and it beat out my former favorite Esguerra romance for the top slot. This is a second chance #romanceclass romance between a hockey player and a figure skater. It has a bucket list aspect to it, with a time limit (what I think of as the ticking clock trope). I really appreciated how sweet the hero was, how he could be presented as clearly very athletic and a talented devoted hockey player without him being hypermasculine or possessive. (Rep: Filipino MCs. Filipino bisexual secondary character. Filipina woman author.)
- Marriage of Unconvenience by Chelsea M. Cameron (2018 contemporary f/f romance novel) I really liked this friends to marriage of convenience to lovers book, it was exactly the kind of comfort read I needed. I appreciated that the MCs love interest set the boundaries she needed to figure stuff out, and got help sorting through things. (Questioning woman MC. Lesbian woman MC. Queer non-binary demigirl author.)
- Grumpy Fake Boyfriend by Jackie Lau (2018 contemporary m/f romance novel) I loved this fake relationship brother’s best friend romance a lot. I esp fell for the grumpy introvert hero and how much he was gone over the heroine. I am definitely going to be reading more Lau this year. (Rep: Chinese-Canadian heroine. Chinese-Canadian woman author.)
- Private Eye by Katrina Jackson (2019 contemporary m/f romantic suspense novel) This is the sex worker/client romance of my dreams. I adore Maya, & love the way so many of the characters also adore her. Kenny deeply respects her and her work in a way that was a pleasure to read. Both MCs had my heart. This spy m/f romance was delightful all the way through. I loved the sex worker & fat representation, particularly. (Fat Black bisexual woman sex worker MC. Asian American man MC. Black queer woman author.)
- Check, Please by Ngozi Ukazu (2018 contemporary m/m romance graphic novel)*** I enjoyed this so much! It was utterly delightful. It centers the most adorable gay boy hockey player ever. He figure skates! He bakes pies! He has a crush on the captain of the team! He is new to college, and new to college hockey, and so completely charming that I fell really hard for him. It’s more a story about his experiences playing hockey in his first two years of college, but there is a romance plotline that was really sweet. It has a YA feel to it, though technically I guess it’s New Adult. (Rep: Gay man MC. Nigerian American woman author.)
- Wicked Sweet by Chelsea M. Cameron (2018 contemporary f/f romance novel) I enjoyed this NA f/f romance quite a bit. It’s a cute college-set romance with childhood rivals to friends to lovers & neighbors to lovers tropes; a foodie romance with an emphasis on baked goods. ( Rep: Queer women MCs. Queer non-binary demigirl author.)
- The Ultimate Pi Day Party by Jackie Lau (2019 contemporary m/f romance novel) This was wonderful, in so many ways. Such a satisfying foodie romance, with a really lovely amount of food details. I really enjoy Lau’s style, the way she lays out character, the way she injects all these quiet moments that make me feel verklempt. I really enjoyed the integration of friendships and familial relationships into this romance, it felt full and whole, when sometimes romances can really feel like its two against the world. Overall, I found this book completely compelling; I could not put it down. (Rep: Chinese Canadian man MC. Desi lesbian secondary character. Chinese Canadian woman author.)
- Reverb by Anna Zabo (2019 contemporary m/f romantic suspense novel with a trans man hero) I loved so much about this bodyguard/protectee rock star romance, found it completely riveting, could not put it down. I fell really hard for both MCs, loved their dynamic, their chemistry, their flirtation. The sex scenes were gorgeous and had stellar trans rep and were hot as hell and had this wonderful femdom dynamic. It’s got so much joy and care in the romantic relationship and in the chosen family aspects, which makes the spectre of ongoing risk from the stalker feel more intense by contrast. I struggled some with the way things wrapped up in the story, they felt like they needed more attention and care, but I still would recommend this, despite that, if you are up for the trauma aspects of the content. (Rep: Queer cis woman trauma survivor MC. Trans man combat veteran and trauma survivor MC. Bi/pan non-binary author.)
- A Werewolf’s Valentine by Zoe Chant (2016 paranormal m/f romance novella) I loved this shifter romance with a great meet-cute, a heroine I adored, and a found family theme. It was full of heat and heart, and gave me so many feelings. (Rep: Trauma survivor hero.)
- Extreme Honor by Piper J Drake (2016 contemporary m/f romantic suspense novel) I really enjoyed this! I fell hard for the heroine and the dog completely stole my heart, and I really liked the found family aspect of the story. The slow build of connection and trust between the MCs was lovely and very well paced, and the road trip aspect was fun. The conclusion was a bit wacky, but I went with it, and really enjoyed the role the dogs played in it. (Rep: Trauma survivor MCs. Thai American woman author.)
- Charm City: A Valentine’s Day Novel by Monica McCallan (2019 contemporary f/f romance novel) Hands down my fave Valentine’s Day themed romance I read in 2019. Some of my most favorite tropes all wrapped up together (enemies to lovers, forced proximity, grumpy/sunshine, and snowed in), a chosen family, and a romance with queer characters I’d like to be friends with. I loved how deeply rooted in Baltimore, it was too. City based romances that are rooted like this make me really happy. I will definitely be checking out this author’s backlist. (Queer woman MC. Queer woman MC with a history of homelessness. Lesbian woman author.)
- Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Albert (2015 contemporary m/m romance novella) This second chance romance between old friends who have been estranged for years since they kissed is delightfully geeky and full of pining and angst. (Rep: Gay men MCs.)
- Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole (2019 contemporary m/f romance novella) This has wonderful disability representation, is delightfully geeky, and I fell really hard for both of the MCs. The cover is wonderful, the book was funny and heartwarming and deeply engaging. I’m so glad to have read this. (Rep: Black disabled woman MC. Vietnamese American autistic man MC. Black woman author.)
- Play It Again by Aidan Wayne (2019 contemporary m/m romance novel)*** This hit the mark for me with the online relationship and online content creator aspect, and was pretty satisfying on the long distance relationship piece as well. It’s not a completely light story, I wouldn’t exactly call it fluff, as Sam’s arc has trauma elements woven into it pretty strongly, but it’s got a fairly light adorableness to the romantic relationship aspect that was exactly what I needed on a rough day. I especially appreciated the way Dovid and Sam negotiated around sex. Sam is not sex repulsed; he’s also not really interested in sex, and Dovid carefully draws him out when he gets a soft yes for sex, in a way that I really liked. (Bisexual Jewish blind man MC. Homoromantic ace man trauma survivor MC with social anxiety. Aroace Jewish woman secondary character. Non-binary author.)***
- Game Changer by Rachel Reid (2018 contemporary m/m romance) This contemporary m/m romance has a meet cute between a closeted hockey player and the cute guy who made the smoothies that might have helped him break a losing streak, a one night stand to lovers arc, and heavily centers out for you as the core trope. This was my first Reid book and I found it pretty compelling. (Rep: Gay MCs. Several secondary characters of color.)
- Love, Marriage and a Baby Carriage by C.S. Poe (2016 paranormal m/m romance novella) This queer penguin shifter meet-cute at Waddlecon surprise baby instamate romance was utterly delightful and hilarious and I’m so glad it exists.
- Lumber Jacked by Annabeth Albert (2019 contemporary m/m romance novella) I really enjoyed this addition to the Rainbow Cove series, which is one of my faves by Albert. A lovely kinky romance, with bondage and light D/s and a really tender connection that warmed my heart. (Rep: Queer man MC. Pansexual man MC. Bisexual woman author.)
New Adult Romance
- Can You Say My Name Again by Nadia Nova (2018 contemporary f/f romance story with two trans women MCs) This was a gut punch of a story that felt very new adult in a lot of ways, as it was all about coping with being an adult and identity. The romance arc was a big part of the story, but this has a bit of a litfic feel, in the intensity and voice of the story, and it’s structure. The MCs anxiety was very visceral and resonated a lot for me, felt extremely immediate in the story, and the trans representation felt very resonant to me as a trans reader. This is clearly written for a trans audience and it felt like it let itself be raw and real and messy in ways that were deeply compelling and gave me so many feelings. (Trans women MCs. Latinx trans woman author.)
- An Offering of Plums by J Emery (2018 paranormal m/enby romance novella) I adored this short romance that starts off quite dark and ominous but ends up being more of a thing where the MC courts the enby demon with fruit offerings. I found myself caring about both the MCs quite a bit, and really enjoyed their dialogue. (Rep: Queer man trauma survivor MC. Non-binary MC. Queer author.)
- Shadows You Left by Taylor Brooke and Jude Sierra (2019 contemporary m/m romance novel) A story that grips with teeth and fists and will not let you go, an unputdownable character-driven complex novel that is gorgeously told, has deeply compelling characters, and takes you on an emotional roller coaster. This is a romance between two queer men who trigger the hell out of each other and are so deeply into each other that they choose each other again and again. I felt so much for the demiro MC first experiencing that lightning quick classic demi attraction that happens with so few people, and not knowing how to reconcile it with what he knows about who he is. It was really lovely to see that kind of demi experience woven seamlessly into this complex story, to see that aspect of myself on the page. (Rep: Demiromantic man MC with addiction. Bisexual man MC. Latinx Bi-ro, demi/ace author. Non-binary, demi/pansexual and demi/panromantic author.)
One Night Stand to Lovers
- Crashing Into Her by Mia Sosa (2019 contemporary m/f romance novel) This has a one night stand to friends to lovers arc, with a bit of a enemies to lovers aspect, as they start off rather antagonistic towards each other, sparring all the time. It also has a best friend’s cousin trope going on, with the cousin relationship being quite close. What I especially enjoyed, in watching them dance around each other, is the way they both had so much emotional armor, so many defenses against relationships, and yet they could not keep themselves from building one with each other. I really like stories like that, where both MCs are prickly and defended. It created this lovely tension, and these higher stakes because while I was rooting for them, I was wondering the whole time if they could manage to figure it out. (Rep: Black woman MC. Puerto Rican man MC. Black and Puerto Rican secondary characters. Brazilian-Puerto Rican woman author.)
- Unveiled Attraction by Chelsea M. Cameron (2019 contemporary f/f romance novel) This was the most compelling of the 3 Cameron titles I read this quarter. I couldn’t put it down. The MCs were so into each other, and making terrible choices because of it and I couldn’t look away. (Rep: Queer women MCs. Queer non-binary demigirl author.)
- Stroke of Midnight by Andie J. Christopher (2017 contemporary m/f romance novel) I enjoyed this very hot brother’s best friend one night stand to fling to lovers romance. The characters are compelling and complex and have amazing chemistry. The light kink in this story is delicious, and I liked how the heroine was extremely competent. (Rep: Latinx woman MC. Latinx woman author.)
Short and Sweet
- Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole (2019 contemporary f/f romance novella) My comfort read to kick off 2019 was this second chance butch/femme romance. It was wonderful & just what I needed on a hard day. I highly recommend this book; it’s one of my most favorite f/f romances ever. (Rep: Black immigrant butch queer woman MC. Black femme queer woman MC. Black woman author.)
- Conversation Hearts by Avon Gale (2016 contemporary m/m romance novella) I loved this romance between a sex worker and the assassin who breaks into his hotel room and might actually be a client. It has wonderful dialogue and I liked the way they built connection. (Rep: Queer man sex worker MC. Queer man MC. Bi/demirom/grayace woman author.)
- The Best Worst Holiday Party Ever by Olivia Waite (2015 contemporary m/f romance novella) I really loved this short about a woman who wants to be a sommelier getting stuck serving wine at a party where she thought she would be a guest, and having a meet cute with one of the guests while she pursues her dreams.
- Adonis Line by Dakota Gray (2019 contemporary m/f erotic romance novel) This book is one of my most favorite romances with a trauma survivor MC, ever. It holds the reality of survivorship beautifully, and actively refuses the kind of trauma porn, rescue dynamics and hurt/comfort dynamics that are rampant in the romance genre when it comes to survivor characters. It’s also just…a really stellar romance. Gorgeously complex characters, great use of forced proximity and road trip tropes, a romance arc that unfolded in these really lovely spirals that were so satisfying. The pacing in this story was so damn good, I could not put it down. This book contains some really fucking brilliant use of sex scenes to explore character and move plot. A master class at doing that, truly. I had a couple concerns about the disability representation regarding the hero, but I still wholeheartedly recommend this brilliant book. (Rep: Black woman MC with PTSD. Disabled Black man MC with depression. Black woman author.)
- Running Back by Allison Parr (2013 contemporary m/f romance novel) This was my favorite of the series, though it was definitely the one that was the least about football. I fell hard for both MCs, who were drawn with a lovely complexity and had great chemistry. I especially enjoyed the heroine’s personal arc. (Rep: Jewish woman author.)
- Stay by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen (2017 contemporary m/f romance novel) I enjoyed this quite a bit! The heroine was great, I really loved how competent she was & how flustered she got around him. It has a good mix of heat & humor. This made me seek out the other connected books, though this remains my fave after trying them.
- New Year, New We by Katrina Jackson (2019 contemporary polyamorous romance novella) We see Lane, Kierra and Monica doing their best spy work, this time posing as two queer couples with another agent, which becomes a foursome when the job is done! This is one of my most favorite polyamorous romances ever. It made my queer polyamorous heart sing! It great to revisit characters I adored, & this book was so resonant w/my own experience of polyamory, in a way I rarely find in polyamorous romance. (Rep: Bisexual Puerto Rican woman MC. Bisexual Black woman MC. Bisexual Black man MC. Bisexual man MC. Black queer woman author.)
- Forever Yours This New Year’s Night by L.A. Sartor*** (2014 contemporary m/f romance novel) This feels very much like a classic category holiday romance. Two cybersecurity experts who started off enemies fall hard and fast but can she trust him since divorce ruined her childhood and he had a quickie marriage and divorce? I really enjoyed the geeky cybersecurity aspects, and liked the way the characterization unfolded over time.
- Love on My Mind by Tracey Livesay (2016 contemporary m/f romance novel) This is a very well paced, deeply characterized compelling romance. It has a rained in trope, and it manages the idea of preparing an autistic character to do a public presentation in a way that I found pretty respectful; I’ve read versions of that kind of plot that are intensely ableist and this doesn’t read that way. The autistic MC faces ableism, but is mostly moving from a place of self acceptance, and I like the depiction of his friendships. (Rep: Autistic hero. Black woman heroine. Black woman author.)
- Criminal Intentions: Episodes 3-6 by Cole McCade (2018 contemporary police procedural serial m/m romance novels) I glommed four books in this series which felt like they had a central romance arc across them that was especially satisfying. I really appreciate this series and how carefully it holds the complex realities of how police officers experience tons of trauma on the job, and also the ongoing reality of police corruption and violence, while also making sure to be careful around who dies in these books and treating the victims with dignity and care. I especially appreciated that aspect of the story in episode 6. For me, though, the real draw to these books is the romance arc, and I adored everything about this one, from the way the MCs keep getting nudged to acknowledge their attraction for each other to the demigray representation (which I especially appreciated in book 5), to the surprise encounter in book 6 that completely delighted me. This felt so much like a demigray romance arc to me, with the full complexity of how that might be paced and might feel for queer men. (Rep: Bi Persian American Mizrahi Jewish man MC with PTSD. Gay demigray ace Korean American man MC with PTSD. Genderqueer/Two Spirit Lumbee secondary character. Aro Black Cubano American woman secondary character. Native AmeriBlAsian POC demibisexual queer trans man author.)