This post is part of #RomBkLove, a month-long Twitter event where folks share their recs for romances that fit particular themes. My theme for today is romances with MCs that are musicians, singers and composers. I love romances that center music not just because I love singing and playing music, but also because I love the kinds of intimacy characters can create through music and sharing their creativity with each other. I tried to include a wide range of music types, because I find that often there are more rock centered romances than other things. So in this list you will find rock, but you will also find jazz, opera, classical, choral music, hip hop, and a barbershop quartet.
I’m sharing some of my favorites, but I really hope to learn a lot more from you, especially if you have recommendations for musical styles that are often under-represented. .
What are your favorite romances about musicians, singers or composers?
What do you like best about romances that center music?
I’m listing 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.
Note: All links to Amazon will be affiliate ones. 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.
- Lioness in Blue by Shira Glassman (2016 contemporary m/f romance novelette) Second Oboe falls for First Oboe despite the rampant gossip in the symphony, and in defiance of those who might judge her for dating a man twice her age. She is into him, and they have this lovely light femdom dynamic that I really appreciated. I always love reading the Jewish characters that Glassman writes, they resonate for me, and this book is no exception. And nobody can write symphony romance better than someone who’s lived symphony life for years. (Rep: Jewish white bisexual woman heroine. Older Jewish white hero. Jewish white bisexual woman author.)
- The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale (2017 contemporary f/f romance novel) I’m so glad this romance is back in print! I have been listening to it on audio, and really enjoying the performances. It’s this lovely mix of heart and heat with just enough angst built in. Bisexual rock musician connects with the new fiddler in her band on tour, as the fiddler is both coming out as queer and grappling whether to continue to study violin at Julliard or if she wants to take a new path with her music. (Rep: Bisexual white MC. Queer white MC. Bi/demirom/grayace white woman author.)
- Strike Up the Band by Sam Burns (2017 contemporary m/m romance) I really enjoyed this rock star romance about a band that needs to replace their lead singer who has died, to fulfill their contract with their awful label. The romance unfolds slowly, as the ace MC starts out so angry about losing his bandmate sister and needing to tour that it takes him a while to warm up and connect with the new lead singer. I liked that the ace MC had a BFF who googled not interested in sex, found AVEN, and just handed over his phone, and the ace character got to do his self exploration and learning on his own. I also appreciated the way the MCs navigated an ace/allo relationship. That said, one of my favorite things about this was that it was mostly about the band, and how they worked through the changes they were grappling with, and found a way to be family to each other that worked for them. (Rep: Homoromantic white ace man MC. Bisexual white man MC. Asexual white panromantic woman author with anxiety.)***
Enemies to Lovers
- Carolyn for Christmas by Lucy Carey (2015 contemporary f/f romance novella) I really enjoyed this childhood friends to rivals to lovers romance centering two women competing for a solo in the Christmas choral show. (Rep: White lesbian MCs. White woman author.)
- Three-Part Harmony by Holley Trent (2019 contemporary m/m/f romance novel) I loved this so much, really enjoyed watching the complexity of these relationships unfold, and the ways each character was a catalyst for the others. This is a beautiful, unforgettable, polyamorous romance, and I’m already rereading it on audio. (Rep: Autistic queer white man MC. Bi white man MC. White woman MC. Black woman author.)
- Rock Courtship by Nalini Singh (2014 contemporary m/f romance novella) I enjoyed the slow build over email exchange between a publicist and her musician client who has been pining for her forever and is finally making his move. (Rep: Latinx man MC. Biracial Indonesian woman MC. Desi woman author.)
- Geek with the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir (2013 paranormal m/f romance novella) Some of this epistolary romance is from the cats POV, which I loved. Shy music geek goes wordless every time the adorable violinist comes into his music shop, until a stray cat follows him home…(Rep: White MCs. White woman author.)
Friends to Lovers
- Opening Act by Suleikha Snyder (2019 contemporary m/m/f romance novella, in the collection Dil or No Dil) The heroine has had a long time crush on the lead singer of the band, but they have been friends since college and she cannot get him to see her as someone he could be with. Spot-on depiction of the frustration of being only seen as the good girl, and the ache to break out of that. Snyder captures the way part of what makes you fall for someone can be witnessing them do something amazing creatively. (Desi heroine. White hero. Desi queer woman author.)
- Thrown Off Track by Tamsen Parker (2018 contemporary m/m romance novella) This romance between two bandmates has demisexual rep that resonated so deeply and intensely for me. There were a couple of things I wish had been different about the demisexual rep, but overall, this is one of my most favorite romances with demisexual rep. At the beginning of the story, the demi character has been having quite a lot of sex that he technically consented to but did not want, and he goes through a process of recognizing his demisexuality throughout the book. The making out & sex scenes between the MCs worked well for me. I really appreciated how demi they felt, the layers and the pace of them, the way the MCs navigated touch and boundaries, the intensity of them, how the second one showed the fullness of sex without the need for reciprocity around touch. (Rep: Bisexual demisexual white man MC. Gay white man MC. White woman author.)
- His Cocky Cellist by Cole McCade (2018 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. The dominant MC is a former cellist, who stopped playing due to injury, and isn’t sure if he can reconnect with the cello again, and I completely adored him. (Rep: Bisexual white man with chronic illness. Moroccan-American femme gay man with chronic pain. Native AmeriBlAsian POC demibisexual queer man author.)
- Have Mercy by Shelley Ann Clark (2014 contemporary m/f romance novel) This has a beautiful D/s dynamic, a very hot slow burn, a novice top at the center of the story, a more experienced strong worshipful bottom, and I loved the way music is woven into the story. I read this when I was looking for stories that center tops who are women, and it delivered beautifully, one of the best of those I’ve read. I loved the complexity and nuance in this story. (White MCs. White woman author.)
- The Companion Contract by Solace Ames (2015 contemporary m/f romance novel) This glorious D/s romance begins with the premise of getting the band back together, a band that has been splintered by addiction. The POV MC has been hired as a sober companion sex worker for the lead singer, and was a fan of the band; you get to experience the wonder at the possibility of something magical happening musically, via her POV. I adore this book to pieces; stellar sex work rep and some of my most favorite D/s ever, plus chosen family and so much complexity in characters. (Rep: Columbian American immigrant bisexual man MC with limited sight. Questioning Japanese-Filipinx biracial immigrant woman MC who is a sex worker. Bisexual white man MC who is dealing with addiction. Columbian American trans woman secondary character. Asian American woman author.)
- The Chai Factor by Farah Heron (2019 contemporary m/f romance novel) This was full of humor, heat and heart, and had a lovely femdom dynamic that I really enjoyed. I fell really hard for the heroine, and loved the complexity in the depiction of her relationships with family and friends. Loved all the bits with the barbershop quartet! (Rep: Desi heroine. White hero. Desi woman author.)
- The Real Deal by Alexandra Warren (2016 contemporary m/f romance novella) I enjoyed this romance between a hip hop artist and the woman in charge of his community service hours at the community center. They fall into a fake dating to save face situation that was tropey and fun, and I enjoyed spending time with the heroine, especially. (Rep: Black woman heroine. Black man hero. Black woman author.)
Oh the Angst
- Invitation to the Blues by Roan Parrish (2018 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. And to add that the MCs arc around reclaiming his relationship to music in the aftermath of trauma and psychological crisis is gorgeous and complex and stole my breath. (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.)
- Appassionata by Emma Barry (2020 contemporary m/f romance novella included in the collection He’s Come Undone) I enjoyed this romance quite a bit. I love Barry’s writing style, it draws me in and is just lovely prose that feels soothing and well-paced and like a warm hug. I fell hard for the heroine and her struggles with anxiety around her music, which felt like more than stage fright to me, and resonated deeply. I really liked that the romance wasn’t acting as a cure, that the hero was just as armored and scared as her, and so gone over her that he went for it anyway. All the stuff about him voicing the instrument and her trying to resolve her issues with the music enough to perform had wonderfully specific detail that made it feel very real. (Rep: Asian American heroine with anxiety. White hero. White woman author.)
One Night Stand to Romance
- Riven by Roan Parrish (2018 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. One of the most striking things about Riven is how much it’s about music, and how composing, performing, and collaborating on music is deeply central and gorgeously, compellingly portrayed. I loved it on audio in particular, the performances were spectacular. (Rep: Gay white MC with addiction. Gay white MC who I read as neuroatypical. White woman author.)
- Maxx Neon by Lina Langley (2017 contemporary m/non-binary romance novella) This is tropey fun in the form of fan/star one night stand growing into a relationship. The rock star MC, who I fell hard for, has chronic back problems. I appreciated the back pain representation, which mostly resonated with my own experience of chronic back pain. (Rep: Afro-Latinx disabled queer man MC. Non-binary queer love interest. Queer Latinx enby author.)
- Slow Moves by Elliott Junkyard (2019 contemporary m/m romance novella with a trans man lead) I adored this rock star romance to pieces, really loved the one night stand to lovers arc, the way the characters built connection, the friendships in the book, the trans representation. (Rep: Bisexual white trans man MC. Queer white man love interest. Queer white trans man author.)
- A Demon for Midwinter by KL Noone (2018 paranormal m/m romance novel) I adored this rock star/manager age gap romance not just for the emotionally armored grumpy projective empath rockstar melting completely over his younger half demon cheerful cinnamon roll of a manager, but also because it really felt like it handled the plot around the abusive boyfriend with respect, complexity and care. This is likely going to be a particular delight for classic rock fans, and folks into rockstar romances that go rather deep into showing the characters composing music. Also, the writing is lovely, and moving, and made me all verklempt. (Rep: Pansexual white older man MC. Queer white man MC with trauma. Queer trans white author.)
- Lord of the Last Heartbeat by May Peterson (2019 paranormal non-binary/m romance novel) I fell hard for this intense, gorgeous, angsty fantasy romance, complete with a non-binary mage opera singer, ghosts, an incubus, curses, and a swoony bear shifter. There is so much despair and bleakness and helplessness running through this story, that the hopeful ending where the MCs take charge of their fates feels like an incredibly miraculous relief. (Rep: Queer white non-binary intersex trauma survivor MC. Queer white man trauma survivor MC. Bi white non-binary transfem 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, a werewolf traveling musician who really wants a family, and a found family theme. It was full of heat and heart, and gave me so many feelings. (Rep: White trauma survivor hero. White heroine. White woman author team.)
Second Chance Romance
- House Rules by Ruby Lang (2020 contemporary m/f romance novella) I really enjoyed this contemporary m/f romance, and it’s such a New York City set up: the couple were married in their twenties when they were both music students, and when she returns to town in her forties, long after they divorced, they end up deciding to be roommates, so that they can move into a beautiful two bedroom apartment in Harlem. He has followed the expected music career trajectory and now runs a music program, and she has found a completely new career hand pulling noodles, and he is both baffled and mesmerized by all that has changed about her in a way that I found really charming. A very strong finish to a series that I adore. I adored book two so much, and this one gave it a run for it’s money. (Rep: Older white man MC who I read as autistic and Jewish. Older Taiwanese American woman MC with endometriosis. Asian American woman author.)
- Love’s Serenade by Sheryl Lister (2018 historical m/f romance novella) This second chance romance is set during the Harlem Renaissance and centers a jazz and blues singer heroine and a piano player hero who abandoned her in the past and has returned to her life insisting they belong together and asking for a second chance. (Rep: Black MCs. Black woman author.)
- Laid Bare by Lauren Dane (2019 contemporary m/m/f romance novel) Years ago, a conservative cop broke up with the rock musician he was dating because he couldn’t accept that he was into the kinky stuff they did. Now he meets her again, after leaving the force to start a private security company, and he is completely up for being her dominant. This romance begins with their second chance, but soon it grows to include his best friend, and they form a triad. This is the entry book to several linked series that center mostly musicians, but also their chosen family as folks pair off (or triple off, as the case may be), and I have a lot of affection for it. (Rep: White heroine with PTSD. White heroes. White woman author.)
Series I Love
- Twisted Wishes series by Anna Zabo (2018-2019 contemporary m/m and m/f with a trans man lead) I adore this mixed orientation series to pieces. I especially love the way Zabo writes about music in this series, and the gorgeous D/s.