With the approach of Valentine’s Day, love is in the air — which means you might be looking for a romantic read to suit your fancy. While we here at EW think that any time of year is the right time to read romance and offer monthly suggestions, we also can’t deny that February is a great month to add a sweeping love affair to your To Be Read pile (after all, it complements all the pink and hearts you see everywhere). So, whether your tastes range from a wistful tale of star-crossed lovers to something a little more on the erotic side, we have plenty of new releases to feed your romantic reading desires.
This Is NOT a Valentine by Carter Higgins & Lucy Ruth Cummins
This is the perfect kids’ Valentine’s Day read for the #MeToo era. In this heartwarmingly funny children’s book, a boy mulls over the perfect gift to give to his friend-who-is-a-girl (not a girlfriend!), and he makes just the right choice. Why? Because he pays attention to who she is and pledges to be her friend always, not just on Valentine’s Day.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Bend gender norms a little bit this Valentine’s Day with the delightful Prince and the Dressmaker. A prince hires a dressmaker to make elaborate and edgy gowns for him to wear, and an attraction soon develops. As they fall in love, the prince is left to negotiate his public and private identities, and both are left to explore who they are to each other in touching and nuanced ways.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
We loved this swoony rom-com debut from Jasmine Guillory so much, we put it on our Must List a few weeks back. Alexa, an ambitious assistant to the Berkeley mayor, and Drew, a pediatric surgeon, meet cute in a hotel elevator, and things escalate when he asks her to be his plus-one to an ex’s wedding. The book grapples with real-life obstacles like long-distance relationships and trust while also navigating thornier issues like race and gender politics. But these all-too-real concerns only make the happy ending that much sweeter by serving up a bumpy ride on a collision course toward happily-ever-after.
Roomies by Christina Lauren
Named one of our best of 2017, Roomies is a delightful marriage of convenience rom-com set in the world of Broadway musicals. Calvin is a hot Irish busker who gets his big break on Broadway when his not-so-secret subway admirer Holland snags him an audition with her composer uncle. There’s just one problem — he’s in the country illegally, and only a wedding will secure him a visa in time. The story celebrates rom-com tropes but ultimately focuses more on Holland’s entirely relatable journey of self-discovery that becomes necessary for her to achieve romantic bliss.
Moonlight Sins by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Armentrout goes for full-blown Gothic romance with this tale of live-in nurse, Julia Hughes, who finds herself caring for a patient in a seemingly cursed house in the Louisiana Bayou while resisting falling for her hunky employer, Lucian de Vincent. Did we mention he’s also filthy rich and his nickname’s “Lucifer?” Armentrout dials up the heat in this suspenseful tale that marks the start of a new series for the best-selling author.
Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai
We’re chomping at the bit for the final book in Rai’s Forbidden Hearts series, which hits shelves at the end of March, but in the meantime, you can catch up with this late November release. The second in the series after Hate to Want You, Wrong to Need You follows Sadia Ahmed and Jackson Kane. Former best friends, they drifted apart when Sadia married Jackson’s older brother Paul and Jackson was arrested under mysterious circumstances in the swirl of family tragedy. Ten years later, Jackson’s back in town and Sadia is a widow, leaving room for their long-simmering attraction to burst into full-on desire and maybe even love. Rai writes once again with her signature sensitivity and compassion for mental health, while also doubling down on her incredibly sexy love scenes.
Still Me by Jojo Moyes
If you prefer something that is not a romance novel, but includes a love story as central to its narrative, look no further than Still Me. Moyes concludes her Me Before You trilogy with this worthy and warm finale to Louisa Clark’s story. In her continued attempts to find a way forward after the death of her client/patient/love-of-her-life Will Traynor, Louisa takes a job as a live-in assistant in New York City. There, she faces the challenges of a selfish boss with dangerous secrets, maintaining her long-distance relationship with new boyfriend Sam, and adjusting to life outside of Britain. Here, at last, she does the hard work necessary to learn what it is to live a life entirely one’s own. Louisa charts a new life filled with love — for herself, for her career, and for the family and friends who flit through it. It’s a tale of sacrifice and compassion that blooms with earnestness on every page.
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
The first in her new “Reluctant Royals” series, A Princess in Theory is a modern-day Cinderella story from acclaimed author Alyssa Cole. Naledi Smith is an overwhelmed grad student who doesn’t have time for the seeming spam emails she keeps receiving informing her she’s betrothed to an African Prince. But when Prince Thabiso shows up in disguise to woo her, things get complicated as she falls for a man she believes is someone else entirely. Cole masters the art of the contemporary fairy-tale with this royal romance just in time for royal wedding fever.
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Alternating between Havana in 1958 and the present day, Next Year in Havana tells two love stories against the backdrop of the Cuban revolution and the nation’s continued fights for freedom and democracy. Elisa Perez is the daughter of a sugar baron caught up in the dangers of revolution when she falls for a follower of Fidel Castro; 60 years later, her Cuban-American granddaughter Marisol visits Cuba for the first time to spread Elisa’s ashes and find herself drawn into a romance filled with equal amounts of risk and intrigue. Cleeton draws upon her own family history to paint a moving picture of untangling one’s identity from a blend of nostalgia, romanticism, political reality, and the ceaseless yearning for a home that no longer exists.
The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren
At first glance, the aftermath of a school shooting may not seem like where you want to start a romance novel, but Roni Loren spins a beautiful (and smoking hot) love story from tragic beginnings with this compelling tale of guilt, remorse, and ultimately, salvation via love. Olivia Arias and Finn Dorsey were secret high school sweethearts, but after a massacre at their senior prom, they haven’t spoken in nearly 12 years. When a documentary brings them back into each other’s lives, the attraction immediately returns — but they must learn to put aside their grief and anger to find a way forward to lead the type of life they vowed to when the same chance was stolen from their classmates. Loren has crafted the most high-stakes second-chance romance imaginable — and it pays off in spades.
About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis
Shalvis adds to her ever-expanding and charming Heartbreaker Bay series with this latest entry, About that Kiss. This time, we follow private security expert Joe Malone and woodworker Kylie Masters as one explosive kiss takes them on a quest for a missing family heirloom. Shalvis’ rich cast of characters add just the right dose of color and sage advice, while she spins yet another sexy contemporary tale that showcases her indelible wit and eye for sweet, compulsively readable romance.
It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian
LGBT romance, especially historical LGBT romance, is an exceedingly underserved sub-genre in mainstream publishing but, luckily, Cat Sebastian is here to keep us warm on cold winter nights. Her latest release, It Takes Two to Tumble, borrows heavily from The Sound of Music to tell the irresistible tale of sea captain Phillip Dacre and vicar Ben Sedgwick. After the death of his shipboard lover, Phillip retreats to his country estate to his children he’s barely come to know. He quickly finds himself falling for the parish vicar, and the two navigate their attraction and finding understanding among their loved ones with humor, wit, and palpable longing. This part of LGBT history is often obscured, but Sebastian allows us a glimpse of what it may have looked like for those lucky enough to be surrounded by supportive and loving family and friends. Plus, it’s a Regency romp of the highest order.