Love is still in the air, even though Valentine’s Day was two days ago (and Galentine’s was three days ago). Whether you celebrate the Hallmark holiday of romantic love (based on a story with Christian roots), or are through with relationships, there’s a romance for you. Some are steamy, others tame, and still others take the hate-to-love trope VERY seriously, but all of them have happy endings. If you’ve found your happy ending with someone else, or are happy all by yourself, thank you very much, here are seven books that will make you say “what if…”
Steam level ratings:
1-No love scenes; 2-Closed door love scenes; 3. Semi open door but not overtly specific love scenes; 4. Open door love scenes; 5. Steamy, specific open door love scenes.
If You Believe In Long Lost Love…
Out of the Storm by B.J. Daniels
Kate Jackson never believed her husband died in the Texas refinery explosion 20-some years ago. But she’s moved on with fiancé Collin, and takes a trip with him to Montana to see the snow for the first time. Their rental breaks down in the small town of Buckhorn, where she meets a man she swears is her long lost husband Danny. Except his “real” name is Justin and he’s got a secret of his own. Collin is thrown by this turn of events and the trip goes south. As Collin and Kate head into danger, can “Justin” save the woman he’s falling in love with, without getting himself killed in the process? First in.a series.
Steam level: One level three scene
If You Have A Steamy Secret Crush…
Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson
When Mama Strong dies, leaving behind her failing knitting shop, serial heartbreaker Jesse tries to convince the other Strong foster brothers to save the business. The cozy knitting shop has a strong sense of community, and Jesse doesn’t want to see that lost.
Part-time employee Kerry has grown up with the boys and has always harbored a secret crush on Jesse. As they spend time together, their chemistry is undeniable. But can it last?
Steam level: Definitely a four.
If You’re a Single Mom With Faith and Dreams…
The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate
Single mom Tandi Jo Reese finds herself going through the belongings of a late, long-time resident of Hatteras Island while trying to raise a rebellious daughter and a withdrawn son. As she begins to clean out the house, she learns more about the life and love story of the woman who lived there. Tandi Jo is currently in a relationship with a wealthy but demanding man, but begins to put roots down on the island and starts a growing friendship with her son’s science teacher as she regains her independence. The house is threatened with a forced sale and her neglected children’s lives begin to go off the rails, she must save her son and daughter, save the house she’s grown to love, and decide whether or not to open her heart.
Steam level: One, this is a Christian fiction story (not strictly romance, but has romantic themes)
For Fans Of Jane Austen And The Bachelor…
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld
A modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in modern day Cincinnati. Liz and her older sister Jane return to their family home after her father has a health scare. Studious Mary and their younger sisters Kitty and Lydia (who are way into CrossFit) also live there.
Enter new doctor-in-town Chip Bingley, fresh off a stint on the reality dating show Eligible and his reserved and cranky friend Fitzwilliam Darcy. Chip and Jane hit it off immediately, Liz and Darcy, not so much. But in this combination story of true love and hate-to-love, first impressions can be deceiving.
Steam level: Definitely a four, leaning toward five. Not your mother’s Pride and Prejudice.
If You Believe True Love Can Conquer All…
The Return by Nicholas Sparks
It doesn’t get more traditionally mushy, and dramatically romantic than Nicholas Sparks. Trevor Benson is a veteran and surgeon with PTSD moving back to New Bern, North Carolina. He was injured and can’t perform surgery anymore and struggles with demons from his time in Afghanistan. When his grandfather dies and leaves Trevor his home, he must decide what to do with the place.
Then he falls in love at first sight with town sheriff Natalie Masterson. But she has a secret that’s keeping them apart. Can their love overcome it? I think we all know the answer.
Steam level: One, maybe two if I remember right, but could just be one.
If You’re Staunchly Single, But Love A Meet Cute…
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
The first in a series of interconnected romances, The Wedding Date begins when happily single Alexa Monroe meets Drew Nichols when the two are stuck in an elevator. Drew asks Alexa to be his date to his ex’s wedding and she accepts. They have more fun than they can imagine, but have to return to their high-powered careers, Alexa as the mayor’s chief of staff in Berkeley, and Drew as a doctor in Los Angeles. Can this long-distance romance work, or are they headed for a disaster? What happens when what you think you need doesn’t always match up with what you truly want?
Steam level: Definitely four, leaning strongly toward five.
If You Love A Good Wedding Story…
Vision In White by Nora Roberts (First in Bride Quartet series)
Nora Roberts is one of the queens of romance fiction and can’t be forgotten in this list. The first installment of the series focuses on Mackenzie “Mac” Elliot, who is an experienced photographer who owns a successful wedding planning business with three close friends. She has a rocky relationship with her parents and is skeptical about romance. Then she runs into Carter, an old high school classmate, and a relationship is sparked. Their journey is endearing, with some steamy love scenes and a satisfying ending.
Steam factor: Four or five depending on the scene.
As the Valentine’s candy in stores is replaced with Easter candy, its easy to feel some whiplash after weeks of buildup to a romantic day-of-all-days. But romance remains strong long after the boxes of chocolate are empty and the conversation hearts go stale(r). I’m a big believer in the escape that romantic fiction can provide. My first love will always be the cozy mystery, but a close second is a good, mushy or sassy, and smart romance novel.
Do you have a favorite romance? Or do you hate all romantic fiction? Somewhere in between? Share your thoughts in the comments below.