This December marks the end of another year and hopefully, a turning point in the coronavirus pandemic. It’s also a time of endless “best of” lists for what we’ve read, watched, or observed over the past 12 months, including more than a few lists documenting what are considered the best books of the year.
Unfortunately, many of these “best of” roundups don’t include
a single romance novel, which is, quite frankly, a big mistake. In addition to the fact that the romance genre makes the most revenue out of any literary category, romance novels can also give more than a few warm fuzzies in a year that’s filled with so much pain, devastation, and despair. (Just look at the success of Bridgerton.)
If you’re looking for a book with an emotionally satisfying ending and a cute love story to round out the year and kick off 2021, these picks are perfect.
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Kimba and Ezra were close friends growing up, but right as their relationship began to turn romantic in early adolescence, Ezra’s family abruptly moved away with no warning, and the two lost touch. Years later, they’re brought together again by a mix of chance and family intervention, and they have to figure out if the spark is still there despite all that’s happened to them in the interim.
The son of C-list celebrity has-beens, Luc O'Donnell is used to being a mess in front of the paparazzi. But after his latest shenanigans upset his boss, she gives him an ultimatum: Clean up the act or clean out your desk. To avoid getting fired, Luc hatches a plan to seem more put-together by finding himself an impeccably behaved boyfriend — and decides to try his luck with the affable Oliver Blackwood, a man whom Luc had previously declared the most boring and pretentious person alive.
Laurie thought she had it all figured out: She moved up the ranks as a lawyer, settled into life with her partner of 18 years who was also her co-worker, and grew happy with her routine. All of that changes in an instant, however, when her boyfriend not only unexpectedly breaks up with her, but also has to eventually tell her that he has a brand-new girlfriend — who’s pregnant with his child. To get ahead of the rumor mill at work, Laurie enlists the help of office playboy Jamie to start a fake relationship and take the spotlight off of the situation with her ex. But where’s the line between real and pretend?
In the final installment of her romantic suspense Beards & Bondage series, Rebekah Weatherspoon tells the story of Brooklyn Lewis, who’s still reeling after finding out that not only was her fiancé brutally murdered, but he was killed alongside another woman whom he had an affair with. Soon after, Brooklyn learns that the woman in question was in a polyamorous relationship with two men, Vaughn and Shaw, and while she first seeks them out looking for answers, the connection between the trio turns into a whole lot more.
Clara Wheaton has long lived a privileged life as a socialite in New York. But after her childhood crush invites her to spend the summer with him in Los Angeles, she uproots her carefully crafted plans to be with him. There’s just one problem: As soon as he picks her up from the airport, he announces that he’s leaving the city immediately to travel with his band. He does do her one solid, though: He finds her a roommate to take his place, one who has an unconventional claim to fame on the internet.
After an anonymous person publicly deadnames him, puts up photos of him pre-transition, and sends him transphobic messages, Black queer trans teenager Felix Love starts the search for the truth. But while Felix’s personal growth is at the center of this story, there are plenty of messy high school love triangle vibes to go around. (All the more reason to read: Amazon is
adapting the novel into a TV show!)
Ever since she met her fiancé Freddie, Lydia Bird believed that they were perfect soulmates — that is, until he dies in a tragic car accident on her 28th birthday, leaving her reeling in the process. But after a doctor gives her pills to help her sleep, Lydia is able to transport herself to a dream world where Freddie is still alive and she’s no longer grieving his loss, only to wake up every day devastated again. The question is, which version of her life does she really want? Are her nightly “visits” from Freddie helping or hurting her in the long run? And was Freddie even the person she thought he was?
In the second book of Talia Hibbert’s whip-smart Brown Sisters trilogy, badass feminist scholar Dani Brown isn’t looking for a relationship and instead asks the universe for a fun hookup. Her prayers are soon answered in the form of Zafir Ansari, a bodyguard at the college where she works who dramatically rescues her during an accidental fire drill. But after a student posts a photo of the two of them during the incident and they go viral as #DrRugbae, the two decide to strike up a fake relationship to benefit them both. What could possibly go wrong?
After Liya Thakkar’s parents ambush her one night with yet another potential marriage suitor, the biomedical engineer runs into her date — literally — as she’s sprinting out the back door. Thinking the incident is behind her, Liya is stunned to learn days later that Jay Shah, the man she stood up, is now a new lawyer at her office trying to save the floundering company by any means necessary — including potentially laying off Liya and her co-workers.
It was one of the buzziest adult romances of the year, but it earned the title: Emily Henry’s
Beach Read centers on romance novelist January Andrews, who flees to her late father’s beach home to get over her writer’s block and the grief and anger of the secrets her dad’s death left behind. It’s just her luck, however, that her next-door neighbor is a former college classmate, Augustus Everett — a pretentious literary fiction writer who picked apart her work in school. They eventually strike up a deal: To get out of their respective creative ruts, the two will swap genres. Gus will write a book with a happily ever after, and January will pen a work of serious fiction.
Leah Johnson’s debut centers on high school senior Liz Lighty, a bisexual Black teen in small-town Indiana who’s spent years looking for a way out. After finding no better avenues to pay for her dream college, Liz decides to run for prom queen in the hopes of taking home the honor’s coveted scholarship prize money. She’s already battling catty girls at her school for the title, but then a mysterious new student comes along who’s also vying for the crown.
Soap opera star Jasmine Lin Rodriguez joins the cast of an upcoming telenovela in the hopes of rehabilitating her image following a public breakup that’s splashed across the tabloids. On set, she quickly meets her puzzling and aloof co-star, telenovela legend Ashton Suárez. But even as the two show wild chemistry on screen, Jasmine soon figures out that Ashton’s got more than a few secrets of his own.
After marrying King Sanyu and becoming queen, Shanti Mohapi has multiple problems: Not only is her new husband not interested in falling in love or doing anything more than his duty as a man on the throne, but no one will listen to her ideas for fixing their region’s ills. Will the two be able to work it out?
Alexandria Bellefleur’s queer rom-com follows the story of Darcy Lowell and Elle Jones, two women who are complete and total opposites. After they’re set up by Darcy’s brother (who happens to be Elle’s new business partner), the two share an awkward date before going their separate ways. Sick of her brother’s constant setups, however, Darcy tells him that their date was a success — and asks Elle to play along with the ruse. But can two opposites really attract?
After moving home and trying to start fresh, Layla Patel’s father sets her up with office space for her new business venture in the hopes of getting her back on her feet. One problem? Sam Mehta, the ruthless CEO of a corporate downsizing company, was already promised the administrative space. After an initial meeting gone wrong, the two can barely stand each other, but they’re stuck together for the time being.