19 Diverse Romance Novels To Read This Valentine's Day
We'd like to think that everyone can find a love story to latch onto, one that shows people who look and love like them getting their happily ever afters. But according to L.A.'s Ripped Bodice Bookstore, which publishes a report on The State of Racial Diversity in Romance Publishing each year, only 7.7% of romance novels published in 2018 were written by authors of color. Romance novels written by authors who aren't white, straight, cisgender, and ablebodied exist, but they don't occupy nearly as much space on bookstore shelves.
The following 19 novels show the wide variety of representation that romance publishing can offer. Featuring protagonists from ethnic and religious minorities, those who have disabilities, and LGBTQ+ protagonists, these books offer a refreshing look at love from all sorts of different perspectives. If you're looking for representation and validation this Valentine's Day, this is exactly where you need to be.
Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
A novella in Alyssa Cole's Reluctant Royals series, Once Ghosted, Twice Shy picks up with Likotsi and Fabiola — a prince's personal assistant and a jewelry-making social media darling. Fabiola ghosted Likotsi months ago, but, as luck would have it, they've just run into one another in the biggest city in the U.S. An invitation to tea turns into a charming stroll across NYC, as Likotsi learns why she was dumped and must decide whether to give her relationship with Fabiola another chance.
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
Ben's going through a lot right now. They just came out as nonbinary, their parents threw them out of the house for being who they are, and now they're living with near-strangers — Hannah and Thomas, Ben's older sister and her husband — and starting over at a new school, midway through their senior year. Ben decides not to come out to their new classmates, but as their newfound friendship with Nathan blossoms into something more, Ben realizes that they might not be able to stay in the closet for long after all.
Brave Enough by Kati Gardner
The daughter of the Atlanta Ballet Conservatory's artistic director, Cason has never had a choice but to dance. When she receives a cancer diagnosis that may end her career as a ballerina, however, she's plunged into a new, uncertain, and deadly world. At the hospital, she meets Davis, a cancer survivor and volunteer who has lived with substance addiction — and whose recovery may be stymied by the return of his ex-girlfriend. As each struggles to deal with the hand they've been dealt, Cason and Davis soon find that they're all the other has to count on.
Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett
Theater kid Simone has just enrolled in a new school, where she's directing the next production of Rent and seriously crushing on Miles. When Simone and Miles make things official, though, she begins to receive eerie notes in her locker — notes that threaten to reveal her HIV-positive status to the school if she doesn't break up with her boyfriend. Simone knows firsthand what can happen when someone finds out you're living with HIV, and she doesn't want that to happen again, but she also can't stand the thought of losing Miles. She's got plenty of people in her corner, ready to support her next move... she just doesn't know what her next move is.
Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory
From the author of The Wedding Date comes this cheery romance about people from both sides of the pond. Maddie's landed a gig working as a stylist for a member of the royal family, and she brings her mom, Vivian, along for a UK holiday. Vivian isn't looking for love in England, but it finds her anyway, in the form of Malcolm — the personal secretary to the Queen. Vivian's only in the country until New Year's Day, so they both know this is only a short-term love affair. But what happens when they start to want something more?
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
A close brush with death has left Chloe Brown ready to squeeze as much enjoyment out of life as her chronic illness will allow. She's got a list, which means she's got a plan, and she's methodically checking off every item. When it comes to the more rebellious parts of her plan, like riding motorcycles and having meaningless sex, good-girl Chloe is at a loss. Thankfully, she's got her bad-boy neighbor, Red, who knows all about these things and might be willing to help her out.
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
Frustrated with her autistic son's lack of romantic prospects, Cô Nga goes in search of a Vietnamese daughter-in-law in this novel from The Kiss Quotient author Helen Hoang. A mixed-race, single mom struggling to get by in Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has never met her American father. So when Cô Nga offers to pay for her trip to California, if she'll just agree to seduce the other woman's son, Khai, Esme leaps at the chance. In America, however, she finds herself in a real pickle. What do you do when you fall in love with someone who doesn't believe he's capable of loving you back?
Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
In this take on Pride and Prejudice, thoroughly modern Ayesha struggles to fit in with her traditional family. They want her to get married, or at least court men, like her cousin, Hafsa, who has had dozens of proposals. All Ayesha wants to do is write poetry and be her own woman. She doesn't think she could ever like, much less fall for, a man like Khalid, whose conservative appearance and demeanor please her family to no end. But when Hafsa accepts Khalid's marriage proposal, Ayesha begins to realize that she may have underestimated her affections for him.
The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
It's been two years since Sloan's fiancé died in a tragic accident, just before their wedding. Rescuing a dog who needs her makes Sloan feel like she's not just drifting through life, but soon another unfortunate surprise sends her reeling. Tucker has an owner, a musician named Jason, and he's demanding that she return the dog to him. Jason's out of the country on tour, but he's insistent. Sloan digs in her heels, unwilling to give up her new best friend. As their conversations get a lot more friendly, however, Sloan must ask herself whether she's really ready to move on.
Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Alice is so over romance, it's not even funny. After coming out to her girlfriend as asexual, Alice found herself single and decidedly not ready to mingle. She's planned a summer full of romance-free fun, complete with a new job working at the library. No possibility of finding love there, right? Wrong. She can't stop thinking about her new co-worker, Takumi, who makes her feel all giddy inside. After what happened with her ex, however, Alice is loath to embark on a new romantic venture, afraid that no one will want to be with an ace person. What she and Takumi have as friends is nearly perfect. Is she really willing to ruin that for love?
Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim
Seven years ago, Natalie Tan and her mother parted ways for good after Ma-ma refused to support her daughter's decision to become a chef. Now, in the wake of Ma-ma's death, Natalie returns home to San Francisco's Chinatown, only to find that she's inherited her grandmother's restaurant. A fortuneteller reveals that Natalie can save the restaurant and the less-than-thriving community in which it is nestled, and she might just get a shot at love along the way.
Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
When the people of Strasbourg are forced to dance by seemingly supernatural means, suspicion falls on Lavinia, a Romani girl, and her boyfriend, a trans boy named Alifair. Five-hundred years later, Lavinia's descendant, Emil, must help his childhood friend Rosella, who finds herself forced to dance by a pair of red shoes she made and cannot remove. Anna-Marie McLemore weaves together historical tale of the "dancing plague" of 1518 and Hans Christian Andersen's "The Red Shoes" in their latest YA romance.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
The romance novel that won readers' hearts last year, Red, White & Royal Blue centers on Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the U.S. President, and Prince Henry, the man in line for the UK throne. Alex and Henry are at constant odds, but when a tabloid story about their incivility toward one another at a royal wedding goes viral, their families are forced to get involved. Making Alex and Henry look like old friends is a challenge, at first, but when they quickly become more than friends, their relationship once again threatens Alex's mom's re-election campaign and the carefully crafted image of the British royal family.
Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon
Jaya Rao's little sister has been wronged in a big way by their family's sworn enemies, the Emersons, and Jaya intends to get even. Grey Emerson attends a boarding school in the U.S., and Jaya has the perfect revenge plan. She'll seduce Grey and break his heart, and then they'll be even. Everything's going according to plan, until Jaya starts to fall for the inheritor of the Emerson family's curse, the boy with the animal look in his eyes.
Sick Kids in Love by Hannah Moskowitz
Isabel doesn't date. It's too hard to find someone who doesn't resent the limitations her rheumatoid arthritis places on her, and it's just better for everyone if she doesn't get involved. Then she meets Sasha, a boy who has Gaucher disease. He knows why Isabel breaks plans with friends and can't do things that other people take for granted. She's got a hard and fast rule against dating, but is she willing to lighten up to make room for romance with Sasha?
The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
Rhiannon's dating app is the latest and greatest on the market, but she's less than lucky when it comes to love. She doesn't believe in second chances, so when she's ghosted by Samson, an ex-football pro and total babe, she writes him off for good. Rhiannon's on the verge of acquiring another dating service to expand her romantic empire, but guess who just became the spokesman for the other company. Her romantic partnership with Samson fizzled out before it really had a chance to burn, so why would a business venture with him be any different?
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
After falling victim to a hate crime and transferring schools, Amanda's new life seems to be going well. She's making friends, and even has a budding romantic prospect in Grant — a kind boy who really seems to like her. As the two teens grow close to one another, Amanda feels tugged in all directions. She's been sitting on a big secret, something she doesn't want to disclose, but desperately wants to share with Grant. You see, Grant doesn't know that Amanda wasn't always called Amanda, and even though he's very nice, she's terrified of what his response might be.
The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
Weddings are Lina's job, so why did hers go so catastrophically wrong? Abandoned at the altar in the past, she's struggled to get over the embarrassment of her big day and help other brides find serious joy. When a new contract forces her to work with Max, her ex's kid brother and best man, who convinced his brother to leave her, Lina prepares herself for the worst. They'll be in each other's orbit for the next few weeks, so they might as well make the best of it. Lina just has one question: Why must Max be so aggravating and attractive?
The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
The Countess of Moth, Catherine, needs someone to honor her late husband's legacy by translating a French text on astronomy. She doesn't expect another woman, Lucy, to show up at her door, ready to take on the project, but she's not mad about it. Living with one another for the short term at Catherine's house in London, Lucy and the Countess begin falling for one another in an unexpected kind of way in this queer historical romance from At His Countess' Pleasure author Olivia Waite.
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