Is there anything more satisfying than a happily-ever-after? On a pure numbers level, maybe it shouldn’t come as any surprise that out of all of fiction, romance has been and continues to be one of the most enduring subgenres. Not only is it consistently bringing in the most dollars in terms of overall sales (and has remained thriving especially in recent years), but its readers are always devoted and just as eager to devour new love stories — and definitely always on the hunt for the next excellent book to fall head-over-heels for.
From romance novels that take us to a bygone era to the ones that remind us of some of the best parts of our present, this month’s selection of books are some of the best additions to the genre — and even though the authors below might take us on an emotional rollercoaster, we know we’ll have the reassurance of a happy ending waiting for us at the very end of things.
Release Date: February 1 from Avon (HarperCollins)
Why You’ll Love It: Bellefleur brings her immersive capabilities as an author to the latest in her Written in the Stars series, and doesn’t skimp on the humor or the steam in this queer romantic comedy that follows two women who were once the closest of friends and literally bump into each other at a very different stage in both of their lives. If you’re looking for a romance novel that blends modern-day sensibilities with the kind of epic pining that defines all sense of time, then let yourself settle in for the searing chemistry between Margot and Olivia and enjoy the fireworks show that results.
Publisher’s Description: Margot Cooper doesn’t do relationships. She tried and it blew up in her face, so she’ll stick with casual hookups, thank you very much. But now her entire crew has found “the one” and she’s beginning to feel like a fifth wheel. And then fate (the heartless bitch) intervenes. While touring a wedding venue with her engaged friends, Margot comes face-to-face with Olivia Grant—her childhood friend, her first love, her first… well, everything. It’s been ten years, but the moment they lock eyes, Margot’s cold, dead heart thumps in her chest.
Olivia must be hallucinating. In the decade since she last saw Margot, her life hasn’t gone exactly as planned. At almost thirty, she’s been married… and divorced. However, a wedding planner job in Seattle means a fresh start and a chance to follow her dreams. Never in a million years did she expect her important new client’s Best Woman would be the one that got away.
When a series of unfortunate events leaves Olivia without a place to stay, Margot offers up her spare room because she’s a Very Good Person. Obviously. It has nothing to do with the fact that Olivia is as beautiful as ever and the sparks between them still make Margot tingle. As they spend time in close quarters, Margot starts to question her no-strings stance. Olivia is everything she’s ever wanted, but Margot let her in once and it ended in disaster. Will history repeat itself or should she count her lucky stars that she gets a second chance with her first love?
Release Date: February 1 from Harper Voyager
Why You’ll Love It: Those of us who grew up with the Han/Leia ship very, very close to our hearts will find much of that dynamic honored and echoed in this enemies-to-lovers sci-fi romance. Anything where the two leads are primed to butt heads from their very first interaction on-page is absolute catnip material, and this book also includes plenty of emphasis on found family and fun adventure. The best part? It’s only the first in a new series from Mihalik, so there’s going to be plenty more where this came from.
Publisher’s Description: Octavia Zarola would do anything to keep her tiny, close-knit bounty hunting crew together—even if it means accepting a job from Torran Fletcher, a ruthless former general and her sworn enemy. When Torran offers her enough credits to not only keep her crew afloat but also hire someone to fix her ship, Tavi knows that she can’t refuse—no matter how much she’d like to.
With so much money on the line, Torran and his crew insist on joining the hunt. Tavi reluctantly agrees because while the handsome, stoic leader pushes all of her buttons—for both anger and desire—she’s endured worse, and the massive bonus payment he’s promised for a completed job is reason enough to shut up and deal.
But when they uncover a deeper plot that threatens the delicate peace between humans and Valoffs, Tavi suspects that Torran has been using her as the impetus for a new war. With the fate of her crew balanced on a knife’s edge, Tavi must decide where her loyalties lie—with the quiet Valoff who’s been lying to her, or with the human leaders who left her squad to die on the battlefield. And this time, she’s put her heart on the line.
Release Date: February 22 from Berkley
Why You’ll Love It: Small-town romances are a dime a dozen in the genre, but what sets Blake’s novel apart are the means by which it uses the atmosphere of Bright Falls to challenge its heroine into discovering the truest version of herself; as my Paste colleague Delia Harrington also outlines in her review, it’s a book about two characters who are just completely into each other from the jump, and sometimes it’s just really nice to read about people who find one another entirely irresistible. Plus: it wields the only-one-bed trope in a way you never could’ve predicted.
Publisher’s Description: Delilah Green swore she would never go back to Bright Falls—nothing is there for her but memories of a lonely childhood where she was little more than a burden to her cold and distant stepfamily. Her life is in New York, with her photography career finally gaining steam and her bed never empty. Sure, it’s a different woman every night, but that’s just fine with her.
When Delilah’s estranged stepsister, Astrid, pressures her into photographing her wedding with a guilt trip and a five-figure check, Delilah finds herself back in the godforsaken town that she used to call home. She plans to breeze in and out, but then she sees Claire Sutherland, one of Astrid’s stuck-up besties, and decides that maybe there’s some fun (and a little retribution) to be had in Bright Falls, after all.
Having raised her eleven-year-old daughter mostly on her own while dealing with her unreliable ex and running a bookstore, Claire Sutherland depends upon a life without surprises. And Delilah Green is an unwelcome surprise…at first. Though they’ve known each other for years, they don’t really know each other—so Claire is unsettled when Delilah figures out exactly what buttons to push. When they’re forced together during a gauntlet of wedding preparations—including a plot to save Astrid from her horrible fiancé—Claire isn’t sure she has the strength to resist Delilah’s charms. Even worse, she’s starting to think she doesn’t want to…
Release Date: February 22 from Avon
Why You’ll Love It: In the realm of historical romance, Eva Leigh is responsible for some of my personal favorite books ever; she knows how to write very spicy stories with lots of hot chemistry that never burns out, but also a depth and richness to characters that leads to incredibly fulfilling relationships unfurling across the plot. On a purely superficial level, I am always here for the trope in which a rake (the equivalent of the historical bad boy) offers to show a lady the most disreputable parts of London in exchange for helping him clean up his own behavior — and then, of course, feelings happen.
Publisher’s Description: When Kieran Ransome’s latest antics result in a massive scandal, his father issues an ultimatum: find a respectable wife or inherit nothing. But as one of London’s most inveterate scoundrels, Kieran doesn’t know any ladies who fit the bill. Or does he?
Celeste Kilburn is a society darling, beloved by influential members of the ton. But keeping a spotless reputation leaves little room for adventure and she longs to escape her gilded cage, especially with her impending engagement to a stuffy earl. When Kieran—her older brother’s best friend and an irresistibly attractive rogue—begs for her help, Celeste makes a deal: she’ll introduce him to the right social circles if he’ll show her the scandalous side of London.
In between proper teas and garden parties, Kieran escorts Celeste—disguised as “Salome”—to rowdy gaming hells, wild fêtes, and sensual art salons. As they spend more time together, their initial attraction builds to a desperate desire that neither can ignore. But when someone discovers their midnight exploits, Celeste’s freedom and reputation are endangered, and Kieran must save the woman he loves… respectable or not.
Release Date: February 22 by Berkley
Why You’ll Love It: There’s something extra-delicious about a second chance romance and how a relationship initially ending between two people isn’t always the real ending they’re destined for. What elevates this read to another level is that Jackson also builds in the fake-dating element — and all of the more-than-complicated emotions that come into play when you basically have to pretend you’re still in a relationship with your ex. This is a rom-com that isn’t lacking in either the romance or the comedy, and the end result makes for a excellent, ultimately satisfying book.
Publisher’s Description: It’s been months since aspiring journalist Kian Andrews has heard from his ex-boyfriend, Hudson Rivers, but an urgent text has them meeting at a café. Maybe Hudson wants to profusely apologize for the breakup. Or confess his undying love. . . But no, Hudson has a favor to ask—he wants Kian to pretend to be his boyfriend while his parents are in town, and Kian reluctantly agrees.
The dinner doesn’t go exactly as planned, and suddenly Kian is Hudson’s plus one to Georgia’s wedding of the season. Hudson comes from a wealthy family where reputation is everything, and he really can’t afford another mistake. If Kian goes, he’ll help Hudson preserve appearances and get the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in media. This could be the big career break Kian needs.
But their fake relationship is starting to feel like it might be more than a means to an end, and it’s time for both men to fact-check their feelings.
Release Date: February 22 by Berkley
Why You’ll Love It: It’s always nice to see a historical romance that isn’t playing by Regency-era rules — and the latest book in St. George’s Gilded Age-set series is also here for those of us who have realized we’re addicted to the new HBO show starring Carrie Coon and Christine Baranski, too.
This is a romance that doesn’t hesitate to tackle some deeper themes — like issues and anxieties surrounding infertility and loss, as well as the very reassuring resolutions within the story — as well as challenging the institution of marriage head-on. St. George’s Gilded Age Heroines are worth reading and rereading time and time again, and The Lady Tempts an Heir is no exception.
Publisher’s Description: Tall, dark, and brooding—to say that American Maxwell Crenshaw stood out in the glittering ballrooms of London, is an understatement. He vowed never to set foot in England again, but when a summons from his father, along with an ultimatum to secure his legacy, has him crossing the Atlantic for the last time, reuniting him with the delectable Lady Helena March, he can’t deny the temptation she presents. Or the ideas she inspires…
Lady Helena March is flirting with scandal. Instead of spending her time at teas and balls in search of another husband, as is expected of a young widow, Helena pours her energy into The London Home for Young Women. But Society gives no quarter to unmarried radicals who associate with illegitimate children and fallen women, and Helena’s funding is almost run out. So when the sinfully seductive Crenshaw heir suggests a fake engagement to save them both—him from an unwanted marriage and her from scorn and financial ruin—Helena finds herself too fascinated to refuse the sexy American.
As their arrangement of convenience melts oh so deliciously into nights of passion, their deception starts to become real. But if Max knew the true reason Helena can never remarry, he wouldn’t look at her with such heat in his eyes. Or might the Crenshaw heir be willing to do whatever it takes to win the one woman he’s never been able to forget…
Carly Lane is an Atlanta-based writer who considers herself a lifelong Star Wars fan, newbie Trekker, diehard romance reader, nascent horror lover, and occasional live-tweeter. She is the senior TV editor at Collider, a former contributing editor for SYFY FANGRRLS, and has also written for Vulture, the Boston Globe, Nerdist, Teen Vogue, Den of Geek, The Toast, and elsewhere around the Internet.