A new year means a lot of things — like the promise of new goals we set for ourselves, whether personally or professionally, not to mention as readers. (Mine is to get through my neverending pile of a TBR, which I may or may not succeed in, because in case you haven’t noticed, books are coming out all the time!) It also means a month of new romances. While the below list barely scratches the surface of some of January’s best titles, from second chances to fresh starts, small towns to big cities, each of these picks has something for someone.
(A small note: In solidarity with the HarperCollins union, which has been on strike since November of last year, I will be refraining from including reviews for certaintitlesdebuting this month as part of the overall January list. That said, I would encourage you heartedly to check them out, regardless, since no consumer boycott of books or authors is being requested at this time! If you want more information on how you can support the union, you can follow them on Twitter as they continue the fight for a fair contract.)
Exes and O’s by Amy Lea
Release Date: January 10 from Berkley
Why You’ll Love It: Lea’s second in her Influencer series is a romance novel for those of us who love romance novels — not only reading and becoming lost in these stories, but dissecting all of our favorite aspects of them too. Tara Chen, the lead of Exes and O’s, has dedicated her online presence to her favorite genre and all that she adores from it, but when it comes to her IRL love life, the stars have never perfectly aligned to score her the HEA she deserves. Clearly, the answer is to go back and comb through her past relationships to try and make a second-chance romance happen, right? As Tara reunites with each and every one of her exes — and gets firmly reminded of why things didn’t work out in the first place — she may not realize that she has the perfect potential guy sitting around in her hot new roommate, firefighter Trevor Metcalfe. A steamier, sexier version of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, including the hot tub scene that set the internet ablaze.
Publisher’s Description: Romance-novel connoisseur Tara Chen has had her heart broken ten times by ten different men—all of whom dumped her because of her “stage-five clinger” tendencies. Nevertheless, Tara is determined to find The One. The only problem? Classic meet-cutes are dead thanks to modern dating apps. So Tara decides to revisit her exes in hopes of securing her very own trope-worthy second-chance romance.
Boston firefighter Trevor Metcalfe will be the first to rush into a burning building but the last to rush into a relationship. Love just isn’t his thing. When his new roommate Tara enlists him to help her reconnect with her exes, he reluctantly agrees. But Tara’s journey is leading him to discover his own new chapter.
The more time they spend together, the more Tara realizes Trevor seems to be the only one who appreciates her authentic, dramatic self. To claim their happily-ever-after, can Tara and Trevor read between the lines of their growing connection?
Midnight Duet by Jen Comfort
Release Date: January 10 from Montlake
Why You’ll Love It: Phantom of the Opera retellings aren’t as common these days as they should be, but that just means that Comfort’s latest is the kind that sings even more for how it puts a fresh twist on the classic doomed story we’re all familiar with. Erika Greene was once an unabashed diva with a career to match until a stage accident left her scarred and in need of retreat. Looking after the opera house she’s had the misfortune of inheriting — in Paris, Nevada, no less — is one thing, but renting it out to the German metal band Nachtmusik led by Christof Daae leads to a high-drama, high-stakes plot the likes of which can only be experienced firsthand to be truly appreciated. Come for a book that is piercingly self-aware, stay for a romance that calls to you and lingers deep inside your mind as long as you’re willing to pick up what it’s putting down.
Publisher’s Description: Self-professed diva Erika Greene has it all: a starring role on Broadway, legions of fans, spectacular natural talent. But after an accident on stage leaves her face scarred and her career in shambles, Erika retreats to Paris, Nevada, where she’s inherited a ramshackle opera house in desperate need of some TLC.
Erika pours her savings into the building, but it’s not enough to stave off casino developer Raoul Decomte’s avaricious gaze. With foreclosure imminent, she leases the space to some unexpected tenants: a German hair metal band, fronted by glam rock god Christof Daae.
Erika is tempted by Christof’s low-slung leather pants—and even more so by his ambitious drive to make Nacht Musik international superstars—but he’s off-limits. The rest of his band thinks he’s still dating their beloved keyboardist, who is conveniently not present on this jaunt to the American Southwest. When Erika finds out Christof’s been unceremoniously dumped and is trying to keep it under wraps, she makes a deal to keep his secret…for a price, of course.
Christof is desperate to hold the rest of the band together after his keyboardist’s departure, but he can’t maintain the charade forever. Nor can he resist the opera house’s mysterious proprietor, who tempts him with midnight singing lessons. It isn’t long before sensuous nighttime interludes turn into smoldering backstage encounters.
But can their newly ignited passion survive the searing light of day? Or will their beautiful duet turn into a brokenhearted power ballad for one?
A Love by Design by Elizabeth Everett
Release Date: January 17 from Berkley
Why You’ll Love It: I’ve always loved Everett’s Secret Scientists of London series — historical romances that revolve around the early women of STEM and the men who are either bowled over by their smarts or self-preserving enough to get out of their goddamn way and let them do their thing. However, I might have been inordinately excited about A Love by Design, which revolves around childhood friends-to-almost-lovers-to-enemies George and Margaret and how they inevitably wind their way back to each other. Maggie, an architect with dreams of starting her own engineering firm, is tasked with a particularly unwieldy project, but what proves to be even more destabilizing than distrusting investors is how easy it is for George to walk back into her orbit and remind her why it was so easy for her to fall for him in the first place. Meanwhile, George is perfectly happy to worship the ground Maggie walks on — if only she’d let him get close enough to try.
Publisher’s Description: Widowed and determined, Margaret Gault has returned to Athena’s Retreat and the welcoming arms of her fellow secret scientists with an ambitious plan in mind: to establish England’s first woman-owned engineering firm. But from the moment she sets foot in London her plans are threatened by greedy investors and—at literally every turn—the irritatingly attractive Earl Grantham, a man she can never forgive.
George Willis, the Earl Grantham, is thrilled that the woman he has loved since childhood has returned to London. Not as thrilling, however, is her decision to undertake an engineering commission from his political archnemesis. When Margaret’s future and Grantham’s parliamentary reforms come into conflict, Grantham must use every ounce of charm he possesses—along with his stunning good looks and flawless physique, of course—to win Margaret over to his cause.
Facing obstacles seemingly too large to dismantle, will Grantham and Margaret remain forever disconnected or can they find a way to bridge their differences, rekindle the passion of their youth, and construct a love built to last?
The Year of Cecily by Lisa Lin
Release Date: January 17 from Tule Publishing
Why You’ll Love It: One of my favorite tropes in any romance novel can be found in a character who is proactively making decisions to try and make this the year that belongs to them — in whatever way that looks like. As the title of Lisa Lin’s debut indicates, this time around it’s Cecily Chang’s time to tackle her life and how she wants to make improvements to it. Then again, even when a main character thinks they have everything figured out for their future, there just has to be the wrench of someone coming right back into their lives to throw them for an utter loop. For Cecily, said wrench comes in the form of Jeffrey Lee, who broke her heart way back when — but new year, new goals, and now Jeffrey has his mind set on wooing her all over again, provided she can tweak her list of resolutions to add him there too.
Publisher’s Description: San Francisco attorney Cecily Chang is ready to tackle the New Year head on, so she creates a list of resolutions guaranteed to reboot her life—right after her dutiful visit home to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for the Lunar New Year. Cecily prepares to face her critical, meddling mother, nosy relatives, and the chaos and drama family togetherness brings. At least the food will be delicious. This holiday, Cecily vows to remain calm—as long as she doesn’t see him.
Jeffrey Lee deeply regrets how he ended things with Cecily ten years ago, but he felt it was best for her at the time. When he runs into her again during the New Year, he sees it as a sign. Now a successful screenwriter, Jeffrey is determined to win back Cecily’s heart.
But Cecily doesn’t believe in signs or second chances and embraces her new resolutions. This time, Jeffrey won’t give up—and he’s convinced he can write them a new Hollywood happy ending.
Chick Magnet by Emma Barry
Release Date: January 24 from Montlake
Why You’ll Love It: The beauty of a small town setting is that it makes some collisions absolutely, deliciously unavoidable — like that between the leads of Emma Barry’s latest romance novel, Chick Magnet. Nicole Jones has made a career for herself on the internet by taking care of chickens, but the last thing she’s looking for is a new relationship after being dumped by another influencer. That said, she couldn’t have expected that her path would cross with that of ridiculously attractive local veterinarian Will Lund, who has no problem with making his opinions on her career choice known. As opposing personalities, the two of them clash from the get-go — but, as we all know, butting heads like that is something that slowly, inevitably gives way to the dilemma of whether or not to act on a different breed of tension altogether.
Publisher’s Description: Nicole Jones needs a fresh start. “Chick Nic” to millions of internet fans, the social media star and her flock of chickens bask in the spotlight—until she’s publicly dumped by a YouTuber for clout. She has no choice but to round up her birds and move on.
But when one of her hens has an emergency, Nic gets her first taste of her new stomping grounds—and it isn’t good. Veterinarian Will Lund is wildly attractive, yes, but he’s also surly. In fact, he comes right out and calls her a menace for parading her chickens on social media.
As neighbors, Nic and Will can’t exactly avoid each other. Then again, maybe they don’t want to. The two can’t deny their smoldering attraction, and it isn’t long before late-night confessions lead to backyard shenanigans.
Is this the start of a neighborly relationship—or could something more be hatching?
Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn
Release Date: January 24 from Kensington
Why You’ll Love It: Confession time: I’ve never read a Kate Clayborn book that hasn’t made me cry. That’s not to say that anything she writes is a detractor, far from it — her romances are so keenly attuned to not just the reader’s emotions but also the emotional evolution of her characters that you can’t help but go on the journey alongside them, through every single up and down. Georgie Mulcahy has recently left her job in L.A. and returned to her hometown, and now she’s feeling somewhat adrift about what to do with her life. A diary from her past resurfaces as an unexpected path forward, as does the unplanned company of a new roommate — Levi Fanning, the town’s resident black sheep who finds himself slowly won over by Georgie’s, well, everything. Why shouldn’t he help her go through every wish from that diary she’s been meaning to check off? A gorgeous, satisfying, heartrending, and ultimately restorative read — and I mean that in the best possible sense.
Publisher’s Description: Longtime personal assistant Georgie Mulcahy has made a career out of putting others before herself. When an unexpected upheaval sends her away from her hectic job in L.A. and back to her hometown, Georgie must confront an uncomfortable truth: her own wants and needs have always been a disconcertingly blank page.
But then Georgie comes across a forgotten artifact—a “friendfic” diary she wrote as a teenager, filled with possibilities she once imagined. To an overwhelmed Georgie, the diary’s simple, small-scale ideas are a lifeline—a guidebook for getting started on a new path.
Georgie’s plans hit a snag when she comes face to face with an unexpected roommate—Levi Fanning, onetime town troublemaker and current town hermit. But this quiet, grouchy man is more than just his reputation, and he offers to help Georgie with her quest. As the two make their way through her wishlist, Georgie begins to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the pages of her diary after all, but right by her side—if only they can both find a way to let go of the pasts that hold them back.
Honest and deeply emotional, Georgie, All Along is a smart, tender must-read for everyone who’s ever wondered about the life that got away . . .
Sorry, Bro by Taleen Voskuni
Release Date: January 31 from Berkley
Why You’ll Love It: I’m always thankful when I can stumble across a romance that introduces me to a new corner of the genre that I never would’ve encountered before. Such is the case with Taleen Voskuni’s debut, which isn’t just a love story but also a wonderfully rich exploration of culture and the search for true identity on every page. Our lead, Nareh, experiences the utterly terrifying scenario of a public proposal from the very last person she wants it from. While she’s rethinking her relationship, she decides she might as well satisfy her mother’s not-too-subtle nudging about getting back in touch with her roots by attending the local Explore Armenia event going on all month long. None of her mom’s Facebook-stalked prospects snag her attention, though — that honor goes to Erebuni, who activates that inner part of Nareh that’s very, very bi. The only problem? She’s not out yet, to anyone, but maybe being with Erebuni will give Nar the push she needs to accept every single part of herself, so she can be with the one person who makes her feel most like herself.
Publisher’s Description: When Nar’s non-Armenian boyfriend gets down on one knee and proposes to her in front of a room full of drunk San Francisco tech boys, she realizes it’s time to find someone who shares her idea of romance.
Enter her mother: armed with plenty of mom-guilt and a spreadsheet of Facebook-stalked Armenian men, she convinces Nar to attend Explore Armenia, a month-long series of events in the city. But it’s not the mom-approved playboy doctor or wealthy engineer who catches her eye—it’s Erebuni, a woman as equally immersed in the witchy arts as she is in preserving Armenian identity. Suddenly, with Erebuni as her wingwoman, the events feel like far less of a chore, and much more of an adventure. Who knew cooking up kuftes together could be so . . . sexy?
Erebuni helps Nar see the beauty of their shared culture and makes her feel understood in a way she never has before. But there’s one teeny problem: Nar’s not exactly out as bisexual. The clock is ticking on Nar’s double life, though—the closing event banquet is coming up, and her entire extended family will be there, along with Erebuni. Her worlds will inevitably collide, but Nar is determined to be brave, determined to claim her happiness: proudly Armenian, proudly bisexual, and proudly herself for the first time in her life.
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.