There are plenty of serious books to read, some of them quite important on our journey to being caring humans, but with all the stress in the world right now, escapism is OK and sometimes even necessary. Romance books are here to give you a dose of pure enjoyment. We recommend reading at least one this summer as a form of self-care.
Some of the books are marketed for young adults, but you don’t have to be a *young* adult to enjoy them.
These have all been released within the last year, most in 2020. I’ve curated this list based on books I’ve read or sampled and books that have great Goodreads reviews.
Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
From Stonewall Book Award and Lambda Literary Award-winning author Kacen Callender comes a revelatory YA novel about a transgender teen grappling with identity and self-discovery while falling in love for the first time. More than one reviewer on Goodreads has called this book “absolutely stunning” and “one of the best YA contemporaries” they’ve ever read.
By the Book by Amanda Sellet
Love the classics? Love young adult books? This is the perfect YA rom-com for Jane Austen fans. I read the ARC and fell in love, and I got some Rory Gilmore vibes from the main character. This story is just as cute as its cover.
Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
A swim team captain and a class clown engage in a viral Twitter war, but they might just end up being so much more than rivals. Described as a “witty rom-com reinvention… with deeply relatable insights on family pressure and growing up” by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka, authors of Always Never Yours and If I’m Being Honest.
Of Curses and Kisses by Sandhya Menon
Will the princess save the beast? It’s a question we love to keep revisiting. This first novel in a series set at an elite international boarding school is a contemporary dual-POV spin on Beauty and the Beast. If you love retellings and soft, romantic vibes, add this YA book to your TBR.
The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth
This June 2020 release is sizzling with more than 4 stars from its already nearly 800 ratings. Girl meets girl, girl dates girl… as the cover says, it’s a totally foolproof plan — that is, until their summer of every cliché, rom-com montage-worthy date they can dream up is over. Fans are lauding it as the “lesbian rom-com we’ve all been waiting for.”
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
The first in a diverse romance series by bestselling author Farrah Rochon, this book is about three young women who all get duped by the same man. Through Tweeting about it, they all become friends. Reviewers are raving that this one is a fun, fast, and flaming-hot romance.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
You could take this book to the beach, but you might be so glued to it that you never make it out the door. One reviewer on Goodreads remarked, “I need new letters to create new words because ‘love’ is too small to encompass everything I am feeling about this book.”
The Marriage Game by Sarah Desai
In this sexy, romantic comedy set in San Francisco, a “high-stakes wager pits an aspiring entrepreneur against a ruthless CEO.” One early reviewer says, “[In] these depressing, high tension, ill-fated, virus mania days, this kind of LAUGH OUT LOUD novels are the best medicine for our souls!”
Rebel Soul: An Arranged Baby Romanic Comedy by L.K. Farlow
In this coming-of-age story, West comes from old money but learns there’s a condition to his trust fund: He must produce an heir before he turns 25. Thus commences the wooing of his longtime friend Stacia. This one has 4.5 stars from more than 750 Goodreads ratings and is described as “funny, playful, sexy,” and “swooooon city.”
The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
Two rival dating app creators find themselves at odds in the boardroom but in sync in the bedroom. It’s a contemporary romance with diverse, feminist, sex-positive main characters. One reviewer writes, “If you’re looking for a sexy and smart romance with a strong ass female lead, THIS IS THE BOOK FOR YOU. I loved it SO MUCH.”
Time After Time by Lisa Grunwald
Have you ever witnessed Manhattanhenge? If not, you’ll want to after this story. And if you loved Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife, then this historical romance is right up your alley. These pages will sweep you from the 1920s to World War II and beyond in the magical love story inspired by the legend of a woman who vanished from Grand Central Terminal. One reviewer writes, “I felt like I was strolling the terminal along with the main characters!”
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
People seem to either love or hate this book, but with an average of 4.46 out of 5 stars across more than 48,000 ratings on Goodreads, this romantic fantasy is worth picking up to decide for yourself. The author is known for YA/NA fantasy novels that pack a smutty punch, and as this is her first adult novel, you’re going to get some sizzling scenes among the demons, fallen angels, and fae-kind.
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
The only thing more abundant than guys named Chad on reality dating shows is size-zero women. Enter Bea Schumacher: a stylish plus-size fashion blogger with a broken heart. When she gets called to be the next bachelorette on her favorite show, she envisions subverting harmful beauty standards, inspiring women, and getting that free hot air balloon ride. She agrees but vows that she will not actually fall in love.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Bonus! Put this one on your wish list for next year. A highly anticipated 2021 release from the New York Times bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue, this new romantic comedy will put a queer spin on “Kate & Leopold.”
Also check out Greatist Reads, our bimonthly book club where we read and discuss books on Goodreads.
Naomi is the books editor and a copy editor at Greatist. She loves focusing on all things books, beauty, wellness, and mental health. She’s also a YA fantasy author and bookstagrammer. You can find her (and her cat) @avioletlife.