As far as modern romance novels are concerned, readers are no longer limited to tear-jerkers, bodice-rippers, and love stories between white, cishet characters. We want to see the increasing diversity of this genre, and we rejoice in the stories that make it more multicultural.
It’s important to note that the publishing industry already has a lot of work to do. According to the Los Angeles-based bookstore The Torn Bodice’s annual independent report, less than nine books were written by people of color for every 100 books published in 2019 by leading romance publishers.
Now we celebrate books that encourage more readers to see themselves (and their own romantic experiences and mishaps) on their pages and think that any lover of light will enjoy their stories. Featuring both long-standing bestsellers and new readings, these 10 romance novels, indicative of a broader spectrum of sexuality and ethnic backgrounds, are surely worth adding to your personal collection.
‘Bridgerton: The Duke & I’ by Julia Quinn
Yes, the hottest Netflix show of the moment is the adaptation of a romantic novel. Set in Regency-era, high society England, Daphne Bridgerton finds her reputation at stake. Simultaneously, the promiscuous Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, is bombarded by more marriage offers than he can stand.
To play the court in its own gossipy game, the two join forces and fake their love affair to raise Daphne in the public domain and knock the duke off the market for good. But with the undeniable chemistry between their feisty jabs, may this fake romance turn out to be real?
‘An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
An American Marriage was called the best novel in 2018 by the likes of Amazon, New York Times, and NPR (it was also Oprah’s Book Club pick!), so it’s no wonder that our former parenting writer, Latifah Miles, has also named it one of her favorite romance novels.
She’s telling, “The American Marriage is full of twists and turns, and has made me reconsider the definition of true love, and how much you’re able to go for the guy you’ve given your life to. Where is the line between passion and personal satisfaction, and how are we going to pick up the pieces when something falls apart?”
‘The Overdue Life of Amy Byler’ by Amy Byler
Amazon Charts and Washington Post’s bestseller surround the story of Amy Byler, who’s off to New York City for the summer to take a much-needed break from her overworked life. After letting go and taking in all the city she has to offer, she encounters one single guy who leaves her wondering whether she can stay or go back to what she left behind in Pennsylvania.
’99 Percent Mine: A Novel by Sally Thorne
Darcy and Tom have been friends, buddies since they were children. Tom and Darcy’s twin brother are best buds, so their relationship has always been platonic. When Darcy inherits the fixing-upper cottage, and Tom is charged with returning the home to its former glory, the rules immediately cease to exist.
‘Meet Cute Club’ by Jack Harbon
Jordan Collins is a complete bookworm and the founder of an exciting romance-book club. He’s desperate to save his passion project, too. Rex Bailey, a smart-mouthed bookshop employee, agrees to attend the Meet Cute Club and help Jordan revitalize the local lit culture he enjoys so much. While he’s hesitant at first, Jordan finally decides to let him into the club, and in doing so, he gets to know Rex at a deeper level—even if he’s the last guy on Earth he’d expect to fall for.
‘The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
This romantic reading is as erotic as it is good. Khai and Esme exist on opposite ends of the planet and obviously in two separate realities. Esme in a world of star-eyed romance, and Khai in a matter-of-fact, socially disconnected view. They are partnered together in an orchestrated courtship and must work through their gaps to find common ground.
‘If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
If I Was Your Girl is a heart-opening and tender YA romance novel that follows Amanda Hardy, the new girl in a small-town Tennessee high school. Anxious and shy, she’s trying too hard to make new friends and blend in, as well as open up to her new crush, Grant. Her transgender status remains a mystery, and she risks losing the relationships she’s made by making the people around her really know her. This wonderfully written and truthful story celebrates teenage life, of all its complexities and excitement.
‘Take a Hint, Dani Brown: A Novel’ by Talia Hibbert
Don’t you ever feel like you’re way too busy for love? Danika Brown was wearing that excuse. She loves her individuality but is much too busy scaling the career ladder and obtaining her Ph.D. to think about pursuing her soulmate. When the adorable security guard Zafir Ansari saves Dani’s life during the office’s evacuation, the rescue is caught on tape, and the whole internet immediately thinks it’s a trend. Both Zaf and Dani are more than OK playing their “relationship” for some good attention, but Zaf is interested in making their viral romance genuine.
‘Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors: A Novel’ by Sonali Dev
This re-imagination of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is set in San Francisco’s #MeToo-era. Reversing the gender stereotypes of the classic romance novel, Dr. Trisha Raje and chef DJ Caine initially came up against their opposite worldviews, and both of them were fiercely committed to their families. Eventually, the two work together to rescue DJ’s sister.
‘Opposite of Always’ by Justin A. Reynolds
Be warned: when you start reading this otherworldly romantic novel, you’ll want the tissues to be handy. Jack and Kate get together at a picnic, and it was as it was always supposed to be. Neither of them had ever felt such a joyful, goofy, instant bond with another human.
When Kate unexpectedly loses the fight of her terminal condition and dies, Jack develops the opportunity to go back and forth in time and try to relive her love story and to change everything he can to make her survive.