Anyway, these were my favourite discoveries during my third year as a Romance reader:
Him: Shall I start with another Ice Hockey Romance? Because I didn’t lie: they’re really quite popular. The first book of this series is one of the few romance novels with LGBTQ+ protagonists that have won a RITA award. It tells the story of two old friends that reunite and have to face the fact that their relationship will never go back to what it once was. Which doesn’t mean that it can’t go any other way.
The Carstairs Affairs: Two excellent spies with very different styles are forced to pose as a couple and work together in 1920s London to uncover a terrorist plot. The Great War is over and they will fight those who want to reignite the tensions… and do whatever is in their power to fulfill their mission. Becoming a real couple was not the plan, but a good spy can improvise in any situation.
Spires universe series: A group of contemporary standalone novels by Alexis Hall that take part in the same universe. They are all very different from each other, but also have some points in common: opposites attract, couples that shouldn’t match but do, characters with emotional intelligence versus logical characters. I love all of them, but my favourite is Waiting for the Flood. The most popular one is For Real, which won a well-deserved RITA award.
Snow & Winter: Sebastian Snow is an antiquarian who finds himself involved in crimes related to a topic he knows a lot about: Edgar Allan Poe. He’s lucky detective Calvin Winter doesn’t find him suspicious, even if he’s always one step ahead. Instead, Calvin ends up asking for his help to solve different cases. What could go wrong? Well, Sebastian could become a target, one of them could get killed… or worse, they could fall in love and change their lives forever.
Downtime: FBI Agent Morgan Nash is working on a dangerous case when he wakes up in 19th Century London. Ezra might have saved his life, but has also left him stranded in a past he doesn’t understand. No problem, though. An FBI Agent can fix anything, so he decides to solve his little time travelling problem, his new friends’ lives, and, on his own free time, the case of Jack the Ripper. Living so close to Ezra is not easy, though, because he can’t help falling in love with him.
Wanted: Wanted, A Gentleman is one of my favourite historical novels. One of the main characters wants to be a writer, but earns his money publishing a gazette with matrimonial ads. The other main character needs to find a friend who’s eloped after using said gazette. When they realize the young couple is going to get married in Scotland, both men embark on a road trip that will draw them closer than any of them wants.
Sins of the Cities: Another great historical series by KJ Charles. This one is full of suspense. There are murders, fraud, blackmail, and a line-up of adorable and wonderfully diverse main characters. What else could you need? Taxidermy? Mediums? Acrobats? Very nasty London smog? Very cool pubs? This series has you covered. And it’s one of my favourites!
The Roosevelt: This wonderful series starts with Carry the Ocean, which is one of my favourite books, and I hope it will continue for a long time. The main characters have a wonderful relationship in which they help and support each other so they can become the best versions of themselves. One of the main characters is autistic, and his partner has anxiety and depression. And they work great together because in each other they’ve found exactly what they need.
Lord Heliodor’s Retirement: A Fantasy book where the main character is retired and has to go back to work when he finds out the queen’s life is in danger… again. The good news is that he’s also discovered his first love is alive and well. The bad news is that he’s found out in the worst possible circumstances. Is it worth learning that the man you loved is a spy who faked his own death decades ago when he’s telling you that you’re all going to die?
Peter Darling: This Peter Pan retelling is a stroke of genius. In it, Wendy Darling is actually Peter Pan, and Neverland is the only place where he can be true to himself. But when he realizes this and manages to go back, everything has changed and, most of all, himself. He’s not a child anymore, and somehow the only person who seems to understand and share his misgivings is Captain Hook. Will they be able to agree to a truce? Could they become friends after all these years? And what about lovers?
Shatterproof: A dark Urban Fantasy Romance with lots of content warnings that you should check out. It’s a fascinating blend of Celtic Mythology and Haitian Vodou. The main characters are similar and different at the same time. Both have lost something, both have depression… but one of them wants to live more than anything else, and the other wants to die. It must be fate that brought them together, because Saint is doomed to lose all his lovers, and Grey couldn’t have dreamt of a sweeter way to kill himself.
Spindrift: A dark Paranormal Romance to end this list. This one is set in contemporary England and features ghosts, curses, and folklore. The main character is trying to recover from a suicide attempt in a quiet seaside village, but ends up investigating the history of the place to find out more about the ghost that haunts his rooms… who happens to have a very handsome descendant working at the local museum.
As you can imagine, I’ve learned a lot from Romance novels, especially about philosophy, politics, racism, ableism and mental health. If you need personalized recommendations or want to share your own, just leave a comment.
As you know, I prefer my books in English and with LGBTQ+ characters, but I’m open to anything as long as it’s good and I’m in the mood. I’m afraid I’ve only discovered these wonderful books rather recently myself, so I’m still learning. Don’t hesitate to leave more recommendations if you think I’ll like them. I’m especially interested in ace, trans and f/f representation, since I haven’t read as many.
Here are the books and book series I discovered during my second year as a Romance reader (a few years ago):
The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal: A compilation of short stories about a ghost hunter. Imagine John Watson writing about the nsfw paranormal cases he shared with Sherlock Holmes. That will give you an idea of what it’s about. By the way, there is a short story not included in this compilation that belongs to both Simon Feximal and the Whyborne & Griffin series. Do not miss it if you like any of these stories!
Hexworld: The idea of having witch policemen bonding with familiars who are actually shifters, and set it all in 1920s New York is something that could only have occurred to Jordan L. Hawk, because they’re a genius. Believe me, these two first series I’ve mentioned are two of the best Paranormal Romance series out there, so go ahead and read them if you haven’t yet.
The Turner Series: A delightful historical series about a group of siblings and their found family that includes my favourite retelling of Beauty and the Beast. The series has a diverse cast of characters with different disabilities who find love and happiness where (and when) they least expect it. With this series, Cat Sebastian became one of my favourite writers, and you’ll know why when you read it.
Scoring Chances: A sports series about ice hockey, because ice hockey has quite a few LGBTQ+ friendly series, and this is one of the best. The books follow teams playing in the ECHL: mainly the Sea Storms and the Spitfires, but there are characters who belong to other teams as well. I think that the fact that it’s minor-league professional hockey makes it more interesting and fun. Every book has different main characters, so you can learn what happens to the enforcers, the goalie, the coach… If you made me choose, I’d say my favourite one is Power Play.
Vivaldi in the Dark: This is one dark series, because I used to read many of those before my burnout turned into depression. This series is wonderful, and the representation of depression is superb. It shows that things are not easy, but there’s hope, and… most importantly, it shows that a romantic relationship doesn’t cure depression. In any case, read the content warnings before you read the book. Or ask me in the comments if you’re interested (in any of these books).
Wytch Kings: Another Fantasy series with magic and dragon shifters. In this one, the dragons come as a surprise when the characters realize that they belong to a line of dragon shifters. It all starts with the firstborn of the Wytch King: in order to inherit the throne, he needs wytch powers… but he has none whatsoever. His younger brother doesn’t want to rule, so he undertakes to make an experiment that may awaken the powers within himself. The problem is… no one really knows how to control a dragon.
Howl at the Moon: This one is a typical small town Contemporary Romance… with a twist: in this small town, many of the inhabitants are actually dog shifters. Territorial, loyal, and adorable, these shifters may be the perfect neighbours for some, and the worst for others. Fortunately, the town is a haven for dog lovers. There are military dogs, comfort dogs, people who want to be human and refuse to shift… and people that stop trusting humans and want to live like dogs.
Dark Space: The name might have given it away, but this is a dark science-fiction series. And it really is dark, so do check for content warnings if needed. I don’t read sci-fi that often, but I really enjoyed this series and I’m looking forward to the third book of the trilogy. If you want something lighter by this author, you can always check Adulting 101, which appears at the end of this list.
Think of England: Another KJ Charles Romance, like The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, but this one is historical. The protagonist is a war veteran in the early 20th century, investigating if he’s been the victim of an accident or sabotage. Soon, he finds out that he’s not the only one interested in uncovering the secrets of his hosts, nor the only one who wants revenge.
Spirits: Another Paranormal Romance series by Jordan L Hawk. This one explores the unlikely relationship between a traditional spirit medium and an inventor who uses science to find and exorcise spirits. They meet each other when they join a contest to exorcise the house of a rich family, but will science or tradition win? In the end, the contest stops being important when the spirits try to kill everyone in the house. They’ll have to work together if they want to survive.
Mermen of Ea: A Fantasy Romance about… well, mermen. But it all starts with pirates. Or rather, a boy kidnapped by pirates who decides to join them because he enjoys life at sea. One day, during a storm, the boy dives overboard to save someone, but he’s lost and rescued by a rival captain. However, he was not as unlucky as it may seem, for the man tells him that they’re both mermen and he might know something about his true origins.
Adulting 101: Tons of fun in this Contemporary Romance novel with two very good best friends, a horny 18 year-old with a crush on a coworker, and lots of pizza, cuddling, and Netflix and chill. One of the main characters doesn’t know where his place in the world is, the other one knows his place is everywhere and nowhere. So it’s not a bad idea to spend a summer together and then continue with their lives, right? Unless feelings are more complicated than they thought.
Let me know if you’ve read any of these books and whether you liked this list. I hope so, because I have already started working on Year III of these book recommendation posts. There are so many good books out there! And I can’t wait to reach the years in which the books I read became even more diverse.
I already wrote a post about how I started writing Romance, and the story is more or less the same, but I wanted to explain a bit more about the books that have brought me here.
With this goal in mind, I have chosen twelve books (or rather series) I discovered during that first year of my life as a Romance reader. You may already know most (or all) of these, especially if you’re interested in diverse books with LGBTQ+ characters, but know that some of these series are still being published. Maybe you’ll find out they are now longer than the last time you read them. Speaking from experience here.
Basically, I fell in love with Romance novels because they have my favourite subgenres (Fantasy, Historical…) with a focus on characterization that I haven’t found in any other genre. I enjoy reading about people and the different relationships they have, and Romance gives me that in bunches. There are so many different works and authors out there, that you can find anything you need. Even if you didn’t know you needed it, which has often happened to me.
If you want to find interesting plots with great characters and a guaranteed happy ending that will make you feel better about life, look no further: Romance novels have you covered.
So maybe we have different tastes and you won’t find what you’re looking for in the books I discovered during my first year as a Romance reader, but go ahead and leave a comment if you want to share your opinion or request some other recs. I’ve read much more since then, so I may be able to help!
I won’t make you wait any longer! These are the books/series I devoured in that first year:
Whyborne & Griffin: You might remember this series, because I’ve mentioned it’s the one that made me start reading Romance. It’s still one of my favourites and I re-read it pretty often. A Paranormal Romance series set in the city of Widdershins, where many are enthusiasts of secret societies and the occult. Imagine a shy philologist, a resourceful detective and a deadly archaeologist fighting ancient sects and Lovecraftian horrors. Can you guess how excited I was to find out this series existed?
A Charm of Magpies: Another amazing Paranormal Romance series, this time set in England, and with a couple of spin-offs that are as good as the original series. It all starts with a reluctant lord that has inherited an earldom after his father and brother die in suspicious circumstances. After the curse that killed his family tries to put an end to his life, he is forced to request the help of magician Stephen Day. What he doesn’t know is that Stephen Day had previously met his family. If he’d known, he’d have guessed he had a good reason to hate them all and no reason to help him.
The Cadeleonian Series: As traumatic as the ending of the first book was, I do love this fantasy series. Ginn Hale’s world-building and narrative are superb. Each description of a swordfight or a horse race is a masterpiece in its own, and I’m looking forward to the last two books of the series. Spanish people like me will notice some names and historical facts come from our own history.
Captive Prince: Not an easy series to read, this one. Fantasy, with a world-building so detailed that it feels like a historical novel sometimes (and, in this case, it is Australian people who will perceive the influence of their own history). The well-known trilogy tells the story of a prince who is forced to become a pleasure slave in a different country, and how he learns to survive a court full of enemies and intrigues, and discovers an ally in the last person he expected to.
Scarlet and the White Wolf: This Fantasy series started as a gay retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, but at this point you’ll only see some traces of it in the first novel, because the world-building is huge and the plot twists abound. The main character of the story is a young peddler who wears the red cloak of his guild. He travels a lot due to his profession, but he finds himself trapped inside his hometown when the only usable mountain road is blocked by a bandit known as the Wolf of Omara.
Society of Gentlemen: My first Historical Romance series, and one of my favourite series ever. Set in Regency England, the series covers various relationships that have to overcome class difference in certain ways. Anything I can say about it will fall short, so just know that I can’t recommend it enough.
Reawakening: I loved this Fantasy Romance series about a family of dragons, and it’s still my favourite dragon shifter series. In it, dragons have been asleep for centuries, but are now waking up to a new world they don’t recognize. Their oldest enemy seems to be alive, though hiding somewhere, and they’ve lost most of their power. But the thing about dragons is… only love can make them strong enough to fight back.
All for the Game: One of those series that helped create more Romance readers, especially since the first novel is free and it’s a sports series. What I found most interesting about this series is that the sport it talks about was created by the author. The series is full of angst and can be a bit hard to read, depending on your mood.
Fellfire Summer: Another series you can start for free (and the short stories can be found for free as well). Blayre is the first Romance author I’ve met in person, and the one who gave me an amazing rec list for beginners. Her first Fantasy Romance was very fun to read and her characters are so charming… The trilogy ends up having two m/m couples and one f/f couple, which I appreciated A LOT.
Tigers and Devils: Another sports series. Film festival organizer meets closeted Australian football player (and he actually plays Australian football, which has different rules I didn’t know about until I read this series) and they fall in love. Of course, every relationship has its ups and downs, but it’s even more difficult when one of you is a famous athlete, and the other has been openly gay for years.
Aisling: Another superb Fantasy Romance. The world-building is vast, the mysteries and plot twists are everywhere. Nothing is what it seems, but everything makes sense in the end. I loved the celtic/western hints, the development of the characters and the slow-building romance. I haven’t seen this series being recommended that often, but maybe that’s because it’s only been re-released quite recently. Now that it’s available once more, you should give it a chance. I know I’m going to re-read it soon.
Enlightenment: This was my second Historical Romance, and it’s also a Regency one, but it’s set in Scotland. A lawyer and a lord enjoy a quick sexual encounter thinking they will never meet again, but fate has other plans: mainly, making them cross their paths again and again until they fall in love. But will love be enough to make them sacrifice everything they’ve fought for just so they can be together? Anyway, if you’ve read the original trilogy, you might be surprised to know that there’s a new book now with a different couple.
So that is all for now! Have you read any of these? If you want to know about trigger warnings, just let me know, but I can already warn you about Captive Prince and All for the Game, since both series have LOTS of TWs.
I’ve always wanted to give credit where it’s due, so before I answer any more of your questions, I thought it would be good to give you a bit of a background. For me, reading comes before writing, and I learn something new from every book, but I wanted to share a list of the books that had the biggest impact on me and why:
“The Neverending Story” by Michael Ende: In hindsight, this is the book that made me want to become a writer, even though I didn’t dare say it out loud. I know I’m not alone here; this book is really inspiring.
“The Hobbit” + “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien: A classic, right? But these books did not only fuel my love for epic fantasy… they also helped me decide I wanted to study English Philology. I was very young at the time, so I didn’t really believe I’d go through with it, but at 17 I realized (again) that it was the best degree for me.
The Nightrunner Series by Lynn Flewelling: These novels belong to the fantasy of manners subcategory and are to blame for the longest book hangover I’ve ever had (over a year and a half!). Yes, they are that good. I’d never read anything like this series, and I thought I never would again. I’m glad to report I was wrong, but it was the first time I’d read a fantasy book in which the main characters ended up being LGBTQ+, and I didn’t know where to find more.
“Widdershins” by Jordan L. Hawk: It turned out one of my friends did know where to find more, and wisely told me to read this book (which is the first in a series). It cured my book hangover, made me want to read and write again, and helped me rediscover a genre I thought was too homogeneous for me: Romance. The book was a real eye-opener, the kind that makes you ask “Wait, people can do that?!”, and my life has fortunately never been the same afterward.
This list is chronological, as you might have guessed. Of course, there are many books I love just as much, but reading these were life-changing experiences, and I hope this post will help you understand what I want to write one day.