What a fantastic year for romance! With so many authors out there self-publishing their work in addition to big name publishers, there’s an overwhelming number of amazing books that come out each month. In 2019, I read hundreds of romance novels and these are the 19 love stories that rose to the top of the pack (in my opinion). Some I read recently, others have remained on my mind for months, but they are all 5-star reads that pack a punch. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order quite simply because the longer I stare at the list, the more tempted I am to change their order.
And please note, I say love stories because a few of these romances span multiple books.
Links to my full reviews on Amazon and GoodReads are provided for each book to make it easy to add them to your TBR!
Dangerous Beauty Trilogy by J.T. Geissinger
An intense, action-packed adventure, this trilogy will get your heart pumping. Dangerous Beauty is all about the chemistry, showcasing a forbidden romance that’s the foundation for the rest of the series. There are triggers galore as the series gets darker and grittier in the sequels, but the payoff is worth it in the end. I’ve got to be in the right mood for romantic suspense, but this series held my attention from start to finish and the cliffhangers at the end of each book left me gasping. I’ve always enjoyed Geissinger’s books, but this series feels like what she should’ve been writing all along.
Devious Lies by Parker S. Huntington
Intense and engrossing, this is an enemies to lovers romance in its purest form. This relationship is anything but easy, and it takes a while for our couple to find their way past their complicated history, but the journey is absolutely worth the wait. The longest book I read all year, it’s also one of the books I devoured the quickest. The writing is unique, flowing easily and immersing you in the story. If you love a good slow burn romance with so much tension your blood pressure will rise, give this one a try.
Diary of a Bad Boy by Meghan Quinn
I’m a longtime fan of Meghan Quinn, but Diary of a Bad Boy has got to be my favorite book by her. Our hero has to go through some major personal growth before he’s worthy of lasting love, and we’re taken for quite the ride along the way. If you love a bad boy who is hiding all of his goodness underneath a damaged heart, this is well worth a read. It seamlessly blends the humor Quinn is known for with an unexpected shot of angst, and the combination makes for one solid book.
Dirty Letters by Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward
Keeland and Ward always draw you into a romance only to break your heart with an unexpected twist, and Dirty Letters is no different. It’s got a completely original storyline and a relationship that seems like it could never work, but the authors navigate the complexities with ease. This one is angsty as hell, emotionally charged, and deeply romantic. If you’re in the mood for something well written but oh so complex, give Dirty Letters a try.
Disarm by Karina Halle
After the first book in the series stumbled, I didn’t go into Disarm with high expectations, but it blew me away. The ultimate forbidden romance, this features adoptive cousins who have had feelings for each other for over a decade but have never made the leap to lovers. There’s no going back when you sleep with your cousin, but Halle navigates this forbidden romance perfectly. It’s a slow burn that has a significant element of suspense, and includes an insightful look at family dynamics. Halle turned this series around in a big way, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for this complicated family.
Flirting with the Frenemy by Pippa Grant
One of the best romantic comedies I read in 2019, this has Pippa Grant’s signature style written all over it. I always enjoy her books but this one took that to another level. Not only is there playful banter, laugh out loud humor, and characters who are easy to like, but there’s also an element of angst and a relationship that’s encountered a few roadblocks. If you love a good best friend’s little sis read, this story has everything you could want in a romance.
Kickin’ It by Rachel Van Dyken
Van Dyken’s writing is consistently great, but sometimes she absolutely hits it out of the park, with taboo relationships that build up incredible depth. This is so much more than just a sports romance; it’s a story of healing, emotional and yet also filled with funny moments, playful banter, and witty dialogue. The hero is the epitome of a good guy, pairing well with a heroine who has been through a lot in the last few years. If you like a patient, kind, genuinely GOOD hero, this is the book for you.
Marriage For One by Ella Maise
This book was so unexpected, it blew me away. I’ve always enjoyed Maise’s writing but this is a FANTASTIC book. I’ll acknowledge that it’s the kind of book you’re either going to love or hate, because it goes into such depth about day-to-day activities. It’s all in the name of the slow burn – these two essentially start out as married strangers, getting to know one another and sloooowly building a relationship. Our hero is not the easiest guy to like, and the slow build does an outstanding job making the reader fall for him along with the heroine. It’s incredibly unique and managed to hold my attention with ease even throughout a plot that probably would’ve felt boring when written by any other author. I loved, loved, loved this one.
Million Dollar Marriage by Katy Evans
This was my introduction to Katy Evans but it will DEFINITELY not be the last book I read from her. An insightful and engrossing look at the lengths reality TV contestants will go through in the name of the win, this pairs up two total opposites who must marry as strangers then complete a series of challenges. With a hero who is a little rough around the edges, some great writing that’s heavy on the dialogue, and an original plot, I devoured this.
(Not) The One by Donna Alam
With sizzling chemistry and a story that leads with the sexual side of things, this book will get your heart racing before it slowly gets deeper and more serious. When a one night stand leaves some lasting effects, the dynamics shift and the whole tone of the book changes. It will take you through a whole range of emotions, and is just as gripping when it’s light and sexy as it is when it’s heavy and emotional. This is my first read by Alam but I won’t hesitate to pick up more of her books in the future.
Renata Vitali & Damiano De Luca
by Parker S. Huntington
The love story that hooked me on Huntington’s writing, we get to know this couple as teenagers in the prequel then watch as they’re reunited during adulthood. Though you can read (and enjoy) Damiano De Luca as a standalone, getting to know the history makes the story richer and fuller. A mafia romance, this has some darker elements but doesn’t linger on the violence that’s inherent in the genre. Instead, the focus is on the tension and undeniable connection between two people who were never meant to be together according to those around them. If you like a good second chance romance, read Renata Vitali to have your heart ripped out, and then Damiano De Luca to have it stitched back together.
Resist & Reveal by K. Bromberg
If you’d told me at the beginning of the year that one of my absolute favorite love stories would feature a madam and one of her clients, I would not have believed you. In theory, this is so not my type of romance but Bromberg does an incredible job portraying two characters whose actions aren’t always black and white. This near-flawless duet held my attention from start to finish and I was SO FRUSTRATED when I had to wait for Reveal’s release (lucky you, you won’t have that problem). If you’re up for a complex, sexy, and intense rollercoaster of a read, don’t hesitate to try this duet.
So, That Got Weird by Amelia Kingston
I like New Adult romances as much as the next girl, but I was woefully unprepared for how much I was going to love this book. On the surface, the premise seems pretty typical of the genre (shy, nerdy girl gets sex tutoring from the hot jock), but once you dig deeper there is a whole lot more to love about the story. It’s undeniably sexy and sensual, but the relationship itself builds to outstanding depths. I was hooked from the start and eagerly anticipate whatever the author writes next.
Stealing Her by Rachel Van Dyken
Normally I love Rachel Van Dyken’s books, but the premise on this one seemed so ludicrous that the ARC sat in my TBR pile for weeks and weeks before I finally started reading it before bed one night. And that proved to be a major miscalculation on my part, because it is easily one of my favorite books of the year. Yes, the relationship is twisty and the premise pretty far-fetched (a twin assuming his brother’s life – including living with his fiancée – while he recovers from a coma) but the execution is so well done that it was ridiculously easy to get immersed in the story. If you love a good taboo romance, move this one to the top of your TBR.
Tangle by Adriana Locke
Adriana Locke really outdid herself with this one – the chemistry was palpable and the banter smile-inducing. The premise of the book is that these two are attracted in a major way but know that a relationship would never work because of the fundamental differences between them. What does that mean? It means that the struggle has to be worth it, and the connection between these two jumps off the page. It’s both a light, fun rom com and an angsty, emotional read. So, so good.
The Men Write in the Sugar by K.S. Thomas
I’m willing to bet you’ve never heard of K.S. Thomas before, and neither had I when I started reading this book. That’s probably why the quality of the writing caught me completely off guard and drew me in. It’s a clean read with no explicit scenes, focusing instead on building up the relationship. Forced closeness causes these two strangers to connect when they otherwise wouldn’t have, and the journey is light but still heartfelt. It features plenty of banter and the chemistry sparks along the way.
The Stopover by T.L. Swan
With a hero who will make you swoon one minute and want to knee him in the balls the next, this steamy and intense read will kick your emotions into overdrive. My review talks about how this book kind of gutted me, and months later I still think that’s an apt description. There were times when I was loving it and other times when I wanted to throw my tablet against a wall, but I was hooked on this romance every step of the way. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, because this book will raise your blood pressure.
We Shouldn’t by Vi Keeland
I don’t think Vi Keeland could write a bad book if she tried, but this is one of my absolute favorites from her. A story about two people whose places of employment have merged, they’re vying for the same job and know without a doubt that one of them is going to be disappointed with how things play out in the end. They definitely shouldn’t be starting something up, they definitely shouldn’t be falling in love. But that doesn’t stop it from happening. It’s an angsty, often emotional read that will grip you and keep those pages turning.
You Can Have Manhattan by P. Dangelico
Honestly, every book I’ve read by P. Dangelico has been 5-star worthy, but this is one of the best she’s written. A fake relationship romance that plays out in a way that’s easy to believe, this has an enemies to lovers vibe that just works. I loved the spin on the playboy trope – yeah, our hero was a bit of tool when the heroine knew him in the past, but things have changed in the last several years, and they have to get to know each other in a completely different way. It’s a rocky road to happily ever after, but that makes for a conclusion that’s well earned.