Best of 2020: Top Picks by Trope

Who doesn’t love a good trope? Everybody’s got a favorite, from tense enemies to lovers reads to playful fake relationship romances. I’ve always got certain expectations when I start reading a story that plays up a trope, and the books on this list all exceeded those expectations.

I’ve selected the book that I think best represented each trope in 2020 – at least out of the 350+ romances I’ve read this year! I’ve got a note about each book below, as well as the blurb and links to Amazon for easy addition to your collection. They’re each 5-star reads that fulfilled my trope-tastic cravings.

Throughout the month, I’ll be looking back on some of my favorite romances from 2020. From swoonworthy heroes to great covers, there are elements of so many books that stood out from the crowd. Check back every weekend for a new list!

You can find the list of my favorite 2020 covers here.


Friends to Lovers

This isn’t an easy story, but it excels at all of the things I love most about a friends to lovers romance – the shared history, the deep connection, the quiet moments, and the slow slide from platonic to more. It’s a great combination of humor, steam, and angst, blending them together to make for a dynamic, intense read.

The Change Up by Meghan Quinn

BREAKING NEWS: The Bad Boy of Baseball, Maddox Paige, is totally and utterly whipped. 

Okay, that might not be the headlines in the newspaper this morning, but it’s the reality of my current situation. 

It all started a month ago when I received a call from my best friend, Kinsley. She got a new job in Chicago and needed a place to stay. I’ve known the girl since I was five, what harm would it be to have her stay at my place for a while?

Ha! Total disaster. 

Now instead of going out every night with my teammates, I’m couch surfing and sketching endless photos of my best friend . . . but that’s the least of my concerns. 

The disaster, you ask? I’m rapidly falling head over cleats in love with my best friend, my roommate, and my number one fan.

And she has no idea . . .

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2W5jt5Q


Enemies to Lovers

This pick could easily fall under a variety of categories, but it’s got the crackling chemistry and tension that I love about an enemies to lovers romance. It’s a trope that can go light or dark, funny or angsty, but I love it best when our couple simply doesn’t know how to react to each other. That causes the perfect amount of friction, and that’s what this sexy rom com does best.

A Very Bossy Christmas by Kayley Loring

What’s the actual last thing you’d ever want your executive assistant to see you doing the morning after you had hot, drunk, angry sex with her in a terrible hotel room? Dancing around your terrible hotel room to “Come and Get Your Love” like Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy—naked? Yeah. Me too.

And yet, here we are. 

This isn’t even the most unprofessional thing that’s happened between us in the past couple of weeks.

The first was when I agreed to let her have Christmas Day off, but only if she goes with me to three family gatherings as my fake girlfriend.
The second was when she caught me belting out a Christmas song on stage in the awful hotel bar.
The third was the hot, drunk, angry sex that followed, but I do not regret it.

And she hasn’t even found out the real reason I need her by my side this holiday season.

I need to pull it together before I do the dumbest, most unprofessional thing of all—fall head over heels in love with the only assistant who’s lasted more than a month at the job and claims to hate me and my moods more than she hates eggnog. 

And I’ve seen how much she hates eggnog.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/37bMovq


Strangers to Lovers

While I love the history that comes from a friends to lovers or second chance romance, I also love the spark of a connection that’s found in a strangers to lovers romance. There’s something so enticing about two strangers who can’t seem to stay away from each other, falling while still knowing relatively little about one another. That’s where this sexy, angsty road trip romance excels.

Royal Games by T.K. Leigh

I was his biggest regret. He was my greatest adventure.

Every girl dreams of falling in love with a prince.

When I met Jeremy, I thought he was my prince.

Caring. Compassionate. Sensitive.

And, unfortunately for me, not attracted to women.

So here I am, thirty years old and divorced when most of my friends are just getting married. In desperate need of a restart, I set off on a road trip to learn how to love myself again.

The last thing I expected was to meet him.

Anderson North.

Mysterious. Enigmatic. Sexy as hell.

And, after a malfunction with my rental car, my new road companion.

As we travel along Route 66, I find myself experiencing a connection I never have before. We share our truths, our secrets, our fears.

Can I give this man a piece of my heart after having it broken?
Can I learn to trust again after having that trust betrayed?
When he reveals his deepest secret, can I look beyond the lies and toward the only thing that matters?

I’ve always dreamed of finding my very own Prince Charming.

Maybe my prince is Anderson North.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3qMZyXw


Second Chance

I’m one of those people who just doesn’t like second chance romances – so you can bet that this is a great one. Naturally angsty and often problematic, second chance romances are sure to tug on your heartstrings. This one is sexy and tense and complicated, but I loved the push/pull between these two, the quiet moments, and the depth that neither one expected.

Hard to Handle by K. Bromberg

New York Times bestselling author K. Bromberg is back with an all new second-chance, standalone hockey romance.

At first, the request seemed simple—sign a new athlete to the agency. 

Then I found out the new athlete was none other than the most wanted man in hockey today: Hunter Maddox

Gifted. Sexy. At the top of his game. And the only man who has ever broken my heart.

If signing him will help save our family business, I’ll swallow my pride and do what’s asked. 

But when it becomes clear his uncharacteristic antics off the ice are a hint of something deeper, keeping things strictly professional between us becomes more than complicated. But I know better than to cross that line. 

I’ll never date a client. Not even for him.
***
Win the Stanley Cup and do it before time runs out. 

Not a small feat, but it’s what’s motivated me since the start of my career. 

And time is running out.

Enter Dekker Kincade.

Feisty. Dogged. Damn gorgeous. The one I let get away.

I have no idea why she’s traveling with the team, but hell if resisting her is going to be easy. 

But I have a job to do, and I refuse to lose sight of that end game. Even if she confuses me. Even if she sees parts of me I’ve hidden from the world. 

I can’t lose focus. Not even for her.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3819ZxY


Brother’s Best Friend

I love a good brother’s best friend/best friend’s little sister romance, because the characters have usually known each other for years, but it takes a catalyst for them to truly see each other in a different light. There’s a touch of the forbidden but these stories often don’t get too angsty – and that’s exactly how I would describe this one. I loved the depth of this relationship, the easy friendship that makes a bumpy transition worth it. It definitely gave me all the warm and fuzzy feelings.

When the Time is Right by M. Mabie & Aly Martinez

Fate doesn’t always happen overnight.

Hudson Bradley is the cockiest, most stubborn, hard-headed man I’ve ever known. And for fifteen years, he’s been my brother’s best friend. 

But lately, what I’m feeling for him isn’t friendship at all.

Why is my heart racing every time his blue eyes lock on mine?
Why does every word he rumbles in my ear make my body come alive?
And worst of all, why did I bet him that I could find a woman he and his son would both love? 

If I hadn’t given up on love altogether, Hudson would have been perfect for me. After all, he was there the day my world fell apart. He’s spent the last six years piecing me back together. 

There are a million reasons why we could never work, but after a single kiss, I can’t remember any of them. 

Now that the time is right, I have to make him mine—before I lose him forever.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/37UeP0c


Forbidden

This trope can come in many forms, but I loved the situation in this new adult romance. There’s a whole lot of tension, chemistry that can’t be ignored, and the friction that comes with wanting something you can’t have. This one’s an intense, tortuous slow burn – and that’s exactly what I want from this kind of story.

The Revenge Pact by Ilsa Madden-Mills

#1 Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills delivers an all-new emotional and twisty enemies-to-lovers romance that blurs the lines between revenge and love…

River Tate is a god on campus.
The king of football.
A tattooed bad boy with gunmetal eyes that see right through you.
The only chink in his armor is HER, the girl he pretends doesn’t exist, the forbidden one with the shy smile and lavender hair.

Anastasia Bailey is a nobody.
The queen of nothing.
An outsider with the face of an angel and a body made for sin.
The only chink in her armor is HIM, her boyfriend’s frat brother, the football player who hates her.

But when Anastasia’s life comes crashing down, River’s the one who sweeps in and saves her.
Torn between loyalty, lies, and secrets, he battles the temptation to take everything from her when they make their revenge pact.

He can’t tell her no.
Because revenge (or love) is sweet, and once you get a taste, the craving never ends.

The Revenge Pact is an angsty college sports romance with a beautiful HEA. No cliffhanger. Other interconnected standalone books in this series: The Romantic Pact by Meghan Quinn The Relationship Pact by Adriana Locke

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2WaLBV6


Fake Relationship

Undeniably one of my absolute favorite tropes, fake relationship romances throw couples together and create the perfect environment for falling in love. There are touches that could be real or fake, situations that throw the characters off-balance, and chemistry that grows from spending so much one-on-one time together. This rom com executes each of those elements very well, making for an extremely compelling read.

Real Fake Love by Pippa Grant

He smiles. Mr. Grumpypants actually smiles at me, a full, real, heart-stopping smile with mirth dancing in his eyes, teeth flashing, and his cheeks dimpling up behind that layer of dark scruff.

Be still my panties. I think I’m in trouble.

If people have polar opposites, Luca Rossi is mine.

His butt is in the baseball hall of fame. Mine’s comfortably seated in the hall of lame.

When he’s not snagging fly balls out in center field, he’s modeling in shampoo commercials. I once jammed my own finger while stirring cookie dough, and sometimes I forget shampoo is a thing.

He’s a total cynic when it comes to love.

I make a living writing love stories.

But after my latest broken engagement (no, I don’t want to talk about how many times that’s happened), it’s clear he’s exactly the man I need.

If anyone can teach me to be the opposite of me, it’s him.

The first thing I want him to teach me?

How to not fall in love.

And as luck would have it, he’s in desperate need of a fake girlfriend to get a meddling grandmother off his back.

We couldn’t be more perfect together, because the last thing Luca Rossi will ever be is the next man to leave me at the altar.

Or will he?

Real Fake Love is a line drive straight to the heart featuring a grumpy athlete, a jilted bride, a fake relationship, and the world’s laziest cat. It stands alone and comes complete with sibling rivalry, the world’s most awkward shower scene, and a sweetly satisfying happily ever after.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3ndPeFS


Opposites Attract

Whoever said opposites attract was not wrong. I love the intense chemistry that comes from two characters who are so completely different from one another, but find a connection anyways. They balance each other out, filling in the missing pieces that neither one knew existed. That’s where this steamy rom com excels – both of these characters are broken in their own way, and their jagged edges fit together perfectly.

Boss in the Bedsheets by Kate Canterbary

He’s a beast in the spreadsheets and a boss in the bedsheets

Mr. Santillian,

Despite the fact I’m currently living out of your guest room and sleeping with you most nights, I am writing to announce my resignation effective two weeks from today. 

In other words, I’ll locate someone who is both obscenely overqualified and willing to devote their days to the handful of tasks you are able to wrench from your perfectionist, micromanaging grip. It may be difficult to find a Nobel laureate genius looking for basic filing work on such short notice, but I’ll do my best. 

Don’t worry about your sister’s wedding this weekend. I still plan to attend as your date, assuming you’ve finished hating me by then. 

Thank you in advance for your understanding. 

Zelda

Ms. Besh, 

Resignation not accepted. 

I’ll see you at home. 

Ash

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2W6lNcX


Forced Proximity

This trope is perfect for pairing up two people who probably never would’ve found their way to one another, if not for being forced to spend time together. Whether it’s a road trip, a snowstorm, or – in this case – the guardianship of some adorable kids, forced proximity brings people together. This one’s got enemies to lovers and opposites attract vibes, but the strongest element is that they never would’ve fallen for each other if not for the situation. I loved their contrasts, their sparring, and the slow slide into love – even if there were plenty of bumps in the road along the way.

Hate You (Not) by Ella James

I didn’t know I was that person. You know—the one who gets the kids. But that’s what the will said. June Lawler: Legal Guardian. All my sister’s kids have ever known is San Francisco, but I have to take them back to our family’s small-town farm.
The last thing I’m expecting is the dark car rolling down my dirt driveway. The man who steps out of it is as rich as he is rude, and I want nothing to do with him. Even if my traitor body didn’t get the message.
***
My little brother was everything to me. Now even his kids are gone. Spirited away to Heat Springs, Georgia–population 298.
They’re living on a farm that’s on the brink of bank foreclosure with a 26-year-old who didn’t finish high school. Nowhereville is not the place for little Mastersons, but I’ll get them back.
“June Bug” Lawler is poorer than the red dirt she comes from. It’s money she must want, and I’ve got plenty of that. I’ve never met a problem that my money couldn’t solve. This country girl won’t be the first.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Kk7Jts


Sports

I read a lot of sports romances, and they can come in many forms. While there were countless great romances featuring athletes this year, this one was both excellent AND incorporated sports wholeheartedly. Both characters are immersed in the world, and it’s an important component of the story – both bringing them together and tearing them apart. It’s angsty, steamy, and an intense ride to happily ever after.

Hard to Hold by K. Bromberg

New York Times bestselling author, K. Bromberg, is back with a heartfelt, standalone romance and a new hero to steal your heart . . . 

The contract with Major League Soccer was supposed to help repair my damaged reputation.

Then I discovered that I’d made a deal with the devil: the player I’m supposed to recruit is none other than the bad boy, star Premier League footballer, Rush McKenzie. 

British. Tattooed. Sexy. A man currently at the center of a huge scandal.

The goal? To convince him to stay in the States.

But what’s wrong with a little fun in the meantime? No strings. No sweet nothings. Just a way to pass the time while we’re both struggling to prove our true selves to the world. 

If someone found out our relationship was anything more than professional, it would only serve to prove all our critics right. 

***
I never should have agreed to take the fall. 

But I did and I’m a man of my word. 

Even if it means risking everything I’ve worked for.

The only bright side is Lennox Kincade. 

Gorgeous. Defiant. Rumor-tainted. Totally off-limits.

Sharing a house with the gorgeous sports agent should have been a fun distraction from the turmoil. Someone to help pass the time while the tensions back home die down. 

But what started as nothing, ends up as something I never saw coming.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/37V70XW


Rock Star

Rock star romances are often bad boy redeemed stories, featuring heroes who have a history of getting into trouble but have found a different path. This is the perfect example of that. In the two books that precede this, our (anti)hero is not the kind of guy I’d want headlining his own love story, but he’s made some changes in his life and is now ready for love. While this book stands on its own, the journey is made that much richer if you’ve read all three (outstanding) books. There’s a focus on the music, the troubled past, and the hope for the future.

Crazy to Love You by J. Saman

I am meeting this woman for one reason and one reason only. And that officially makes her off-limits.

I want the one woman I cannot have. Again.
The second I lay eyes on Naomi Kent, I know I want her. 
And not just for my duet, though her voice is so strikingly beautiful, it can make angels weep. 
It’s her mind, her passion, her perfect curvy body. Everything about her sets my blood on fire.
But here’s the thing… I need her to get this song produced. 
She needs me to help her regain the life she lost. 
So, any chance at an us… Well, that’s a no-go, right? 

I don’t want anything Gus Diamond has to offer me.
And that includes his gorgeous face and sexy-as-all-sin body. Well, maybe I do want those. 
But this duet? Nope. Not a chance. 
I gave up this life when my world shattered and my broken pieces were stomped all over in a very public way. So you can understand why the last thing I want is to relive all that. 
But Gus has this way about him. 
And before I know what’s happening, I’m saying yes to things I know better than to say yes to. 
Including him. 
That is until my past decides to make an unexpected return. With one hell of an entrance. 

CRAZY TO LOVE YOU is a sexy, fun, and emotional forbidden romance with all the feels! It can be read as a standalone.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/38cNgzp


New Adult

Anyone who reads new adult knows to expect some drama. There are misunderstandings, angst, and characters who try to get in the way. It’s not something I read all the time – I’ve read a few too many bully romances that have left me a little traumatized – but I definitely enjoy this category on occasion. This is a great one. Yes, it’s got all that teenage drama and some polarizing scenes, but it’s an engrossing read that you won’t be able to put down. The relationship is complicated, rooted in some solid history, and that makes for a compelling story.

Fake It Til You Break It by Meagan Brandy

USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Meagan Brandy delivers a new standalone, fake relationship romance about finding light when your world is dark, and fighting for love when all seems lost.

Fake.
That’s what we are.
That’s what we agreed to be.

So why does it feel so real?
I thought it would have been harder, convincing everyone our school’s star receiver was mine and mine alone, but I was wrong.

We played our parts so well that the lines between us began to blur until they disappeared completely.

The thing about pretending, though, someone’s always better at it, and by the time I realized my mistake, there was no going back.

I fell for our lie.
And then everything fell apart.

It turned out he and I were never playing the same game.

He didn’t have to break me to win.
But he did it anyway.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3m8KbVX


Suspense

I love a little pulse-pounding action from time to time, but I also want the relationship to be at the forefront of the story. This is the perfect blend of the two. It’s a dark, sexy read that will keep you on your toes. This antihero is not a good guy, but he’ll make you fall for him anyways. It’s steamy and twisty, interesting and unique. I loved the growth in intimacy, the way it embraces its darkness, and the sheer unpredictability of the story. It’s action-packed and intriguing.

Darkest Sin by J. Saman

USA Today bestselling author J. Saman delivers a gritty, dark romantic suspense standalone about a woman running from her deadly ex and the sexy assassin sworn to protect her.

Everyone has an ex who haunts them.
Mine shot me in the arm and told me to run or he’d kill everyone I ever loved. And then he’d kill me.
Years later, he’s made good on that promise. I’m the only one left.
He’s got his sights set on finding me, and my options on places to hide are quickly running out.
Until I meet a gorgeous assassin with an agenda of his own…putting not only my life, but my heart in danger.
With piercing green eyes and irresistible confidence, Gavin tells me not to be afraid. Promises he’s on my side. Swears he’s here to protect me instead of doing what he does best…kill.
The desire to trust him is tempting. The passion between us, even more so.
But when everything I thought I knew is suddenly flipped upside down, and all that’s dangerous and forbidden comes to light, I have to make a choice.
Continue to run and hide…
Or risk it all, including the man who somehow captured my heart.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/38cNnuP


Office

There’s just something about a boss/employee or co-worker relationship that makes for a compelling read. Yes, there’s a fine line between sexy and skeezy, but that touch of the forbidden makes these kinds of stories all the more interesting. The best ones stay focused on the workplace interactions, forcing our couple to spend time together even when they might not want to do so. This one is an opposites attract romance, with Quinn’s signature blend of humor, steam, and angst.

Boss Man Bridegroom by Meghan Quinn

“Will you do me the greatest honor of all time and be my bridegroom?” she asks, hope in her eyes . . .

How did I get here? My assistant, bent on one knee, holding my hand, her expectant face waiting for an answer.

Just . . . how?

How did I go from being insulted by Charlee Cox to hiring her to be my assistant? How is it that she’s chaos in color – making me crazy and my life better at the same time? 

I never thought I would be staring down at her bright blue eyes begging me to go along with this ridiculous scheme I suggested.

Yes, I suggested. Like the idiot I am, I thought hey, why not start an HR nightmare and have my assistant ask me to marry her? 

Confused? Don’t worry, so am I. 

But try to follow along, because this is how I became Boss Man Bridegroom.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3mhiSZj


Single Dad

There’s nothing that will melt your heart faster than a dad being a great father to his kids, and that’s a staple of this trope. This one’s got some fantastic “dad” moments, and it features a genuinely good guy hero who deserves to find his own happily ever after. It’s funny and sexy with a touch of emotion, following its own path and keeping things interesting. This is

Single Dad Seeks Juliet by Max Monroe

Dear Internet: Am I a horrible person for wanting to sabotage my work assignment—completely wreck a dating contest—because I hate the idea of love?

I know it sounds bad, but just hear me out, okay?

I (33F) work at a local paper, and two months ago, my editor assigned me a huge project—run the upcoming, highly anticipated Bachelor Anonymous contest.

In essence, I’m supposed to help a reader-nominated bachelor find his special someone, and while I should be excited to handle something of this magnitude solo, I can’t help but get queasy over how gross it feels.

Like, how cheesy could this thing get?

Not to mention, I’m the last person who should be involved in this—my dating and relationship history is a cluster. Generally, the person in charge of these things shouldn’t fantasize about lighting the whole three-ring dating circus on fire.

Anyway, men from all over Southern California, vying for the coveted bachelor role, submitted their personal ads to my paper. The readers voted, and Single Dad Seeks Juliet won by a landslide.

Enter Mr. Bachelor Anonymous (40M), the single dad Romeo seeking his Juliet.

Blah, blah, blah, right? Wrong.

You guys—and I cannot stress this enough—this guy is the ultimate man in a six-foot-three, chiseled-muscle, freaking Adonis package with aquamarine eyes that would haunt the dreams of an insomniac.

He’s a former Navy SEAL, successful business owner, motocross-riding, charming, supportive, funny-as-heck single dad, and the more time I spend with him, the more I want to bring this contest thing crumbling to the ground for an entirely different reason.

Real talk: I think I’m falling for him.

Me, the woman who despises love, might be falling for the completely off-limits Bachelor who I’m ironically assigned to help find love, while five other women think they’re the only contestants competing for his heart.

So, Internet. Am I scum? Or is all fair in love and war?

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3qPjiK7


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