Celebrate Diversity Month! While that’s something we should do 365 days each year, April is the designated month for celebrating the differences and similarities between individuals. As a romance reader, that might mean exploring the work of BIPOC authors who are new-to-you. It might mean reading your first M/M or F/F romance. It might mean checking out your first neuro-diverse read. Or it might simply mean that you’ll be more tuned in to the background of each character you read about.
The following is a list of ten contemporary romance novels that I have read and enjoyed, as well as another ten that are on my TBR. Each book features at least one character with a unique voice, and many are written by authors who are diverse in their own right. I’ve also embraced illustrated covers with this list, lol! There’s barely a shirtless man to be found. Don’t worry, they’ll be back with the next list!
I’ve included the blurb and links to both Amazon and Bookshop for each of the books on this list. Bookshop is a website that supports local book stores. If you haven’t checked Bookshop out yet, it’s perfect for paperback lovers. Happy reading!
READ & ENJOYED
Own Voices: Autistic author; heroine is Autistic & has Rheumatoid Arthritis • Jeeves’ Top 20 of 2020 Selection
Always Only You by Chloe Liese
Get ready for an emotional ride filled with laughter, longing, and a sweet slow-burn in this sports romance about love’s power not in spite of difference, but because of it.
The moment I met her, I knew Frankie Zeferino was someone worth waiting for. Deadpan delivery, secret heart of gold, and a rare one-dimpled smile that makes my knees weak, Frankie has been forbidden since the day she and I became coworkers, meaning waiting has been the name of my game—besides, hockey, that is.
I’m a player on the team, she’s on staff, and as long as we work together, dating is off-limits. But patience has always been my virtue. Frankie won’t be here forever—she’s headed for bigger, better things. I just hope that when she leaves the team and I tell her how I feel, she won’t want to leave me behind, too.
I’ve had a problem at work since the day Ren Bergman joined the team: a six foot three hunk of happy with a sunshine smile. I’m a grumbly grump and his ridiculously good nature drives me nuts, but even I can’t entirely ignore that hot tamale of a ginger with icy eyes, the perfect playoff beard, and a body built for sin that he’s annoyingly modest about.
Before I got wise, I would have tripped over myself to get a guy like Ren, but with my diagnosis, I’ve learned what I am to most people in my life—a problem, not a person. Now, opening my heart to anyone, no matter how sweet, is the last thing I’m prepared to do.
Always Only You is an opposites-attract, forbidden love sports romance about a nerdy, late-blooming hockey star, and his tough cookie coworker who keeps both her soft side and her autism diagnosis* to herself. Complete with a meddling secretary, tantric yoga torture, and a scorching slow burn, this standalone is the second in a series of novels about a Swedish-American family of five brothers, two sisters, and their wild adventures as they each find happily ever after.
*This is an #OwnVoices story for its portrayal of autism by an autistic author.
Own Voices: author and heroine are both biracial
How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams
One daring to-do list and a crash course in flirtation turn a Type A overachiever’s world upside down.
When her flailing department lands on the university’s chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.
Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.
Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she’s finally living again.
Plus size heroine; centers around fanfiction community
Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
Olivia Dade bursts onto the scene in this delightfully fun romantic comedy set in the world of fanfiction, in which a devoted fan goes on an unexpected date with her celebrity crush, who’s secretly posting fanfiction of his own.
Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. The world may know him as Aeneas, star of the biggest show on television, but fanfiction readers call him something else: Book!AeneasWouldNever. Marcus gets out his frustrations with the show through anonymous stories about the internet’s favorite couple, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone discovered his online persona, he’d be finished in Hollywood.
April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s long hidden her fanfic and cosplay hobbies from her “real life”—but not anymore. When she dares to post her latest costume creation on Twitter, her plus-size take goes viral. And when Marcus asks her out to spite her internet critics, truth officially becomes stranger than fanfiction.
On their date, Marcus quickly realizes he wants more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. But when he discovers she’s Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to keep from her.
With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?
Own Voices: Indian American author, heroine and hero
The Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel
A fiercely independent engineer walks out on the man her parents have set her up with — only to start working side-by-side with him at her job in this laugh-out-loud debut with “delicious banter, deep wounds, heartwarming friendships, and a path to love that often feels impossibly hard, and [a payoff] satisfying enough to give you a book hangover the size of Texas” (Sonali Dev, USA Today bestselling author of Recipe for Persuasion).
Liya Thakkar is a successful biochemical engineer, takeout enthusiast, and happily single woman. The moment she realizes her parents’ latest dinner party is a setup with the man they want her to marry, she’s out the back door in a flash. Imagine her surprise when the same guy shows up at her office a week later — the new lawyer hired to save her struggling company. What’s not surprising: he’s not too thrilled to see her either after that humiliating fiasco.
Jay Shah looks good on paper…and off. Especially if you like that whole gorgeous, charming lawyer-in-a-good-suit thing. He’s also infuriating. As their witty office banter turns into late-night chats, Liya starts to think he might be the one man who truly accepts her. But falling for each other means exposing their painful pasts. Will Liya keep running, or will she finally give love a real chance?
Heroine lives with Tourette’s and anxiety
Yes and I Love You by Roni Loren
A beautifully emotional and unforgettably steamy new contemporary romance from New York Times and USA Today bestseller Roni Loren
Everyone knows Miz Poppy, the vibrant reviewer whose commentary brightens the New Orleans nightlife. But no one knows Hollyn Tate, the real face behind the media star…or the anxiety that keeps her isolated. All her life, Hollyn’s tried to hide her true self behind an online facade, but when her boss tells her she needs to reveal the truth to the world or lose her job, she’s forced to rely on an unexpected source to help face her fears.
Enter Jasper Deares: actor, newly minted fake boyfriend, and way, way out of her league. Hollyn thinks Jasper must be joking when he offers private lessons to help overcome her fears. Getting up on a stage? Hello, worst nightmare. But Jasper’s infectious charm has her saying yes despite herself. They’re only supposed to be playing a few improv games, but as the lessons run longer and the lines grow blurrier, Hollyn can’t help but wonder if she’s acting at all…or if a relationship with Jasper might help give her the confidence she needs to say yes to every imperfect part of herself.
Bisexual, Black British heroine; British Pakistani hero
Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
USA Today bestselling author Talia Hibbert returns with another charming romantic comedy about a young woman who agrees to fake date her friend after a video of him “rescuing” her from their office building goes viral…
Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.
When big, brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and former rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact to him, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Suddenly, half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?
Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf is secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.
The easy lay Dani dreamed of is now more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?
Asian American hero, Jewish heroine
The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.
Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.
When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.
As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.
Latinx hero and author
Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras
USA Today bestselling author Priscilla Oliveras launches a new romantic comedy series set in Key West, Florida and filled with humor, Latinx culture, and fun family dynamics perfect for summer beach reading…
Sought-after social media influencer Sara Vance, in recovery from an eating disorder, is coming into her own, with a potential career expansion on the horizon. Despite the good news, her successful siblings (and their perfect spouses) have a way of making her feel like the odd one out. So, when her unreliable boyfriend is a no-show for a Florida family vacation, Sara recruits Luis Navarro—a firefighter paramedic and dive captain willing to play the part of her smitten fiancé . . .
Luis’s big Cuban familia has been in Key West for generations, and his quiet strength feeds off the island’s laidback style. Though guarded after a deep betrayal, he’ll always help someone in need—especially a spunky beauty with a surprising knowledge of Spanish curse words. Soon, he and Sara have memorized their “how we met” story and are immersed in family dinners, bike tours, private snorkeling trips . . . sharing secrets, and slow, melting kisses. But when it’s time for Sara to return home, will their fake relationship fade like the stunning sunset . . . or blossom into something beautiful?
Own Voices: Iranian American author and heroine; Latino hero
Set to Music by Negeen Papehn
Dr. Darya Zameeni doesn’t have time for interruptions—in her ER, or in her life. Especially not from the gorgeous man pacing in her waiting room. With mountains of student debt, an ailing single mother, and a younger sister to support, Darya can’t afford to get sidetracked, even though they can’t take their eyes off each other.
Disillusioned Grammy-winning rock star Anthony Castillo’s night wasn’t supposed to end like this—in the ER, panicked after his little brother’s sudden collapse on stage. The band cannot go back on tour without Carlos, but his brother needs constant medical attention. When the beautiful, no-nonsense Dr. Zameeni treating Carlos shows no interest in their fame, he decides she is the perfect candidate for the job. If only he can convince her—and himself—that he wants nothing more.
Darya can’t imagine leaving her job, even temporarily, to follow a rock star around the globe. She’s expected to be the perfect Iranian daughter, after all. But Anthony’s offer comes right as she needs the money and she cannot deny their attraction.
Family is everything to them both. With so much to lose, the smart thing would be to go back to their lives and forget they’d ever met. But doing the smart thing has never seemed so wrong…
The representation is a spoiler, so I’m not going to tell you what it is. Sorry!
Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle
Can you find real love when you’ve always got your head in the clouds?
Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.
Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous–and it turns out he has a very different vision for the property’s future.
Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.
ON MY TBR
Releases in June • LGBTQIA romance, plus… time travel? lol, I have an ARC, but I’m avoiding spoilers, so I can’t say for sure yet!
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
From the New York Times bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue comes a new romantic comedy that will stop readers in their tracks…
“Dreamy, other worldly, smart, swoony, thoughtful, hilarious – all in all, exactly what you’d expect from Casey McQuiston!” – Jasmine Guillory, New York Times bestselling author of The Proposal and Party for Two
For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.
But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.
Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.
Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time.
Own Voices: Puerto Rican author, heroine, and hero
You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria
RITA® Award Winning author Alexis Daria brings readers an unforgettable, hilarious rom-com set in the drama-filled world of telenovelas—perfect for fans of Jane the Virgin and The Kiss Quotient.
Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.
After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez.
Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy.
After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had.
Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.
With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.
Own Voices: South Asian Muslim characters and author
Accidentally Engaged by Farah Herron
A “delectable” romantic comedy about a woman who fakes an engagement to the boy next door to enter a couples cooking contest (Farrah Rochon, USA Today bestselling author).
When it comes to bread, Reena Manji knows exactly what she’s doing. She treats her sourdough starters like (somewhat unruly) children. But when it comes to Reena’s actual family—and their constant meddling in her life—well, that recipe always ends in disaster.
Now Reena’s parents have found her yet another potential Good Muslim Husband. This one has the body of Captain America, a delicious British accent, and lives right across the hall. He’s the perfect, mouthwatering temptation . . . and completely ruined by the unwelcome side dish of parental interference.
Reena refuses to marry anyone who works for her father. She won’t be attracted to Nadim’s sweet charm or gorgeous lopsided smile. That is, until the baking opportunity of a lifetime presents itself: a couples’ cooking competition with the prize of her dreams. Reena will do anything to win—even asking Nadim to pretend they’re engaged. But when it comes to love, baking your bread doesn’t always mean you get to eat it too.
Releases in July • BIPOC author and characters
While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory
Two people realize that it’s no longer an act when they veer off-script in this sizzling romantic comedy by New York Times bestselling author Jasmine Guillory.
Ben Stephens has never bothered with serious relationships. He has plenty of casual dates to keep him busy, family drama he’s trying to ignore and his advertising job to focus on. When Ben lands a huge ad campaign featuring movie star, Anna Gardiner, however, it’s hard to keep it purely professional. Anna is not just gorgeous and sexy, she’s also down to earth and considerate, and he can’t help flirting a little…
Anna Gardiner is on a mission: to make herself a household name, and this ad campaign will be a great distraction while she waits to hear if she’s booked her next movie. However, she didn’t expect Ben Stephens to be her biggest distraction. She knows mixing business with pleasure never works out, but why not indulge in a harmless flirtation?
But their light-hearted banter takes a turn for the serious when Ben helps Anna in a family emergency, and they reveal truths about themselves to each other, truths they’ve barely shared with those closest to them.
When the opportunity comes to turn their real-life fling into something more for the Hollywood spotlight, will Ben be content to play the background role in Anna’s life and leave when the cameras stop rolling? Or could he be the leading man she needs to craft their own Hollywood ending?
Releases in September • Own Voices: Indian American author and heroine
The Shaadi Set-Up by Lillie Vale
In this witty and heartfelt rom-com debut for fans of Jasmine Guillory, Emily Henry, and Tessa Bailey, an Indian American woman signs herself and her boyfriend up for a matchmaking site to prove they’re a perfect match, only to be paired with her ex instead.
High school sweethearts Rita Chitniss and Milan Rao were the golden couple, until the day he broke her heart. Now, six years later, Rita has turned her passion for furniture restoration into a career and has an almost-perfect boyfriend, Neil. The last thing she needs is for Milan to re-enter her life, but that’s exactly what happens when her mother, an unfailing believer in second chances, sets them up. Milan is just as charming, cocky, and confident as he was back in school. Only this time, he actually needs her business expertise, not her heart, to flip a hard-to-sell house for his realty agency.
While Rita begrudgingly agrees to help, she’s not taking any risks. To prove she’s definitely over him, she signs herself and Neil up on MyShaadi.com, a Desi matchmaking site famous for its success stories and trustworthy enough to convince everyone that she and Neil are the new and improved couple. Instead, she’s shocked when MyShaadi’s perfect match for her isn’t Neil…it’s Milan. Ignoring the website and her mother is one thing, but ignoring Milan proves much more difficult, especially when she promises to help him renovate the beach house of her dreams. And as the two of them dive deeper into work—and their pasts—Rita begins to wonder if maybe her match wasn’t so wrong after all….
Own Voices: Indian American author and heroine
The Dating Plan by Sara Desai
Even with a step-by-step plan, these fake fiancés might accidentally fall for each other in this hilarious, heartfelt romantic comedy from the author of The Marriage Game.
Daisy Patel is a software engineer who understands lists and logic better than bosses and boyfriends. With her life all planned out, and no interest in love, the one thing she can’t give her family is the marriage they expect. Left with few options, she asks her childhood crush to be her decoy fiancé.
Liam Murphy is a venture capitalist with something to prove. When he learns that his inheritance is contingent on being married, he realizes his best friend’s little sister has the perfect solution to his problem. A marriage of convenience will get Daisy’s matchmaking relatives off her back and fulfill the terms of his late grandfather’s will. If only he hadn’t broken her tender teenage heart nine years ago…
Sparks fly when Daisy and Liam go on a series of dates to legitimize their fake relationship. Too late, they realize that very little is convenient about their arrangement. History and chemistry aren’t about to follow the rules of this engagement.
Pakistani Muslim heroine, Indian hero
First Comes Like by Alisha Rai
The author of The Right Swipe and Girl Gone Viral returns with a story about finding love in all the wrong inboxes…
Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast.
There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is.
The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her…
When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life?
Own Voices: Vietnamese author and heroine; Black hero
Happy Endings by Thien-Kim Lam
With her debut novel, Thien-Kim Lam serves up a sexy second-chance romance about exes with unfinished business. When working together reignites their passion, will these former flames sizzle or get burned all over again?
Trixie Nguyen is determined to make her sex toy business a success, proving to her traditional Vietnamese parents that she can succeed in a nontraditional career. She’s made a fresh start in Washington DC, and her first pop-up event is going well—until she runs into the ex who dumped her. With a Post-it note.
The last person Andre Walker expected to see in his soul food restaurant was the woman he left behind in New Orleans. Their chemistry is still scorching, but he’s desperately trying to save his family restaurant from gentrifying developers. The solution? Partnering with his ex to turn Mama Hazel’s into a vibrator pop-up shop for hungry and horny clients.
Thanks to their steamy truce, both businesses start to sizzle and their red-hot desire soon reignites deeper feelings. But when Trixie receives an incredible career opportunity, will pride ruin their second chance at happiness?
Releases in July • Own Voices: South Asian American author and characters
Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev
The author of Recipe for Persuasion—“not only one of the best but one of the bravest romance novelists working today” (Shelf Awareness)—adds an Indian American twist to Jane Austen’s classic Sense and Sensibility in this delightful retelling that is a feast for the senses.
Yash Raje, California’s first serious Indian gubernatorial candidate, has always known exactly what he wants—and how to use his privileged background to get it. He attributes his success to a simple mantra: control your feelings and you can control the world.
But when a hate-fueled incident at a rally critically injures his friend, Yash’s easy life suddenly feels like a lie, his control an illusion. When he tries to get back on the campaign trail, he blacks out with panic.
Desperate to keep Yash’s condition from leaking to the media, his family turns to the one person they trust—his sister’s best friend, India Dashwood, California’s foremost stress management coach. Raised by a family of yoga teachers, India has helped San Francisco’s high strung overachievers for a decade without so much as altering her breath. But this man—with his boundless ambition, simmering intensity, and absolute faith in his political beliefs—is like no other. Yash has spent a lifetime repressing everything to succeed.
Including their one magical night ten years ago—a too brief, too bright passion that if rekindled threatens the life he’s crafted for himself. Exposing the secrets might be the only way to save him but it’s also guaranteed to destroy the dream he’s willingly shouldered for his family and community . . . until now.
Releases in September • Own Voices: Autistic author and hero; heroine has inflammatory bowel disease
With You Forever by Chloe Liese
A marriage of convenience, grumpy/sunshine romance.
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