Sexual tension and angst can take a forbidden romance novel to the next level. Whether it’s a love triangle, a twin swap, an age gap, or just a bad idea, forbidden romances are usually intense reads. I love the complicated dynamics, the emotional storylines, and the unpredictability of a forbidden romance. They’re usually not light or easy reads, but there’s an inherent bingeable quality to them.
The books on this list are sure to hold your attention, even as they drive you a little crazy. Many are slow burn to sizzle romances featuring relationships that are sometimes frustrating. Several also feature antiheroes who are up to no good. But they’re all engaging, addictive reads that will keep you up late into the night.
The books on this list are all contemporary romance novels that have received 5-star ratings from me, and several have also made Best of lists. I’ve included the reason the relationship is forbidden, the blurb, and a link to Amazon for easy addition to your collection for each book. Happy reading!
The problem? She already has a boyfriend, and he’s been a jerk in an attempt to avoid temptation
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 problem? He’s her older, tempermental grad school professor
The Love Interest by Kayley Loring
I hope this letter finds you well—and by well, I mean significantly less infuriated than you were yesterday. I’ve wanted to continue our conversation from the night we met, but there are so many things I can’t say or do, now that I’m your professor.
As an anonymous letter writer, I can give you some idea of what I have planned for us, once the year is over. As an author, I can share my work in progress with you. Not for you to critique but to show you how much you mean to me.
When you’re done reading this page, destroy it—and then write me back. Don’t sign the letter. Don’t put a return address on the envelope. Mail it from a random mailbox.
Yours in problem solving,
P.S. I still think you’re wasting your talent on that historical romance novel.
P.P.S. I really wanted to push you up against the door and kiss your beautiful, angry face. I will. One day.
Your handwriting is almost as terrible as your mood swings, and it would have been my instinct to destroy that letter even if you hadn’t ordered me to.
If you show me your work in progress, I will critique it.
I am currently still too infuriated to write about all the other feelings I have for you.
Expect another letter soon.
Your problem and your solution,
P.S. I still think an overpaid, overrated, overly handsome bestselling author of thrillers has no business teaching creative writing at a prestigious New York university.
P.P.S. To my great horror, I really wanted you to push me up against that door and kiss my angry face too. I understand now that your appalling way of treating me in class has been overcompensation, but I don’t forgive you for it. I’ll kiss you again anyway. One day.
The problem? They’re cousins, though not by blood
Disarm by Karina Halle
Karina Halle, the New York Times bestselling author of Discretion, lifts the veil off a privileged family dynasty to reveal a wealth of secrets and dangerous obsessions.
Seraphine Dumont seems to have it all: she’s gorgeous, brilliant, and part of one of France’s most illustrious dynasties. But underneath the facade, Seraphine struggles to hold it all together. Besides grieving her adoptive father’s suspicious and sudden death, she also shares a tenuous role in the family business with Blaise, her in-name-only cousin. As tumultuous as their history is, he may be the only member of the deceptive Dumont family she can trust.
Seraphine is a temptation Blaise can’t resist. The torch he’s carried for years still burns. It’s his secret—a quiet obsession just out of reach. Until his brother demands that he spy on the increasingly cagey Seraphine, whom their father considers a dispensable Dumont outlier. But the more Blaise watches her and the closer he gets, the more he sees Seraphine may have every right to be suspicious. And she could be the next one in danger—from his own family.
As blood runs hot and hearts give in, Seraphine and Blaise have only each other. But can their love survive the secrets they’re about to uncover?
*This will read as a standalone, but might make more sense if you read the series
The problem? She already has a boyfriend, and they’re all on a yacht together
Close Quarters by Kandi Steiner
From bestselling author Kandi Steiner comes a fresh and captivating billionaire romance about a reserved photographer and the powerful CEO who has to have her…
My boyfriend’s billionaire boss always gets what he wants.
Menacingly handsome and unquestionably powerful, Theo Whitman need only snap his fingers to have a flock of supermodels fall at his feet. So when his steel gray eyes first meet mine, I expect him to pass right over me, to not give so much as a second thought to my presence.
Instead, he sees me.
Truly sees me.
And for a girl who prefers to hide behind her camera lens, it’s the most unnerving experience of my life.
Until he asks me to stay on his yacht for the summer.
All I have to do to earn my keep is be Theo’s on-call photographer when he has guests, and I’ll get a free ride through the Mediterranean with my boyfriend. Easy peasy.
Still, my skin prickles in warning when I say yes.
As the humid days fade into balmy nights, I can’t seem to avoid Theo. And when he finds me, it’s like a rabbit running into a wolf.
His intense gaze immobilizes me. The way he speaks strips me bare. Every brush of his skin sears me like a violent flame.
My boyfriend’s billionaire boss always gets what he wants.
And this time, I think he wants me.
The problem? He is her bodyguard, and he doesn’t particularly like her
I Just Need You by J. Nathan
Studying abroad was my chance to gain independence away from my privileged life in California. But, when there’s a kidnapping attempt on my life, I’m forced to return home to finish college. I just never expected to get stuck with a pompous, know-it-all bodyguard who watches my every move with nothing but disdain. One whose good looks don’t soften the cold, impenetrable wall he wears like armor.
I pride myself on being a professional and taking my job as a bodyguard seriously. But, nothing could prepare me for the high maintenance, rich girl I’m hired to protect. She’s got a smart mouth, is hell bent on pushing my buttons, and doesn’t take the threats against her seriously. And despite the nightmares that plague her dreams, or the fact that I’m the only one who knows about them, I’m not there to befriend her. I’m there to protect her…no matter how much she intrigues me.
Jabs will be exchanged, glares will become the norm, jealousy will rear its ugly head, and sparks…well those damn things will inevitably fly. But will it all come with a dangerous price?
The problem? They’re both keeping secrets, and he’s a coldblooded killer
The Brit by Jodi Ellen Malpas
Pleasure has never been so deadly.
Rose Cassidy doesn’t truly live; she just exists. Numbing herself to fear and pain is the only way she can survive in this cruel world. So when she’s taken as collateral by the notorious Danny Black in a deadly game of power, she’s thrown by the deep fear she feels rising within her. And, worse than fear, a profound desire. She’s heard tales of The Brit. He’s callous. Coldblooded. But no one ever said he was wickedly beautiful and darkly captivating. He sees past her mask, giving her a cruel sense of hope. But she must fight their twisted attraction or risk losing the one thing she survives for.
When Danny Black took an enemy’s beautiful lover as security, he never anticipated the repercussions. Or the warped attraction they would share. Rose Cassidy pushes Danny to the brink of madness with her impenetrable façade and savage allure. He has to remind himself that she’s bait. A solution to a problem. Yet she evokes powerful feelings in Danny, and feelings are risky when you’re wanted dead by endless enemies.
The most dangerous game is about to be played.
But can either of them win?
*This story is gritty, dark, edgy, and contains scenes that some people may find uncomfortable to read. It is NOT for the fainthearted.
The problem? They’re on a Bachelor-style reality show, and he’s got to play the part for the camera
Runaway Groom by Lauren Layne
For one charming playboy, getting cast on a Bachelor-esque reality TV show is the shock of a lifetime—until he finds love where he least expects it. And now the chase is on!
Gage Barrett’s reputation as a ladies’ man has been greatly exaggerated, but none of that matters after a drunken bet lands him on Jilted, a reality TV show that matches runaway grooms with wannabe brides. Now he’s stuck at a Hawaiian resort with nineteen women competing to drag him back to the altar—and one contestant who’s even more miserable than he is. Gage has no idea how feisty, independent Ellie Wright wound up in the cast, but it’s obvious she hates his guts. And if there’s one thing Gage likes, it’s a challenge. . . .
Ellie can’t believe she let her best friend talk her into exchanging her dignity for a glorified bikini contest. Still, she could use the exposure—her business is struggling—and she’ll probably be one of the first to get eliminated anyway. But Gage isn’t the shallow jerk Ellie anticipated—and he’s in no rush to send her home. As stolen kisses turn into secret trysts, she finds herself losing track of what’s real and what’s for the camera. With the wedding finale looming, this runaway groom is tempting Ellie to start believing in storybook endings.
The problem? He’s pretending to be his twin brother… a.k.a. the man who broke her heart
Stealing Her by Rachel Van Dyken
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes an unexpected love story of family, secrets, and the most intimate of deceptions.
My estranged twin brother, Julian, was always the wonder boy—and was groomed to become CEO of our ruthless father’s corporation. My mother and me? Left behind. Now, years after tearing our family apart, my father dares to ask me for a favor? Pretend to be Julian while he fights to survive a tragic accident. It can save the company. Nobody will be the wiser. It’ll be our secret.
I can play Dad’s favorite. I’ll do it for Julian. And for my mother, who’ll want for nothing.
But this double life comes with a beauty of a hitch: my very real feelings for Julian’s fiancée, Isobel. Not only am I betraying Julian, I’m deceiving a woman I love. She doesn’t suspect a thing. As lies compound, lines are crossed and loyalties tested, all I can ask myself is…What have I done?
Because sooner or later something’s got to give. There’s no way I’m giving up Isobel. But once the truth is exposed, it might not be my choice at all.
The problem? He’s a mafia boss, and she’s his enemy’s daughter
Cruel Paradise by JT Geissinger
1) A powerful and charismatic man lacking moral character
2) A magnificent bastard
3) Killian Black
You don’t know me. You think you do, but you don’t. The only thing you know is my name, and even that’s a lie.
I’m king of Boston, lord of criminals, ruler of an underworld empire.
Or am I?
Only one thing’s for sure: I operate alone.
Until I cross paths with a brazen little thief who sets my whole kingdom on fire.
Just as two wrongs don’t make a right, two villains don’t belong together. Especially since she’s the daughter of my most deadly enemy.
Taking her would start a war.
Keeping her would be suicide.
Making her mine would break every code of honor and defy all common sense.
Then again, where’s the fun in following the rules?
*This will read as a standalone, but you might understand it better if you read Beautifully Cruel first (which was excellent)
The problem? She’s young and innocent, while he’s experienced and too broken to love again
Love to Tempt You by J. Saman
Our band’s stunning, untouched new assistant was completely off-limits. But that didn’t stop me.
A car crash. A fake story at the hospital.
She warned me when I dragged her from the nightmare that was her life that she could very well destroy mine.
I didn’t listen. I didn’t care.
I brought her into my home. Into my life. Gave her a job.
My Pandora. A goddess amongst mortals who opened a jar and obliterated my world with her beautiful evils. But from the moment I saw her, I knew she had to be mine.
Consequences be damned.
In a life where getting by is barely a thing, I didn’t expect much.
Until I crashed into him. Literally.
Keith Dawson is a god amongst mortals. A rock star I’ve drooled over for longer than I can remember.
And now the hero of my darkest tales when a hero was the last thing I was looking for.
But a god this powerful always has a fatal flaw. Turns out, she died a long time ago. And there is no living up to the ghosts of his past, right?
So where does that leave us? Well, that’s where this story gets interesting.
The problem? He’s pretending to be his twin brother… a.k.a. her boyfriend
Counterfeit Boyfriend by Cindi Madsen
My twin brother’s talked me into a lot of crazy things, but taking his place on a road trip with his girlfriend so he can party with his friends is a whole new level of insanity. What’s even more insane is I somehow find myself agreeing to it—thanks, alcohol, guilt, and bribery. I’m determined to undo the arrangement, but then I meet Gwen, this sexy redheaded hurricane of energy and brains.
And then she kisses me. Just like that, I’m driving her up the coast, on our way to a wedding with a mess of complications. With each hour and each stop, I’m falling harder and harder for a woman who doesn’t know my actual name.
I’m trying to do the right thing. Or the lesser of the wrong things. All my life I’ve had to clean up my brother’s messes, but for the first time ever, I’ve landed the upper hand in one of our switcheroo schemes. Now I’ve just got to come clean and convince Gwen that I’m the brother she should be with.
The problem? She dated his brother
Dangerous Games by T.K. Leigh
He’s the hottest new rockstar on the scene.
I was once engaged to his brother.
Can he convince me he’s worth the risk?
The voice of an angel.
The body of an Adonis.
And the man I happened to have a one-night stand with in Vegas.
No big deal, right? What happens in Vegas… Well, you know how the saying goes.
Did I mention I was once engaged to Asher’s brother?
I walked away, hoping my momentary lack of judgment would stay in the past.
I should have known it wouldn’t. Not with my luck.
Now Asher York is back in my life, and that flame I hoped would flicker and die still burns brightly.
But can I put my heart on the line, knowing this man has the power to obliterate it?
Can I allow myself to come between two brothers?
There’s only one way to find out.
Let the games begin…
*There’s a prequel novella that depicts their night together, though it’s not required reading – details available with my review below
The problem? They’re competing for the same promotion, and the loser will be shipped off to another city
We Shouldn’t by Vi Keeland
From #1 New York Times Bestseller Vi Keeland, comes a new, sexy standalone novel.
Bennett Fox walked into my life on one hell of a crappy Monday morning.
I was late for the first day at my new job–a job I’d now have to compete for even though I’d already worked eight years to earn it, because of an unexpected merger.
While I lugged my belongings up to my new office, a meter maid wrote me a parking summons.
She’d ticketed a long line of cars–except for the Audi parked in front of me, which happened to be the same make and model as mine.
Annoyed, I decided to regift my ticket to the car that had evaded a fine. Chances were, the owner would pay it and be none the wiser.
Except, I accidentally broke the windshield wiper while slipping the ticket onto the car’s window.
Seriously, my day couldn’t get any worse.
Things started to perk up when I ran into a gorgeous man in the elevator. We had one of those brief moments that only happened in movies.
You know the deal…your body lights up, fireworks go off, and the air around you crackles with electricity.
His heated stare left me flushed when I stepped off the elevator.
Maybe things here wouldn’t be so bad after all.
Or so I thought.
Until I walked into my new boss’s office and met my competition.
The gorgeous man from the elevator was now my nemesis. His heated stare wasn’t because of any mutual attraction. It was because he’d seen me vandalize his car. And now he couldn’t wait to annihilate his rival.
There’s a fine line between love and hate–and we shouldn’t cross it.
We shouldn’t–but straddling that line could be so much fun.
The problem? It’s a mafia-themed play on Romeo & Juliet, with families who are at war with one another
Prince of Hearts by L.A. Cotton
A new angsty college mafia romance from bestselling author of the Rixon Raiders series.
Arianne Capizola is her father’s daughter.
Humble. Hardworking. Honest.
She’d rather spend her days helping at the local shelter than brushing shoulders with her vain and entitled classmates.
Niccolò Marchetti is his father’s son.
Dark. Dangerous. Deceitful.
He’d rather spend his days getting bloody in the ring than attending class and keeping up pretences.
When their paths cross at Montague University neither of them are willing to drop the walls they’ve spent so long building. But he can’t resist the girl with stars in her eyes, and she can’t forget the guy who saved her that night.
There’s only one catch.
Nicco isn’t Arianne’s knight-in-shining-armor, he’s the son of her father’s greatest enemy.
He is the enemy.
And their families are at war.
*Prince of Hearts in the first book in Nicco and Ari’s duet and it ends on a major cliffhanger. Due to mature content that some readers may find distressing, this book is recommended for readers 18+
The problem? He’s her new golf coach, and the age gap could be an issue.
Sweet Spot by Rebecca Jenshak
Lincoln Reeves may be a pro golfer and revered swing coach, but when I meet him, he is just one more person telling me I’m not good enough.
So, I do what any girl in my position would do. I tell him to get lost and take his arrogant, annoying smirk with him. I never expect to see him again. I certainly don’t expect to run into him that same night after one too many tequila shots.
Turns out that he’s kind of a big deal. Okay, fine, a really big deal. In fact, he might be the one person who can take my game to the next level.
Convincing him to help will be difficult.
Not throwing my club at his handsome face when he makes me work harder than I thought humanly possible will be excruciating.
But not falling for him will be the hardest thing of all.
Do you love an antihero?
Check out my list of The Guys Your Mom Warned You About: 15 Bad Boys and Playboys here.
Want a lighthearted forbidden romance?
Check out my list of 15 Brother’s Best Friend Romances here.
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