What’s a hot slow burn romance? A love story with combustible chemistry, where you can feel the heat before the characters even make it to the bedroom. They often feature sizzling sexual tension, intense attraction, and sometimes forbidden romances. Some start out soft and subtle, while others kick into high gear from the beginning – but none of these couples jump into bed right away. They’ll have you fanning yourself at one point or another, and there are definitely steamy moments in the back half of each.
The books on this list are all contemporary romance novels that have received high ratings from me, and several have also made my Best of lists. I’ve included a description of the vibe, the blurb, and links to both Amazon and my reviews for easy addition to your collection. Happy reading!
Earn Your Extra Credit by Meghan Quinn
Intense chemistry • Co-workers/frenemies/Fake relationship
“She went home with someone else that night?”
Hearing the disbelief from my best friend’s mouth makes the events of my failed date sting that much more.
I would like to make it known, I have a lot more swagger than what it seems. I don’t normally ask a girl out, have her fail to recognize it’s a date, and then give me a high five–as if I’m her wingman–and take off with someone else.
No. Normally I’m the one taking the girl home but with Stella, it’s been one failed attempt after another and frankly, I’m done trying.
But thanks to my best friend getting married in Hawaii right before the school year starts, I’m stuck on a tropical island, watching Stella parade around in what she claims is a bathing suit.
Unfortunately, that’s not the worst of it, just the tip of the iceberg. Because what I think is going to be a relaxing vacation, avoiding the one girl I can’t seem to make it work with, has turned into a spectacle of being recruited as Stella’s doting fake fiancé so she can save face with an old “friend” from high school.
Now I’m navigating through purgatory while trying not to get turned on by the way she holds my hand or kisses my jaw. It’s all fake, that’s what I keep telling myself, even though it feels entirely too real.
Note from author: This book is a smattering of tropes: Enemies to lovers, turned friends to lovers, and also coworkers to lovers. Not to mention, a fake fiancé romance that takes place in Maui and Chicago. Lots of heat–a balcony scene that will make you blush–absurdly funny pranks, best supporting cast, a surprise “mom” you’ll never see coming, and a grumbly guss of a hero who can’t stop pining after his girl. Enjoy!
Forbidden (professor/grad student) • Light but angsty
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.
So, That Got Weird by Amelia Kingston
Steamy • Emotional • Opposites attract • College/New Adult
A painfully awkward love story.
Incomprehensibly awkward Elizabeth Wilde is desperate for love. Connection. Intimacy. After a lifetime of romantic failures, the twenty-one-year-old gamer realizes she needs help. Professional help. She needs…
A sex tutor.
The devastatingly hot jock Austin Jacobs is just the man for the job. As the reigning campus sex god, he has the playboy act down pat. But underneath those six-pack abs beats a broken heart. He doesn’t trust people and he sure as hell doesn’t believe in love.
The odd couple strike a deal. Four weeks of ‘tutoring’ for five thousand dollars.
When Austin coaxes Elizabeth out from behind her computer screen, the attraction they feel is undeniable. They’re both a little broken, but somehow their jagged edges fit. And when their world comes tumbling down on top of them, they each have to decide if this weird thing called love is worth fighting for.
Reader advisory: This book includes references to inadequate parenting, parental death, a parent with addiction. There are also scenes including the use of performance drugs.
The Perfect Catch by Meghan Quinn
Adored this grumpalicious hero • Strangers to lovers • Forbidden
“Kiss me. Just this once . . . please Walker.”
Those whispered words were my undoing . . .As the most hated player in baseball, I had two options: either clean up my image or pack my bags. Being traded wasn’t an option which only meant one thing, I had to become compliant.
That’s how I found myself sharing a small bistro table with Kate Chapman, the Chicago Bobbies newest PR Manager. Devastatingly beautiful, vastly intelligent, and incredibly cunning, she knows exactly how to handle my grumpy demeanor. It was supposed to be simple. Book some PR events, show up, smile for the camera, and be done. But one massive mistake on my end sends me into the trenches with Kate, forcing me to open up to her.
Innocent glances turn into cordial encounters.
Secret touches turn into tempting invitations.
And dangerous nights alone turn into consuming desperation.
I’ve never wanted a woman as much as I want her. And I know she wants me, but there’s a no fraternizing with the players rule. Neither of us can afford to lose our jobs, but we also can’t seem to keep our hands off each other either.
It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey
Opposites attract • Small town • Fish out of water • Light and fun
Tessa Bailey is back with a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com about a Hollywood “It Girl” who’s cut off from her wealthy family and exiled to a small Pacific Northwest beach town… where she butts heads with a surly, sexy local who thinks she doesn’t belong.
Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.
Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.
Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart.
Forbidden (she has a boyfriend) • Forced proximity • Billionaire
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.
Not the Marrying Kind by Kathryn Nolan
Playboy reformed • Light and sexy • Opposites attract
He’s the best bad decision she’ll ever make…
Type A attorney Fiona Quinn has one goal left to accomplish before turning 30: A big, fairy-tale wedding. All she needs is a groom. So what if she’s never been in love—or even lust—before? She’s confident she can solve the problem the way she always does, with spreadsheets and an action plan.
When a family emergency brings bad boy Max Devlin swaggering back into town—with his cocky grin, tattoos, and wanderlust—Fiona has to remind herself that he’s as unsuitable as it gets. Nope. Not happening. No matter how irresistible his invitation is for a night or seven between the sheets. If she can’t tie him down—metaphorically, of course—her pants must stay on.
Max can’t remember the last time a woman turned him down. He’s a guaranteed three-orgasms good time, dammit. So what if he’s not the marrying kind? Those sweaty palms he gets when Fiona agrees to help him save his dad’s punk rock club are just an allergic reaction to her methodical march toward matrimony. Before he hits the road again, he’s going to prove to Fiona that life’s more fun when you play rather than plan.
No one gets hurt when it’s all just fun and games, right?
Author’s Note: A steamy, opposites attract standalone romance featuring a cocky bad boy (with a heart of gold) and a buttoned-up good girl (with a secret wild side). 1-click if you’re into dirty dancing, swoony first kisses and hot trysts in supply closets. This book comes with a guaranteed (and very romantic) Happily Ever After.
Something Like Hate by Harloe Rae
Hate to love • Office romance • Intense chemistry • Billionaire
From USA Today & Amazon Top Ten bestselling author Harloe Rae comes a sizzling enemies-to-lovers romance where a billionaire CEO battles against a snarky redhead who has her own agenda.
“I’d say it’s nice to meet you, but I’ve never been a good liar.”
That’s his initial offense against me.
Don’t worry—there’s plenty more where that came from.
Landon Winters is colder than his last name suggests.
Cruel and callous too.
I’m certain he finds pleasure in making others miserable.
He’s a billionaire by his own making—not satisfied with simply inheriting a white collar and silver spoon.
Landon’s arrogance is so thick I could choke on the stench alone.
He’s also responsible for gouging a jaded chip to my shoulder.
The only saving grace is never having to see him again.
Wishful thinking is a fickle beast.
My boss just announced that Landon is my latest client.
I’ll need to impress him or kiss my promotion goodbye.
Either way, this is my chance to get even.
Revenge is all I see.
The price for redemption is steep.
Landon will pay a small fortune in humiliation.
And I’ll walk away filthy rich in vindication.
Forbidden by Karla Sorensen
Age gap • Boss/employee • Single dad/widower • Sweet yet sexy
It takes a lot to rattle me, but nothing could’ve prepared me for the day that Aiden Hennessy walked through my beloved gym doors, ownership papers in his big hands.
I know a lot about my gorgeous new boss, a former fighter whose posters used to decorate my bedroom walls. I know he retired at the height of his fame to take care of his sick wife. I know he’s now a single dad raising an adorable little girl. And I know that no matter how broody and quiet he is, my innocent teenage crush has turned into a highly inappropriate adult fantasy.
I would’ve gotten over it, until one night sparring with him at the gym, it’s clear my feelings aren’t so one-sided.
It’s impossible to pretend I don’t want him. Especially when I have to see him every single day, and watch him take care of his daughter.
Aiden thinks I’m too young for him. He says he shouldn’t want me.
But all it takes is one step over the line to prove what they say is true- forbidden fruit really does taste the sweetest.
Crave Thy Neighbor by Teagan Hunter
Single mom • Temporary roommates • Light yet angsty
Don’t fall for your roommate…especially when it’s only temporary.
Nolan Brooks is off limits.
Sure, he’s insanely attractive and funny and I might have almost gone home with him one night to relieve a little stress.
It was all just a momentary lapse in judgment…just like the kiss we shared.
He’s my temporary roommate while I wait for my new apartment to be ready. That’s it.
He’s doesn’t do relationships, and he doesn’t do attachments.
So what if I have a crush on him? We’ll only be there for two months.
Surely I can survive that long.
Love to Tempt You by J. Saman
Age gap • Rock star/virgin • Strangers to lovers • Angsty & emotional
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.
Break the Rules by Roxie Noir
Quirky hero • Best friend’s little sis • Light and sexy
She’s my best friend’s kid sister.
Now she’s not a kid any more.
As a forest ranger, I believe in the simple life. I prefer cabins to apartments, trails over freeways, and trees to people. My life is orderly, predictable, and quiet.
Until it’s hit by a woman I never saw coming — Hurricane June.
She’s fierce. She’s feisty. She has a laugh like the first day of spring, and she’s so pretty that I can’t breathe when I look at her. June will only be in town for a few months—just while job-hunting. She won’t last until winter, but how can I resist?
Except I have to. She’s my best, oldest, and most loyal friend’s baby sister.
Betraying him would be the worst thing I’ve ever done. Not betraying him might be the hardest.
Especially once we start working together on a secret project. All this spending time together, sneaking around at night, and lying to her brother about what we’re doing sure feels like more than friendship.
June might break my heart.
Her brother might break my nose.
But I guess some things were made to be broken.
The Rival Roomies by Piper Rayne
Friends to lovers • Bad boy/good girl • Temporary roommates
I’ve loved him from afar.
Though most times he’s only a foot away.
I’m smart enough to know he’ll never be anyone’s forever.
He checks all the bad boy boxes. Tattoos. Check. Motorcycle. Check. Chip on his shoulder. Check check.
If he wasn’t my neighbor and friend I may have thrown myself at him. Okay, yeah. I wouldn’t. Because guys like Dylan don’t want a woman who writes kid’s math textbooks under him in bed. Instead, I pathetically savor morsels of moments where I have his sole attention.
That was until his archenemy moved in with me. Now suddenly, Dylan’s moving in too and warning off the first guy in a long time who’s showing me interest. Could he finally see me as more than a friend, or am I just a prize to win and show off to his enemy?
Light and Sexy • Quirky Humor • Great Chemistry
Drop Dead Gorgeous by Lauren Landish
I see dead people.
No, not like that movie.
I’m a coroner, and yes it’s the kiss of death on my dating life. When men find out what I do, I’m lucky to hear “it was nice meeting you.”
Until I almost accidentally kill Blake Hale with my car.
Instead of being freaked out by me, he’s intrigued.
No matter how much I try to scare him off, he keeps coming back for more.
And for a follow-the-rules guy, he’s breaking them all for me.
We couldn’t be more different.
He’s all goodness and light, with a brain that’s even sexier than his six pack.
I’m danger in a pretty package, and no amount of knocking on wood is going to make the happily ever after he’s promising come true. But…
With each word we exchange, my resolve weakens.
With each heated look, he gets further into my soul.
With every kiss, he consumes me by accepting me just as I am.
I deal in death all day. He sells life… insurance. What could possibly go wrong when I start believing in Mr. Right?
Sex and Other Shiny Objects by Lauren Blakely
Friends to lovers • Sexual tension • Light & sexy
The second the test-the-sexy-scenes offer landed in my lap, I said yes.
After all, I’ve been damn curious about a few things I’ve read in romance novels. Do buttons truly go flying across the floor when you rip off a guy’s shirt? Is staircase sex hella hot or does it leave you with a big old bruise mark on your back? And don’t even get me started on all that panty shredding, and whether it even works.
Time to find out as I embark on Project Sexy Scenes Research, at the request of my hotshot book editor bestie.
All I need is a willing scene partner. Enter Tristan, my best guy friend. The witty, tell-it-like-it-is, bearded hottie volunteers for the experiment.
He’s also the guy who gave me the most devastating, toe-curling kiss of my life ten years ago. But nothing has happened since then.
And nothing will come between my panties and our friendship now since we have a plan to keep it PG.
But once the buttons start flying, all bets are off…
Want more romance recommendations? Check out some of my other lists!
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