Booked for Love | Romance Novels To Note

From witches falling in love to classics getting romantic retakes, the upcoming season offers many titles to add to TBR piles with many happily-ever-afters in store for readers.

In our annual preview of the romance genre, LJ interviewed publishers and studied forthcoming titles. Our findings highlight much to look forward to in the next six months and confirm, as Montlake Executive Editor Maria Gomez notes, that the genre is continuing to evolve. “We’re excited to see a lot of authors incorporating more diversity within their novels, being more conscientious about power dynamics and consent, and overall making heroines capable and empowered.”

According to NPD, a market information company, romance is the leading growth category for U.S. print book sales so far this year, and the romance category is also contributing to nearly two-thirds of the overall gains for adult fiction. “When we looked at romance author sales earlier this year, it was clear that BookTok is contributing to the most romance gains and helping to create a new romance fanbase among young readers,” said Kristen McLean, books industry analyst for NPD.

As for more trends on the horizon, several romances tackle tough topics like grief and mental health, allowing characters to grow into their happily-ever-afters. In addition, rom-coms, retellings, and books featuring witches continue to be cherished favorites in the genre right now. There seems to be no lack of interest in either contemporary or historicals, as both are going strong. Look here as well for some new subjects gaining ground, such as celebrity romances and those revolving around books. The full list of titles below can be found here.

Rom-Coms and More Contemporary Romance

Cindy Hwang, Berkley vice president and editorial director, says, “Contemporary romance is still the go-to genre for many readers, offering escapism in a world that is still recognizable, just better! … [it] allows writers—and readers—a safe space to explore more serious themes and topics while still providing an escape and the certainty of a happy ending for the characters.” Debut author Lana Ferguson’s contemporary rom-com, The Nanny (Berkley, Apr. 2023), portrays new nanny Cassie working for a former subscriber to her now defunct OnlyFans account, and what could be awkward ends up steamy. Best-selling Korean American author Lily realizes she must return to college for a few credits to get her degree and discovers her TA is ex-boyfriend Leo in Suzanne Park’s The Do-Over (Avon, Apr. 2023). Likewise, in debut authors Victoria Fulton’s and Faith McClaren’s Ellie Is Cool Now (Forever, Mar. 2023), TV screenwriter Ellie must return to high school to write about cool kids just like in the classic film, Never Been Kissed. In Ana Takes Manhattan (Forever, Feb. 2023) by debut author Lissette Decos, Ana produces a reality TV show about marriage proposals but can’t seem to find the right guy to get her own proposal. Ruth Sternglantz, editorial and marketing consultant for Bold Strokes, describes debut author Spencer Greene’s Stolen Kiss (Mar. 2023) as “She steals a kiss with a beautiful stranger in a bar...and then discovers she’s her brother’s new girlfriend. Ooops.” In debut author Amber Samuel’s The Many Dates of Indigo (W by Wattpad, Dec. 2022), Indigo enters the dating pool to find Mr. Right. In Taleen Voskuni’s queer rom-com, Sorry, Bro (Berkley, Jan. 2023), two Armenian American women break expectations to be together. Ebony Magazine Publishing’s first romance is Sandra Kitt’s The Time of Your Life (Apr. 2023) about Eden and Marsh, whose large inheritances make waves within their families, compelling them to turn to each other for support. In Token (Graydon House, Jan. 2023) by Beverley Kendall, two friends create a diversity consulting PR agency for organizations and celebrities, but when an ex gets involved, things get tricky.

Rom-coms can provide a lighter touch on tough topics, keeping the humor and romance at the forefront. For example, debut author Tati Richardson’s The Build Up (Carina, Mar. 2023) finds two architects falling for each other. Stephanie Tzogas, assistant manager at Carina Press, says Richardson “expertly tackles identity, image, sexual harassment, fatphobia, colorism, and elitism within Black professional spaces and the characters’ families with tenderness and flair.” Tzogas goes on to say that debut author Kit Coltrane’s All the Way Happy (Carina Adores, Dec. 2022) “weaves in some heavy topics (parental abuse and neglect, suicide of a parent) with beautiful sensuality, a deep connection between romantic leads, and an incredibly strong prose voice. The result is a rich romance that feels hard-won and special.” After a disastrous coming-out to his family, Alexei shuns the company of others and hikes the Pacific Crest Trail, but he meets another hiker, Ben, whom he can’t keep at a distance in Anita Kelly’s Something Wild & Wonderful (Forever, Mar. 2023). Annette Chavez Macias’s newest, Too Soon for Adiós (Montlake, Mar. 2023), details a woman connecting with her heritage after her mother’s death.

Estelle Hallick, director of marketing and publicity at Forever, notes that “there’s been a rise in openness about mental health that is leading to great discussion and more awareness among readers.” In particular, she highlights social anxiety and “a character who feels much more comfortable expressing himself in letters” in Abby Jimenez’s Yours Truly (Apr. 2023), as well as the “stigma Black men may face when seeking therapy,” as evidenced in Kennedy Ryan’s Before I Let Go (Nov. 2022; LJ starred review), which touches on depression and a wrecked marriage due to tragedy, but with the possibility of a second chance. Katie Stutz, marketing associate at Sourcebooks, says, “We’re seeing novels that aren’t afraid to delve into issues of emotional and mental health,” including Anastasia Ryan’s You Should Smile More (Sourcebooks Casablanca, Jan. 2023), in which telemarketer Vanessa is fired from her job for her “resting bitch face.” While in Melissa Baron’s Twice in a Lifetime (Alcove, Dec. 2022), Isla’s chronic anxiety has her leaving the city for rural life in a time-twisted romance. In B. Celeste’s new adult romance Underneath the Sycamore Tree (Bloom, Jan. 2023), a woman moves in with her estranged father’s new family and struggles with a chronic illness that her late twin also had, finding solace in a new love.

Booking Romance

Romance has been hitting the books, with love blooming everywhere from book clubs to bookstores. The Lonely Hearts Book Club (Sourcebooks Casablanca, Apr. 2023) by Lucy Gilmore centers around librarian Sloane, who creates a book club for a bedridden library patron and finds more than friendship. On a funnier note, The Banned Bookshop of Maggie Banks (Sourcebooks Landmark, Nov. 2022) by Shauna Robinson showcases Maggie, a rule breaker, trying to run her friend’s struggling bookstore. She starts an underground book club and clandestinely sells books that the local literary society has forbidden. Lambda Award–winning author Alexandria Bellefleur humorously couples romance novel cover model Gemma and bookstore owner Tansy in a sham marriage in The Fiancée Farce (Avon, Apr. 2023). Avon Senior Publicity Manager Julie Paulauski says, “This newest stand-alone novel encompasses several beloved tropes: a book about books; a marriage of convenience; fake dating; and more!”

Continuing the romantic comedy bookstore trend, Taj McCoy’s latest, Zora Books Her Happy Ever After (Mira, Apr. 2023), finds plus-sized bookstore owner Zora crushing on visiting author Lawrence, but when Lawrence asks her out, his grumpy best friend Reid decides to tag along. Comparably, Drew hosts a signing event at her recently inherited bookstore and meets author Jasper in Alexa Martin’s Better Than Fiction (Berkley, Nov. 2022), and it’s up to Jasper to get Drew enthused about books. In Gigi, Listening (Kensington, Mar. 2023) by Chantel Guertin, another bookseller dares to meet the audiobook narrator she has a crush on.

Seasons’ Greetings

Something new to celebrate this winter and spring are the expanded offerings of holiday romances. Debut author Lisa Lin’s “From Sunset Park, With Love” series launch, The Year of Cecily (Tule, Jan. 2023), is just in time to celebrate the Lunar New Year, with Cecily determined to avoid her ex while visiting family. Similarly, debut author Lauren Kung Jessen’s Lunar Love (Jan. 2023; LJ starred review) is Forever’s first Lunar New Year romance, in which two Chinese zodiac matchmaking business owners compete head-to-head and heart-to-heart (see interview p. 20). In The Rewind (Berkley, Nov. 2022) by Allison Winn Scotch, two college exes wind up returning to campus to attend their mutual friends’ wedding on New Year’s Eve, only to wake up married to each other the next morning with no memory of their nuptials. Cara Tanamachi’s Valentine’s Day romance, The Second You’re Single (St. Martin’s Griffin, Jan. 2023; LJ starred review) sees freelance writer Sora firmly pledging to stay solo this February, until she encounters baker Jack. In The Valentine’s Hate (Avon, Dec. 2022) by Sidney Halston, Brian made Lizzie hate Valentine’s Day, but when these enemies are forced together and roped into fake dating, they soon become lovers.

Next it’s on to Mardi Gras season, with Thien-Kim Lam’s Full Exposure (Avon, Feb. 2023), where Vietnamese documentary filmmaker Spencer agrees to show visiting photographer Josie his hometown of New Orleans. And for those who can’t do without some love at Christmastime, there’s Michelle Arris’s “Haven Creek” series launch, Above the Mistletoe (Tule, Nov. 2022), about two vacationing lovers making their romance last beyond the holidays. Also, Alison Cochrun’s Christmas rom-com Kiss Her Once for Me (Atria, Nov. 2022) in which Ellie must decide between a marriage of convenience or true love with her groom-to-be’s sister.

Witching Hour

Witches in romance are more popular than ever. For example, in Sarah Hawley’s A Witch’s Guide to Fake-Dating a Demon (Berkley, Mar. 2023), a magically weak witch has to manage a demon who wants her soul, while conversely, Lana Harper’s latest in the “Witches of Thistle Grove” series, Back in a Spell (Berkley, Jan. 2023; LJ starred review), deals with Nina’s amplified magical power and her decision to do the right thing when her overbearing family wants her to do the opposite. Witcha Gonna Do? (Berkley, Dec. 2022) by Avery Flynn pairs witch Tilly with her nemesis, Gil, to break a curse on her family, and comparably, Gwenda Bond’s Mr. & Mrs. Witch (St. Martin’s Griffin, Mar. 2023) stars a newlywed witch and witch hunter fighting it out, until they team up to take on the shadowy organizations they work for—both of which want them dead. Next in the “Supernatural Singles” series from April Asher is Not Your Ex’s Hexes (St. Martin’s Griffin, Feb. 2023), which features bounty hunting witch Rose and broody, hexed half-demon Damian, who could lose his humanity if he allows himself to fall in love with Rose.

Romantic Retakes

Contemporary romance retellings of classic literature remain a leading trend. Debut author Melodie Edwards reinvents Jane Eyre with Jane & Edward (Berkley, Mar. 2023). It has a Beauty and the Beast vibe and is set in a Toronto law firm. Like its classic inspiration, it examines gender, class, and family. Pride and Protest (Berkley, Nov. 2022; LJ starred review) by Nikki Payne reimagines Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and addresses topics such as gentrification, racism, and inequality within an opposites-attract plot. Chloe Liese’s debut romance with Berkley, Two Wrongs Make a Right (Nov. 2022), features neurodivergent characters who are duped into dating, à la Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, but then decide to trick their matchmakers. Lizzie Shane’s humorous Pride and Prejudice retake, Pride & Puppies (Forever, Nov. 2022), stars Charlotte, who, frustrated with men, adopts a puppy but winds up contemplating whether loyal friend George could end up being her Mr. Darcy. Even characters are getting into romance retellings, as writer Bella, in Not That Kind of Ever After (St. Martin’s Griffin, Mar. 2023) by Luci Adams, becomes famous for authoring a fairy-tale retelling of a one-night stand online. Not all retellings feature contemporary settings. Lydia Drake’s Cinderella and the Duke (Entangled, Dec. 2022) is a Regency mash-up of Pride and Prejudice and Cinderella, combined with a marriage-of-convenience plot.


Readers can enjoy some western love in the coming months, as cowgirls and cowboys remain ever popular in romance. In Second Chance at Rancho Lindo (Forever, Nov. 2022), by Sabrina Sol, cowboy Gabe and horticulturist Nora may have a second chance to rekindle their former relationship. Inspired by the classic movie Three Men and a Baby, Three Cowboys and a Baby (Zebra, Dec. 2022) by Kate Pearce features three former Marines, now ranchers, who get an unexpected responsibility. Romance fans looking for historical western romances might consider Dani Collins’s The Prospector’s Only Prospect (Entangled, Mar. 2023); it’s 1859, and gold prospector Virgil is disgruntled he didn’t get the mail-order bride he wanted. Meanwhile, Sarah M. Eden’s newest, Wyoming Wild (Shadow Mountain, Mar. 2023), has Liesl, daughter of a corrupt sheriff, seeking help from U.S. Marshal Hawk.

There are plenty of rodeo romances coming up as well. To bail out her family ranch from debt, horse trainer Wil leases a horse to barrel racer Lacey, who is intent on competing in the National Rodeo finals in D. Jackson Leigh’s Here for You (Bold Strokes, Feb. 2023). Andrew Grey matches up rancher Russell looking to buy a late friend’s ranch from rodeo cowboy Rafe, who inherited it in Lost and Found (Dreamspinner, Mar. 2023). The Rodeo Queen (HQN, Dec. 2022) by Marcella Bell is the second installment in the reality TV rodeo “Closed Circuit” series, in which Sierra and Diablo try keeping their secrets hidden during a cross-country rodeo competition.

Celebrity Romance

Rodeos are not the only place romance is focused on celebrity. In The Reunion (Atria, Jan. 2023) by debut adult novel author Kayla Olson, a pair of former teenage TV idols reunite on set after two decades apart. According to Norma Perez-Hernandez, assistant editor at Kensington, For Her Consideration (Kensington, Feb. 2023) by Amy Spalding “is a gorgeous new queer rom-com that is a perfect fit for any fans of Hollywood-set romances that are currently trending.” The novel follows aspiring screenwriter Nina and up-and-coming actress Ari, and Perez-Hernandez calls it “witty, lush, and endlessly captivating.” Karelia Stetz-Waters’s Behind the Scenes (Forever, Jan. 2023) teams up filmmaker Ash and businesswoman Rose, who is going to help Ash get her film financed. Ashley Herring Blake’s Astrid Parker Never Fails (Berkley, Nov. 2022) brings designer Astrid together with carpenter Jordan on a home improvement show. Peter and Maria, TV co-stars, go from enemies to friends to lovers in Olivia Dade’s highly anticipated next “Spoiler Alert” book, Ship Wrecked (Avon, Nov. 2022; LJ starred review). When Maddie finds a postcard from Capri dated 60 years ago detailing a love affair involving her grandmother Kelly, a former film star on location at the time, Maddie travels to Capri to discover what really took place in A Postcard from Capri (HarperCollins, Nov. 2022), the third installment in Alex Brown’s “Postcard” series. For music fans, Kiss Me, Catalina (Montlake, Nov. 2022) by Priscilla Oliveras, pairs famous mariachi musician Patricio and fiery singer Catalina on tour.

Past is Future

“Historicals remain big (thank you, Bridgerton, Mr. Malcolm’s List),” says Forever’s Hallick, who goes on to say that Jodi Ellen Malpas will publish her first Regency historical series “Belmore Square” beginning with One Night with the Duke (Forever, Apr. 2023). Susanna Craig’s new Regency is called The Lady Knows Best (Zebra, Apr. 2023) and is the first in the “Mrs. Goode’s Magazine for Mischief” series, featuring daring women in publishing. Sarah M. Eden pairs two secretly impoverished aristocrats in The Best Intentions (Covenant Communications, Nov. 2022), launching “The Huntresses” series, which focuses on a group of friends protecting each other from London society’s ruthless gossip mill. Yours Truly, The Duke (St. Martin’s, Mar. 2023) by Amelia Grey, is the first in a trilogy in which dukes must marry or lose their inheritance. The opener finds Fredericka accepting the Duke of Wyatthaven’s proposal only so she can retain custody of her late sister’s three children.

Jackie Dinas, publisher and director of sub-rights at Kensington, highlights another evolution of historical romance. “With the success of historical fiction based on real-life people or events, I am really excited to try this out with historical romance. The Boxing Baroness (Oct. 2022; LJ starred review) by Minerva Spencer is based on a real Regency woman, who was a boxer, who lived outside the bounds of society, and bringing that to life in romance is something I think will hook that historical fiction reader into the romance genre and help the genre to expand. I hope we see this become a trend!” The Boxing Baroness kicks off the “Wicked Women of Whitechapel” series. Another adventurous Regency series, “The Doomsday Books,” by Sourcebooks Casablanca debut author KJ Charles, begins with The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen (Mar. 2023), which tackles the adversarial relationship between baronet Gareth and local smuggler Joss, who blackmails him.

Although British Regencies remain popular, there are a plethora of other locations and time periods available for historical romance fans looking to branch out. In Grace Hitchcock’s His Delightful Lady Delia (Bethany House, Nov. 2022), opera singer understudy Delia finally takes the stage in late Victorian New York. Debut author Jess Everlee’s The Gentleman’s Book of Vices (Carina Adores, Nov. 2022) revolves around a collector of erotica and an affair with his favorite author. Carina’s Tzogas says its “exploration of queer desire and intimacy in the Victorian period will appeal to historical fiction readers who loved books like Tipping the Velvet, Confessions of the Fox, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.” Moving into the 20th century, The Brilliance of Stars (Thomas Nelson, Nov. 2022) by J’nell Ciesielski takes place in 1914 as two secret agents fall in love while fighting evil across the globe during World War I. More romantic espionage takes place in Diana Biller’s Hotel of Secrets (St. Martin’s Griffin, Mar. 2023), in which U.S. agent Eli and Viennese hotel owner Maria are brought together by counterintelligence during the Vienna ball season.

Future of Romance

From witches falling in love to classics getting romantic retakes, the upcoming season offers many titles to add to TBR piles. The pleasures in store are many, from witty banter to abiding connections, and from issues getting worked on in supportive communities to sudden realizations leading to lasting change. And on that note of change, more readers will find representation in the pages of the genre’s best this season. As we noted last year, publishers are starting to support more authors from underrepresented communities and publish titles featuring inclusive characters and content, although there’s still room for improvement. Overall, there are many happily-ever-afters in store for readers in the coming months. 

Eve Stano is the Collections Development and Electronic Resources Librarian at Ball State University, Muncie, IN. She has strong interests in collection development, especially electronic resources, and readers’ advisory, and has reviewed romances for LJ since November 2014.

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