For as long as I can remember, I have been a sucker for a good love story. Romance has always been a favorite genre of mine. When I’m not reading romance, I’m scouting out the romantic subplots lurking within the other genres I read. For reference, I’m the kind of person who made my brothers restart the board game The Game of Life with me whenever I didn’t end up with babies in my little plastic van. My happily ever after required that Artist career card, Beach House (get out of here Split Level!), little plastic husband, and a carload of plastic babies. That’s what reading romance novels feels like to me; I get to vicariously live happily ever afters. If we’re speaking in terms of the Disney Pixar movie Inside Out, reading romance absolutely makes up one of my core personality islands. What’s just as important to me as reading romance though, is reading romance (and all genres for that matter) with diverse representation.
According to The Ripped Bodice’s State of Racial Diversity in Romance Report, only 12% of romance novels published in 2020 were written by authors of color. (You can view the full report here.) While the publishing industry has a long way to go to become more representative, we can advocate for more representation in romance by seeking out diverse stories when building our TBR lists. Below, I’ve curated a selection of contemporary romance novels written by Asian authors. These love stories by Asian writers are filled with meet-cutes, endearing romance tropes, heartfelt family dynamics, and more. I hope you enjoy immersing in these happily ever afters and celebrating Asian representation, romance, and joy as much as I do!
This charming contemporary romance debut novel by Canadian author Amy Lea promises a cosmic combination of laughs, steam, and an enemies-to-lovers trope (one of my favorite tropes of the genre). Crystal Chen is a curvy fitness influencer who enjoys shaking up gym stereotypes and clashing with new gym patron and firefighter Scott Ritchie. After you finish reading this one, be on the lookout for Lea’s next contemporary romcom, Exes and Os, with an expected publication date in January 2023.
Author Alisha Rai writes delightfully steamy and emotional contemporary romance novels. This first book in her Forbidden Hearts series finds Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler forming a pact to share a secret night of pleasure once a year. Then one year, Livvy doesn’t show up. As the two try ignore their buried feelings for each other, they’ll have to confront the scandal that has divided their families for so many years.
In this sweet new adult romance by Tara Pammi, nineteen-year-old Indian American lesbian Tara Muvvala makes a deal with her mother’s research intern Farah Ahmed. If Farah helps Tara pass her math exam, she’ll pull some strings to get her connected with the local Bollywood Drama and Dance Society. In between tutoring sessions, shared chicken biryani, and midnight Bollywood dance parties, sparks will fly between these two lovebirds.
I loved this touching novel by contemporary romance author Helen Hoang, and it includes both Asian American and neurodiverse representation. Hoang’s own Autism Spectrum journey inspired her to write this novel starring her protagonist, Stella Lane, who is also on the Spectrum. While Stella excels at mathematics and data analysis in her career, she feels out of her depth in the romance realm. Her solution? Hire escort Michael Phan to help her learn the ins and outs of intimacy.
This swoon-worthy queer YA romance by Emery Lee involves plenty of delicious descriptions of food, pining, and poignant family dynamics. It also includes anxiety and ADHD representation. Japanese and Chinese American Theo Mori’s family owns an Asian American café while Gabi Moreno’s family owns a Puerto Rican bakery. Despite the rivalry between their families, the competition from a new fusion café in town will inspire Theo and Gabi to team up to save their family restaurants.
Where are my fellow K-Drama fans? I’m in complete agreement with this Book Riot writer, the nuanced character development and happily ever afters of K-Dramas make them perfect for romance readers. Reading this contemporary romance novel by Korean adoptee Jen Frederick feels like sinking into your favorite Korean Drama. After the unexpected death of her father, Korean adoptee Hara Wilson travels to Seoul in search of her roots. As she navigates complicated feelings about her identity, Hara meets a mysterious stranger at the airport and sets off on a series of life-changing adventures.
This lovely YA summer romance is written by Japanese American author Misa Sugiura. With the summer in full swing, Nozomi Nagai is looking for love, but her initial plans get thrown off when Willow asks her to pose as her fake girlfriend to make her ex jealous. As Nozomi begins catching real feelings for her fake girlfriend, she’ll begin forming a new plan to win Willow’s heart for real.
Chinese American author Courtney Milan writes a number of historical romances, but she has also written this delightful contemporary romance series called the Cyclone Series. Milan kicks off the series with this new adult romance starring Tina Chen. As Tina struggles to make ends meet between her job and college classes, she finds herself calling out her sexy billionaire classmate Blake Reynolds for his snarky comments about money during class. Much to her surprise, Blake offers to switch places with her for one semester.
I hope these sweet romances by Asian authors bring you all the warm fuzzies while reading. If you’d like to read more romance novels by Asian authors, check out these Asian American YA Romances. For more representation in romance, explore these Romance Novels With Fat Representation On the Cover and these Queer Black Romances. Book Riot’s 2022 Read Harder Challenge is another great way to expand your reading too. Happy romance reading!