Hidden identity romance novels have suspense and conflict built directly into the plot, which is part of why they’re so fun to read! The reader can know the characters on the page belong together, but if the characters have a big secret between them, it must come to light before any kind of happy ending can occur. People — even fictional people — don’t just hide their identity for no reason, though. There are big stakes for each character to overcome over the course of the story before their true identity is revealed and they can have their happily ever after. The journey to the end is always unpredictable. Will the character reveal the truth themself? Will the other character find out in some other way? The tension there keeps me turning pages whenever I read this trope.
Hidden identity romance novels work especially well in historical fiction, but the trope works for contemporary romance as well. In this list of 12 suspenseful and sexy hidden identity romance novels, I’ve tried to create a mix from both sub-genres. From a prince pretending to be a waiter to a spy pretending to be an Egyptologist to an author hiding behind a pen name, there are so many amazing hidden identity stories on this list. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
Hidden Identity Romance Novels
Love in the Afternoon by Lisa Kleypas
This is one of my all-time favorite romances from historical romance goddess, Lisa Kleypas. Christopher is a soldier engaged to Beatrix’s best friend. But when Christopher’s letters turn dark and her friend loses interest, Beatrix keeps corresponding with him pretending to be his fiancée. What’s meant as an act of kindness turns into a deep and emotionally fulfilling connection. And when the war ends, Christopher can’t wait to marry the woman he fell in love with over letter writing. The only problem is he doesn’t know that the person he’s really in love with is Beatrix.
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
This book mixes 2000s “chick lit” with a historical romance novel in a nod to one of the best-hidden identity stories of all time: The Scarlet Pimpernel. In the contemporary storyline, Eloise is a PhD student studying 19th century British spies. She uncovers papers that tell her the story of Amy, a British schoolgirl who travels to Napoleon’s Paris to meet with her brother. Amy is obsessed with spies like the Purple Gentian (a comrade of the Scarlet Pimpernel) and wants to join their ranks. But little does she know Richard, the Englishman she keeps bumping into, is secretly the spy she admires in Paris on a mission of his own.
The Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest
In a moment of desperation, struggling publishing assistant Lily reaches out to her favorite obscure fantasy writer through the contact form on his website. The two start an email correspondence that moves from friendly to flirtatious to deeply romantic. But then the author ghosts her. Lily doesn’t know that her new neighbor Nick is the same author, who used a pen name. Nick soon finds out but doesn’t want to make things weird by admitting the truth to Lily. To keep the romantic spotlight off himself, he agrees to help Lily find a date for her sister’s wedding. But completing this favor won’t be as straightforward as he thought.
The Hellion’s Waltz by Olivia Waite
After Sophie’s family loses everything they have to a con artist in London, they move to a new town to try to start over. Sophie vows she will never fall for anything like that again. And when she meets Madeline, Sophie knows there’s something suspicious about the beautiful weaver. Madeline is in fact secretly scheming to bamboozle a corrupt local merchant who’s been cheating local weavers. When Sophie tries to find out who Madeline really is and what she’s planning, Madeline decides a seduction is the best distraction. This is a delightfully fluffy, Regency romance!
Never Judge a Lady by her Cover by Sarah MacLean
Listen, Sarah MacLean’s amazing romance novels actually work best when you read the series in order. So technically, I must recommend you start with A Rogue by Any Other Name as the first book in the Rule of Scoundrels series. But I could not make a list of the best-hidden identity romance novels without including this one. It’s a secret identity many books in the making — and one that made me gasp when I discovered the truth! But it also made so much sense, and everything fit together. It’s such a good secret that I’m not even going to describe the book here. Click on the link to read the description if you really want to know! But if you really like this type of book, just read the series for yourself.
A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole
Naledi keeps getting emails saying she was engaged to an African prince as a child. While she grew up in the foster care system without much knowledge of her early life, she believes the emails are a scam and deletes them without a second thought. Prince Thabiso has made it his mission to find his betrothed who disappeared in childhood. But when he tracks her down, Thabiso wants to see if Naledi can love him for him and not his crown. The two soon start a relationship full of sexual passion and love. But everything will be threatened when Naledi learns the truth about Thabiso and some dark, buried secrets from her past.
The Courtesan Duchess by Joanna Schupe
Eight years ago, the Duke of Colton was blackmailed into marrying a 16-year-old heiress named Julia. He was so disgusted with the situation, that after a hasty wedding, he fled to Europe and hasn’t seen Julia since. They never even had a wedding day. In order to have an heir, secure her financial future, and stop being so alone, Julia decides to trick her husband into having sex by pretending to be a courtesan. In order to learn how to seduce him and play the part, she befriends one of London’s most famous prostitutes. Will she be able to fool the husband she’s never known in order to get the future she’s always wanted?
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
After being catfished and publicly humiliated by the last guy she was dating, Samiah vows to forget about romance and concentrate on getting ahead at work. But then a new co-worker Daniel catches her eye, and the universe seems to keep throwing them together. He’s the perfect guy for her, and Samiah starts to bend her no-romance rule to get to know him better. But Daniel is keeping a huge secret about who he is and why he started working at Samiah’s company — a secret that could threaten both her professional future and her heart.
The Innovator by Nadia Han
Natalie takes a job at the Public Works and Parks Department to try to uncover answers about her father’s mysterious death and why he left her a building. Grayson is a billionaire architect who needs Natalie’s building in order to complete his dream project. He doesn’t know who she is when he meets her through work, but the chemistry and animosity between them is almost instant. This hidden identity, enemies-to-lovers romance starts a little slow burn, but heats up into a very spicy story by the end, with a lot of suspense elements mixed in. It’s the third in Nadia Han’s WaterFyre Rising series, but can definitely stand on its own as well.
A Lady for a Duke by Alexis Hall
Viola was declared dead at the Battle of Waterloo, and she took the chance to leave her old identity behind and live as the woman she knew she was. But she believes her safety depends on keeping her past a secret. Her childhood best friend Justin, the Duke of Gracewood, is still lost in grief and guilt years after the war has ended. Viola wants to help him. And the two begin to fall in love. Telling the truth about her identity and her past scares Viola, though, because the truth might risk her new romance with Jason and also her own safety.
The Duchess War by Courtney Milan
Minerva Lane is a quiet, glasses-wearing wallflower who tries to escape everyone’s attention. But Robert, the Duke of Clairmont, thinks everyone else is wrong and there is more to Minerva than meets the eye. He’s right. Minerva’s scandalous past haunts her, and she’s changed her name in order to live a respectable life and be accepted by society. With a Duke trying to discover her secrets, Minerva must be more careful than ever before.
Love on My Mind by Tracey Livesay
Chelsea is an ambitious PR executive who will get her dream promotion if she’s successful with her next client. She needs to turn tech CEO Adam from a reclusive media nightmare into someone comfortable talking to the press. The only problem is that she must do this without him knowing his company hired her. So she pretends to be lost looking for a rental property in the middle of a big storm and gets stranded with him. The emotional connection and attraction between them builds throughout their time together. In fact, Adam hires Chelsea to help him with PR once he gets to know her. But still, there is a big secret between the two of them, and Chelsea doesn’t know if Adam will be able to trust her once he finds out who she really is.
Happy reading! If you want more romance novel recommendations take a look at this list of amazing romance novels coming out this summer!