Welcome to book club! This week, we are talking about what make a set of good romance book club books. The romance should get your group talking about love, longing, lust, and everything in-between. What did you think about the couple? Did you like their friends? Did you hate the villain? What did you think of the book? During your meetings, you see one another and get to the bottom of your biggest romance disagreements. Maybe everyone is on the same page. Book club is full of people pointing to pages with off-the-charts funny banter or swoon-worthy quotes. Either way, Romance book club books are at the center of some romance readers’ closest book conversations and friendships.
I am a longtime member of a D.C.-area romance book club. In my experience, having a list of diverse, interesting picks is important for a good conversation. Whether we have been in person, or over Zoom, the right pick always brings interesting discussions. Both the moderator’s questions and the attendees’ answers change my perception of the romance book club books entirely. Creating a list of romance book club books that spark more discussions is the name of the game.
My task today is to narrow down the entire romance genre into a diverse list of books that will make for juicy book club conversations. The herculean effort one must make to attempt a task of this magnitude cannot be understated. Considering the right balance of different romance sub-genres, publishers, authors, and characters is vital. Then, rounding up books that will get everyone in book club talking a mile a minute is an important consideration. Unsurprisingly, there were spreadsheets and consultations involved in the process. Now, I have a diverse list that will bring out the best in your romance book club.
Presenting the Best Romance Book Club Books
This is the grand unveiling of 18 of the best romance book club books broken down into: 10 Coquettish Contemporaries, eight Hot Historicals, and two Passionate Paranormals to round out the group.
How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole
Content Warnings: Misogyny, Parental Death
Shanti believed being a perfect wife and queen would overcome the obstacles that come with marrying into a monarchy that hasn’t valued its queens. Instead, Shanti is an outsider in her kingdom. The new king, Sanyu, cannot sustain his father’s unrelenting authority, especially with his social anxiety. He knows the lessons on global politics his new queen gives him at night can save his country; he just needs people to hear her first. But when unrest arises, she leaves, and Sanyu must investigate what and who he is willing to fight for.
Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon
Content Warnings: Homophobia, Emotional Abuse by a Parent, Death
If your aunt made your inheritance conditional on marrying a stranger, would you do it? Xeni knew it would be emotionally and physically difficult to clean her late aunt, Sable’s upstate New York colonial but getting married was a surprise. When Mason left his biphobic parents in Scotland and befriended an old woman in town, he never expected to be included in her will. Sable decided Mason was the man for Xini with his bagpipes and kind smile, so she left instructions in her will. They might try to work around Sable’s marriage of convenience, but it will be impossible to avoid their attraction entirely.
Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson
Content Warning: Parental Death
The Strong brothers are left reeling when their adoptive mother passes away and leaves her Harlem knitting shop in their care. Neighborhood heartbreaker Jesse wants to keep the shop open but proving it’s possible to his brothers stands in his way. Jesse knows he needs the help of his childhood friend and his mother’s knitwear protégé, Kerry. She will work with him to give the store a new look during her time off teaching, without falling for him in the process. Jessie wants Kerry too, but he has to prove he’s ready to knit their lives together if he wants her heart.
All the Feels by Olivia Dade
Content Warning: Mention of Past Domestic Violence
After an incident at a bar, Alex, movie star and fan fiction aficionado, has been annoyingly assigned a serious woman who will stop him from causing trouble. Lauren also drew the short straw in the situation. Burnt out after 13 years as an ER therapist, she just wants a vacation, but her cousin Rob decided she can work as a professional watcher for his production. Alex cannot resist Lauren’s adorable no-nonsense attitude and he manages to endear her to his endless chatter, midnight walks, and selfless nature. When Alex changes career paths, Lauren must decide if she can change with him.
The Love Study by Kris Ripper
Declan doesn’t want to be a noncommittal guy who only works office temp jobs and, after his last boyfriend left him at the altar, hasn’t been in a long-term relationship either. He wants a change, and maybe that change will come in the form of a YouTube advice shows like The Love Study. Sidney is a popular nonbinary YouTuber who gives romantic advice and they want to arrange dates for someone and unpack what happened on livestream. Declan is the perfect fit, but he cannot feel a spark with anyone he is dating. Sidney is far more interesting, but dating them would mean ending their show. What will they do when the researcher of The Love Study becomes the next participant?
The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun
Content Warning: Homophobia
An Aspec Bachelor contestant accidentally falls for his producer during a heteronormative reality TV dating show. Dev swears the love in Ever After is real. He might be one of their best producers, but he is also the show’s biggest fan. Dev needs to be at his best if he’s going to market Charlie to their audience after his recent PR nightmare. A tech superstar like Charlie hasn’t had to be personable. He is awkward and shy with an anxiety-fueled eight-pack, but he needs the show if he wants another tech job. Coaching Charlie to become the best love interest becomes the best part of their week, but can Dev and Charlie’s behind-the-scenes romance overpower what’s happening onscreen?
That Kind of Guy by Talia Hibbert
Content Warnings: Unwanted Sexual Encounters, Parental Death, Ableism, Racism, Sexism, Emotional Abuse
Rae is finally living the life she always wanted for herself with supportive friends and a solid career as a fantasy author. But when she receives a notice that she has won an award for her writing and must attend the convention where her abusive ex-husband will be present, Rae realizes she needs a fake date for moral support. Zach is just the friend for the job. He is done with his life pretending to want to sleep with everyone in town and is ready to be confidently demisexual even in a fake dating scenario. At the end of the day, what’s important is supporting one of his best friends. But when their friendship changes, will they both be able to open up and decide how they want to show up for one another as romantic partners.
The Stand-In by Lily Chu
Content Warnings: Racism, Sexual Harassment, Parental Death
In this prince-and-the-pauper-style movie star romance, Gracie knows she must keep showing up to a job where her manager is sexually harassing her to pay the fees for her mother’s nursing home. Normally an unmarked black car pulling up to her would be a bad sign, but two Chinese movie stars are waiting inside with a proposition for her. Gracie just has to stand in for her doppelganger, Fangli at social events so she can get some much-needed rest. When her job goes sideways, she agrees to their plan. If only she can convince Fangli’s friend and costar Sam she is up for the task, it might just work.
Isn’t It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams
Content Warnings: Parental Death, Kidnapping
Vlad is the Russian in his bromance book club. He is a hockey player, a man with IBS, a romance writer, and a husband. The last one on that list needs a bit of work if he wants his marriage of convenience to change from a one-sided love into a real relationship. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, Elena knew marrying her childhood friend and moving with him to Nashville was her best shot at freedom. She wasn’t expecting love, but after an accident on the ice leaves Vlad bedridden and in need of her help, she has begun to see a new side to him. If Vlad wants to finally make his intentions known to his wife, he is going to need all the help he can get from the bros in his book club and the widowers next door.
Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai
Content Warning: Death of A Loved One
Everyone knows you aren’t supposed to fall for your best friend after she married your brother even after he passes away. Jackson is back in town after 10 years on the run from a false accusation that would’ve left him imprisoned. When Jackson offers to help one of his oldest friends, Sadia wants to turn it down, but she knows she will need it if she wants to keep the café she’s inherited running. His comfort food isn’t the only thing bringing warmth to her café. When things start to heat up between them, Jackson and Sadia will have to ignore the taboo if they truly want a future together.
The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan
Content Warning: Racism
Chloe gave up waiting for her best friend to show up to the annual Wedgeford Trials a while ago, but she hasn’t given up on making her family’s sauce a successful English condiment. A duke left behind a property in England that become a majority Chinese immigrant village. Pretending to be a normal boy, he grew into Duke Jeremy Wentworth, a persona put on every year when he visited the Wedgeford Trials. It all came tumbling down three years ago when Chloe, the love of his life, asked him to return when he was more serious. So, he stayed away. But Jeremy cannot adopt a serious attitude for long, so he decides to return and court Chloe anyways. He needs to tell her the truth first and hope she can forgive his late arrival.
Wild Rain by Beverly Jenkins
Content Warnings: Racism, Discussion of Sexual Assault
Opposites attract in post-civil war era Paradise, Wyoming. Garrett is a D.C. lawyer who goes to Wyoming to meet Colton for his piece on doctors for his father’s Black-owned newspaper and meets his far more enticing sister. Spring is a local ranch owner and so when she finds Garrett thrown off his horse in a blizzard, she takes charge and lets him rest at her cabin. He isn’t bothered by her grouchy demeanor. After growing up in enslavement and fighting for the Union Navy, he knows what it means to determine his future and he wants to keep living with Spring. But they will both have to move past their unresolved issues and chose one another if they want to develop a relationship that has roots.
A Lady for A Duke by Alexis Hall
Content Warnings: PTSD, Deadnaming
Dying at Waterloo was the best thing to ever happen to Viola. She was fine renouncing her wealth and title to live as herself, but allowing her best friend to believe she was dead has been heartbreaking. Viola believes Justin, the Duke of Gracewood, would do better without her, however, when news of his unrelenting melancholy and his sister’s isolation reaches her, she realizes she must return to help him. When old friends bring a new companion with them on their visit to his estate, Justin cannot help but feel instantly at ease. She is stunning, easy to talk to, and makes him feel like his old self again. As they grow close, Viola and Justin cannot deny their desires and the new future they would like to build together — at any cost.
The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite
Content Warnings: Death of a Loved One, Homophobia
The buzz around this sapphic romance with older main characters is justified. It is excellent and you should read it with your book club. In 1800s London, it is not typical for a widow like Agatha to be running her printing business alone, but she is trying to keep up with her son’s radical pastimes and her business expenses. But who do you call when a colony of bees takes up residence in your warehouse? She soon finds out you call Penelope, longtime beekeeper and new owner of a local hive. Penelope thinks Agatha’s the bee’s knees, but when her absent husband makes a surprise appearance, she has to decide if she wants to leave her safe life bee-hind and make a sweeter future with Agatha by her side.
It Takes Two to Tumble by Cat Sebastian
Phillip knew someone was looking after his children while he was away, but the person he left in charge wasn’t the smiling country vicar he finds when he arrives home from his time at sea as a naval captain. It’s 1817 and Ben is more than happy to provide for his community as their vicar who sometimes makes house calls to help with the farm, or in this case, a house full of three children who cannot keep a governess for long. The strict Captain Phillip’s ship has come to port and he has arrived home, but he is unable to take care of his children on his own now that his wife has passed. Amidst tumultuous country life, Ben and Phillip can always retreat to the calming waters of their relationship, but will they risk everything for the life they cannot imagine losing?
The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews
Content Warnings: Racism, Sexual Harassment
In this Victorian historical romance, Evelyn is entering the London marriage mart as a fashionable horsewoman. With only a single season to impress a suitor, she needs the best riding habit-maker in London. Ahmad wants to work in womenswear and after his years as a half-Indian tailor, he knows his designs must be excellent if he wants to succeed and run his own shop. Evelyn’s strange design request is just the kind of job he needs to make a name for himself. Ahmad will outfit her season, and she, in turn, will introduce his clothing to fine society. But Evelyn soon realizes the only life that fits is the one she imagines with Ahmad. Sometimes the most suitable match is the one you never thought to look for.
Wolf Rain by Nalini Singh
Content Warnings: Kidnapping, PTSD, Animal Death
Growing up locked inside a bunker so a man can use her psychic powers for his murderous benefit, Memory had almost lost hope anyone would ever free her before Alexei showed up. His wolfish protectiveness cannot hold her back from experiencing all the world has to offer. Before Memory, Alexei decided he never wanted a mate, but her fearlessness calls to both him and his wolf, so who is Alexei to deny them both? So when the darkness comes to destroy Memory, Alexei will do anything to protect her.
Wolfsong by TJ Klune
Content Warnings: Parental Death, Emotional Abuse, Torture, Kidnapping
Ox doesn’t think anything great will ever happen to him. He has grown up with a mother who will do anything for him but has felt the lasting impact of a father who didn’t want a son like Ox. So he didn’t expect to find friendship and support when Joe and his family moved next door. From that day on, he knows he has found his person. Joe eventually leaves because he has to, and when he returns, they need to determine how their relationship has changed. The choices they make both together and apart will determine the fate of the pack, the town, and the lives of werewolves across America. This friends-to-lovers queer werewolf romance will leave you howling.
Time For You To Get To These Romance Book Club Books
That is all I have for you today in this round-up of romance book club books. If you like these, there are many more contemporary, historical, and paranormal romance recommendations out there. There are also other sub-genres like romantic suspense, fantasy, and science fiction. My hope is you will be able to pour a drink, crack open the spine to your latest book, and have a wonderful time picking apart the next romance book you read at book club.