Every year around this time, we look back at the books published between January and June and name our 20 favorites in various categories. In the romance genre, romantic comedies dominated, nabbing not only seven spots on the list but also earning the #1 choice with Christina Lauren’s The Unhoneymooners. Romantic suspense also seized a fair amount of real estate on the list, but readers who prefer historicals, small-town romance, or military romance will also find reads they enjoy.
And those who have a thing for honey badgers? We have you covered, too.
Here are eight of our favorite romance reads from 2019 so far. Click here to see all 20 picks.
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
#1 best romance of 2019 so far
Note to self: If getting married, don't serve seafood. After the whole wedding is brought to a vomitous halt due to bad fish, the new bride tells her twin sister Olive Torres to go on the Hawaii honeymoon in her place for various complicated reasons that do make sense. Unfortunately, the new groom tells his brother Ethan Thomas the same thing, and Olive and Ethan can't stand to be within a room of each other, much less share a honeymoon suite. But hilarious encounters with Olive's soon-to-be boss and Ethan's predatory ex-girlfriend force Olive and Ethan to fake a relationship that could, with the right amount of forgiveness and vulnerability, turn into the real thing. The writing duo known as Christina Lauren delivers a laugh-out-loud doozy of a modern romance with a thoughtful core.
Fatal Reckoning by Marie Force
Book 14 in Force’s fan-favorite Fatal series (say that five times fast!) puts both readers and police lieutenant Sam Holland through the emotional wringer. When her father, Skip, dies from his injuries sustained in a never-solved shooting incident, the case becomes a homicide, and Sam is forced to step back from the investigation due to conflict of interest. The black hole of grief and her own driving need for justice start to tear Sam apart at the seams, but the truth behind her father’s killing might destroy her instead of save her. It’s not essential to read previous books in this long-running series featuring Sam Holland and her husband (and now vice president) Nick Cappuano, but why deny yourself? The only thing better than one great read is 14 of them.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
There was a ton of buzz about this book before it published in May. Surprisingly (yes, I'm cynical), it not only fulfills its promise but offers far, far more. Prince Henry of Great Britain and First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz always act cordial in public but chilly in private—at least until Alex does something nearly unforgivable at a royal wedding, and the two young men are sent on a publicity junket to prove to the world that they are BFFs. Dislike softens into empathy; empathy strengthens into attraction. Even as Alex's mom hits the campaign trail to be reelected as president, suddenly Harry and Alex have to hide a very different relationship: They are ferociously in love with each other. I admit, I've been giving the royal romance subgenre the side-eye for a few years, unwilling to embrace a trope that seems too similar to the tired (and outdated) billionaire-meets-poor-but-plucky-woman story line. But Red, White & Royal Blue flings itself so deeply into questions about love and identity both inside and out, while garnishing these introspective queries with great secondary characters, that it rises above a simple "royal romance" label. This novel bursts with consequence and far wider crossover appeal, making it the perfect summer read to savor and share.
Devil's Daughter: The Ravenels meet The Wallflowers by Lisa Kleypas
Kleypas mashes together two of her popular historical series into a romantic clash for the ages. Lady Clare has always hated the boys—now men—who tormented her late husband when he was at boarding school. When this daughter of a former wallflower meets West Ravenel, she can't ignore the attraction between them even as she sets out to take revenge on him for his past dealings with her husband. Fans of either Kleypas’ Ravenels series or her Wallflowers series will delight in how they intertwine with these two passionate people who seem utterly wrong for each other… but end up utterly right.
Fumbled by Alexa Martin
Martin’s Intercepted was one of our favorite romances last year, and she returns once more to the drama of the hot football players of the Denver Mustangs. Poppy Patterson and TK split up in high school, but their paths went in wildly divergent directions. He became the starting wide receiver for the Mustangs; she is barely making it as a waitress in a strip club. But a chance meeting could rekindle the fire, if only they can look past old hurts and be courageous in the face of new challenges that will upend both their worlds. Funny, touching, and sparking with power.
In a Badger Way by Shelly Laurenston
Following up on Hot and Badgered, Laurenston gives hot mess and honey-badger shifter Stevie her due—and a giant panda boyfriend—in this wild, cackle-inducing ride. The pacing is frenetic, the cast of characters long, and the romance assumed to be a sure thing by everyone but the panda, but Laurenston has a voice and storytelling magic that lets her break all the usual rules. Start this hilariously bonkers series with Hot and Badgered, if you haven’t already.
The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
When Josh and Kristen literally collide in a minor fender-bender, they're not off to a great start. But Josh needs extra cash, and Kristen needs a carpenter to build the custom-ordered dog furniture she sells, and they agree to put up with each other. Irritation eases into respect and finally into friendship. Knowing that a secret medical condition means she can't have kids and that Josh really wants kids, Kristen friend-zones Josh despite their joy in each other's company. But love has a way of changing where they set the friend-zone boundaries, and Jimenez makes it clear that some struggles make relationships even stronger. Readers are loving this book. As of the writing of this article, The Friend Zone has a 4.9 average star rating on almost 500 reviews.
Every Last Breath by Juno Rushdan
Danger, desire, and distrust fuel Rushdan's suspenseful romantic thriller. US agent Maddox Kinkade had to rebuild her life and her heart after a misguided decision killed the love of her life years ago. So when she discovers that not only is her dead fiancé Cole Matthews secretly alive but the target of her next op, she's torn between her professional goals and her personal desire to get Cole out of her system once and for all. Every Last Breath steers closer to hard action than to soft suspense, and the journey is an adrenaline-charged one with a satisfying finish line that also teases the reader to pick up the series's next adventure, Nothing to Fear. (August 27).
You might also like:
- Best books of 2019 so far
- Editors' picks: Best romances of the month
- Helen Hoang's's Favorite Recent Reads
- The 2019 RITA Award Finalists for Romance Writing
- Jasmine Guillory's Favorite Recent Reads
- Best romances of 2018
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