After a cold and, frankly, bleak January, the imminent arrival of Valentine’s Day can feel like a thick, cozy blanket capable of keeping winter’s chill at bay. No significant other? No problem. All you need is your favorite bubbly, a comfy couch and a great work of romantic fiction. Below, we’ve gathered the absolute best books for Valentine’s Day, however you celebrate.
These page-turners are some of the most achingly romantic on the shelves today, but love isn’t all they have to offer. Some will keep you on the edge of your seat. Some will have you laughing out loud. Some tap into the recent paranormal fiction craze. In other words, they’re not your grandmother’s drugstore romance novels. Whether you’re committed, cuffed or looking for love, our list of the best books for Valentine’s Day will help you find not only the top romantic fiction publishing has to offer but also stories that are smartly told.
That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon by Kimberly Lemming
Kimberly Lemming, who rose to mainstream fame after growing her fan base on BookTok, debuted this Dungeons & Dragons-inspired fantasy rom-com that is fun in a way that will make you laugh out loud and surprisingly cozy. The first tale in the Mead Mishaps series follows Cinnamon, who is pulled into a fantastical quest with a demon after a drunken night. Lemming’s comedic approach to a sometimes too-serious genre will tickle readers who love books with demons, quests and magic.
The Fake Mate by Lana Ferguson
This paranormal rom-com takes its inspiration from Vampire Diaries and True Blood with a werewolf shifter romance set in, of all places, an office. After a series of very bad dates, Mackenzie Carter’s grandmother is constantly on her tail to see her find the perfect mate. Noah Taylor, a cardiologist and professional grumpy wolf, is the first man Mackenzie thinks of to get her match-making grandmother off her back. With his career threatened unless he finds himself a mate, Noah is perfectly happy to help when he finds out the bubbly ER doctor needs a fake boyfriend.
Love, Theoretically by Ali Hazelwood
Love, Theoretically is another STEMinist romance by Ali Hazelwood—one that tells the story of an academic feud between rival physicists that slowly burns into a swoony romance. When not teaching thermodynamics, protagonist Elsie Hannaway takes a second job as a fake girlfriend to supplement her low adjunct professor wages. Jack Smith, the annoyingly hot brother of her favorite client, stands between Elsie and her dream job. In this romance, Hazelwood writes one of her best books yet, with plenty of yearning, romantic obsession and anxious academics.
One for My Enemy by Olivie Blake
While Olive Blake is most famous for her New York Times bestselling dark academia series, The Atlas Six, it is in her standalones that her storytelling chops truly shine. With the griminess of New York City and the literary polish of classic lit, One for My Enemy is a Romeo and Juliet tale by way of Succession and just a dash of Leigh Bardugo: think Slavic witches, yearning romance and tragedy. Under this compelling fantasy novel’s cover, rival witch families, the Antonova sisters and the Fedorov brothers, fight to dominate Manhattan in an all-out war in Blake’s brilliantly told story.
A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
Kai Ashante Wilson, the Nebula-nominated author of The Devil in America, is an immensely talented storyteller who deserves a lot more attention. Given that it’s still so rare to see a duo of Queer Black men featured as the central couple in romantic fiction, A Taste of Honey feels like a breath of fresh air. Set in the same universe as The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, the book follows Aquib, son of the Master of Beasts, who falls fast in love with handsome Daluçan soldier, Lucrio.
A Shot in the Dark by Victoria Lee
A Shot in the Dark is an emotionally impactful romance between two queer artists finding connection in each other’s traumatic pasts. Protagonist Elisheva Cohen returns to Brooklyn after leaving the Orthodox community that shunned her, but while she’s still healing from that past, Ely finds herself excited about the prospect of studying photography with the art legend Wyatt Cole. But finding herself in bed with a gorgeous James Dean lookalike after spending the night at a queer club, she’s shocked to see that her photography professor and one night stand are one and the same.
You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi is amazing at every new genre they take on. You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty, from the bestselling author of Freshwater, is a deeply satisfying literary romance for romantic readers who want to read about complicated characters falling in love. Feyi Adekola seeks happiness after an accident kills the love of her life, but just when she starts dating again, she finds herself on a trip to the Caribbean and drawn to someone absolutely hands-off. Emezi brings an interesting twist to the romance genre with something that feels like a journey that must be unfolded carefully—much like the most memorable romance of your life.
Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim
Maiya Ibrahim’s YA romance novel sweeps readers into an Arabian-inspired fantasy that will appeal to fans of We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal and City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty. This is a suspenseful tale that tackles colonialism while still catering to die hard fans of slow-burn romance. In the city of Qalia, tea awakens special magical abilities in those lucky enough to drink it. Imani, who wields a dagger better than any other soldier, has an affinity for iron. With a djinni and a beastseer, Imani goes on a quest to bring her brother back to Qalia before he reveals the secrets of their magical city.
She Gets the Girl by Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick
If you’re looking for a YA romance with Heartstopper vibes, She Gets the Girl is a swoony queer teen romance that will do exactly that. Alyson Derrick and Rachael Lippincott’s 90s-era Young Adult romance offers sharp commentary that calls to mind John Hughes’ teen movies (and the sort of teenagehood complexities that adults are prone to ignore). It’s also a fun story about two Queer girls—one, a cool bad girl and the other, socially awkward—as they navigate society, self-perception and finding someone who understands them in a way no one else does.
Belladonna by Adalyn Grace
Adalyn Grace turned heads when her Young Adult gothic, Belladonna, hit it big on BookTok. The novel starts with a girl who has pockets full of deadly poison and an intense feeling of all-around hatred for the Grim Reaper. There are rotting estates, romantic gestures and mysterious plots in this story that follows Signa, whose only remaining relatives take her to Thorn Grove, the Hawthorne’s gloomy but achingly beautiful estate. The Hawthornes are a deeply unhappy family still mourning the late lady of the house, but now the daughter is suffering from a similar mysterious illness, and the ghost of her mother is haunting the estate. With the help of an intriguing shadowed man, Signa attempts to solve this mystery. Grace writes romance and gothic mysteries as it should be written: achingly slow and suspenseful.