NSFW: 20 Saucy Romance Novels to Read This Valentine’s Day

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best romance novels
Graphics by: Anna Wissler

My friends and I have a running text chain where we exchange excerpts from ridiculously-written sex scenes in novels. You know, the ones about “swollen appendages” and “bosoms that heave like cresting waves upon the shore.” There’s such a fine line between swoon and cringe. With so little time as busy moms, how can we possibly separate the romantic from the ludicrous? 

Luckily for you, I’ve read more than my fair share of romance novels. Call me the Siskel of sexy reading. The Bruni of bodice rippers. The Sontag of steamy stories. 

I wasn’t always a romance novel acolyte; with a degree in English lit, I mostly got my kicks from Mr. Darcy’s meaningful looks and a stray graze of the hand. But now, every time I see a colorful paperback with silhouettes of two people flirting on the cover, I immediately add it to my cart.

I can fly through a romance novel in a day and feel completely sated (much like my favorite romantic heroines) by the temporary mental vacation. There’s so much comfort in a good romance novel: the familiarity of the plot, often with a new twist, the peppy dialogue, and of course, the sweet love stories between unlikely protagonists. When done well, romance novels can be escapism at its finest.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the day of sultry romance and playful escapades, I’m sharing several of my favorite romance novels, plus some titles recommended by other Everymom editors. 

ugly love book
Colleen Hoover

Ugly Love

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶🌶

I'm sure you've seen Colleen Hoover's books everywhere lately—and for good reason. CoHo's romances have become uber-popular thanks to TikTok, and this one is especially steamy. Nurse Tate Collins starts a friends-with-benefits relationship with pilot Miles Archer. But will Miles' mysterious and painful past get in the way when Tate wants more? (Please note this book's trigger warnings, include marriage affairs, emotionally hurtful sex, and neonatal death.)

Sally Thorne

99 Percent Mine

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶🌶

Sally Thorne is a staple of contemporary romance, and it's not hard to see why. In this book, feisty Darcy Barrett navigates her feelings for her brother's best friend—a man who has been off-limits her whole life.

Kate Stayman-London

One to Watch

Spice Factor: 🌶

This beautiful story follows America's first plus-sized Bachelorette (called Main Squeeze in this novel) and her reluctant, winding journey to finding love in the public eye. The protagonist is incredibly smart and likable, and her story takes so many riveting dips and turns.

the bride test book
Helen Hoang

The Bride Test

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶

As usual, author Helen Hoang delivers a story unlike any I've ever read. An unexpected couple becomes entangled in a romance neither of them saw coming. Esme moves from Vietnam to meet Khai, a handsome and taciturn Vietnamese-American man with autism who has no desire for love in his life. The two couldn't be more different in personality or the ways they express themselves, yet their passion builds in the most delicious and surprising way.

Staci Hart

Wasted Words

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶🌶

I love a good opposites-attract story, and this one certainly fits the bill. Cam is a brainy, acerbic self-proclaimed nerd, while her roommate and best friend Tyler checks all the traditional boxes of eligibility. Their witty banter and chemistry is so enjoyable—and even more so when they finally realize they have feelings for one another.

things we never got over book
Lucy Score

Things We Never Got Over

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶

Bearded bad-boy barber Knox doesn't tolerate drama. But when Naomi runs away from her wedding and her life starts to implode, the least Knox can do is help her get back on her feet. Though this book is more than 500 pages long, readers are obsessed with Knox and Naomi's story—and you will be too!

Abby Jimenez

The Friend Zone

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶🌶

Kristen and Josh have the ultimate meet-cute when they literally crash into each other moments before discovering their best friends are engaged to one another. This memorable first encounter grows into an intense and flirty friendship, sidelined by Kristen's secret medical condition and their own stubborn natures. It's engaging and completely relatable.

Christina Lauren

Twice in a Blue Moon

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶

True to its title, this book teases a twice-in-a-lifetime encounter between Tate and Sam, who first meet as teenagers. Sam betrays Tate by revealing her deepest secret—the identity of her famous father—and they don't speak for more than a decade. Their next encounter is years later on a movie set, where Tate is the star and Sam is the tortured screenwriter. Their feelings for one another resurface, even through the hurt of the past. This is a sweet and unique story, told with Christina Lauren's usual sensitive dialogue and compelling characters.

bringing down the duke book
Evie Dunmore

Bringing Down the Duke

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶🌶

A favorite series of our CEO, Alaina, this Bridgerton-esque historical romance follows Annabelle Archer, a student tasked with recruiting men of influence to join the women's suffrage movement in England. When she targets cocky Duke of Montgomery Sebastian Devereux, passions arise in more ways than one.

party of two
Jasmine Guillory

Party of Two

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶🌶

I'd never read a political romance before this one by page-turning writer Jasmine Guillory, but her writing totally sucked me in. Lawyer Olivia and politician Max undergo a series of flirty, clandestine encounters together, culminating in an unfortunate revelation about their relationship that makes Olivia reconsider everything.

Camille Perri

When Katie Met Cassidy

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶

When Katie first meets Cassidy in a conference room over legal documents, she's put off by Cassidy's arrogance and brashness—but she's also intrigued. I felt the same way about Cassidy and steadily fell for their unexpected romance. Embodying that rare combination of witty, authentic dialogue and heart-racing love story, this novel is one to really savor.

a not so meet cute book
Meghan Quinn

A Not So Meet Cute

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶

Billed as a modern-day Pretty Woman, this story follows Lottie as she pretends to be engaged to a wealthy man named Huxley. But what happens when the two *actually* start to fall for each other?

hook line and sinker book
Tessa Bailey

Hook, Line, and Sinker

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶🌶

A follow-up to It Happened One Summer, this book is about sexy fisherman Fox's meet-cute and relationship with Hannah—even though they swear they're just friends. Feelings begin to change when Hannah starts crashing in Fox's guest bedroom, but Hannah has her eye on someone else. Will Fox be able to catch her, hook, line, and sinker?

Kristin Rockaway

How to Hack a Heartbreak

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶

This is the ultimate tech-related romance (a niche category I really enjoy). The author, a former computer programmer, lets us into the fast-paced world of app development. Mel creates a new dating app that uses a peer-reviewed system to identify jerks. The catch? No one knows she's behind the viral app, least of all Alex, the man she's been dating. Equal parts revenge and romance, this book is a fresh take on the cutthroat world of online dating.

book lovers book
Emily Henry

Book Lovers

Spice Factor: 🌶

Emily Henry's latest novel (she also authored the wildly popular Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation) follows literary agent Nora and her sister, Libby, as they take a summer vacation to North Carolina. But when Nora runs into Charlie, a book editor she knows from the city, their lives begin to intertwine and the carefully-crafted stories they've written about themselves unravel.

a court of mist and fury book
Sarah J. Mass

A Court of Mist and Fury

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶

This is the second installment in the wildly popular fantasy series A Court of Thorns and Roses, and according to our CEO, Alaina, it's one of the sexiest of all the ACOTAR books. The only one that gets a higher spice rating is book four, A Court of Silver Flames. While there aren't as many steamy scenes in this book, the romantic build-up between main characters Feyre and Tamlin is why it made our list.

the wedding crasher book
Mia Sosa

The Wedding Crasher

Spice Factor: 🌶

When Solange crashes one of her wedding planner cousin's big events, she's convinced the married couple-to-be isn't a good match and makes it her mission to ensure the groom doesn't make the biggest mistake of his life. This cute rom-com doesn't have a ton of spice, but it's a sweet story nonetheless.

the hating game book
Sally Thorne

The Hating Game

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶

Now a movie on Hulu, this book is a classic enemies-to-lovers tale following coworkers Lucy and Joshua as they compete for the same promotion at work. As the tension builds, so do their feelings for each other—but is this just another game?

Catherine Isaac

You, Me, Everything

Spice Factor: 🌶🌶

Set in a gorgeous restored castle/hotel in France, this book throws a former couple together with their young son in a summer of reconnection and rediscovery. The setting alone is worth the read, but there are many moments of genuine sweetness and romance, showing us that love lost can sometimes be rekindled.

the love hypothesis book
Ali Hazelwood

The Love Hypothesis

Spice Factor: 🌶

Another TikTok sensation, this book chronicles a fake relationship between two scientists. But when their romantic experiment starts to feel dangerously close to combustion, PhD candidate Olive realizes it's complicated to put your heart under a microscope.

This article was originally published at an earlier date and has been updated for timeliness.

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