NSFW: 10 Saucy Romance Novels to Read This Valentine’s Day

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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. It’s such a fine line between swoon and cringe. With so little time as busy moms, how can we possibly separate the romance from the ludicrous? 

Luckily for you, I have 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 (forgive the pun) by the temporary mental vacation. There is 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 from 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 offer 10 of my favorite romance novels for your own nightstand.

Sally Thorne

1. 99 Percent Mine

Steam Factor: High

Sally Thorne is such 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

2. One to Watch

Steam Factor: Low

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

Helen Hoang

3. The Bride Test

Steam Factor: Moderate

As usual, Hoang delivers a story unlike any I've ever seen. In this, 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 way they express themselves, yet their passion builds in the most delicious and surprising way.

Staci Hart

4. Wasted Words

Steam Factor: High

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 boxes of eligibility. Their witty banter and chemistry is so enjoyable—made even more so when they finally realize they have feelings for one another.

(The best part: this one is free to download from various retailers!)

Abby Jimenez

5. The Friend Zone

Steam Factor: High

Kristen and Josh have the ultimate meet-cute when they literally crash into each other, moments before they discover that 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

6. Twice in a Blue Moon

Steam Factor: Moderate

True to its title, this book teases a twice-in-a-lifetime encounter between Tate and Sam who first meet when they are teenagers. Sam betrays Tate by revealing her deepest secret—who her famous father is—and they don't speak for over a decade. Their next encounter is 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.

Jasmine Guillory

7. Party of Two

Steam Factor: High

I've never read a political romance, but I was all in on this book by the page-turning writer Jasmine Guillory. Lawyer Olivia and politician Max go through a series of flirty, clandestine encounters together, culminating in an unfortunate revelation about their relationship that makes Olivia reconsider everything.

Camille Perri

8. When Katie Met Cassidy

Steam Factor: Moderate

When Katie first meets Cassidy, in a conference room over legal documents, she's put off by Cassidy's arrogance and brashness—but 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.

Kristin Rockaway

9. How to Hack a Heartbreak

Steam Factor: Moderate

I really enjoy a good tech-related romance (I know, super-niche category), and this is the ultimate. The author was a former computer programmer and lets us into the fast-paced world of app development. Mel creates a new dating app that can identify jerks by using a peer-reviewed system. 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 navigates the tough world of online dating, with a fresh take.

Catherine Isaac

10. You, Me, Everything

Steam Factor: Moderate

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 regained.

 

Read More: Planning a Date Night With Myself (Plus, the 12 Products I Use for a Luxurious Evening In)

 

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