Every week, I sit down to write an article about sex. Some weeks, it’s tame (how to have more sex, what I learned about sex from movies, lingerie!); other weeks, it’s full-steam-ahead (sex positions to try, how to give better oral, squirting!). But every week, I consider it my duty to give the people a new way to think about getting off, whether it’s having more, doing it on your own, or finding a new toy or technique. This week, my beloved friends, I’m introducing you to my friend Kelly.
Kelly has many talents: graphic design, writing hilarious anecdotes, being a phenomenal companion to her cat (and also me), styling herself eerily like Meghan Markle. But one of the first things I learned about Kelly was her affinity for romance novels. Not just your run-of-the-mill romance either—dare I say it, but Kelly likes to read some pretty spicy stuff (one of the reasons we get along so well).
As we’re all getting used to being away from our significant others or never meeting that person we’ve been chatting with for a month on Bumble (not that it’s a new thing), finding new ways to seek romance and sensuality is key. I enlisted Kelly to share her favorite romance novels, ranging from “OMG the cutest kiss on earth” to “wow, I must close my blinds and pull out the vibrator before I read any further.” And because I can’t pass up an opportunity to share the love that is sex toys, we’re sharing a couple that might just suit your fancy, based on the book you’re reading. Get ready to be thrilled, ladies and gents.
Light Steam 🔥
Light yourself a beautifully scented candle and relax on a cloud of PG with a dollop of PG-13 romance.
Meg Cabot was the reigning queen of YA when I was in middle school—with hits like The Princess Diaries series and All American Girl. She also writes chick lit and this one is a fave of mine. It's light and fun and takes place at a vineyard in the South of France so really what's not to like?
Listen, I love a Hallmark movie and this book is basically a hallmark movie but sassier. Kristan Higgins writes in a very approachable way, you fall into her stories full of small-town charm and incredibly likable characters and coast along for a beautiful evening. This one revolves around policewoman Emmaline Neal who needs a date for her ex-fiance's wedding and decides to take town golden boy Jack. Hijinks ensue. Another fake relationship situation and I AM HERE FOR IT.
Picture this: it's 2010 and a young Kelly (me) is a senior in high school. And of course, I'm busy every night ... watching the ice skating rounds of the winter olympics. It was in these halcyon days that I developed a staggering crush on Evan Lysacek which haunts me to this day. All that to say, this romance novel about two professional figure skaters was my sweet spot of all sweet spots. I love the way Mariana Zapata writes slow burn stories—you really believe the build-up that these two well-rounded, complex people are actually falling in love with each other. All the stars.
There is no better treat than a new Jasmine Guillory novel. Smart and winning, you can fly through them on the wings of your smile. This one in particular is about two people who hate each other (my kryptonite!), are forced to be in a bridal party together, and then realize they might love each other. Swoon. Also: they eat a lot of pizza in this novel. I'm not kidding, like every other page. In the middle of reading this, I ordered Jets and that's not even a joke.
This book completely exceeded my expectations. I am never one to judge a book by it's cover (if you read romance novels, you really can't be one of those people) but I was wary of this one. I'm a graphic designer and hand letterer by trade (same as the main character of this novel) and so it felt a little close to home. But I was completely wrong, it's fabulous!! There are A LOT of descriptions of lettering so prepare yourself for that, but once you wade through those, there's actually a really sweet and surprisingly steamy story underneath. I love an uptight guy in a romance novel. GIMME.
Medium Steam 🔥🔥
Set your dials to: fun, sexy banter.
I've fallen head over slippers with Lucy Parker's books over the past few years, they are all so damn charming. This one is no exception. Another case of enemies-to-lovers (what can I say, I have themes), this novel revolves around two TV presenters vying for the same job. And oh yeah, they have history. Delish from start to finish. I could not love the guy in this book more. I mean, Nick Davenport?! Even this name is somehow not sexy but incredibly sexy??
This book really took me by surprise: it's got tons of sexy, flirty banter (the guy here calls our main character "wallflower" which doesn't sound cute out of context but trust) but it's also genuinely moving. Both our main characters here have tons of previous-relationship baggage and it made the book overall much more realistic and interesting. Plus, loads of sexy fun. Lincoln, take me away.
I have only been to Texas once and met not a single man like Hardy Cates which feels like a crime. Technically second in a series (though I think you can easily read as a stand-alone), the book follows Haven as she deals with the fallout of an abusive relationship. Fast forward and she's gaining her footing while dealing with past trauma and trying not to fall (but falling anyway of course) with the sexy guy moving into her building who is also in a feud with her family cause Texas y'all. Listen, this is not sounding all that steamy, but Lisa Kleypas never disappoints. She has a descriptive way of writing that is lush—I always fall completely into her books and feel drugged when I emerge. Highly recommend.
Helen Hoang (author of the beloved The Kiss Quotient) does it again with a stunningly sweet and compassionate story about Khai, who believes himself incapable of emotions, and Esme, who travels from Vietnam to America for an opportunity to find her father and change her life. Hoang elevates the genre beautifully, by creating an incredibly hot story that is also about real people living real experiences. From immigration to autism to consent, this book tackles real life and also manages to be sexy as hell. I loved it.
If you want banter, Penny Reid is your gal. I love the premise of this book: Marie is a journalist writing a story about alternative forms of love and companionship (think professional cuddling, orgasm meditation, etc.) and meets Matt, a researcher developing an AI to replace relationships. Lots of swoon-y, slow burn, "we're just friends!" build-up in this one and then BLAM an amazing sex scene and hello it's your new favorite book you're welcome.
Writing duo Christina Lauren (actually two writers who write under one name) always bring tons of delicious hilarity to their books and this one is especially great. In this book, somehow our guy and gal end up on a honeymoon together though they are not, in fact, the bride and groom and yeah that sounds cheesy but c'mon. Sun, sand, and frolicking on the beach with a hot guy you thought you hated but maybe actually have a huge crush on? Sign me up.
Everything about this book is sexy. It's set in Provence. It's about a professional perfumer and a dark haired, stubbled Frenchman who goes around wearing suits and zillion dollar watches. Everyone keeps slipping into French words and lingering over each other's wrists and getting caught up against each other in doorways. How you say: le horny.
Major Steam 🔥🔥🔥
Full steam ahead, fire up your vibs.
Okay kids, we're entering three steam territory here. Let's do this. This book is fabulous—a slightly uptight (again, my kryptonite what does this say about me let's not dig too deep) professor meets a talented baker and they realize they don't hate each other as much as they thought. There's some really well done kink in this one (think role play, super light BDSM, etc.) and it actually really has something to say about the snap judgements we make about other people amidst the sexy times. Highly recommend.
This is a quick n' dirty novella which is perfect for times when you have like an hour to chill and don't want to dive into a full novel. Jana Aston does sexy novellas very well—nothing is too rushed and you still get a story around some fun sex. Win, win! Plus, truly I would do anything for a man in glasses okay bye.
As stated previously, I went through quite an I'm-attracted-to-men-who-skate phase and this book has two so of course, here I am. Ryan and Jamie had a one-night fling at hockey camp when they were 18, even though Jamie is straight (isn't he?) and now they meet again playing on opposite sides of a hockey championship and can you see the sexy places this is going.
Another sports romance because I'm here to tell you: reading a rom-com about sports is way more fun than watching sports. Just one humble opinion. This is another novel with tons of back-and-forth, will-they-won't-they perfection and two leads who somehow feel both like people who exist in the world and also characters in a rom-com. The friends to lovers trope is done excellently here, and may I draw your attention to the great phone sex scene that is sure to give you isolation ideas.
This book actually got me into Dipsea (hello nice to meet you let me tell you about audio erotica) because one of the characters is a sex therapist and researcher recording and testing erotic stories. This book is definitely all about sex but it still feels like a novel, has a plot, and was truly fun to read.