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), and styling herself eerily like Meghan Markle. But one of the first things I learned about Kelly was her affinity for romance novels, and 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).
Whether you’re having a rare solo night away from your S.O. or are currently in the delete phase of the “download-delete-redownload” dating app cycle, 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 the town's golden boy Jack. Hijinks ensue. It's 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 buildup that these two well-rounded, complex people are actually falling in love with each other.
There is no better treat than a new Jasmine Guillory novel. Smart and winning, you can fly through it 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 in 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 its 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. Give me.
Awkward romance, enemies-turned-lovers, and lots of sexual innuendos? What more do you need? Reading this made me laugh out loud and genuinely squeal in delight at the brewing love story of lovable Drew and the one and only Dr. Andrew. Get yourself a reading light for this one because you'll definitely want to sandwich in between your pillows during the day and stay up reading all night.
If you're a fan of The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, this book is ideal. I'm a sucker for a good love story that centers on a protagonist with real-life issues and conflicts. Meredith Fox is all that and more. She's set on maintaining her sister's legacy but realizes that joining the world again is a huge part of that. Her inner turmoil is authentic, real, and raw in this romance sprinkled with bits of spice.
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. Oh yeah, and 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 me), 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, there's 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 the second in a series (though I think you can easily read it as a standalone), 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) for 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 dazed 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. There's lots of swoon-y, slow-burn, "we're just friends!" buildup in this one, and then, bam, an amazing sex scene and it's your new favorite book. You're welcome.
An unlikely duo finds themselves thrown into a town scandal filled with lust, murder, and lots of adultery. If I closed my eyes tight enough, I could imagine myself as Sophie Dempsey, risky and filled with fun as she takes in the rural Ohio world she's been thrusted into. How could anyone resist the gorgeous local mayor and exposing the town's petty politics? Someone had to shake up this town.
If you couldn't tell from the previous mention, Jennifer Cruise is an author icon for all things steamy and romantic. Tell Me Lies catches Maddie Faraday in the midst of her life crumbling to pieces. Her husband's cheating, her daughter's suspicious, and her neighbors are nosy. But the worst (arguably best) part is that her old high school flame is back in town. The balancing act of getting back at her husband and maintaining her reputation will surely keep you on your toes.
Major Steam 🔥🔥🔥
Full steam ahead—fire up your vibs.
Writing duo Christina Lauren (actually two writers who write under one name) always brings tons of delicious hilarity to their books, and this one is especially great. In this book, our guy and gal somehow end up on a honeymoon together even though they are not, in fact, the bride and groom, and yes, 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?
OK, 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.