I think there are a couple of kinds of comfort reads and this series of [insert subgenre of romance] novels to run from your problems has mostly leaned toward the not angsty, but they’re likely going to start being a bit of a mix of the less angsty and the angsty that felt like they healed something inside of me because that’s it’s own kind of comfort, you know? I’ll do my best to ensure I’m describing which is which!
I’m sure American Love Story will be added to this, so I probably should have just said the Dreamer series, but whatever. These two books are very set in the real world so you can’t necessarily escape the realities of living in 2019, but they will help you feel like you can actually handle all the shit this year keeps throwing our way. They have thus far been m/m romances and I’m not sure if that is ever going to become different. Anyway, the first one is about a chef/food truck owner and a librarian who are immediately drawn to each other, but both have things they really need to focus their attention on. The second is about a social worker who works at a domestic violence shelter (and I love him and the shelter) and a self-made millionaire who is donating money and his time to the shelter. They meet at a fancy gala to raise money for LGBTQIA+ youth (I think) and sparks fly, but they don’t expect to see one another again. Both books are so good and I’m really excited for book three!
Block Shot by Kennedy Ryan
Kennedy and Shonda Rhimes should be best friends because both have this magical ability to take something I should probably not want and make me cry and love it. See Scandal. Banner and Jared knew one another in college and Jared was really into Banner, but there was a thing that went very wrong and they haven’t spoken since one night in college. But now, they’re running into each other and Banner is in a relationship, but Jared is not about to let that stop him. This book shouldn’t work for me on that level, but it also shouldn’t work for me because I hate books that have characters who talk about their weight. But you know what? I love Banner, I love Jared, and I love this book. I can’t even explain it.
The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
There’s a Fated Mates interstitial on cinnamon roll protagonists and while I’m not the person that called them out for not including my precious bb Samson, that person might be my platonic soul mate. (This call out was posted on their Insta story and I failed to screen grab their name, so basically this is me asking someone to connect me with my soul mate, if you also felt this way.) Anyway, this book has heavy themes. Samson is dealing with grief from his uncle’s passing and also lingering grief related to his abrupt end to his professional football career. Then you have Rhi, who has her walls up so high, and who felt so betrayed by Samson ghosting her after their incredible first date. But Samson is actually just an angel and I loved him so much. He’s so willing to take care of Rhi and he’s emotionally fluent and he’s just honestly the greatest. If you’re wondering about the plot, essentially, Rhi is the CEO and creator of a feminist take on Tinder and Samson just became the spokesperson for the company she wants to acquire, which is more like eHarmony or something. This is after the ghosting so there’s some angst in this one.
A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole
I mean, if at this point you don’t know that I think you should just read everything Alyssa Cole if you’re sad, I’m not doing my job well enough. Alyssa Cole is brilliant and I love the entire Reluctant Royals series. I especially liked this one because I love Nya. She and Johan are both deeply wounded, but they express that hurt so very differently. Johan outwardly puts on this party boy, couldn’t care less attitude and plays it up to the press, while keeping his cinnamon roll center strictly off the books. (He’s sort of but not really a prince.) And Nya’s been betrayed by her dad and he was pretty emotionally abusive pre-prison. The two of them and their fake engagement is just delightful. I loved it a lot.
Fumbled by Alexa Martin
If you had told me that one of my favorite romances of the year was going to be a second chance AND secret baby book, I would have laughed at you. But I really love Fumbled. It does deal with heavier topics, but with Alexa Martin’s deft touch, aka, with a lot of humor to go with your angst. Essentially, single mom, Poppy Patterson, tried to tell her baby’s father about him when she was pregnant, but for *reasons* she wasn’t able to. Now, years later, Poppy is working at a bar and her son, Ace, is seven (I think) when TK Moore waltzes into the bar with some of his fellow football players. Poppy knows she has to let TK know about Ace and then must allow Ace and TK to form a relationship, but it’s not without tension. Poppy doesn’t really love football and worries a lot about CTE. TK, meanwhile, is adamant that he’s fine, football is great, and also, let’s just move in together and get married! Also, I think there’s a stalker? I loved this one and I promise the heaviness is more than offset by the love and humor woven in as well. And I cannot wait for Blitzed!
The Hot Shot by Kristen Callihan
Speaking of football romances… I finally wrapped up the Game On series and I absolutely adored it. Callihan’s writing is so engaging, you can’t help but sink in and get lost in the story. Chess Copper is hired to do this naked football player calendar for charity and she and Finn wind up having a connection during his shoot. They’re just friends though. Then Chess has to move in with Finn and winds up going home with him for a holiday and, well, there’s maybe a little fake dating going on? I loved this one and think it’s really quite lovely. Finn is a great hero and Chess is a prickly heroine you can’t help but love.
Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
This is probably the most controversial book to put on the comfort read list because this book exists so strongly in the 2016 election and after land that it is sometimes extremely difficult. There’s an unwanted outing in this book. But there’s also this fantastic and hilarious journey from these two men going from enemies to fake friends to real friends to utterly in love with each other. And that slide from enemies to lovers? It’s got “all’s well that ends well to end up with you” vibes all over it. (Also London Boy so feel free to just listen to Lover the whole time you’re reading this.)
Real Kind of Love by Sara Rider
God bless the fake dating trope. Clem’s house gets broken into, her family is all over her about finding a man, and frankly Clem is just done. So when hunky bartender, Jake Donovan, offers his services to be her fake boyfriend on the family camping trip, she takes him up on it immediately. I loved this book so much and Jake’s grovel at the end was so good I can’t even remember why he was groveling. Like, get you a man who will do THAT, ya know? Anyway, I really loved this one. Clem’s family is great even if they are extremely over the top and I loved her nieces so very much. Oh and Clem is an audiobook narrator working on her first erotic romance! The book is great and I highly recommend.
Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
This book had me laughing out loud and may or may not still be on sale on iTunes for $2.99 (audiobook). Hazel embarrassed herself in front of Josh numerous times when they were in college and she has no idea he’s her best friend’s brother until Josh is randomly at a party her bff and bff’s husband are throwing. Hazel drunkenly declares she and Josh are going to be best friends now and that part at least works out. When Josh is dumped and Hazel’s apartment is unlivable, the two wind up as unlikely roommates and start setting one another up on blind dates that they go on as double dates. Except they always come home with each other. It is so good! And I say all that despite the fact that I usually hate the plot point that appears at the end of this book. It’s just that good!
Teach Me by Olivia Dade
If you need a cozy book to curl up with that will give you the same feelings as a warm hug from someone who loves you, this might be the book for you. Rose is an Ice Queen with a heart of gold who always dresses in all black. I love her the most. She’s a teacher who cares so deeply about her students that when her jerk of a boss takes away one of her favorite classes to teach and makes her share her classroom, she feels both blindsided and hurt. Not for herself, but for her students. Now, Martin did not ask for this class that she loves and when he finds out, he tries to come up with a solution that will make the best of a bad situation. Newly arrived in town because his ex-wife wanted to move there with their daughter, Martin is in a place of rebuilding his life. Martin and Rose keep being casually nudged together because of Martin’s daughter and I loved everything about this book. It’s so good and soft, but angsty at the same time. It’s fantastic.
And there you have another list of contemporary romance novels that will help you hide from the world when you need a break! Let me know what your favorite contemporary comfort reads are. Do you want angst in your comfort reads or pure fluff?