Books

Romance books to read this Valentine’s Day

Looking for romance books that give you that warm and fuzzy feeling? Here are our book recommendations for this Valentine's Day (or any day!).

Looking for a romance read this Valentine’s Day? In no particular order, here are 23 stand-out romance novels for you to fall in love with (or perhaps give as a gift to someone you love). From perennial favourites like Emily Henry and Beth O’Leary, to ‘booktok’ and ‘bookstagram’ darlings like Ali Hazelwood and Helen Hoang, plus plenty of Australian authors, there is truly something for everyone in this list of romance books.

Illustrated book cover of the hating game sally thorne

01

The Hating Game, Sally Throne

This book has been out for a while now – and a film adaptation came out in 2021 starring Lucy Hale and Austin Stowell – but I often hear people referencing The Hating Game as the novel that got them into reading romance books. Plus, it’s written by an Australian!

NEMESIS [n]

1) A long-standing rival; an arch-enemy

2) A person’s undoing

3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton, baker-of-cakes, exemplary assistant and professional ‘nice girl’, is waging war. She’s got the whole office on her side – except for tall, dark and charmless Joshua Templeman. He’s been nothing but hostile since the moment they met and now it feels like nothing matters as much as taking him down.

Trapped together under the fluorescent lights, they become entrenched in an addictive rivalry. There’s the Staring Game, The Mirror Game, The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything, especially when a huge promotion comes up for grabs.

Finally she’s going to destroy the man she can’t seem to get out of her office, the man she hates, the man who’s taking up far too much space in her head. If Lucy wins, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. The race is on – but the real games have only just begun . . .

book cover love match clare fletcher

02

Love Match, Clare Fletcher

This contemporary romance perfectly captures small town Australian life and the Aussie sense of humour.

In a town like South Star, everyone knows Sarah Childs’ name, face, entire history … and the fact she’s just been dumped by Johnno West. Sarah would happily keep to herself on their property, Dunromin, for the rest of her days. But now her parents are refusing to put her in charge until she spends a year getting more involved in the local community and, yes, dating. Well. She’ll show them community spirit. She’ll be Miss bloody South Star if that’s what it takes. How hard can it be?

Under small-town surveillance Sarah rekindles neglected friendships and throws herself in the dating deep end (recruiting the Bush Telegraph, Mabel Peters, to matchmake for her). She joins a new women’s rugby team, the Pink Cockatoos, and even the bristly new cop in town, Sergeant Smith, can’t slow Sarah’s race to keep up appearances as the perfect daughter, citizen and girlfriend.

As Sarah moves in with Mabel to help catalogue her vast wardrobe – bringing up memories of Mabel’s beauty pageant past and long-lost friend Rose – vintage fashion might not be all that comes out of the closet.

book cover of Book Lovers

03

Book Lovers, Emily Henry

She’s one of the biggest rom-com authors right now. You’ve probably seen her bright, graphic covers facing out on a shelf in a bookstore – Beach Read, You and Me on Vacation, Happy Place – but the one I always recommend is Book Lovers.

Nora is a cut-throat literary agent at the top of her game. Her whole life is books. Charlie is an editor with a gift for creating bestsellers. And he’s Nora’s work nemesis.

Nora has been through enough break-ups to know she’s the woman men date before they find their happy-ever-after. That’s why Nora’s sister has persuaded her to swap her desk in the city for a month’s holiday in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. It’s a small town straight out of a romance novel, but instead of meeting sexy lumberjacks, handsome doctors or cute bartenders, Nora keeps bumping into…Charlie.

She’s no heroine. He’s no hero. So can they take a page out of an entirely different book?

book cover of The Matchmaker

04

The Matchmaker, Saman Shad

If you want a book that has those classic, early-2000s rom-com vibes, this will hit the spot. Plus, it’s set in Sydney, Australia.

Saima knows that she’s a great matchmaker. She has the weekly wedding invitations to prove it. So why has her community started turning against her? There are eyes, ears and mouths everywhere, and Saima’s feeling firsthand the impact gossip can have. Too modern, too focused on compatibility. She’s about to pack it all up and move back in with her Ammy when an eligible bachelor’s wealthy parents show up at her door. They’re offering the biggest payday she’s had in years, but there’s a catch: she has to convince their son to accept her services without letting on that it’s his parents pulling the strings.

Kal is handsome, successful and starting to worry about his path in life. What does it mean to be a third culture kid? When a woman falls into his life challenging everything he thought he knew about heritage, life and love, it might be the answer he’s been searching for. But Saima wrote off love a long time ago – has she hardened her heart too much to see what’s right in front of her? Can a matchmaker recognise a perfect match?

book cover of The Flatshare

05

The Flatshare, Beth O’Leary

This popular British author has a few titles under her belt, but my favourite is still her debut, The Flatshare. It was recently turned into a television show starring Jessica Brown Findlay and Anthony Welsh, one of many romance novels to have been optioned recently for the screen.

Tiffy and Leon share a flat

Tiffy and Leon share a bed

Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

book cover of The Other Bridget

06

The Other Bridget, Rachael Johns

A romance book about books, the power of reading and the pleasure of romance novels.

Named after a famous fictional character, librarian Bridget Jones was raised on a remote cattle station, with only her mother’s romance novels for company. Now living alone in Fremantle, Bridget is a hopeless romantic. She also believes that anyone who doesn’t like reading just hasn’t met the right book yet, and that connecting books to their readers is her superpower. If only her love life was that easy.

When handsome Italian barista Fabio progresses from flirting with love hearts on her coffee foam to joining the book club she runs at her library, Bridget prays her romance ‘curse’ won’t ruin things. But it’s the attention of her cranky neighbour Sully that seems to be the major obstacle in her life. Why is he going to so much effort to get under her skin?

With the help of her close friends and the colourful characters who frequent her library, Bridget decides to put both men to the test by finding just the right books to capture their very different hearts. She soon discovers that not all romances start with a meet-cute, but they might just end in happily ever after…

book cover of The Love Contract

07

The Love Contract, Steph Vizard

This prize-winning novel is guaranteed to have you laughing out loud.

Single mum Zoe had the parenting thing all figured out with little Hazel until a childcare drought derailed her plans to return to work. Enter Will, Zoe’s nemesis and frustratingly handsome neighbour. When Will’s boss mistakenly assumes Will is Hazel’s father and insists he take parental leave, it seems like a simple white lie could get Zoe out of a jam and help Will to make partner at his law firm.

But life with an adorable toddler – and a growing attraction between Will and Zoe – is never as tidy as their agreement’s bullet points and dry clauses suggest. As they get deeper into the lie, the lines between truth and fiction blur. But Zoe’s hiding a secret and when it comes out, the consequences for all of them could be devastating.

book cover of Not Meeting Mr Right

08

Not Meeting Mr Right, Anita Heiss

There are four books in this rom-com series by Aboriginal Australian author, poet, cultural activist and social commentator Dr Anita Heiss.

Alice Aigner is successful, independent and a confirmed serial dater – but at her ten-year school reunion she has a sudden change of heart. Bored rigid by her married, mortgaged and motherly former classmates, Alice decides to prove that a woman can have it all: a man, marriage, career, kids and a mind of her own. She sets herself a goal: meet the perfect man and marry him before her thirtieth birthday, just under two years away. Together with her best friends Dannie, Liza and Peta, Alice draws up a ten-point plan. Then, with a little help from her family and friends, she sets out to find Mr Right.

Unfortunately for Alice, it’s not quite as easy as she imagines … Who could not fall in love with our Koori heroine as she dates (among others): Renan, whose career goal is to be the world’s best moonwalker and male hula dancer; Tufu the commitment-phobic Samoan football player; scary Simon the one-night stand; and Paul – Mr Dreamboat, but perhaps too good to be true. All the while, Alice skilfully avoids dating Cliff, son of her mum’s friend and confirmed bachelor who isn’t likely to settle down with a woman anytime soon.

book cover of The Kiss Quotient

09

The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang

A booktok darling who writes heartfelt, tender romances. This book starts of a trilogy, but each can be read as a standalone.

Stella Lane thinks mathematics is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases – a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with and far less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice-with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. Gorgeous and conflicted, Michael can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan, from foreplay to more-than-missionary position.

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses but to crave all of the other things he’s making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic . . .

book cover of Duck a l'orange for Breakfast

10

Duck à l’Orange for Breakfast, Karina May

You’ll be seeing IKEA in a new light after reading this book.

Maxine ‘Max’ Mayberry, an ad executive with writing ambitions, is holed up in a friend’s apartment after discovering her long-term boyfriend in bed with another woman. If that wasn’t bad enough, Max has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Enter Johnny: a cheeky yet charming Tinder pen pal and the perfect distraction. Together, Max and Johnny flirt and cook their way through The Laurent Family Cookbook (a recipe book from Max’s ex-boyfriend’s pretentious French family) without ever meeting in person.

The ‘Fork Him’ project starts as a joke, but soon transforms into something more meaningful as Max undergoes brain surgery, travels to Paris for a fresh start, and decides whether she believes in herself enough to chase the life – and the man – she really wants.

book cover of Not Here to Make Friends

11

Not Here to Make Friends, Jodi McAlister

Taking place on the set of a reality dating show, this is the perfect read for anyone who loves binging reality TV. And if you love this one, there are two more books in the series.

Reality TV producer Murray O’Connell is the showrunner for reality dating show Marry Me, Juliet, and that means he’s the boss: he controls the cast, the crew and the story. Until Lily Fireball turns up.

Lily is everything viewers love to watch: she’s feisty, dramatic, and never backs down from a fight. Her villain narrative should be easy to pull off, but Murray keeps getting in her way. Because before she was Lily Fireball, she was Lily Ong – Murray’s best friend, and he’s determined to stop her blowing up her life on television.

As the season unfolds, Lily and Murray go head to head. Lily just wants to have some fun with her role, and Murray just wants to film the show he planned. Why won’t she listen to him? And why can’t Murray focus on the job, instead of the woman he thought was just a friend?

book cover of Love and Other Scores

12

Love and Other Scores, Abra Pressler

For any sport lovers, but especially those who are obsessed with tennis and watch the Australian Open every year.

Gabriel is a global tennis superstar and heart-throb. As he eyes his first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, the pressure is getting to him. After an intense practice session, Gabriel finds refuge in a bar, where he meets Noah.

Oblivious to sports, Noah doesn’t recognise Gabriel, but there is an instant connection. The more time they spend together in the blazing heat of a Melbourne summer, the more their feelings and attraction grow.

Both Gabriel and Noah have their reasons for wanting to keep their romance private. With the stakes so high, will they be willing to risk everything for love all?

book cover of At The Foot of the Cherry Tree

13

At The Foot of The Cherry Tree, Alli Parker

A tale inspired by the true love story between the author’s grandparents.

Gordon Parker is an eager eighteen-year-old Australian boy desperate to fight for his country, and Nobuko ‘Cherry’ Sakuramoto is a sixteen-year-old girl struggling to survive in Japan in the aftermath of World War II. But when they fall in love, they change the course of history.

When Gordon arrives in Japan, he expects ruthless samurai, angry Japanese men ready to kill Australians at every corner. Instead, he finds Cherry, terrified of ex-enemy soldiers, a survivor of the atomic bomb. Against all the rules and all the odds, they fall in love. But when Gordon discovers the White Australia Policy prevents Cherry coming home with him as his war bride, he does what any 20-year-old soldier would do. He vows to fight. Leaving Cherry alone and pregnant in post-war Japan, Gordon has to convince his family to accept his marriage and wage a desperate campaign against a xenophobic and war-scarred government to allow his wife and children to come home.

A sweeping story spanning seven years and two countries reeling from the aftermath of war, At the Foot of the Cherry Tree is a powerfully moving novel about faith, trust, and the power of a love that alters history.

book cover of Snowy Mountains Daughter

14

Snowy Mountains Daughter, Alissa Callen

One of Australia’s most prolific and loved rural romance authors.

Peony flower farmer Clancy Parker was born and bred in the Australian high country. Small-town Bundilla is the only place she will ever truly belong, even if staying means remaining alone. The man she’d loved is long gone and single men are as rare as a summer snowfall.

As soon as he could, street artist Heath MacBride escaped his complicated family and traded mountain peaks for city concrete. Now a commission to paint a mural on Bundilla’s water tower brings him home. It doesn’t matter how long he’s been away, the animosity of his cattleman father hasn’t waned. As soon as the water tower is painted, he will be gone.

But between steadfast Clancy, who’d once been his muse, a free-spirited kelpie who becomes his shadow and a corrosive family secret, his best laid plans disintegrate. When life again backs him into a corner, will he have no choice but to leave or will he and Clancy have the second chance they’d each thought would forever remain out of reach?

book cover of The Singles Table

15

The Singles Table, Sara Desai

It’s technically the third book in the series, but after reading the blurb I wanted to dive right in.

After a devastating break-up, celebrity-obsessed lawyer Zara Patel is determined never to open her heart again. She puts her energy into building her career and helping her friends find romance through the wedding season. She’s never faced a guest at the singles table she couldn’t match, until she crosses paths with the sinfully sexy Jay Donovan.

Former military security specialist Jay has no time for love. His life is about working hard, staying focused, and winning at all costs. When charismatic Zara crashes into his life, he’s thrown into close contact with exactly the kind of chaos he wants to avoid. Worse, they’re stuck together for the entire wedding season.

So they make a deal. She’ll find his special someone if he introduces her to his celebrity clients. But when their arrangement brings them together in ways they never expected, they realize that the perfect match might just be their own.

book cover of Love, Just In

16

Love, Just In, Natalie Murray

A beautiful debut set in the beachside NSW city of Newcastle.

Sydney TV news reporter Josie Larsen is approaching thirty and coming dangerously close to failing at life. Lost in a vortex of other people’s career milestones, engagement parties and baby showers, Josie is perennially single, abandoned by her globetrotting family, and invisible to her boss – except for the one time he tuned in while she was mid-panic-attack on live TV. As punishment, Josie is shipped off to cover another reporter’s six-month leave at a regional bureau in Newcastle.

But Josie has more waiting for her in Newcastle than yawn-inducing stories about bicycle lane protests. The city is also the domain of Zac Jameson – her best friend since high school. This should be a happy turn of events, but Zac has barely spoken to Josie for the past two years. Not since a tragic event caused him to leave Sydney to try and cope with his grief.

Now thrown back into each other’s lives, Josie and Zac have to navigate their neglected friendship and secret attraction to each other while struggling with their careers and mental health.

book cover of Sunshine Through the Rain

17

Sunshine Through the Rain, Penelope Janu

This beloved Australia author writes beautifully about rural communities, and her stories often have an environmental focus.

Country vet Primrose Cartwright knows more about heartache than most but in the close-knit community of Ballimore, she’s found a place to call home. Prim has her work and the love of her sisters, and she doesn’t need anything else – certainly not Blake Sinclair.

The new vet in town, Scotsman Blake has a love-them-and-leave-them reputation. He is curiously protective of Prim, but his privileged upbringing and jet-set life are nothing like her own. Prim has tried – and failed – at the dating game. Even if there’s a burning attraction between them, the last man she could ever trust is Blake.

Blake finds Prim fiercely independent, vulnerable, and unlike any other woman he has ever known. But Prim won’t tell him her secrets unless he tells her his own, and Blake’s pain is buried deep.

book cover of Breaking All the Rules

18

Breaking All the Rules, Amy Andrews

This is a laugh-out-loud read for all the women who are playing by their own rules.

Beatrice Archer has always done everything she’s supposed to —worked her ass off, ignored her non-existent personal life, and kept her mouth shut. Now she’s over it. The rat race, respectability…the underwire bras. She’s taking her life back. Starting with moving to Nowhere, Colorado to live life on her own terms.

Now Bea gives exactly zero forks. Beer for breakfast. Sugar for everything else. Baggy sweats and soft cotton undies FTW. Then a much younger and delightfully attractive cop is called to deal with her flagrant disregard for appropriate clothing outside the local diner (some folks just don’t appreciate bunny slippers) and Bea realizes there’s something missing from her little decathlon of decadence…and he might be the guy to help her out.

When it comes to breaking rules, Officer Austin Cooper is surprisingly eager to assist. He’s charming, a little bit cowboy, and a whole lot sexy. But Bea’s about to discover that breaking the rules has consequences. And all of the cherry pies in Colorado can’t save her from what’s coming…

book cover of The Happy Every After Playlist

19

The Happy Ever After Playlist, Abby Jimenez

This book has one of the best grand gestures I’ve ever read in a contemporary romance novel.

Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can’t seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a ‘take me home’ look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker’s owner reaches out. He’s a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: he wants Tucker back.

Well, Sloan’s not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can’t deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There’s no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: with his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?

book cover of It Happened One Summer

20

It Happened One Summer, Tessa Bailey

One of the lucky romance authors who got big on booktok and bookstagram, Tessa Bailey was once dubbed the “Michelangelo of dirty talk” by Entertainment Weekly. Her books are fun, easy reads (and yes, they do have a fair few sex scenes). This book was inspired by the comedy TV show Schitt’s Creek.

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart.

book cover of Love Theoretically

21

Love, Theoretically, Ali Hazelwood

Known for writing women-in-STEM romances (‘STEMinist romances’, as people have been calling them), I find Ali Hazelwood’s books are always easy to read and enjoy. Her breakout debut was The Love Hypothesis, but I personally prefer her 2023 release, Love, Theoretically.

The many lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have finally caught up with her. By day, she’s an adjunct professor, toiling away at grading labs and teaching thermodynamics in the hopes of landing tenure. By other day, Elsie makes up for her non-existent paycheck by offering her services as a fake girlfriend, tapping into her expertly honed people-pleasing skills to embody whichever version of herself the client needs.

Honestly, it’s a pretty sweet gig – until her carefully constructed Elsie-verse comes crashing down. Because Jack Smith, the annoyingly attractive and arrogant older brother of her favourite client, turns out to be the cold-hearted experimental physicist who ruined her mentor’s career and undermined the reputation of theorists everywhere. And he’s the same Jack Smith who rules over the physics department at MIT, standing right between Elsie and her dream job.

Elsie is prepared for an all-out war of scholarly sabotage but… those long, penetrating looks? Not having to be anything other than her true self when she’s with him? Will falling into an experimentalist’s orbit finally tempt her to put her most guarded theories on love into practice?

book cover of Down the Track

22

Down the Track, Stella Quinn

Australian rural romance with spirit.

Dr Joanne Tan is an expert in a lot of things. Love isn’t one of them. Being thirty-something, broke, divorced, and in a cold war with her twelve-year-old son is a lot, but Jo’s handling it. Just. At least, she is until her job at the Natural History Museum is in jeopardy. An invitation to dig up dinosaur bones on a remote Queensland sheep station arrives at just the right time. It’s not her first trip to Yindi Creek, but it’s not as though anyone will remember her from fifteen years ago … And by anyone, of course, she means the pilot she had that fling with. The fling that taught her she’s far safer sticking to science …

Gavin “Hux” Huxtable, helicopter pilot and reluctant sheep-shearer, has turned his broken heart into a secret (and successful) writing career. But running into Jo again, all these years down the track, stirs up a lot more than outback country dust. A missing person, a fossilised legbone, and a nosy country cop force Jo and Hux together and the sparks that start flying don’t go unnoticed by the locals …

Digging up the past isn’t easy. Digging up the truth can be even harder.

book cover of The Fastest Way to Fall

23

The Fastest Way to Fall, Denise Williams

One of my all-time favourite romance authors. Her books are a beautiful blend of swoony and spicy.

Britta is excited for the chance to finally prove herself at work when she’s asked to write about a hot new body-positive fitness app that includes personal training. When her training sessions with Wes begin, the pair click immediately. He may be the app’s CEO but despite his professional success, his personal life is in disarray and he’s enjoying his return to what he really loves – coaching.

As the weeks pass, Britta can’t believe how much she’s enjoying trying new things and finding her strength . . . and perhaps her perfect match? The longer she spends with Wes the harder it is to deny their chemistry and maintain a professional distance. Walking away from each other may be the smart choice but for Wes and Britta, falling never felt so good . . .

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