As Romance is the genre I read the most, I will ALWAYS have recommendations for it.
With the number of books coming out each year, it is hard to keep up with all of them and some great books can get missed by most people. This is especially true in the case of indie books that don’t have a marketing budget.
This is a list of books that I have read and loved which deserve way more attention than they are currently receiving. All of them have less than 1k ratings on GoodReads.
So if you’re looking for some great underrated romance books to read, you’ve come to the right place.
Steam levels explanation:
None – no explicit scenes.
Low – one or two steamy scenes.
Average – few detailed explicit scenes.
High – good amount of/regular detailed steamy scenes.
1. Cups of You by Karmen Lee
- 1 1. Cups of You by Karmen Lee
- 2 2. The Bachelor’s Valet by Arden Powell
- 3 3. The Love Words by Amy Alves
- 4 4. What Are The Odds? by R. M. Virtues
- 5 5. The Scarlet Bride by Cheryl Ann Smith
- 6 6. Blank Spaces by Cass Lennox
- 7 7. Save the Date by R. J. Groves
- 8 8. The Summer of Jake by Rachel Bailey
- 9 9. The Partnership by Charlotte Penn Clark
- 10 10. Pregnant by the Playboy by Jackie Lau
Amber Jones is back home…temporarily. In 6 months, she plans to drive away from the town that still holds painful memories and back to her big city life. But a newcomer with a voice like the darkest roast and an ever-present smile unexpectedly makes returning to the hustle and bustle of the city, and the boyfriend she shares it with, seem much less appealing.
Benjamin Murphy moved to Millensville for his ex-wife, but even after their very public split, he remained in the town that embraced him and his now teenaged daughter as one of their own. When a gorgeous woman from the city walks into his quaint coffee shop, not even her dour expression is enough to keep him from trying to catch one more glimpse of her smile.
These two seem like total opposites, but when the old adage of opposites attracting seems to hold true, will Amber and Benjamin be able to bridge the gaps between them and find love, or will their common ground crumble beneath the weight of their differences?
With great characters and a lovely relationship growth, Cups of You will steal your heart. It features a main character getting out of an emotionally abusive relationship and moving back home only to find the perfect man for her.
Selling points: single parent romance, slow burn, grumpy x sunshine trope.
Steam level: low.
2. The Bachelor’s Valet by Arden Powell
Alphonse Hollyhock is blessed with wealth, class, and more beauty than brains. Though he hasn’t got a lick of wit or magic to his name, he’s perfectly content living life as an airheaded bachelor with his valet—the clever, unflappable Jacobi—by his side to ensure everything runs smoothly. All he lacks, according to his mother, is a wife.
Despite Alphonse’s protests, he’s to marry Aaliyah Kaddour: a bright, headstrong young woman who would probably be charming company if she didn’t threaten everything about Alphonse’s way of life. Marrying means giving up his fashionable flat, his fast car, and, worst of all, it means losing Jacobi.
Perhaps most distressingly, this talk of marriage is bringing all sorts of confusing feelings to the forefront. Because rather than falling for the beautiful girl being pushed into his arms, Alphonse seems to be falling for his valet. Except a man can’t fall in love with another man. Can he?
Meanwhile, Aaliyah has plans of her own. She’s as devious as she is pretty, but if Alphonse wants to get through this marriage business in one piece, he’ll have to trust her. Her and Jacobi, and, most dangerously, his own feelings.
The Bachelor’s Valet is a delightful, chaotic, queer romance book with LOADS of yearning. The book’s main character is a rich, oblivious gay who PINES for his smart and proper valet. It is an entertaining book that WILL make you happy.
Selling points: gay romance, great characters, funny, GAY YEARNING, a little bit of magic.
Steam level: none. There is tension but no explicit scenes.
3. The Love Words by Amy Alves
Chloe Caldwell was my nemesis in high school. Or maybe I was hers.
I met Chloe during one of the worst times of my life and she called me out as the troublemaking, mischievous jerk I was. After eight years, she still hates me.
But I’m not some punk kid anymore.
I have a daughter to raise, a life to build. Unfortunately for Chloe, that life is in her hometown. The same small town she left years ago.
Now she’s back and to everyone else, she’s the same delightful, kind-hearted girl.
That’s not the Chloe I get.
No, I get the woman hell-bent on vengeance. Her attempts at putting me in my place only make me want to smack her sweet, sassy backside. I crave her salty attitude and angry jabs.
When our animosity starts affecting my daughter, a truce is formed.
Hot, needy glances slowly replace scathing glares.
Still, I don’t dare hope for more. Even if everything inside me is aching to explore her, possess her—I can’t. Because I know she would want it all. She’d want all things I’ve never given to any woman before her.
She’d want all my love words.
This is a super cute second chance romance with a flawed male main lead. The two leads have a ton of history and parted on bad terms. But when they find themselves living in the same town again after several years, their pranks are back on track.
Selling points: single dad romance, small town romance, second chance romance, slow burn, hate-to-love, the sweetest romance.
Steam level: Average.
4. What Are The Odds? by R. M. Virtues
When Caius divorced my older sister, I never thought he would divorce me too. We went from best friends to strangers from one day to the next, and I’ve spent an entire year telling myself it’s for the best. That’s what you do after a divorce. You take the side of your sister, even if she’s in the wrong. But then I run into him at a bar one night a few weeks before my college graduation, and all of a sudden, all those feelings I’d buried beneath denial and shame come flooding back. And then some. Only then do I realize how much I’ve missed him.
And I am not willing to lose him again.
This book is SO GOOD. A hot romance between estranged best friends Caius and Elena that will definitely get you hooked onto the book and the romance genre. I’ve read it multiple times because of how good it is.
The characters are also really nice to read about. And the chemistry is A+.
Selling points: best-friends-to-lovers romance, hot af.
Steam level: high.
Content warnings: Breeding kink, raw sex, talk of pregnancy, pregnancy (not with the main characters but with a side character), mention of infidelity.
5. The Scarlet Bride by Cheryl Ann Smith
Notorious bad boy Simon Harrington, third in line for his uncle’s title, has finally conceded to settling down and finding a noble wife. Then he stumbles across a courtesan in peril on a dark London street, and his life takes an unexpected turn. Fearing for her safety, he brings the mysterious beauty to his cousin’s School for Brides, where compromised women are taught how to be suitable wives. But he finds it impossible simply to walk away.
A poor country squire’s daughter, Laura Precott was promised in marriage to the shadowy Earl of Westwick. Instead of making her his wife, however, he betrayed her and forced her to become his mistress. When she learned of his plan to sell her at auction, she fled for her life.
Simon knows he must forget his feelings for such an unsuitable woman or risk disgracing his family. But when Laura’s former lover turns out to have been murdered the very night of her escape, suspicion falls squarely on Laura. Now it is up to Simon to prove her innocence—even if it leads to his downfall…
I found this book (and its series) during my historical romance phase and loved it! It is so underrated—it has only 109 ratings on Goodreads!
This book shows us the darker side of historical romance by shining a light on mistresses, scammed women, and women who don’t have anyone to turn to for support.
Along with a dashing love story between the main characters, there is also mystery and a danger element. It makes the book highly engaging to read. I read it in one sitting!
Selling points: lovers from very different classes in society, hero and damsel-in-distress.
Content warnings: sexual coercion, kidnapping, stalker, misplaced murder accusation.
Steam level: average. not many explicit scenes.
6. Blank Spaces by Cass Lennox
Absence is as crucial as presence.
The decision to stop dating has made Vaughn Hargrave’s life infinitely simpler: he has friends, an excellent wardrobe, and a job in the industry he loves. That’s all he really needs, especially since sex isn’t his forte anyway and no one else seems interested in a purely romantic connection. But when a piece is stolen from his art gallery and insurance investigator Jonah Sondern shows up, Vaughn finds himself struggling with that decision.
Jonah wants his men like his coffee: hot, intense, and daily. But Vaughn seems to be the one gay guy in Toronto who doesn’t do hookups, which is all Jonah can offer. No way can Jonah give Vaughn what he really wants, not when Jonah barely understands what love is.
When another painting goes missing, tension ramps up both on and off the clock. Vaughn and Jonah find themselves grappling not just with stolen art, but with their own differences. Because a guy who wants nothing but romance and a guy who wants nothing but sex will never work—right? Not unless they find a way to fill in the spaces between them.
This is an opposites-attract romance where Vaughn is from a well-off family which allows him to pursue art and Jonah is an orphan working as an insurance investigator. They are opposites in personality as well. Vaughn is more calm, controlled, and happy while Jonah is curt and grumpy.
The book also expands on sexuality as Vaughn is asexual (discovers the label during this book) and Jonah is highly sex-positive (his sexuality is never pinpointed in the book) and not into monogamy.
One thing to note: Jonah is highly self-destructive as a coping mechanism so you might want to yell at him to see what’s right in front of him many times. If you don’t like that, skip this.
Selling points: opposites-attract, queer romance, grumpy character and cute character, they work together to solve a mystery.
Steam level: none.
7. Save the Date by R. J. Groves
One dressmaker. One billionaire. Two broken hearts. How long could it last?
Darlington Vineyard is the perfect wedding venue, and Andie Gray has always made sure she had a date booked, with or without a fiance. Her dreams come true when she lands the perfect man to go with the perfect venue, but then she discovers he’s not who she thought he was. All of a sudden love and fairy tales no longer make sense, leaving her questioning everything about her life…
Taylor Ballin knows what he wants, and love isn’t it. He’s been burned before, and it won’t happen again. How was he to know that offering to pay for his sister’s wedding would bring bridal seamstress Andie Gray, with her maddening allure, into his world and tear down the walls he’d built around his heart?
She’s the kind of woman he’s spent ten years avoiding, and he’s everything her ex is. But the pull between them is unavoidable and neither of them can fight it. Perhaps a no-strings-attached kind of deal is exactly what they both need.
Or is it the one thing they should avoid?
A quick and easy-to-read romance about a seamstress and a billionaire. Sparks fly between them when they met but they each have baggage to go through in the book in order to end with a happily-every-after.
The main character is quirky and dreams big. Every two years, she reserves her dream wedding venue in hopes of finding the man for her and not losing the space to anyone else.
Selling points: opposites attract, characters from different worlds, billionaire romance.
Steam level: average.
8. The Summer of Jake by Rachel Bailey
Falling in love wasn’t part of the plan…
Life is just dandy for aspiring fashion designer Annalise Farley. She has a great job (or she will once her designs are discovered), parents who only slightly disapprove, a cat that thinks she’s a dog, and a best friend…even if she hasn’t seen her in a while.
But then Jake Maxwell saunters back into her life. Jake, the love god. Jake, her best friend’s older brother. Jake, who broke her heart at sixteen without realizing it, then left to become a pro surfer. Now he’s back, having taken the surfing and business worlds by storm, and he’s ready for a new challenge–catching the eye of another girl. And he wants Annalise’s help.
Helping Jake land his next girlfriend is too fraught with emotional danger for her liking, but then Jake offers to put her designs in his shops. Is that the sound of her life cracking at the seams? It’s hard to tell with Jake smiling at her like she’s the only thing that makes him happy…
If you want a book where one-sided love turns into a two-sided love, this is for you. Over a summer, Annalise and Jake grow closer and get to know each other better and fall hard for each other. There is slow relationship development, enough pining, and some comedic elements as well.
Selling points: brother’s best friend, they fall in love as she helps him get another woman, a cat that thinks it is a dog, summer romance.
Steam level: average.
9. The Partnership by Charlotte Penn Clark
They’re partners…with benefits?
Kyle’s got a problem. He needs to pass college composition to graduate but he can’t get words on a page. And it’s landed him in a pilot class called Extra Credit for students in trouble — when all he wants is to be left alone.
Lani’s got a problem too. She doesn’t like making waves and it gets her stuck in that Extra Credit class. When she ends up partnered with Kyle things start getting complicated. Kyle is angry, restless, impatient; Lani is calm, introverted, bookish. But when these opposites attract how will they manage to stay “just partners”?
THIS HAS ONLY 59 RATINGS ON GOODREADS. Literally, HOW?!
If you’re in the mood for a good New Adult college romance, this is for you.
This book has a good concept with the Extra Credit class, a good main pairing, and diversity (Lani is Hawai’ian). There is proper tension because the dreams of our main characters don’t fit, unlike many other NA books.
Selling points: class partners with benefits, tough guy but soft at heart.
Steam level: average.
10. Pregnant by the Playboy by Jackie Lau
I’ve got a pretty great life if I do say so myself. I made a fortune when I sold my tech start-up, and I’ve spent the years since partying, drinking, and inviting a parade of women into my bed.
I should be happy, but I feel an annoying lack of fulfilment, and there’s no way I’m going back to the work I did before.
At a friend’s party, I meet Marissa. We have hot sex against the door and agree to spend the weekend together. Just one weekend. I never expect to see her again.
Except now she’s pregnant with my baby…and I think this is the solution to all my problems. This is what will bring meaning to my life. I’m going to be a devoted father and husband.
Marissa—whose last name I still don’t know—wants me to be involved, though she rejects my marriage proposal. But before the baby arrives, I’m going to prove to her that I can be something other than a playboy.
And the rare times I set my mind to something, I don’t fail…
I came across this book on a Twitter recommendation thread for romance books with the accidental pregnancy trope, and I’m so glad I did! Currently with only 138 ratings on Goodreads, this book definitely deserves more recognition.
This is (shamefully) the first romance book with the accidental pregnancy trope that I’ve read where both main characters are of minority ethnic groups. Marissa and Vince’s identities don’t play a very huge role in the plot but they are important enough.
Marissa was not great but I loved Vince and his family. Especially his po po. They’re so fun. I’m definitely going to be reading more books by this author.
Selling points: accidental pregnancy trope, a very fun and Asian family, great chemistry, slow relationship growth.
Content warnings: grief of losing a parent, mention of depression.
Steam level: average but slightly more risqué.