Romance may still be overwhelmingly white, straight, cisgender, and able-bodied, but the genre thankfully — like much of the literary world — continues to diversify. Queer and trans main characters and love interests are becoming increasingly common, and enjoying their stories has readers begging for more. Below, find your ultimate guide to the 30 best lesbian romance novels on the market today.
So what makes a romance novel a lesbian romance novel? Well, for starters, either the love interest or the protagonist should be a lesbian. There are plenty of sapphic, WLW, and F/F romances out there, but the main characters in those books don’t have to be lesbians; they might be pansexual, bisexual, or somewhere on the asexual spectrum.
To qualify here, the book in question must also be a romance. Lots of books have love stories, but romances have feel-good endings in which the main characters find their Happily Ever Afters (HEAs) or Happy For Nows (HFNs). Happy endings are non-negotiable in romance. So as much as I’d like to include early lesbian literature, such as The Well of Loneliness and Carmilla, here, I’m afraid those books don’t qualify for this list.
Not to worry, though, because we still have a ton of lesbian romance novels to look at. Here are 30 of our favorites:
The 30 Best Lesbian Romance Novels
Can’t Resist Her by Kianna Alexander
Years after they kissed on prom night, Summer and Aiko find themselves thrust together again, in Can’t Resist Her. Summer’s return to Austin coincides with a campaign to save her grandmother’s legacy. Gentrification has taken over her old neighborhood, and the high school her grandmother founded, the Sojourner Truth Charter Academy, is on the chopping block. Coming back to Austin also means reuniting with an old flame. But when Aiko turns out to be part of the development team responsible for the high school’s demolition, Summer starts to worry that their relationship will end in heartbreak yet again.
How to Excavate a Heart by Jake Maia Arlow
How to Excavate a Heart centers on two young Jewish women forced to spend Christmas Eve together when a blizzard hits Washington, D.C. Recovering from a disastrous breakup, Shani’s just trying to focus on her studies — namely, a challenging paleoichthyology internship. She doesn’t want a new girlfriend, but she can’t stop thinking about May: the girl Shani’s mom almost ran over on their first day in D.C. After a part-time job brings her into May’s orbit, however, Shani is forced to decide whether she’s ready to take another chance on love.
Meeting Millie by Clare Ashton
Charlotte and Millie became fast friends when they met at Oxford. Millie was straight — or thought she was. Then something happened that shook her understanding of her own sexuality, so much so that she and Charlotte haven’t spoken in the last ten years. Now Charlotte’s back at Oxford, and Millie seems to be ready to give their friendship — or something more — a second chance. But is Charlotte ready to let the ten-year-long gap in their relationship go? Find out, in Meeting Millie.
Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur
Alexandria Bellefleur’s debut, Written in the Stars, is a fake-dating, Pride and Prejudice-inspired rom-com you won’t want to miss. Darcy’s brother is determined to find her Ms. Right. To that end, he sets her up with his new business associate, an astrologer named Elle. Darcy’s pleased to report that their setup was a success, much to her brother’s delight, because that means he’ll finally stop trying to find her a girlfriend. There’s just one problem: Darcy and Elle’s date was actually pretty terrible, and Elle isn’t in on the lie.
Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail by Ashley Herring Blake
The eponymous heroine of Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail threw herself into her work after calling off her impending nuptials. An interior designer by trade, Astrid gets the opportunity to really get her name out there when she’s asked to renovate a historic inn for an HGTV show. Unfortunately, the gig comes with a major downside: Jordan, the inn owner’s granddaughter, who happens to be working as the lead carpenter on the job. Astrid and Jordan quickly butt heads, and the show’s producers love it. But as they’re pushed to ratchet up the occupational tension for the cameras, the two women begin to realize that a different kind of tension is brewing.
Prize Money by Celeste Castro
A slow-burn romance ensues after a tall, dark, and beautiful rodeo clown rescues a champion barrel racer, in Prize Money. Stuntwoman Toma has just wrapped up shooting on the Wonder Woman set when her family calls with an emergency: her father has been injured, and they need her to stand in for him as a bullfighter — a.k.a. rodeo clown. Back in the rodeo circuit, Toma rescues the World Rodeo Queen from a charging bull. Eva has a singular goal for her barrel-racing career: to earn enough money to protect her beloved wild horses from harm. As chemistry builds between Toma and Eva, both women must ask themselves whether they’re willing to put their passions on the line for love.
Kiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochrun
Kiss Her Once for Me centers on Ellie, a barista whose plans for an upcoming marriage of convenience are scrambled when she learns who the groom-to-be’s sister is. Ellie’s been hard-up for cash since she lost her last job, but her employer’s landlord, Andrew, is willing to pay her 10 percent of his salary to marry him. See, he needs a wife to be able to collect his $2 million inheritance. All Ellie has to do is hobnob with Andrew’s family at Christmas, and their financial problems will be gone before they know it. However, all bets are off once Ellie recognizes Andrew’s sister as the woman who stole her heart one year earlier.
Once Ghosted Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole
A novella in Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series, Once Ghosted Twice Shy is a second-chance romance between an African prince’s personal assistant and the woman who unexpectedly gave up on their budding relationship. Likotsi has only just returned to New York City when she crosses paths with Fabiola, who invites her on a casual tea date. It’s a chance at closure for Likotsi, who accepts. As Fab’s reasons for ghosting her ex come to light, however, Likotsi can’t shake her sneaking suspicion that Fab might deserve another chance.
Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman
Knit One, Girl Two collects three F/F romances into a single volume. In the title novella, sparks fly when a small-batch yarn dyer connects with the woman whose paintings have inspired her latest products. Fearless centers on Lana, a single mom and ex-violinist, who finds herself falling for her daughter’s orchestra teacher. Finally, Your Name Is Love tells the story of Hadar, who tries to break through her wife’s artist’s block by leading her on a citywide scavenger hunt.
Season of Love by Helena Greer
Helena Greer’s lauded lesbian romance is a grumpy/sunshine holiday story set on a Jewish-owned Christmas tree farm. Inheriting a stake in her great-aunt’s business isn’t exactly a boon for Miriam. She loved Cass, but she never planned to go back home again. All she wants is to get through the funeral and go back to her normal life without having to see her other relatives. But when she learns that the Christmas tree farm is in danger of shuttering for good, Miriam decides to stay in town long enough to get the business back on its feet. Too bad that means working with Noelle — the grumpy but totally cute manager who doesn’t think Miriam cares about the business at all. These two are about to get some much-needed good cheer, in Season of Love.
Mangoes and Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera
Two Dominican lesbians take center stage in this novel from the author of A Caribbean Heiress in Paris. Mangoes and Mistletoe introduces readers to contestants Kiskeya and Sully — two bakers with something to prove. Kiskeya’s a pastry chef struggling to convince those around her that she belongs in a professional kitchen. Sully wants to rekindle her old love of baking in the wake of a major life change. When they’re paired off as a team, the two butt heads almost immediately. The ovens won’t be the only things heating up between Kiskeya and Sully, however.
D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding by Chencia C. Higgins
Another reality TV romance, D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding features a fake-dating scheme for the ages. If they can plan their wedding in just six weeks without tipping their families off to the charade, the eponymous heroines of Chencia C. Higgins’ romance novel will win $100,000. Fitness influencer Kris knows that reality TV is the perfect place to launch her career into the stratosphere, but she’s also hoping to find true love on the show. Meanwhile, D’Vaughn just wants some way to come out to her ultra-conservative mother that won’t end in heartbreak. As they play up their lovey-dovey personas for the cameras and their families, however, it soon becomes clear that their relationship is going to be anything but platonic.
Make You Mine This Christmas by Lizzie Huxley-Jones
A drunken kiss leads to fake dating leads to one fiasco of an awkward relationship, in Make You Mine This Christmas. Haf and Christopher aren’t dating, but everyone thinks they are, thanks to some very public mistletoe shenanigans. Christopher doesn’t want to break the news to his family, so Haf agrees to spend the holidays with them. Then she meets her new “boyfriend’s” sister, and things get suddenly, ridiculously complicated.
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
The Henna Wars follows two teenage entrepreneurs and former besties who clash over their rival henna businesses, only to find themselves falling for one another. Nishat isn’t ready to come out to her parents, and she isn’t sure she’ll ever be. The re-emergence of an old primary school chum complicates her plans to remain in the closet, however. Flávia and Nishat have undeniable chemistry, and Nishat doesn’t want to throw that away. But when Flávia opens a competing henna business in their school — a move the Bangladeshi Irish Nishat believes is culturally appropriative for her Brazilian Irish friend to make — the girls’ burgeoning relationship takes on a new level of nuance.
You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
Liz has big plans for her life, but she needs money to bring them to fruition. She’s not particularly interested in the social dynamics of becoming prom queen, but the $10,000 scholarship that comes with the crown proves too tempting to ignore. Of course, nothing is simple in high school, and Liz soon finds herself fielding the potential rekindling of a middle school friendship and a possible relationship with the new girl in school, in You Should See Me in a Crown.
Get It Right by Skye Kilaen
Finn and Vivi met working in the same pharmacy. Unfortunately, Finn was incarcerated at the time — a fact that prevented the two women from acting on their mutual attraction. Get It Right follows a recently paroled Finn as she unexpectedly reunites with Vivi, who now works at the public health clinic where Finn receives treatment. Vivi’s life has gotten incredibly complicated in the eight months since she last saw Finn. Can Finn help, or will Vivi disappear from her life a second time?
A Restless Truth by Freya Marske
All eyes are on Robin Blyth’s younger sister in this follow-up to A Marvellous Light. A public servant in the magical sector, Robin needs a little help on his newest investigation, so he sends his capable sister to accompany an elderly woman on a sea voyage. But when the woman dies on their first day at sea, Maud is left to wrangle the case with the help of an over-the-top, bisexual actress named Violet. A Restless Truth is a cozy mystery full of high-seas intrigue, magic, and mayhem — with a fantastic love story at its core.
These Thin Lines by Milena McKay
Cinderella takes a new form in Milena McKay’s age-gap lesbian romance. The story here centers on Chiara, an unhappily married fashion designer suffering from major creative block. The last thing Chiara expects at this stage of her life is to find herself falling for the clumsy young woman who falls directly — and quite literally — at her feet. Vi has spent her whole life trying to live up to her family’s ridiculous expectations. Their relationship is a messy torrent of emotion and healing, in These Thin Lines.
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
From the author of Red, White & Royal Blue comes One Last Stop. August might have given up on love, but love hasn’t quite given up on her. She’s just moved to the land of rom-coms — New York City — but she’s not looking for romance. Not until she meets Jane, that is. When the two meet on the subway, there’s an instant spark, but their relationship may be short-lived. Jane has come unstuck in time, and it’s up to August to help her get back to the 1970s. But does she really want to?
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
Junauda Petrus’ debut is The Stars and the Blackness Between Them. Sixteen-year-old Audre is forced to pack her things and move to the U.S. from Trinidad after her mother discovers her secret relationship with their pastor’s daughter. In Minneapolis, Audre meets Mabel, the 16-year-old daughter of her father’s best friend. Their instant attraction quickly develops into romance — an unexpected silver lining for the displaced Audre. But the girls’ relationship will soon be put to the test, as Mabel’s chronic health problems turn out to be more serious than previously thought.
A Little Light Mischief by Cat Sebastian
A spinster with a bad reputation she hasn’t earned crosses paths with a light-fingered lesbian lady’s maid in A Little Light Mischief. Alice’s father threw her out after her sexual assault became public knowledge. Now, she lives with an older spinster as her companion and has made peace with the fact that she’ll never find love. Once her benefactor hires a new lady’s maid in the form of a reformed thief named Molly, however, Alice is forced to question whether she’s truly okay with spending the rest of her life unpartnered. Molly is trying to stay out of trouble for once in her life, but Alice just might be worth being a little bit bad for.
For Her Consideration by Amy Spalding
For Her Consideration is Amy Spalding’s adult debut. The story here centers on Nina, who has spent the last three years trying to forget a nasty breakup and move on with her life. She’s not interested in finding someone else, a position she reconsiders when she’s partnered with up-and-coming movie star Ari on a work project. Ari’s boundless enthusiasm tears down Nina’s carefully kept walls, until she’s ready to reconnect with the people she ditched after her breakup. Rekindling old friendships is one thing, but is Nina ready to take the plunge into dating again — especially when the object of her affection happens to be a movie star?
The Wicked and the Willing by Lianyu Tan
Lianyu Tan’s gothic vampire romance, The Wicked and the Willing, allows readers to choose from three different endings at the novel’s close. The story follows three women living together in 1920s Singapore: Verity, a powerful vampire of British ancestry; Po Lam, the major-domo who has spent 20 years ruling Verity’s household with an iron fist; and Gean Choo, the new maid, who swiftly enters into a blood pact with her mistress. As the trio’s interpersonal relationships become tangled, Gean Choo must decide between the two women she loves. But which will she choose: the alluring, vampiric killer, or the stoic servant ready to end her reign of terror, once and for all?
Sorry, Bro by Taleen Voskuni
After an unsettlingly bad proposal from her non-Armenian boyfriend, Nareh gives in to her mother’s plan to find her a mate. Explore Armenia offers Nar the opportunity to connect with the Bay Area’s most eligible Armenian bachelor, but it’s a woman who catches her eye. Erebuni is alluring, witchy, and passionately pro-Armenian. Best of all, she seems to like Nar back. There’s just one problem: Nar has never come out as bisexual before, which means that dating Erebuni might come with a whole lot of social baggage. Is Nar ready to unpack it, or will she find a nice Armenian boy to settle down with and make her mom happy? Find out, in Sorry, Bro.
The Hellion’s Waltz by Olivia Waite
From the author of The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics comes The Hellion’s Waltz. A con artist destroyed the Roseingrave family’s business. So when Sophie Roseingrave notices that one of the local weavers is up to something sneaky, she can’t help but conduct her own investigation. Maddie has the full support of England’s clothiers on her side in her campaign to take down Mr. Giles, a man who has built his business on the backs of the hardworking members of the guild. Sophie can’t abide a con artist, which means she’s prepared to foil Maddie’s plans before she can strike. But when she learns why the weaver has chosen this particular mark, Sophie begins to question whether she might be able to look the other way, just this once.
Treasure by Rebekah Weatherspoon
An 18-year-old college student finds herself attending gen-ed classes with the stripper who danced for her at her sister’s bachelorette party, in Treasure. The last person Alexis expected to meet in her computer science class is the woman who helped her explore her sexuality. Her family isn’t exactly supportive of her lesbian identity, so she seized the chance to test the waters when she visited a strip club on a lark. Treasure, whose real name is Trisha, has been saving up to pay her way through school. Unlike Alexis, she doesn’t come from a wealthy family. In spite of their differences, Trisha and Alexis dive into a romantic relationship — a first for each of them — in Rebekah Weatherspoon’s 2014 romance.
Eight Kinky Nights by Xan West
Eight Kinky Nights centers on Jordan and Leah — a stone butch lesbian and her submissive femme friend and roommate — as they embark on a Chanukah journey to remember. Jordan and Leah have both come to late-in-life realizations about their sexualities. Recently divorced Jordan wants to explore kink as a dominant, and Leah, who owns a sex shop and works as a kink educator, is trying to find a way to fit her newly unearthed identity as a gray ace into her kink practice. Leah’s idea to give Jordan eight kink lessons over the course of Chanukah opens the door for both women to explore themselves … and their changing relationship.
Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
Jo was supposed to be chatting up the press about her latest film. When the paparazzi spin an innocent, red-carpet moment between Jo and her assistant, Emma, into a secret romance, the movie is the last thing anyone wants to ask her about. As the rumor mill’s swirling shifts into high gear, Jo and Emma must do their best to weather the media firestorm. Unfortunately for their business interests, the extra attention only pushes the two women closer. Before long, the question isn’t if the paparazzi will discover the truth, but when, in Something to Talk About.
Stud Like Her by Fiona Zedde
As Stud Like Her opens, Chance is fresh off a breakup with the woman she thought she’d be spending the rest of her life with. On the rebound, she tries to find the woman she fell for when she was much younger, even though the idea of being a stud who’s into other studs still doesn’t sit well with her. Much to her surprise, Chance finds herself falling for a different stud: a much-younger influencer named Garett. Chance is apprehensive about taking the plunge with a younger woman — and a fellow masc lesbian — but there’s something about Garett she just can’t resist.
Just as You Are by Camille Kellogg (April 25, 2023)
A Pride and Prejudice retelling set in the offices of a fictional queer magazine called Nether Fields, Just as You Are follows Liz, a magazine writer, as she butts heads with new management. Nether Fields was on the verge of shuttering when Daria and her business partner bought it. Liz might be able to find it in herself to be grateful if only she didn’t utterly despise her new boss. Daria’s vocal criticism of Liz’s contributions to the magazine is the icing on the workplace drama cake. Liz knows her days at Nether Fields are numbered, but she somehow winds up working closely with Daria anyway. The more time they spend together, the more these two begin to wonder if they judged each other too harshly.
Did we choose your favorite lesbian romance for this list?
Is reading romance novels healthy?
Back in 2011, one British advice columnist suggested that romance novels might lead readers to have unsafe sex because, of the 78 novels surveyed in a 2000 research paper, only 11.5% mentioned condom use. If that sounds like a reach, that’s because it is.
There’s no real evidence to suggest that reading romance novels is bad for your personal health and relationships. In fact, the opposite may be true. As Book Riot pointed out in 2021, “reading decreases stress and anxiety, [relieves] depression, and can help people fall asleep at night. Reading can reduce your blood pressure and heart rate, lowering risks of heart disease.” Not too bad for one of the easiest hobbies on the planet.
Why are romance novels considered trashy?
The word trash has been used to describe women’s writing for nearly 200 years, as this thinkpiece in The Atlantic points out. Even today, fiction that centers women and their desires — and is, consequently, embraced by female readers — consistently comes under fire from would-be critics.
Between the 1990s and 2010s, books by women were frequently derided as “chick lit,” a subgenre of popular fiction that divided writers whose books were categorized as such. In the mid-2010s, “women’s fiction” emerged, both as an alternative umbrella term for chick lit and as the subgenre’s higher-browed cousin. And then there were the YA fantasy and romance novels — chief among them being Twilight — the criticism of which made young, female readers into the butts of cruel jokes.
In 2015, author Jennifer Weiner eviscerated the male critics who had recently sought to downplay women writers’ successes, both by infantilizing their books and by suggesting that the women who read them only did so because they were being told what to like.
This is all to say that, whenever a book or genre is written by a woman, centers on women and their experiences, and garners appreciation from women and girls, then that book or genre will be maligned as trashy, unserious, and juvenile.
Do men like romance novels?
Yes! Contrary to popular belief, romance novels are for everyone, and people of all genders read romance novels. In addition, more men writing under their own names — or under male pseudonyms, at the least — have published successful romance novels in recent years. Examples include Z.R. Ellor (May the Best Man Win), Kosoko Jackson (A Dash of Salt and Pepper), and Adam Silvera (The First to Die at the End).
What does HFN mean in romance novels?
In the world of romance novels, HFN stands for Happy For Now. An HFN is one of two possible types of romance endings, the other being HEA: Happily Ever After. Where an HEA ending pairs up two people the audience knows will spend the rest of their lives together, an HFN hints at a romance that could conceivably take place after the novel closes. Both are happy endings, but many romance readers prefer one over the other.
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