So Jenica and I didn’t totally plan through our reading bingo board, otherwise I would have had recommendation posts up and ready to go much earlier! But considering I don’t think anyone participating actually plans to stick to their TBR (if they even made one), I figure it’s still helpful to share some recommendations to help get your bingo on.
Also, while Jenica and I wrote these prompts and might include some guidance in our blog posts, please feel free to interpret the prompts however you see fit! We fully support stretching a prompt in order to count a book for it. And I would consider it a success if you only complete one square! This is all just in good fun, after all.
Makes you hungry
Ok, so I think there are certain books that should come with food warnings before you pick them up so that you are totally prepared to have that food on hand when you’re reading!
I remember reading Jasmine Guillory’s Royal Holiday and being really angry I didn’t have access to good scones. This is a holiday romance inspired by Meghan Markle’s mother; it’s about a woman who visits her daughter, a stylist to the royal family, over Christmas and falls in love with the Queen’s secretary. This could also count for the royalty, older heroine, and Black love squares!
Mia Sosa is another author who frequently makes me hungry when I read her books. I definitely wanted to run out and find some Brazilian food after reading The Worst Best Man, a romance between a wedding planner and her ex-fiance’s younger brother.
And if you decide to read Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai, be sure to have some sourdough on hand! This mutual pining bodyguard romance features a heroine who takes precious care of her sourdough starter (she was very prescient for the pandemic!), and you will definitely want to eat a warm slice while reading this book! And this is a great book choice for pining!!
There are TONS more books I could recommend, but I’m going to cut myself off here. Food is such an integral part of life and romance, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if you’re able to cross this square off without even trying. Though I’ll finish with a plug for Jackie Lau! I haven’t read many of her books, but she always makes me hungry from following her on Twitter, and I bet her books do the same!
I suspect this will be another fairly easy square to cross off, especially if you really love pining in your books like Jenica does!
In addition to Girl Gone Viral, which has great mutual pining vibes, another perfect fit for this square is Wanna Bet? by Talia Hibbert. Rahul has been in love with is best friend Jasmine for years, but has always picked their friendship over a potential romance. But when an accidental flood at her apartment forces her to move in with him temporarily, the two start to wonder if they could be something more. Be prepared for sooooo much pining in this book!
Two Rogues Make a Right is another great choice for the pining square! Martin has been in love with his best friend, Will, for years, but doesn’t think he’s good enough to deserve Will. But when Will kidnaps Martin and takes him to the countryside to help him recover from his illness, he also manages to convince Martin that he deserves to be loved, too. This is such a sweet idiots-in-love romance, and I absolutely adore it!
And while friends-to-lovers is the perfect trope to get your pining on, I think forbidden love is another great one, too. And it doesn’t get much more forbidden than a romance between a highborn lady and a street enforcer with a questionable past, which is the dynamic in The Hidden Moon by Jeannie Lin! These two fall in love while working to solve a high-stakes mystery together, but do some serious pining because they’re not sure how it’s possible to live happily ever after together. This is also a great choice for non-Regency historical!
While these prompts are open to interpretation, the definition of Black love is pretty strict: a romance must include two Black main characters. Multicultural and interracial relationships are great, but this prompt is specifically about Black love.
If you haven’t read Beverly Jenkins yet, please fix that immediately! I’m pretty sure all of her characters are Black, so you can easily cross of this square and the non-Regency historical square with one of her books. I’m still partial to the classic Indigo, a romance between two people working on the Underground Railroad. Though this is an older title and can feel a bit dated, so be sure to check out her newer releases if that’s more your speed!
Another author you should definitely be reading if you haven’t yet is Kennedy Ryan! A lot of her books are interracial, but I believe Hook Shot features two Black protagonists. This contemporary has serious fated mates vibes between a basketball player and a fashion designer who have been avoiding each other for years because they know how explosive their romance has the potential to be. But when they’re assigned to work together on an ad campaign, they’re forced to confront their attraction.
I actually read Hook Shot for #BlackLoveAThon, and another book I read for that readathon that a lot of people enjoy is Feud by Phyllis Bourne. This is an enemies-to-lovers romance between two neighbors whose families have been trying to drive the other out of town for decades. Their antics trying to scare each other out of their homes are hilarious, and this was a really fun read!
I mean, technically you could read an English-set historical set in the Georgian or Victorian eras and have it count towards this prompt, but the inspiration was definitely a desire to go outside of traditional English-set historicals! So that’s what all of my recommendations are, and how I intend to interpret the prompt. Also, I started writing this, and it got out of hand very quickly, so I think I’m going to have to keep it brief here, but then write a full blog post on this topic!
If you’re REALLY attached to Regency historicals, I think a great way to dip your toe in the water is with My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas. I’m not a huge fan of second chance romances, but this book is beautifully written and made me really want to visit western China, where a large part of this book is set. But the couple reconnect in England, so you still get some of those elements if you really want them! But this is just a stunning book that I recommend you read regardless of this particular prompt.
Also sticking with England, but in a totally different time period, I just read and really enjoyed Best Laid Plaids by Ella Stainton, which takes place in post-WWI England and features ghosts and two men who are totally in love but incapable of discussing their feelings. This is a great pick for the punny title, pet, and new-to-you author squares (this is Stainton’s debut), and I saw someone count ghost hunting as a quintessential fall activity!
Traveling to a different part of the world, you can visit the Caribbean in the early twentieth century with The Infamous Miss Rodriguez by Lydia San Andres. The heroine in this one is trying to escape an arranged marriage, while the hero has been tasked with ensuring she doesn’t ruin her reputation so the marriage goes through. I personally didn’t love this one, as I needed it to be a full length novel, but a lot of people do, and I think it’s worth checking out!
I’ve also mentioned Indigo by Beverly Jenkins (nineteenth century Michigan) and The Hidden Moon by Jeannie Lin (Tang dynasty China). And I’m trying to stop myself from just recommending Alyssa Cole all over the place because I suspect a lot of people have already read her, but if you haven’t picked up An Unconditional Freedom and the rest of the Loyal League series, which is set during the Civil War, you’re missing out!! This is also a great prompt to pick up one of Joanna Shupe’s Gilded Age historicals if you haven’t yet!
Set in another world
I love fantasy and romance separately, but I don’t pick up nearly enough books that combine my two loves! Which is especially annoying considering I almost always love fantasy romances when I read them.
Perhaps the most recent one I’ve read and enjoyed is A Conspiracy of Whispers by Ada Harper. This could arguably be more scifi since the world seems technologically advanced, but it’s a romance between a couple from two warring countries. The heroine is sent to assassinate the hero, but things go terribly wrong and the two find themselves relying on each other in the woods while evading capture.
It’s been several years since I read it, but I was obsessed with A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet! This is a Greek mythology-inspired fantasy romance that I absolutely devoured! Unfortunately, I don’t think the series finale lived up to the potential of the first book, but I still had a lot of fun reading it and recommend checking it out.
Last but not least, I want to talk about my love for Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik. This book follows a princess on the run and the dangerous criminal she frees in order to aid her escape. This is an incredible space romance that I had so much fun reading, and the second one, a bodyguard romance, is even better! All three books are really fun, and fortunately for you, you can binge them all now!
Somewhere you’ve never been
The inspiration behind this prompt, at least on my end, was to pick a book set in a country you haven’t been to, ideally outside of the US and UK, where so many romances are based. That said, this could mean a new city you’ve never been to, or you could be on the “other world” prompt and pick a book set in another world, since technically you’ve never been there!
Part of the reason I wanted to do a prompt like this is because pretty much all of the books I read are set in the US or UK! So I actually don’t have many books to recommend that I haven’t already mentioned, like Jeannie Lin’s Pingkang Li series, which are set in China.
Technically Alpha Night, the newest book in the Psy/Changeling Trinity series by Nalini Singh, is set in Moscow, which I have never visited. I really loved this mating-at-first-sight romance between one of the Arrows and the first female alpha to get her own romance in the Psy/Changeling world. But Moscow doesn’t really play much of a role in this book, so I don’t think it’s the best recommendation. Nalini Singh’s Hard Play books could also count since they’re set in New Zealand, but again, the setting doesn’t play the biggest role in those books.
I wish I liked Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton more, because that’s exactly the kind of vibe I’d love to recommend! Unfortunately, it leaned a lot more women’s fiction for me and I wasn’t invested in the romance, but I know Jenica and a lot of others really love this book! It’s set in two timelines and follows a woman visiting Cuba for the first time and her grandmother some 50 years earlier when she had to flee Cuba for the United States. The location really comes alive in this book, and I learned a lot of interesting history from it!
Ok, not going to lie, I specifically picked this prompt because I’m hoping Jenica will read Heated Rivalry by Rachel Reid for it! (Also, I love hockey and played it growing up, but it was mostly for Heated Rivalry.) I’m obsessed with that m/m, enemies-to-lovers romance and need everyone to read it! Though I’ve been impressed with the entire series so far and recommend the others, too, including Common Goal, which is out in September and features an older, recently divorced hero who’s exploring his bisexuality for the first time.
I also recently read and really enjoyed Out on the Ice by Kelly Farmer, a f/f hockey romance. I have a full review of it here, but if you want a workplace romance with sunshine/grump vibes and lots of great communication and therapy, I highly recommend this one.
I apologize if my recommendations for this one are already familiar, but it’s not a very common thing in romance, and it really shouldn’t be so rare!
Obviously, if you haven’t read Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan, I highly recommend it. It’s a f/f historical novella between two 60+ year old women who team up to destroy a man who deserves it, and it is delightful.
I also absolutely adored 40-Love by Olivia Dade, which features a heroine who turns 40 in the course of the book and the much younger tennis instructor she falls in love with while on vacation. This book has one of the best meet-cutes ever: he has to come to her rescue after she accidentally loses her swimsuit top in the ocean! This one is also an excellent choice for banter and a book with a plus-sized heroine on the cover.
Also, this one barely counts because both main characters are fairly young and the age gap is pretty small, but I really enjoyed Falling for Him by Alisha Rai. I think it’s only a novella, but it’s a younger brother’s best friend trope, which I think is a refreshing change of pace from older brother’s best friend.
Librarian / Bookseller MC
So I had two books in mind when suggesting this prompt: The Earl Takes a Fancy by Lorraine Heath and Hearts on Hold by Charish Reid.
I talked about Hearts on Hold in my TBR and promised to discuss The Earl Takes a Fancy here! This book features a bookseller heroine and a disguised earl, and I really enjoyed it! Lorraine Heath is such a great writer. You can check out my full review here. Jenica and I were just talking about it shortly before creating our bingo board, which is what brought it to the front of my mind. It’s also a great pick for series following a big family!
If you want some kink with your bookseller main character, can I suggest Playing Knotty by Elia Winters? The heroine is struggling to keep her bookstore afloat, so when a cute regular customer asks to rent out her back room to teach a bondage workshop, she can’t so no. And of course the two fall in love!
You could also go in a more post-apocalyptic direction with Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha, the first book in the Mercenary Librarians series! The heroine runs a community library and involves a road trip with the hero, a former soldier, to find a secret cache of books. It was such a fun read!
I’m going to stop now before things get too out of hand, but there are so many great books out there featuring librarian and bookseller main characters!
I think this is another prompt that will be fairly easy to fulfill without really trying, as banter is such a key component of romance novels (or at least, it is in the ones I read).
The first author who immediately comes to mind as writing great banter is Tessa Dare. I think you can safely assume that any book of hers will include great banter, but I’m partial to her newest release, The Wallflower Wager, which involves a heroine whose home is full of animals and the hero who is determined that she get rid of them all to help the resale value of the house he bought next door. I laughed so much while reading this, and I think it could also easily count for pets and sunshine/grump!
Another book I recommend with great banter is Beach Read by Emily Henry. This seems to be a polarizing book, but I really loved it and thought it was a great romance with some hilarious banter that kept me racing through it! She’s a romance/women’s fiction writer and he writes literary fiction. They’re college rivals, and when they find themselves living next door for the summer and suffering from writer’s block, they strike a bargain to write in each other’s genre.
Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall also sticks out as having some great banter. In this m/m fake dating romance, Luc and Oliver have some hilarious back and forth conversations amidst their absolutely adorable romance. I especially like their exchange of dick pics—pictures of famous Richards. Too funny!
This is a great chance to pick up an author you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t yet! I think this is a really easy square to fill, but it’s a hard one for me to recommend for since it’s so specific.
That said, can I recommend a debut book you might not have read yet? You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson is an adorable f/f YA contemporary. Liz recently found out that she didn’t get the music scholarship she needs to go to her dream college, so she decides to run for prom queen in the hopes of getting the scholarship offered to the winner. Running for prom brings her back in contact with her former best friend, and it’s a chance for her to get to know the cute new girl who just started. I don’t read much YA these days, but this one was adorable, and I especially loved the audio narration!
And some authors who have been new to me this year that I’ve really enjoyed include Jeannie Lin, Olivia Dade, Rachel Reid, and Julie Anne Long, so if you haven’t read anything from them yet, I would highly recommend them! They’re all new favorites.
I mean, you can’t throw a rock in Romancelandia without hitting some sort of royal romance. There’s so many great books to pick from for this prompt! Though actually, I realized when putting this together that most of them are on my TBR, so I can’t recommend them just yet.
I’ve been saving A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole for this square! I feel like everyone has read it already, but if you haven’t, this is a delightful contemporary romance in which the heroine thinks the spammy emails telling her she’s engaged to an African prince are fake—only they’re not! And he shows up at her work and she mistakes him for the new server! It was a really fun read, and it’s at least a quadruple threat! In addition to royalty, this book counts for Black love, STEM heroine, and a beautiful outfit (seriously, this cover is one of my absolute favorites).
Speaking of books probably everyone has read already, I couldn’t not mention Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston for the royalty post. This one is set in an a fictional timeline and follows the son of the first president of the United States, who discovered he’s bisexual while falling in love with a royal British prince. It’s a super fun read that could also easily count for banter and quintessential fall activity (it has a great Thanksgiving scene, though I don’t think Alex’s experience is very common!).
Another potential royal romance is The Spare by Miranda Dubner. This one’s a bodyguard romance between a British prince and one of his bodyguards, though it edges towards a family saga, as several family members get POVs (and there’s a delightful secondary romance between the princess and her grandmother’s biographer). This one wasn’t my favorite because I wanted it to be more of a traditional romance, but I know a lot of others have absolutely loved it!
Pick a romance, any romance!
Alright, this post is getting pretty long, so I’m going to call it a wrap and save the second half of the bingo card for part two! How has your bingo card been going? Do you have any additional recommendations for these prompts? Let me know in the comments!
And don’t forget to check out my TBR post here, Jenica’s recommendation post here and TBR post here, and the hashtag on twitter, which is full of ideas, recommendations, and lists of what people have read themselves!