Favorite Romance Novels of 2023


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Contemporary Romance:

2023 favorite romance 1

Stars in Your Eyes - Kacen Callender

I added this to my “game-changing romance” shelf on Goodreads the moment I finished. Actors Logan and Mattie get off to a rough start on the set of their romcom, leading the studio heads to suggest they fake a relationship in order to provide the movie with positive publicity. While this sounds like a typical cute set-up, it grapples with trauma and the way it changes us and impacts our relationships. This follows different romance beats. It’s not a linear process but the way Logan and Mattie come back to each other is beyond satisfying. (Content notes.)


You, With a View - Jessica Joyce

This had my name all over it: photography, road trip, banter, and reunited rivals to lovers. To top it all off, anything that explores the loss of a beloved grandparent is especially close to my heart.  When Noelle’s TikTok about her grandmother’s secret first love goes viral, she unexpectedly reunites with her high school rival Theo. Gram almost married Theo’s grandfather Paul decades ago. When Noelle decides to go on the honeymoon trip that never happened, Paul and Theo decide to join her. I cried a bunch but it also made me laugh! (Content notes.)


Something Wild & Wonderful - Anita Kelly

Anita Kelly keeps getting better and better. In no particular order, I loved: the setting (hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and then time in my beloved Nashville!), the angst (so many feeeeelings!!!! it made me cry so much, the best), the letters (incredibly moving to see both what was written, as well as which letters weren’t sent), and the exploration of faith (Alexei making sense of what he believes after coming out and losing his faith community and parents.) (Content notes.)


Fail Seven Times - Kris Ripper

This best friends to polyamorous lovers contemporary romance is going to have a soft place in my heart for a long time. Grumpy misanthrope Justin has long been in love with his childhood best friend Alex but as a gay man, he’s stunned to discover he’s also in love with his college friend and Alex’s girlfriend Jamie. This is pure internal conflict and angst and I loved seeing how this triad came together. This pushed me to read the entire Scientific Method Universe series and its spinoffs, which I highly recommend. (Content notes.)


2023 favorite romance 2

For Never and Always - Helena Greer

Hannah and Levi had chemistry (and issues) for days. There were so many other things I loved about this second chance romance: being back at Carrigan's, administrative badassery, Kringle the cat, celebrating Passover, the food descriptions, a transformational haircut, embracing demisexuality, vibrant queer community, counseling with Rabbi Ruth, and a few others that are too spoilery to mention. (Content notes.)


Snowflake (Afterwards #6) - Nia Forrester

Neighbors Kai and Asha connect thanks to a snowstorm the week of Thanksgiving. They each have a lot to overcome. Asha’s hangups about her past; Kal and his reputation and his belief that a relationship will interfere with his Olympic dreams. This had some great angst. (Content notes.)


Too Like the Lightning - Travis Beaudoin

What a perfect angsty summer romance! Andrew is very much down on his luck when he rolls into Bulbs, Florida to stay for the summer in his friend’s rental property. He lost out on tenure and was fired in the process and then his boyfriend dumped him. Then he completely embarrasses himself by crying in front of the young hot groundskeeper who lets him into the house. We’ve got Shakespeare quotes, nature symbolism, an age gap that completely works, and sunshine in human form known as Coley. (Content notes.)


What Could Have Been (Lake Lenora #1) - Heather Guerre

Ashlyn and Noah both had unrequited crushes on each other in high school and they both thought the other person hated them. And wouldn’t you know, that’s very much still in play when Ashlyn has to return to her hometown to settle her deceased estranged grandmother’s estate and needs to hire Noah’s company to fix up the house. (Content notes.)


2023 favorite romance 3

A Holly Jolly Ever After (Christmas Notch #2) - Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone

If the first book in this series was “Hallmark movie but make it sexy”, this is “Hallmark After Dark but first let’s dismantle purity culture.” I loved it! (Content notes.)


Sotto Voce (Clover Hill Romance #5) - Suzanne Clay

A a slow burn polyamorous FMM romance between waitress and singer Harmony and husbands Oliver and Garrett. There was some beautiful symbolism as these three people figured out what it might look like to make music together and then so much more. (Content notes.)


SFF Romance:

2023 SFF romance

The Ippos King (Wraith Kings #3) - Grace Draven

Everything I love about fantasy romance! Serovek and Anhuset were incredibly well-matched, no matter how much she resisted admitting it. Serovek’s easy-going, teasing manner hides a fierce warrior and he’s able to bring out a lightness in Anhuset, who is all soldier, all the time. (Content notes.)


Sweep of the Blade (Innkeeper Chronicles #4) - Ilona Andrews

By far my favorite book in the series! Maud and Arland’s romance had me in a chokehold from start to finish. (Content notes.)


Aurora Blazing (Consortium Rebellion #2) - Jessie Mihalik

I could not put this space opera romance down! Bianca and Ian’s respective repressed longing gave me so much life. The push and pull, the misunderstandings, and the slow burn kept me enthralled. (Content notes.)


Erotic Romance:

2023 erotic romance

Salt Kiss (Lyonesse #1) - Sierra Simone

I have been waiting years for this promised MMF Tristan and Isolde retelling. It was worth the wait. (Content notes.)


Breaking Boundaries (Fourplay #1) - Gemma Blythe

Holy moly, this was all kinds of hot. Couple friends go on a beach vacation and the thin wall between their rooms leads to accidental auditory voyeurism and seeing each other in a brand new light. But it’s not as simple as Bex realizing she’s attracted to Darcy and Rafe saying he’d be okay if she wants to explore it. She has no idea what Darcy or Alec think, much less if they’d be on board. And then when Rafe realizes he might not be as straight as he always thought and he’d like to play with Alec? Friendship just got complicated. (Content notes.)


Favorite Nonfiction of 2023

2023 favorite nonfiction 1

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The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America - Carol Anderson

The Second Amendment was borne from white supremacy and it has only ever been interested in furthering that cause, as Carol Anderson thoroughly lays out. The through lines are all right there! I learned a ton. Disheartening and infuriating and yet not all that surprising given the US’s history.  (Content notes.)


The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight - Andrew Leland

Leland has retinitis pigmentosa but was slow to accept or adapt to the loss of his eyesight, which creates an interesting backdrop for a big picture examination of blindness and ableism within society. He details the trajectory of not being diagnosed until college to his experience writing this book in his 40s and his use of various assistive devices, as well as how his family has responded. There’s a range of blindness so it’s no surprise that even the leading organizations have very different ideas about their position and relationship to disability, as well as work to do when it comes to intersectionality. Leland’s relationship to his own blindness starts out quite ableist and I loved watching the journey toward more acceptance. (Content notes.)


Hijab Butch Blues - Lamya H.

An insightful memoir-in-essays by a queer nonbinary (she/they) Muslim author, which pairs stories from the Quran with stories about their life. Lamya touches on immigration, Islamaphobia, racism, homophobia, and more as she finds hope in a religious text while needing to remain closeted to much of their community, including their family. Their devoutness happens *because* of their identity, not in spite of it. It’s a nuanced, powerful view of religion. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys memoirs that grapple with faith/religion. (Content notes.)


Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture - Virginia Sole-Smith

A much-needed exploration of the ways diet culture shows up in how we talk about our bodies and what we do or don’t eat. The author touches on everything from thin privilege to the impact dads have. As a child-free woman, I never expected to read a parenting book but this is just as much for non-parents. We all need this information, whether we’re working to do better for the children of today or processing how diet culture harmed our childhoods up to now. (Content notes.)


2023 favorite nonfiction 2

Bleed: Destroying Myths and Misogyny in Endometriosis Care - Tracey Lindeman

One of the most impactful books I read last year. I recommend this even if you don’t have a connection to endometriosis because of the way it addresses misogyny in healthcare and the education on hormonal birth control. It covers the limitations of what’s been researched and where most reproductive care guidelines come from and how they’re not as evidenced-based as they should be. I was floored by how little research had been done on hormonal birth control before FDA approval, including options that are available today. Misogyny in healthcare is not a new idea to me but it’s a whole other thing to see it laid out in print and see how pernicious it is in every aspect of our healthcare system. I have silent endometriosis and feel much more equipped as a result of reading this. (Content notes.)


A Living Remedy - Nicole Chung

A luminous exploration of grief, class, and the failure of the US medical system. Nicole Chung is an ever stunning writer. (Content notes.)


The Viral Underclass: The Human Toll When Inequality and Disease Collide - Steven W. Thrasher

If you overlay a map of those most affected by COVID-19 and those most affected by HIV/AIDS, you’ll find a striking connection. Thrasher explores why marginalized communities are at a greater risk of being diagnosed and then surviving various viruses. The answer comes down to systemic issues like racism, capitalism, ableism, and the carceral state. With stories from past investigations and from his own life, Thrasher offers an empathetic holistic account of those hit the hardest. (Content notes.)


The Enneagram for Black Liberation: Return to Who You Are Beneath the Armor You Carry - Chichi Agorom

One of the best Enneagram books I've ever read—and if you know how many I've read (and declined to read), that's saying something. Using a Black liberation lens, Agorom's approach makes this a more intersectional system. She emphasizes that we are more than our armor and the things we do to survive. Community practice is key, taking us beyond what we’ve learned about ourselves and going into the world to live out our strengths and healing. (No content notes.)


Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More - Janet Mock

Janet Mock shares her experience growing up as a Black Hawaiian trans woman. A really thoughtful coming-of-age memoir. (Content notes.)

Favorite Fiction and YA of 2023

I read 236 books and 63 novellas and short stories in 2023. I also DNFed 63 books. I've been making great progress on my unread digital library but that also accounts for a bunch of the DNFs. I'm going to keep chipping away at all of my unread books, both digital and print, this year and see how far I get. 

I included links to content notes for each book. You'll also find my full book reviews there if you want to learn more beyond my one to two sentence summaries. 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. 



2023 favorite fiction 1

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky #1) - Rebecca Roanhorse

Pre-Columbian America-set fantasy with mind-blowing world-building. (Content notes.) 


The Unbroken (Magic of the Lost #1) - CL Clark

High stakes and action-packed sapphic fantasy that takes on colonialism from a number of angles. (Content notes.


Something Close to Magic - Emma Mills

A delightful cozy fantasy about a baker’s apprentice who gets caught up with a bounty hunter, an actual troll (who is my favorite!), and a prince named Hapless. (Content notes.) 


The Ferryman - Justin Cronin

This is not just dystopian science fiction set on a Stepford-like island with a horrific class divide: it’s a grief novel. (Content notes.


2023 favorite fiction 2

Spear - Nicola Griffith

A gripping and evocative sapphic Arthurian retelling. Griffith's prose is gorgeous. (Content notes.) 


Divine Rivals (Letters of Enchantment #1) - Rebecca Ross

Rival journalists Iris and Roman communicate via magical typewriters, not realizing who their letters are going to, as a war between gods gets underway. (Content notes.) 


Babel - RF Kuang

A feast for word nerds. This fantasy grapples with the tyranny of colonialism, student-led revolutions, and whether empires can be defeated. (Content notes.) 


Hench - Natalie Zina Walschots

Anna “The Auditor” and her fellow henches turn everything we know about heroes and villains upside down. Such a clever premise! (Content notes.) 




2023 favorite YA

Bloodmarked (The Legendborn Cycle #2) - Tracy Deonn

A sequel that more than holds its own. Tracy Deonn blew my mind once more with this Arthurian retelling. (Content notes.) 


Never a Hero (Monsters #2) - Vanessa Len

A riveting page-turner as Joan, Nick, and crew deal with the fallout of a new timeline and face a new threat. (Content notes.