We love romance books, and we’re proud of it. There’s no shame in breaking out your favorite trashy romance novel and settling down for some steamy scenes in idealized worlds. But sometimes you want a little more. When we come across an adult romance novel that brings a little something more to the table we get excited. Being the colossal book nerds that we are, we’ve come across some excellent adult romance novels that break the cliché "romance" mold, so we thought that it was high time that we compiled a list of some of our own personally rated “best adult romance books” that break the cliché “romance” mold. These titles span authors, topics, and demographics, but they have one thing in common, they all live in the romance genre.
1. Immortals After Dark
Vampires, werewolves, demons, oh my! The Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole is a great starter for those who want to get into the adult paranormal romance genre. The series doesn’t follow just one character; it switches between different characters within the realm of “others” in the real world. A majority of the stories take place around New Orleans as that is one of the large hubs of paranormal populations in the series but every now and again a story will be set in Russia, Romania, or a plethora of other exotic locales.
The stories are always imaginative but mixed with enough reality that your suspension of disbelief stays intact. The steamier scenes are well thought through and exciting without feeling mundane or cheesy like so many scenes do from other romance novels. The female characters depicted within the series always have a strong backbone and grit. While some may be shy or uncertain, they are never treated like doormats for their male counterparts to walk all over. Some of the female characters kick serious butt while the others are more emotionally impactful. And while the characters typically end up being a race other than human by the end of the novels, you can always relate to their lives through their engaging tethers to the mortal world. Falling in love, bouts of meaningful sex, and saving the world is all in a day’s time in the Immortals After Dark Series.
2. Ruthless Game
We’re a big fan of the entire Ghostwalker series by Christine Feehan, but we wanted to give special love to Ruthless Game. Please note, the next sentence is not a spoiler because it’s mentioned in the book’s synopsis on the jacket; one of the most compelling aspects of the story is that its main female character is pregnant for most of the novel. The story follows Rose and Kane as they try to keep their unborn, and later, born, child out of the grasp of a shadow company. The same company adopted Rose as a child, only to run scientific experiments on her in the pursuit of creating the ultimate super soldier. Kane, the male protagonist, volunteered for the same study years later without understanding the depravity of the man running the system. Within the novel, both characters work as a unit to save their child. Rose defies all gender stereotypes of the romance genre, making Ruthless Game a truly unique read.
3. Backstage Pass
Backstage Pass is the first of the Sinners on Tour series by Olivia Cunning. In this novel, Myrna Evans is a psychologist who decides to tour with the legendary rock group, Sinners, to study the behavior of the band’s groupies. This beauty has some serious brains which combine well with the musical genius of the band’s lead guitarist, Brian Sinclair. The novel shines an interesting light on fame and the lives of those who live in the limelight while offering up some serious steam in the bedroom and beyond. It’s got brains, it’s got brawns, this book’s got it all.
Following in our list of books that break the cliché mold is Unexpected by Lori Foster. The lead heroine in this story is a special forces mercenary named Ray who’s very comfortable doing what it takes to get the job done...as long as it doesn’t including whining little rich boys. The little rich boy in question in this story ends up being not so whiny, and anything but little. As Eli tries to prove to Ray that he’s more than his wealth, the two battle rebels, dangerous conditions, and a few other surprises that we won’t spoil. This novel delightfully turns the tables on the damsel in distress cliché and provides an exciting read that’s packed with adventure and heat.
5. Lord of the Fading Lands
For real; trying to cut out the series recommendations, we swear. The Fading Lands series is a romance series of epic proportions. Spanning an entire continent of human, fae, and mages, the story mainly focuses on the relationship between Ellysetta, a seemingly ordinary girl, and Rain, the Tairen Soul and King of the Fading Lands. A thousand years after the mage wars that nearly leveled the world, danger is rising again and with it comes a full cast of characters, both good and evil. If you like your romance to have some meat on the bone, then you’ll love this series. While the intimate scenes are powerful, they’re well balanced by a captivating story that will hook you from the very first page.
Pregnancy and Passion Series
This novel lives within the Pregnancy and Passion Series (which is sort of a cheesy title for a series, we realize). But nevertheless, Tempted by Maya Banks has proven itself with a well-crafted story and strong female characters. Our protagonists, Ashley, finds herself caught in a compromising predicament after an accident during a night of fun leaves her pregnant with her one-night stand partner, Devon. Ashley is an independent woman who’s unafraid of working hard. She’s already started her own business and isn’t about to let Devon derail her plans with any “macho” nonsense. The story is charming and realistic with its portrayal of two complete opposites coming together through compromise, understanding, and one or two steamy nights.
7. The Secret
If you like historical fiction than this one’s for you! The Secret by Julie Garwood follows Judith, an English woman, as she journeys to assist her Scottish friend, Frances Catherine, with childbirth in a time where such a friendship was not allowed nor was an unwed woman allowed to learn matters of childbirth. But unbeknownst to her put-upon guide through the Highlands, the compelling yet standoffish Laird Iain Maitland, Judith has ulterior motives behind her journey to see her childhood friend. Judith has been lead to believe that her long-lost father is none other than Maitland’s harshest rival. The story gives an accurate portrayal of how women were treated in the time period depicted, while also making a female character that isn’t afraid to fight for change. One point for historical accuracy, and one point for modern ideals and ingenuity.
8. The Dark Protectors Series
Ok, ok; we know that this isn’t a single title either. Last one, we promise. Have you ever longed for an adult romance series that’s comprised of more than three books that you could really sink your teeth into and get lost in on a long vacation or during a particularly dull week? Say hello to the Dark Protectors series. In each of these novels by Rebecca Zanetti, a different member of the “Realm,” the different species of paranormal figures that live on the earth, a strong female character meets up with her fated mate. Sometimes the heroines kick butt, or discover medical advances, or wield awesome powers, but they’re always strong and independent, and their mates are their match in every way. Start with Fated and work your way through all the main novels and novellas that comprise this enticing series.
9. The Master
The Game Maker Series
The Master by Kresley Cole is arguably the most adult choice on our list. And there’s no shame in that! After being betrayed by her ex-fiance, Catarina Marín has to face some tough choices to make ends meet as she finishes her degree while flying under the radar. One such tough call? Moonlighting as an escort for one evening for her friend who is currently suffering from a horrible reaction to her latest round of botox. Does she get all the cash she needs to start her life over again by spending one night with billionaire, politician, and possible mafia boss, Maksimilian Sevastyan, or run for her life from her ex that’s hell-bent on seeing her demise?
The Buckhorn Brothers Series
It’s humble, it’s sweet, it’s southern; it’s Sawyer by Lori Foster. As the only doctor for miles around, Sawyer Hudson has treated everyone is his town for everything from stomach aches to broken bones. But it seems that the women of Buckhorn have gotten it into their heads that this doctor can cure all sorts of things. Honey Malone arrives on the scene and shakes things up for everyone, literally, because she crashes through Sawyer’s fence with a raging fever, possible pneumonia, and a secret or two. Honey is as sweet as her name implies and isn’t about to drag a very nice man down into her very un-nice troubles. This story is a great breath of fresh air and is a sweet, easy read, which you can enjoy in an afternoon.
Fall In Love With Frostbeard
Whether you’re a tried and true romance lover or you’re looking to find your first adult romance read, we hope that this list gave you some great recommendations for your next romantic literary getaway. At Frostbeard we’re all about celebrating our favorite bookish delights. From candles to merch, we show our love of the written word with pride. If you can think of any titles that we should add to our list let us know down below. We hope you’ll stop by and see us in our Minneapolis showroom sometime soon. Till then, may your characters be dreamy and your interludes be steamy!