18 Romance Books by BIPOC Authors For Your TBR Pile
If you're a romance enthusiast, it's never been a better time to expand and diversify your TBR pile. When I first started reading romance as a young adult, books by BIPOC authors, or even books with diverse characters were rare. I could never find a love story with a protagonist that I could relate to culturally. These days, however, the landscape is shifting and making room to represent and amplify voices of all kinds. Now, there are so many noteworthy books with diverse points of view, most of which are written from #OwnVoices authors, that I'm thrilled I can hardly keep up. In fact, there are so many good ones out there, I enlisted our editors to share their must-reads — everything from the latest releases from popular veterans like Jasmine Guillory and Helen Hoang to debut novels from newcomers like Amy Lea and Julie Tieu.
Whether you're here to check off the 2022 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompt or just looking to bring diverse POVs to your love stories, these romance novels by BIPOC authors are brimming with heat, humor, and heart.
"Set on You" by Amy Lea
Crystal Chen is a curvy fitfluencer who's all about power, positivity, and personal bests in "Set on You" by Amy Lea ($14). She has no patience for men after a recent break-up, so when Scott Ritchie, a local firefighter, steals her favorite squat rack, a gym rivalry is born. Just when Crystal's had enough, Scott shows up at her grandma's engagement party — as the grandson of the man her grandma is marrying. As they begin to develop a friendship — and more — outside the gym, Crystal realizes it's her inner strength she'll need to call on if she wants their relationship to survive the test of societal expectations and internet trolls.
"There's a lot to love about this enemies-to-friends-to-lovers book: the banter, Scott's unwavering feelings for Crystal (the man is persistent — in the best way), and the important message about body neutrality. Also, it has one of the most creative not-quite-sex scenes I've ever read." — Stephanie Nguyen, senior editor, branded content
"So We Meet Again" by Suzanne Park
After investment banker Jessie Kim is laid off and forced to move back in with her parents in "So We Meet Again" by Suzanne Park ($11), she decides to spend her free time brushing up on her cooking skills and reviving her Korean cooking YouTube channel. Sure, running into her childhood nemesis, current-day lawyer Daniel Choi, at the Asian grocery store wasn't in the cards, but as the two spend more time together, they start to realize that collaborating, rather than constantly competing, might be the personal and professional solutions they're both looking for.
"Even though this is an adult book, I love how coming-of-age it feels, exploring topics like self-discovery, mother-daughter relationships, and familial expectations. It's funny and heartfelt, and the descriptions of mouthwatering Korean dishes definitely don't hurt. Heads up: I would categorize this as more fiction than romance!" — SN
"The Fastest Way to Fall" by Denise Williams
When Britta Colby pitches and lands a big writing opportunity to review an up-and-coming fitness app, FitMi, in "The Fastest Way to Fall" by Denise Williams ($13), she expected to gain some health tips. What she didn't expect? To immediately feel the sparks with her fitness coach, Wes Lawson — who also happens to be FitMi's CEO. The ethical lines are already blurred as they start working out — and hanging out — in person. What happens when their true professional identities are finally revealed?
"I enjoy how Denise Williams makes her characters' jobs a big part of the plot without veering completely into corporate romance territory. I find her love stories realistic with heroines you want to cheer for." — SN
"Honey Girl" by Morgan Rogers
In "Honey Girl" by Morgan Rogers ($12), Grace Porter finds herself in Las Vegas to celebrate her new astronomy PhD. She also finds herself with a new wife — a drunken, impulse decision that doesn't fit the life she (and her father) have mapped out. So what's a girl to do? Flee the responsibilities of adulthood and follow her wife, Yuki Yamamoto, to New York, where they spend the summer falling in love and ignoring expectations, naturally.
"Roger's debut novel has everything I would want in a romantic coming-of-age story for a 20-something-year-old attempting to figure out life. Outside of the beautiful story being told, I enjoyed that it's a lesbian love story that's not centered on them being lesbians, though they make all the stereotypical and hilarious moves of two women falling deeper and deeper in love. It's a fun read with a lot of relatable themes including imposter syndrome, self-actualization, mental health for people of color, and more. Kudos for Morgan Rogers on an amazing read; I cannot wait to read what she creates next." — Moná Thomas, branded content editor
"A Lot Like Adiós" by Alexis Daria
"A Lot Like Adiós" by Alexis Daria ($12) follows Michelle Amato, a freelance graphic designer who's perfectly content living a life without love. That's because the only man she's ever envisioned a future with, Gabriel Aguilar, left without an explanation 13 years ago. Now, Gabe is back as a successful gym owner, and their world is colliding once more. Do they move forward, or will old mistakes tear them apart again?
"I love the juxtaposition of Michelle and Gabe's sweet friendship as teens and their steamy connection as adults. It's fun and flirty, and the cute story-within-a-story element brings something different to the romance!" — SN
"The Wedding Crasher" by Mia Sosa
"The Wedding Crasher" by Mia Sosa ($12) follows Solange Pereira and Dean Chapman, two acquaintances whose worlds collide when Solange crashes Dean's wedding — and convinces him not to go through with it. Now, Dean is without a significant other for an important work project that requires one. His only solution? To rope Solange into pretending to be his girlfriend.
"Mia Sosa's writing is so entertaining and engaging. Solange is a firecracker of a character — she's fun, sassy, and loves a good innuendo. The spice factor is high with this one!" — SN
Release date: April 5
"The Heart Principle" by Helen Hoang
Experiencing artistic burnout is enough for musician Anna Sun, but after an unexpected breakup in "The Heart Principle" by Helen Hoang ($13), Anna decides to take matters into her own hands and go for revenge. With his tattoos and motorcycle, Quan Diep seems like the perfect temporary solution. But as Anna spends more time with him and learns more about herself in the process, she discovers that living for herself is the best revenge of all.
"I'm a big fan of romance novels, and I felt that the deep connection between Anna and Quan made for a beautiful love story. However, don't pick up this book thinking you're in for a purely fairytale romance. While a sweet and tender story plays out on the pages, the plot also features intense moments of sadness, frustration, and grief. 'The Heart Principle' is an emotionally raw book that addresses heavy topics like autism, anxiety, and burnout. Although we do eventually get our happy ending, it's not without a heart-wrenching middle." — Renée Rodriguez, staff writer and social producer
"Ramón and Julieta" by Alana Quintana Albertson
"Ramón and Julieta" by Alana Quintana Albertson ($14) brings a contemporary spin on Shakespeare's story of star-crossed lovers. Ramón Montez thinks it's fate that led him to meet the alluring Julieta Campo on Day of the Dead — until he discovers she's the hotshot chef that owns the small restaurant his father's fast food chain company is about to drive out of the neighborhood. And Julieta discovers it was Ramon's dad who stole her mom's fish taco recipe all those years ago. Despite the odds stacked against them and the mounting tension between their families, the two can't seem to stay away from one another. Can their love survive?
"This book is brimming with joy, between the celebration of Mexican culture and the uplifting community surrounding the characters. It was spicy, too — and I'm not just talking about the mouthwatering descriptions of all the Mexican dishes!" — SN
"Dating Dr. Dil" by Nisha Sharma
In "Dating Dr. Dil" by Nisha Sharma ($14), Kareena Mann and Prem Verma each have a goal. She wants to save her family's house and he needs to secure enough donors to open a community healthcare center. They each need money, and there's only one way to get it: convince her family and his investors they're dating each other. It's too bad they're sworn enemies.
"This book is a modern Shakespearean delight. It's got smart characters, sassy banter, and a sizzling connection — all my favorite things." — SN
"The Donut Trap" by Julie Tieu
"The Donut Trap" by Julie Tieu ($12) follows Jasmine Tran, who returns home after college to work at her parents' donut shop while she figures out her life. Between helping the shop through a rough patch and finding a suitable partner, familial expectations are at an all-time high. So when Alex Lai, a former crush, comes back into the picture, Jasmine is hopeful that at least one thing in her life will go right — it's too bad her parents don't approve of Alex.
"'The Donut Trap' is a sweet and heartfelt read. Jasmine is such a relatable character — unsure of what to do with her life, bored with her job and misunderstood by her family — and her relationship with Alex is sweet, a little steamy, and worth rooting for. I also loved the way Jasmine's relationship with her family shifts over the course of the book. Her attraction to Alex might be the catalyst, but it's Jas who finds the strength to stand up for herself, figure out what she wants to do with her life, and go get it." — Maggie Ryan, assistant fitness editor
"By the Book" by Jasmine Guillory
A modern day retelling of "Beauty and the Beast," "By the Book" by Jasmine Guillory ($14) follows Isabelle Marlowe, a burned out publishing assistant who jumps at an opportunity to track down celebrity Beau Towers and the very overdue manuscript for his forthcoming memoir. But when she finds Beau holed up in a mansion in Santa Monica with a manuscript nowhere in sight, something about the mysterious recluse makes her decide to stay and help him write his story.
"This book is a delight from start to finish. There are quite a few parallels to the original fairytale sprinkled throughout, and it was fun coming across them as I read. OG Jasmine Guillory fans might be disappointed by the lack of steam in this story compared to her other books, but all the food references are still there." — SN
Release date: May 3
"Incense and Sensibility" by Sonali Dev
In "Incense and Sensibility" by Sonali Dev ($12), Yash Raje is California's first Indian-American gubernatorial candidate, and he's leading in the polls. But when a hate crime targets him at a rally, his carefully constructed control breaks. With months to the election, his team ropes in family friend and successful stress management coach India Dashwood to help guide him through his trauma and panic. Little do they know, Yash and India have history — and throwing them together could unravel everything for the both of them.
"It's so rare to see a protagonist in the political sphere in romance novels, so that brought a fresh element and POV to this story. It's a charming twist on an Austen classic." — SN
"First Love, Take Two" by Sajni Patel
"First Love, Take Two" by Sajni Patel ($12) centers around Preeti Patel, a soon-to-be doctor who's juggling work and family in between trying to find a new place to live. When an apartment opens up, she jumps at the chance — even if that means her roommate is none other than Daniel Thompson, her first and only love.
"Second-chance love, forbidden relationship, forced proximity, only one bed — this book is brimming with tropes, in the best way. The romance is cute, but the story is really about Preeti's growth as she overcomes her own obstacles, which I think we can all relate to: her past mistakes, her crippling anxiety, and her fear of disappointing her family." — SN
"Act Your Age, Eve Brown" by Talia Hibbert
"Act Your Age, Eve Brown" by Talia Hibbert ($12) is the third and final novel in The Brown Sisters series. When the youngest and perhaps most maladjusted Brown sister quite literally stumbles into a chef job at a bed and breakfast owned by a Type-A grump named Jacob Wayne, she's faced with the challenge of proving herself to her new employer, her family, and, most importantly, herself.
"This witty enemies-to-lovers, opposites-attract novel is downright adorable — all three Brown Sisters books need to be on every romance-lover's reading list!" — Alessia Santoro, senior SEO editor
"Girl Gone Viral" by Alisha Rai
In "Girl Gone Viral" by Alisha Rai ($14), Katrina King prefers life as a recluse, so when she finds herself at the center of a viral tweet, she escapes to the country with the help of her bodyguard (and unrequited crush), Jasvinder Singh.
"Just like Alisha Rai's other novels, 'Girl Gone Viral' features a delightfully diverse cast of characters. It's a slow-burn love story that's soft and sweet." — SN
"The Shaadi Set-Up" by Lillie Vale
When it comes to life, Rita Chitniss has it all figured out in "The Shaadi Set-Up" by Lillie Vale ($12). She has a successful career restoring furniture and the perfect boyfriend. So when her mom volunteers her for a house-flipping project with her ex and realtor, Milan Rao, in the hope that the two will reconnect after six years apart, Rita's determined to prove they're not a good match.
"A second-chance love story with a bit of Desi matchmaking and HGTV vibes thrown in — I'm here for it! It's a fun premise with likable and relatable characters." — SN
"The Marriage Game" by Sara Desai
"The Marriage Game" by Sara Desai ($14) starts when Layla Patel returns home after a nasty breakup. Her father, intent on helping Layla find love again, sets up a string of blind dates. What he didn't intend was for things to start heating up between Layla and Sam Mehta, the man who's subleasing the office space above their family restaurant.
"Both Layla and Sam are part of the Desi community, and Indian culture plays a big part in the story, from the mentions of dishes to apparel. Between these cultural glimpses and the sparks between Layla and Sam, everything about this book feels vibrant." — SN
"A Sweet Mess" by Jayci Lee
In "A Sweet Mess" by Jayci Lee ($12), Aubrey Choi is a successful pastry chef and bakery owner whose world gets turned upside down when a scathing review from a famous food critic hits stands. Even worse? She discovers that the food critic is none other than Landon Kim, a fling from her recent past. To help her save her business, Landon offers her a spot on a celebrity cooking show he's producing, and Aubrey accepts.
"I love how elements of Aubrey and Landon's Korean culture come through on the page. The foodie aspect lends a fun lens to the story, and there is an unexpected twist toward the end that I didn't see coming!" — SN