I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that was purely about the romance in my life, but I have read a number of books where the romance plays a central role in the development of the plot, and a good romance always makes me weak. So this week’s book recommendations are going to be centered around couples whose romance made me swoon and/or squeal!
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The legend begins…
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.
When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.
Okay, okay, I know I talk about The Song of Achilles a lot, but it really deserves to be in this list. The relationship between Patroclus and Achilles develops in the sweetest, and, knowing their fates, most heartbreaking way, over the course of years so we really get to see them happy for a long time (which is not something I get to read about often but it needs to be).
Trick by Natalia Jaster
There is a rule amongst his kind: A jester doesn’t lie.
In the kingdom of Whimtany, Poet is renowned. He’s young and pretty, a lover of men and women. He performs for the court, kisses like a scoundrel, and mocks with a silver tongue.
Yet allow him this: It’s only the most cunning, most manipulative soul who can play the fool. For Poet guards a secret. One the Crown would shackle him for. One that he’ll risk everything to protect.
Alas, it will take more than clever words to deceive Princess Briar. Convinced that he’s juggling lies as well as verse, this righteous nuisance of a girl is determined to expose him.
But not all falsehoods are fiendish. Poet’s secret is delicate, binding the jester to the princess in an unlikely alliance . . . and kindling a breathless attraction, as alluring as it is forbidden.
Literally anything I say would give away the plot so just go read Trick, I promise it won’t disappoint.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.
That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.
Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.
Back in January, when I was supposed to be studying hard for my rather tough exams, I kept reading review upon review of how perfect Carry On was, so I figured I would just read the first few chapters and then put it aside (just to get a taste and decide for myself) but I failed miserably and read the entire book in a single sitting (my friend was quick to lecture me when he worked it out, but I passed and that’s what counts). The easy writing and world immediately sucked me into the book and once Baz came into play, I (like Simon) was absolutely enamoured. Their romance is incredibly sweet and they’re such a perfect pair, it’s impossible to stop smiling during some scenes (*cough* chapter 61 *cough*).
Also, if you like fanfiction, Drarry (Draco/Harry), or both then this book is perfect for you.
The Archer’s Heart by Astrid Amara
In the ancient kingdom of Marhavad, noblemen dominate the lower castes, wielding mystic weapons, known as shartas, against any who oppose them. For generations the rule of Marhavad’s kings has been absolute. But now the line of succession is divided, and whispers of revolution are heard in even the royal palace.
Keshan Adaru, an outspoken man of unearthly charms, welcomes these changes. All his life he has foreseen an uprising that will shatter the castes and end the tyranny of the old laws. His visions have driven him but now, at the brink of their fulfillment, he finds himself obsessed with Prince Jandu Paran– a man whose entire family must be destroyed if the kingdom is to be freed.
Tarek Amia would gladly see Jandu Paran brought low. Born the son of a charioteer, Tarek has no love for the royal princes who have slighted and insulted him all his life. Only Keshan’s philosophies have elevated him from the brutal ranks of common soldiers. Tarek owes Keshan his devotion, but he is a pragmatic man and when he discovers Keshan’s reckless affair he realizes that Keshan may have to be sacrificed for the sake of his own revolution.
Young Prince Jandu Paran has never concerned himself with court intrigue. His life has been dedicated to the lordly art of archery and mastering the immense powers of the shartas. Handsome and arrogant, he is sure that no man can surpass him and yet Keshan Adaru’s mere touch brings Jandu to his knees. But his desire for Keshan is more than forbidden; it threatens to destroy Jandu’s pride, position and family. In the midst of this turmoil, an unspeakable event forces Jandu to redefine the meaning of honor and loyalty.
And now, as armies arise to war, each man must decide where his allegiance lies and what he will sacrifice in his heart and on the battlefield.
A retelling of the Indian epic Mahabharata, The Archer’s Heart follows Jandu and Keshan as their relationship blossoms amidst an intensely homophobic community where their very lives are at risk. The world building is fantastic, while the writing is just as magical, and the entire thing is absolutely beautiful.
The Assassin’s Curse duology by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.
And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.
[ATTENTION MILD SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST BOOK IN THE SECOND BOOK’S BLURB]
After setting out to break the curse that binds them together, the pirate Ananna and the assassin Naji find themselves stranded on an enchanted island in the north with nothing but a sword, their wits, and the secret to breaking the curse: complete three impossible tasks. With the help of their friend Marjani and a rather unusual ally, Ananna and Naji make their way south again, seeking what seems to be beyond their reach.
Unfortunately, Naji has enemies from the shadowy world known as the Mists, and Ananna must still face the repercussions of going up against the Pirate Confederation. Together, Naji and Ananna must break the curse, escape their enemies — and come to terms with their growing romantic attraction.
Ananna and Naji are one of my favourite couples that I’ve come across both for the way they’re brought together and how they settle into their relationship at the end of the series.
Gabriel’s Inferno by Sylvain Reynard
Enigmatic and sexy, Professor Gabriel Emerson is a well respected Dante specialist by day, but by night he devotes himself to an uninhibited life of pleasure. He uses his notorious good looks and sophisticated charm to gratify his every whim, but is secretly tortured by his dark past and consumed by the profound belief that he is beyond all hope of redemption.
When the sweet and innocent Julia Mitchell enrolls as his graduate student, his attraction and mysterious connection to her not only jeopardizes his career, but sends him on a journey in which his past and his present collide.
An intriguing and sinful exploration of seduction, forbidden love and redemption, “Gabriel’s Inferno” is a captivating and wildly passionate tale of one man’s escape from his own personal hell as he tries to earn the impossible…forgiveness and love.
Gabriel’s Inferno is the only romance novel I’ve ever read (I think?) because the premise sounded intriguing and I loved it. Julia and Gabriel have a romance that left me blushing furiously during some of their interactions (here’s a tip: don’t read this in a place you’re likely to be embarrassed, I speak from experience), which, combined with the beautiful writing, quickly made me fall in love with this book.
Warped by Maurissa Guibord
Tessa doesn’t believe in magic. Or Fate. But there’s something weird about the dusty unicorn tapestry she discovers in a box of old books. She finds the creature woven within it compelling and frightening. After the tapestry comes into her possession, Tessa experiences dreams of the past and scenes from a brutal hunt that she herself participated in. When she accidentally pulls a thread from the tapestry, Tessa releases a terrible centuries old secret. She also meets William de Chaucy, an irresistible 16th-century nobleman. His fate is as inextricably tied to the tapestry as Tessa’s own. Together, they must correct the wrongs of the past. But then the Fates step in, making a tangled mess of Tessa’s life. Now everyone she loves will be destroyed unless Tessa does their bidding and defeats a cruel and crafty ancient enemy.
Warped was one of the very first books I read where I discovered the concept of shipping, even though I only discovered the word for it much later. Tessa and William’s chemistry is beautiful, and their romance is downright adorable. While this book uses a few tropes here and there, it does so successfully delivering an end product that swept me off my feet.
Let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what you think of them! Also if there’s any other book you can think of that I should know about, feel free to rec me, I’d love to read more books like these.