Romance Fiction in 2020: A year in review

While much of the world has slowed down during the pandemic, there’s one thing that hasn’t – the consumption and reading of romance fiction novels

If you’re stuck at home looking for a distraction from the stress and boredom of the pandemic, what better way than to become immersed in a steamy love story?

Escape, excitement, and enchanting plot lines fill the pages of romance fiction novels, and they are the very things that the pandemic has made nearly impossible with social distancing and quarantining. 

According to Kristin McLean from NDP, a data analytics company that follows romance fiction trends, total romance book sales had been in sharp decline before the pandemic hit. 

But there was a marked turnaround starting in March. While total romance fiction sales had previously been trending downward consistently, sales started catapulting upward. 

This graph from NPD says it all. 

Source: Publishing Perspectives

So what books have taken off and found massive readerships during 2020?

The line-up of 2020’s most titillating romance fiction books includes stories about best friends who discover they may be more than platonic friends, tales of enemies turned lovers, and celebrity marriages gone wrong.

1. “Ties That Tether” by Jane Igharo

When she was twelve years old, Azere made a promise to her father on his deathbed – she would marry a Nigerian man. She intends to keep her promise and her mother does her part in helping her by vigilantly setting up Azere with men who share their culture. 

But when another date that Azere’s mother sets her up on goes wrong, Azere meets a tall and handsome man at a bar. He’s everything she’s ever wanted in a partner and then some, but there’s one problem – he’s not Nigerian. Soon Azere finds herself questioning her identity and her own beliefs about love. 

Read more about this book.

2. “A Sweet Mess” by Jayci Lee

Aubrey Choi’s highly successful bakery, Comfort Zone, is practically destroyed by a celebrity food critic whose negative review of the bakery goes viral. On top of the review stirring up so much trouble, it turns out it was written by a handsome man with whom Aubrey had a one-night-stand with, Landon. 

Landon tries to make things right by bringing Aubrey onto a new celebrity cooking show he’s producing, and she agrees as she doesn’t have many options for saving her bakery at this point. 

It’s not long before the pair find themselves walking all the lines – and challenging all the boundaries – that Aubrey has put in place to protect her business and her heart. 

Read more about this book.

3. “Snapped” by Alexa Martin

Elliot Reed is the new Strategic Communications Manager for the Denver Mustangs. All is going amazingly well until the Mustang’s quarterback Quinton Howard Jr. decides he is going to use his platform to protest by taking a knee during the national anthem. 

Now it’s Elliot’s job is to handle the fallout from Quinton’s protest, and from their very first meeting, it doesn’t look promising for this unlikely pair. 

They soon find, however, there is more to each other than their initial first impressions, and both are tempted to take their relationship to the next level. In order to do that, they’ll both need to put their careers and reputations on the line. 

Read more about this book.

4. “Queen Move” by Kennedy Ryan

Kimba Allen and Ezra Stern grew up together, and Kimba’s never forgotten the crush she had on him. Though it’s been 20 years since they saw each other, there is a long family history between them and it’s not all good. Many secrets will need airing for these two to find their way back to each other. 

Read more about this book.

5. “You Had Me At Hola” by Alexis Daria

There are a lot of things leading ladies are not supposed to do – they shouldn’t end up on tabloid covers, they shouldn’t need a man to be happy, and they definitely shouldn’t rebound from a very public breakup with their next co-star. 

But in “You Had Me at Hola,” Jasmine Lin Rodriguez does all three. She and her telenovela costar, Ashton Suárez, find their initial lack of chemistry is the one thing that could land them in a passionate romance and put both of their careers in jeopardy. 

Read more about this book.

6. “Conventionally Yours” by Annabeth Albert

Both Conrad Steward and Alden Roth are fierce competitors in the gaming world and both seem to have it all on the outside. But on the inside, both are struggling to keep the world from seeing who they really are. 

When they end up on a cross-country trip together to compete in a huge gaming tournament, they realize there is more to their relationship than simply being archrivals. Winning the tournament is still critically important for both of them, so they will have to figure out what’s more important – winning the tournament or winning in love. 

Read more about this book

7. “How to Fail at Flirting” by Denise Williams

When Professor Naya Turner finds her department ready to be cut by her university, her friends take her out on the town to shift her focus off her demanding job. She then finds herself meeting a charming man who makes her laugh and helps build her confidence back up, which is exactly what she needs at this moment. 

Will she choose having a serious romantic relationship that will complicate everything or choose the career she’s worked so hard for? Denise Williams will make you laugh and break out the tissues as you follow Naya to find out.

Read more about this book.

8. “The Trouble With Hating You” by Sajni Patel

Liya Thakkar’s parents invite a man, Jay Shah, over who they have arranged for her to marry and Liya is furious about it. She has everything she wants being single and building her career as a biochemical engineer – the last thing she wants is to be set up with Jay. 

However, Liya can’t ignore Jay when she finds out he is actually working at her company as a new lawyer, and when she comes to realize that he is nothing like she’d previously thought. The question then becomes whether this pair will follow their undeniable connection or play it safe and avoid taking a risk that could change their lives forever.

Read more about this book.

9. “The Honey-Don’t List” by Christina Lauren

Carey Duncan and James McCann both work for a famous married couple known for their home remodeling brand that includes a show, a book and a home decor store. The famous couple’s empire could be on the verge of collapsing any moment if the public catches wind that this famous, darling couple actually can’t stand each other. 

Because both Carey and James need their jobs to stay intact, they decide to team up to make sure the marriage does not collapse on their watch. What ensues is romantic comedy that leaves Carey and James with the opportunity to build something special of their own. 

Read more about this book.

10. “If I Never Met You” by Mhairi McFarlane

What do you do when your relationship of ten years ends and you find out your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend is pregnant? Oh, and you have to see your ex-boyfriend every day because he works at the same law firm as you?

What Laurie decides when this happens to her is that she needs a new, pretend boyfriend to stop the rumors about her love life and the pitying looks she is getting from her coworkers. When Jamie, the office playboy, realizes he needs a steady girlfriend to impress his bosses, the two hatch a brilliant plan to create a fake romance that includes everything from staged social media pictures to a definitive break up date. 

But as the end of their perfectly-staged romance draws closer, the couple discovers they might not want their faux love to end after all. 

Read more about this book. 

BONUS – ”The Falling in Love Montage” by Ciara Smyth

In this YA novel, teenagers Saoirse and Ruby meet and decide the best way to spend the summer is going on a series of montage-worthy dates like the scenes out of the best romantic date playbook. They will spend a beautiful summer together before going their separate ways come fall. 

Saoirse thinks this is the perfect approach to enjoying her summer while avoiding the pitfalls of a long-term relationship and all the heartbreak that comes with it. That is, until she realizes she can’t avoid falling in love after all. 

Read more about this book.