As I’m writing this, we in Cleveland are deep in the throes of winter, which given that it’s late January, is fine, I guess. I wear socks and slippers, am never without a mug of piping tea in my hands (black in the mornings, herbal after noon) and I can’t walk more than 5 feet without tripping over a blanket. We do what we can in the north to keep warm this time of year, and while there are a bunch of ways to layer up and stay bundled, sometimes a good book can turn up the temperature a degree or two.
When it comes to romance novels, I like them like I like my food— the spicier the better. My Libby app reading history is full of stories that will make you sweat, just like my fridge is full of condiments that’ll do the same. If you’re looking for new ways to spice up your shelves, look no further than these great reads! While this blog post will be SFW, I guarantee none of these novels will be!
A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas
Okay, so this is book 4 in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series and you MUST read the others before this. But if you’re in it for the spice, this one will not disappoint! The heat builds up on you throughout the series, so if you’re judging my addition of this having only read the first title, you, like every single person on Hot Ones, need to be ready for the burn to build.
I’m going to be (okay, very) vague, for any of you who have not yet tried these, but this book is really a deeper look at rebuilding and confronting our past and embracing our futures. In addition to it being very, very steamy, this story deals with past trauma in a truly compelling way. Come for the faeries and magic, stay for the relationships. Also, please take the time to dig into every single thing in the Sarah J Massiverse. You can thank me later.
Neon Gods by Katee Robert
Honestly, I could put anything by Katee Robert on this list and spice-seekers would be happy. She’s got monsters, contemporary romance, Disney villain-inspiration, you name it. However, as a kid who read her D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths more times that I can count, I can’t get enough of Robert’s Dark Olympus series.
Set in a modern Olympus, the first book in the series tells the story of Persephone and Hades in a way that would have made your Classics teacher blush. The entire series, which is ongoing, brings in all of the familiar faces in truly modern and interesting ways, and while the series could be read as standalones, the story really does build over time. This series is also very inclusive of body types and LGBTQIA+ main characters, and includes books that feature relationships with more than two people.
Have a cool beverage ready when reading, but also be ready to become attached to the story as much as the spice.
Twisted Love by Ana Huang
This incredibly steamy story is also the first in a series and is about a bunch of girlfriends who each find love (and a whoooole bunch of hotness along the way).
This first book features a “love it or hate it” trope: Your brother’s best friend. While I personally would never have pined after any of my brother’s friends IRL (don’t push me on that one, please and thank you), Ava finds herself doing just that when brilliant, rich and super-protective Alex is asked to watch over her by her brother. They both have serious past traumas that inform who they are as people, and this title does have more than a little bit of violence, but I recommend it if you’re ready for an all-around adult read.
American Queen by Sierra Simone
This book is 100% the most “adult” of any on this list. Sierra Simone never pulls any punches in any of her books, and woo, this book/series is HOT. It also contains some content that isn’t for all readers, so if you’re not one who enjoyed some of the themes in Fifty Shades of Grey, perhaps you want to pass on this one.
Our main character, Greer, is familiar with Washington, D.C.’s inner workings as she’s the granddaughter of the former vice president. She finds herself in a relationship with the current president and the current vice president, sometimes apart, sometimes altogether. The three of them have been intertwined for years, and the story goes back and forth between timelines, so you can really see how their relationships have built over the years. The book ends on a huge cliffhanger, so just be ready to be committed for two more books that you’ll be more than ready to read!
The Nanny by Lana Ferguson
This was one of my favorite reads of 2023, so if it isn’t your cup of tea (black, herbal, green, whatever!), it’s okay, but we’ll have to respectfully agree to disagree. What intrigued me out of the gate with this title is the way it acknowledged different ways people make a living without demonizing it or having any regrets for what the characters did in the past.
Cassie is a graduate student laid off from her job and to make ends meet while she tries to find something else, she turns to the internet to support herself. There she meets, and is abandoned by, one of her biggest fans, and soon leaves the platform. Aiden is a single dad, trying to balance being a chef and parent, and needs serious help. When he hires Cassie to watch his daughter, something seems familiar, but neither of them can figure it out. What they can’t deny is their attraction to each other. This one is a must-read for me!
Rafe by Rebekah Weatherspoon
I’m just as shocked as you are to see that I’m recommending a second nanny book in a row, but this book is just too darn good, and Rafe is the definition of a book boyfriend.
Dr. Sloan Copland is a newly single parent who just moved across the country for a dream job with her twin girls. However, what isn’t a dream is her live-in nanny up and leaving without notice, and Sloan suddenly finding herself in need of care for them, stat. Entre Rafe, all muscles and tattoos, screaming “Alpha male” from the outside, but who’s actually thoughtful and caring and the perfect person to take care of her children, and eventually to take care of her, too.
While there are many, many things to love about this story (it’s on this steamy book list for a reason!), readers can rejoice that this book is full of great communication, consent and doesn’t include a storyline where the characters have a conflict that could all be easily resolved if they actually talked to each other. This is one of my favorite books to recommend.
Cleat Cute by Meryl Wilsner
So, the next Women’s World Cup isn’t actually until 2027, so I do recommend watching tons and tons of professional women’s soccer before then. But if you want to read an amazing sapphic soccer romance, may I introduce you to Grace and Phoebe and let you fall in love with their love?
Grace has been a member of the U.S. Women’s team for years and is a veteran superstar. Phoebe is an up-and-comer, outgoing new kid on the team, who’s had a crush on Grace, soccer superstar, for years. As Grace watches her own star start to dim, Phoebe’s just keeps rising, but so does the tension between the two of them. This is a grumpy-sunshine pairing that gets so hot and sweaty, you’re going to need to shower off when you’re done reading.
🔥 This is just the tip of the spice-berg, so if you’re wanting more stories to warm up on these chilly winter nights, your library’s digital collection in the Libby app is sure to have something to satisfy!